Sundays run & stuff to remember

I followed up saturdays long run with another 7 miles on saunday to recover slowly. After a short period of ow shit that hurts everything loosened nicely and even better it’s now monday and I’ve been pretty much serious pain free all day including the left foot.  I can feel the twinges though so a day off today.

Between the two days there are a few things I ned to remember – You can switch off here this is for my own benefit so I remember.

I got my fuelling working better on the saturday.  I took bananas and the homemade honey bars and started eating after an hour and then every 3 miles or so which seems to sit well with me. I can get calories in without feeling nauseous without problems but I do wonder about how much I can carry for ultras, bananas are surprisingly heavy for the calories they provide. Might need to test a few other smaller, lighter and more calorie dense options. I mean I like the honey bars but after 30 miles I’m not so sure if they’ll digest easily.

I also ran with one bottle of plain water and one with some electrolyte supplements. Seemed to work well and although I prefer plain water I know I sweat so much I need to replace some salts and minerals. At least I felt fine after 15 and no harm done so i can keep testing this.

I wore the Inov8 ultra 290 which are GTX which I’m finding might be ideal for ultras thanks to a bit more cushioning, I lose some grip and feel on technical terrain but how much of that will I need compared to not screwing over my feet.  I noticed tightning of the laces around 8 miles on and thats my feet starting the swell so remembering to loosen the laces for once helped.  I dont need GTX for the ultras this summer as I dont want hot feet with no way of removing sweat so might have to invest in a non GTX pair.

So if you stuck around through that little lot you get some photos!

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I was running out of sand and needed to get to Witches so between waves it was fartlek time along this stretch
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I never look up – theres some cool stuff up there!
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Hauled this heavy bastard back – Now its here I’m not quite sure what to do with it but I’m sure I’ll think of something. Sometimes I just see driftwood and think “want”

Preseli Beast – What I done learned

Ok so in the aftermath of the Preseli Beast last weekend I promised to follow up on a few of the thoughts I had.  This might not be as interesting as I’ve used up all my photos of the day (well mostly) but will act as a useful reminder next time I’m running this event or similar so bear with me.

Kit

I used my Inov8 Xtalon 212s and they worked superbly – I was pondering which way to go with shoes as they don’t have the most cushioning but I love them for the grip and stability they provide – They turned out to be comfortable all day and the grip while climbing and descending was fantastic. I always trust these if I want to do a technical run and they never let me down.

I used an Inov8 10 Raceultra pack with soft flasks at the front. I was originally going to use my Inov8 Racepak but at 4L capacity it couldn’t hold all the kit required for fellrunning plus enough food and water so this was an investment for the future. It’s an extremely comfortable pack, I didn’t even notice it was there most of the time and it didn’t chafe or bounce at all. My only gripe with it is that the softflasks come with long drinking tubes which can slip out of their shoulder holders while on descents and bounce around in your face but I just slotted them under the chest strap and no further issues.

The rest of the kit was standard stuff, asics tech shirt, sturridge baselayer shorts (although I cricket manufacturer in the main I find their shorts are super comfy) and hilly monoskin socks (no blisters no chafing)

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Hydration and nutrition

As noted earlier I took 2 inov8 500ml softflasks with me, normally I run with a bladder in the back but I preferred this as the weight of the water felt better off my back and didn’t contribute to pack movement. Plus i was able to judge how much I was drinking and was able to refill easily at water stations without removing the pack.  I remembered to keep drinking all the way which was easy when it was hot lower down but once up on the peaks it was much colder with some wind so I was happy I remembered to keep sipping away.

I took a fair amount of my homemade energy bars with me which always seem to do the trick and tucked into the jelly babies on offer at the aid stations – after all why not!  As with hydration I judged this pretty well I think, probably could have eaten a little more and need to teach myself to eat when feeling shit on climbs.

Pacing

I had a plan which I was determined to stick to and it worked out pretty well in the most. I started out deliberately near the back and just hung around there so I didn’t get caught up in the excitement and hare off too fast. I knew there was single track through the forest after a mile or so and moved up in front of the slowest runners so not to get bottlenecked there. This left me around two thirds of the way up the field which I stayed around most of the day.  After around 5 or 6 miles I was chatting to a few guys around me and they were also there just to finish and I almost just stuck with them but realised it was just a mental comfort zone I didn’t really need and struck out at my own quicker chosen pace.

