Fixing your feet – John Vonhof

fixing your feetHaving been a runner for quite a few years and with a steadily increasing mileage over the years one thing I have never suffered from is foot problems. To some the following may sound like bragging, but I have never lost a toenail, don’t tend to get blisters and can generally ignore those most important devices on the bottom of my legs. So, if feet are so easy, why am I writing about them?

Generally speaking feet can go wrong at any time. Shoes are always changing, as are socks, the surface you are training on etc. It doesn’t take much for you to go out and have a foot disaster in terms of blisters and losing toe nails, so I figured that I would do a little bit of research in to what I can do to prevent such a thing. This little exercise was inspired when Edward Chapman of www.edandphil.co.uk lent me the book “Fixing Your Feet” by John Vonhof. It sat by my bed for ages (the book, not Ed!) and eventually got buried under a plethora of other running books until I dug it out recently, after it occurred to me that I really should carry something just in case I have a bad foot day. I just didn’t know what to take or what to do with it if something went wrong.

Until I opened the book I found myself wondering how much there was to know about feet, after all the book is bigger than an average sized paperback. It turns out there is quite a lot to know and to explain it in a manner that is readable and understandable does take a bit of space. I picked up a whole load of useful information in just the first couple of chapters, and found it all quite fascinating. As you are talked through the fairly salient points you begin to wonder why you hadn’t thought of these things in the first place. They sound so obvious.

For me, the first eye opener came straight away. My toes always eat through my socks, yet the answer is staring me in the face just a few pages in. File your toenails. That’s it. It hadn’t occurred to me in the slightest that this simple act could have saved me quite a lot of money in normal socks over the years, not to mention the waterproof socks that my gnarly nails have eaten through. I straight away bought myself a metal nail file and set about smoothing off those bad boys. The feeling of the metal file rasping over your nails does take some getting used to, but the effect was immediate. Filing has a couple of other benefits too. It helps to prevent blisters around the tips of your toes and reduces the chance of future toenail loss. All for the sake of spending a couple of pounds on a decent nail file.

That is the only tip I am going to pass on. You will have to buy the book if you want to know more 🙂

Conclusion

Fixing your feet is easy to read and is well worth going through before putting it on your bookshelf within easy reach for reference purposes. At the time of writing it is on the 5th edition.

The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton – Book Review

I started reading The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle immediately after reading Bradley Wiggins’ My Time which I reviewed here. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I enjoyed Wiggins’ book so much and found it so refreshing and exhilarating that I now own it on Kindle, hardback and audiobook. In contrast Hamilton’s book is about a different era in cycling, although admittedly it wasn’t that long ago and the impacts of it are still being felt today. Many of the ensuing court cases are still ongoing, and I imagine that some haven’t even begun. I envisaged it being a hard read, with some truths that I didn’t really want to know about. You see I was one of the many millions of people who grew up loving the Tour de France all through this time when many more riders were doping than those who weren’t. I was stood at the top of l’Alpe d’Huez when the late Marco Pantani flew around the top so quickly that the tyres squealed on the motorbike following him. Of course now we know how he could manage to go so fast, and it isn’t pretty.

Right from the start The Secret Race shattered my low expectations. The book comes across as a very honest read and goes a long way to explaining just how so many riders were drawn in to possibly one of the largest doping scandals in sport. The book is engaging, informative and very interesting. Hamilton’s story leaves no room for doubt to the extent at which many riders cheated, and of course how the now infamous Lance Armstrong was involved right at the center. Ultimately though Armstrong is presented as quite a sad character. He clearly has a pathological need to win and it is this need that turns his character darker and darker as the book progresses. Essentially Armstrong saw the doping as an arms race. Everyone was doing it, so he simply had to do it better, and if he had to pull a few dirty tricks on the side to discredit people, then he simply saw this as something that he had to do.  That almost sounds like I am arguing for Armstrong, whereas like an ex-smoker I have gone from being one of Armstrong’s many fans to being in a state of mind where I simply am not interested in him anymore, and would rather that he simply vanished from the news.

All throughout the book Tyler acquits himself well, and genuinely comes across as a decent person. Unfortunately of course, he is also a person that doped for 8 years on the professional bike riding circuit. This cheating led to a very interesting state of mind. On the one hand Hamilton absolves himself of all guilt by rationalising his doping as something that everyone is doing, but on the other hand when success finally comes his mental state is undermined by the sense of guilt that he feels. From what he writes it is apparent that this is an emotional battle that many, if not all, of the riders that won while doping have felt. Apart from possibly Armstrong, although falling from such a great height must surely be incredibly painful.

