Thursday, 27 February 2014

EOI Marathon, race report!

Last weekend I ran a marathon. Just like that! This had been something I had wanted to do for quite a while. I always wondered how I'd perform if I just set off for a 26.2mile run without any real specific training and without a real specific goal, other than completion. And last Saturday I found out.

One of my best friends has rediscovered his love for running and we are both planning on going Ultra this summer. In preparation he discovered a group called the East of Ireland Marathon club, they put on marathons regularly and it seems they usually have about 60 entrants per race.
I checked out their web site in late January and found they had a race on Feb 22nd, a full marathon. It was time to test the body, the two marathons I did last year had not really went to plan, poor training and negative thoughts had hampered my performance and left me a great deal shy of a new PB.

I found myself on the start line with a race belt full of energy gels, raisins, dates and granola bars. I set off at a very easy pace and was running alone. It felt great running. Running just to run. Running because I could run and not because I had to run. I love running long distance, I love the thought that over a very short period of time you feel immense self doubt, self pity and pain followed by epic euphoria, joy and self confidence.

At the first aid station I took a water bottle and carried it until it was empty. I repeated this at the next aid station which was 5 miles later and the next and the next. I gulped down 2 gels and a small box of raisins between every aid station. At every aid station I stopped and had half a banana and 3-4 dates before setting off again at a light pace. Everything was going well, I had no pain and my body seemed tireless. I knew I was good for 20 miles but after that it could go either way. 
I anticipated hitting the infamous wall, I hadn't after-all done any marathon training and my longest run since the Dublin marathon back in Oct 2013 had been 15 miles which I did the Tuesday before this race.

The course was out and back, beginning with a run north along the Dublin coast with a strong tailwind, a double lap of Howth head (which has a fairly modest hill to climb), before returning back along the coast into a very strong head wind.
I was feeling good as I approached the last section, my Garmin bleeped and I saw I had completed 20 miles. This was a warning, the wall was coming and I was about to go BOOM! I ran on, the wind certainly felt like a wall but the pain and exhaustion of the 'physiological wall' never arrived. The miles clicked past and I finished feeling good. Official time 3hrs50mins flat. 

I had done it. I had ran for sheer fun and enjoyment and I had completed a marathon very easily. I never felt like stopping or quitting, in fact I hadn't had any negative thoughts through out the entire race. That hadn't happened in a long time. I had been searching for this feeling last year and couldn't find. Every race I did I went out hard and suffered for the majority of the race, I hated racing and I certainly wasn't enjoying myself. Today I had learned a lot about nutrition, fluid intake and pace but most importantly I'd relearned how to enjoy racing. It's not about chasing PB's and suffering, it's about measuring yourself against the distance, the course and the elements and hoping you come out on top. 

Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!


Friday, 21 February 2014

The protein question!

One year ago I cut dairy from my diet and have experience only positive effects since. Over the following months I morphed into a whole food, plant based mammal, also known as a Vegan. Vegans don't eat dairy, cheese, meat, fish, poultry or eggs, to make it simple they don't eat any food that began as an animal.
When I mentioned to people that this is the way I eat, more times than not the reply is "Where do you get your protein from?" This question demonstrates that most people don't understand basic nutrition. You see the question shouldn't be "where do you get your protein from?", but rather "where do you get your B12 from?"

We've been lead to believe that we require a lot more protein than we actually need. We also believe the only sufficient source of good protein is in animal produce. This in not true but it has been the message that government and food corporations have pressed on us. 

Last summer I was visiting a local farm with my wife and two children. It is a nice family owed plot where you can pay in and roam the grounds watching the animals and the farming process. My 2 boys love it, especially when the tractor rolls past with the hay bails loaded on the back. They love the tractor so much that we always follow it. The tractor grinds to a halt and the driver pick forks a bail or two of hay over the fence to a big bull. He chomps away and all is good. As I stood and watched this I couldn't help wonder why nobody asks "where does this bull get his protein from?"
He probably weighed in excess of 2,000 lbs and he spends all day chewing grass and eating hay. As he walked his sheer muscular mass and power where as noticeable as a dentists drill in a un-novocained oral cavity. This was a clear demonstration that mammals eating a plant based diet have no problem with protein utilisation. 

