Monday, 13 June 2016

Trails and Tribe-ulations

Monday morning arrived with the chirrup of a phone-based alarm. Coffee, energy bar (see below), and out the door. I'm going to set the scene with a little "selfie video" I shot whilst sitting in the car.


The lady on the desk knew how much to charge me, which was already an improvement over last week, though she did laugh wryly whilst looking out of the window when I mentioned the track. Still, needs must, and it's not like I'd miss a race because of a bit of rain. Besides, I had my awesome (if now slightly worn) Inov-8 Race Ultra Shell HZ U on, so I really had no excuse. That shell deserves a dedicated review at some point but, for now, suffice it to say I like it a lot.

I felt like changing things up a little, so Monday's soundtrack wasn't my tried-and-tested Rage Against The Machine. Instead, I opted for The Prodigy's 'Fat of the Land'. 8 laps to warm-up, some stretching, and then into the meat of the workout.

The workout. Oh the workout. How do you make a slow trail-plodder whinge? Stick him on a track and ask him to run 'fast', where there's a uniform surface and no hills to hide behind. Had to pause between the third and fourth intervals. Hard efforts in the morning don't agree with me. On restarting, I tried to "make the last one a fast one" and failed SPECTACULARLY! Epic fade towards the end... The watch showed my pace as a full 30s per mile slower than target (which Strava seems to have missed. Maybe it was looking the other way at the time?). Get in. Still, equating that to doing strength work to failure, at least it means I couldn't actually have given any more. Or something. My pacing seemed more consistent this week, which is promising.

8 laps to cool down, then home for second breakfast: porridge, with peanut butter, banana, and for the first time turmeric. Turmeric has long been used as an anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine. I figured it couldn't hurt, so dumped a teaspoon(!) in. In retrospect, that was probably a wee bit too much, given that the taste overpowered everything else! Still, I like turmeric, and if it keeps the inflammation gremlins at bay then rock on. Slight knot/pull in my right outer hip, so plenty of time spent with a tennis ball and a foam roller.

As promised, Tuesday (cross-training day) meant the first session of Jillian Michaels' 6-Week Six Pack in place of my normal routine. The body adapts to exercise and you begin to see reduced benefits if you continue to do the same thing day in day out; this is one of many reasons why a varied exercise routine is recommended rather than just running or cycling or whatever and nothing else. Taking that a bit further, I'm experimenting with changing my cross-training routine itself.

I was first introduced to Jillian Michaels' workouts by my lovely wife. Before she was my wife, in fact (though she was always lovely. +10 husband points.) This was in the form of Jillian's 30 Day Shred program, which is essentially three levels of circuit training involving three sets of three minutes of cardio, two minutes of resistance work, one minute of abs. The idea is you do level one for ten days, then level two for ten, then level three for ten, at which point you're "shredded", innit. It's cheesy as hell, with lots of cringe-worthy motivation going on; apparently, I had to hang with them and I had to fight for it?! Also, the DVD is clearly aimed at women, and there's lots of focus on "the booty" and "if you've got it, flaunt it ladies". If you can ignore that, or laugh along with it, the workout itself is solid; Jillian does know her stuff. I've done 30 Day Shred multiple times as cross-training, and felt like something different whilst I was being different (eh?!), so Rachel suggested 6-Week Six Pack, which was also in her extensive library of all-things-Jillian.

6-Week Six Pack follows a slightly different format to 30 Day Shred, in that it's primarily core work as the name suggests (which I wanted), and there are only two levels, in which you run through the circuit twice. I found the ab moves themselves easy, if I'm honest. That's not meant as a brag at all (well, ok, maybe a little...), but as recognition of how good Quick Strength for Runners is; my core was actually already pretty strong. What I did find upsettingly difficult was the cardio aspect... I was "gargling my heart", as Jillian so eloquently puts it, and was sweating so much I looked like I'd jumped straight out of the shower! Niiiiiiiiice. It all just goes to show that, just because you're fit for one thing, doesn't necessarily mean you're fit for all things. Cross-training makes you a better-rounded athlete, and therefore a better athlete full stop; if I have to be FABULOUS to get there, then so be it!

Tuesday evening involved some Nanny State, by Brew Dog. Nanny State is a 0.5% ABV craft beer but, unusually for low/no alcohol beers, it actually tastes decent. Again, not a porter or a stout, but I've yet to find a low/no alcohol version of that that I would drink. If you have any suggestions, let me know! Fancied the taste of beer to accompany the veg-itos I'd cooked (burritos filled purely with veg and beans, no meat substitute) but not necessarily the effects of beer, so Nanny State was a solid choice.

