Thursday, 15 September 2016

Sugar or fat? Which one should be low and what is best for longdistance running?

Low sugar or low fat diet? A question that's been debated since the 50s.

A question I've wondered about for a few years now. 

Let me start by saying, I'm not a nutritionist, physiologist or anything of that type. Just an overweight runner who wants to get healthier and quicker over long distances. And these views are my own based on books and articles I've read.

A few years back I started to be intrigued by carbohydrates (carbs), and that there are many different carbs, some good, some bad. I've been overweight since my early twenties and until 6 years ago I lived a relatively sedate lifestyle. Until Cancer. 

Thanks to a friend, I got back into long distance running, and was inspired by the hit American tv program The Biggest Loser, to lose the excess weight.

Through running and calorie counting I lost two and a half stone. But then kind of plateaued. I then read about refined sugars, flours, pastas and rice. I made the conscious decision to swap them to the unrefined variety. But I was also convinced that refined sugar was a modern day poison and we are all addicted to it. This didn't stop me eating sweats, drinking high sugar products or reducing my sugar intake anymore. 

However, recently I read a book by Christopher McDougall (Born to Run) called Natural Born Heroes. The book is predominatly the story of the people of Crete during the Second World War and some British soldiers who were helping the people of Crete create sabotage against the German occupying forces and the abduction of a German general. The book follows the plan and its execution and how these men were able to negotiate the very tough mountainous Cretan terrain on a minimal diet, yet not only evade capture, but to still move quickly with a hostage. 

In part of the book, Christopher talks about the Maffetone method, and Dr Phillip Maffetones belief that to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, we need to reduce sugars, and many carbs, and in fact have a fattier diet. Even Professor Tim Noakes, the running "guru", now believes a high fat diet is better then a low fat high sugar diet. 

Now there is a lot more to it then I'm actually writing, but the main basis of the idea is to cut down sugars and carbs and replace with good fats. Basically, sugar is bad, fats are good. I know what you are thinking, I've gone totally against the grain here. It's not what we've been taught. Believe me, I'm not 100% convinced, but I'm 90%! 

As I read more, I'm becoming more convinced. Of course, you could argue, in reading books that naturally sway that way. Doesn't make it wrong.

If you are still intrigued, please get Chris' book, it's brilliant and intriguing. 

What I propose to do is become my own science experiment. In fact I've already started, along with my beautiful partner Suze. 

We have both made the conscious decision to cut down our sugar and carb intakes. However, after I've run my final marathon of the year in November, I'm going to do the Maffetone two week test.

I'm going to completely cut out certain things recommended by the method. Predominatly sugars. There'll be no fruit, no milk, no cereals. I'll be able to eat meats, veg (but not potatoes), nuts, cream & eggs. There are probably a few other bits. There will be no calorie counting. If I feel hungry (not bored) I can eat. My diet will consist of pretty much no sugar and very few carbs. Instead it will be good fats and proteins. 

The idea? To make my body not want for sugar and become a lean, mean, fat burning machine. 

It's not just what I consume that changes. Training will radically change. Maffetone has come up with a simple formula for training by heart rate. Again this goes against the grain and especially "no pain, no gain" mantra. All training runs need not push your heart rate above this formula. 180 minus your age. So basically, I will be running to a peak heart rate of 141bpm. The reason, as you go above this, your body will look for fast carbs - sugar. 

Christopher McDougall warns in his book that you may not feel the best to start with as your body looks for sugars. It's easier to break them down then fats. Another reason I've found out is, we all start our anaerobic system when we start to workout. As long as the effort isn't high (it won't be due to heart rate) the body will then switch to the aerobic system for endurance. This is because of the lack of oxygen supply to the aerobic system.

The anaerobic system requires sugars and carbs not fat. I won't have sugar so it'll feel a little tough. 

What I hope to do is continuing blogging through me experiment which in a way I've started. 

Here's how I started. 

