Monday, 15 July 2013

London's British 10K Run

On Sunday, 14th July, Robert and I ran the British 10K run on behalf of a small charity called PetSavers. PetSavers does some great work dedicated to improving the health of pets and small animals. We've chosen this charity because we love pets and animals need all the support they can get.
So far, we've raised about £145, there is still time to donate. Check out our Just Giving fund raising page: http://www.justgiving.com/doris-runs-for-pets.

Since my half marathon in June I've tried to keep up with my training running and ran about 2-3 times a week, ranging from 5k to 10k runs. I knew I could run a 10k, now I was more concerned about my time. I found myself on a plateau lately, unable to improve my running time.

The weather forecast predicted one of the hottest days in the year with about 30 degrees Celsius, which meant hydration was key. I prepared myself by drinking a lot of water the day before and drinking electrolyte water before the run on the day. I decided to leave my water bottle in my bag as it was promised that enough water was available throughout the course.

When we arrived at Embankment it was already quite hot, about 24 degrees Celsius. We dropped off our bag and met some of our PetSavers team mates. We all made our way to the start line to watch the opening ceremony. The start line was quite a walk away and no toilets were available on the way, which meant many men and women decided to visit the bushes of St. James and Green Park instead.


The race started with about 15mins delay. We were all queued up in front of the start line in the glaring heat, waiting for the countdown to begin. At that point I regretted not having any water on me.
Once we got going I felt fine and didn't mind the heat too much. At about 2.5km we came across the first water station and I gulped down a bottle of water in one go.
The route took us across Trafalgar Square, along Embankment up to Canon Street, back to Westminster where we crossed Westminster bridge; a short sprint up to Victoria and before we ran back to Whitehall were we crossed the finish line.


For the first 6K I felt quite good running along in a steady 7mins/km pace. On the way back towards Embankment I felt the heat getting to me. My legs felt lethargic. On the next water station I poured a water bottle over my head and face to cool myself down, but to no avail. To my disappointment I had to halt to a walk. The last 4K were a combination of run/walks and crossed the finish line at a time of 01:17 (unofficial). Robert finished at an incredible 0:56 mins.


My verdict 4/5

The British 10K has a reputation for being unorganised and that was unfortunately true to some extend. There weren't enough toilets available before and during the run and routes weren't cut off from pedestrians. It was a shame I didn't get to see any of the opening ceremony. I didn't enjoy standing in the glaring heat for 15mins before the race start. However, the bag drop area was well organised and the medals were very pretty (that's where all the money went into).

The route was great and went along many popular sights in central London. The crowd was amazing and carried you all the way along to the finish line.

You can find some more pictures of the race day in my image gallery.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My Southend Half-Marathon experience

After 4 months blogging, 228 km running and countless sleepless nights of worrying I had reached the climax of my training: the Southend Half Marathon. One year ago I completed the 3k fun run, now I was back to tackle my biggest challenge so far: 21.1 km along the Thames Estuary promenade.

Over 2,600 runners had signed up to take part in this race, Robert and I - taking positions 1938 and 1939 - were amongst those runners to master a PB or, as in my case,  a half marathon debut. After a week of warm summer sun, race day presented itself to be a bleak, misty, and typically for a coastal town, windy day with highs of only 14 degrees Celsius.
As I used to back in school, I had prepared my running kit the day before and had labelled my bag. For breakfast I had prepared a cinnamon & raisin bagel with a banana and a cup of tea. I didn't want to leave anything to chance in case panic gripped me. However, when I woke up that morning, I felt surprisingly calm. I had come to the realization that there was nothing I could change now. What was gonna happen that morning, would happen. I had prepared myself best to my abilities despite my time constrictions due to work and studies. I wouldn't let myself fail or drop out of the run - I would rather walk.

Robert & I before the run

We arrived at East Beach at 9 am, one hour before planned start time. I braved the cold weather and wore my 3/4 tights with my blue running top and running jacket. I put a hoodie in my bag to wear after the run. 30 min before start Robert and I shared a chocolate chip energy bar and I prepared my water bottle with electrolyte tablet supplement.
Runners started to accumulate close to the start line to do a last minute warm up session. At 9:45 am it was announced that the race start was to be delayed for 15 min. Slowly but surely my nerves started to kick in, I triple checked my earphones were in place, my shoelaces were done up tight and my water bottle wasn't dripping. I squeezed Robert's hand tightly. He tried to tell me some comforting words, but I just felt like crying. Why was I putting myself through this? It was too late now, no way of return.
Before the run - putting on a brave smile...

It was 10:13 am, we were all huddled up close to the start line. Britney Spears had the honour to start my shuffled half marathon playlist. My running app was ready and there it was: the honk - the race had started.

5,200 feet made their way to squeeze through the small, pink start and off we were. I remember running around blocks of houses, a park and along broken pavements. My mind was occupied with breathing and keeping my strides at a manageable pace. Soon I felt too hot and I had to get rid of my running jacket. At that point I had already lost Robert, who's pace I simply couldn't match (just yet).
I knew I was going too fast when my app told me after 1 km that I was running at 6:30 min/km when I tried to aim for 7:20. My body responded and I could feel stitches coming up on the right side of my diaphragm. I must have been only 3 km in when I halted to a walking pace and tried to get back into my breathing rhythm. I felt all over the place and runners kept going past me - this was not how it was supposed to go. I had trained for this and here I was close to finishing the race before I had even started.
However, once we reached the promenade I hit familiar territory, I knew these roads and I started to get back into things. I adopted my usual stride and felt comfortable again, my motivation picked up too. I heard my phone bleeping, I had text messages coming through. I knew it was either family or my friends who knew what I was up to that morning. Even though I didn't get to read them till after the run, it gave me a huge motivation boost, so thank you Mum, Lia and Rose :)

I always kept an eye open for Robert who must have been far in front of me. I passed him on lap one and he looked at ease, I felt embarrassed of my ordeal but kept it up. On the second lap I spotted him once more, but this time he looked like he had a hard time. I instantly worried, but I knew he wasn't far from the finish line. I on the other hand was trotting along with the tail of the crowd. When I completed lap one I was overtaken by the front runner, who was on its way to the finish line. That felt like a kick in the butt, but hey.

