warriorwomen running blog

≡ Menu

Stromer ST1 eBike Review

Stromer ST1The Stromer ST1 pedelec was a tricky purchase to make. I have a glut of bikes in the house and this new one was going to cost the same as a brand new Vespa scooter.

The view from the household was that I should quit being lazy and just get on my push-bike.

That refrain has been heard before but has very limited effect I’m afraid. The fact is, that although I love the ride into work; the speed, the ducking and diving, the excitement of reaching London and its bridges and parks – I just can’t be bothered with the ride home. After a hard day’s work, when it’s dark and usually wet, I just can’t face the upward climb towards an unattractive suburb of Croydon.

So I’ve been using pay as you go oyster far more than I’d like. I’m not prepared to buy a money-saving season ticket and tie myself in for a year of public transport drudgery.

That’s where the Stromer comes in. It’s got to be close to being the worlds best eBike. Super fast, long-range and I don’t feel like a nob riding it.

It’s a pedelec eBike which means it doesn’t have a throttle and only provides motor assistance if you are putting in some effort. You can actually put in as much effort as you can on a standard bike but you are rewarded more handsomely for it. The extra assistance cuts out at a pre-defined max (28 mph).

A lot of people assume that it is cheating and that I won’t be getting any exercise by choosing to use an eBike, but they are wrong. Well not about the cheating bit, I would have wasted a lot of money if it wasn’t cheating, but I certainly get a good dose of exercise from the commute. I’ve monitored my heart rate on the journey into work and back so I can compare the effort on an eBike with the effort of a standard road bike (Specialised Sirrus). I was quite surprised.

The chart shows my heart rate against distance, with the eBike in Orange and my standard road bike in blue.

Heart rate on a Stromer ST1 ride

On the way in to work my heart rate is actually higher on the eBike. What you can’t see from the chart is the time taken, its much faster on the eBike, so although I may be putting in more effort while I’m riding, I’m not doing it for as long. On the way home my effort levels are lower and I still get home 20 minutes quicker. That is exactly what I wanted – a fun ride in and a more relaxed trip home.

What is like to ride a pedelec eBike?

The ride is thrilling. Obviously push-bike riding can be thrilling if you ride fast enough but the joy of the Stromer is that it makes me feel fit and energetic everyday. That’s a great feeling.

When I first started, I tended not to lead the peloton too often. I didn’t like to draw too much attention and also didn’t feel quite so agile on this heavy beast of a bike. After a month of riding that’s changed though and I ride freely, regularly leading my own Gurney races.

Gurney racing at #sixdaylondon #gurney #velodrome

A video posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

The weight of the bike which is not insubstantial made it quite tricky to manoeuvre as a novice. You can’t flip the back wheel up while on the move for instance but that can also be an advantage as it offers stability and slow speed moves are made a little easier.

Stromer ST1 ReviewThe power transmission from the rear wheel motor is pretty smooth. It feels like you have a supportive hand on your back just pushing you gently forward.

There are 4 assist levels:

0 – which I presume means zero assist. I had thought I’d use this for the ride into work but really, why would you. The bike weighs a tonne and the unassisted ride feels like riding with the brakes on.

1 – is supposedly just enough assist to eradicate the slowing effect of the weight of the bike and the motor. It should set you on a level playing field with the other cyclists. It feels to be slightly more performance enhancing than it suggest in my experience.

2 – This is where I spend most of my time. I ride between 18 and 22 mph – not too fast for the Central London conditions. It’s a stop start commute and I appreciate the extra help to get back up to speed.

3 – top supported speed is higher than 2 but I don’t find the transmission to be as smooth, I can feel it powering up as I pedal hard and then it drops off again in waves. For the pace I like to travel at, level 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable.

4 – this is fast! Top supported speed 28 mph. For the stop start London commuting experience I find this too fast and hardly use it. There is one straight stretch on the way home that I like to power along though so I tend to flick to assist 4 and then back down to 2 when the roads get more gnarly again. If I had a less congested commute I would probably live at Level 4.

You also have 2 levels called Recup 1&2 which are also triggered by the application of the rear wheel brake. This applies electrical braking which also recharges your battery a bit and extends the distance range before your battery flattens.

