Walk don't run

I’ve not run for four weeks now due to a niggling but pretty sore knee. I first noticed it around the start of May but thought nothing much of it. But a week to ten days later and it was getting worse. Getting and our of the car was difficult and if I stretched my leg in a certain position it was agony – like someone stabbing my knee. All this was accompanied by a quite horrible tearing noise and a burning sensation that lasted for ten to twenty minutes. But I could still run, walk etc so just carrie don regardless.

Then around mid May I ran five miles and an hour after that the knee was in pretty bad shape. Nothing during the run but so sore after sitting for a while. For a few days after stairs were tricky and I decided to rest the running for a while to see if it helped. After a week it felt a bit better but I really missed going out for a run so to test it I did a four mile walk. Ouch.

About half way through I had to stop as every step was sore. I had a slow stroll home and decided to rest it some more. Most folk told me to seek out a physio but my stubbornness kicked in and I thought rest would be enough. It eased off slightly but every few days I’d tweak it again and it would reset back to the start. Roll onto this week and I bit the bullet and booked in to see a physio.

While he couldn’t diagnose what was wrong there looks to be no permanent damage and nothing that I should be apprehensive about. The advice was to do a variety of stretches and strengthening exercises and also to start slowly – walk before I run. I’ve to ice the knee frequently too to help with any slight swelling.

Hopefully I’ll be back running in the next 3-4 weeks as I really do miss not only the exercise but it’s a great way to clear the mind. Whatever happens, this has been a bit of a lesson. Next time I get an injury I’ll be visiting the physio far earlier. One day I’ll learn!

Glasgow 2014 - Bowls

It’s halfway through the Commonwealth Games 2014 hosted in Glasgow. I’d tried to get a variety of tickets and ended up with some badminton for later this week. A few weeks ago I decdied to get some tickets for the bowls for me and mum to visit as the event takes place at Kelvingrove which is where my dad used to play.

Over the years the clubhouse and the greens had become unloved and looked pretty shabby so it was great to see then renovated and the facilities looked superb.

As for the bowls itself, it was good to watch and some great competition across the various matches going on.

It was a great day and hats off to the organisation at Kelvingrove which was great. The clydesiders were in good form and it was a breeze going through security. Plenty of toilets and everything was clearly signposted.

The only negative was the range of food on offer. Two food outlets with a poor choice of food and it was expensive and of fairly poor quality. It’s a real shame that some of the great food outlets from around Glasgow weren’t there – were they given the opportunity? Not sure if it’s the same across all venues but felt like an opportunity missed especially with Mother India just across the road and a whole host of great restaurants around Kelvingrove and Finnieston.

Overall though it was a great day and the weather played ball too – full set of photo’s are up on Flickr. Glasgow has never looked better and I’m looking forward to the badminton on Saturday – semi-finals day!

Still Running

Three years ago I bought some proper shoes so I could start running. I lasted 4 weeks. The year after, two weeks. Useless. July 14th 2013 I gave it one more go….and this time it stuck.

In the last year I’ve:

  • Ran 463 miles
  • Ran 110 times
  • Averaged 4.21 miles for each run, much higher than expected
  • Seen a lot of Glasgow
  • Realised that I love running in winter, summer…not so much
  • Tracked all my runs in RunKeeper

I mention RunKeeper for a good reason. Firstly it’s free and using it’s 5k training plan it got me running on a varied program which kept it interesting and challenging. Secondly I can download all the GPX files (XML file of GPS waypoints) and produce graphics like this.

Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.
Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.

When I read the Flowing Data post called Where People Run in Major Cities and saw the visualisations they had produced I knew I wanted to do the same. I worried I wouldn’t have done enough runs with variety but I’m pleased with how it came out. I’m also surprised at some of the area’s I haven’t run in which means some good options going forward. Nothing better than running somewhere new to keep things interesting. RunKeeper also exports your data in csv so you can graph it with ease.

Distance per month in miles
Distance per month in miles
Number of runs per month
Number of runs per month
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!

Lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months are obvious really with hindsight but worth repeating. Firstly, always stretch, warm up and warm down properly before and after each run. I’ve got lazy with this sometimes and can feel little niggles creep in when I don’t do this properly. Secondly – listen to your body. If you are feeling a bit under the weather or are carrying an injury then tailor the run accordingly. Third – BFH – bus fare home. A couple of times on longer runs I’d be three miles from home, feeling a bit sore, tired or ill and no money to get a bus or taxi home. So I carry a small bit of money on those longer runs just in case. Fourth – hydrate. Don’t underestimate how much fluid you will lose on hot long runs. Plenty of water before and after should see you through a run up to 10km but anything more then I’d carry some water to keep me going. Finally, enjoy it and keep the routes varied. I struggled to get going at first as I stay on a hill and the climb back at the end always defeated me. Building up on a flat canal close to home got me running further and further until I’d got a large enough base to tackle hills. However it was getting boring running up and down the same stretch of water so it was great to branch out and vary my runs.

