Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 8 of 18

This week has been a bit of a game changer in my training mission for the Greater Manchester Marathon. One of those weeks where everything to do with my running seems to have started to click together, and like a step up in ability has been achieved.

Tuesday was meant to be a 7 mile recovery run with some strides, but instead I elected to lead a 6 mile social club run. There were only 3 of us but it was very enjoyable and we went over some ground I’d not run before as something a bit different. The pace was nice and easy and it felt like I was just bouncing along, which surprised me given the way my legs felt after sunday’s 20!

Wednesday saw a small step up in the midweek long run, with 12 miles to do. Midweek long runs are my least favourite. Having to get home from work and then run for 2 hours, eating at gone 8pm isn’t a lot of fun, but they seem to help. Usually I would try and run these progressively, but as I intended to run Friday’s tempo run on Thursday, I tried to just keep this at a steady pace. I ended up loosely progressing anyway, with the final mile at marathon pace. Despite the hilly elevation profile on the route, I felt strong throughout, like I was gliding through the air almost effortlessly (Aside from the hills) and got a couple of segment PBs in the process.

As I mentioned, I had to do Friday’s tempo run on Thursday as we had a club social and wouldn’t have time to squeeze it in. I thought I would struggle with 10 miles, 6 of which at tempo pace, but I didn’t really until the last tempo mile. As these runs get longer its harder to find enough level ground to cover, and a couple of the miles were net downhill. I did try and increase the pace to compensate and the GAPs on my splits were only off target by a few seconds.

10 miles, 6 at tempo workout analysis

I’m confident that if I’d have had the extra rest day I would have nailed it. I “made up” the difference in GAP on other miles and would have managed the 6th mile on rested legs.

Friday was my usual weigh-in day, and I had a feeling I’d get a positive result as I’d “been good” for the last few weeks and the mileage increase usually benefits me. I was right! 3lbs off this week with an increase in muscle mass.

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All good news! 3lbs to go to my intermediate target (the weight I was for the wedding) and 10lbs overall pre-marathon. At this rate (And I DO fully expect the burn rate to level off) I may even be able to go a little bit lighter still – but we’ll see.

weightchart29jan

As mentioned, we had a good social night out with the club on Friday, a skittles night. A few of us ate too, and I figured I’d have something nice as a bit of a reward for the hard work and good results! I ended up having too many ciders but everyone enjoyed themselves, thanks to Michelle’s organisation. It’s just a shame Dave won the game of killer!

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A bit bleary eyed, we headed to Longrun Meadow parkrun on Saturday, as Jodie hadn’t done it before and we needed to stay local. James was coincidentally there too as he was visiting friends the night before.

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The puddled were DEEP, over the ankles in some places, and the muddy section was pretty horrendous too, but an enjoyable run. We did an extra couple of miles top up afterwards as I needed to do a 5 mile recovery run. Running along the river was really nice, Taunton seems to have a lot of foot/cycle paths, must be great for local runners!

 

Sunday saw an incredible 20 people turn up for the Running For Time long run. Lots of new people I hadn’t met, many of them training for their own races and events. It was a sight to behold and a sign of how the club is going from strength to strength.

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Sarah did a great job organising a good quiet and flat route for 10 miles. Most of the group finished up, but I needed to do 22 so a smaller sub group splintered off to top up their mileage. I ran with Fred and Sue Fox for most of their journey home, and I hope I didn’t bore them! They are one inspirational couple, I can’t run Fred’s times as a 33 year old, its amazing how well they both still run as vets! We also ran with Michelle, Helen and Chrissy, who peeled off at their own rates when they reached their mileage.

The flat course and steady pace meant I felt much stronger towards the end, and progressed my last 5 miles to target marathon pace, and as I write this I can’t help but notice how much better I feel compared to last weekend. I think that means the training is working! I’m definitely feeling stronger.

One bit of bad news is that I think my Garmin is on the way out. It froze at 21 miles and by 22 I only had 12% left in the battery. Still, it’s a good excuse to buy some new kit – my eye is on the Forerunner 235!

