Maverick Race Sussex

Little did I know after completing Centurion’s SDW50 last April, it would turn out to be my last race for nearly a year. Long gone are the days of running all of the races, and even training year round. I’ve really benefited from taking an extended break from running, and though it was bloody hard at first to get back into it, I’m actually at a point where I’m really enjoying it again.

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Last weekend marked my first race back, I’ve got a few upcoming and I am using them all as training for the NDW50 in May, so I won’t be going hell for leather on them, just getting the miles in and enjoying the day, scenery and atmosphere.

I liked the idea of the Maverick Sussex, as in theory it was relatively easy to get to from London. However, at 7.35am on Saturday morning, my scheduled 7.33am train was cancelled, with the next one not for another hour, it left me no time to get my connecting train and get to the race on time. What followed was frantic, stressful and not really the way you want to head into a race. I managed to get an Uber to East Croydon, a train to Horsham, and then a taxi to the start in Amberley- all of this was bloody expensive, thanks Southern Rail. However, I did make it to the race on time, slightly frazzled.

The registration was pain free, and toilet queues for ladies short (though none of them were flushing). We had a quick race briefing, with a cacophony of barking in the background (I’ve never seen so many dogs at a race and I love how dog friendly the event is) and we were under way. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd who it was good to see, and the atmosphere as always at these kind of events was great. There were three events: short 7k, medium 14k and the long which I was doing which was 23km. All routes were signposted clearly and turn off points were easy to navigate.

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They set us off on a pretty brutal climb for the first two miles, which was one way to reunite with the trails. They don’t have climbs like that in London! The race was undulating with a few steeper sections after the first climb, but nothing too extended, and there was lots and lots of flat runnable sections.

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For February the downs were surprisingly dry, the chalk was a little slippy in places, but not until the last few miles was there any really thick ankle deep mud to navigate. What was more challenging was the wind, Doris seemed to be lingering, and some of the exposed sections were fairly brutal, in particular the headwind near the end, which made the flat sections feel as bad as the opening hill! There also didn’t feel like there was that many downhills, I was really looking forward to one near the end, but it turned out to be a severely steep set of steps which I tip toed down in fear of falling.

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It was a bit of a mizzly overcast day so the views weren’t amazing, but I do love running on the downs, there really is nothing like it.

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The finish was a bit bizarre, running round the car park, and through the Amberley museum, before crossing the line and being rewarded with a much needed trail ale. I would definitely recommend the Maverick series, it was really well organized, nice course and theoretically should have been easy to get to as well. I was really pleased with my effort for the day, and it was really good to get out and run on some proper hills and trail conditions.

Next race up is the Thames Meander Marathon next weekend, I did it in 2015 and it’s where I set my PB, although I don’t expect to get close to that this time, as it is a training run. I haven’t run a marathon “race” since 2015, which is bizarre, I’ve done 2 ultras since then, and quite a few marathon distance or more training runs but no actual races. I’ll report back next weekend.

 

Vegan Pancake Day

A while back I was sent Purition’s Vegan box, and I knew exactly what I wanted to make with the powders: pancakes. It only seemed fitting with it being pancake “week”, that I should get in the kitchen and rustle up some panqueques.

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I have featured Purition products on my blog previously so if you want to know further about them, then you can read more here. As I have posted recently, I don’t feel like there is a real need to include protein powder in my diet, though I do still use it for it’s convenience. Purition shakes are a little different, as they are more of an all encompassing shake, packed full of good stuff like healthy fats, fiber and micro-nutrients as well as plant protein. They are a good way to take your smoothie, porridge, or pancakes next level.

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Vegan Chocolate Purition Pancakes (Serves 1)

1/2 ripe Banana
1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup of Flour (I used Rude Health’s Sprouted Spelt)
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
Half a Sachet/Scoop of Purition Vegan Chocolate Shake
1 tsp Cacao Powder
Pinch of salt
Toppings of Choice

Add the banana and milk to a food processor and blend together. I recommend using a ripe spotty banana as it will make the pancakes nice and sweet, unfortunately I didn’t have one on hand. You can always add a tsp of any kind of sugar to the mix to sweeten it up.

Add the rest of ingredients to the food processor and blend together. You might need a little more milk if it’s too thick, I added a drizzle more to get the right consistency.

Heat a pan to medium-high heat, and add a little oil to grease. Dollop out scoops of the mixture, cook for a couple of minutes on each side and serve.

I got about 6 smallish pancakes out of this mix, I prefer them that way for stacking. You can always double the recipe for more pancakes. I topped mine with some cherries, cacao nibs and a chocolate peanut butter drizzle made from peanut butter powder and a tiny bit of cacao powder mixed with water.

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The Purition powder was an easy way to add some extra protein, fiber and healthy fats to the pancakes. You can add your own protein powder of choice or just replace it with a ground seed mix (chia/flax). I wouldn’t recommend leaving the mix to stand before cooking as it will thicken due to the nuts/seeds in the blend.

