balance

balance Blog

Keep up to date with balance news by subscribing to our RSS feed or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

Thank You from Ryan & Oscar's Parents

After an extremely generous and successful fundraising campaign, Ryan and Oscar's parents would like to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the appeal.  Please read below:

We would like to send a huge ‘Thank you’ to everyone who sponsored Alan and donated money to Oscar and Ryan.  We’ve been blown away by everyone’s kindness and goodwill.  Your generosity will have a massive impact on our boys’ lives.

 A  specially adapted bike will enable Oscar to join the rest of the family on cycling trips.  He’s already been fitted for it and has tried one out to squeals of absolute delight!
 
Ryan will benefit from a specially adapted computer system. This is accompanied by a number of apps and programs which allow words and symbols to be translated to speech - a very exciting time which will hopefully go a long way to help Ryan communicate with everyone.
 
A massive thanks to Alan too for all those months of hard work – what an achievement  - he really is an inspiration!
 
From Angela & Mark (Ryan’s mum & dad) and Christine & Stuart (Oscar’s mum & dad)

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Total of £3,500 Raised!

Total of £3,500 Raised!

With the fundraising now at an end, we've raised a total of £3,500 on the dot.  A great achievement and great cause that I feel proud to be involved in.  Even if it's just a little, I'm sure Ryan and Oscar will benefit from the generosity of everyone who donated.  For me, it's been quite a humbling experience being able to help two very worthy little boys, whilst at the same time receiving amazing support, and experiencing a fantastic journey to completing the Glencoe marathon.

It's a little strange thinking what to do next after Glencoe.  It's been a focal point for most of the year, and as much as your life doesn't quite revolve around it - I've tried to fit it around family life, there is a date in the diary that is difficult to ignore.  Now that this date has expired, there's no focal point to concentrate your efforts.  Yes I know, it's only 11 days after the run and we're still in recovery mode.  However, I feel remarkably good, legs feel fresh and recovered already.  

I've run twice since the marathon, last Saturday it was a nice easy 5.5 mile road run with my older brother Steven.  Then on Tuesday, my younger brother Thomas took me on one of his staple coastal runs where he lives in Cumbria.  Thomas said on more than one occasion that this is a really hilly route, emphasising the difficulty of some of the climbs. I approached this run as a gauge of how my legs were recovering, so was happy not to push the distance or the speed too much.  We ran 11.2 miles with plenty of hills up and down, including a 1 mile climb towards the end.  I was surprised to find the run easy and the hills didn't even register on my legs or cardio fitness.

What to do next?  As we're heading towards the end of the running season, events that appeal become thin on the ground.  There are two that I'm considering.  A half marathon I've run twice before and enjoyed, is Jedburgh on Sunday 26 October.  It is mostly road, but I can cope with country roads and trails, with the smell of trees and wood burners.  I did have a moment of madness and considered the ultra 38 mile 3 peaks trail race, but it was only momentary until I came back to my senses.  I'll settle for the half!  Next there is the Tinto Hill Race 2 weeks later, which is a 7km race up and down Tinto hill, run by Carnethy Hill Running Club.  Beyond that, I have registered for a fantastic adventure in 2015, which I'll find out on Friday 24 October if I've been successful in the ballet.  I'll let you know what it is when I find out if I'm in!
  

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Massacred and Seduced by Glencoe

Massacred and Seduced by Glencoe

Well it wasn't quite the slaying of the MacDonalds of Glencoe by the Campbells, and the only common thread you could make is that no prisoners were taken in either circumstance.  Without being too corny about it, it is difficult to put the experience of running the Glencoe marathon into words. 

With a deluge of rain falling in the preceding week, it was a pleasant surprise to wake up and find a dry, cool morning.  The bus journey from Glen Nevis to Glencoe at 7.15am felt part of the experience in itself.  Knowing that you were soon going to run back to Glen Nevis through this majestic, mountainous landscape was quite a thought.

We arrived at the Red Squirrel campsite in good time to relax and prepare for the run.  Weather was still on our side as we neared the start.  A young piper played to build the atmosphere, which was quite surreal given the drama and history of the surroundings.  If the task ahead was less mountainous, I would say it should be compulsory that every runner be clad in tartan, rather than black and psychedelic lycra.  However, running through 4-5 miles of bog and climbing The Devil's Staircase in a 16oz kilt (wet) is a bit too much to ask.

