Guildford 10k 2023

Race Information

  • Name: Guildford 10k
  • Date: 8 October 2023
  • Distance: 10k
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey
  • Website:
  • Time: 44:32


AFinish Strong, pace correctlyYes
CSub 44No



This is my local race, the course goes down past the end of my road and I was really looking forward to it. I had been entered in it since 2021 I think, but due to COVID, the organisers going bust and other issues it hadn’t been run for several years. I ran the Reigate Half Marathon ( a few weeks earlier and my plan was to take a week off to recover from that, then do a week of faster stuff and a limited taper to the 10k. It actually took me almost 3 weeks to recover from the half, so that plan had gone out of the window and I did very little running between the events.

Instead I had done some low-impact circuit work, and also gone for long bike rides at the weekend, to try to keep some condition but make sure that my foot and knee issues would let me actually complete the race and enjoy it.


It was great being able to take a gentle 30min stroll down to the start eating a banana and drinking some water, drop my bag off and get ready with little stress. Being 10k I wasn’t too worried about fuelling myself or any logistical issues, so I felt really relaxed at the start. It was an 8am start which actually suited me well considering I normally run early morning. I had also made sure to tape my nipples this time.

The race pack had been sent out earlier so I didn’t have to worry about doing my number or anything either.

I decided to take a different approach to my last two races, and I had come across a quote in Build Your Running Body, along the lines of “it is amazing what you can achieve if you reach the half-way point strong”. The course is out and back, and slightly uphill on the way out. I decided therefore to aim to get to the half-way point at 23 minutes and then see what I could do in the second half. This would make it tough to get under 44minutes considering my 5k PB is 21:07, but maybe I would be ahead of time and the downhill could help me here. I also knew from the half-marathon that I could spend about 45min with my heart rate in the 180s which should be long enough to get me home.


They called us to the start by expected finish time and I was surprised to see how close the 44minute group was to the start. Unsurprisingly, the 10k is more accessible than the half-marathons I was used to, and so I was one of the more serious runners there. I had a gel on the start line, teed up my music (no need for podcasts or audiobooks) and got ready to go. The start of the course is the most uphill so I wasn’t too worried to be behind target in the first k and I saw my lap paces coming in line with what I wanted. I made a conscious effort in the first few k to tell myself that I was enjoying the race and feeling good and I think this positive attitude really helped. My road is about 2.2k into the race so I looked forward to running past the family. I tried to keep the HR under 180, backing off when I saw it getting a bit high. Was great thinking that it was all single digit km to go though.

I took a caffeine bullet at about 4k, I could probably have taken it earlier but I was just feeling really good so held off. I got to the turning point at 23:16, a little behind where I would ideally be, but I was feeling strong so was ready to amaze myself.

It was great coming downhill for the second half of the race. I saw the family again with 2.2k to go and inadvertently knocked over my son while giving him a high-five which gave me something else to think about. Maybe the 7th kilometer was a bit harder and I had to dig a bit deeper, but I was overtaking people and feeling positive. The tunes were good and I was talking to myself most of the way.

The last km is really downhill, and I came through as quick as I could, trying to catch the person in front. I was surprised to see the finish line come up sooner than I expected but I didn’t have much left at the end


I felt good post race, again a nice change to not be so spent. I was a bit disappointed with my time as I thought I had a 44:27 PB and so I hadn’t made it, but turns out my PB was 44:57 so I had knocked 30s off it. Caught up with the other 10.8s who were running and went for a PB rumbler and breakfast before walking back home.

Lessons for next time

  • Run the race that you have in you that day, listen to your body and be prepared to change plan
  • Get to half-way feeling strong and then see what you’ve got – makes for a much more enjoyable race even if you could maybe run a quicker time
  • 10k is a fun distance, should maybe do more of them
  • 3 weeks is probably the minimum I need between events
  • Make sure the Strava beacon thing is working correctly

A great event which I will definitely do next year, assuming they manage to put it on again.

Reigate Half 2023

Race Information


ASub 1:40No
BPB (sub 1:41)No
CFinish Strong & Enjoy itNo comment…
Set less ambitious goals in future!



