we need to talk about technical debt

you thought it was delivered, done and dead....

just as you thought it was delivered, done and dead….

Technical debt is quite a big topic and not equally understood, especially in planning and business discussions , this blog post is an attempt to tease out some strands of truth of technical debt. Having had the privilege of working with a DevOps team it has currently been top of mind for a while.

The term “Technical Debt” is commonly attributed to Ward Cunningham (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ward_Cunningham) and it is a metaphor for a financial debt:

You need some money, you borrow it, you pay it back with interest.

or is it?  These days borrowing money is not so simple.

You need some money, you then get credit rated, you get investigated based on your ability to repay that debt, and then the funds are released, if you don’t pay back the debt then trouble happens, oh and there is interest, which means the financial importance of what you do now must exceed the importance of what you might want to be doing later.

In the same way.. technical debt.. is not so simple.  Most people agree its something you incur at the short term, for a short term gain, at the expense of a longer term cost.

Lets take the example above and metaphorically break it down.

You need some money (you have a deadline), you then get credit rated (the technical architect is alarmed), you get investigated based on your ability to repay that debt, (you know the code is dirty but we have a deadline) and then the funds are released (the project manager forces it through with much protesting from everyone else), if you don’t pay back the debt then trouble happens (the next release is harder), oh and there is interest (we need bug fixes), which means the financial importance of what you do now must exceed the importance of what you might want to be doing later.

Some people have suggested technical debt is a calculated choice not as a result of messy code.. ie Uncle Bob (https://sites.google.com/site/unclebobconsultingllc/a-mess-is-not-a-technical-debt ). I think its a good thing to read this to distinguish between intentional tactical direction and sloppy code, however unless they are throwaway bits of code, they both amount up to pain in dealing with it later, and if someone has to pay it, its debt.

Another way of viewing it is by looking at different types of debt:

  • A mortgage, is often perceived as a sensible debt, its still a debt though, and people work on repaying it.  These are often paid off over 20 even 30 years.
    For me technical debt of this kind is an unavoidable by-product of being a software developer, its simply keeping your processes clean, writing clean code, with sensible documentation, and refactoring regularly.
  • A loan for a car, is a less sensible debt, but a car could facilitate transport to a place or work, it could be needed, but either way a car will cost you a lot more via a loan, than if you paid up front on it.  Car loans are usually restricted to 3 years.
    This is your tactical decision, where you chose a faster delivery vehicle over a sensible one for a short term gain, pun intended.
  • A credit card debt, is not perceived as a sensible debt, unless you pay it off in full each month, a credit card will be very expensive and work towards making you bankrupt.  This is your messy code, its still debt, its ungainly, horrible but needs dealing with because it happens.

 

My current view is this:

Technical debt, is the negative effect of producing a deliverable which results in:

  • anything from a slight slow down to a complete halt in future work
  • anything from rework of the existing deliverable just to keep the status quo to a complete rewrite of the existing deliverable

Its that big.

source Twitter from @Kode80

source Twitter from @Kode80 speaks for itself

 

What are its causes:

  • Poorly tested code  –  Either by a lack of testing or poor code testing coverage, maybe the developers are not writing automated unit tests… This results in rework, and will appear in all test environments as well as production, this means all teams will be experiencing it and having to deal with it at some point, as well as the developers who will need to fix the issue, the testers to test it, and the DevOps to promote and and the Production support team to support it.
  • Poorly configured codeThis hurts everyone, especially DevOps teams who need to take the configuration and apply it to as many environments that are required.  Any mistakes or inefficiencies here are multiplied and have to be paid back in multiples.  One developer on one machine has one problem to fix, but that becomes placed into multiple environments.
  • Poorly documented code  – What does this do? How does this work? I don’t understand? This is complex, this is too confusing.  Why…what the? eH?  Oh its broken, how do I fix this?
  • Poorly written working code – Anything that is overly complex, and doesn’t follow existing design conventions, even well documented its going to take extra effort to either refactor or understand it.
  • Unconventional Legacy code – Specifically code written that doesn’t follow current conventions or perhaps is in another language due to local optimisation or a lack of skills liquidity.  This is something that would often require the hire a specialist skill to solve, or extra learning from existing team members.
  • Lack of continuous integration – More related to scaling delivery, but manual actions repeated can oft get multiplied and really hinder growing projects with large numbers of people working in them.
  • High staff turnover / Bus Factor – No matter how well documented, technical knowledge, competency and proficiency is ALWAYS held in people. If you have people always needing training every 6 months, this is a problem.  If you have a person with all the keys leave, the project will slow and halt. If you invest time in training and increasing the Bus Factor then you are paying more now, so you don’t pay big later.  Often these people are too busy doing the work to train anyone.  In effect they have traded the long term for the short term, and the cost will come back like a bad debt.  Remember in many job adverts there is a requirement for developers to pick up a steep learning curve? That’s because of the existing complexities of the code.  You need to start paying the debt of learning that stuff before you can even begin. A creative designer however may only need to learn the simple curve of a company’s branding standards before actively working.
  • People unwilling to repay technical debt – This one is a bit of a “brain bender”, but a reluctance to repay technical debt, is going to cause a “compound interest” effect to happen and accelerate and exacerbate the process.  If you are unwilling to repay it, then you need investing in.
  • Code that accumulates in production – Its in prod, better not take it out. You think it does nothing, but you dare not take it out of prod.  Everyone wants a prod-like environment so now its everywhere.  As it is everywhere, it needs to be maintained, because no-one knows what it does anymore its not documented, and as its not documented … we probably shouldn’t take it out of prod.  This is extra overhead and messy, and hides genuine issues because instead of looking at a problem you are looking for a problem in the middle of false negatives.  This is an equivalent of “junk DNA” and it takes a structured deliberate testing approach to remove it.

