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.

Picking up Speed: Distance Over Time

As the week draws in with the last dregs of summer being chugged as we speak I am picking up speed as quickly as I am dropping pounds. Yesterday’s bike rides were 13.5mph and 14.6mph average speeds respectively. This is significant progress, and interestingly the faster ride was just over 21 miles whereas the slower one was just over 11 miles. The former was a slightly greater climb, however it is over a much greater distance so proportionately it was easier, and the shorter ride is a whopper of a climb that goes on for almost four miles, and it starts as soon as I set off. Still, I am now, on decent length road courses, pushing the 15mph barrier.

Garmin Data

Data is the summary, splits, speed and elevation.

Pushing serious distance like this I am starting to feel young again, when I would cycle for miles and miles for the pure joy of cycling.

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.

The Joy of the Trail

I may have said on here, about a million times, that I am not a fast runner. This is true, and today I ran a very slow seven miles, however I ran almost all of it off road, often hacking through vegetation and running through muddy, swampy terrain, mostly uphill, occasionally power walking when it became very difficult and thick in vegetation. Despite being pretty slow, I think I can endure a lot which bodes well for the future. Below are the distances from the last three days.

Even better, my resting heart rate is now 44 bpm.

The Joy of the Trail

Slow as I may be, god I love trail running. Being in the countryside – on this occasion National Trust land – brings a joy that I simply find indescribable. Getting away from traffic and people is something that makes me feel as though I am experiencing life at its most beautiful. No matter how much faster I am able to run on the road, the hard work and graft involved in running trails, with all of the twisting and turning, and tough terrain, I simply love it. The happiness and exhilaration found in running under a wild tree canopy in a forest is the only drug I will ever need.

Relive

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.

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.