Achievement Unlocked: Sub-Ten Minute Miles

Another day, another run, another milestone passed. I am currently focusing on improving every aspect of my running. My last run was a great feelgood moment as I learned that my flat course running is a lot faster than I had previously suspected. Today I have broken a speed barrier, pushing through the ten minute mile frontier. This was a conscious effort on my part, not just for the significance of the time itself, but also in an attempt to drive up my heart rate during runs. It is a rather cruel irony that the fitter one becomes and the more fat one burns, the harder it becomes to get even fitter and burn even more fat. Such is the way of things. As one’s metabolism accelerates the body requires more effort to work up a sweat and do serious exercise. Of course, the pay off here is that it also means one is capable of more and more over time. I have observed this over the last fifteen years or so with cycling. I am capable of cycling miles and miles without feeling serious fatigue and my endurance is such that cycling 100 miles is not exactly a huge challenge. When it comes to running I do feel some supplementary benefit as a result of my prowess on two wheels but in this new arena I am largely a beginner.

In making a concerted effort to up my pace and heart rate I learned again that the limits I previously felt by virtue of my body signalling to take it easy were simply illusory. The body is all about economy so far as I can tell, stretching out the calories one has for as great a length of time and effort as possible. I make no claim to expert knowledge here, rather it just seems intuitive that a hunter/gatherer species would be built that way via the marvels of evolution.

Data

Rather irritatingly I can’t download GPX files from Runtastic at the moment so data is all I have today.

  • 5.04 miles
  • 49:49
  • 9.52 minute miles
  • 804 calories
  • 230 feet climbed
  • 130 bpm average heart rate

For what its worth I am surprised at my progress in running. I have never been a strong or fast runner, nor have I particularly enjoyed that much in the past. It has been a pleasant surprise to get this far.

What Flat vs Hills Taught Me Today

After my last run I took a couple of days of recovery time since I have had a sore throat for a day or two, and today I ran again, and I astounded myself. It seems that I am a much better runner than I had previously imagined, and therefore the run home from university is not going to be as difficult as I had thought. How do I know this? Well, normally when I run I take a very hilly course and this means that I build serious endurance chops, however, there is an obvious sacrifice in terms of speed. My previous times for doing this have always hovered in the 12-13 minute miles range.

Today, however I ran a flat course. I had to pop into the town centre so I ran there and then home which is pretty much a flat course all the way. In doing so I ran 5.03 miles in 51:06. When I looked at my watch I was absolutely stunned. I expected to see at least an hour of running time. I simply could not believe what I had just done. I hadn’t really pushed myself either which means that the 10.09 minute miles I ran could easily have been sub 10 minutes and with very little strenuous effort too. This raises for me the intriguing prospect of completing a marathon in under four hours. I had been basing my potential times on my hilly runs and had, quite frankly, dreaded embarrassing myself with a time greater than five hours. The slow, agonising hill runs I have been doing have clearly conditioned my body to a greater degree than I had thought possible, and suddenly flat course marathons or ultraruns do not look so absurd to me.

Map & Data

  • 5.03 miles
  • 51.06 minutes
  • 10.09 minute miles
  • 203 ft elevation climb
  • 137 average heart rate
  • 807 calories burned

Consider my flabber well and truly gasted!

Achievement Unlocked: Bonked!

Tonight I experienced what I think was my first ever bonk. Or perhaps not since this morning I awoke with a cold so it may have been that, however I am going with the bonk because it passed as soon as I rested and ate something. Sadly I had to curtail my run as I felt extremely sick and that was annoying because I was halfway through a twelve mile circuit, feeling good, and I had made good time on the outward, uphill section. I feel cheated, and now, as I am unwell, I am going to have at least a weeks’ worth of setback to sit around and silk about so I am going to lose momentum. This always happens whenever I start to get somewhere. I either get fresher’s flu or the annual bug that the kids bring home from school. It drives me absolutely barmy, but it cannot be helped so I simply must take it on the chin and be ready to go again once I am well. It also crushes my hopes of making the fabled run home from university a reality. Of course, the flipside of that is that such a setback only serves to strengthen my resolve. I have been pushing this year to hit twenty miles as a regular big run and I was hoping to hit marathon distances and beyond in 2017. Ultrarunning is always at the back of my mind and I would love to do it.