I used a half-marathon plan from Ben Parkes for this event and the training generally went pretty well and I enjoyed the plan and the mix of runs. It had me running further than I ever had before, and doing more volume than I had before but I wasn’t injured and I was able to achieve all the specified paces for the effort sessions. Due to the summer holidays and planned trips, I did miss the last three long runs. I’m ok with that decision, as I chose to prioritise being on holiday with my young family rather than going out for 2hr runs. But I can’t help that think this affected by race performance

So the training went well, up until the last couple of weeks. 10 days before the event (Thursday) I did a double session of run in the morning and 30min strength workout in the evening (as per the plan). I probably pushed the strength work too hard as I was back home so could do Nordic hamstring curls and weighted squats which I hadn’t been able to do while on holiday. Then I was still tight when I went to run on Saturday morning, meaning that I had bad form and that evening was dealing with what felt like some plantar fascitis in my left foot and ITB issues in my right knee. Maybe unrelated, but I also seemed to have got ill – sleeping HR was elevated and I was very snotty and congested. The week of the race I just did two 30 min runs and by Sunday I was hopeful that I had enough miles in the bank from earlier in my training to get me round and to achieve my goals.


I didn’t sleep that well, and then the taxi that I had booked to get me to the station was late so not an ideal pre-race. I got the train on time though and then headed to the event. On the train I ate a banana and a chia flapjack bar and drank a flask of coffee. I normally run fasted first thing in the morning, this event was a bit later but I didn’t want to have too much food inside me. I arrived at the event in plenty of time, picked up my race number and used the toilets before the queues built up.

I had quite a lot of time to kill so tried to relax as much as possible before it was time to head over to the start pen. I’d been weighing up what pacing strategy to follow, in the end I decided to just go with the 1:40 pacers and let them worry about all the pacing. I hoped this would allow me to settle into the run more. The alternative was to try to start slower and run negative splits and also slow on the hills more but I decided that having a group would be more helpful based on my last experience (

The course was hillier than my last half-marathon, but I’d trained more for this one (with the exception of the last couple of weeks) so I hoped that a PR was still a plausible goal.


I felt great at the start, there was music playing and a really good atmosphere. There was a bit of a false start which was weird but then we were underway. The course started with a bit of a hill and the pacers went up it pretty fast, maybe faster than I would have done on my own. I decided to stick with them though rather than changing plan. In hindsight I should maybe have gone slower up and faster down the hills but who knows.

Everything was going pretty well, I tried to not look at my watch too much and just sat behind the pacers hoping they would pull me round. I had a gel at about 33min in, and tried to take water from the water stations. It was quite hot and humid and I was sweating a lot. The water was in paper cups which were difficult to drink from and so I ended up mostly pouring them over myself but my gels were isotonic so I wasn’t too worried.

After about 14km it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to stick with the pacers much longer. My legs were really heavy and I wasn’t going to be to keep that pace to the end. The last time this had happened I really pushed myself into the pain cave to get round, this time I decided that I would drop the pace right off and treat this as a training race before a 10k that I have in a few weeks. Today wasn’t going to be my day for whatever reason, and so I decided to back off. I tell myself this, but realistically I’m not sure I could have done anything else and my HR was still 180+ for most of the last 7k. I saw the 1:45 pacers go past me but I was really suffering.

Throwing water over myself and the warm conditions meant that my shirt was sodden. This would have bad consequences for my left nipple.

There was one brutal hill right in the last 2k and I pushed hard up this, with some encouragement from the crowd. I was looking forward to cruising down the other side but got cramp in my left hamstring which I’ve not had on a run before. I don’t think the 3 gels and bits of water from the stations was enough for the conditions today.

My right nipple had also bled through my (white) shirt by now. Again not something I’d had before or was expecting, but think it was down to just how wet my shirt was from all the sweat and the water. So a few funny comments from spectators, and shocked looks from children but by this point I just wanted to get to the finish. I tried to smile for the cameras as I came across the finish, but this is the face of a broken man:


I couldn’t stop sweating for about 20min after the race. Very tired, despite “backing off” for the last 7k and giving up on the PB. I stretched off, had a couple of beers and headed off. It was a great event, really well organised and a good course. Would be really fun to reach that final hill with something in the tank and then fly up and down it into the finish.

