Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Decisions at 5.59am

With my alarm set to wake me up way earlier than most people would tolerate I went to sleep. The downside was that I had sat up a tiny bit too late the night before and really didn't want to get up and run. However. I did.

eenie, meenie, miney, mo.

It's always a tad tricky trying to decide what to wear when I don't plan it the night before. I wandered around for a while. I found some suitable clothes that had only just dried from the previous day's wash.

Then I had to decide which shoes to wear. In the end the choice was easy. I am really enjoying running in my Nike Free 3.0 (the red ones) at the moment, so I picked them up and somehow managed to attach them to my feet in our semi-dark hallway.

With the hamstring feeling ok, I decided to head off on a slightly different route. One that included a slight incline, which I managed with no discomfort.

I then headed into the industrial zone to destroy a bit more of my soul.

Eventually I appeared at the far end of the High Street, started to run the length of it and after a brief diversion through the Waitrose car park (don't ask) I arrived back home.

6.3km in 32:14 (5:07 per km pace).



Monday, 28 November 2011

Riddlesdown parkrun twenty two (rdp22)

I hadn't been feeling my normal self this weekend, slightly sluggish, fed up of not being able to race, and generally just a bit miserable.

This was the last Riddlesdown parkrun of November 2011 and the weather was still pretty decent. Nine degrees and partly cloudy. This time last year it was already freezing and we were just about to be hit with a great big dollop of snow.

Mrs7t managed to squeeze in a last minute shoulder massage before the run [photo:Richard Carter]

Mrs7t lined up for parkrun number four.

I lined up for parkrun twenty four.

The race started. We eased into an extremely gentle jog.

I usually leave the wife at the 1 kilometre point, but this week I wanted to go round with her. I let her set the pace and I just tagged along. We ran for a while. We walked for a while. We repeated that sequence for the rest of the run.

Lime spent the duration of the run clearly having a lot of fun with Nicki (thank you) [photo:Lucy Wernham]
Just after the half-way point I caught a glimpse of the leaders, who were now racing towards the final straight. I saw young Omar, who I've had a couple of interesting battles with, he looked like he was having a decent run. It was a strange feeling being at the back of the field watching the leaders finish - that's what happens when you do stuff that makes you injured!

mrs7t giving it some welly [photo:Richard Carter]

We came across a few (at least six) dogs at about 3.5km, I felt a little on edge. The wife didn't seem too worried. I felt safer with her than I would have if I had been alone. We passed them, there were no incidents.

When we hit the final straight the wife put in a nice kick and I followed her across the line a few seconds later. My plan for the day did not involve sprinting.

i think this was probably right at the end [photo:Richard Carter]

I am officially bored of my injury. So if you don't mind, the remaining niggly-ness will now go away. I'll start building my mileage back up and I'll be back to racing by Christmas. Then I'll get myself back to sub-20, then I'll start the push for sub-19. Sounds brilliant doesn't it...?? I hope someone tells the hamstring.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Race: Movember Battersea Park 5k (2011)

Movember is a month of awareness of men's health issues. Men across the land are invited grow a mo(ustache) in aid of the cause. Unfortunately facial hair isn't one of my stronger points. I trimmed myself on the last day of October and then left the mo to grow - whatever it decided to do during the month of Movember was out of my hands. On the morning of the race I decided that it felt right to go for a side parting to accompany my attempt at a mo.

side parting and mo in place

Me, Mrs7t and the Baba spent the previous night at my parents' house. The sleeping arrangements were not ideal. I slept on the floor on a children's mattress that was, old, springy and only about four feet in length. The mattress stopped at my knees. Somehow I actually had a pretty good nights sleep and woke feeling ready for action. We think the mattress contains some magical properties, as when Matilda has previously slept on it she slept the whole night through. Anyway, as I said, I woke feeling ready for action!!

the baba and the papa

This was the second year running that I had entered this race. I had been looking forward to it for months. I had always had it in mind that it could be a good course to target my first sub-19 5k. But then my hamstring started playing up and slowly I realised that I wouldn't be fit to race.

getting ready to unleash the power of the mo! (btw.. we are not holding hands)

However, all was not lost as this year my friend Terry had entered. If I could not race I could at least do my best to pace him around. He had previously run the Riddlesdown parkrun and had cut his time from 27:31 down to 25:40. The target time was an obvious choice, 24:59 (aka sub-25).

