Redemption?

It has been less than 24 hours since my last confession.

That post was in draft for several months as I tried to gain control of my weight; control that would be evidenced by my weight reducing towards my running weight goal. As I continued to drift in the wrong direction so I would reassure myself that the following day offered another, equally good, opportunity to improve my food behaviour and reverse the trend. And when I occasionally revised my draft post and considered publishing it I felt that I couldn’t as I had little to report beyond the passing of the days and the increase in my weight.

recent weight graph

My recent weight history consists of three distinct phases: 2012 – return to running and associated significant weight loss, 2013 – levelling off in weight despite 66kg goal, 2014 – continuing trend, started towards the end of twenty thirteen, of weight gain …

I am firmly of the opinion that weight control is purely psychological in nature for those of us who aren’t affected by food poverty or a physiological condition that supersedes this. With that caveat weight control succeeds or fails entirely on the choices made day to day, moment by moment. With a basic understanding of nutrition and what constitutes a balanced diet, it is clear that the only rational approach to weight control is to restrict food calorie intake to match calorie expenditure to maintain weight and to restrict it a little further to lose weight.

To date all my weight management has applied this approach in its simplest form; daily restriction of calorie intake. Typically this is done fairly informally; I don’t often calculate calorific values for my meals, but use my experience to judge. For some this approach in itself is the primary cause of failure due to misjudging calorific intake, but as can be seen from my previous post in my case the primary cause is much clearer. It’s taken two posts to approach using the phrase, but here it is; “binge eating“. I don’t want to medicalise my eating choices and I do not exhibit the full range of symptoms described, but a selective quote from the NHS Choices website linked to above accurately describes my behaviour:

” … feels compelled to overeat on a regular basis … consume … quantities of food over a short period of time … often eat even when they are not hungry … usually takes place in private … feelings of guilt”

The quote is somewhat selective, but I think that this reflects that I am at the lower end of the spectrum of severity of binge eating and associated behaviours rather than that I am forcing an inappropriate description to fit.

So yes, “Redemption?” I want a shot at redemption. When does the redemption start?

A few nights ago I got around to reading my wife’s copy of “The Fast Diet” or the slightly less snappy “The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting – Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer” as Amazon UK have it. Either way it was a very interesting read and solely from a weight control / loss perspective it is possible to sum up the message in a two or three sentences:

“Eat normally 5 days a week. Fast, consuming only a quarter of your normal calorie intake, on the other two days. Yes, you’ll eat more on the non-fast days to compensate, but overall you are unlikely to compensate fully and hence there will be a net reduction in calorie intake.”

I find this approach very appealing primarily because it requires concentrated focus on food for only two days a week. Also the days are contrastingly different and clearly defined; I will either be fasting or not. It may be that this appeals to me for similar reasons that running does; short periods of concentrated effort with known end points and extended recovery periods. Daily calorie counting on the other hand requires constant food focus and has little contrast from day to day and it is too easy to defer goals and not notice the passing of time. More like cricket.

As suggested in the book I didn’t procrastinate and fasted for the first time the day before yesterday. I shall fast again the day after tomorrow.

Can’t weight!

When setting my running targets for last year I identified four factors I believed would have most impact on my running performance that year; weight, diet, sleep and distance. I think most runners would agree that those elements, together with a focussed training programme, are the primary factors for any and every year. Weight and diet are of course closely linked and, looking back at 2013 as I considered my targets for this year, I wasn’t surprised at my progress or lack of it.

I have often opined, on twitter and elsewhere, that “I’m an eater who runs, rather than a runner who eats.” I ended 2013 at a little under 73kg / 11½ stone having begun the year at a little over 70kg / 11 stone and those two values essentially describe the full range of my weight last year. My target for 2013 was to move towards a running weight of 66kg / 10st 5lbs, but instead I moved away and as I write, having set an intermediate goal at the beginning of this year to reach 69kg by the end of April, I now weigh 73.5kg … The weight range is not particularly great and I could easily argue that my weight is not out of control, but actually it is.

