Yoga for runners

I have been running for over 18 months and am increasing my training to compete in ultra marathons, so far I have completed the Keswick 50k and will soon embark on a 52 mile race around Dartmoor. All this training coupled with my strenuous job as an Arborist left me feeling tight and often getting niggles. I looked for an enjoyable way to help myself and came across Carol Snape aka The Yoga Body. I have been attending her classes for over 6  months and have noticed a huge difference in my flexibility, core strength, recovery time and suffer less with pains and little injuries less often. I wanted to write a blog about the benefits of yoga for runners, but I thought Carol would do I far better job then I would so I asked her to contribute the words and pictures below. So thank you Carol for your insight and i’ll see you on the mat.

Yoga is the perfect activity to complement running. Not only does it loosen up tight muscles (from the repetitive movement), it also strengthens the core, improves breath control and calms the mind. Recovery time decreases as the muscles are stretched increasing bloody supply and oxygen, range of movement expands and the posture improves. Its a no brainer!

Below are 5 top postures for stretching out tight, overworked muscles which will see your running performance advance and leaving you feeling great! Give them a go and notice the difference.

Downward facing dog

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This is a deep stretch for the hamstrings, shoulders, calves, hands and spine and builds strength in your shoulders, arms and legs.

From tabletop position (on hands and knees), begin to lift the knees and come over the toes to bring the feet down towards the mat. Your hamstrings are going to feel tight so feel free to pedal out the feet, bend the knees and get comfortable in the pose. Keep the hands shoulder width apart and spread all ten fingers into the mat, distributing the weight evenly. Push the seat bones high and towards the back of the mat, like an upside down V. We’re not in a plank position so make sure you’re not resting all of your weight into your arms and hands. Micro-bend the elbows and open up the shoulders. Aim to ground the heels down towards the floor, but don’t worry if they don’t reach, this takes practice and flexibility which will come in time.

Pigeon pose

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This is a fantastic posture for opening up tight hips and lengthening the hip flexors.

From downward facing dog, take the right knee towards the chest and then let the leg come down onto the ground with the aim to plant the shin parallel with the front of the mat (this takes time so don’t worry if it’s not completely parallel). From here, sit down into your hip and allow the left leg to shuffle back to lie flat onto the mat. Try to keep the hips even and in line, do not fall to one side even if you are far off the ground. If this is the case, use a block or blanket underneath the right buttock to bridge the gap. If this is comfortable, feel free to walk the hands in front and come onto the forearms to sink deeper into the posture. Stay here for 5 deep breaths before swapping sides.

Lizard pose

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Another great hip opener, this posture is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. By incorporating this posture into your stretches you can help improve the flexibility of your hip ligaments and strengthen the muscles in your legs.

From downward facing dog, take the right foot all the way to the front of the mat, outside of your right hand. From here you can drop the left knee and come over the left foot. Sink into the hip from here and if its comfortable, come down onto the forearms. To incorporate muscle strengthening in the left leg, come over the foot and lift the knee off the floor.

Don’t worry if you cannot come onto the forearms in this position. This will come in time. Just allow the breath to guide you deeper into the posture and enjoy the deep hip stretching sensations!

Lizard pose – with a quad stretch variation

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Staying with the posture above, dropping the left knee onto the mat. Gently guide the right hip open with the hand so that the foot rolls over slightly. From here, bend the left knee so that the foot is facing up towards the sky. Reach around with the right hand for the foot and carefully pull the foot towards you. This allows for a deep quadricep stretch with an even deeper opening of the hip. Hold for 5 breaths before repeating on the other leg.

Big toe pose

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One final and extremely effective way to lengthen your hamstrings, which allows you to deepen into the pose on each exhale and use the resistance against the toes to draw the belly closer to the legs.

From a standing position, take the feet to around hip width apart. Keeping the legs straight, fold over and reach for the big toes with your index and middle fingers (If you need to bend the knees to do this, go for it). From here, with the elbows bent and facing outwards, pull onto the toes to feel the stretch down the backs of your legs. Aim to keep the chest open and try not to round the back. Take 5 long deep breaths here, focusing on getting deeper with each exhale and then release. You’ll soon notice the difference!