The baba with her nanny

As we were staying in Bermondsey we only had a short drive over to Battersea park, it took around 15 minutes to get there. We easily found a parking space (Note for next year: £2.50 for up to 3 hours), I changed into my Nike Free 3.0 running shoes and we headed across to the bandstand to pick up my race number and timing chip, buy some mo-running sweatbands, and to find Terry!

The park looked stunning with the trees displaying their autumnal colours. There were leaves being blown around by the gusty winds that seemed to randomly spring out of nowhere. It was warmer than at last year's event, the forecast being for partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 13 degrees.

a lovely autumnal day in battersea park

We found Terry, who was wearing his mo with pride! (it was much better than mine, obviously). Just before the start of the race our supporters turned up. From my side I had my two lovely ladies, plus my mum came along with my grandad. Terry's wife, two sons, mum, and their dogs had come to support him.

The mass warm-up then began, I'm not much of a fan of these so I wandered around while it all happened. We then filtered into the start funnel, I checked what time we were aiming for with Terry and 24:59 was confirmed. After a countdown the race was underway.

the families (however, we didn't manage to capture terry's mum on camera)

We set out at a steady pace, which was mostly dictated by the speeds of those around us. The congestion wasn't too bad for our intended pace, and we soon found ourselves at the 1km marker, our time was 5:30, slower than the target but considering the congestion I was happy with it.

There was one point on the course where we found ourselves running into a headwind, not exactly helpful but we soon passed through it. We crossed the 2km marker at 10:40ish.

From here we headed back up towards the start/finish area to complete the first lap. We were really happy when the MC called out our names as we passed the half-way point, we gave a big wave.


With that boost we headed off for lap two. I completely missed the 3km marker so have no idea what our time was at this point. I looked at my watch at the 4km marker, but I can't remember what it said.

The runners had been advised to keep to the left, not many were taking notice of this. At one point an old lady on an equally old bicycle rode past calling out 'keep to the left' - It made me smile.

The final straight is approximately 300 metres in length. As we rounded the corner I checked the watch, to my surprise it said 22:59. We had 2 minutes to run 300 metres, we were surely going to finish ahead of our target time. Then Terry broke into a sprint, I had trouble keeping up with him. But as I drew level with him he announced that he was going to 'see his breakfast again' (or words to that effect). As he veered of to the right to take care of business I continued, but then couldn't bring myself to cross the line without my mo-bro. I moved to the side and stopped, turned around and went back to Terry, firstly to make sure he was ok and secondly to make sure we crossed the line together.

crossing the finish line

Once he had regained his composure we walked towards the finish line before finally breaking into a jog to cross the line.

We collected our medals and reunited ourselves with our supporters.

everyone's a winner!

Our finish times weren't entirely clear at this point, but later in the day the official chip times were put up on the mo-running website. Our times were 25:07 and 25:07. Just outside our target time, but due to the incident we lost, I think, just under a minute. I think it won't be long before Terry is lining up a sub-24 minute 5k.

this shot is madatory....
I was very disappointed to not be racing, but pacing Terry was just as rewarding. The hamstring was ok during the run (I had a good sprint catching up with Terry on the final straight). At the time of writing it still felt ok.

It looks like we'll be lining up a few more mo-runs next Movember, I think the full set would be impossible but we'll see what is on offer and squeeze in what we can!

... and so is this one. (not quite sure what's going on with my expression)

Thanks to all of the supporters that came along, most of the photos here were taken by the wonderful Mrs7t. Thank you!

Terry started a blog about running, I think he'll be writing about the race. run ReNcE run

And lastly...... I've grown quite attached to my mo and chin hair, I think I might keep growing it, maybe this time next year I'll have something to be proud of!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

No data

5.52am... the alarm started to beep. Actually it doesn't beep. Years ago I took an Aphex Twin track and edited a small section to use as an alarm - I've been using it ever since.

