Neural pathways: running without thinking

As I review my first week of non-running re-hab, I realise that today marks 76 days until TMBT. Eleven weeks, which includes at least another week of full-on physiotherapy related exercise involving Not Running. Then the ever familiar road to recovery, hopefully culminating in a pain free ultra at the end of August and a good solid attempt at the arduous climb that is the ‘short route’ of The Most Beautiful Thing distances.

kinabaluBeing told not to run, even if it’s for the long-term good, is the last thing a runner wants to hear. I had been explaining to my Pilates instructor Jayne that I was sick of the Hamster-wheel of injury, followed by time out for recovery and the never really being able to test myself for fear of re-injury. My current/ ongoing issues are the result of over-training and racing, but the underlying reasons are poor biomechanics and hip stiffness which I’ve traced back to childhood. Jayne suggested an assessment with a physiotherapist who specialises in podiatry and also Paralympic rehabilitation. OK then!

After a video assessment (walking, running, with and without shoes) and various strength and alignment exercises, some interesting issues came out which I’d never heard from previous sports injury professionals:-

piriformis-stretch600

My right leg (which currently carries the afflicted Achilles tendon) is my ‘good’ leg and tracks straight with good pronation, neutral gait and no podiatry issues

My so-called ‘good leg’ on the left is rotated inwarded severely enough that I supinate and run without the use of my big toe! What?!!!!!

If I continue to run longer distances using only the smaller toes of the left foot, it’s likely I will cause stress fractures in these toes, as they are not strong enough for the duty I am giving them, which should really be harboured by the big toe and the second toe. My right leg can only do so much to compensate!

The tightness in my soleus and Piriformis started in childhood and is likely not easily or quickly correctable without suffering injuries down the leg-chain. Orthotics (practically a dirty word in my vocabulary) were suggested to correct the gait.

I can re-train my foot not to dorsi-flex when I run and to correct the S-shape I form during the foot strike (it should really be a outer heel-strike, rolling forward to toeing off diagonally, with the big toe- minimalist shoe and barefoot running fans, please look away now!). This can be done by Not Running and performing repetitive movements to create new neural pathways which the brain and thereafter the muscles, will recognise. In time, I should be able to run more efficiently, without thinking about it.

So in summary, my right side is compensating for the left and the outside of my legs are very strong compared to the inside sets of muscles which are very weak.

Things I already knew were:

  1. higharchMy Achilles is thickened and nodularised, possibly with neovascularity, that is, an increase in the number of blood-vessels in the tendon area; as my bodies attempt to get more healing blood into the area
  2. The tightness of the Achilles is what’s causing me pain and this is primarily caused by very tight calves (years of wearing very high heels won’t have helped). I need deep stretching and lots of rollering
  3. I have high arches, which are fairly rigid and don’t really want to help me out by pronating nicely through the heel-toe pattern, which allows for shock-absorption through the running gait.

Every day I must perform

3 x 15 sets of eccentric calf raises: up and down on the steps, gradually adding more weight. I do this FIVE times a day, every day. I’m currently loading with 2.5 Kg.

Publication1-1024x538

2 x 100 ankle flexes with toes scrunched up. This is to train the ankle NOT to use the toes to lead the movement and to stop me dorsi-flexing thus helping me pronate, not supinate, on my left foot. I do this twice a day; which doesn’t sound like much but it takes a lot of concentration not to use the toes, keep the foot in plantar flexion and I can’t stop my mouth from pursing into a tight frown at the same time! Come ON Neural pathways – form already!

A variety of piriformis stretches including the more traditional post-run stretches as well as some moves borrowed from pilates/yoga.

After all this, there’s barely enough time for Life and Actual race training!

0000653_250

So, I am breaking in my orthotics, which have been custom built to help me pronate more (!) on my left foot and help my very high foot arches to collapse in the proper way. Increasing the hours every day, I am walking in them and if there is no pain, I can attempt a run on Day 13. I’ve promised myself I will start with a 20 min jog 🙂 After that, I have to schedule an ultrasound to check on the status of the Achilles, which may or may not result in an injection to get rid of the extra blood vessels and yet another two weeks off from running, whilst the swelling recedes. I may have to have this done when I’m in the UK as the procedure is a little specialised and I’m not sure if the local hospitals have the know-how. But I will check. Another two weeks off from running……..(sigh).

Until then, building back up from a 20 minute jog into the realms of what will likely be at least 5 hours of climbing through trails and forest in Sabah, will be a challenge but I hope that my previous mileage PLUS all the swimming, cycling and other cross-training I’ve been doing- coupled with better biomechanics (not to mention my highly renowned mental determination) will allow me to have any amazing experience at TMBT in September. I hope everyone else’s training is a bit more traditional than mine.

Advertisements

TMBT – the unpaved road unravels

The road to the jungle is by definition, unpaved and so my efforts to gain some more off-road training has had to be upped. After studying my training record, I am still very thin on terrain training and I think this is a great shame, given that I am mere miles away from forest, streams, steep jungle inclines and many other aspects which will be encountered during The Most Beautiful Thing.

In the UK, I could drive for 30 minutes in-land and hit all manners of running surface from muddy grassy slopes, to gravelly trails, to heather clad mountainous fell. Miles and miles of compacted earth along disused railways and many more of asphalt pavements gave me no excuse not to get as many miles of running as I wished.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here in Brunei, there are a couple of set-backs which I am trying to compel myself to overcome:

Temperature/timing: the coolest hours are before sunrise and after sunset. However, it’s not very safe or pleasant to run in at dawn/dusk due to

  1. biting insects,
  2. humidity,
  3. drivers using the cycle lanes,
  4. cyclists without lights using the pavements,
  5. men-at-work using the pavements,
  6. huge deep leg-breaking pot-holes on both pavement and road.

The beach gets rids of items 3-6 but has it’s own drawbacks

  1. pitch-black after 6.45 p.m.
  2. trip-hazards from beach debris
  3. camber of the sand sloping up from the waters’ edge
  4. limited exits onto main road
  5. nefarious activities after dark (!!!)

Never-the-less, I am getting out onto hillier routes, namely the Labi Road, which runs from the Seria by-pass turning South, towards the small village of Teraja. This tiny outpost has traditional long-houses, situated very close to the geographical border with Sarawak, somewhere in the jungle beyond the end of the road.

