Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Life (page 1 of 27)

Ultramarathon Training | Week One: Complete!

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope your 2017 has been going well so far and that you are easing out of the festive season without too much resistance. I saw in the New Year bundled up marshaling at the Stonehaven Fireballs ceremony, which saw us have a relatively quiet celebratory night. In fact; it was well after 1.30am when I even had my first beer, which was well-earned after the hard work which the Fireballs team put in to clean up the event straight after it ends. We headed to a party afterwards and had a chilled couple of hours with friends, meaning I woke up feeling fresh and ready to start my 2017 with a bang!

dunnottar castle

I actually can’t remember the last time I woke up without a crippling hangover, never mind even waking up before midday on New Year’s Day. However; with the winter sun shining down on me, I had a wonderful head-clearing trot around Dunnottar Castle and Dunnottar Woods before lunch which really got my head in the right kind of positive place to get excited about my ultramarathon training in 2017.

Here’s what I did this week:

Monday: 4 mile road run around Stonehaven, followed by a 3 mile walk with friends
Tuesday: No training – packing and returning to Edinburgh
Wednesday: 10k canal run at lunchtime – breaking up my first day back at work nicely, then Hot Yoga at 7:45pm
Thursday: 10k run around Stockbridge and Dean Gardens at lunchtime
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 11.5 miles total, including a run with Mikeller Run Club Edinburgh (more on that later this week)
Sunday: 11.2 mile Long Slow Run on road.

This follows my usual ultramarathon training plan pattern of running Tue/Wed/Thur and then a Sat/Sun back to back. I will have another couple of weeks of running a 4/6/6 or 6/6/6 pattern in the middle before shifting up to higher midweek mileage; 6/6/8, 6/8/8, and eventually some midweek 10s as well – although that will be hard to fit in at lunchtime at my current pace!

Cross-training

I really enjoyed my first Hot Yoga class in a few months at Meadowlark, and next week I will also be heading back to the gym to re-incorporate more cross-training into my routine. In the last two months before Christmas, I re-joined Pure Gym and spent a lot of evenings doing classes in an attempt to shake up my fitness and re-gain some strength, as well as attempting to shift a bit of lard in the most efficient way possible. I equally hate and love HIIT training, but it pulls me out of my comfort zone and kicks my arse in to shape like nothing else does. I’ll be going back tomorrow…

It was around the same time I joined the gym that I received an email from Millet Sports asking if they could send me a pair of trainers from their running shoe range in exchange for my thoughts on them. I thought about it quite a bit before saying yes; I wasn’t sure I really needed more shoes and I didn’t want to be reviewing free stuff just for the sake of it, however after a few sessions at the gym, I realised I really needed some more gym-appropriate trainers and I had no idea where to start looking for the right kind of shoe.

On roads, I’m still running in my favourite On Running CloudSurfer shoe (I’m now on pair #5!), and on trails I switch between various Salomon trail shoes, or my Hoka ATR Challengers if it’s more than 20 miles. None of these shoes are suitable for doing gym work, especially if they’re clarted with mud from the weekend’s off road adventures. I was pleased to have a look through the huge selection of shoes which Millet Sports have, and to pick a shoe which I thought would do the right job for crosstraining. I wanted something light yet durable, with a pretty low heel-toe drop, and something which would be suitable for running on a treadmill as well.

nike free run distance

I selected a pair of Nike Free Run Distance shoes, in a rather sharp looking black and white colourway. Despite being one of the biggest sports brands in the world, I have never been particularly drawn to trying Nike trainers for running, so I was keen to see how they would perform. I own several items of Nike running clothing and continue to be impressed by their durability after literally thousands of miles of usage, but I’ve always elected for more niche running shoes which target very specific runner requirements.

According to Nike, the Free Run Distance shoes were created after they learned that Stanford University track and field athletes had been training barefoot on the university’s golf course. Nike decided to develop a shoe that felt natural and weightless, with an overall goal of feeling similar to bare feet. The team then spent eight years studying the biomechanics of runners’ feet in motion, with the results yielding a profound understanding of the foot’s natural landing angle, pressure and toe position, allowing Nike designers to build an unconventional and flexible running shoe from the inside out. I’m not sure about unconventional – they seem pretty straight forward to me – but I always find it interesting to hear about why shoes are made to the specifications that they are.