I strapped on my reflective arm band (see photo).

the blurry photo pretty matches my own vision/state of mind at this time of day

After selecting which shoes to wear (Nike Free 3.0) I picked up my phone only to realise that I had forgotten to turn on my charger the night before. The battery indicator had changed to orange to indicate that it was low. I picked it up and carried on as usual, hopeful that it might just have enough juice left to record my running data.

The phone took a little longer to find the satellites this morning, so I walked up and down, swung my legs, and did some squats while waiting for it to find some. Once it had locked on, I got on with the run. The goal was to keep at a comfortable pace and not do anything that could push my recovery back again.

I followed a similar route to the one that I used a few days earlier, but this time I didn't run down the spooky alleyway because, honestly, I was scared! I know I'm a grown up and I shouldn't let my imagination go crazy, but I can't stop it.

I reached a point where I knew that I would be approaching 5k and unlocked my phone to check the distance. The phone reported 4.6km and then..... 'You have insufficient battery - the phone will now power down' ... and that's what it did. All the lovely GPS data from the run was lost. Forever. I swore out loud as I was running along, twice.

I continued my route and finished back on Tonbridge High Street.

Once I was at a computer I plotted the route on a map so I could manually enter the distance on my log.



Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Spooky Run

This morning my alarm went off at 05:52. I snoozed it once, but forced myself out of bed when it resumed its annoying repetitive jingle. After some rummaging around looking for my running gear, I emerged from our building and stepped out onto a foggy Tonbridge High Street. I started to warm up while I waited for my phone to pick up some satellites. Once I had the signal I hit go and started my training run. It was 06:14.

tonbridge high street (looking north)
I ran down the high street, then turned left and entered the industrial area. I hate running in this part of Tonbridge, it is so depressing. There are noisy lorries going past. There is barely anything green. The only reason that I have been using this route is because it is pretty flat, I need to keep to flat routes at the moment as my hamstring is reacting badly to inclines.

Once in the industrial area the street lighting pretty much disappeared. The fog and lack of street lights left me with extremely bad visibility. I almost ran into a couple of people - they must have been surprised as this runner clad head to ankle in black (the shoes were red) came from out of nowhere and almost knocked them flying at this hour.

I doubled back and entered an even darker zone, my plan was to cut through an alleyway I had found a few weeks earlier. I could barely see a thing and continued the route from memory. I found the alleyway and here the visibility went down to zero. I had to walk briefly. As I was walking I suddenly felt quite scared, then something touched my leg. I was terrified and started to ease back into a jog. I thought about turning back but that's where the 'thing' was. I wanted to run but I knew that somewhere ahead was a metal gate, and I didn't want to run into it.

tonbridge high street (looking south)
At the end of the alleyway I cut through an industrial estate and fed back out into the main road, where I was relieved to finally find some light. I continued through the foggy, partially lit industrial zone and continued on until I finally came back out onto the high street.




Sunday, 20 November 2011

Riddlesdown parkrun twenty one (rdp21)

The change in seasons is well under way. It is feeling very autumnal at the moment, but you can tell that winter is soon going to push autumn to one side and stamp it's frosty authority over the land. For the time being, at least, autumn is clinging on.

mr and mrs7t at the back (photo: Chris Hall)
During our journey from Kent we had to put the fog lights on as visibility was down to less than 100 metres in places. The fog must have been confined to the outskirts of London, as upon leaving the M25 the clear skies and sunshine that had been forecast suddenly came into view.

As regular readers will know, my running has had a set back over the past few months. I have resumed some easy training runs but things are still a long way from being back to normal. I certainly think racing is off the cards for the rest of the year. The good thing is that it has made me focus more on the other aspects of parkrunning, which I briefly touched on in last week's rdp post.

1.6km done (photo: Chris Hall)
Today I was taking part in my twenty first Riddlesdown parkrun, while mrs7t lined up for her third. Before that I bumped into a parkrun virgin, we walked from Warlingham school to the start line together. His name is Trevor, I hope he enjoyed his first experience of parkrun. I didn't manage to catch up with him after the run, but maybe I'll bump into him next week to find out how it went.