What is the Distance Range of the Stromer ST1?

I’m afraid I haven’t tested this out fully and will need to come back and update this review.

The manufacturer claim a distance range of 40-80km for a 70kg rider. Now I’m a 100kg rider with luggage, half of my journey is at night which uses the integral light – another drain on the battery, so I’m unlikely to get 80km out of it.

My daily commute is 36 km and I arrive home with about 2 bars left on the battery indicator. What I have yet to do, in the name of blogging science, is to continue riding around and around my block until I run out of assistive steam. I want to make sure I’m close to home when the battery flattens as the unassisted ride is quite an effort!

***UPDATE on Stromer ST1 Motor Failure***

As soon as I finished writing this post, gushing about the joys of eBike riding, disaster struck.

I was mid way home, about to power away on a standing start at a junction. I pushed on the pedals, nothing happened, I pushed harder, still nothing untill I wobbled and tipped pathetically to the side while the other vehicles impatiently pushed me aside.

The Stromer ST1 was not playing at all, it was stuck in brake mode and it felt like I was trying to move a spin bike on the highest resistance. Worse still my monitor was flashing the message HALL. Of course that meant nothing so I googled it. Apparently it means “Motor failure – contact dealership”. That is not what I wanted to read so far from home. I tried switching off and on and eventually the message disappeared but the bike was no longer the same.

The Stromer is heavy and unwieldy at the best of times, when it decides it’s not going to work anymore it is quite a pain to get home. You can’t just bundle it in a taxi or the back of a train. I switched it off and tried pedalling anyway but it still felt like a high resistance spin bike. On the bright side, my return commute was going to be an amazing quad workout.

I did get home eventually and the UK dealer (Urban eBikes) have been very good, they are coming around tomorrow to pick it up and repair it for me, so it looks like I’ll have to dust off the oyster pay as you go for another week while they repair or replace the motor.

***Second Update on Stromer ST1 and Rider Performance***

I’ve just seen a fascinating youtube video by Adam Alter, showing a Stromer ST2 rigged up with a power meter and BSXInsight Lactate Threshold device with the rider powering up a substantial hill.

It nicely illustrates that the effort levels of the rider can still be high when riding an s-pedelec, its just that the rewards are so much greater.

{ 1 comment }

Quest Protein Bars on the Settle to Carlisle Way

Settle to Carlisle WayI was recently sent a vast variety of Quest protein bars, enough to consider cancelling my grocery shop for the week. As their arrival coincided with our planned mega hike along the Settle to Carlisle Way, I chose instead to stash them into our rucksacks for emergency sustenance.

That proved to be a good move.

Quest bar on the Settle to Carlisle WayPubs up North seem to keep odd hours and you wouldn’t believe the times we staggered off a Pennine hillside desperately seeking the pub marked on our OS map, only to find it was either shut or we had just missed the food serving window.

Still, I can confirm that when all else fails, a Quest protein bar proves to be a good accompaniment to a pint of Theakstones.

Quest protein barThe Quest bars all have a similar texture; a chewy protein matrix with what appears to be chunks of real cookies running through. Looking at the ingredient list tells me that it hasn’t so much as sniffed a real cookie so I think that’s quite an impressive trick.

In terms of taste, I’d say things like “not too bad”, “reasonably pleasant” but then you can’t get overly effusive about a protein bar. People don’t buy protein bars because they think they taste better than chocolate bars, they buy them because they are avoiding carbs, trying to eat protein with every meal and need something more convenient than a chicken breast. It’s only when you stack protein bars of different brands against each other that you start to feel more positively about Quest bars.

I have tried some fairly horrendous protein bars in my time, so by comparison these Quest bars are pretty darn good. I still came back with handful though, so they weren’t quite good enough to dissuade me from carrying them one end of Yorkshire t’other.

{ 0 comments }

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

Back in July I was inspired by Greg Whyte’s book, Achieve the Impossible, to knuckle down and finally nail the 100km challenge that appeared to have morphed into my very own personal Impossible.

Using the tips outlined in the book I identified the key measures of success and drew up an Excel Dashboard that I could use to monitor my progress towards my view of personal fitness excellence. I’m using the term excellence here to mean an attainable level of achievement that should put me in the best position to be able to achieve my goals.

Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard

So, as I want to be strong, resilient and aerobically fit, I’ve identified 11 measures that I think will provide a good indication of my ability to run 50km and then get up the next day and run them again.

They broadly fit into the following categories:

  • Strength measures – Deadlift
  • Aerobic capacity – Cooper Test, Lactate Threshold, VO2 Max, MAF pace
  • Weight
  • Endurance – distance measures

I’m not sure that I’ve chosen the best 11 measures yet as there is some considerable overlap between all my aerobic capacity indicators but it is my starter for ten and I can easily amend if I find that another measure will more accurately indicate my ultra-readiness.

Once you’ve defined your measures of success you need to draw up a scale, I’m using 0 to 10 for each measure so that they plot well on a radial chart (as shown above). This is quite a tricky task as well. I’ve chosen to show my current position in each measure as a zero, so that I start from the centre of the radial chart, and am assuming that the only way is up – I’ve left no room to slide. Defining the 10 score is much harder. I have no clue where my “Excellence” in VO2 Max lies for instance. I could probably search t’internet for Lance Armstrong’s VO2 Max score which most people would consider to be excellent but would it be my excellence?

Given that I’m going to train clean, the answer is probably not.

It’s a problem that I can’t define excellence in all my chosen measures. It means I will only really be able to track the direction of travel, hopefully improvement, but I won’t be able to say when my target is achieved. That only applies to the aerobic measures though, for everything else I have a history and pb’s to chase. I’m very clear on the weight I need to be to feel confident on race day and the 5km time that would mean I was sprightly and as fit as I’ve ever been.

The other measures are going to have to be a work in progress. Just like me.

You can download my example Achieve the Impossible Fitness Tracking Dashboard here, but you will need to amend the targets as I very much doubt that your idea of “personal excellence” will match mine.

{ 0 comments }

Nosh Detox

Nosh Detox deliveryI’ve been sent a lot of free food this month, the latest being a 3 day supply of lovingly prepared detox grub from Nosh Detox.

I chap came round on Sunday evening and presented me with 3 boutique style bags of food; Ocado never manage to make their deliveries look so chic.

It was rather exciting to unpack the sealed pouches of food and see what I had in store for the next few days. There was a fair smorgasbord and I struggled to find space for in the fridge. Whenever I embark on a DIY detox I very quickly run out of ideas and settle for the same old meals day in and day out. With the Nosh Detox program, there was an impressive variety of meals supplied, with only a green bean and onion snack repeated across the 3 days.

Nosh Detox was set up by Geeta Sidhu-Robb who was inspired by her success in helping her son recover from eczema and asthma by means of natural supplementation and clean eating. Now Nosh Detox aim to use natural wholefoods to rebalance the body’s nutrient deficiencies and provide their meal plans to high performance individuals from athletes to the stereotypical hard working city person as well as people looking for health solutions due to bad eating habits and nutrient deficiencies.

Nosh Detox offer a range of detox options, including juice detoxes and a variety of wholefood options. I chose the whole food No Sugar No Yeast detox option for my 3 days.

Nosh Detox Day 1Day 1 started with a brown rice porridge which I had cold as I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be eating everything cold and raw. Mid morning I had a green bean and onion snack and then moved quickly to the chick pea, aubergine and onion salad for lunch. The afternoon snack was an anti-inflammatory turmeric and cauliflower saute, followed by a chicken stirfry for tea. I couldn’t manage another cold meal at this point and opted to heat the stirfry over a dry frying pan.

There was plenty of food for one day!

A bit of a trend was noted across the 3 days for quite large portions of the same food. So with the chickpea salad it was a large bowl comprised almost entirely of chickpeas. While I’m never one to complain about a hefty portion I did find it a bit samey by the end of my meal.  Over the course of day though, I found there was plenty of variety across the 5 meals.

Mint CoolerThe food pouches themselves weren’t labelled but each bag contained a menu for the day so I knew what to select as I left for work. The lack of labelling led to a few shocks. The vibrant green cocktail for my morning snack in Day 2 was very definitely pea green but tasted nothing like peas. When I got home I checked the menu to discover that it was actually a cucumber and mint cooler, not a pea in sight.

