A Racing the Reaper Man Year: January 2021

In my opening Blog Post introducing my Racing the Reaper Man Year, I explained how being fit but retaining unnecessary habits, kept me in a self-imposed Limbo of not quite resetting my life for the better: the pandemic had the same effect on me as everyone else. My stubborn final drive to run 1000 miles for 2020, covering 141 miles in December, liberally laced with red wine as a reward, changed my mindset. I decided to stop kidding myself and put my philosophy into action. Thus, armed with hindsight and moving firmly forward, I started to put my ideas into a year-long journey. This post is about my first month ‘being my own experiment’.

On January 1st I had reached my sixth day of running at least a mile, and I planned to keep that going for as long as having no excuses would let me. I gave up drinking ‘for a month’ and applied some heavy pruning to my diet. Butter was gone: it was replaced with finest olive oil. No refined sugar, chocolate, crisps, pies and those nutrition-free ‘treats’ the whole Western World are addicted to. In came grains, nuts, locally sourced fruit and veg, and 0% alcohol beer. My bread consumption dropped to a loaf of locally baked sourdough rye for the week. This was a ‘live’ learning curve which I intended to refine as I went, and I was dead-set to reject my diet if I found it awful. I have not eaten meat for years, but kept sustainable fish in, and retained only cheese as a dairy product – this sourced from Britain.

Locally-sourced farm shop fodder

My aim is to reach certain targets as the year progresses and to report honestly how it affects me, and how my life changes. January was the reset month where I allowed myself time to adjust and make errors. So, on January 1st my starting point statistics were:

  • Age 64
  • Weight: 13st 5lbs (187lbs/84.8kg)
  • BMI: 27.6
  • Belly circumference: 38 inches/96.52cm

For years I have counted my daily calorific intake and for this year determined to consume no more than a ‘passive’ 2000kcal a day. This is not purely scientific, but without a laboratory and funding, I developed a rough benchmark to work from. It goes thus: using online calculators for calories burned whilst running, I found that I was projected to burn an extra 125 or 150 kcal per mile. I took a baseline figure of 130 kcal. So, I would count all my calories in through the day, then subtract 130 per mile ran as follows:

Running 6 miles eating 2000 calories: 2000 – (6×130) = 2000 – 780 = 1220 kcal day’s balance.

Not perfect, but far from cheating. If I stuck to 2000kcal a day and ran 40 miles a week, I would soon fall over. Trust me, it works very, very well. And, I will prove it this year.

I committed myself to a weekly core strength session a week with my Personal Trainer, Martin Sorenson. He is working on his MSc, so is going to use me as a small part of his work. On top of this, I would do a single core workout exercise each day, along with some shoulder strengthening and mobility exercise – I’d had a cortisone jab in my left shoulder to ease several years of pain from a damaged rotator cuff, and needed to bring it back to normal.

My targets are 12st 4lbs (172lbs/78kg) by May 1st; a couple of ultra-marathons; and try to crack a 7-minute mile by the end of the summer. My organised 50k was postponed until October, so I determined to run a solo time trial over the same distance in the spring.

How did I fare in January?

I started with the commitment of the newly converted, but was aware that this was not a short-term regime. I was prepared for self-doubt and negative thoughts surfacing as excuses. Yet, the longer I avoided booze, the easier it became. By the second week I had no craving at all. I remained true to my diet needs and there was no junk.  My daily food intake was averaging 1600kcal and I started to feel much better. In January I ran 116 miles – running every day. I had completed 4 x 11-mile long runs and was pleased to have been alcohol free for a month. Relevant stats:

  • Age 64
  • Weight: 13st 0lbs (182lbs/82.6kg) – down 5lbs/2.27kg
  • BMI: Down from 27.6 to 26.9
  • Avg kcal/day = 1544

As I had been drinking too much in 2020, it came as a relief to commit to abstinence. My sleep pattern became erratic for a while, then, by the end of the month, had settled and I was getting proper rest. I began eating regularly in small amounts through the day, so I was never really hungry. My final meal of the day was no larger than 750kcal and eaten before 20:00. That way I effectively fasted for over 12 hours most days.

Core training once a week was initially hard, but as I started trimming down, I found exercise was becoming less of a burden – I was no longer training through a daily hangover. My runs were starting to be fun again, and photographing my progress for Facebook posts encouraged me to run as many varied routes as I could.

Swerving along the rooty trails in January

The first month was a test as everything was new. My mental processes were very strange as I would imagine excuses not to run automatically. It was as if my body and mind were conspiring against the change. However, once out in the cold I was fine, so one has to be aware of that inner voice. It stems from the primitive instinct not to expend energy, store fat and rest until the no-longer-relevant time of hardship arrives. That is the main message I have for January. Your stone age self has a built-in set of triggers designed to save energy. As modern humans we must override this, as energy stored as fat is no longer a requirement for survival, but its corruption is certainly a modern killer. Pressing the reset takes commitment, but it has been well within me so far. Contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Looking across to a bitterly cold Bosham in January