So there you have it! Invite these stretches into your post run cool down and you’ll soon notice the benefits not only in your performance, but in your recovery.

You can see more from Carol at www.theyogabody.co.uk  Facebook @theyogabody     Instagram @the.yoga.body. She holds classes in the South Hams of Devon and her social media is a constant inspiration for passionate yogi’s.

Pictures taken by the talented Brahma Studios

Keswick Mountain Festival 50k race report

Ever since getting into off road running and reading Richard Askwith’s brilliant Feet in the clouds I have been longing to visit the area and run. I have been keeping a look out for races in the Lake Disitrict that would be a challenging distance and course profile and would also provide me with some stunning vistas. So when I stumbled across the Keswick Mountain Festival I instantly bought my ticket. It appealed even more to me because the festival would collect likeminded people together for a weekend and they held talks. On Friday I went to Ricky Lightfoot’s followed by Nicky Spinks & Jasmin Paris , Saturday was Donnie Campbell who also ran and won the 50k, so for an aspiring ultra, mountain runner it was perfect.

The course

‘The course is a mixture of wide open trails, single track (fast & technical), big long ascents & fast technical descents, open valley running & very remote feeling trails around the back of the Buttermere/Crummock Water & the Newlands Valley area. It takes in area’s that you will not have run in before. Expect to be blown away by the views of the 4 valleys we take you through & overwhelmed by the quality of running you will be enjoying. This race is not only tough, but is also one of the most scenic routes in the Lake District & takes mountains & lowlands in its stride offering you the best trail running experience in the country’

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50k route
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Elevation profile. My Strava came out at 5946ft of elevation gain

The alarm went off at 4.30 am to allow me time to devour some Summit to eat porridge which was a freeby from the festival and get myself awake and to the start line which was moved next to the Theatre by the lake for the 6am start time. The weather forecast was for 60mph gusts and rain but the temperature was moderate, and I recently had a 18 mile training run on Dartmoor which blessed us with zero visibility and driving rain so I had confidence in my kit and my ability to grind it out when the weather has other ideas.

I started at a comfortable pace and had to remind myself that although it was flat now I had another 32 miles to go so settled in to enjoying the race and trying to find a pace that was difficult but sustainable. We climbed up through the woods where we appeared above Walla Crag. Early on I tried to manage my ascents by realising there would be large sections where I would be more efficient and faster power hiking then trying to run. This egoless strategy semmed to work because throughout the race I felt good on the hills and was able to up the pace on  the more runnable terrain. I was running well in the top twenty and started to pass a few people in the lead up to the Honister mines. I found this the most difficult section. The climb was very steep and difficult and the high winds were really felt here, to the point where any forward progression felt like progress. I consoled myself by thinking of the old adage ‘what goes up must come down’ But the descent via Dubs Quarry round the back of Fleetwith Pike was extremely technical and I didn’t feel like I could gather any speed or flow. Whenever I thought I was cracking this rocky descent business I would stub my toe and nearly fall or kick a rock into myself.

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The view from the top of the ascent down to Buttermere

I had managed to find myself in 10th at this stage which is the position I maintained until the end. From the bottom of the descent we ran around  the southern shore of Buttermere & then Crummock Water to the 3rd Feed Station (CP 3) of the day at the foot of the lake and follow-on to run back up the north side, utilising the shoreline footpath. This was pretty flat in comparison to the rest of the race and I tried to crank out some faster miles here. The route then enterted the Rannerdale vale which was very wet and boggy leading to a single track hugging Whiteless Pike and Addacombe Beck. This section felt quite deceiving, I thought I should be able to run faster but I found it slower and more technical then I thought it looked. This is the most remote section and it certainly felt it.

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Somewhere around Whiteless peak

Following another rocky technical descent towards the Newlands valley, you are on the home straight back into Keswick, having just ran 32.7 miles and covered 6000ft of elevation gain, I was pleased to finish but felt that I could of continued if necessary which is good to know If I plan on upping the training to tackle greater distances.

