Sunrise on a run

Sunrise on a run

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why writing is like running

Second blog post of the year - woohoo! Fortunately I run more regularly than I blog. I've had this thought rumbling round for a while: what do running and writing have in common? I'm due to start the Advanced Creative Writing module with the OU in October so this thought had popped to forefront of mind.

I think we can safely say that I am never going to win an Olympic medal with running, but that doesn't stop me, I still go out and put in the miles. Maybe not as many as I'd like to and I'm often trying to think of ways of trying to increase my mileage. Maybe just going out and running will do the trick.

So why don't I take the same attitude to writing? Perhaps it's time I did.


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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

700K! A late look back at 2014

2014 was the year for running - not 10k every Sunday until running a half marathon and then petering out for a month and then dabbling for the rest of the year but making running a more regular part of my life.

By July I'd completed 200k. By the end of December I'd completed a further 500k.

This has included a number of "races" - I use the term loosely as I'm only ever racing against myself. Surrey half marathon, Kingston breakfast run, Hogsback road race, a 10k "virtual" run and a Santa dash.





This year I've indulged in lots of running tourism - wherever we've been away I've taken my running gear - this has seen visits to Rye, Jersey, Birmingham, Oxford and a Santa run in Bicester.

In Jersey, we were staying in a hotel on the seafront so I went out for 5K every morning. Getting into the habit of doing this set me up for the rest of August.

In September I joined in the 100k challenge which a number of others in the virtual running community which I'm a member of were doing. I managed this in September but didn't quite make it to 100k in any other month.

Run Mummy Run is a great community of 6000 plus ladies - most are mummies and some are even grannies too!! There's a range of running abilities - some venturing out and beginning a couch 2 5k running journey, some doing ultras and everything in between. There's a great atmosphere of camaraderie - lots of support at all levels and no question is too daft. Plus everyone is trying to fit running in with whatever else life has to throw at them!

On December 31st I went out for a run. I didn't complete 10k as I needed to get home as we were going out but I thought I'd done enough to get to 700k. Later in the day I uploaded the run from my watch - 300 metres short. Trainers on, a quick walk around the block with Pip and I was done!!!

This year I'm hoping to do the same again. Best get started.





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Sunday, September 21, 2014

400K!

So, having reached 200k half way through the year, we're almost three quarters through the year and I have passed the 400k mark!

If a picture tells a thousand words, what does a picture from my Nikeplus page say?






July, August and September have been much higher distance months: 73K, 60K and 74K, respectively. During our holiday in Jersey, I ran 5K along the beach every morning which was a good way of getting in the habit of running more frequently.

September has seen me join other runners from my virtual running community, Run Mummy Run, in a challenge to run 100k in a month. It's been a good way of bringing focus to my week and maintaining a regular distance, around 24K a week. It's also shown how easy it is to fit those extra runs in that I don't normally have (make) time to do - half an hour on the cross-trainer or a lunchtime run have helped achieve the miles each week.

Pace for September looks much slower - this reflects the cross-trainer pace and a runch (lunchtime run) where I forgot to switch my watch off until I was back at my desk.

With three months left this year and based on this month, I should be up to 700K. By that time I'll also know whether I've been successful in the London Marathon ballot...

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

200K!

Are there more days between 1 January and 30 June than between 1 July and 31 December? I'll leave you pondering that. Regardless, let's conclude that we are half way through the year.

So, last year I ran a total of 200k. That 200k can be broken down into:

23 runs at an average distance of 8.7k and an average pace of 6 minutes 36 seconds. Most runs were from home but others took me to Oxford, Jersey and the Reading half marathon.

This year's 200k can be broken down into:

23 runs at an average distance of 9.6k and an average pace of 6 minutes 26 seconds. Most runs were from home but others so far have taken me to Guildford (half marathon) Rye, Barnet and Kingston (Wholefoods breakfast run).