 How do you fix this

Given my descriptions above, technical debt is actually an unavoidable byproduct of software development, where there are real people with real deadlines.   Just as humans have natural (waste) byproducts, it doesn’t mean we need to stink of them.  We simply need a system to deal with them, a regular cleaning schedule perhaps.

Moving back to the metaphor of paying off Debt, the answers are simple.

  • You need to identify it:  – Technical debt appears in different teams in different amounts with different effects.  A certain amount of debt is unavoidable.  (Try buying a house without a mortgage).  The whole team needs to understand it, else you will end up with one side generating the debt and the other paying it off.
  • If you can stop generating more debt.  Make a change in the way you do things, stop spending.
  • Pay of the debt with the highest rates of interest first - dont spend time gold plating something that’s never going to be looked at again, hit the targets that are going to be hitting you hardest.

Some suggestions:

  • Discuss it in your next retrospective, everyone needs to know about the “slow elephant of code doom” in the room.  If the business owners don’t understand it you can explain it will have a drag effect on your velocity.  But usually business owners don’t understand it because they don’t get to hear about it.
  • Set aside time each planning session to prioritise a piece of technical debt.
  • Don’t fill your entire backlog with software deliverables – leave space for improving code quality and processes.
  • Wiki – Most teams have this, living documentation, make sure you have regularly updated guides for team processes, delete old pages, do your wiki gardening.
  • Invest in your people, encourage learning, pair programming (or at least working together).
  • Invest in a collaborative environment, encourage problems to be discussed and solved earlier on, instead of hidden away in poorly documented or written code which is like a ticking time-bomb for anyone later on.
  • Don’t try to hit all of your technical debt at once, you still need to deliver for your buisiness, you need to eat and clothe yourself before making the overpayment on that mortgage.

 Notes on Scaling Agile with technical debt

  • Technical Debt is non-linear, even more so in scaled teams. Just as the benefits will scale, the negatives will do also scale.
  • Vendor technical debt can get you by “the proverbials” and is your problem as much as theirs
  • It will take a lot more coordination to deal with technical debt in scaled agile, simply because there are more people, with different deadlines, different motivations and under different pressure.

 

Posted in behavioural change, Core Agile, getting into production, team | Leave a comment

Virgin London Marathon 26th April 2015

It was time for the race.  Having received a wholly encouraging tweet from none other than Denise Lewis (Olympic heptathlon Gold Medalist, OBE etc..) starstruck I excitedly dismissed my calf tape from my leg (no pain) and tried to sleep, but my heart was running like a car engine idling too high.  Sleep was difficult.

Arriving at Greenwich Park and the Start

I waved and hugged goodbye to my wife and daughter in the light drizzle of Greenwich park, a whole hour and a half early and started to mingle with the other runners.  Thousands of people, different causes, different nations one race.

As we close in to the start time, there are large queues to the toilets (tip – tactical poo at home) and more manageable ones to the men’s urinals. Sorry ladies, for wees you are on your own here, I did notice several ladies found a friend to create a makeshift tent/barrier so they could squat, bit nasty but ho hum.