Thx, Andrew Kenyon for the snapshot!
On approx. the 16th km, my app whispered in my ear that I finished 3/4 of my workout. I was so pleased with myself, I thought to myself I could my finish time get under my target time of 2:30. After 16km though, your body disconnects from your mind and you have to play along its rules. My legs felt like bricks and my pace slowed down to 8:30 min/km. My strides turned from a comfortable run to a tough jog. I tried to pick up speed but I simply couldn't. On the last three kilometers the race track goes along a block of houses, back out to the promenade, along back roads and then along the seafront where it eventually would lead to the finish line. I knew the finish line was so close, but it felt miles away. Suddenly, an Indian girl broke down in front of me, I stopped to help but others were quicker to help her back on her feet.

A proud half-marathon runner...
Then I saw the sign '800 meters to finish line' and my finisher's song 'On a day like this' by Elbow started to play. I must have had the biggest smile on my face, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I had made it! When I turned the corner to the finish line I could spot Robert, who finished the run with an incredible time of 2:06, waiting for me on the right hand side of the finish line. With all my energy that I had left I tried to sprint, lifted my arms and crossed the finish line at 2:43:26. Through my earphones I could hear people cheering my arrival. I was so proud of myself and happy that I've completed my challenge.

The next day at work I told a colleague of my ordeal and he asked me: "So, are you gonna stop running now?" My response was instant and from the heart: "No! I've come so far I'm not gonna stop now."

Despite minor aches and pain, I've come away in a pretty good condition. My legs will get a well deserved rest until Sunday and then I'll slowly pick up my training again. The next race will be the British London 10k in four weeks' time, which we'll be running for the PetSavers charity. Please sponsor us, your support would be very much appreciated!

Finally the question lingers: Would I run the Southend half marathon again? Possibly maybe. At the moment I don't feel like running 21.1km in two laps, but in 12 months' time I probably want to beat my finishing time. I've simply caught the running bug...

PS: Find all pictures of the event here or browse Andrew Kenyon's album with hundreds of pictures of the day.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Only a few days to go...

On Sunday it's judgement day, the day of my first ever half marathon. I'm feeling anxious, nervous but also excited about the upcoming challenge. I've not set myself a target finishing time - anything below 3hrs is great - it would just be amazing to be able to finish. Of course, I've had doubts in my abilities because of bad runs in the past, but all I can do is try my best.

I've come across a inspirational tweet by my mentor Dean Karanzes the other day...


Tapering off

In the last week I've been tuning down my training runs and taking on lots of carbs - in runner's terms I've been 'tapering off'. Basically, it means you give your body enough time to recover and re-energise before race day. Experts say, you should eat approx 400 to 700 gr of carbs a day, that can be pasta, potatoes, rice, porridge, beans. At the same time you should reduce your intake of fats and protein (remember my 'Nutrition basics' blog post a couple of weeks back). Even though I love my carbs, I didn't feel great eating so much of it. I started feeling bloated and today, my stomach just didn't feel right. I hope to be better tomorrow… Also, I've started to hydrate my body with at least 1.5 litres of water a day. I'm not a big drinkers, so that is a hard undertaking for me.

MyASICS training plan

Since I've launched my running blog, I've done a total of 38 training runs and ran a total distance of 227.6km. Even though I didn't completely follow the MyASICS training plan that I laid out for me (77runs/546km), I feel confident that I'll at least manage to complete my half marathon goal. It will all depend on how I feel on race day.

My training progress

Race day preparations

For race day I've prepared…
  • My running clothes and shoes
  • Water bottles with electrolyte tabs at hand
  • adjusted the padding on my running earphones to ensure a tight fit and
  • post-run snack, consisting of bananas, energy bars and chocolate milk shake.

Tomorrow I'll update my running music playlist with some new tunes and will try to keep my mind busy. This week it's been worried about the wearer forecast. It's been hot and sunny, just like it should be in June and at the beginning of summer. However, for my first half I'd want anything else but hot weather. But it seems like the weather god might be listening to me…



So wish me luck - I'll see you on the other side ;) Good luck to all runners taking part in the #Southendhalf!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Reviewed: Sennheiser OMX 680 Sports earphones

After months of looking for my perfect running earphones, I finally decided to give the Sennheiser OMX 680 Sports a go. A recommendation from a colleague at work helped to me to make my final decision. He runs about 50k a week and these earphones accompany him on every step.

Running earphones or headphones come in multiple variations:
  • Ear Hooks
  • In-Ear
  • Clip-ons or Over-Ear clips
  • Neckband earphones
  • or old-school headphones.

The main selling point is comfortability and stability. Ideally, the earphones should be water- and sweat resistant and offer a good sound balance between music and ambient noise. Running headphones characteristically don't blend out ambient noise completely to ensure runners are safe on the roads and are still aware of their surroundings.

Up until now I was used to simple in-ear earphones. On many occasions an ear bud would fall out as my left ear canal seems to be slightly smaller than my right one. To provide more stability while running with music I decided to go for earphones with ear hooks this time.

The Sennheiser OMX 680 earphones set comes with the following features:
  • a pair of clip-on earphones with adjustable 
  • extension cable with volume remote control
  • a cable clip-on
  • various sizes of yellow ear sleeves, air cushion adapters and foam ear pads
  • a storage pouch and
  • an instruction manual.


Once I adjusted the ear buds to fit my ears - the left ear seems to be smaller than the right one - I was ready to go. I was planning to do my first 14k run and I didn't want to get distracted by loose earphones. I skipped, jumped, strolled and sprinted - my earphones remained tightly in place. Also, they didn't leave any marks on the back of my ears or made me feel uncomfortable while wearing them over a long time period. I also enjoyed using the mini remote control to adjust the volume, however, it would have been nice to include more playback options such as skip and stop.


