Red Wine Runner

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Running Science by John Brewer | Book Review

Running Science – John Brewerrunning science by John Brewer

In the last week I have been enjoying a new book which was sent to me; Running Science: Optimising Training and Performance. Published by Ivy Press, this large, hardback book is a compendium of contributions by 11 sports scientists and researchers, and edited by sports scientist and Running Magazine columnist, Professor John Brewer. The book looks at the scientific facts behind some of the world’s best performances and includes insights and analysis which apply to all runners from amateur to elite.

running science by john brewer

Running is deceptively simple as we all know. At an access level it is one of the easiest sports to break into, but to improve and reach ones’ peak potential requires a careful balance of nutrition, conditioning, and environment; all of which are firmly rooted in science. John Brewer and his team of experts examined hundreds of scientific studies on running and broke down the details and analysis to produce eight chapters of technical information, presented in a colourful and easy to understand format.

running science by john brewer

The findings are collated as a series of questions, many of which the reader will have asked themselves or their friends at some point:

Do you really need to stretch? Why can’t I catch my breath after I stop running? Do I have to load up on carbs to be a good endurance runner? What is DOMS and is it beneficial? Do i really need to warm up?

Anyone who has ever been in a running Facebook group will be familiar with the standard sofa-scientist answers to these questions, delivered with un-sourced references to ‘I once heard…’ or ‘In my experience…’. Of course there is some benefit to hearing about others’ experiences, but it is really refreshing to look up a question in this book and then get a fully referenced, scientific answer with a short, digestible explanation and diagrams where appropriate.

running science by john brewer

Other questions enhance appreciation for the incredible feats of the worlds’ greatest athletes – what would it actually take to run a 2 hour marathon? The Nike project certainly came close recently, but we still haven’t quite got there. Brewers’ answer to this question gives us a technical breakdown of what he thinks is actually required to achieve this, which isn’t too distant from what Nike recently attempted.

running science by john brewer

There are sections for specific events such as marathons and ultras, as well as questions regarding equipment and kit, including an answer to the oft-asked question: “Can running shoes help my running form – are my running shoes right for me?” There’s even an investigation into the science behind the influence of technology on runners’ psychological states, which for those of us who have ever panicked when the Garmin ran out of battery mid-race, makes for an interesting read.

running science by john brewer

I was so impressed with this book and the way it answers the questions that I’ve read it from cover to cover, soaking up all of the information provided in the infographics, and enjoying the full-page action photographs. Equally, it could sit on your shelf as a reference publication for the next time you have a burning question (or, if someone happens to be wrong on the internet…).

I would highly recommend this book as essential reading for any runner, from the curious beginner wanting to learn more, to the seasoned athlete wishing to fine-tune their performance to perfection. It would make a perfect gift for the runner in your life, or perhaps as a post-race treat for yourself; it is available from all usual book outlets at an RRP of £20.

Follow John Brewer on Twitter here: @sportprofbrewer

I received an advance copy of Running Science to review, but all opinions are as ever, my own.

Running For Mental Health – When it just doesn’t add up

This week I have regrettably had to make a very hard decision, and emailed my declaration as a DNS (Did Not Start) for the Cateran Trail 55 mile race. I’ve decided to write about this rather than just sweep it under the carpet as I think there are some things that I need to say about some stuff. Usually when I feel like this, I feel a lot better after I’ve written it all down, and on this occasion I’ve decided to share it with you. This might be a difficult read, so buckle up.

A couple of weeks ago I got very ill just before running the London Marathon, and in the end I managed to run it anyway. Fuck knows how. I really don’t know; some kind of combination of ragged determination, muscle memory, base fitness, seven years of failed ballot frustration, and the sounds of hundreds of thousands of voices cheering me on from the sidelines. It was not the smart decision, but one I made independently; fully in the knowledge that I would probably pay the price with a vastly extended recovery but that it was going to be worth it. It was; I had a great time, and I regret nothing.

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You will, of course, not be at all surprised to read that my immune system took an absolute hammering afterwards, and that topping off my meagre pre-race recovery with a 26.7 mile (yes, you better believe I’m counting that bonus 0.5 mile because I felt every bloody step) run left me in a sorry state. The race was just under three weeks ago; I’m still coughing up crap, my lungs feel like they are the size of fists, and my fatigue levels have been horrible. I live on the fourth floor of a tenement building, and I can confirm that coming home from work every day is my Everest. Once I’m in, I ain’t leaving.