DSC_0632My first venture ended abruptly after less than 4 hilly miles. Following some great long-run planning, involving proper fuel, drink, change of clothes, SPF and other considerations, I ended up ‘sprinting’ towards my car after being pursued by several feral dogs! These mongrel hounds are quite a common sight around Brunei, with families adopting upwards of 5 dogs, perhaps as pets but more likely as protectors! The Labi Road does not receive mobile phone coverage and a bite of any kind would leave me with at least a 30 min drive before we hit the main road and further to go to reach the nearest medical centre. Not something worth risking….but this is really the only hilly area I have found that doesn’t involve full submersion in the jungle!

DSC_0643My second venture went slightly better. No dogs, just the relentless sunshine, 33 degrees Centigrade and high humidity coupled with the threat of sand-flies for any walking sections! My routine for the longer runs was to have my “support vehicle” driven by my husband, park up every mile or so along the road and for me to run to it, rehydrate and get any food or equipment needed before continuing. Although this doesn’t replicate race conditions, it does allow me to concentrate on good quality running without the extra weight of carrying a rucksack or duress from being dehydrated. I feel at this stage of training, I really need to tax my legs with 3-4 hours of running. I will definitely get this during the Mauritius Marathon next month, a key part of my long run and heat training.

And…..STOP PRESS. Before I have time to publish the above, I spend an afternoon having my (on-going) Achilles weak-spot assessed by a very experienced physio and am now resigned to two weeks of NO RUNNING. The assessment (of which I will undoubtedly write more later) uncovered some very interesting facts about my biomechanics and fills in a lot of the unexplained history about why I seem injury prone. This has come at a very pivotal time in my training regime and I am again faced with a choice:

Carrying on running for long durations and ‘maintaining’ my current conditions with rest, massage, acupuncture, bandaging and various liniments including Tiger Balm, Nature’s Kiss Herbal Rub and Chinese sprays OR

address the biomechanical reasons why I keep ending up injured. [Aside: I have been injured for 2-4 months for every 12 months of running, which isn’t a great rate of return for my efforts. I get to a certain level and then have to take time off only to rebuild to a similar level of fitness before I am reinjured…….repeat, repeat].

I really want to be in good shape for TMBT and some of the other endurance events which Malaysia has to offer BUT I have also signed up for (a) a marathon in only 3 weeks time and (b) an ultra-marathon in 9 weeks time. The physio seems OK with me trying to get back on track for (b) but I haven’t exactly told her about (a). I know she would discourage it profusely!

The problem with having to plan events far in advance is that you tend to have the hotels, flights and race entries paid up as you begin training with only the hope that you will complete adequate preparation. I have certainly had to miss a lot of events due to injury over the years but I think I have always been sensible about entering just to enjoy the journey and complete or with the aim of a Personal Best. I have, as yet, never DNF’d (Did Not Finish).

However, as I enter my 3rd day of re-hab and no running, I am pushing the boundariesdont give up of reality if I think I can complete a marathon in under 5 hours, with 2 full weeks off in the 3 week lead-up to race-day. Even taking into consideration that I can and am still ‘training’ with cycling (outdoors and gym turbo-trainer), pool-running and swimming as well as core, pilates, weights and the physios stretches, it’d be a lot to ask to just get through the full 42.2K without detriment. Or is it? I’ve decided to make the full decision after I get re-assessed at the end of this week. For now, my targets are:

  • Do fortnight of running-rest, under physio’s guidance & see what happens
  • Re-assess goals after that

I don’t think this is the end of the road for doing TMBT justice, but I think targets prior to that are definitely in jeopardy 😦 But if it addresses the source of my poor biomechanics it will be worth it in the long(er) run.

Reformer pilates – an assault on injury

This week saw another first for me, a session of reformer pilates. And it was surprisingly enjoyable. I had always shunned away from both yoga and pilates, despite knowing that both would help me with breathing, posture, flexability, strength and ultimately, the on-going battle against injury. As you do!

women-pilates-reformer-semi-classNow, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know much about yoga or pilates; I have experienced a random drunken Hogmanay reveller perform a seal-pose on the livingroom floor of my very small flat but that didn’t exactly endear me to it.

No, I started as part of the ignorant masses, happy to file yoga practitioners under “hippy bean-eaters” and scoffed at the ohm-ing and meditation. This scoffing gradually gave way to feigned interest as more and more of my friends embraced yoga and laterally pilates and the different ‘brands’ of yoga – Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Vinyasa etc. Eventually, as I succumbed to injury and repeated diagnoses along the lines of having a tight this or a shortened or inflexible that, I realised…….I was going to have to check this stuff out.

Yoga – I got as far as googling my nearest class and having a few in-depth talks with Deek (a yogi who had used his knowledge & practises to overcome a broken hip after being told to apply for a wheelchair license) and TARA, herself a competent runner and yoga instructor. It never went any further and I think the terminology along with the mental imagery that “it just wasn’t me” made me body-swerve it.

Pilates – now this seemed a bit more my cup of tea, with the focus on strength and core, or so was my pre-formed opinion. I attended one class. And struggled. And felt the stigma of being in a group where everyone seemed like an expert, whilst I rolled around uncontrollably, with my hands gripped around my ankle. I know everyone has a first time, but I wasn’t feeling the love and so went back to my foam roller, static and dynamic stretches and traditional crunches and planks.

reformerUntil this week 🙂 I was offered a spare place at a one-on-two session with local yogi and Queen of the Flex, New Zealander Jayne who is an ex-runner and has been resident in Brunei for over ten years. [Aside: I met Jayne at a newbies coffee morning and having sworn not to be a complete bore and talk about running, she got me onto subject within 2 minutes of meeting!]. So I was keen to find out more about this pilates business once and for all and take advantage of the kind offer made by EMMA, to buddy up in one of her booked sessions. We met before lunch and drove to Jayne’s home which has a room set-up especially for reformer, with two of the reformer contraptions, including over-head leg/hand pulleys.

2pilatesBefore we started, there was a question and answers session about my exercise background and any injury’s or weak spots: this took some time 🙂 Jayne made some notes and was really nice about leaving the session open as a taster and if it didn’t suit me, fair enough but if I liked it, I could come back for a weekly class. This was good as I felt no pressure either way and entered the reformer room eager to learn more about my weak spots.