My verdict: 4/5
Overall I'm very pleased with my first ever set of running earphones. The waterproof Sennheiser earphones fulfil their main purpose of staying place, however, personally I would love to see more functionalities on the remote control.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Top 3 running apps reviewed: Runtastic, MyASICS and Nike+

First of all, thanks everyone who took part in the recent vote about the most popular running app. As already posted earlier this week, Runtastic was voted as the most popular app, followed by Nike+ and MyASCIS.

Since I've started running in August last year, I've been tracking my runs in the Runtastic app. Tracking your runs is like keeping a personal diary: It not only shows you how far you've come, it is also a huge motivation boost. I know my split times, I can differentiate between good and bad performances and check my calorie consumption.

Here is a short introduction of the free most popular running apps:

Runtastic

 


Runtastic is a powerful app that can be used to track multiple types of indoor and outdoor sports activities such as running, cycling, riding, sailing, surfing and many more.
Once you've created a profile you can access it via your app or on your desktop computer. You can be-friend fellow runners and cheer them on during 'live' runs.
The app also syncs up seamlessly with Twitter and Facebook if you'd like to keep your friends up to date on your progress.

It offers the following functionalities:
  • Live GPS mapping
  • Split times analysed according to speed or elevation
  • Weekly, monthly and yearly statistics
  • Integrated IPod player with power-song function
  • Weekly run reminders and motivation notifications

Add-ons: 
  • Heart-rate monitor can be attached and progress will be recorded
  • Training plans: Available to purchase

Price: Free light version / PRO version for £1.49

My rating: 4/5
Personally, the only negative point about this app is that it doesn't stop a run automatically once the runner has become idle. On many occasions I forgot to 'stop and save', consequently ruining my results and my overall statistics. I'd love to use the add-on workouts, training plans and features the company offers for purchase. However, I can't justify spending money on these add-ons when other apps offer the same features for free.

MyASICS

 

The MyASICS app is a simple app for runners to track their runs and keep a running diary. If you're interested in setting up a personalised training plan, this app is for you. While the app doesn't offer much functionalities and is purely for tracking purposes, your profile on myasics.co.uk is the powerful backbone. On the website at myasics.co.uk you can create a profile and establish a training plan that meets your current performance and needs. It provides statistics of your overall performance that you can compare with runners with the same goals or runners in your age group.


It offers the following functionalities: 
  • Live GPS mapping
  • Access to your training plan
  • Activity diary

Price: The app and its training plans are free to download

No add-ons available

My rating: 3/5
While I find this app really easy to use the app doesn't offer enough functionalities when tracking your runs. However, I do enjoy using their training plans. Also, I was unable to find an option to activate syncing with my social profiles which accounts for bad usability.

Nike+

 

Nike+ is the app that I have the least experience with. The app is very easy to use, you simply start your run with the click of one button. Once you've completed your run it offers you comprehensive stats on your route, distance, time, pace and splits. Just like Runtastic, friends can cheer you on whilst you're doing a 'live' run. Runners can compare their performances with 'NikeFuel': the more NikeFuel a runner earns, the better. On Nikeplus.com you can access your profile and statistics from a desktop computer. Your runs are synced automatically and you can find or offer new running routes to fellow runners.

It offers the following functionalities: 
  • Live GPS mapping
  • Activity diary
  • Power-song
  • Run reminders
Price: The app is free to download

Add-ons:
You can buy a Nike+ GPS Sports watch or Nike+ Sportband that offers the same functionalities as the app.

My rating: 2.5/5
Nike+ has a strong user community, which I believe is due to its nice and slick design. For me it looks better than it actually is. The app is very easy to use, but I find it irritating to set up my own running reminders and choose power-songs.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

And the winner is...

The readers have voted: the most popular running app is Runtastic, shortly followed by Nike+ and MyASICS.

Hold on tight, a review of these three popular apps will follow shortly.

Thanks all for voting!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Runner's poll: What's your favourite running app?

There are so many IPhone/Android apps out there that help you track and log your runs, your pace, your splits, your calorie consumption, your route, your longtime statistics and much more. With so much choice at your fingertips, it's hard to choose which one is the best.

Let's take a vote - what's your favourite running app? >>>

Fill in the form to your right and let's wait and see which one is the runner's favourite.
Happy voting!


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Keep your cool in hot weather

© iStockPhoto
Even though I love summer and the hot weather I find running in the high temperatures very hard. The other day it was a nice, warm day (about 20 degrees Celsius) so I went out for a short 5K run after work along the Embankment pier and found it almost unbearable to run in the sun. The problem is simple: For the last six month I trained and ran in rain, wind and snow - I know how to prepare myself for that kind of weather. However, now everything is flipped upside down and I need to realign myself to keep a cool head.

Running in hot weather requires some preparation to avoid the risk of dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

I talked to some fellow runners and here I have gathered some tips on running in hot weather:

  • Keep yourself hydrated: Hydrate your body before, during and after exercise - take a water bottle with you. Drink to thirst or when your mouth feels dry. When your run is going to be longer than 30 mins, drink a type of sport drink that contains sodium and other electrolytes.
  • Wear light, breathable clothing & a hat: On hot days you should wear light coloured clothing that reflects the heat and help your body to cool down naturally. Wear synthetic fabrics instead of cotton as it will lock away moisture.
  • Choose your running time wisely: Run early in the morning (just after sunrise) or in the evening (before sunset) as these are the coolest times. Avoid running between 9am and 4pm. If you have to run in in-between the hot times, ensure to stick to shady or tree-filled pathways. Avoid roads and tarmaced pavements.
  • Wear sunscreen: Protect your skin with water-proof sunscreen (for fair skinned runners like me, take SPF 50 or above). There are sunscreens available for outdoor sports with a particular formula that sticks to your skin.
  • Splash cold water on yourself: If the heat starts to get to you, splash cold water on your head and body to help your body to cool down.
  • Listen to your body: If you start to feel faint, dizzy or you've stopped sweating, slow down or have a break and rehydrate. If your symptoms continue or worsen, sit or lie down in the shade.

