iThink iAm iFit

Those of you who would rather lop off one or more limbs rather than run on a treadmill should just stop reading now. There’s pretty much nothing that I can say that will convince you to come on over to the ‘dark side’. For everyone else, like myself, who appreciates that the treadmill can play a part in training, whether through choice, convenience or necessity, please do read on.

Long gone are the days when treadmills offered little more than basic functionality. Your typical treadmill now likely has processing power that surpasses that which put man on the moon (I have to admit to having tried treadmills in the past that require astronaut equivalent qualifications just to operate a ‘simple’ program. Rest assured, this is not the case with the treadmill in question). You no longer need to visit the gym to run on something that doesn’t feel like it’s just about to vibrate itself apart under the weight of your pounding. What’s more, all this technology is now far more affordable than it used to be.

I posted my ‘Confessions Of A Treadmill Lover‘ post on The Running Bug back in October 2011 so it should come as no surprise that I am a self confessed treadmill user.

More recently, faced with impending fatherhood (3 weeks and counting) and surrounding terrain that doesn’t lend itself to hill training, I started my ‘Munro challenge‘, aiming to run all 282 of the Scottish Munro Mountains (3000ft+) at a 10% incline on the treadmill.

The treadmill will continue to play a part in my training for the foreseeable future and, with a bit of luck, Bubbs will hopefully take to the rhythmic sound of the treadmill, finding it soothing and sleep inducing. What effect my thumping footsteps have on this, only time will tell. I can but dream!

Nordic Track T9.1

My treadmill efforts have been kindly assisted by Nordic Track who kindly provided a Nordic Track T9.1 treadmill on an extended loan. Having had some previous experience of Nordic Track treadmills I expected a robust machine with a superior build quality and I was not disappointed. The T9.1 provides a solid, no wobble, running experience, even as you progress up towards the top 20km/h speed (Note that it is possible to convert the display to miles, something that I did straight away). The running deck, which is suitable for anyone up to 150kg in weight, is wide enough and long enough for you not to feel overly constrained and is adjustable, depending on the level of cushioning required.

The T9.1 provides 15 on-board workouts (5 calorie workouts, 5 timed workouts and 5 distance workouts) that each automatically control the speed and incline of the treadmill, guiding you through an effective exercise session. Selection of the required workout is easy thanks to the separate Calorie, Timed, and Distance buttons that cycle through the available workouts. As you would expect, there is also the option of manual control, letting you set speed and incline as required.

A 2.5CHP commercial grade motor drives the belt at speeds of up to 20 km/h and the 1-Touch incline can raise to 10% to make your runs even more demanding.

Where this treadmill comes into its own is with the inclusion of iFit compatability, something that is now common to many new treadmills and which greatly enhances the treadmill experience.

The console has a slot at the back that takes an optional iFit Live Module. The module enables the treadmill to communicate with a wireless network which then provides connectivity to an online iFit account. The iFit Live modules lets you download personalized workouts, create your own workouts, track your workouts and race against other runners.

The iFit website is a central ‘control panel’ for all your exercise requirements and offers articles & resources relating to running, cycling, fitness, weight loss and recipes, the opportunity to join challenges and, of course, the opportunity to track your progress and workouts.

However, the main attraction for me came with the map functionality.

You will no doubt have come across Google Maps. I have to confess to having been a bit of a Google Maps geek back when they first came out. In my defence, it was usually as part of my job as a web developer. Then running came along and the attraction for out of hours map tinkering waned somewhat.

Until now!

I will confess to having spent most of my time with the Nordic Track T9.1 exploring the Google Maps functionality, basically enabling you to select a location and then run in it, making use of Google Map Street View (where available). What’s more, the incline of the treadmill automatically adjusts to that of the current route so you really can get a feel for a route. Heading off to a race somewhere for the first time? Why not train on the actual route and get accustomed to the gradient and scenery.

Creating running routes is easy. Select your location, which can be pretty much anywhere in the world, and then design your route with the simple to use Google Maps tools, which let you create anything from a simple run around the block to a full on exploration of your chosen destination. Your only limitation is the desired distance!

Note that you need to have a PC/Screen available to view this unless you have one of the newer, high-end treadmills which have a screen capable of directly displaying the maps. In the absence of a lightweight laptop or tablet I set up a monitor/PC combination that let me keep track of where I was thanks to the placement of the monitor on a wall in front of me.

The Street View display flickers slightly as you progress along your chosen route, just as it normally does when viewing Street View online, but it certainly adds that something different to your average treadmill workout and provides a point of focus in an otherwise unchanging exercise environment. I personally made the most of the opportunity to revisit holiday destinations, ‘returning’ to Banff, Canmore, Victoria and Vancouver’s Stanley Park, all in Canada, and to Menorca, where I have holidayed the past couple of years.

I found the ‘return’ to locations associated with fond memories inspired my workouts and I soon lost track of time, distance and, even, effort levels! What’s more, the scenery of, for example, Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park, proved more than adequate distraction when the conditions outdoors were not favourable to running.

I also liked the automatic setting of the treadmill incline based on current location. This left you ‘at the mercy’ of whatever hill you happened to be running up at the time and provided some welcome variation.

The only slightly odd thing about the Street View is that it appears that you are ‘running at’ oncoming vehicles but this is only to be expected given that the map views are taken from a vehicle. It’s definitely not something you should try outside however!

So, iFit provides for some excellent personalisation of your workouts, whether it’s revisiting areas, planning ahead or even just exploring different parts of the world. There’s also an iFit Facebook account that posts new routes from around the world and motivational tips, well worth following if you plan on using iFit.

It’s also possible to purchase various workouts and routes from the iFit store so you really should never be stuck for workouts! The latest free offering is a series of short runs, totalling over 80 miles, that introduces you to 20 of the most beautiful U.S. National Parks.

When purchasing a treadmill be sure to consider the warranty. My first treadmill had only a 3 year warranty on the motor and, true to form, it died on me shortly after the warranty expired. I then found that the components used were highly bespoke, preventing a cheap fix and was quoted almost as much as the treadmill had originally cost me to replace the defective part. I have since avoided that particular brand when purchasing equipment!

