Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Wychavon Way Ultra this Saturday..


The thing with long distance, ultra, running is that I doubt you are ever fully prepared or fully fit. The very nature of how to train and live on the lead up to one of these events makes it almost impossible. It’s difficult to turn in consistent high mileage weeks in a world that also includes family and work. It’s hard to stay healthy when there are colds and coughs all around you. There’s also the spectre of the unexpected and unrelated injury too. Simply put life can get in the way.

So it goes.

Early in December I was doing some rare DIY. Anyone that knows me knows this is not my forte. I was doing some work in a bathroom and backing out through the doorway on my knees. As I did so I put my knee on the carpet rod. One of those dowelling size pieces of metal that holds carpet in place under a door. It was just the right size to go under the knee cap. It hurt at the time and then shortly afterwards became really painful. So much so that I couldn’t walk upstairs. I was actually using the lift at work which is very rare for me. I looked into the issue and found that taping was an option. I did this and it worked. I was able to run with my knee very heavily taped. What this meant though was that while I could run it was very painful immediately afterwards. The support provided by the tape a mere crutch so to speak. The answer would be rest. I took an extended rest period over Christmas break not running for 12 days. A period where I was expecting to get some bigger miles in and actually I did not run at all.

January saw a return to running and with the knee feeling solid I decided to up my game and go for a bigger week. It was great, I clicked in at 44 miles. This included a podium on a Strava segment I have been chasing along with a PB at the local parkrun 6 years after the last one. It was only 3 seconds but still a PB! Then the wheels came off. On the Sunday I went out for a couple of hours and by the end felt awful. Later that day I needed a nap and pretty quickly came down with a pretty nasty cold. Monday was a day off work and the rest of the week was a real struggle. Finally, well almost, over the cold I am back running this week.

I ran 2.5 miles yesterday evening and 3.6 miles this morning. The plan is to do the Bath Road Beers Club Run tomorrow evening which is around 4.2 miles and then that will be it before Saturday and the small matter of 40 miles across the Worcestershire countryside and the Wychavon Way ultra. I will be under cooked for sure but then isn’t everyone?

Friday, October 26, 2018

PW - Personal Worst


My first marathon was a little over 20 years ago and was London in April 1997. I finished that day in 4hrs 20minutes. I really don’t remember much about it at all, I don’t remember finishing or how I felt that day or indeed the day after. The next time I ran a marathon was something like 15 years later, in Gloucester, where I did my PB in 3:15:00 flat. I am very proud of that time. While I always dreamed of running sub-3 I don’t think I ever really had the drive to do the training that would take, I feel I’d be susceptible to injury and with each passing year I obviously am a year older.

Yesterday morning I ran a marathon and it struck me last night that I had run a personal worst, a PW if you like. 

I thought this would really bother me but it doesn’t because it’s all about the context of the run. The first thing is that I am proud that I finished it not least of all because while I am always training I had done no specific training for this. No long runs, no taper, no structure. 

For the last few months I have been ticking along at an average of around 35-40 miles a week, sometimes I have hit 50miles but rarely. It’s the long runs in marathon training that you need and I hadn’t done any. I felt really strong up to around mile 20/21 and, while not running fast, felt smooth and in a rhythm. I felt that I could keep that going. It was then that I started to slow down and throw in the odd walk break. I was fine for energy, I hadn’t hit the wall I had just run out of strength.

This is where experience and a certain amount of knowing how to suffer comes in. I would say I know how to suffer, the experience I had at the Wendover Woods 50mile taught me many things including how to do just that. More than that though it was how to suffer without being reckless. I was struggling but I wasn’t injured, there was no lasting damage being done, it was just muscle aches which is something you’d expect. With that in mind it becomes just about completing the distance. Mentally this takes the pressure off; I know I can do that, I know I can cover the distance I know how my body feels and reacts and so I just got it done.