My legs were sore for days afterwards, quads were really sore for about a week. The run also really aggravated the plantar fascitis and ITB issue that I’d picked up the week before the race. Was actually struggling to get down stairs

Lessons for next time:

  • Running with DOMS is a bad idea and will impact you long-term. Go easy on the weights if you haven’t done them for a while
  • Park the ego, go with the slower pacer group or do own thing and finish stronger for a more enjoyable race
  • When it’s hot I need to take my own water + electrolytes and actually drink what’s given out on the course
  • Tape / Vaseline / Bodyglide nipples!!

This was a great event though which I’m keen to do again to lay to rest some demons. I’m not sure it’s a PR-friendly course with that big hill at the end, but I imagine there can be an awesome runner’s high coming down the other side if you have paced yourself appropriately

Surrey Half Marathon 2023

Race Information


ASub 1:38No
BSub 1:40No
CPB (sub 1:42:30)Yes




Had trained well going into this using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 Plan, setting 5km and 10km PBs. I had been concentrating on running my slow runs below a HR of 143 and that had been working well for me. This was my second 1/2 marathon and I was looking forward to it after really enjoying my first one.


I was away travelling with work the week before the event, not sleeping so well and eating and drinking badly so maybe that had a little impact, although I felt fine on Friday and Saturday. The HRV training app I use also showed I was in a good place on Sunday morning.

I had a piece of toast at home, and made a flask of coffee then headed over to the event around 7.20. I had a banana and a flapjack bar on the way to the event, dropped my bag and visited the bathroom several times.

Weather was mild, no wind and conditions were really good so I was looking forward to a good run. I had a chia caffeine gel on the start-line and set off.


From the start I was about 100m or so behind the 1:40 pacer flags but I thought if I just keep them in sight and them aim to overtake them before the finish I should be good for a sub 1:40 time. In hindsight this was maybe a mistake and I should have got with the group and stayed with them. I wasn’t able to find a good group to sit with during the race and ended up flitting between pacers. I had some good stretches running side-by-side with various people but missed that consistent group to run with.

I felt a few niggles during the run but nothing serious. My heart rate was worryingly high at above 170 though, and I couldn’t really get into the audiobook I was listening to. The pace was good and I was still in sight of the pacing group so all good.

Then I got to about 15k in and the wheels started coming off. This was when I was expecting to start getting my next wind, but it wasn’t happening. I had a caffeine bullet and changed onto some high-tempo music but there were a lot of people going past me now.

Legs felt incredibly heavy, I kept thinking should I stop and walk for a bit but I managed to keep moving forwards. The last 5k was really a slog, with none of the runner’s high and euphoria that I experience last time! I was also thinking that the race was 21.3k rather than 21.1 for some reason which didn’t help. Towards the end I just wanted it to be over, and I finally got across the line in 1:41:03, completely spent.


So missed the A and B goal but still a 90s PB. My 5k and 10k times suggested that I should have been faster, so I don’t know if it was the week of travel or something else but I couldn’t have done any more. I’m a bit disappointed with the performance as I really felt that based on my 5k and 10k times I was in with a chance of going sub 1:38. But only my second half-marathon so still a lot to learn.

I probably went off too fast, and should have tried to accelerate from a 4:45 min/km, rather than from a 4:40. Last time out I ran 5:00 min/km and then killed the last 5k and that was a much more enjoyable experience, although I probably left some time out there. I wonder as well if I would have done better being in the pacing group, and then just relaxing into it rather than wasting mental energy thinking about pace and who to run with.

Learnt a lot though, and I really enjoyed the training and the post-run beers. Now to find another half-marathon to do in the next few months and see if I can get under than 1:40 mark. Pretty sure I’ve got it in me with some better race-day tactics and a less-stressful week beforehand.

It’s a great event though and will definitely be back again

Guildford Microadventure

Nearly sunrise

I had a bonus holiday day to use as I ended up working the Queen’s funeral, which was double bonus really as the rest of the family were at school / work. For a long time now I’ve been thinking that I should do another micro-adventure so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Luckily the weather forecast was good as well so it was on.