I read somewhere some great advice – Never run something at the start that you wouldn’t run at the end. I had to modify this slightly as otherwise I wouldn’t have run anything over a 1% incline but its solid advice and keeping it in my mind meant that I didn’t overexert on the ascents.

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Descending

Descending gets a section of its own as it could well have been where the race was nearly over for me and was a major cause of pain and slowing down later on. I love descending, just as I love running quickly over rocks on the beach, it’s a thrill and a joy to speed along just at the edge of what my reactions and body can cope with.  However I’m not used to descents that last over a mile over rough terrain and so although it felt fine to fly down (And trust me I made up a lot of time and places doing this in the first 10 miles or so, everyone who went past me going up was caught going down) and it was sooooo much fun to descend quickly at the limits my quads simply weren’t used to this sort of extended pummeling. By about 10 miles I had a pain in my left quad that was making me start to alter my stride and the longish descent into the town suddenly switched to tarmac and I couldn’t sustain any sort of pace without serious pain in my legs.  This was then repeated for the next 14 miles – every descent was as painful as the climb. No rest for the wicked!

So I know I need to really work on my downhills to build up the muscles there that tend to get neglected. The next race in August also has a lot of climbing and descending though its coastal nature means shorter bouts of it.  I intend to identify places where I can do repeat hillwork – And everytime I get fed up of it then remember the pain and problems my quads caused last weekend and do it again. If I hadn’t suffered so badly with the quads I could have knocked a fair amount off my time and although the mission was simply to finish it’s always nice to give it a real go!

Mentality

I will quite happily admit I was nervous going into the race. I hadn’t run 24 miles before and certainly not in a fellrunning environment.  However I was coming in with a gameplan and a goal – finishing. The race had cutoffs too which was new to me and they added a little to the stress but in the end were happily immaterial. There were many times, especially once the quads were hurting, that I thought “I cant do this for many more miles” and each time I told myself to suck it up and keep going.  I cramped badly in my calves after the penultimate climb because it was so steep I was constantly on my toes and at that point I thought I was done (I’m not used to cramps) but I didn’t panic and just slowed to an amble and figured I could get by with a weird shuffle step until it passed – If it didnt pass I was on top of a bloody mountain so I was coming down one way or another anyway.  People passed me at this point and it didn’t matter, it was me versus my legs and the mountain. After a while and a bit of stretching the cramps faded and I could pick up pace again.

So if theres one thing I learned its DONT PANIC. Things will hurt, things will feel like they are so broken that you cant possibly finish. Get the pain under control until its managable, if you cant run then walk a bit.  At one point I had to sit on a rock to remove stones from my shoes, I sat for less than a minute. When I got up my quads were miraculously cured – for a short distance but it took a while before they reached def con fucking arghghghghhhh again.

Its a long day – its a long race and at the end of the day when you look at it time and places are immaterial. If you need to stop to regroup do so. There are no medals for running every step, there are no medals for breaking yourself to achieve a time or placing.

I hope I remember to read this and remember it before the next race. If I can do that plus add some hillwork I might just get away with pain instead of agony

 

 

Nature looks after its own

“Ill-preparedness, carelessness, lack of concentration, poor maintenance of tools. Oh. And overconfidence sir.” – Terry Pratchett, Pyramids.

This quote from the book actually sprang to mind yesterday. I blew it. Mainly overconfidence. I was flat out all day in work and although I never stop for lunch anyway I usuallt just eat fruit throughout the day whenever I feel hungry. I didn’t really feel hungry yesterday so when I got home I went for a run having had no more than an apple and banana all day. Which is why within 3 miles I had what could only be described as a mini bonk. The usual signs were there, lightheadedness, weird vision (like running through powerpoint slides – stuttery) and a general feeling of weakness. I realised  what it was and needed food (and roundly cursed myself for running with no food in me or on me) but had none and was on the far end of the beach. I knew it would be a long slow jog back although the symptoms did ease once I slowed it was tricky to do anything technical safely.

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Lovely view but not easy to traverse feeling like shit

When I got off the beach though Mother Nature came to my rescue. Yet another benefit of running trails, especially at this time of year. Fruit!

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Natures bounty

I ate a few handfuls of blackberries and a few minutes later I was pretty much rocking again. Amazing how quickly the body recovers with just a litttle of what you need.

Plus sloes – Not to everyones taste as they are very sharp but I quite like them

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Sloes!

So yeah I was ill prepared, overconfident and complacent but this is all a learning curve. I wouldn’t drive my car on an empty tank, I won’t run again on one either.

