Sunday, 17 November 2019

21 days of Veganism


        It’s race day and day 21 of being a Vegan. I am nervous as always. How will I get on? I am running the Wimborne 10. I set a PB here in 2013 and haven’t beaten that time since. 66.59 for 10 miles. I have lost quite a bit of weight recently but haven’t really logged more than 20 miles a week! We’ll see how it goes. Anyway, the reason I am writing this article is because people have been messaging me about turning vegan or a vegan diet. Like I said, it’s only been 3 weeks for me but I can tell you a bit about what I’ve learned so far. 

I decided to try veganism after watching two documentaries which are both on Netflix. First of all the popular ‘Game changers’ and secondly ‘What Health’. I later watched a few others as well which told similar stories relating to milk and various cancers and other health issues. I won’t go into too much but it made me think and want to try a vegan plant based diet. So here’s what happened.
I don’t really remember putting that much planning or effort into it. Monday came around and I decided to quit the dairy products. Cheese was a massive part of my life and I lived on scrambled eggs thinking I was choosing a healthy option. Giving up the meat was easy as I was so focused on the harder part for me, giving up the dairy. I stood in shops staring at ingredients of foods for ages, partly due to poor eye sight and no glasses. Milk and Egg seem to be in so much stuff that I didn’t realise including most Quorn vegetarian products. I couldn’t believe that there is cow’s milk in tomato soup! 

Anyway, I started using Soya milk in my Tea and Coffee which is really nice although apparently oat milk is better for you. I didn’t like almond milk though. My main focus was on what to take to work to eat. It was mostly Tortilla wraps. I would have Hummus or peanut butter most days and add things like spinach, peppers, salads etc.. I love spinach now and a bag at £1 will last me nearly a week! Plant power really doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s only the junk or processed vegan foods that cost a bit but these can be a nice treat. Things like the sausages, fishless fingers, chocolates and vegan pizzas. Obviously there are so many fruits as well which I eat. Blueberries, bananas, coconut, kiwi fruit and oranges are some of my favourites. In the evenings I like to graze on a variety of nuts. I try not to eat too many salted ones but they do taste better. 

Meals I struggled with a bit at the start. This is only because I am not much of a cook and often studied packs in shops only to be disappointed with the bold letters of ‘MILK’ and ‘EGG’ on the packets. As time went on I started making my own things. Nothing too technical just basic things like. Pasta with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic etc.. Beans on toast is an easy option. Make sure your bread and margarine are vegan friendly though. Rice and salads. Sweetcorn. I recently discovered beetroot hummus which I thought sounded disgusting but I love it now as well as Yeast extracts similar to marmite. Anyway, I won’t go on too much about the food.
Basically, I am the lowest weight I’ve been since I quit smoking nearly 15 years ago. I have tried nearly every diet believe me! I lost 5 stone in 2010/2011 but I starved myself and then some weight came back and I tried juicing. That wasn’t sustainable though despite losing weight. I then read that Carbs were the bad thing and I was addicted to bread. I saw a professional talking about a similar thing I struggled with. We were both running 40 miles a week and still wouldn't lose any weight! This was due to our love of bread and carb intake apparently. I then tried cutting down on bread and red meat. It was okay but tricky at times with the weight still fluctuating. 

Within a week of trying veganism, the weight was falling off me and I was never feeling hungry! In fact, I felt fuller for longer and had a lots more energy. I wasn't needing my 20 minute naps in the afternoons and my brain felt more engaged and less tired. I feel about Eight and a half years younger. Maybe this is because my body is lighter but I feel so much more energised and focused. Concentration has always been a problem for me. My Catarrh is nowhere near as bad as it usually is. I usually have a build up of phlegm stuck in my airways and throat. I have eaten dairy products all my life. That is 45 years! What a difference this is making to my wellbeing. It’s hard not to preach it when you feel the benefits. It’s like I’ve been walking around in a cloud for years unware of the good I’m feelling. Happy and positive. Will it last or just a fad? Who knows? Just give it a try. It’s much easier than I expected. I am trying to stay more plant based but am starting to discover junk food that is vegan like ‘hobnobs’, ‘bourbons’ and various crisps. Dairy free yoghurts and milkshakes are a favourite too. 

