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Can we reach £2k in 2 weeks?

Can we reach £2k in 2 weeks?

Another great week of fundraising and training.  Just under 2 weeks into our campaign, and just under £2k raised so far - that's £1,980 in 13 days to be precise (including cash donations).  What a great achievement so far, but wouldn't it be fantastic to hit the £2k mark by Wednesday! 

Less than 5 weeks of training left before I can start to ease off.  The training's certainly not getting any easier, but no doubt I am getting stronger.  A steady 10k row on Saturday morning felt a good workout, but comfortable.  Knowing that you're heading for a big run the following day means you have to temper your training a bit in the days before, so that the muscles are completely fresh for the endurance.  The plan for Sunday was 18 miles along the west highland way - out to Killearn and back.  

It's incredible just how the weather has changed in one week.  As much as I do like running in the elements, it was wild and horizontal rain even before I started.  I really don't like running with a jacket on, even though the running jacket I have is regarded as one of the more breathable and waterproof options.  They just feel too stifling to me.  Figuring that I would be running for over 2.5 hours, I thought it best not to get totally drenched immediately, so donned the jacket.  The first 5 miles or so appeared to by-pass autumn and head straight to winter.  As things calmed a bit, jacket was off and my body was able to breathe again. The rest of the run had a very autumnal feel - my favourite running conditions, and I felt great.   My legs were really strong and I was flying for the last 3 miles. 

I think this is partly due to a very impromptu leg massage I had on Saturday.  I popped into work for a couple of things, when one of our massage therapists Mags Young had just finished her shift.  Without much cajoling, Mags very obligingly gave me a treatment. She has this knack of freeing off fairly solid muscles without inflicting much pain - unlike me!  Just goes to show that as much as stretching is crucial, a helping hand to break the muscles down has huge benefits.

After a day of recovery on Monday, I tackled the Kelvingrove park hills after work tonight - up and down 11 times.  Definitely a critical part of my training now and my recovery from hills is getting quicker.  Planning around 15 miles tomorrow morning, so that'll be a good gauge of how strong my legs are after tonight's session.

Really appreciate all the messages of support I've been receiving, I can't tell you how much it spurs me on.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


The power of beetroot

The power of beetroot

One week in, £1,305 raised!
What a fantastic first week of fund raising.  It's so inspiring and humbling to see the steady stream of generosity and kind messages of support roll in every day.  I can't thank all of you enough!  Needless to say it is a huge help to my training.

My longest run yet on Saturday, 17 miles along the Forth and Clyde canal past Clydebank to Dalmuir and back.  Yes I know, the canal is totally flat compared to Glencoe.  So, only an additional 9.2 miles and 1608m (5,306ft) and off-road with my pack on and we'll be there.  The weeks seem to be flying by now, and no sooner have I done my hill session at Kelvingrove than it seems to be that time again.  Routine is great as it lets you know how you're progressing week on week, but the time appears to go by quicker.  After a strong core strength session yesterday followed by some yoga, tonight I did an 11 miler.  All my runs from now in will be with my pack on.

I'm also getting to the distances now where hydration, nutrition and energy levels come into play a bit more.  Something I've been using for a while now for longer endurance runs is beetroot juice.  Yes the humble beetroot!  Having read a load of research on it, I gave it a go and it definitely works.  The nitrates within the beetroot have the physiological effect of increasing the efficiency of the muscles, reducing their demand for oxygen. Basically this means heart rate reduces.  Given that I monitor my heart rate when running, especially my longer runs, I definitely notice a difference.  If I'm usually sitting around 152 beats per minute, the beetroot juice would bring that down to around 142 - around 6.5% increase in efficiency.  

This obviously doesn't mean munching away at a load of beetroot then going for a run.  I defy anyone to try that without ending with an ungainly sprint to the nearest toilet!  It takes the form of a 70ml shot, not to be mistaken for the type you may have on a Saturday night.  A 70ml concentrated shot is the equivalent of 300ml of juice.  The studies found that the optimum amount is 2 shots, equivalent to 600ml.  This can last up to 10 hours in your system, and no stomach upset.  If anyone wants to look into this a bit more, here's the link: http://beet-it.com.

Off to bed now for a good rest!

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


£640 raised in first 24 hours

£640 raised in first 24 hours

£640 raised within the first 24 hours of Ryan and Oscar's donation page going live and £690 at the last count!! What an amazing start to our appeal and overwhelming generosity from all who have given so far.  So a huge thank you to you all.  Now that we have a good amount of cash on the board, the prospect of helping the boys' now becomes a reality.  The more we can raise, the more we can make a positive difference to their day-to-day lives.