Sunday (11th sept) was my long run day. The evenings before long run day and actual marathons I would have pizza. I don't know why, but it worked for me. However, pizza is full of carbs and sugars. I didn't want that. So, long run dinner got replaced. I had fillet steak, a chicken breast, cauliflower cheese! Sweet potato fries and a salad. Suze made the cheese sauce and it was pretty calorific! But I wasn't to concerned. It was bloody delicious!!

Sunday mornings brekkie wasn't the classic porridge, but a satisfying bacon and eggs. Let's get the fat burning going. 

Due to Suze and I having a puppy we decided to stagger our long runs. Suze heading out an hour before me. During this time I started to get a headache. 
Now, Suze and I had discussed this before and we both felt that the little headache above your left eye was your body asking for sugar. I can't confirm that but we both felt that's what it was, and previously we would have reached for a sugary snack. This time, I fought the urge, so much so I didn't even have my pre run banana.

I set off to run 17 miles and the headache was pretty bad. Every step seemed to make it throb. I wasn't sure how this run would go. I wanted to run at pace plus 60 seconds. So an average of 10min/miles for me. 17 miles with an anticipated 1300ft if elevation! No flat runs in the Lake District! 

As I ran, throb throb throb, I thought about the situation and my belief of my body wanting sugar. Was it looking for sugar to convert to energy? I then thought about when fat burning kicks in when exercising and the belief that it starts after half an hour of exercising with an elevated heart rate. So my theory, keep running for half an hour, get to fat burning, headache should go? 

Half an hour in, it was still there! Bugger. Should I bin this off or keep going? Well I'm stubborn and I wanted my theory to work. I pushed on. Maybe because I was running a slow long run pace it would take longer? The next time I thought about it I was an hour into my run, and guess what? No headache! And I was feeling comfortable in my run. Despite it being warm (I'm pants in the heat) and some elevation already done. 

The next test, will I fade? How far in? I normally fade in a long run. I know I had a few miles of steady uphill coming. I got nervous. Could I sustain the effort required for the uphill? 

As I approached the start of the hill, which was approx 10 miles in now, I though to myself, 30 minutes time it'll be done! Stick with it. I started the uphill and got a real boost early on as I ran past two cyclists riding up the hill! Go me!

As I hit the main A66 (where the crawler lane is!) I got into a nice rhythm. I felt my body temp increase a little. But not surprising. Then something surprising did happen. I felt really good. I mean like I had fitted fresh legs. I flew up the hill. It was like a second wind. My legs felt good. As I crested the hill my legs didn't feel sluggish like they normally would on such a prolonged hill climb. I was starting to believe (and somewhat proud of myself). I pushed on up a shorter hill heading towards the last big climb before a lovely decent back into the valley. 

Sadly, that sluggish feeling returned going up Berrier hill. The last big climb. I slowed my pace right down but admit I had to walk. Well fast hike. Was this the diet? Or just the distance and elevation? I don't know. But I wasn't disheartened. As I reached the top, I marvelled in what is a stunning view. The northern fells looking amazing in the sunshine! I pushed on and opened up a bit going down the hill and into the valley. 

There was one final hill at the end. Cardiac hill. However I had already decided early into the run that I wouldn't attempt to run it. It's 20% incline. It's nearly a third of a mile. Why run to an eventual shuffle? Why not attack at a fast hike? 

Cresting cardiac hill I felt amazing. As per many of you. I dread long run day. But it felt amazing, I felt amazing! 17 miles 1398ft of elevation and I averaged 10.08min/mile pace! Ran on fats and proteins and little carb and sugars! The headache went. I took no supplements on the road. Not even water. I achieved what I wanted from the run. And the best thing. I didn't feel like I had ran 17 miles. 

As I came into the garden I was buzzing. So was Suze. She had also had an awesome run on the same route and felt good. 

Is there really something in all this? 

I honestly believe so. 

