The First Century …

Yes a hundred, a century and it was on my training ride yesterday.

ok, not a true century as that would be in miles, and I work in km’s but a century of km’s is a big milestone for me, the longest ride I have done for 12 months, but this ride means much much more.

I have been working on my fitness and injury maintenance for about 2  years now, with a regime of stretching and regular visits for sports massage to keep the back issues well and truly hidden away.

When I was training for IM I would complete a long ride (so over 80km up to 130km) and really have what I can describe now as a “locked up” back – immediately afterwards and in the following days too – the result of injury and poor bike position. A more forgiving bike (endurance fit Domane), a proper bike fit and the aforementioned sports massage has sorted all that now and what a difference.

So yesterday: well it was a ride of two halves, to use the footballing term. The plan was for me to ride over to Horwich to meet a friend (Will Rose) who is a complete novice cyclist, has just got a bike and was trying cleats out for the first time. I rode the 14km over to Horwich and after some static work, practising clipping in and out, we headed off for a planned 30km flat loop which was excellent – Will rode very well and he seemed to like the feeling of being on a bike, which for me was great to see.

We did ride over the reservoirs in Rivington along the way:

Bridge

After saying goodbye to Will, I looked at my Garmin and I had around 48km on the clock and the sun was shining and I felt really fresh and energised. My previous longest ride this year was about 60km, so I was enthused to push this out to maybe 75km on a nice day like yesterday. Reaching into my back pocket I grabbed a gel and sucked it down with a splodge of water and started riding.

I had been riding easily with Will as he got used to the bike and the cleats, so the average pace was low up to then, so I cranked up the pace a little to work hard on the last part of my ride.

The bike is so comfortable, it was a pleasure to ride and I set off towards Westhoughton and Leigh, looping around and over towards Lowton and Golborne and then heading off towards Ashton … I was still strong and riding well as I headed up Billinge hill and over towards Orrell and it began to dawn on me that I had the 100km in my sight and with the way I was feeling I could actually do this.

Further down the hill from Orrell, I knew I had to throw a couple of loops in around estates I knew well, and this would take me to the bottom of Beech Hill with around 5km to go and if I could do that, then I would have cracked it.

The plan worked superbly and as I rolled down the street towards our house the Garmin ticked over the 100km barrier, and more importantly I was still feeling great.

I did the whole ride on that one gel and around 450ml of water (with electrolytes) which just highlights what getting rid of sugar from your general diet does for you on the bike – no need for loads of sugary gels. Ok, I need to revise my plan for the tourmalet as that approach will see me in a ditch somewhere, but at this stage I am happy to keep the fat burning going a bit longer.

Yesterdays route:

Ride1

and yesterdays stats:

Ride2

When I left Will the average speed was around 21.7km, so you can see how much faster I rode that second half of the ride to increase it up to the 24.4km that the final figures show.

BUT, and here is the big winner for me, the way I felt afterwards was like never before … I had full movement of my back, shoulders and hips, no tightness, no fatigue and I felt like I could ride again … unheard of during my time on the bike and so encouraging .. makes all those gym sessions and physio visits worth it.

It gives me great confidence for the months ahead and gives me encouraging vibes for some “adventure” days out when the hot sunshine comes (which I am hoping will happen this year).

Onwards to the Tourmalet !!!

Pleased with Progress …

This year has been one of the best for me for a long time, so many small changes made for the better, so many decisions made and so much clarity achieved.

One of the big things we did as a family at the turn of the year was to make nutrition changes, and not the “let’s juice for 30 days” type of change, but a commitment to long term dietary changes.

We decided that we would try as much as possible to cut out the processed foods that the super markets tempt you with during the “weekly shop” – we would commit to cooking from fresh as much as we could, and we would also try and source our meat and fish locally.

Changes like that can’t happen overnight, it takes weeks and months to achieve them, but they are so worth it. So what does a typical meal look like for us these days? Well here are some snaps I took before I ate the plate of food in front of me ….

Tuna, Anchovy, Olive, Tomato, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Hot Chicken, Onion, Garlic, Tomato, Celery, Feta and Spinach salad:

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Scrambled Eggs with herbs, sliced tomatoes, feta cheese and walnut oil drizzle:

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Roast Lamb, Kale, Sanfire with a touch of salt and butter, mashed sweet potato:

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I have to say, we don’t always get it right, there are still the “emergency chippy” days and the “I really do fancy a curry tonight” days …. but these are rare now … and they really are a treat when they come along and it feels like a splurge.

