It’s Movember!

To quote the Movember Web Site:

“During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men.”

Now I can’t claim to be the cleanest shaven of guys. Other than my fairly discreet sideburns/sideboards, I generally go no longer than a few days between shaves. I don’t know what it is but I tend to feel hot and itchy if I don’t get the shaver out and start afresh. On top of that, I just can’t see myself with a moustache!

However, despite all of this, I have decided to cultivate the requisite facial growth for the month of Movember. What’s more, I aim to run each and every day during Movember without fail. Having run 25 out of 30 days during the month of September I know that this will be tough and, I am sure, by the time I get to the end of the month, I am sure that I will feel quite wrecked.

At this point I am questioning my sanity as I have also signed up to run Marcothon 2011 which entails running a minimum of 3 miles (or 25 minutes, whichever is sooner) each and every day in December. And yes, before you ask, that does include Christmas day! I am actually wondering if, by December 31st, my New Year resolution will be to give up running (as if!).

So, setting aside injuries, I have 2 months of daily running to look forward to and it is a good feeling to know that one of those months will be in the name of a good cause – Movember. (roll on 1st January 2012 lol!)

If you would like to support my efforts or even just see how I am doing then feel free to visit me online at:

And in the meantime, ask yourself… should I become a Mo Bro or a Mo Sister (Yes ladies, you can also participate).

In 2010, over 112,000 UK Mo Bros and Mo Sistas got on board, raising £11.7 million

You don’t have to run. That element is entirely down to me.

However, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I felt that my running petered out in 2010 after I completed the Loch Ness Marathon and that, by the time the ultras started again in 2011, I was essentially back to square one in terms of fitness. This year I am determined not to let that happen and my Movember running pledge and participation in Marcothon 2011 are going to help me along the way.

Escape To The Cairngorms

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Escape to the Cairngorms‘.

There is nothing better than a change of scenery to freshen up your running schedule and this is especially true when it involves time away in the Cairngorms National Park where I was fortunate enough to find myself last week. Staying in Aviemore with my wife and her family, we were blessed with the kind of weather that you cannot even guarantee mid-summer in the Cairngorms and, looking at the Cairngorm Mountain web cams this week, it would appear that we timed our stay to perfection, leaving just as the weather turned and the snow arrived! It beggars belief that the same mountain we all sat atop of last week for a lunchtime picnic now has a good dusting of snow.

For anyone who has yet to sample the Cairngorms, I strongly recommend a visit. There are miles and miles of trails, from low level forest routes through to mountain routes and, of course, these all provide great opportunities when it comes to training. I was determined to make the most of my time there and to focus especially on hill work which will be a factor in my as yet to be revealed ‘greater goal’ for 2012.

I set the alarm to wake me at 6 a.m. on that first morning there so that I could get out and make the most of the running opportunities before then heading back to participate in whatever walks and/or bike rides the family had planned. Thankfully I had the foresight to take a head torch with me as it was sorely needed in the chilly darkness of the morning. One thing in particular that I have noted since my return is just how difficult it is to get up at 6 a.m. when you are heading to work and not out on the trails!

At the south end of the main street next to the entrance to the youth hostel, there is a path which takes you underneath the A9 road at the back of Aviemore and on to the Craigellachie National Nature Reserve. There are a number of different walk/run options but I headed for the top at approx 496m/1627ft. The route up is steep and on occasion technical. However, the punishment of running up is well rewarded with an excellent view over Aviemore itself towards the Cairngorms, and, in the other direction, of the various mountains, lochs and lochans of the Reserve.

Once at the top, there is the opportunity to venture further though I did find that the pathways petered out and I was left running in the kind of mud and bog that tries to rip the trainers from your feet.

For every up, there is generally a down, and the return down in to Aviemore was a fast paced affair. At times I found myself having to reign in my speed for fear of tripping and ending up crashing down the pathway, such was the steepness of the route.

Repeatedly running this route was excellent training but brutal at the same time and, by the end of the week, my quads in particular were longing for a rest. However, this was not to be. A friend with whom I ran most of the 55 miles of the Cateran Trail Ultra was in town for the Aviemore Half Marathon on the Sunday. We agreed to meet for a slow few miles on Saturday evening but it ended up as a fast paced 8 mile out and back route that took us along the excellent Rothiemurchus pathway and in to the forests.

My legs on the Sunday were glad to be heading for home instead of running the half marathon but despite this, I feel like I could have picked up a half marathon PB. With my continued weight loss my speed seems to be coming on no end and, as such, 10ks and Half Marathons are once again starting to appeal to me, especially now that they may hold PB potential.

