Four weeks of baseline training

So, this one time at run-camp, I got this injury and…wait, no wait! Where are you going? What do you mean you’ve heard this one a thousand times, ad-lib to fade?

Alrighty, let’s not dwell on the how, for now. Let’s launch right back into the what have I been up to the last few weeks. Well, I’m still not logging my miles or anything as I was before, so I’ve not cool diagrams or analysis to show you. Most of my time futering about with the phone Apps is divided between Instagram (my new pet and I love it so much, oh come here for a hug ye wee lovely thing 🙂 ) and the MyFitnessPal App, which is under-written by Under Armour I think. It is helping me to kick my own fat ass into some semblance of a body that can do runnering without wobbling more than a weeble mating with Mr. Blobby. It’s working, I tell you. And then I post a picture of my lovelier self (sometimes even without the FaceBeauty filter) on to said Instagram. And the fairground ride goes round and round…….

[Coughs. Regroups]

I committed to completing four weeks of basic training before doing anything else. Except, OK, I have entered some races but that’s by-the-by and totally necessary for motivation. Yes, I am still lying to myself. Ok……

I have started a training programme and committed to repeating th20160105_110325e first two weeks twice, to make sure my injuries do not flare up. There! That’s truthful. I don’t even know where I found the plan – it’s a page torn from a magazine from aaaages ago and it appears to be a 13 week programme for an off-road marathon. The good thing is, the sessions are mostly in time not distance and this works well for training in the heat where you just can’t expect to run at anything like the same speed as in the average UK ambient. Ok I’m sort of laughing at this statement as it is still snowing in places back home and everyone is moaning about weather and using the dread-mill. But at least this will improve. The heat here never ever goes away, so my usual training temperature is 24-30 degC and yes, that includes the lowest level I can get the gym to, even if I put the air-con on for hours beforehand. As far as excuses for training slow go, this is possibly a very good one. But I’m still working hard. My heart-rate is pretty high (160 BPM upwards), even at conversational type pace, since the bodies main job during any exertion is to try and cool itself.

This training cycle is roughly this:

Monday – 30 minutes easy [treadmill, practising getting my cadence up OR chatty beach run 5K with the girls]

Tuesday – 20 mins easy (run or turbo) plus strength routine and core exercises [hard day, lots of exercise ball, weighted twists focussing on back, hips, core. Always happy to finish]

Wednesday – 10 mins warm-up, 10-20 mins tempo OR 1 minute hard, two mins easy x 6, 15 mins warm-down [dreadmill, reaching the dizzying heights of 10 kph for the tempo or 12 kph for the hard bit]

Thursday – 15 mins W/U, 4-6 x 400m fast reps with 4 minute walked recovery intervals [dreadmill, more dizzying heights of 11.2 kph for the reps]

FridayREST

Saturday – 10 mins W/U, 1 minute fast, 2 minutes steady x 5 reps, 10 mins W/D

Sunday – 30 building to 50 mins easy. Just whatever I can manage, usually on the beach.

So I’m really doing no more than 5 or 6 K at a time. This is week four and at the end of the week I’ll do a little review before starting the next four weeks. I’m drinking my protein shakes like a good girl and staying hydrated. In fact I’m better hydrated when I get off the treadmill than before I go on. I probably need to look at that as I still can’t get above 47% hydrated according to the Tanita scales. An that is all. Check out my Instagram feed if you want more pictures 😉 Aye. Don’t all rush at once 😀 😀

 

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:-

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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.

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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!

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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.

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.

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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.

Extra Zeds – back to back long runs

I really need more sleep. This week I’ve been forced to remember how difficult it is to do back to back runs and exist in the land of the living. A couple of days I have found beforeHarrisHalfmyself sitting in front of the laptop with my eye-balls rolling back in my head, fighting to stay awake. If I loiter anywhere for too long, I find my body starts to shutdown and urges me to catch a few zeds! Pass the Yerba MatĂ© …….Zzzzzzz

All quite normal as I am asking my body to run between 3 and 4 hours, followed by 2 hours with only 10 hours sleep in-between. When I write it like that, it seems ludicrous! But this is what week 3, 4 & 5 has entailed, so just as well I’m facing a step-back week where my longest run will barely be in double figure mileage.

As a reward for the longer runs, I treated myself to an aromatherapy 90 minute massage to pummel out those weary muscles. And some new ‘incentives’ from Sportpursuit. I’m so good to myself, you’d think I’d try harder.