We then got sorted into our starting pens like cohorts of soldiers based on our predicted times, and it got a bit warmer and nicer.  The jumpers and bin liners started to get discarded (I heard the jumpers get sent to charity shops) and people started to get excited.

the cohorts of runners penned in at the start

the cohorts of runners penned in at the start

 

We then started to shuffle forwards, I was in pen 8, and soon we went past the other pens and the start was in sight.  We went over the mats and through the big red start gate. The crowds were there already, shouting peoples names and encouraging us on, we were giving high fives out to the kids and there was an incredibly buoyant atmosphere.  About half a mile in, my calf injury recurred.   When in training I then stop, but while quite painful, (think like a mild cramp or pull) I decided to keep going, after all if its going to fully go, its going to have to fully go, and why not test it with another 25.7 miles even if the maximum number of miles I have ever run at once is 18….  :S In the period of approximately 200 mins, I went from frustration, rage, blaming (physios/masseuse/self/others), denial, praying in tongues, and then calm acceptance.  I took my foot off the gas and settled to what seemed to be a steady pace.

Miles 1-12

An ironic cheer when through the crowd as we passed under the first mile!   I had seemed to be stuck in a fairly slow pack of people who surely were not running at the 4.30 or under pace I started in.   However that suited me down to the ground given my calf status of painful.  Mile 1 became 2, then 3 and 4 and I realised my painful calf had seemingly stabilized.   I was limping but it wasn’t getting any worse, I managed to compartmentalise the pain and try to forget about it.  It was around that time that I heard some loud karaoke music going on, except I couldn’t see where it was coming from, none of the houses had speakers in the windows in this particular stretch and then I realised it was moving with us.  It was none other than Graham Burns (Twitter ) carrying a portable karaoke set.  I immediately recognised him from last year when I was watching my sister in law run.  I think it was “my my my Delilah” (which fittingly is a murder ballad) and on the chorus all the runners in the immediate vicinity belted out the lyrics myself included.  Suddenly my spirits were lifted and my calf pain was just a detail, if I can keep up with him and the calf holds out structurally then its going to be a fun run.  One of my fellow Sparks runners came up and said hello before disappearing off into the distance, always nice to see a comrade.

Even limp/running though I managed to progress past Graham and then I found what I consider to be hands down the greatest thing I have seen run a marathon.  A dinosaur.

dinosaur

you’ve got to love this

The most impressive thing (apart from the fact that it looks like it had escaped from the set of the film “Jurassic Park”), was the leg movement as it was attached to the runners legs, it was the best marathon related fancy dress thing I have seen so far so please give here: https://www.justgiving.com/bates44/.

Not long after that, I overtook a giant pair of testicles. Like these below and its actually this guy: https://twitter.com/mrtesticles

this is nuts, don't forget to check yourselves guys!

this is nuts, don’t forget to check yourselves guys!

Less than an hour later we were around the Cutty Sark where I got my first excited glimpse of my family and then on to Tower Bridge.  The minutes flew by and I remember seeing 10 miles go past feeling very fresh.

Miles 12-Finish

My eyes were on the lookout for Tower Bridge, its not really halfway, people psychologically think it is though.  I was on the lookout for my relatives and in laws who were due to give me some gels and also take this pic:

I am hugely psyched up right now

I am hugely psyched up right now

Not long after that we get to the halfway line, Mile 13.  Music abounds and there is encouragement from all sides, we have already seen the super fit club runners running in the opposite direction, with their serious super focused faces on.

Occasionally I would see a runner who had a worse complaint than me, hobbling painfully, but I had managed some kind of rocking motion within which to manage my calf that seemed to be working.  The “speed limiter” that was my calf enabled me to conserve my energy and it was around mile 16 that was my fastest mile (least slow?) as I was shuffling around the course.    I saw more friends and even overtook a clown whom I had a selfie with at the start, I even overtook Jesus who was carrying his cross, (barefoot … I later found out).  I managed some banter with the crowd too, “hey guys come on you can do this too, its EASSSY” with a response of nervous laughter. Although I wasn’t saying it 10K later.

passed this chap around mile 15 brilliant suit

passed this chap around mile 15 brilliant suit

The whole canary wharf area was difficult. I hit and passed mile 18 and mentally thought, its ok its just one little 8 mile run from work to around Victoria park now.  However the body began to feel quite sick and the head began to nod a bit.   I saw my family again at mile 21 for another gel.

look at all those sweeties on offer

look at all those sweeties on offer! mile 21/22 Sparks Cheering station, I seem paler