I can’t wait to return once again to the Cairngorms. Given half a chance I would be out running, walking and biking the trails from dawn till dusk! However, if the weather continues as it has been this week, then there is a lot more chance that the next visit there will involve skiing!

September Summary (Better Late Than Never!)

New post at The Running Bug, ‘September Summary (Better Late Than Never!)‘.

September was a memorable month for me in a number of ways and I wanted to share this with you before we get too far in to October!

In terms of running I hit, and passed the 1000 mile mark, slightly earlier than last year. In 2010 I ran the Loch Ness Marathon and hit the 1000 mile mark in mile 26 of the marathon for that double accomplishment feeling. An injury in the run up to the marathon had done its best to try and spoil my carefully planned 1000th mile and, as a result, instead of tapering in the week leading up to the marathon, I ended up cramming in the mileage to make up for lost time (definitely not recommended as an approach to ‘tapering’!). Having made up the mileage shortfall, I was delighted to cross the finish line, hitting my mileage target and setting a new marathon PB.

Without a race in the foreseeable future, I then did what I have done on so many occasions. I let the running slip. Not altogether, but in a sufficiently unstructured way so that, by the time I lined up in March of this year for the first ultra, I was essentially back to square one. Talk about making things difficult for yourself!

This year, with the benefit of hindsight, I am determined not to do the same thing and, as such, I have set both short and long term goals, with the short term goals focusing on both pace and weight.

As mentioned previously, I completed 6 ultras this year whilst tipping the scales at a weight of just over 15 stones. I have spent much of the past few years following one calorie counting diet or another and, it has to be said that, other than a few pounds here and there, which generally ‘sneak’ back on, I have not had much success. Last year in particular I found that the combination of running long distances and attempting to diet did not sit well together and I found my health suffering as I picked up every bug and sniffle going!

In 2011 I decided to stick with my normal diet for the duration of the ultras. With only 3 weeks between the majority of the races, getting ill was not an option. When my wife came home at the beginning of September and told me about a colleague who had shed approximately 2 stones in the space of 2 months it was a timely ‘ray of hope’. Never known for my patience, this sounded like my kind of diet – results… and fast!

Tasked with finding out more, my wife returned from work the following day and advised me that I needed to eliminate carbs from my diet.

Initially I found this really tough. For one, I realised the huge carb reliance in my current diet. My eyes were opened to my ‘dependency’ on everything from bread, to porridge, to pastas. I eliminated everything that was not meat, fish or vegetable and, as I later found out, I was essentially following the ‘Dukan Diet’, albeit having ‘skipped’ the 100% meat ‘attack phase’ recommended by the diet.

The ‘Dukan Diet’ lets you eat meat and fish and lots of it! Hunger pangs are not an issue on this diet as you are free to snack on meat and/or fish whenever hunger strikes. An increased water intake is also recommended and this also helps to keep hunger at bay.

I am not advocating that this diet is a good choice for anyone. I simply do not know enough about nutrition to comment on how good or bad the carb depletion approach is. However, as far as I am concerned, it worked for me and, having emerged from those first few days of thumping headaches (withdrawl symptoms apparently), the weight started to drop off.

By the end of September, I had lost a stone in weight.

Alongside the diet, I endeavoured to run at least 5 miles every day in September, which I did on all but 5 days where running was not possible due to other commitments.

The constant running eliminated recovery days from my schedule and each run felt like the end stages of a race, where the legs are tight and tired. Combined with the effects of the carb elimination, the runs increasingly felt like they were being done whilst ‘running on empty’. However, I persisted, partly through determination to log a high mileage month and partly to try and ‘assist’ the diet.

At the end of the 3rd week I decided to have a small bowl of porridge before heading out to run. The bowl was half, if not a third of the size of the bowl that I would normally have had.

The lethargy lifted soon after starting the run and I really felt like I was flying. The combination of the weight loss and the reintroduction of carbs into my diet, albeit on a small scale, powered me through my run and I logged the fastest mile that I had run in years. In fact, all 7 of the miles I ran that day were on average 2-3 minutes quicker than those that I had logged running on those particularly lethargic days of the third week.

The weight is still coming off, albeit at a slightly more moderate 2-3 pounds per week. I have reintroduced carbs back in to my diet now but in much smaller quantities than before and it is unlikely that I will ever return to the carb intake levels that I previously consumed. I still aim to lose a further stone in weight and with this weight reduction, I will also benefit from an ‘unintended’ increase in running pace.

This week I recorded another mile PB, knocking a further 30 seconds off of my mile time. Not bad at all considering that, at this point, I have not actually turned my attention to speedwork!