{WIAW} Eat Primal, Play Hard

Linking up with Peas and Crayons today because it’s What I Ate Wednesday, a day to share the meals I’ve prepared for myself and eaten, and an opportunity for you to see the day to day meals of a primal eater.

This past weekend, Pat and I went to have some fun in the mountains of Scotland. We ate delicious food (which is always a given when you’re primal – there’s lot of fat!), and we played hard. This week’s edition is a mini-recap of the weekend + my meals from this past Saturday. This gives you an idea of what I would usually eat on a race day too, and race day/heavy exercise days (like our big run below) is where I bend my primal-eating rules and eat fuel-friendly sugar and gluten.

IMG_20141019_194545 *hint: click on the blue links for some meal ideas! And check out my Primal Recipes page for more.

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We left for Carrbridge – in the Highlands of Scotland, close to the town of Aviemore – Thursday afternoon. The drive isn’t a long distance to go, but we take the high road: single lane in either direction all the way, the roads twisting and turning, with lots of climbing. We pass rivers, streams, huge hills, mountains and forest, and the Glenlivet Estate. Some of the roads we use are actually closed in the river, that’s how remote they are. Then, civilisation reappears, in the form of Grantown-on-Spey and Aviemore, and all the villages around them, Carrbridge included. By the way, Grantown was where I did my first, and only (so far), triathlon.

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Our first day, we went for an easy play on our mountain bikes. My husband used to race cross-country when he was a teenager, and obviously still loves it to this day. We rode the easy park trails and enjoyed some terrain park fun just outside of Grantown-on-Spey, cycling up and down, through the woods, on some walking paths but also tiny little trails.

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While Friday was fun, it was easy, on purpose. Saturday was our main event: we had big plans to do a 10 mile trail run up three peaks and through the forest. This would be the most challenging run I would do to date. While I’ve run half marathons and a few 10 mile road races, trail running is a completely different ball game and far more physically demanding. Road times do not equal trail times, so I knew this run would take longer than my longest half marathon time (of 2:11:xx). This meant I needed to fuel smart, both leading up to Saturday, Saturday morning and during the run.

The majority of my dinners to that point had sweet potatoes to build my glycogen stores (muscle energy); you could basically say I was glycogen-loading with sweet potatoes to give my legs their maximum energy. I honestly didn’t know how long the run would take, and anticipated running for a maximum of three hours.

If I’m running long, my breakfast will always be a batch of Alicia’s Paleo Pancakes made with tahini instead of peanut butter, and topped with honey. I also had an omelette of vegetables and a protein of some kind. Saturday morning’s consisted of two eggs, leftover Heck sausage (97% pork shoulder and gluten-free!), broccoli, spring onion (green onion), tomatoes, and leftover sweet potato.

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The only downside to the weekend was cooking in a kitchen that wasn’t our own, so needless to say, I had a little trouble with my pancakes and using cookware foreign to me.

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I ate half the batch of pancakes and half the omelette for breakfast, and saved the rest for my post-run meal. I do this pre-cooking often if I have a long run or race – the last thing one wants to do when they get home is cook a bunch of food. I can easily grab the container and just dig in!

I also ate my usual 2 fruits (plums and kiwis) with coconut cream and a Nutter Bomb. I eat this EVERYDAY but it never gets boring! Another breakfast staple is my bulletproof espresso: 2 shots + 1 tbsp coconut oil + 1 tbsp butter + 1 heaped tsp xylitol.

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With breakfast done, we got ready and headed out the door. We drove about 30 minutes to Glenmore Lodge, the site of our start and finish. We also advised the friendly and helpful staff at the lodge of our intentions for our run; we filled out a form as a precaution in case we needed to get rescued off the hill. The weather in Scotland is always unpredictable, and with strong winds in the hill and rain showers expected, we couldn’t take any chances. This aspect makes you realise the severity and intensity of what you’re about to do.

Our run started out quite easy: a gentle incline through the forest for about a mile, along sandy paths, passing a pretty little loch. Just beyond the loch, the treeline disappeared and we were in the rocks and heather of the hills. The trail forked: left for Nethybridge or right for Braemar. We went left and took a wee break at Ryvoan bothy to change and get ready to start our big climbs. Bothies are small cottages throughout the mountains of Scotland, used by hikers as shelter. You can stay overnight in these as they have fireplaces, and it’s free. It’s very basic, but serves a good purpose.

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Our first peak was the Corbett Meall a’ Bhuachaille (click here for pronounciation), and at 810m (about 2,656 feet) it was also the highest. A Corbett in Scotland is a hill that is between 2500 and 2999 feet. Now, one doesn’t run up a hill like this, mainly because it’s so steep that the trail has to zig-zag its way to the top. The well-marked trail also consisted of loose rocks, and rocky steps, so I did a combination of power-walking and what I can describe as prancing: slowly jumping from rock to rock, uneven surface to uneven surfact to make my way up. My lungs were fine, but my legs were feeling it. And with Meall a’ Bhuachaille being the first of three peaks, I needed to take it easy.

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The wind was also picking up as I climbed, but fortunately it was a side wind. I could still see Pat’s orange jacket in the distance, and eventually made it to the top. My first hour of running was complete.

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It was also at the top that I had a pouch of Honey Stinger Cherry Cola energy bites. These things were delicious and did the trick!

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We continued on; by this time, we both had our windproof running jackets on to protect from the windchill. It was so strong that it felt like it was pushing me over, and I had to maintain a firm grasp on my phone if I wanted to take photos.