The food Nosh Detox produce is seasonal with menus developed on the day of cooking so you are unlikely to find that your menus would match those that I received. The photos should give you an idea of how fresh and vibrant you can expect the dishes to be though.

This seasonal approach probably makes it quite difficult to provide detailed nutritional information but as I’m used to studying the ingredient list and macronutrient content of my foods I found this a bit uncomfortable . The recipes are however gluten free, dairy free, egg free and mostly nut free so there’s not much left to cause concern. All Nosh Detox customers are open to having a complementary health chat on the phone with a health coach or nutritionist which can be either booked at the end or the beginning of their program and this is a great opportunity to discuss any concerns.

The food was obviously made with care and designed to reduce inflammation and generally enhance your wellbeing but it’s very expensive. For one person, a weeks supply of whole food dishes will cost in the region of £400 which is pretty hard to swallow.

However, if you have that sort of money you’ll probably be working all hours and might appreciate having someone take the stress out of finding healthy foods for your every meal. Even if you will end up cooking for yourself in the long run, this is a great way to increase your repertoire and get ideas for healthy new foods. You are likely to feel great after the first week of detox too.

I myself discovered the delight of coconut chip snacks and the satisfaction of a well cooked spear of asparagus. Nosh Detox sauté their asparagus so it has a definite crunch while I have been steaming mine to within an inch of mush. Never again, my asparagus days start over.

{ 0 comments }

Huel complete Food for Humans

I’ve always been a bit sniffy about meal replacement shakes but when I first heard about Huel in a recent Times article I felt more intrigued than judgemental. It seemed to be selling itself as an ethical, low allergenic alternative to real food and not as a quick fix diet shake. So when I was offered a week’s supply of Huel to try out, I obviously jumped at the chance.

Huel is vegan, dairy free, soy free, gluten-free food replacement product and claims to be nutritionally complete providing at least 100% of the UK Governments Reference Nutrient Intakes. Personally I’d rather not trust the Government with decisions about my health but at least they’ve opted to follow the UK model rather than the US Government’s view of a healthy diet.

If I were to claim affinity to any particular nutritional bandwagon it would have to be Weston A Price with its focus on traditional foodstuffs, well reared meat and fermented products so Huel doesn’t fit in so well with that – it’s hardly traditional to live off mail order powder and there isn’t even a sniff of an animal product, well reared or not. The ingredient list is pretty tame, there isn’t a single product that I could complain about with the bulk comprised oats, pea protein coconut, flaxseed and sunflower seed.

When I took delivery of my weeks supply of Huel, I planned to trial a 100% Huel day based on 1500 cals. Here’s my day’s supply weighed out and combined ready for use. By the time I had made it through the first 8 hours or so of my day and consumed my breakfast and lunch Huel, I was getting pretty desperate and I decided to change the experiment and adopt a more sustainable approach of 2 on and 1 off.

Quite a lot of people choose to substitute Huel for breakfast and lunch and then opt for their typical evening meal with the family. This seems eminently sensible to me. Breakfast is usually the most nutritionally lacking meal in most people’s diets. Unless I can bothered to cook up an egg meal I rarely get a satisfactory level of protein in the first meal of the day. Huel at least ensures that I get a good kick-start with a so-called balance of carbs, protein and fat. Lunch is a bit easier to control but if I haven’t bothered to make myself a pack up chicken salad I find myself spending a fortune on organic produce near work and I’m happy to swap a £7 salad for a 96p bottle of Huel (300 cals worth), safe in the knowledge that my nutritional needs are accounted for.

I admit, it is poor to design an experiment and then change the goalposts half way through implementation but if you want to read about someone who has jumped on the 100% bandwagon and has so far stuck at it for 3 unhappy days, check out Ed Wiseman who is in the midst of 7 day Huel experiment.

I’ve now been using Huel for 12 days and I’m really happy with it. I weigh out the powder in the morning and mix to about a 1:5 ratio of powder to water (you can amend to your desired consistency). I do find that Huel is quite resistant to mixing and it takes a fairly hefty blast with handheld blender. I haven’t tried the shaker approach but can only imagine that it would result in major lumps.