However this run clocked up my 800th mile since I started, I won’t forget that milestone 😉

Homemade energy bar + recipe

I forgot to mention yesterday – I tried out a new creation and it seemed to work well.  Certainly kept the energy levels up. I don’t tend to eat for the first hour or so of a run and then take bites as needed to trickle the energy in.

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Recipe:

Get a bowl of some description

Chuck in the following

Chia seeds, flax seeds and dates. Freshly squeezed lemon and a dash of salt.

Mix together well with some organic honey until you have a gooey mass.

Spread out on a baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes at 190 – until the eges go a bit burny.

Leave to cool and cut into chunks

Wrap in clingfilm and take on run!

 

Long beach & cliff run plus news!

How do you keep an idiot in suspense goes the old joke. I’ll tell you later.

Anyway today it was time to see exactly how much fitness I’d lost through injury, there was a reason for this test but first the run. As I knew I was likely to be going at least 10 miles I knew I’d need water and fuel so I cracked out the salomon squishy bottles and made myself some new fuel – I hereby announce to the running world the invention of the Honey Bomb!

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Working on the principle that you don’t eat with your eyes I present the first batch of Honey Bombs. I swear they taste so much better than they look … honest

Ingredients – all chucked in a bowl with no measuring.

Raisins, dates, flax and chia seeds and a dollop of honey all mixed together and placed carefully in scientific manner on a baking tray and then wanged in the freezer.

Result? I have discovered purest energy! Well I ate three of them on my run and they certainly kept my energy levels topped up. The only drawback being their incredible stickiosity. I wrapped them in silver foil so when unwrapping them I must have looked like the worlds healthiest junkie.

I was also glad to have taken a litre of water too as it started to get hot towards the end although I did actually hydrate myself all the way through which I’m disproportionately proud of. All this I packed away in my Inov8 race pack 4 which is just so comfortable I don’t even notice it’s there. The salomon soft flasks work great as once you’ve had a gurgle out of them they fold up and can be carried in a pocket until empty.

Anyway I managed just over 12 miles which didn’t feel like a struggle until the hill into Wick to my folks (another shout out to the folks) near the end which just felt like it was going on forever, plus it was half road and as we all know I hate roads. My body felt fine above the waist, the legs simply haven’t got the miles back in them yet but I’m sure that will come.

The beach was as usual beautiful even though I was going into a headwind on the way out and I managed to remember to breathe through my nose pretty much for the whole thing. This is becoming second nature which I’m especially pleased with as I know I’m no longer blowing myslf to bits early on.

Enough text they cry! Where are the photos?

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Outward bound – I tried to capture the headwind but failed :p
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Cliff stack – I’m waiting for this one to come down (as long as I’m not under it at the time) Also spot my superb accidental capture of a seagull
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Green! I knew I’d get some green in for CeeJayKay. This is actually a very rare phenonemon called cliff snot
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View from the cliffs again plus some green
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WARNING! Rockpool ahead!
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View running back along the cliffs (more green plus fluffy clouds for SRG)
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Foresty bit (included for its greeniosity)
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Field of unripened corn – Note colour!

Oh yeah so the news ….

I’ve signed up for a race in August. In Cornwall! It’s a trail run along the Cornish coastal path. A friend of mine and I are going to camp down there for the weekend as there is a bar and DJ and stuff to entertain him while I run on the saturday.

Thing is … the 20 miler I was originally going to do was full so I kind of ….. signed up for the 32 mile option. I have 6 weeks to prepare. I may well die (note to parents this is a lighthearted throwaway line I won’t really die)

Ultra or bust! Probably bust but I’m going to give it my best.

Injury and energy bar update!

Figured I hadn’t posted in a while so here is progress of lack of.  Still getting a small amount of pain in the ankle. Feels like 2 steps forward literally and 1 back. I’m still resting it and showing a degree of patience which I didn’t think I had.  I’m deperate to go out running but something is telling me it’s not right yet and I stand a chance of doing further damage so rest it is.  There are days with no pain and then I walk on it for a while and the niggle begins.  I suspect it has something to do with my work trainers though.

Yesterday I had to make an emergency appointment at the dentists in Cardiff. As they say it never rains but pours, I had extreme pain in a tooth at the back of my mouth and normally I would have waited until my dentists was open after Easter but it was so bad I just had to do something.  So off I went and realised that my route to the hospital wasn’t easy due to the world half marathon running right past the hospital – So I had to park a mile away and walk, I was likely to be late so I tried a little jog – In my work trainers and instantly the pain was there in the sole of my foot. No jogging for me even slowly. However I tried a little shuffle run in my road Nikes earlier today and no pain – Is this a cushioning issue?

