Tuesday, 10 December 2013

New marked running routes in Yeovil

If you are new to running or just fancy a new route that has been marked out then there are two new 3-2-1 marked routes in Yeovil.

The first is down at Ninesprings - one of my favourite training venues and definitely undulating and scenic ! The official course description is as follows:

Ninesprings is a picturesque, traffic free and easily accessible part of Yeovil Country Park situated close to Yeovil town centre.The network of paths and tracks with some steady hill climbs provides improving runners with the perfect place to improve their fitness. The Country Park is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists and is a great place to get active.

Ninesprings 321 is a 3km circular route, based on loose gravel tracks and some tarmacked pavements. The route includes some steps and would be unsuitable for wheelchair users or those with push chairs. The route is undulating with a few steady climbs to raise your heart rate, there are several benches along the route should you need a resting point!

The route is well signed using run england 321 way markers on oak posts and gates, with country park rangers on hand should you require any assistance.

The second route is off Lyde Road (left)  and goes down by the river which can get quite muddy after heavy rain. The course description is:
A picturesque, traffic free and easily accessible part of Yeovil Country Park situated on the edge of Yeovil in beautiful South Somerset Countryside.

The network of paths running alongside the river provides runners with a gentle prodominatly flat running route. Lyde Road 321 is a 3km circular route, based on loose gravel tracks and grassed paths.

And with a bit of basic navigation you join the two runs together to make a much longer effort ...


Thursday, 17 October 2013

The importance of taking an end of season break

Hands up if you take a proper end of season break ? And I don't mean a couple of days cross training before launching into a slightly shorter long run. But more of a proper kenyan style 2 months back at the shamba catching up with friends and fattening up the animals as well as yourself ? Ok, so that's probably a bit extreme as well in the age of the professional runner who needs to race regularly to make a living but it does illustrate the point about when is a break a break.

Watching Mo Farah being interviewed on BBC this week was a good reminder about just how important this is. Asked about what he had been doing recently he said a couple of weeks holiday with his family, eating stuff he doesn't normally eat and adding 3 kgs. The interviewer looked a bit surprised at this and asked if he had been doing any running - No, none was the reply.

October is the time of year when people are coming back from their end of season breaks (or not) and watching how they are running is fascinating from a coaching pointing view. It tells you a lot about how they have recovered from their last period of training and more immportantly their prospects for the season ahead.

You've got the ones who didn't bother with a break because hey, rest is for whimps. They are still running OK and over the coming months will start to struggle with a plateau in performance then illness and injury before being forced to take the break which they should have had earlier. Inevitably the break will be longer and at just the wrong moment in their build up for a really important race. This will be put down to ''bad luck" and guess what, the pattern will repeat itself in future as the lessons fail to get learned.

Then you've got those who took a break but perhaps only a short one to recharge the batteries before launching into a fairly hard block of training. They are either running really well already as they add some extra endurance onto a summer base of speed or they got hurt almost straight away as they increased their training load again. The ones who navigated the transition and stayed healthy could well be flying by November and keep this going into the New Year. I did this in 1998 - PBs on the track in the summer, short break then spent the autumn/winter doing twice weekly Frank sessions at Battersea and racing brilliantly before running out of steam in Feb and breaking down completely in March. Some early season glory but I came up short when it mattered and missed out making the World Cross Team when I had my best chance as wasn't around at a all in summer when I should have been taking more chunks off my PBs.

And then their are a third group of runners who've taken a proper end of season break of 2-3 weeks, possibly added a little bit of weight (but still stayed in shape) and totally recharged themselves mentally as well as physically. Their return to training is a bit sluggish and laboured and they will often wonder how on earth they could be so far away from top fitness (in reality they aren't, it just feels like it). When they start up again the training is crucial. Remember the principles of training/de-training. One of the things that reverses fastest when you stop is the neuro-muscular co-ordination. So this means that those wonderful smooth/efficient/powerful movement patterns that you have spent time developing need re-programming before you increase your training load too much - otherwise you risk using muscles incorrectly and injury will follow. So it requires patience, perhaps a 4-6 week block where you focus on re-establishing great movement patterns and gradually building the training load (volume/intensity) before you really get down to the winters hard work.

