Neonathon 2013

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen this come up on your feed this afternoon:

CaptureCoupled with yesterday’s mournful post, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

We are going though some hard times.  We’re a one-income family, in an expensive city, that pays for (some) childcare.  Not a lot of one-income families also pay nursery fees, so that bones us a little bit.  We are incredibly lucky to have the love and support of our families, but our families are also thousands of kilometers away (in fact, around 16891.36 kilometers away).  That does not make easy baby-sitting.  And, yes – we chose to live this life.  We chose to move across the globe, and we chose graduate school, and we chose to have a baby.  And, I guess, we also chose not to move back to Australia.

I’m trying to be more positive about life, and this is the first step.  I didn’t originally decide that I wanted to run a marathon because I wanted the medal.  In fact, ‘marathon’ is not my primary goal.  I’ve signed up for a 24 hour event (in a team), and I’m hoping that things will be good enough (or someone kind enough) that I can run the Round Rotherham 80km in October (I know it’s only £15 to enter, but honestly, that’s a stretch at the moment!).  The point is not the medal, the point is the achievement.  The point is finding an answer to the question ‘can I run the distance?’

Thus, Neonathon.  The first (annual?) Neon Anonymous Marathon!  As I iron out some of the details I will update here.  I’ll post the date and time I’ll start, and a map – with some fairly generous general times I might happen to run though certain points.  At the moment I suspect I will run the Thames Path, because it seems the easiest route (i.e. traffic free, easily accessible, long, little chance of getting off course, Mr. Neon will be able to find the path easily enough on the bike).  Depending how it goes, I may even set up some kind of charity thing.

I can tell you easily enough that it will be late April or early May.  It will definitely be no later than May 6th.  Moons ago, before I became interested in ultra-running, I promised that I would run my first marathon before my 30th birthday, and I will.  Not only that, but my training is gearing up for an April 14th marathon, so I don’t want to mess up that schedule too much – however, it will depend on what other events etc. are going on as well.

Finally, I am more than happy to have company.  Either for all or part of the run, at the side of the road (remember, I won’t have aid stations!), online, on Facebook or Twitter or in any other form.

The countdown is (kind of) on.  This is Neonathon 2013.

This will be short, and not very sweet, and I may come back another time to say a little more about it.

I am going to withdraw from the Vienna City Marathon.  It’s not because I am injured, or haven’t trained.  It’s because I can’t afford to go.  I am meant to be running a 20 mile warm-up race this Sunday, but at the moment it looks like I won’t be able to get there either (I was planning on hiring a car, as public transport is basically non-existent to the location).

Over the day I have slowly realised that it is very, very unlikely that I will be able to run a marathon before I turn 30 on May 6th, which was my goal.

Life is kicking my arse at the moment.

Run, Eat, Run, Eat, Rest

I have been thinking a lot about what and how and why I eat.  I’ve started reading Vegetarian Sports Nutrition and starting to go though Racing Weight again.  I’ve started writing down what I eat and paying a bit more attention to it.  I want to loose weight, but more than that I want to be healthy and fuel my body in the right way.  I have historically not been very great at managing my weight healthily.  I don’t often talk about it, but (and particularly in the spirit of the week) I have long suffered with eating disorder.  That is, when I was a teenager (particularly) and a various other times in my life, I have had an eating disorder.  I still have an eating disorder.  I think of it in many ways to be like alcoholism – you can be thirty years sober but still be an alcoholic (I understand that this may not be true of all alcoholics, but certainly some).  The only problem is that you cannot really abstain from food and not have an eating disorder.  It’s difficult when you also want to loose weight in order to not have to lug so much body weight around.  I have a fair amount that I could loose.  Currently this is how it stands:

Weight: 78.0kgs (12st 3lbs)

Height: 1.68m (5’6.1″)

BMI: 27.6

Body fat: 34.2%

So, according to BMI I am overweight.  Honestly, I’m not overweight.  At all.  I take that with a bit of a grain of salt.  The number I am more concerned with is that I have 34.2% body fat.  Recommendations for women put ‘poor’ body fat at 34.8% so I’m close to that than really is ideal.  While I would like to be lugging less weight around the Vienna City marathon course (and the TR24 course, and going forward) I think I’d like to reduce my body fat more than my weight (which may sound silly, as they go a little bit hand in hand, but I guess it’s not the weight number that I’m as concerned about.)