I am beginning to think about walking now, I know where I am and I know its not too far, but I cannot walk, if I walk my calf might freeze up like it did after just one mile a week ago.  Additionally what if I couldn’t start again.    I am also feeling a little sick at this point, I have had 2 litres of lucozade sport already and 5 Caffeinated Viper gels at this point (* Viper does say something like Max 3 per day), I might add that I am a seasoned coffee drinker so Caffeine is not really an issue.   Everything was starting to be a bit sickly sweet.  After mile 22 my quads on my left leg almost spasmed and cramped up, it was doing all the hard work for my calf, so I needed to slow up and walk, upon which I grabbed two jelly babies offered by a stranger.  400 yards later with a growl I managed to get running again until the muscle cramped up again.  I did this routine a couple of times before the final push.

When you slow down, you go to the side, its there where most of the encouragement happens, people really encouraging you on.  I’d just like to say thanks to those people! Although I was mentally already there, and I think we all were, when you’ve run 25 miles there’s no way you are going to want to stop before the end.

Finally onto the last stretch its great, I tried holding hands with a burly chap but he was having none of it and then it was all over.

28 point what? nevermind...

28 point what? nevermind…

A helper placed a medal around my neck and someone kindly wrapped me in foil to wait for my family to arrive amid the chaotic aftermath.  Its a very long walk to get your bags back when you’ve just run 26.2, but I was in NO HURRY hahaha.  It took me about an hour to get down to the Sparks meeting point in the end where I managed a shower, quick massage and a bite to eat before heading off home.

quick family pic at the end

quick family pic at the end

more formal shot with my crazy brother Douglas, (keep the hat straight you don’t want to look silly)

more formal shot with my crazy brother Douglas, (keep the hat straight you don’t want to look silly)

And there we have it.  Finish time was 4H 59 mins and 38 seconds which is pretty good for a limper.  I’d quite like to know what an injury free one feels like, but really enjoyed the challenge of this one, knowing what you can push your body to under its own objections.

In summary – If I can do it you can do it

If I can do it (even on a calf strain for 25 miles), and if you don’t have any significant medical conditions and you are basically healthy then you can DEFINITELY do it. If not you can still probably do it, but I am aiming this at the average overweight-never-run-more-than-4-miles-before person.

What you will need to do, is train, training is a commitment, but its not really that hard, more time than effort, it ramps up gently, your first serious run might be a 5 miler, but not before you’ve done a 1 miler, a 2 miler and a 3 miler.    You might only be able to run for 2-3 mins before stopping.  That’s where you start from.  You don’t even need to really start until Novemberish.

If you still dont think so simply read the first paragraph of my first post on the subject here.  Huge thanks to Sparks charity for this opportunity, Sparks are a superb children’s charity researching and helping the very young! Please give here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/robertelbourn .

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Virgin London Marathon Part 11

The quiz was a great success!

We raised around £340 pounds each for Sparks and Tommys and everyone had a great time.  Many thanks to the following:

  • Francesco for the Risto Italian Lunch for two
  • Natalye-Marrie Boyce for the 30 Min Facial Treatment
  • Taylor for the Nandos Chicken Platter for two
  • Odeon team Beckenham for the two Odeon cinema ticket vouchers
  • Lucas for the  Zizzis meal for two voucher
  • Tian and Gill for the Sunday afternoon tea for two at Nineteen Fourteas
  • Cairalee Hopwood for the outstanding paintings
  • Colin for his donation of labour to paint a room!
  • Everyone who contributed other prizes, joined in bid on items and had fun
quiz2

Tom Jones and myself as the Quizmasters with the Quizzified teams

still a niggle

Earlier that day I had another niggle on a very short run, so I went and got a deep tissue massage on my calf.  Very painful and had me doubting that I would reach the start line.  Which frankly speaking is an emotional rollercoaster to be on.  One hour I was feeling I was going to make it, the next a twinge would happen and theres me thinking (rationally) that if I couldn’t run a mile on Saturday then how will I run 26.2 on the following weekend.

However I saw the physio on Thursday and the calf seems to have been sorted by the deep tissue massage. I now have some KT tape the physio gave me as a kind of placebo, it distracts from any discomfort there, and he gave me the advice to not think about it, watch a film, go to the cinema, read a book, argue with the wife even but dont think about the calf.

So I was back on

Huzzah! The next stop is the Marathon Expo at the London ExCeL center.

