Category Archives: Nutrition

Cross training in the garden

Heavy work = good cross training

After going out for a run with Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers this morning, I got stuck back into the garden. I spent 4-5 hours yesterday and 3 hours today working hard in the garden to create a new garden out of what was a weed fest. It is proving to be excellent cross-training.

The weed fest

This is the task that faced me a few weeks ago when I spent two full days pulling out the huge and plentiful weeds, loading them into a ute and taking them all to the rubbish dump.

How it looked yesterday morning

Yesterday morning I decided to start creating the new garden bed that will replace the weedy mess that has grown in the bottom garden. To achieve my goal, I had to dig out all the grass using a mattock and spade. It was backbreaking work in the hot sun. Over the past two days I managed to remove the top layer of earth, including grass and roots for an area 25m (82 feet) long and increasing from 1m (3 feet) to 2.5m (8 feet) wide.

The hill; hard work with a loaded barrow and flat tyre

I had to shift every heavy load of dirt and grass to the front of our block, about 70m from where I dug it up, where we have a low point that needs to be raised. To get it there I had to push the wheel barrow up a short steep hill that climbs 2.5m in height over the space of about 10m (25% grade). To make things even more interesting, my wheel barrow has a flat tyre. Not just a soft tyre but one that is totally flat because it got a nail through it a month ago.

The result

After removing the rubbish, I dug large deep holes for each plant. Our soil is heavy clay so it was hard work digging the one square metre (10 square foot) holes about 2ft deep. I then filled the holes and surrounding garden bed with topsoil. To shift the 1.5 cubic metres (2 cubic yards) of toptopsoil I had to shovel it into the wheelbarrow out of the ute. I then had to push it downhill on the flat tyre. I then planted the shrubs and mulched the area with 1 cubic metre of forest mulch.

I still have another 20m (60ft) x 3m (10ft) to dig out, plant up and mulch. I’m sure it will make great cross training for another day.

The end result will be amazing. We’ve planted native plants that flower and attract bees. This will both prevent the weeds taking over again, create colour and, importantly, entice bees to our garden so they can pollinate our vegetable and fruit trees so that I can fuel my body with high quality home grown organic fuel.

Total: 6.5km club run at unknown pace and 3 hours heavy gardening.

Committing to the 12-in-12 Challenge

The more I think about my 12-in-12 Challenge, the more I realise how exciting it is. I have been looking for a big adventure for some months now but wasn’t sure how to fit it in with work and home commitments. See, I thought an adventure meant that I’d need to go someplace else for an extended period of time. I was envisioning weeks of hiking some long lonely trail in a beautiful location. But, instead, fate and life have led me to this crazy 12-in-12 Challenge. And I am more excited about it than about the idea of going away alone for weeks or months at a time.

When I first came up with the 12-in-12 Challenge, it seemed like such a simple idea. I just have to put one foot in front of the other for 12 long running events in a year. And that’s what I like about it – the simplicity.

But the reality is, I have to approach this challenge with the same commitment and care as I would approach a thousand kilometre hike. I not only have to make sure I enter the right events, but I need  to ensure my body and mind are healthy enough for the challenge. And that they stay healthy.

Mentally, I know there will be times ahead when I wonder why I took up the challenge. There will be times when I forget what a blessing it is to be able to experience the places my adventure will take me. This is normal. I read a lot of books and blogs by adventurers and without fail, they all have their dark moments. For some, the darkness and hardship take over, while others embrace the hours of discomfort as part of the adventure. I want to be one of the latter group. And by mentally preparing for the hardships and acknowledging they will come, I will give myself the best chance of success.

Emotionally, this adventure is going to take me far inside myself. There is no one else who can run the long lonely miles of a race with me. When the going gets tough, we all shut down to those running around us and enter our own worlds. This is when I need to trust that I’ve come a long way from the anxiety riddled man experiencing deep depression to be the optimistic and peaceful man I am today. I no longer fear the solitude of my thoughts and draw strength from the memories of days gone by. Because I know the elation of success and the euphoria that comes with achieving the seemingly impossible.

Physically, I have a lot to balance. I have greatly improved my diet over the past three weeks. I have shifted from taking most of my calories from sugar, flour and meat to eating a largely plant-based diet that is supplemented by meat. I am eating five serves of vegetables for breakfast every day accompanied by herbal tea fresh from my garden. My lunches consist of vegetarian tortillas or brown rice with vegetables. Instead of eating cakes and biscuits for morning and afternoon tea, I am eating fruit and nuts. Today I supplied morning tea to work but brought in a date loaf instead of a mud cake. It’s a big change and my body feels better for it.