From my perspective, all of a sudden things feel a bit different.  I suppose up until now, as much as the plan was always to raise money for Ryan and Oscar, it has very much felt as though I was just training to run a race.  There's no question it has increased the significance and importance of my run on October 5th.  It's certainly a great motivator.  

Buoyed by the fact we have raised so much on the first day, I went out for a 10 mile road run straight from work yesterday with a real spring in my step. Down through the park, along the Clyde and through Glasgow Green - first time post Commonwealth Games. It's fascinating how peoples' mood changes in different environments - nobody making eye contact, smiling or saying hello. Interesting though, another scorching evening run, eyes nipping with sweat, chafing in all chafable places, even my backpack had to dry out afterwards.  If running in the heat means a longer summer then thou shall not complain.

Last weekend I managed around 22 miles - 7.5 road run on Saturday morning, followed by a 14.5 Sunday morning trail run along what is quickly becoming my favourite route, the West Highland Way.  A 7am rise for a Sunday morning run isn't my usual time to run, and neither did my legs seem to approve.  The first 6 miles felt like a protest, that they should still be resting under the comfort of a warm, cosy duvet.  Luckily they came to life thereafter and felt really strong right to the end.  Again, the weather was great, and such a contrast to the deluge that poured on the cyclists as the Commonwealth road race sped through the city.

This is the first week that my training feels like it's really coming together.  Another great session running up and down the steep, grassy hills of Kelvingrove park completed my running.  A couple of intense 5k rows - legs like jelly afterwards, and a few sets of pull-ups and press-ups every night.  I've always thought the more you train, the more you stretch.  I have been practising what I'm preaching, meaning flexibility is improving every week, quick recovery, no twinges or aches and pains. It's been a good week, and feeling more motivated and inspired than ever.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

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Ryan and Oscar Appeal

Ryan and Oscar Appeal

Now that my donation page is up and running, this is an appeal to anyone following my blog to please sponsor me and help make a difference to the lives of 2 little boys.  As much as I'm looking forward to the challenge of Glencoe, knowing that I can do something to help make Ryan and Oscar's day to day life that little bit easier has really added to the significance and importance of the challenge.  To read about Ryan and Oscar's stories, and if you wish to make a donation, please click on the following link:  http://gofundme.com/bxkjj8. 

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


The positive effects of Commonwealth Games fever

Well and truly into the spirit of The Games now!! I don't think anyone could dispute that Glasgow absolutely has been the place to be this past week.  Undoubtedly the sun has played its part, and although the people of Glasgow are renowned for their friendliness (some may say over familiarity), I don't think I've seen this level of vibrancy and positivity in the city since the Glasgow Garden Festival in1988.  

So far I haven't experienced any of the live action, but given the opportunity I have been glued to the TV and happy to watch any event.  That will all change tonight though, as we venture over to Hampden for a great night of athletics - lots of finals to come, with a real variety of track and field events on show.

My other positive experiences from The Games so far have come via my runs.  I've deliberately ventured a lot through Kelvingrove park, across Finnieston and along the Clydeside to Glasgow Green.  Every single person who makes eye contact has either smiled or said hello.  The volunteers have been fantastic, cheering me and gesturing the direction to Hampden!  Sweat dripping profusely (I can't remember the last time I ran in cold weather), it's amazing how much more energy you can muster when everything seems so positive.  I'm hoping the extra effort from this warm weather training will be of additional benefit in the cold of Glencoe in October.

I've started to add a bit of cross-training into my schedule.  I pushed the boat out and got a waterrower rowing machine 5 months ago.  Not only does it give you a great whole body workout, but you get to hear the sound of the water swooshing around as it resists the paddle fighting it's way around the enclosed perspex basin.  All literature for mountain marathons tell you that you need to strengthen your core and upper body.  The rowing machine just about works every muscle in your body, especially your gluts (buttocks) and quads (front thighs), both of which need to be really strong for hills.  Speaking of which, I did my first proper hill session this morning at Kelvingrove park.  10 reps from the river  Kelvin up the grassy hills to the very top at the Park district.  To spur me on there was another runner doing the same, though he had his backpack on.  I think I'll do another couple of sessions before donning the pack.  A great session that will be a staple of my training over the coming weeks.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


West Highland Way in the Sun

West Highland Way in the Sun

Back to work with a bang after a great 2 weeks camping in the sun.  Two days rain out of 14, with the other 12 not only dry, but scorching hot.  Five summers in a row now camping in the UK (4 Scotland, 1 England), and not a wet summer holiday amongst them - jammy or are our summers not as bad as we make out?