Next week is another marathon paced run. I’ll be in Basingstoke which will be a challenge, as finding a flat section to do the marathon paced miles will be near impossible! Time to man up and try the pace over some hills!

Epson Runsense SF-810: Initial Thoughts

I was selected as an “Epson Runner” to review the Epson Runsense SF-810. In exchange for 5 video reviews I’ll be allowed to keep the watch, but that’s not going to stop me being honest about the device and my experiences.

http://www.100runnertesters.co.uk

Some key points from my initial findings.

  • Stylistically its a bit like an old school stop watch
  • The display is OK, but lacking in colour like other watches at the price point
  • It’s difficult to navigate on the device to begin with and takes some getting used to, its not as intuitive as a Garmin
  • The Epson portal for analysing your activities is a long way off the mark, but will auto post to Strava which is my preferred method.
  • The Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t happen automatically, have to manually perform a Sync process

 

What’s in a (blog) name?

So I came up with a new name for my blog.

The old name, whilst descriptive of my (ongoing) journey from couch potato to skinny fry, didn’t exactly roll off the tongue!

I’m proud of my journey but I’m just as proud to put my bigger days behind me and focus more on the present.

My name is Matt, I’m a runner, and I write about my running, and soon, running in general.

Welcome to ‘Running Matters’.

(See what I did there?)

I’ve spent a little money on a domain so I can have a little more creative freedom, and I’ve revamped the look and feel.

Hope whatever readers I have like it!

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 7 of 18

It’s when a training plan starts ramping up towards the business end that the usefulness of using a training log tool (such as Strava) alongside a plan you’ve used before really comes into its own, as you can directly compare sessions against each other. You can see your paces and heart rate relative to each other to see how well you are performing.

The first run of this week was 10 miles with 5 of them at Lactate Threshold. Strava’s tools can let me see how I performed for this session – specifically, for the Lactate Threshold miles.

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Using GAP (Grade Adjusted Pace – so it tells you the equivalent pace on a flat mile) I can clearly see on average I’m doing about 15s per mile faster than last year. Unfortunately, last years activity for this session isn’t a good session for this comparison as I abandoned it half way through – But I only know this because I have it recorded as a note! So not only was I faster, but I was able to actually complete the session – unlike last year.

It was a tough run for sure, and at about 4.1 miles I had to pause for a short breather, but on the whole I was very happy.

On Wednesday I had a 4 mile recovery run with the wife. it was fricking FREEZING. My toes were numb by the end and I literally had to soak them in hot water to bring the feeling back.

Thursday was one of the runs I dread – midweek medium-long runs. The idea is to progress through your long run pace zone so you finish about 15% slower than Marathon Pace. This 11 miler I followed a similar route to the one I did on sunday – hilly – and I was delighted with the results. Again, comparing to year on year, this run had much more elevation, an increase in pace (And GAP) and a slightly lower HR overall. The difference in “suffer score” can be attributed to me “having a go” at a long uphill segment whilst maintaining the faster end of the pace zone.

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Rather delightfully as a result, I made the top 10! I finished with a quick downhill mile and finished feeling really strong. It was a good confidence booster.

Friday was weigh day. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope – we had an enormous meal on the previous Friday night, the Saturday was lunch AND dinner out (with a skinful of cider, popcorn and Maltesers) and Sunday was a hungover massive Premier Inn breakfast… So to have lost 1lb and have a small shift in body composition was quite pleasing!

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I lost 1.5lbs in fat (good), increased my body water (good) but saw a small fall in Muscle mass (bad – but an increase in percentage). So something to keep an eye on. Most importantly though its that Body Fat and overall weight loss that’s going to make me lighter and therefore faster.

Saturday saw me on a split session. I needed to do a 7 mile easy run with Strides, but we had a club outing to Bath Skyline parkrun. So I ran that easy and then did the other 4 miles + strides in the afternoon.

It was nice going to a different parkrun as a group/club. We have a good spirit with our members and it was an awful lot of fun.