I’ve ran three times since London – three five mile jogs. Each has been a massive effort, and disturbingly uncomfortable. I’m getting better, but it’s taking time. I’d love to go to the doctor and clear up my fears of viral pneumonia, but I’m a relatively new  resident to the South Side of Edinburgh and every single GP practice is full with their waiting list closed… One does not simply ‘register’ for a Doctor in Edinburgh. I might go and get myself hit by a truck so I have an excuse to go to A&E…

Anyway; that’s not why I’m here tonight. I want to talk about my attitude to all of this and why it’s so messed up. You’d think, after reading the above paragraphs, that it would be a relatively straightforward decision to NOT run the 55 mile trail race on Saturday. But ultrarunners are TOUGH aren’t they? STRONG? Unstoppable?

How TOUGH is tough enough?

My subculture prides itself on being relentless. We go places people don’t go, travel distances that usually only vehicles can, and generally defy all common logic as to the definition of what an enjoyable way to spend a weekend is. People work towards this in varying ways, but often, there is often a sense of pride in showing up to a start line under-trained. For many, finishes are celebrated in overcoming hardship instead of speed. Show up hungover and out of shape yet still record a 50 miler finish, and you will be a temporary hero. However, we all know that the biggest secret to ultrarunning is that there is no secret at all – if you want to do it, you can.  You don’t even need two legs for fucks’ sake; just bottomless tenacity and an iron will to succeed.

I’m not very tough right now. Despite this, I know I could actually finish the race. I know that eventually I would get there; drag my carcass over the finish line and receive the commendation that feels so good. That won’t fix the problem though.

How STRONG is strong enough?

When I wanted to ask my friends what to do, I already knew what the answer would be; so I didn’t bother.

Woman up. Man up and get on with it. Ya big jessie. BLOUSE. Just start and see how you feel; you’ll finish anyway. It’s just running. Don’t over-think it. Shut up and just run. Tough it out – you’ll get through it.

Everything I’ve worked to train myself in since my first ultra in 2012 has been towards building a strong and resilient human. It was never about being fast, or looking fit and lean. I wanted to be unstoppable; to overcome, to be superwoman. A sufferer of poor mental health since my late teens, I’ve never quite figured out whether I’ve been running away from something or running towards it, but either way, I’ve always had to be one step ahead of the black dog which relentlessly sniffs around my heels. Ultra-running empowers me. It just makes me a better version of myself from top to toe. If you’ve finished the West Highland Way Race, there’s not much in life that can make you feel like you can’t overcome it one way or the other.

the-only-thing-standing-in-between-you-and-your-go

Oh. Ok, thanks. There are a million visualisations of this bullshit quote by Jordan Belfort out there, but I picked this one because it has a lion on it, and I like cats. Screw this online viral noise…but why does the message continue to resonate?

I’ve DNS’d a couple of races in the past due to poor life management, but never like this. I have never actually been not capable of doing the race I’m signed up for. I’ve never not been strong enough to commit to the starting line, and this actually has nothing to do with the fact that I’m getting over the flu. I have spent so much time this week going over my ‘excuses’ for not doing the race and trying to figure out if I was looking for an excuse to punk out, or whether I was legitimately not up to it. It’s really hard to figure out if you are ok when your day-to-day average ‘ok’ line is pretty low anyway, and when ‘ok’ in an ultra means showing up at a check point dehydrated, with a mild concussion, and hallucinating.

It’s hard to extract the part of yourself that needs to be looked after, when looking after yourself often means going for a run. At times, running is both my killer and my cure, my light and my darkness, my blessing and my curse.

west highland way race 2015

I want to be her again. I want to be that strong, that tough, and that happy. Doing this race will not make me her. I am trying to become a person which I spent years building, but lost again after just a few short months when I got too exhausted to keep ahead of the black dog who chased me. Showing up on the starting line on Saturday will not bring her back. She can come back, but just not right now.

west highland way race 2015

Taking a step back, this still has nothing to do with the flu. Why did I get so sick and for so long? It’s because I am exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted. In three weeks time I will have been living alone in Edinburgh for a year, separately from my husband as we live our little lives as two insignificant victims of the oil crash in Aberdeen. It’s been a year of constant travel, constant stress, constant arguments, constant attempts at planning, constant attempts to support each other, occasional hope, and constant failure. I could write a book about everything he, I, and our associated friends and family have been going through regarding this,  but I suspect you can probably imagine how shit it is and you’d be absolutely correct.