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So this is what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks, working towards The Mauritius Marathon, which will be my longest training run for the Speyside way ultramarathon in August and The Most Beautiful Thing in September.

Week 3: Long run 27K, 2 x 5Ks, jungle hash, HIIT and reformer Pilates

P1000465Week 4: back to back runs of 5 miles, 9 miles,10 miles (38K) plus HIIT and Pilates.

One of these runs was run along the beach wearing full length Salomon EXO compression tights. Although I’m sure my legs liked the additional support it was WAY too hot and the extra burden of running in sand and having to navigate beach debris and river inlets meant it felt a lot longer than it was. My Achilles was really stiff afterwards but following the piriformis exercises, I had absolutely no repercussions for my 10 miler the next day 🙂

Week 5: back to back runs of 5 miles, 18 miles, 5 miles (45K) plus HIIT and Pilates

and then this coming week is a step-back or drop-down week, with a cheeky wee 10 mile race called the Mizuno Wave Run near Kuala Lumpur. I have so far been really impressed by the organisation, local hospitality and excellent quality of race goodies provided by the Far East’s Road racing circuit. Let’s hope this one maintains the standard. I need to get back to the jungle hash though, as the terrain training will really benefit the hillier part of SSW as well as the overall conditions of TMBT.

Week 6 – 3 miles /10 mile race/3 miles (26K) and the shorter runs will be more or lessi_love_plodding_along_mug-rfbae3764c5024b4eb8602fbdb84a62b3_x7jgr_8byvr_152 ‘speed work’ involving 400m reps with short intervals. I can’t really expect my legs to like upping the pace even for these short runs but it’ll be good for them to have a change from all the plodding. If I don’t watch out I’ll be growing donkey-ears 🙂

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Week 2 ultra-training: farther down the hot tarmac road

With three weeks until my next road race-training session, I was checking on my distance versus pace training. Basically I am doing no faster paced sessions due to running in the heat. I’ll have to do a couple of tune ups before the 10 Mile Mizuno Wave Run in Kuala Lumpur, otherwise I’ll not get back before the proper heat comes on at maximum (about 7.30 a.m.)

Here’s a graph of my pacing since I’ve been in Brunei which shows that over 50% of my training runs have been in the 10-11 minute mile bracket. This is all I’ve really been able to do, given that temperatures are normally around 30 degC and in excess of 90% humidity.

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According to VDOT calculations, this is actually bang on for the long easy running pace. Unfortunately, not all of these distances have been classically long runs, but it’s still early days yet and I’m happy to take a full 6 months to allow my body to heat adjust, before worrying about getting faster.

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Distances covered vary from 5K through to 15 miles, with a recent maximum of 27 Km. (I’m trying to switch over to metric in my head but I am still dumbfounded by min/Km and Km/hour. I’m OK with converting total distance though: my 1.6 times table is coming along nicely).

Some more stats from the nine weeks of running in a hot climate

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Saturday– REST

Sunday – RUN 27K (pm)

Monday – RUN 5K (am) – at MRP (marathon race-pace)

Tuesday – 30 min CIRCUITS (am) /  Massage (pm)

Wednesday – Run/BIKE/Run BRICK (pm)

Thursday – REST

Friday – Reformer Pilates (am) / Long BIKE (pm)

Every other day I’ve completed one of the following: HIIT / Glutes / 8 min workout (x 3) and practised rollering, including the piriformis stretch which I’ve been advised will help (eventually) to loosen off an area which may be linked to my on-going calf and Achilles strain. I found this guy on youtube and liked his quirky wee demo. Runners will be familiar with the last stretch, usually performed in a standing crouch position after a run.

Also have a quick look at this guy (who kinda reminded me of a Skinny Marc Jacobs in lycra 😉 ), I mean, look at his form on the rollering techniques!

http://www.youtube.com/user/WorkTheFunkOut/videos

Next week brings a long run of 30K and hopefully a return to the jungle hash, followed by a step-back week with shorter runs. Happy Days 🙂

Borneo Half Marathon – the Unoffical Night Run

The Borneo Half Marathon was due to take place on May 5th in Kota Kinabalu (KK), in the Malaysian State of Sabah – to the North East of Brunei. However the race was cancelled (I’m not getting paranoid yet, but this is becoming a familiar story in my race calendar) due to local elections. Like many of the runners, we had non-refundable air and hotel bookings so decided to go anyway and a few ladies from Panaga were also due to run, so we all made our various routes towards Sabah; ours being an early morning drive across the southern border to Miri, Sarawak and a flight with AirAsia. [I sat beside a tiny ultrarunner who had previously competed the HongKong 100K- he and his friend ogled my Dean Karnazes book ‘Ultramarathonman”].