The Nordic Track T9.1, as with all Nordic Track machines, has a generous warranty:

  • Lifetime Frame Warranty
  • 10 Year Motor Warranty
  • 2 Year Parts Warranty
  • 2 Year Labour Warranty

Nordic Track T9.1 Specifications

  • Dimensions Assembled: L178xW86xH151 cm
  • Weight: 89kg
  • Maximum User Weight: 150kg
  • Motor: 2.5 chp
  • Speed: 0-20 km/h
  • Incline: 0-10%
  • Incline Type: Digital Quick Incline. One-Touch Incline Selection
  • Walking Belt Size: 51 x 140 cm
  • Number of Progammes: 15
  • Pulse Measurement: Système EKG™ Grip (hand pulse sensor) and Polar belt included
  • Console Display: LCD Display Console Features: Speed, Time, Distance, Calories, Pulse and Incline
  • Folding: Yes
  • Speakers: Intermix 2.0 Audio with two speakers
  • Music Jack: iPod Compatible
  • Lift Assist: Easy drop shock with lock Impact
  • Absortion System: FlexResponse™ Cushion Deck (impact reduction up to 15 %)
  • iFit : IFIT Live compatible to get the latest Interactive Fitness technology (WiFi module not included)
  • Programme Types: 5 Calorie-Burn, 5 Timed and 5 Distance Workouts

My thanks to Nordic Track for the loan of the Nordic Track T9.1 treadmill.

What’s Your Goal?

New post at ‘The Running Bug‘, ‘What’s Your Goal?‘ (link to follow)

Note that those of you who read my blog will already be familiar with the content of this post.

So, 2013 is upon us. Following on from my previous Running Bug post, ‘Everybody Needs A Goal‘, I want to ask – What’s your goal?

My main goal in 2013 is a new PB at the West Highland Way Race in June.

However, another goal, and one that will hopefully help me to achieve the above, presented itself in a most unexpected way. It was New Years Eve and I found myself in a less than happy place. Despite my best intentions, it was clear that I just wasn’t going to match last years running mileage. I keep telling myself, quality not quantity. It’s stupid I know, but something about not matching that target just made me feel like I had failed. Ironic given that 2012 was my best year to date as far as races went.

But back to New Years Eve. It certainly wasn’t the frame of mind that I wanted to greet the new year in but, looking at the mileage, I had 28 miles to run to match my total from the previous year. Now, relative to some of my races, that’s not actually that much. However, my legs were trashed from a 10 mile run a couple of days previously and I had no intention of deserting my wife for the time it would take to run 28 miles!

And so, resigned to ‘failure’, I set out to punish myself.

Treadmill set to 10% incline. Speed set to 5 miles per hour. 3 mile session. Go.

And that was all that I intended to do.

Until just over 1 mile into the run when the ascent ticked over to 1000 feet.

Redemption arrived with a light bulb moment!

I decided to run, not for 3 miles, but for as long as it would take me to run the 4409 feet of ascent that would equate to running up Ben Nevis. A very sweaty 9 miles later I finally achieved my goal. I had taken short walk breaks throughout at approximately 1 mile marks before returning to my 5 mile per hour running pace (Equivalent to just over an 8 minute mile on the flat).

My mood lifted. I experienced a ‘double whammy’, the feel good factor of a good run coupled with the feeling of achievement of having ‘run up Ben Nevis’, the highest point in the British Isles and the highest of Scotland’s Munro mountains.

Just in case you don’t know, a Munro is described as follows:

“A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft (914.4 m). Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro, 4th Baronet (1856–1919), who produced the first list of such hills, known as Munros Tables, in 1891. A Munro top is a summit over 3,000 ft (914.4 m) which is not regarded as a separate mountain. In the 2012 revision of the tables, published by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, there are 282 Munros and 227 further subsidiary tops. The most well known Munro is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, with an altitude of 1,344 metres (4,409 ft).” (Wikipedia – Munros)

Fast forward a few days and Mrs Mac suggested that I run ‘up’ the rest of the Munros as part of my ultramarathon training. A brilliant idea and one that would supplement my overall training, especially given the rather flat area in which I live. I have often overlooked hill training in the past, neglecting it entirely or, most recently, not giving it the attention that it deserves in my schedule. Time for that to stop!

On 3rd January I ran ‘up’ another Munro (Ben Vane), this time from the bottom of the Munro chart at ‘only’ 3002 feet. On 4th January I ran ‘up’ yet another (Beinn A’ Chleibh), 3005 feet this time.

What a difference a day makes. I completed running without a single break at my constant 5 miles per hour pace and I even managed to nudge the speed up a fraction in the later stages. Gone were the walk breaks of the previous two ‘Munros’.

Peeling myself off the treadmill, the sense of achievement matched that of my earlier Ben Nevis run. Now that’s progress!

So, 3 down, ‘only’ 279 to go!

With 282 Munros to run ‘up’, it will likely take me over a year to complete the challenge. With events to train for, I need to ensure that my training is balanced with a good mix of long slow runs, speed work, and hill training. What’s more, I need to ensure that at least some of that hill training is done on actual hills as I need to train for descents as well as ascents. Getting to the top can be brutal enough but people often forget that descending can be just as bad, if not worse. Quads in particular take a total thrashing on descents.

On 5th January, legs feeling ever so slightly trashed, I headed out on for a trail run. Despite the stiffness in my legs and the overall fatigue from my previous efforts, I could feel that progress had been made. On 6th January it pained me not to run, especially given that it was my last day of ‘freedom’ before heading back to work. However, the legs left me in no doubt that they were in need of a rest and I duly obliged.

So you don’t get the varied terrain, fresh air and stunning views afforded by climbing the real thing. On the plus side, however, there’s little or no travel to get to your ‘destination’, you can run when it’s most convenient, and you really will work for your completion as you will always start at 0 feet. There’s no starting from the car park at Cairngorm, for example (approx. 1000 feet out of the total 4081 feet).