The first couple of miles were straightforward, single file trails combining flat with undulations. This soon changed to ankle-deep bog for the next 4-5 miles, with the occasional quicksand-like drop to my knee.  There was even one competitor who had to be lifted out of the mud, which went beyond her knees.  All this before any real climbs.  

The route then takes a northerly turn, which basically means you start to climb uphill.  This became even steeper as we approached The Devil's Staircase, zigzagging to a height of 548m.  As expected, this is the first point where my thighs started to feel it, but my recovery was good as the trail flattened off.  This was followed by a long, and at times tricky descent back to sea level at Kinlochleven - half way point.  The downhill went on for around 2 miles and was quite unforgiving.  At times very rocky and steep, with every step it felt like putting the brakes on, and the front of my thighs started to let me know they were taking more than their fair share of the strain.  

Kinlochleven was a very welcome checkpoint, as I knew I had family and friends there to provide that welcome boost.  I'm not sure my kids (Kirsty and Fraser) were overly enamoured by a big sweaty kiss and cuddle I gave them both, but it felt good to me.  I felt strong at this point, though my legs were definitely tired.  It's difficult to know how much the bog had taken out of my legs, but there was a real sense that I would really have to dig in for the second half.  Next, there was a really steep and long climb out of Kinlochleven (326m).  I decided at this point to try and stretch a little to stave off any cramping, which I've had once before.  Knowing it was down to a lack of salt, my nutrition and hydration plan included taking salt tablets.  It certainly helped, though unfortunately around 15 miles, the front of my thighs started to grip.  A few times thereafter, I had to stretch and do some massage to free the muscles from their vice.  

Around 15 miles, I saw my brother Thomas not far behind and we decided to run together.  We both went through periods when one of us felt pretty strong, whilst the other struggled.  Admittedly, I had to stop and ease the cramps a few times.  One minute I felt strong, then going up a little incline my legs would feel like wading through treacle.  Thomas ran with a GPS watch which gives distance travelled.  At around 22 miles I asked him how far we had gone.  He was taking a carbohydrate gel at the time for energy, and his response to me was 'I've only got enough energy to do one thing at a time'. 

With around 2 miles to go, we were up quite a height and could see the tents at Glen Nevis, where the finish line was.  The steepness of the descent for the first mile led to the front and back of my thighs twinging with every step, but I managed to avoid any further cramping and felt strong for the last mile.  We managed to keep going and overtook around a dozen runners who had nothing left in the tank and had resorted to walking.  We crossed the line together with the encouragement of a fantastically supportive crowd.  It felt euphoric, not because we were glad to be finished, but to have experienced an adventure as epic and challenging, in one of the wildest and most awe-inspiring locations in Scotland.  I have to say I also felt good that I had completed the task and had done my bit to help Ryan and Oscar, which is the most important part.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Race over and £3,350 raised!

This is just a short, quick post to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me through this adventure and very worthy cause. Your heartening messages of support and overwhelming donations have really highlighted what's important in life, and the human goodness that can sometimes be forgotten about. 

I've really enjoyed and felt privileged in doing a little bit to help Ryan and Oscar, and anything that may even marginally enhance their quality of life has to be a good thing. But without all of us doing our little bit to help and support, that's not possible.  We have so far raised £3,350 in total, which is fantastic.  So again, a wholehearted thank you to each one of you.

I'll spare you all the gory details about the race - that'll come later!  The race went well, and although the most difficult physical challenge I've ever done, it's also the most spectacular and rewarding.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Registered and ready to go!

Registered and ready to go!

Had a fantastic build up to the race today, as Thomas (my brother) and I drove up to Fort William for tomorrow's race.  Having the time to take it easy and enjoy the drive, Scotland is truly stunning.  From Loch Lomond upwards, the scenery just gets better and more dramatic.  Driving through Glencoe, with skies ranging from summer blue to stormy black, there is a sublime eeriness and drama to it that almost feels alive.  

Registration was at Glen Nevis, where the race will finish.  Due to the heavy rainfall they've had, the ground was already muddy.  I expect we're in for a wet, muddy day tomorrow, given the expected forecast over the next 24 hours.  I'm sure the race will be all the more interesting for it!
Tonight, our pre-race meal was at the Ben Nevis Inn, where we met a few friends (1 doing the marathon and 2 the half marathon).  As the name suggests, this establishment is at the end of the road and at the foothills of Ben Nevis.  We arrived here in darkness, though there was a real presence surrounding us from the mountain shadows.  The food was great, as advised on trip adviser.  Some Cullen skink soup followed by a carbohydrate-loaded pasta dish with beetroot and goats cheese - I'm probably not selling it well but it was tasty.