Huel is not particularly tasty but neither is it vile. I’d describe it as a strangely sweet, runny porridge. Its bland really, but I’ve always found that bland works pretty well for me, it seems to turn off all my high alert, food-neediness sensors.

On a normal, non Huel day, I typically have breakfast, arrive at work and start wondering if its ok to have my morning snack of cashew nuts, then an hour or so later I start clock watching til 12 noon when I think I can reasonably start on my lunch. With Huel, I start the day with a pint of the whizzed up concoction and although I do feel hungry in the morning, I know that the Huel is sitting there waiting for me and I can eat it (or drink it) whenever I like. I just don’t seem to “like” that much. On Huel days I regularly make it through til 2-ish before I finally crack the lunchtime supply open.

As someone who constantly struggles with my weight and any form of dietary restriction, I find this behaviour to be a revelation and one that I want to hang on to.

So 12 days in I feel good, healthy, lighter, slimmer and I’ve saved money on my grocery bill. That’s a bit of an obvious thing to say given that my first bag of Huel was a freebie but I did buy the second bag. A weeks supply of Huel (based on 2000 Huel calories per day) costs £45 and at the moment comes with a free t-shirt (I like mine), a shaker and a metal drinks bottle.

Hacking the Huel

They have a fairly active customer forum at Huel and there seems to be an acceptance of altering the mix or spicing it a bit. Here are my suggestions for hacking the Huel.

Changing the Flavour

I’ve already said that the bland flavour works for me so I don’t want to dabble with the flavouring and make this a moreish product, having said that I did try adding the dregs of my black Americano one morning and it was surprisingly good. Other users have tried an assortment of flavour enhancers including syrups, coffee powders and cinnamon.

Altering the MacroNutrient mix

I don’t buy into the Governments view of what constitutes a healthy diet and would prefer to have some more control based around my personal requirements. So while Huel is currently constructed around a 30 30 40 split (fat, protein, carbs), I would prefer to increase the protein and fat at the expense of the carbohydrate. When I’ve been weight training I add some additional grass fed whey powder and/or collagen to the mix. Obviously it adds to the calories but it also shifts the macronutrient mix in favour of protein.

Making it Live

I’m also a big fan of fermented products and kombucha, yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut are a regular addition to my diet. Since opting for two Huel meals a day I’ve reduced my opportunity to sneak in my home-made Bulgarian heritage yoghurt, and that’s a bit of a tragedy as I have to maintain the lactobacillus line. I’ve started to sneak a bit into my morning Huel to ‘live’en it up a bit which also has the benefit of taking the edge off the sweetness. As with all additions though, it affects the nutrient mix and the calorie content.

Final View

I don’t see why anybody without complex health needs or a psychological aversion to food, would choose to use Huel as a complete food replacement. It’s quite possible to do and might well be more nutritious than most people’s dietary alternatives, but food means so much more than just nutrition and I don’t ever want to lose the joy of sitting down to a good meal with friends and family.

I do think that there could be a longterm role for Huel in my life though. I’ve already ordered my next weeks supply and will continue to adopt a breakfast and lunch replacement for the forseeable future. I’m impressed with the level of food control I seem to have developed while using Huel and the result is that I’ve been losing weight but I also feel good, my energy levels are up and my mood is steady. If I were to try to restrict my consumption in a similar way using “normal” foods, I’d be going up the wall within a day.

{ 2 comments }

Run Slow to Run Faster – The Maffetone Method

It’s not good for the ego to be outrun by a dog walker but that is the short-term risk of adopting The Maffetone Method.

run slow to run fasterThis weekend I was “running” behind a dog walker for at least 20 minutes, running within yards of him before my heart rate monitor beeped at me and I had to drop to a dawdle. The dog walker edged away until finally, my heart rate edged to the lower end of my training target and I could prepare for the overtake manoeuvre again.

This went on for a good 15 attempts before I decided it was probably easier to turn around and head back home.

What is the Maffetone Method

The Maffetone method eschews the no pain no gain ethos, in favour of super low intensity training to optimise aerobic performance.