My argument would be made along the lines that the general quality of my diet is good and has probably improved over the last two years; the longest period for which I have remained a frequent, regular runner. I eat a cereal based breakfast and lunch and dinner are usually based around a well proportioned combination of basic ingredients such as pasta, rice, potatoes, fish, lean meat and vegetables. I’ve increased the proportion of vegetables in the last year and most of our carbohydrate sources are now wholemeal. I cook most of our food from scratch; the one exception being “sauce-in-a-jar” for curry. We very, very rarely buy fast food and when eating out our menu choices are sensible. That virtuous description is accurate and applies 7 days a week, 21 hours a day. No typo. The last three hours before bed I regularly – at least once a week, sometimes more – eat very poorly and in full consciousness that I am more than undoing any progress I have made earlier in the day. The most common options at this time of day sound fairly innocuous; “cheese and biscuits” for example though for me this won’t just be a cracker or two, but at least half a dozen spread generously and no matter that the cheese is thinly sliced the cumulative total is usually considerably over any reasonable daily maximum. “Houmous and breadsticks” tends to pan out very similarly. Admittedly less frequent, but much more difficult to describe in anything approaching innocuous terms are options like “two finger KitKats (3, 4 … or 5)”, “Nutella and teaspoon” or “bread sticks and golden syrup” …

It seems that though I can run, I can’t weight.

Ouch, bugger and looking for the positives

Yesterday evening I went to my second track session with Kent AC at Ladywell Arena. Slightly delayed by a late running train I joined the group on their second warm up lap and briefly renewed the acquaintances I made last week. After a few dynamic stretches we returned to the track for a few strides before starting the session for the evening. In only my second week I still have the sensation that I’m missing something and asked for clarification; eight sets of 500m with 100m walked recoveries. “Right, this week I’m going to remember it and complete it with everyone else”; last week I managed to convince myself we were doing 5 sets of 800m with 200m recoveries and so was a bit surprised when everyone else took off for the sixth 800m just as I was about to leave the track.

Initially I settled into 5k PB pace as this was what I’d used the previous week (based on the rationale that 6 x 800m = 4.8k). As we approached the 100m point of our recovery at the end of the set I was surprised that the group seemed to be intending to walk 200m. All but one other runner seemed certain that this was correct; that sensation again. So, given the proportionately longer recovery period and the shorter total distance (8 x 500m = 4k), I decided to increase my pace by 10 seconds per kilometre to about 3:30 per km and set off on the second set.

Ouch!
As I approached the end of the second set I felt physically comfortable, clear in my head what I wanted to do in the session and relaxed. The runners in front of me slowed as they approached the 500m point at the end of the back straight, slowing further before stepping off the track to the infield where they began their 200m walked recovery inside the bend. I remember noting them slowing and being aware that I was maintaining most of my pace right to the end of the straight. I slowed a little into the bed and, mindful of my newly learned track etiquette responsibilities, knew I needed to leave the track into the infield. In that real time slow motion that one’s brain records of such moments, with an understated lowercase “oh shit” subtitle, I realised I was going too fast and that skipping over the small railing was going to be an awkward manoeuvre. Stepping my left foot over the railing, I attempted to do the same with my right, but already into the bend and being very close to the railing I couldn’t put it down securely enough to produce the force to divert my whole self over the railing. My right ankle turned over and I fell grazing my right palm and left knee heavily. I found myself in a heap, in the infield so etiquette observed, and hurting.

Bugger!
Once the cold, heavy, inert sensations in my ankle thawed enough that it could no longer limit my thoughts to “Bugger!” and synonyms thereof I moved on to “Bugger! I’ve sprained my ankle. Again. The same one.”
I’m so annoyed with myself, primarily because it was my own fault; running too quickly and not taking enough care in an unfamiliar environment. I have been running well, have recovered fully from spraining the same ankle in December and was beginning to browse for upcoming races. Also I had just begun to get to know a new group of runners whose impression, after just two weeks, could well now be “the guy who can’t remember the sessions and falls over”.

Looking for positives …
From the beginning of two interminable hobbles, one from the track to Ladywell station and one from Clock House station home, I found myself looking for positives in the situation …
I have not pre-entered any races. Certainly there will be races that I would have raced and parkruns I would have run, but at least no entry fees wasted and no race day deadlines to coerce me into running and racing sooner than my recovery dictates. Also I had seen my GP earlier in the day who advised that refraining from intense workouts would help the recovery of “strained breathing/chest muscles” (my paraphrase) possibly strained during the Brighton Half Marathon last month. They will now be getting the most thorough rest possible short of getting myself a mobility scooter. Ummm … My wife would be working from home the next morning and so I wouldn’t have to hobble my eldest daughter to school. Finally, as a data obsessive, the fact that I’d forgotten my heart rate monitor and so would have not had so much data to pore over anyway after the session. This struck me as a positive quite quickly.