Animals consume plant sourced protein. They break protein down into amino acids in their gastrointestinal tract before assimilation, if they didn't they would die, see here. They reconstruct the amino acids into chains which are called proteins. So all the animal protein you think you need, is built from amino acids which were once plant proteins, if you cut out the middle man (the animal) in this case the bull, you'll also cut out all the saturated fat, bacteria and antibiotics that plants don't contain. This will ensure better health and reduce your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems significantly. 

Animal proteins found in meat, chicken, fish, eggs are built more intricately than plant proteins. This means the breakdown process takes a little longer and therefore requires more energy expenditure on our behalf. More time and effort spent on a metabolic process such as digesting meat will increase free radical damage and the inflammatory process. Animal proteins are always accompanied with saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones and bacteria, while plants usually aren't. 

People talk about complete proteins without knowing what a complete protein is. There are thousands of variations of protein and as far as I am aware there is no categorised complete protein, however there are essential protein and I think this is where people get confused. 
A protein basically is a chain of amino acids. There are 22 different amino acids and 9 of these are considered essential for human consumption. Essential amino acids means these must be consumed because they are used to make specific proteins we require for human function and health. If one essential amino acid is missing we will be unable to construct all the specific proteins we require. We may be able to construct an alternative protein but this will have some draw backs. If one or more of the 13 non essential amino acids are missing, we can use an alternative to construct a protein to do the same job with out any draw back, therefore they are non essential. 

I think most people think that a 'complete protein' is a steak or a chicken breast and without these in your diet you will be doomed by ill health. If my story about the bull cow doesn't destroy this myth then I think you will be doomed by ill health. 
Evidence based research using longitudinal studies on humans, yes that's correct, studies on humans, have clearly shown that the most health promoting way to eat is a whole food, plant based diet. This will ensure you get all the micro and macro nutrients you need (including all 9 essential amino acids), along with phyto-nutrients and antioxidants which will stave off disease like cancer by combating free radical damage, while your risk of heart disease fades away due to low consumption of saturated fat and animal proteins which raise insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a  major contributor to western disease such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer to name the most common. 

I tweeted this picture last week and I think it sums up western society pretty well. 

We have no problem with people eating fast food which is heavily documented to contain animal faeces 100% of the time! We have no problem with the fact that a single hamburger can contain meat from up to 200 different animals. We can turn a blind eye to the fact that the chicken we eat is farmed in conditions where they don't have enough room to spread their wings, where they get their beaks cut off to prevent them pecking each other's eyes out. We can ignore the fact that some fast food companies can not legally call their nuggets 'chicken nuggets' because the birds have been genetically modified to grow large breast and therefore can no longer legally be called chicken. We don't mind the inhumane feeding habits of pumping food into their stomachs, a lot of which gets regurgitated onto the floor with their faeces which is then collected and fed to the cows we eat, a revenue saving exercise. That's all okay, we can handle that! 
We don't see the guaranteed health risk of smoking and the inevitable disease it will cause. And as for binge drinking and hangovers,,, well we are Irish! Again this is all OK and seen as a way of enjoying yourself.

But if you mention that you are vegetarian or vegan, the sheer shock and astonishment. That can't be healthy! Where do you get your protein from? People can't wait to point out the inadequacies which simply don't exist with this type of diet. 

Society it seems has no notion that what you put into your body will affect its health and performance in the short and long term. It has been shown with clinical trials and longitudinal human studies that cancer rates match identical with ingestion of animal proteins, yet if you go into any hospital in the western world where there are terminally ill cancer patients you'll find them being fed animal protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

People see me as being skinny and at risk of ill health because of the way I eat. I am 36 years of age and I left school almost 20yrs ago. I weighed 72kg when I graduated from school and I weigh 74kg today. I've never weighed more than 75kg and on the day I left school I had a 32" waist which I still have today. I've ran marathons, raced ironman triathlons and I've had 2 antibiotics in the 20yrs since I left school, I exercise almost every day and I eat tonnes of fruit and vegetables, yet somehow I have to defend the way I live because people think I'm at risk of ill health because they don't understand what protein actually is. "We have an obsession with animal protein and unless that changes our species will be doomed with ill health." 

