Thursday 27 February 2014



It's almost time...

Gotta play it carefully with a minimum of 23 hours training planned (up to a maximum of 29) in the week and I've been averaging 4 hours for the last few months.  But it's going to be so good that all I need to do is; swim, eat, ride, eat, sleep, lounge, nap and a little bit of running and lots of showers.  All week.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Low carb recipe: quiche


Ground Almonds-50g
Table Salt-½ Tsp
Coconut Flour-50g
Almond or Hazelnut Butter                                 -25g
Coconut Oil-25g
Medium Eggs-5 Eggs
Double Cream-300ml
Whole Milk-50ml
Cheddar or Gruyere Cheese-140g
Streaky Bacon-100g/4 rashers
Closed Cup Mushrooms-125g


1. Preheat oven to 135C (fan oven - 125C non-fan).
2. Combine ground almonds, coconut flour and salt in a dry mixing bowl.
3. Melt the coconut oil gently (don't get it hot otherwise you'll prematurely cook the egg white in a minute) stir with the almond butter and add to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
4. Separate 1 egg. Add the egg white to the dry ingredients bowl and make sure it's mixed in well.
5. Spread this mix over the base of a lightly greased/oiled flan or shallow cake tin and press down with the back of a metal spoon until firm.  If you have baking beans to bake blind, use them. If not, your crust will be crumbly, which is fine.
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for roughly 45 minutes, but start checking at 30 minutes. When the mix is the same even slightly darker colour, across the entire base remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely somewhere dry.

7. While the base is cooling... turn up the oven to 160C (fan oven - 180C non-fan), cook up the chopped bacon with the thickly sliced mushrooms and asparagus in a frying pan in the butter.  Do not let the asparagus get soft at all.

8. Beat the other eggs, the remaining yolk, cream and milk together then add the cheese (grated) and plenty of seasoning.
9. Stir in half the bacon and asparagus, and carefully pour the mixture onto the baked base then scatter over the remaining bacon and asparagus.
10. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the filling is set, starting to turn golden and slightly puffed up above the case.
11. Allow to cool a little before removing from the tin.
12. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a green or tomato salad.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)615.5
Protein (g)21.6
Carbohydrate (g)4.6
Fat (g)55.9
Fibre (g)4.8
Fruit & Veg0.5

Sunday 16 February 2014

Slowly slowly...

I've done a whole 3 training sessions this week; a cadence bike session, a short tempo run and a longer, harder turbo session (plus a 3 hour running technique workshop, but there wasn't a lot of running in total in that, lots of theory and drills but not a lot of actual running).  This is part of getting myself slowly back to fixed body and gently ramping up the intensity again.  The endurance hasn't really dropped off, but it's the strength, particularly on the bike, that I can't rush at the moment.

There's 2 weeks to Spring Camp and that's going to be quite tough this time; remembering back to last year there's a lot of cycling and there are Hills.  It's going to have to be gentler than last time, though I'm  quite looking forward to the discipline of swimming every morning before breakfast before heading out for a ride.  And now I understand more about fuelling for heavy exercise every day on a LCHF diet so the last few days should be a bit more productive than last year.

After today's 90 minute sit-down on the turbo, I'm feeling like it's not a total loss for this year and maybe I might actually be in with a chance of being in a good place come 70.3 Mallorca as a kick-off race and then UK 70.3 won't be the horrific, miserable mess it was last year.  Hoorah for endorphins!

Tuesday 11 February 2014

On the 9th day...

8 days of (complete) rest.  No running, no cycling, no swimming, no weight training.  Just a good amount of walking (thanks tube strikes!).  And I'm feeling a lot better.  It's the 9th day since the race where I sorta broke my training cycle and I have almost no muscular aches now (just a little bit in my right glute).  I've slept, eaten lots (oddly lost a little weight), and tried not to get wound up about the lack of training.  There's plenty of time before UK 70.3 - 18 weeks to go, which means 16 weekends of cycling up (and down) hills, plus a spring training camp in 3 weeks time, a little sharpener race in Mallorca in 13 weeks and a couple of little sprints in between to help with the excitement and race practice.  This is fine.

I'm ready to start ramping things up now.

Friday 7 February 2014

We learn best by making mistakes - never be afraid to fail; be terrified.

Sprint finish I lost at Pilgrim Challenge after 33ish miles

I’ve read a lot about training and recovery and fatigue and overtraining and having not really ever trained or raced hard I’d not actually come near really feeling tired or the effects of being tired.  And I mean *properly* tired, not just a bit sleepy but deep, crushing tired.  And the tired that is related to significant physical damage to muscles that will take months to repair.  I hadn’t experienced it until now.

I was, for want of a better term, utterly thick and I completely under-estimated the run last Sunday.  Having rocked up and mashed around some longish races over the last few months, I got blasé about it and thought 33 miles at an easy pace would be something my body could absorb and get back to hard training in a week.  I got a glimpse of the wrongness during the run, when I felt sleepy for none of the usual reasons and then when I found it mentally very difficult not to simply pull out when I really should have done (around CP2 or 3 if I’m honest).  I mentioned to @abradypus that I was thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to carry on, but convinced myself that it’d be weak and feeble to DNF so soldiered on and finished (without coming last of even the people who only did Day 2 like we did).

In hindsight, this is probably the biggest mistake I’ve made since I took up sport with any intent in 2010.

