Joe Update

Things have been going bad recently. First Blue was put down and then my Grandma died. I am going to be back in Skipton today as Grandma’s funeral is tomorrow. Then I will be back in Manchester for the marathon which is somehow on Sunday.

Sorry it has been so long since last post. I have been very low and have been unable to do much running. My leg gets to a state where it feels fine but then the next day after running becomes knotted and gets shin splints. I saw physio yesterday and she gave it a sports massage. So I will see what happens on Sunday. I may have to give up before the finish. Definitely not as fit for running as I was 4 weeks ago. On the plus side I don’t have to worry about tapering. As for time going to just aim to finish, maybe will try keeping to a 4 hour pace. I was going to try and get under 3:30 before but at least I will have a nice time to beat next time. My bib number is 3420 just in-case there’s a way to track me. Starts at 9:00AM.

Resting heart rate PB during rest (39BPM)

Just checking my resting heart rate. Well I don’t have any other stats to look at right now! 🙂



HR6monthLooks like 2 weeks rest has reduced it a lot. So I will count it as a PB since I ain’t getting any running PBs. Yesterday it got down to 39 beats per minute. Low forties is supposed to be very good!

During my heavy training it was in the low 50s, it would drop to the low 40s (43 or so) during less intense training. So looks like my body is recovering from the built up fatigue, this is supposed to happen – but ideally just before a race, during tapering. Whilst you are training you are essentially building up fitness and fatigue, the taper is to maintain the fitness and recover from the fatigue so that you are in peak shape for a race.

I have started doing some upper body stuff. Also today I did a lot of plyometrics, that should help me maintain fitness, its still a bit risky as I guess its quite impacty. Also It will stop me from being able to run till tuesday at least as my legs are going to get quite sore. But this soreness will be the good stuff.

I think my running form has been good, I noticed even though I wasn’t doing as much core as I should, I got to the point where I could do a 2 minute plank. I tried again today and got to 2:30. A tip to activate your core during plank is to clench your bum. It feels really odd at first but now it’s natural. Your glutes are super important. I will talk more about running form in a different post when I am feeling up to it.

Hope everyone is well. Let me know in the comments if you want to know anything.

Where have I been? Threat, Drive and Soothe

Sorry about lack of updates, was initially trying not to think too much about it. But for the last 10 or so days (since Monday 26th Feb) I’ve done pretty much no exercise.

After a run on Monday 26th (almost 2 weeks ago) I felt like my right leg might have had a stress fracture. It was really painful even just to bear weight on it. I couldn’t feel it on the run that much but just mentally broke down in the shower not just because of the pain but because of what I feared the pain meant. The next few days the pain rapidly decreased till about 4 days after it was fine to walk on. Since then it feels a lot better although still mildly painful sometimes but not painful enough to physically bother me. I’m hoping its “just” shin splints. The recommended rest for that is 2 weeks, which I will have finished this coming Monday. Shin splints can develop into a stress fracture so I am being careful with it.

If its a fracture then that’s at least 8 weeks I think. So that would mean missing the Manchester marathon, also my leg would waste away in a cast (from previous experience).  I will have a go at running on Monday, if it becomes painful again I will have to go to the Dr, a fracture may show up on an x-ray by now (stress fractures are usually harder to see initially – I believe – again from experience (a different one)). Oh god nested brackets. I hope that isn’t the case.


Fortunately running muscle isn’t the only thing I have been working on, although I haven’t been working on this other stuff nearly enough. I hope the following helps other people too as this is a common problem/scenario in everyones life. Here’s what I was working on with a psychologist after getting out of hospital till January this year. It splits up our brain into 3 areas, Threat, Drive and Soothe. I will just copy the summary from here

Building upon an evolutionary model, Paul Gilbert proposed that human beings have a tripartite emotional regulation system. The model argues that people can be in states of ‘threat’ (focused on dangers), ‘drive’ (with a mindset attuned towards achievement or competition), or ‘soothing’ (which promotes safeness and feelings of interpersonal connectedness). Each of the states are associated with distinct feeling-states, motivations, purposes, and neurochemistry. A healthy response would be the adaptive use of all three of these systems in appropriate measures. Dysfunction comes about because of limited flexibility, or over-use of one system to the detriment of others

And you can visualise it like so:



My psychologist explained that my soothe system was under-active/developed. And that meant I lived mainly in the land of Threat and Drive. So that when drive failed, I.e. work or anything else, I immediately went into threat mode where I saw myself as a failure and catastrophised and became paranoid. I was in other words like a 2 legged stool.

Well what’s all this to do with the price of fish? Running for me is obviously mainly about drive, although I try to argue it is “a bit soothe”, I was never quite convincing. I’ve known for a while that I need to develop some “soothing muscle” in order that when I can’t run for whatever reason, I don’t immediately end up in threat land. Also to help with my mental health in everyday situations.

Since the injury instead of running I’ve managed to get absorbed into a game on my pc (for the 1st time in years), start reading again, listening to music, and doing other non goal oriented stuff. And its been pretty successful so far. Although I have definitely spent a few days in threat land and need some more practice. Its a pretty big step for me, although it sounds really pathetic an probably annoying.