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I love pancakes, and I really don’t make an effort to make them enough, so I am going to remedy that this week and make/eat all of the pancakes.

Have an amazing pancake day, and let me know what pancakes/toppings you are going for!

 

 

Disclaimer: I received the shakes from Purition for review purposes, all opinions are my own.

 

Being Flexible with your Training

When I first started really getting into running and following training plans for half’s and marathons, I would try to stick to them religiously. I’ve always been an all-or-nothing person so I tend to want to hit every session, regardless of how I’m feeling, if I feel a niggle coming on, or if I’m just dead tired. This has never really ended well though, there have been countless times I’ve run when ill, injured or shattered, and I’ve either made myself ill, made an injury so much worse or just not enjoyed the run.

What I’ve come to learn as I’ve got older and got more running years under my belt, is that a training plan is a great frame to build your workouts from, but it needn’t be set in stone. Things happens, events come up, you get sick, or you really just don’t want to run on that day. I think it’s better not to beat yourself up about whether missing that one run last week when you had already run 45 miles+, is in the grand scheme of things going to matter too much. We should have the confidence to tweak our plans, and it’s important to be in tune with your body and know when you need to change things.

I really need to be flexible with my plan now due to health issues which means I’m not going to be able to hit every session, and I’m going to have to miss a few runs along the way. If I dwell on this and get frustrated about it, it isn’t going to change anything, so I just need to move on, hit the sessions when I am feeling OK and realise that over the course of 16-18 weeks of training, missing a handful of runs isn’t going to matter. It’s not like I’m a professional athlete, most of us our amateurs (I’m a very average one), and I feel like we should be able to be flexible with our plans, and be in charge of them and not the other way around. Today I broke my second weekend long run into a double day doing 16 this morning, and 6 late afternoon, this wasn’t ideal, but I wanted to spend some time with my OH before he left on a work trip, so I broke the run up, getting to spend a bit of extra time with him this morning, these things are ultimately more important than running.

I’ve built in a few extra weeks for my plan to allow for illness or potential injuries which also gives me a nice buffer if I do have to miss an entire week- as I did at the end of January with stomach flu. Over the course of a plan, I think as long as you are hitting the majority of your workouts it doesn’t matter if you miss a few runs here and there, being consistently consistent is much more important than risking injury, missing fun stuff that comes up, or missing valuable time with loved ones.

What’s the Deal with Protein?

Protein has been the buzzword in health for the last few years, emblazoned on packages, advertisements and media, it seems protein is the macronutrient that can do no wrong. Fat was previously deemed as the ‘evil’ macronutrient and now it’s carbs, but protein remains untouchable. Is there no such thing as good protein/bad protein, or having too much protein?

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It’s interesting how we’ve become so obsessed with needing to take in more and more protein, and also how the first question most people will ask you when they find out you are Vegan is “where do you get your protein?”. Protein deficiency in a diet that provides enough calories doesn’t exist. Simply put if we are getting enough calories, we are getting enough protein, any reasonable balanced diet will provide this, so why do people believe they need to consume massive doses of this macro-nutrient? There are rafts of people¬† following their “macros” with astronomically high protein amounts, those who are forcing down chicken six times a day at the request of their PT or bro-science suggestions, and there is the ever increasing market of truly bizarre protein products. Protein is a key selling point for marketing, and we lap it up. Even the “clean eaters” who avoid anything ‘processed’ and ‘refined’ tend to regularly use protein powders, which when you think about it, are actually one of the most processed foods out there. We are bombarded with messages that we need more protein, but isn’t this simply disinformation spread by those with big interests at stake?

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I’ve certainly been guilty in the past of eating way beyond my protein needs, trying to get as much as possible naturally and then filling it up with protein powders/bars. Is all this protein doing us any good though, or is it causing harm? I’ve just finished reading Dr. Garth Davis book ‘Proteinaholic‘ , which is an incredibly well researched and scientifically grounded look at our obsession with protein. It’s so interesting reading about how the world got gripped on protein (hello Atkins, and it’s current spin off anti-grain, low carb and Paleo movements), and debunking a lot of the dodgy and misleading information out there about protein. It’s fairly heavy on the research and science and if you want to read further into this topic I would wholly recommend it.

If we look at the RNI (reference nutrient intake) for protein, it is actually much lower than most people are aware- 0.75g of protein per kg of bodyweight – my recommended intake would be 44g of protein daily, yet I see women who are trying to get 130g+ to ‘hit their macros’. Obviously the amount for each individual would vary slightly based on age, activity etc, but not to the extent of getting over three times the RNI. There’s this belief that you can’t get too much protein, compared to the horror of horrors eating too much fat/carbs. However, there is absolutely no science to back up the view that eating high protein diets is beneficial for health. A search on Pubmed will bring up plenty of studies which suggest that high protein intake is not optimal, and in particular high animal protein intake is linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk, and risk of type 2 diabetes, amongst other chronic conditions.

