Shaking Things Up – Time Over Distance – Bonus Content: Gout Can Eat my Ass and Balls

A brief summary of the key points in this post today:

  • I have gone over to the new Apple Watch, using the native workout app and Healthfit for syncing and export
  • I have recovered from another gout flare
  • I am tweaking my diet again
  • I have started running for speed
  • I have upgraded from Garmin Edge 1000 to the Edge 1030 sensor bundle for cycling

Details

So that list is quite a lot. Thankfully I have quite a lot to say so hopefully this will be a blog post of a kind most revelatory.

Apple Watch

I continually flirt with gear and currently I have left my Garmin Vivoactive HR aside and turned to the might of Apple with its Watch Series 6. I avoided Apple Watch for a while as the notifications are so annoying, however I have been able to turn most off so now it seems to be an option. Additionally, and I hate to sound shallow, but media functions matter to me. Running without a long form podcast or an audiobook is, for me, intolerable. Not only due to boredom but also I view it as a missed opportunity to work my brain whilst I exercise my body. Right now the best Garmin can do is sync media to its watches using a wired connection to a computer and I am sad to say that that is just not good enough. This is supposed to be cutting edge fitness and navigation technology. When Apple Watch will synchronise it all as I need, wirelessly whilst I sleep is Garmin really offering nothing better than a 25 year old method to get media to listen to? Plus, now that Apple has retired iTunes and separated music, podcasts and video I would have to wait for Garmin to update its sync software, to say nothing of the fact that the software that Audible provides for getting audiobooks onto devices looks like the ancient software I used to use when I owned a Palm PDA – now there is a retro tech reference for you.

It seems to me that for someone in my demographic Apple Watch is the best I can get, so I did. The options and apps available are superb and now that Healthfit (£3.99) will export everything I need and connect to Strava I have to say that I am sold on Apple Watch going forward. For massive day hikes such as the Yorkshire Three Peaks I have my Vivoactive HR ready to go but as an everyday device it is surpassed. Things can change in future as always, but that is my roadmap for the time being.

Health

Gout is garbage. I still curse my bad luck at being susceptible. Even my GP cannot believe it. A teetotal, outdoors-obsessed plant muncher should not be so unfortunate, but there we are. My body simply cannot process uric acid as efficiently as necessary and from time to time I will have to put up with this crap. This time I needed two courses of prednisolone to get rid of it, and be under no illusions about what a horrible drug that is. Naturally I have not done much exercise recently, until the last couple of days.

Diet

I am attempting to tweak my diet to see if I can get the drop on gout. The current view is to get my kidneys to flush – more efficiently – the uric acid, so I am consciously drinking even more water but also I am adding pomegranate juice and powder to my diet. Allegedly this can help. The science seems to suggest that free radicals are raised during a flare and pomegranate contains a powerful antioxidant that will counter this problem. I will also be creating a tincture out of which I will make a herbal infusion to drink daily.

Speed

Today I ran 2.5 miles, prioritising speed over distance for a change, and with relative ease ran my first and second fastest miles, and weirdly Strava said that, according to my heart rate, this was easier than usual, so I need to do some thinking on this front. I do remain convinced that my diet is affecting my performance massively however, and all for the better.

This is much faster than normal and I definitely felt I had more to give.

Cycling

I have upgraded my cycling computer to the Garmin Edge 1030 sensor bundle so I now have a cadence sensor, speed sensor and a heart rate strap. I plan to spend the next few weeks and blog posts going through the Garmin sensor metrics to which I now have access and see what I can do with it all to improve my performance. Stay tuned for that.

Tribute

Today is a day of sadness, and those who understand will appreciate a simple pictorial reference. Goodnight to the Mozart of the Electric Guitar.

The Week in Review

I have not posted a ‘week in review’ for ages, so I guess that now is as good a time as any to start again.

This week I…

  • Embraced YouTube and will be producing content regularly
  • Discovered Relive
  • Revamped my diet again, including fasting schedules

Performance

This was a fairly relaxed week really, mainly because I cannot really run due to the monstrous blisters I gained whilst completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I have one covering each heel, the left in particular being very tender indeed. I completed two runs this week, each of which was too early in my recovery and ended up being curtailed as it was just too painful to run at all. Strava summary below. I have taken advantage of clement weather and cycled where possible.

Data

Relive

Relive is a superb app I discovered recently. It reads your workouts from whichever app you use record them – in my case Strava or Garmin – and uses the data to generate a 3D flyover-style video. I will definitely being making use of this in future.