So what gets in the way of taking the third approach ? Often its a simple anxiety along the lines of "if im not training hard then i'm losing fitness" which prevents people taking a proper break and then starting up again gradually. You need to think a bit longer term. Its like climbing a mountain. Climb up, establish a base camp, then climb to the next level before briefly dropping back to base. Climb again, return to Camp 1 etc, etc. A small step back in the short term enables you to go much higher in future.

Another barrier I see is pressure to race - which generally means clubs, schools, parents, friends telling people to race 'or you will be letting the team down.' And of course if you want to race you want to be fit don't you ? This is really difficult to deal with because in the absence of a support network that really gets long term development the athlete needs to be really strong of character to say no and do what is best for them. For school age children one way around this is to schedule their break at the start of the summer holidays after English Schools Track is over and then use August and September as a 'return to training' month before competion starts again.

So whether you are racing an autumn marathon, peaked for English Schools Track and have just enjoyed a summer of road racing taking a proper break followed by a well thought through return to training is absolutely critical to continued long term progression. And if you are still not sure, listen to Mo.

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Half Term activities in Yeovil

Startrack group 

Were your kids inspired by Mo or Jess last summer?

On Mon 28th and Tues 29th Oct 2013 the popular Startrack Athletics camp will be back in Yeovil. Full details are available on https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/startrack

Monday, 16 September 2013

Mo beaten by Bekele in classic Great North Run

If you didn't get the chance to watch yesterday's Great North Run then its well worth a watch on iPlayer for Bekele's masterclass in racing to your strengths and your opponents weaknesses. It should be compulsory viewing for the Kenyan 10,000m team before they next take on Mo !

Frequently a line up including 'former greats' quickly descends into an embarrassment as the legends sub-standard performance reveals the passing of time and this was my fear yesterday with Bekele injured and out of form for a few years now and Haile even older than me. And how they rolled back the years to put on a show. With Haile taking the role of pacemaker to keep things honest Bekele ducked and dived, fainted and weaved, like Sugar Ray Leonard on one of his mid career comebacks before landing a knockout punch.

I would love to know whether the Ethiopians talked tactics and my guess would be that they had indeed hatched a plan to test Mo to the limit. By 5 miles they certainly had me fooled as Haile was working hard and Bekele dropped off the pace while Mo looked like he was jogging. I bet I wasn't the only one who would have paid out on a Mo victory at that point.

As the race wore on Bekele worked his way back up to the two leaders looking very smooth and powerful - some of the side on shots were poetry in motion though I wonder how his leg extension and recovery (heel flicking his buttocks) is going to transfer to the marathon. He is one of those athletes with a dead poker face whereas with Mo and Haile they have subtle cues of fatigue and sure enough by 11 miles Mo was looked a little strained in the face and was starting to look around - sure fire signs of stress and something the opposition can exploit - and (note to Alberto) will exploit to the full in a marathon where its easier to read those signs than in a frenetic 5000m track race.

And then to Bekele's moment of racing genius. The downhill onto the sea front with a couple of kilometers to go. Its steep, and wet. And Bekele launched himself down the hill like the 7 time World Cross Country champion he is with a technique refined on the slopes of Entoto. It was calculated and fearless and you could sense the pressure on Mo as he held back and tip toes down the slope. By the time they reached the bottom Bekele had a gap and used his momentum to put the hammer down in a do or die bid for victory.

As the gap opened you could feel Mo's dejection and Bekele's growing confidence with every step and yet, with the gap at only 5 or 6 secs the race wasn't completely over. And then the grandstand finish as Mo remembered his track speed and kicked with 400m to go. With every stride the gap closed and as the finish approached the course got narrower. Just like the track runner holding the inside line to make the others run further Bekele picked his line to perfection meaning that Mo would have to make changes of direction to get past. And with a final burst they both went for the line with Bekele holding on.

As for Haile, well not surprisingly he couldn't match that finishing pace but a 60:41 clocking is pretty tasty for a 40 year old who is probably 43 or 44 in all reality. While the leg speed might have gone the endurance from 25 years of training is still there - the principle of reversibility in action.