Apparently it takes your a couple of days to get used to the hot weather. While your body is adapting, exercise less vigorously and take your heart rate as a guideline as it will rise more quickly even at low intensity workouts. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

London Marathon 2013

Today I joined the 700,000 spectators on the streets of London to watch the 37,000 London Marathon runners tackle the ultimate 26.2 Mile challenge.

The marathon was kicked off at 9am from Blackheath this morning by the elite man and women runners, followed by the wheelchair race. The first runner crossing the finish line was Australia's Kurt Fearnley, claiming the win in the wheelchair race. Tsegaye Kebede won the men's race with a finishing time of 2:06:04 and Priscah Jeptoo took the lead in the women's race with a finishing time of 2:20:15.

After a brief minute's silence for the Boston bombings victims the marathon for amateur runners was kicked off at 10am. The dry weather conditions were ideal for a marathon, clear blue sky but overall temperatures remained mild. The atmosphere on the streets was exhilarating and joyful, despite the terrible events in Boston earlier this week. Runners and spectators alike showed solidarity by wearing black ribbons and putting up flags with dedicated messages.

I felt incredibly inspired by the variety of runners from all ages, nations and backgrounds - it gave me an immense motivation boost to train harder for my big run ahead in June. And if all goes well, I might be amongst those runners in London next year. Fingers crossed!

Click through my image sideshow below to catch a glimpse of today's event...

Friday, 19 April 2013

Only two days to go... - London Marathon Expo 2013

There are only two days to go to the annual London Marathon event and London town has been taken over by the running craze. Wherever you look runners are trying to squeeze in one last training run before the big day and spectators are out camping to catch the best spot close to the finish line at Buckingham Palace.

Yesterday, I went down to the London ExCel exhibition centre to have a look to see what the Virgin London Marathon Expo had to offer. Marathon Expos are pre-marathon events where running experts, race event organisers, charities and sports professionals from all around the world come together to exhibit their latest running gear & gadgets and provide runners with some last minute advice for their big day. Also, professionals from the industry offer talks on pacing, tapering, carb-loading and much more. The Marathon Expo is a must event for any runner in training.

The London Marathon Expo is on from Wednesday, 17th to Saturday, 20th April. Entry is free!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tragedy unfolds at Boston Marathon

I would like to dedicate today's blog post to those runners and their families affected by the horrible tragedy at the Boston Marathon bombings.

Two explosions went off close to the finish line at the Boston Marathon event at about 14:50 Boston local time, killing three people and injuring many others. It is still unclear who was behind this attack and US authorities have launched a potential terrorist inquiry.

It was said that 375 Britons and 41 Austrians had signed up to take part in the race, according to the news luckily all of them remained unharmed. 23,000 took part in yesterday's race and it was watched by thousands of spectators.

The Boston Marathon is one of the six major annual running events and is usually held on Patriot's Day, a Massachusetts state holiday.

When I first heard of the news I was shocked and saddened. The images and videos of the scene describe a chaotic aftermath of what was meant to be a joyful event. My immediate thoughts went out to the runners who I knew would take part in this year's marathon.

As I turned to social media for updates I read many tweets that echoed my reaction of shock, horror and sadness. But also, I read about brave runners who ran to the hospitals to give blood and people helping online by retweeting information for victims on where to find help. In all this chaos and despair I found the running community coming closer together and helping each other when help is needed most. It made me proud to be a runner and be part of such a strong and relentless community.

Tonight's run I will dedicate to all those people affected by the tragic events and to those who have a long way of recovery ahead of them of the physically and emotionally scaring events.

Join in the conversation on Twitter with hash tag #BostonMarathon and #PrayersForBoston.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Sound of Music

My perfect day out running can only get better with the perfect tune in my ears. For me, music is not only a great motivator but it also helps to set my running pace. The key to a successful play list is to match the beat to your running pace. Be careful though, anything too slow or too fast might play havoc with your pace!

When I set up my play list I chose songs that have an upbeat feel to it and keep me going. I'm usually an indie music lover, but when it comes to running dance, pop, techno, reggae, Austro pop, anything with a good beat that makes me happy has to be on my play list. No matter what decade, guilty pleasure or not, as long as it makes me happy, I simply go for it!

So here I present my personal running music play list in the following order:

Calvin Harris - Acceptable in the 80's

Daft Punk - Around the world

Gorillaz - Dare

The Cure - Friday I'm in love

Blondie - Heart of Glass

Martin Solveig - Hello

The Bravery - An honest mistake

David Holmes - I heard wonders

Groove Armada - I see you baby

The Coral - In the morning

Depeche Mode - Just can't get enough

The Chemical Brothers - Let forever be

The Joy Formidable - Little Bimp

Erasure - A little respect

Crowded House - Locked Out

The Knack - My Sharona

Arctic Monkeys - Old Yellow Bricks

David Bowie - Rebel Rebel

Fatboy Slim - The Rockafeller Skank

Eminem - Without me

Extra track: Amerie - 1 Thing

Play time: 1hr 40 mins

My fellow runners, what do you say? Do you agree or disagree with my choice of songs? What favourite tunes do you jog along to? Share your perfect running play list with us!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Tips on how to keep up with your training on holiday

Soon holiday season emerges and many runners find it problematic keeping up with marathon training while being abroad. However, there is no need to worry, all it takes is a little planning and preparation before your departure.

For Easter I was off to Scheifling, my hometown in Austria, to reunite with family and friends over the bank holidays. Even so, I packed my running gear and shoes and fully intended to stick with my half marathon training.