For race days, I have been experimenting with real food nutrition, rather than relying on bars and gels. I have found it works really well for me. I like oat bars with fruit or nut flavours, vegetarian tortillas or burritos, and fresh fruit. They fuel my body for longer, are lightweight and easy to carry, and contain lots of calories. I will probably always carry a gel or two for emergencies or late-race bonking. But they are now my backup not my ‘go to’.

Aside from food, I need to look after my bones, muscles and joints. For the past few months I’ve been receiving post-race massages from my daughter-in-law who is qualified to perform relaxation massage. The difference in my recovery has been astounding.

I have a long, painful history of shin splints and ITB syndrome in my right leg. The pain started between 1996-1998 and has been a constant in my life. It stopped me running for six years between 2005 – 2011 and is one of the reasons I run in bare feet or barefoot-style shoes. I have decided that rather than sticking my head in the sand, I am going to address the issues with my leg in three ways:

  • I am running slower than I might if I were training for triathlon and am trying to focus on technique, rather than on speed. My goals will only require me to average about 8-9kph in my races (6:40 – 7:30 min/kph pace) and I am not afraid to go slower if necessary. Because right now, it’s more important to finish than to get a good time.
  • I have made an appointment with a craniosacral therapist. I used to see him years ago and he helped me a lot, both with my emotional health and with my physical well-being.
  • I have made an appointment with a physiotherapist who is himself a runner and who treats many runners at my running club.

It’s not that I’m injured but I know I need to be sensible and honest if I want to remain injury free.

On a personal level, I am committed to the 12-in-12 Challenge because I am running for the transgender community. I want to show transgender men and women who are early in or struggling with their transitions that there is hope for the future. Our gender histories don’t have to limit our life options nor hold us back in any way. It’s not about success – it’s about being willing to try.

Sure, I might not achieve my goal. But it wouldn’t be an adventure if there was no risk of failure. The important thing is to set a goal, aim high, prepare properly, look after your body and soul, and just get out there and do it without fear of failure.

Looking after my body

I admit it, I underestimated the toll the 50km trail run on Sunday was going to take on my body. I thought I’d be back out running after a day or two. And sure, maybe I would have been if I had trained properly and methodically for the event, but we all know that didn’t happen 😉 .

I tried to go running on Wednesday morning but my left ankle was still sore. It was swollen like a puffer fish on Sunday after my run so I iced and strapped it for the night. By Monday morning the swelling had subsided so I knew it wasn’t a bad injury. I know I stood in a big hole at about the 20km mark in the race and that it hurt my ankle when I did.

However, it’s not a soft-tissue injury because I didn’t feel feint afterwards. My body has this crazy response to strains and sprains: I feint. I always have and probably always will. It’s good in a way because it means I can easily distinguish between injury and hurt or fracture. I know there’s no fracture in the ankle because it didn’t hurt when I put ice on it. For me, it always hurts like blazes when I ice a fracture. So the ankle is just sore from over-use (I traveled over 110km in 5 days last week) and probably bruised from stepping in the hole.

So, on Wednesday morning I enjoyed a delightful 3.6km walk around my neighbourhood during which I stopped to smell the wattle flowers. On Thursday morning I again went for a 3.6km walk along the same route. The route includes some nice long up and down hills so I felt like it was a good recovery work out.

On Wednesday evening I got a massage that focused on my legs. That was wonderful and I felt like I had new legs afterwards. I’ll definitely be doing that again after my next race.

This morning I did some gardening. I am preparing my vegetable gardens for summer. I have five or six vegetable beds. I totally rested one bed this winter and it was full of weeds, which I had to pull out this morning. I also failed to mulch the beds I did use this winter so they also had lots of weeds growing between my crops. This morning I pulled out lots of the weeds so that I can top the beds up with extra topsoil tomorrow (the beds are built on clay so I will keep having to add topsoil until they settle). I also got a good upper body workout when I used a hand saw to cut through timber sleepers that I am using as barriers between the beds.

I’ve also put a lot of effort into my nutrition this week. I have been re-reading Born To Run for weeks now (I just pick it up and randomly read a few pages every day or two) and have also been reading a lot of online material about ultra trail running. The thing that keeps coming up is the importance of nutrition. I’ve never been a fan of ‘fake’ food like supplements and gels. But I fell into a bit of a trap of relying on them for my nutrition.