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The trail descended Meall a’ Bhuachaille down another rocky set of steps, where we passed the only other souls we’d see on the hill that day. I guess climbing a big hill in strong winds isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! The descent was quick, but then immediately, we began to climb Creagan Gorm’s rocky steps. It’s a smaller peak, not even a Corbett, and it’s ascent wasn’t nearly so demanding. Each peak had a cairn at the top: a stack of stones at the summit that vary in height. I ran past Creagan Gorm’s cairn, at 732m (2,400 feet), then continued on to Craiggowrie.

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This is where things got tricky and I was glad that people knew where we were. The trail turned to bog and mud as we made our descent from Creagan Gorm, and any clear trail marking disappeared. It was at this point that your instincts and basic awareness of the trail, as well as just common sense, had to prevail. Pat was far ahead of me, and with the descent turning into undulating small hills toward the top of Craiggowrie, I was lost for an obvious trail. I tried yelling for Pat, but the wind was so strong he couldn’t hear. My legs felt fine, but I could tell I was getting tired as I almost fell a few times while running over rocks and through bogs. I did get a bit scared at this point, because I couldn’t see Pat, he wouldn’t be able to hear me, and because the trail looked like it had two possible options. The first was to the left to a minor peak then presumably into forest. The second climbed higher, and I could see another cairn in the distance. And as I continued to run, I could see Pat’s orange jacket.

Through bog and heather I ran to the top of Craiggowrie, all 687m (2,253 feet) of it. I met up with Pat and gave him a piece of my mind: while I’m a very independent and strong person, running in these conditions, on this terrain makes you realise how small and insignificant you really are. These mountains and the weather were bigger than both of us and we needed to stick together in case something happened. Did I mention that besides wind, it was raining the entire time we were up those hills? He got it.

We started our descent, through more thick mud, rocks and bog, where I actually sunk to my mid-shin at one point. When we met the treeline again, the rain had stopped, so we stopped to remove layers. We were now sheltered and didn’t require our wet jackets. It was at this point I also ate fuel #2 of the run: a Honey Stinger Lemon Waffle. Made with wheat flour (not primal compliant), but again, it hit the spot and did it’s job.

We descended through the forest to landrover tracks, and ran through Badaguish, which hosts the start of the Aviemore Half Marathon. We were 8 miles and over two hours into the run.

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The rest of the trail was completely flat, but because we were tired and weather-beaten, these last two miles were the toughest. They were a test of mental strength rather than physical, and we just had to push on. My left knee was also starting to hurt badly: this was officially the longest I’d ever run, and I haven’t run more than 1:40:xx since May. My knees weren’t used to the distance.

The last two miles back to Glenmore Lodge were tough, but we made it. We’d run 10.09 miles in 2:38:02, with an average pace of 15:39, and an elevation gain of 2,248 feet altogether.

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I went into the lodge to advise the staff we survived and were alive, and they were pleased with our efforts. We changed into dry, clean clothes, stretched and had recovery shakes (mine was Osmo Nutrition’s Acute Recovery for Women in honey and spice, part of last week’s care package from 2pure).

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It was time to head back to Carrbridge for lunch and showers. Upon our arrival, I immediately dug into my leftover pancakes and omelette. I also added paleo-friendly maple syrup to the pancakes, and enjoyed it with a slice of cantaloupe, both great to bring my blood glucose levels back to normal. A downside to being a fat-burner and not using to much glycogen during runs and activity is that after very long and hard activity, I feel like I have really low blood sugar. I always make sure to refuel with high glycemic fruits to bring me back to normal; this always does the trick.

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I also enjoyed a large cup of green tea to warm up and a peanut-butter chocolate chunk cake-y: a recipe testing experiment for primal peanut-butter chocolate chunk cookies. Although they’re deceiving (they look like a cookie with the consistency of a cake), they’re really good! I’ll post the recipe in early November.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent slothing around the house, watching DVD’s. Dinner required us to head back into Aviemore to my favourite restaurant in Scotland – The Old Bridge Inn. They use reknown Scottish ingredients grown and reared locally, both of which tick primal boxes. I’m a glutton for Scottish beef so I devoured a plate of Angus beef tenderloin with autumn vegetables, and a side of boiled baby potatoes. So simple but so good!

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I was stuffed! Tired, we headed home for a Caveman Keto fat bomb and to watch an episode of Breaking Bad, season 4 (so intrigued to find out about Gustavo and Chile!).

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And can you believe we were active Sunday???? We did a quick 9km active recovery mountain bike through the trails at Glenlivet Estate on our way home.

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I think after this weekend, mountain-biking has surpassed road-cycling in terms of fun and ability. You go fast on the road, which I like, but I prefer the ups and downs of MTB-ing, and the fun you can have when you play in the terrain parks. I find it’s the same thrill as skiing, but without the snow.

Overall, it was a weekend to remember. It just confirms that I adore trail and hill running, and can’t wait for more. We have some big aspirations for 2015, and in the mean time, will take to the hill of Scotland and tick hills off as we go.

What did you eat today?

What’s your best recovery meal?

Have you run up any hills or trails?

MTB or road cycling?

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6 thoughts on “{WIAW} Eat Primal, Play Hard

    • Thanks! It definitely was my biggest running challenge so far!

      I’m not used to using silicon utensils (which is what we had) and an induction hob. They were still delicious though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Yum to all of those foods! I can’t imagine me doing a quarter of what you achieved that day – definitely not a long duration sport type! Scotland is looking beautiful – really makes me want a visit!

  2. Man, what a weekend. The elevation on that run is killing me. I always feel like the hills in San Francisco are killer, obviously I’ve never been to the mountains in Scotland.

    Your food and whole weekend looks amazing, so jealous.

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