Here: In races, minimalist shoes, health… life

Teacher: Danielle?

Me: Here!

As a teacher I can’t help use this comparison to describe me at the moment. I am here, although I haven’t been here on this blog for a bit. Life has gotten in the way: many deadlines for the magazine that have now passed, lots of time with friends and family, work is easing off and we’re nearing our next holiday; now I finally feel I have the energy, motivation and space in my head to compose a blog post.

A lot has happened since I last touched down here.

Work has gotten so much better. I don’t feel I’m missing out anymore and I feel far more settled. I really enjoy my job and working with primary children again, but part of me will always love working with teenagers.

I ran a few races this year but didn’t do any recaps. Truth be told, I find recaps a chore to write, and feel there’s only a certain window of time afterwards where it’s acceptable to write about a race. Weeks and months later aren’t acceptable to me. In January, my running club had four teams entered in the Devil’s Burden relay race, a 4-leg off-road race of trail running, fell running and navigation. Some legs required two people to run them because there was much navigation required. My leg was all fell running: up a steep, big hill without a designated trail, and back down the other side. It was 5 km and a 900+ foot climb. You get the idea.

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I ran up that… and by ‘ran’ I mean walked. I walked up that. Quickly.

Earlier in March, I ran an ultramarathon as part of another relay team. Myself and a partner split the distance in the D33, a 33 mile ultramarathon from Duthie Park in Aberdeen, along the River Dee to Banchory and back. It’s an out and back race consisting of a route that’s basically a straight line – my partner did the out, I did the back. It was 16.5 miles of boredom and always seeing more course to run ahead. I’m glad I did it, but when I finished, I did wonder: how am I going to do another 10 miles when I do my marathon? My left side was very stiff and I didn’t run the race as fast as I had hoped. I also didn’t do much road-specific training for it, opting for long trail runs instead. Lesson learned: when training for a race, run on the same surface of said race, just to log time on your feet, on that surface! Those training runs should’ve been on tarmac instead. Stiffness, boredom and test of mental toughness aside, the D33 was a great race for club comradery: there were many Stonehaven runners entered, and we high-fived and encouraged each other as we passed.

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photo by Rebecca in my running club

Speaking about 26.2, initially I had intended on doing the Loch Ness Marathon at the end of September, but then another race, also in September, caught my attention. Loch Ness was ditched for my biggest challenge yet, the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace, a 25km race around the Ring of Steall in the Highlands of Scotland. Skyrunning is ‘uncompromising mountain running,’ it’s not just some nice little trail race. I’ll be scrambling along mountain ridges, and dealing with steep ascents, descents and traverses. The terrain is both technical and challenging, with a 2500m (8200 feet) elevation gain in total; not surprising considering we’ll be summiting four Munros in the race, (‘Munros’ are Scottish mountains with an elevation greater than 3000 feet, or 914m). This is the baby version of the Glen Coe Skyline, an ultramarathon full of pros, which was won last year by my woman crush Emelie Forsberg. The Ring of Steall Skyrace will be the most physically, mentally and emotionally demanding race I’ll ever do; I’m torn with different emotions every time I think of it. I’m motivated, inspired, dreading it, and fearful all at the same time. The night I entered the race, I woke up in the middle of the night, completely shitting myself: I hate heights! What the hell was I thinking! I thought to myself. At least I have the summer to train. A bunch of us from the running club will recce the route this summer, so I can have a pre-emptive chance to quiver with fear. Pat will also be doing this race.

Back to 26.2, for real. By running the Ring of Steall, Loch Ness was out because it’s only two weeks later. To me, that’s pushing it, especially considering my quads will be shredded and I’ll still be recovering. I contemplated a spring marathon, but couldn’t find anything that piqued my interest or worked out with my work schedule – the last thing I wanted after running my first marathon, usually on a Sunday, was to go to work the following dat. In speaking to Georgie from Greens of the Stone Age, who’s also my Primal Eye boss, she said she was doing the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon in October. I looked it up. It gave me enough time to recover from the Ring of Steall, it was the first weekend of my October break, and apparently, a lovely race to run. This was my race! And I entered it in March. My first marathon is technically a ‘destination race’ because it’s in England, and I’m running it with someone I know. Right now, I feel like it’s a distance to tick of the bucket list of race distances because all of my mental focus is going towards the Ring of Steall. But I’m sure, in the weeks leading up to my first time running 26.2 miles, I will be full of nerves, excitement and fear all over again.

My final big running endeavour of 2016 is transitioning to more minimalist shoes, for both trail and road. The decision was easy to make: there are many minimalist runners in my club, all of whom are fast, and they have helped in terms of how to transition, and recommending shoes to buy. Pat and I both read ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, a running epic about indigenous people, ultramarathons, Mexico, persistence hunting, human evolution, running injuries and barefoot running. After reading this book, both Pat and I were sold on minimalist running shoes. He’s already been doing it for a while, owning and training in a few pairs of Inov8 trail shoes, but I was a new player to this running game that actually just makes a lot of sense. I went out and bought three pairs of new running shoes: two for trails (Inov8 Trail Rocs and Roclites), and a pair of Merrell Bare Access for road running. Thank goodness for sales and a running club discount on! I’ve fully transitioned to my Inov8 Roclites, having run 12.5 miles in them this weekend and experiencing no calf stiffness during the run or residual calf issues afterwards. I’ve also run 3.5 miles on the road in my Merrells and again, no issues. Some upcoming posts for the blog include why minimalist over conventional shoes, (besides being totally primal), and how I transitioned. I’ll also be writing about this on Primal Eye and will share posts here.