Now, writing this on the following Thursday, after a 4 mile recovery run at lowish heart rate followed by an awesome 11mile at pace run, I still feel good. I haven't reached for snacks. I haven't had a "sugar headache", I'm losing some of that excess weight and I feel strong.

I'm going to continue with this experiment and I shall continue to blog about it.

I plan to write a liitle post soon on what I have changed in my diet and how I'm feeling after training and eating. Such as that craving for a mid afternoon snack. You know the one!

Will I become that lean, mean, fat burning machine? 

To be continued...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Long Expected - Tolkien Run

A new event from those guys at Saxon, Viking & Norman marathons.

With a small field of runners, on Britains newest bit of land and the race being midweek, this race was going to be a bit different. Add to the mix, a Tolkien theme, and it was going to be special!

The race was held at Samphire Hoe, basically a new part of Britain, next to Dover, which was created out of the spill from digging the Channel Tunnel. Here comes my first mistake. After Sundays Farnham Marathon, I expected the course to be pancake flat. Mainly due to me not reading about the course and more from a tv documentary I had watched a fair few years ago about the channel tunnel. 

In the documentary they talked of Samphire How and the fact it was used as a storage area for the large concrete curved walls that lined the tunnel. So in my mind, this was a nice flat area!

Turns out that it wasn't really!! Well, actually two thirds were flat, as we ran along the sea wall. The final third is like the pic above. Over the 27.90 miles I ran, I recorded an elevation gain just shy of 2000ft. Pretty much the same as Farnham marathon.

My initial plan was the same as Farnham, run a good half. Although my glutes were still achey from Farnham which had only been 3 days previous. So this was really about enjoying the event with my fellow runners. 

I set off in a nice comfy 10min/mile pace. Making our way over the hilliest part of the course before making a quick descent to the sea wall. Heading East towards Dover and the docks clearly in view. During these early miles I chatted to Sheila as we headed to the turning point on the sea wall. Just prior to getting there, Matt and Foxy had come past us and Foxy mentioned something about a head wind! At that point I was unsure what he was talking about. But as we made the turn and came onto the main sea wall, I fully understood what he meant!! You couldn't feel the wind at your back at all heading East, but it was a pretty strong wind when you headed west straight into it. 

It wasn't long until we were back at the hilly part of the course, and wanting to run a good half, I continued to run up the hill. It actually felt good. The surface was a good quality trail, so running on it was good. 

Each lap is approx 3.45 miles, so to cover the marathon distance, 8 laps would be required covering 27.6 miles. 

At the end of each out and back there is the legendary aid station. Full of all the naughty food you could wish for. I opted for the bacon cheddars. While admiring Heathers wonderfully made cake!

And back out I went. Matt Tonks was on a flyer, I think he was scared being so close to France, or it may have been difficult to pace with no Jon Godfrey with him. Foxy was after a 50km pb and Keith was always close by or they were talking. 

It was good to meet a fellow 10in10er (TiT). I believe Ellan had turned up late after dropping her child at school, but it was good to have a chat!  

I went through half way in 2.30, not overly disappointed, but slower than I had hoped before I saw the course. 

Mel and myself linked up, and after Mel recently completed the Great Barrow Challenge, 10in10, we started discussing 10 in 10s as you do! We were happy to just enjoy ourselves and keep moving forward. We were soon joined by Jacqueline, who had unfortunately picked up an injury and possibly shouldn't be running. 

The event is a 6 hour challenge. You can run as many or as little laps as you like. As long as you complete one lap, you're classed as a finisher and you get your medal and goody bag. The majority of the field targeting the marathon distance.

After my 5th lap I was very aware of some uncomfortable pain in my left hip flexor and that I was trying to compensate it which was giving me other issues down my left leg. I did something I don't like to do and took some pain killers. I also slipped on my calf guards. I felt better for it and we cracked on.

It wasn't long until we were just about to start our last lap and I had a sneaky shot of Vodka. Thank you Janet. I like to drink tonic water on these type of events, so one vodka was a welcome bonus. It made me feel better for 5 minutes.