Following some clear explanations and extensive demo’s by Emma, we went through a variety of guidelines, breathing and movements. Some went well (although I had very little weight or tension on the machine) and some were a real strain to keep the small ball or ring in place between squeezed knees(!) or to keep my legs under-control. Theresuperfeet_body-alignment were some very bouncy juddering legs, especially when I needed to use my adductors. I was quite wary of using my right (injured) leg on it’s own for weight-bearing exercises but all in, it held out well and I had a very enjoyable session indeed (save for the running capris I’d worn, having a zipped pocket on the back which became increasingly uncomfortable, as we were on our backs on the machines a good part of the lesson).

After almost two hours, I emerged as a complete convert! I still don’t know very much about all the moves and sequences and yes, I am quite prone to breathing out on the in, but I’m sure that’ll come in time. The fact that the piriformis stretch I performed so inadequately during pilates, has already shown benefits is very positive.

stretch pilatesJayne has recommended I have an assessment with a local physio, to see where I’m at with the Achilles and everything else. I had been avoiding this (as basically I probably won’t want to hear what they’ve got to say) but I know I should book some sessions, especially now as I have started increasing my mileage towards the 30K mark. I’m working hard to include core, strength and stretching into my routine and I continue to roller even though it can be excruciating. Frequent massages and strapping is maintaining my form, despite my ankle being achy after a long run. Pilates can surely only help and the reformer pilates seems like something beneficial which I will actually enjoy. Time will tell 🙂

“Love what you do, Do what you love!”

My Nutty Salty Balls: high calorie blogging

Food. Food is very rarely just fuel, it’s quite an emotional facet of life:our best friend and sometimes a bit of a Frenemy! Like most people, I celebrate by eating, some mope and comfort eat or abstain altogether, I have been known to “overeat”.  My working days were moulded by the ritual of coffee breaks and by the etiquette of taking lunch. Going without it or not eating enough of the right stuff, is not a great idea. I’ve done that too. Sometimes food defines us – vegetarianism, veganism, fruititarians, people on the “face type” diet’. For others, it ‘confines’ for health reasons – coeliacs, diabetics, intolerences and allergies. It certainly makes life interesting and as an erstwhile distance runner, I’m always on the quest for palatable energy whilst avoiding tummy issues (ahem!). Of course, food is an industry whether it’s the growing, sourcing, preparing, eating or writing about it 🙂

So! How fantastic to be emptying the food cupboards, in preparation for renting the house out and finding all sorts of wonderful and out-of-date dried goods, cans, spices and basically just ingredients to experiement with.

DRUM ROLL! Where chemistry and imagination meet a 10-year amalgamation of ingredients, there are bound to be some new “species” of food types created. The fact that I am a trained chef AND a chemist should not deter anyone from trying out their own concoctions! I should probably insert some kind of disclaimer about the recipes herein, but…….

Aberdeen City-20130222-02692I posted a picture of my’ alternative to wheaty buttery flapjacks’ on FB a few weeks back and after a threat and a couple of nudges, I produced a few of my “nutty balls” (cue numerous childish innuendo) and even organised an exchange on the Formartine & Buchan Way (a popular local distance runners route) with some friends. Dodgy passing of tin-foiled balls were followed by texts saying yum-yum-what’s the recipe? and I didn’t really know what the recipe was. Cos it was basically just a whole heap of “stuff” in random quantities and, like the best nights out always being the unplanned ones, I hadn’t recorded any details. Bad scientist, no method, no utensil list.

So…………………..

My Nutty BallsAberdeen City-20130224-02714

Blast some popped popcorn & rice cakes with the hand-mixer, then add room temperature crunchy peanut butter (I used no salt, no sugar organic Whole Earth brand), add some runny hunny (preferrably acacia or off the comb). Keep adding and tasting until (1) it’s yummy and (2) all the dry stuff sticks together. Form into mitt-sizes balls and leave in the fridge overnight. Then wrap a few balls up in foil, stick in your run-bag and hand them out to grateful friends when you meet them out and about. I got a little sick on eating more-than-my-fair share but have learned my lesson and they really are an excellent alternative to flapjacks or carb gels, both of which I have problems stomaching for any length of time.

PopCoNuts

A variation on the theme and this time, with added flavour balancing to knock out some of the sweetness from the last lot, in the shape of cracked pepper and salt! I’m not talking vast quantities, season to taste, being the operative phrase.

  • 50g plain popcorn (popped,stale & mashed down)
  • 50g dessicated coconut (vintage from 2008 or in date, if you prefer)
  • Honey, melted in micro – or if you wanna make the balls vegan, use algave nectar (from a flower nae from a bee)
  • Golden syrup melted in micro
  • Cinnamon, ground black pepper and table salt

TIP: Mix the salt in with the syrup after it’s come out of the micro, for better distribution when adding into the dry ingredients. It’s simple really and you can add any dried fruit or seeds as required. I’ve made a nice spicy batch with carob, sugared ginger and a hint of nutmeg. Go mental, get designing….and remember to share with and experiment on running friends.

I was however a bit miffed to see that popcorn use is ‘in vogue’ and Grazia mag have listed a popcorn biscuit in their latest issue. Pah! I was there first, eh?

And a link for an article about whether we should/ shouldn’t eat before a long run HERE

Lastly, a wee gallery of other stuff I regularly eat which doesn’t seem to mess with exercise done immediately before or after. Try Dole fruit sachets (Ella Oragnics are good too) for upt to 25g of easy-carry, easy-quaff carbs, with no additive nonsense.

#CheerioFatty shrinkage and some runnering

In the last few weeks since blogging, I’ve been in a daze of frustrated dream-like proportion: I am standing on the side-lines of my life, watching the days whizz by whilst I am helplessly trapped into a slow-motion but parallel time-frame.Aberdeen City-20130208-02567

Time is literally running out and although I am not going to cease to be on the 15th March, I have a too long list of Things to Do and People to see. It is now 19 days until we fly to London for our onwards journey to Brunei. Take or leave a day or two for on-going Visa processing. Actually, we have been very fortunate that my husbands’ persistent following-up of the 50+ people involved in our move, has borne fruit. The other two couples who started before us, with a similar time-line are now 2-4 weeks behind. But it’s had it’s down sides, mostly that we’ve been on shorter fuses and having to make very quick decisions, rationing even our time together as we “divide and conquer” the To Do List. It will be worth it though and all thoughts pertaining to the move to the Far East will soon appear on a different blog – Brunei Banter, so have a looky there in a week or so!