What price all three lining up in London next spring ? I'm not sure Haile can do the training anymore to be competitive in a paced marathon but without pacemakers and in a good old fashioned race like today, well that could be another classic. So Hugh Brasher (and Dave Bedford if you are reading), ditch the pacemakers for VLM 2014 and put on a real race with some great personalities. Lets make road racing box office again.

Monday, 17 June 2013

I agree with Nick

One of the joys of the short English grass court tennis season is listening on radio 5 live to the wisdom of coach Nick Bollettieri. And with a very wet weekend at the Queen's Club Championship this weekend we had a bumper helping of Nick. Two snippets worth sharing touched on the coaching process and focus.

When the semi-final was interrupted by rain, the 5 live presenter asked Nick what the coach needed to say in the locker room to his player. The answer highlighted some of the arts of coaching and made me reflect on how I engage with athletes. While I can't do the full radio dialogue justice here are the salient points made by Bollettieri: "Every player is different, some need only a word, some need a full conversation and if its Tommy Haas then expect a verbal blast back if you say anything at all to him". So far so good. Then "why don't you start off by asking the player a question, the answer tells you what you need to say" and finally "if I need to say something, I keep it short and to the point". So obvious I hear you say and how often do we see this simple formula ignored, whether be sports coaches, bosses of even in normal family settings. I know I am guilty at times of taking the same approach to all and not taking time to ask a great question and listen to the answer.

The second gem came as Andy Murray was battling a bad ankle/groin and was behind in the final. The commentators question was about what Murray would be focusing on, how much would Wimbledon next week be on his mind. Nick was blunt in his assessment. Murray's focus would be on the next point of this match at Queen's, there was no chance he would be thing about Wimbledon. And if he was, then he would be toast in this final.

This ability to focus totally on the moment is one of the things that sets the top sportsman apart from the rest. One ball at a time, one step at a time. They can do it in practice as well as in competition and you see this in the quality of their training. They make every minute of practice high quality and meanigful - there is no time for worrying about what is coming next. In running Paula Radcliffe famously used to count to 100 when she got tired in the marathon as a way of keeping her focused in the moment rather than let her mind get sidetracked by what was still to come.

If you get chance during Wimbledon fortnight, switch the TV to silent andd get Nick on Radio 5 for some more coaching gems.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Langport Miles

This week Langport Runners (left) in Somerset are hosting a festival of Mile running to inspire and engage local kids and adults. There is a full program, starting on Monday with the club's junior section running their Mile races on the grass track at Huish Episcopi school in Langport.

Then on Tuesday afternoon it is the turn of the school itself to have a go before on Wednesday at 18.30 there is an open event for adults from local running clubs and the community. I've been persuaded to dust off my spikes and get my middle distance head on to try and set some sort of a track record though i'm not sure that the school kids won't go faster than i'm capable of these days !

As well as a full out Mile races there will be an opportunity to run a Mile as part of a relay team or in a Parlauf. So it should be a fun series of events. If you want to come along and run or just watch and help out then more details are on the event Facebook page.

15.05.13 Hot off the press from organiser Dave German...
A very wet afternoon for the Academy to get their runners out but they managed one mile and Staff joined in as well. They had also invited Hambridge Primary along and they came with four teams and ran with great enthusiasm.When I get the results and times I'll collate them all and send them on.The Huish Biathlon was also taking place at the same time and I saw
Holly,Will and Dom all doing their run in the rain and wind. Great to see it all going on. So now just praying for a dry evening tomorrow for the last Mile events with Adrian Marriott to set the pace. A team of 5 Juniors achieved 4 min35sec last night so we have to beat that? Weather forcast is for sunshine!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bristol 10k 2013 results

Just back from Bristol and the 10k which I ran for the first time since 2008. The event has certainly grown since then and there seemed to plenty of support out on the road. I was pretty pleased with my 31.45 clocking as I get back into the swing of things after the 100km. While there was a bit of a swirling breeze along the Portway conditions were good so it was a but surprising that nobody broke 30mins for the men today. After catching early leader Frank Tickner at the 7km, Dave Webb took the win in 30:05 from Anuradha Cooray and marathon specialist Martin Williams. Not far behind me Gemma Steel smashed the women's course record with 32:15 as she just edged out Selan Abere and Katrina Wootton.

