Severn Bridge Half Marathon 2016


Just read last year’s review (see under) and note that, this year, the parking situation has been sorted. Having said that, I did arrive an hour early and sat reading a book for a bit – lesson for next year.

This half marathon is developing year on year and this year was packed with marshals at the start / finish and throughout the course.

Full marks on the number of toilets (still long queues though) and for the introduction of a men only urinal that makes it easier for the men and limits the length of the queue for the ladies. The 6 man urinal could be made larger though and the plastic booth that it’s in could be a tent – as they do in Cardiff where there is a canvas topped structure and a 30 foot urinal emptying into a foul drain.

Felt quite young at the start when the oldest man and woman runners were announced by name and given ages of 79 and 76.

A completely different course this year as in two separate loops compared with the one large loop of last year – this due, the organisers said, to the inability to obtain certain road closures. The start last year was at the summit of the Old Severn Bridge, this year it was on the Welsh side so the first mile was uphill before descending down into England. The first loop was almost an out and back bringing you back to psychological breaking point of passing the finish line knowing you were only half way through the race.

Second loop was half downhill, a long slow hill upward and a last mile of downhill. The forecast said rain the reality was sun and humidity or, as I text my wife, heat, hills and humidity. A feature of this race, both years that I have run it, is the humorous notices around the course – they do keep you smiling.

Next year, apparently, there is a full marathon alongside the half and the race will take in both Severn Bridges. This, the organisers say, will be a one-off, never to be repeated, not to be missed, full marathon. If you completed the 2016 half you are guaranteed entry into the full marathon if you want it. At the moment I am undecided. Are my full marathon days over? Do I want to stick to halves? Do I want the Sunday morning 20 mile training sessions? We shall decide later and have a year to get fit enough for it if the answer to the above is yes.

Summary; good medal (Severn Bridge in 4 colours a la mode de Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup), tech tee shirt, bananas, loads of water, Lucozade, nut bar, salt and vinegar crisps and a grass slope for everyone to sit out in the sun and rest – and then find they were so stiff it was difficult to walk back to the car.


Two Half Marathons In Two Days


Windswept hair?

It seemed like a good challenge and a good idea, when I first thought of it six months ago. Inspired by a podcast, MTA, where Angie was running two full marathons over two days and discussing the mental problem of getting up on the second day to “Do it all again.”


Because I have made the decision to not run any more full marathons and only do half marathons for the rest of my running life, I figured the challenge of two halves in two days would be physically like running a full marathon but mentally tougher and, of course, everything would depend on recovery between halves, both recovery time and recovery meals and drinks. Add to this a training regime and you have the recipe for an interesting six month experiment. It would also get me into “Half Fanatics”.


The first job, of course, was to find two halves in two days, not an easy job in the UK where the vast majority of races fall on a Sunday. When the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships advertised their race in Cardiff, Wales, on a Saturday, it seemed the challenge was on. I scoured the web for a local half on the Sunday (local to cut down the travelling mileage) and picked the Pendine sands races. Pendine is a long beach in West Wales where land speed records have been attempted and was obviously going to be very flat. A bonus for my second day. I knew that one race would be high key and one low key but hadn’t quite realised how difference the gap would be.


My grandson ha a sleepover on Friday nights and I look after him all Saturday so double header training has to be on a Sunday morning and then Monday morning before going to work.

Training went well. I took the mileage up to 13.1 plus 10 the next day to get used to the psychology of getting out of bed tired and running. I didn’t go as far as 13.1 plus 13.1 as this would be kept for the special weekend.

Three things happened to change my recovery plans. What started out in my mind as two morning races starting around 9am with 21 hours recovery between, changed somewhat. An e mail from the IAAF announced that the World Half in Cardiff would be an afternoon race starting at 2pm so recovery would be cut down to 16 hours. Then someone asked me when the clocks in the UK went forward an hour for British Summer Time and I looked it up to find it was on my weekend so recovery was down to 15 hours. Luckily an e mail from Pendine announced that because of an exceptionally high tide on the Sunday the race could not start until 11am when there would be some beach to run on, so recovery was back up to 17 hours.


I guess the lesson there is that you can plan but things change. It wasn’t announced at the time but was on the day (as an apology) that the World Half had to be in the afternoon because of TV times in the US and Japan.


