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Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway for a place in the Leeds Christmas 10k.

The winner, chosen at random by the Rafflecopter bot, is …. Patrick! Congrats! Looking forward to seeing you on the day – you will get an extra loud cheer!

Patrick is a fellow active blogger – you can read about his adventures over at 1000kms to Windermere.

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Exciting blog post klaxon!! I have an early Christmas present for one lucky reader – free entry to the Leeds Christmas 10k.

You may remember that last year I marshalled this event and had a grand old time cheering on the runners on a very cold November morning. Well to say thank you the organisers have given me a free entry for this year’s race, but I’m passing on the Christmas spirit and giving it away to one of my lovely readers!

I ran the inaugural Leeds Christmas 10k in 2012 and it was a tough course, but a very enjoyable event. The organisation was splendid, and we got a t-shirt and a mince pie at the end. Last year the conditions were a bit nicer than the ice we had that first year, but it was still chilly and hilly! It’s a really fun race with plenty of support, and definitely not just for serious runners – fancy dress is very much encouraged!

You can find out more at the Leeds Christmas 10k website.

Entering the competition is really easy – just click the link through to Rafflecopter below. Of course, it will help if you live in or can get to Leeds easily as there is no transport or accommodation offered (well, you could possibly sleep on my sofa!). The winner will be announced as soon as possible after the closing date of October 5th.

Good luck and I’ll see you on the course somewhere (I’ll be the crazy marshal making all the noise).

Leeds Christmas 10k giveaway

Leeds Country Way is a 62-mile route around Leeds, taking in some of the stunning countryside to be found just outside the city. The running relay version, organised by Kippax Harriers, is slightly longer at 64 miles and starts and finishes at Garforth. The route is split into six legs, and clubs enter teams of 12 – a pair of runners per leg.

I did the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was eager to sign up again. I asked to do the same leg (the second one, from Stanley to Morley) in case I didn’t find time to do a recce, and that request turned out to be very wise.

My original partner was poorly and couldn’t run, but with three teams to fill and the usual injuries cropping up our reserve list was depleted and I only got my partner the week of the race. I was about to have kittens – as well as knowing your leg you also have to coordinate getting yourselves to the start and leaving a car at the finish – so the logistics can be tricky. But Becky and I arranged ourselves with no fuss once we figured out what we needed to do, and we got to the start in plenty of time for a pee in the woods and a catch-up with our fellow Purple Posse runners doing leg two.

Actually we had almost an hour to wait – the leg one runners all set off together at 8am, but we didn’t really know what time our pair would come through. It was great to see the others handover their batons though, and we even had an early win for Kirkstall Harriers, with Ben and Jen the first mixed team to finish the first leg.

Becky and I took on the baton from our team-mates just ahead of the mass start for leg two, and we set off steadily. I found it tough going at first, and it didn’t get any easier. But we continued steadily enough, taking regular walk breaks (for my benefit) and enjoying the scenery.

Overall it was a very pleasant morning run. It took us 2:35 to finish the 11.2miles, but we didn’t get lost. It is a nice route, not horribly tough but with lots of variations in terrain. All but our purple club friends and the marshals had gone by the time we finished, and I was very glad of the Fudge I had left in Becky’s car to scoff as soon as I finished!

Then it was more car manoeuvering and home to eat and shower. The best thing about the LCW Relay is the reception at the pub afterwards. I headed back out with Emma and Becky to cheer in the leg six runners (another winning pair in Adam and Shami for the Kirkstall Harriers), pick up my awesome pottery memento and take advantage of the carb buffet.

It’s a long day with a lot of driving if you go at it the way I did, but a lot of fun with plenty of opportunities to spend time with running friends.

 

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I’ve now used my TomTom Cardio Runner (kindly given to me by The Running Bug) on several outings so here I am to give you some thoughts on its capabilities! My “other watch” is a Motorola MotoActv and I have been using this since March 2013, so where I’m comparing to another gadget, that’s what it’s up against!

Just so you know, when researching which GPS device to buy I ended up with MotoActv over a Garmin because:

  • I prefer the way it looks – squares are better for watches than circles to me, don’t know why!
  • I didn’t have an MP3 player at the time and the MotoActv has a built-in MP3 player and you can either use plug-in headphones or wireless ones.
  • I like to be different.

Don’t forget you can see what I and other reviewers are saying about the watch over on Twitter by searching #getsmyheartracing.

 

First run with the RunnerCardio was just a little morning bimble. It found GPS signal quickly and buzzed to tell me it was ready. Press right and I was off. I had set it up so that pace and distance showed in the top of the screen when running. The majority of the screen is then taken up by one bit of info, and you can scroll up and down to change this (elapsed time, pace, calories burnt, heart rate, distance etc). I looked at my heart rate a couple of times but went back to distance as that is what I usually run for (as opposed to running for time) and it was handy to see it in big while moving.

