Training like a proper runner! January

When Anastasia and I had the initial meeting with Rudi, Dionne and Katie I was asked how many races I had booked (I normally do at least a marathon a month). There was some shock when I said none. And I’ve kept to it! Not a single secret marathon or ultra sneaked in.

I made the decision to follow the plan exactly and other than one missed run have done so. This weekend is the Watford Half Marathon and will be a good test of where I am.

The post is long as I’ve tried to record everything. The TLDR version is I built mileage slowly, did core classes, got a sports massage and fell in love with my Hoka Rincon shoes. Now all set to see what happens on Sunday.

January Training

1st – New Years Day starts with an optional double parkrun. I join Gary for a lift to Millennium Parkrun at the Marston Vale forest centre. It’s a flat park and I managed a 3h14 marathon there last year. Feeling full of cheese from Christmas I hold on for a 21m23s. I like the out and back route as it’s good to see other runners. When I get to the point it starts to hurt I can feel myself backing off. So out of practice at digging in. It’s not a flat out effort but not as relaxed as I’d like that time to feel and in pretty much ideal running conditions.
For the second parkrun we head back to Milton Keynes via home and get the dog. A far more relaxed 27m07s with poo stop and lots of trees to smell.

Normally I do Linford Wood and Milton Keynes, running between the two and getting close to a HM distance but they don’t line up this year.

indian_bullfrog_hoplobatrachus_tigerinus_by_dr._raju_kasambe_dscn6470_042nd – A rest day for running but manage to make the extra core class by Clean Coach Katie. I won’t say I’m good but feel significantly less shit than the last one. During one of the exercises I realise my running shorts have worn a hole in an inappropriate place and I’m flashing everyone the bright yellow inner liner of the shorts. Would be worse if there was no liner I guess, but feel like one of those bull frogs with the bright chin pouches they inflate to attract attention – “hey everyone, check this out”….

3rd – And another rest day, so just the exercises recommended by Rudi whilst watching TV. Given however busy people are they always manage to fit in at least a little TV or Netflix each day it feels like a great use of time to do some basic strength work. Plank for the advert break to avoid a trip to the biscuit tin.

4th – Down visiting a friend near Bournemouth. Parkrun is on the programme so head to Moors Valley with remains of a hangover. We get there late and are right at the back. It’s having the largest attendance ever and it shows as we walk across the start line a good 30 seconds after the start, and then just about manage a gentle jog for most of the first mile or so. Although the paths are wide there are way too many people today to overtake consistently and Scott and I (he aided/hindered by doggie) finally get around in 30 minutes.

img_46795th – A 60 minute run required, fail to get it done in Bournemouth for a reason not unrelated to drinking until 3am. I’d planned to go dry January but it’s coincided with my mates annual return to UK from Australia so there’s much reason to celebrate. Once back in MK I go out in the new Hoka Rincon. The weather is finally dry enough to break these out the box. They feel super light and comfortable and I manage 8 miles just under 8min/pace, trying to hold back as it’s meant to be a steady session, and I also can’t see very well on the final couple of miles in the dark.

Week 1 is a short one, and low mileage week at just 17 miles. I’m running far less than usual, and still slow.  Need to trust the process.

6th – It’s a Monday so start of the recovery runs. A steady 5 miles with dog at 9min20 pace. Tried the Rincon again and they feel a little less special and speed inducing when stopping to pick up dog poo.

img_49167th – Go out with the Redway Runners for the 640 session. This should be one mile at 7min as warmup, then three at 6m40s pace. It’s never been a comfortable run, but did get easier over the early part of 2019 and then very hard for the second half with Lakeland 100 in my legs. Tonight starts OK but fades quickly and I’m off pace for last two miles. Pants. Strava tells me this run is trending slower.

8th – Bow Brickhill – a 9 mile loop taking in the biggest (and probably only hill in MK). I’ve run this pretty much every week for the last 3 or so years. On a very good day I average around 7m30s/mile for the loop, more like 8m-8:20m as average and bad days can be far slower. One week I struggled so badly I considered taking up knitting instead and laid down in a ditch to let the foxes eat me. The plan has this as a gentler run so keep to 145-150bpm HR and average around 8m20s pace. HR is pretty consistent throughout but pace drops to maintain it.

img_4929After an action packed day at work it’s core class in the evening, my third go and even in three sessions feel markedly less rubbish. There is one weird sideways knee stretch at the end that my legs point out I shouldn’t even attempt. So I don’t.

 

9th – A day at the office pondering where is best to do the evening session. 1 mile repeats. 4 of them. 90 seconds recovery. It’s a reminder I’ve not really done intervals in a long time and certainly not this long a duration. Given I’m apprehensive it’s a good sign and an indication of the benefits of a having a coach.

Would I have picked this session myself? No.

In the unlikely event it came up on the Lakeside schedule would I run it hard or go at 80% and not get any real benefit? Yes.

Goal is 6:15-6:25 pace. I manage 6:13, 6:33 and two at 6:40 so not a million miles off. HR is relatively low at 153-161 so not as flat out as it felt at the time. Definitely need to work at getting comfortable with being uncomfortable again. I picked my lightweight Adidas Adizero for this sessions as they mentally make me feel ‘fast’.

10th – Rest day. Get in. Third this month.

11th – Football clashes with parkrun. Boo. Then it was cancelled due to water logged pitch so I could go to parkrun. Hooray. Then they hired an astropitch. Boo. So in the afternoon I run a steady 5 miles with Stephen and Bella at 8:23min/mile pace. Then an evening in the Blackened Sun brewery with school mates drinking beer and eating a very tasty vegetarian pizza.

12th – Schedule has 12 miles at a decent pace, aiming for an average of sub 8. All my running mates are psychopaths when it comes to start times. I decline the 5am start (on a Sunday!) and pick the marginally less ridiculous 6:30am group. Too early for breakfast so a can of full fat coke to keep hangover at bay. I’m a great example of eating clean.

There’s 6 of us, all but me are slightly soiled from cross country the day before. I’m just nursing a hangover. The first mile is 9min+ due to dog breaks and general faffing. The second is marginally better. I push a bit more for the rest and after losing a few on route Ben and I finish at 12.6miles a fraction under 8min average. Job done, which was doubtful given the first couple of miles. I took a couple of Haribo for a midway snack. Definitely finding I’m less able to run without some form of fuelling since going vegetarian. Also pleased to have sections at 7:20 pace which was my old marathon pace and it feels like the legs are remembering what to do.

Week 2 done at 43 miles. Some resemble of pace returning.

13th – Early morning recovery run. 5 gentles miles with doggie and we average over 10min pace as taking it easy.

14th – Knowing I wouldn’t make it back for the 6:40 paced session I popped out on my own for a tempo-ish 5 mile in the morning. Fast is hard first thing in morning and after a slow first mile average 7:27.

15th – Steady 9 mile Brickhill loop again – trying to keep to 145 HR average and finish 8m27s per mile, a tad slower than previous week. It still feels odd to run at a relaxed pace. I’m mostly still asleep from waist up with just my legs awake. Back to core class in evening, again getting a little better (less bad) each time.

16th – Intervals. Ouch. 3×2 mile, 2 minutes recovery. Get out early in morning as weather is forecast to be awful for rest of day. I manage to hold consistent pace for the intervals at a tad over 7min but struggle to get the pace under 7 as required. Lots of work to do before London it seems.

17th – Rest day. Given I ran early the day before I’ve got a 48hr gap between intervals and parkrun on Saturday.

18th – 5 miles on the plan. The footie match is cancelled so boy stays in bed and I can join Milton Keynes parkrun for their 10th Birthday. A bumper attendance of 1240 runners, not including Bella who comes for a run and objects to the final puddle that comes up to her belly, but happy to round up to 5 miles.

img_4962
These are rank

19th – Sunday Long run. An increase from last week so 14 miles at the same 7:40-8:10 pace. Running with a fair group we’re a little slow again for first couple of miles then pick up to hit 7:52min/mile average. Feels good to get some more miles and hit the pace after being nowhere close for the intervals on Thursday. We go through HM distance in around 1h40, so 5 minutes slower than I’d normally pass halfway in a marathon when back at full fitness but heading the right way. At the end I’m surprisingly knackered after basically just over a half marathon. It’s also my 3rd month of being a vegetarian so I celebrate with a ‘sausage’ buttie. I’ve been dreaming of it for the whole run. The tofu attempt is not good. In fact it’s bad. It’s barely food. The dog gets half and eats it with a grimace.

Week 3 done at 46.7 miles. Getting back to the sort of mileage I’m used to.

20th – Early morning 5mile recovery with doggie again. It’s dark and slippery. Not all training runs are a soul awakening joyous experience but I do always feel mentally clearer after.