To the races, or should I say plods as both were slow. Cardiff was organised excellently with registration queues at a minimum as the expo and number pick up was over Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. A very good idea for the 16,000 competitors. I chose Good Friday and enjoyed walking through all the trade stands. I wondered why half the attendees were in tracksuit and trainers. Some sort of uniform? The disappointment for me at the expo was the Adidas official kit stand. I wanted an after race warm hoodie and this seemed to be a good opportunity. Before arriving at the expo I envisaged a black hoodie with small writing on the front saying something about the World half marathon championships. What I found was almost the exact opposite. A hoodie of nondescript colour with a very large red dragon’s head on the front (red dragon, symbol of Wales) looking like a chess piece, with, in very large letters below it, the word “Cardiff”. I searched for a mention of the upcoming race and found it on the back, under the hood! That’s right, if the hood was down the writing was obscured. Come on Adidas, you are a rich company; surely you can afford an outside design company? I eventually came away with a Spongebob Squarepants running vest.


I thought the race itself would have no surprises as it was the same course as the Cardiff Half, run a number of times in the past. Those that watched the televised race will know that a world record was possible up to the point where the leaders were a mile or two from the end and the heavens opened and soaked them. This was from Storm Kate. At the time I was less than half way around, about to cross the Cardiff Bay Barrage and hanging on to my peaked cap, protecting me from stinging rain. Managing to dry out a bit by the end a good looking medal was handed out along with a tee shirt replicating the hoodie mentioned above, a few bananas and water.


Up the next morning and a one and a half hour short drive down to Pendine. For three day expo read, for this lower key race, pick up your number from the back of a Landrover. There was a bit of confusion over the state of the tide, Storm Kate pushing the waves up the beach and delaying the start for half an hour due to there being no sand to run on! Because of this delay, some transferred from the half to the 10k and some, unfortunately, went home. In the end 23 ran the 10k and 24 ran the half marathon, the winner finishing in 1hr 33mins. Nine also ran an ultra of two laps.


Running the first half of the out and back course I found difficult. It was difficult to find my right pace among the 10k runners and difficult also to find hard sand to run on. The guy in front of me had a run, walk, run, system going and, frustratingly, started running just before I caught him up each time.


Getting past my run, walk, run, man just before the turn around I started the run back in front of him and as I raised my legs to run, the wind stopped me moving forward and my competitor walked slowly past me. I persisted with attempted running until he was 30m ahead and finally decided on my own run, walk, run, philosophy – it was quicker.


Getting back to the start was my hardest run ever and amounted to 15 minute miling – yes 4mph a walking pace gained by run, walk, running. Sand in the face and completely exhausted we then had to do a further challenge, just as we were informed at the briefing “It’s not quite 13.1 at the finish line so run to the rocks and back to the Landrover, three times.”


A surprisingly large, colourful medal was presented along with a question as to whether I was in the 60-69 years category. On answering yes, I was handed a “Champion” certificate for first in age group. My first ever race win done from the back of the pack!!


I have joked that, taking both races into consideration, this was the weekend where a) I raced Mo Farrah and b) I won.


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.


The day that my children are allowed to shoot me.

london marathon badge 1987

I have agreed with both my step daughter and step son that the day I join the pack and drive in my car, the half mile to the newspaper shop for the Sunday papers, and drive too fast to get back before the bed sheets cool down, is the day that they have permission to shoot me.

Today I had a lovely 13.1 mile Sunday run with time to look around (heart rate zone 2) with a green woodpecker laughing at me before he flew across my path from one patch of trees to another. Unfortunately, at the start of my run, I have to run on a main road where people drive at well over the speed limit because, let’s face it, it’s o.k. because nobody else is around, are they. Dooohhh!!

The picture here is in respect for the amount of work that runners have put in to do today’s London Marathon. As you can see my “been there, done that, bought the badge” moment was in 1987 and it strikes me that, although I have stated no Ultras, no more full marathons, wouldn’t it be nice to do the 2017 London, 30 years after my first London? You will notice that in 1987 the event was sponsored by Mars and, those who are old enough to remember, will look back on the fact that after the marathon, on the way back to your car / coach / tube station you could see many little pools of sick with half Mars bars in the middle of them. I was very lucky to have been working for a company that sold Mars products and I was sponsored by Mars. Presented with Mars shirt and shorts, so shiny and stiff it would have cut me in half if worn on a run, I wore my usual Pontypridd Roadents Running Club kit and finished in 3 hrs 35 minutes (those were the days). After the event I found the Mars hospitality tent and used my pass to get fresh orange juice and fresh salmon wrapped around soft cheese, which was posh in 1977. Twelve Roadent runners used my pass to get refreshed before it started getting a bit too obvious that there weren’t that many runners sponsored.