Totally unexpectedly I have a new supplementary goal, and one that, for me, requires no travel. With a new arrival due in February, the treadmill may prove to be my saviour when it comes to training. There’s no telling how much ‘Bubbs’ is going to impact on training but I am sure that will become evident soon enough!

It’s a goal that will also help to give some direction and an edge to my training where previously there was none.

Fancy joining me on this challenge? It doesn’t need to be Munros. Why not run the Donalds (over 2000ft), Grahams (2000-2499ft), Corbetts (2500ft-3000ft), Nuttalls, Hewitts or Wainwrights! (Wikipedia – Lists Of Hills In The British Isles)

You don’t even need to set the treadmill to 10%. I chose this for maximum impact, to get to the ‘top’ in the shortest possible distance. Set an incline that’s just slightly beyond comfortable for you and watch your progress as you get used to the extra effort required.

So, what’s your goal?

Whatever it is, all the very best with it :o)

The Munro Treadmill Challenge

You may have read my final post of 2012, ‘4409 Feet Of Penance‘, about my last run of the year and my attempt to atone for my lack of mileage in the final months of 2012. I decided to ramp up the treadmill to 10% and run ‘up Ben Nevis’, basically running for 9 miles to achieve the required 4409 feet of ascent.

I live in Ellon in the North East of Scotland, just North of Aberdeen. While I am fortunate to have the Formartine & Buchan Way to train on, there is a distinct lack of hills nearby. As I have yet to learn to drive (finally working on it!), I find myself ‘transportationally challenged’ when it comes to making my way to the hills that we do have in the local area, such as Bennachie.

At the beginning of the year my wife Leanne suggested that I try to run ‘up’ all of the Munros as part of my ultramarathon training – a brilliant idea!

Just in case you don’t know, a Munro is described as follows:

“A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft (914.4 m). Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro, 4th Baronet (1856–1919), who produced the first list of such hills, known as Munros Tables, in 1891. A Munro top is a summit over 3,000 ft (914.4 m) which is not regarded as a separate mountain. In the 2012 revision of the tables, published by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, there are 282 Munros and 227 further subsidiary tops. The most well known Munro is Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, with an altitude of 1,344 metres (4,409 ft).” (Wikipedia – Munro)

I started at the top with Ben Nevis (1344m/4409ft) on 31st December 2012, followed that up with Ben Vane (915m/3002ft) on 3rd January, and Beinn A’ Chleibh (916m/3005ft) on 4th January. 3 down, ‘only’ 279 to go!

With 282 Munros to run ‘up’, it will likely take me over a year to complete the challenge. With events to train for, I need to ensure that my training is balanced with a good mix of long slow runs, speedwork, and hill training. What’s more, I need to ensure that at least some of that hill training is done on actual hills as I need to train for descents as well as ascents. Getting to the top can be brutal enough but people often forget that descending can be just as bad, if not worse. Quads in particular take a total thrashing on descents.

So you don’t get the varied terrain, fresh air and stunning views afforded by climbing the real thing. On the plus side, however, there’s little or no travel to get to your ‘destination’, you can run when it’s most convenient, and you really will work for your completion as you will always start at 0ft. There’s no starting from the car park at Cairngorm, for example (approx. 1000ft).

With a new arrival due in February, the treadmill may prove to be my saviour when it comes to training. There’s no telling how much ‘Bubbs’ is going to impact on training but I am sure that will become evident soon enough!

Fancy joining me on this challenge? It doesn’t need to be Munros. Why not run the Donalds (over 2000ft), Grahams (2000-2499ft), Corbetts (2500ft-3000ft), Nuttalls, Hewitts or Wainwrights! (Wikipedia – Lists Of Hills In The British Isles)


4409 Feet Of Penance

That’s the final run of 2012 completed after a far from positive start to the day. No excuses. I failed to match last years mileage total. Looking back over the past few months, this September through to December I have run approx. 250 miles less than the same time last year. By the end of today’s run, I had missed last years total mileage by just 19 miles, with a drastic mileage slump demonstrated by the green line of the chart.

Rather than dwell on the negatives, I decided to end the year with a challenge. The intention had been a ‘punishment run’ on the treadmill, a brief 3 mile run with the incline notched up to 10%.

Instead, it turned in to 9 miles run at 10% incline to achieve the goal of 4409 feet of ascent, the equivalent to running up Ben Nevis.

I ran at 5 mile per hour pace, ‘equivalent’ to an 8.07 min/mile pace according to the treadmill conversion chart, with occasional short walk breaks.

Thanks to today’s efforts, I will start 2013 feeling empowered and in a far better frame of mind, although admittedly the expectation is that the legs will be suffering somewhat this time tomorrow!

Throughout the run I was listening to a 2012 retrospective mix and I couldn’t have timed the finish better. The last few hundred feet were spent running to ‘Small Moments Like These’ by Above & Beyond, the perfect song to reflect back on the year with. I may well have missed the mileage target but, in every other way, 2012 was a year to remember.

New Year’s Resolutions

There was plenty time for thinking while completing the 4409 feet of ascent and one thing in particular stuck in my mind. I have the mental toughness to complete ultras, including a 95 mile race in hugely adverse circumstances, and yet I still have problems controlling my weight. Losing a couple of stone would have a phenomenal impact on my running and 2013 just has to be the year that I achieve this.

Happy New Year everyone, here’s to 2013 :o)

Treadmill Pace Conversion Chart

Running hasn’t been going all that smoothly for me of late and, in all honesty, I think completing 7 ultras in a relatively short period of time (March to August) has taken a toll on both the body and the running mojo. In some respects, seeing the mileage slipping these past few months has been quite depressing and it feels like each and every run has involved a degree of toiling that just wasn’t evident earlier in the year.

I do an element of treadmill training and this has proven to be a bit of a lifeline, especially for shorter runs. However, even these have been beset with issues from general fatigue to overly tight calf muscles and even, on occasion, numbness in the feet!