I am really enjoying the conditions at the moment. Most of the course is the same as it always was, but certain sections are a little muddy and the trees are shedding their leaves throughout the trail section. This covers the rocks and roots that protrude from the trail, making the section a little more challenging. A few of the corners are now pretty slippery so care is required at these points. During the summer months you can get away with normal road running shoes, but now that those days are a distant memory trail shoes offer much better traction.

my new favourite photo of myself running (photo:Nicki Clark)
After handing the citrussy lady over to Nicki for safe keeping, we lined up at the back of the pack again, safe in the knowledge that we could cruise along for the first kilometre without getting in anyone's way. At the 1 kilometre point mrs7t took her first walking break while I continued on at my easy pace. Even when running at this pace I can't help picking out people ahead to catch and pass, I guess it's just in my blood to want to race.

At the end of my run the citrussy one reached out for me and sat in my arms while we both gazed back along the course waiting for the first sight of mrs7t. After a few minutes we decided that it would be a good idea to go and find her so we could accompany her to the finish line.

we found her (photo:Nicki Clark)
37 minutes and 30 seconds after the start of the parkrun, mother and child were reunited. It must feel like a lifetime to our baba, but she is quite content to be perched upon Nicki's shoulders, with only the occasional dropped lower lip, while we run.

mrs7t entering the final straight (photo: Nicki Clark)
We eventually arrived at the good companions pub for coffee (instant again), we made a donation to children in need and had some delicious cupcakes made by the Halls in return. The conversations swang from general running to arrangements for the new years day parkrun to Janathon and then to child birth and other non-running subjects.

We meandered out of the pub at about 1.15pm and began our journey back out into the depths of Kent, happy that we had been part of another RDp but sad to be leaving our parkrun family for another week.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Riddlesdown parkrun twenty (rdp20)

... and all of a sudden we were at number twenty.

When we first started going to Riddlesdown parkrun it was all about the running, but over the last four months the run itself has become only part of why we drag ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn and drive for almost an hour (in each direction) every Saturday morning.

The social side of the parkrun is just as important to us, and we always try go to the post-run coffee venue afterwards. Having Matilda has probably made it easier for us to get to know people. She also seems to love the parkrun, as well as all the people that look after, run around, entertain and play with her.

at the start (Photo: Cameron Bew)
For the second consecutive week Nicki lime-sat so that both myself and the wife (mrs7t) could run - thank you :-)

We started together from the back of the pack of the sixty four runners that were present at the start line. mrs7t has only just started running so is still adopting a run-walk strategy. We stayed together for the first kilometre, at that point mrs7t took her first walk break. We said our goodbyes and I continued on at my easy pace.

My run was fairly uneventful. I continued on at around 5 minutes per kilometre pace until I reached the end. I passed a few familiar faces on the way round, I said hello as I passed but I sometimes forget that my easy pace is faster than some people's race pace, so it's not always easy for everyone to reply.

The overall winner finished in 19:57. If I wasn't injured, today could have been a potential P1 day for me. I won't linger on such thoughts. It doesn't help. But it would be nice to take the top spot one day.

mrs7t at 1.6km (Photo: Cameron Bew)
Mrs7t continued with her plan and 8 minutes after I had finished she entered the final straight, and crossed the line in 34:13.

Always a good sign that a runner has worked hard, Mrs7t then staggered to the side and fell to her knees. Matilda couldn't wait to get back into her Mum's arms and walked over to her and sat there while she recovered.

Once the running was over we spent some time mingling and chatting about running things (injuries and GPS were top of the bill today). Then we made our way to the good companions pub for some more chatting and mingling, only this time there was also coffee. (Although, I was disappointed that they didn't make any 'proper' coffee this week, I(we) had to make do with instant coffee). Matilda and Nicki had a few conversations, apparently in Japanese!

team7t (photo: Nicki Clark)
With another parkrun over, we took the scenic road back to Kent.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Garmin Forerunner 405 vs HTC Desire

In this comparison I am not going to go into great detail regarding every single feature of the devices. What I intend to cover here is the practical use of the two different ways to track and log your running activities. For the purpose of this post I will assume you already know what a GPS device does.

HTC Desire and Garmin Forerunner 405
The application I use on my phone is Handy Runner, this links to the RunningAHEAD website. I have tried other applications (CardioTrainer and RunKeeper) but the Handy Runner / RunningAHEAD combo is my favourite.