21st – Long day in Somerset, just back in time to join Lakeside for their evening run. I’ve come prepared with intervals set up on watch. Sets of two different intervals with differing tests. It would be awkward to do manually so I’m reassured to have it set up on the watch. Except I’ve messed up and set the interval length to 0.4 metres, not 0.4 km. Yep smart. Second set of intervals are correct and I finish at 7 miles of decent ish pace at least and wondering where I went wrong.

22nd – 5am 9 miler again. Keeping HR at 145 throughout and finish with a slightly quicker overall pace than last week which is encouraging. The evening is spent at the excellent Redway Runners Expo chatting to mates and selling books but I do miss core class to attend.

img_498023rd – Again I manage to meet up with Lakeside. My programme has a progressive 6 mile, and I gradually ramp up, running back to regroup at times with a 7th mile to cool down. Job done.

 

24th – It’s Friday and rest day. Given I’ve got to move my long run this week from Saturday to Sunday I debate doing the Saturday 6 mile today but run out of time anyway and decision is made for me.

25th – The first time I’ve gone off programme and switched days. At least being a Saturday allows me to use parkrun for the final section of the 16 mile run and I manage to time it perfectly to reach the start just as it sets off. Really pleased to average 7:44 and finish strong with a 23 minute Parkrun and far less tired than the previous weeks long run that left me knackered for the day. It’s one of those runs that leave you smiling and happy with the progress.

26th – Sunday is an early start for National Running Show at NEC. If you’ve read on blog or book about my view of race expos you’ll wonder why I’m here. Don’t think of it as an expo, it’s more like an indoor festival with some great speakers and areas to hang out and talk rubbish.

natrunshowRace expos have huge crowds, half of whom don’t want to be there, just forced to attend to collect a bib. Everyone here has come by choice and the talks aren’t the dry “five ways to shave 30 seconds off your marathon PB” or “my favourite gels in order of viscosity” but actually motivational talks by the greatest runners and race organisers out there. When a stage has Camille Heron, the greatest female ultra runner next to Laz of Barkley Marathons fame then you know it’s something special. After a long day I have to bin off the planned 6 mile run leftover from Saturday but I’ve been on feet all day so no huge issue.

Week 4 – 45 miles with a missed run. Feeling far more positive than earlier in the month.

27th – Another early start to Somerset so a 5am 5 mile with the dog. It’s cold unsurprisingly.

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28th – Tuesday 640 session. Hanging off the back again but manage to do a little better than last time. With a mile cooldown I average 7:23min/mile.

29th – Bow Brickills again. Heart rate slightly lower at 143 average and pace slightly better at 8:18min/mile – a decent improvement on 145 HR at 8:25 the previous week. Miss the core class again as in charge of kids and the wife is out at the theatre.

30th – Intervals again and run them with Lakeside. I mess them up AGAIN. Should have been 12x400m with 60s rest but I manage to get the cooldown before the intervals and a random 1 mile so it all goes to pot. Pah. Run with the group until 6 miles then peel off.

31st – Rest day so pop to see Rudi for a pre-Watford Half marathon sports massage. He attacks my legs in his usual manner and I try not to cry, knowing I’ll be floating out later.

Total monthly mileage – 177.8m, with only 6 miles missed. Overall positive, pace is coming back, the intervals (when I set them up properly) are working. I’m reminded that if you can’t handle the training load in January then you’re going to be stuffed as the load builds later.

Training like a proper runner! The Start

Sponsored Athlete

As I mentioned in a previous post I was lucky enough to be one of two runners picked for a local competition to be a sponsored athlete with coaching by Clean Coach Katie, sports massage by Rudi at The Treatment Lab, and a gait analysis and trainers by Dionne at Up & Running Milton Keynes. I know Katie from local races, Rudi managed to fix my knee for Chicago when I could barely walk three weeks before, and Dionne hosted the book launch party at the old store (now moved to fancy new premises over the road).

Target Race

dont-break-the-chainI’m targeting London Marathon having defied the odds and got in on a ballot entry. Again. I’ve typically run 20 marathons a year so ignore the traditional 1, maybe 2 a year approach with dedicated training schedules. The closest I’ve come to following a plan was marathon 2 and 3 back in 2012 when I trained for London and Milton Keynes on subsequent weekends so still not your standard approach to training or recovery.

Why?

Having my two fastest marathons off the back of ultra training almost as accidental PBs I’m keen to actually focus on a race and see what I can do. My three fastest marathons at 3h13, 3h14 and 3h15 have all been at small, low key events with barely 50 competitors and aid stations where you stop at a table and peruse your choices rather than having stuff handed to you like a large event. The 3h14 marathon required an extra stop per lap to get a lap card punched. Not ideal for shaving off precious seconds, and neither were the 40-50 miles in the previous week.

Where I am now

Whilst I’ve enjoyed a good 2 year run where anything slower than a 3h30 was a disappointment to me, my most recent attempts have been in the 3h45 to 4h window. The ridiculous Lakeland 100 took far more out of me than any previous ultra I’ve done. The terrain plus the sheer duration (36hrs) lead to cankles and foot issues, robbing me of speed. It got so bad I actually went to a sports rehabilitation for the first time in 8 years of running as I was so broken before Chicago I was checking cut off times (6.5hrs in case you were wondering).

Target 

I’ve always entered races with at least a couple of targets. When undertaking the Grand Union Canal Race, I had goals of 36 and 38 hours for the 145 mile route. The weather was brutal (actually brutal, the hottest bank holiday in the UK ever) and the route came up long at 153 miles. I covered 145 miles in 36 hours but still a long way off the finish, and the second goal kept me focused to complete the event in 38 hours dead. Without that I probably would have walked it in closer to 40 hours. With this in mind I have a few targets –

  • Gold – secure a Good For Age for London. The cut off is 3h05 but based on 2020 entries would need to be around 3h02m20s to get me in. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
  • Silver – secure a Boston Qualifier. Currently a softer target than London at 3h10 but places filled at 3h08m21s for 2020. Also ouch.
  • Bronze – go sub 3h10 to break the mental barrier. I’ve struggled mentally to crack each significant time when chipping away at a PB. Breaking 3h45 and 3h30 both took a lot of failed attempts but once done became easier.
  • Pewter – a new PB, breaking 3h14m47s.
  • Tin (hey I’m running out of metals) – Sub 3h30. I want to do all the majors eventually and get the certificate. I’ve yet to do a time at London I’d be happy to have on a certificate, I was injured for Chicago and still managed a 3h24.

The Training Schedule 

This is put together by Katie, and only released a month at a time to avoid scaring me. It’s printed out on the wall and I’m crossing off each day like a new runner again!

As I’m targeting London my schedule starts in January so I could enjoy Christmas. The other athlete Anastasia, who’s targeting Manchester marathon started in December as the event is earlier. Less mince pies, shame!

The main difference from my usual running is these things called rest days. I’ve never intentionally done a run streak (run every day for a set periods, sometimes months, sometimes years or even decades) but don’t take rest days often. In the 6 month run up to the Lakeland 100 I probably only took 10 days rest in total. So now I have one day a week as imposed rest, and a few days recommended at the start of the plan to recover from a busy year and the very odd Headtorch marathon on 27th December.

The schedule is based around other commitments like taking the boy to football on a Saturday so has long runs on a Sunday.

  • Monday – Easy Run
  • Tuesday – Speed Session
  • Wednesday – Brickhills morning run and Core Classes
  • Thursday – Speed Session
  • Friday – REST!
  • Saturday – Parkrun – 5 -6 miles
  • Sunday – Long Run

For January it’s a slow build, with the Watford Half Marathon on 2nd Feb as first event. I don’t do HM much and this one will be a new event for me and a good way to judge where I am. I’m told it’s also got some cheeky hills.

a6a3a008-e96e-4b65-aea8-88cd092db526Core Work

Included in the package are core classes once a week where I get to show everyone that I have the flexibility of an oak tree. They’re fun in a ‘why doesn’t my leg bend like everyone else’s?’ way. Given I’ve had my first injury this year I’m conscious that this is something I’ve neglected for too long. I stretched once a few years ago I think. Wasn’t keen.

 

img_4673Sports Massage  

Before Christmas I popped to the Treatment Lab for Rudi to assess how wonderfully agile I’m not. The whole process takes an hour including assessment and attention to areas needing work. The upshot of his manipulations is he’s diagnosed stiffness in my hips, and the right in particular needs some work, as shown by the dodgy knee on that side. I came out the treatment feeling like a coiled spring so it must work.

He also sent through exercises to do at home which I’ve surprised myself by actually doing, even getting the family to join in.