The other week I just accepted that the run was going to involve a degree of pain and even went so far as to embrace and invite the pain, ramping the incline up to 10%. As mad as it sounds, I had the best run that I have had in a long time. By the end of it, I looked like I had been for a dip in the pool and, stopping to catch my breath, I could hear the drops of sweat as they landed around me on the floor (nice!).

Since that day, I can’t recall actually doing a ‘normal’ treadmill run. It has either been an interval session or a hills session, and my running has benefited as a result.

While out running this weekend I had a terrible start to the run, until a playlist selection left me feeling considerably more energised, and I actually found myself running an average of approx. 1 minute quicker than my normal mile pace.

I hadn’t done THAT many interval sessions. And then it dawned on me. I recalled seeing a treadmill pace conversion chart and, after a quick Google, it shed some light on my new found speed. Whilst my running speed on the treadmill was far from fast, the 10% equivalent pace by incline was actually a good bit faster than my normal mile pace.

So, looks like I will be continuing to up the incline for treadmill sessions. Given that there are no great hill training opportunities in close proximity, this might just have a doubly positive effect!

“Because of lack of wind resistance while running on a treadmill, the effort of running on a treadmill at 0% incline is less than that of running on a level road at the same pace. Below is a chart that you can use to get approximate equivalent efforts between running on a treadmill at different paces and inclines and running outdoors on a level surface.”

Treadmill MPH setting Pace per mile Equivalent paces by incline (%)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
5.0 12:00 12:31 11:44 11:05 10:32 10:03 9:38 9:16 8:56 8:38 8:22 8:07
5.2 11:32 12:02 11:18 10:42 10:11 9:44 9:20 8:59 8:40 8:23 8:08 7:54
5.4 11:07 11:35 10:55 10:20 9:51 9:26 9:03 8:43 8:25 8:09 7:55 7:41
5.6 10:43 11:10 10:32 10:00 9:33 9:09 8:48 8:29 8:12 7:56 7:42 7:29
5.8 10:21 10:47 10:12 9:42 9:16 8:53 8:33 8:15 7:58 7:44 7:30 7:18
6.0 10:00 10:26 9:52 9:24 9:00 8:38 8:19 8:02 7:46 7:32 7:19 7:07
6.1 9:50 10:15 9:43 9:16 8:52 8:31 8:12 7:55 7:40 7:26 7:14 7:02
6.2 9:41 10:05 9:34 9:08 8:44 8:24 8:06 7:49 7:34 7:21 7:08 6:57
6.3 9:31 9:56 9:26 9:00 8:37 8:17 7:59 7:43 7:29 7:15 7:03 6:52
6.4 9:23 9:46 9:17 8:52 8:30 8:10 7:53 7:37 7:23 7:10 6:58 6:47
6.5 9:14 9:37 9:09 8:45 8:23 8:04 7:47 7:32 7:18 7:05 6:53 6:43
6.6 9:05 9:29 9:01 8:37 8:16 7:58 7:41 7:26 7:13 7:00 6:49 6:38
6.7 8:57 9:20 8:53 8:30 8:10 7:52 7:35 7:21 7:07 6:55 6:44 6:34
6.8 8:49 9:12 8:45 8:23 8:03 7:46 7:30 7:15 7:02 6:50 6:40 6:29
6.9 8:42 9:04 8:39 8:17 7:57 7:40 7:24 7:10 6:58 6:46 6:35 6:25
7.0 8:34 8:56 8:32 8:10 7:51 7:34 7:19 7:05 6:53 6:41 6:31 6:21
7.1 8:27 8:49 8:25 8:04 7:45 7:29 7:14 7:00 6:48 6:37 6:27 6:17
7.2 8:20 8:41 8:18 7:58 7:40 7:23 7:09 6:56 6:44 6:33 6:22 6:13
7.3 8:13 8:34 8:12 7:52 7:34 7:18 7:04 6:51 6:39 6:28 6:18 6:09
7.4 8:06 8:27 8:05 7:46 7:28 7:13 6:59 6:46 6:35 6:24 6:14 6:05
7.5 8:00 8:20 7:59 7:40 7:23 7:08 6:54 6:42 6:31 6:20 6:11 6:02
7.6 7:54 8:14 7:53 7:34 7:18 7:03 6:50 6:38 6:26 6:16 6:07 5:58
7.7 7:48 8:07 7:47 7:29 7:13 6:58 6:45 6:33 6:22 6:12 6:03 5:55
7.8 7:42 8:01 7:41 7:24 7:08 6:54 6:41 6:29 6:18 6:09 5:59 5:51
7.9 7:36 7:55 7:36 7:18 7:03 6:49 6:37 6:25 6:15 6:05 5:56 5:48
8.0 7:30 7:49 7:30 7:13 6:58 6:45 6:32 6:21 6:11 6:01 5:52 5:44
8.1 7:24 7:43 7:25 7:08 6:54 6:40 6:28 6:17 6:07 5:58 5:49 5:41
8.2 7:19 7:38 7:20 7:04 6:49 6:36 6:24 6:13 6:03 5:54 5:46 5:38
8.3 7:14 7:32 7:15 6:59 6:45 6:32 6:20 6:10 6:00 5:51 5:42 5:35
8.4 7:09 7:27 7:10 6:54 6:40 6:28 6:16 6:06 5:56 5:47 5:39 5:32
8.5 7:04 7:22 7:05 6:50 6:36 6:24 6:13 6:02 5:53 5:44 5:36 5:29
8.6 6:59 7:16 7:00 6:45 6:32 6:20 6:09 5:59 5:49 5:41 5:33 5:26
8.7 6:54 7:11 6:55 6:41 6:28 6:16 6:05 5:55 5:46 5:38 5:30 5:23
8.8 6:49 7:07 6:51 6:37 6:24 6:12 6:02 5:52 5:43 5:35 5:27 5:20
8.9 6:44 7:02 6:46 6:32 6:20 6:09 5:58 5:49 5:40 5:32 5:24 5:17
9.0 6:40 6:57 6:42 6:28 6:16 6:05 5:55 5:45 5:37 5:29 5:21 5:14
9.1 6:36 6:52 6:38 6:24 6:12 6:01 5:51 5:42 5:34 5:26 5:18 5:11
9.2 6:31 6:48 6:34 6:20 6:09 5:58 5:48 5:39 5:31 5:23 5:16 5:09
9.3 6:27 6:44 6:29 6:17 6:05 5:55 5:45 5:36 5:28 5:20 5:13 5:06
9.4 6:23 6:39 6:25 6:13 6:02 5:51 5:42 5:33 5:25 5:17 5:10 5:04
9.5 6:19 6:35 6:22 6:09 5:58 5:48 5:39 5:30 5:22 5:14 5:08 5:01
9.6 6:15 6:31 6:18 6:06 5:55 5:45 5:35 5:27 5:19 5:12 5:05 4:59
9.7 6:11 6:27 6:14 6:02 5:51 5:42 5:32 5:24 5:16 5:09 5:02 4:56
9.8 6:07 6:23 6:10 5:59 5:48 5:38 5:30 5:21 5:14 5:07 5:00 4:54
9.9 6:04 6:19 6:07 5:55 5:45 5:35 5:27 5:19 5:11 5:04 4:58 4:51
10.0 6:00 6:15 6:03 5:52 5:42 5:32 5:24 5:16 5:08 5:02 4:55 4:49
10.1 5:56 6:12 6:00 5:49 5:39 5:29 5:21 5:13 5:06 4:59 4:53 4:47
10.2 5:53 6:08 5:56 5:45 5:36 5:27 5:18 5:11 5:03 4:57 4:50 4:45
10.3 5:50 6:04 5:53 5:42 5:33 5:24 5:16 5:08 5:01 4:54 4:48 4:42
10.4 5:46 6:01 5:50 5:39 5:30 5:21 5:13 5:05 4:58 4:52 4:46 4:40
10.5 5:43 5:57 5:46 5:36 5:27 5:18 5:10 5:03 4:56 4:50 4:44 4:38
10.6 5:40 5:54 5:43 5:33 5:24 5:15 5:08 5:00 4:54 4:47 4:41 4:36
10.7 5:36 5:51 5:40 5:30 5:21 5:13 5:05 4:58 4:51 4:45 4:39 4:34
10.8 5:33 5:48 5:37 5:27 5:18 5:10 5:03 4:56 4:49 4:43 4:37 4:32
10.9 5:30 5:44 5:34 5:24 5:16 5:08 5:00 4:53 4:47 4:41 4:35 4:30
11.0 5:27 5:41 5:31 5:22 5:13 5:05 4:58 4:51 4:45 4:39 4:33 4:28
11.2 5:21 5:35 5:25 5:16 5:08 5:00 4:53 4:46 4:40 4:34 4:29 4:24
11.4 5:16 5:29 5:20 5:11 5:03 4:55 4:49 4:42 4:36 4:30 4:25 4:20
11.6 5:10 5:24 5:14 5:06 4:58 4:51 4:44 4:38 4:32 4:27 4:21 4:17
11.8 5:05 5:18 5:09 5:01 4:53 4:46 4:40 4:34 4:28 4:23 4:18 4:13
12.0 5:00 5:13 5:04 4:56 4:49 4:42 4:36 4:30 4:24 4:19 4:14 4:10

