Malham Cove: Conquered!

Another great hike completed today, beginning in the Yorkshire Dales Centre car park and covering a route that went first to Janet’s Foss (a beautiful waterfall), Gordale Scar (another stunning waterfall) and Malham Cove. The kids loved it and so did I. This is quite a technical hike involving some steep climbing and descending, strenuous work over limestone pavement, and it is genuinely visually stunning. It includes a walk through a forest which in spring is carpeted with bluebells. What a sight that must be. It also includes the cove itself, a sight that made me feel young, given how old the place is.

Map and Photographs

It took about 3 hours in total, of which 1:50 hours were spent actually moving. This hike is in the heart of the Yorkshire and well worth it for the views and the landscapes.

Deep Suspicion of Runtastic and Apple Watch

Today I put in a good seven miles having suffered a midweek migraine. I take medication to mitigate them but that only reduces symptoms. That is a welcome therapeutic outcome but it still does not allow me to run as I still do not feel as though I am anywhere near good running condition. That aside, today’s post is concerning my suspicions of modern fitness tracking technology. First of all, I am all but disinterested now in Apple Watch, in particular the optical heart rate monitor. My scouring online for information about this has demonstrated to me that optical monitors are pretty inaccurate and therefore unreliable. In addition to that I learned today that its distance tracking is based upon an accelerometer sensing arm movements – hardly accurate either. My mind was made up long ago to save up and buy a Garmin Vivoactive watch and this has only further convinced me to do so. GPS is obviously better, although the Garmin has no heart rate monitor at all so I am going to see if I can use it with my heart rate strap that arrived with my Garmin Edge cycling GPS. Stay tuned for more on that front.

I am also suspicious of Runtastic because I uploaded my most recent workout and the calorie burn is remarkable. I have always been led to believe that one hour of running will burn 500-600 calories, so to burn approximately double that on a time of 1:10 hours is ripe to say the least. I overestimate my calorie consumption on My Fitness Pal and have done for a while, mainly due to the cruel irony of exercise whereby the fitter one gets the harder one has to work to burn the same calorie count. I used to log walks as workouts to get the calorie burn from that to count against my eating but I have stopped doing that too in order to reduce my intake. I am hardly a heifer but I do want to get down to and maintain a racing weight. I am pretty tall and broad so I am never going to hit ten stones or anything like that, but I do want my body fat content in single digits.

I look forward with interest to what results a Garmin watch will yield, mainly because of the tangled web of calculations I have to make based upon compensating for what I am almost sure is over-estimation of the calorie count of my exercise. On the other hand, the positive side of this run is that I maintained yet another good distance at ten minute miles or better. That seems to be my standard, and I at least want to get under nine minutes, which is why accuracy in calculating fat burning is so important to me. Any weight I can shed will translate into seconds shaved off my times.

Map & Data 

  • 7.1 miles
  • 1:10:24
  • 9:55 minute miles
  • 1132 calories (I am very suspicious of this)
  • 354 feet climbed
  • 135 bpm average heart rate

Never Trot With the Trots!

Today was the learning of another valuable lesson for me: never trot with the trots. There is no way to say this that isn’t pretty gross, so I shall be frank. Last night I ate an absolutely huge vegetable and Quorn kung po stir fry. I rarely eat Quorn but it is a good way to break up the wall of random vegetables in vegan food like this. What the hell it did to my physiology I cannot say specifically, but this morning I did five (FIVE!) giant poos before leaving the house. By giant I mean that I filled the pot. Nay, perhaps even destroying it once. By lunchtime it was eight. I had to take some Loperamide after it became more and more watery and gave me cramps in the late morning at home. I set off to run the same trail as yesterday and had to stop after 5.5 (ish) miles due to the pain of running in this state. I walked the remaining couple of miles. It wasn’t pain per se actually, rather a malaise and unpleasant muscle soreness, likely due to mild dehydration.

Now, I have to say that I probably made a mistake in running on consecutive days, something I am going to put a stop to. I am rapidly bearing down on swimming season so that will be what I do on non-running days. I have learned the hard way today that my body needs optimum fuelling and treatment for good results.

I am not going to post the map and stats for an unfinished run. Instead I am happy to inform be posting about running and mental health benefits very soon. It will be a post from the horse’s mouth as I am a suffer myself, so I hope it helps anyone else at all who is in a similar position.

Pushing for Better Quality Running

For a while now I have been deliberately focusing on raising my average speed, and as a consequence my heart rate, during runs. Today I ran yet another good distance, some seven miles, at better than ten minute miles and so I am making great strides. One particular skill is to even out one’s pace for better fat burning, and today is a significant milestone for me in that respect. On previous runs I have had a very uneven pace and my heart rate data from Apple Watch shows that my heart rate has been outside the 127 bpm threshold for around half of the run, and that is a rather irritating waste of time. I solved this problem by concentrating on maintaining a ten minute mile pace and also by running a trail for a good portion of the way. I must say that running through a forest on a sunny, fresh, cold and clear autumn day with the sounds of birds tweeting and running water everywhere is a rare pleasure and I will most definitely be repeating it whenever possible. Granted, it was only a local park rather than actual wilderness but nonetheless it is a beautiful place and so very beneficial for the mind and body. I always make a point to turn off the headphones and stop listening to whatever podcast I have on in order to take in the sounds, smells and sights of nature.

So, a beautiful and rewarding run today and I kept my heart rate in the fat burning zone for 21:35 minutes, a significant improvement on my previous best performance. Only 15% of the run was below a useful heart rate. Raising the heart rate like that is much easier in the midst of great natural beauty.

Map & Data

  • 7.05 miles
  • 1:09:19 hours
  • 9:50 minute miles
  • 1121 calories
  • 377 feet climbed
  • Average heart rate 246 bpm

Achievement Unlocked: The Tolkien Trail ***Updated With Map***

Today was our second hike of the weekend and it was a cracker. Seven and a half miles of hard slog that means out children collapsed into bed this evening, falling asleep practically immediately. As a parent I find this as satisfying as can be. The hike today was The Tolkien Trail. It took us through the countryside surrounding Hurst Green, and at one point near to Stonyhurst College, a very expensive public school where J.R.R. Tolkien often visited and stayed, and against which I played football and cricket at school, beating them regularly. I was particularly reminded of one occasion when we played cricket against them and they waltzed up to us and announced in their toff tones that they would ‘bowl us out’. We won the toss and promptly smashed them all over the park, clocking up over a hundred runs in thirty overs, eventually embarrassing them and winning by a huge margin (for a schoolboy match). Those happy memories came flooding back to me today and brought a smile to my face. No doubt those boys went on to have the last laugh, however, as they and their fee paying school would have opened up a world of opportunities, both personal and professional, the likes of which were absolutely off limits to a working class kid like me who hailed from one of the poorest towns in Britain.

Photographs

14525218_10157588757045650_3966042221248362183_o

14542468_10157588756630650_4381305878872999066_o

Anyway, my navel-gazing nostalgia aside, today we had a good hike, only getting lost once. This trail takes you through fields riddled with cow dung, farmland, forests and villages, all of which were beautiful. There is very little climbing to do on this, save for a couple of particularly steep but short forest paths that are, thankfully, stepped. The toughest thing is following the trail as some of it is nondescript farmland with very little in the way of landmarks, so getting one’s bearings can be challenging. I recommend this trail to anyone with a bit of stamina. Despite being relatively short it can be a hard slog in parts. If it has rained recently then you are going to sink in mud and cow dung. It is worth it for the fresh air and the stunning natural beauty.

Data

Rather irritatingly Runtastic isn’t exporting GPX files again, seemingly a website glitch so I can only give data for this one.

  • 7.67 miles
  • 2:19:23
  • 947 calories
  • 535 feet climbed

A grand day out, a great weekend spent hiking in the countryside and a lovely finish to our activities for the week. Happy children, satisfied parents, and a tired but active and, hopefully by tomorrow, well-rested family. Back to work/school tomorrow.

***Update: Map Added***

A Run and a Hike

Yesterday I ran and today I hiked. The run was a six miler and whilst it didn’t clock in at sub ten minute miles, I know it was because once again Runtastic failed to pause during stops. This was just a maintenance run so I won’t post maps or data (I may update this post with those later). I am more interested in today’s 4.3 mile hike over a local beauty spot, Pendle Hill. This clocked in at 2:18 hours, not bad for young nippers.

Dragging three children under the age of ten was no mean feat, but it was worth it for its own sake, and doubly so when I watched them devour their meal this evening and then doze off to sleep immediately. Very rewarding.

Map

We loved every second of it, and the view was fantastic. This is the phase of acclimatising the kids to serious hiking. Hopefully by this time next year we will have been all over the Lake District on various hikes.

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.