I came across the Maffetone Method when I was researching different ways to assess and record fitness gains as part of my Achieve the Impossible Challenge and plumped for the MAF Test as an accessible and useful gauge of improving aerobic fitness.

The MAF Test, which stands for Maximum Aerobic Function test, has you run over a set distance between 1-5 miles (in my case 5k) all the time keeping your heart rate within in a set range – the Maffetone Range. The Maffetone Range equates to either heart rate zone 1 or 2 and when you start out it’s really quite difficult to exercise and keep below the maximum allowable rate.

Determining your Maffetone Training Range

Phil Maffetone describes a simple 180 formula to determining your maximum training heart rate.

Step 1) 180 – Age

Step 2) Take this number and adjust by one of the following:

a) Recovering from major illness/surgery then subtract 10
b) Injured, new/returning to training or sickly then subtract 5
c) Consistent trainer (4 days a week for 2 years) then make no change, your max MAF training heart rate is 180 – age
d) Experienced athlete (2+ years) with consistent or improving performance then add 5

As I’m between b) and c) and can’t bear to stick to rules I’ve gone for subtracting 3, so my max training heart rate is 180 – 44 – 3 = 133

To find the range you simply set the lower range at 10 beats per minute lower than your max. So my training range (and MAF test range) is 123 to 133 bpm.

The task then is to conduct a baseline line MAF test and then start Maffetone Training which just means that you have to keep all your training runs, in fact any form of exercise, within the Maffetone Range. You are supposed to avoid all forms of anaerobic exercise until you have reached your aerobic peak which you can identify by a plateauing of your MAF Test performance.

How to do the MAF Test

Pick a course that is convenient and relatively flat, ideally you will want to use the same course for each future test.

You will need to be equipped with a heart rate monitor so you can ensure that you stick to your range. I have set mine to beep every time I fall outside of the range but that’s not necessary, you just need to keep an eye on it. After a while you will get used to how you feel and how your breathing changes when you are in or out of the training range.

You need to do a good warm up before you start the test so that you’ve got your system used to movement but this also needs to be below your maximum training heart rate determined above.

Then you start the run, recording your lap times and finish time.

Having completed the first test you will have an average pace for the entire distance and each individual lap.  This is your benchmark from which to compare all future tests.

It is recommended that you repeat the MAF Test every month and as you progress you should note that your average pace decreases even though you are sticking to the same HR range. That means you will run faster and faster for the same aerobic load which has got to be a good thing.

The best example I’ve seen of this is from trifundracing:

MAF+TEST+081613

The MAF test is remarkably hard. Not in a gruelling way but just because it is too easy. I can’t walk fast enough to stay consistently in my range but neither can I run slow enough. That means I’m trapped in a perpetual run walk cycle and that is challenging when all you really want to do is run.

If you are fitter and lighter than me, you will probably be able to run for the entire duration of the test but it is going to feel painfully slow for you.

So is it worth it?

Only time will tell of course but having spent a bit of time focussing on my heart rate behaviour I am more inclined to give Maffetone Training a good go. The fact that my heart so readily climbs to anaerobic levels under the slightest levels of exertion suggests that I must always be training the anaerobic system. It makes sense to me that I would benefit from a good few months of low level aerobic base training.

In The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing (*)Phil Maffetone illustrates his method with case studies and even suggests that some of his athletes eventually struggle to hit their maximum MAF heart rate as they’ve become so aerobically efficient. I find this pretty hard to fathom, from my perspective I barely raise my knee into the running form before my heart rate has jumped by 30 beats. When I actually start running, regardless of pace, my heart rate zone is breached within seconds and I have to drop to a walk. The thought that I might someday be able to sprint at that same heart rate feels a bit mythical. I would settle for being able to jog for an hour at that rate though.

The fact that the MAF test enables me to accurately measure performance improvements is a great bonus and I can’t wait until I manage to run the entire distance, even if it is at a snails pace.

MAF Pace and Race Results

There is apparently a link between the average pace achieved during a MAF Test and your pace at various race distances.

Phil Maffetone includes a table on his site which gives an indicator of how much slower your test pace will be.