Back to the matter in hand. #CheerioFatty and my ongoing crusade against injury has been going really well. I am assuming that this is nothing to do with the lower than training plan mileage (!) Or that because running is truly my one stress-buster at the moment, I am savouring every single mile, regardless of weather conditions or tiredness. Running with a permanent grin on my face is no good for my wrinkles!

Aberdeen City-20130220-02634Had a fantastic run at the Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon. I wasn’t clock watching but rather basing the whole thing on effort and heart-rate and surprised myself with a performance just outside my 2011 Personal best (PB). Why is this significant? Well, Oct 2011 was a long time ago and I haven’t really done any PB hunting since succumbing to Achilles issues in March 2012. Then PO10 hacked me right off by not recognising my PB as such, due to the half marathon course not being AIMS and classified as down-hill because it finished lower down than it started (despite several climbs through the route) and the start was greater than X away from the finish. Fercrivvensakes, what’s a girl to DO to get an official PB these days, eh? 🙂

The slow road back has been slow on purpose and so this run was a great marker for me and I wanted a jumping off point before I take that inevitable step backwards where pace is concerned. Brunei is practically on the equator and can be very humid = a tough running climate. In summary, the RAF Half Marathon was completed with

  • Less miles + less racing = similar time result under less duress
  • No pacing, either by watch or other runner(s)
  • No mid-race fuelling (usually I have 3 carb gels and a carb drink)
  • No pain, niggles or blisters

Moray-20130217-02610Surprisingly, I ran a ‘fairly’ comfortable sub-2 Half Marathon whilst trying to maintain my HR at 171 BPM which is what I’ve seen in training as my hard-maintainable effort. I achieved a time of 1.57.04 and an average HR of 175 BPM (I did up the pace in the last 3 miles and my max HR = 190 BPM). No pain in feet, calves or Achilles, no blisters, no sore stomach, dodgy guts, lungs on fire or, well, anything untowards really. The day was clear and warm for this time of year- a toasty 11 degC – and the route was pleasant and strewn with friendly club runners, first timers and a few familiar faces from JS Bridge of Don and Metro Aberdeen. Immediately after the race, I sat around in the sun feeling a bit disappointed that I was so close to a PB but that didn’t last long. I can still remember standing in the physio’s treatment room unable to lift my body up on my right ankle……that was about a year ago. Instead I stood up and cheered in the remaining runners, including sounding my favourite Barbaric YAWP for Esty, Gingerpaw (both PeeBeed) and Ultracat & Lorna. Also a first, I drove myself up to and back from Lossiemouth and stopped off at Tyrebagger forest that afternoon for a muddy trail run, just to prove to myself I wasn’t 100% knackered. Slept like a baby that night!

#CheerioFatty is ambling along and I’m maintaining the weight-loss despite what I would class as minimal mileage

last few weeks trainingWeek 4 (22/1 – 28/01) 2 lbs loss. BIKE= 28  RUN= 24

Week 5 (29/1 – 04/2) weight maintained. BIKE=0 RUN= 14

Week 6 (05/02 – 11/02) weight maintained. BIKE=9 RUN=16

Week 7 (12/02 – 18/02) 1 lb loss.BIKE=11 RUN=16

Week 8 (19/02 – 25/02) weight maintained. BIKE=17 RUN= 18

weekly distanceThat’s a grand total of one whole stone (14 lbs) since the start of the year and as previously noted, I’ll be tracking body-fat, water and lean weight from now on as moving into an equatorial environment means that hydration levels and body composition will need to be monitored whilst I make dietary and training adaptions. Well, that all sounded a bit official didn’t it? I’ve been eating out on a fairly regular basis and unfortunately, there are still a high number of convenience foods in the mix but I’m certain this is just a function of the whole short-of-time moving situation.

Additional observations

Original bra size 34D Now 32D
Original Haglofs size 40 (L) Now 36 (S)
Jeans size 30 Now 28
Zara size L/XL Now M/S

Non-desireable effects

Leg cellulite is more apparent than EVER before (Och well, it’s not what it looks like, it’s what it can do). More noticeable eye-wrinkles where cheek meets eye-socket . Knees look weirder if that’s even possible,  stomach skin has taken on a Tara Reid failed tummy-tuck appearance and that’s going to suck when I get to hotter climes and have to get it out for swimming and the like, saddle-bags look relatively bigger as the rest of my legs slim down, my nose looks flatter and the chin has taken on a Reese Witherspoon ability to burst balloons due to it’s sharpness.

All in the name of fitness 🙂

I’ve arranged to see Claire (previously of Vito-Fitness) to have my cholesterol, visceral fat and other parameters re-checked to compare to 16 months ago when I had a pre-running club assessment. And that’s about it for the pre-move MOT. Now to the rapid if desparate attempt to humidity acclimatise in the 3 weeks before the Brunei Half and the Borneo Half four weeks after that. Well, I’m not one to shun away from a cheeky challenge and I’m fully prepared to be the relatively giant white slow-thing at the back of the field. Again.

And to end, a quote from Anita Brookner “In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins. Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market…Hares have no time to read, they are too busy winning the game.”

Week 3 & 4 – Everywhere you go….

…always take the weather with you! A new cold front hit the North East last week and once again, everyone seemed to respond as if it was the first time snow had ever fallen. This extended to the cancellation of quite a few races this passed weekend, including the Brass Monkey Half Marathon in York, which would have been a long run “look see” as to fitness and training progress and slid nicely into Lochaber Marathon training (which I’m no longer in the country for).

Campaign #CheerioFatty continued until the eve of the race and once cancellations had been confirmed, I went all out with a 5 course meal at our Country Manor Hotel & Spa Middlethorpe Hall. The next day there was also “cake”. Whoops. Consequently my plummeting weight has plateaued, probably helped along with no treadmill session due to family commitments and no long run due to race cancellation. Excuses, excuses, still it’s Game (back) On this week.