  • Weight: 207 grams
  • Heel drop: 4mm
  • Cushioning: Soft foam
  • Sole: Hexagonal ‘flex grooves’

I was instantly pretty impressed with these shoes from the first moment I put them on. They are SO LIGHT! When they are on you can feel that they are a low drop shoe, but the soft foam sole adapts to your weight distribution so it never feels like the low drop is harsh on your calves. I chose a Ladies size EU42 which was mostly true to size, but if I was going to be doing a lot of long distance running in them I would either size up or choose the male version, just for a little extra swelling accommodation.

nike free run distance

I have ran about 50 miles in the shoes and done several types of gym class in them. One of my favourite things is how sticky the sole is on a gym floor if you’re doing a plymetric or circuits class. For moves like box jumps or mountain climbers, the sole grips the floor solidly which gave me a lot more confidence in landing and executing my movements.

In terms of running, they feel good both on a treadmill and outside, but the grippy sole loses all control on wet leaves or icy pavements! I have ran in them when it was frosty or wet outside and had to really slow down; the hexagonal soles provide flexibility of movement but very little grip, so these are definitely a summer running or dry road choice. I wouldn’t contemplate going anywhere near a trail in them either, especially as to not ruin the lovely black/white leopard print detail on the sides…

nike free run distance

I’m going to continue to wear them for my shorter mid-week running sessions, especially for any speed work which I do. The lightness of the shoes on my feet is really noticeable compared to my other road shoes, and it feels like I run lighter in them as well. At some point in the near future I will be doing a little parkrun time trial, so I will wear them for that kind of lung-bursting, 5k sprint effort, and see how they (and I) perform.

Thank you to Millet Sports (not Millets – confusingly, this is a completely separate company from Millets the High Street outdoor specialists) for providing me with my choice of shoes, and for their in-kind support of the costs of maintaining this blog.

***disclosure: I received the shoes of my choice in exchange for an honest review of the product. I received no additional compensation for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own***

2016 – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s the last day of the year, so traditionally a time when one casts a retrospective eye over the year and deems it either worth celebrating, or writing off as a total loss. 2016 has been a complete dumpster fire for many people for a variety of reasons, and I am certainly no exception. Personal issues aside, in terms of running, I am truly struggling to pull together the usual show-reel of highlights; winter training with friends, running up and down hills for fun, smiley summer trail running pictures, a smorgasbord of medals and race keepsakes… well, there’s not much of that to share this year.

Glen Lyon UltraHave a nice picture of Glen Lyon instead.

2015 went quite radically downhill for me after I completed the Triple Crown, an achievement which I was rightly proud of.  After that, I basically stopped regular training. Deep in long term unemployment, unable to plan ahead and enter races which sell out months in advance, I had nothing to focus on other than getting fatter and slower. Of course I could have continued to train in a useful manner anyway, but I just didn’t. My mental health and well-being is very closely tied to how much exercise I do; if I don’t run, I get in to a bad place, and when I’m in a bad place, I don’t run. It’s like a big fun snowball careering down a hill, which then crashes and burns in a mess at the bottom. Best year ever!

So what did I actually do in 2016?

Miles Ran: 823 (very poor; 200 less than last year and 500 less than 2014 and 2013)
Races Ran: 5 (Meh)
Longest Run: 37 miles (Speyside Way Ultra)

Glen Lyon UltraFinishing Glen Lyon Ultra in May

It’s an odd juxtaposition to follow on from some moaning about how shit a running year I’ve had, to then go on and say I completed five races 2016 including a marathon and two ultras. But when you find yourself in a bubble where running an ultra a month is now not just usual but almost expected, it’s quite easy to feel that by ‘only’ doing two you’ve somehow fallen short of expectations.

I am also personally aware of how little effort I put in to training for them, and I turned up and consequently struggled a lot more than I should have done. Relying on muscle memory and tenacity in order to get to a finish line is not cool, and certainly not commendable. Do not take inspiration from this method, I do not recommend it at all. In my experience, the rewards are a lot more enjoyable when you have earned them.

What else did I do in 2016?

Months unemployed: 5
Jobs gained: 1
Countries visited: 3 (Germany, Japan, Ibiza)

edinburgh castleThe view from my new office

I moved to Edinburgh to start a new job at the start of June. Unfortunately I had to do this by myself, leave my husband working in Aberdeen, and begin a heinous routine of Monday to Friday in Edinburgh, Friday night to Monday morning in Stonehaven. I’ve seen Stonehaven train station before 6am on a Monday more times than anyone should, and at the last count, I’ve spent over £600 in train fares. Living in Edinburgh is nice, but I am yet to settle in and make new friends, join a running club, or embark on any meaningful training routine. This transitional, peripatetic life is utterly exhausting and after seven months, I am sick to the back teeth of it. I’d love to say there is an end in sight, but the geographic nature of Kynon’s work means that finding similar work in Edinburgh has so far proved impossible, so this is our life now.