Running Assessment

The Up & Running store in Milton Keynes has fancy motion capture cameras on a treadmill to provide motion metrix gait analysis. It’s not even comparable to the stores where a member of staff tries to asses how you run from a 20 metre jog around the clothing rails. This detailed analysis provides excellent data to evaluate your running style, measure efficiency and crucially allows comparison between different trainers.

I took along my Adidas Boost (I’ve got umpteen pairs of these and struggle to remember the model names, I think these were Supernova), and also my impulse buy Nike Zoom Fly FK with the carbon fibre plate. The shock result was that I ran less economically in the Nike, exactly the opposite of what they should have been. Overall I was a ‘constant glider’, or basically an old man shuffler as expected.

img_4679Dionne then tried me in three more shoes, and eventually settled on a Hoka Rincon which was a surprise. I’ve got a couple of pairs for trails (when I finally got over the daft colours and unusual looks) and not considered for road use before but they just felt so right and moved me towards ‘quick stepper’ like an ultra runner or female marathon runner according to the system. If that’s Paula Radcliffe then I’ll take that.

The Hoka gave an efficiency of 3.15 Joules/kg/m compared to 3.26 for the Adidas, with a natty graph of efficiency like when you buy a new boiler. I moved up to B from C. I still wouldn’t buy me with the current price of gas.

Time to start

So that’s it. I’ve got the shoes and plan, with regular sports injury treatment and checks to keep me in line. All I need to do now is train.

3rd 1st Annual Headtorchruns Marathon

Marathons are pretty simple things. Run a measured 26.2 miles along a well-marked course, go as fast as you think you can sustain, wave at the crowds and finish with triumph under an inflatable arch accompanied by a band or a DJ playing that latest hippity hop music (see I’m down with the kids).

cowThe 3rd 1st Annual Headtorchruns Marathon is exactly not like that. Run a dark and mysterious route with some run guides, re-group at times to ensure nobody has been eaten by vicious night cows, and if lucky you’ll pass a few drunks on the way home from the pub who might cheer you on. It’s ridiculously pointless fun.

If you’ve only ever run London Marathon you’d struggle to get your head around this. No marching band at the end, but there is beer and food. Plus it’s all for charity so you’d be a bit of a knob not to take part really. In an odd twist on entrance process, you pay £35 to sign up, and if you turn up on the day you can get £30 back and just pay the £5. If you don’t like funding charities that is. 😊

If you’d like to help fund an excellent cause then please visit http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/markthornberry

giraffe_10
An actual Giraffe

A few people had recommended the event from last year and it seemed a good if perverse way to squeeze one last marathon in before the end of the year. The entry list started to fill up and it was a who’s who of running idiots I’d met over the trails (at least one of whom continually disappoints by not looking like his giraffe photo on Twitter).

I managed to rope in two mates to join me. Stephen was finishing off a monster year of marathons including 7 in 7 days, and Gary will agree to most events if there is beer present so was up for only his second marathon as he normally runs ultra for which he’s cultivated the obligatory beard. So late on a Saturday afternoon we bundled into Stephens car and headed down via McDonalds. Being responsible passengers Gary and I waited a while before opening the beers to ready ourselves for the event.

The start is at Mickleham Village Hall and has the usual pre-ultra odour of skanky trail shoes and waterproofs that haven’t quite dried out from the last race. It smells like home.

Registration was manned by Lou who plied with me with beer to finish the GUCR145 when she was crewing Phil who is also somewhere in the hall with his wife Suzie, counting down the days until his Brexit unicorn whilst I’m mourning the loss of a 4 day Socialist/Marxist week.

The infamous Karen is manning the raffle table. She’s perfected the art of mocking runners over many Enigma events and is now in high demand from Race Directors who need experts to cajole and taunt people to the finish. She’s also the gatekeeper to your £30 entrance refund. Coincidentally nobody is brave enough to ask. Her better half Matt is manning the kitchen and taking delivery of the various party items dropped off by runners. I bump into fellow Do-Badder Dimi as well who’s sporting the new Bad Boy Running Club vest which looks surprisingly professional.

After the safety briefing we’re off outside and mingling about ready to start. The various guides are pointed out, including Spencer “it’s not a giraffe it’s a goat”, Ally and the main man Allan who takes the lead. It’s an odd experience to set off on a ‘race’ that isn’t one. The jostling for position is more to avoid falling over stuff than gain places.

The route as it gradually unfurls is predominantly off road and a mixture of fields, footpaths and chalky slippy stuff. The recurring theme is mud. A wet couple of months have churned up most of the UK. Having spent a 10 mile run on Boxing day failing to keep up with Stephen (my dog got bored of watching my sliding and wandered off) in my Hoka trail shoes I’ve gone for something with grip and added cheat sticks. I’m using one as it keeps the other hand free to eat or carry my cider. Priorities.

We start with around 80 runners and we spread and regroup at times. Often stopping at landmarks we can’t recognise on a field we can’t name in a location we couldn’t find again if our lives depended on it. Which it might if the guides did a runner and we needed to call emergency services to bring more beer.

The steady pace leads to the random conversations you normally get on ultras, and the regrouping mixes people up further. Topics vary from podcasts, races, family, films and eventually onto the hardship faced by those who grew up before broadband and had to rely on Eurotrash once a week for a chance of titillation. At times there’s almost too many people to chat to and I miss saying hi to Simon, the founder of the Band of Runners Podcast (a new discovery to me and I’m slowly catching up) and also the Sussex trail eventsteam.

We stop at a gate to climb a hill. It had a name. Mostly it seems to be cow shit hill based on the terrain. Looking up at the imposing hill in the dark, there’s a chorus of groans as we power hike up. The wind is stronger at the top and for the first time in the run I feel a little cool. Despite being late December it’s surprisingly warm and thankfully dry.

When we regroup later Stephen is looking a little worse for wear. After a marathon on Christmas day and runs every day since he’s probably due a rest and decides to drop out at the halfway aid station along with a few others including Stuart, who I met along with Helen way back at CW50 a couple of years back. We sip down mulled wine and eat mince pies (a proper aid station!) as they set off for the short run back. Later we bump into Helen again and debate how long is polite to leave it before ribbing our mates for dropping out early. The consensus is at least a few hours. Harsh.

For anyone used to road marathons or faster trail events, the pace can be unsettling. We’ve been on the go for over three hours and only covered a little over a half marathon. It’s final stages of a 100 miler pace, in the dark. To be dropped into this without the preceding 75 miles of decline from fresh faced runner to haggard and broken embarrassment to the species is a new experience and a reminder of my love/hate relationship with ultras, and my yes/no dilemma to next years Lakeland 100 race.

One runner is accompanied by her dog who receives relentless fuss at each stop. I’m feeling guilty I left my hound at home as the pace would likely make this a good marathon for her.

There’s a long sequence of steps that never ends and to which my stiff knee objects (a memento from this years Lakeland 100) and I’m relying on the sticks more than I’d like to. At the top we surprise a couple of lads out for a quiet evening admiring the view and getting stoned as fuck. The fug of smoke is enough to envelope all 70 remaining runners. It’s impressive that after toking sufficient pot to achieve this that they can still stand. They wander off, and it’s unclear whether they considered us a joint hallucination or not.

After one final hill at Satan’s Staircase we round the corner into the hall and descend on the food as only a herd of runners can. It’s taking over 7 hours as promised, so excellent value for money on £/hr.

Time to relax, check your mates have got back safely and wait for the raffle. The prizes are properly amazing, and I win a grand total of nothing. This doesn’t detract from a great event, and one I’d recommend if you can get your head around a night time mystery tour of the hills, and like talking rubbish to other runners who have an odd sense of fun.  I’ve clocked over 4000ft of climbing, an impressive amount in a marathon.

Tim to head back to Milton Keynes and a few hours kip before ice skating with the boy.

Meat Dodging Week 8 – two months down!

Up until starting this endeavour I would have expected fatal consequences for avoiding meat for 2 months. There just aren’t enough vegetable I eat to avoid certain death. Whilst I’m still limited, it is slowly growing and the general diet is improving (which says a lot about how poor it was before).

What’s becoming most evident is how badly I plan food and how often work means I miss meals. Still a fatty so a fair amount of snacking I must be doing subconsciously.

img_4607Monday – Granola breakfast then off to site for supervision of some crane lifts. Apple and banana on route. Missed lunch vans (again), so back home for carbonara dinner (sans meat for me) with some salad. A short 3 miler with dog in evening.

 

Tuesday – Started with a 10k with dog before a day of conference calls working from home. Cereal breakfast and scrambled egg on toast for lunch.

A poor attempt at the 640 paced run where I struggled but was better than the previous week, managed 4 miles at a not awful pace. Can’t even remember dinner. Expect I had something.