March in both years has been my longest distance month, reflecting the half marathons I've done take place in March. Last year I fell off the running wagon in April and recorded zero miles. This year I've stayed on and continued to record some miles. June this month has been my lowest distance month - a measly 17k.

I've improved my pace this year no particular magic formula, just through keeping running.

So by the end of the year I should have completed a further 200k. Let's see if I can get my pace closer to 6min/k...


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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Surrey half

I'm writing about recent runs in reverse order. In early March, I ran in the Surrey Half marathon: Guildford to Woking and back. It was the first time this event had been held and it went very well.

The route starts at the Spectrum Leisure centre, heads north along country lanes to Woking and back again. We met the elite runners on their journey back to the Spectrum when we had reached mile 4! That's a reflection of their speed, not mine...

It was a v hot day, well hot relative to the weather we'd had in the previous months
and there seemed to be a surprising number of injuries, especially in the first few miles. Someone else who ran the route noticed the same. I did my good Samaritan deed for one chap who was sitting by the wayside with a couple of runners with him. They were waving, trying to get the attention of the water station a few hundred metres behind. It was clear that they weren't going to get anyone's attention just by waving so I ran back and reported to a Marshall before heading back in the right direction to a finish line.

The last 3 miles were significantly slower and that, combined with the additional few hundred metres while i ran to get a marshall, meant that this was never going to be my fastest half marathon (that plaudit still goes to the Windsor half in 2003) and was in fact my slowest at 2hr 17. This may also reflect the fact that my average pace had slowed during training (winter cough didn't help) since then I'm creeping back up again - a sub 1hr 10k is still on the horizon and yet to get a little closer. Something to aim for as part of my half marathon training ready for 5th October...


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Monday, March 24, 2014

Wholefoods Breakfast Run 8.2 miles

Following completion of the Surrey half marathon a couple of weeks ago, this Sunday saw me in Kingston for the Wholefoods breakfast Run. Usually after a half marathon, I find myself thinking "oh, I'll have a break from running for a week or two." That break usually continues for longer than it should. Signing up for a run two weeks later prevented that break from occurring.

In a twist on the meme "first world problems", I forgot my Nikeplus watch. This isn't so much a first world problem as an existential crisis: like the proverbial tree, if I haven't tracked a run, did I really run? The iPhone app wouldn't work hidden in a pocket so I thought I'd just have to chill and go with it.

Despite observing recently that I'm running for the enjoyment of running and not to measure my time, measure my improvements or run a pb, I do still like to have some post-run stats. I'd be lying if I said that not having my watch was liberating...

So, for the 8.2mile jaunt along the Thames, here are my 2 mile splits and average pace per mile for each split:

2M. 17:52 = 8:56
4M. 18:41 = 9:20
6M. 19:21 = 9:40
8.2M. 21:36 = 9:45

Total time: 1 hr 17min 30 secs

Ave pace: 9min 27 seconds

Someone please correct my maths if there's any glaring errors! Clearly of course, I will have to compare it to my average pace this year. What's clear is that my sub 9min mile was not sustainable. Something to work on? Perhaps a tip or two to be learned from this article:

http://humanrace.co.uk/preparation-articles/pace-series/human-race-pace-series

So my angst over forgetting my watch was allayed by the timing chips and mats at 2mile intervals. It was a pleasant route: along the Thames, past Hampton Court and then back into Kingston. Only negative was the limited toilet facilities at the start but I suspect my need was psychological!!

Goody bag and mug at the end, various freebies from Wholefoods. Despite my scorn at their "healthy" convenience food, it was a good spread of chia seeds, a green shot, date and coconut bar and apple crisps. Plus coconut water which is a favourite source of running hydration.

My pre-run smoothie comprised oats soaked overnight in chocolate almond milk plus a banana (top tip: freeze them peeled!). I say pre-run. Getting out the house at 7am on a Sunday meant it became a post-run smoothie. At least I had a mug for it.






My next event? I've not booked anything yet. I want to find something which has an event the girls can join in. If we don't find anything, then a local Parkrun may do the job.



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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

200KM!