Looking forward I’ve some small goals to keep me going:

  • Run 500 miles in a year. Narrowly missed this year but if I keep consistent and injury free it should be achievable
  • Improve speed
  • Buy new shoes as the current ones are starting to get a bit done. A trip to Achilles Heel is in order.
  • I’m interested in measuring heart rate but hanging fire on getting anything until Apple announce…something?
  • Play some more with R. Some interesting data in those RunKeeper files.
  • One thing I won’t be doing is entering any races. I don’t know why but racing just doesn’t appeal to me.

So thats my running year. I still can’t believe I’ve been out over 100 times but looking forward to 100 more. At least.

All Change

It was good to have F1 back this morning and hopefully a return to more exciting races after last years procession. The changes this year are vast and are acting almost as a reset button on who has the best car. The result of the changes are a set of ugly cars that sound very different to the last few years but have seen a fair amount of change in qualification this morning.

F1 Teams - Australia 2013 compared to 2014 qualifying
F1 Teams – Australia 2013 compared to 2014 qualifying

Comparing 2013 and 2014 Australian from a team perspective shows just how much change has taken place. Renault in last place shows they are toiling and their struggles in testing have transferred onto Australia. Kimi won for them in Australia last year! Red Bull have actually done better than most expected but the surprise for me was Ferrari – expected a bit more after pre-season testing. Great to see Williams and McLaren improving after a torrid year and well played Toro Rosso too. Simple take away is Mercedes is the engine to have and Renault have a bit of catch up to do.

What about returning drivers?

F1 Drivers - Australia 2013 compared to 2014 qualifying
F1 Drivers – Australia 2013 compared to 2014 qualifying

A great day for Hamilton, Rosberg and especially Ricciardo. As for Vettel I don’t think you can blame waved yellows or conditions as Ricciardo was consistently quicker than him throughout qualifying. Hulkenburg proved his class and Bottas showed promise in the Williams. The other positives were the young guys coming in and performing great – bodes well for a competitive season.

Alonso must have a sense of deja-vu and if Ferrari don’t improve I can see him move next year. Button was disappointing and Grosjean must wonder what the next year holds for him.

I’ve got high hopes that this will be a cracking season, partly after last years dominance by Red Bull and Seb Vettel and also due to the unreliability that the cars have and also the potential for more overtakes due to the regulation changes. Roll on 6am tomorrow!

Workout Complete

That sense of satisfaction as the robotic female voice kicks in and proclaims ‘workout complete’ has become familiar over the last 9 weeks. Using a RunKeeper beginner 5k training program I’ve went from struggling to complete just 1km without collapsing to running 5k’s, not with ease or quickly, but regularly and unexpectedly looking forward to my next run.

5k run along the canal
5k run along the canal

The workout program was excellent as it kept the run’s varied and gradually stepped up pace and distance. I’m actually surprised at some of the distances I managed through the 9 weeks with a couple of 10k runs thrown in to the mix although I did feel the impact on my knee’s and legs the following days. However now that the program has come to an end I am left wondering….what now?

The 5k was a target to aim for and I really enjoyed reaching that goal. However I have zero interest in running a 5 or 10k race. Don’t know why but it just doesn’t appeal to me. I do however want to keep on running especially during the autumn and winter months. I can already feel the chill in the air on some of the morning runs, so much so that I popped down to Achilles Heel and picked up some running tights. That’s something I never expected to be buying!

I’m sticking with RunKeeper and have selected a fat burning program which I hope has enough variety over the coming weeks to keep me interested. I may also try a parkrun as it’s worked so well for Henry. The aim for the next few weeks is to look at improving my 5k times and keep running regularly which I’m sure will be more challenging as the weather turns but then again, this running lark is weirdly addictive.

Running Part 2

Two years ago I blogged that I had started running. That lasted for four weeks and then I stopped. I started again last year…well I ran once last year and then that was it. Back in 2011 I’d even gone so far to pick up some proper running shoes which really made for a more comfortable run but I just fell out of the habit.