My favourite memories from 2016 are from our trip to Japan at the start of April, which is Sakura (cherry blossom) season. I was enchanted by the country and its culture; we visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, and Kamakura, and travelled between the cities on the famous bullet trains. We also found a race to do, and really enjoyed the scenic and hilly Miyajima 15k.

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathon

miyajima marathonBeautiful Miyajima

How are we going to make 2017 better?

Races entered: 7
Weight to lose: 1 tonne (approx)
Flats to move into: 1

As mentioned in this post, I’ve jumped in with two feet and registered myself for a tonne of races. Being a typically tight Aberdonian, there’s no way I am going to pay for entries and then not use them, so 2017 is looking a lot busier than 2016 was. The other great news is that I have received a ballot place in the Chicago Marathon! I am so excited to do this race and am going to train my backside off (literally) for it to do the best I can. I am going to dedicate the summer to train specifically for this marathon, and I hope that in 12 months time I’m signing off next year’s post with how delighted I am with my massive PB, and to also finally have got a Good For Age time for London.

Kynon and I are planning on making the trip to Chicago together, and taking the opportunity to explore some of America’s Midwest. I’m investigating potential road trip destinations, and hopefully we’ll be able to attend an NFL game too. This trip will be a beacon to look forward to, as well as hopefully a trip to somewhere sunnier closer to home in the summer.  Another good thing is that I am moving into my own flat in Edinburgh at the end of January, and I am looking forward to finally getting more of a sense of home in my ‘new’ city.

I can only hope that the combination of these good things will pull my spirits up a bit, and that next year I can produce some great, positive, blog content for you all.

New Year’s Resolutions

  •  Do more yoga
  • Take more weekend trips
  • Make more of an effort to make new friends

Yoga – For some reason, now I’m in Edinburgh with a variety of yoga choices, I have stopped taking classes. This makes as much sense as the rest of this clusterfart of a year, so I won’t even try and explain it. I love to practice yoga; it clears my mind, restores my heart, and makes my body feel better. Why am I not doing more of this?!

Travel – Edinburgh Airport has a great selection of flight options to travel cheaply within Europe for a weekend. I need to take more advantage of this, and I’d rather spend my money on this than more bloody train tickets!

Friends – I am going to join a running club in the New Year, and I am going to try and be better at interacting with the fitness scene in Edinburgh. As a massive introvert this does not come naturally, but I know that if I surround myself with people whose goals align with mine, I will train happier and more effectively. There’s no way I would have dragged myself out of bed for all the pre-7am Saturday long runs without my Stonehaven running chums, so I need to find a similar squad to train with in Edinburgh.


I think that’s enough navel-gazing for now. I’m sorry this post has not been the happy review it usually is, but there’s no point in trying to gild a turd. 2017 will be better for us all – it has to be.

Thank you all for sticking with me through both the highs and the lows, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2017.

~Rwr

Review: Supplements and Snacks

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying one or two supplements in exchange for my thoughts on them. Here’s a little round up of the products which I’ve been testing and how I got on with them.
***Disclosure: As usual; all opinions are quite clearly my own, and I received no other incentives to write about these products other than the samples themselves for consideration.***

Whey Box – The Most Convenient Whey

Whey Box is a service whereby one sets up a subscription, and a box of protein sachets are delivered to your door each month. I signed up to try this out and received a box of five flavours and a branded shaker in the mail.

whey box review

What they say:

  • Whey Box is primarily about convenience, with an easy to order service. Once you sign up, the protein shows up, and you can take the sachets everywhere with ease.
  • Each sachet is 30g and contains around 120kcal, 22g protein, 3g carbs, 2g fat.
  • A monthly subscription of 10 sachets costs £14.99 a month, 20 sachets costs £24.99

What I think:

  • I tried Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, Cookies and Cream, and Gingerbread. The flavours are perfectly acceptable but nothing different from any other brand out there.
  • I tried one with water and it was chalky and unpleasant in texture; I tried the others with Oat milk and I much preferred it.
  • For me it feels like a fix to a problem which doesn’t exist; I have a tubs of my preferred protein supplements at home and a tub at work. If I choose to have a protein shake after a workout or for breakfast, then it’s right there to use. I have never found myself in a situation where I’ve not been able to ‘get my protein fix’ (their words) conveniently.
  • The pricing is ka-razy. A box of 10 contains 300g of product at £14.99, which works out at £49.96 per kilogram of product, or approximately £1.51 per 30g serving. I can buy a kilo of my preferred protein powder (PhD Nutrition Diet Whey) and have it delivered to my door for £16.95 from Amazon, which is roughly £0.51p per 30g serving. To me, that makes no financial sense whatsoever.