Anyway, I think the same goes for everyone, whether they are workaholics or runners or both, these days there’s not much soothe in peoples lives because it is discouraged from a young age in favour of drive. It is seen as a weakness and people end up less able to cope with setbacks in a world where more and more drive is required of people everyday.




The Start – Accepting that YOU can run

Before I could learn to run, or even go on a run, I needed to accept that I can run. Or at least humour the idea.

I can’t run. No you don’t understand, I CAN’T run! Biologically I was designed to not be able to run. I am a reverse Mo.

And so I would have told you, and often did tell people most of my life. What changed was when my brother lost lots of weight. We had both been intensely non-athletic since a young age, although I liked to walk I put a lot of weight on at university, and although my Mum had lost weight before, this was the first time I saw as an overweight adult that an overweight adult CAN lose weight. The proof was incontrovertible.


Before this I had accepted that “I can’t run” was a fact, running was just something I was born without.


I asked him how he had done so well and he told me that he had been running. He said he tried to run 3 kilometres everyday and had done the first few weeks or month running on the spot in his bedroom.
By this point in my life I had tried to lose weight through dieting many-many times without success. The problem with this was both ignorance on my part and the fact that you can’t lose weight through dieting without making lifestyle changes longer term. When you stop the diet, you put the weight back on and an overzealous diet is something that is impossible to hold onto unless there is an end in sight.
The penny had dropped, weight could be lost through exercise. I am not sure how long after this realization it took for me to give it a go, but not long after I willingly laced up my trainers for the first time in my entire life to go running. I had loosened my grip of the shield which is the idea that I can’t run, and went out to give it a go.


This was around the end of 2011 and I managed to kept the weight off until April-ish 2013 when I was spiralling down the bottomless pit of depression.


Not everyone is the same when it comes to this, I know a lot of people have been runners before, but I hope if anyone reads this that they decide to question the “facts”.


If you do decide to run I can’t point you in a better place than couch to 5k (C25K). The first runs WILL feel hard, don’t be put off, remember to slow down and you will be amazed that after 9 weeks you can run for 30 minutes non stop. I was amazed after just 1 week how much I improved when I did C25K in 2016. You will begin to love running.

Bad Leg Diary #2 GCTbalance Update

Well I went for a run last night (or this morning..) and I just got around to looking at my Ground Contact Time (GCT) Balance, I was really surprised. The run itself was fairly standard, I went a little too fast towards the end so it turned out to be a continuous slow ramping up of speed to around my 5k pace. My calf isn’t right yet but much better and didn’t bother me on the run. The only thing I noticed is on the opposite side my foot was slightly sore, I assume because it was doing all the work in previous runs and made me glad I cut the long run short. Anyway check out the GCT balance.


That’s the most balanced for me, I was getting around 50.8R to 51.2R before the calf issues. I actually think this balance is because my right foot was a bit sore, leading me to favour the left more than usual. I wonder if my right leg is bigger than the left?

So I want to write up my training plan for the marathon today and hopefully will post that/something more interesting than GCT balance soon. I was also thinking of retrying the long run from Sunday today so I will see how that goes.

As for these running dynamic metrics… don’t worry about them. For me the most important metrics are pace, cadence and, less-so heart-rate (HR). Some people put more emphasis on HR but I prefer perceived effort for now. The only reason I have all the extra stuff is my HR strap provides it. For beginners I would recommend just using your phone to record your runs. Strava does a decent job but there are tons of apps.

Bad leg Diary #1: Driving on the Right

I crept silently into the night and gathered with me all the bathwater and toys from the street below. As I emptied the bathwater back into the pram, and put toys in bath. I went to bed and dreamt only of loud laughter, and the sound of neighbours knocking on the walls, as I knew that come the morning nobody could tell that I had lost my cool.


This post has gone on a little long and a little too much into some numbers that aren’t very interesting. Be warned. !!!!!!!!

I had a lovely training run of easy pace for 130-150min on Sunday, this is the kind of run that while training for the half marathon last year, well and truly hooked me to running. I had signed up to the Manchester HM after finishing the great Manchester 10K in May, I realised that for a few weeks I was just doing 5k 3 times a week on the treadmill at the gym. I wonder if I can pinpoint the exact run… Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked and will hopefully come back to this subject.

I only made 90 minutes of this long run on Sunday, instead of 150 minutes. After about 4 miles my left calf was in major pain and I was finding it hard to keep up the pace. I knew it wasn’t an injury kind of pain so I could push on but at the same time I was aware that my form had gone out of the window due to pain, and therefore could have brought on a popper injury.

I was a bit down about it and feeling like my training wasn’t working etc etc. I knew I should have felt good and done the run succesfully as my resting heart rate was extremely low after having 3 rest days and kind of a “rest week”. In fact here is a graph of my resting heart rate with the low on Sunday.

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So even after taking into account the (shortened) long run it was way down at 45bpm, that’s as low as its been since I started heavy training almost every day.

After feeling sorry for myself on facebook for a bit, the next day I felt around where the pain was coming from and there was what felt like a golf ball in my calf, and it hurt. So it was a knot in my muscle, because I haven’t been stretching and foam rolling.