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KK will be the stepping off point for the TMBT in September, so we checked into the Hyatt Regency which was very plush and had lovely seaview rooms, delicious buffet lunch with traditional drum and dancer display and a luxurious spa.

There had been talk about meeting up for an unofficial night-run round the proposed routes and I quite fancied that, so I took my stuff and kept an eye on the website for further updates. Meantime, the Brunei ladies all met up at the race expo which was in this huge shopping mall called Suriah Sabah – a monstrous L-shaped multi-layered complex with higher end shops like Coach and Levi through to local style supermarkets and cafes in the basement.

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We bumped into lots of other runners, since we all seemed to have had the same idea of changing into our race tee-shirts. I got directions to the local outdoor survival shop from one gent and bought a snakebite kit and a small torch.

We spoke to a couple from Taiwan, whilst I was buying my very bright Adidas race leggings (as per the cover of last months Runner’s World magazine) and Wan (spelling?) had studied a year at Herriot-Watt and he and his girlfriend Avalyn (sp?) would be running the full marathon that night. There were various rumours about start-times for FM/HM but my plan was to just turn up at 21:30 and use the course map to navigate round. Wan thought 9pm, others were going for 10.30pm. Hmmmmm

Back near the hotel, Liz, Rachel and Marie ‘s other halves had ‘forced’ my OH to drink beer and therefore, I knew I was on my own for the race (the ladies had all had a run and were looking forward to a nice dinner/drinking in an actual pub, since Brunei is a dry country). I decided I would get a taxi but luckily, a local runner Hazazi offered to give me a lift. Well now, my Mum would have a hairy fit if she knew I was accepting a lift to a remote location in a foreign town and country, from someone I had met only days previously through FaceBook (!!) but I went with my gut and runners are usually a genuine, friendly bunch, so I said OK and we headed out to the Lika Stadium at 08:40pm.

Hazazi was meeting numerous friends and I was introduced as we started amassing in the car-park near the would-be start. The KK runners were handing out red bicycle lights for clipping on, as we would be running on open busy roads, in the dark. I had worn reflective, bright clothing and we would be running in groups for safety. So it was not to be a race. I hoped there would be some people at my pace, although I didn’t care about time I just wanted to complete the distance as a training run.

After some discrepancy in start-times, with foreigners who didn’t know the route being paired up with cyclists, I discovered the half runners had left already and the next bacth wouldn’t be going until 10:30 😩 Luckily someone let me use their phone and I rang OH to tell him I would get a lift home. Hazazi was looking after the orphaned Scottish girl and would also give me a lift back to town; how nice was that? Especially as he was due to run the 10K so would be waiting for hours…….so we agreed that I would run with him to the 5K turnaround point which was roughly at a Shell petrol station (an unofficial toilet/water station).

We started off in 2s and 3s and ran towards the sea, via some roundabouts, it was vaguely down-hill so I noted that for the return, as the course was a ‘lollipop’ (out and back route with a loop at mid-way). I was at conversational pace for the first few Ks which were along the coast-line but eventually H urged me on, so I tried to catch up with one of his friends Jasmie who was just ahead. I ran with him for a few more roundabouts and then another friend, Burn, appeared from an impromptu toilet-stop, so the three of us started a slight ascent on the main carriageway towards the University, where the hill-challenge lay. borneo water stationLuckily there were some volunteer water stations which also had 100Plus dotted along the course, some with tables, others from the back of a truck! So many thanks to everyone who manned these. The race might have been at night but it was still melting hot. I know now to just watch my heart-rate and slow down if it gets high, regardless of pace. We were pretty steady, speaking in clips and taking turns running on the outside. I was sweeping the hand-held torch I’d picked up in the outdoor shop, in our paths when the street light waned and occasionally swept it along the tree-line. The frogs were really loud! I held my precious electrolyte drink in the UltrAspire Handheld which is fast becoming my new race-buddy, despite saying after the Crathes Half 2012 that it was too heavy for just a half marathon (when I’m presumably meant to be running fast as opposed to an ultra-distance where I’m just bimbling along “enduring”).