Inov8 Roclite 315 & iFit

We are heading to the Cairngorms again this weekend. With various weather warnings in place, I think it is safe to say that I could safely have left the Salomon sleeveless vests out of the kit that I packed but you have to live in hope! By all accounts, there is a chance we could see a months worth of rain by Monday. Funnily enough, after running through the apocalyptic weather conditions at the recent West Highland Way Race, I am not at all bothered.

“Weather. There will be some.” (WHW Race briefing)

Living in Scotland you have to assume for the worst and hope for the best. This summer has certainly gone out of its way to disapoint us all weather wise so far!

I am looking forward to my first post WHW Race run, even more so because it will be on some of my favourite trails, and will be looking to break in a shiny new pair of inov8 Roclite 315s. I had a pair of 315s in the past but used them more for walking than running. However, with my favoured 305s (went through 5 pairs!) now impossible to pick up, I had to find a suitable replacement and the 315s look like they come pretty close.

By the time I leave for the Cairngorms, I should have taken delivery of an iFit enabled treadmill which I am getting on a months loan courtesy of Nordic Track. I will be reviewing the treadmill for The Running Bug and, I have to say, am looking forward to seeing what the iFit technology adds to the machine.

“You won’t be needing a boarding pass this year! iFit® Technology allows you to travel the world in the comfort of your own home! iFit®, Powered by Google Maps™, puts the world at your fingertips. Train everywhere, in your old neighborhood or around the Eiffel Tower! With Google Maps™ Street View, iFit® will take you to the heart of the town! You draw the maps with Google and iFit® will take you there!”

Using iFit, the treadmill will adjust the incline/decline or resistance to simulate the elevation changes of the selected route, while you watch Google Maps Street View. This should certainly add something to the treadmill experience and I am looking forward to hopefully trying out some testing routes and also to ‘visiting’ places, both old and new, from the comfort of my back room.

Thanks to The Running Bug and Nordic Track for organising this. Watch out for the review in approx 1 month.

Why Speed?

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Why Speed?‘.

Why speed? Not a post about road safety but, in fact, about the ‘need for speed’ when it comes to running. Speed training is something that I have failed to embrace and, indeed, shied away from. Until now.

Back in the days when I realised that it was time to turn my life around and I first hit the gym, there were many machines that I despised. The treadmill was top of that list. I started working my way through these machines, one by one picking them off and slowly moving from hate, to acceptance and, in some cases to an actual liking for the machine. Eventually, I moved on to the treadmill, at first hating it, but, by the end, it became the ‘machine of choice’ where gym visits were concerned.