This is where you get your timing chip, marathon number and all the freebies you can find, frankly I had a mini carb up session with all of the oaty bars they had on offer.  I don’t like oaty bars but who can turn down a freebie?   But the concentrated beetroot juice is a bit of a slap in the face!

this is where you pick up your numbers

this is where you pick up your numbers

what is this... it looks like a fini... ahhh I see what they did there :D

what is this… it looks like a fini… ahhh I see what they did there :D

 

they even had a DJ there!

they even had a DJ there!

anyway the expo was larrrge, and following the well known advice of  “try nothing new on marathon day” I was tempted by everything but purchased nothing, although there was a fantastic pair of pants for sale, it was just too risky …..   Now I have lots of little things to try out.  The expo would have been better earlier so people could try stuff out before the big day….

Until the end my friend

Well adios to you this is my last blog until I have done this run.  My running number is 47735 if you wish to track me, and no I am not going for any time in particular due to my recently healed calf strain.  280 miles of training is about to be tested! I have a number of caffeinated viper gels and a plan of hitting the lucozade drinks stations. I would probably try a lucozade gel if I had to (I have tried them before) but they are a bit thick…

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Virgin London Marathon Part 10 – Quiz Night

Progress 279/367

Progress is on hold while my calf heals in time for the marathon, I have had it massaged and am currently planning to do a 2 miler on Saturday and then a 3 miler on Tuesday.  The rest of the body is fit considering early halt of training.

The Quiz Night is nearly here!

There are still tickets left, I have heard we already have about 8 teams, some of which have spaces for the odd couple of people here and there, and we have space for 2 more teams (as I write this) tickets are extremely limited.  Details for buying are here .

The Prizes and auction items

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local Beckenham based businesses and a list of raffle prizes and auction item are (so far) as below.

Raffle

  • Risto Italian Lunch for two (excl drinks timing conditions apply) (Thanks Francesco)
  • 30 Min Facial Treatment visiting your home, (SE London else surcharge applies) (Thanks Natalye-Marrie Boyce)
  •  Nandos Chicken Platter for two incl drinks.  (Thanks Taylor)
  • Two Odeon cinema ticket vouchers (Thanks Odeon team Beckenham!)
  • Zizzis meal for two voucher (thanks Lucas!)
  • Sunday afternoon tea for two at Nineteen Fourteas (thanks Tian and Gill)
  • Tommys Cuddly Toy (ahh)
  • Sparks Cuddly Toy (ahh)
  • Ahhnother cuddly teddy
  • Bubbly
  • Likely More coming!

Auction

  • We have a pair of Oil on canvas original paintings pictured below, thanks to Cairalee Hopwood:11075062_10153116493420155_1451372890_n
  • Have a room decorated with the labour free of charge (Thanks Colin) all you buy is the paint/materials.
  • Photograph print on canvas of Icelandic Mountain with Aurora Borealis – by David Clapp photographer of the year finalist 2014, the original was recently shown in the Natual History Museumdavid_clapp

*Ps If you are a local business you’ve promised something and we don’t have it yet then ping it over to us and we will update this page on the same day.

More about the quiz

Note the quiz rules are subject to change but here are some nuggets:

  • We will be starting on time so if you intend to have a chance to win, you should come at 6.30pm
  • All teams putting their mobile phones in the container in the middle for the duration of the quiz will get a huge number of bonus points added to their score
  • If they remove their phones for anything other than dire emergency then that bonus will be lost
  • Additionally any teams caught cheating will have an absurd number of points taken off
  • There will be a half time break where you can use your phones etc, lets call it a mini reprieve
  • Mellissa is the boss of point scoring and point fines and she is a meany
  • 10 rounds overall, including a music round, and picture style round
  • Points are added up as we go along so you can see how you are doing
  • Answers come at the end of each round when the sheets are gathered
  • Drinks are available, the more you buy the more the Charities make
  • All proceeds are split 50/50 between Sparks and Tommys
  • Remember to have fun, we really want people to remember this for a great laugh and an opportunity to feel good and be generous

 

 

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Virgin London Marathon Part 9

Progress 270/367

I am currently postponing my last 18 miler until potentially the 11th April, due to sustaining an calf injury by training too hard last Wednesday, so training is now quite light.  Despite having a very good run until the very end of that 8 miler.