So it’s a no from me on this service; the products were perfectly tasty (gingerbread was my favourite) but I could not justify paying so much more for a service which ultimately, I don’t need.

 

Kind Bars – A new KIND of snack bar

Kind asked if they could send me a selection of their snack bars, and I said YES PLEASE. I received a box with one of each flavour to try, including some new ones which I haven’t seen in the shops yet.

Kind Bars

What they say:

  • KIND bars are a delicious, wholesome snack made quite simply from whole nuts and fruits, bound together in honey. Not only do their unique flavour combinations taste great, they’re also gluten-free, high in fibre, and contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
  • KIND bars have recently been released in the UK, but have been ‘One of the US most beloved snack bar ranges’ for some time.
  • There are two ranges: KIND Nuts & Spices, and KIND Fruit & Nut. Nuts & Spices bars are whole nuts flavoured with delicious spices. With about 1 tsp of sugar per bar, each has on average over 40% less sugar (per 100g) compared to similar snack bars. Fruit & Nut bars are all about simplicity. Just whole nuts and fruit bound together in honey.
  • KIND bars can be found in Whole Foods Markets (£1.49), Tesco stores (£1.29), Sainsbury’s (£1.25) and Waitrose (£1.29) nationwide

What I think:

  • I absolutely love these snacks and am really pleased you can get them in the UK now. I love how they are comprised of whole nuts, and eating them feels very substantial.
  • They are really calorie-dense, so great for taking out on the trail. You need to remember this when you feel like snacking at 3pm on a Thursday though, as they are heavy going in terms of natural fats.
  • The flavours are unique, and I love the ones with sea salt flakes in them – dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, caramel almond and sea salt, and maple glazed pecan and sea salt. YUM.

So it’s a resounding HELL YES for me on these, and I hope that I can purchase them by the box soon.

 

Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets

I received so many emails from different people working on behalf of Red Kooga, that eventually I decided to take up their offer to sample the product just to see what it was all about. They sent me a 60 day supply of tablets, and I’ve taken two a day as instructed for the last two months.

red kooga ginseng

What they say:

  • Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets help provide the mind and body with a bit more ‘oomph’ when slowing down isn’t an option. It is formulated with Panax Ginseng and Guarana herbs.
  • Panax ginseng is a herb used in the Orient for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness. Guarana herb helps provide a natural source of caffeine, providing a gentle way to help you feel sharp and mentally alert.
  • Red Kooga is a natural remedy product, the tablets can be taken as a great energy booster when working out or even just to keep up with the busyness of everyday life, acting as a great alternative to coffee, energy drinks or sugary treats.
  • Ginseng supplements are best taken for a 6-8 week period followed by a couple of weeks break to obtain the maximum benefit

What I think:

  • I was interested in trying this product because at this time of year I really struggle with energy levels as it gets darker, and remain entirely reliant on too much coffee to make me function as a normal human.
  • I took the product for 8 weeks and then took a break as instructed – I have noticed absolutely no difference in my mental alertness, or my general awakeness.
  • I took it morning and night for two weeks before I realised that technically it has caffeine in it (derived from guarana). If the pills are supposed to an alternative for coffee or energy drinks, the fact that I took them then happily fell asleep counteracts that claim quite solidly.
  • I like a side of science with my supplements. There is little research available to back up the claims which are made about the benefits of ginseng and how effective it might be.