The world health organisation has issued a statement suggesting that society will get more sick if it doesn't end its obsession with consuming meat. The same organisation also suggest that the number one action any person can take to reduce their carbon foot print is to develop a plant based diet. Forget about buying a Prius and not brining it to a car wash, just eat plants. Livestock are responsible for 20% of the green house gases this planet produces. They also require a huge amount of fresh water which we are being warned is running scarce, and land, which 9 times out of 10 was forest before farm land. We buy feed from countries which can not afford to feed its children, and we use that feed to grow cattle for our consumption.
For every 9 calories you put into an animal, you get 1 calorie in return. That's why animal protein is so much more expensive than plants.

A plant based diet is the healthiest way to eat, that's why I chose to eat that way. It's also the most ethical way to live and the only diet this planet can sustain. I'm not a hippy or a tree hugger and I'm certainly not out to make people feel uncomfortable about eating. I'll leave you with the slogan from the Irish Independent newspaper. 

"Before you make up your mind, open it"

Some very simple Google searching will prove these statements to be true. Below is as list of resources which will enlighten and educate you but proceed with caution because these resources might make you healthier too, "God Forbid" says that atheist. 


The china study
Engine 2 diet 
Salt, Sugar, Fat
The omnivores dilemma
Meat is for pussies
80 10 10
Eat and Run
Finding Ultra

Movies on Netflix

Forks over knives
Food inc
Fat sick and nearly dead
Food matters

Ted Talks

Dean Ornish healing through diet
Dean Ornish the worlds killer diet


Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!


Monday, 3 February 2014

3 things every runner should do in the New Year!


I mentioned before in a post titled "should I stretch before or after exercise" that foam rolling is a far better way of achieving muscle suppleness and function than static stretching. When our muscles become dysfunctional due to the demands we place on them albeit by bike or running, the most successful way of breaking down the adhesion is by foam rolling. Fascial adhesion will appear over areas of intense friction or recurrent micro-trauma. A small inflammatory process occurs and the fascia adheres to the underlying muscle fibers, this occurs during the repair process. Fascial adhesion will cause an adaptation in the muscle or limbs function. Uncorrected adaptation will inevitably cause compensation and therefore injury/pain. To minimise muscular or joint injury and pain, foam roll the body to minimise fascial adhesions, repair faster and perform better. 

Ideally you should work through all you major muscle 'chains' and areas of specific use. Runners should specifically concentrate on hamstrings, adductors, gluteus medius and calf muscles, low back, abdominal muscles and plantar fascia.

Cyclists should concentrate more on the quads, calf muscles, gluteals and the entire back muscles particularly the lat dorsi muscle. 


Resistance training in my view is the single most neglected aspect of running, cycling and triathlon training. The benefits of increased muscular strength and endurance should not be overlooked but usually are. I think most endurance athletes fear that they will get "too bulky" so avoid weight training at all costs. I couldn't disagree more. Gaining bulk to muscles is a very difficult and long process, "don't believe me? Go ask any body builder!" It usually requires thousands of hours in the gym and some anabolic steroids. I would never suggest that any endurance athlete prescribe to either, however, a 30min sessions twice a week might be the answer to having some personal best performances this year, with very little morphological (body structure) change.

Don't be frightened by the words 'resistance training', this doesn't necessarily mean heavy weight lifting. My favourite type of resistance training is body weight exercise and TRX. You can also use dyna bands, kettle bells, pilates and plyometrics.


I wrote before on this blog the benefits of being consistent with running. The cardiovascular benefits in terms of opening new capillary pathways will allow a better delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and better removal of waste products such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide. 
The increased blood flow and demand on the muscle will encourage the opening of new muscle cell mitochondria (energy station), it is inside these mitochondria that our bodies utilise oxygen and glycogen to make energy for the (muscle) cell to contract and move us forward. 
The lungs will open new bronchial pathways and just like the capillary pathways this will increase gaseous exchange. Meaning more oxygen is taken in and more carbon dioxide is washed out. This will keep the breathing at a lower rate and therefore heart rate and blood pressure will be lower. Lower BP and heart rate means performing faster and longer due to increased lactate threshold....Simples!

It doesn't matter if you can't do a 'long run', if you are pressed for time and likely to miss a run session just running one mile will keep those pathways open.

If this is confusing have a read of this and this and it should make more sense. 

*Watch this space, next week I will post a video on foam rolling and resistance training at home. 

Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!