Over the months one the of surprising things I managed was in August when I made a brew and found we had no sugar in the house, so I drank it without and thought, wow, if I could do that all the time that would be good …. I have tried many times before, usually lasting a couple of days before falling back to my half teaspoon …… but this time it stuck …. not had sugar now for over 6 weeks and I don’t miss it … happy days.

I have also made a massive effort on the white bread …. I love my bread and could easily eat 10-16 slices a day, especially when training hard … these days, I try and not touch the stuff, maybe a few slices a week and even then, they are not white, they are gluten and wheat free options.

But what does this mean as we come to the end of September?

It means this:

I started the year weighing 107.5kg (or 16st 12lb) and although I was fit and healthy, I needed to drop some of that size ….. this morning on the scales I was 101kg (or 15st 12lb) …. but even more impressive has been the change to my body shape …. my belt has 5 notches on it and I was on notch 2 at the start of the year but this has dramatically dropped and I am now on notch 5 and it’s soon to be time for a new belt !!!

I have had to throw away loads of old clothes as they now bury me and I have only really just started, so may be loads more to go as well …… a stone over the course of 9 months has been done without any “dieting” at all … just eating healthy foods, cooked from scratch.

I even make my own salsa and fajita seasoning these days too:

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Knowing the Signs …

The week started well for me with two good runs, both of which felt very easy and comfortable and both were done at a decent pace (5.30) and (5.44) which although by no means pacey, certainly much quicker than I have been running of late.

Both of the runs were over mixed terrain, in fact both runs were the same 4km course … a mix of tarmac, rough gravel trails, grass, mud, downhills and inclines .. pretty much everything thrown in the mix.

I started to notice something on Wednesday when I got up:

Knee

The image is probably a bit misleading as there was no real pain, more like it felt like the knee or maybe top of the calf was slightly swollen .. it didn’t look swollen but it felt that way. Also when I was sat in one place for a while as I tend to do at work, then it was stiff and achy to get moving.

Perhaps two fast paced days back to back caused the issue, but I decided to listen to my body and just back it off a little until this weekend. The knee has been fine but there is still a little twinge there at the back, more near the calf I think that the knee itself. It may also just be the muscles and tendons getting used to running again, so this will be one to watch over I think.

Back to some more positive news now, and I have just completed 3 weeks without any sugar and I have cracked that one … my coffee’s are just great as they are and that is a big achievement to have put that one to bed. One refined product out of my diet.

Next up, I have just completed 2 weeks without any white bread, which for anyone who knows my love of the stuff is quite unbelievable … there have been a couple of times where I nearly went off the rails, but I have to say I feel so much better for not having any – in fact I have pretty much avoided any bread at all … two days out of fourteen I have had a couple of slices of wholemeal brown bread, but there are certainly no cravings for it – need to keep on with this, as this will bring big results.

Today will see some mountain biking with my community cycling club first thing and then may something else a little later on depending how the knee feels after this mornings ride.

Oh, and its pouring down with rain too, which of course I absolutely LOVE !!! Bring on the autumn and winter with its rain and howling gales – the perfect training weather for me.

Food of Life …

One of the biggest changes that we as a family have undertaken in 2015 has been the commitment to try and eat “cleaner” – we have always been a family that have eaten generally well, but it’s all so easy to take the easy option sometimes and of course to fall for all the marketing out there.

We have always encouraged our boys to try everything and they do, and I doubt there are many families in our neck of the woods that have children that prefer to eat seafood for breakfast or to choose to have olives and anchovies … they don’t always like what we give them, but they will always try it first and give it a go.

So this year we have focused on trying to remove white bread from our breakfast and from our lunches … ideally remove it completely by the end of the year, but if we can make those first steps then its a huge improvement.

