Over Reliance On Gadgets


These thoughts inspired by reading over an old blog and realising how easy it is to over rely on a gadget!

The old blog was titled “A non-programmed too scared to run week.” To cut a long blog short – I pulled out of a very cold and wet half marathon after about 4 miles because of a hugely increased heart rate that scared me rigid at the time and made me seek medical advice the following day. After a normal ECG and normal bloods my GP advised me to carry on running.

After about a month I was out on a HR zone 2 training run and looked at my heart rate and was shocked that it was showing over 200, shocked mainly because I was running down hill. As I started up the other side of the hill and started puffing, my heart rate dropped to 72 according to my Garmin, something was obviously amiss.

Ignoring my Garmin I trundled on and started thinking about the half that I had dropped out of. A couple of days later I was going to give the Garmin another chance. It would not start and had died. I placed it on charge and went for my run and on return, took the Garmin off charge – it was still dead.

Happy that it was the Garmin at fault and not my heart, happy that it was the Garmin that was dead and not me, it was confined to the back of a drawer.

Did it put me off gadgets? Did it put me off Garmin? No to both. The photo is my 310XT which I love. I think I might think twice about receiving a dodgy message from this monitor though. (note the photo is from the catalogue, I do not run 10 miles in 52 minutes)

One message I did get from my 310XT shook me a bit. I strapped it on for my first run in Cape Verde while on holiday (see below) and, after trying to find satellites for a minute or two a message appeared on the screen “Have you traveled hundreds of miles since your last run?”

I told it yes and all was well with the world.



A Non-programmed “Too Scared To Run” Week

I have read a lot, over the years, of runners who have injuries and are frustrated that they cannot run. Luckily for me this has only happened once to me and that was in 1987. But this week I developed a fear of running.

It all started at the Llanelli Waterside Half Marathon last Sunday. It had a 9am start, was held in rain, the rain was cold and the race was exposed to the sea. Meeting at the Llanelli Scarlets Rugby Ground I made a few fundamental mistakes. I decided, as did some other runners, that the weather may well improve later into the race and that I could well end up carrying wet and heavy clothing around the course. I therefore ditched my running tights in favour of shorts and then discarded my long sleeved top that I had under my running vest. Both decisions were big mistakes.

As the race of around 400 people started we headed the couple of miles down to the coast. I use a Garmin Forerunner which gives me time elapsed, miles run, present speed and, crucially, heart rate from my chest strap. For most of a race I ignore the first three readouts and concentrate only on heartrate. My zone 3 heartrate, at which I normally race, is around 155 bpm and this will rise very slowly over the 13.1 miles to 160-165 which is my zone 4. This means that I have lots of people overtaking me at the start of a race and that I jog past walkers towards the end of the race. Normally.

Except none of this happened at Llanelli. The first two miles were more or less 155 bpm and as we reached the coast I swore as my Garmin had obviously malfunctioned in the rain as it was showing 203 bpm. My breathing was sort of race day breathing and nothing was trying to burst out of my chest so I ignored the reading for around a mile. It got to the point where I could ignore no longer so I stopped and walked for a bit and got my pulse down to 190 as 186 is my max for working out training zones. As soon as I started to jog again, up went the rate to a maximum value of 210 and this time my breathing was heavy. Walking, I noticed my legs and arms a sort of bright red colour.

I made a decision and at 4 miles there was a water station run by four ladies who, luckily for me, were runners and understood everything that I told them about my pulse. Long story short, they sat me in their car, the St. John’s ambulance arrived, their HR monitor corresponded to mine, I went back to the first aid area, was well looked after, rang my wife who was at the venue and we left.

We had arranged Sunday dinner with friends so carried that through with me eventually taking my Garmin off after being told that I was getting obsessed about my pulse.

The following day my GP booked me in for bloods and an ECG and that night I was in the gym. I was going through my normal weights schedule and looking at everyone on the treadmills. I was too scared to run, but why? I was wearing my pulse monitor through my weights session as a precaution but couldn’t run.

I have decided that my fear of another 200 pulse is either a) it’s gone up again, it wasn’t a one off and I am ill or b) it’s gone up again and I am going to have to give up running – which I love doing.