There’s ego here too. It felt good to be able to run that distance almost off the couch. Miles in the legs and experience essentially got me through.

A little over 20 years from my first marathon I ran a personal worst – best of all I don’t even care.

Monday, August 13, 2018

what is is with being vegan?


I have had a beard for around seven years now. During that time it has been various lengths and bushiness but ever present. This is relevant as it actually predates the beard fashion by a couple of years. Something people do not know and why should they? 

When I get asked about it and say that I have had it for a while I get sideways looks as if to say, “really?” 

The point of this is that while there are trends, I also ride a single speed bike to work wear statement glasses and run ultramarathons, not all things that we do were as a result of a trend. What has this got to do with eating a vegan diet?

I have been vegan for a little over three years now. It started, like most, with a move to vegetarianism and there was a moment. There was a flash of lightning that came from a Rich Roll Podcast and specifically episode 160 on July 19th 2015 and an interview with David Carter. It was this that prompted me to make the full change and remove dairy from my diet. 

On reflection it seems weird that you can be vegetarian and still consume eggs, milk and cheese. I stop short of describing myself as vegan as on occasion I do eat some dairy, never in the pure form but sometimes in cooking. I always try to avoid it but if there is little option then I will. If you want to label me I am >99% plant based. There’s a t-shirt slogan right there.

What I experience a lot is a sense of defensiveness that I get from people that ask me about it. I do not go around banging the drum for this at all but if I am asked I will explain my motivation and the impact that it has had on me and my health.

How do know there’s a vegan at a cocktail party? Don’t worry they will tell you.

When asked I normally cite the following reasons and outcomes;
  • RRP Podcast and specifically the David Carter interview
  • Netflix documentaries; Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks over Knives etc
  • Injuries from running that have a connection to consumption of dairy (tendonitis issues that milk is known to inflame)
  • Stopped dairy and injuries cleared up, skin better, feel much better (generally feel much less gloopy) and have abundant energy
  • Weight is consistent and not an issue
  • Recovery from long runs is amazing
  • Read some books (China Study, Eat and Run and some blogs and posts by vegan runners; Mike Wardian, Rob Krar, Sage Canaday etc etc)
  • Immersed myself in the online culture (Nutritionfacts.org, Neal Barnard MD, Ray Cronise etc etc etc)
  • No-one will ever tell you to eat less fruits and veggies
I explain this, largely I feel, without prejudice. Remember I have been asked about this, I am not the idiot at the cocktail party.

When I start talking I notice that almost without exception people get defensive and judgemental of themselves but as though it was coming from me. I then find myself apologising for something I have not done and explaining that while it works for me it isn’t for everyone. My wife is around >75% vegan but my kids really are not all (although they do like vegan ice-cream and soya iced coffee) as it should be they do what they want. So why do people get defensive?

I think the main one is animal rights. You might have noticed that I omitted this from the list above. Being totally honest this was not part of the agenda for me when I started out. It was a selfish motivation that was almost exclusively around me being a better runner. However as I have gotten more involved and consumed more vegan materials online you cannot fail to be affected by animal cruelty that takes place on an industrial scale. I do not reference this unless asked as it is emotional and provocative. The vegan at the cocktail party I suspect would reference this almost immediately. 

When you are described as vegan then this is where people immediately leap in terms of motivation and why you would be. They know about it and like much of human kind choose to ignore something that counters their version of their life. We all do this on a wide range of topics and choices. This doesn’t make us wrong it makes us human. We love nothing more than what we know our are bad habits being validated however tenuously. Someone shining a light on that makes us uncomfortable and by extension can often make us defensive. We feel the need to defend our way of living even though it is not under attack.

So if you ask me why I’m vegan and I answer your question remember that you asked me and I am just answering your question. I’m not selling anything and it comes with no judgement from me. 

Anything you feel as a result of that is down to you as is any action you do or do not take.

Oh and i get my protein from the same place a gorilla does.