PB flurry

At the beginning of 2014, writing my running targets for 2014, it seemed unlikely that I’d be achieving any of them for some time as I’d sprained an ankle just three weeks before …

Brighton Half Marathon – 16 February 2014
One of the things that I love about being a frequent, consistent runner is how quickly my body repairs and recovers after hard efforts or injuries. I resumed running 4 weeks after my injury and returned to my typical 25 to 30 miles a week the week after that. As a result I had been back in training for almost 6 weeks when race day at the Brighton Half Marathon arrived. I chatted with the 90 minute pacers at the start line and settled in to track them throughout the race. With an existing PB of 89:53 my aim was just to ensure I finished the requisite “more than 7 seconds” in front of them to record a new PB. The weather at Brighton was fantastic; clear blue skies, cool and still and this combined with the close to flat course to create perfect running conditions. Within the first 7 or 8 km I saw and briefly chatted to a runner I recognised from December’s Brighton 10k; I’d drafted behind him towards the end of that race before pushing on to a new, and for the first time sub 40 minute, PB. At about 14 km I began to struggle mentally with the effort required to stay with the pacers, but remembered my experience at the Ealing Half Marathon and pushed myself on. Having reached 18 km and doubled back along the sea front for the second and last time the distance seemed to pass ever more slowly and though I had moved in front of the pacers I felt sure they would pass me at any moment. Eventually my watch showed 20k and I pushed as hard as I could; afterwards I was really pleased to find that I’d covered the final km in just under 4 minutes. Finish time an amazing, to me anyway, 88:16! I briefly spoke to the pacers and it turned out they’d mistakenly run faster than their intended schedule!

Self Transcendence 10 mile, Battersea Park – 1 March 2014
My first ever 10 mile race and hence a guaranteed PB, but buoyed by my performance at Brighton I revised my 2014 target of 67:53 to 66:30. I love the events organised by Run and Become at Battersea Park, this was my tenth, as they meet all my criteria for a perfect race! [Note to self – blog post in there.] In a small field of a little over a hundred I soon found myself in plenty of space and settled down to my goal pace. At the end of the first of six laps I was close enough to the group in front to hear them described as the “leading female runners” by the race PA. Using the group as a focus I caught up with the third of the three and followed her she passed the other two and gradually broke away from the group. She maintained her pace and, as the laps and miles passed, stretched her lead over me to perhaps 100 metres or more. I certainly reached the conclusion that I wouldn’t be catching her, but continued to focus on her as the next runner in front of me whilst trying to maintain my goal pace. Over the final two miles or so I realised that I was in fact closing the gap and as I approached the final mile this combined with me being able to hear at least two male runners closing on me from behind. This generated the most exciting close to a race I can recall. I covered the final mile in 6:23 and the final km in under 4:00 and in so doing passed the lead female, (“Hope Sloly” the results reveal) who called out “well done” as I did so, and also held off the male runners pursuing me. Hope’s performance throughout the race made a huge difference to mine on the day; a highly satisfying 66:41. Thank you!

Reigate Priory Mile, Track Coulsdon – 5 March 2014
Again my first ever race over this distance and another guaranteed PB, but going into this I  knew that I wouldn’t be getting close to my target of 5:00. I am not sure that I ever will, but the 5 minute barrier is just too attractive to nominate anything else as my goal … I revised it to 5:20, but even as I chatted to one of the other runners before the start about spiked shoes I acknowledged that 5:30 might be more realistic without any middle distance specific training in advance of the race. Running in a field of 12 I hoped for someone to pull on, but took up my finishing position of sixth within the first 50m and couldn’t make fifth place come close enough to help. Nonetheless a finishing time of 5:31.7 which equates to an age grade of 75.50%; my all time sixth best performance in over 75 events at all distances.

parkrun, Dulwich Park – 8 March 2014
My first competitive 5k of the year and only my second parkrun or 5k of any kind for that matter; the only other being a non-competitive Crystal Palace parkrun in January when I was still running tentatively on my recovering ankle. Dulwich parkrun is by far the fastest of the parkruns within easy reach of home and it is also the one I ran first. As such I know the course well and the subtle elevation profile that dictates the km splits. Not that it feels like that at the time; I’m holding on for dear life and only recognise the patterns at my PC later. Splits from existing 18:58 PB at Dulwich in November were 3:54, 3:50, 3:46, 3:52 and 3:36. This time I ran 3:41, 3:50, 3:48, 3:53 and 3:43 totalling 18:55. All the improvement in the opening kilometre and so it seems Chris Goodman‘s tactic of “go out hard and just hold on” may well have something in it after all.

Flurry
4 decent PBs in 21 days. I thank you 🙂