It is the Friday after the half marathon and I do not discuss my ECG and blood results with my GP for another three days. I have decided to visit my gym tonight and go through my 2 hr schedule which is:-

Slow run treadmill 20 min

Upper body machine, leg machine

Medium speed run 10 minutes

Upper body machine, leg machine

Fast run 5 minutes

Upper body machine, leg machine

A sort of do or die attitude. Now, where is that Garmin?

Why do runners run?

Okay, all the usual reasons for running. To keep fit, to lose weight, to run a marathon because it’s on your bucket list – but what are the other reasons, or advantages, that runners have over non runners?

The reason i started thinking about this topic is because I was, last week, changing in my gym changing room, after some cross training, along with some squash players. One of these squash players, who was obviously fired up with his newly found sport, started announcing to the room that squash was really interesting and that he was an ex-runner who found running boring and was glad that he had given it up.

I don’t get drawn in to that sort of conversation where the persons mind is firmly made up already. It did, however, set me wondering what I get out of running and how it affects the non-running part of my life.

First, the obvious, keep fit and lose weight. The keep fit is not argued. The ‘lose weight’ is slightly more complicated. Logic would dictate that if you go for a run and use up 500 calories and, when you get back home you eat a meal of 500 calories, you have gained no more weight loss than if you had skipped the meal and not run. So why does running work for weight loss? Simple, sometimes it doesn’t – but. If you are a new runner and finding it hard to keep going on a run because you are overweight, you naturally diet to lose weight to make it easier to run without running out of energy. You keep it in your mind that if you lose two pound off your body it will be like discarding a bag of sugar from the rucksack that you take with you running. (for rucksack read belly pot).

So far the squash man is right, you can lose weight also in order to be better at squash. So what about other advantages?

An experienced runner will never make a decision while running up hill. If you find yourself thinking about the future of a run while travelling uphill (eg. If I walk for a bit my time will not suffer that much or this hill is so steep if I walked it would be quicker than running) the experienced runner will blank their mind and think “When I get to the top of this hill and it flattens out a bit, I will make a decision on the rest of the run.” The reason I mention this? Pat, my wife, was also a runner years ago and I rang her from work – I had a horrible, negative boss at the time who enjoyed bringing people down in the mistaken belief that it raised him up. I rang Pat and told her he was being particularly bad and although I hadn’t handed in my notice, I had decided to look for another job and then leaving my employ. Pat’s reply – “Are you making a decision while running uphill?”. She was right. I carried on, got to the top of the hill, decided to ignore my bosses negativity and stayed in that employ until long after he had been dismissed.

Signing up for tough things, makes the tough things that life throws at you a lot easier to cope with. I heard this on a podcast with an interview of an American psychiatrist John Ratey MD who described signing up for tough things as “Stress Inoculation” I shall try to explain. If asked if we are stressed in work most of us will say yes we are (if we are not then we may be let go as not being needed). When Pat was an A&E nurse she did a dissertation on stress which we discussed at length. In a nutshell, we all need an amount of stress in our lives otherwise life would be boring and uninteresting. Occasionally that stress level will be raised temporarily and will be difficult to cope with but will be coped with if the time period is not too long. If the too high stress level goes on for too long it becomes dis-stress and can cause anxiety, illness and possibly total collapse. It is difficult to explain to non runners but, overcoming pain, say at the end stage of a marathon, makes you stronger – you can even get a kick from “overcoming and beating the torture and coming out the other end.” Another way a runner copes with self imposed stress during a long run is by knowing, through practice and by previous knowledge, whether the stress is temporary or not. A seasoned runner who feels absolutely terrible on a run, will not tell himself that his race is over, he will tell himself that he is going through a rough patch and will wonder how long it will be before he comes out the other side, feeling better. The non-running, life in general comparisons, are obvious.

Throw away the negatives and look for the positives. A friend was training for a marathon and we decided to run one of my training runs together, a four lap run adding up to twelve miles. Running laps can give you mental toughness if you use the run well and look for the positives. I told him, after the first lap, that we had completed one leg of a three leg stool and that I saw the first three laps as building three legs and that they would support the final lap being the seat of the stool. He could not see the positive and looked only at the negative and replied “What you are trying to tell me is that we are not even half way around.” Pat and I couldn’t get into Madeira Island last year because of high winds and we were diverted to Tenerife. Every passenger on the plane (bar us) saw this as a negative. we took the positive of the adventure, the fact that we’d never been to Tenerife before and took the opportunity to do some duty free shopping and sending “selfies” to people who expected us to be in Madeira.