Nutrition

I am still fasting, however I am trying to push my time without food. Right now I have the willpower to fast for a whole day, however when I go past approximately sixteen hours without food I get an absolutely paint-stripping headache. This may sound bad, however it is a positive because that limit used to be fifteen hours. I have been slowly pushing this interval longer and longer. It is frustrating to be in a ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ position but I clearly need to train my body to accept longer periods without food. Right now the headaches are absolutely unbearable. I suffer migraine attacks and they are equally as debilitating, which means I am essentially incapacitated by the things. I am slowly winning the battle however, so I only need to keep modifying my diet slowly and hopefully I will be able to start doing day-long fasts without side effects.

Pushing Ahead

Right now my priority is to work as hard as I can. I can only wait for my feet to heal so that I can push my running distances again. In the meantime I am working hard on my nutrition. This week I felt the nip of autumn in the air so I am going to make the most of good weather whilst it lasts and push hard as soon as I can run again.

Recipe: Plant-Based Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Papaya Frosting

This is a recipe for a desert that is like tropical sweetness made flesh. It is very easy to make and great for sharing.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 150 grams walnuts
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted (have a little more ready in case but the oil from the nuts should also help to combine)

Filling

  • 150 grams cashews, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes
  • 6 passion fruits, pulped
  • 1 can of coconut milk, chilled in freezer and then the water drained away
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • Optional: maple syrup if you like it very sweet

Frosting

  • Pulp of one papaya, seeds removed
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Method

  • Pulverise the crust ingredients in the blender until the texture is even
  • Pour it all into whatever cake or pie dish you will serve it in, press firmly until you have a solid crust, then refrigerate whilst you prepare the rest of the recipe
  • Spin all of the ingredients for the filling in the blender until smooth, then pour onto the crust and refrigerate for a minimum four hours
  • Once the filling has fully set, spin all of the ingredients for the frosting in the blender, then pour over the filling and spread evenly with a spatula if necessary
  • Refrigerate until set, preferably overnight
  • Scatter the papaya seeds on top for a little bit of crunch
  • Serve up slices and enjoy!

Recipe: Decadent Plant Based Pancake Stack

Check it out folks. This pancake stack will leave you feeling as though you just ate your weekly meals in one go. You can oil or dry fry this mixture

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 200 grams oat flour (I just pulverised oats in the blender)
  • Maple syrup to sweeten to taste
  • Soy milk (or your preferred plant milk)

Method

  • Combine the flour, bananas and maple syrup in the blender
  • Slowly add milk whilst gently blending until you reach a sticky, almost dough-like consistency
  • Either heat a dry pan or oil if you prefer, and spoon into squash ball sized portions, squidging them down as they cook
  • Once brown, flip and repeat
  • Serve with fresh, dark berries and maple syrup

Tada! Couldn’t be more simple. For an alternative topping to maple syrup you can make lime stock sugar syrup which is just melted sugar, a little water, and the juice and zest of a lime, or chocolate sauce which is the same but just add cocoa powder instead of the lime ingredients.

Recipe: Quinoa Protein Bowl

This is something I just improvised but it is delicious and looks good so I decided to publish the recipe. It is full of protein, good fats and variety, and the quinoa has a very low glycemic index meaning weight loss.

Ingredients

  • 100 grams quinoa
  • 100 grams (dry weight) dried chickpeas, hydrated and cooked (or a can)
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 an iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • A generous handful of cashews
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • Boil your quinoa in water or stock, then rinse and set aside
  • Add a good glug of olive oil to a frying pan, add the chilli and cook for thirty seconds
  • Add the pepper, sweat for three minutes
  • Add the avocado and stir well, cooking for three more minutes
  • Add the lettuce and wilt
  • Throw in the nuts and toss the whole thing to mix well, season to taste, then turn the heat off
  • Add the quinoa to a bowl and fluff with a fork
  • Pour in the fried ingredients and then top off with the chickpeas
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice

Done! Most people will probably need two or three sittings to finish this so it’s cheap too. I might add chilli sauce or change the chickpeas for pinto beans perhaps next time. Maybe even some jalapeños for some twang. Enjoy!

In the pan

How to go From Couch to 5K in Four Days. Bonus Level: Records Broken Also

After outlining my running ambitions previously I managed to get injured practically the next day. No good deed goes unpunished, right? I guess I asked for it really. Even more astounding is that the injury was in fact gout. That is right, a (then) almost, (now) completely teetotal, vegan, twenty five year + veteran cyclist, runner and swimmer received a diagnosis of gout. Unbelievable. I can only presume that it runs in the family because you do not get lower risk than me for gout, typically the disease of ale swilling, red meat guzzling, Henry VIII type bloaters. Ho hum, so it goes. I have beat it into retreat with careful diet management, dispensing with crap shoes, exercising and resting properly and so forth, and now I am back on the trail.