borneo halfJasmie fell back a bit, so I was running now with Burn, who told me he had completed the TMBT 25K option last year and was moving up to 50Ks in September. Interesting, so I started asking a few questions and, well, we had a little race up the hill ! I wanted to see if I still remembered how to run a proper gradient as I hadn’t done so for a few months since I left Scotland. As we came through the campus, we hit the first of 3 inclines. Burn had a slight advantage in that he knew where we were going and how long the hills were whereas I was just striding with my head down; we both notably picked up the pace up-hill and I started to breathe hard for the first time. I was glad when we crested the top of the hill and then……suddenly we were lost! Looking back at the route map, it seems we should have gone right at the University but I think we went left and up another hill. Burn asked a passing student but we had no idea which right turn to take. J had easily caught up by then (humph! all our hard work on the hill was lost) and we all agreed that it would be better to do too far than be under 21Km, so we eased down towards the far right turn, knowing that what goes down must come up. I let gravity take me and coasted down but I think this is where the other two suffered the most- downhill hates quads, luckily I am poorly developed in that area 🙂

bim route half

Another ramp up, turning us back onto our original route and we were passed the half way mark and on our way home. I suggested we took a short walk to allow J to join us (and to get a breather) but after a minute or 2, Burn had had enough and we started jogging again and enjoyed the downhill we had previously attacked! We didn’t wait for Jasmie but Burn assured me that he knew the way alright and I gently reminded him that I did not (ie stay with me please).

By now the full marathon guys and gals who had set off at 9pm, were starting to come up towards us. I asked what the Malay for “Well done” was but was too chicken to say it, so just clapped or gave some encouragement in English. Everyone was so smiley and happy, like any run, some were struggling, some were coasting; we all waved.

I was glad to see the Shell garage as we excused ourselves amongst folks who were gathering on the pavements, probably wondering what was going on. Cars were tooting and shouting at us and we got a few more water stations before the final roundabout.

I was pushing quite hard now as my heart-rate had been slowly rising from mile 10 and I felt the lethargy of my 6am start, flight, expo. The last food I had eaten, being 8 hours previous, was a distant memory and hunger started itching at me to finish! We both speeded up and as I mounted the pavement over the last bridge I felt something go click in my right ankle. “No! The Achilles site, please don’t let it be the Achilles”. I didn’t want to sustain an injury on such an optional non-race as tonight (or at any other time for that matter) but there was no further pain and less than a mile to go……then suddenly we were finished! Only 12.65 miles. I said to Burn “I need to go on and complete the half marathon distance”, he understood and ran with me- a few laps around the complex until my Garmin said 13.11 miles. DONE!

Then I rested. I thanked Burn profusely for running with me (he looked like he could have sprinted off at any moment) and whilst I was topping up on cooler water at the running clubs’ van, Jasmie came in and had some pictures taken with Burn, Hazazis and a few others. Thank God no one wanted my picture as I felt quite gash, queasy and like I wanted to lie down. Of course I couldn’t, but I sat on the grass until we were ready to go. I felt very tired and light-headed and sick with hunger. I thanked Hazazis for everything – basically I probably wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t offered me that lift – and made my way to the hotel-room. Luckily my OH hadn’t stayed out drinking so he got me some full fat coke and a huge bag of crisps from the mini-bar 😉 I collapsed into bed after a quick shower.

IMG-20130513-03254Next morning I went for a full-body massage and asked for them to be careful around the Achilles area. Time will tell what’s actually happened there. I felt yet again much better and had some delicious noodles for brunch at the Mosaic cafĂ©. Spoke with another few runners in the distinctive race tee-shirt and felt pleased to be able to say “I ran it”. I also got a little present for my efforts – a Suunto Vector watch –  to help me with my hiller running and it includes a temperature gauge as well as altimeter. I’m looking forward to using it in the jungle hash.

We were also fair chuffed to get to Miri and find that the car was in one piece. The OH took another opportunity to stock up on beer before we crossed the border. So, another hot  race experience, in another part of the world. Unfortunately I can’t make the re-scheduled date as I’ll be in the UK (running) but I WILL be back to KK for the trail event in September and hopefully a few recce runs with my new Malaysian buddies before then.