Kit and fueling

For the race I used from top to bottom

  • Buff
  • Inov8 AT/C Stormshell
  • Salomon long sleeve top
  • Salomon Skin Pro10
  • North Face better then naked shorts
  • Injini trail socks
  • Inov8 Roclite 290’s

Nutrition

I used all of my own nutrition and drink for the race apart from a few chocolate digestives I picked up at CP4. I didn’t seem to suffer from a lack of energy and I think I attribute that to constantly sipping on my Tailwind which kept the dreaded bonk at bay.

  • I put two satchets of Tailwind nutrition in my bladder
  • Clif bloks
  • Wiggle energy bar

Conclusion

I loved the festival, great food and talks in the adventure tipi were amazing. The town of Keswick itself is also fantastic. It is surrounded by peaks and the views of Derwentwater are great. When it was raining all day on Saturday I went into town and looked around the shops which are a dream for anyone into running and outdoor activities, a special shout out to the guy in needle sports I spoke to and even checked the forecast for Sunday on the computer for me. The race was well organised even with the high winds forcing some last minute changes, the course marking was probably the best I have ever encountered and at no point was I ever concerned about where to go. I also got my most ambitious result of a top ten and 5.30hrs so overall I was very happy. I do not recommend driving back to Devon for 7 hours though immediately after running  33 miles, I have been a bit stiff since.

Strava of the race

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The view of Derwentwater from the shore of the festival 

Gear review Patagonia Houdini jacket

I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing

‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’

It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.

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Me running on the South West Coast path in the Houdini

This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.

Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.

Features

The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.

  • 102gr/ men’s med
  • Full zip
  • Zipper chest pocket/ stuff pocket
  • One pull adjustable hood
  • Reflective logo’s front and back

Inov-8 Roclite 290 review

I am a fan of Inov-8’s line of trail running shoes. The first pair I owned were the X-Talon 212’s. I found them to have almost unbelievable traction and the weight and confidence made me want to run as fast as I could at all times. However I found the precision fit created hotspots when I ran over ten miles, and the 4mm drop wasn’t enough for me when I had to run on hard packed trails. I then purchased a pair of Race Ultra 290’s they provided less grip on the sloppy stuff but had a roomier toebox and 8mm drop. They were perfect for longer runs on the variable coast path and even performed admirably in the Brecon Beacons in the snow and mud in November. But there were limitations particularly the grip when it was wet and boggy. I was clearly finding out that no one shoe is perfect for every run and terrain and living in deepest darkest Devon, I will often encounter various different underfoot conditions on any one run.

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Me racing a hard hilly half marathon in them

This leads me to the new Roclite 290’s. I was on the lookout for a shoe in between the two previously mentioned. I wanted to be able to run long on multi terrain without the lack of comfort I had in the X-Talons on the harder stuff and without the slight lack of confidence on the slippery stuff in the Race Ultra’s. So I went to Runners Need in Exeter and tried a few different shoes on, had a good feel and once again settled on Inov-8 and the Roclites. They state that they are;

‘Designed for running quickly over multi terrains. Delivering a responsive ride and high levels of durability, its perfect for moving fast over everything from wet mountain rock to muddy grass, hard-packed trails and roads’

This eloquently summed up what I was looking for. Specification wise they boasted a standard fit, which is what I thought I required after using the X-Talon’s. A 4mm drop which coupled with 6mm lugs as opposed to 8, I  hoped that I wouldn’t find them quite so jarring on my gammy shins once the ground had dried out.

I have had the shoes since January and completed a range of runs. One in particular I thought exemplified their versatility and personified exactly the kind of running I had wanted them for. I ran 14 miles beginning in a village, I climbed up a country lane and from their entered the woods. This was standard woodland running, some really wet areas and I found myself charging through a puddle that came up to my knees. I exited this section of woodland ran down an old road before cutting through a boggy flood plain and entering the woods again. These were dryer hard packed trails which eventually took me to a beach, which I had to cross at low tide through water before running along the South West Coast Path and through a few more lanes to complete my loop. The Roclites performed magnificently throughout. I felt confident on the muddy descents, they drained fast after being fully submerged and were perfectly comfortable for the short road sections. As previously mentioned there is not a perfect one shoe fits all in trail running. The terrain dictates the shoe. But if you do lots of multi terrain running like I have just described then these are really worth considering. I also think that if you are new to trail running then this is a great place to start, and I wish I had these as my first pair of off road shoes.