Map

So what was twelve miles became slightly under seven instead. Oh well, here commences the road to recovery and improvement. On this, the outward section I hit roughly twelve minute miles (my Apple Watch once again did not pause during stops when I peed or tipped tones out of my shoe) which means that the downhill would have averaged things out to a pretty fast time. This is so frustrating as once again I had pushed my body through a wall to beat the fatigue of hill climbing. I was flying, pumped with energy and then suddenly I was sick.

Still, as the saying goes, I shall KEEP BUGGERING ON! 

Not a Bad Week, Changes are Afoot, and Losing Patience with Apple Watch

So, since breaking fifteen miles this week I have been a little under the weather and I have taken action, made a few decisions and finally caught up with running again. Currently weight is falling off me, mainly due to cutting out bread and sugar (simple carbohydrates: my nemesis) and other similar bad foods. I have replaced them with nuts and fruit. Of course, I ate those before, but sparingly, however I have discovered that adding fat and calories from nuts is a superb way to manage one’s physique. I now might have toast every ten days or so, if at all, and unless I bonk during a long run I do not eat sugar at all. Obviously when referring to sugars I mean those such as fructose (in all its many dastardly forms). Natural sugars found in fruits for example are just fine. My diet is something I have been scrutinising intensely lately. I have looked into a ketogenic diet and I am trying to get somewhere close to that, however my priority with food and lifestyle is veganism, for reasons of both health and compassion. I will always adhere to the principles of a vegan diet, and that means that options for low carbohydrate, high fat foods are limited.

When it comes to nutrition I am a novice and I am trying my best to brush up on research, and whilst I am not convinced by a diet of low or no carbohydrates at all, I do think that I used to eat far too many carbohydrates in terms of calorie volume. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the fact is that my diet plan (and it is a plan – fad diets are a portal to lifetime yoyo-ing and are very unhealthy) is proving to be effective for me and it is based on the following, in rough order of importance to me:

  • A vegan ethic, teetotal and no fizzy drinks (sodas to my Yankee friends)
  • High prevalence of starchy foods, dark green and leafy green vegetables, a variety of beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black eyed beans and black beans
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • A variety of nuts, my favourites being pistachios, followed closely by cashews

Since we are a family of six we have one pot dishes most of the time so I always cook with sauces or bases made from either tomatoes or coconut milk. Veganism carries certain risks with it, deficiencies in certain things such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron. Viamin D I have covered by being outdoors most of my free time, however iron and B12 are more challenging. Getting around that comes down to fortified milks and by putting nutritional yeast and/or Marmite (both B12 sources) in practically everything. When it comes to iron it is fairly easy to overcome. Spinach goes in everything, and with young children there is the obvious problem of them turning their noses up at anything that looks green so it gets chopped as finely as possible. Cunning I am.

Anyway, the point of all of this being that whilst I shall not be going full zero carbohydrate, a major reduction whilst keeping things fresh, often raw and with no sugar is proving to be very good for me. So that was the first decision I made.

My second decision, made yesterday, is that of stopping weightlifting. I absolutely hate it. I have tried to convince myself that I wish to do it but I loathe it, I have to torture myself to motivate myself to go and I cannot see a way forward into serious distance running whilst building upper body strength through heavy lifting. Instead I am going to do resistance exercises with my body weight, focusing particularly on planking and things like press ups and lunges. To be quite honest resistance is not a priority really since I live in a very hilly area. There is not much exercise I can do without doing resistance owing to the terrain, so as long as I incorporate a little upper body work I think that that should suffice. In addition to all of this winter is coming and in winter I swim, so that will give me plenty of work above the waist.