I didn’t post after last weeks long run because work cropped up but what was going through my head at the time was the fact that I am enjoying my running again. I have been having a conversation on WordPress with someone who was feeling stale and wondering why she was running still. My reply, and what I was thinking at the time is that, having made the important decision not to run the ultra that was on my bucket list, having decided not to run another marathon (but see above) I am enjoying my running again and the different type of training for half marathons is new, fresh and inspiring. My Sunday long run of 13.1 each week is complimented by Sunday night swimming of 1600 metres and two gym sessions through the week. One gym session is six runs of 5 minutes at HR zone 2 with two machines between each run, one leg machine and one upper body machine. The other gym session is all upper body work between three 15 minute runs, at HR zone 2, HR zone 3 and HR zone 4. Hopefully I will be able to fit in some 5k Park Runs on Saturday mornings but grandchildren are more important at the moment.

Cracked The Nutrition Thing – before And During A Run

After years of trying to find the right nutritional path, lots of running with a sloshing stomach, tired legs and with blood/sugar levels all over the place, I think I have finally cracked it.

My preparation for my long Sunday run seemed a bit complicated for a 5.30am start,  so I wrote myself a note the night before. Here’s the very note and this is what I wrote:

Make coffee with butter

Put into blender

Add coconut oil

Add Ucan

Drink 30 minutes before start of run.

Add Ucan to water bottle and take with you.

To be a bit more precise

Carve off a quarter inch slice of Anchor Butter (butter from grass fed cows so Kerrygold is just as good) and slice into my tall cappuccino glass. Put under coffee machine and pour in the hot, black, Nescafe Dolce Gusto Grande Intenso coffee. Place into blender. Add concentrated MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) coconut oil, add one scoop plain Generation Ucan powder and blend it all up. Pour back into cappuccino glass and enjoy.

What sort of a difference did it make to my run? Well, miles 0 to 15 went like a dream with no loss of energy. Miles15 to 20 were tiring as you would expect but although my legs felt tired I didn’t have that “dead legs with no energy left in them” feeling.

Heart rate zone 2 running, was the order of the day, which is difficult when there are so many hills around where I live but I managed to stay within zone (134-144) for 16 out of the 20.68 miles. As an aside, does anyone else go off into a dream world while running and wake up in heart rate zone 3 ?

My 1980s marathons weren’t fuelled at all, unless you count pasta the night before, and my 2010-12 marathons were fuelled on Cliff Bars before the race and sugar gels through the race. The gels always gave me a strange stomach feel and in the Dublin marathon I was offered at a feed station, and took, a gel that was extremely fruity that felt like it was burning my stomach like acid would.

After much research (mainly from podcasts, all of which are reviewed and praised in an earlier posting) I went NSNG last October. Becoming ketonic from no sugars no grains and getting all my carbs from lots of lovely vegetables, has served me well. I am lucky that I do not need to lose masses of weight so, for me, it is a lifestyle shift for the sake of the change and for staying healthy, although I am 6lb lighter.

It was later that I discovered the coffee and butter thing and then later again after that, the coconut oil. My breakfast now consists of coffee with butter and coconut oil in it and that keeps from thinking about food until 1.00pm. Many will say that it is psychological, but my brain is I am sure, more alert than it used to be. How can I tell? I am learning a language while driving (Welsh). It used to be that on a long morning drive I would listen to a couple of lessons, start yawning and turn off the tapes and turn on music. Now I am listening to the tapes through the journey and the return journey. Note that Dave Asprey (Bulletproof Diet) calls the MCT oil brain food.

So much for day to day, I wanted this lifestyle to help with my running, to allow me to burn fat as a fuel rather than sugar, to help me avoid the crash after the insulin rush and dive forcing me to take in just one more gel. What confused me then was suggestions from seasoned marathon runners and ultra runners, who were NSNG, to fuel on a carbohydrate called Generation Ucan. It didn’t make sense to me to eat fat, run at zone 2 and burn fat and then to ingest carbohydrate. So – more research.

It turns out that (I can’t remember this bit so this is a direct quote from their literature) Generation Ucan is a product made from modified corn starch – GM free, which allows for sustained natural energy levels, without the spikes and crashes of normal energy drinks. It’s a slow release complex carbohydrate that allows your body to access your fat supplies easier for fuel.

