Friday 25 February 2022

Running book review

In it for the Long Run, by Damian Hall

I've been reading In it for the Long Run, by Damian Hall. Available here.

I was interested because it's more about why he completes in endurance events, like most of the books I've been reading. And less about how; the technical stuff is interesting and useful, but not always as riveting. 

Obviously what I do is several leagues below Damian's achievements. I haven't and will not be representing my country. But the thoughts that drive me to new challenges are the same. And better explains my future goals.

We do have a tenuous link; at school I ran cross country whenever I could. My reasons differed though. I didn't particularly like running, but I had a greater dislike for team sports. I was good at neither.

Damian talks about his obsession, or addiction to running. Focussing on it, at times, to the detriment of other commitments. To be as successful as he is, you need to be. I can be as focused and I'm not always comfortable with being that way.

He touches on weight issues, a coach he had early in his career insisted he keep shedding the kilos. It's certainly on my mind at times. Being light means fast up hills, but not eating enough also means a lack of energy, and endurance. And longer term health implications. I have it under control now, but only because I don't want to be slowed for any reason. I follow cycling and it's an issue that is just starting to be talked about.

I've previously written about food, or fueling whilst riding. I can now add another item to the list; custard. I haven't tried it; let me know if you do. Obviously I'll make a vegan version.

Everyone has heard of running marathons, even doing them many days in a row. Damian would run one before breakfast. Or as a commute to work. I have no comprehension how that must feel. The distances ridden and have planned elicit surprise and disbelief in family and friends. It's the same reaction Damian's book produces in me.

What marks it out as a great book is the humour and "matter of factness"; if that makes sense. The achievements attained and challenges overcome are incredible, but there is no boasting. Just insight into what drives him, and how he prepares.

Unfortunately it was such a good read, I finished it quickly. I took every opportunity to discover what he did next; to learn more.

If, like me, you think that running 26 miles is a long way; then you have to read this book. The human body is capable of covering amazing distances. What's even more incredible is that these are off road miles, many in the dark, and the middle of nowhere.

Sunday 20 February 2022

Not going out

When I started to write this storm Eunice was in full force across the UK. The trees in adjacent gardens were swaying considerably more than I thought they could endure. A few of their fences were down. I knew I wouldn't be out on the bike on Saturday unless it calmed down. That night's session would be in the garage on the trainer. I haven't been out after work since December. I tried to get out in the dark, but it was draining my motivation. It wasn't the cold or wet; I rode most of the previous winters. The reasons I didn't this time round were feeling rushed, and drivers.

Let me explain.

I finish work, cook and eat dinner, then go out. Which means I get back after eight. It's only a short time before we prepare for bedtime. As it gets colder and wetter the layers increase so it takes longer to get sorted. 

I use to go out before eating, but that's rush hour. Around here and I guess most places that means impatient drivers. It was getting too stressful, made worse by the dark. Later in the evening isn't much quieter.

It's also cheaper; running two bikes means a lot more maintenance. The stationary bike just wears out the rear tyre. I can swap it for the front to extend the time before a new one is needed.

I don't know if I'll be riding outside after work when the light returns to the evenings. It doesn't feel worth it. I don't have the hills, but there are no downhill bits either. I'm sure the constant resistance is keeping my fitness levels up. It feels like I'm constantly climbing a gradient. 

And did I mention impatient drivers?

Saturday morning was bright, clear and completely calm, but cold. I could have gone out; instead I went shopping and tackled some jobs around the house. Spending an hour in the garage seemed a good compromise. I did it again in the afternoon as the rain lashed down and the wind roared once more.

On Sunday the wind was back, but much more subdued than Friday. It was therefore safe to head for Westerham, and a coffee with Matt. In fact I overdressed and was boiling hot on arrival, and because the journey home was into a headwind I arrived back at the garage soaked in sweat.

Tuesday 15 February 2022

How many calories will I need?

profile of route

Thinking about how much food I'll need for the solstice ride, (sponsorship link). Most estimates say up to 500 an hour. So the maths is 16 multiplied by 500, equals 8000. It seems a bit high; I don't think I can eat that much. 

Looking at the profile above - read left to right - the toughest parts are in the last third; although it's never particularly flat. I'll be on my own so no resting in someone else's slipstream. So maybe the high requirement is right.

In order to save time I intend to minimise stopping for food. The three bags I'll have on the bike will contain tools and spare inner tubes, extra gloves, a rain jacket and power packs to charge various electronics as well as food. I won't need more clothing, that will have been sent ahead of me for my stay in Cornwall and the return journey.

