The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

The Frog Graham Round – failure and experience

When you set out to achieve something and then don’t achieve it, do you regard that as ‘failure’, or ‘experience’?

I got back home this morning after a weekend up in the Lake District.

Yesterday was the day of the ‘Frog Graham Round’ – an epic 40+ mile swim and fell running challenge I’ve had my eye on since January.

An event that I had estimated would take me and my running buddy Guy around 16 hours to complete, but in the end we had to call it a day after only 8.

We were disappointing not to have finished, and although it was a tough decision to make it was absolutely the right one from a safety point of view.

Horrendous weather and very poor visibility made navigation and staying upright a nightmare.

One small mistake of missing a turning left us on the wrong side of an enormous valley, and by the time we had clambered our way back on track again all hope of finishing in daylight had vanished.

Success and failure

On the day that Mo Farah made it 5 straight years of winning the Great North Run, I failed to make it 5 years of successfully completing my own annual ‘big challenge’ series.

4 years ago I ran 10 marathons in 10 days.

3 years ago I ran 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

2 years ago I completed an ironman triathlon.

1 year ago I ran another 100 miles in 24 hours at Endure24.

Yet this year’s ‘failure’ has probably taught me more about myself than any of them.

The 37km of running, 2700m of ascent and 1km of swimming across Bassenthwaite Lake has all given me valuable experience.

More wisdom was gained from our crew team, Nigel & Roger, who both shared their knowledge of the area.

The weather was the deciding factor but the recce also exposed a number of weak points in my preparation… some more painful to deal with than others.

Over the next few days I’ll be mining some of the important biggest lessons from this weekend’s non-completion, and I’m certain that I’ll be back to take on The Frog next year.

The 5 Ls of Running Efficiency

The 5 Ls of Running Efficiency

When I first started writing emails & articles over 10 years ago I ONLY talked about running.

I had an eCommerce business selling running gear in Ireland and started writing content for the website.

The business didn’t work out, but I continued writing about running and people seemed to enjoy reading them.

The emails turned into a series of live workshops that I ran for about 5 years all over the UK and Ireland, all the while working with the Reading Half Marathon as their training partner, writing a book for beginner runners and articles for magazines like Women’s Running.

Then a few years ago I felt like I’d said all that I wanted to say about running and made the conscious decision to pivot away from it, towards motivational speaking and mindset coaching.

I didn’t want to be just ‘George the running guy’ any more, though the daft ultra marathons I’ve run over the last few years probably haven’t helped my cause lol!

Still, I decided to move on and write about other stuff that interested me and I hoped would interest others as well.

I was never interested in the hard core running cyborgs who ate marathons for breakfast.

Each to their own, but that has never been my most favouritist group to work with.

Since my ‘I’m not the running guy any more’ statement a few years ago, I never let myself romp around with running writing again.

Buttttt…..

I do still quite like a bit of run chat from time to time 😉

So this one is for the runners, of ANY ability or ambition.

Because it’s about efficiency.

How to run faster, with less effort and more enjoyment.

It’s what I’ve always done personally, it’s what I used to teach on my workshops, and it’s what I credit with allowing me to run 40 miles at the weekend without too much trouble.

And there’s no reason why you can’t apply them to your own running as well.

Here are the recently-named-because-it-sounds-like-a-real-thing 5 Ls of running efficiency:

#1 LIFT

Imagine a piece of string lifting you up from the top of your head.

Feel your spine aligning and your tummy drawing in slightly, but just focus on the lift.

Do this as often as you can during your next run.

You’ll do it, then forget about it a few steps later. That’s ok. Just do it again as soon as you remember.

The piece of string… LIFT yourself tall.

#2 LEAN

If you can get the lift, the next thing to try is to lean forwards from the ankles.

Imagine standing still and leaning forward so the weight rocks onto your toes.

What would happen if you leaned forwards a little more?

You’d fall over, is what!