Last weekend in the Algarve - A rare occasion when we've spent the whole weekend together in the last year

Last weekend in the Algarve – A rare occasion when we’ve spent the whole weekend together in the last year. Nice big happy, social media smiles on our faces…

Situational sadness with seemingly never-ending stress is one thing, add that on top of clinical depression and crippling anxiety and you’ve got a hell of a ride. To this end, I can’t do the Cateran Trail 55 this weekend because I don’t think I can handle the journey. I’m not tough enough, strong enough, or stupid enough right now to take this on. I know I’m not fit enough to phone it in, so in order to complete it I would need to dig incredibly deeply; probably into a place where I’m just not willing to go right now. I spend enough of my time cloaked in stress, sadness and exhaustion that I just can’t face voluntarily going there.

I was attempting to try and fix everything with a big long run on Saturday, but I may as well bring a knife to a gun fight.

Glencoe_AliR

You may have heard that it’s Mental Health Awareness week – so I guess this is my contribution. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how running can help your mental health and there is no doubt that it can work wonders, but it is not a cure. For me; what comes up must always come down, there is a yin to every yang. When you rely on something to fix you, when you can’t or won’t do it, then you need to have something else to keep your head above the water.

I’m sorry I don’t have the answer. I’m sorry this isn’t very positive. In this new world of talking about our difficulties and being so open about our mental health, for those of you who don’t suffer; know this – It is not all happy endings, #mindovermarathon, and victory montages at the finish line. Not all of us survive this and it is not something that ever ends in a lifetime – until it does… 127 people a week in the UK took their own lives in 2016, and female suicide rates are at their highest in a decade [source] . This isn’t a bandwagon or a popular campaign. It is not an emoji, a hashtag, or a shareable Facebook picture for #AWARENESS. For 1 in 6 of us it is life, and the strongest suffers will probably never let you know.

I have no idea how to end this post, other than with a link to the Samaritans, and a request that you keep looking out for one another. Be kind. You never know what battles people are fighting when your back is turned.

Contact the Samaritans here.

 

Reebok Floatride Shoe Review

Back at the start of February, I was offered the incredible opportunity to join a small team of bloggers and influencers to participate in the launch of the new Reebok Floatride shoe. As an ambassador with Team Floatride, I was generously provided with a place in the 2017 London Marathon, two pairs of Reebok Floatride to train in, a bundle of lovely Reebok kit to run in, and a coach to make sure I run my best race. I’ve been training in the Floatrides for over two months now, so it’s time to write up a review and share my thoughts on these brand new kicks.

reebok floatride

When you think of Reebok the brand these days, many active people would immediate associate it with modern fitness trends such as Crossfit  or the Spartan race series. In recent years, huge title partnerships and sponsorship of these events have kept Reebok relevant to many in the fitness community, but they have not been a go-to brand for distance runners.  With the distance running market dominated by big players such as Nike, Adidas and Asics, Reebok are back fighting with a renewed focus on running and are launching their return to this market with the Reebok Floatride Run shoe.  Floatride has been designed to compete at the top of the performance running shoe market alongside recent popular releases like the Nike Flyknit and the Adidas Boost, and is found at an equivalent price point in the market.

Reebok Floatride – Key Features

reebok floatride

There are several factors which make the Reebok Floatride a unique-to-market shoe. Firstly, there is the unusual knitted fabric upper which feels almost like a sock, the 3d moulded seamless cup heel, and the light foam sole cushioning which all add up to make the shoe a whisper-light 233g. A lot of science, technology and testing was invested in the development, with over 300 runners testing the shoe in its many earlier beta forms.

  1. Floatride Foam: The Floatride Foam has a consistent cell structure that delivers the seamless integration of cushioning and responsiveness. This is over 50% lighter than standard EVA foam (ethylene vinyl acetate) which is used in most cushioned shoes.
  2. Ultraknit Upper: A seam-free Ultraknit upper construction is engineered in zones to provide adaptive comfort that offers support and breathable flexibility.
  3. EVA Support Rim: Supportive foam rim centers and balances your foot throughout the gait cycle.

What I think

reebok floatride

We’re now at a point where I’ve used up all the technical information available to me about the shoe, and I’m at risk of losing everyone’s interest. If you’ve read this far, then you’ll be wanting to know my honest thoughts.