I will take you through the process of using the devices to track a run from start to finish.

To get started you will need to attach the device to your body in some way:

Garmin - It is a watch so it attaches to your wrist in the normal way. I find the strap quite hard to feed through and fasten. However once you have fed it through and fastened the strap this will be completely secure on your wrist. GPS watches are typically quite bulky on the wrist. However, the 405 is fairly slimline by comparison.

HTC Desire - The phone requires an addition piece of equipment in order for you to attach it to your arm. There are a few options but I have opted for a Tunebelt. It is very easy to insert the phone and it easily secures the device to your upper arm. It has a waterproof screen protector which also allows you to easily operate the touch screen. Of course you could hold it, but with sweaty hands it's probably just a matter of time before it goes flying across the street and leaves you with a hefty repair/replacement bill.

You will need to pick up some satellites:

Both of the devices perform equally here. The satellites can take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes to locate. From my experience this is just the nature of satellites and will probably be the same across most devices.

While talking about satellites it's worth noting that in some unscientific tests on reported distance it seems that the Garmin has around a 1% margin of error. At its worst the phone has been up to 3% out. As I say, all unscientific. But still worth noting.

During the run:

Both devices will track your run from the moment you hit the start button. Once you start running one of the big differences becomes apparent.

Being in the style of a traditional wrist watch, the Garmin is much easier to interact with it while on the move. A quick glance will provide you with information on your timing, pace and distance covered.

The phone, which is strapped onto your upper arm, is a different matter. In order to check your stats while on the go you will need to press the unlock button, then swipe the screen to complete the unlock process. Then you twist your head around to your arm to look at the screen while trying not to accidentally click the stop button. You are now at great risk of tripping over or running into something. You could, of course, undo the strap and slide it off your arm and hold it in your hand. This makes reading the screen easier but then you have to put it back on your arm and fasten the velcro strap again.

At the end of the run:

Garmin - You hit stop, then you hold down the other button to store the data.

Phone - You unlock the phone (as above) and hit stop.

Moving the data to the computer/internet:

Here is the second big difference:

The phone instantly uploads the data to the website (providing you have a data coverage). You may need to edit the entry from your computer to add the name of the route or which shoes you wore, but it is all very easy.

The Garmin comes with a wireless USB adapter which will assist you in transferring the data to your computer. The process is pretty pain free once you have installed the software. But if you want the data online so you can share with your friends or view while at another computer you will need to export the .gpx file from the Garmin Training Centre software and then import that data into the online version.

Cost Comparison:

Garmin Forerunner 405 seems to range from between £120 to £240 online.

Smartphone - If you were to buy one brand new off the shelf you'd be looking at something around £500. In the UK at least, most phones are given away or heavily subsidised though monthly price plans. So if you were to do it that way you could get the handset for free. The applications that I have tried have all been free. The tunebelt armband cost me around £15.

Using the devices in the rain:

In the rain both devices face their own issues.

The Garmin 405 has a touch controlled bezel around the outside of the screen. When it gets wet the watch develops a mind of its own, changing from one screen to the next and occasionally turning on the back light. In the paperwork that comes with the watch I can't find anything that gives a clue as to the status of its waterproof/resistance -ness. However it does state that 'swimming or prolonged water submersion can cause a short in the unit'. From that I read that it is ok to use in the rain. I have also read reports of people being given electric shocks from the charging points on the underside of the watch when it rains, but I have not experienced this myself.

The phone by its very nature is not water resistant so you take it out there at your own risk. The case I use has a slight gap at the bottom which in theory could let water into the charging port. If wearing a long sleeved top I roll the sleeve up so I have some extra material to play with and I double that over the open part of the phone case to try to add some protection. I think once some water may have got into the phone because it acted strange for about two weeks, then it miraculously went back to normal.


Both devices do the intended job well. They track your run using the GPS satellites and provide you with lots of lovely data to analyse. Both sets of software allow for the export and import of the .gpx files, which means that you are not locked into one application/device/website for ever. I like this.