Except you wouldn’t, because you’d instinctively put a foot out in front of you.

And if you kept that lean in place, you’d put your other foot in front of that one, and so on… <<< this is often known as ‘running’.

Running bolt upright or worse leaning back means that your foot will contact the ground well in front of your centre of mass.

When this happens, it’s like running with the brakes on.

Lean forwards and gravity will do some of the heavy lifting for you.

#3 LOOSEN

On a running workshop I once took with Irish marathon record holder Catherina McKiernan, she said ‘a relaxed muscle is hard to injure’.

That always stuck with me, and I’d like to pass it on to you.

Relax your ankles in particular, the way you would your wrists if you were shaking out your hands.

Instead of trying to lift up your toes to plant your heel on the ground, just keep them relaxed and loose, and allow them to land naturally on the mid foot.

#4 LIGHT

Imagine yourself floating along the ground rather than pounding into it with every step.

This one takes a bit of work, but the more quietly you can run the less energy
you’re going to waste.

If you get the lift and the loosen, this one usually takes care of itself, but it’s still something to focus on and ‘check in’ with as you run.

#5 LUNGS

Yeah, this one is basically just breathing, but ‘the 4 Ls and a B of running efficiency’ isn’t quite so catchy.

Of course you already breathe as you run, but try to focus on getting more oxygen into your lungs and getting rid of more of the carbon dioxide.

Establish a rhythm as you run, so each foot landing on the ground is timed with a breath.

For instance 2 breaths in for a left and a right, then 2 breaths out for the next left and right.

You’ll find that you naturally take fuller breaths, and the steps ‘shunt’ air into and out of your lungs.

 

At Endure24 on Saturday I literally went through this list in my head over and over again.

It was like a mental check list and I’d focus on each of them for a few moments at a time before moving on to the next one.

If it helps, you could write an ‘L’ on your left hand so you see it any time you look at your watch.

If you wear your watch on the other hand be wary of this or you’ll have people asking why you have an L written on your right hand…

Could be a lengthy explanation and when you’re already making oxygen choices that’s a conversation you don’t want to be having.

Just send them over to the blog instead where I’ll be posting this later 😉

Hope that helps / is of interest / entertained you / passed a few minutes of your day.

I’ll be back to talking about non-running stuff next time, until the next urge to delve back into my past overwhelms me.

It’s like therapy, so thank you for listening.

3 simple mindset strategies to keep going when all you want to do is stop

3 simple mindset strategies to keep going when all you want to do is stop

How do you keep going when all you want to do is stop?

I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I’d come along to a 24 hour running event and give a talk on mindset and motivation.

It was Endure24, the event where I’ve run 100 miles on two previous occasions, and the race director Chris is a good friend of mine, so I was quick to accept the invitation.

My running recently has been limited to one or two 4 or 5 mile runs with the dog a week, but I decided on Monday that if I’m going anyway I may as well ‘run a few laps’.

Today I want to share some of the simple advice I gave during my talk on the Friday night, to a group of about 50 people in the very final stages of preparation for 24 hours of running.

1) Anticipate and embrace the difficult questions

Nobody runs an ultra marathon and expects it to be easy. Most things in life worth accomplishing are going to have a few challenges along the way.

Not just the practical obstacles that we have to overcome, but the challenge of battling with those thoughts that pop into our heads and tell us we can’t do it.

They tell us that it’s too hard, question what the point of continuing is, and come up with some very convincing and logical reasons why you should stop.

If these difficult questions are to be expected, we can choose how we’re going to respond to them. They can be something to fear and worry about, or a clear signpost that we’re operating soundly in our ‘stretch zone’.

When you hear these voices of doubt cropping up, acknowledge them and thank them for trying to keep you safe, but then decide whether or not you’re going to listen to them.

Because you don’t have to.

2) Keep going out and you’ll keep coming back

This one came from a friend of mine Warren Pole, founder of chia seed energy gel company 33shake.com

Before my first crack at Endure24 he shared some of his own experiences with me, including this gem.