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Protein, like fat and yes carbohydrates, is an essential macronutrient, we need it for so many things including growth and repair, and overall health maintenance, but we probably don’t need as much as we think we do. If you look at the Blue Zones- Dan Buettner’s term for his discovery of the longest lived cultures on earth- the diets of the people in these areas are the total opposite of high protein. In Okinawa for instance the majority of their traditional diet is based around purple sweet potato, making up to 60% of their caloric intake. Some of the longest lived people on earth, are surviving, and actually thriving into old age, without resorting to having to ‘get their protein’ in, or counting their macros.

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I’ve definitely been guilty of “needing” to use protein powders,¬† and I feel like it’s almost a placebo effect. I can fully understand why people like to include higher amounts of protein in their diets, it’s just where do we draw the line between optimal and detrimental. I think as long as we are eating a balanced whole foods diet, we are getting more than enough protein-yes even Vegans!- and if we start to sacrifice including things in our diet that are rich in vital nutrients like fibre and antioxidants at the expense of choking down several shakes a day, then I think that is not going to beneficial for health at all.

I’m not going to stop using protein powder/bars on occasion as I find them convenient when I’m in a rush, but I am going to be more mindful of my protein consumption, and try and keep it to whole foods as much as possible. Eat a balanced diet, and don’t worry about ‘getting enough protein’ because you more than likely already are. Don’t fall into the marketing trap of needing all those extra protein products in your life. One macronutrient isn’t the enemy, carbs aren’t the enemy, fat isn’t the enemy, and protein isn’t the enemy- but moderation is key, and it seems with protein we just might need less than we think.

Additional Resources

The Myth of High Protein Diets

Havard’s Meat & Mortality Studies

Adventist Health Study

Blue Zones

Are you concerned about the amount of protein you eat? Do you think it’s enough/not enough?

Month 1 of Training: Rest is Best.

I felt good coming into January, off the back of a solid Marcothon, albeit a little weary. I didn’t realise when I went out for 5 miles on the 2nd January that it was the week I was supposed to be starting my training plan- luckily I had done the miles on the plan anyway so was up and running on the road to my goal race for 2017.

Running has been flowing nicely after the Marcothon, there’s been a lot more desire to get out there- with being fitter-and my comfortable pace and endurance are improving. My target has been 5 runs a week, with one hill session, and sometimes some speed work or a parkrun thrown in, but I’m more concerned about hillier runs than trying to run faster right now. I’m really pleased with my progress on my hilly runs, I’m feeling stronger week by week, and looking forward to getting out on some hilly trail runs over the coming months.

Most of my runs are at a very easy comfortable pace, which can fluctuate from day to day, dependent on how many runs into the week I am, my health, or if I trained legs at the gym the day before! The long runs have been increasing (up to 12 miles now), and I’ve been doing back to back long runs at the weekend. I find training on tired legs really beneficial for ultras, though it’s tough on that second day mentally and physically. Last week was my highest mileage week in a very long time, and it should have been followed by a bigger one this week but alas stomach flu has gripped me, I haven’t been this ill since I had something similar in university 6 years ago, so it’s really knocked me out.

I have cut my gym sessions down to three a week-push, pull, legs-though some weeks I’ve only made it twice. I’m certainly missing training so hard in the gym, but it’s just not wise or viable when I’m doing so much running. I have only gone to one yoga session this month, which I’m a bit disappointed with, but the dates just haven’t worked out this month and I keep forgetting to book in and it fills up as soon as the dates are available a week in advance. I’ve also been shoddy with foam rolling and stretching too, which is likely to come back to haunt me so I should probably address this!

The main issue I’m having to deal with this training cycle is my health, I know that I’m going to lose sessions along the way due to my period pain and related symptoms each month, and also that sessions before my period are likely to feel dreadful, so I just need to focus on hitting the sessions I can when I can, and not get too worried about it. The stomach virus at the end of this month has laid me out for an entire week, and seen me become one with my sofa. I’ve barely eaten all week, and where previously I may have dragged myself out for a run towards the end of the illness, here I just feel it’s better to get back to full health before returning to training. I’ve been embracing rest, and glad I built a spare week for this kind of eventuality into my plan, also hoping it doesn’t go on for much longer as I miss food! There would have been times previously where I would have really panicked about missing sessions, and entire weeks of training like this, but I feel much more chilled out about it this time around, need to look after the body for the long haul after all.

It’s not going to be easy to get out running again whenever that may be, I feel weak, like I’ve lost strength and have been knocked off my routine somewhat, I will just need to ease back into it gently and not stress too much if I don’t hit the ground running so to speak.

Training Month One

Week 1: 26m
Week 2: 26m
Week 3: 37m
Week 4: Glued to the sofa watching the tennis (stomach flu).