I tried to convince others that there was time to run another lap and go for the 50km. Some were already doing this!

Crossing the line was a great feeling. My left leg was shot and I had asked Emily, Rosemary and Sally if they had a spare. Despite my stubbornness and the pain, the medal and goody bag removed it for a while! The medal is huge!!!

The goody bag is full of all the naughties you want after a marathon!

I got an extra choccy bar for working out the Dwarfish Runes on the medal "not all those that wander are lost".

A massive thank you Rachel and Traviss for another fine event! You can't go wrong with these guys. Take a peek at their website

Thank you to the running family again for helping make these events so special.

And a special mentioned to Paul Sahota running in his Darth Vader outfit again! I think he enjoys it a bit to much!!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Raffle Update

It gives me great pleasure to announce that not only is there a sparkling brand new iPad Air up for grabs, but now, thanks to White Star Running, a marathon place in one of their many races next year! You can choose from the Iconic Giants Head Marathon with it's love station at mile 20, the Larmer Tree Marathon where you'll get to run around the beautiful Rushmore Estate, The Ox which has an Ultra option and a medal to nearly die for! Or the shiny new for 2015 Bad Cow Marathon which sees marathon running back in Poole, Dorset.

All you need to do, is visit here donate at least £1 and your name will go in the hat! £10 gets your name in the 10 times etc..

If you've already donated, you'll be automatically added to the draw, but please feel free to add more.

More prize's will be added as 2014 comes to a close so please keep an eye out here!

Finally, please visit to find out dates and further info on their races. X

The IPad in it's shiny packaging!

The wonderful Giants Head medal!

The Larmer Tree Medal!

The Ox Medal!

The Bad Cow Medal!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

New Official Partner - White Star Running

I'm really pleased to announce my first Official partner in support of my journey to and through the Brathay 10 in 10. 

White Star Running have very kindly backed me, which is just brilliant. A well renowned race organisation who put on some iconic and well loved marathons in the UK. 

Races such as the Giants Head Marathon where you get a medal with a huge co....chalk man on it!!

Or there's the Ox, which has just as awesome medal!!

And not forgetting the new for 2015, the Bad Cow Double!!

Here's what White Star Running had to say 

"We are a group of friends who like running, organising races and a cake a and drink afterwards.

White Star Running aims to organise fun, sociable and value for money running events, for runners of all abilities, with no corporate claptrap. We believe in races that are tough, marshals that are friendly, views that are awesome and beer that is cold.

We are very conscious these days that running has been somehow hijacked by big companies organising events to make a quick buck.

We like to think we are not like other companies.

We are very pleased to be helping "The Machine" in his quest to run Brathay 10 Marathons in 10 days

Hes a great lad, but a bit nuts, hes run a load of our events and we like him :)

Check out our Facebook page

For regular Dennis updates and more info on us 


Andy Palmer 

Big Boss at White Star Running "

Farnham Pilgrims Marathon - The local marathon

Believe it or not, but this was the first marathon I ever ran just two years ago. It's a two year marathon runniversary! 

It's my local marathon and I like to support my local event, however this is no easy marathon. A tough trail marathon taking in the beautiful sites along the Pilgrims Way between Farnham and Guildford predominantly around the North Downs. 

In 2012 it was marathon number 1, in 2013 it was marathon number 12, this year it was marathon number 39. Safe to say I've got the bug!! 

After being confirmed as one of the lucky 18 to be running 2015s Brathay 10 in 10, marathons have taken on a new meaning. Until now I had cruised a few marathons with no time to worry about, to enjoy the distances and socialise with my fellow runners. Now, however, I feel I need to structure my running to be gaining something from each run. That's not to say I won't enjoy it! 

Since my DNF on the North Downs 100 in August the legs had felt heavy, until two weeks ago where I managed to pull out the quickest 5km I've done in two years. Speed work is something I'm going to be bringing back into my running. To compliment the long runs I have booked.