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I’m also going minimlast with my casual shoes: enter the Vivobarefoot Jing Jings

Another way I’ve delved deeper into my paleo journey is by incorporating some new foods and supplements into my daily routine. We’ve started using gelatin in our daily smoothies, and yes you read that, I’ve ditched my long held breakfast of quiche and fruit with coconut cream and Nutter Bomb, for a fattening, filling smoothie bowl instead. I did, in fact, just get sick of the first breakfast and when I was reviewing Rebecca Fields’ books for Primal Eye, I made her breakfast smoothie and loved it. I used to be a big smoothie person, then stopped when I initially went paleo. My daily smoothie contains 3 fruits (usually a banana, kiwi and berries) kale or spinach, coconut milk, soaked seeds or nuts, and ground flaxseed; it’s then topped with soaked chia seeds, milk kefir and a crumbled Nutter Bomb, making for one incredibly filling breaking of the fast. As for supplements, last month, I trialled the Hormone Balance supplement, made by Motion Nutrition, a newcomer in the UK specialising in whey protein powder and other micronutrient supplements, all organic, all flavoured and made with superfoods, all paleo-friendly. This capsule was, as my blog friend Erin says, a game changer. Not only did it help my sleep tremendously – no waking up long before my alarm! – but also helped so much with long run and race recovery: I ran to a new, sub-25 minute 5km personal best 3 days after my D16.5. I had no heavy legs, which always happened after a race. I’ve got my next bottle of this supplement on order!

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A time I was all out of Nutter Bombs, so used almond butter instead

In health news, I’ve been dealing with some stress-related issues since late 2015: I’ve had an eczema flare-up that has disappeared and reappeared twice, and is on the out now, as a result of strict dietary compliance and I swear, that gelatin (because it helps with gut health and eczema is a gut issue). I’ll got into more detail about this in a whole different post. I’ve also noticed I’ve gained weight, which isn’t alarming in the grand scheme of things, but kind of is considering I’ve been sticking to my usual paleo eating. I do think that I’ve upped my carb intake without intending to, plus I also think I just eat too much food sometimes. I’ve also been dabbling with intermittent fasting, a first for me, and have seen some results from it, both regarding weight maintenance but also fat-burning and running performance as well. Again, more on this in an upcoming post because this one is long enough already!

Now that I’ve touched back down here, here are some posts I want to share with you in the next few months:

– a whole series on stress via Primal Eye, including how it is possible to be paleo and overdo it, something I know well!

– a beginner’s guide to Bone Broth, including a round-up of recipes from around the interweb

– my Mexican Chicken soup recipe

And all the post ideas I mentioned above!

What have you been up to lately?


8 thoughts on “Here: In races, minimalist shoes, health… life

  1. Hi – glad to see a new post! I ve been following you on instagram…hoping some new recipes will be posted here soon?!? The breakfast smoothie and others please 🙂

  2. What an exciting year ahead! Both of those races sound spectacular, and if the Ring of Steall scares you, that means you really should do it 🙂 Kudos on your races from earlier this year, too! The relay sounds like my kind of race… love the mental challenge! I think that’s why I love long course triathlon so much – because it mentally challenges me to get out of my comfort zone and see where I can push myself and what I’m capable of.

    What type of gelatin are you using? I just ordered some Great Lakes because nearly all protein powder recoveries bother my GI (because they’re whey-based or have stevia). I’m excited to try!

    And, looking forward to reading more about your transition to minimalist shoes! I’m the complete opposite, running in HOKAS, which have been game changers for me 🙂 I’ve also read Born to Run, which is excellent, but wasn’t swayed by the minimalist shoes 😉 Given my road mileage, I just need more support (and, we’re all different and respond differently to shoes!)!

    • Thanks friend! The Ring of Steall is totally out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, I want to take my running to that level so I just need to suck it up and do it. Hopefully this summer’s recce will help ease the anxiety, which is mainly about the height of the steep ridges, along which I’ll have to run. I hate heights!

      I’d love to pick your brain about your mental challenges and pushing yourself – where does your mind take you? Do you use a lot of positive self-talk/mantras? Do you just switch off? How do you dig deep when you’re at it for 10+ hours? I’m just wondering re: my marathon and mental preparation for that!

      I too use Great Lakes! So far just in smoothies, but expanding to gummy candies when I have spare time. I’ve also got a potential mid-race fuel idea for it as well.

      RE: protein powder for recovery – have you found a non-whey, unflavoured powder that you can add to shakes?

      Regarding the shoes, even Inov8 takes very long runs and time on your feet into consideration: their ultra shoes have thicker soles than any of their other shoes. While I’ve tried to read about Hokas, to potentially buy some myself, I still haven’t been able to find the reason for the thick sole. Can you shed some light? All I’ve taken away is that it helps the efficiency of the heel-toe plant? Which wouldn’t benefit me as I land on the balls of my feet.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Lessons from the 2016 Balmoral 15 Mile Trail Race | Eat Primal, Run Hard

  4. Pingback:  Four Munros and a Marathon | Eat Primal, Run Hard

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