This week I’ve eaten vegetables every morning for breakfast, getting in my full five serves before work. I have been raiding my garden ‘supermarket’ for broccoli, sugar loaf cabbage, leaf amaranth and herbs, and have been supplementing this with some shop-bought carrots, capsicum, mushrooms, sweet potato and onions. I’ve been mixing them with nuts, eggs, quinoa, calamari and tinned tuna for protein. No, I’ve not had this exact mixture every day but that’s what I’ve been selecting from.

I’ve eaten mixed nuts and a piece of fruit for morning tea every day with a few digestive biscuits we happen to have in the office. For lunch I’ve eaten baked beans, lasagne and today I’m having vegetarian burritos. For afternoon tea I’ve had two pieces of fruit and, if hungry, a glass of Sustagen with oat milk. For dinner I’ve eaten vegetables with every meal and have eaten two vegetarian dinners this week.

This increased intake of fruit, nuts and vegetables has left me feeling really strong and healthy. I am sure it’s also helping me recover well. I’ve reduced my intake of sugar and have increased my water intake, starting every day with a glass of tap water and drinking herb tea (from my garden) with breakfast. I don’t know why I let my diet get so out of hand when it really is no effort (or increased cost) to eat well. I even switched from white to brown rice and loved it.

It’s not that I’m switching from omnivore to herbivore. But I do want to eat more vegetables and fruits, rather than meats and sugars. I was a vegetarian for a year back in the mid-2000s and it didn’t work out so well for me. I lost too much weight and was lethargic all the time. However, with hindsight I can see that I wasn’t eating the right things. I wasn’t getting enough mix of food and was relying almost solely on eggs for protein. I ate white rice and white pasta, and really only ate leafy vegetables and beans. This time round in my reduced meat reliance I am even forcing myself to learn to eat capcisum, one of only two vegetables I hate (the other is eggplant and no amount of trying is going to get me to like it).

I’m excited about my 10km run tomorrow morning and 6km run on Sunday afternoon. I have a small program that I’ve downloaded from the internet. It shows me how many kilometres I should be running if I want to safely increase my mileage. I am determined to at least follow it for weekend long runs and to help me from over training (I am sure I ran too much for my body the week I bought my Vibrams and that that’s part of why I’ve struggled this week).

I’m glad I’ve take the full 5 days off because it’s helped me enjoy my 50km achievement and has given me time to refocus, refresh and regather myself for my next adventure 🙂

My other healthy hobby

Sugar loaf cabbage

The summer months are gone and the flurry of triathlon-related activity is dying down so I have finally been able to spend some time tending to one of the great loves in my life: my organic food garden. It’s been neglected all summer, suffering the indignity of being filled with weeds rather than food. Until now.


Autumn is well and truly upon us here in Brisbane, with the clear blue skies and crisp nights of winter just a few weeks away. The change in the weather a few weeks ago sent me crawling back to my garden, seeking forgiveness for having become obsessed by triathlon. And, if the growth of the sugar loaf cabbage, broccoli and pea seeds are anything to go by, my garden seems to have forgiven me.


The slower tempo of my current fitness regime is allowing me two mornings a week off. Mornings on which I can potter around my garden: sowing seeds, watering the plants, feeding the soil and pulling out weeds. It’s a time to enjoy the sight of flowers, the taste of fresh food and the smell of warm earth in the cool morning air.

I have missed my garden and the vegetables it produces. The summer months are tough on the soil and plants, so next year I will leave my vegetable garden fallow but for the green manures that will provide it food for the April to November growing season. But next year I will not neglect her like I did this year for I will have more balance in my life between the various passions that drive me.

A solid week

Feet of a barefooter

I’ve not been able to blog in a week because I used my internet bandwidth last month. But all is well now that the internet billing month is over. While I’ve not been blogging I have been training solidly and have also started a new nutrition plan that seems to be working out well.

On the training front I started the week by sleeping in on Saturday morning and swapping my morning session for an afternoon run. I had simply intended to run a short 3-5km jog but ended up exploring some nearby streets for a delightful 8km cruise at 5:50 min/km pace. I felt strong on the run and felt that I certainly could have kept going had I not found my way back home. I also did two sets of strength while out on my run. The first was 20 sit ups, 20 push ups and two sets of five chin ups. The second was 20 push ups and 20 sit ups. It was a hot afternoon run so I came home covered in sweat and feeling chuffed with my effort.

