Friday, 31 March 2017

Vik's Picks : March 2017

This month my picks are very much geared towards looking after myself. I make no apology for the local links... these guys are part of my unofficial tried-and-tested rehab crew, but even if you're not, finding your own "team" is worth considering. As my own training ramps up I'm trying to make an extra special effort to give enough time to recovery and as we edge closer to many people's marathon dates it's quite relevant!

1. Torq energy gels have been fuelling me on some of my bike rides recently. I
ve chosen to try them on the bike rides rather than on runs on the basis that as I've not ventured out of the gym for cycling lately, if they do upset me I'm only a hop and a skip from some "facilities". Loving the dessert inspired flavours like raspberry ripple, apple crumble and rhubarb and custard!

2. Meridian Foods Coconut & Almond butter has also been fuelling me, but mainly post run or for breakfasts in over night oats, on bagels and rice cakes. I like the subtle hint of coconut and how spreadable it is. Doesn't seem to separate too much and is also an excellent addition to banana bread!

3. Well Being Treatments is the business name taken by the lovely Georgina who has been looking after Dean and I for months with sports massages. She's the only person who's managed to get Dean close to being able to touch his toes - how's that for magic? I firmly believe that massage shouldn't be a last resort but a regular part of your routine if you train for events.

4. Similarly I've been visiting Elgar Physio for some months now on a voyage of discovery to find out what's causing my niggly knee and what might fix it. Five minutes of backwards walking at least every other day seems to be doing the trick for the most part and again I think if you can find a physio that you get on with, you will better recover from and avoid injury. Matt doesn't claim to know everything and I like his down to earth approach fuelled by curiosity.

5. A little bit of self-care I can do at home is soaking those tired muscles. Adding Champneys Heavenly Days Relaxing Bubble Heaven to my bath has been a more regular treat in the last couple of months. I still use salts but when I'm highly strung after a hard session this helps to calm me. If you're a Vitality member you can get a discount on these products direct from Champneys but they are also available from Boots stores.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Event Review : Polar Night Half Marathon 2017

There's quite a back log of races to write about, and while some I may not, I wanted to share my experience of the Polar Night Half Marathon that I revisited back in January. You may recall I ran this last year with a couple of friends and at the time thought "great, that was fun, another tick" and toyed with the idea of the Midnight Sun Marathon but not the night one again.

Ha! What a fool was I? My friends signed up again almost immediately and eventually I was persuaded to go back out to Tromso too. And then Dean said he'd come and run too, as some partners were also coming out to Northern Norway, so that was that. Hotel was booked, flights sought, down jackets prised out of the wardrobe and ice grips left until the last minute to buy (and failed to turn up in time).
Landed in Norway!
The trip out was fine and we were delighted to get snowfall on our first night. There was already snow on the ground but it wasn't as thick as the year before and it was a little warmer, meaning conditions were slushier underfoot. Discussions were had about the merits of trail shoes against road shoes either with or without grips. As the race doesn't start until 3pm we had a morning to try out some options and ask the locals at the race pack pick up.
As last year, registration was busy but efficient. Timing chips were checked to be working, we were given a bottle of water and a race paper (in which two of my travelling partners made an appearance) and able to ask the burning questions. "If you want to get a time or win, wear spikes" was the advice of a local. I hadn't brought trail shoes so road shoes it was! There was no further snowfall and temperatures were verging on comfortable. Whilst I was at the "expo" I pawed again at the race t-shirts and other items. Everything in Norway seems expensive and if you ever thought a race vest was pricey in the UK you can imagine how much more it might be out there. Regardless, Dean bought us both a race t-shirt and an additional reflective beanie hat for me. Bless! They didn't half look smart and they were duly worn over base layers for the event.
His and hers t-shirts. Here, have a sick bucket...
On the start line once more I was looking forward to it all. Dean was nervous and excited and just a general bundle of fizziness. We set off, slowly at first as we got used to the ground underneath, and to be fair we didn't get an awful lot faster. Conditions were ok, slightly slippery, but calm in the residential areas that the route winds through at first. There was just as much support as last year, lots of marshals around and torches all along the way. As we came out of the residential area and beside the water towards the airport the winds started to whip the snow around us. My face started to feel red raw on one side and I gave up wiping my nose. A gel was consumed at 5 miles and half way was a very welcome sight. Dean was seeming strong but I was finding it all very hard going from mile 9 and eventually I had to call out to him to slow to a walk for a moment. I had the second of the gels I had with me and we walked for a while. Turns out he wasn't feeling too great either and we ran-walked a couple of miles, managing to jog the last mile (I can always run a mile, but stringing them together doesn't alway happen).
Post race with medal. 
Some of our group had done the 5k option and others in the half marathon had beaten us home so we got a nice cheer on the final straight. Hot squash and bananas were hoovered up, alongside several snickers bars (Dean) and we all retired to our hotel to defrost, clean up and rest in advance of a group dinner and drinks later. Olhallen, the brewery bar we enjoyed so much last year, was the go-to destination.
Fighting with the bear in Olhallen
With the race being on a Saturday we had a couple of days after to relax and sight see. We were fortunate enough to get the last few spots on a whale watching trip on the Sunday and took some time to meander around the town, on Monday, after the obligatory recovery run over the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral and back. And just to top everything off we saw the Northern Lights again whilst on the plane heading home.
Dressed for whale watching
Arty photo moment
A great time was had by all and despite the event being such hard work on this occasion, I thoroughly enjoyed it (in hindsight) and would absolutely do it again, although I think we've got our sights set on the Midnight Sun event for 2018! These events are well organised, not too huge, and a real novelty for those of us used to running in the UK. They're not cheap but it's a great excuse to travel and maybe fit in some other activities while you're there.