I say ‘as’ concerned because there is still a weight goal, of course.  I’d like to be down about 5kgs before the marathon.  But going forward I’d like to get down to somewhere between 60 and 64.  It’s right in the middle of my healthy weight range (for my height and age) and I have been that weight previously and I think it’s a good natural weight for me.

I suppose (tangentially) related to that, I’m about to sign up to run a 50 mile race in October.  It’s a qualifying race for Western States 100, so I may well ballot for that for 2014.  That will mean covering the 50 miles in under 11 hours.  I think I feel pretty good about my chances of doing that…  I’m not sure.

Tonight’s run (actually Monday night’s run, because I’ve had to do some switching around this week…) was a 10-11km quality run.  I did a fartlek over 10.31km, with an average pace of 5:53min/km.  My cruising pace is still coming down, so I’m feeling better and better about a sub 4:15 marathon (the first step to a sub 11 50 miler!)

So, should you want to (for any reason! ha!) buy me anything I’d like the following:

Anyway, I’m about to put on a pot of rice and have some dinner.  And watch Project Runway.  And be excited about tomorrow’s 22kms!

Is It Hard Being Vegan?

When I first thought about this question my immediate response was ‘I don’t really get asked that!’  On reflection, though, I do.  A lot.  Like a lot of other vegans, I assume.  The short answer I always give is ‘no.’  And by and large that’s right.  I don’t find it hard to be vegan, because I believe that being vegan is right and because I have built up a knowledge of vegan foods and other products that I regularly use and buy.  I don’t have to think as hard about it, or read quite so many labels as I once used to.

But, just because being vegan isn’t hard doesn’t mean that it’s always easy.  It’s not.  Sometimes you face a situation where you have to forgo food because there is nothing suitable.  Sometimes people have misunderstood what it means to be vegan, or have catered for you incorrectly (either though laziness or though ignorance, the result is the same).  Raising a vegan child brings a whole other set of ‘not easy’ to the equation  as does negotiating a life in a vegan house with a ‘mostly vegan’ partner.

The most important aspect is the first reason I mentioned.  I don’t find it hard to be vegan because I believe that being vegan is right.  I personally think that it’s wrong to exploit other sentient life.  I don’t view meat or eggs or dairy as foods.  I don’t believe that they are right for human consumption, and so the question to me is sort of like asking someone if they think it’s hard to not eat plastic, or dirt, or books, or something less savory than any of those things.  You wouldn’t consider it hard to avoid eating something that you don’t consider to be a viable food source.

I try to be very pragmatic about my veganness.  I know very few other vegans, which means that most of my friends and family do consume meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products.  Often in front of me.  When Mr. Neon orders a coffee with cow’s milk my stomach turns a little bit at the thought of it.  I don’t fancy bringing up my disgust at every opportunity (apart from the fact I would soon end up with no friends!)  I struggle with my desire to share my vegan life, with how wonderful being vegan is, with how horrifically animals are treated and an actual life in which I sometimes need to put those thoughts to the back of my mind in order to survive successfully in society.

So, being vegan and living vegan is not hard.  The practicalities are not hard; the avoiding animal products.  The hardest part of being vegan is negotiating life as a vegan in a very very non-vegan world.

This post is inspired by a question asked on Facebook by The Vegan Society:

CaptureThe link is to a post on Vegan Mainstream by Emma Larocque with the same title as this one.

