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!

Just Keep Showing Up

Regarding fitness overall I am pushing hard during these weird lockdown times, but when I hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks I trashed my feet for ten days. This means that I could not run due to the stunningly painful blisters I received – worth it in my opinion. I have been cycling just fine but for my running I am starting back in the low mileage distances again. The cool thing, however, is that where I normally run a mile and build distance quickly, this time I commenced on two miles and I could have gone farther. Knowing my ineptitude when it comes to pavement pounding I stopped whilst I had more to give rather than take from my reserves until I realised they were depleted.

Right now the stop-start nature of running is frustrating me, and as the data below show, I am still on abysmal mile times, but I remain convinced by my earlier thoughts on ultra running – how hard can it be?

Data

My reality is a good way behind my conviction that I can do this thing, so how am I going to realise these ambitions? I am going to keep showing up and run until I do it.

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.

Yorkshire Three Peaks: Conquered!

After thirty years I finally hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks again. Last time I did it I was twelve years old. I can remember being pretty worn out back then, and this time I am sunburnt and currently on crutches due to me getting absolutely dreadfully painful, unwalkable blisters as a result. That aside, I feel so great. I also recorded a vlog that I intend to edit and upload to YouTube very shortly.

My friend John and I did the classic route, Pen Y Ghent > Whernside > Ingleborough, only this time the regular Ingleborough ascent was closed. We were diverted and had to complete the most horrendous climb and scramble that I have ever done. I will never forget that for as long as I live (see mile 19 in the Strava data below). Quite where we both summoned up the determination, patience and sheer bull-headed stubbornness to not be beaten by it is beyond me, but we did it nonetheless. Despite the extra distance and my hobbling the final five miles on my poor, blistered feet, we beat the twelve hour time target quite comfortably, and fortunately my Garmin Vivoactive HR watch had just enough battery to record the whole thing.

Data from Strava

Map

Summary

Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence

Splits

Mile Times

A Couple of Lovely Photographs

I guess I need a new challenge!

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.

Five Miles Broken

I do not know whether or not I mentioned it previously, but I am trying to run on the trail as much as I can. Running through a forest beats the roads every time for me. I feel as though I am immersed in nature. It is absolutely beautiful. I am very much an outdoorsman in that sense. Luckily, living in Lancashire in England means that trails and off road routes are literally everywhere in any direction.

Today I hit five miles, and despite both Garmin Connect and Strava recording my fastest mile at 10:31, my Garmin Vivoactive HR watch proclaimed that I had broken a record at 10:26. I have no idea what happened there, however I am assuming the longer time to be correct.

I am now bearing down on breaking through ten miles. I am sure at some point in the near future I will have to run on alternate days so as to recover effectively. My best ever distance is fifteen miles and I am determined to beat that – by the end of September hopefully.

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

Weathering the Storm

So, here in northern England it has not only been three storms in a row but it is also so cold that the arthritis in my toe is painful even when I am just sitting around. Not to be undone, however, I managed to improvise. During storm Dennis I couldn’t run distance in such high winds, so I decided to run a mile as quickly as I could, with a pathetic time of 9:32, as you can see below.

Posting detailed Garmin metrics for this is pointless, but you see the point, that I am a painfully slow runner. I always have been, but I am pushing for endurance rather than speed. I would like both of course and I hope that as I keep stretching myself I can pick up speed. It will be genuinely fascinating to see the difference in pace when I run on a flat course though. Right now I have in mind to run from where I live to the city of Preston. This is mostly a flattish course that will clock in at around 24 miles, so clearly I have some training to do yet to hit that. The point is that I want to see what difference the course makes to my average speed. Right now I run locally as I am not passing 10 mile distances yet, which means I do some moderate climbing. This is because where I live it is more or less uphill in every direction. The exception is down into the town centre but obviously I won’t run there, so that leaves courses that always have a substantive elevation gain. I bet that when I am fit enough I will run to Preston and the pace will be better than my local running. This has certainly been the truth for cycling where I have found cycling great distances insanely easy when on a flat course. This brings to mind the time I did the inaugural Wiggo Sportive race and a bunch of Londoners couldn’t finish it because they cycled distance but not hills. Slackers.

So, yesterday I pushed up to six miles and it was a hard run. My muscles were achy, it was absolutely freezing cold, thus I was sluggish and my muscles needed to contract constantly. Data below.

Data Summary

Splits

Graph Data

In addition to thinking about how courses might affect my times and pace, hopefully just the change in the weather as it gets warmer should give me better times. I’m pretty pleased at how my distances are improving quickly in difficult, cold weather conditions and also I hope that my arthritis calms down, because that is very painful, right in the ball joint of the big toe I broke as a wee nipper. That can be very unpleasant, I can tell you. I hope that in roughly two weeks I will have pushed through ten mile distance running, heading towards my personal best distance of 15 miles by the end of April. That puts me on course, presuming I have no health issues, injuries or otherwise unforeseen events, to hit marathon distances by the summer holidays.

The other positive side of things is my health, my clothes are starting to hang off me! This is a great problem to have but I also have to start replacing my wardrobe. My waist diameter is down two inches already. After the horrible summer I had last year this is exceedingly gratifying. I feel like I am striking back at the challenges of life and hitting it harder than it hits me. I hate being cooped up inside the house so to have had to endure months of it was dreadful, but what is past is prologue. If I can hit marathon distances in time for winter then the great lost summer of 2019 will be nothing but a distant memory.