Fast forward a few years and I am still a fan of the treadmill. I even own a treadmill! (if truth be told, my second treadmill after I wore out the first one!)

I have since discovered the joy of running outdoors and, indeed, take this to extremes running in my favoured event – off-road ultramarathons. This is my 3rd year running ultramarathons, with 1 previous year running marathons.

In all this time, right from back in the days on the gym treadmill through to now running ultramarathons, I have bumbled along at pretty much the same speed. Don’t get me wrong, I was more than happy to do so and I have enjoyed my running (and even the challenges posed by some of my events of late!).

In all this time, I have run events with the sole intention of completion. Improving on a previous PB was/is always a bonus but, by and large, my ‘game plan’ has been to get to the finish and nothing more.

I could, I am sure, continue to bumble along quite happily.

However, since the turn of the year I have embraced a strange compulsion to pick up the speed.

It has taken me out of my comfort zone and, at the end of speed and/or hill sessions, I have often found myself dripping with sweat, legs quivering and with a desperate urge to throw up. But not once have I asked myself ‘WHY?’

I now have a new game plan,with the same goal of event completion, but with a slight addition tacked on to improve on my speed. Since the beginning of the year I have knocked 8 minutes off of my ‘comfortable’ 5 mile time and there’s definitely more to follow – I reckon another 5 minutes improvement (at least) is possible.

I have noticed improvements in my training and racing, most notably my D33 time from March this year where I knocked 23 minutes off of my previous PB. Further, there have been times, out on long slow runs on the trail, when I have felt like I am going far too slow. The Garmin, however, tells a different story. I have actually been running at a good pace, often faster than I would previously have run. Why did it feel slow? Because the body was starting to feel accustomed to the ‘new’, ‘improved’ faster pace from the speed sessions.

For many years I was like one of those single speed bikes. I had no fast, medium and slow pace. I just ran. Now that I am finally beginning to embrace speed work, I hope to see benefits not only in terms of improved times, but also in terms of weight loss and general overall health improvements.

Looking back, I realise now that I was content to run within my comfort zone, only occasionally pushing the boundaries in a bid to up the ante. This approach has served me well and, barring 1 DNF, I have managed to complete everything I set out to finish. However, I now appreciate that I have more to give. It may feel like some kind of sadistic torture at the time but the exhilaration finishing a speed and/or hill session is more than worth it and, what’s more, it will hopefully continue to bring added benefits.

If you are reading this and can identify with the above, I suggest that you give it a go and really push yourself to your limits. If you are anything like me, you will likely find that those limits keep expanding to accommodate your new found speed.

Ultra Colleagues

As yet another ultra approaches, the Hoka Highland Fling on the 28th April, it dawned on me that at least 3, if not 4, people from my fairly small IT department at the University of Aberdeen will all toe the line for the event.

I am useless at maths so will not even attempt to work out the % of people in the UK who run ultramarathons. I do know, however, without having to resort to any maths that, even despite the rise of ultramarathon running these past few years, it is still unusual to have so many ultra colleagues in a single place of work – or is it? Running ultras is infectious – I definitely recommend it!

“If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you’ll get over it”
(Ultra quote, unknown source)

Not In The Mood?

There are times when, regardless of your commitment, you just can’t face a run. This happened to me just the other weekend. I had planned a long slow run as part of my training but just couldn’t face it. This doesn’t happen to me often (fortunately) but I would like to suggest a possible remedy.

If it happens, deal with it. Your body may well be telling you something. If the plan was for a long slow run, how about aiming for a short, fast run instead? This way may at least ease the guilt somewhat.

Go out hard (after an initial warm up). If you are on a treadmill, run at a good pace but ramp up the incline a few notches to make things tough for yourself. Do some speed work. Do both!

Continue for a length of time that is proportional to your overall run i.e. 1 to 2 miles out of a 5 mile run before then changing pace and incline to represent your ‘normal’ run. After the intense start to your run, the rest of the run will feel much easier and you will likely get through the session, no doubt coming out the other end of the run glad that you did it.

Happy running.

Milestones & Losing My Mojo

New post on The Running Bug, ‘Milestones & Losing My Mojo‘.

I haven’t posted here on The Running Bug since back on the 20th March. The reason for my absence was an extended leave of absence to mark one of my own milestones – hitting the big 4-0.

I couldn’t have ‘timed’ my 40th better. I have spent a lot of time in the Cairngorms these past few years but never before have I encountered the kind of weather that we had for the duration of my birthday week which was spent running & walking in the Cairngorms with Mrs Mac. I recall two weeks spent in Aviemore one summer in which we had 13 days of torrential rain and a single sunny day. On that day Mrs Mac almost broke her ankle out walking in the hills, an injury that took some 6 months to fully clear, so, all in all, we have definitely had more successful holidays!

This time around, it was a different story altogether and we certainly made the most of it on walks in and around the Cairngorms. My ‘local’ run for the duration of our stay became an out, around and back from the hotel to the stunning Loch an Eilein, a great start to any day! The last run of my 30s came in the form of a hot & brutal 1000ft of ascent in under 2 miles as I ran up the back of Aviemore in the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. On top of an ascent of the Goat Path up Coire an t-Sneachda and back around Coire an Lochan and Lurchers Gully, earlier that day, this left me well and truly in need of a day of rest on my birthday!

“A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile… Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination.” (Wikipedia – Milestone)

I will admit to having had some initial reservations about reaching this particular milestone and this is only to be expected given that 40 is an age which attracts so much attention, in a way that 20 and 30 never did. I did my usual whenever something intrigues me – I Googled it. I actually didn’t find all that much to explain why 40 was such a big deal other than the suggestion that 40 signifies ‘middle age’. Now admittedly, I didn’t search for too long so perhaps I just missed the ‘real’ significance. I don’t know about anyone else, but me, personally… I am aiming for more than 80 years and, with a bit of luck, I will still be fit and active.

Using my 40th as my own particular reference point, I would say without doubt that I am healthier, fitter & happier than at any point in my life up until now. As such, I think it is safe to say that I am indeed following the ‘proper path’ and this all helps to put the big 4-0 into perspective for me.