It doesn’t cover the slow poke range but to give you an idea of where I am. My MAF Test pace over 5km was 10:00 mins/km while my Bushy parkrun time this week was 41 mins which is a race pace of 08:11 and required an average heart rate of 167 bpm and a max of 185 bpm – definitely not within the Maffetone range.

I’ll be repeating a parkrun monthly to see if I see an improvement after training slow and low.

(*) indicates the use of an affiliate link to amazon

{ 0 comments }

Achieve the Impossible

I’m a quitter and a failure.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last year or so.

It came to me over a lovely paleo meal.

We were onto the second course, a delicious ox heart carpaccio and a good way into a bottle of Chardonnay when Lynn asked me what had happened to my fitness plans as she’d noticed that the training calendar was blank and I had been emotionally flat for a while.

I tried to talk but in the end it just seemed easier to sob into my Chardonnay.

I was choking up trying to explain how my last three 100km attempts had ended in failure and I now felt that I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t risk adding yet another failure to my list by aiming for an ultra but at the same time, I couldn’t think of anything, more realistic, that had the power to excite me.

Following our emotional dinner, I came home and promptly ordered Achieve the Impossible (ATI) by Greg Whyte.

It proved to be a fantastically inspiring book. Within a few pages it was clear that my challenge needed to be “audacious” and needed to have an emotional hold over me. Despite hating long distance walking it’s hard to find another challenge that could tick both of those boxes and I’m afraid my big challenge has to be to train and complete a 100 km event.

I wasn’t going to mention it on my blog, hoping to save face if it turned into failure number 4, but another thing I learnt from ATI was that I have to put the challenge out there and be accountable.

So here goes, in 2016 I will train for and complete a 2 stage ultradistance event. Ideally it will be Race to the Stones in July 2016.

 Back to the book.

Achieve the Impossible is written by Greg Whyte who is the driving force behind a number of high profile mega challenges such as Eddie Izzard and his 43 marathons and David Walliams with his 140 mile swim down the Thames. These and many other challenges are used to illustrate the concepts and are fascinating and inspiring in their own right.

The book is ultimately about conception and planning: “Success isn’t an accident; you plan for it”

It has opened my eyes to the level of detail required to ensure success rather than just hope for it. It’s clear in the past that I have designed a training plan focused on only one element required for success – usually running distance. I’ve then gone out there and loosely followed the plan but not checked my progress or considered strategies for the tough times ahead. That means that I arrive at the start of an event someway short of optimally prepared and then have to wing it with no clear idea how to deal with curve balls that appear throughout the course. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but it’s always hit and miss.

In management speak I refer to myself as a Starter Leaver and consider it the perfect complement to the Belbin team role of Completer Finisher. It means that I’m creative and have oodles of energy at the start of a project but I’m very quick to move on to the next big idea. It can work well in a diverse team but when you’re into the grotty half of an ultradistance event it exposes extremely unhelpful personality traits and makes it easy to be a quitter. My emotional response to hard times needs to planned for as much as my body’s reluctance to churn out the distance.

Preparing properly is quite a technical job in itself. The book provides a framework with loads of planning concepts, images and examples to help you along the way but I still found it a little tricky to see how I could put it into action, there were lots of different examples but ideally I wanted the illustration to show: overweight, middle-aged woman plans to run 2-stage ultra event in precisely 1 years time, so I could nick the Measures of Success and the meso and macro planning cycles, but I suppose that is expecting a bit too much.

I am planning an accompanying blog post that will layout my very personal example and I’ll share the Achieve the Impossible spreadsheet that I’ve developed to track and display my progression towards my training goals.

In the meantime I would recommend this as a key read for anyone in the early stages of the next big challenge.

{ 1 comment }

A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I’ve dabbled with the “gamification” of sports but the joy of a new badge and an animated high five rapidly slips into the arena of vaguely irritating notifications.

I was therefore quite surprised at just how quickly I become absorbed in smashrun, the latest app for accumulating, rewarding and hacking running statistics. I’ve even been encouraged to go on an afternoon run, in a heatwave, just so I can get my first badge.

Smashrun was billed as a geeky dashboard for the runner and self-quantifier. Just my cup tea, so I headed over to the homepage and lost myself in the fascinating array of charts. Within minutes I had signed up, connected my account to Garmin and then watched as it sucked 8 years of running history and 3295 km of running goodness into my dashboard.

