Chris Worfolk's Blog


Canal Canter half marathon

March 28th, 2018 | Sport

On Saturday I ran the Leeds Liverpool Canal Canter, organised by It’s Grim Up North Running.

I’ve set some big fitness goals for 2018, including running a sub-2 hour half marathon. It was looking like I would smash this really early as the Sir Titus Trot took place on the first Saturday of January. 6 days in and I could nail one of my goals. But, alas, I injured my foot and had to miss the race.

This was my next opportunity. Things didn’t start well: there was a big queue for registration. I thought 45 minutes would be enough time to get registered and prepared for the start time, but it wasn’t. So, I came to the line flustered and having forgotten my energy gels.

Armed with nothing but a handful of jelly babies from the water station, I set off. The start reminded me of Parkrun: hundreds of people trying to fit down a narrow canal towpath. I felt sorry for the cyclists coming the other way. But, as the race drew on, everything thinned out.

Despite going off faster than in training I managed to maintain the pace the whole way. In the end, I clocked in at:

1:52:24

This is slightly below my watch’s time of 1:52:36. This knocks the socks off my time of 2:03:42 from last year’s Leeds half marathon. They are not directly comparable, though. The Leeds half is much hillier and takes place in May when the weather is a lot warmer. So, 11 minutes is a hefty chunk to take off, but I wouldn’t be running the Leeds half as quick as I ran this.

Regardless, though, it is a new PB, strikes off a big fitness goal for the year and means that I beat Eliud Kipchoge to the sub-2 hour mark. Sure, he’s doing the full marathon, but then he’s a professional marathon runner from Keyna and I’m a computer programmer from England, so in terms of how hard it was to beat the 2-hour mark, I think it’s similar (and I did it without cheating).

Post-race, there were was a huge selection of free cake to be had.

The custom medals are pretty cool, too.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

March 25th, 2018 | Books

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a book by J. K. Rowling. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated Eddie Redmayne.

I had seen the film, which also stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt, but I wasn’t really sure how the original book would translate into an audiobook as it seemed like a picture book about monsters, something that wouldn’t lend itself well to being without said pictures.

But that wasn’t the case. In large part, because of the production values used. Each entry was accompanied by music and sound effects that added atmosphere. That, combined with my existing knowledge, provided a rich description.

It did make the entire thing quite short: around 2 hours. Which was fine; I like short books.

Triathlon: Winning at 70.3

March 24th, 2018 | Books

Triathlon: Winning at 70.3: How to Dominate the Middle Distance is a book by Dan Golding.

Golding is the same guy that wrote Triathlon For Beginners, which I wrote about in December. I think that Winning at 70.3 is probably even better.

Although it is focused on middle distance triathlon (also known as 70.3 or half-ironman), I think this is worthwhile reading for anyone doing Olympic distance because it will put you in good habits. Sure, you can get away with less core strength training at Olympic. But do you want to get away with it, or do you want to stay injury free and put in place patterns that would allow you to move up if you ever wanted to? I would suggest the latter.

It’s not a beginners book, so if you’re not familiar with the basics of triathlon or the terminology, you might struggle. It’s not inaccessible, but it doesn’t break things down to anywhere near the same level as Golding’s other book.

For me, one of the most useful parts of the book was the specific exercises and tests to do. For example, how to measure your sweat rate so you know how much water to drink during a race. Others bit were a bit confusing. Golding talks about heart rate zones, for example, saying they are the “common” ones. But they don’t seem to map onto Garmin’s, or the 7 zones a lot of cyclists talk about, so it’s not clear how to incorporate them into training.

It’s also full of helpful tips, such as saving time by strategically weeing towards the end of your swim and thus avoiding the chance that you’ll have to go again.

All in all, an excellent guide to triathlon.

The Language Instinct

March 23rd, 2018 | Books

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language is a book by Steven Pinker.

I have raved about Steven Pinker before. How the Mind Works is a fascinating read and The Blank Slate has changed my worldview more than almost any other book. Along with two or three others, it is probably the more important book I have ever read.

Sadly, I could not get on with the The Language Instinct in the same was as Pinker’s other books. It was too technical for me, even as someone currently studying childhood language development (the book is about language more broadly, but can’t help but stray into development).

I found Pinker’s other books highly accessible, but, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get into this one. Ultimately, I had to give up.

I have no doubt that the many positive reviews about this book are accurate. If you understand the material, or just stick with it, perhaps you get a lot out of it. It just wasn’t the case for me.

Exercise Physiology

March 22nd, 2018 | Books

Exercise Physiology is a textbook by William D. McArdle, Frank L. Katch and Victor L. Katch. I read the eighth edition, which was also an international edition.

I wasn’t a big fan of the book. It’s dense: while there are lots of sections and graphics, it felt like a lot of heavy text and I struggled to focus on taking so much in. A lot of it got very technical, which may or may not be a good thing depending on what your current knowledge of the subject is.

As a minor point, they re-use the same full-page photos for the chapter title pages, which is disappointing.

It’s a comprehensive textbook, but a bit too heavy for me. Literally: it’s 2.9kg.

Physiology of Sport and Exercise

March 21st, 2018 | Books

Physiology of Sport and Exercise is a textbook by W. Larry Kenney, Jack H. Wilmore and David L. Costill. I read the fifth edition.

I got on well with this book. I was able to read in detail the sections I was interested in and skip straight to the “in review” summaries of the sections I wasn’t. There are case studies which help add a bit of colour to the otherwise dry science.

It starts with a description of what happens to the body when you exercise, before moving to talk about the theory behind training. It has sections for environmental factors and individual differences such as age and sex.

There is a lengthy discussion of nutrition and doping, too. Though, unfortunately, I haven’t found any safe and easy ways to dope. I don’t fancy withdrawing a load of blood and re-injecting it six weeks later, so it looks like I’ll just have to keep puffing away on the old salbutamol.

Keep on Running

March 20th, 2018 | Books

Keep on Running: Science of Training and Performance is a book by Eric Newsholme, Anthony Leech and Glenda Duester.

It’s a popular title for books: a search on Good Reads turned up over a dozen books with the same title. This one is to do with what it says on the tin. That is, it is about how to run faster and longer.

The key takeaway message is that you are slowed down by your weakest system. So, you have a great vo2 max, but if your lactate threshold is terrible, you’re not going to be setting any records. Similarly, you can have all the slow twitch fibres in the world, but you need a decent running economy to run a marathon fast.

This means working on all of the bodies systems. It’s not enough to just do the same thing over and over again. You need variety in your training routine to work on each part of the body.

Of course, vary your training system is nothing new or surprising. But the book breaks down the details in a clear and easy-to-follow manner.

York-Leeds-York sportive

March 19th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I took part in the Velo 29 York-Leeds-York sportive.

The name suggests that you ride from York to Leeds and back to York. Which you do, if you do the longer routes. However, this only being my second sportive after the Festive Fifty, I decided to do the short route. At 65km, this was still the longest ride I had ever done, albeit be only five additional kilometres.

There was a long queue to get to the start, so, with Bogdan stuck at the back of a slow-moving queue, I set off on my own.

It rained the whole time. By the end of it, everything was soaked. I had to dry out the money inside my waterproof jacket. My waterproof shoe covers had given way and become saturated. I tried my best to maintain a “make the best of it” spirit, but even that got wet eventually.

Velo 29’s event management

I only have Sportive HQ’s event management to compare against, but they seemed a similar standard.

There was lots of parking at the venue and it was easy to find a spot at York Auction Mart. This also created a large indoor space to set off from. They said there would be changing facilities, though this turned out just to be a few toilets with a long queue.

Setting off took a long time: I think Bogdan was 15-20 minute behind me, even though I had been hanging around for a similar timeframe from the start of the race.

The feed station was good. They had sandwiches, pork pies and cakes, as well as energy gels. At the Festive Fifty, they just had drinks and bacon sandwiches. However, I did miss the warm sandwich this time. When we got back, we got a small sausage in a bun. The medal and the free 5-minute massage were a nice touch.

The event was chip timed and matched up well to the time on my watch.

The course itself was a bit surprising. It was predominantly on-road, but sometimes we were taken off-road. This wasn’t a problem on my cross bike, but I would have been quite annoyed if I had been on a road bike.

At times the route was confusing. They make a big thing about the amount of signage they put out and there is a lot. However, there was so much that sometimes it didn’t make it very obvious which signage we were supposed to be following and which was for people going the other way.

My performance

I finished in 3:03:12, including a 12 minute stop at the feed station. This gave me an average speed of 22.8kmph and an average moving speed of 23.4kmph.

I was the 62nd person back overall (in a field of 1,139) but that is meaningless because most people were doing the medium or long route and most people were there to have fun rather than race (including me). Fair play to the seven people who finished the medium route (97km) before I finished the short.

Here is a comparison between my first sportive and this one:

Metric York-Leeds-York Festivity Fifty
Distance 65.13km 49.61km
Moving time 2:48:29 2:14:28
Elevation 221m 146m
Average speed 23.2 kmph 22.1 kmph
Average power 89 W 91 W

I’m not sure how to interpret these figures. I think they’re not great: I did maintain a slightly faster average speed and over a longer distance. And there are some good reasons I might have been slower: the weather was awful, there were some off-road sections, it was a new longest ride, I ran a half marathon the day before and it’s possible that Strava overestimated my speed at the Festive Fifty.

However, there are a bunch of reasons to be disappointed. My estimated average power was lower and there was no massive headwind this time. More importantly, both are just slow. I’ve done a lot of work on the bike over the past four months and yet I’m still barely making the triathlon cut-off pace even on courses as flat as York.

Conclusion

Given how wet and cold it was, I don’t think I did “enjoy” it. However, it was good enough that I think it would be a lot of fun in the warm and dry, so I will be signing up for more when the weather gets warmer.

Mukbang: It’s videos of people eating food

March 18th, 2018 | Distractions

I generally think of myself as digitally savvy. I’m not quite up with the young people, on SnapChat or whatever, but I know it exists. Mukbang, however, I did not even know existed. Now I do, and it turns out that it is just videos of people eating a lot of food on a live video screen.

It’s not a food challenge thing, although they do usually eat a lot of food. It’s more of a live, interactive experience. They have a chatroom and people ask them questions. It originated in South Korea but lots of other people seemed to have jumped on the bandwagon.

Why are they doing this? One theory is that it fills a feeling of loneliness. At the end of the above video, the host says “I hope you enjoyed the food” as if we had been at a dinner party with her. Which is basically what we did:

I think I will happily go back to just the three of us, but then, I’m not really the target audience.

Spicy noodle challenge

While the concept of mukbang seems relatively mainstream, an offshoot of it has taken it to almost fetish levels: spicy noodle challenges. Video sites are floodest with mostly young women eating really spicy noodles, presumably so the viewer can watch them suffer.

Footnotes

Thanks to 지식테이너김승훈 for the title image.

Six Nations 2018

March 17th, 2018 | Sport

Seriously, we’re three of the five teams that compete in the Six Nations, how did Britain not win?