I kept this super simple, the only goal was to spend the night outdoors. Nothing else. Just to prove that I could still do this and remind myself what it was like. Also a vague idea that if I wanted to do this again, I should start easy.

From running around the area over the past year I had a good idea of where I would pitch camp, so I put the kids to bed and then headed out the front door at about 8pm.

Packing List:

  • Sleeping bag, rollmat, bivvy bag, fleece stuff sack for pillow
  • Tarp (with lines attached to corners already), poles, pegs and 2 extra lines
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Warm top
  • Flask of coffee for the morning (Zojirushi so good at keeping things warm)
  • Hipflask of whisky for the evening
  • Waterbottle
  • Tootbrush & paste
  • Headtorch

Packing was minimal, I’d planned it out during a Teams call in the afternoon so was very quick getting everything together. I used everything except the extra lines and the waterproof.

There was no moon, so it was really very dark walking up to the spot and I had to use the headtorch when I got into the woods as it was pitch black.

Really very dark…

After walking for about 35minutes I’d found the area where I planned to spend the night, and then quickly found a likely spot, just set back from the path with a small amount of cover from a hawthorn bush. My only real worry for the night was slugs – these had been awful when I camped on Exmoor and are a real downside to using a tarp rather than a tent. But it had been dry for a while and was quite cold so I was hopeful to escape them. Seemed like I wouldn’t be so lucky when I found a couple exactly where I was planning to sleep, but I dispatched these and the rest must have got the message.

It took me a little while to decide that I had a good spot and was actually going to do this, was quite tempted to just walk back home and get into my bed. This feeling passed though as I sat there looking out over the villages below, seeing the planes pass overhead and the car lights wandering through the dark. So I committed to setting up the camp at least as I could always take it down again if I chickened out. There were some noisy boy racers in the nearby carpark, and some bell-ringing practice going on somewhere but I didn’t see another person.

Getting the camp set up was straightforward and I could remember how to do the relevant knots (slippery taut-line hitch). Having the lines already attached to the tarp was super-convenient and I thanked the person I used to be for thinking of doing this a long time ago!

Can just about see my set up here

Finally I decided it was time to retire, as I was in danger of drinking too much whisky. So into bed and I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the rollmat was since it was a long time since I had used it. Also the fleece stuff sack is by far the best pillow I’ve used, having tried many different inflatable options.

I slept pretty well, better than I hoped. Woke every 90 min or so I think but found a new position and was bag asleep quite easily. Heard a lot of owls, or one very talkative one and enjoyed seeing the stars. The cloudless night meant the visibility was great, but also that a lot of condensation fell on the ground. I was grateful for having put the tarp up, and for the bivvy bag being quite waterproof.

Water was forming on the inside of the bivvy bag, but it didn’t seem to be making a difference to the sleeping bag and I was super cosy in a long-sleeve wool baselayer, walking trousers, wool socks and beanie hat. I cannot say enough about my sleeping quilt from Enlightened Equipment. One of the best buys I’ve ever made. The quilt works so well inside the bivvy bag, much more comfortable and easy to get in and out, and it’s just so warm and light. Like being enveloped in your own bubble of warmth. Was difficult to get out of this in the morning.

I was up about 6, packed up by 6.20 and then home around 7, feeling great.

Really glad I did this, and surprised myself by how simple it was. Very satisfying to know that I know how to do this and can actually do it. Something special about being awake and in nature when most people aren’t, whether that’s at night or in the early morning. It certainly makes for a richer life experience than another evening on the sofa watching Netflix.

Not sure I would change anything if I did this again, maybe some better whisky, or binoculars to get a better look at the stars. Did make me think that I’d like to do the North Downs trail, wild camping on the way. Walking back home in the morning was good, but would have been even better to have been on a journey to somewhere new. But a micro-adventure is always better than a no adventure!

Surrey Half Marathon Race Report

A goal: 1:45:00
B goal: finish it

Training was good, longest run was 17km and had done 40min at goal pace and both felt good. Biggest week was 40km. Slightly worried about a tight right Achilles and whether it would last for the whole run. Had twinged it on Christmas Eve and it still wasn’t 100%. Would often feel tight in the morning and at the start of runs before loosening up. Had run a 21:25 5km so 1:45 seemed very achievable but have never done that distance before.