Back to the B&B at 9.45pm to get organised for the morning.  It's a 6am rise in the morning to have breakfast, before heading for the shuttle bus to take us from Glen Nevis to Glencoe at 7.15.  I think it's time for lights out and hopefully a good night's sleep.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

Read 2 comments

Jackpot!! £2.5k Target Reached

Jackpot!! £2.5k Target Reached

Well done everyone, we've hit our target of £2.5k with one week to go.  Great effort so far, with promises from a number of people still to donate.  Hopefully this will take us well beyond our target amount and raise as much as we can for Ryan and Oscar. Thank you once again to everyone who has played their part so far.  

Back home from holiday tomorrow and seriously need to get back on the nutritional wagon! The whole of next week will be about taking in lots of good carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes - especially salt, and making sure I'm well hydrated.  Good clean food and fluids, the treats can come on Sunday after the race!!

Off to enjoy my sister-in-law's home-made curry now - I did say I would start from tomorrow!

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.

Read 1 comments

Altitude training in Switzerland?

Altitude training in Switzerland?

If I didn't feel as though my training was complete before, there's no question it is now.  Like the last three September Weekend holidays, we've taken the opportunity to visit family in Switzerland. I know taking the kids out of school is frowned upon, but to get a 6 day break, the opportunity to see family, and really cheap flights was too good to resist.  Hence, I'm writing this blog entry from my sister-in-law's balcony, looking at the rather decadent view of Lake Geneva, with a backdrop of Mont Blanc and the French Alps - stunning.  

We arrived on Wednesday and I did a 9 mile leisurely run into Montreux and back - first run in 8 days.  I say leisurely, but it is literally downhill the whole way to Montreux, with the return leg a constant climb, including an ample quantity of hairpin bends to negotiate.  It was a road run, however passing field after field of vineyards with constant views of the lake and Alps made this such an enjoyable run.  

Its a strange feeling when you really cut down your training a couple of weeks before the race.  You know your body needs to recover and get as fresh as possible for race day, but there is a natural instinct within that says 'I need to get out and run', or 'what if my fitness drops'?  Some people even complain of feeling sluggish or needing to get another few good runs in.  My problem is my body still wants to eat the same amount of food, but I'm not going to burn it off.  I have a monstrous appetite at the best of time, but there's something about the purity of the air and the altitude where we are in Switzerland, that makes me even more ravenous.  Here's hoping my metabolism doesn't slow too much over the next week!  

I replaced my long run last Sunday with taking part in the Sun Salutation marathon classes we ran at balance, with all takings going to Motor Neurone Disease Scotland.  The class, taken by Michelle Shields, was continuous sun salutation sequences for an hour, and highlighted brilliantly which parts of my body were tight.  None more so than my hamstring muscles (back of the thighs), which haven't felt a workout like that since last year's corresponding class.  As much as I do stretch before and after every run, and the days in between, there's no question the long runs and the hills do shorten the muscles.  I can't stress the importance of stretching for muscle recovery and reducing the loading through the joints.

A few more days in sunny Switzerland, one more run, daily yoga practise and some muscle-pummelling, with more of the same in my final week.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Two's a crowd - but only on race day!

Two's a crowd - but only on race day!

Well, my run last Wednesday morning was a good one after all. The plan was a quick 10 miler, though in the end turned out to be 11.5 for good measure.  This was followed on Thursday with a 10k.  As much as my legs are feeling pretty strong and cardio fitness is great, there's no question my legs get to a point where the muscles need broken down and softened a bit.  The repetition of each step during the road runs can feel a bit like slabs of meat pulling on my knees.  I readily booked in for a massage with another of our massage therapists, Margot Manson after work on Friday.  I love the feeling after a massage, of walking home and my legs and hips feeling as though they're gliding, like someone has taken an oiling can to them.

The massage set me up nicely for my last long run on Sunday.  For the first time, I ran with my brother Thomas.  He has also signed up for Glencoe, though his training has been very different from mine.  2 weeks of the month Thomas works offshore, thus his dreaded long miles on a treadmill are such a stark contrast to my sensory experience on the West Highland Way.  Imagine, 50 miles in one week, one foot in front of the other and going nowhere!  Add in 4 walls and a BIG mirror in front of your face - not a pretty sight!  I introduced him to what now feels like my route -18 miles (out to Killearn and back).  He did really well, but did find it tough.  At least he's got a good 18 miles under his belt.  Though he's my brother, it did feel a bit strange running with someone. You get used to your own rhythm, without thinking about anyone or anything else.  Suddenly, someone else has piggy-backed onto your rhythm, which can feel a bit hijacked at times as they speed up or slow down, affecting your fluency.  I really enjoyed running together and the company, but on the day it's about running your own race the way you've trained for it.