On to tonight’s run. This week I had intended to run home from university, something I keep banging on about here, however lectures were not on this week, it was an induction and as a returning student it was not for me to attend. My mistake, so I will see if I can pick up where I left off and do it this week. So, this one was only a gentle four miles. I have cycled a wee bit since the fifteen miler but tonight I kept a shorter distance and aimed to push harder in terms of speed, and managed to get back under twelve minute miles. I stress that a good portion of my runs are climbing serious hills so until I do take the relatively flat course from UCLan to home I will not know how fast I can run on flat terrain.

Map

It is funny how, when pushing through barriers, one always feels better. Yesterday I made deliberate attempts to extend my gait and stride further, faster, and longer on the hill climbs. All the while my instinct was telling me to conserve the energy, yet when I ignored it I felt better, stronger, and more energised. It is very odd how that works, but it does work. I have suffered no ill effects and felt much better after the run.

One last thing, yesterday my Apple Watch decided not to allow Force Touch to work, meaning that I had to get out my iPhone to pause and end Runtastic and record the run, thus defeating entirely the point of using the watch in the first place. I am rapidly running out of patience with this device and I am looking at my options for a proper running watch. When Apple Watch works properly I like it, but it is too slow, too often it tells me my iPhone is not in range, even though it is two inches away, and it is buggy, laggy and slow. As a long time Apple fan this disappoints me hugely, but there we are. I can now no longer recommend Apple Watch as a fitness tool. It simply does not cut the mustard.

Achievement Unlocked: 15 Miles! Sidebar: I need a Garmin Watch

One 15 mile run in the bag, thank you very much! The last two miles of this run were a hard, hard, HARD slog! Such sentiment is to be expected from any run that pushes the boundaries I suppose, but it still made me grunt ever so slightly. The last half mile in particular required my bullheaded determination to be at its zenith. The Interesting thing about this run is that I had to actually run to another town just to run a course of sufficient distance. Were I to do this in my home town then I would end up doing laps and I find that concept depressing. Who the hell wants to run around in circles? On Wednesday I am hoping to hit 20 miles by travelling home from university by running. If 15 hurt then 20 will flatten me! Of course, doing so requires me to recover well from today’s exertion.

Map

Distace: 15.01 miles

Time: 3:01:54

Calories: 2615

This clocks in at just over 12 minute miles which is better than I expected. I imagine I could be faster on a flat course, but as I have said before, up north it is hilly to say the least. I climbed 1420 feet which is rather a lot, and the first three miles of this run has 4 steep climbs and the outward half is the uphill one, so this route will definitely wake you up should you decide to take it on!

I also discovered that my Apple Watch ran down to 26% battery over the course of a 3 hour run, making it useless for a marathon and a joke for ultrarunning (I do harbour ambitions for the ultra scene) so I know now that I will have to get myself a Garmin running watch.

I am now going to go and vomit, and then cry myself to sleep…

Finally Hiking!

Today I finally got to hike with the children! We took them to a beautiful location in Lancashire, specifically Hebden Bridge, known as Hardcastle Crags. I hiked a great deal before I had a family of my own. Just off the top of my head I can remember climbing Snowdon, Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Cader Idris, Scafell, and walked the Rawten Pot, Thievley Pike and Wainwright’s Coast to Coast, to name but a few. Having children put that on hold. This is the first time I have taken the children on a genuine hiking trail as they are now old enough to do it. We walk all over the place but this is different as it is physically taxing in a way that only hiking is, climbing steep slopes or rocky terrain for example. I would wholeheartedly recommend this place to any outdoors fan as it is beautiful, reasonably easy to walk so appropriate for all ages and abilities, and rewarding to complete. The views are beautiful and the scenery lush. I consider this a starter route for the little critters and I fully intend to have them climbing mountains in the Lake District soon. I would dearly love to have them cover all of Wainwright’s 214 Lakeland fells before they grow up and fly the nest.