I’m not even trying to lose weight now and it’s still happening. I’m sure it’ll stop soon though. I have purchased a couple of vegan cookbooks too which I am halfway through reading ‘Matt Pritchard’s Dirty Vegan’ and ‘So Vegan in 5’. These are simple recipes for people like me that don’t really do cooking but you kind of have to or you’ll end up on a crap vegan diet with little nutrients. That’s how people get ill on vegan diets. You need the plants.
Anyway, I think that’s enough preaching. Let’s see how I get on with my race. Time for some porridge with Chia seeds and soya milk. A couple of other documentries to check out are ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Vegan the film 2018’. Very thought provoking about sustainabilty, animal health and our environment. Have a great day.x

 P.S I ran a 10 mile PB of 66.44 that day. An average pace of 6.41 per mile. I am now on day 26 of Veganism and currently weigh in at 13 st 3. Still feeling good and the food options still feel limitless :)

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Conquest of Avalon 2019

I first heard of Albion running back in 2015 when I entered the first Ham & Lyme 50k race which runs from Ham hill to Lyme Regis. Dave the race director had also written a very good book about running and mental health called “Everything will work out in the long run”. I had entered another race of theirs a few years back but was unable to run due to injury. I was keen to get back to another ultra and another Albion event. Straight away my friend Carl was keen to enter the Conquest of Avalon with me. We dithered about the 50 miler and the 30 miler but sensibly chose the 30 miler. It starts from Castle Cary and finishes at Glastonbury. End to end races are the best for me as you really feel like you’re on a long journey. I find the out and backs a bit boring but can tolerate looped courses.

Anyway, my job was to sort out logistics, which I did but without too much logical thinking. Friday we would stay in a pub in Castle Cary called the George and Saturday we would stay in the George hotel in Glastonbury. Ah but wait! I was getting the train to Castle Cary from Southampton and Carl was driving from Cornwall to Castle Cary. We need to get our stuff to the finish line in Glastonbury. There was an option to get a bus back in the race but we declined on entry. So, we met at Castle Cary, booked into the pub and packed what we didn’t need and drove to Glastonbury. We found somewhere to park the van and had a few beers and got a taxi back to Castle Cary. In the morning we would pack a small bag for the race bus to take to the finish. Plus we had our running backpacks. We got there in the end. I’m so glad we did it this way around though as there isn’t too much going on in Castle Cary.

   We walked to the start of the race and took a few detours getting lost along the way. We picked up our race numbers and said hello to Dave. We waitied around for what seemed like forever, full of nervous energy and excitement. Dave gave a really funny speech about the race and threw in various random stories for our amusement while we waited for the hour to approach. And off we went. Out of the community centre, past a gate and left with a nice downhill road start.

Carl and I were going to run together but I knew my fitness was’nt really up with his at this point in time. I told him he could run on and run his own race but he said he was happy to just plod round and take in the views and expeirences.
We soon came off the road and ran up a path with hedgerows either side. It didn’t take too long until some of us weren’t too sure which way to go but we found some red and white tape on a gate and followed it. We were quite high up and the views of multiple fields were stunning with the mist rolling across and cattle grazing.

I wrote down a list of place names in case we got lost and they didn’t really help as there weren’t many landmarks. We got lost a bit and the other runners around us were helping with the gpx files given out that they had downloaded. I had it saved on Strava but wasn’t using it yet. Carl and myself met two other runners. We got chatting and ran together for a while. Pete was running slightly faster as was Carl, so I ended up running and chatting to a guy named Tim. We were slightly behind them but kept them in view. Carl and Pete waited for us at the first aid station in South Brewham where we were cheered in by spectators. We ate pizza and drank flat coke. It was then that Carl and I decided to run with our new running buddies as we were running similar paces. After the aid station Carl and Pete pushed on. 