Wednesday – 9 mile run 5am, where I had the best run since Lakeland 100 broke me. Then straight to Somerset, so egg McMuffin and hash brown on route. Fruit for lunch and then headed home – I’d planned to nip out for lunch for failed due to site works. Due to family emergency the wife had to dash out and leave kids with Nana. Sat in gridlocked traffic I ordered them pizza for dinner whilst I licked the car windows for sustenance. Many many hours got home to a cold slice of pizza and bed.  Why is Somerset so far?

img_4616Thursday – Granola breakfast, fruit for snacks and meetings all day so missed lunch van multiple times. Just stared out the window at it and cried. Back home and decided in honour of a recently passed family member we should go to her favourite restaurant so off to Bella Italia. A new menu since I last went and it was excellent, went for veggie pizza with stuffed crust and baked cookie dessert. Didn’t manage to run today but pizza made up for it.

img_4618Friday – Another early start to get to Somerset so again an egg McMuffin on route. I’d been prepared with a tomato, spinach and feta pasta salad lunch but work went so badly I mostly ate Quality Street for comfort. Traffic was poor so once finally home around 8pm I tucked into the pasta salad. Pretty arse start to Xmas, and no running. Rare for me to have two days off.

 

Saturday – Failed to get up for the 6:30 club run so did parkrun with Bella. The puddles were so deep at one point that Bella had to swim. Back for breakfast of soda bread toast and peanut butter. Lunch of cheese sandwich. In an attempt to line stomach before drinking I tried a Quorn chicken tikka masala. Pretty good. Washed down with copious beers and some bad dancing.

Sunday –  Too hungover for the 6:45am run with mates, so slept in. As an Xmas treat we were booked into breakfast with Santa at Harvester. Vegan sausages, scrambled eggs and hash brown with beans. All pretty good but both the meat and veggie sausages were a bit dry, presume from the flame grilled technique used.

Once the breakfast had settler I took doggie out for a 10k to Willen lake. Much of the route was flooded but we ran anyway as she loves a paddle.

For dinner the wife made a hidden veggie sauce for meatballs and spaghetti, with very good Linda McCartney meatballs for me.

Next week is Christmas so will see how it goes dodging Turkey and pigs in blankets.

2019 – The year in running

It’s the end of 2019 so as is traditional we all look back and realise the fleeting nature of time and cry at lost opportunity and receding hairlines. Then I make sarcastic lists as it’s the easiest form of humour.

January – Surprisingly Cold

It was cold, lots of people ran and posted about how cold it was. My dog agreed and asked to be dropped off halfway through a morning run as she couldn’t feel her fingers. I pointed out she didn’t have any. She countered that she couldn’t talk either so I was probably suffering hypothermia induced delusions. It was a fair point. Mostly I ran lots as training for an ultra and got into an unhealthy competition with a local runner on a Garmin challenge and managed 360 miles. Mostly January is pretty dull. And cold. Did I mention it gets cold in the winter? Revelation.

transgrancanaria2019-19898February – Still cold

Very little happened. I pissed off to Gran Canaria to get sunburnt running up mountains on the Transgrancanaria. It was even hillier than Milton Keynes if that is conceivable. I concluded that not only am I rubbish at running up mountains, I don’t actually like running at mountains which was awkward with the Lakeland 100 coming up later in the year. I did manage to pair up with some Irish runners and figured the finish photo may help me get an EU passport.

March – Bland

Brexit happened and we left the EU on 29th March just as May promised. It all went great, we had 40 trade deals ready to go and the British empire regained control of the world. Then Farage awoke from his wet dream and realised it was all an embarrassing mistake as we’d delayed it but it was almost certain not to be delayed again.

rc2879920rfl20drawstring20bag20-20square_0Weather was actually pretty good and there were no major race cancellations this year so generically dull. People ran Bath and Reading HMs and got the miles in the bag. Still not sure what bag you put miles in. Hopefully a recycled hemp one, more likely one of those drawstring bags you get from races that I love but which my wife has a deep seated loathing for.

Asics picked their latest set of Frontrunners. I was overlooked based on being a miserable bugger and as inspiring and photogenic as cat sick. My hashtag game was also weak #howdothesework #inmydaythissymboldenotednumbers #anyonefornoughtsandcrosses

cactusoneApril

A dog ran the MDS.

He didn’t need a personal trainer or sessions in a heat chamber just lots of pats on the head and to be told he’s a good boy. Cactus has yet to write his 24 page blog on the race detailing how he cut the tags off his top to save 0.0001g of weight and precious weeks weighing food to see if Almonds or Macadamia nuts packed more calories per gram (can dogs even eat nuts?). He did get a medal which saved him the £4.5k entry fee. Good boy. Cynical people noted MDS was down on numbers from previous years and a cute dog running it would guarantee some media coverage and encourage more entries.

Manchester marathon held a marathon length marathon, with no obvious baggage or transport disasters. This brings their mighty string of unbroken success to a whole 3 years and about a 50% success rate so they celebrated by releasing early bird specials for the following year. With booking fee on top these were just under £50. A whole year early. Bargain. Entrants were further enticed to join by promise of a new route through the city. Many hope this might also be marathon length marathon.

img_2469Nike launched the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% running shoe, the sequel to 4%. They were allowed to be worn by the elites at London as were available in shops prior to race day. About two shops, and a couple of days before the race. Nice gaming of the rules. Retailing at £250 it was literally minutes before a pair were up for sale at the bargain price of £1100 on FB groups.

A man dressed as Big Ben runs London and has to be helped under the finish gantry in a symbol of the goodwill of London. Later in a pub the real London shows it’s form and the costume is nicked.

The March Brexit was so good we left again on April 12th. Even more potential was unleashed.

London Marathon scores a bit of an own goal by having pacers for 7h30 to be inclusive and then closing the course ahead of them. Runners in 58667520-470569157014105-3296871365184847872-n-1557084528the pack are denied aid stations, sprayed with blasts from the crews pressure washing the blue line off the route and eventually forced to complete on the pavement. Unfortunately for them the pacer documents the whole debacle and posts over social media. They’ve seemingly dealt with it well and anyone affected will be back for 2020.

Also in media issues, and the issue with influencers, one posts a photo of herself after the arduous London marathon on a drip. No not in a medical tent or hospital but sat at home the day after having been given a freebie by The IV Doc as “more and runningdripmore athletes are having this, It includes fluids, vitamin B12 and multivitamins”. No, more and more athletes are not having this. As a professional life coach and motivational speaker you need to act responsibly. I’ve edited out the name as it’s a rant more about influencers and their negotiable values than a single individual. When this one was roundly criticised for promoting unnecessary medical procedures (at circa £150 a pop) when a big drink and some food would be better she handles it poorly, accusing people of being bullies.

Also at London, Jessica Anderson an actual real life, life-saving nurse runs an amazing time in her scrubs to raise funds for charity. Having approached Guinness world records in advance she confirmed on Instagram approximately a month out from the event that they “have declined my application as my uniform doesn’t meet their criteria of what a nurses uniform should be but I will still be aiming to beat the current official record time of 3hrs 8 minutes 54 seconds”. She runs an impressive 3h08m22s, faster than the record.

That could have been the end of it but Social Media explodes with indignation and eventually Guinness World Records agrees and awards her the record. Are the costume rules used by GWR outdated and in the case of the nurse outfit bordering on something you’d find in Anne Summers? Yes (the school boy record requires a school cap, tie, shirt and satchel last time I looked which whilst hopefully not sexy is equally outdated). Did they state in advance the outfit didn’t meet the rules? Yes. Should GWR change the requirements for future years or set up a new ‘modern/contemporary nurse’ category? Yes. Is it right that they caved to social media pressure and retrospectively awarded it when they normally require stringent checks and officiating for a record to stand? Opinion is divided on that.

If a bloke ran in trousers and polo shirt in an unsanctioned attempt and retrospectively tried to claim the record for fastest school boy would there have been such an outpouring of anger at GWR having outdated Dickensian outfit requirements and infantilising of children? Probably not. In the unlikely event there was a social media storm and the blokes attempt took the record from someone who was burdened with satchel, shirt, tie and hat, would that have been fair on the previous holder? Probably not. Would a new category of ‘Fastest school boy (modern)’ be more fair to all concerned?

May – Nothing exciting

London marathon announce a record year of ballot applications with 457,861 applying for 17,500 ballot spots or about a 3% chance of success. Still better odds than the lottery.

June – MK runner wins an ultra

2cc7c056-0f56-4aac-b25c-411d784cbcc5It’s the first year of the MK24 endurance event and I bash out 104 miles and a surprise win at an ultra. Just call me Kílian Jornet and don’t focus on the small field or that my aid box was mostly beer and cider.

July – MK runner nearly gives up on life

img_3333-2Notable only for me, but I ran the Lakeland 100 ultra. It took forever. Half the entrants wisely went home. I knackered my feet and I hallucinated frogs. I vowed to never run again. I finished and adjusted that to never run ultras again. I’ve signed up for next year. I’m an idiot. Send help.