 

A shock

I will write more about this tomorrow, but I got a very big shock today. Mr. Neon and I regularly go down to Boots to measure our body fat, and we did so today.

Not only have I put on more than a little bit of weight since last time, but my % of body fat has gone up quite a bit too.

I have become a person who thinks they can eat a lot more because they exercise! (That was the shock realisation!)

Hence, starting tomorrow, I am going to be paying a lot more attention.

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X

Brooks Pure Connect 2 Review

(30/7/2013: I’ve written a brief update to this review after running in the PureConnect 2s for about 5 months now.  Read though this review first, then check out the few updates I’ve made here.)

So, I’ve been running in the Brooks Pure Connect 2 for about a week now so I wanted to give you some initial thoughts on it.  I got these trainers though Brooks’ own ‘Try It On’ project, whereby you could – as the name suggests – try a pair of the new Pure range shoes.  I chose the Connect for two main reasons: first, I’ve been running in the Nike Free Run+ 3s the most recently, so I didn’t want to take a step back (pun definitely intended, unless you think that’s lame in which case, not intended) in terms of flexibility and road feel; second, every time I run in the Nike Structure 14s or the Nike Lunarglide 4 my feet hurt.  I got the Structures from Runner’s Need (still my absolute favourite running store!) with a lot of help from the wonderful staff there, and at the time they were perfect for me – I was a new runner, I hadn’t developed my own stride yet and the only thing I’d ever been taught was that runner’s should strike down on their heel and roll forward to bound off their toe.  So that’s how I ran, and the Structure suited that heel-striking stride.  As I progressed as a runner I found myself landing further and further forward on my foot, and now my most natural strike is kind of high-midfoot, or low-forefoot, (if that makes sense?).  Accordingly, I wanted a shoe that would support and work well with my natural stride, would give me some feel of the ground and allow my foot to move naturally.  Don’t misunderstand here, I’m not about to go out and buy a pair of Vibram 5-fingers just yet – but I do like the way that less structured and bulky shoes feel.

Honestly, I had been researching shoes and was already about to go into the store to try a pair of the original Pure Connect trainers out, until I heard that the 2s were on their way and then (from Brooks themselves, via twitter!) about the Try It On project, so I held off a few weeks.  Mr. Neon is in more desperate need for new shoes than I, so I also cajoled him to sign up for Try It On, and he has been running in the Pure Project’s higher stability shoe, the Pure Cadence 2.  He doesn’t know it yet, but he is going to write a guest post for me with a review.

So, onto the actual shoes.  I was super-excited about picking these up from Runner’s Need in Oxford Circus but as I had a sleeping baby with me I didn’t want to hang around too long (I’m sure other mothers appreciate that when you’re out and your baby falls asleep in the buggy you go and get coffee and read a magazine pronto!)  So, I basically just grabbed the shoes and left… and then almost right away tweeted my initial thoughts:

CaptureOnce I got home, we unboxed properly:

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And out came the shoes:

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Okay, so this isn’t a very good look at the shoe itself, so here are the shots from the Brooks Running website, in both colourways:

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And, for the record, here’s what Brooks say about the Pure Connect 2:

You can feel it – With the PureConnect you feel your run from head to toe. This shoe is the lightweight among the PureProject™-styles and can bring out the best in every runner type, no matter how long you want to run. This shoe will enrich your road training. We combined the maximum breathability of the open mesh upper with a low profile midsole. The split toe groove extends through the forefoot, allowing the runner to fully engage the foot and connect to the ground.

So, I’ll start with the obvious.  These shoes are light.  I really didn’t think they’d feel much lighter than the Nike Frees.  To put it in numbers, the Pure Connect 2 is 167 grams and the Nike Free Run+ 3s are a shade over 215 grams.  That doesn’t sound like a lot but it feels like a lot.  The difference between these and my Nike Structures is like night and day (and yes, I did walk around the house with one of each on either foot just to make sure it wasn’t just an illusion in my mind.)  Obviously, the lighter the shoe then theoretically the easier it is for your leg to pick it up off the ground, but from my experience that isn’t always the case – the Nike Lunarglide is much lighter than the Structure but it feels to me like it drags my foot down.