Because it’s a 5 mile loop, all you have to do is to keep getting out for another lap, and eventually you’ll come back.

Don’t worry about what’s going to happen in between leaving and returning, just keep going out and you’ll figure out what you need to do.

I’ve found this strategy instrumental in reducing the overwhelm of the task in hand. I don’t think about running 100 miles, I think about getting out for another lap.

3) Talk to yourself properly

If you tell yourself it’s going to hurt, that it’s going to be horrible and that you’re going to hate the hills, guess what kind of experience you’re going to have?

Choose your language very carefully.

Both what you say to other people, and what you say to yourself inside your own head.

A simple example of how I used this in the race was with the hills.

Ultra running is about efficiency.

And walking up hills isn’t just ‘acceptable’, it’s recommended.

Two of the biggest hills were called ‘Little Steep’ and ‘Heart Break Hill’.

Because I was walking up them, in my head they became opportunities to have a rest.

I renamed them ‘Little Snooze’ and ‘Long Lay Down’.

So every lap I looked forward to having a couple of nice leisurely breaks.

The mind is a powerful thing when you can engage your imagination and be mindful of your language.

Both in what you say to other people and also yourself.

Practical mindset application

Mindset is really just about thinking differently. But different thoughts bring about different actions, and it’s these different actions that bring about different results.

Try them on for size and see what fits.

I’ve read about and experimented with hundreds of things that haven’t worked or made sense to me.

But you don’t need to do it all to still make a difference.

On Saturday I implemented all of the above along with a number of other techniques I’ve picked up over the years, and ran 40 miles in just over 7 hours.

The mind can be a powerful force indeed!

Hill running technique tips – CoachMag article

Hill running technique tips – CoachMag article

Hill running training technique tips

[The hill running training technique tips article was first published in CoachMag.com August 2015, in conjunction with Sony’s SmartWear and Tough Mudder]

Hill running doesn’t just prepare you for tackling slopes – it’ll boost your endurance and strengthen your legs ready for Tough Mudder. ‘There are three distinct approaches to hill running, and a time and a place for each of them,’ says running coach George Anderson.

The sprint

The hardest session is the flat-out hill sprint. Pick a fearsome incline and then belt up it as fast as possible for up to a minute, using a SmartWatch 3 from Sony to time yourself.

Then walk down to the bottom, and repeat. ‘Half a dozen will put hairs on anybody’s chest,’ says Anderson. ‘Although hill sprints can be vomit-inducing they’re also fantastic for building rock-solid lower-body power and strength.

That means they’ll not only help with hilly sections of your Tough Mudder, but also the explosiveness needed for obstacles such as Everest 2.0.’

Continuous hills

To help make your Tough Mudder distance feel more like a stroll in the (extremely muddy) park, continuous hills are a good way to prepare. Pick a hill with a gradient you can run down without disrupting your technique too much, and then spend eight to ten minutes pushing yourself up and down at an intensity of about 80% – tough, but not too tough that you can’t maintain it. ‘Keep this intensity on the way down as well as up – no stopping at the top for a breather,’ says Anderson.

Hills as obstacles

The third type of hill training is where you include a number of hills into a regular run. ‘Think of each hill as an obstacle to overcome, as you’ll have to at your Tough Mudder,’ says Anderson. ‘This will ready your body to handle slopes even when it’s tired, and give you the mental strength to get over all the obstacles even when your energy levels have taken a battering.’

Running up hills doesn’t have to strike fear into your very soul. Anderson’s tactics make things a little easier…

1) Lean into the hill

‘Try to lean in from your ankles rather than waist, so you’re using gravity to pull you upwards.’

2) Shorten your stride

‘Long strides where your foot lands in front of your body can put the brakes on with every step.’

3) Slow your pace

‘Unless the objective of the session calls for maximum effort, allow yourself to slow down when you encounter hills on the run.’