 

August – London Marathon Good For Age places are released

This being the first year with sufficient warning of the new qualification standard there is a rush of applicants. Due to the number of applications exceeding the 6,000 places available, the qualifying times within each age category were reduced evenly by 2 minutes and 40 seconds for men and 4 minutes and 15 seconds for women. For men it now makes London harder to qualify than Boston. For women Boston is still the harder.

Men Qualifying standard Qualifying times accepted
Age 18-39 sub 3:00 sub 2:57:20
Age 40-44 sub 3:05 sub 3:02:20
Age 45-49 sub 3:10 sub 3:07:20
Age 50-54 sub 3:15 sub 3:12:20
Age 55-59 sub 3:20 sub 3:17:20
Age 60-64 sub 3:45 sub 3:42:20
Age 65-69 sub 4:00 sub 3:57:20
Age 70-74 sub 5:00 sub 4:57:20
Age 75-79 sub 5:15 sub 5:12:20
Age 80+ sub 5:30 sub 5:27:20
Women Qualifying standard Qualifying times accepted
Age 18-39 sub 3:45 sub 3:40:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:50 sub 3:45:45
Age 45-49 sub 3:53 sub 3:48:45
Age 50-54 sub 4:00 sub 3:55:45
Age 55-59 sub 4:05 sub 4:00:45
Age 60-64 sub 4:30 sub 4:25:45
Age 65-69 sub 5:00 sub 4:55:45
Age 70-74 sub 6:00 sub 5:55:45
Age 75-79 sub 6:20 sub 6:15:45
Age 80+ sub 6:40 sub 6:35:45

September 

img_3761

Short Races

An annual highlight for many runners is the opportunity to take part in the Great North Run and the chance to pay just £58 for a half marathon. For anyone feeling flush for cash they can pay around £27 on top for an amazing 5k event the day before.

Critics might argue that in the days of parkrun, what justification is there to price gouge the public for the same length race? Well Great Run answered that criticism by ensuring everyone got a PB when they knocked 300m off the distance. Yes another big price event that can’t even get the basics right. It joins Manchester (nearly) marathon and Brighton (not) Half Marathon, the later of which was 146 metres (0.09 miles) short for THREE years. I confidently predict it will be at least November until a repeat of short courses.

Running in a furnace, and doping

The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships was held in Doha. This was based on their perfect climate for running at a chilly 39°c in the day and a positively arctic 29°c at night. They had to air condition THE ENTIRE STADIUM TO 25°c FOR FUCKS SAKE!

Even better is the easy transport links and strong local support for athletics leading to capacity crowds of 100, sometime 120 people. The mixed 4x400m relays was a new event for 2019 and had the honour of having more people taking part than spectating. Some lefty liberal snowflakes suggested holding events in the desert in Summer in countries that have little interest in the sport is stupid. Some couldn’t hear the complaints over the sound of their money.

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CREDIT: REX

Highlights were the mens 100m final where Christian Coleman (under a cloud for failing on three occasions in 12 months to let officials know his whereabouts for drugs tests but avoiding punishment on a technicality) beat teammate Gatlin, a convicted doper. It’s the sort of clean sport image that inspires children (if they’ve been kicked in the head by a horse).

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If this photo was bigger the sheer beauty of the course would make your eyes bleed (CREDIT: REX)

Of course one of the reasons to host a prestigious sporting event is the amazing coverage of the scenic country on a worldwide platform. The marathon is ideal for this being a longer event, outside of the stadium. Doha took full advantage of this by staging the event at midnight and running backwards and forwards along a dual carriageway giving everyone ample opportunity to soak up the views of some kerbs and a couple of pasting tables.

In the women’s event of 68 starters only 40 finished as the rest were overcome with excitement at the sheer beauty of the course and needed to be taken off in golf carts.  Some runners were embarrassed at being so easily distracted by the aesthetic perfection of the tarmac and unbelievably tried to blame the weather. “The humidity kills you,” said Volha Mazuronak, of Belarus, who finished fifth. “There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish.” Have the courage of your convictions Volha. The perfectly lined up safety railings were too much weren’t they? I had similar issues at the Sistine Chapel.

More doping

In a shock announcement, completely out of the blue, Alberto Salazar, the American Coach was banned for four years for “orchestrating and facilitating prohibited doping conduct” after Usada concluded its investigation into the Nike Oregon Project. Countless athletes who had previously been coached by Salazar all appeared mystified and confirmed that if any doping had been occurring it was definitely the other athletes, not them, and their own massive jump in performance since being under his guidance was due to hard work only. Coincidences seemed to pop up everywhere. The announcement came during Doha so was discussed during the event on the BBC where pundit Paula Radcliffe failed to disclose her slight conflict of interest having been a Nike sponsored athlete, and married to Gary Lough, the current coach of Mo Farah who was previously under Salazar between 2011 and 2017 during his most successful period of his racing career.

October – World Records (and some not) fall

109205494_split_times_graphicAfter getting so close to the barrier before, Eliud Kipchoge has a second stab at the sub2hr marathon and manages to break it in 1h59m40s. He consistently knocked out 14 minute 5ks. Have a go at your next parkrun. It’s around 2m50s per km. I can confidently say you’ll either win it outright or die trying.

The staged event was not a valid world record due to many technicalities such as pacers, and using a car with laser beams which looked pretty cool to be honest. Anything is cool with laser beams, even putting up shelves.

Nike also provided Kipchoge eliud-kipchoge-ha-corso-la-maratona-a-vienna-in-meno-di-2-ore-foto-apwith a new model of the Vaporfly trainers – called AlphaFLY. The latest in a long line of performance enhancing shoes that have been worn by athletes running the five fastest marathons in history which then renewed controversy on whether the whole line of shoes should be allowed in competitions.

I used my 50% voucher from the lovely guys at Fitness Rewards life insurance to get some Nike Zoom Fly FK with the carbon fibre plate and then injured myself before being able to even wear them. I did limp around the Chicago Marathon in 3h24, 9 minutes quicker than the previous weekend in Bournemouth so they may potentially work although probably the benefit is best realised by racing snakes than tubby project managers having a midlife crisis.

Also at Chicago marathon, aside from me nearly getting a PB for most drunk during a race, the other notable performance was Kenyan runner Brigid Kosgei breaking the women’s world record set by Paula Radcliffe 16 years previously to cross the line in 2h14m04s (1m21s improvement is pretty steep). Having run the event I can confirm temperature was pretty much perfect, on a fast course, but with some blustery winds at times making such a big jump impressive for a record many considered unbeatable.

London Marathon Rejections

Being October, the annual London Marathon ballot results came out and as usual social media was awash with people who were ‘relieved as I never wanted to get in anyway’ or angry that they’d been denied again and proposed alternative ballot systems heavily weighted in their own interest. Personally I think allocation alphabetically by surname would be simplest although I was lucky enough to get in for the 2020 race so I’m quite happy with the current system, thanks for asking.

united-states-long-distance-runner-camille-herron-reacts-news-photo-1572197726Taco & Beer God of Ultras

Just before the month ended, the legendary beer swilling, taco eating ultra runner Camille Herron won the women’s race at the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hour World Championship and set a world-best performance of 167.842 miles in the 24 hours.

Finally, to complete the set, the UK did a third Brexit on October 31st delivering on new PM Boris Johnson’s assurance that it would happen “come what may”, “do or die,” “no ifs or buts”. Some suggest that leaving the EU could become a monthly event or at least seasonal.

November

More short courses. Leeds Abbey Dash 2019 was found “to be short by 23 metres. This is approximately 4 seconds for athletes on a time of 29 minutes for 10k.” and any times recorded at the event will not be recognised by UKA and Power of Ten.

florenenceFlorence (Firenze) Marathon had good and bad. Jess Piasecki (née Coulson) became the third fastest female in British marathon history after winning in 2:25:29. This follows follows Charlotte Purdue’s 2:25:38 in London, and Steph Twell’s 2:26:40 in Frankfurt.

All looked good for the first 42 athletes over the line in Firenze. Sadly it was later announced everyone else had run a short course “Firenze Marathon would like to communicate that due to a gas leak at km 40 along the race route of today’s marathon, in order participants’ safety, in agreement with local police and firefighters it was necessary to make a slight change to the route. Exactly 600 meters were ‘cut’ near Via Lungarno Vespucci

I got my annual ‘Dear John’ from Berlin Marathon ballot. So signed up for NYC instead. That’ll show them. And by them I mean my Visa company as the travel package is ruinous and I’ve only got enough in book sales to buy the in-flight peanuts.