These are definitely the most ‘fancy’ shoes I’ve ever trained in, and quite the departure from my OnRunning Cloudsurfers which I have ran almost exclusively in (on roads) for around five years. Generally I know what I like, and I stick to what I know; I’m not one to drink the KoolAid of new shoe releases and only seek out new solutions to problems as and when they occur. I don’t really care what kind of foam is in my sole, as long as it feels good to run in.

The fit: I wear an EU42 in road shoes, which is either an UK8.5 or a UK9 depending on the brand, and sometimes even a UK8. If at some point we could achieve some consistency on that, that would be GREAT… but I digress. It’s an awkward size of foot to have as often I find that the women’s sizing will stop at an 8, and men’s 8 will be too big (a wider fit). Perhaps you’re beginning to understand why I don’t change my shoe brands often – if I find that rare magic slipper that fits just right, then I tend to stick with it. So, having relayed this sob story to Reebok, they sent me a men’s UK8.5/EU42.5. This fits me perfectly, with plenty of room in the toebox for toe movement and feet swelling; important when it comes to marathoning.

Cage Lacing Support: You will see from the pictures that the sides of the shoes have a plastic cage grid encasing them. This provides additional stability and support, gripping this foot in an adjustable manner via the lacing. Given that the upper of the shoe is basically a toughened sock, this means that all of your support comes from the cage. This is new to me, but I liked it. I have to be careful not to tie too tightly though, as it makes your little toes go numb.

‘Ultraknit’ Upper: Another new-to-me feature of a shoe, but I like how breathable it makes your entire foot, which allows for easy sweat wicking and  drying. In theory you could probably wear these without socks, but I am definitely a fan of socks and I don’t like running without them. It took me a while to find the right pair though; Injinji Trail Weight toe socks do the best job for me as I needed the extra padding on the Achilles area.

Run Feel: The most important part. The Reebok Floatride feels light like a minimal shoe, but the fancy, light foam cushions like a long distance road shoe.  I’m really intrigued to see how this shoe performs in the London Marathon because every training run, both long and slow and short and fast, has been extremely comfortable so far. The sole is appropriately ‘grippy’ so that you feel confident flying downhill on wet pavement and even on light trail, and the shoe really comes into its own when you’re cruising at race pace.

Colours: As I have the men’s shoe, I have the blue and black colourway which is shown in most of the pictures. Ladies sizing comes in a zingy neon yellow and silver which I have to admit I am quite envious of. They also feature reflective heels which adds to the futuristic vibe. From a purely stylish point of view, these are the kind of trainers which you could easily wear all day if athleisure is your thing.

reebok floatride

In summary; if you’re looking for a modern, neutral shoe which is a break from the norm then the Reebok Floatride Run would be worth a try. I’ve ran about 100 miles in these shoes, and my only issue thus far has been finding the right socks in order to get maximum comfort on long runs. These seem to really suit me and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to try them out before they hit the shelves on April 1st, and of course to pound the pavements of London in them on the 23rd of April, in pursuit of my first London Marathon finish.

The Reebok Floatride Run retails at £119.99 and can be bought from Sweatshop.

Disclosure: I was provided with these products to test and review as part of the Reebok #FloatrideLondon ambassador team. Images and some tech details are courtesy of Reebok (I don’t know THAT much about trainer foam), but this article and the opinions expressed throughout are my own.

Active Root | The Natural Ginger Sports Drink

Recently I’ve been testing some samples of a new sports drink called Active Root, which is made right here in my adopted home of Edinburgh. I’d heard about Active Root through various outlets but had never come across a sample, so I was pleased to give it a go. I absolutely LOVE anything ginger, including when I’m out running, so it seemed like the product would be perfect for me. I wasn’t wrong and I’ve really enjoyed drinking it on long and short runs, and even for tackling a hangover. It’s zingy and refreshing without being too sweet, and tastes great even after six hours on the trail.

I was really keen to support this new Scottish business, so I asked the founder of Active Root, George Ashley, if he would answer some questions about his products so that I could say a bit more than “This Tastes Awesome!”. Read on to learn about what makes Active Root special, where you can buy it, and what the next steps are for the team…

active root sports drink

Can you tell us a bit about Active Root – what is it and what does it do? What makes it different from other sports drinks?

Active Root is the first natural, ginger based sports drink. It is designed to help avoid and alleviate stomach discomfort and nausea before, during and after exercise. It also tastes pretty  good! There is a whole host of data from peer reviewed scientific journals to our own  investigations to suggest ginger calms the stomach and decreases nausea. This forms the basis  of what makes Active Root different from other sports drinks.

Where did the idea to make a ginger sports drink come from? Why choose ginger?

My business partner Will and I were sat in a pub in Edinburgh in early 2013. His mother used to give him ginger beer as a child when he had an upset stomach. Both of us had experienced stomach issues before and after long runs and bike rides. After a few more beers and discussion, we realised that this could form the basis of a business.

How did you get from an initial idea to prototype? How much testing did you do?

For the first 9 months we attempted to fuse a sports drink recipe with a ginger beer recipe with little success. Our ‘lab’ was my kitchen using a blender and some simple equipment. I have a background in bench science so that came in handy. We experimented with different ingredients, concentrations and production methods most Saturdays throughout the summer of 2013, and eventually, we came up with something both of us would drink!

In 2014, Huw joined the team via a mutual friend and Active Root formed the basis of his Master’s project at University in Edinburgh. We compared the stomach settling qualities of Active Root against another sports drink (with no ginger) and water. We had 40 volunteers for the study, involving a series of 5k races and a semi-quantitative questionnaire. The results suggested that Active Root decreases gastric issues by 40% compared to the other two drinks. In 2017, we have a further study planned, in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University.

Active Root is now made by a third party manufacturer so all necessary quality and lab checks are conducted in-house. It’s a long way from my old kitchen in Marchmont!

What was the biggest challenge in production?

In 2015, and still pre-trading, we decided to move from a liquid product to a dissoluble powder. This was not only to make Active Root a viable business from a financial perspective, but also to give the consumer more flexibility with Active Root in terms of where they want to use the product. That could be on their bike, in their rucksack or in the cup holder whilst down the gym.

The biggest challenge was converting our recipe into a viable powder form. However, we have a great manufacturing partner in the north of the UK who have been very helpful in the whole process.

What has been your favourite moment of the Active Root journey so far?

There has been a few but probably seeing Active Root on the shelves for the first time in shops such as the Apple Pharmacy and Run and Become in Edinburgh. Seeing that really brought it all home for me.

Is Active Root a full time job now, or do you balance it with other commitments?

Will and myself have other roles, which provide funding for the company, but we have two full time people. It’s an unconventional setup but it currently works for us.

Who else is on the team and what do they do? Are you all runners?

As well as Will and myself, we have Huw who is our main full time person, and backbone of the company, as well as one other who is a little shy! Everyone is critical to the team. We are all runners; I am mainly a XC and road runner, Huw is an orienteer by trade, and Will is our expert triathlete and Ironman.

If you could see any athlete drinking Active Root, who could it be?

Primarily runners, cyclists and anyone into endurance sports. However, Active Root can be used by anyone who likes ginger and wants to balance their system throughout exercise. Gym goers, hill walkers, footballer and even golfers!
If you are asking about one particular individual, it would probably have to be Joe Root (the English cricketer) for obvious reasons! If the customer feels so inclined, it also makes a great mixer and an even better hangover
cure! [Editor’s Note: Can confirm – alleviated most red wine hangover symptoms in our extensive in house trials]

Any plans to sponsor any athletes or events?

Yes, we are the official hydration partner of Spartan Races in the UK for 2017. This is major platform for us to bring Active Root to as many people as possible across the UK. Spartan are a great partner and have been extremely helpful in promoting us and helping us develop.

In March 2017 we have a trade stand at the Scottish Cycling, Running and Outdoor Pursuits Show at the SECC in Glasgow. This is the largest show of its kind in Scotland and provides Active Root with the opportunity to engage with around 10,000 active folk to see what they think of our product. It also gives them an opportunity to buy some!
We are involved with other, more small scale events this year as well and I would recommend anyone to check out www.activeroot.co.uk to find out more regarding where we will be this year.

Any plans for any other ginger products? Please say yes – I would love a ginger gel!

A second flavour is in development and all will be revealed in due course. As for a ginger gel, that is an idea that has been on the white board in the office for a while but we’ve made no putative steps towards it yet.

Where can we buy Active Root?

Active Root is currently available to buy on our site here at http://www.activeroot.co.uk/store and we are also available in store and online at Run and Become Edinburgh (http://www.runandbecome.com/shop-online) and in store at the Apple Pharmacy in Edinburgh (http://www.applepharmacy.co.uk/).

 

 

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