I also ran my last intensive hill session last night in the park.  I left work at 7.30pm, already starting to see daylight diminish.  By the time I finished my session half an hour later, darkness had fallen, and definitely time to get out of the park.  This just highlighted how long I've been training for this - I did my first 10 mile run off-road at the end of January.

I'm please to say I will get a relatively long lie this Sunday.  My long run will be replaced with the Sun Salutation marathon we'll be hosting at balance for the second year running.  Having taken part last year, I'm looking forward to a fantastic yoga session which will focus on the sun salutation sequence for an hour.  There is something quite meditative about continually repeating this sequence, though don't mistake it for a nice relaxing class.  This is quite a rhythmical but strong sequence which will give your whole body a fantastic workout.  This year we're giving all proceeds to Motor Neuron Disease Scotland.  It's a great class and a great cause, so please go if you can.

Time for some sleep before casting my vote in the morning!!

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


4 weeks to go!

Now just under 4 weeks before the big day, which basically means 2 weeks of hard graft left.  Oh, how time is whizzing by!  Training is still good and enjoyable, though being honest about it, I'm looking forward to the 2 week taper period afterwards when I can focus on getting my legs as fresh as possible for race day.

The last 2 Sundays I've trodden along my old favourite west highland way trail.  I must admit, it is a nice feeling when you get to the stage that 20 miles off-road isn't a daunting task.  I will never say 20 miles is easy, which it certainly is not, but I am now getting to the end of the run and feeling comfortable.  Wearing a pack now is second nature and I think it would feel a bit odd without it.  The rest of my training last week had to be put on the back burner due to other unforeseen commitments.  On the positive side, my legs got some well deserved time to recover.  My next opportunity for training was last Friday after work.  I did my hill session at Kelvingrove, which was fantastic.  Legs felt refreshed and strong, definitely my best hill session yet by a mile. 

I did the same hill session tonight after work, though this time I was joined by my good friend Stephen Scally.  As it was his first time doing this type of training, he did brilliantly given the difficulty of the session.  From the first rep, your breathing is quickly laboured and thighs are on fire.  The intensity just carries on increasing right to the last step.  I'll be interested to know how his legs are feeling in the morning!  Let's see how my legs and my head stand up to a quick 10 mile road run in the morning.

On the fundraising front, we're currently sitting at £2,255, which is fantastic.  I'm confident we'll reach our target by race day, and hopefully surpass it.  

It's getting to the point now I'm just looking forward to race day.  Training's almost done and the key is being sensible and making sure I don't take any chances by overdoing it.  

Looking forward to a good long sleep on a Sunday morning again, if the kids allow it!!

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


A Total Assault on My Legs

A Total Assault on My Legs

Everything is going pretty well and very much on schedule as I head towards the last 3 weeks of training, although I had my first real mental battle a week ago on Wednesday.  It was the morning after my hill session at Kelvingrove, so not a lot of recovery time, which I'm sure is a big part of it.  I had planned around 15 miles along through Glasgow Green, past Shawfield, Rutherglen and Shawlands before heading back to the west end.  The route turned out to be 13 miles, but felt like 26!  These runs also just reaffirm my preference for long runs off-road.  I could be running along within my comfort zone when suddenly a voice in my head says stop!  Although this time my legs felt a bit heavier, and the voice started saying stop around 3 miles in.  This run was definitely more about perseverance and endurance than enjoyment.  I suppose that's what builds the mental strength!

My next run was just a 5 miler after work on the Friday.  Not quite a fast-paced tempo run but really picking up the pace the more I got into the run.  Waiting for me at home was a nice big icy bucket of water - yes the Ice Bucket Challenge!  I got home to find the kids running about in their swimming costumes, excited about me nominating them.  Not quite an ice bath but it felt particularly refreshing, a much nicer experience than I'm sure it's meant to be.  I received a 2nd bucket for good measure!