Tuesday also involved an early night; I've not been getting anything like enough sleep lately, what with being Daddy to an hilarious nine-month old human and juggling work and training, and it shows in my heart rate and general performance. The body doesn't differentiate between stresses! I'm sure a post on that line of thinking will follow. Aimed for nine hours, managed probably around eight, with interruptions. It's a start, at least.

Wednesday was yoga, but I decided to downsize my intended hour to a half hour Tim Senesi flow, and take a nap as well. Managed an extra hour of sleep, which I was chuffed about.

Thursday means tempo run, and this week it was 5 miles at 6.45m/m. Learning from last week's mistake, I did the coffee and energy bar thing before going out. Whether it was that, the extra sleep the day before, or most likely a combination of the two, I don't know, but I felt pretty strong. As a result, I overcooked the pace. I felt good though, so went with it, averaging 6.29m/m.

Friday was more 6 Week Six-Pack. This time I added some weights to the moves, and that gave a bit more of a burn, so clearly that's the way forward.

Saturday... Saturday was supposed to be 12 miles on the road at 7.30m/m. What it actually was, was 12 miles on the trails at 7.30m/m. What can I say? I answered the call of the wild. I didn't get much sleep Friday night, and I definitely felt that on the run. Running on trails at a given pace is always going to be harder than the same on road, but this was definitely fatigue. A quick check of my heart rate after the run would seem to confirm that; no way should it have been where it was for that pace. It felt good to be out in nature though, and with the Ingram Half Marathon looming in about a month's time, I've found sufficient justification to talk myself into running the next few LSRs at the woods. Once a trail runner, always a trail runner.

Sunday, being Fathers' Day, was dedicated to family time. I got woken up by a 9 month old pulling at my ear, and there's no way I would rather have been roused from my slumber. Probably. As a special treat, I got to make... everyone... else... breakfast... Hmmm. (Not quite true; Rachel did grill us some grapefruit to go with the eggs I cooked). Then it was off to one of my favourite places in the world, Kielder Water, for a picnic and a walk, followed by ice cream, before heading home for a nice home-cooked meal, just the three of us. No training, though I did upload the walk to Strava... *HANGS HEAD IN SHAME* A perfect first Fathers' Day.

This week I've been experimenting with the contents of the trial pack from Tribe, a relatively new UK-based sports nutrition company. Tribe say:

When it comes to eating well nothing is more nutritionally dense than whole natural sources of food. By sticking to eating foods in their least processed, refined or adulterated forms you can be consciously aware of taking in the best sources of nutrition available and avoiding any unnecessary chemical or sugary additives.

I'm with them on that, so I was really excited to try the pack. In it were two energy bars, a packet of trail-mix, a packet of 'mineral booster', and a protein bar. Verdict? It's pretty good, with caveats. The energy bars are date-based, I believe, making for a different texture to my usual ClifBars, which are oat-based. I think I prefer oat-based, but there's not really a lot in it. The bar was sweet, but not chemically so, and there's a big difference. Something loaded with refined sugar, like a Mars Bar, leaves me with a horrible aftertaste and isn't something I'd want to use pre-exercise. I'd be happy to use a Tribe bar though. The trail-mix was a bit one dimensional; that's one situation where I'd probably say more ingredients are better. The mineral boosters interested me, but to be of any use whatsoever I would have thought you'd need to use them more than once a week (and that's one of my issues with the subscription idea, which I'll expand upon in a sec). Still, it made my salad a bit more interesting. The protein bar packed a good wallop, being comparable to the Trek bars I normally use, and was pretty tasty.

What didn't I like? The cost, if I'm honest. I paid £1 for this pack, using a promo code I got from Facebook, but it would cost me £6.50 per week for their subscription aimed at ultrarunners/marathoners/triathletes, which is a box of five items every week just like the one I've got now. The energy bars contain roughly half the calories and carbs of a ClifBar, which means I would need to carry twice as many on a race (I'm dead good at maths, me). The equivalent of one ClifBar a week is in no way sufficient for ultramarathons, or even marathons. That's not even sufficient for an LSR! Yes, there are bulk-buying options, but the pricing isn't attractive compared to other bulk-buying options. Even if I tailored my pack so I had three energy bars and two protein bars at the expense of the trail-mix and the mineral booster, that still doesn't work out for me. Much as I really believe in their approach and would love to support the company (I really, genuinely, mean that), with a young family I do have to consider cost per kcal, and with deals available on ClifBars and Trek bars, it's a no-brainer, unfortunately. Still, if your circumstances are different to mine, and you're training maybe up to half-marathon distance, I'd really recommend giving them a go. You'll probably want to "size up" though and go for the marathon box.

Or maybe I'm just greedy.

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