Nine Minute Miles: Smashed

Today I ran around a local waterway, Clowbridge Reservoir, and by god I smashed the time, beating nine minute miles. Granted, this is only a two mile run but since I am building again after injury – getting good distance hopefully quicker than last time – I am putting this one in the win column. Hell, I kicked the ass out of my previous best by a minute per mile. I can only presume my whole plant diet is powering this because I barely feel at all tired after legging it as fast as I can for 18 minutes. If not then god knows where this is coming from, but I am not complaining.

Is it possible that I could get below eight minute miles? At any distance that would be thrilling for me. I guess I can only watch my data and see where this goes.

Strava

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.

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.

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.

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

Lockdown Progress is Still Progress

Last week I pushed up to five miles running, did plenty of (slow) cycling with the kids on the tourer and on Saturday I did a red hot, scorching hike over Whernside.

Yesterday I cycled in the evening with my boy and I have been amazed to see how quickly he is becoming powerful, fast and strong. He will be better than me hopefully! Captured the gorgeous sunset too. Check out the glitter path below.

I also fond a lovely outdoor location to explore, Rivington Pike near Bolton.

I remain on a 16/8 fasting diet which is working hard for me right now. I have literally stopped all refined sugar intake and I recently discovered that barley has a glycemic index of 25 – ridiculously low – so I am using that as a base for my cooking. That along with quinoa and a few other whole grains like buckwheat. I am already, in two weeks, 3.5 pounds lighter. The best part of this is that I do not think I have ever felt so stuffed in my life! I have only ever counted calories once and it was a waste of time. This way I am tracking my weight with a weekly weigh in and just eating good food, and boy is it working. Plus, barley is 55p a bag so my bank balance likes it too.

In my 43 years on Earth I think I might have weighed myself four or five times so I am hardly obsessive, but now that the kids are old enough that I do not have to spend every single minute refereeing their skirmishes or just keeping them alive, I have time to focus on my health much more. This is bringing great results. Having spent over a decade doing whatever exercise I could and eating what I can as best as I could I now relish this second innings of living. Any parent knows that the first ten years of child rearing are nonstop sacrifice, impossible to plan or work around and you spend most of your time exhausted. Now I get to take them out with me and they can be exhausted!

I am very much enjoying trail running. I have never been a fast runner really so I have nothing to prove on that front, but I can endure quite a lot so right now I am focused on off road activities and working out the best planning for nutrition. It seems that fasting of some kind works brilliantly – I even climbed Whernside in a fasted state – and thinking more about food is working. I have been a vegan for years and years but to get the best from myself means that my enemy is sugar. I really cannot believe the magnitude of difference that it makes to my physique if I stop eating it completely. All of the reading I am doing says this, and it all advocates fasting regularly and also straining the body, meaning to push hard in terms of endurance.

I guess that this week the results will prove me right or wrong.