Most impressive run of the day without question was Martin Rees who clocked a V60 world best of 32:54 !

Full results listing on Run Britain

Search for individual results 2013 RESULTS

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Odlo - the best kept secret in run clothing ?

I don't know about you but running clothing winds me up on an almost daily basis. Whether it is the uninspired block colouring, the absurd fit with arm/leg lengths out of all proportion to chest/waist or just the mediocrity of much of the construction which results in kit falling apart in no time you can practically be guaranteed disappointment. And over the years I've grown to tolerate this - running in a jacket that either leaks like a sieve or steams me like a sauna, zippered tights with broken zips, and shorts that are unspeakable.

I wonder if this problem stems from the fact that much of the clothing is produced by the shoes companies and as a result is just an after thought (and cash generator) to their main business ? There are a few specialists out there who stick to what they know, 1000mile socks are one brand that springs to mind which always performs. They know socks and do socks. And i've generally had good experiences with Helly Hansen thermals. Which brings me to Odlo.

With a background in nordic and alpine sports they can't afford poor design, cheap fabrics and shoddy construction. This winter I was lucky enough to get my hands on their top of the range Bjørndalen Cross Country Ski Jacket (pictured centre left) at a good price and what a piece of equipment it is !

Starting with the fit it almost feels tailored - correct proportions and constructed to allow proper movement. The fabric is just great. -10C and a wind and it keeps you warm, a warmer day and sun shining and there is enough ventilation to keep you comfortable, just omit the mid layer. And the attention to detail is great, whether it the stretchy lower arms and cuff to give a perfect seal, the flap over the top of the zip at the neck or the positioning of the reflective stips the design folks at Odlo have thought of everything.

So that is skiing, what about running ? Well I used the jacket on many of the cold running days we had this winter and it performed brilliantly, though for a normal spring/autumn day you would want to dip into the running collection. The same attention to detail and quality theme runs through the run clothing that I have seen though it can be difficult to get your hands on it in the UK. The one downside is price, this stuff is not cheap but you get what you pay for. Take a slightly longer term view of how long your important items of running kit are going to last you for and it starts to make sense.

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Friday, 3 May 2013

On Running Cloudsurfer review

For the last few weeks I've been testing out a pair of Cloudsurfer trainers made by Swiss company On Running. It is not yet a well known brand here in the UK though it has built quite a following in Switzerland, Germany and the US.

If you have seen a pair your first reaction was probably similar to mine: "they look weird, that outsole must be a crazy gimic". What strikes you is the series of rubber hoops which make up the outsole and are known as clouds by the guys who designed the shoes. Different models have a different number of these clouds and the Cloudsurfer sports 13 of them.

So what made me overcome intial scepticism and give these a try ? Well at the UK 100km championships my team mate Dave Mitchinson ran the whole race in the stripeed down Cloudracer version of the shoe and had no blisters, blackened toe nails or other foot problems. With that in mind I figured there must be something in the shoes worth finding out about. So when the opportunity came to stop by the On office on a recent trip to Zurich I took it out of sheer curiosity.

Lacing the shoes up the first thing I noticed was the fit which was relatively broad and suits my feet nicely. I've struggled a bit with narrower Japanese shoes and these felt right for european feet. Sizing is similar to normal shoes and I slipped nicely into a UK8.5 and would probably also be fine in a UK8. Take care if buying off US sizes though because my UK8.5 is marked as a US9 and I would usually take a US9.5 in Saucony and Adidas.

First impressions. After walking carefully down the stairs and out of the office expecting to fall off the 'clouds' at any moment I went for a short run up the street with founder Olivier Bernhard. And I have to say the shoes felt pretty good. The biggest thing I noticed on that first short run was how bouncy the shoe felt and while flexible my feet didn't feel out of control or unstable. On top of that, they definitely seemed to push my hips a little bit further forward and helped me to run 'taller' than usual.

Back home I've given them the full treatment including off road, grass, tarmac and whatever the best of Somerset can throw at the them. I've yet to find a surface that they struggle on though some people report the clouds filling with mud when it is really dirty under foot. So far they have done just under 200 miles without any obvious signs of wear and tear (above left) and I'm curious to see how long they retain their dynamic feel before starting to feel crushed and flat.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when you start running in a shoe like the Cloudsurfer is that it will allow your foot and lower leg to move more naturally than when in a normal shoe. So you should transition carefully over a period of weeks and pay attention to where the muscles are working a bit harder i.e. stretch them out afterwards. While not as drastic as going to a zero drop 'minimal' type of shoe, these will give you some of the benefits without many of the risks. I've certainly noticed my right calf feeling different and as a result the hamstrings and glutes working more effectively.

In summary: a good shoe if you are looking for something to help you run more naturally and with better posture but don't want the lottery of going to a barefoot/minimal shoe. Full product details

Monday, 22 April 2013

Never stop learning

One of the great things about life in general and sport in particular is that you can always learn new things if you are open enough to put yourself into situations where you are exposed to something you can't do very well. The mind and body are fantastically adapted to learn new motor skills pretty quickly with focused practice.

This winter I spent some time on the loipes learning to cross country ski. In part it was an experiment to see if several hours continuous aerobic exercise without the impact of running would benefit my (ultra) running and in part the sheer challenge of learning a completely new skill. I've written about my experience and the learning process in more depth on the Connectwell website. So the question now is how do I challenge myself this summer ? All suggestion welcome !

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Quantock Hills running weekend

I'm really excited to be joining Brett and Claire from WhyRun for their Quantock Hills training weekend on 17th-19th May. They have a super location in a beautiful part of Somerset where you can really re-connect yourself with nature. A great way to get back into running after a spring marathon or springboard for a summer of running. I will be doing a training workshop on saturday morning and plan to arrive on Friday evening to be around to chat about training, racing and all things outdoors and active.

Places are going fast so give Brett or Claire a call on 07713 446744.

01823 480998 07713446744

Read more at: http://www.whyrun.co.uk/running-holidays-breaks.html?task=viewevent&itid=7
Copyright © WhyRun

Monday, 8 April 2013

How long is long ?

Answer - it depends !

Back in the days when I was a track runner 2 hours was a long run and I really knew about it for a few days after completing one. But like all training, you get used to it over time and by the time I moved up to the marathon 2 hours was just a normal endurance run and I needed to run 2 hr 45 for it to feel long 'again'.

Where is this post going, well ultimately it could end up with making a case for 6 day racing actually being speedwork for a 1000 mile race but thats going to take a lot of typing to get there. So lets stick at 50 miles being a long way because that is as far as I managed last weekend at the UK 100km championships (left with Dave Mitchinson in the early stages. photo: Davy Johnson).

Those early hours were really enjoyable. The 7am start with a hard frost on the ground, dawn light and a quiet, empty North Inch Park alongside which runs the river Tay, tidal and still at that time. And as the race started to unfold so the park came alive around us. From the first peek of sunshine at 8am, the early morning dog walkers and joggers and the gradual thawing of the frost. And as the tide turned the river started to pick up moment, football players emerged for their sunday kickabout and folks walked round the park working up an appetite for sunday lunch. While we kept running. Round and round the 2.3km loop. 

For the first time as a runner the distance beat me with my legs finally giving up at about 82km. Not the feared marathon runners wall, or dehydration. Just a bunch of muscle fibres that had done 20,000 repetitions on each leg and were done, well and truly done ! It was a somewhat surreal and humbling experience being reduced to a shuffle as runners started to unlap themselves, my earlier relaxed bouncy stride totally evaporated.

And for those of you who have experienced it in a marathon you know will know what its all about. As the muscles start to tire the legs feel heavy, in my case it was quads and adductors and over a period of time you just stop bouncing off the road and every impact leaves you closer to the tarmac.

This feeling started just before 60km when I had 4 hours of running on the clock. Pace was solid, running consistently around 6.30 miles and I had been getting plenty of drinks and food into me - in fact one of the consequences of the slower than marathon running and very cold morning was the need to stop and pee every hour or so, something I have never experienced in a race.