Distance: 13.11 miles / Time: 2:23:50 / Race-pack contents: Newton technical tee-shirt, Newton sports socks, PowerBar, various money-off tokens / Race shoes: Purple Nike Lunarglide+ 4 / Race cothes: Adidas capris, 2XU socks (bought at the expo), Black Ron Hill reflective Fetch Everyone vest, Black Fetch buff

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.

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

Christmas week training

So week 2 flew in, as the mayhem of DIY and no working shower at home, melded into the zone of Living Primarilly on Chocolate. Bang goes my easy-diet theory and there appears to be a lot more vegetarian junk food available this year. At least it meant I visited the gym a bit more, to deal with my ever-cumbersome long hair (the over the bath shower head just doeasn’t cut it). The_FabsSeriously, I should just go short. I know I suit it and it would make more sense in the grand scheme of things…….but with an average of 79% humidity(!) I could end up with a Beatles haircut circa 1960s. Men don’t appreciate the nuances of hair maintenance and just how much extra time this could add on to my daily get-ready-for-work routine.

However, the training seems to have gone well. Attempting to run “only” 7 miles in week one was futile and after 8.5 miles (broken up with a cuppa at the gym, with Hamster) at 10.20 min/mile, I realised I would have to concentrate to achieve the required distance at a slow enough pace. Week 2 was slightly worse: 9 miles almost exactly but at 10.05 pace. Although this might not seem particularly speedy, my vdot calcs give me a LSR of 10:40-11.05. However, if I don’t pace-watch, my comfortable pace appears to be 9.45. Go figure. Will I lose out on the benefits of fat-burning if I run too fast or is it just that I’ll be knackered and not able to give my other sessions a decent bash? Time will tell and we’ll see what 11 miles in week three, will bring. I may have an option to have Hamster shouting me back, although as a much speedier runner than I, the slow pace might cause him slow-form injury e.g. if you force yourself to run slower than your own easy pace, you can sometimes cause an injury by a change in form and I’ve often suffered sore toes when forcing a very slow run and haven’t found it particularly easy to change to smaller shorter strides (because I just speed up…). Gah, etc.

The Intervals have thus far proved very manageable. In week 1 my heart-rate went through the roof at 174 BPM after the last 2 (of 6). However this week, my HR levelled at 164 BPM max for the last 3 of 8. I forgot my ipod, which is usually a good companion on the treadmill, but found I was totally “zoned” by the 5th rep! Eager to see what 10 x 400m will bring.

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

John using the auto-tracker viewing Jupiter near Monymusk

I filed this session under “going great guns” especially having sat eating chocolate round my Aunty Deirdre’s the previous day; enjoying the company so much but took the opportunity to look through Uncle John’s telescope and saw 4 of Jupiters moons, plus 2 distinct planet bands and some incredible detailed moon craters! Astronomy is the new Sega (possibly). But I digress >>>

So, as we near the end of the month, with my two weeks of structured training, my expenditure looks like this:-

ChartImg

I would hope to increase the bike and swim time and next months donut will probably show intervals versus long runs versus easy run commutes.

Week 2 also saw me show up for my first volunteering stint at park-run. I’d been getting a tad hacked off with emailing the RDs and finding there were no slots left on the weeks I could manage because I had been “too late” to volunteer. It now seems there is a problem with my yahoo e-mail which kicks back an undeliverable from the park-run address. Weird as it’s the same Nywanda address I use for all my on-line ordering and that seems to work fine. I still haven’t done registration, so I’ve put my hat in for that in a few weeks time and then I will have done every position, including race director. Puts me in good stead for maybe cajoling interest in a Bandar Seri Brunei PR event 😉 I will have to do RD and back-up timer duties again though, to make sure I know how to load the software etc as Hamster did it for me last time :-OP100007hamster b

Talking of park-run: FiWright gets her “50” teeshirt this Saturday and I hope to attend my 4th PR location (others so far are Glasgow Strathclyde and Belfast Victoria) by running Ediniburgh next weekend to see her receive this recognition and also run at Aberdeen this Tuesday for the NYD event. No PB attempt for me but it’ll be nice to see where I’m at on an eighty% effort (wind & rain dependant). Park run is so good for gauging progress and I haven’t run it since August(!!) when I got a long overdue sub 25 min 5K (and yeah, I know, I really should be loads under that, yet I just can’t find the motivation to get into the hurt-zone). www.parkrun.org.uk

P.S. Still no sign of the Salomon back-pack or purple Nike Lunarglide+ 4s I ordered direct from the manufacturer 😩