In terms of running, a large number of my ultra friends have this year turned or are about to turn 40. Coincidentally, most of us are also attempting the 95 mile West Highland Way Race for the first time this coming June. Mid life crises? Maybe so but I would be more inclined to call this our mid life challenges.

Dean Karnazes perhaps sums it up in the opening chapter of Run!

“The human body was made to move. Everything about us was designed for locomotion, engineered for movement. Our modern world, however, invites just the opposite: idleness. We go from our air-conditioned cars to the elevators of our climate-controlled buildings to our comfortable office chairs. Modern rationale equates comfort and convenience – the total absence of pain and struggle – with happiness. I, along with a growing number of like-minded individuals, think that just the opposite may be true. We’ve grown so comfortable, we’re miserable. Personally, I never feel more alive than when I’m in great pain, struggling to persevere against insurmountable odds and untold adversity.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘miserable’ but I agree with the essence of what Dean is saying. I have a comfortable office job throughout the week and, come the weekend, I want to hit the trails, to rack up the miles, to test myself, and perhaps even feel some pain. I am not a natural runner. I am not a fast runner. When I set out on training runs and ultramarathons alike, I expect that there will be periods where I will suffer. And yet, this is the ‘hobby/addiction’ that I, like my ultra friends, have chosen for myself.

Built for comfort, not speed

Looking at the various 40 jokes, I had to laugh when I came across this one:

“At 40, I realize that I was built for comfort, not speed.”

I have never been known for my speed but, ironically, it is something that I have embraced since turning 40.

My first weekend back after my time away in the Cairngorms was supposed to involve a couple of long runs of at least 20 miles. However, Saturday’s run did not go to plan and I limited the run to 12 miles. My legs felt unresponsive and jelly-like so I saw no point in pushing things. I settled for an afternoon spin bike session.

Sunday was no different and I opted instead to hit the treadmill. I decided to ‘punish myself’ with a hill and speed session rolled in to one. By the end of the 5 mile session, I looked like I had been caught in one almighty (indoor!) rain shower but the change in how I felt was remarkable. That afternoon I hit the cross trainer and the spin bike again and, I have to say, thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up a bit for a change.

I both lost & found my mojo, all in the short span of a single weekend and this morning I completed another 5 mile hill & speed session.

It’s not exactly what I had planned in terms of training at this stage and, reading of friends 30 mile plus runs this weekend, part of me wants to hit the panic button. The Hoka Highland Fling is on the 28th April and I currently have 1 finish and 1 DNF in this race. I am determined to add another finish and, thus, don’t want my training to lose direction. However, there is still time for the long slow run training and, in the meantime, my hill and speed work can only be beneficial.

My final thought on turning 40:

If I am ‘over the hill’, it is only because I chose to run up it!

Treadmill Or Dreadmill, Hitting The Wall, Sheer Determination & Podcasts – A Hotchpotch Of Musings

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Treadmill Or Dreadmill, Hitting The Wall, Sheer Determination & Podcasts – A Hotchpotch Of Musings‘.

This weeks post is a bit of a hotchpotch of musings. With a solid start to the year, including a new personal best in terms of monthly mileage, I was determined to keep up the mileage momentum. I approached Friday 3rd of February having covered 40 miles that week and, with the potential for weekend long runs, looked set to beat my highest weekly mileage total. Or at least, that was, until illness derailed my plans! Bugger! So, no long runs and no new PB. However, the ‘plus side’ to being ill is that I have found some time to catch up on all those articles that I have spotted online and sent to myself for reading when time permits. So here goes:

Treadmill or Dreadmill?

Anyone who has read my post Confessions of a Treadmill Runner already know which side of the fence I sit on. The treadmill has been my saviour this past week, as in the past, as it has enabled me to log at least some miles whilst under the weather. It is definitely a contentious issue and the following may well fan the flames that I quite often come across on the forums.

I found the following article ‘Think Outside The Mill: How To Make The Most Of Treadmill Running‘ which stood out from the majority of treadmill articles for me in that it contained a pro treadmill line from none other than Michael Wardian, silver medalist at the 2011 100k World Championships and USATF Ultra Runner of the Year in 2008, 2009, and 2010. To quote Michael Wardian:

“I tend to use the treadmill like I am outside and that means I use my imagination, I pretend I am coming up to a tough section of the race and then increase the incline or speed or then I am crushing down the hill and I might speed the treadmill up,” Wardian explains. A large number of his 120 miles per week are done on his downstairs treadmill. “We got our treadmill the day our second son Grant was born – I watch both our sons most mornings and I can still do my workouts and spend time with them.”

“The one good thing is that the treadmill keeps you on pace so during a tempo run there is a tendency to back off when you start feeling tired, the treadmill won’t let you do that unless you push the button!”

Once you read past the 120 miles per week element (wow!), the potential benefits are laid out and the article expands on the above, mentioning family, safety & weather as reasons for making use of the treadmill.

One further point that I pulled from the article is a cautionary one, and is a useful bit of information for anyone who does make use of the treadmill:

“Another factor to keep in mind is that because the belt is constantly running, it will be dragging your legs under and behind you during your stride cycle. By doing this, your hamstring muscles (which would typically be doing this work when outside) will be working less and you will be relying more heavily on your quads. Be mindful of weakened hamstrings if you’ve spent a lot of time on the treadmill when you move back outdoors; though, strength work in the gym can counteract this.”