Here are six tips I've put together that might help you to keep up with your training:

  1. Make the time: When going on holiday, the first thing that comes to mind is to sleep in, relax and think of nothing. However, when you're preparing for a big run, this is an indulgence you cannot really afford. Best thing to do is to compromise: Sleep in on two days, but get up early on the third. No excuses!
  2. Explore new territory: Being in a foreign country can be exciting and give you a huge motivation boost. Hidden treasures of cities and remote places can be best discovered on foot! Be sure to pack your GPS to ensure you'll find your way back.
  3. Research your routes: Before you leave, look online for running routes. Many runners track their favourite runs and post them online. With tools such as runtastic.com you can browse and download running routes beforehand.
  4. Forget about mileage, just run! - Of course it is important to stick with your set training plan, however, it might not always possible to keep up with high mileage sessions whilst being on holiday. Experts say consistency is more important than high mileage, so a short run is better than none!
  5. Check the weather forecast: Before you head off to the airport, check the annual average temperature and weather situation of your destination. For hotter territories, take shorts and light-fabric running tops. For colder areas, be prepared to bring along thermals, hat and gloves!
  6. Enter for local races: Check out local event calendars and sign up for running events that suit your training plan. It's a nice motivator, but don't go overboard!

My personal top tips for Scheifling

 

If you ever head to the small village of Scheifling for a break, here are my personal top tips:

Tip 1: The best running routes in town


Murrad'l Weg Lind to Unzmarkt


Distance: 5.1 km one-way
Characteristic: tarmaced roads and cycling tracks

Murweit'l Scheifling to Teufenbach


Distance: 5.3 km one-way
Characteristics: off-road through woods

Tip 2: Restaurants & Pubs

My favourite restaurant in town is Anni Rauchegger's restaurant, situated in the town centre of Scheifling. Annie offers the best home-made and traditional Austrian food from local produce away from home. I can recommend the Cordon-Blue with Pommes Frites, my mum's favourite.

Tip 3: Local activities & sports

Scheifling can cater for many types of sports such as cycling, swimming, hiking and skiing. In winter the next skiing areas are Grebenzen, Kreischberg and Lachtal, all of them about a 20 mins drive away.
In summer the local lake (Badeteich) can offer a refreshing and relaxing dip in cool water. Be sure to try one of the infamous Iced Coffees at Heli's bar right next to the lake.



Tip 4: Shopping & spas

If you feel retail therapy is what you really need, shopping city Fohnsdorf has a wide offer on shops, boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and a cinema and is only about 20mins drive away. It also offers a number of sports shops if you did forget your running shoes at home after all.
The spa Aqualux is situated right opposite the shopping centre and is definitely worth a visit.

Last but not least, don't forget to take the time to enjoy your time away and relax!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss



This week I found myself deeply absorbed into a book about a well-known Amercian-Greek runner called Dean Karnazes.

The book I'm talking about is 'Run! 26.2 stories of blisters and bliss' by ultra marathon runner and athlete Dean Karnazes. 'Karno', as his friends call him, wasn't a born runner. Though his drive and passion for running and love for adventure made him fully commit to his running career and follow a trail full of pleasure and pain.

Run! is Karno's follow-up book to his bestseller 'Ultramarathon Man'. His second book comprises of 26.2 (aka marathon distance) short stories about Karno's experiences and memories of tackling some of the most challenging ultra marathons in the world, including:
  • a 350 mile run through the Australian outback
  • the Western States 100 miles endurance race
  • annual attempts at the Badwater ultramarathon in Death Valley, California
  • a four deserts race across the Atacama, Gobi, Sahara and Antarctica deserts
  • a 75 day track crossing America, running from California to NYC and raising money for charity
  • the Ultra trail du Mont Blanc, one of the most preeminent off-road races in Europe
  • and many more countless marathons and night runs.

On his own account he has never signed up for any runs shorter than marathon distance. He now owns an impressive collection of medals and silver belt buckles (that is the award for successfully completing an ultra marathon). Despite his grown fame and fortune his feet remain firmly on the ground. For him it is the experience that counts, less the gained prosperity or won trophies.

Dean Karnazes
Karno describes himself as an introverted family men. He enjoys running for the quality of solitude. As a full-time runner he is traveling the world to run in the most exotic and remote places. His family comes along to support him whenever they can. In the book Karno often tells stories of his dad, endearingly referred to as 'Popou', who often used to accompany him along to races and provide him with support in the most hopeless moments.

Unlike many autobiographies I've read before, Karno not only talks about his friends and family, he also gives them the opportunity to give their own, honest account of what it's like to be close to and live with Karno, the running man. His wife Julie, a non-runner by nature, describes the Dean Karnazes that she got to know and love. A humble character, driven by his passion for running, who always puts his family first.

Many fans and readers have been inspired by Karno's passion for extreme sports as well as his close friend Topher Gaylord. In the book Karno dedicates a chapter to his friend in which Topher describes his first tough but ultimately rewarding ultramarathon experience.

For Karno passion and conviction are more important than talent. He doesn't see himself as special or particularly gifted, like other runners before he one day put on his running shoes and never looked back. He runs for pure enjoyment and to fulfil his running dreams.

Run! is the first book I've come across by Dean Karnazes and I found it humbling, awe-striking and inspiring what a human being can achieve with pure will and conviction. I'm only at the beginning of my running career and have achieved little so far. But Karno inspired me to keep going and set my bars high. Running not only helps you to keep fit, it also gives you a purpose and will power to overcome any obstacles in life. Soon, anything seems possible.

In Karno's own words...
"Do what you love. Dream big. Be restless. Sleep little. Don't play life safe, dare boldly instead. Live as though you really mean it."

Now turn off that computer you're sitting at and get running...

You can find more information on Dean Karnazes, his books and events on his website www.ultramarathonman.com.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

On running clubs, PBs and the fun in sports...

Last Friday I met Katie Hiscock, web editor of Runner’s World, for a coffee and a chat to talk about her running career. As a personal trainer and sports massage therapist, Katie is an experienced runner and knows the science behind her favourite sport.


When have you started running?

I started running about five years ago, my boyfriend got me into it at the time. I remember trying to run to the end of the road, finding it really hard and I thought, ‘oh god, how can people do that’. Then I decided to join ‘Park Run’. It’s a group of runners who get together every week to race against each other. I gradually got better at running and started to increase my distance.
I never thought I would be an endurance runner, because I’m not a natural runner. In school I used to be a sprinter for the North West sprinting team, but as a sprinter my body physique is much different from that of an endurance runner. Sprinters have fast power release muscles, whereas endurance runners have slow-release muscles. It depends very much on your genes pool and there is only so much you can do to change that.