Tapered down the week before with 3 easy runs and 20min on Friday before race on Sunday. On Saturday I was out with the kids and mostly just ate lots and rested, didn’t drink booze.

I normally run early morning before breakfast, but the race wasn’t until 9am. Woke around 6.30 and had a coffee plus peanut butter and banana on toast. Made sure I’d emptied my guts before getting picked up around 7.30.

Parked about 10min walk from the start and headed down to drop bag. Immediately lost the 3 guys I’d come with and was second guessing myself on everything to do. Much more nerves and uncertainty compared to just going out for a run in the morning. Also compared to heading out to play a rugby match where the stakes were much higher.

Went for two pisses and then headed over to the start at about 8.50. Had a gel containing caffeine at around 8.50 as well. Found the 1:45 pace group and my friend Tom and then did mostly my normal warm-up rather than the group one the guy was leading. At the last moment decided to put my phone in my belt rather than my shorts as I was worried about the zip on the shorts pocket, then race started. Was listening to a Dan Carlin podcast about the Mongols. Also carried a collapsible water bottle with me so I wouldn’t need to rely on the water stations, had usually done this in training as well.

First couple of km lots of dodging people and trying to stay close to the pacers, was a bit worried about losing them too early so stayed really close. Eventually settled down and just enjoyed the run and the podcast. Pace seemed to be a little high so was a bit worried about going too fast but decided to just stay with the pace group. Amazed by all the different body shapes and ages running, motivating to just stay with the group but didn’t really engage with anyone. Had lost Tom immediately at the start and didn’t see him again until after the finish but he must have been close all the way.

After 40min I was in uncharted territory but still feeling good. Had a gel at around 50min and no gut issues at all. The last 9km or so was out and back so could see runners returning on the other side of the road, very motivating to see these people close to finishing and moving fast. I had a caffeine bullet around this time as well which tasted pretty bad but gave me something else to think about and didn’t give me any issues.

There were lots of people on the turn into the down and back stretch which gave me a lift, great seeing all the support and positive energy. At the turn I made sure to accelerate out to keep the pace up.

At this point I think the caffeine was hitting and I felt great. Switched over my music to a podrunner 180bpm mix, managing to do this without dropping my phone and decided to go out ahead of the pacers for the first time. Sun was out, I latched on to the shoulder of another runner and decided to just go faster with about 5k to go.

Felt really good here, music was great and was running strong and fast. My left calf twinged a little so made sure to focus on technique and cadence and not go too crazy just yet. Had another gel as I thought it might help the calf and because didn’t think it could hurt. These last few k are a bit of a blur really, just remember feeling really good and running fast. Kept looking at the watch and seeing it was only 15 or 10 min left and I could definitely run that fast. Had a bit of a scare when I saw a 3k sign when I thought I was only 2k from finish, but that must have been for the 5k race. Coming down the final finish I really opened up the stride and tried to pass as many people as I could. Wanted to make sure that family saw me finishing strong and not looking tired. Sprinted across the line in 1:42:37

Splits from Strava

Things I’d do differently next time:
Be less nervous at the start, have a pre-race plan and follow it
Set a more ambitious target, I think I could have gone under 1:40
Use body glide, had some chafing issues I’d not had in training

Really enjoyed my first race though and looking forward to doing more. That last 5km was a real high experience which I’ve not had before and I want to experience it again!

How I studied (successfully) for French B2 exam

In June 2019 I sat and passed the B2 exam in French. According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, this is a vantage or independent user level which should take about 600 hours of study to achieve.

Here is how I studied for this and the tools I used in case it is useful for someone else.

My starting point was that I had studied French at school until GCSE, ie until I was 16 (about 20 years ago). I’d got an A* in that exam but was frustrated when going to France that I still couldn’t really understand anyone or communicate. So I decided to try and improve my French level and the B2 level seemed achievable without actually living in France, but stretching enough to be worthwhile.

I was also trying to fit this work in around a full-time job and having young children at home. I had two hours of commuting to and from work each day, an hour on the bike and an hour on the train and this was my key study period. It’s definitely true that learning a language is not hard, it’s just long. Persistence and consistency are the key, and finding ways to fit the language learning into your daily life and routine. For me that meant using lots of audio, reading the kindle or watching French Netflix on the train.