Quiz Night

We have a great Charity Quiz Night Fundraiser which we’d like to invite you to…

Quiz Night Leaflet

  • £10 pounds per person
  • Saturday 18th April from 6.30pm and looking to finish by around 10pm.
  • 10 rounds of questions
  • Includes nibbles and a cheese / meat / bread platter (like a ploughmans)
  • There will be prizes to be won
  • Drinks including Beer & wine will be available (with a voluntary donation requested).
  • Dont have a team, dont worry, if you don’t have a full team let us know and we will try to complete your team for you
  • To enter and get your tickets email mellissawhittle @ gmail.com or relbourn @ hotmail.com or message us on twitter! @mellissawhittle @agile_bob
  • All funds raised will be split between Tommy’s, the baby charity and Sparks Charity
  • If you want to contribute to the raffle prizes please let Rob or Mellissa know, eg bottles of wine / champagne/ tickets / boxes of chocolates… nice things you’d yourself like to win etc…

Original Fine Art from Cairalee Hopwood

Cairalee very generously painted and donated a couple of lovely pieces for the auction.  I am in two minds as to whether to auction them off as a pair or separately, what do you think?   Anyhow if you are interested in bidding then you can confidentially email me relbourn @ hotmail.com or message me, we will take bids from people unable to make the Quiz Night, though that is when the auction will be concluded. The sizes are 30cm by 23cm on a floating frame.  They are oil on canvas.

11057009_610569982412350_1735449312_n

couple walking in the rain

11075062_10153116493420155_1451372890_n

both paintings side by side, couples walking by a lake in the rain

 There will probably be a marathon sweepstake

Currently Mellissa has one going on the night too, I should also probably do one, that is a marathon sweepstake where the winner takes around £50 quid if they can successfully guess my finishing time.  I will publish my training times first though to give people a clue however anything can happen on the day. (When I say anything I mean probably downwards not magically upwards).

2015-03-29 20.37.47

nipple plasters work !

 

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Virgin London Marathon Part 8

Progress 219/367 miles

Shuffled past the 200 mark.  And run 208  no.. 219 miles. I have done my first, second, third and fourth half marathon!!! Yippee what an exciting time.  Its all about the long runs now.  The long runs are the marathon “dress rehearsals” and its where I am rapidly learning taking repeat lessons on fueling, pacing and what my body can and can not do.

Don’t ever ever ever forget the nipple plasters, that is FABRIC plasters, NO OTHER KIND.  This is the reason why:

thats no sweat

that’s not sweat, still managed a smile though

the look on Samantha's face

the look on Samantha’s face dispels a pain free outlook

In short I think those plastic flimsy plasters lasted about 5 miles before evidently shuffling off leaving my nips to fend for themselves against the smooth feeling but probably 15000 grit sandpaper that is a running top, thank goodness it was red.

Now there is a certain part of the population of the UK whose thighs touch at the top.  I don’t know about you but I am one of those members, and for the sub half marathon runs its not much of a problem.  Moving on through the 13/14/16 milers and things became abrasive.

I have no idea, what to call this but i am thinking of waxing

I have no idea, what to call this but i am thinking of waxing

What do you do when you are running around for miles upon miles?

I listen to podcasts.  The Chris Evans breakfast show best bits, some TED talks, Freakonomics, “Stuff to blow your mind” and a few oxford biographies.

Cadence (or trying to get to 180 spm)

Bit of an overused word, but now my knee ligaments are almost in a permanent state of stretch, I need to really use my rest days wisely so I can recover.  Having gone past the half marathon marker, its time to think about running optimisation.  One of the things I am trying is to get my foot speed up to around 180 steps per minute, this is not necessarily to go faster but to cause less damage because of the following:

  • If I have a higher  steps per minute my gait is shortened, this means I have less chance of overstretching = less effort
  • Less chance of overstretching also means less impact on the knees
  • The foot contact with the ground is now more below my body, hence the effort is forwards more than up and forwards
  • Correspondingly I am bouncing up and down less, thats more energy left for going forwards.
  • Have a look here: http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/training/make-a-high-stride-rate-work-for-you_54957

Anyway its pretty much working for me, I find it brings effort and results closer together, like your cardio is more connected to the speed. All you need to do is lengthen your stride a bit to accelerate and its not just move your legs quicker.  For the shorter runs I have been listening to a clicktrack in order to get the leg speed up.  I am thinking I used to be around 160 steps per min and I am now in reality just over 170, it all helps.

bye to Payman

unfortunately Payman developed a knee injury which has forced him out of the running, though he will be doing it next year with more time to prepare for the quite traumatic training.