We were road running quite a bit now and I really liked that. Quite a few people had worn trail shoes and wished they hadn’t. We ran through Bruton and not long afterwards the rain poured down upon us. I was getting cold but luckily packed a waterproof jacket. The rain was heavy now and we had followed another runner and now there were four of us who had run the wrong way. One of us found the right way by looking at the Strava map again. We soon met up with other runners who were now overtaking us. We ran through a field and a nice downhill with more great views of the countryside.

The rain had stopped and we were now getting warm in our coats, so we took them off again. We now had a few feilds where we had to roll under some electric fences. Not easy when you got some miles in your legs but very amusing to watch all the same as each person groaned. We could see other runners running different routes at this point too. We passed some more cattle and then a church and then not long afterwards we ran through a churchyard and were soon at the second aid station in Ditcheat. The support was brilliant again with lots of friendly marshals and other runners all laughing and joking. We ate and drank more, did some stretching and got going again.

*It’s been a while since we ran this race and I should have written sooner. Some of the details may be scrambled in order but I am trying to remember to the best of my ability.

We had got lost a few times but the strava map had helped us when we couldn’t find any red or white tape. This was a fantastic route though with lots of varied terrain and lots to see. I was really looking forward to Glastonbury Tor as I had never been there before. I was still running and chatting to Tim as Carl and Pete were now long gone. I had told Tim that I was going to have a pint of Cider in the Red lion in West Pennard which was our third and final aid station. We got there to more whoops and cheers. They were a very friendly bunch again and we had a good chat while we stretched again. Those legs were sure getting achy now as we had covered over 20 miles now. Sadly, the pub was closed and I had to go on without alcohol for a few more miles. 

We turned off the main road and Tim wanted to stretch again. We led in a field for a bit stretching various body parts. In the distance we could now see the top of Glastonbury Tor. This got me motivated to get there. It looked quite close but we got lost again and weren’t sure of the route as we stood on a farm. We asked a few people in a village and managed to get back on track. We had a big uphill climb on a road and then saw a women who told us we were going the right way. Not long afterwards we found the entrance to the Tor and began to run towards the steps. We walked the steps and admired the views around us as we ascended. What a view! You can see for miles. I’m glad it stopped raining and now we had wonderful clear views in all directions. We got to the top and took a few pics before the reward of running down the otherside.

It wasn’t long before we were heading into Glastonbury and down the main high street with various strangers cheering us on with music playing from some buskers. Out through the otherside of town and then into a field where we were cheered into the finish line. Carl and Pete were already there with their beers. Dave was there to congratulate us and give us our lovely medals. The sun was out now too. We were able to sit on the grass and drink a pint of beer and cheer the other runners in. What a great sense of achievement. 

Carl had finished an hour ahead of me! I knew he was a lot fitter. I really enjoyed the day though. May have to do the 50 miler next year ;) A couple of people I spoke to didn’t like the fact that some self navigation was involved. What did you expect for £35! This is a proper ultra set up by a runner for runners, not your £100 50k with big sponsers and big crowds where the proper sense of ultra running gets lost and commercialised. That’s just my view anyway :D 

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Saints way

My mate Carl has been wanting to do the Saint’s way for a while now. I was asked if I wanted to join him and I said yes, despite the lack of mileage in my legs. The Saint’s way goes from Padstow in Cornwall to Fowey, also in Cornwall. As I am a member of the LDWA (Long distance walkers association) I was able to download a map which tells me that it’s 27.4 miles long with over 3,000ft of elevation gain. I downloaded the map to my phone. The day before when we were staying at Carl’s parents in Liskeard, so I studied the map and took down some notes of places, landmarks etc.. This wasn’t always possible in some places as it was just lots of green land. I also wrote down the train and bus times in my little note book. I packed a rucksack with water, lucozade sport, cereal bars, a spare pair of socks, a clean t-shirt, vaseline for the chafing and some sun tan lotion. It looked like a nice day so I left the rain mac out. Brave decision!