Back to Farnham and my plan was to run at least a good half. My fitness isn't back up to putting down a great marathon at the moment, so a good attack on the first half and then get through to finish number 39. Plan was to run at 10min/mile pace. On a road, this is comfortable, on trail it'll push me. 

The start area was really enjoyable for me. I've made so many running friends since December last year, the actual start of the race got in the way of socialising!!
The race starts at The Sands recreation ground. Roughly 1.5-2 miles from my front door. So it was nice to have a 5 minute drive to the race.

Anyway, I had said I would run with Paul Sahota. I think we are of equal running ability and it would be good to enjoy his company on the route. As the gun went off, I went off. Chatting with a few people early doors and noticing I was a bit ahead of Paul. 

I settled into my planned pace and felt comfortable on the early road section. It wasn't long before joining onto the NDW. A route I know well and train on. It didn't make it any easier. In the distance I could see Jay and Cam chatting. Or more Cam chatting to Jay!! 

I decided to keep an eye on them and not lose them. 

After a little detour through Seale we were back on the NDW and heading towards what I call Nemesis hill. A lose stone and sand hill that goes up on to Puttenham common. In training I run this hill, but it kicks my butt. During the race and only 3-4 miles in, I wasn't going to run it. There's not much to gain running it but more to lose. A good fast walk up got me to the top without the need of a defibrillator! The up is followed by a good quick down into Puttenham. 

The course settles out and stays pretty flat as we follow the NDW towards Watts Gallery near Guildford. Here the Pilgrims Way splits from the NDW. I'd lost sight of Jay and Cam, but knew they weren't to far, so I put a push on. 

A few miles further on, and they were back in sight. A combination of me pushing and them enjoying the aid station. We were around 8 miles in. It was really good to join them and a new running friend Paul Hart. 

We had a good chat while pushing on. A few miles further on and the course starts to get tougher! The climb up to St Martha's on the Hill. Best way to describe this, is a church on a massive sand dune!!! 

The top of the sand dune signifies halfway. Some how, I look pretty alive in the pic at the very top of the page with Cam, Jay and Paul despite the climb!! 

At this point Jay got out his little boom box and got the party started as we turned to head back west and downhill. 
You'd think it would be welcoming to have a down hill run, but I was struggling with my toes banging inside my trainers. Which ultimately left me with some tender toes. 

Of course, it wasn't long before we faced an uphill again. This time heading slightly north to take in the views from Pewsey Down!! Then another quick steep descent back on to the Pilgrims Way and towards Shalford Park and the river Wey.

Then, another cheeky little hill to take in St Catherine's. A hill you go up, around the ruins and come down only actually getting a few feet closer to Farnham. 

With this detour out the way, the route continues on the NDW towards Loseley farm. I should also point out I let Jay, Cam and Paul get ahead as I eased off according to the plan.   

Coming past Loseley farm and the Dark Lord himself Paul, you know the one I was supposed to be running with, turned up. We had a quick chat and he ran on in front of me. I started to settle into a run walk strategy I have for tough times, run 200 steps, walk 200 steps. I also realised how hungry I was!! 

The route continues to Watts Gallery where we then rejoin the route we took heading towards Guildford earlier, but heading back. I stuffed some ritz crackers in my face and trotted on towards Puttenham.

Arriving at Puttenham, rather than continue to head back to Farnham, which would've been really nice, we turned to head out on to Puttenham common. Here come the stys!! 

My legs were now feeling like lead and I could feel where my fitness wasn't at the level it needs to be. A few miles into the common and I started chatting with a new marathon runner Neil. It was his first marathon. Who would be so stupid to chose this marathon as a first?! Then do it twice more?! It was a welcome distraction as I offloaded all I knew about running. That was 30s killed!!! 

We stated together for a good few miles until we were back at the bottom of Nemesis hill. Neil was suffering now, and I'm not surprised, a tough first marathon. I started to push on and actually started to feel comfortable again. I knew where I was, what was coming and how far left to go. 

It wasn't long before I was on the home straight heading towards the Barley Mow pub in The Sands. Lots of support from fellow runners who had finished. Turning left into the field and seeing the finish line! Marathon 39 done and the hardest one of the year so far!

Although my time wasn't great, I knew it wasn't about time but how I performed over the first half. It's a tough course and I'm really pleased with how it went. Something I want to carry into the next marathons as I continue to build the fitness!

I'm never going to win races, I'm not a natural runner. I just have bags of determination and I don't know when to quit. In fact, I don't want to quit. 

Now my brain starts the process of removing the memories of the pain and discomfort, preparing me for some later post run internet marathon bookings!!

Despite how tough the course is, it is a stunning route, plenty of aid stations, 95% traffic free on 80-90% on trail (read sand). I'm proud it's my local marathon as it challenges every year!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Brathay 10 in 10!!

I'm really pleased to announce that I have been fortunate enough to be selected to run the Brathay 10 in 10!!

10 Marathons around the beautiful Lake Windermere in 10 consecutive days!!

This will challenge me not just physically but mentally as well. Having completed the Enigma Week at the knees, 7 marathons in 7 days, I know what will be expected of my body and mind, although at least during those 7 days there were 3 different courses.

The Windemere marathon is known to be one of the UKs toughest road marathons. So why would I wish to run it in 10 consecutive days? Because the challenge is there, but also to raise vital funds for the Brathay Trust, who work with disadvantaged children across the UK.

All I need to do is from now until May 8th, is condition my body and mind, and raise a huge amount of cash!!

I shall be having a raffle via my Just Giving page for a chance to win a brand new Apple Ipad Air (worth over £300).

All you need to do, is go to my Just Giving Page  and sponsor me a minimum of £1. For every £1 you put in, you enter your name into the draw. So £10 would put your name in 10 times. Please make sure you give your name and state "IPAD" when sponsoring. The draw will be made on the 15th December so the prize will arrive in time for Christmas!!

Please share the raffle with your friends, family and work colleagues!

Please also visit this blog frequently to see how my training is going and to see what other exciting fundraising events will be going on.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Dinton Pastures 10km Race 3

Dinton Pastures 10km Race 3, the third race in a series of four. 
A very pleasant two loop 5km course around the Dinton Pastures country park near Wokingham. 
I've enjoyed the previous two races and was looking forward to race three. I just wasn't sure how my legs would be after the weekends double marathon. Still, I decided to push it and see where I got. Legs felt strong, but it was warm. I decided to try and pace around 8.40 min/miles. Nothing spectacular but steady. I also decided to run in my Salomon Speedcross 3s. This might not seem anything to exciting, but after running in Adidas Adizero Adios 2s, the Salomons feel rather heavy in comparison. With the NDW100 coming up, it would be good prep.
After a little chat with Karen, we were off. The field is a mix of 5km and 10km runners, no more than 300 overall. It soon spreads early on with plenty of room to run. 
What I always find interesting, is when I overtake runners or get overtaken, am I in a race with them or is it a 5km runner. Going through the first lap, you soon realise as naturally the 5km runners stop. 
I went through halfway at 27.04, a bit quicker than target. It being so warm I took the opportunity to stretch the legs while getting some water down. Then get back on it. 
A few times I considered walking and tried to justify it by telling myself I ran a double on the weekend. Poor excuse really. So I pushed on and finished in 54.44. Steady pacing. Comfortable and the legs felt strong. 
I knew I could've pushed harder, but that push is for another race on another night. This was about a solid safe performance. My natural pacing is working well and I feel I'm starting to get back to my best. After the NDW100 is out of the way, I shall work very hard towards a new marathon pb. 

With only one race left of the series, there is now a league table of the series runners. I'm sitting in 11th in the Men's Senior table, just 44 secs behind 10th place. I have a target. Although only a few days hopefully after a successful 100 mile finish, who knows??

Photo courtesy of sports-alive photography