This is my favourite chart so far, it shows that I was totally rocking in 2007, possibly asleep from 2008/2009 and could do to pick up my running shoes a little more often for the rest of 2015.

smashrun dashboard

I also found out that Sunday’s 5km pootle around Mitcham Common was the longest run in 3 months and that’s just a little bit embarrassing.

On the smashrun website they explain their reason for being with this snippet:

It’s cold. It’s raining. You drag your butt out of bed, pull on your sweats and a windbreaker. You feel like phoning it in after the first three miles, but instead you lock it down and dig deep for that last mile. You get home, shower quickly and rush to work only to show up 5 minutes late. Your boss peers over his coffee. Nice to see, you managed to make it in.

Now, it wasn’t easy to make that run happen. And at the end of the day, it can be hard to say what it accomplished. Maybe you’re in a little better shape? Maybe it’s helped you maintain your internal discipline? Maybe you feel more balanced?

What Smashrun is designed to do is to give you a context for your run. Finishing that run today meant that you’ve run 280 miles this year. That puts you in the top 20% of the runners on Smashrun. It’s more than 50 miles farther than you’d run last year at this time. And it was the 3rd fastest 4 mile run you’ve ever run. You’re running twice as many miles a week as your friend Joe, and when it comes to sheer discipline — showing up day in and day out — you have few peers.

That resonates with me, data and statistics can be mighty powerful if they are displayed in the right way and incredibly motivational. I’ve recorded just about every single run of my adult life and smashrun looks like the tool to bring those runs to life again.

Come and join me, I could do with some friends.

{ 2 comments }

Guilt Trip for Juneathon

So yesterday Lynn hit me with an ultimatum. Apparently I haven’t used my bike in about year and she is fed up of moving it around the dining room. I either have to get on my bike or put it back in the shed.

Ouch!

lady not to scale

The shed is practically a mile down the bottom of the garden and if I had to factor in the time required to retrieve it on the admittedly infrequent cycle commute occasions, I’d have to set the alarm half an hour earlier.

And that ain’t happening!

So today arrives and I dutifully drag out the lycra, and my bike, and head to the big smoke via pedal power.

That’s 34km in the bag for Juneathon and my bike gets a reprieve. Result!

It was also a glorious day and I found myself caught in a rather spectacular dust cloud in Hyde Park. I am grateful to @lucyslade who was quicker off the mark than me and managed to capture the scene beautifully.

{ 1 comment }

A Bone to Pick with Juneathon

I’ve been skirting around the idea of running since my new Juneathon alarm went off at 6:30 am. It’s now 11 pm. 

I postponed the morning run in favour of an evening run, before dinner, but that was pushed into touch by the far more favourable idea of doing it on a full stomach, after dinner. Of course after dinner it became a whole different ball game and I dropped the idea of running altogether. 

So hunting around for a suitable alternative I thought I’d give the Freeletics app a go. Freeletics is a new app that has been nagging me to exercise with it for the last two weeks but I’ve ignored it.

I fired it up and tried the recommended Workout of the Day (WoD) – Metis. No equipment required and just 3 exercises. How difficult can it be?

Well I’m sitting here on the floor quivering and that’s despite bailing after round 1.

I finished round 1 in quite a state after 10 burpees, 10 climbers and 10 high knee jumps. Lynn was watching on the sofa, supportively guffawing, while videoing my efforts. I moved between cursing her and cursing the phone but when the app flicked straight to round 2 with the same 3 exercises but now at 25 reps each, I’m afraid I blew a gasket and started cursing Juneathon too.

Having calmed down a bit I thought I’d give Freeletics the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was throwing a killer WoD at me because it had no idea quite how unfit I’ve allowed myself to become. So I’ve just signed up for the coaching option and taken my max rep test. I knocked out 85 full squats in 5 mins and may never walk again.

Having taken the test and filled in my body stats the app can no longer be in any doubt about the basket case standing before it. It ran through its algorithms and spat out my new program.

What do you know. The first workout it has in store for me is METIS.

I may weep.

{ 0 comments }
Page 2 of 64
1 2 3 4 64
%d bloggers like this: