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She’s Got Rhythm

It’s Saturday morning at 11.35am and I’m over half way through a spinning class. I’m riding flat out with 80% resistance when I become convinced,

I can’t keep up this pace.

Then the song changes. I’m not really aware of what the song is, only the beat. Dum-daahm-dum… I focus my mind on the beat. I begin pedaling to the beat – left leg up, right leg down etc.

After a few minutes I forget about the lactic acid build-up in my hamstrings. In fact, the lactic acid build-up seems to have disappeared. I am pedaling beyond my limit. My brain has been distracted by the beat.

This gives me an idea.

I go home and type metronome into Amazon.

To my surprise, Amazon suggests that if I like this mini clip-on metronome, then I might like the book Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless Injury-Free Running, which Amazon should know I already have. But I am intrigued to discover that I am not alone in my thinking. Phil (UK) in his product review, says:

I like to run with a metronome and earphone. I’ve tried metronome tracks on an mp3 player but this is better.

After flicking through my purchase options, I plump for the BestDealUK M50 on the grounds that it weighs a mere 19 g, only takes a 3 volt hearing aid battery and costs £4.99. Plus a compatible stereo earphone jack is available. I might want the ticktock in both ears later, you never know.

The good news is that if I can train to beats per minute now, then I might be able to metronome-stride my way across the Sahara. At least, that’s my latest plan. So, yes. I’ll come clean. I’ve been flagging in my training. Motivation is on the dip and I need a little pace-setter, if only in my head. Especially in my head.

Now She’s Got Rhythm, She’s got something I need…

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All The Gear and No Idea?

Naturally, the first thing I did when I decided to take up running seriously was go shopping.

Having heard that compression clothing was the latest thing, I ordered a pair of Under Armour Core X Coldgear Tight Running Pants to try. The words tight running pants (a.k.a tights) should have been my first clue and of course what looked like a delicate pink on screen turned out to be fluro pink. Oh well nevermind, I thought trying them on in the privacy of own my living room. They felt great and fitted like a glove.

My second purchase was a gorgeous wind-stopper jacket from Brian at RunTru.

Pearl Izumi in brand and extremely lightweight, the shell I chose was fluorescent yellow or screaming yellow as described on their website. Thus it became apparent on my first outing in my new gear, that I must have envisaged running in the dark, when nobody would see me.

I’ve always said that if I marry an American I’m going to do so in Vegas dressed as an alien – green face, friends wearing foil hats… now a pair of compression tights with fluro pink threading and a screaming yellow shell may be all that’s needed to complete the scene. In the meantime, I will continue to run around Falmouth, thankful that I am not quite the slowest runner in the world and that if people are commenting I’m not hanging about to hear it!

The good news about compression tights is that they wrap around my shins and calves, quadriceps and hamstrings and make my legs feel less like legs and more like leg machinery. This may sound very odd, which of course it is, but if you follow my logic – if they feel less like legs, then I can pretend that they’re not my legs! ‘Come on legs!’ I can say as if they are outside of my will – the pathetic will that obviously wants to slow down and preferably stop. This is all part of the training. My legs need to learn to transport my upper body around 6 times per week, so that when they stop they feel like they are intended to keep going, up dunes, down dunes…

Like an athlete, a long distance runner
On a track meet spring, fall, winter, summer

(chorus)

No alcohol, no weed
No cigarettes, no E’s
No milk, no cheese
No eggs, no meat
Just meditation and peace
Red lentils, chick peas
Good workout, good sleep
Mo’ sunshine, light breeze…

Finally I have started wearing a backpack, not intentionally mind you, but because the gym closes at 9pm. Strapped into my backpack I feel like a superhero with a jet pack. I feel invincible and fast. ‘Yes!’ I say to myself. ‘I can do anything.’ I swing my arms forward, left then right. Then I look down and my legs are moving impossibly slowly and I chuckle in comic despair. ‘How am I ever going to run across the Sahara?’

Years of Amazon training may be required…

‘If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl…

…but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward,’ said Martin Luther King Jr. in his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

Not only do I too have a dream – the Marathon des Sables 2013, Luther King’s words couldn’t have been better advice this week as I struggled with a shin splint. I can’t fly and so was going running. When I felt ill-advised to run, I walked. When I had walked enough miles, I crawled home and iced up! Yes, I was warned and yes I probably ran too far too soon. Or was it too fast? Or did I just heal-strike one too many times?

Either way, I have now learnt that the cheapest (and arguably most effective) ice-pack can be found, not in the pharmacy but in the supermarket’s frozen veg section. The little Tesco’s near me had run out of frozen peas (students!), but had plenty of bags of frozen sweet-corn kernels and for less dollar! It was interesting to note that a tea-towel wrapped bag of corn also delivered a lower intensity cold for longer.

However, for shin splints, the website Sports Injury Info, recommends rubbing a home-frozen ‘ice cup’ directly onto the affected area, which looks intriguing. I will have to give it a whirl.