Sparks and Quiz night

Don’t forget I am running for a great cause…. the Sparks Children’s Charity, http://www.sparks.org.uk/about/  helping more money be invested into pioneering medical research for small children.  If you agree with this, and you are able, then donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertElbourn (dont forget Deutsche Bank are currently doubling all donations while under 1K), and if you weren’t quite moved enough by Dermot’s dancing in red nose day then maybe this will :-).

Rather than expect my friends and altruistic web wanderers to sit back and generously give without more than a (hopefully) entertaining story in return, I have teamed up with my Sister in Law Mellissa Whittle to host a Quiz Night, on the 18th April in Beckenham, they’ll be a post on this soon.  I will also start a competition of guessing my finish time in the marathon with a decent cash prize to be won, which will also pop out in the week. We have also had some amazing donations for the raffle and also a painting to auction so watch this place.   Also feel free to search Mell out and sponsor her here:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MellissaWhittle

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Virgin London Marathon Part 7

Progress 111 / 367 miles.

Hooray we are getting traction, I have broken the 100 barrier.

The problem with running more than 6-8 miles is that eventually you run out of pavement, and sometimes you really don’t want to be roadkill and sometimes you just don’t want to go on back like you should.   So once I ran through some brambles, I really underestimated them.

I had a fight with some brambles

I had a fight with some brambles

 

General Weirdness

  1. Folded sock syndrome – it feels like there is a folded sock under your foot, you later look and there isn’t, happened when I was trying to “fartlek” and possibly strained something, and then it was present for most of my last 12 mile run, no real pain just a weird sensation
  2. Knees – mostly ok, right one is a tad sore from time to time
  3. Calves – always hurting in some way shape or form
  4. Right achilles tendon a tad achey
  5. Pulse rate, drops to around 40BPM on non run days
  6. Never underestimate how difficult it is to discretely pee behind a tree with frozen hands

a new running companion

As one of my colleagues who say on my left pulled out of the marathon so my other colleague who sits on my right, decided to step in, with zero training.  Frankly he is a bit crazy and he is from Iran.  He comes with me for the midweek runs and generally suffers alongside me gamely, his name is Payman, and man is he going to pay.

 different kinds of training

  1. taking it easy, is actually when you are running at a pace where you can maintain a conversation with someone without due discomfort, this never used to be possible for me but now.  This is a good idea for most of the early long runs to get the miles under your belt
  2. tempo – which is jogging slightly above your average pace so you cannot easily hold a conversation, but you arent blowing!
  3. fartlek – which (meaning “speed play”) which is where you go 90% to self appointed targets, eg the next tree, or streetlight or busstop etc… and then you drop to just below your jogging pace to recover
  4. interval training – you have periods where you will flat out run for approx 1Km and then stop for 30-40 secs before repeating. Of course the interval distances and timings are self set

looking forwards

I have a half marathon this Saturday, its going to be interesting!  Currently aiming to do that in about  2.15 if all goes well!

 Sparks are flying

Don’t forget I am running for a great cause…. the Sparks Children’s Charity, http://www.sparks.org.uk/about/  helping more money be invested into pioneering medical research for small children.  If you agree with this, and you are able, then donate here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertElbourn  Additionally Deutsche Bank are going to be matching anything that you raise to help me reach my target of £2,000.

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Virgin London Marathon Part 6

no injuries but 367 miles to go!

Progress – 20 / 367 miles.

Finally, the legs are behaving themselves and I can begin to get traction with training.   The new shoes have arrived and I was very excited to meet them.

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I am nearly as pleased with my new kit as William is with his new button moon rocket

The shoes arrived just in time for a 5 mile journey around my old school from around 20 years ago which was a nice blast from the past.   I have added elasticated laces to these shoes to prevent any swelling of the feet from causing blister or tightness issues for the longer mileage that I am running now.

My plan is now crystalised in the form of a whiteboard behind my desk at work.  Theres going to be 367 miles to run (including the marathon) which is enough to take me from London to Cologne in Germany.

 

Due to my recently recovered injuries I have been more relaxed when training and will do so for the next two weeks as I ramp up the mileage, hence no “fartlek” running until the muscles are not just pain free but completely healed.

its a long journey ahead, to be taken a mile at a time

its a long journey ahead, to be taken a mile at a time

Unfortunately one of my intended running partners has had to pull out of the marathon due to ligament tears while skiing so am feeling gutted for her.