During the run the Garmin is the more convenient option, you can check your stats easily without much faffing around. My current setup with the phone isn't the best choice if you want to constantly be updated with your stats (it is worth noting that other applications have more features in this area - cardiotrainer has a virtual trainer's voice that will tell you your pace and distance through your headphones if you wish).

After the run the phone makes up for its less easy on-the-run access to data by instantly uploading the data to the website. Also, another big advantage with the phone is that you are not tied to any particular tracking software. You can easily download different apps which will give you different options, user interface and features.

Update 18 June 2013: I am still using my phone (upgraded to Samsung Galaxy S4) but have given the app 'Strava' a go and I love it. As well as giving you all the data and exportable .gpx files it also throws an element of competition into the mix. It's well worth checking it out if you haven't done so already. My profile is here. I'm using it for logging running and cycling - Strava have separate apps for the two different sports but all the files upload to the same account. You have to log using the correct app in order for the app to pick up the correct segments - If you don't know what segments are have a look here.




Thanks to Nicki for giving me the opportunity to play with the Garmin. Thanks to Graeme and Chris for the recent GPS discussions.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Riddlesdown parkrun nineteen (rdp19)

The week's training would have been better if I hadn't got ahead of myself and done a 17k long run the day after a tempo run. Result - The hamstring problem had gone in the wrong direction and felt worse than it did a week earlier.

I'm trying to learn from it. Let's not talk about it anymore.


So, on to Riddlesdown parkrun nineteen.

In the days leading up to the parkrun the BBC weather had been forecasting heavy rain. This had me extremely excited and the tweets were flying around with suggestions around clothing and footwear choices. There was also talk of how many people were hardcore enough to turn out for the run in heavy rain.

Then on Friday night the BBC changed their forecast from their random guesswork into a real one based on fact. This turned out to be spot on.

We arrived and found Terry waiting in the car park, and continued over to the downs where we were confronted with very poor visibility due to the fog (A dense layer of cloud lying close to the surface of the ground or water and reducing visibility to less than 1 km (0.62 mi). Fog occurs when the air temperature becomes identical, or nearly identical, to the dew point.).

the fog had us reaching for our brightest running gear (photo: Iain Morton)
Then something unusual happened. The wife announced that she had her running kit on underneath her jeans and was going to run the course instead of taking photos or marshaling. All we had to do was find someone that would look after Lime until one of us had finished.

We had a warmup jog over to the start line. Nicki (race director) had already started her pre-race speech before we arrived so we joined the back of the crowd of runners. Once there Lucy (volunteer extraordinaire) spotted that we were both dressed in our running gear and offered to look after Lime.

The baba must have wondered what was happening as both the mummy and the papa ran off and disappeared into the fog.

I went ahead with Terry in search of a pb he thought he had seen lying around, while the wife eased into her first parkrun with a run/walk strategy.

(photo: Iain Morton)
Halfway around and I spotted Lime, who was quite content, and now with Nicki. I slowed down to make sure all was ok, and it was.

I continued around with Terry until 4.5km where I edged slightly in front to let him concentrate on his final push for a new pb.

nicki and lime (photo: Iain Morton)
I crossed the finish line, I wasn't racing so wasn't overly concerned about my finishing time. Lime had made it onto Nicki's shoulders by this point and still looked happy.

Terry came in a few seconds after me, knocking over a minute off his previous pb! Not bad considering there was a lot of conversation taking place during the run.

I had left my barcode in the car so had to dash off to find it. While I was doing that Terry had gone back to find the wife and accompanied her along the last stretch of the course.

Dani unleashing the fury on the final straight (photo: Iain Morton or Nicki Clark)
She crossed the line in 36:23. Not bad when you consider she has done absolutely no training. Hopefully she has got the bug and will continue to put in regular appearances at future parkruns. (Only 49 more and you'll earn that t-shirt!)

All runners safely home, we relocated ourselves to the good companions pub for the usual tea, coffee and bananas. Plus, because we (team7t) had been present at all of October's events there were mars bars courtesy of Nicki.

team7t (photo: Nicki Clark)
Thanks to Lucy and Nicki for looking after Lime during the run. Thanks for the mars bars and thanks for the photos. Thanks to everyone else that entertained Lime during the course of the morning. Thanks for everything else that I haven't said thanks for. :-)


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