Hitting the Wall

The article Hitting the wall – how to avoid it and what to do when it happens would appear to be well timed given the number of marathon related queries on the forums and given the fact that many Running Bug readers may well be gearing up for their first marathon. This excellent article highlights that each and every marathon is different, no matter how many of them you run and suggests that you always keep something in reserve for mile 18 and beyond, the point at which people generally experience the sensation of ‘hitting the wall’. In case you do hit the wall, try to remember the following:

“It is also important to remember that just because you’ve hit the wall, all is not lost. When we hit the dreaded wall, we need to dig deep to why we are running to begin with. We need to bring our mind and soul to the present moment and ask ourselves why we are doing such a race. This isn’t to say you should keep going and do more damage if you are seriously injured. Rather I want to challenge you to think in the moment and to push your body to the limit. You’ve worked so long for this day and sometimes it is helpful to remind yourself of this journey. Think about how challenging it was to find the time to properly train for your race. Remember how hard you ran the many, many distance runs you did for practice. And keep in mind that all along, you’ve known the race day would be the hardest part of all. Now that you are here, do you really want to throw in the towel? Or is there a small part, somewhere deep inside of you, that has the strength to keep pushing on? If you can tap into that part and go on at a pace that is safe for you, you’ll probably feel a huge sense of accomplishment.”

As I read this, having myself experienced the awful sensation of ‘hitting the wall’, I found myself nodding in agreement. What a perfect strategy for dealing with the wall.

Finally, the article finishes with some sage advice “if you can’t continue on, don’t make this race define your running career”. There will always be other days and other marathons.

Sheer Determination

As anyone who has read any of my posts will know, I am all for appreciating each and every run, regardless of how it went, how the weather was etc. I came across another inspirational video the other day on YouTube. If you have ever experienced a bad run, be sure to watch this video. Hopefully it will put your bad run into perspective. The clip shows Holland Reynolds, a star runner at San Francisco University High, stumble towards the finish line at a cross country race. Her legs give out and she tumbles to the ground. Any assistance over the line would have resulted in instant disqualification and, obviously mindful of this, Holland crawls over the finish line before being whisked away to the medical tent. I have had a fair few bad finishes in my time, including everything from projectile vomit to three miles of run-hopping with cramp. However, I have (fortunately) never found myself in the same position as Holland. Anyone who has ever struggled over a finish line will no doubt appreciate the sheer determination shown by Holland.

Running Podcasts

For those of you who listen to podcasts, there are a couple of new podcasts out there that are well worth a listen:

Talk Ultra, presented by Ian Corless and Ian Sharman is billed as ‘a podcast for ultra runners and enthusiasts’.

The first podcast has been downloaded over 6000 times already and the show looks set to be a huge success.

Anyone who is interested in my ‘A’ race for the year, the 95 mile West Highland Way Race might also appreciate the new West Highland Way Race Podcast produced by John Kynaston. The podcast covers everything from the history of the race through to tips from and interviews with some of those who have completed the race in the past. Essential listening for anyone who is looking to complete the race this year or, indeed, at any point in the future.

That’s all for this post. Slightly different to my usual posts but hopefully something of interest in there for everyone.

Confessions Of A Treadmill Lover

New post at The Running Bug, ‘Confessions of a treadmill lover‘.

You just can’t beat getting out into the fresh air for a run, especially when you are fortunate enough to live so close to some cracking forest trails and to an old railway line that takes you right out into the countryside far from any traffic. The chances of spotting any wildlife from the treadmill are also considerably less save for the errant spider that occasionally makes its presence known!

When it comes to the weather, I take it as it comes as far as running is concerned.

Rain: I love running in the rain. Just as well given that I live in Scotland! Some of my favourite races (The 55 mile Cateran Trail Ultra in May of this year springs to mind) have been run fully or partly in torrential rain conditions. What I do hate however, is starting a race in the rain and this is especially true when it involves a great deal of standing about waiting for the designated start time, getting increasingly wet.

Snow: You just can’t beat the extra tough workout that running on snow provides. Even better, strap a head torch on and head out for a night time run in the snow. The ‘warp speed’ light effect is mesmerising! (If you don’t know what I mean, try it for yourself one snowy night. The way the weather is going, you will not have too long to wait for the opportunity to do so!)

Sun: funnily enough this is my least favoured running condition, most likely due to my size and propensity to sweat. However, as long as the temperature is not too high, or as long as there is an accompanying cooling breeze, this is probably everyone’s favoured weather condition. Hopefully my recent weight loss will help to reduce the sweating.

At this point, I am going to throw in a curve ball. Having extolled the benefits of getting out for a run, regardless of the weather, it is time for a confession – I like treadmill running. There, said it.

I know that many people probably rate this on a par with some hideous torture but sometimes you just cannot beat the treadmill.

There is, as far as I am concerned, a time and a place for the treadmill and that is why I was quite so gutted when my trusty treadmill stopped working at the beginning of September. After 3 and a half years of loyal service my treadmill was no more!

That alone would have been bad enough but add in to the mix that this was accompanied by some of the crappiest weather in a long time and came at the start of the month in which I had pledged to run at least 5 miles every day. To say that the timing of this was somewhat off would be an understatement.

Looking back, I am surprised it lasted as long as it did. Unlike many home treadmills, this one saw regular and often brutal use. I even did a 4 hour training run on it one day, something I would likely never repeat under circumstances short of house arrest! However, at the time, it was really convenient and, if I recall correctly, it was so that I could kill two birds with one stone by getting a long run in whilst watching the F1!

It has been almost two months now and, faced with the prospect of getting a run in every day of both November and December (Movember & Marcothon), I finally gave in and ordered a replacement machine which I am looking forward to taking delivery of on Monday.

Over the past two months I have done a considerable amount or running outside, come rain or shine, including 25 days in September. As I look to build on this and to bag not one but two complete months of winter running, I will be so glad to be able to step on to the treadmill.

It will be good not to have to layer up each and every day, with its huge impact on the laundry. It will be good to fit in quick runs, grabbed at short notice with no preparation whatsoever. It will be good to keep a steady pace (and indeed to push the pace) knowing that the treadmill will ensure there is no slacking off on those days where I feel lethargic. It will be good to jump on the treadmill, switch on the trance music, and switch off the brain, safe in the knowledge that I can just run without fear of tripping on roots or rocks or whatever!

It will, once again, be so good to have a treadmill there for me, at my beck and call, when I just don’t have the time or the desire to face the elements.

Read about the pros and cons of Training on a Treadmill.