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The course itself was quite nice. Aside from the first K it was relatively flat, with a slightly downhill final K. In the first section you get a beautiful view of the historic City of bath from on high which could have taken your breath away… and if the view didn’t the 37 steps that took place right afterwards finished it off! The course was mostly compact trail but there were some sections of muddy field which must make fast times a bit tricky at the moment. It’s a single lap figure of 8 style which meant you pass near the finish close enough for a gathering of supporters to stand which was pretty nice. The parking was about a 5 minute walk to the course and there was a single toilet – though it was at the car park. No cafe nearby, and the website shows that you should bring your own refreshments in lieu of this. This week though, a local school had volunteered and provided hot chocolate and custard creams – such a lovely thought!

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Despite the lack of cafe, as we’d made the trip we visited the local Sainsbury’s cafe anyway. They do a fantastic 5 rasher bacon sandwich on thick bloomer, for 3 quid. Brilliant value and just what the doctor ordered!

My plan had me to do 7 miles with some strides, so I pulled a second session in the evening. Was very pleased with the pace of my strides, and shook the body a little bit – it’s not used to 2 runs in a day!

I was dreading Sunday’s 20 miler – my longest since Manchester last year – So I decided it would be nice to run with other people, at least for the first half. So i joined the club for the Sunday Social run. The time absolutely flew by, with great company, great banter, and I couldn’t believe I’d done 10 miles by the time they returned! We also saw loads of runners, even some other club mates. I love going out on the early runs, but with it being the only real day I can get a lay in, early Sunday’s are not high on my priority list! After this weekend though, it will be much more regular.

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By the time we got back, I still needed to do 10 miles. But I’d pre-organised with Dave that we’d do a further 10. it was brilliant to have some company for the second half too. The last few miles were tough, but running with Dave really helped to “keep me honest” as it was extremely tempting to just slow to a gentle plod!

All in all, the best, most enjoyable Sunday run I’ve had for a very long time.

The mileage steps up a bit over the next few weeks to peak at around 60 miles (with my own adjustments) before the next recovery week. So far I’m feeling strong though and if I can get through this mesocycle unscathed I will be very confident to achieve my target.

New York Marathon Ballot

And another thing…AndNow, I know the New York Marathon is one of the World Marathon Majors… And I know its in one of the most amazing cities in the world… And I also know by that logic that the ballot for entries is insanely popular.

But their ballot entry system has to be one of the greatest extortions known to man! You have to pay $11 just to enter the ballot, and according to Runners World, then there were 80,000+ ballot entries last year. That’s an astonishing $880,000, just to be part of the draw.

Then, if by some miracle you get in (Knowing my chances in Marathon Major Ballots – I won’t) its then over $350 for your entry. With 50,000 places that’s $17.5million in entry fees – $18million including the draw money.

I’ll be expecting a leather goody bag by Louis Vuitton with PROPER treats in it for that kind of money.

Now, I understand that the laws of supply and demand mean the price is reflective of this, but to put this in some context, an entry to the London Marathon is less than £40 ($60).

What I can’t understand the disparity. Surely closing the roads of London and New York would be of similar cost? They have around 10k fewer runners in London, that couldn’t justify the massive price difference.

Naturally, if I win a place I will pay it, because I’m an idiot and I want to run it – but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I will have to console myself in the faint glimmer of hope that someone, somewhere is benefiting from this scam through charitable channels.

 

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 6 of 18

Week 6 has been somewhat of a milestone week. Not only is it the end of the first Mesocycle of the training, and not only is it the first recovery week, or the point where it marked being exactly  one third of the way through… But we were finally able to announce that we are growing a new little runner!

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We’re 12 weeks pregnant, and have had our scan. It was a truly magical experience which I’m sure every parent goes through the first time. What you don’t expect to see in the scan is the baby moving – I assumed it was still pictures – Imagine my surprise when our little one kicked out and had a ride around Jodie’s uterus! This of course means that Jodie will not be running the Manchester Marathon this year, but she is continuing to run to maintain fitness and hopefully she’ll be fine to run in the Cardiff world championships!

The recovery week in the plan has obviously been perfectly timed. My legs felt battered all week right up until Saturday so I deliberately went out to run at the slower end of all of my pace zones.