At traffic lights I held the left button to pause, then hit the right button to go again. At the end of the run hold left and left again to complete the run. At first I was a little worried I hadn’t done this right as it didn’t give me a workout review – I had to go back into the run menu and find the “history” to check my run had been registered.

Back home it was easy to upload the data via Bluetooth to the iPhone app (note to self: remember to turn Bluetooth on phone off again to help with battery life).

 

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The next run was Leeds parkrun and I wasn’t going for a time so I just kept the big screen on heart rate to see what would happen. It went up to 90 on the start line (pre-match nerves!) and got up to 180 at one point – scary! Afterwards the data on the app said this put me in the “sprint” range for heart rate. I definitely wasn’t sprinting! Just shows I need to regain my fitness!

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By the way, the heart rate monitor uses green LEDs on the back of the watch. These shine through your skin and register how transparent it is – this changes depending on blood flow (ie, heart rate). And that’s the (very basic version of) how it works! You must ensure the watch has good contact with your wrist – wear it too far down on the bony bit and it won’t work accurately. I must look into heart rate training and try some runs based on that (yet another blog to come then!)

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Next up was the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association Race at West Park. I knew the route was 5 miles so I set the distance challenge to this to see what would happen. In this mode you get a big wheel on the screen and it slowly fills up like a pie chart telling you the % to go (but you don’t see total distance on this screen, so if you want to know exactly how far you have done you have to scroll through to the usual screens). It buzzes at 50%, 90% and 100% to let you know how you’re doing.

 

I got another couple of sessions out of the watch (about 3.5 hours of active use) before the battery went. When it died I was in the middle of a bike ride and it just stuck on the time. I didn’t twig for a while that it had been showing 10:02 for ages and thought I had cycled into a worm hole!

 

 

So far I’m finding it comfortable to wear and easy to use. As with any new gadget, after a few uses you quickly pick up how the menus work and can find the bit you need with no trouble. A couple of times I have noticed that it has stopped showing heart rate for a few seconds, then it comes back. Not sure why that happens.

I like the sync via Bluetooth as that means I can do it straightaway as long as I have my phone – with MotoActv I have to wait until I’m in WiFi to sync my activity. But with both I can see the basic info on the watch anyway.

The MotoActv is the winner in terms of how much data it displays while running. I can set up to six different parameters to all show at once on the screen (I have time of day, distance, average pace, current pace, step rate and time elapsed), whereas with Runner Cardio I get two little ones at the top and one big one, with the option to scroll through to see others. In particular I miss seeing my step rate in real-time – I find that this drops when I tire, and this generally means my form has got worse. When I see this happening I can make an active effort to pick up my feet quicker and take smaller steps, thereby improving my form and reducing the risk of injury. The screen sizes aren’t vastly different – MotoActv is square whereas Runner Cardio is more of a portrait rectangle.

The built-in heart rate monitor is probably the Runner Cardio’s main selling point. Having never trained by focusing on this I can’t yet say how important this is to me personally, but I will be giving it a go! If training by heart rate is something you do then this could well be the watch for you. However, one thing that did strike me is that in winter I wear long-sleeve tops with thumb holes that come down over the backs of my hands – I’ll have to keep one “unhooked” and pulled back a bit so the Runner Cardio can still make contact with my skin if I want to track my heart rate on cold runs.

On my early morning run today I wore both Runner Cardio and MotoActv (on the same wrist) to see how they compare. As you can see the figures are very similar except for the step rate.

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I still have more things to test on the Runner Cardio – I’ve set a time for a 3-mile loop so I’ll “race” that next week to try out that feature. And I’ll do an interval session too to see how that works.

Here it is, my first DNS (did not start) of my running career.

Kielder Marathon is just six weeks away and I have done zero specific training. Nada. Zilch. Not a damn thing.

So I’m pulling out.

I’ll lose the £32.50 I already paid for my entry. But I won’t have to spend £40 on Saturday night accommodation, £50 on petrol and at least five hours driving.

I could have still done it with a run-walk-run-walk-walk-walk kinda strategy. and I genuinely wouldn’t have minded taking six or seven hours to complete it – the scenery looks absolutely stunning – but it simply comes down to a lot of time and money for something my heart just isn’t that bothered about.

What I need to do now is regain my confidence, enthusiasm and commitment to running, and to put more effort into being fit and healthy in other ways. I’ve let a lot of things slide recently and it’s getting to me. I only have myself to blame so here re-starts the focus on getting into better shape for future challenges.

Kielder Marathon – see you another year.

A little while ago I won a competition for a pair of new running shoes that claim to help you run faster. Called Airia One, they are designed by a Swedish company that has more than 170 years’ experience in shoe making. I actually ended up getting hold of my shoes a little quicker than the expected delivery date as they sent me a test pair to review. So far I have only worn them a few times, but there will be more to come.

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Here’s what Airia Running says about the shoes:

After years of development, Airia is about to launch a concept that will revolutionize the way we look at running shoes. Airia One’s construction is inspired by the wheel, to ensure runners achieve that perfect feeling of flow. The shoe has a unique design … It harnesses untapped power in the human body and doesn’t leak energy like other running shoes do. In fact, it unleashes the power of a stride for a faster and more enjoyable running experience.