The slide started with soreness in the quads and a noticeably less bouncy stride. Within a couple of laps I was running slower though still going OK when GB 24 hour runner Robbie Britton caught me and kept me company for a lap or so. He explained that this was likely to be a temporary blip and that I should be prepared to walk a lap if necessary, get some food into me and stretch out the stiffness. Armed with such sound advice when the wheels came off a couple of laps later (left) I did just that. Walked the rest of the lap, had a massage and stretch, got some more food and a hot drink into me and jumped off the massage table ready for renewed battle. Hmm, not so good after all.

Making the most of things meant alternating walking and shuffling then trying a different recovery strategy at the end of each lap. Coffee, fail. Flat coke, fail. Assisted squats, fail. Massage again, fail. Not very encouraging. But still being the 3rd England counter the message from team managent was clear - stay out there ! So I obliged, for 3 1/2 hours in which I covered a meagre 21km. By that time I had been passed by Dave who was going significantly faster than me even though he didn't seem to be enjoying himself too much either. At one point I was even reduced to running backwards out of curiosity about the condition of my hamstrings and depressingly I was faster going backwards than forwards.
And then the moment of truth. 34 laps done and I decided to sit down, never to get up again depsite the best efforts of Robbie (who had by now finished his 50km race that he was using as a 'sharpener' for the World 24 hour champs). In my mind I had covered 50 miles and more, the longest I had ever run by far and my body was done for the day. Up at the front of the race experienced ultra runner Craig Holgate ran through the field to take the UK title and finish second overall behind Irelands Dan Doherty. I need to get some quads like his !

Friday, 22 February 2013

Mud, glorious mud

Finally I've got a few minutes to write about last Saturday's Southern Cross Country at Parliament Hill.

Pre-race much of the talk was about whether the orginal event shoudl have postponed from January because of the weather and what effect it would have on the strength of the fields. Without having visited the course on the originally race days its hard to say whether postponement was the right decision, however getting the race back on even with reduced fields was definitely a good call - once races miss a year its very easy to miss more and slide into oblivion.

For those unfamiliar with the Southern its a throw back to the old days when championship cross country races were 9 miles. In recent years the international 12km standard has been adopted for our regional and national championships but the Southern stuck with the old 9 miles - one of the few occasions when failing to move with the times is a good thing ! This makes it a real test, especially as the hilly course can get pretty muddy in places.

On the start line I was having some good banter with Ben Noad and a few of the other more 'experienced' runners at the expense of the low mileage/interval trained runners who were about to suffer for their lack of real endurance. Whilst club mate Frank Tickner put on a demonstration at the front of the race I had probably my best XC race for years as I worked my way through the field from about 50th at the top of the first hill to 30th after 1 lap, 19th after 2 laps and eventually into 14th place a stones throw behind my old sparring partner Huw Lobb who had a good day in 13th place as he also prepares for a spring ultra marathon.

The trick on a course like this is to manage your effort, saving energy through the mud and big hills so that you can use on the faster parts of the course. And of course controlling yourself on the first of 3 big laps so you have something left for the last lap otherwise you can easily find yourself treading water in the thick mud in those closing miles.

Reflecting on what has contributed to a better than usual performance 2 things stuck out for me. I've been doing more longer hilly runs this winter as I gear up for my first 100km race in the spring and that definitely gave me a strength in my legs that has been missing since my last full marathon buid up in 2009. And the second thing has been getting to grips with cross-country skiing this winter which seems to have had a positive impact on my glute and hip flexor strength and mobilty enabling me to run through the mud like I could 20 years ago - more on the cross country skiing in a future post.

And if you are reading this having also run on Saturday and your legs are still tired then you are not alone ! While I felt great at the finish its fair to say that my legs have been pretty battered all week and are only just starting to feel right again. Looking forward to nice supercompensation from the effort :-)

Long live the 9 mile Southern at Parliament Hill !

Sunday, 17 February 2013

South of England Cross Country Results 2013

In the absence of any official results on the SEAA website here is a link to the results on the Milton Keynes site.

Loved this race as always, Hampstead Heatrh at its testing best !

Friday, 1 February 2013

The big Alcohol Free Beer test - Beck's Blue v Cobra Zero v Erdinger

Us runners love our beer and for a couple of decades now the brewers have been trying to come up with an alcohol free beer that actually tastes like real beer. So here is a quick review of the current best efforts for those of you looking for something lighter.