Key Resources Used

My key resource was Anki and the flashcard techniques from Fluent Forever. Anki is magic. It’s just an amazing method for getting information into your brain and making it stay there. I made 2,400 French cards in the end and I can’t imagine trying to learn a foreign language without it. If this tool was around when I was at school my life would have been a lot easier.


The key thing I learnt from Francais Authentique was that listening is a great way to improve your French (or any other language), but you need to be understanding at least 70% or so of what is being said. You should then listen to the same material over and over again, potentially consulting transcripts as well until you are understanding more like 90% of what is said. This can be pretty boring but it is also very effective. You should also enjoy and be interested in what you are listening to, which goes against the previous direction really…

  • Francais Authentique
    • This is a great set of podcasts and I also actually paid for some of the materials he produces. They were useful and improved my French for sure, but quite boring so I’m not sure I would do that again. Having the transcripts as well as the audio was handy though
    • Was very useful to just have the materials there though, so even when not feeling super motivated I always had the next lesson available and could keep pushing through.
    • This is a great daily podcast which gives the news in easy French. It’s 10 minutes long so I would listen to it 3 times in a row on my cycle into work
    • Genuinely interesting to hear different news stories that were not picked up in the UK
    • Probably should have graduated from this to more difficult, but great to have something immediately accessible and interesting
  • Affairs Sensible
    • This is a great podcast, it’s around an hour long and the first half is usually the telling of some event, followed by a panel discussion
    • There are also some purely fictional episodes which are interesting as well
    • Really enjoyed listening to this, a good one for when going out running or cutting the grass
  • podcasts
    • Some great podcasts here, I can’t remember all the ones I listened to but a wide range of interesting stuff
  • Netflix in French (with or without subtitles)
    • In particular Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent) and Marseilles
    • These are great to watch and didn’t feel like studying at all


The key tool for my reading practice was my Kindle – it is magic for reading in a foreign language for 2 reasons

  1. It has an inbuilt dictionary so you can immediately look up any word you don’t know
  2. Any word that you do look up is added to a list, so that you can go back and make a flashcard for it and learn it

I started out reading the Harry Potter stories in French, but I’ve never been a fan of those books and was not learning any particularly useful vocabulary. So I switched to reading the Inspector Maigret books which I really did enjoy. It can be difficult to find ebooks in French and I’m sure there are good deals out there I didn’t find


The first thing is that listening to lots of French will improve your ability to speak, and your accent and fluency so just doing lots of listening practice improves your speaking anyway.

12 Ways to Answer Your Own Questions About Japanese

But my main speaking practice was through italki, where you can find people who will give you French lessons online for very reasonable prices, c. £15 / hour. This was great, I could find someone to fit in my schedule and do the classes from home and it worked really well. It is important with this to be clear with the tutor what you want from the lessons, and also don’t be afraid to change tutor if the one you have isn’t working out.


I didn’t do enough writing and this was reflected in my scores. The main resource I used was kwiziq. This is great for improving grammar and is really helpfully organised into the DELF levels so you can tick off everything you need at a particular level. In retrospect though, I should have done more actual practice of the sort of tasks you get in the exam

italki also allows you to submit pieces of writing which will be corrected by the community and I did this a few times.

There is a certain style of writing that you need to execute in the B2 exam, beyond just writing correct French and I didn’t practice this enough.

Nappy-free Baby

Put your children on the potty from an early age and your life will be better

Do you want your child to sit in a nappy full of their own faeces? Do you enjoy changing dirty nappies and wiping poo from their bottom, legs and back? Do you think it reasonable to allow your child to soil themselves, rather than to give them the opportunity to relieve themselves in a potty or toilet? If you answered yes to any of the above questions then this article is not for you.

Very young children are capable of holding it until given the opportunity to use a potty, and it is very easy to build this routine into your life. It has lots of benefits and is definitely something you should do.

