Category Archives: Diet

Day 19 and 20

  • Total Distance – 137km

Well, I ran both days. Odd distances I can’t quite remember (almost 7km and almost 8km I think). I forgot to blog yesterday because I got attacked and rendered unconscious by some very strong cider.

The leg was sore both days (and is bloody agony at the moment), so clearly I haven’t shrugged off whatever the injury is. The pain only seems to kick in past about the 4km mark, so I might just have to accept a few more days of rather crap distances.

As I was rather disenchanted by everything and had nothing in the fridge for tea I went to get a kebab. I was proud to see that my local kebab shop has reached the final round of the national kebab championships (Outside London category) and had a congratulatory letter from the local MP on the wall. There is a strange mixture of pride and self-revulsion when your local kebab shop is in the running to be the best in the UK. I feel conflicted emotions.

I also feel sick after the kebab, and like every time I eat one swear I’ll never eat one again. This time I really mean it.

Utilitarian cheese

Ye gods!

The rain.

I forgot what a bloody nightmare it was doing anything in the rain when you have glasses. I also regret my “cheapest lenses possible” policy, as what with the coating of water and the steaming up (and the dark and a failing headtorch) I constantly felt like an Italian cruise ship captain struggling to stay on course.

At least I didn’t trip into a lifeboat. (Too soon?)

Still managed 10km, but I’d pulled my back out a bit as I woke up and since I’ve been out running it’s been absolute agony. Hopefully it’ll sort itself out overnight.

I thought today, rather than take a few more cheap shots at the French (tempting though that might be) I’d list the five things I most miss about the UK. (What this amounts to is another thinly disguised list of things I don’t like about the French)

What I miss most about the UK

1) The BBC

You pay a licence fee in France. Or at least some sort of charge for having an ariel on your house and it’s roughly the same amount as the UK licence fee. But while the UK offers multiple commercial-free TV and radio channels for your money, as well as a suite of on-demand and catch up services online, the French licence TV basically appears to just allow you to watch fat, sweaty men discussing politics, or badly dubbed German cop shows interrupted with adverts every 3 minutes. I can’t stress how wonderful the BBC is, and you only really appreciate this when you don’t have ready access to it. Thankfully, tuning to the World Service in the car I can have a little oasis of Britishness in the middle of Franceland, but when I hear people complaining about the licence fee (especially people who pay 25 quid a month for Sky) I want to scream.

2) People in villages

Bit of a strange one, but I really miss the general “life bustle” of the UK. In France if it’s cold; dark; raining; hot; windy; foggy; October through February or lunchtime nobody leaves their homes. It’s genuinely weird. Most villages in France, most of the time, look like they’re preparing for a zombie attack. Houses will have their shutters closed and only the occasional stray dog will break the silence as it skips through the tumble-weed. In contrast people in the UK make the best of any opportunity to go outside. If the weather tips the right side of hurricane then villages are packed full of people wandering about, gossiping and passing the time of day. The contrast is so striking, whenever I cycle through the UK into France it always makes me feel very homesick.

3) Cheddar

You have to accept that the French are largely going to consume their own homegrown cheeses. Cheddar isn’t a big thing here. Our local supermarket carried a couple of UK brands of cheddar for a while but you couldn’t help notice that week after week the shelves remained fully stocked, and fairly soon they gave up on the idea. Inevitably I’ve had to transition to the French equivalent of cheddar known as Comte. It’s the same sort of utilitarian “works-with-everything” cheese as cheddar is, but it tastes a little more…. complicated. After a while you get used to it, but I miss a nice plasticky Tescos cheddar.

4) Takeaways

I used to live in Scotland near some quite scummy towns. As everyone knows the worse the town, the better the takeaways, as they can’t afford to sell bad food or they’ll get their windows stoved in. Nothing on the planet matches a dirty, MSG-laden Scottish Chinese. I’ve been back to the UK many times, and I’ve often found myself in Portsmouth or Dover with time to spare, desperate for a decent Chinese takeaway, but there isn’t one. In fact, thinking about it, I’m not sure I’ve found a single decent Chinese takeaway anywhere in England or Wales. You can get Chinese takeaways in France but they aren’t the same. They take them a bit too seriously – they’re a little too healthy and you can’t get egg fried rice. The French also don’t understand kebabs. I once had an argument with a kebab “artisan” near Caen that hand-making his pitta breads and putting organic salad in the kebab was missing the point entirely.

5) Driving

Generally driving on the continent is pleasant. Less speed cameras. Better maintained roads. Less traffic. But I crave driving with people who understand roundabouts. Where priority is always given to the person on the main road, not a random punter merging from the right. Where flashing your headlights to say thanks rather than “get out of my way” is the norm. Where people can overtake without pretending to be Ayton Senna. I also don’t like changing gear with my right hand.

So there you have it. My ideal day would be driving through some heavily populated villages, listening to Radio 4, eating a cheese sandwich and patting a bag of hot, filthy Chinese food by my side.

I am a simple man.

Dolphin fin! Oat husks! Loving each minute of every day! ZEST 4 LIFE!

Today was a tough day. I was tired. I managed to drag myself around 10km, but it wasn’t pleasant, and I also had to cycle 16km for the milk later in the day. Feeling quite wiped out now.

I’ve been thinking a bit about diet today. Or “fuelling” ones body for the rigours of long distance running.