The 8000 calories will have to come from a variety of sources to keep it interesting. After around seven hours I stop wanting to eat. The distance is as much a mental challenge as it is physical.
I have been testing a few options: energy and protien bars, snacks and sandwiches. I need to have food that won't upset my stomach, and not contain too much fibre. I now realise it might be tough to achieve.

Here is my list:

Outdoor Provisions bars, each around 159 calories. They are my favourite, after trying many different suppliers. I have taken a subscription, so that should say a lot. I can eat up to seven one after the other. They are the easiest to open on the move too. I guess I could take a break from them at five and return later in the day.

Tribe protein bars, each around 230 calories. Very sweet, so maybe three will be enough. I do like their protein shakes post ride. The best I've tried. I subscribe to these as well. As with OP bars, I get a discount. It means I have the shakes, and the bars for cafe stops that don't provide a vegan option.

Trek protein bars, again around 230 each and also sweet.

Fig rolls, a whole pack is 590.

Pringles are heavy hitters at 1064 per pack. And you know how morish they are.

A pack of caramel rice cakes are 612.

Soreen lunch box snacks come in bags of five, each around 100 calories. My favourites are the apple.

Finally my lunch most days; peanut butter sandwiches. About 250 each.

So how does that add up?

Outdoor Provisions    x10 1590
Tribe                           x3    690
Trek                            x3    690
Fig Rolls                            560
Pringles                            1064
Rice Cakes                         612
Soreen bars                        500 
Sandwich                   x2    500 
Total                                 6206

I'll have a big breakfast, but there is a limit to what I can eat in one sitting.
To be honest, I'm not sure how I'll eat enough. On top of this figure there is another 2000 or so calories that the body needs regardles of exercise. 
Fizzy and energy drinks could be helpful, but I don't much like them. The same goes for energy gels; my tolerance is very low.

How do long distance athletes do it? Especially if they don't have a support team.
Is it the right balance?

Should it be less snacks and more real food? 

Keeping hydrated shouldn't be a problem, water is quick and easy to purchase. I can add energy and hydration tablets. If only there were more drinking taps I wouldn't have to buy bottled water. I've read about a scheme to provide free tops ups, the info is out of date though. It says Whitebread have signed up, so potentially 3,000 Costa stores, Premier Inn hotels and restaurants might be a good source. It is said churches are worth looking out for. But then their tapes are for watering purposes; does it mean it's safe to drink?

Sunday 6 February 2022

Cycling adventures

The humble bicycle, it's amazing what can be achieved on one. A design that has changed very little since the safety bicycle was invented in 1885 by Jon Kemp Stanley. Our bikes would be instantly recognised by him, even if technology has improved speed, comfort, reliability, weight and versatility. 

From a personal perspective they can bring a freedom other forms of transport are no longer able to deliver.

And to think it all started for me with an after work curry. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, here's a recap.

Myself a three others from Quantum publishing got together and somehow the conversation happened upon cycling. Matt had bought a bike and rode it occasionally, I had been lent one for a second charity ride. The previous year I'd completed a very short sponsored ride on a steed in my possession for the day. Training was not going well; a few miles here and there, and twenty minutes on an exercise bike maybe once a fortnight. I had set a target of 50 miles: no chance.

The following Saturday Matt and I met at 07:00 on the Limpsfield Rd beside a desolate bus stop. To get there I had climbed a few hills, mostly by walking. It would be many weeks until I rode the whole way, and home without pushing the bike.

From this humble beginning I have ridden many miles, raised a lot of money for charity, made some great memories. The exploring Matt and I did, getting away from it all in the early days. Riding to Paris, completing the South Downs Way, just sitting outside a cafe watching the world go by. Becoming fitter and coping better with life.

I have revealed my plans for this year, but what about the future?

It's a very long way off, but I intend to continue my adventures. The first of which will be a ride to Bristol, to complete a route created by Will, link.

On my return it will be off to visit World War One sites in France. With maybe Dunkirk from World War Two. This was inspired by my friend Lucy, one of her many talents is a WW1 tour guide, Link

I have been asked why I would ride to Bristol, or France first, before starting a holiday tour. A few reasons: traveling by train in the UK is expensive, most lines don't encourage bringing a full sized bike, I want to see more of the countryside, and finally; because I can. In years to come as I set my sights further afield this may change, I'll add trains and longer ferry journeys. I have thought about visiting Spain, getting there by ferry rather than flying of course. Bilbao or Santander are only a days voyage away. From either port I could head south to the interior or east and climb the Pyrenees.

I know there are many bucket list rides in this country, but I want to do something different. Self supported longer rides could be my next challenge. And just because I'm approaching my late fifties I don't see why I have to limit myself. This book is part of the motivation. Link.
Picture at top of post, rights notification. Link.