Map

This particular hike, the Mill Walk, is one of several routes available at Hardcastle Crags and it is 3 miles in length, with roughly half of it challenging terrain and the other half a flat river hike.

Another Leap Forward, and Runtastic Sucks

So, yesterday I upped my distance to 10.2 miles. Sadly the people at Runtastic have constructed an app for iOS 10 that leaves much to be desired. First up, every time it is reinstalled it turns on the voice coach by default, and good god do I hate that damned thing. It can’t be so hard for them to have turning it on or off at setup as a standard function, so why they do this is beyond me. Secondly, when used with Apple Watch it doesn’t exactly operate properly. When glancing at the watch it takes five seconds to display data, during which time it displays the start screen. Thinking that I had forgotten to do so, I pressed start and this actually ended the workout on the watch, so my run is split into 1.2 and 9.01 mile segments. I cannot describe how annoying that is. I hope that this is fixed sharpish. To add insult to injury the autopause function didn’t work at all well, thus rendering my times relatively pointless records of my performance. That being said, I was slow, clocking at over 12 minute miles. In my defence the first half of this run was all uphill, most of it at a very steep incline so whilst my times were slow, my endurance was tested well. As a Lancastrian everywhere I run will be like that. My cycling ability developed very quickly some years ago because of the terrain here, so hopefully the same will apply to my running. Plus it is beautiful scenery to run through. 

All that aside, I am resting today after running four days in a row and pushing myself so far so quickly, and preparing to run next week, hopefully hitting 20 miles on Wednesday. This will be my first run home from university, a target I have discussed attempting to hit for some time on here. Right now it feels well within reach and so I should be set to go for it this coming week. 

Fingers crossed! 

A Leap Forward 

Today I made a large increase in my running distance, surprassing five miles again, some sixty six or so per cent greater than yesterday, with the pay off being that I am back at eleven minute miles or worse. I now face a decision, to run slowly every day or to alternate days and try to gain speed. There is an opinion in the running community that one should only increment distance by five per cent weekly, however, I think I have started too low in my distance so right now it feels as though my body can handle this just fine. I broadly agree with the principle, however.

Data 


I think that alternate days are the way forward so I shall just have to find something else to do on the off days! 

500 Calories Broken

Today I pushed through the 500 calorie burn mark once again. This is not an ‘Achievement Unlocked’ post because I consider an achievement to be something I have never done before, not merely something I have not done for some time. This was pretty easy as it only required that I do an extra quarter of a mile over yesterday’s run. My average speed and heart rate was slower than yesterday, however I expected that anyway, plus it is 31 degrees today so I usually go slower in heat. Yesterday was my first run in a while too so it is to be expected that I would come out of the traps quickly.

Map and Data

  • 3.23 miles
  • 525 calories
  • 33:43 minutes, 10:25 minute miles

Next up: 4 miles distance.

Back to the Pavement

It is that time again! I am back on the road, pounding the pavement, covering the miles, and any more euphemisms one would care to employ. Since this is a new start I decided this morning to push hard and hit three miles as my opening run. I think that I must have the muscle memory now to push a little harder. Additionally I also consciously stepped up my stride and pace. One of the dangers associated with jogging is that one might, due to fatigue or tedium, end up shuffling. I see many people shuffling and it is essentially what one does when one is just trying to keep the pace above a brisk walk. Ironically I think that a brisk walk might be better than shuffling simply to prove a point. There is no sense torturing oneself doing exercise that seems unpleasant and arduous. A person should just spend an hour walking the dog instead since I think that psychologically it would be much more beneficial to do so.

Map

Data Summary

  • 3.06 miles
  • 29:34 minutes, 9.40 minute miles
  • 484 calories burned

This run left me pumped and feeling good, I am absolutely back in the zone. I arrived home at a distance of 2.75 miles so I decided to run on down the road and push through the 3 mile barrier. That is how I usually push my distances up into the higher mileages and this strategy got me up to a half marathon not so long ago. For my next trick I will target a 500 calorie burn.