Most committed runners (and you probably have to be quite committed to run 10km+ a day) seem to follow a very similar diet/daily schedule:

THE COMMITTED RUNNERS DAILY SCHEDULE

5am Leap out of bed! Eat grapefruit skin and hazelnut shells! Go for run! FEELING BRILLIANT!

6am Back! Shower! Kiss beautiful wife! Eat more grapefruit skin and have bowl of oat husks and nettles! I love oat husks! FEELING A-O-K!

7am Go to work on bike! FEELING ALIVE!

10am Morning snack! Organic prune concentrate with bluebell flowers! ZEST 4 LIFE!

12pm Lunch! Dolphin fin on Ryvita (x1)! Want two, but can’t because I need to go for my lunchtime run! STILL FEELING GR8!

3pm Snack! Two bread crusts and one pasta swirl! FEELING GREAT TO THE MAX!

7pm Home! Kiss beautiful wife! Eat 3 more pasta swirls! Go for run! WORLD IS WONDERFUL!

10pm Go to sleep! Amazing day! LOOKING FORWARD TO MORE DAYS LIKE THIS!

If you follow a lot of running blogs then you’ll have seen variants on that. People like this are normally positive, outgoing, square jawed and list their interests as “saving endangered species; rock climbing; helicopter flying and loving each minute of every day as if it’s a brand new sunrise!”

My approach to fitness is somewhat different.

RUNTHOMASRUN COMMITTED RUNNERS DAILY SCHEDULE

8am. Wake up. Wish I was dead. Curl into ball. Need wee. Get up. Walk bleary eyed into kitchen. Stub toe on cat. Curse cat. Fumble for breakfast cereal. Shout at wife. Eat ALDI chocolate flakes until I feel sick.

10am Morning snack. Search cupboards desperately for crisps. Wife has hidden crisps. Shout at wife. Eat carrot. Feel sad. Find crisps! Eat crisps until feel sick. Hide empty bag.

12pm Want peanut butter sandwich. Bread has gone green. Just eat peanut butter out of jar until feel sick.

12.30pm Go for run even though can’t be arsed. Tummy ache. Wish I’d gone for run before eating peanut butter.

3pm Snack wanted. Annoyed crisps have run out. Eat more peanut butter out of jar. Internally debate whether to eat cooking chocolate or not.

3.10pm Finish off cooking chocolate. Feel sick.

7pm Shuffle through takeaway menus desperately trying to find one that’s open. Have argument with wife over empty peanut butter jar. Cook tea that involves potatoes. Have big cake for dessert. Have seconds. Feel sick. Have thirds.

2am Go to bed after playing on the Xbox all evening and watching “My Lesbian Transsexual Big Brother” on E4. 

The miraculous thing is my sophisticated and balanced lifestyle and dietary choices appear to produce largely the same rewards on the track as the oat-husks and dolphin method.

I’m reminded a bit of when I was waiting around at the start line of my marathon last August. Beside me an earnest young French guy and his friend were discussing strategies for the race. Both of them looked like an American Marine fully loaded with kit for an offensive move against an oil producing middle eastern country.

I was fascinated as to what all the bits dangling off them actually were, and as I moved closer I could see it was row after row of energy gels, energy drinks and energy bars. Having idly looked at the price of them in the supermarket I was worried one or other of them would be mugged on the way round. You could have got Ernst and Young in to break them up and used the the resulting capital to stabilise the eurozone.

Anyway, I continued to listen and they were animately planning a strategy for when they’d drink or eat each of the items. All 42km was being planned out with millitary efficiency. “Drink this one here because it contains dextro-something, that one there because it’s a recovery protein-a-doodah”. It was fascinating.

I felt a little inadequate at this point. I’d had a bowl of Sugar Puffs and a banana. Immediately doubt began to cloud my mind. Was a bowl of Sugar Puffs sufficient? Why hadn’t I brought along energy gels? Was everyone looking at me and laughing? I felt a food nakedness I’d never felt before.

You of course know what happened. I noted their race numbers and checked the race results when they came out on the website. They both finished about 15 minutes behind me. Losers. Goes to show you that ultimately, when you’re running, what you use as “fuel” isn’t really that important.

Here’s another example. Last year I cycled 173 miles in a day, in a mammoth cycle starting at 5am in Portsmouth and ending up in South Wales at about 10pm on the same day. This followed a previous day where I’d cycled 100 miles through France and slept overnight on the floor of a ferry (for 5 hours). Athletic science suggests that such a mammoth feat of cycling and endurance would need extensive dietary planning and management. Over the two days I ate two kebabs, a beefburger, a chicken sandwich, 3 packets of crisps and a Mars bar. To be fair the beefburger came with an egg, so that was pretty nutritionally balanced. Protein!

What I’m trying to say is not just that I’m awesome (I am, but we don’t need to linger on the fact) but that running should be the most democratised and accessible of all sports. It needs no technology or investment beyond some Good Shorts and running shoes. It should be a sport open to all, and yet like all sports there’s an element of elitism and “sports science” that has to come along and spoil the fun. If you’re challenging world records, or crossing the Sahara then yes, diet, cadence, breathable-wicking-space-age shirt material and barefoot-pronating-heel-strike-reduction shoes might be important. Yes, a balanced diet of carp bladder and zebra hoof might win you those extra milliseconds you need to complete with the Kenyans….

…but for everyone else: running is the thing that lets you slap on a pair of shorts with a big hole in the groin and eat chocolate and crisps guilt free.

So bear that in mind.

Until tomorrow!