On Sunday I went on a relaxed 26.75km bike ride with my friend Ange. We had a delightful chat as we cruised along the flats and roller coasters circuit through the paddocks near our homes. Our average speed of 23.3kph was a tad on the relaxed side, which  gave us plenty of opportunity to catch up on the previous week’s events. We topped our lovely ride off with a visit to a local cafe.

I took a rest day on Monday, enjoying a sleep in and then relaxed night before Tuesday morning’s speed session with the running club. We ran two 400m sprints followed by two 200m sprints. I actually timed my sprints this week. I ran my 400m sprints in 1:15 and 1:20, and my 200m sprints in 36.3 seconds and 35.8 seconds. I don’t think I’ll be going to the Olympics for sprinting any time soon – haha. But now that I’ve started timing my sprints I’ll keep doing it to see whether I improve. We ran a total of 3.88km for the session.

Wednesday was another casual bike ride, this time with Mum. We rode 33.7km at 21.1kph. It was a similar loop as Ange and I completed on Sunday but we added a few extra kilometres riding down Mum’s road. Again it was an opportunity to chat and enjoy a social ride rather than focusing on training. It highlighted for me how important the social aspect of my fitness is to me and confirmed that I’m not out to be the fastest but I’m out to enjoy the lifestyle of healthy living.

On Thursday morning I hit the pool for a 1.6km swim. I started with my usual warm up of 500m alternating between 50m freestyle and 50m breast stroke. I followed this with a hard 500m set alternating between 25m butterfly, 25m Biondi fly, 25m freestyle drill and 25m freestyle sprint. I finished with 600m of freestyle and breast stroke. I felt strong in the water and enjoyed my session.

Today I slept in again because it felt so good in bed this morning. Besides, it’s Friday and I finish work an hour earlier so can go running at night. The change in routine was a good move. I rode my motorbike down to a gym car park in Shailer Park, stripped down to some running clothes, locked my gear in the box on the back of my motorbike and took off down the road. I ran past my old primary school and down to what we locals call Slide Away Mountain. After a short 600m warm up I found myself running up straight up the side of Slide Away Mountain for 1.6km. It was seriously steep and I felt a sense of achievement at reaching the top. This set the tone for my run: for the first 50 minutes I ran up and down Slide Away Mountain following different roads. The final 10 minutes took me downhill back to my motorbike. I ran 9.6km at 6:17 mins/km. I felt strong running up the hills and ran solidly at 5 mins/km on the brief sections of flat that I encountered.

I’ve also had a change in nutrition this week. When I first got back into triathlon I lost 10kg quickly because I improved my diet on what it had been and significantly increased my level of exercise. My diet wasn’t great though and after the initial weight-loss I  slowly put three kilograms back on because I took the view that I could eat whatever I wanted now that I was training.

My cousin introduced me to MyFitnessPal last Friday so I downloaded the app on my phone. I entered my details and asked the program to help me lose 1lb (450g) a week until I lose the 3kg I put on the past few weeks. I feel most healthy when I’m about 75kg – 77kg and last Friday I weighed 79.5kg. The app told me that I should consume about 1,590 net calories per day to lose the weight. Net calories are the number of calories eaten less any calories burned in training. So if I burn 1,000 calories training I can eat 2,590 calories for the day, making it feel like a sensible way to lose a few kgs. Once I have lost the few kilograms again the app will set me to a diet of 1,990 net calories a day to maintain my weight.

I am usually not a fan of dieting or calorie counting but my diet has been so bad the past few months that I’ve had sugar-induced reflux more than I care to admit, and I’ve had whole days where I’ve not eaten anything from the fruit or vegetable group. So this is a way for me to break bad habits and learn how much food I really can enjoy if I make healthy choices. And once I’m at 76kg I’ll set the app to maintaining my weight (I’m currently at 78kg).

On the first day I just logged my usual diet and found I ate 3,000 net calories, largely in sugar and fat. The next day I tried to watch what I ate a little bit and still ate over 2,500 net calories. But since Sunday I’ve been doing well, staying just under my calorie allowance most days and only just going over on others. And I’m enjoying food again – especially not having reflux. I’ve got so much more energy already after just a week of eating well. It’s a good feeling and I hope to stick it out for a few weeks.

So it’s been a good solid week. And hopefully I can return to writing about my training experiences again now that I’ve got internet access again.