My legs are mush.  Literally mush:
If the training session or race caused muscle stiffness, it can be assumed that there was muscle damage with elevated levels of creatine-kinase activity in the blood.  Creatine kinase is an enzyme that usually occurs within the muscle cell - when it is measured in the blood, it means that the muscle-cell membrane is damaged and the enzyme has leaked out of the muscle cell into the blood.  After an ultramarathon, muscle pain subsides only after about seven days, whereas creatine-kinase activity in the blood reduces after five days (Burgess and Lambert 2008).  Muscle function and neuromuscular coordination takes weeks to recover fully after an ultra marathon (Chambers et al. 1998), whereas muscle fibers may take months to regenerate completely (Warhol et al. 1985).
The disturbing point about gauging long-term recovery is that pain is not a good guide of the state of repair of the muscle.  It stands to reason that subjecting the muscles to hard training sessions before they have fully recovered is not desirable.  For these reasons, adequate recovery after training and racing is important for optimal adaptation.”*

(* -

That would be fine if I’d just done the one, but having battered in a second with only 20 days in between, I’ve significantly compounded the problem by doing something really quite strenuous and extended when the recovery from the first race was only part-way through.  Not only am I back to square one with recovery, but it’s going to take longer and I have to be very careful to balance the mental stress of not doing intense training sessions (as they would not only not have the desired training effect, but they would actively impede the recovery process) and panicking that I’m “never” going to be able to perform as I’d like, vs actually helping the recovery happen.

If I was actually a runner and had been running lots of miles for many years, my body might have adapted better to recovering from this sort of event, but I’m not and I haven’t.  I’m an ex-obese, new to sport person who runs quite infrequently.

So. Priorities for now are sleep, keeping stress low, eating well, avoiding intense running (and cycling) sessions, walking a lot and actually starting to swim a bit.  And remembering that there is a limit and I just found it.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Race Report: Pilgrim Challenge (day 2)

A late, standby entry into day 2 of the Pilgrim Challenge was, for me, supposed to be a gentle little run to get to know a bit more about how crewing for @abradypus in May might look.  How we get on running together was a big topic for me; I simply don't run with others, apart from occasionally at parkrun when everyone's up for a bimble, so running with someone else intentionally for quite a few miles is alien to me and by goodness do I like my time running alone.

The course was reported to be a tad wet, so I fixed my new gaiters to my trail shoes in an attempt to keep the trees and rocks from jumping into my shoes with the mud and making me uncomfortable.  This was a great success and I'm a big fan of them already.

To keep things a bit short, the plan was to follow @abradypus' coach's instructions for the day - run at 100 mile pace until a good way through the race, then turn it up to 50 mile pace and enjoy passing people to the end.  This sounded like a great plan to me, but in the run up to the event I got more and more worried that as she is an actual running person and does actual running training and has been doing that very well and patiently for some time in the build-up to this, this might turn out to be a touch fast for me.  I utterly neglected to remember that it takes a while to recover from one of these events (more so than triathlons as running is simply harsher on the physical bits of your body) and there was only 3 weeks between Country to Capital and Pilgrim Challenge.  As it turns out, that was quite an error.

The course was 85% mud, 5% tarmac, 5% sand, 3% firm trail and 2% marshy grass.  Quite a bit more elevation than I'd seen on the GPX file I downloaded - 410m reported, but over 1km measured on the day.  Very very heavy going, and the mud was a different kind of mud from Country to Capital in that it was clay so quite sticky by comparison, but still quite slippery in places.  It was really hard work and about 30% of the way through, having eaten more than I did at Country to Capital, drunk a reasonable amount and not gone off particularly quickly, I started to feel sleepy.  That's often a bad sign; under-fuelling, under-hydrating, hypothermia... but none of those was the case.  I think I was simply just tired - real life is quite hefty at the moment with new job, house stuff etc. and not so great sleep, plus a significant endurance event in the last few weeks, tiredness is very likely the case.

The hardest thing was running at someone else's schedule in a tired condition.  This won't be a problem at the event I'm crewing at as I won't have done anything massive for weeks apart from normal training.  @abradypus was clearly running strongly and had plenty left in the tank, and at the 4th checkpoint we'd said she'd head off at her own preferred pace and I'd get on with it at mine (which would obviously be slower).  And that we did.  Oddly, at the 4th checkpoint I found a second wind and trotted off stronger and more perky than I had been - whether that was being near the end, or getting some salt in on the pretzel I had (I'd had only one electrolyte tablet throughout to that point and the snacks had no appreciable salt in them), I have no idea and don't really care now as it's not important.

Oops - routing error!
Near the end of the route, there was a sign that in my fatigued state I originally read correctly, then lost faith, turned back up a hill and along the marked national trail instead until I came to a rather large flood.  Initially I started to wade through it, having got about 400m along that bit of path until I looked further ahead to see that there was no way a run would be routed through the flood which got deeper and carried on as far as I could see.  I waded back through the freezing water, back down the trail to the sign and found other runners.  I had been right in the first place.  Hey ho.  I squelched off down the road, trotting enough to overtake a few very tired people for whom this was the last mile or so of a 66 mile, 2 day event.

The final turn was into a field, up a slope, along a hedge over some grass and down a slope to the finish.  I put in some effort and then heard someone coming up quickly behind me.  Race on!  I turned it up, only to hear they were still close behind, I ran hard and they were still there a few metres from the line so I sprinted and couldn't go any faster as they passed me in the final metre to take the place.  Gah!

I can't believe I sprinted at the end of 33 miles (which turned out to be further due to routing errors) and I can't believe I was able to in that condition!  And I can't believe someone else did too.

@abradypus had got in over 10 minutes earlier and was looking rather chipper as I faffed and ate some really nice cake.  I think it was a successful day all 'round - I was really pleased for @abradypus and how strongly she ran - and we all got what we needed to get from the event.  I'm not sure I'd choose to run that route again unless it was dry for a good while beforehand, but it was well-run and credit to the event team.