Tuesday saw me on an easy 8  miler with 8 strides. The weather was miserable and my legs were knackered. I also sufferedf romt he fact that I needed a poo. At some point I realised that everytime my runs are interrupted by a such an event, its normally a Tuesday! Without wanting to get too graphic, I suspect that as my biggest meal of the day is on Sunday, that Tuesday’s GI problems are simply that the food has finally digested! So I need to try and shift that event to happen pre-run!

Wednesday was a straightforward recovery run. Legs still feeling a bit dead, still miserable weather.

Thursday was another easy 8 miler with no strides. Heavy legged but did a reasonable amount of climbing too. Heart rate looked better though, and I knew Friday was a rest day.

Friday of course is weigh day, and it seems the hard work has paid off, I dropped 4lbs this week, most of it in fat and increased my muscle mass! So just another stone to go til my pre-race target.

weight progress

I’m a little unsure how much stock to take in the body composition analysis of these things. It said that I was 25.1% body fat, 50.3% water, and 28.3% muscle – that’s over 100% and doesn’t include bone any everything else! But I guess its designed as a guide and a way of tracking progress rather than a zero-sum game.

On parkrunday we avoided Ham Hill again to continue our tour. A group of us went to Blandford parkrun instead. I was scheduled for 4 miles recovery, but I was tempted to “have a go”. Its a fast course and could have had a pop at sub 20, but I figured if I run this hard it would affect my sessions next week. I felt quite self righteously smug at my self control! It was a good controlled effort and finished feeling refreshed.

Unfortunately, the next 18 hours consisted of bad food and several cans off Thatchers Gold. Which meant Sunday turned into a bit of a mare… Still, I figured a bit of a blowout wouldn’t hurt. Struggled through the first 6 of my 12 miler slowy, and had to make a pub stop to use the facilities, after which I felt significantly better. Managed lots of climbing too which was a plus point.

Next week is a bit of a big week (not as big as the following week though!), with 52 miles scheduled (It’ll go over that with warm up/cool down) and will be the biggest week for ages. Another tempo run is on the cards (Which I struggled with last year) and my first 20 miler of the campaign, which I’m going to part run with the group – carefully considered after my 18 miler a few weeks back caused me to want to cry!

12 weeks to go – which means only really 9 weeks until the taper…. this time is disappearing fast!

 

 

 

 

Epson Runner!

The other week I clicked one of those “Win a blah blah” thing on Facebook. I never usually win things so I thought nothing of it until an email arrived in my Inbox this afternoon.

I have been selected as an “Epson Runner” and am one of 100 people being sent an Epson Runsense SF-810 in exchange for submitting at least 5 video reviews.

Runsense SF- 810

Looking at some of the marketing materials it boasts an integrated optical heart rate monitor, highly accurate GPS and on board cadence monitor. It does seem to lack some of the advanced features that my Forerunner 220 has, such as the ability to program workouts which I do use all the time.

But could this be a good payoff for more accurate pace display on the watch – which would be essential in a race?

Time will tell how good it is and if I want to continue using it or not. I will of course post my videos here too.

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 5 of 18

Well I finally faced my Christmas weight gain! I’m 18lbs away from where I want to be, which is an achievable pre-race goal. The chocolate stash we inherited over the holiday period is almost depleted so I’m hoping that my currently weak willpower will not need to be tested much more!

From a running point of view though, its been a mixed bag, but generally positive..

Run 1 was 9 miles with 5 at tempo. Pace wise I was just where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, and what has become a bit of a theme on my tempo runs, I tend to get GI issues, usually after about 3 miles. I had to stop in my tracks at 3.5 miles  this week and just wait for it to pass which took a couple of minutes. That unfortunately meant I had a bit of a rest mid tempo, which isn’t ideal. Other than that it was fine.

Run 2 was a nice recovery run with Jodie. Nothing much to write about there.