I was also pretty intrigued by the sole of the PC2, which looks as though it is half missing, with some weird kind of raised pods:

2013-02-04 11.02.56(By the by, sorry for the mud-encrusted trainers.  I did try to clean them off a bit, but really, I should have just taken the photo before running, but anyway.)  The dark bits are places where the outer sole does not go – not that you poke through and it’s the soft innersole, it’s still hard but without the rubbery bit.  The pink bits are the ‘pods’ and they are raised slightly from the rest of the green sole, and are a bit harder/tougher.  As you can read in the ‘blurb’ up the top there is also a ‘cut out’ between where the big toe and the rest of the toes go, supposedly for improved flexibility in the toebox.

So, enough about that – how about the actual running?  Well, the first run was not so great.  I am used to a much looser fitting shoe and the Pure Connect 2 hugs your foot – and I mean it.  A combination of the elastic around the middle of the foot (the pink bands in the photos) and the off-center lacing system (which you can see in my first photo of the shoes) mean that the shoe does not move off your foot at all.  I’m sure this is actually a good thing, but when you’re not used to it it can be slightly disconcerting.  To top it off, the ball of my foot is quite wide, so I felt that my toes were being squished together from the bottoms.  Toes squished at the tips I can handle, but this was really uncomfortable.  You might have noticed from other photos of my trainers that I lace them all a bit unconventionally – my Structures are double laced (that is, one short lace on the bottom three holes and one short lace on the top three holes) and on one foot my frees are just unlaced at the bottom (kind of, that’s a longer story that it warrants).  I wanted to try the PC2s out with the ‘regular lacing’ first, because you never know.  A few km into the run and I just couldn’t feel my toes any more – but, don’t be discouraged – I will come back to that later.

On that first run I did notice how easy it was to get into my natural stride – I often struggle for the first few kms of a run and feel like I am battling with my self to really get into a rhythm but it was really easy with the PC2s.  That has continued to be the case on each of the runs that I’ve done in these trainers, so I have no reason to suspect that it has been a fluke.  The shoes really support a natural mid or forefoot strike.  At one point – for the purposes of testing – I did try running with a heel strike.  It wasn’t uncomfortable on my foot, but I can’t keep it up for very long.  There certainly is (as you can see from the photo of the sole) enough structure to the back-half of the sole to support a heelstrike, but I wouldn’t really like to say one way or another (perhaps Mr. Neon will have more to say on this in his review of the Pure Cadence 2, as he is much more of a heel striker than I am).

But, back to the problem with my toes.  I experimented.  I played around with some different lacing and eventually just didn’t lace the bottom tabs.  This shot shows the shoe on the left with the regular lacing and the shoe on the right (which is actually the left shoe) with the dropped lace:

picsay-1359892488I ran 18km and didn’t feel like the shoe was ever too loose (that can be a problem with some shoes, which is why I double lace the Structures) and gave me just that tiny bit of extra room.  In fact, it felt much more supportive – what I assume the shoe is meant to feel like – not constricting, but like a big old trainer hug.

The responsiveness of the shoe is great – both on the road and on trails (though the trails around me are really just dirt/mud/grass tracks, it’s the best I’ve got for the test!).  I don’t feel as if the pavement is too hard, there is enough in the sole to prevent the residual shockwave going up your leg – which I sometimes feel with the Free if I land in a way that ‘splits’ the sole open.  On the softer ground they were brilliant, though I wouldn’t recommend doing any real hard trail running in them (though, there is the amazing sound Pure Grit for that).  The grip is actually much better than I expected – I did slide a bit over a patch of mud but they gripped the pavement really well even in the rain (unfortunately the trial started a little too late to get the full snow-experience!)