The bit that sold me to this product (by the way I think I should say that I am not sponsored in any way) is the statement that there is “No gastric distress, because super starch is a large molecule that passes through the stomach quickly and is digested slowly in the intestines.”

If I had to change one thing on my next long run it would be to carry more water as I was becoming dehydrated towards the end of the run, partly due to being so wrapped up against the elements. Looks like I will have to sterilise my Camelback water bladder ready for my next long run – I will let you know how it goes.

Death Of A Treadmill

treadmillSadly, after a short illness, my treadmill died this morning at 6.4 miles into a 10 mile run. Things had not been right lately with the need to hold down buttons to get the display to change but I suppose I had more than my moneys worth from this trusty machine.

Endorsed by Carl Lewis (Sprint and long jump at Olympic meets between 1984 and 1996) this running / walking machine had seen many miles completed on cold dark mornings when a look out of the window at the weather meant either the treadmill or a trip back to bed. Lately this trusty machine saw me through walks of two miles through a flu bug (note tissues on window sill) and, as can be seen in the photo, was helping me run today while snow lay on the ground outside. In detail, what happened is that at 6.4 miles there was a loud bang, a smell of burning electrics and a need to reset the tripswitch so that the ground floor electric sockets could be used again.

My last run outside in bad weather was a pre-dawn run where I was in a cold, dark lonely spot and suddenly found myself “surfing” about thirty feet over icy ground. All that was going through my mind was “If I fall and break my hip, will I be able to reach my mobile and how will I describe where I am?” I have been a bit wary of cold weather running ever since.

This weekend was supposed to be a return to long runs after that flu bug with 10 today (Saturday) followed by 20 tomorrow. I guess if I want to do the 20 tomorrow then it will be outside, whatever the weather.

Will I purchase another treadmill? At the moment I am thinking – no. I have membership of a gym so that I can cross train with weights and they have running machines if I need them. Also I think I will benefit from being in a position of either get outside or don’t run at all. What I will miss though is the sprint / fartlek work knowing my exact speed and the fact that I could run at any time of day and in any weather.

My biggest problem now is not only how to dispose of said treadmill but how to unbolt it into manageable segments as the base will not now lift into a vertical position without power!

Flu Recovery And Podcast Listening

I didn’t need the flu jab because I never get colds – big mistake. Was it flu? Perhaps man flu? Whatever it was it saw me coughing for four weeks and breathing on, what felt like, half of one lung. Running outside in the cold was out of the question so, in one of the weeks, I managed two sessions of run-walking for two miles just to keep my limbs moving.

On a separate issue to this blog, having managed 4 miles in one week, what was I to do the following week if I was feeling well again? 4.4 miles? Followed by 4.8 miles? Time to move down the page to my previous blog on the myth about only only ever increasing your mileage by 10% a week.

So anyway, what do you do to keep motivated while you wait for your lungs to recover? For me, it was listening to the many podcasts that have accumulated on my iPhone. I subscribe to a number of podcasts that I like and admire and my (free) subscription means that they accumulate until I listen to them. Usually I have between five and ten not listened to episodes of each podcast waiting but, for some (see below) there are none, as I listen to the episode as soon as it arrives. I will go through each of the running and/or lifestyle podcasts that I listen to below and give what can only be my personal thoughts on each. If you think from my description that you might like to subscribe to any of them, then please do and then branch out from there. The way you branch out, in my experience, is by listening to your normal podcasts as, the way podcasting expands, is by podcasters inviting other podcasters onto their podcasts! Something else to be aware of is that once you subscribe you are usually able to download past episodes so that you are not sat there waiting for the next episode.

One quick explanation of where I am coming from in reviewing these podcasts as you may be (probably are) coming from a completely different perspective. Briefly, I am a 61 year old marathon runner, looking to run my first ultra, who has recently gone no sugars no grains (NSNG) and is half way through the book “The Bulletproof Diet” by Dave Asprey, and enjoying it. I live in the UK and nearly all of the podcasts that I listen to emanate from the USA. I have listened to one UK podcast and one that was half UK and half USA and unsubscribed both of them after a few episodes. That is not to say there are no good running / lifestyle podcasts coming out of Europe, just that I haven’t found them yet.