Anyway one tooth extraction later and I’m feeling a little sorry for myself and looking rather like the hamster that stole all the nuts. But speaking of nuts I have had my first attempt at making my own energy bars!

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My base ingredients – 1/3 cup of flax. 1/3 cup of chia. Half cup of raisins and half cup of dates. Plus some coconut oil to add some binding.  Slammed all these in a mixer and mixed away to my hearts content ending up with ….

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Gritty Dough ™ – How appetising!

Next up I used my inspiring culinary skills to make them into little bars.

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No-one said they had to be pretty fortunately.  Had the idea of using a rubber mould to make thinner versions too.

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After all a test run is test run, time to find out what works!

Into the fridge they went!

I’ve doen a taste test and they do indeed taste coconutty and seem to hold together well. However whether they hold together well on a run is another issue, need to find a way of wrapping them now. Was thinking of cling film but is that going to be a pain to open while running?

I want to test them of course while on the run but patience is holding up well.  I have another week at least in which I can take it easy – 2 weeks off for schools Easter holidays – I feel I have the best job ever sometimes.

Next saturday I’ve been invited along to the Afan Forest to test a new trail half course that the organisers of the Margam Hoka Winter Half I ran last month are devising. Sounds like a lot of fun and will be interesting to see how these things work. So hopefully another week and I’ll be raring to go!

 

 

 

Gels – Fuel or Fool?

As I’ve not been able to run I’ve at least been able to read about running and do a little research.  I’ve been eatily pretty healthily lately, plant based and non processed but it occurred to me that the energy gels and bars I use while on long runs are maybe not all they seem.  Why do I use them? Cheap, convenient and so does everyone else would appear to be my reasons. I know I need to fuel during longer runs so it makes sense right? These products are designed for athletes by sports scientists right?  So who do these sports scientists work for?  I’ve never paid one directly so they work for the companies selling the gels right?  So I would say they have a vested interest perhaps not in lying but embellishing the truth to increase sales?

I’m very wary when it comes to corporations, experience and just having open eyes is enough to tell me that the bottom line is profit for the shareholders. When it comes to running they couldn’t care about what actually happens to you but rather how much of their product they can get you to consume. Of coure its not just running products it’s endemic in virtually everything we buy. Never forget the bottom line is profit in the vast majority of cases (there are ethically run businesses of course)

Sooo energy gels – top ingedient is maltodextrin – Take a look at the ingedient list on Gu’s page  – What is it?

From wikipedia (Yes I know it’s not fact therefore but come on it’s close)

“Maltodextrin is used as an inexpensive additive to thicken food products such as infant formula. It is also used as a filler in sugar substitutes and other products”

So it’s essentially a sugar substitute and here’s the interesting bit – It’s not included as a sugar in the ingredient breakdown – sports nutrition companies label it as a carbohydrate

“Maltodextrin is a corn-derived oligosaccharide source of carbohydrates, and it is commonly added to commercial ready-made protein shakes and other products. Oligosaccharides contain between three and 20 linked sugars, but they qualify as complex carbohydrates. Some products include maltodextrin as a sweetener because it is not technically a sugar, allowing companies to call their products “sugar-free.”

Nice work guys!

So as I see it in order to drive profits we have a cheap as chips sugar subsitute being the main ingredient in energy gels and being labelled as carbs. No wonder gels give me a boost and then I fall off again quickly – Quick take another gel to keep running – Finish running spend more money on gels!

Am I being cynical here?

I came across this site 33shake  who have exactly the same thoughts but are selling their own healthier version. I haven’t tried their products I’ll admit but I was intrigued. Then I saw the gels were £2 a pop. Ok so even if I didn’t consume them at the same rate as other gels I’d still be coughing up probably over £6 per run and more!

My next step – I’m going to make my own using chia. I was intrigued by chia from reading books such as Born to Run and Eat & Run. Seems ideal and from the reading I’ve done it seems I stand a good chance (even with my culinary skills) of making somethnig edible, natural and likely to fuel me on long runs.

I’ve ordered a load of chia and will pick up the other ingedients this week and let you know how it goes!

If this post has bored you beyond belief it’s not my fault it’s my ankles – I want to be posting photos of beaches! But at least think about what you’re fuelling with on runs and have a think if you follow a high — crash — high — crash cycle due to instant sugar hits?