Run 3 was a 10 mile general aerobic run. I managed all of my miles at sub-8 pace despite all the climbing I did and felt really strong throughout. Unfortunately though, going down Cavalier Way i clipped the curb and took a hard tumble. I did manage to roll partially, but still took a mean scrape to my arm, hip, and leg.

Run 4 saw 5 recovery miles on a parkrunday visit to Exeter Riverside parkrun. It was a really lovely course but didn’t quite have the same buzz of a parkrun, and I’m not sure why. it was all a bit quiet. There were people talking during the run briefing and when they asked if there were any tourists we were pretty much dismissed as we were “only from Yeovil”! I’m sure they didn’t mean any offense. There wasn’t much of a fuss made for the volunteers either – and I do like applauding the volunteers at the start of a run.

The course itself is about a mile out on tarmac cycle path, then a mile loop around the university playing fields (mostly grass though it was a bit of a mudfest with all the recent weather) and then a miles drag back. The marshals were in good spirits as ever and I have to say the course was very picturesque. It was lovely running along the river.

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What was strange was that they did the token scanning inside the cafe. Which is OK, but it was a 400m walk to the cafe, past the car park. I’d be very surprised if they didn’t lose a lot of tokens from first timers due to this.

Run 5 was a key session, a 16 miler with 10 at Marathon pace. This was 2 miles longer than the previous version of the session, which I felt I ran too fast to be sustainable. This time I reduced the pace a touch and ran it at a 3:11 average pace (targetting 3:12 pace with sub-3:15 as the end goal). I’m not going to lie, it was hard. It will be easier when I’m a stone lighter though!

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Next week is a recovery week, so I’ll be running all my runs at the low end of my pace zones. Its also the last week of the “Endurance” mesocycle. Where did the time go?? The recovery I hope will help my legs rest a bit before I start running a weekly threshold sessions in the next mesocycle.

On the whole though, despite my shameful weight gain, I am actually feeling really strong. I have no injury niggles (famous last words) and my legs are only feeling an amount of fatigue I can class as “normal” given the mileage I’ve been running. Mentally, I feel focused and I’m keen to get out and do the next run. As I am running the paces a stone overweight I’m feeling confident that when I shift the weight I should be well on track.

Now I just need to lose the weight…

 

 

 

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 4 of 18

OK, so weeks 1, 2 and 3 didn’t get written, but it was Christmas and New year, a very busy time for everyone and I couldn’t find the time to write anything.

But with the turn of every New Year comes a newly renewed enthusiasm which I’m hoping will keep my writing.

Despite the lack of posting, there has been no lack of training! I’ve remained as consistent as I can be and have stuck to the plan all aside from an abandoned Tempo Session on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, I’ll try and summarise the last three weeks training best I can!

parkrun

Over the festive period we managed a brilliant 5 parkruns, in 5 different locations – 4 of which we’d never been to before. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to check out any of the post-parkrun cafeterias due to a lack of time, but needless to say all the people we encountered were as lovely as you would expect at any parkrun.

On Christmas Day we stayed local with the very well attended Basingstoke parkrun. I ran a little quicker than intended but the course was a bit of a mudfest… a theme that developed even further over the period…

basingstoke

Bracknell was our destination on Boxing Day. Tucked away in a nice forest park, this flat 3 lapper saw some tarmac, some forest trail, but mostly (what used to be and is currently mud) grass. Parking was plentiful and there was a pavilion with loos and a bit of cover to leave your (unsecured of course) stuff. The support here was brilliant, the course passed within close proximity of the start/finish twice per lap so plenty of applause! There were some very slippy places though and nearly lost my footing a few times! Took it nice and easy but felt sluggish from Christmas Day indulgence.