Just when Nike thought it might go a month between PR disasters, former athlete Mary Cain told the New York Times  she was “emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike”. She claimed that Salazar (him again) pushed her to get down to 8st 2lb (about the same weight as my left calf). As a result she stopped menstruating, broke five bones, started self-harming and had suicidal thoughts. I’m no coach but I’m pretty sure these aren’t the outcomes of a well rounded and athlete-focused system. The video on Youtube is a real eye opener and details ritual public humiliation the like of which Brits have only ever seen in US fraternity hazing videos.

December

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A non-man winning something, mustn’t encourage this. (Photo: Getty Images)

As usual the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award overlooks athletics and anyone without the important man junk in their pants that makes their achievements worthwhile.

The amazing Dina Asher-Smith gets a consolation third place despite being the first British woman in history to win a global gold medal in a sprint event, with her 21.88s 200m at Doha and also won a silver medal in the 100m, and again in the 4 x 100m relay. Only three medals in a year eh? Clearly not enough.

gettyimages-1142567378
 Just off on my private jet, but stay away from single use plastics guys! (Photo: Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton finishes second for driving a car really fast all year, against limited opposition, and virtue signalling about being vegan and saving the planet despite DRIVING A CAR REALLY FAST ALL YEAR. In his defence sometimes he leaves the car at home and takes a jet.

Outside the podium was Katarina Johnson-Thompson who ‘only’ got two golds in the Heptathlon, one at the World Championships and one in the indoor champs. If she’d done it using a car or better still, as a man she’d probably have made second place. Besides if SPOTY started recognising female athletes it might inspire future generations and lead to actual change which is never popular. Women will want the vote next and ask to join the gold club. Where would it all end? I saw a woman wearing trousers the other day. Brazenly.

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A British woman being the best in the world. Best overlook this as well. (Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

 

 

Meat Dodging Week 7 – Xmas beers

Another week of trying to stay meat free. It’s also peak Christmas party week so keeping honest with three heavy(ish) nights is a challenge.

Work and life commitments meant mileage is well down again but pint consumption is high enough for someone to arrange an intervention.

Monday –
3 mile run with dog before work. Kept it gentle.
Then dash over to Northampton for site works. Lack of prep (again) means skipped breakfast. I did manage to plan lunch better though and had cheese mayo rolls, apple and banana with some nuts.

Back home and have some leftover falafel pesto pasta I made up and froze previously then head out for a meeting.

I was lucky enough to be one of two runners picked for a local competition to be a sponsored athlete with coaching by Clean Coach Katie, sports massage by Rudi at The Treatment Lab, and a gait analysis and trainers by Dionne at Up & Running Milton Keynes. I know Katie from local races, Rudi managed to fix my knee for Chicago when I could barely walk three weeks before, and Dionne hosted the book launch party at the old Up & Running store (now moved to fancy new premises over the road) so I’m not as nervous as I would normally be. I also met the other athlete Anastasia, who’s targeting Manchester marathon so has a training plan starting immediately. As I’m running London I have a few weeks grace before mine starts so can concentrate on taste testing mince pies and festive food.

Once back home I was peckish so went peanut butter on wholemeal bagel.

Tuesday – 
Granola breakfast and coffee.
img_4563Grab a banana and chocolate croissant on way to site. I’d planned to pop to the café next door for lunch but after a lot of site issues we don’t have time. I survive on mince pies until home time. Just about. Before going out for 6m40s paced run session I’m fully rungry so make a cheese sandwich which I regret for the entire run. It’s blowing a gale, I can feel the sandwich in my stomach and my pace sucks. 4 very slow miles. The post run photo is everyone else looking for me….

img_4565Being Christmas it’s the first of the festivities so the run group meet at the pub for dinner and drinks. The Ship Ashore in Willen has a gas issue it transpires, can’t cook much, and of the half dozen options left on the menu they can do, it’s only the veggie burger that’s suitable. It’s good though and washed down with beer whilst we chat rubbish.


Wednesday –
After failing to get out of bed last week I drag myself for the 9 mile run at 5am. It’s cold and dark. Builders have left a digger blocking the way and we have to clamber around and through bushes but I manage a respectable overall pace then hit the road for a long drive to Stoke and back (just by Alton Towers but sadly no time for a quick go on Nemesis).

I stop on route and can only fine McDonalds so go for the Egg McMuffin with cheese and large coffee.
The journey back is plagued with traffic, accidents and I end up at two service stations to make conference calls. I give in to the smell at one and buy some chips for lunch as the noodle place has no veggie option.
Still with the noodles in my head, once home I knock up beef and veggie noodles for the kids, and a tofu version for me. Stir Fry is a pretty easy way of switching in and out the meat and hiding some veggies.

a6a3a008-e96e-4b65-aea8-88cd092db526Then wife and I pop to the Core Class put on by Clean Coach Katie. My first go and I manage to not die or get thrown out but I’m again reminded how inflexible I am. One exercise starts laying on your back with legs in the air at 90 degrees. You then attempt to reach as far up your straight legs as you can, ideally touching your toes. I can’t even get my legs to go straight up. There isn’t enough ligament for that to happen so I resort to bent legs and rubbing my knees like a dirty old man.

 

Thursday – 
3 miles with dog before work then grab the train to Manchester for work conference. Just time for a takeaway omelette on way.

The venue was a hotel in city centre so I expected lunch to go well. I was wrong. Everything had meat. Even the potato salad had bacon. FFS. So I had to beg the waitress for some bread and demolished the cheese board with some limp lettuce salad and grapes. Pretty poor show for a large hotel catering to conferences.

Dinner was a team meal out and a novel take on Christmas dinner, done as a fondue, so a tray of stuff to dip into a burning pot of gravy. Meat for the murderers whilst us social outcasts were down one end with veg sausages, spuds, cauliflower, waffle, other nameless veg, stuffing, chickpea balls. Really tasty and evidence you don’t need meat if the chef actually has a clue. Dessert is same but with fruit and chocolate sauce.

We then went out for a few beers. Ended up at 4am in Burger King which was a test of my resolve as drunk Mark is even more partial to meat than sober Mark. Managed to stick to onion rings and chips as everything else was meat.

Friday – 
img_4585Woke up a little jaded so missed a morning run. Wolfed down a breakfast from hotel and ran for train. The speed of breakfast was made easier by lack of choice. No veggie sausages or much for the meat dodgers so basically beans and a fried egg. If you were Vegan you’d just have beans and disappointment. Beginning to think the hotel manager has something against vegetarians. 
A little delicate for lunch so a medicinal bag of salty crisps and then a mushroom and veggie stroganoff for dinner made by the wife with beef or tofu options.

Saturday –

9 mile run in woods. Was really enjoying it until Chris went past and advised us to pick our feet up on the downhill and go for it. I was just about to remind him I have a recent history of falling over in the woods when I fell over in the woods. Hard. I’m told the noise I made was very loud as I found the one section of the whole 9 miles that wasn’t inches deep in mud.  I scraped hands and legs pretty badly but soldiered on. Later attempts to wind up Chris with staged photos were met with limited enthusiasm. Spoilsport.

After the run I dashed straight to boys footie so just a rain soaked cereal bar breakfast.
I was holding off for a slap up lunch, and we went to the local Black Horse Pub with my mum. With a crisis of indecision I continued my exhaustive survey of veggie burgers of the world then brownie for dessert.
The evening was the Lakeside Runners Xmas do, with a big buffet at the Brewhouse & Kitchen. My third night of liver abuse in a week. My comedy arm sling did elicit some brief sympathy but slowed down my drinking. The buffet was decent but unlabelled so I worked my way down and annoyed people by insisting they eat a sample from each dish to check for meat, like some taste tester to royalty. After exhaustive checks I confirmed the beer had no meant in it either but figured have many more pints to make sure.

Sunday – 
img_4601Oddly enough a little too jaded for the morning run so instead spent it decorating cake with the daughter for cousins birthday party. Didn’t come out too bad considering I’m an engineer, didn’t know what I was doing and was attempting to make a bear into a panda.


Quick fried egg buttie for breakfast then out to the party to help decorate and then eat all the veggie sandwiches, veg sticks, chips and dip. I had what I thought was houmous dip at one point but was likely taramasalata so accidentally ate my first fish in 7 weeks. Apparently being colour blind is a bit of a hindrance when developing a self-imposed eating issue.

Meat Dodging Week 6

6th week of being a vegetarian. Still a little wiped out from last weeks bug. Combination of hectic work and home life means usual lack of planning on food.

Monday – 4am start for Somerset, no way was I making breakfast before. Egg McMuffin breakfast with hash brown. Cheese roll, nuts and apple for lunch (did manage to pack a lunch for once). Manage a 10k with dog in evening but lacking in energy after a 16 hour day. For late dinner we try vegetable curry with cauliflower rice, made in the slow cooker. Cauliflower rice is one of the most pointless things created. Would rather eat packaging foam. The curry is OK but missing something, not necessarily meat as I like veg curry, but just not quite there. 