However, my stats for the clean eating campaign look something like this and I now weigh the least I have weighed, for 6 years:

  • Jan1st- 7th, miles run = 20.38, lbs lost = 5.4 lbs
  • Jan 8th – 14th, miles run = 21.21, lbs lost 4.4 lbs
  • Jan 15th – 21st, miles run = 3.65, lbs lost -1.2 lbs

I’be just received a set of these Tanita body fat monitor/scales and regardless of how accurate they are, they will show relative improvements, so long as I stay hydrated. The weight lost will soon cease to matter and it’ll be about fat: muscle ratio. And while we’re talking about body changes and motivation to change, have a read of this blog Medalslut Regardless of whether you prefer a good cop or bad cop approach, this lady has certainly changed her lifestyle, health and body. Personally, I never notice anyone’s size unless they draw my attention to it first and I’m therefore not a good friend when it comes to congratulating and/or ‘having a quiet word’. I’ve also found a lot of commonality and inspiration from this Fella Ultra-runner Jon Mackintosh

So far I have this result (week 3):-

York-20130119-02403But no discernible running races to see how the weightloss has affected that aspect of my life. So now, with the Half Marathon gone, I search for something else to run before I depart for hotter climes. Unfortunately, I’m starting to feel a bit of a ‘jinx’ coming on and the last few races I have blogged about have been cancelled, so I’ll keep schtum on my last distance target. Meantime, I should make my second appearance at the local park-run as Race director, having just completed a turn in all the other volunteer positions. You’d think I’d know what I was doing by now, alas, I’ll probably still manage to fluff the intro and knacker the results 🙂 Hopefully I’ll get to run a few more as well before I depart. I guess we take  these free local 5Ks for granted and you never know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

Also, please remember to check out my reviews page which is still getting built but I’ve a list of stuff as long as my arm (some still in boxes) to review…first up, the Salomon S-LAB 2013 version of the 12-set; surely one of the Daddy’s of the latest range of rucksacks?

Ciao Bellas.

New Years Food Flounce

As more details come through regarding the lock,stock n barrel move to the Far East, the likelihood of having a Goal Event or “A” Race before summer, dwindles away. However, training continues in a somewhat structured manner and if I do manage to find an outlet for the training so be it. It’s good to know that my focus for running doesn’t necessarily need to be Run Event “A” and try and achieve time/WAVA “B”. It’ll be nice to be Half Mara ready and Marathon capable, come April and the surprisingly mild weather has made long runs very pleasant, so I continue to smile whilst the Achilles holds out.

Twenty-Thirteen training started with the NYD park-run, accompanied by Hamster and donning my new Lunarglide+ 4s. OMG these are sooo different from the 3s and make my preferred model, the mark 2s, seem clunky and heavy by comparison. More importantly from my perspective, is that the 4s have no seam along the inside foot a.k.a blister sites.shoes Bonus. Hamster and I chatted  and caught up for the first 2 miles and then, at the point where my fitness fell short, I shut up and concentrated on not succumbing to my dodgy belly. A modest 25.34 which is a nice target to beat over the coming months.  I managed at rather tougher, windier 25.16 at Ediniburgh a few days later [where FiWright got awarded her 50 teeshirt but didn’t actually get given it on the day], again, succumbing to that feeling of dodgy guts. But then, I had altered my eating, so I couldn’t have expected anything else. Altered? Yeah, I was suddenly not eating chocolate :-p

Clean Eating

I have heard a lot about clean eating and experienced a week of such at the Fitcamp I attended last May www.TheCamp.co.uk . What surprised me that week was that I didn’t feel hungry. Not once. I ate all my food and I enjoyed it. I was also exercising frequently and through-out each day. Sure I was extra tired but not hungry. Two friends have also recently had a lot of success with weight control following a similar approach (take a bow LabWalker and Corrah) and I decided on Hogmanay that I would adopt a couple of new habits and carry them out for 20 days as a wee experiment.

Habit Breaking

Every year we as a nation resolve to lose weight/take up a new fitness regime/stop smoking or similar and hence the gyms are fit to burst and the streets are paved with new runners. Nicotinette sales and Slimmers World subscriptions shoot through the roof. Good luck if you ARE one of those, making and sticking to 2013 resolutions! I have never succeeded in keeping any specific New Years Resolutions but this year I thought I would make a few positive changes for a short time and see if the effects were sustainable and whether the changes could become part of my life (rather than a finite diet which can be restrictive and lead to grumpiness)

There is much myth and mire written about the 21 day habit forming theory but in reality what I need is: consistency, reward and motivation. I find that not doing too many things at once (quality over quantity) and being realistic in the approach works best. I might need to lose 20 lbs according to some BMI chart somewhere, but let’s just start with 7 lbs, shall we?

My guidelines are:

  • Drink only water or herbal tea
  • Choose the most natural food available
  • No artificial sweetners as substitute for sugars

I kept a food diary for 8 weeks; painful to fill out every day and painful to read, but it has helped me acknowledge the following “shocker”

I drank up to 30% of my total calorie intake: fruit juice, hot chocolate, coca-cola, non-alcoholic drinks when out i.e. virgin cocktails, fizzy juices like lemonade, tea with milk and sweetner, often 8 or more a day including Starbucks, Costa and other brands with full fat sweetened milk.

Not only were these drinks adding calories without filling me up or providing satiety, they were also adding E-numbers, various toxins (think aspartame et al) and elevating my sweetness signals, which if you’ve ever tried having “just one” chocolate/biscuit/slice of cake you’ll know that one begets the desire for more!

After 1 week of “clean eating” I was astounded as the scales registered over 5 lbs difference! I weighed myself at the same time, one week from initial weigh-in on Hogmanay morning (31/12/2012). If anything my exercise has been slightly down this passed week. We’ll see how the next 2 weeks go but I am quite hopeful that I will be below my lowest running weight and as I write, I am just 3 lbs above it.

Consistency- just do the three things above

Motivation – to drop below my lowest weight recorded since I started running in June 2009 (bearing in mind I didn’t actually lose any weight, although I lost bulk, until February 2011 !!!)