The only thing I was a little disappointed about was the toe-split.  Don’t get me wrong, the feel of the run is great, the shoe lets you really feel the ground and react to it, but I didn’t get as much toe/forefoot flexibility as I thought I would, from the reading I had done prior to picking up the shoes.  Maybe that has a lot to do with the way that I run, and that as I get used to having the option then I will feel it more, maybe not.

But, the minor cons don’t really detract from what I think is a great shoe.  And, the most important question, I suppose, is will I buy the shoe at the end of the trial?

Not only will I buy the Pure Connect 2 (though, I think, in the blue colourway), but I am going to seriously think about getting the Pure Grit as well – I’ve been on the lookout for a good trail shoe and perhaps this is it!

Finally I want to comment on how awesome an idea the Try It Out project is.  It’s hard to get a pair of trainers that will be okay from five minutes (or less!) on a treadmill in a shop.  Running on a treadmill is a different experience than running on the road or on a track or on trails.  If I had just tried these in the store I wouldn’t buy them, because they felt weird the first time I put them on.  But, a week of running has shown me that these are good shoes for me.  I’m also really pleased that I researched all the Pure Project shoes (including reading reviews of the first generation trainers) before deciding which ones to test out, because I think in the end I made a really good decision for me and the way that I run.  This review is already far too long though, so I will leave it at that!

Oh, except one thing.  Brooks’ slogan is Run Happy, and during the week of testing the PC2 out I have been trying to keep that in mind.  I’m normally a pretty happy runner, but this week I like to think I ramped it up a little bit.

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I’ve been learning a lot lately

I have a motto. Like many mottos it looks really awesome and inspiring when written down, and sounds great when said in the privacy of one’s own mind, but when articulated out loud doesn’t sound great and inspiring, it just sounds lame.  At any rate, I think it’s a good sentiment:

Win or learn – never lose

If you just said that out loud, then you’ll have seen exactly what I mean…

Anyway, I have been doing a lot of learning and not a lot of winning recently. But today, I won. For the first time in a really long time, I won.

And the prize was an amazing 18km, mostly along the river, including a good 6km of in-the-zone floating along the trail. It was having to slow myself down at km 15 because I was getting a bit too enthusiastic (which lasted for all of 800m before I just threw everything on the road).

You don’t get runs like those often, and you especially don’t get them when you’ve been lacking in motivation and haven’t run more than 10km in several weeks. Maybe that was a part of it? I expected to battle the path. I expected to slog, disgracefully, around those 18km. Plod, plod, plod, wobble, wobble, wobble.

Well, it still may have looked like that from the outside but the important thing is that it didn’t feel like that. It felt great.

Of course, there were the usual bumps along the road, fences to be cleared (the ‘fence’ is like a mini-wall – not obliterating but certainly slows you down), but there isn’t a run, and certainly not a run of any significant distance* in which that doesn’t happen. It’s the rest of the time that matters.

As much as I wasn’t expecting it, I’m pleased. More than I usually would be. When your motivation is lacking and you finally make it out the door and have a terrible run, it seems as though you are right back at square one. Now I’m excited about getting out again!

There’s a few posts coming up – my first review of the Brooks Pure Connect 2s I am trying out through their Try It On project. Another about my injury and illness and my resolutions for February (my ‘Febolutions’) and various other bits and bobs. Even some non-running related posts! But for now, I’m sitting on the train, filled with the satisfaction of a Sunday morning long-run.

Bye!

*By ‘any significant distance’ I mean ‘any significant distance to the individual runner’. And, I want to stress that. A long run to one person might be 5km, whereas another may feel that it’s not until a much longer distance that ‘long runs’ occur.  To the new runner, 10km seems a very long way, but to the seasoned ultramarathoner it’s barely a warm-up.

Posted on-the-run on my HTC One X