How I Did Couch to 5K in Four Days

As silly as it sounds, I just did it. I have noticed that, for me at least, when I take a break from running the first three or four stints back on the road are like dragging a sack of lead around. Only after I push through this do I start feeling the Afterglow of Champions (I just made that up but I am so trademarking it). The sense that, suddenly, out of nowhere, the agony of laborious effort is receding and suddenly I feel as though I can run a marathon. It is a great feeling and I appreciate it more and more with age as my body starts to need more work to maintain great health and performance.

The sequence is as folows:

    Day one: 2 miles
    Day two: 2.5 miles
    Day three: 3 miles (probably 5K)
    Day four: 3.5 miles (definitely 5K)

On the way I scored my fastest 5K and recorded several fastest miles, with my current best being 10:30, which is bang average really, but still an improvement. All of these runs were done in a fasted state. I am still fasting 16/8 and intend for that arrangement to be permanent. Right now my trousers are falling down as the weight is falling off me, and I am not fat at all, but I am shedding residual body fat so quickly that I need new clothes already.

I have to once again acknowledge the power of incremental change. Ever since I was a wee nipper I have known its power, as my mum stopped smoking when I was very young, and ran to the traffic lights on our road and back. Eventually she ran multiple marathons. It is that simple to me. Start where you can, go where you want, do a little bit more the next day. Small beginnings, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the moment, yield results you could never dream of because no matter how little you do, it is more than nothing.

Here in England the NHS is always pushing Couch to 5K as a great achievement, and for sure it is for anyone, but simply by pushing myself pretty gently in increments I am already there. At this rate hitting marathon distances by the end of the year seems trivial. Doubtlessly it will not be that simple, but it will not be that hard either, provided I give the effort that I know I can and I do not get injured. Combining this with a high protein, low GI diet I am making gains that seem remarkable but which are really just good outcomes based on the science.

My ambitions to run ultra distances are intact, as is my body and I am going to do it if it kills me. Remember folks, it does not matter who you were yesterday as long as you are better tomorrow. Past is prologue, the future is for gods!

Strava Data

Resveratrol – The Fountain of Youth?

‘Who wants to live forever?’ So asked one Freddie Mercury. Well, actually I do. In addition to an aspirin a day and Lion’s Mane fungi I commenced taking resveratrol around six months ago. I previously recommended the work of David Sinclair and his book, Lifespan, and this work is where I take my zeal for resveratrol, an extract taken from red wine grapes. Sinclair outlines an excellent case for the use of this and metformin, a diabetes drug that may have anti-ageing properties. I am not taking metformin and right now I am not intending to do so as the side effects are apparently quite serious. It is worth noting right now that Sinclair does not recommend any drug that he himself does not take, so at least he clearly believes in it rather than claiming it is good without backing that up with actions.

Why do this? Because I love living and I want to see as much of the world whilst I am physically fit and capable as I can. Death will get us all in the end, but until then I want it all.

Whernside: Confessions of a Grumpy Nine Year Old

I love the Yorkshire Three Peaks and I try to climb them individually each year, with the added bonus of one day hoping to do the Three peaks Challenge again, this time as an adult with my own children, when they are old enough. Right now there is one major spanner in the works: my youngest daughter. She is an absolute fireball of a child. She has inherited the redhead temperament from me which means that I love her attitude, sass and drive, but good god she can be a real little shitbag.

This last week I climbed Whernside and it was the toughest hike that I can recall ever having done. Aside from the fact that it is the hardest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, it was scorching hot and my little girl decided that she was going to strop ALL THE WAY. I would not change her for a nanosecond – that fire in her belly is going to serve her well in life as she kicks ass, but I really would rather have just hiked and not had to drag her every step of the climb. Still, we did it and that was great. Details and photos below.

Strava

Lovely Photos

Lockdown Lifestyle

So, here we are, a family in a semi rural town with time on our hands. Of course I have been hiking and cycling.

Climbing Ingleborough

Strava Data

Map and Splits

Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence

This was a hard slog for whatever reason, but ultimately rewarding. I am definitely not 100% healthy, my immunity is low and I feel a background malaise but still it was great to get out hiking. Isolation from the rest of the world is the thing I love about hiking the most so it is obviously fine in respect to social distancing. I think we saw perhaps three other people, two at the summit and one on his mountain bike ascending after us.

Cycling

As I previously posted, I bought myself a folding bicycle so naturally the thing to do is buy another bike also, which I did – a tourer hybrid. This means that I can now go cycling off road. It’s no good for mountains or whatever but for towpaths and dirt tracks it’s just fine. The Leeds-Liverpool canal is like an artery running through my town, linking it to almost all of the North West of England so it’s useful to be able to access it, not only for my convenience but also because it is much safer for taking the kids cycling. My daughters love it. The oldest is the cautious, cerebral one and we cycle more or less together. All the while her younger sister – the absolute little shitbag – slams the pedals hard and flies off into the distance. I love her bravery and fearlessness as much as I love her sister’s gentle, caring nature. It’s fascinating how different they can be. Anyway, below are data for a couple of rides. I have done more - you can visit my Strava if you really want to see the lot.