Do you prefer to run by yourself or in a group?

When I started running I used to run by myself, as I would find it really difficult to run and talk at the same time. As a more developed runner, I now prefer to run with other people. Running in a group can give you a real sense of camaraderie and motivation, especially when you’re training for a marathon.

What was your first ever running event?

It was a 5K run for the charity ‘Race for Life’ about six years ago. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I wasn’t trained at all and I didn’t know anything about running back then. I don’t remember the exact finishing time, but it was over 30 mins. Now my PB for a 5K is 22:06.

Since then I’ve ran multiple distance events. The Brighton Marathon was my first full-length marathon, which I finished in a time of 4:20. I was injured then and had to take painkillers to be able to complete the race. Now I should be able to run a marathon in a time of sub 4hrs.

What’s your favourite running distance?

I like running half marathons, because they are a good challenge. I can run half marathons now without training for them, but I wouldn’t be able to get a PB. My PB so far is 1:51, but my target time would be 1:45.

What keeps you motivated during training?

The camaraderie of my running group keeps me motivated. I couldn’t train for an endurance run on my own. I ran my first half marathon with my best friend and we kept each other going. Since then, she moved to Australia, so I had to find a new running buddy. I decided to sign up with my local running club and that was the best thing I did.
There is real sense of camaraderie within the club and you become close to other runners. On those days when you don’t feel like running, the incentive to go and see your friends is what makes you go anyway. And you do get bullied when you skip runs, too! My friend Rich, who I got to know through the club, helps me to pace my runs and to bring my PB down. He’s better than any running watch you could buy in the shops.

Obviously, everyone is different. People join running clubs for all sorts of reasons: For some it’s fitness, some are proper racers, some do it for the health benefit. It doesn’t matter, and that’s what I like about running. You are a runner when you put on your trainers and go outside. It’s for fun.

How do you treat yourself after a run?

With food. You have to be careful though, some people put on weight during marathon training due to the high carb load. You find yourself eating all the time and your metabolism goes crazy.

Is there anything you don’t like about the sport?

Runners can become a bit cliquey and quite exclusive, which can be intimidating to new runners and beginners. At the end of the day, running is about putting on your shoes and going outside. Some people overcomplicate it.

Also, the sports industry has become a huge business. There are so-called experts and myths around giving you the wrong advice on nutrition, gels, sports drinks and running shoes. As a sports journalist it is my responsibility to tell the truth, not those outlandish facts about running.

Before our ways part again, Katie gives me some advice for my half marathon training. Go ahead and listen in…
If you are interested to talk to Katie about personal training or sports massages, you can contact her through her website www.coastaltherapy.co.uk.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Race review: BHF Regent's Park 10K

Last Saturday Robert and I joined the British Heart Foundation in the Regent's Park 10K run.

After a full week of rain, the weather had mercy on us and the rain kept away for race day. However, the thermostat still only showed a chilly 4 degrees Celsius.

Robert and I arrived at the inner circle of Regent's Park in good time before the race to pick up our timing chips and complementary BHF T-shirts. When we arrived we were surprised to find a long queue in front of the small registration tent. We were told that the timing chips had just arrived and there was a delay in handing them out to the large number of registered runners. After a long back and forth, the organizers decided to hand out random numbers to runners to speed up the process. Consequently, my runner's pseudonym for that day was 'Paul Hilliman' with race number 60809. Once I had my chip and T-shirt, I was slightly worried to see that race organisers had just started to pin down the race track 15mins before race begin. For such a large and popular charity I expected to see better race organisation than that. After all, this run is a hot spot in the annual runner's calendar and attracts a lot of local runners.

However, all frustration was forgotten once we actually got going. Wave two included a fairly large mob of runners, so it took me some time to be able to set into my own race pace.



The race started parallel to the Broadwalk going North to Primrose Hill, followed by a left turn into The Regent's Park Hub and back along the Boating Lake to the starting point on the Broadwalk. The run was set out on pathways but also across water-drenched and muddy grass fields - my Brooks PureDrift shoes definitely needed a good clean after that run! For a 10K, runners had to complete two laps.

I completed my first lap confidently with an overall time of 00:32:15 and an average pace of 7mins/km. After passing the start line for the first lap, I sped up to an unbelievable 06:17 mins/km. Painstakingly, this showed revenge at the last two kilometres where I had to force my legs not to stop and drag myself up the hill to cross the finish line at PB of 01:06:26.
Two friends of mine, Berta and Laura, where waiting for me at the finish line, which sparked a sprint finish. Robert finished again 10 mins before me with an overall time of 0:55:29.


My verdict and overall race score: 3/5
Overall it was a good and flat run, suitable for any type of runner. The organisation was disappointing though. The running route could have been set out better and cut off from pedestrians. With a bit of better preparation and nicer weather, this could have been a worthy spring run.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

New spring collection & results of my gait analysis

Like many of us, I'm counting down to the first days to spring. If you want to believe the Gregorian calendar, there are only 17 days to go to the official beginning of spring. Next week's weather forecast begs to differ though. Even so, it is time for us runners to take stock and get our kit ready for the (hopefully) warmer days to come.

Gait analysis

This weekend I went to my running shop in town and had a long overdue gait analysis done to see if my choice of running shoes fit my running style. During a typical gait analysis the runners is asked to run on a treadmill for a couple of minutes, first barefoot then wearing running shoes. The running specialist will record your running on video and analyses your movement and posture. The most common running types are: overprontation, underpronation and neutral.


As a result of the gait analysis the specialist will be able to recommend the perfect running shoes for you that can give you the essential support for your training. Good shoes are important as they will support your joints and prevent unnecessary injuries. Here is an interesting video that explains how a gait analysis works.