Obviously, for all of us in Europe, there are differences in speech etc. when listening to American podcasts. The biggest one for me, which took me a while to fathom, is their use of a weird temperature scale which, for some reason, goes from something like 32 to 212. It is called Farenheit and may confuse you if you hear on a podcast that someone was cold on a run because the temperature was down to 20 which would be a nice Summer day on a scale of nought to a hundred. Another thing that you will have to get used to in some, but not all, American podcasts is that some people, usually younger females for some reason, raise their voices up at the end of a statement as if they are asking a question. If you can ignore these differences though and they don’t grate on you, the information you can gain is invaluable.

Marathon Training Academy

This is the first podcast that I started listening to and is the one that I mentioned above that I listen to as soon as episodes arrive. Run and hosted by Angie and Trevor, the podcast comes over as a laid back chat with a mom and dad of three kids who are desperate to learn and to pass on what they have learned to you the listener. Angie is the more advanced runner and also coaches for a fee but does not ram the advert that she coaches down your throat as she limits herself to around 35 coaching clients and usually has that many and needs no more. My knowledge has increased at the same rate as Angie’s as I listen to these podcasts. Trevor has only been running for four years and is therefore the student to Angie’s coaching which works well in the podcast. I would highly recommend this podcast as a good starting point as I find it well edited, to the point and usually gives different points of view for each item discussed. It was through this podcast that I started zone 2 running which changed my life.

Vinnie Tortorich – The Angriest Trainer

I think this was probably my second podcast subscription and I believe I first heard Vinnie on the Marathon Training Academy podcast. It is completely different to the above podcast and thrives on the fact that it is unedited, random, has occasional swearing and it is a sort of chat between Vinnie and his co-host Anna Vocino. Vinnie trains people in California, film stars, producers etc and has been advocating NSNG for some time through the podcast and through his book Fitness Confidential. Although he runs Vinnie is more of an ultra cyclist. At first I loved this podcast and have grown with it over time. Unfortunately, my impression is that the adverts (random chat adverts) that can go on for some time, have become more and more of the programme, especially the adverts for Vinnie’s own product The Pure Vitamin Club, which sounds a great product, only availably in the USA, but pushed too hard. We all know that podcasts have to be funded and this is often by product placement, adverts and sponsorship but this podcast seems to me to have more of that than any other podcast that I listen to. You also have to pay a monthly fee to be able to download past episodes, something I have not come across on any other podcast.

The Running Lifestyle Show with Keri Gormley

I discussed above some podcasts where, usually younger females, go up at the end of a sentence as if a statement is a question. This grates on some Europeans but, if you can ignore it, there is good info coming out of this podcast. Keri appears to be quite new to running compared with other podcasters so would be a good one to follow if you are newish to running and runners diets also. There is a lot of diet info also which is NSNG or as sometimes mentioned as LCHF (low carbo high fat) and this is given by a registered dietician who appears on almost every podcast. Unfortunately, like a lot of youngsters throughout the world, this dietician tries to get as many of the words “like” into a sentence as possible, sometimes achieving four or five. You like know like the type like of thing I like mean i’m like sure. Again this may grate but if you can ignore it there is some good info and, although the podcast is mainly geared to young females, and is often a bit flowery (giggling, vision boards etc) this 61 year old bloke is still subscribed.

The Livin’ La Vida Low-carb Show with Jimmy Moore.

Love this podcast, listened recently to the 900th episode so it has been around a while. Good guests and a more technical podcast than the more chatty versions. Some of the more interesting podcasts for me have been direct recordings of speakers at a low carb conference held in Australia. Download the 900th episode which is a highlights show and will give you a flavour. I should say that Jimmy doesn’t always have guests on who agree with his views, he sometimes talks to guests who completely disagree with NSNG to get a balanced view.

The Ask Prof Noakes Podcast with Brad Brown

Professor Tim Noakes has appeared on many podcasts and seems to have been around for decades. He is very knowledgeable about diet and running and has been writing books since the 80s and has seen (and even admits to prescribing) the wrong information that was around at that time. He seems to have been responsible for getting people to drink to thirst on a marathon rather than over drinking as is still often prescribed. These are very short podcasts and you will probably listen to a number at a time. Basically Brad comes on, asks a listeners question, gets the Prof to answer the question and the podcast ends.

To sum up, some people listen to these and other podcasts via iPhone, IPod or similar, as inspiration as they run. Personally, when I run outside, I listen to bird song and the environment around me. I have a job with occasional long driving runs and this is when I listen to these podcasts, gaining information rather than listening to mindless background music.