Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Beards are the future.

Photo: Forrest...ran and ran....beard!

Photo:notice the two runners leading the race.....beards!

Photo:Krupicka is beard...and chicks like Jenn dig it!

Photo: Can guess who won this race!

Photo: Rasputin..beard!

A couple of times this last week people have commented on my new years attempt to grow a beard.'God-you look like you're a tramp' was one of them.People need to get on the beard band wagon-realize that beards are the future.Cool people throughout the ages have had beards.Jesus had a beard..and he looked cool,in any bodies eyes.Dennis Wilson,Brian Wilson,The Beatles at their peak,cool bands like Band of Horses...all got beards,realize it's hip,that chicks dig it.Intelligent men like Socrates had a beard,as did legendary madmen ,like Rasputin.

The iconic bearded runner is Forrest Gump.He had a good beard...and look how far he ran-backwards and forwards across America...and he didn't stop once,not even to sleep.Anton Krupicka has a beard.He's hip,likes good music,runs 200 miles a week in high mountains and how does he do it?Simple-the beard.Great 60's/70's marathon stars had beards-Amby Burfoot,Benji Durden to name a couple.Britains own Mick McLeod had a beard..and he won at silver medal at the LA Olympics.

I've been growing my beard for about a month,and already my running seems to be improving.My runs are getting faster,with no increase in effort and my recoveries are getting faster.I can sense it-keep the growth going and big things are gonna come.Watch this space!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Gear-who needs it?

Photo: Puma Cortland II XC spike-used without spikes.

Photo:V-lite Sirrocco Sandal

Photos:Nike Waffle Racer XC.Splits cut at front of toe box,all insoles removed.Perfect!

It was interesting over the New Year period to see how many of my running acquaintances posted messages on the social networking sites regarding equipment(running shoes/clothes etc),they had either received for Christmas,or they would need for the forthcoming year.One thing I love about running is that it is a cheap sport to participate in.Or is it?

Reading any running magazine the reader is bombarded with advertisements offering not just the latest 'must have' trainers,but also clothing,now made out of 'technical'materials,all assortment of electrical gadgets to measure times,altitudes and heart rates and nutritional aids and sports performance/recovery drinks.But do we need them?Do they make any difference to the average runner?Will a pair of shoes costing £100 provide you with better performances/protection than a £20 pair?Will running in a T-shirt made out of technical fibres make a blind bit of difference to a run of the mill cotton T-shirt?Will drinking a fancy electrolyte drink be any better than normal tap water?

2010 was probably my best running year since being a youngster-definitely since I resumed running again 4 years ago.I probably averaged 70/80 miles per week throughout the year,lowered my p.b's in the 5 mile,10k,Half Marathon,Marathon and 12 hour races and did not get injured once.Maybe this was good luck,but ,for certain ,it wasn't down to equipment.

The amount I spent on shoes for the year was .......£10!.This was for a pair of puma cross country spikes,which I use on mixed terrain,any run which will take me on both road and trails/fields etc.I have a 2 year old pair of Mountain Bear Gladiators which I use on exclusively off road courses,but wanted more of a trail shoe.The cost of brands such as Innov-8 put me off buying a pair.The pumas,used without spikes,do the job perfectly.They were on offer at £10,no postage and included a free T-shirt(technical material!) and free pair of socks.The combined price of these two items,priced individually on the same website came to £12,so you could say that the actual cost of the pumas was -£2!Not bad at half the price.

The bulk of my mileage was done in Hitec v-lite Sirrocco sandals.I was first alerted to these,prior to competing in The Copper Canyon Ultra in Mexico,by the fact that they were race organizer,Micah True's shoe of choice.I figured if they stood up to the harsh trails of the Sierra Madre Mountains they would be ok for the country paths,the beach and the flat roads surrounding Skegness.I bought one pair on sale on the net for £14.99,found I liked them and ordered another two pairs a week later.They have since been discontinued.These were purchased in August 2009.I currently have two pairs on the go,with one pair still pristine in the box.The only problem I,ve had is that the front strap of one of the shoes snapped,but that was down to my ignorance.I was in the Lake District helping my brother recce the final leg of The Bob Graham Round,which he was attempting a couple of months later,and descending a steep decline of scree in sandals is not recommended.Other than that,although both pairs probably have over 2000 miles wear,there have been no problems.