So it was mid July 2013 and I was seeing some great posts on Instagram and Twitter from people who were out running which was pretty impressive as we were in the middle of a heat wave. I was inspired so it was out with the running shoes to give it another go. The problem I had was I live on the crest of a fairly small hill but it was enough to kill every finish to a run. Secondly I didn’t run enough back in 2011 – once a week at best so I never improved, the head went down and I gave in.

The plan this time was to head off to a flat area and build up gradually until I had a bit of running in the legs and the hills wouldn’t kill me. So the first run saw me trot down to the Forth & Clyde Canal and complete my first run. This worked a treat. I also signed up for a RunKeeper training plan – run 5k in 8 weeks. The plan was to keep the variation with each run and also gradually build up the distance.

Runkeeper

6 weeks on and it seems to be working. I’m managing out 2-3 times a week and improving the distance all the time. The plan I’m following has been good but by far the best ‘find’ has been running along the canal. A lot more pleasant than running on pavements and far less hilly. I’m really enjoying the running too – great to get outdoors, hopefully improve fitness and also catch up on podcasts and tunes. My initial problem was with recovery as I found the next day was torture for my legs but proper stretching, warm up and warm downs have really helped.

This mornings run was the best by far. A slight chill in the air but blue skies all round. I should have been doing a 2.5 mile run but I just kept going and managed to do over three before pausing and turning back. Not fussed about pace at all as the first few runs I couldn’t manage a mile without pausing so it’s nice to see improvement. I’m now looking forward to Autumn and Winter runs. I’m hoping to keep this going but no ambition to run any 5 or 10k’s, just want to keep my fitness up and help maintain my current weight…or maybe even lose a bit more.

Pride

As the clock ticked down to Friday I have to admit to getting quite excited about the Olympics. I’m a massive sport fan so love the Olympics but there was so much buzz building over the last couple of weeks that the Opening Ceremony was essential viewing.

Could Danny Boyle pull it off? Could Britain pull it off?

Course they could.

From a shaky start the whole show was a success. Visually impressive with some fun along the way and rooted with an immense soundtrack it was an opening made in Britain for Britain. It left almost everyone bursting with pride. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee tweeted, “this is for everyone”. And it was. No matter who you were there was a hook in that ceremony. Some tried to politicise the ceremony and class it as left leaning. Utter nonsense and looking back, all Olympics and sporting events of this size have a political edge. Some critics also said that much of the show would be lost to international audiences but previous opening ceremonies would have been lost on me if it wasn’t for the commentator reading from his or her crib sheet. Danny Boyle and his team crafted a show that galvanised a nation and set the tone for the next two weeks of competition.

A few of my favourite moments below. Ok, lots of my fav moments lifted from the BBC broadcast. Far better photo’s from the ceremony can be found at The Big Picture.

Sir Kenneth Branagh as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In amongst the chaos he stood out.
Forged rings looked incredible
I loved the light reflected in the welders mask
Great arial shot of the rings and the stadium
That’s not really the Queen is it?
It is the Queen!
She can act
Classic Bond
Celebrating the NHS was a masterstroke – nice to see it trend on Twitter too
Bean – unexpected but fun
Jasmine Breinburg – star of the show?
Digital revolution celebrated with Sir Tim Berners-Lee
This is for everyone
Emeli Sande – what a voice
Sir Chris Hoy leads out the Great Britain team
The BBC cuts to the Queen who looks bored (or looks on with pride according to the BBC)
By day the Olympic stadium looks ordinary but at night it comes alive
Sir Steve Redgrave brings in the torch with a guard of honour from the builders of the stadium. Great touch.
The cauldron – great camera shot from underneath
Olympic flame
There’s always fireworks but ours were real
The rings from space

Even during the endless athletes parade while we waited for Chris Roy and the GB team the music was such a breath of fresh air. Switching to David Bowies “We Could Be Heroes” when GB came out gave me goosebumps. If you loved it as much as me then the Isles of Wonder Soundtrack is a no brainer. Thankfully Hey Jude isn’t included!

Sharing the experience on Twitter was great. Initial worries and anticipation turned into tears and joy…until Hey Jude! It also meant that the killjoys out there were ruthlessly outed. Step forward Aidan Burley, Conservative MP for Cannock Chase.

What an arse. Seemingly he was misunderstood and today he’s said it was because there was too much rap music. Looking at the soundtrack there’s hardly any. The guy has form though, last year being demoted due to some nazi quotes. But one idiot can’t spoil it.

To close of with a couple of high points. Danny Boyle’s forward in the official program (and soundtrack) is inspiring.

Danny Boyle’s program forward

A final highlight was Boris the day before the opening. I don’t often agree with him but from time to time he is (comedy) gold. Enjoy.

