20/11/2014

Fueling My Body, an Update


Seriously, I have got to sort my eating. I have totally fallen off-wagon on that one. The exercise side of things is going really well- totally loving it. However, the local pizza place has been getting far too many calls, and I've been thinking Ooh just a wee bar of chocolate on the regular. This cheese and chocolate fiesta has also meant that my aspirations to eat more vegan/vegetarian have gone to pot. And not the fun kind either.

All this means that despite the exercise and outdoorsy life: my skin is tragic, I feel sluggish, and my veins are swimming in saturated fats (maybe, I'm not too clear on their effect pathway if I'm honest...). I am really tired all the time. Additionally I'm confounding any of my fitness progress with bulk and unhealthy fueling. Gee whiz. Food is fuel and I'm attempting to fuel with cheese oil and chocolate sauce.

I badly need a kick up the arse. If you can't decide to dedicate your diet to your health at 25 freakin' years old, when are you ever going to do it? I don't want to be a diabetes candidate by 30. I don't want to get slower and slower through sheer mass. I want to learn to eat at an equilibrium, to let my body settle at a weight where it ideally should be. I want to learn not to even have to think about it on the day to day, for healthy to be my habit. Food is fuel but its also life, its tasty and fun and interesting. I just don't want tasty to overrule and health consideration.

So let's do it. 

Erm... How? Nah I know how. For someone with no health issues, its not exactly hard. Calories in versus calories out, with an eye to the content of those calories. I think I need a couple of strict months to be honest. I find it hard at the moment to do moderation of unhealthy things or to eat unhealthy things 'intuitively' so the answer is no unhealthy things. So for the rest of November, I will be eating as many whole foods and veggies as possible, and eating vegetarian before dinner. In December, I will be eating vegan before dinner and as many whole foods/veggies as possible. The Christmas days obviously not included, cause' life is too short for that shit.

So from today; here's what I ate:

Breakfast

2 eggs, scrambled
Apple
Banana

Lunch

Bulgar wheat, hoummos, feta, veggies and tomato salad; pretty colourful and tasty



Dinner

Smoked haddock w sweet potato/parsnip/normal potato/red onion/peas mash

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Any breakfast ideas? I struggle with eating breakfasts quickly in the morning.

Do you struggle with diet?

17/11/2014

Hiking Ben Venue

This Sunday my dad and I climbed Ben Venue at the south end of the Trossachs. Her name means the 'miniature mountain', and the hike is only about 7 miles on either path (we used the Loch Ard path from the farm). She has two summit peaks, but the correct summit is actually the non-trig point one (typical!), sitting at 729m (2 metres higher than the other). This makes her a Graham, not a Corbett and not a Munro.

To clear that one up for everyone, Munros are over 914.4 metres tall, and there are 282 of them currently. The Corbetts are from 762 to 914.4 metres and must gain at least 154.2m compared to their surrounds. Currently there are 221.  Grahams are 609.6 to 762 metres, and must be 150 metres tall compared to their surrounds. There are currently 224. Then Donalds are hills in the lowlands over 609.6m, including subsidaries for a total of 140 hills. Marilyns are anything in Britain that have a relative height of 150 metres or over. There are 1216 in Scotland.

If you want to get even more confused, there is not an official split of mountain and hill; technically its a quality of steepness and height and other factors, but hillwalking sources tend to suggest 610 metres, and the Oxford Dictionary agrees. So Ben Venue is a mountain, and one of the Grahams, and part of the Trossachs. Crystal?

The spooky start

And sunlight!
We started our ascent early in thick mist. When driving to the start, it frequently seemed like the road was the only human feature in a mist sea- very cool atmosphere. Similarly the woods past the farm track were full of low lying mist, making it seem like something out of Silent Hill. However, we quickly ascended and then the sun lit the top of the trees and crept down to us.


Dad taking a photo















The light on the hill itself was fantastic- bright and cold and gorgeous fall colours. This hike really is very straight-forward, climbing around the edge of a subsidary peak via a ridge edge to the real summit. Its a very, very wet hike- lots of water on the path and lots of bog. I managed to stand down into a bog right up to the left knee, so watch out! Nearer the summit peak you have some much more vertical rocky scrambles for a half mile or so, which could be challenging to those less steady on their feet.

Spotted!

View of Loch Katrine

Look at the mist in the Clyde Valley!

Hello neighbour


The views at the top were completely gorgeous- a vista of smoky mist with the peaks sticking out the top and the loch far below. All in all a lovely little hike. We were back down again by lunch and, whilst dad took sandwiches, I was fine munching a Clif bar and banana.

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Did you get out in the hills this weekend? @German68 did - I waved to him on Ben Lomond (honest!). He's an excellent runner and all round' cool dude- I'd recommend checking him out

14/11/2014

Book Review: K2: Life and Death, No Way Down and Above the Clouds

So recently I've become weirdly obsessed with high altitude mountaineering. I am not a mountaineer. I have only climbed as high as Munros and some Swiss couloirs in Grindelwald, and I have only ever been as high as ~3,480 metres (11,482ft) at JungfrauJoch in the Swiss alps (the station sits at 3,471 but we hiked above this for a time). However, I have become completely captivated by the mindset and the dedication of those who climb in the ice and snow and rock that lies above 8000m. Consequently I have read several books on the subject in quick succession and wanted to do a review of them.