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My happy face on the described run

These are currently my primary running shoe, unless I know I am going quite far, like the Endurance Life marathon then I will be using these, and that is only because I haven’t ran 25 plus miles in them yet. They are one of those pairs of shoes that makes you want to run more and run faster so kudos to Inov-8 for engineering such a brilliant shoe. Rather then getting into the technicality’s of how they achieve this I have included a picture below.

I highly recommend these shoes, they have performed fantastically on every run I have taken them on so far, are highly versatile and look fantastic.

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How the Roclite’s construction makes it the shoe it is

Pure Trail’s Deep River Trail race half marathon report

The race began at Piddledown common just off the drive way to Castle Drogo at the top of the steep Teign valley. The race would take us down to the river where we would then snake through the beautiful wooded hillside in a loop before returning to where the pain began. 7 of the 14 miles have positive ascent and 7 have more descent then ascent. This equated to around 2,400ft of elevation gain for the course. I actually enjoy a hill usually but the length and severity of what we were faced with really took the power from your legs, then your thighs got thrashed on the mad dash down. Unfortunately it takes twice as long to get up them, so the feeling of forever running up hill couldn’t be descended from.

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Elevation profile

I had this race scheduled months ago but due to the whole tree falling on my leg fiasco I cancelled as I didn’t think I would recover in time. However I managed to start running again, albeit gingerly 2 weeks ago so decided to reenter and run anyway with no expectations. Having said that I also felt good on the start line so thought I would try to hang onto whoever was in the lead for as long as possible. This turned out to be a great tactic until we reached the first hill and the eventual winner Lucy Mcalister stormed on, with two other men in toe and I  knew then that they were beyond me. After that realisation I just tried to concentrate on putting in some serious effort and to just assess how I felt. Where the tree landed on me is sore when I run and to a much greater extent when I race, it feels like someone has kneed me really hard in the side of my calf, but I don’t think it limits me much, that came purely from not being in the same class as Lucy and the others. IMG_20170319_173643_024

The whole Fingle woods area is truly stunning, and if you are going to suffer for a few hours blowing out of your arse running up and down hills it does soften the blow substantially when you are surrounded by such natural beauty. I finished in 6th place in 1:54 with the winner finishing 5 minutes ahead of second in 1:43. When considering the less then ideal build up to this race I was happy on reflection of my time. I found my major weakness to be speed. I kept overtaking the guy who finished 5th on the uphills and would always be overtaken on the down and unable to keep pace on the flatter fast sections. So I need to start to incorporate some speed work into my training if I want to compete at these events.

Me running up one of the never ending hills

It was a very well organised event. The registration was seamless and the marshals who are so integral to these events were encouraging and ensured I didn’t run down any wrong paths. And for those who like these things the medal was a bespoke little number that is one of the nicest  I have seen.

Kit used

Salomon skinpro 10

Inov 8 Roclite 290’s

North Face better then naked shorts

Drymax socks

Inov 8 tee

Buff

Clif shot bloks

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Medal

Back in the game

So I managed one week of marathon training before a tree got dropped on my leg and I strained my medial collateral ligament. I needed three weeks of rest before I could attempt to run again. This was a pretty disappointing setback, I have had problems with injuries before but after my 1st place in the Endurance life marathon I felt invigorated and determined to push on with my training. So on the 6th of March I finally put my shorts and trainers back on and headed out. I tried to be sensible so only did a 4 mile fairly flat route to gauge how my leg was feeling. And although where the tree hit me could be felt whilst running there was no pain and I felt good so this was a positive first run back. I then did another short 3.5 mi run on Thursday with the idea that if I still felt ok I would head out on Saturday and try my leg on a longer more challenging run.

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Saturdays 14 mile route. 1,600ft elevation gain

The run was stunning, I ran through woodlands, over an estuary, crossed a beach and followed some of the SW coast path, it really was an example of all that is brilliant about trail running. And thankfully although my legs felt heavy and I wasn’t ‘flowing’ like I would have liked, there was minimal discomfort and I enjoyed myself. This is now hopefully the beginning of a period of quality training and most importantly being injury free. I will try to build upon this weeks modest mileage of 21 miles and keep my sights set on the Keswick Mountain Festival 50k in June.