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New years day is one of my favourite days of the year as we can do a parkrun double! We wanted to run with Jodie’s sister so we headed to Hampshire for the 9am starting Andover parkrun. Such a lovely course! A flat 2 lapper mostly on grass. It was squelchy and muddy in places but it took in some lovely fields and lakes and had a really good vibe. Their first timers briefing was very welcoming and the runners were chatty as I jogged round. Brilliant event! Loads of parking available and I think there are usually loos, but they were closed as it was New Years Day. Good PB potential!

andover

We then headed down the A303 and A34 to Winchester. It was a bit tricky to find. The website gave sat-nav directions to a car park but wasn’t best placed really for the run, but its in the town center and I’ve found other events are similarly troubled when in town centers. It was also pay and display (though with it being NYD, it was free!) and the loos were open in the nearby leisure centre. The course was 3 windy laps of playing fields, almost entirely on grass which was slippy mud on the day. The course wasn’t particularly inspiring and tough we won’t rush back, the marshals and volunteers were brilliantly supportive.

winchester

Back on “normal” parkrunday we visited Poole parkrun. Reportedly a fast and flat course, today was not going to deliver on that! Flat, yes, but the howling wind and rain made it very tough. We ran the “B” course, which had a slightly deviated start and finish, but the main feature is 2 laps around a big lake on tarmac. There is nothing to stop you falling in the river, so caution is recommended! If the conditions weren’t so bad this is definitely a PB friendly course. Being in the town center the parking was also pay and display, but there were toilets and a pavilion to keep dry in. This is a really big parkrun, regularly attracting over 500 runners so a very different experience for us, but despite a congested start the organisation was flawless thanks in no small measure to the amazing marshals and fantastic finish funnel system.

poole

Long Runs

4 weeks means there were four key long runs for the plan.

The first was meant to be a 12 miler,  but I shamefully avoided it due to a raging hangover. I managed about 7 with the group but they were horrid!

The second was a particularly tough 14 miler with 8 of them at Marathon Pace. I wasn’t sure I was quite fit enough for my target/anticipated MP but had a go anyway. Progressed nicely through the first 6 miles and then hit a pace actually a bit faster than I needed to (3:07 pace)- which explained why the last couple of miles were so tough. Lesson learned for next time, run at 3:12 pace and see how that feels.

14mp

Week 3 saw 16 easy miles around Basingstoke, though once again I was faster than I needed to be. I really must learn to control it,so I can save energy for the midweek session.

Week 4 was the longest run for a while, and it was seriously tough. For whatever reason I went out without any water, which was a mistake when doing that sort of distance. I tried progressing through the gears and through the pace zone, and all went well until about mile 13. Then the legs started feeling very heavy. I think I got a bit greedy on the pace. The last 2 miles were just a world of pain. I craved chocolate and fluids and wasn;t right for a good couple of hours. Not fun at all! A valuable lesson learned.

Sessions

The only 2 sessions in this three 3 week period were Tempo sessions, 8 miles with 4 at Tempo. Unfortunately I managed neither.

The first was the day of our office Christmas party, so I ran the Easy portion at lunchtime, then did 4 miles at Tempo the day after, which were comfortable and controlled.

The second was Christmas Eve. I went out for the first 2 miles but I really wasn’t feeling it. If I’m honest, I hadn’t felt it when I woke up either. But I tried and after 2 miles I jacked it in. Instead, when I got to Basingstoke later that day I did a gentle 5 miler with the intention of tempo-ing a Festive parkrun to make up the effort balance. I did this at Poole.

General Aerobic Runs

I’ve been consciously trying to keep my Easy/General Aerobic runs at just under 8 minute miling. This is because its 15s per mile quicker than I trained last year. Despite maybe not QUITE being “easy” on the effort scale, I hope that as my weight drops and fitness increases it will become easier. “The only way to run faster is to run faster”. My body is pretty injury free right now so fingers crossed this little ploy pays off!

Weight

Nothing to report. I’m too afraid to get on the scales, but now its new year I’m having a clean week and will weigh in next Sunday as my new start point so I can be sub 14st by Manchester.

Summary

Running has gone well and I feel my base is building well. Now to shift the christmas (and more) weight and start getting on with the tougher business!

Lessons:

  1. In the upcoming 20 miler in a few weeks, take water! This means investing in some sort of hydration belt/bag – I don’t want to have to stop.
  2. Stop being a pussy and get on the scales, fatty!
  3. See point 2 and start using MyFitnessPal again once you’ve gotten a starting weight.
  4. Blog next week.