We get “Me Time”. Searched out more by women than men, for some reason. Me time is important. Whether you are busy with children or grandchildren, me time is precious and starts the moment you step out of the door with your running kit on. For me, headphones are a big no, no unless I am on a treadmill. I enjoy the singing of many different kinds of birds locally and would hate to miss that and have “background music” in my ears. Every runner knows the feeling of suddenly coming out of a trance and thinking “how did I start thinking about that?” and then trying to wind back to see what started the chain of thoughts off and how it led to the weird thinking at the end of the chain. The problem I have with ‘me time’ is running in HR zone 2 and letting my mind wander and then waking up in HR zone 3 – where it is more natural to run. Yes I take a mobile phone with me on a run for emergency use and, yes, it’s on airplane mode so it cannot disturb me.

How is my nutrition working for me. I am not going to bang on about NSNG, being fat adapted, avoiding bad carbs, wondering why governments keep preaching 1960’s out of date dietary advice – you can read all about that in any of my previous blogs or books that I have previously recommended. Suffice to say that, as a runner I have read a number of nutrition books (not necessarily aimed at runners) and listened to regular running, diet and lifestyle podcasts. I don’t think if I was a non-runner I would have been so interested in what was going into me.

Thank you running and the running community for all you have done for me.

Half Marathon Fueling

13.1 training run this morning between HR zone 3 and 4 and not the usual HR zone 2. The reason – coming up on Sunday 8th March is the Llanelli Waterside Half Marathon http://www.humanbeingactive.org/llanelli-half-marathon which will be run by me at HR zone 4 ending somewhere in zone 5 no doubt. I will blog this at a later date.

Fueling experiments are still going on. If, like me, you are fat adapted, you will not be interested in sugar gel fueling, taking away your fat burning capabilities and shooting your blood-sugar levels up and then dropping them lower than they were to start (necessitating yet another sugar gel etc. etc.)

Having found Generation Ucan on US podcasts, I was upset that Americans had the advantage of being able to use a very slow release super starch, allowing them to fuel their run on both fat and sugar, without spiking their blood-sugar. A huge thank you then to Trevor of Trevor & Angie at http://www.marathontrainingacademy.com for e mailing me the fact that I could get this product in the UK from Kate Litchfield at http://www.generationucan.org.uk I am sure we are all different but Ucan is working for me. I repeat, by the way, from an earlier wordpress blog, that I am not sponsored by Ucan.

For the record this morning, up at 5.30am and drinking my coffee with Anchor butter in, with added MCT oil, before even thinking about putting my running gear on. This time (see earlier blog where this coffee went into the blender with the Ucan) I drank the coffee, mixed up some Ucan at one scoop in 400 ml, and got dressed. The lake I was running around (nice and flat) is a half hours drive away so I drank the Ucan on the way there.

The perceived wisdom is to drink Ucan a half hour before exercising. Again, we are all different and, for me, drinking from a half hour before up to the point of starting to exercise, seemed to work today. This was obviously not a controlled experiment but an attempt to see for myself how my body appears to work. My theory is that at the start of my run I was burning fat until the slow release super starch kicked in, at which point I burnt both fat and sugar until the 13.1 mark. The final assessment was that at 13.1 miles I had absolutely no leg ache whatsoever and certainly no feeling of lack of energy in the legs.

To put this into perspective;

a) This was not a race at HR zone 4, ten of the 13.1 miles were carried out at HR zone 3.

b) I am training for a May ultra of 42 miles and need to train on tired legs. The day before this run I cross trained at the gym doing a 15 minute run on a treadmill followed by a leg machine, then an upper body machine, then repeat all of this five times.

c) Not sure if this is coincidence, the Ucan, the bullet proof coffees, none of the above – my sense of smell is hugely enhanced while running, and I mean hugely. I am almost stopping on passing the smell of a herb and looking all around to try and identify it. A bloke passed me wearing a heavy smelling aftershave and it almost made me choke. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has a similar experience.