May 12th 2020

Bolton Map

This ride was very strange. Firstly I was testing out my tourer over distance. It’s not only a slow ride compared to what I would have done on my racer, but also because the last eight miles were me cycling slowly, hopelessly lost. For some reason, once I arrived near to my destination my Garmin Edge 1000 took me on an eight mile track which was basically an orbit of my actual intended destination. It was the most bizarre navigation error I have ever experienced.

In terms of features the Edge 1000 is streets ahead of the Edge 800 it replaced, but the navigation performance has been very iffy. The 800 was genuinely a fantastic addition to my gear. Every single destination I used to to reach was in there and I arrived literally at the front door every time. The 1000 has taken me on some exceptionally unusual routes. For example, when I was working in Todmorden it took me over an unbelievably difficult and hilly ride because it was around .25 miles shorter than the much flatter, faster alternative. Obviously the hills added a lot of time to the journey, and I can’t believe that the Garmin algorithm did that. Now it has taken me eight miles around my destination for no reason, and when I was plotting the route originally it struggled to find the address. The 800 always accepted the postcode and took me there. For me the jury is out right now on the 1000. I got it because the 800 has no Bluetooth or WiFi and I used to have to boot my computer and plug it in just to upload routes which drove me batty in the wireless era of technology. Right now I would happily go back rather than have the current issues I am facing. I hope that things improve quickly.

Hormesis: If it Doesn’t Kill You…

Lately I have been listening to the work of an incredible scientist, Dr David Sinclair, Harvard geneticist. His most recent book, Lifespan is essentially a document detailing his quest to cure ageing. One concept he introduced to me in this audiobook is hormesis, the notion that stressing yourself will do you good, aka the popular aphorism, ‘whatever does not kill you simply makes you stronger’. Having given this some thought recently I found a way to put it into action this morning on my run. The details are below. This was a starved run and thus hard work. If you are interested in the book but not sure then Sinclair was recently on the Joe Rogan and Rich Roll podcasts so you can try before you buy.

Garmin Data

Data Summary

Mile Splits

Graphs

Now, with the summary above done I can detail what I learned on this run. Firstly, I really ought to pay better attention to the pavement as I went over on my ankle twice, albeit not badly so thankfully there was no injury but it could have been worse. Secondly, I learned to stress myself. In his work Sinclair details several different stressors that can be hugely beneficial to humans: endurance sports, fasting and cold exposure. The first two I am working on already but the third had never occurred to me previously. Serendipity allowed me to improvise today, however. Running along the Leeds-Liverpool canal I came to a railway bridge on my regular route which was being repaired and thus the pathway was closed, so I had to improvise. This meant taking an adjacent path which either continues as tarmac, or, crucially, there is a short trail. I took the trail and got absolutely drenched, both from the rain and also the muddy filth and freezing cold water that was flowing liberally on the trail.

What I discovered was not only that running in crap conditions is great fun and feels amazing afterwards, but also that I need to get better shoes. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t done as much running as I would like over the last fortnight because here in the U.K. we have had some pretty severe storms and it’s genuinely dangerous to be out in the countryside in such conditions. Where I live you can’t go anywhere for more than twenty minutes before you end up in rural surroundings, and I try to avoid pounding road too much because it is hard on my 6’1, 16 stone frame. I’m a pretty big guy so softer ground is good. I also live in a place where, should I run distances, I end up on country roads where people drive like dickheads. Add that to storm weather and it can be pretty difficult.

That all being said, however, Sinclair’s work and influence has shifted my perspective. I have to start stressing my body more. If I am to run ultra distances as I previously committed to doing then risk is inherent to that, both of injury and some generalised danger. Also, when I thought about it I realised that people are far more likely to endanger me on my bike due to the bizarre cyclist hatred that exists in England and that never stopped me cycling so I think it’s time to start to really hammer myself to get good at serious endurance again. I’ve cycled over 100 miles on a good few occasions, so I can run it for sure.

This means that I can’t fast 5 days out of 7 though. I just can’t see how that is possible, so I have a plan. I will fast on non-running days, meaning that when I do run my fast will commence at 2000 that evening and I fast through to lunch the next day. There is no way I can run endurance distances without eating. That’s crazy and, whilst I am no nutritionist, it can’t be good or healthy for me.

When faced with a closed pathway I took the trail, got myself covered in crap, soaking wet and freezing, but it felt amazing. It didn’t kill me so it must have made me stronger. I then finished up the morning by cooking myself this delicious brunch consisting of savoury pancakes stuffed with potatoes fried in garlic, chilli, ginger and turmeric followed by a fruit salad. Yum!