We have worked on using scrambled egg as the main breakfast constituent and then work around that … normally its smoked salmon that goes with it, but today it was vine tomatoes, feta cheese and fresh mint drizzled with a little walnut oil:

breakfast

It has worked well, I have virtually removed white bread from my diet now and I feel so much better for it – we still get the odd low GI brown loaf and yes occasionally I will have some white toast, but it is really occasionally now …

Combine that with the removal of sugar which I have already spoken about on this blog and we are really starting to clean our act up here. And the great thing for  us as parents is that the kids are loving it …

My cold is subsiding, but I am still coughing up some pretty gruesome stuff, so a weekend of rest is ahead of me to clear it completely before we get back into the training next week with some gentle runs and a visit to the gym.

 

 

Choose Your Fuel …

Sports Science has taken over the world – we see everything scrutinised and everything is analysed and pages and pages of data are produced. Now I am a data lover, data is great and it gives you lots to think about and this aspect of sports science is brilliant.

But there is a dark side to sports science … the dark side  that sells sugary rubbish to athletes to “boost their perfomance” and to “unlock their potential” … you see it all the time, short 5km races with people guzzling energy gels …. it is this are that the marketing departments have jumped on and taken advantage of … the marketing companies that make “sports drinks” and “natural health drinks” and all the association of fizzy drinks with being cool, trendy and sporty – that has to change.

A recent visit to a cafe highlights what is wrong:

Drinks

Row upon row of sugar and carbonated death juice … only water and milk as real drinks of any benefit – but this is what is offered to consumers – a terrible state of affairs.

I am embarking on something a bit different for my marathon training, I have already road tested it a little on the bike where I can now ride 3-4 hours on just a bidon of pure water, no gels, no bars and no carbs needed, just a solid healthy breakfast of eggs and salmon. I haven’t tried this with the running, but I am pretty sure the same adaptations can be gained over a period of time and that will help me fuel properly for the marathon itself.

It’s a big question, but can I run the marathon without any food at all and rely just on water ? Not sure ?

If I need food, then what food should I have and how much of it will I need to have ?

It will be an interesting journey back to old school running and something that I am looking forward to as the cold months close in.

 

Small Changes Matter …

You cannot make wholesale immediate changes and expect them to work. Everyone knows that, if you do then you are doomed to failure, but when it comes to planning for next year there are changes that I need to make.

First off lets tackle the subject of weight and the changes that are needed there.

Diet Changes

 

As a family we grabbed hold of our eating last winter and made some commitments that have already produced some amazing results. We decided to #EatClean, which basically means that you eat fresh and as natural as you can, avoiding processed foods and reducing the amounts of carbs that you eat each day. We hardly eat any potatoes or pasta now, and every day see’s lots of green vegetables and meat and fish and of course my two favourite “superfoods” … eggs and tomatoes, rarely a day goes by without me having eggs and tomatoes.

It was think change of mindset that started us off on a much healthier eating regime, but it wasn’t done overnight, we made small changes over weeks and those small changes matter.

Gone are the days of cereals and toast for breakfast, gone are the days of packs of sandwiches for lunch … it really had been uplifiting. The children love it too, I can’t remember the last time they had a “yellow meal” … you know the one, chips, chicken nuggets, smiley faces … all that crap …. my boys now prefer hearty stews, salmon and white fish and asparagus and sanfire … really great building blocks as they grow older.

BUT, and there always has to be a but, there are still lots of things we get wrong … there are still lots of times when work or life in general makes it just too easy to grab the takeaway and bottle of beer or wine, and its those instances that we need to tackle now, that and the dreaded killer of athletic performance and life in general … SUGAR.

So my small change today, was to reduce my sugar intake in my coffee …. so I had half the day with sugar and half the day without and you know what, it was alright, early days yet, but if I can reduce that one sugar per brew right down to nothing then over 7 months that will have an impact … if I can stay away from the Chinese and Indian “treat” at weekend, that will have an impact and if I can reduce the beers and wine right down, that will have an impact …. small changes, done over time, not all together … that is the way forward.

Join me and change how you think ….. “Eat Clean” is now my mantra … not gonna obsess about it, but I will try to follow it as much as I can and not beat myself up about it too much if I have the odd slippage.

Finally for today, I am pleased that my legs are good after yesterdays run … it was only a little run I know but it was my first for over 5 months, and I expected some pain today but I have no soreness and am quite ready to go again, so a good start indeed.

Tomorrow sees a gym and core day with Jonny (my eldest) who went out and ran 11km last night, cos he fancied it … oh to be 16 again eh !!!