We got up just before 6am and Carl’s mum made us Scrambled eggs on toast and Coffee. We then got a lift to Liskeard railway station for the 6.45 train to Bodmin parkway. At Bodmin parkway I realised that Google maps had lied to me. There wasn’t a bus to Padstow for over an hour. Bloody Cornish transport. We stood around for a bit debating what to do. We were still 18 or so miles away from Padstow. We decided to walk to Bodmin via Lanhydrock as Carl said the main road would be too dangerous. I didn’t realise it would be a 4 mile walk with some downhill running to Bodmin town centre. I thought that there would be more bus options from here, but not so. In the end we just jumped in a taxi and paid £30 to get to Padstow. £15 each. Time was getting on and we weren’t even at the start line yet!

We wondered around Padstow harbour for a bit looking for the official start of the Saint’s way. It was supposed to start in a church somewhere. We found it in the end. Even when we found St. Petroc’s church we ran the wrong way from it anyway. I only discovered this when I watched a video on youtube of someone else doing the walk. It didn’t matter though. We followed the directions I had written as there were no or very little signage to mark the route. We ran down Dennis road, onto Dennis lane and there we found our first stile going into woodland. There was a steep climb up but when you looked behind you could see above Padstow and the water. It was a great sight. We headed for an Obelisk. This monument on Dennis Hill was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee of 1887 and was erected in 1889.

We ran past the Obelisk after taking a few photos and came to a dead end. Again, no signs. We turned back and then came into contact with another lost person. She had come from Little Petherick and wanted to get to Padstow. We wanted to get to little Petherick so we exchanged route knowledge and said fairwell. Now we were in another big field on a hill. We went left in search of a river crossing but came to another dead end. We backtracked past some sheep and found a sign and a downward hollow through some trees. We got down to the creek of Little Petherick and found our little river crossing. We went through the woods again and crossed another river and then came out to the busy road of the A389.

Now was the weird bit. Instead of walking up the A389 (which was a busy road with no paths I guess) you had to turn left cross the creek and go back along the creek but on the otherside. Anyway, I think we took a public footpath too early on which sent us on a wild goose chase. We got lost for quite a few miles and it was getting a bit tiresome after a while. We were now on farmland and the sheep were freaking out. I thought they were trying to charge at us but Carl pointed out that they probably just wanted to get through the open field gate at which we were standing. We tried our best to find a road as we could see the church of St.Issey. 

We ended up walking knee deep in a maize field and back to where we started. In the end we just headed for the farmhouse and we found a gate to a road. This had made me very happy despite the extra mileage. We got to run on a country lane for the first time in a while. We had only covered 10k and my legs seemed to be tired already! At this point I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it to the end. I would push on though and in my mind wanted to finish at halfway. At least get the half marathon distance in there. Maybe finish at the pub in Lanivet?

We came to a junction and turned right. We figured that it would bring us closer to getting back on the Saints way. Back to the A389 and we cautiously run down some of it until we see a sign with Trenance on it. This was on my list of places in my notebook so we head there and Carl recognises the place. He has worked on so many roofs in Cornwall and often points them out on our runs around Cornwall no matter where we are. 

At the end of Trenance we carry on running up a track. There are no signs and after a while we stop running to gather our thoughts and get a sense of direction. We decide to continue into another field and then we find a sign at last. We go through a few corn fields. There are a few signs for a bit now and we then cross the A39. Not long after we climb up to St.Breock Downs. It is the highest point at 700ft on the Saints way. The views were great with the peace and the wind turbines rotating in the distance. The sheep grazing and lots of distant fields.

We got to run for quite a bit after this as there was a lot of downhill on quiet country lanes with tall trees in the distance. I tried to film some of this but forgot to charge my camera. After lots of Downhill we came into Withiel. I was tempted to look for a pub here but we past the church and carried on into a field. Another climb through a field with freshly cut grass. At some point we got to my most dreaded part of the journey… a field full of cows. I hate them and they hate me. Then to make matters worse, Carl pointed out a Bull and calves in the same field. Luckily the Bull was facing away from us and was busy grazing. I still had to tip toe around the other cows though. I couldn’t wait to get to that stile on the other side. 