Actually I am pretty happy with that. I have done more running in the last few weeks than ever and no skeletal or joint injuries is really really good. I put that down to changing how I run with a physiotherapist during November and December which has taken a lot of impact off my knees.

Recently I have started to use a heart rate monitor, this one measures all sorts of running dynamics also. I started to take a look through the last few runs to see if I could see this injury coming, or tell when it started.

Here’s my long run from Wednesday last week (14/02/18), the metric I am looking at is called ground contact time balance. It is a measure of how long each foot is in contact with the ground whilst running. This was a long run again but with intervals after 8 miles.


My average GCT is as “good” (or even) as I have measured since having the chest strap. Average was 49.2%L/50.8R.

Then I did a short recover run on (16/02/18) GCT16_02

Wow, now I am seriously favouring one side, looks like I am using my right side more and taking it easy on the left. This was by far the “worst” (or least balanced) GCT balance I had measured at 47.4%L/52.6%R. I didn’t read this graph until today however. When I did this run I remember feeling a little pain from the calf but not serious, I imagined it would go away after a rest day. Garmin is marking it red so it must be bad!

Then the shortened long run this Sunday (18/02/18)


Even redder, and even more painful. Even more on the Right 47.2%L/52.8%R.

So here’s what I think happened.. I didn’t stretch after Wednesdays long run, and that was a difficult run. Then my legs just seized up as I didn’t even walk much on Thursday. When I went out on the recovery run on Friday I wore me less spongy trainers (with over 1000k in them) this made things a bit worse but I figured it would go away and forgot about the slight niggle. Then after a couple miles on Sunday I could no longer ignore it.

Lessons for me are to keep the stretching and foam rolling etc. Also to not complain as much about stuff. Worse things have happened at sea. Also I will keep an eye on my GCTbalance more, I remember feeling a little sore on the recovery run but the GCT balance was well off what I would normally expect.

In general however GCTbalance is something I have been looking at every now and then, I have noticed it is balancing out more and I think this is a mental thing from when my left knee was injured last year, the knee has been fine for months but I am still careful with it when I stretch the leg out, expecting it to go. That is probably a unconscious factor when I run and why I still slightly prefer the right side.

Anyway, if you made it this far well done, if there’s anything specific you think I should talk about let me know.



Sleeping pills for breakfast

This was a rough time last year, I had been moved on the 4th Feb from a hospital near Brighton, to a hospital near Bradford. That in itself is a long story and journey. Imagine how you would move Hannibal Lecter and you get the idea. I will write about that one day but the advocate said it was one of the worst cases she had seen involving transport. Just thinking about it makes me really angry and low, and I still panic at the sound of sirens going past (even though there weren’t any in this case, the vehicle was sans sirens).

Well the move was so bad I started to write a diary! Which was better than scribbling things on the back of medication forms from MIND! Reading today’s entry from last year, I had forgotten how bad my medication had been screwed with during the move. A lot of the stuff I was taking had disappeared from my list, but the timings for the rest were completely messed up. So badly that in the morning, after breakfast, I was forced to take stuff that made me extremely sleepy, that previously I took at night before, you know.. going to bed.  No wonder I had trouble getting to sleep at night. The worst thing about it was nobody believed me for a long time. I just had to start refusing to take things at certain times which made my medication schedule a lot neater, I was on a LOT of stuff so it felt better being off it after a while. Its a shame though as you don’t usually stop taking meds like this, you are supposed to wean yourself off them. I ended up having withdrawal symptoms from lots of different things as well as things I wanted to still be on but hadn’t been transferred yet.

By this point I had already started trying to lose weight, the hard thing was finding opportunities. I think I could get an hour at the gym twice a week at this hospital but it was fairly hit and miss weather you would get to go. I had no leave to go outside so the only other way I knew of was to eat less. I remember the gym in this place pretty well. It had 2 bikes and a treadmill. I attempted the treadmill but I was so heavy at this point that when I landed my foot would occasionally stop the belt, after about 5 minutes of nearly flying off the thing I elected to try the bike instead. The bike worked really well which surprised me as all I wanted to do was run.

I remember some of the staff in this place were extremely kind and just wanted to help the patients. One of the ward managers even offered to take me to the gym after he had finished work. It’s a nice feeling almost like serendipity when you realise that exactly the right person has exactly the right job. Some of the staff just enjoyed the power they had however. One said when I was being shown around “If you don’t make things hard for me, I wont make things hard for you”. That’s what you expect to hear in a prison, but I wasn’t there because I had done anything wrong. Unfortunately I had a lot of contact with this particular staff member. And things looked pretty bleak as only a few days before this, on the 9th, I had been put on section 3, that mean they could hold me for up to 6 months. Also, it was valentines day, and it is today, bloody hell…

Hello World

I’ve decided to write a blog about my experiences, mainly mental health, running, weight loss and what I am up to. It’s called Sans Shoelaces as that is how I had to start running around a small tennis court in a mental hospital in 2017. Thanks for joining me!

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

Cassilda’s Song
The King In Yellow: Act 1, Scene 2