Tests show that runners wearing Airia shave times by 1 percent on average, and some of them up to 7 percent. To develop the shoe Airia has used scientific methods to find out what does and does not work. The shoe is light and features a biomechanically optimized geometry with an unstable and irregular, sharply angled sole to help you move forward as fast as possible.

Airia One has an asymmetric design which combines a zero drop with a 6mm drop sole. This allows you to run with less ground contact time and helps to keep the power in the stride more in line with the running direction.

Runners who tested our shoes not only run faster, they get a different and better feeling from running. Most people report that they feel stronger and have an improved posture.

 

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It all sounded rather grand and exciting, and I was skeptical, but open-minded (is that even possible?!).

 

Run one was 3.4 miles. It was mid-morning and rather warm, muggy and therefore sweaty. I headed out along the main road, down the hill by the golf course, on to the towpath and back up the hill. This is an easy circuit I do quite often, and I always enjoy the downhill section about a mile in.

At first the shoes felt very weird. The bumps underneath make them strange to walk in, but not “impossible” as Airia say. Although I agree that you wouldn’t want to walk any real distance in them. I try to have a brisk walk of a few minutes before starting a run and that was OK, just a bit like wearing cleats.

When I fist started running I could still feel the lumps and I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing with my feet. I certainly had to think about where I was landing. But after a few minutes I managed to switch off from consciously thinking about placing my feet and let my body do what came. Downhill I really did feel like my legs were wheeling, but then I often do on that section, and I got a good pace up along the flat part in the middle and felt great.

I had no soreness or weird feelings afterwards and was pleased with my run.

Time: 34:07

 

Run two was slightly longer at four miles. I started out on the same route – along the road and down the hill, but then went further round to Kirkstall Road (a smooth and flat busy main road). I felt particularly fast on the middle section of this one – like flying!

I settled into the shoes much quicker and didn’t feel like I was being forced to run any particular way or any differently than normal. I am a light-footed, mid-foot/fore-foot runner anyway, so I tippy-toe around in all my running shoes.

Time: 42:06

 

Run three was tough, mostly because I had a wicked hangover! It was the Otley 10mile road race – an evening event on a very warm day. I wasn’t sure I would even make it to a mile without being sick, let alone finish, but I forced myself to do it anyway! I was sweating like made after not very long but at least I got rid of all those alcohol naughties in my bloodstream by the end!

Anyway, the shoes felt fine at first, but after about 5 miles my toes started to hurt. Like, really hurt. It was the same sensation as when I tested the Brooks PureConnect a while back. Almost like stones in the shoe rubbing from below, but almost a kind of cramping twisty-turny toe thing. Weird. I had to walk and hobble a few times so that I could place my foot differently and relieve the pain. It was quite annoying. I came to the conclusion that it was a combination of me not quite being at my best and therefore my form being off, but also that the shoes are a bit too manipulative for longer runs. I often go around barefoot and occasionally run with nothing on my tootsies, and I don’t think my feet appreciated being coerced into a specific position for too long – they like to have the chance to be flexible and free-moving.

Time: 1:57:29

 

Run four was the Hyde Park Harriers Summer Mile. I ran this race last year and went much faster than I predicted, but given my lack of speedwork recently I wasn’t expecting a PB.

I did, however, feel good in the shoes. A mile is a difficult race as you just have to get into it and get on with it, so I did few warm-up strides. My feet and legs felt good, but my breathing was so laboured and I was absolutely knackered!

My time was decidedly average, but I still counted it as a win for the shoes.

Time: 8:47

 

It’s a small sample to make any real conclusions from, but one thing I know for sure is that Airia One are, for me at least, reserved for short distances. They look cool (I will change my mind on that when the white gets grubby) and feel smashing when running.The quality seems good – Vibram soles feature on several of my other shoes and I have always been happy with their longevity.

I’ll be using my Airias now for shorter runs, especially speedwork, and PB efforts at one mile and 5k. Whether or not they really will help me get faster times remains to be seen, but they sure feel good and the notion of them being my “fast shoes” might give me that extra push anyway.

I didn’t like London Marathon because of the crowds, the noise and the flat, but I did like the distance. So I’m very excited to be running my second marathon in 16 weeks.

Training starts today for Kielder Marathon – a lap of Kielder Water in Northumberland that is off-road, hilly and incredibly scenic. And there are only around 3,000 runners. It’s going to be amazing!

My plan this time is a Hal Higdon one. No intensive speedwork like I attempted, and mostly failed at, last time, but hill, tempo or intervals once a week. I’m very excited to get started with a proper training regime again – it has been too easy the past few weeks to skip runs, become a bit lazy and eat too much because I haven’t been training for anything specific.

As always, I have lots of races coming up to keep me entertained – everything from summer relays and one-mile track events, to obstacle races and a few 10-milers.