I’ve never been a great fan of homeopathy as a reliable fix for problems, so I will admit to not expecting great things from this supplement, and not being surprised when I saw no results.  I was happy to experiment with the product though, as this is not something I would normally purchase. If you want to try it yourself, then you can get it for £7.99 a box from Boots. For the same money though, you can buy a bag of high quality coffee beans and perhaps wake up a little more quickly…

 

Parkrun – Donate your time | Alzheimer’s Research UK

Santa Forgot – Alzheimer’s Research UK

Have you seen the new advert from Alzheimer’s Research UK? If not, sit down for two minutes and have a wee watch of this:

I first saw this advert at work, and had to take a little more than two minutes to compose myself afterwards. It is extremely hard for me to watch, as like too many families my own has been directly affected by the cruelty of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Christmas wasn’t as magical as it used to be. Someone was missing; tucked away. He began to mix up presents and muddle names. He seemed sad, distant, and afraid.

This month marks nine years since my maternal Grandmother slipped away, just a few days before Christmas. My family is extremely compact, and this hit our small number very hard. Nothing was ever the same again.

I struggle to find the words to articulate clearly how traumatic the few months between discovery, diagnosis and passing were, but if you’ve experienced it then you’ll know and if you haven’t, then I dearly hope you never have to.

 

If Santa had a disease, research could find a way to fix it.

I get a bizarre myriad of press releases landing in my inbox every day now; ranging from the irrelevant to the utterly bizarre, every so often something pops up which is truly worth talking about. RedWineRunner is just over six years old and there’s a lot of you out there reading this, so I’d like to take the opportunity to signal boost this campaign which is so very close to my heart. Do you run? Are you a parkrunner? Do you live near a town where there is a parkrun? If so, then listen up.

Parkrunners encouraged to ‘Donate Your Time’ for Alzheimer’s research this Christmas

Alzheimer's UK

The fundraising campaign Donate Your Time is being launched as a result of the public’s overwhelming response to the charity’s Christmas advert, Santa Forgot, which has now been viewed more than six million times. The animation has taken social media by storm with #SantaForgot trending on Twitter as dozens of celebrities spread the word, including the animation’s narrator, Stephen Fry.

Over the four weekends of December, anyone participating in parkrun, which provides free, timed 5km runs across the UK, will have the opportunity to convert their finish time into a one-off donation to Alzheimer’s Research UK, parkrun’s official charity partner. The money raised will help fund vital research into treatments and prevention of dementia.

To donate, parkrunners can simply click on the link in their results email after any parkrun from Saturday 3rd December until Christmas Eve, or go to www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/donateyourtime. On the website there is an option to halve or double the donation, or to donate an amount of your own choosing.

Kenneth Foreman, Sporting Events Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Alzheimer’s Research UK is on a mission to defeat dementia. We need each and every parkrunner to help us change the lives of those living with the condition by taking part in Donate Your Time this Christmas.”

Alzheimer's Research UK Freya PArkrun

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Santa Forgot is centred around the character of a young girl called Freya, in a world where the magic of Christmas has been lost because Santa is living with the effects of dementia and no longer visits children across the world on Christmas Eve.

The film highlights the varied symptoms and social isolation of dementia and raises awareness that the diseases that cause it, most commonly Alzheimer’s, strike indiscriminately and really can affect anyone – even Santa. On learning about Santa’s condition, Freya travels to the North Pole. She offers her own support and re-mobilises the redundant elves as researchers, explaining her belief that ‘if Santa has a disease, ‘research can find a way to fix it’.

dyt-infograpgic-2016

I would like to encourage you to donate your time this weekend if you can, or donate whatever you can afford. December is always an expensive month, but I think most of us at some point think about what we can do to be charitable as well as indulge in the season’s frivolities.

Back in 2007, for me the idea of running was a comedy concept. Normal people didn’t run; we couldn’t run races – that was just for the “RUNNERS” in London on television each April, or those annoying, sporty girls at school. Who could be bothered to keep fit anyway? I thought that was for losers. I had other concerns.

Now, 2007 feels like another lifetime ago. My Granma never knew me as a runner; she was always staunchly, unwaveringly proud of whatever I achieved back then, but I wish she could have known about this huge part of my life. What would she say if I could tell her that I once ran 95 miles non-stop? That I ran the whole West Highland Way in one go?

My Grampa is still with us. The first mile of the D33 goes past the end of their road in Aberdeen, and every year he comes down to wave to all the runners as we start, and then he comes back around 5 hours later to wave at me as I finish and give me Merchant Navy-style abuse for keeping him out waiting and not being quicker. I wish she could be there too.

This weekend I will be donating my time after a visit to Stonehaven parkrun, and I’d love to hear about it if you choose to donate your time to fight Alzheimer’s as well.

Granma

For Doreen Hastie; 1926 – 2007.

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