Reward – a lighter me running around, putting less pressure on my knees, ankles, feet, joints, ligaments and that all important Achilles tendon. I may have bought myself a new swimmer as well 😉

Restaurants

In my day to day business and social life, I tend to eat out quite a lot. At least 3 times a week. Instead of avoiding the situation I’ve decided to become a pain in the backside, in order to be Good to myself and not let someone else’s menu dictate portion size and content. Be a pain, why not? It’s your body and chefs don’t usually mind making small changes especially if it saves them money because you’re leaving things off or out. I’ve had chefs come over and make suggestions as to how they could decrease the fat or calorie content of their dishes for me (when I’ve been bothered to ask and I’ve known the establishment pretty well).

  1. Make protein the focus of the meal. I go for baked fish or grilled skinless chicken
  2. Ask for no bread and take the sauce on the side
  3. Substitute salad for any creamy side dishes containing mayo. You can usually have this instead of chips/mash
  4. Only drink water
  5. If you must have a starter, ask if the soup is non-cream or ask for a salad
  6. If you must have a dessert, ask for sorbet or fresh fruit salad (no cream)

Travel

I can’t see myself as a good “Mom” who always has an apple or healthy snack squirreled away in my sensible handbag but I can say that faced with one of the denizens of unhealthy travel eating – the petrol station – I can note that they have very little which might qualify as clean food. However (as I told myself last week) DON’T PANIC! Do the best with what’s available and that goes for buffets, set menus and the like. I opted for a black tea (no milk or sugar) and a plain oaty porridge pot. OK, carbs yes but not full of junk….and it was one little pot of porridge in a week full of fruit and water and good clean eating. I always thought it was weird that folk would come spiraling off a diet after eating one of something they deemed as bad and then just restart the following Monday. No, darnit, keep going. I am not fretting about it but I am still concerned that unless you want a plastic cheese sandwich (their only non-mayo option), there’s not much for the weary, hungry traveler who doesn’t want pies, crisps and chocolate. Maybe I should’ve packed something in that sensible bag eh?

booksSo bearing all that in mind, the couple of long runs have been tough due to a lack of carbs and general stodge to draw from. I re-read various parts in the Allen Carr Easy-weigh book and also Fit B*tch in the Kitch which centred on the fact that milk is designed to fatten up baby calves and cereal is used to fatten up livestock. So for the moment, cereal is off the breakfast list (Carr advocates fruit and fruit only).books2 I use coconut, soya, rice and other milk substitutes as well as soya yoghurt so without milk in my numerous cups of tea, I’m quite low on dairy at the moment too. I wouldn’t be adverse to protein for breakfast tho! I’ll not lie, I did find a 14 mile LSR on Halva and Yerba Mate tea a little tough but it’ll take some time for my body to get used to this. Halva is my carb-gel substitute for longer runs and it is yum-tastic and you don’t need much to satisfy a little hunger pang.

[I’m a bit worried about having a carb fest or eating any carbohydrate foods incase I slump into a coma an hour afterwards!]

Summary

01 – 07 Jan

20.4 miles run

5.4 lbs lost

Some useful links

HABITS http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/how-long-to-form-a-habit.php

YERBA MATE TEA http://www.selfridges.com/en/Food-Wine/Categories/Shop-Food/Tea-coffee/Tea/Yerba-mate-tea_554-3002133-YERBAMATE/?cm_mmc=SEO-_-google-_-googleshopping-_-Teapigs&_$ja=tsid:32977%7Ccc:%7Cprd:12641253%7Ccat:Food+%26+Wine+%3E+Categories+%3E+Shop+Food+%3E+Tea+%26+coffee+%3E+Tea

HALVA http://www.dvah.co.uk/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=2147494253

Recovering and racing between Ultras

It’s been five weeks since the Speyside Way ultra (36.5 miles) and I’ve taken part in two races – the Crathes Castle Half Marathon (3 weeks after) and the Baxters River Ness 10K (5 weeks after), with results you might expect from a few months of back-to-back runs: slow and somewhat painful. DOMS after both events felt like my quads had been severly shortened over-night, so the mutliple daily journeys down the 3 flights of stairs in my townhouse have been time consuming.

But the runs themselves were splendid for many reasons and if nothing else, it was worth it for the unusually decent technical tee-shirts (decent sizing,colours & quality, not covered in sponsors logos) and the catch up with a few buddies.

NTS Crathes Castle Half Marathon

Finish target: 2:11:00. Actual finish time: 2:13:40. A hot day and I set off ‘self-pacing’ with no Garmin and no real pressure other than to finish and see if I came in somewhere around 2 hrs 11(a 10 minute mile). I knew the course to be fairly flat, with some off-road and I had a magic p*ss-about run there last year, involving karaoke guess the song title quizzes, piggy-backs, interviewing charity runners and general cajouling of the back-of-packers, as I buddied someone round the route for their first half marathon in 17 years! I know I can run without the over-analysis of pace feedback but was alas caught out with a desperate charge to a discrete area for emergency proceedings before the first water station! Disappointed that I AGAIN did not seem capable of controlling my body through eating/ drinking food which would not upset me during a run 😦

Baxters River Ness 10K

Time target: sub 55 mins. Actual time: 53.16. Another hot day and I wasn’t “bovvered” about time but hoped to come in comfortably under 55.02, which is what I ran in Southport in February with excrutiating pain, at the start of the injury which was to become The  Achilles Issue – enough that I had to walk at the 8K mark. As my only opportunity to run a 10K before year end, I thought I’d see what I could do and put in a mad mile split at the start and the end. Because I felt I could 🙂 Pleased that I can churn out this time without speed training and that sub-55 is something I can expect of myself nowadays. 10Ks are so weird right now though – the first 2 miles kinda hurt (sorry legs, I hadn’t given you enough running in the last 2 weeks) and I was feeling much better by mile 5 and then of course, it was all over! Inverness was buzzing due to the Marathon and it was weird seeing the count-up miles on Ness walk, where the two courses synched. I felt I should have been running the longer distance this year but I don’t fancy the course much at all. Ambiguous as ever, me!

The new Flying Scotsman?

A BRILLIANT run by Aberdeen’s very own Ben Hukins who literally threw himself over the line in a chariots-of-fire Eric Liddell pose and then collapsed in a valiant heap having finished second in the Loch Ness Marathon in under 2 hrs 30 mins. Amazing to see an athlete able to expend every single last ounce of effort and I believe he was OK a few minutes later (I felt too much like a car-crash oggler to stay around watching him sprawl). An inspirational run and this gent seems to be equally excellent across all distances from 5K to 26.2. Liam-Kerry came in for a triumphant 3rd place and winner of “everything” (practically) in the MV40 cat this year. Go Fetchie! We cleared off earlier than intended as one of the cats has been off-colour but managed to bump into Claire (PB), Esther (PB), Carol (SB), DQ and was delighted to hear that Fi blasted over 20 minutes off last years time with a GFA performance and a new PB with 3 hrs 40! That’ll be my last trip to Inverness for running this year and for a good while to come.