In the end I managed to get 5 runs on holiday, the last one a 12 miler through the forest, along the beach and canal trail.  The pleasing aspect of this run was I went further and faster, and actually felt stronger than any of the other runs.  I think what made the difference was the brutal self-massage I put my adductor and quads through.  At times the muscles felt really tight and therefore caused some pulling on the front and inside of the knees.  I get so many clients coming into clinic with what they describe as a knee problem.  Nine times out of 10, it's the tightness of the muscles pulling on the knee.  As much as stretching out the quads and hip flexor muscles will provide significant benefits, the muscles can get to the point where they are too solid and need stripped out - don't mistake this for a nice gentle massage.  Stripping the muscle out yourself involves a bit of teeth gritting, face contorting and lots of counting to 10 until you feel your leg is on fire.  I've got a simple approach that you can apply to any muscle in the body: if the muscle is tight and short, then it is struggling to cope with the demand being placed on it.  If, on the other hand, the muscle is nice and long and there is a degree of softness, then the muscle is coping no problem with the level of demand.  Also, if you keep the length and softness in the muscle, this leads to less compression through the joint.  That's why yoga is such a fantastic foil for any other activity. 

Since coming home I've managed a couple of runs.  I did 7.5miles with Frances (my wife) on Monday through Kelvingrove park, along the Clyde to Glasgow Green.  With the imminent opening of The Games, the vibe during the whole run was fantastic.  Every second voice I heard was foreign, loads of people were out running and cycling and the Commonwealth city of Glasgow was basking in the sun.  I did a great run last night along the West Highland Way.  I had my backpack on with hydration bladder filled and a couple of carbohydrate gels.  I've run this route a number of times and it will become a well-trodden path over the next 9 weeks of training.  The changing trails and scenery of the WHW, always with hills in the background is inspiring in itself.  Importantly, a lot of the trails should be similar to what i can expect at Glencoe, albeit not quite as steep.  Every time I do this route, there are a few little subtle sculptures or timely little reminders chiselled in stone that help along the way - like the reminder to breathe!  I did 12 miles and although I knew it was really hot when I went out, it was only when I got back in the car to drive home that 28 degrees flashed up on the dashboard.  Plenty of fluids, protein and stretching immediately afterwards and I felt as good as gold.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Running in the woods

Well into the second week of the holiday now, and moved from the Isle of Mull to the north east highlands.  Drove a bit up and down the Cromarty Firth and Moray Firth until we settled for a smallish forest campsite in Nairn.  Great site, very calm and secure for the kids.  Once again, we've hit the jackpot with the weather. 

There's an added bonus with this site - it's got forestry trails.  It means I can do part of my runs through the pine forest - the smell running through it in the morning is clean and fresh.  I've managed 4 runs so far on holiday: a 6 miler, 8 miler and two 10 milers.  Hopefully one more before heading home on Sunday.  All but one have included off-road trails, which are more enjoyable and definitely suit me best, though they have all felt a little like running through treacle at times - hopefully just holiday lard!

Training proper starts from Monday, which gives me 9 weeks good training, with 2 weeks to taper before the race.  I need to hit the hill sessions hard, and get my long runs in on trails.  

 

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

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Alan's Marathon Training - Beach Style!

Day 5 into my 2 week family camping holiday in Mull.  So far, every day has been a scorcher and according to the local weather man (the Mull to Iona ferry man), the next few days are to be even better.

A day trip over to Iona yesterday was pretty special, and thanks to some local knowledge provided by Annemarie (Balance receptionist), today we visited Scoor beach, which could easily have been from a set from Hawaii 5 O!  True to form, Annemarie mentioned the Golden Eagles at this spot, and they didn't disappoint.  We saw 5, 3 of them gliding the thermals together - spectacular.  Staffa and Fingals Cave beckon tomorrow, though I think I need to apply some factor 50.  Even the kids are telling me how bad my goggles are!

I'm sure you can imagine my training is quite relaxed at the moment. 

Let's put it down to the weather being hot!  A gentle warm up tomorrow morning for a few miles before breakfast. Serious training starts in a week and a half!

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

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Alan's Glencoe Marathon Challenge

Alan's Glencoe Marathon Challenge

Welcome to my first blog charting the trials and tribulations of training for the Glencoe marathon on Sunday 5th October (billed as one of the most challenging events in the UK). I know it's quite literally an uphill challenge, but it's for a worthwhile cause.

I'm raising money for two special little boys, Ryan Sheridan (12) and Oscar Cairns (4). Ryan and Oscar's parents have given me an insight about the boys and this is the reason I'm running this race. I'm currently off the grid at the moment (on holiday in Mull) so access is limited and I can't upload the links so I'll do this ASAP.

There's just under 3 months to go until the race, which is virtually all off-road and takes in the Devil's Staircase and the Mamores before finishing in Fort William. Keep following to see how my training is coming along. I'll be sure to call on my colleagues at Balance to help minimise strains and injuries along the way. Speak soon.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

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