This last week,while on a clear out,I came across a pair of Nike Waffle Racer XC flats.I like the minimal,flat style of these shoes,but always found the toe box a little narrow.Rather than throw them away I thought I would try a few modifications.I cut a split in the outside of the outer edge of the front of the shoe,allowing my toes a little more space,took out the insole,and now running in them,sans socks,makes them just perfect.Another few quid saved!

My biggest expense this year was when I purchased a T-shirt,two long sleeve tops and two pairs of tracksters before I went to Mexico.That cost me about £50,but ,to be honest,I didn't need them.I've got a Helly Hanson Thermal top that I purchased in 1985 still going strong and enough T-shirts awarded as prizes a the end of races to last a lifetime.Still,the grand total of £60 for a years running gear is not bad,and shows things can be done on the cheap.

Ohh..and I did get some running gear for Christmas-2 Karrimor lightweight jackets on offer from Sports Direct for £6 each from my mother!!

Friday, 7 January 2011

When is a Trial a Trial?

It's been 5/6 weeks now since I embarked on 'The Trials of Miles',a phase and idea taken from John L.Parker Jr.s seminal running novel 'Once a Runner'.The original idea was to replicate a sort of life lead by the hero character in the book-Quenton Cassidy,who retreated to a cabin in the woods,to live a hermit type life,training to take on the fictional mile world record holder,John Walton.A sort of revelation hit me today.I have always admired the lifestyles of the soul surfer/climbing fraternity-people who live life gaining intrinsic pleasure from riding new waves/climbing new routes.For these people competing was /is a small part of the actual experience.As the sport of surfing/climbing gradually became commercialized the actual act of obtaining a sponsor was looked upon with derision in some circles,as if the purity of the lifestyle was being eroded.

The word 'Trial' conveys a test,a sense of sacrifice...but is this 'Trial' necessary,especially with the ultimate focus being a race performance.You run the race and achieve the time/position you longed for-what next?You don't achieve your target and are disappointed,making you question why you sacrificed things in the first place.The revelation that hit me today was that maybe I had achieved my target,that starting the 'Trials of Miles' was actually the finish of my real 'Trials of Miles'-a trial I have embarked upon ,not realizing for the past few years.To be in the position I am right now,having all the time in the world to run,is maybe,the ultimate success for me,more important than achieving any race position or personal best time.

In a little over a week I'm heading over to Gran Canaria for six weeks,in the mountains,essentially to run.I'm going to run,not because I feel I need to ,with races coming up etc,but because I want to.A 'Trial' is the wrong word.It will be a 'Pleasure'.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Future is Rainbow Coloured.

Photo:Roque Nublo(5,915ft)

The premise for the next year or so(maybe forever?) is simple-run in beautiful locations,run some classic races,have some adventures-all in a minimalist style,on a shoestring budget.

With the severe winter weather we've been recently experiencing,I've decided I need to get away,somewhere much warmer.Browsing locations several months ago on the net I came across an article on free state run campsites on Gran Canaria.There is a network of around 14 of these,mostly inland,in the mountains,nestled away,and mainly the reserve of well informed locals,not tourists.However,by registering at the local government office in the capital,Las Palmas, it is possible to get a permit which will allow you to stay at these.The process,on paper,looks relatively simple.Only time will tell.

I fly to Las Palmas on 17th January,taking a tent,basic camping gear,a few clothes,a couple of pairs of running shoes,and my trusted iron horse-my 1980's Raleigh Equipe bicycle.The plan is very basic-arrive at the airport,bike the 12 miles or so, into Las Palmas,pick up a camping permit,buy some food,and then head off into the mountains.At the moment,gazing out of the window into the cold and darkness,I have visions of running plentiful mountain trails,with the sun on my back.I want it to to be a minimal trip,just basically running,hiking,exploring,relaxing and sleeping.The main aim is to live as cheaply as possible.With the campsites being free,in theory all I need will be food.I'm used to a basic diet of predominantly porridge,rice and pasta,so the cost of food should be small.It would be nice to find somewhere which I could use as a winter bolt hole.I'm sure things will not be as simple as I think,although on past experiences,sometimes things can be that easy.My return flight is 1st March,which gives me plenty of time to find out what's what!Looking forward to it!