My first cycle (with my new hard-tail)

After months of deliberating between the cycle to work scheme and the fact that I have a bike shaped object in the garage (knackered gears, pink and silver, made from lead, slower than a sloth on pot), I eventually took my pennies and found the most amount of bike for the money. I had help from various MTB-ers and my BiL who is a decent triathlete and they all agreed, this Revolution Triad 1.0 (Edinburgh bike Co-ops own brand) was the mutts nuts. Plus I thought it looked cool and was in fact NOT a girls bike (thank-you Baddiel and Newman) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nCKYEM8qRc

Some bike info:

  • RockShox Solo Air-sprung Tora fork with PopLoc
  • Shimano Alivio 27-spd with Deore front and SLX rear mechs
  • Avid Juicy 3 hydraulic disc brakes
  • 13.79kg / 30.4lb
  • Multi-coloured spokey-dokeys **

** OK….maybe not!

I am very excited to be embracing a complementary outdoor activity to the current runnering exploits, albeit the dark nights are upon us. Leg strengthening and all that. Plus it’s something I can do with hubby. We decided to break the new toy in on a modest blast out the old railway and I had good fun experimenting with seat height and gear combinations (27 gears, would that be right?), especially once I got on the Big Cog and seemed to stretch away from the other half with relative ease. I had to get the buff on as the black flies were out by the time we returned. Unfortunately the light faded and went completely before we got back to the car-park, so a mile was cycled in the complete darkness(!) Yes, I will fit the lights for the next night outing but I was so eager to get out and didn’t think we’d be out for over an hour. So ten miles on the clock (as I discovered literally, when I couldn’t get my Garmin to log my pace on the next run, only to realise that I was still in bike mode). I will try not to go on about the bike too much but I think it will start to feature more and more in my life over the next few months. Please: don’t let me get ensconced with carbon this and ceramic that…it’s so easy to get sucked into a new world and my Wiggle connections are already Gold status through running J Here’s to the next outing. And maintaining focus…..

Riverside trail run

Talking of which, a couple of recent training runs after some particularly bad storms in the local areas, coupled with Noah-esque rainfall. I did get a nice breather on the top path on my local trail run through clearing some hefty tree limbs off the path and rolling them garde-loo style over the barrier and down towards the River. The day was so beautiful, as is often the case after Mother Nature has cleared her throat.

Where the wind blows…….

I came across a delightful little “hidey-hut” complete with tied down branches and a stone seat. How come this survived the storm but the streets were littered with leaves, branches and even huge trees with roots ripped from the Earth? I guess it’s the Chinese proverb of the mighty oak versus the weeping willow: sometimes it’s easier to roll with the punches and be subservient to might, rather than trying to stand-up to the elements. There’s a lesson there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oak_and_the_Reed

A wee hidey hut – can you see the seat?

Nairn Half Marathon – 7 days to go

Day 7

Sunday – My last training session before attempting to run the Nairn Half Marathon. Nairn has long stood as a running nemesis; my first half marathon and I finished in last place (2 hrs 42 mins) and had a thoroughly miserable time back in 2010. I had hoped to revisit it at some stage and although not ideally placed in this years calendar, I decided to “go for it” and wipe the previous experience 100% into the annals of history. So after discussing possible sites for the session with Marion, I headed out to our agreed location- the disused railway. As I embarked on the  longish tempo run with a race pace and sub race pace section, I was advised that the Dyce Half Marathon was being run and there will still runners on the line. I had totally forgotten it was on as it was held in July last year. I kinda had a crappy run at it too after a night of upset stomach and guts and then developing a lush set of blood blisters during the run (2 hrs 6 mins). So I set off for 4 miles out at ~9.30 m/m and made sure I said well done to the tail-end runners. It was truly warm in the wooded areas, with a nice refreshing breeze passed Kennedy’s yard. I got to my turn point having finished ¾ of my juice, took a gel and then set- off for my RP-5% section. Twenty minutes flew passed and I was ahead of pace and felt tired but good. I jogged for about 30 seconds and finished the rest of the Gatorade then set off for twenty minutes at RP. Of course, it felt relatively sustainable coming after the faster section and save for a fairly smelly dead bunny on the track and the humidity, I had a cracking run. A real confidence booster! I treated myself to a hot bath that night, after a super cold leg shower.

Day 6

Monday –I was originally planning to attend British Military Fitness class but had the chance to try my hand at badminton, with folk from work. I booked a court at the Woodbank facility (£4 for an hour- a bargain) but found that the work had decided to go somewhere else. Last minute, my brother stepped in and we arranged to have a knock about to work up a sweat. I dug my old warped Carlton racket out and wished I hadn’t as the handle badly needs re-strapped and the suede coloured my hand a bright blue. Also it meant I had to try and scab a lift or get public transport and I ended up ehading out to catch the No. 19. The local bus company had decided to switch around bus-stops and services, so as I waited at the designated place I saw the bus I wanted drive right passed and the driver shaking his head as I tried to flag it. To avoid lateness I started running (in my work gear, two bags and racket) and managed to overtake the bus at the traffic lights. Since none of the new stops had been marked up with the bus numbers, I was slightly confuddled about where to get on and (stupidly) decided I’d just run back up the bus lane towards the oncoming number 19! It stopped (randomly at the No 1 stop), I got on and dished a plate of sarcasm to the driver with a side order of red faced sweat. Once aboard, I did enjoy catching up with a colleague from yore, so was pretty happy again once I reached the sports centre. My badminton game was gash but I did get a good sweat on and was even getting a few well placed shuttles passed my bro, who is a bit of a competitive beast at badders and tends to slam shots to the deck every chance he gets. There weren’t many rallys! I enjoyed it though and requirement for new racket aside, I think I’ll revisit badminton again.