Tuesday – Early start train to London. Missed connections mean a hasty stop for food, vegetable samosa from an authentic local shop and some fruit. Too busy for lunch so grab a vegan sausage roll on way back. Go to the club paced session. Start with the 7:30min/mile paced session and feel good so gradually push and manage four progressive miles, a big improvement on last week when I got slower every mile. Dinner is freezer surprise so cheese melt with bread. Another example of being too busy to plan properly.

Wednesday – Wake up in time for the 5am run. Feel knackered from a poor sleep and go back to bed. I’ve done this run for about 4 years and rarely miss it. Lazy bastard. Full day of meetings planned so sit on my arse, and achieve a massive 2000 steps all day showing just how inactive my work can be. Toast, apple, banana breakfast. Lunch of humus, nuts, raisins and cheese sandwich.  Manage to squeeze in a 5k with dog in the dark and fog after the boys footie practice. Pace is pathetic after such an inactive day. Something for dinner I can’t even remember.

Thursday – Morning 10k with dog as not going to make club run. Neither she nor I have much interest in pace so it’s gentle and scenic. Way too much cool stuff to sniff and investigate. Working from home so mostly teleconferences and spreadsheets. Cereal breakfast, a late lunch of omelette. Usual busy Thursday evening dropping daughter to Guides, then wife to Christmas party, then back for Guides. Skip dinner, miss club run on taxi duty, early night in bed.

Friday – Fail to run all day. Granola breakfast, cheese sandwich with apple for lunch. A manic day with work and then a low life smashing the wife’s car window whilst parked up at her work makes it busier with repair and dropping to garage hassle so it’s straight out to the local micro-brewery organising a social run. Gentle 5 miler before a few beers. Gary and I get pizzas from across the road to soak up the beer. I go for the vegetable Vesuvius, laden with vegetables and enough chilli to make me cry. It’s even got pineapple on. Normally I’d suggest pineapple on pizza only a few notches below bestiality in terms of wrongness but it’s not bad.

Saturday –  Home baked cinnamon rolls for breakfast. No footie for boy today so a rare full family breakfast and this was their choice. Nip out to parkrun with dog. A relatively slow paced run and my 165th parkrun. My 100th was 4 years to the day so it’s going to be a while before I get to 250. Lunch of meat free sausage butty with fried egg (bacon for kids). Dinner of potato pakora, pesto pasta with not enough vegetables.

Sunday – Sloth kicks in again and I missed the morning run. Cereal breakfast, then off to watch the boy in his first rugby match. Great performance and making the most of his size! Lunch of falafel and lettuce roll. An afternoon of DIY at the in-laws then macaroni cheese and salad for dinner. Yeah pasta for dinner two nights running, and no running today. Total weekend mileage of 4. Made all the worse as seemingly every runner I know is running the MK Winter Half this day, often with PBs, or chalking up some marathons. I’ve managed to fit some decorative moulding around a kitchen. On the positive side I’m taking a rare rest and recovery period from running.

-—

Next week looks to be equally busy with travel and an Xmas party so expect majority of calories will be beer based and miles will be few. On the plus side I have my first meeting with Clean Coach Katie for start of my marathon training plan for London.

Meat Dodging Week 5 – bleurgh

After some hectic work weeks this was the week I planned to get organised. Then the bug the kids had the previous week hit and goal was to finish the day without wearing my stomach contents.

Monday – porridge breakfast after a 5k with dog. Vegan sausage roll for lunch as only thing on food van I could stomach. Dinner I felt a bit off and stick to toast.

img_4395Tuesday – morning 5k with dog. Omelette breakfast with apple. Fun packed day on train, tube and tram through London and back. Manage to get lunch at 4 and inhale a cheese salad sandwich. Dinner of pasta salad with spinach, pesto, tomato and feta. Maybe the bug was a one day wonder? I feel OK. Do the club run and attempt a 7 min mile before 4 at 6:40 pace. Fail miserably. Not a one day wonder bug after all.

Wednesday – wake up for the 5am 9 miler. Throat feels like I’ve been gargling a cactus. Go back to bed. Breakfast granola, and a 10k gently with dog. Can’t face lunch much so cheese sandwich and apple. Dinner I push around the plate and can’t eat.

Thursday – morning 5k with dog and an egg sandwich from cafe on way to site. Doesn’t sit well. Can’t face lunch. Can’t face dinner. Manage some toast. Yep the kids bug has got me. Miss the club run and in bed by 7pm.

Friday – Still feel rough so skip the Friday dog jog. Long day on train to Liverpool and back. Toast for breakfast as all I can face. Pasta salad for lunch as learnt for Tuesday it sits OK. Manage a short dog run once back. For dinner I make some vegan sausage toad in the hole with vegetables. Kids love it and I manage to eat some of it before going to bed early whilst wife is at Xmas party. This bug sucks.

img_4441Saturday – Manage parkrun then a cold footie match with boy. Fallafel, houmous and salsa bagel whilst shopping is the most substantial food I’ve kept down all week. Dinner we raid the freezer for food, so spring rolls, cheese sticks, veg sticks. It’s small finger food and seems ok.

Sunday – manage 10 mile run and longest of the week. Wife has made cottage cheese, blueberry and protein pancakes for my return. Cheese sandwich lunch and I rustle up a roast chicken dinner with spuds and veg for family and mum (minus the chicken for me).img_4453

The upside of all off missed food I will likely have lost some timber. Nope.

A week of barely eating, feeling like I want to vomit, and managed to gain weight. Amazing…..

Meat Dodging Week 4 – a minor slip

Sunday –

img_4298Awoke in Marrakesh to find breakfast waiting on the balcony again. I could get used to this. Set yogurts, fruit, OJ and a sort of potato pancake. Then scrambled eggs to follow.

Took a bus tour to the ancient olive groves (bus tour is rubbish, just get a cab) and sipped on freshly squeezed OJ.

Then headed to the main market which was like something out of a film. Monkeys on chains (sadly), snake charmers, fruit sellers, dodgy handbags, local handicrafts and beggars everywhere. Kept expecting Indiana Jones or 007 to run through in pursuit of a villain.

We haggled a bit and drank some freshly pressed pomegranate juice and bought a massive bag of nuts to munch on.

img_4277The main cafes in this area are on the roofs of the shops up narrow staircases and easily missed. We stopped at one of the few that had meat free options and I had falafel and an abundance of veg, pickles and stuff I could barely recognise and what should have been a salad but was more like cous cous with veg mixed in.

For dinner we picked the cabaret show at the Buddha Bar. Same owners as the London venue, with dancers and oriental food. I picked vegetable dim sum to start, decent enough and proved that with enough soy sauce you have no idea what’s in a dumpling or gyoza.

Main course was tricky. Nothing on menu appealed and language barrier made getting anything special request a push. In the end I went for prawn noodles and let the wife eat the prawns. Her beef in black bean looked good and I grudgingly tried a few bites when she couldn’t finish it. My first meat in three weeks. 😱 It tasted fine but didn’t make me want to transgress further. I’ve sort of gone off meat which is not something I thought I’d ever say. Be like admitting to going off breathing. Also realising that most meals are about the spices, sauces and seasoning so whether that’s stuck on a bit of meat of a bit of veg makes little difference. Except asparagus. That can still fuck off.

No running today, but maybe 8 mile of walking.

Monday –

Hotel breakfast again with scrambled egg.

moroccan-lamb-tagine-2-500x484After a wander around the palace we popped to the market for lunch options. Again most were very meat based, or vegetable couscous again. Wary of a further Satan’s testicle I gave into the easy option and ordered olive pizza whilst wife tucked into a lamb tagine. Definitely finding meat free options are a bit carb heavy without forward planning. I may turn into a potato of pizza base.

cf3b6579-b084-4e11-b322-dc88d6c82ae7We spend the afternoon at a roof top bar drinking beer in the shade and thinking how much better than a normal Monday this was.

Back at the airport for the flight home, veggie options again were poor so went for cheese roll. It worked out better value to get with chips, to add carbs to the carbs….

No running but about 7 miles of walking.

Tuesday –

Back home and it’s cold. 5k with dog before leaving for a site meeting in Glastonbury (the town not the festival sadly). Traffic poor so just a cereal bar I found in the boot for breakfast.

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Gave in on way home to a late lunch. Nothing in M&S, Greggs is closed. Went to McDonalds for the veggie burger, feeling a failure as I ordered but beyond the point of hunger where you can make sensible choices. It was either that or eat a passing chaffinch.