First up is Beck's Blue. Available in packs of 275ml bottles this is one of the most popular alcohol free beers available and made by removing the alcohol after the beer has been brewed out. The taste can best be described as a bit metallic and while its definitely recognisable as a lager it is definitely on the thin side. I found this beer was at its best when very served very cold and its refreshing for a post training run tipple.

Next up is Cobra Zero. Packs of four for this one and nice sized bottles that look good in the fridge. This is the marmite of beers in more ways than one ! It has a similar yeasty taste and apparently that is down to the brewing process. The fermentation is stopped almost as soon as it is started, hence the yeasty flavour. I tried this beer cold, at room temperature and very cold indeed but nothing I could do made it palatable for me. Even pairing it with a fiery curry failed to disguise the taste. Not my favourite and no doubt some folks will love it.

Last in the test was Erdinger Alkohol Frei. Getting hold of it was much trickier than for the market leaders and its only available in UK in a 500ml bottle. This is a version of Erdinger's Weissbier and a very good job they have made of it too. It looks like a weissbier and the taste is remarkably close to that of the standard product. The extra body of a weissbier probably off sets the lack of alcohol ensuring that the beer isn't thin or tinny. It goes well with food or just own its own, chilled. The one caveat with this one is that it does actually contain a miniscule 0.4% alcohol so may not be suitable for the teetoal !

And the winner ....
Erdinger Alkohol Frei  - prost !

Friday, 11 January 2013

Felix Limo retires

One of my favourite marathon runners announced his retirement today. Felix Limo had a purple patch from 2004-06 winning several of the marathon majors. We first met at Amsterdam in 2003 when both making our marathon debuts - his considerably faster than mine ! He was changing on the peg across from mine in the old Olympic stadium and was happy to exchange a few friendly words before heading out onto the track for the start. He came second in 2:06:42 that day, narrowly beaten by William Kispang who I vividly remember devouring the most enormous breakfast on race morning: bacon, sausage, eggs, fried potatos, the works. He waddled away from the table with a belly looking like he was heavil pregnant with twins. And then three hours later 2.06, unbelievable.
My other meeting with Felix was at London 2006 (left) . He had blown away the field to win in 2.06 on a wet day defeating amongst others Haile G. We were sitting at the back of the bus on our way to the river boat to get back to the Tower hotel and he was chatting away without a care in the world, talking about life back home and how he would be relaxing after his marathon win.

Just a very polite, modest guy and good company.

Goldilocks and the road runners

Not a post about the virtues of porridge for breakfast but on getting the feel for threshold pace. I was down at the track in Yeovil tonight and the local road running club had a good turnout of nearly 40 runners for their weekly 'speed' session. Its been great to see this workout develop over the last couple of years under the watchful eye's of coaches Darton, Hawkins and Jakeman. Whether inspired by Mo & co. or just new years resolution's there is clearly an appetite among the runners to train more and go faster. Sometimes I wonder if they realise how good some of them could be !

Anyway back to Goldilocks. The workout tonight was either 6x4mins of 3x10mins (2 fours without rest) and the goal was to run at threshold pace which for some of the runners would have been 10mile pace and for some more like 10k pace. Of course the trick when running threshold is to feel the pace where you are operating just on that ventilation/lactate turnpoint.

With practice and skill you can go so good at sensing it that after a few minutes at threshold you can just ease through it for a few minute before coming back below threshold with a subtle change of pace and this is where Goldilocks comes in. Too hot i.e. too fast and you get burned. 25-30mins is long time to sustain a pace thats too fast and a few folks who were breathing hard on the first reps were clearly in the too hot category ! Too cold, well thats being able to hold a long conversation during training without really breathing hard. Its tolerable but not really that appetising ! And then finally just right - breathing fairly hard and able to exchange brief conversations.

So the trick with threshold training is running by feel and with control. You should be working comfortably hard yet finish the workout knowing you could accelerate hard if required at the end - if you are hinging on you are pushing too hard and need to back off. I often get asked what pace or pulse rate to run for threshold and the best advice I can give is to learn to feel it as it will vary from day to day depending on conditions and how tired you are.