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Me just about to tuck into my Tribe bar

A trail running holiday in Gran Canaria

My friend Oli and I are both passionate runners and both of the companies that we work for shut down over the Christmas period. We thought that as we had enforced holiday over this period we should use the time to head to warmer more mountainous climes to get in some quality runs before we began our training plans for our 2017 races. We had a quick think and I suggested Gran Canaria, primarily because I knew it would be warm and I assumed if Transgrancanaria was such a popular ultra, contested by some of the best runners in the world then there must be some epic running to be found.

We stayed in a town called Moya in the north of the island situated in the mountains. We organised an Airbnb and this was the perfect spot to be the base for our trip. We had to hire a car so travelling around the national park would be easier, and it also gave us more flexibility in our route choices. We did four runs whilst we were there and covered around 40 miles and 14,000ft of ascent. As previously stated on the blog I struggled for the last few months of 2016 with shin splints so didn’t enter the holiday at the fitness level I would have liked. I found every run we did challenging but not unmanageable, and really felt like I got some great training in. Living in Devon my experience of running lots of ascent is from Dartmoor and the South West coast path and although you can achieve lots of elevation, (such as the Endurance life marathon that came in at over 4,600ft) it is usually accumulated through lots of undulation. Gran Canaria though was a different beast. The run pictured below had over 2,000ft of ascent in the first two miles, there aren’t many places in the UK where you can replicate that. And we both won our first races of 2017 on the 4th of February so all that running up mountains must have done us some good.

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One of the runs we did, 10 miles and 5,000ft ascent

We used the Gran Canaria tour and trail map, including the rambling roger routes to plan and navigate our runs. I would say that being used to OS maps I don’t think it is quite as accurate, and for one of our runs we planned to park near La Culata and follow a narrow ridge path marked on the map up to the highest point on the Island Pico de Las Nieves, but after climbing through sharp bushes and scrambling for 1000ft up the side of the mountain we had to concede there wasn’t a track there and aborted, got back to the car and parked on the other side of the mountain so that we could finally run up Pico de Las Nieves.  I have to admit that although getting lost and having your legs scratched to pieces is never fun, when you are on holiday with no time constraints and the day stretched out in front of you to explore and run until your heart is content it is the most enjoyable way to get lost.

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Me at the top of Pico de Las Nieves

To all my non running friends and family, the idea of spending the money to go on holiday to run around in the mountains is absurd. But hopefully if you are reading this blog you too have a love for running and a keen sense of adventure. As a destination Gran Canaria was pretty perfect. The island has lots of opportunities for beautiful challenging runs and also has the infrastructure to make accessing them easy, because it is a popular holiday destination. If you stay away from the main hubs such as Las Palmas and Playa del ingles then you will be amongst the locals and be able to find some great places to replenish your energy of an evening such as Locanda el Roque, where the food and service was amazing and is the perfect antidote to a day running in the mountains.

Conclusion 

Overall it was a really relaxed trip that incorporated the perfect amount of physically testing mountain running with the relaxation required to push yourself again on the next run and to also feel re energised for the new year back at work. For anyone wanting a running holiday in the sun during winter I would definitely recommend Gran Canaria and believe  you will not be disappointed with the views, and the opportunity to push yourself up some great peaks.

Runs we did and would recommend

  • Agaete to Mount Tamadaba and back 15mi 4,500ft elevation
  • Cuevas Caidas up to Roque Nublo and back in a circular route 11mi 3,300ft elevation
  • Presa de Los Hornas reservoir to Pico de Las Nieves and back in a circular route 7mi 2,000ft ascent
  • San Pedro to Montana de las Presa and back circular route 10mi 5,000ft elevatio

Gear I used

  • Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s
  • North Face better than naked shorts
  • Patagonia Nine trails shirt
  • Salomon Skin Pro10 hydration pack
  • Clif bar Bloks
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Oli at Roque Nublo