4 mile tempo run with the Redway Runners. 4 miles at just under 7min/mile pace but hard work. Got back intending not to eat dinner to make up for poor lunch but was kids leftover Mac’N’cheese that looked too good and I inhaled it.

Wednesday –

Working from home due to a poorly son. 9 mile run in the pre-dawn morning and gradually getting some half decent pace back.

Breakfast granola with yoghurt.

Lunch was a Quorn chicken slice sandwich. Tasted much like chicken to be honest. The dog liked it too.

Dinner of spinach, tomato and feta pasta salad

Thursday –

Morning 5k with dog. She jumped up and bit through the poo bags I had on the lead to use. Then did a massive poo. Whilst I attempted to clear it with a shredded bag she rolled in fox poo. So now we’re both stuck by the river with excrement on us. Great. Dogs are really awesome and not the least bit annoying. I nearly drowned her.

Breakfast granola, and then a dentist visit 

Lunch of Quorn chicken sandwich again, and then accidentally inhaled a packed of Percy Pig sweets I found in cupboard. Not the best balanced diet.

img_4351Made the kids a quick noodle dinner before dropping at Guides. Joined the Lakeside Runners for a 10 mile run. Started slowly then after some dropped off at 3 miles to take a route back I spent next 7 hanging onto Chris at a pace that was a bit more effort than it should be.

Back home the wife and I had vegetable gratin.  Like a fishcake but veg in place of the fish. Tasted ok with some sauce.

Friday –

Morning 10k in woods with the dogs. Apple & banana breakfast. Lunch of cheese and onion sandwich and banana. Dinner was toasted cheese balls and arancini rice balls with beer. Double cheese was not intentional.

Saturday –

img_4364Should have been up early for footie dad duties but boy was poorly so stayed in bed. Nipped out for parkrun with dog with peanut butter bagel on route. Lunch of scrambled eggs. Dinner was Quorn chicken with extra protein noodles made by wife, hunger pangs later on so had crisp snack in front of telly under excuse of carb loading for the next day race.

Sunday –

haretortMarathon day. Normally would have McD breakfast before a marathon. First two as a veggie I skipped this and suffered from lack of energy (and a hangover I admit) so called in and had Egg McMuffin, hash brown and coffee.

Marathon went OK for first 5 mile lap (apart from mud so thick I couldn’t stay up). Lap 2 I changed shoes and ran well, catching those that had passed me during wardrobe change. Lap 3 was OK but started to flag with heavy legs. Fuelling with coke, water, Jaffa cakes, banana and mars bar sections. Final two laps were hard work, unsure how much the mud was a factor.

Managed 3h54. Last year I narrowly missed 3h30. Still it’s marathon 138ish done and dusted and I think my 97th sub4hr.

For dinner we had a full Sunday roast. I ignored the beef and had parsnips, peas, cheese cauliflower, sage and onion stuffing, Yorkshire pudding and roast spuds. Didn’t really mind ignoring the meat. Post run hunger kicked in an hour later and cheese and biscuits were called for.

So that is 4 weeks of trying to be a veggie, with one transgression whilst abroad.  That’s likely more days than I’ve been meat free cumulatively the last decade or more.

Things I’ve learnt – 

  • The range of veg I eat is limited but grows each week. Desperation will do this. I expect cannibals start the same way. Run out of cows and eat the neighbour’s pet. When they complain eat them too.
  • Most veggies aren’t that bad. But seriously some have no reason to exist and are an affront to big bang/Darwinism/god etc.
  • It’s hard travelling with work and being rubbish at planning meals and prepping ahead.
  • I like stuff in carbs. Breaded stuff. Sandwich. Stuff in pasty. I don’t much care what the stuff is so meat substitutes have featured fairly heavily. Most taste as good as the real thing.
  • Veggie options are all too often just pasta or pizza. Even more carbs than even I want.
  • Sauces, pickles, spices, flavourings all help hide the vegetables. 
  • A veggie diet does seem to be helping me lose weight (was down to 82kg before the excesses of holiday).
  • My running is definitely on a lull currently. I’ve covered over 3000 miles this year, and some hard ultras so how much is tiredness, how much is diet is hard to judge. 

 

 

Meat Dodging Week 3

Monday –

Early morning 5k with dog then a long drive to Bridgewater. Awful traffic so no time for breakie and make do with banana and apple in car. Late lunch on way home of Greggs Vegan sausage roll to try it out again (had one about a year ago when first introduced). Tastes pretty good with coffee and juice. Dinner I knock up pulled BBQ chicken for kids and try some of the Vivera Plant Shawarma Kebab ‘meat’. Once cooked up with some tomatoes and peppers and served with garlic mayo it tastes the same as donna kebab. This is good or bad depending on whether you like donna kebab.

Tuesday –

Early morning 5k with dog then full day training course at work after toast breakfast. Didn’t pack a lunch as it’s catered according to our dietary requirements. Which I filled in four weeks ago when I ate meat. So I became one of those veggies that assures everyone it’s fine, and that they don’t feel left out as they tuck into their emergency noodles kept in the car for days stuck on site. Training drags a little and after two bananas I give in to the biscuits. Lots and lot of biscuits.

Back home and I decide to risk a speed session for first time since knee played up in September. 6m40s pace session is a little too fruity so stick to 7m30 pace and feel good, averaging around 7min pace for 4 mile loop. Follow this with a second run as other club are doing an Oregon session. Sadly this doesn’t involve EPO, steroids or other drugs, just intervals of running between squats, lunges, spotty dogs (no idea either) and planks. It’s all designed to improve core and hopeful they’ll aid my knee strength as well.

For dinner the wife rustles up mozzarella and tomato pizza, followed by yoghurt and nuts.

Check the scales before bed and at 82kg it’s the lightest I’ve been in months, probably since summer.

 Wednesday –

9 mile 5am run. I’ve run most weeks for last 4 years and recently have had a prolonged bad spell. Today I feel better and manage quickest average pace since Lakeland 100 in July and for once not hanging off the back of the pack the entire way. Granola breakfast once back with fruit yoghurt.

Catered lunch again, this time with veggie stuff so cheese and tomato, egg and cress sandwiches and a bowl of salad. All stuff I wouldn’t previously bother with.

Dinner was veggie sausages in bagel with cheese and a change to compare real and fake sausages. Similar protein, lower calories, taste about the same. Daughter prefers the veggie option.

Thursday –

img_42005k soggy doggy jog. Scrambled egg on toast for breakfast then a long train ride to Liverpool and back. Waiting for a late train I shelter from cold in Wetherspoons and have (yet another) veggie burger. Not too bad. Big lunch so dinner is cheese and crackers. Planned evening run missed as packing for weekend away.

Friday –

6 mile dog run in woods. Skipped breakfast as didn’t have time between conference calls and getting ready for flight.

img_4207At the airport on way to Marrakesh for the wife’s birthday we checked a few restaurants but was a little underwhelmed by veggie options. Eventually popped into a restaurant for mac’n’cheese with tomato and pesto – scrumptious!

Grabbed a cheese roll on plane and then into the waiting taxi to the riad.

We’d looked at a lot of hotels for this trip and eventually settled on an authentic riad, a small hotel set around a courtyard with pool in the middle. Stepping inside instantly deadened the hustle and bustle of the city.

The staff served up chicken tagine for wife and vegetable cous cous for me, with a lot of side dishes and a lemon tart for dessert.

Not sure what had the veg I ate were, but willingly ate the carrot for first time ever. I tried something I hoped was spud, thought might be parsnips (also like) but sadly was Satan’s boiled testicle. Some vegetables can do one.

Saturday –

Awoke after along sleep to find breakfast waiting on the balcony. Set yogurts, fruit, OJ and a sort of potato pancake. Then plain omelette to follow.

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We walked out and through the local food market where live chickens awaited their fate in cages and the fish was so fresh it was almost odourless. Also some turtles and tortoises that I presume were more for pets than food. Not sure either is great news. The market was certainly an eye opener.

After a haman (spa) experience where we were beaten and rubbed to within an inch of our lives we popped to a restaurant recommended by a friend for the best pizza outside of Italy. It was pretty good and I had pepper and onion topping whilst looking out over the famous mosque.

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After some shopping we popped back to the riad and were surprised by the chef bringing us some vegetable spring rolls (or Moroccan equivalent) to accompany the beer, along with some mixed nuts and dried fruit.

We went with the hotel recommendation of a local French restaurant for dinner. The steak was to die for (says the wife). Of the few veggie options I went for aubergine starter (first go at this, not too bad) and Gorgonzola pasta which was disappointingly devoid of any side salad or veg with it. Having written the meal off nutritionally we shared a melting chocolate fondant dessert.

No running but about 7 miles of walking.

3rd week of veggie done.

Not really missing the meat but finding veggie options a little tricky especially in a foreign country.