The book kept me enthralled throughout. I didn’t find it depressing, and it has led me to view some of the other cyclists that have been caught doping in a new light. Looking back from my perspective as a fan I can honestly say that this doesn’t affect my enjoyment of cycling as a sport and a spectacle. The doping era led to some amazing “strong man” style spectacles within the sport, and certainly didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it at the time. I can however say that when I see riders like Bradley Wiggins riding utterly clean, and winning races by small margins it is certainly more nerve-wracking. Gone are the days when a rider will out perform an entire peloton. It is of course still possible on certain days as the peloton doesn’t always get the timing right, but it wont be happening as often. Gone arethe impossible accelerations in the mountains as the same rider attacks over and over again. Now we will see riders pushing as hard as they can, paying the penalties for their efforts and winning with clean blood. Cycling has gone through some tough times, but the best cycling and the greatest achievements are yet to come.

I strongly recommend this as a read for any cycling fan. It is enlightening and entertaining. You will be amazed, occasionally horrified and emotionally involved as Tyler Hamilton tells his tale.

Bradley Wiggins My Time An Autobiography – Review

Bradley Wiggins My Time

It was a phenomenal feeling; turning on the power, seeing Cav come past tucked in safely on Eddie’s wheel, then pedalling up the avenue next to Mick and Richie. I knew Cav could win; I knew I had done the job.

The quote above is from the moment that Bradley Wiggins finished his turn in leading out Mark Cavendish on the final stage of the Tour de France in 2012. It was an unprecedented lead out, as Wiggins was wearing the yellow jersey and was just about to become the first Brit to ever win it. Normally the yellow jersey holder wouldn’t take such a risk, but in this instance the team were behind him and they wanted to repay Cavendish’s efforts from the past three weeks with a stage win at the grandest finish in cycle racing, the Champs Elysees. They certainly did it in style, and I remember leaping up and down with excitement in front of the TV at the time. This book brought those emotions back in full.

Wiggins’ book is full of such pieces. He paints a picture with his words clearly showing the emotion and drama in a particular moment, whether it was in the Tour, the Olympic road race, or simply from a training ride. Wiggins has clearly made the most of this book to emphasize the way that many situations occurred from his own perspective, and they are often very different from the way the media were reporting them at the time. He shares his motivations, his emotions and in many situations it gives him the chance to effectively get the last word in. His view is a most welcome one. Do you want to know the truth about where his anger came from when he was accused of doping throughout the tour? Did you want to know what really happened during the Olympic Road Race? Did you want to know what Wiggins wants to achieve next, in his own words?

Wiggins is a fascinating character, with a tremendous love of cycling history and a distinctly working class background which adds an unexpected depth to his memoires recorded in this book. His words demonstrate the unspoken code of honour that runs throughout cycle racing at the highest level, and reveal just how much cycling team mates rely on each other. It also shows how much a small amount of confusion can start to undermine a team. Chris Frome in the 2012 Tour anyone?

The book comes across as plain spoken and honest, and I for one really enjoyed it. At first I put it off because I am already aware of a lot of Wiggins’ history and I didn’t want to read the same old things over again. I needn’t have worried as the book firmly focuses on his recent Tour history through to the Olympic Time Trial win in 2012, and it only delves further into the past when it is required to explain  a particular aspect of his character or to flesh out a point.

If you are a fan of cycling, the Tour, or just his sideburns then Bradley Wiggins’ My Time is well worth a read. No prior cycling knowledge is required!

A highly recommended newsletter – EdAndPhil

Ed and Phil

Ed and Phil

The latest newsletter from Ed and Phil arrived in my inbox a few days ago, and it occurred to me just what a gem of a newsletter it is. It is positive, presents some interesting ideas and alternative races, often abroad. They pick useful sports science information from credible sources, which they discuss and then reference. They provide links to more interesting reading, review books, and offer up inspirational quotes. You never quite know what the next newsletter will bring, and they space them out enough so that when it arrives it is a treat. It is the one newsletter that pops into my inbox that I actually make time to read, and often I will come back to it over the next couple of weeks to grab the links, or food ideas. You get the gist. Click on the picture to be taken to the Ed and Phil site or read on to find out a bit more.  [Read more…]

Review: Run Like Hell by Matt Beardshall

It was with some intrepidation that I started to read Run Like Hell by Matt Beardshall. It was recommended to me by a friend (Edward Chapman from http://www.edandphil.co.uk/) when he heard that my wife had been diagnosed with Leukaemia. The reason being that this book, while predominantly about ultra running, covers a period in Matt Beardshall’s life when his wife was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. I wasn’t too sure about reading it to start with, however Amazon described the climax as “uplifting,” so I figured that it would have a happy ending. The last thing I needed was to read about someone suffering from, fighting and succumbing to cancer, however an “uplifting” story would be more than welcome.

[Read more…]