Injury sites: I was a bit worried about my right foot as I was slamming it down quite forcefully on the forehand and overhead shots. A quick jump on the powerplate and the vibration did highlight that left calf and right plantar were indeed “sore”. Soreness on known problems sites….that’s OK. I can deal with that.

Day 5

Tuesday – BMF on a very soggy park due to the thunder, lightening and torrential rain from the night before. I again forgot to choose my INOV-8s, which would make a lot more sense as we spend 95% of our time running on and getting down and up from muddy grass! I jogged down from work to my brothers flat and we drove to the park because he said he had the CBAs. Once there, a new instructor offered a very different workout and I struggled with quite a few elements including being the second last pairing to be sent off on a circuit therefore having to hold a full plank for what seemed like hours! My usual hold points – shocking press-ups, complete inability to support myself as the front of a wheelbarrow, inability to crouch n run up a hill in the monkey, bear or crab positions. Very frustrating as I have made no progress on these elements since I started BMF at end of May. However my wall squats and step ups were good (although I got told off for taking a walking run-up to stepping onto the concrete blocks. Oops). I’m starting to recognize a few faces now so it’s a bit more friendly. I doubt that the girl who was paired me for the hill reps will be in a hurry to pair with me again, sorry Lady, I was trying, honest!

Injury sites: Plantar was sore and my back was also very knotted, with bingo-wings (triceps) and rib area and hips sore. Presumably I did some proper muscle depletion during BMF. Hope it builds back up before Saturday.

Day 4

Wednesday – my usual long slow run in the morning was cancelled by the other party, which was a blessing really. I had a long lie til 10am! Bliss! So no 8 mile jog/walk and this is good because I find I do get sore after a slower cadence run. When I say sore, I mean just an uncomfortable bruised feeling which doesn’t last long but is there all the same. Instead I decided to do some of the lesser known fitness art-form I like to call “dancing to cheesey pop in your own living-room” as a warm-up to a pilates DVD, courtesy of Darcy Bussell. After 30 mins I changed my mind again and gave the local beauty place a call and booked a back, shoulder and neck massage. Thanks Abz-olute beauty. Whilst out, the postman with the inconsistent delivery time decided to try and deliver my Velcro Garmin Strap. How naff! Now I have to try and collect before Friday evening. The rest of the afternoon I did that undesirable but necessary exercise known as housework. I also rustled up an apple crumble and spicy tomato sauce for hubby’s dinner, as I was going out to Wagamama with a martial arts practitioner. Very nice it was too. I wore some high-heeled Fornarina boots, so as a precaution I strapped my right foot with micro porous tape around the arch and went to bed with it on. Felt fine in the morning.

Day 3

Thursday – Acupuncture day! I got an unfortunate text on Tuesday to say that Dr Shu –  the lady who has been treating me with acupuncture for my calf and Achilles strain – had broken her leg whilst running off a hill and wanted to cancel my appointment! Nooooo! I wished her well and asked her for a referral as I had the Half Marathon coming up. Thankfully, she said she would keep the appointment although it might take her longer than an hour as she’d have to take it slowly. I was SO relieved.

Not my actual foot

The acupuncture session are now forming part of my strategy for avoiding overstrain and I am relying particularly on this session to make sure that any niggles or tightness I have picked up are ironed out before trying to run. I feel good going into the session and will ask her to pin the right Achilles and plantar fascia as well as the usual glute and calf areas. Chinese medicine actually rocks and all cynicism I had about it has completely dissipated since I underwent treatment in May with immediate and effective results.

Day 2

More resting, an unfortunate dodgy stomach as well as a super-tight left calf. Acupuncture was sore around the right plantar fascia and the rigorous massage lead to what felt like a calf strain which I was assured would be better the next day, so as precaution I put the Natures Kiss cream on it and applied the compresssports calf guards! However, the next day it was right as rain. The dodgy tummy was a worry though however I applied the dairy free choc milk and kept to bland foods through the day and packed ready for the journey to Inverness. What to wear? Red/black or turquoise and white?

Race Day – well, we’ll see what eventuates. The weather forecast is now for 20% chance of rain but 21 degC!!! and windy, so not ideal on the circular route along the coast. However I am looking forward to catching up with some family and a few friends who will be running or coming along to support. Now remember, when you see my red face coming into the playing fields- shout LOUD but don’t look too closely.

Ultra-running Food

Having been gifted a new running book for a recent birthday and having suffered from “unmentionable” dodgy stomach and digestive scenarios during distance running and racing, I have started treating all my longer runs as Nutritional experiments: what works, what’s best avoided.

I have found that dairy is a big problem for me (especially in conjunction with mushrooms e.g. stroganoff or shrooms n stilton, with a 100% disaster rate!) So in a bid to eliminate one more tragedy and make running more pleasant I generally reduce my intake to ALARP* before a longer run and watch every ingredient before races. This means I have had to do (gasp) proper research and become a food-label troll.

YUM! Kara Dairy free

My recent discovery, much to the delight of my taste-buds, has been coconut water. Specifically Kara dairy free chocolate coconut drink…wow, it tastes amazing! And 250 ml will deliver more carbohydrate than the average energy gel.

I also enjoy rice milk but I don’t think it offers the same electrolyte salts as coconut products do and this Kara product actually tastes better. BEWARE soya and dairy free products which use oil as the thickener or often to give the product a non-grainy, glossy consistency. Kara uses carageenan, a natural seaweed product. As I said- label trawling is the only way to avoid the secret crap so-called healthy products can often hide within!  So, armed with my new magic drink (easily digested before the run if youre short on fuel but need to get out the door) I’m planning to use this as part of my Speyside Way Ultra race-day nutrition instead of a carb drink! Luckily, I’ve still got time to test this out in conjunction with the UltrAspire handheld bottles.  

Organix carrot cake flapjack, choc rice milk, Soreen loaf slice, Cherry mule gel, salty snack c/o KLM airlines

The Organix flapjacks are made with orange juice, not butter and have no colourants or additives and of all the gels I’ve tried, I really like the flavour and texture of the cherry mule with it’s brown rice syrup and non-chemical taste. Try em, see if you like em. Any hints n tips for other similar products or brands, let me know 🙂

http://scottjurek.com/ – recipes and more!

http://roryfreedman.com/ – the original skinny bitch, has loads to say on non-dairy if you’re interested.

* ALARP – as low as reasonably practicable