Ed Viesturs (and David Roberts): K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain.





K2 is one of the Karakoram peaks; is 8,611 m tall and was (probably, maybe) originally known as Chogori (this however just means 'big mountain', so may instead have been a befuddled answer to a question. K2 is also not visible from surrounding living areas, so may not have been named at all). However K2 (a geological survey number) has become an aptly sharp and clinical name for a very dangerous mountain. K2 is the second highest 8,000m plus peak, but is notoriously difficult to climb due to its overhanging ice seracs, its very technical rock climbing above 8,000m and very exposed upper slopes. It consequently has a far higher death rate than Everest or some other 8,000-ers.

This book is more a review of multiple expeditions to K2, and an analysis of these, than a personal account of climbing. Viesturs can be rather critical of others, but this is partially due to his sensible and risk-averse climbing style, which arguably is how he has been so successful without suffering much injury himself. He can come across a little 'teacherly' or parental at points, but I really enjoyed this book. I found the commentary on loyalty and forming good teams, on risk and ambition, and on the price of playing about at 8,000 m very interesting. This book is also very honest, which apparently some of his other works (for example No Shortcuts to the Top) lose a little. He is very dedicated in his approach to mountaineering, and very precise, and this is obvious in his commentary on other attempts. Probably a great evocative book for someone intending to actually climb the thing or to climb other serious peaks, as it gives some real insight into what makes a good climber who will survive the attempt (never mind just summitting), and to where others have gone wrong. He also gives a great account of times he feels he took unacceptable risk, so Viesturs is willing to self-analyse.

Graham Bowley: No Way Down: Life and Death on K2.


Image from the Tripleblaze book review of No Way Down: http://www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2010/07/26/outdoor-book-review-no-way-down-life-and-death-on-k2/

God, titleists really are obsessed with the life and death angle. This book is about the 2008 K2 disaster. Its the book I'd least recommend from the list. Its just not at the same caliber, but is interesting nonetheless and a good read for people who know very little about the sport. Its written by journalist who does not climb, and you can tell. The writing is very dramatic but when the book turns to analysis of climbing and risk, its just not very deep. As the writer is not a climber, in some cases he rather misses the point, and you can tell that he lacks the conviction in what makes something like this worthwhile and important. He also makes some huge assumptions on the thoughts, feelings, and trustworthiness of certain mountaineers, including some who perished. This is a quality in dramatic writing, but seems unacceptable given how far he is from really understanding the soul of the matter.

Anatoli Boukreev: Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High-Altitude Mountaineer.



I would recommend this book most of all. If you read only one, read this. It is a biography composed of personal diary entries and muses about several famous peaks; about training and sacrifice; about the culture of USSR mountaineering; and about Boukreev's relationship with the mountains. This book at points is almost spiritual, for him the mountains are everything, training is everything. There are some incredible quotes in it about the value of training, and about the mountains as a spiritual home. He reminds of the quote about Killian Journet "I truly believe if he did not have the mountains he would die" (I cannot for the life of me find the source, let me know if you know). To read this book for me was to fall in love with mountains, and with Boukreev, and his humility and courage. It was interesting too from a psychological perspective, looking at the whole worldview created by his upbringing.

Like Viesturs, Boukreev is a cautious mountaineer, albeit in a slightly different way. Viesturs seems to arise from his precise safety concerns and interest in doing things right, Boukreevs from his immense experience and connection with his body and environment. Boukreev has also written on times where he felt he gave too much, and risked too much.

Why am I so interested in this stuff? Because this literature is an amazing mix of athleticism and Psychology. These individuals train exceptionally hard, to be in amazing shape, to somehow survive an atmosphere where you are literally dying by the second. High altitude hypoxia (lack of oxygen) does incredible things to a mind. Many reviews I saw online find these accounts irritating because no-one is a completely reliable narrator and reports of the same events can be wildly conflicting, but that's part of what I find so very interesting. This world is definitely a world people do not understand- all accounts are surrounded by commenters calling such mountaineers selfish, or misunderstanding how difficult it is to help someone else at that altitude, or misunderstanding just how impossible it is to walk a few hundred metres at the top of the world. I want to understand.

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If you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

What are your opinions of high altitude mountaineering?

11/11/2014

Why Do Runners Cheat?



To clarify, this post is not about athletics and doping. There's a possibility I'll post on that some other time but today is not that day. I'm not currently talking about athletes at their highest peak using chemicals to push artificially higher.

No, I'm interested in the all together more standard runners, those that lie about their times, or that physically cheat in races to gain a better one. From Ruiz through to 2014, there have once again been allegations of cheating in marathons. So I took to Google in interest and was shocked to find out just how completely common this is.