But maybe I just need to harden up –

What Martin Luther King didn’t say, Baz Luhrman has kindly added in Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) – the song based on the poem by Mary Schmich. Here are the running-relevant lyrics:

Stretch.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

And on that note, I feel like playing a song from the band CAKE called The Distance, because when I run over 10k, I look down at my feet wheeling round and round and often think, ‘Those things beneath my waist. They’re not my legs. They’re doing their own thing.’ Perhaps this is the nirvana of running? Let’s hope so.

He’s going the distance.
He’s going for speed.
She’s all alone
In her time of need.
Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course,
He’s fighting and biting and riding on his horse,
He’s going the distance…
*

While we’re talking about distance, I have to mention my new 1000 mile socks, bought from Brian at Run Tru in Truro!

Made of Tactel ® a polymer which is apparently ‘soft, supplely smooth, breathable and lightweight,’ the socks have cute descriptions – women’s ‘trainer liner’ and a ‘technical racing socklet!’ To the feet, well mine anyway, the socks feel like silk gloves, which in case you’ve never put a silk glove on your foot before, feels divine! Here comes the science:

The Tactel ® inner layer stays with the foot, wicking away moisture, whilst the outer moves with the shoe.

Sounds pretty clever to me, but wait for it – my favourite bit comes under the heading THE GUARANTEE.

Money back or replacement if, within one year from date of purchase, either you experience blisters or the socks wear out within 1000 miles, provided care instructions have been followed and socks are returned with original receipt.

So, firstly I worked out how many hours, days and weeks of running that would entail.

1000 miles/1609.344 km @ 10k/hr =

161 hours of running

@1hr day/7 days p.w

23 weeks or just under 6 months.

Now, here’s the more important question. Assuming I run everyday in the same pair of socks and wash them overnight over the course of 6 months (and keep the receipt!), how many washes do you think the ‘technical racing socklets’ will be able to handle?

Answers on a postcard please!

...and if you can't crawl, there's always the hula!

Hello, Mister Blister!

Anyone who followed my row across the Atlantic (Jan > March 2009) might remember my battle with the nasty bleeesters on my fingers. Unfortunately in my training for the ‘Marathon des Sables,’ the danger of bleeesters is back. In fact, one little blighter has already cropped up on my middle toe.

At this stage however, I say,

Welcome, Mister Blister!

You see, if I can blister now, then my feet should become all roughty-toughty in time for the race. At least, that’s my theory. What it also tells me, is that something is wrong. According to the NHS webpage on blisters, with its fantastic orange-ring-with-red-spot-in-the-middle gravatar, in order to avoid bleeesters you can:

  • wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes
  • wear gloves when handling chemicals
  • use sunscreen

which is fine advice, although not all applicable to my middle toe. So, it was clearly time this week to address, or rather re-dress my footwear!

Run Tru is a new, specialist running shop in Truro and so I took myself on a pilgrimage to meet Brian Price, the shop’s owner. With two pairs of Sauconys in hand, of 2004 and 2007 vintage, we set about analyzing my gait. Brian had me walk and then run across a panel on the shop floor. The panel took a pressure image of my foot, which Brian then analyzed.

The upshot is that my left foot (the victim of the bleeester) does do some kooky things! Occasionally my left leg steps ahead of my body, when it should be treading beneath or behind the plumb line of my torso. Tut tut tut! My left heel also strikes the ground inboard of my foot’s centre line. Consequently, my left foot doesn’t pronate very much, which the Asics shoe brand explains in their brilliant webpage titled Understanding Pronation. My left foot underpronates or supinates, which means:

The outer side of the heel hits the ground at an increased angle, and little or no normal pronation occurs, resulting in a large transmission of shock through the lower leg.

I learnt that as an underpronator I want to, a) avoid running in shoes that have dual density mid-soles and, b) have harder carbon-rubber on the inside of my shoes’ heel to encourage my tread more towards the centre line of my foot.

After the science part, came the shopping!

Here Brian showed me how a running shoe should fit. Once you’ve wriggled your foot into the shoe, you should give your heel a tap on the ground. This ensures that your heel is all the way back in the shoe. Next, there should be a gap of a whole thumb’s width between the tip of your big toe and the end of the shoe.

While aesthetically I fancied this sporty pair…

and I really didn’t want to buy anything white (which won’t be white for very long), I couldn’t get past the divine feeling that with these beauties,

Cinderella had been reunited with her rightful slipper! My footsie felt as snug as a bug in a rug!

With laces that stem from the sole (see beneath the PI logo), the shoe wraps the foot around the arch. I simply had to have them! Thus the fabulously titled

Pearl Izumi synchroFuel trainers for women

became mine!

If last weekend I ran 9 miles in 1hr 56mins (an aborted effort after the coastal path became an ankle-twisting mudslide), think what I could achieve this weekend!

So long, Mister Blister!