Good Service

Inspired by a tweet from Gordon this is a quick post to highlight some good customer service…well I thought it was good. Before I crack on, here’s the tweet – makes me chuckle every time I see it.

Towards the tail end of last year I needed my badminton racket restrung. I decided to try PWP which had opened a branch in Glasgow and was impressed with string options, friendly service and quick turn around. However on it’s first usage the strings broke and the racket developed a crack at the top of the frame. I couldn’t be sure that a crack wasn’t there before and had been worsened by having it restrung or that PWP were to blame. On returning to the store we had a very honest talk about the problem (which was refreshing – no pointing of fingers and trying to get rid of me). Even though I hadn’t bought the racket from them, PWP agreed to send it to Yonex and ask then to investigate for flaws or what was to blame.

Roll forward a couple of months and the feedback from Yonex was that I caused the damage. Bugger. I didn’t really expect the result to be anything else so it was time for a new racket…and a return trip to PWP despite the restring question marks as I really felt they dealt with me honestly. I sized up the rackets on the shelf and was quite taken with a couple of Yonex models, both priced at £139.

I probably should have checked for prices online but I wanted instant gratification. Imagine my surprise when the staff member I was dealing with told me that the 8000 model shown above was reduced to £89.99, they just hadn’t had time to update the labels on the racket. Instant sale. He didn’t have to tell me that as I was already thinking of buying at the higher price. Can you imagine a car dealer or your typical Comet/PC World guy telling you it’s cheaper than the ticket price online. Usually you have to ask, badger and complain until the price comes down.

So not only was I impressed with PWP’s honesty but at all times the staff have been friendly and knowledgable. So if your looking for anything badminton, squash or tennis related in Glasgow I heartily recommend PWP whose shop is in Partick on Dumbarton Road (replacing the suncenter that was there before – like Partick needs more tanning salons). There’s even a 14 day return so if the racket doesn’t suit my style of play I can return it. Fantastic.

F1 Is Back

So the first race of the new F1 season is over. What a race. What a start. The Brawn GP team have come out of nowhere in pre-season testing and carried that pace through to today’s race. Roll back two months and it looked like they wouldn’t even be racing. It was great to see Button take the win, amazing that Barichello barged his way to a second place and even more unbelievable that Hamilton the snail came in third.

It will take a few races to know if the rule changes introduced for 2009 have made a difference but looking at today’s race alone there seemed to be more overtaking and action throughout the whole race. I actually enjoyed the entire race which is fairly unusual. Partly that was down to lesser teams emerging as the new contenders and seeing Ferrari and especially McLaren struggling to cope. Another reason was the overtaking and the failures/incidents right to the end of the race. Maybe it was just that F1 was back on the BBC.

I got up in time to catch the new titles this morning. The Chain is back. I liked the intro and it set the scene nicely. I’m also liking the increased coverage on the BBC and the new presenting team. Even Eddie Jordan started to grow on me once he had crawled out of Richard Branson’s arse. Speaking of Branson, it really started to annoy just how much he was spinning the Brawn win and how they’ve put in money. Yesterday. Yes, big impact they’ve made. Anyway, back to the BBC. For me they kept the good parts of ITV coverage, lost the adverts, added an after race forum which was actually good to watch and also replaced James Allen.

Yep, I’m glad good old James has moved on. I just didn’t like him as a commentator. However, as a journalist and more recently a blogger I’ve become a fan. His blog is regularly updated with insightful commentary on F1 and what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s excellent and a great companion to the TV coverage. Just a shame the TV coverage hasn’t moved on to HD…yet.

So, next stop Malaysia. More Brawn dominance? I’d expect so although I can’t see Hamilton being as lucky. Red Bull, Ferrari, Toyota and maybe BMW all look stronger and all through car failure, rule issues or driver mistakes cleared the way for Hamilton. Assuming the Brawn car is found to be legal and the keep reliable it will be really interesting to se how long the others will take to catch up. This has all the hallmarks of a great F1 season. I can’t wait.

Playlist

From The Herald’s review of last nights St Johnstone – Rangers game…

How’s this for a playlist? Money by Pink Floyd, Money, Money, Money by ABBA, Money for Nothing by Dire Straits and Money’s Too Tight to Mention by Simply Red. The cruellest selection was Bruce Springsteen’s classic, Glory Days, and Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash was labouring the point. With this soundtrack blaring in the background, Boyd limbered up impervious to the supposed resurrection of his £3.75m transfer.

Made me laugh – much like Rangers first goal.