I started the year with my usual plan of running the Reading half marathon, with half an eye on a sub 2 hour time.  As usual, the best laid plans of mice and men took priority and my traditional training schedule of a long run at the weekend with 2 sessions on the cross-trainer or doing circuits stepped into the breach.

Reading was wet; It was the type of wet which usually sees me staying firmly indoors and choosing not to go for a run. The type of wet where you're permanently in a shower and remain resolutely damp all the way round. It didn't stop the crowds and one highlight is always the steel band somewhere around the back of the Oracle. The last 3miles is always the longest, longer still when everything's soaked and your trainers have absorbed several puddles along the way. Once again, the Camel overtook me.

Later in the year saw us on holiday in Florida. This included a few days aboard the Disney Dream. I thought my main running opportunities would be in the gym on a treadmill so I took my indoor shoes: a pair of Vibram five fingers. Pip and I discovered the running deck when we were exploring the ship so, while we were moored at Nassau, I had a 4 mile run around the deck. This was followed up with the Castaway Cay 5K - I turned up bleary eyed, expecting the invitation to go for a run to be a fairly informal jog around Castaway Cay. I didn't expect to receive a running number and an exhortation to buy a pin and a t-shirt after the race; well, it's Disney, maybe I did expect the shop just by the finish line. I'm not sure if this link will work, but here goes anyway: http://nikeplus.nike.com/plus/places/#/MyRoutes/26.082981037105686/-77.5450531745152/15

November saw me pull a team together for the three molehills. My original team pulled out at the last minute (something to do with being on holiday). Thanks to the power of social media, I managed to find two willing friends to join me on my visit to Denbies. Three legs, each up and down a different hill/ part of a hill on the North Downs. Box Hill was mine: over the stepping stones, up the very steep climb, a slip in the mud at the top and a long ascent down. On a clear day, the views are amazing. This wasn't a clear day...




We were in a very fast field, team Make Mine a Chardonnay, nobly finished last.




I'm not running Reading this year. I'm going to participate in the inaugural Surrey Half Marathon. Target time? I'll let you know...

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Law of Averages: 6,000 words

So, I previously posted about my 10,000 word start on a novel.  Do I say much about it yet? No, I'll keep under wraps for now.  I was aiming for another 10,000 words in August but realised that if I'm setting the story in an alternate reality, I needed to spend some time on world creation and setting.

2,000 words later.  It's not much when you look at July's 10,000 but it's 2,000 words which will hopefully assist in production of the next 10,000.  I've outlined my ideas for another chapter and spent some time sketching out key aspects of the version of reality which provides the backdrop, and out of which the plot will develop.

One key aspect of the setting, and one which isn't covered in the OU handbook, is that of timeline.  Even if your narrative only covers a single day, you still need to place that day within the context of others, it does not occur in a vacuum.  I don't think I've fully settled on a convincing timeline of events.  There are various political events, historical events and a war which provide context to the setting.  That timeline won't necessarily be expounded upon within the story but I need to have a firm grasp on events gone before in order for the actual narrative to take shape.

There is an additional challenge in that creating an alternate reality, I am trying to graft that alternate reality onto real historical events.  Currently, I think my timeline is much longer than the one onto which I'm trying to graft my alternate reality.

There is research I need to do on the history of early computing and in particular, the Babbage machine.  As yet, I don't know whether I need this knowledge as part of the plot, it might just be for context and to assist in this alternate world-view.  Any recommended reading?


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Monday, September 02, 2013

Val McDermid: Wire in the Blood; the Retribution

Having read these back to back last week, I felt they deserved a mention.  I sometimes marvel at how much the girls enjoy reading; once Boo's lost in a book, the only place you'll be able to find her is once she's got to the end.  She's spent most of the summer reading Lemony Snickett's series of unfortunate events.  There's 13 books, I don't know whether each book chronicles just one event.  Plus she's been engrossed in the local library summer reading challenge.  