 Fun Marathon facts

  •  After leading the pack through the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and the first 21 miles of the 26.2 mile run, John Dunbar lost his lead in the first ever Ironman triathlon because his crew ran out of water to give him, and switched to beer. He became drunk, and started running into parked cars.
  • Astronaut Sunita Williams ran an entire marathon onboard the International Space Station, simultaneously with the Boston Marathon, that her sister and a fellow astronaut were running in.  Thats the first marathon in orbit.
  • Will Ferrell completed the Boston Marathon in 2003 and fulfilled both of his goals: Finish in under 4 hours, and beat the guy dressed as Elvis.
  • The first man to finish the 1904 Olympics marathon rode in a car most of the way. The winner was carried across the finish line after ingesting poison. Fourth place took a nap en route. One of the two first black Olympians came in ninth after being chased a mile off course by wild dogs.
  • In 2011 Fauja Singh, a 100 year old British resident, became the first centenarian to complete a marathon.

Dont forget to give, Deutsche Bank is currently doubling it, the most efficient giving you can do this year!

All donations are gratefully received and will go to the Sparks Charity, which is a Childrens charity find out more here: http://www.sparks.org.uk/  and please give here, no matter how small every penny makes a difference! http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertElbourn

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Virgin London Marathon Part 5

touch and go for a while

On the 23rd Dec I ran a 4.21 mile run.  It was meant to be 4 but I extended it and got injured, the good news is that I stopped immediately, however it was a recurrence of the calf strain.  The better news is that it was the Christmas break so I had my rolling pin out and a few days of rest to let it get better.

A week later, no pain, success, and then a family member shows me their new treadmill.  So I decided to give it a go barefoot for a few mins.

Don’t ever do this. Ever……

Only 1 day out of calf pain and with no supportive shoe it was probably the worst thing I could have done, plus my body doesn’t tend to agree with treadmills anyway, something about the repetition and lack of variance in the running, plus the fact that you are not really propelling yourself in the same way.

So after some intensive recovery period (2 weeks) I am finally pain free, I have tested some newer supportive trainers, much better than my current ones, and ordered them online.   My actual running will resume when the shoes arrive and the excitement is building again.

I am now behind in my running.  The enthusiast in me wants to catch up yesterday.  I could certainly start running 7-8 miles in my mind and my cardio could take it. My calf however would not take it, and I should treat it as a novice calf so i will be starting again around the 5K mark, with a days rest incrementing around 10% at a relaxed pace.  At some point I will attempt to catch up but it cannot be in the first month of this, while the body is still healing, and the calf laying down and re-enforcing fibrin etc.

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Virgin London Marathon Part 4

A new beginning

The calf seems finally recovered. I am aware more than ever that I need to start managing my physical body.  Listening to how its doing and acting accordingly.  My schedule is now to run 4 times a week, the length is not important at the moment.  So I am doing 2-4 miles 4 times a week, and this has been working for the past 2 weeks.

Still can be foolish though

Last week, I was overtaken by a hispter runner.. he had all the gear… gloves, music, beard, shaved sides of his head, tattoos etc… he gave a dismissive scowl as he blasted past me. I let him go and after half a mile began to reel him in like fish, he came back and I slowly overtook him and then put my foot down. I can still hear him sobbing into his beard.  I probably shouldn’t have done that given that my leg was in recovery, but it was too hard to resist!

Humbled by the big bum

This week I was overtaken by a woman with a big bum.  In fact I saw her up about 50 yards ahead and thought, yeah I could catch that.  I finally did and overtook her but after about 2 mins she flew past. Probably thought  I was a hipster wannabe.  Anyway lesson to learn is, big bums are not an indication of speed or endurance.

Incredibly wise advice on how to run

When asking my wise seasoned runner friend for advice he gave me this advice:

Fun facts about the marathon

  1. Emmanuel Mutai of Kenya holds the men’s course record of 2:04:40
  2. Nearly 200 of the marathon runners will be celebrating their birthday during the London marathon
  3. The hottest marathon day was in 2007 when temperatures peaked at 21.7°C.
  4. The coldest race day was a chilly 7.6°C in 1994
  5. 14 runners known as the Everpresents have completed every single London Marathon in the race’s 34 year history

I still need to raise a packet

For those of you who have saved money on black friday, cyber monday, or by clever Christmas shopping and are looking to give some to a worthwhile charity (but get get fed up of the chuggers in the high-street) then please consider helping me hit my targets so I can maintain my place. All donations gratefully received!

 http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RobertElbourn

Have a great Christmas

Whomever you may be, have a great Christmas,  I may take that particular day off from training to allow “tactical recovery” ;-)

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