Picking up Speed: Distance Over Time

As the week draws in with the last dregs of summer being chugged as we speak I am picking up speed as quickly as I am dropping pounds. Yesterday’s bike rides were 13.5mph and 14.6mph average speeds respectively. This is significant progress, and interestingly the faster ride was just over 21 miles whereas the slower one was just over 11 miles. The former was a slightly greater climb, however it is over a much greater distance so proportionately it was easier, and the shorter ride is a whopper of a climb that goes on for almost four miles, and it starts as soon as I set off. Still, I am now, on decent length road courses, pushing the 15mph barrier.

Garmin Data

Data is the summary, splits, speed and elevation.

Pushing serious distance like this I am starting to feel young again, when I would cycle for miles and miles for the pure joy of cycling.

Should Cyclists Run?

Today’s Ride

This is an interesting topic. I am inspired to think about this for several reasons. Firstly, I want to run and cycle so I need to ensure that I do each well and safely. Secondly, I am now about to hit double figures for running distances so I am ready to start alternating cycling and running days, mainly to spare my body the pain of daily recovery from an impact sport like running.

Why?

Well, I am not one of those gym bores who bangs on endlessly about targeting muscle groups and suchlike. If that is your bag then crack on but I don’t really envy you. I still love cycling with an indescribable passion, much more so than running or any other sport. I consider myself a cyclist first and hope that whatever else I do will contribute to my prowess on two wheels. That being said, it stands to reason that better runners will be better cyclists, and so I am experimenting with a complimentary approach. Right now I am at the beginning of collecting data and analysing patterns so this is all very new and with that in mind I have to remember several caveats.

  • I have a small data set gathered over only a few weeks
  • I am slightly over eight pounds lighter than a month ago
  • I currently cannot measure things like power whilst cycling

Clearly in future I will need power meter pedals, and a full suite of Garmin tools to measure everything. I will also be a great deal lighter by the time that comes around.

Okay, my bets are now hedged, so I can report early findings. Today I did the Crown Point circuit. I last did this exact route on August 30th this year so below is a chronological data comparison.

The difference is striking and glaringly obvious. In roughly 2.5 weeks have gained 1.4 mph in average speed over the same course. Below is the speed graph comparison from my Garmin Edge 1000.

The results are again obvious. I did not have a particularly fast downhill segment today – there was quite a headwind as it happens – rather I was just faster over the whole course. This suggests a major improvement in physical performance.

Reasons

Is it running that has generated such powerful results? Possibly, however I have also refined my diet from plant- based to whole plant-based. I do not count calories or macros as I have long been convinced that weight gain is caused not by calorie intake but insulin. My commitment to eating whole foods, low glycemic load meals and eating plenty in general means that I am likely gaining significant muscle mass at the expense of body fat. Eight pounds lost in under four weeks is no fluke.

Takeaway Thoughts

Right now several things appear to be working in my favour.

  • Eating a plant-based, whole food diet
  • Fasting at least 16/8, although I often try to reduce my feeding window
  • Varying exercise routines by type
  • Also, forgetting about how fast I run and running on trails that, whilst slow because of the terrain, I actually enjoy. This is better than pounding endless pavement trying to pick up speed and being bored out of my mind.

Clearly things are working. I am on target to be under 14 stones by Christmas, although there is many a slip twixt cup and lip so I am not treating that as a serious target. What I do know is that yes, I think that cyclists should run, and that fasting and eating whole plants rather than just plants is causing me to shed weight so quickly that I’d better be getting some new threads as Christmas gifts!

Approaching Double Figures, Ice Baths and Smoothie Bowls

My most recent two runs are below. I am making good progress. I also tried my first ice bath as an aid to recovery, and I screamed like a big girlie girl, especially when the water reached my nipples. In my defence it was so cold in there that it burned, however it seems to have been effective as my muscles are nowhere near as sore as they have been. This will be an interesting ongoing experiment. I will keep doing it to see what the effect is on my body. Right now I can tell you that it felt great afterwards. My whole body felt like my mouth does after brushing my teeth! Extreme cold exposure is linked to longevity and excellent health and muscles recovery so I hope that this will help me get fitter faster.