We ran down a narrow gulley with freshly cut hedges and grass. I got bitten twice by a couple of horse flies. There were lots of insects here and hundreds of Meadow brown butterflies. Next we came to Tremore and then another crossing, this time the A30 which brought us to Lanivet. This was the best feeling. There was a shop and the pub. The Lanivet Inn. I had been rationing my water supply for some time and was very thirsty. I had been thinking about a pint of coke for the last 3 or so miles.

I got a pint of coke and a pint of Hicks. Carl got a pint of water and a pint of Hicks too. We had done just over 18 and a half miles. I was guessing that we would be on for a 50k outting today instead of that 27.4 miles. This was supposed to be a training run for our 30 mile race at the end of August. We sure were training 

I sat in the beer garden with my shoes, socks and t-shirt off. It looked like it might rain at some point earlier but now the sun was shining. We had another pint of Hicks. Very nice beer from St.Austell brewery. I nipped into the Spar shop and got some food to eat and then we got going again. Straight up a massive hill for ages. We then came to Helman tor. The tor isn’t on the route but you do pass it. We had done enough miles but thought that we’d better go to the top of the tor and have a look. Glad we did, it was stunning. I took so many photos too. It has an elevation of 686ft and is actually a nature reserve. We sure were doing some climbing.

We got to another church in the place named Lanlivery. We ran down for a while again and took a left into a field and upto another stone monument. We carried on through a few more fields and seemed to be lost again. We were trying to locate a place called Milltown. We headed towards Lostwithiel funnily enough and then found a Saints way sign. I wasn’t sure if we’d gone wrong on that bit or not. We were feeling so much better after the pub and rest though and were in much better spirits. 20 miles soon went by and it wouldn’t take too long until we got to the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

We headed down more hills and could see the river Fowey when we got close to the village of Golant. I thought this was actually Fowey or at least I thought we were close. We then saw a sign for 3 miles to Fowey. My heart sank a little but then I thought ‘less than a parkrun to go’. We were out of fluids again despite filling up at the pub. The sun wasn’t present a lot of the time but the humidity was sapping our energy. I was soaked and so were all of my clothes. There was a house being built with a couple of builders. Carl nicely asked if they had any water we could have. They laughed and said they’d just had a funny story about the water there. Anyway, we got our bottles filled with a little tap. 

It was a lovely run through the woods on narrow trail paths. Dodging and skipping over tree roots. A drop with the river Fowey on the left. Out of the woods and onto the road. I think there was another road adjacent to the main road but Carl was off and running well so I just followed. He probably just wanted to reach the destination now without any more hassles. I certainly did. We ran and took a quick pic at the Fowey road sign. Then another half a mile of so we were in the centre of Fowey connected with the river again. We had done it. 32 miles in total (not Inc. the 4 miles in Bodmin) and over 4,300ft of ascent. 

     We stopped and did some groaning for a bit and decided to walk for a bit more. We still had to work out where the bus stop was and the times. We still had to get a bus to Par and then a train back to Liskeard. I also had sereve nappy rash and my ass was in agony. You got to wonder why we do it. Legs felt okay though but the feet were suffering a bit. Carl went to the pub for another Hicks while I took my socks off and put my feet in the river to cool them down. I noticed a queue forming around me and then realised that I was at the point where the ferry came across from Polruan. I stood up awkwardly, changed my socks and t-shirt and joined Carl for pints of Hicks and some pork scratchings. We got more beer and waited for the bus via another pub, It was much easier getting back than getting to the start. 

     I looked at my Garmin and I had covered 39 miles that day. I was tired but very satisfied. There was a great sense of achievement and to think that I was so doubtful at 10k. Neither of us had trained for this and the following days it showed. My quads and IT bands were in agony for 3 days afterwards. A wonderful experience that I will remember until my dying day though. This is why we do it.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Bushy parkrun

I got up at 6am. This seemed like a great idea when we were drunk. I had 30 minutes to shower and drink coffee. Helen was picking me up at 6.30am. I packed my bag and made sure that I didn’t forget my barcode. Although tired, I was really looking forward to today. I was however worried about my ribs which were still on the mend. Today would be a slow parkrun at Bushy for me.