One to save for her 18th birthday…

Nappy-free baby is a concept I first came across (like so many things) via Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools (previously featured here). In this case it wasn’t through browsing the Cool Tools catalogue, a large printed book full of recommendations from the website and elsewhere. I highly, highly recommend the catalogue, it’s a few years out-of-date in some areas but browsing through it opens your mind up to all sorts of new opportunities, tools and things that you may not have considered before.

The basic idea is that children do not want to soil themselves, and if you give them the opportunity to poo in a potty then they will do so, rather than in their nappy. The usual advice of waiting until a child is 2 or 3 until trying to introduce the potty is advice that has been promoted by and on behalf of Pampers and similar companies to sell more nappies. Nappies are very good and effective at holding in waste so it is easy and convenient to continue to use them. This is relatively recent advice, since good disposable nappies were invented. Prior to the 1950s, it was usual to encourage young children to use a potty, since it saved on laundry. This approach is still followed in many developing countries.

So nappy-free baby (also known as elimination communication) is the idea that you pay attention to your child and give them opportunities to use a potty at appropriate times. For us, this meant that every few hours we would hold our daughter over the potty. Her very first poo was in an old ice cream tub in hospital when she was a day old. Whenever she woke up from a nap, we would hold her over the potty and change her nappy, whenever we changed her nappy we would hold her over the potty as well. When she seemed fussy but wasn’t hungry or tired, we would hold her over the potty and usually catch a poo. By watching and paying attention to your child, you can recognise the signs that they need a poo and give them the opportunity to do it in a potty, rather than in their clothes.

NB our children still wore nappies all day every day, but most of the time those nappies were completely clean and they were never filled with poo.

This might sound intimidating and a lot of work, but it really isn’t. From about 6 months until they went to nursery, both our children did all their poos in a potty – no filthy nappies, no nappy rash.

One day when our daughter was about two years old, she told us that she didn’t want to wear nappies anymore. We had about a week of accidents where she would wee herself, but she always pooed in a potty or toilet. Then after about a week she was potty trained and out of nappies during the day.

I recommend the book “Nappy-free Baby”, but it’s not really necessary. You need a potty that is suitable for a small child. On eBay you can find lots of child chamber pots from the time before nappies, or you can use a standard plastic potty. You hold your child’s thighs with their back to you and support them in a squat position. That’s about it really. You need to commit to the method for a week or so, but once you start making “catches” and putting clean nappies on your child it’s very rewarding. There are lots of blogs and forums about this, but they can be full of right-on Americans and hippies. Nappy-free baby is not just for hippies, this is the sensible approach to looking after your child that makes both of your lives better and easier.

Data Driven Weight Management

How to manage your weight the fun and easy way – with a spreadsheet

Here is the method that I and others have found to be the most effective for managing your weight, whether you want to lose, maintain or even gain weight. It is a very simple method, but if it fits with your particular mindset and psychology then it works very well. Particularly if you know what is a healthy diet and if you’ve tried calorie counting or other diets in the past.

Weigh yourself every day, and use a spreadsheet to record that weight.

That’s it.

This method takes inspiration from the “Lean Analytics” movement, and in particular the notion of “One Metric that Matters”. If your goal is to lose weight, then weight is the metric that matters and that is what you need to track. Important to acknowledge here that weight is not a perfect indicator of physical health, or athletic performance or attractiveness – but as a metric it has some features that make it very useful:

  1. You can measure it easily and precisely. Buy some bathroom scales, stand on them and write down the number. It takes 5 seconds. Compare this to testing your 5km time, or trying to measure bodyparts or compare photographs.
  2. Because it is so easy to measure, you can do it every day. This gives you instant feedback on the consequences of your actions. You know that eating cheeseburgers and cake will have a negative impact on your progress, but now you will see that immediately, or at least in a day or two. Vice-versa, 2 days of disciplined actions will result in a measurable change in your weight (assuming digital scales in kilograms)

You may say that you don’t actually want to lose weight. What you really want to do is to look better naked, or be able to run quicker or some other underlying goal, so you should be using a mirror or a stopwatch to measure your progress. What I say to this is that you can worry more about that other stuff, once you have your weight in the right area. In my case that means getting down to a healthy BMI. In other people’s case, it’s about getting back to their pre-baby weight.

