I like these numbers

I have been a bad boy ! I haven’t blogged for nearly a month, and nothing about my journey since middle of August. Well sit down, buckle up and grab some popcorn because you are in for a treat this week – triple post coming up.

So where did I leave things, ah yes, holiday and plans to go running every day to counter excesses. Well that didn’t quite work out as planned, but I have excuses. I really was looking forward to the holiday, it has been a tough year in terms of work, and the many external projects I am involved in. Coaching of Liam has been intense, but obviously has paid dividends in terms of his athletic development this year and the successes he has had, so a chance for us both to get away together and not have to pack a shot was inviting.

I wanted to go into this holiday and not have to worry about what I was eating, I still wanted to be sensible, but as I was trying to transition out of FAST800, I wasn’t too restricted on what I could eat. On the morning we left I stood on the scales, and they said I was 96.9Kg and 20.9% body fat. I had put on just over a Kg in the preceding week but wasn’t really worried about this. I still knew I was 10 inches slimmer on my waist, and although I was still far from the popular media ‘beach ready’ body I knew I wouldn’t have marine scientists trying to roll me back in the water if I fell asleep on the beach.

We were staying in a Eurocamps site in South Holland in a place called Duinrell. This is a site in the middle of a forest just 5Km from an amazing golden sands beach, with free access to an on-site amusement park complete with scary roller coasters. We were there last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but for me last year was a painful experience and highlighted my health problems. I was suffering from a knee injury which limited my mobility and several times I had to turn around on cycle journeys both because my knee hurt and also I wasn’t able for that level of exercise. This year, those issues had gone away and I was going to make up lost ground from last year.

One thing I noticed on landing was it was hot, very hot and a lot hotter than the wet and windy Ireland I had left behind a few hours ago. Weather in Holland hadn’t been so good in the previous few weeks but we had heard rumors of a ‘heatwave’ across Northern Europe. Weather app on my phone said 23C, and to be honest it seemed warmer. A quick swipe right and said that following day would be 27C – mmmmmm, that sounds promising. Cooking was going to be an issue in that heat, and no air-con in the shack we were staying in, so on the first day we did what every self-respecting tourist does, and something I haven’t done for a long time, we got a takeaway. In Holland they obviously don’t have a potato shortage, well not if the bag of chips we received is anything to go by – was called a family pack. Obviously in this part of the World, family means 12 grown adults, 16 hungry children and a bit to spare in case any more of the family drop by unexpectedly. Chips have been on my banned list since May, and so this was a real treat, and I can tell you, they tasted absolutely divine. Now, I didn’t go completely mad and instead of going for the burger option or the battered fish I went for a tub of olives and feta cheese with a light oil dressing which surprisingly went quite nicely with the chips. I am sure I watched my stomach expand that evening.

This pretty much set the tone for the holiday, I think I had takeaway 3 days and went out for a meal at a nice beach side bistro for one night. I also drank (non-alcoholic) beer for the first time since May and it went down a treat in the hot weather. The week got warmer – hitting 32C for several days in a row. Even first thing in the morning the heat was intense and eating breakfast outside was very civilized. I stuck to my usual breakfast – eggs, avocado, cheese and olives as I really have come to enjoy that and don’t think I will ever go back to slices of toast for breakfast.

What the heat did do however was dampen down my running ambitions for the week. Whereas I had planned to go every day – get in a few miles before breakfast, or go last thing at night, it was just too damned hot. Maybe if I was a lot fitter than where I was, then maybe just maybe it would have been an option, but this was not the time for heroics. On the second day of the holiday I did venture out for a 5km slow jog, and boy was it painful. The Netherlands, and in particular Holland are supposed to be flat. In fact I have heard rumours of little dutch children playing billiards across a 100 acre field and the balls not rolling around at all. If the country is so flat then how on Earth did I find myself at 2.5km running up a bloody great hill !!! My Garmin said the hill was a 14 metre rise – FOURTEEN METRES. Cycling to the beach later that day – I had to go UP multiple hills, there was then no downs to make up for this, I just kept going up and up to the beach – something has slipped in the time fabric continuum (or something like that). Anyway, back to the run. I got to the top of the mountain (almost needing supplementary Oxygen), turned around and retraced my steps. What made this run particularly pleasant was the Dutch ability to separate cars from bikes from people in a relatively small space, and so I had a lovely pedestrian route to run along. The run finished through the local forest, and the soft underfoot was just enough to lessen the impact on my by now sore joints. I was accompanied on the run by Liam, but I am going to leave the importance of this to a future post this week.

Ragweed – not nice !!

It was three days before I ventured out to run again, between stuffing my face with bread / cakes / biscuits / chips / sweets and visits to the beach I just couldn’t find time. When I did run I had a really strange incident. I was about 2km into the run when I started to cough, it was like I had run through a cloud of dust and whatever I had breathed in really was starting to sting my lungs. When I got back to the shack I really didn’t feel well – even clearing my throat with 4 cans of beer made no difference. Within 2 hours I really had started to go downhill, my eyes were streaming, I was coughing, my nose was like a tap – I wasn’t well at all. I didn’t sleep through the night, I couldn’t find an angle to hold my head at to drain the snot from my head, every time I turned to one side, green goo poured into the other side. It seemed like I just spent the entire night spinning in the bed. Although I wasn’t 100% I found that being in/at the water at the beach made me feel better, and this started me thinking – could it be hayfever ? This was late August in Northern Europe, but it was hot so anything was possible. A bit of reading and some Google searching led me to the door of Ragweed, an invasive pest from the US that has recently arrived in Europe – I had to look twice to make sure I hadn’t put TRUMP in the search bar, but no it was definitely Ragweed. This was an aggressive weed, recently emerged in Central/Northern Europe and pushing its way Westwards. It was creating some difficulties for Europeans as we have never been exposed to it before and so highly allergenic. Sounds plausible to why I was feeling like shit – will stick with that explanation.

On the eve of our last day of the holiday we continued as we started off, with the carrier bag full of fried potato goodies. I did my best to finish everything in the bag, but even I was defeated and so a fantastic 7 days of sun and food came to an end. This was probably the closest I have ever come to a sun holiday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even though I ate everything around me, there was no guilt about doing it at all. I would pay the piper later for any consequences of my actions, but for now I was a happy, potato stuffed man.

As we got in the taxi to head to the airport it started to rain, literally within 30 seconds of sitting in the car. For the entire time we had been out of the country, Galway had been battered by storms and heavy rain. Landing back on Irish soil and heading across to Galway was done in glorious sunshine, with a temperature of about 18C. Seems like the Gods had decided to give me a good week for once and gave me some bonus time when I returned.

Then a little bit of doubt crept into my head – what if eating all that food wasn’t a good idea, had I undone the good work. I really didn’t want to see some bad numbers on the scales, but my trousers were that bit tighter than when I headed out of the country. I probably hadn’t been back in the house 5 minutes when I was stripped down to my jocks and standing on the scales – 100.4Kg and 21.5% bodyfat. OUCH !! That was not what I wanted to see at all. Important thing – don’t panic, you can sort this out. I have the tools available to deal with this, seems like FAST800 was going to be making a quick return.

Next few days went like this in terms of weight: 99.6kg, 98.1kg, 95.6kg, 95.2kg, 95.0kg, 93.9kg. Now, it must be said that I was VERY strict with my 800 calories and that I also ran most days, usually for 5k at a time. I also went to the sauna a few times – hence a few days where there were very big drops – probably a bit of dehydration here. Holiday excesses dealt with by one very swift application of FAST800. What FAST800 couldn’t help me with however was the quick return to wet and cold weather, that holiday seems such a long time ago now.