My results are in: I'm very pleased to hear that I'm a neutral runner and roll off my feet nicely.
Even though I love my Brooks PureDrift minimalist shoes, my ankles, knees and hip would require  firmer support and the ASICS Gel-1000 shoes were recommended to me. The ASICS shoes Gel-Forte I had been given from work are of no use to me - so if you're an overpronator and need stronger support, please contact me!

My new spring collection

All inspired by some spots of blue sky and streaks of sunlight, I made use of the spring sale and stocked up on my spring running kit. My new spring running kit consists of an ultra-light short arm running top in blue, a pair of Nike 3/4 Capri pants and a pair of light, black and white running socks. Now I can't wait for spring to arrive!

(Roll your mouse over the image to read more information. You can click through the gallery using the navigation at the bottom.)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Nutrition basics for runners

As a runner it is important that you keep your body fueled with the right nutrients and vitamins. Runner's burn a high number of calories in their training and therefore need to take in more carbohydrates and proteins than non-runners to be able perform well.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the best source for endurance runners as it help the body to store, preserve and replace muscle glycogen (the body's of energy source). A low level of glycogen will result in fatigues or low levels of energy on race day. Once all energy sources have been depleted, the runner is of risk to 'hit the wall'.
Therefore, before you tackle the all important race day, ensure you increase the overall carbohydrates intake 2-3 days before race day and reduce fat and protein.

Proteins

Protein helps to build and repair damaged muscles and other tissues. During long distance runs, the body uses low amounts of protein for energy, therefore it is not necessary to increase the intake before a race. Ensure to stock up on your protein level after long runs though, with either protein shakes or simply a nutritious recovery meal e.g. eggs and toast. Don't forget to replenish your hydration level too! If you are reducing your calorie intake in order to lose weight, don't do it in your recovery meal!

Fats

During long endurance runs, your body will access the fat stores to fuel your body for exercise. Athletes who are training for endurance help their body's ability to burn fat as fuel. Ensure to keep your intake to no more than 30% and choose healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.

Hydration

It is not more than a myth that everyone should drink at least two liters a day. Our daily drinking requirements depends much more on gender, body weight, weather conditions and the amount of exercise we do on a daily basis. Also, the body can get its water supply from food and your metabolism. General rule for runners is though: The further and faster you run, the more you sweat; so replenish when needed! Many runners rely on the power of sports drinks. Sports drinks often have high sugar contents and provide fuel as well as fluids. However, it is only recommended for long runs to avoid a counterproductive effect on your calorie intake.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hello Balanced Training - or 9 runs and 33km later

Last week, MyASICS app informed me that I've completed the 'Pre-Conditioning' phase of my half-marathon training and I have now entered the phase of 'Balanced Training'.

Within the 'Balanced Training' phase I will run approx. 156km over 18 runs. The suggested training runs are a mix of build-up and pace runs to prepare for speed and endurance.
My Balanced Training phase
Within the Pre-Conditioning phase I didn't stick too much to my suggested training schedule, as you can see from the screenshot below. I managed to run at least twice a week and ran a 10K run on 27th March - overall I managed to log 9 runs with about 33 km distance.
My completed Pre-Conditioning phase
When I compare the distance of all my runs with the average pace time, it is clear that while I'm now running longer distances my average pace improved to below 7mins (!) That is quite an achievement as it seemed to me I was stuck in the 7mins plus pace zone.
Distance vs. Pace
My next training run is arranged for tomorrow as well as a nice job for Friday and a long run on Sunday. The training plan suggests I should run a 10K run on Wednesday, which I find very hard to do in between work and studies. My next 10K race is booked for 9th March. If the training is a success, I should really improve my overall running pace and run 10K without any major strains.
Have any of you had experiences with training plans? I'd be happy to hear other success stories as encouragement.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

BHF Regent's Park 10K on 9th March

Robert and I have just signed up to run the Regent's Park 10K on 9th March. This time we have set up a justgiving fund raising page to raise as much money as possible for the British Heart Foundation. Please support us in our aim and donate a few spare pennies or pound towards a good cause! Here is the link to our fundraising page.
Alternatively, if you're feeling you want to join us in the run, sign up too and enter team name 'The Road Runners'. The more, the merrier!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Top tips for beginners

Running with friends keeps you motivated

So you've decided to become a runner? Whatever motivated you - and I hope my blog has something to do with it - you should be proud of yourself. The first step is the hardest: To make the decision to become more active. The second one is even tougher: Sticking with it. It is like getting rid of a bad habit, you'll have to fully commit to it and the first runs will be hard work. Eventually, you'll get rewarded by becoming fitter, becoming more confident and may even losing some weight in the process. Without much further ado, let me give you some top tips to get you on your (running) feet:

First of all, do you have any pre-existing injuries? 
Running can be tough on your body so do make sure you are in good condition before you start your training. See you GP and have yourself checked out first.

Invest in good shoes

I'm not saying to go out and spend £100s in sports gear, but you should invest some money in good running shoes. Running can be tough on your joints, running shoes will act as shock absorbers and protect your joints on any terrain. Also, many running shops offer gait analysis for free! The staff will be able to give you advice on your personal running style and offer the perfect fit for your feet. Now as you've invested all the money, you'll also want to make good use of your brand-new shoes.

What should I wear?

For an outdoor run you should ideally wear some light and lose clothes, e.g. an old t-shirt or hoody with a pair of comfy trunks will do. Of course, you can also buy some running clothes, but it won’t improve your performance overall. Sports tops are made out of a very light & breathable fabric that absorbs your sweat to keep you dry. On a cold day I would recommend a hat or headband and gloves.

Warm-up & Stretching

Start each run with a gentle warm-up e.g. climbing the stairs for 5mins and finish with a cool down session. Before and after each run you should gently stretch your leg muscles to give yourself extra flexibility. This will help your muscles and joints to get used to the running and prevent injuries in the long term. Click here to find some great stretching exercises for you post-run workout.