This method can be intimidating, as it forces you to face the consequences of your actions, but you should realise that this is a good thing. If you find yourself not wanting to record a weight after a particularly heavy weekend, then you should ask yourself how serious you really are about achieving your goal.

The spreadsheet template will calculate a weighted 10-day average weight, which smooths out some of the natural ups and downs you will experience. Given a target weight, it will calculate when you can expect to hit that target, based on your progress so far. It will also show how consistent you have been in your weight loss (or gain) and the change in the last 7 days.

Here’s the spreadsheet

This is what the spreadsheet looks like

This is a Google spreadsheet and is locked for editing – to use it you’ll need to make a copy of the template you can use. Otherwise you’d be over-writing the template and I would be able to see everything you’re doing. If you have a Google account then sign in to that, make a copy of the template to your own Google Drive and crack on (File >> Make a Copy). If you don’t have a Google account then I recommend getting one just to use Google Drive, but otherwise you can download the template to use in Excel. I have not tested the template in Excel, and recommend using a Google account and Google Sheets. The Google Sheets app for mobile is good and easy to use as well.

You start by entering your target weight in cell G1, in this case my target is 91.0. You also need to enter the date you are starting the plan in cell B6. Then every day you enter your weight in column C and everything else will update automatically. You may want to enter notes in column F to record any reasons for why your daily weight moves.

There’s also a tab with a chart:

My progress is pretty erratic. Christmas was not a good time for the diet

The red line here is the weighted 10-day trend which you can see smooths out a lot of the day-to-day variation and is the line to worry about. In my case I started really well, then went on a work trip to Italy which set me back considerably. Summer I made much slower progress but still progress and now I’m going to have to work off everything I’ve put on over Christmas. I’m confident I’ll get to my target though. Here is the equivalent chart of someone more disciplined than me:

You can’t expect to lose weight at Christmas

I am not a doctor and have no training in nutrition or dietary science, you should eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and exercise. But if you are not at a healthy weight, then this is the most effective tool I have found to game your psychology into getting you to a healthy weight. Use at your own risk

Packrafting 6 – Braemar to Balmoral

The final day of the trip and the three of us were to be joined by Sarah and Rachel for a bit of rafting down the Dee to see how far we could get. We pushed off early as we due to meet Sarah and Rachel in Braemar and had a pleasant float down before meeting up with the others.

Rachel had hired a packraft for the day but rather than suggesting that Sarah hire one as well I decided to buy a Klymit Litewater Dinghy, reasoning that it cost about the same as renting and I would be able to use it on other trips.

Not really a packraft

The Litewater is very light but probably more of a lilo than a dingy. It has great reviews and in particular this video made it look very capable.

It’s actually a great little boat boat for what it is and it is incredibly lightweight. You will not stay very dry in it though and it is not as fast or as hardwearing as the Alpaca packrafts. I was definitely lagging at the back of the group and having to do a lot of bailing and paddling. It being much more open than the Alpacas made even very mild white water much more interesting as the risk of falling out was very real.

I took a couple of punctures though from running through shallow water, leading to the site of me walking along the bank of a river, wearing waterproofs and a bike helmet, carrying a lilo while someone fished on the other side. I wish I had a picture of that, can’t imagine what the guy was thinking.

After my second puncture I decided to call it a day for the Litewater and let the others go on at a better pace. I packed up the raft and started walking on the road, aiming to hitch a lift to Lochnagar distillery. I managed to pick up a lift after about 30min walking and then had an enjoyable time sitting at the distillery, drinking some whisky and having a look around while waiting for the others. Was also very glad not to have had to carry a raft up the hill from the river. By all accounts the river got a bit more exciting so probably for the best that I bailed when I did, rather than fall out further down. Would recommend the Litewater for still water or canals in good weather when you don’t really mind about getting wet, not so much for actual white water.

This was then the end of the trip, our Dalwhinnie glasses had survived and we managed to get another stamp in the whisky passport. It was a fantastic trip, hard work but a lot of fun. Too many highlights to mention but the first day and night in the bothy was great, getting off the train in the middle of nowhere. Packsledging was a fun innovation, wild camp by the river was lots of fun, massive pub feeds after a day of walking tasted awesome. Need to work out a way to do this again…