Having downloaded and read Wire in the Blood, I was trying to find which Tony Hill/ Carol Jordan book to read next.  As the Retribution follows the escape of the Wire in the Blood's killer from jail and the subsequent series of unfortunate, but premeditated events, it made perfect sense.  (The pricing helped but maybe that's for another post)

There must be something about being on Summer holiday as I last read a couple of her Tony Hill/ Carol Jordan books last summer.  Wire in the Blood is good.  You find out fairly early on, whodunnit, but there's two parallel crimes being investigated. This is a structure which is used in the Retribution, I can't remember whether it's used in any other of her books.

I preferred the Wire in the Blood.  The Retribution was a good sequel but I wouldn't recommend it as a stand alone read.  We are reacquainted with the killer from Wire in the Blood, he's out of jail and out for revenge.  In fairness, the ending comes as a complete surprise.

One criticism is that the use of new technology as a way of contrasting how time has passed too obvious and there are a couple of moments where it is a little too contrived.  Before the first murders, the killer is viewing his quarry via hidden cameras and over an Internet connection.  I found it hard to believe that his 3G connection would be that reliable up in the Yorkshire Dales.  Secondly, there is a moment when someone is given details of the killer's residence but the development is too new for his Satnav to pick up.  That I can understand.  What I don't understand in these days of smartphones is why he doesn't just look on Google maps to find it.  Maybe that particular character doesn't have a smartphone.

There are useful references back to other episodes in the other books, it helps make the characters believable and you have faith in their fallibility.  However, it does also mean that the book doesn't stand up on its own.  

Interestingly, I've realised that my favourite (only) crime writers are female: Val McDermid, PD James and Agatha Christie.  Is it just that I haven't read any male crime writers, or is there something about their writing styles wch I prefer?

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Give me seven years and I'll give you the novel

So I've spent the last month participating in Campnanowrimo.  The premise is simple: you set a target and write.  The default target for the month is 50,000 words, I decided to move the goal posts to 30,000 and finally 10,000.  In the end I was a little short of 10,000 but I had 9,500 words of story with a strong feel for where it will go.

Having spent the past year doing an OU module on creative writing, it was good to be able to put what I've learned into practice.  I've not written that many words on one particular story so that's a first for a start.  I'm minded to continue into August and aim for another 10,000.

There's many different ways of skinning a cat:

10,000 words a month = 326 words a day
32 train journeys to and from work in a month (2 a day in 16 days) = 313 words per train journey = 626 words a day
9 evenings when Mr S is away = 1,111 words an evening
9 weekend days in August = 1,111 per day

Theoretically: 32 train journeys plus 9 evenings plus 9 weekend days = 30,000 words in a month.  Put like that (although a need a whizzy app and some graphics knowledge to turn it into an infographic) 10,000 words is a third of what I could theoretically write.  In fact, there's a bank holiday and I have a week's annual leave, giving me another 6 weekend days.  That's another 6,666 words (somehow fitting as Mr S is off to see Iron Maiden this weekend).  That and a stag do he's going to are another 2 evenings to write: 2,222 words.  So that's another 8,888 words - approaching 40,000 now!  

Now in reality, we will be out on day trips at the weekend, or at home building cardboard castles with the girls.  Then there's time spent exercising (ideally 1 run, 2 circuits sessions and some yoga), time spent doing paperwork and other domestic activities.  Additionally we are chicken-sitting for two sets of neighbours over the next few weeks.  Oh and of course time [wasted] on Facebook, Candy crush and general internet browsing, reading of books and writing this blog.

Then there's the writing process.  I'm tending to find it easier to write in longhand and then type up in the evening.  It's more comfortable than typing reams on the iPad and helps with the process of creative refinement.  

But what it boils down to is that there is time to write 10,000 words in a month. Joseph Heller took 7 years to write Catch 22.  Now my attempt at a pre-draft is nowhere near Catch 22's league of sheer geniusness but let's assume that Catch 22 is 50,000 words.  That's 7,143 words a year. Infographic anyone?


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