Back to the long run on Sunday along the well-worn path of the WHW.  Wasn't sure whether to do 18 or 20 but in the end did 20.  It was a beautiful morning, though the first time my hands have felt really cold and taken time to thaw.  Still playing about a bit with hydration and nutrition.  Had my usual porridge with some honey, yoghurt and a banana for breakfast, accompanied by around 0.5ltrs of water and 2 shots of beetroot juice.  I forgot to mention in my blog about beetroot juice that if you go to the toilet any time in the day after taking some, don't be alarmed when you see the colour of your urine. No, you haven't had a bleed anywhere, it is the beetroot that makes it turn pink.

Around the 9 mile mark I started taking SIS isotonic gels, which my stomach seems happy with, and they aren't sickly like many others. It's also interesting when I check my hydration bladder at the end of a run, and usually find I've drunk around half what I thought.  So I made sure I drank small amounts of water regularly from the start to stay hydrated.  Like the week before, my legs felt really good during the last 3 - 4 miles and recovery has been good.  I did have a change of tact in the days afterwards though. I decided to forego my hill session at Kelvingrove park on Tuesday night, in favour of an extra recovery day and a fierce hill session on Wednesday.

For weeks now I've been running along the WHW and for long spells my eyes have been drawn to Dumgoyne hill (next to Glengoyne distillery) just past Strathblane.  I'm expecting parts of Glencoe to be soft underfoot which is just energy-sapping, so I thought some proper fell running would be good preparation.  So far I would say it's been my hardest session.  Due to time restrictions, I managed to run for about 10k, which took about 75 mins.  It was constant hills, so steep at points it was impossible to run.  My calves and thighs were on fire during the ascent, and the brutality of the downhill left the front of my thighs screaming for a break.  All in all, it was a total assault on my legs, but a great session.

The week finished with a nice little 5 miler after work on Friday, ready for another 20 on Sunday.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.


Footwear Laid Bare

Footwear Laid Bare

A few people have asked me about what type of shoes I wear for off-road running.  Is it just a pair of trail shoes?  I think the question alludes to needing support in case you go over on your ankles due to the uneven terrain.  I did a couple of 18k trail runs in the Lake District a couple of years ago and had a good look at what footwear most runners wore.  In the main, the preference seemed to be really sturdy shoes, with the emphasis on support and protection.

I took a slightly different approach. In clinic, I deal with a lot of foot and ankle biomechanics and I also have an interest in running.  Around 2.5 years ago I was introduced to barefoot / minimal shoes.  I know barefoot and shoes seems a bit of a contradiction in terms.  I knew about barefoot, but it's not the easiest concept to grasp when the natural response is 'surely you need support to run on tarmac roads'.  The fear element obviously being the impact through the feet, ankles, knees and hip joints.  At the time I had been getting little niggles in my left knee or right thigh, depending on what shoes I put on.  

I read a lot of research in support of, and against the barefoot approach, which to me was fascinating from a biomechanical perspective.  I started to try them very gradually - there needs to be a huge element of restraint here to prevent injury to your calves, especially when you feel great and your shoes feel like you're wearing slippers.  I would run really slowly, starting from around 1.5 miles, 2,3....7,8 and so on.  After around 10 weeks of wearing them, I put on my traditional running shoes and ran 10k.  This was probably the biggest eye opener - I hated every minute of it.  All of a sudden it felt as though I had 2 non-responsive, heavy lumps of wood at the end of my legs.  I couldn't believe how much I had gotten used to barefoot shoes.  Now I would say I wear barefoot type shoes around 95% of the time, my feet and ankles have never felt so good and I've not had so much as a twinge.

I could talk about this all day (and often do in clinic), but there are a few main differences that make so much sense to me.  Upwards of 70% of the sensory feedback to the brain comes from the feet.  So if we put on a fairly bulky shoe with a rigid sole, that percentage significantly reduces.  Also, the smaller stabilising muscles in the feet and ankles don't work as hard as they should, so become weaker.  

Your whole posture changes with barefoot shoes.  For most people, a traditional running shoe encourages most people to heel strike, which isn't a natural phenomenon.  The heel should actually be the last part of the foot to touch the ground when running.  So, barefoot encourages shorter stride, quicker leg speed and a more natural upright posture.  Overall, it's easier on your body and doesn't require any support in your shoes.  It is important to note however, that your feet should be comfortable in the footwear.  Having tried various barefoot trail shoes, the ones I use are close to barefoot so that I can feel what's under my feet, but with enough protection from sharp stones.

If anyone would like more info on the barefoot approach, please email balance and I'll forward it on to you.

Sponsor me now for Ryan & Oscar.



back to top