Run-Walk-Run

It is recommended to start with a run-walk-run combination depending on your overall conditioning, eg 2mins running- 5mins walking- 2mins running. If you have been inactive for a while, it will help you to build your fitness level gently. Running is an incremental sport; you should start slowly with short distances and increase running with every run.

Find your breathing rhythm

If you're out of breath or in pain, stop running and walk for a few minutes. Every runner has its own breathing rhythm; you’ll find your own rhythm with time. Breathing correctly is important for your body to transport enough oxygen to your muscles.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Brooks PureProject 2.0: The ultimate shoe test

Brooks PureDrift running shoes
This week I've signed up for the Brooks PureProject 2.0 shoe test and I'm one of the few lucky ones to test a pair of Brooks shoes for a week for free. The Brooks PureProject range includes four different shoe types in its collection: PureDrift, PureConnect 2, PureFlow 2, PureCadence 2 and PureGrit 2.

I've chosen the Brooks PureDrift shoe in a stylish black & pink design. As a minimalist shoe, its main features are flexibility and ultra-lightness.
Immediately, when I pick up the shoe box in the shop I notice how light the shoes are. (I couldn't help but to check if the shoes were actually inside the box.) The top material of the shoe is made of very thin, breathable material. The sole is very flexible, split up into individual elements while still providing tight grip. In comparison, my usual ASICS shoes seem very heavy and bulky, which raises my concern if the shoes will be able to provide my joints with enough support (especially my knees).

On Saturday morning I'm giving my test shoes a proper workout. Once I put them on, the shoes snuggle up to my feet nicely, but still offer my toes enough room and flexibility. I feel very bouncy on the heels, but comfortable at the same time. It's a nice, but chilly day and I can feel the cold air coming through my shoes. The thin material might offer flexibility, but it doesn't really offer protection from a cold British winter's day.
My feet feel light and the shoes easily adapt to any surface, may it be hard pavement or soft sand on the beach. It feels like running barefoot, it doesn't seem like I'm wearing running shoes at all. After 5km of running the lactic acid creeps into my muscles, but my feet are still in top shape. Also, my knees are in still in perfectly good condition. All in all - surprisingly top marks for Brooks PureDrift!


Now let's put it through its final test... ;)

Monday, 28 January 2013

Race review: A tough & muddy but enjoyable 10K

Hadleigh Legacy 2012 10K - Sunday, 27th January

Robert and I before the run

This weekend I've completed my first off-road challenge at the Hadleigh Legacy 2012 run. Despite the terrible weather conditions the week before, the race day started out drizzly and damp but eventually turned into mild, clear blue-sky day with a slight easterly breeze. Just the perfect conditions for a winter run.

Robert and I arrived at Hadleigh Country Park in good time before the race to pick up our race numbers (mine was 299) and have a look around the course. Being prepared for rain or shine, I was nicely wrapped up in three layers of clothes, finger gloves, rain coat and trekking shoes. Many runners decided to go for normal running shoes, but I had a feeling that good, waterproof shoes would be an essential addition to my kit for today's multi-terrain race.

Slowly all 350 runners arrived at the County Park and just before 10:30 everyone was lined up at the start line, jumping and stretching, anxious to wake up their tired muscles for a different kind of endurance test.

Then, the shot gun went off and 700 feet started their move along the gravel and downhill to the mountain bike course. Stretched in between the hills of Hadleigh Park, the race track is tight and windy, making it difficult for runners to keep up a constant pace. It is clear that this won't be a hunt for a new personal best. In between long up-hill stretches we have to climb big rocks, while rewarding down-hill ascends become more of a mud slide. Slaloming through trees, I have to force myself to slow down and catch up with my breath.

The race track was well sign-posted with kilometre marks along the way. However, runners might have been confused seeing a 3km mark at the second lap. The race marshals were very attentive and ever encouraging, claiming that the finish line was just around the corner (I know now that was a lie).

Playing football regularly, Robert build up quite a running stamina and left my side past the third corner. I saw him again once more running past me at the half-way water point. He crossed the finishing line at about 01:08, 10 min before I could call this challenge my own. Climbing out of the mountain bike pit, I paced up the hill back onto the gravel to pass the finish line at 01:18:00. Robert was there to welcome me with a winner's hug and my runner's medal was handed to me.

My verdict and race score: 4/5
This run is nothing for the light-hearted, mud-phobic runners. It is a tough endurance run with long up-hill stretches and steep downhill passes, but indeed very enjoyable for nature lovers. Even though I was worried of the demanding task ahead of me, I'll definitely be there in 2014.
Robert and I at the finish line
My race number and well-deserved medal

Yep, it's been a muddy race


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

65 runs and 538.5 km - my training plan

In preparation for my half-marathon I'm been browsing the internet for a well thought out training plan. Depending on commitment and budget, there are literally hundreds available online for a one-off fee. As an amateur runner my budget is fairly limited. Also, I'd like to be able to adjust my plan to my busy lifestyle and log runs on any device at any time.

Through the Runner's World website I've stumbled upon the MyASICS online training app. The MyASICS app offers to log runs but also to set up training plans from 5K runs to full marathons. The only catch is your run has to be at least four weeks away from date you set up your plan (which makes sense for any beginner, unless you're mad). MyASICS is also available as a smartphone app, which allows me to track my runs on the go and keeping trace of my performance and progress - which I personally find very handy. Sounds all very promising, so let's give it try…

myasics.co.uk

I select my appropriate parameters and MyASICS does all the work for me. I can then adjust the number of runs I'm prepared to commit to during a week (3).

The MyASICS app tells me in order to complete my half marathon with the suggested time of 2:24:59 at 9th June I will run 538.5 kilometres in 65 runs. That sounds a bit harsh, I'd rather not think too much about it…
myasics.co.uk

MyASICS also advises me that my training comprises of 7 phases, starting with the pre-conditioning phase. In the pre-conditioning phase I will work on my overall fitness and then gradually add speed and distance to my training. The next phase - Balanced Training - is only 9 runs away. As a novice to all that jargon, I'm be happy to go along with it.
My first 5K jog is scheduled for tomorrow, let the training begin!