It seems to be by far the most common in marathon distance races, possibly because of the media reporting, possibly because of the emphasis of the marathon in running culture, possibly to Boston qualify, possibly because its hard to fit a course cut into a 10k or skip the few timing mats.

Cutting the course is very popular, apparently. Particular common on out and backs for obvious reasons. Chicago has two spots where its possible to jump from mile 4 to 11 or 13 to 17. However people have also taken buses, cars and even the subway.

The resulting race times are bloody stupid in some cases- a runner in London somehow had the arrogance to stand by his claim that he ran the second half faster than Mo Farah. One runner in a Singaporean marathon even non-intentionally won the national category, making sure his cheating was noticed very very fast. He however did not accept the winners status, unlike some historical cheats. He said he just wanted to run the finishing bit. Forgivable if true but it seems comically naive. A woman at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon cheated in a way that meant her second half was a world record time, 3 minutes under the half marathon women's record.

The other options require an identical twin, or a team-load of people willing to take your number and run with it (har de har de har).  People have even done statistical analyses of Comrade course time data to spot these cheats using good old mathematics (specifically Mark Dowdeswell).

Swapping numbers doesn't actually seem too bad till I have a proper think about it. Definitely doesn't seem bad within an age group, as long as the aim isn't to cheat the system. However, there have been plenty of cases of someone running in someone else's spot and getting them a guaranteed age or gender place for the next year. Someone else estimated that there had been 3 age group prizes lost to true contenders in one year of Chicago due to bib swaps. Worth thinking that bib swapping also means that if anything should go wrong for you, there's no information about who you are or how to contact your ICEs.

Then there's the much weaker lying about times. Paul Ryan being the famous example of this. But everyone knows someone. Fudging your times, which even I'm guilty of. When someone asks how I did and I don't want to say, I divert and say something like "Well enough." or "Not as bad as I thought". I get why people do this: shame, embarrassment, self-disappointment.

People react strongly to race cheats, and for good reason. People who have sweated and wheezed and cancelled dates and dinners for their race times don't appreciate those who have faked their way to an achievement. Runners on my twitter feed suggest the motives are to beat specific others, because they are lazy, because they lack the concept of training for race profit, because they haven't done the training, and therefore drop out. Words used included, "lazy", "disgust", "cockwomble", and "fucktrumpets" (those last two from the excellent vocabulary of Autumn (Tiny Runner)).

Some of course will be compulsive liars, but that's a small psychiatric population indeed. Others could be genuinely uncaring- a winner takes all type strategy. Some will be casually convincing themselves they did nothing wrong, particularly the estimated large percentage of cheats at the back of the pack. At the end of the day you're cheating yourself. Even I am when I mumble and divert. If you can train for it, and push in it, own what you got. Dale on my twitter feed said it well "The biggest adulation you can get is from yourself, knowing you slogged your guts out and can give no more. That's achievement".

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So whats your opinion? How do you feel about cheats?

And WHY do you think they do it? The Psychologist in me needs to know!










08/11/2014

The Whangie

This Saturday morning we headed up the Whangie in the Kilpatrick hills. Like at Tinto, we headed off early to avoid anyone assuming we were at all mentally competent. I've never been up the Whangie- never done the hill race or anything- but its really very nice so I will try and do the hill race in 2015 I think.

Sunrise

Looking up

To be honest I pissed about a fair bit on the way up this hill. Its only 3 miles and if I'd been working properly I could have accomplished it a lot faster. But, hey, on a Saturday morning its really more about the fun than the time, and every little bit on hills helps.

Larking about on the summit

N&J


Proof selfie

We ran up the usual track after the deer gate from the car park, and then after hitting the two summits (stone cairn of the lesser hill then across the bog at the top to the actual hill cairn) we ran back down via the rock climbing routes- really cool to run beside these impressive rock cliffs, strange that they've developed with an easy space between them. These are actually where the Whangie gets its name, and it legend that the stone corridor was created by the devil flicking his tail as he flew past.





Sadly, Lucifer was clearly busy cause' we didn't see head nor tail of him.

Descent



Compared to Tinto, the weather at the Whangie was a breeze (or less of a breeze, har de har). She's definitely infinitely run-able and we stretched out on the descent to the cars. There was a lot of fog but its not as if the hill is hard to navigate. It was actually quite cool to see the fog sit in the valleys.


The only thing was I did land on my foot funnily on rock at some point, and rolled it onto its side with my weight on it. It was quite uncomfortable for the rest of the descent, but actually feels fine now so hopefully no harm done. These few hills so far have also really taught me the importance of a warm up. In both cases I barely felt able to run for the first few 100 metres!

Show off.

Please note clearly about to fall off, explains face.

I'm in no way saying I'm a mega hill runner, or some hardened wilderness beast. I am not, I am a city based woman who doesn't love being hungry for any period of time or not having access to a coffee. But out in the hills like this, I just feel like... This is life. This right here, where your legs are working and your heart is pounding and your friends are laughing. This is what its meant to feel like. I love doing this. I need to try and fill more of my life with this feeling.

Right, wanky mind blip over, I promise. My legs are flipping killing me anyway. Bloody hills.