What's the most unusual event you've ever taken part in? Does night running or ice running appeal?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Event Review : Liphook sportive

Last year, inspired, coerced and influenced by Dean, I took part in my first sportive event. For the uninitiated a sportive is a cycling event, non-competitive, but with full organisation. I am not, and probably never will be a "cyclist", although I wish I were. As such I am not used to cycling any sort of distance and the thought of having some company, a planned route and a reward at the end seemed like a good idea, an achievable, not-too-scary sort of challenge.

There are a whole host of sportives to choose from, various terrain, distances, with or without medals and so on. I chose the Evans Cycles Road Sportive in Liphook. This took place in August around a very beautiful area in Hampshire. There were four distances to choose from, Fun (15mi), Short (30mi), Medium (60mi) and Long (90mi). Prices ranged from £7.50 up to £25 for fully marked routes and well stocked High5 feed stations along the way. No medal or goody bag at the end but refreshments were available.

I decided that 30mi was enough for me, paid my £20 and shoehorned my bike into the car on the day in question. It was easy enough to find the place and get registered. I was given a map of the routes and directed to the start line. This sportive had a very laid back feel and riders were being set off in waves all morning. I was fairly late to arrive and my start group was small with a mix of serious looking riders, leisure riders like myself and a few kiddies. I wobbled away from the start apprehensively but reassured that I had others to ride with who seemed to be of a similar speed. The first few miles were lovely, signs were evident and I was feeling safe on the quiet country roads. 

The short and fun route followed the same path for a while but there was a point at which they diverged, marked, I was assured, by clear signs. Alas they weren't as obvious as claimed and a small group of us were left consulting maps and scratching heads as it seemed we may have missed the turn. I wasn't sure I'd missed it and ploughed on, only to find myself back on familiar roads and back at the start all too soon. I'd completed the fun route and was't allowed back out to try my luck again, as I was told that the signage was being taken down and they couldn't be held responsible for my safety. I was gutted., but it wasn't really anyone's fault.

Deflated, I stuffed the bike back in the car, unwilling to try riding on unfamiliar roads to make up distance, and drove home where I stubbornly rode around the roads of Crowthorne until I'd made up the 30 miles. There was some small sense of satisfaction to be gained from that.

This year I've once again been persuaded to enter another sportive, as part of my triathlon training. This time I'm taking part in the New Forest Spring sportive organised by Wiggle. A 50 mile ride on a Sunday with a medal at the end sounds lovely and this time I'll be doing it with Dean and other friends. I'm anticipating a more positive experience although it will still be a heck of a challenge.

Although my experience of the Evans Cycles sportive wasn't the best I do still believe these to be excellent events for cyclists at any level. Just make sure you have and can read a back up map, just in case!

Have you ever taken part in a sportive? Ever had a mapping mishap?