Strava Data

The eight mile one was agony but today I flew over a new route and trail. The first half was more or less nonstop climbing, but the second half was a beautiful trail. Photo below. You can see that my time vastly improved today, which is encouraging because I climbed a massive hill on the first half of the run.

Double figures for miles covered are imminent. I have my eye on a half marathon, then to pass my best ever distance, fifteen miles. Once that is done I am going all in to to complete a marathon-distance run.

Food

In the meantime I have been scoffing plenty of good food, recipes to come soon, and below are some lovely photos of my smoothie bowls. Be sure to check out my Instagram for more photos and recipes.

The Joy of the Trail

I may have said on here, about a million times, that I am not a fast runner. This is true, and today I ran a very slow seven miles, however I ran almost all of it off road, often hacking through vegetation and running through muddy, swampy terrain, mostly uphill, occasionally power walking when it became very difficult and thick in vegetation. Despite being pretty slow, I think I can endure a lot which bodes well for the future. Below are the distances from the last three days.

Even better, my resting heart rate is now 44 bpm.

The Joy of the Trail

Slow as I may be, god I love trail running. Being in the countryside – on this occasion National Trust land – brings a joy that I simply find indescribable. Getting away from traffic and people is something that makes me feel as though I am experiencing life at its most beautiful. No matter how much faster I am able to run on the road, the hard work and graft involved in running trails, with all of the twisting and turning, and tough terrain, I simply love it. The happiness and exhilaration found in running under a wild tree canopy in a forest is the only drug I will ever need.

Relive

Recipe: Tofu Scramble Protein Bowl

Another simple recipe that is full of yummy goodness. It is not quite SOS approved – no salt, oil or sugar – as there is a little frying involved, however it is still delicious and tremendously healthy and nutritious.

Ingredients

  • 100g pearl barley
  • 1 packet of tofu, frozen, thawed, drained and pressed
  • 1 avocado
  • Handful of cashews

Method

  • Cook the barley and set aside – I boil it with turmeric for the anti inflammatory goodness
  • Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet and fry the tofu until it starts to brown
  • Cube the avocado flesh and add to the pan for a minute or two
  • Add the cashews and fry for a couple more minutes
  • Serve on top of the barley

One bowl of yummy goodness, cooked! Add sriracha if you like a little bit of zing.

Motivations and Milestones

Today I had a revelation. I ran this morning – hitting a sub ten minute mile incidentally – and found cause within myself to contemplate my motivations for doing so. I ran with a friend and she was discussing with me her absolute admiration for a lady at her gym who ‘has the most amazing body’. After a few minutes it became clear that this woman spends hours at the gym, exercising relentlessly, and eats with military precision. Good for her, and I do not think she is right or wrong. I do not care in fact. What I realised, however, is that very different reasons and motivations drive different people. I formulated an aphorism, which obviously is a rule with exceptions, however I am now convinced that, in the main, those who run in gyms are neurotic, whereas those who wish to run outdoors are ambitious.

Ultimately, whatever drives a person to run and exercise is their business and as long as they do not hurt themselves or others I see no problem. This did explain a great deal of the difference between I and my friend as well as our differing philosophies. She wishes to be thin at all costs. I wish to conquer as much of the world as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Neuroticism versus ambition.

Today’s Run

Today I ran four miles, the first of which was the sub ten minute one – progress! I ran plenty of this on the trail and I have to say that right now it feels as though I am at the bottom of a significant curve of improvement and growth. Fingers crossed that my feelings are telling me the truth.

Strava

That is three days of cycling followed by three days of running. Given the time and distances involved now I will try to alternate.

Running the Treacle Miles

I have a new phrase: treacle miles. I coined it to describe the days such as today when I feel as though I would rather just take it easy in the morning than go running. Those miles can often feel as though I am running through treacle, heavy legs and all that jazz. This morning I did three such miles. The weather looked grim - more so than it actually turned out to be – my legs were heavy and I felt as though I had every reason to stay in bed an extra hour. These are the times when pushing hard is most important, and I completed a three mile run today, again stopping whilst I still had fuel in the tank so as not to go too hard too quickly, or to hurt myself.

Relive

Garmin

Hopefully running through the treacle miles will push me to long distance glory and real endurance running. Smash those treacle miles!