One drunken afternoon in a pub or was it night? Helen, Andy and myself agreed to go the home of parkrun for a couple of special occassions. It would be Andy’s 50th parkrun and my 50th different location. Helen had set up a facebook event and we got inviting but no-one was really that keen. A lot of people were away or had plans, plus the Giant’s head marathon and hill race was happening on the same Saturday morning.

Helen was very organised as usual. I didn’t have to do anything for a change. Nothing for me to think about. She knew the route and where to park when we got there. We even had a stop off at Fleet services for more coffee.
We drove into Bushy park and past the Princess Diana memorial fountain and then to the carpark next to the cafe. We were there by 8am. Even though we gave Helen a hard time about getting us there so early, this was a great idea as we had plenty of parking spaces to choose from. It was free parking too. We also barely had a queue for the toilets.
We had a lovely walk through the park. There were more Parakeets than pidgeons here, a few friendly rabbits and some squirrels scrambling up trees and across paths. So much green space and wildlife. This has to be the biggest park that I’ve ever been to (not including nationaln parks). We crossed a bridge and went through a gate and headed back towards the memorial statue. We crossed the road and were soon at the start. We made use of the toilets and then ran back to the car to drop off hoodies. It was getting warm now and the sun was out. It was going to be a lovely day.

  We had our ‘first timers briefing’ where we were told a bit about the history of parkrun here at Bushy and the first 13 runners who ran it. One of those runners was actually here and running today as well! We were right near the start on the parkrun and it has such a wide start line. There were just over 1400 runners here but it seemed so much less busier than Southampton parkrun because of all the space around us. We were all soon charging across the grass like warriors on a battlefield. Helen, Andy and I said that we were not racing today. It wasn’t long until Helen zoomed ahead though. I must admit I was getting a bit carried away with the crowd.

There was a gravel path to my right but I chose to stick to the grass with many other runners. It was like a little dual carriageway with the two alternative tracks. One gravel, the other grass. It was so nice just to be running again. It is a flat course and quite fast. Everything around us is green. Lots of grass and trees. We cross a couple of bridges and I go through my first mile in 7.19. I also go through my second mile in 7.19. I was pacing well but really feeling it now. I had been out for 5 weeks with the ribs. The sun was really beating down upon us now and I was sweating profusely. My eyes stinging. I managed to see some deer under the shade of some trees. They had the right idea! There was a long straight that seemed to be slightly downhill so I was enjoying this and then another bridge crossing next to a pond or lake. Depends on what size you think a lake or pond should be I guess.

I could see Helen ahead of me but there was no way I was going to catch her. Andy on the otherhand had stuck to his word and was just plodding around happily. A few people rushed past me near the finish line. I was happy to run my third mile in 7.06. A 5k time of 22.26 and a finish place of 230th. I was very happy with this.
Helen had run 7.00, 7.14, 7,08 with a 5k time of 22.11 and came 209th.
Lazy Andy had run 7.21, 7.49, 7.59 and a time of 23.59 and came 339th.

We headed back to the car and cafe where I got a bacon and egg roll while they had fruit and other healthy stuff. It was lovely to be running again and sat in the sun.
What a lovely day. Thank you so much Helen and Andy. 50 locations done and my 188th parkrun. Also thanks to Hamwic Harriers for wishing us good luck on a facebook post :)

The winning time was 14.46

Here are my 50 locations:

Netley Abbey
Southwick Country
Moors Valley
Mount Edgcumbe
Eden Project
Teignmouth Promenade
Tamar Trails
Llyn Llech Owain
Torbay Velopark
Portsmouth Lakeside
Woodhouse Moor
Exeter Riverside
Queen Elizabeth
Upton House
Dinton Pastures
Tamar Lakes
Longrun Meadows
Mountbatten School
Llanelli Coast
Burnham and Highbridge
Medina I.O.W