Back on the road

The most pleasing thing about my Friday bike is how quickly I recovered. Some might say that means I didn’t push it hard enough, but I prefer to think of it as conservation of energy for the rest of the weekend ahead, which as it turns out I needed to do.

Parkrun on saturday looked like it was going to be sunny but then it was pretty chilly down at the track. I didn’t really have a plan other than to pootle round, but when Mike turned up and said he was happy to run round with me I thought I would go for it and try and get him to pace me under 27 mins for the first time since November. He was up for the challenge and since I had forgotten my Garmin (ARGH) I left myself in his hands. He was really good actually, he didn’t expect me to talk all the way round and kept me updated when I needed to push on. Near the end I thought I’d blown it but found some effort from somewhere and finished in 26:55. Still nowhere near the heady heights of sub-25 but the fastest all year and it felt pretty good. I don’t have my splits but Mike reckoned we’d done the tricky middle mile the fastest, so I was pretty chuffed with that.

The rest of Saturday passed in a haze of cleaning, the sunshine is lovely but it doesn’t half show up the dust so we topped and tailed the place between us and it looked much better by the end of it. I also got a bit of baking in – a second attempt at Tiger Bread, this turned out really well and tasted AMAZING. I made it by hand rather than in the Breadmaker and used my new proving basket and both worked out really well. Will definitely be doing that again (after the wedding though, the temptation to eat the whole thing warm drenched in butter is too strong).

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Sunday saw my first 10k of the year – the North Tyneside 10k. I’ve not done it before but it is popular as witnessed by the large number of clubmates also taking part. The race starts in North Shields and heads up the coast before finishing in Whitley Bay. Rather unusually for a race of this magnitude there is no chip timing, so the start was a bit of a scrum. The beginning bit is downhill but then it climbs quite steeply up to the coastal path by Tynemouth Priory (I walked up that!) and then never really flattens out before you get to the end. My aim was to get round in under an hour, but my parkrun yesterday had spurred me on a bit, and apart from a niggle in my upper thigh (caused by cycling I think) I felt ok, so pushed on and came home in about 55 and a half mins. Again like parkrun it is some way off my best but represents an improvement on recent times so I was happy.

Or mostly happy anyway since if I thought the start had been a scrum then that was nothing compared to the finish where people were barging in the queue left right and centre. I don’t know if they just didn’t understand funnel etiquette or wanted to boost their finishing place but it was rude and made me quite cross, and coupled with a 45 min wait for the bus back to the start I think the organisers could think a bit more carefully about next years race. The nice t-shirt and socks helped though, as did some easter cakes baked by some clubmates and it was hard to be cross for very long.

After all this excitement there was still more to come on Easter Monday which saw a very pleasant round of golf in the sunshine and then back on the bike again (this time my hybrid which has yet to be named…) for 22 miles along the trail with some clubmates.

This leaves the last week or so with the following:

Sun: 12 mile fell race
Mon: 4 mile recovery run
Tues: 4 mile lunchtime run, strength and conditioning training in the evening
Weds: track session (4.5 mile total)
Thurs: 1 mile swim
Fri: 53 mile bike ride
Sat: parkrun
Sun: 10k race
Mon: golf and 22 mile bike ride

I make that nearly 110 miles of activity – not bad at all. Unfortunately this equated to a 5lb loss by Friday, and a 4lb gain from Fri to Monday so my diet needs some work this week, but that I can do.

This week is:

Tues: possible run (colleagues have wimped out though) and strength and conditioning
Weds: Relay race
Thurs: Swim

Then away for the weekend which scuppers most plans except maybe parkrun on saturday. Better go out for a run today I think…

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Over the hills and far away

Good Friday was an excellent day in many respects. Firstly, no work, secondly, sunshine and thirdly it was time for my long awaited Pinky outing (yes, I name my bikes. In fact I name pretty much everything. It’s a thing). J had been promising for ages to take me out into the Pennines and with our first free day in about three years the time had come. I was a bit scared if I’m honest, there are some pretty big hills out there and there was also the added pressure that we had to be back in time for J’s optician appointment at 3pm, so it was no surprise that I woke up rather early and we were breakfasted and on the road by 8am. Fortunately the sun was out in force but there was a bit of a nip in the air and still some frost on the ground so I was pleased I had been sensible enough to layer up with thermals, gloves and several buffs.

The route had been described to me as an ok first third, then a big long but not so steep climb and a final downhill third. The roads were reasonably quiet, no surprise as it was a bank holiday, and after the first few miles we were able to ride next to each other without too much trouble, which was nice. I don’t think I would describe the first third (out to Hamsterly) as “ok”, you climb pretty much steadily the whole way but there aren’t (m)any huge hills to speak of, so it was a case of just pressing on. About 2hrs in I was feeling a little weary so was very pleased when J suggested stopping and we found a lovely bench to sit on and chow banana bread.

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After that the hard work begins and the landscape turns from green rolling hills into the lunar landscape with no trees for miles. The scenery is utterly spectacular and it was hard to keep my eyes on the road when there was so much to look around at. Fairly soon we were heading out of the Tees Valley in the direction of the Wear valley and into the climb though. It was long – a good few miles – but not as steep as I had feared and despite missing my lowest gear it was possible to keep my legs turning over at a reasonable speed (I count anything over 5mph as reasonable in this regard!) and we wended our way happily to the top. The plan had been to stop at the top for banana bread round 2, but the wind was a bit whistly and it was cold, so we stopped, had a look about and took some photos and then went to head off.

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Unfortunately J’s clippy pedals got the better of him just as we were about to set off and he had a rather nasty fall while looking round to see where I was. For a moment I thought he was in real trouble and I’d have to head off in search of an ambulance to rescue him from a broken knee-cap but fortunately it was superficial and after a bit of hopping around swearing loudly he proclaimed himself to be fine and off we went. The downhill bit was FUN, but the wind was whistling and my face nearly froze off which was a bit less fun, but buoyed by the fact that I had been led to believe that it was downhill all the way home I was feeling rather good (bad plan!).

We stopped at the bottom of the hill where it was a bit warmer for some more grub and a second look at the lime kilns we had walked around a few weeks before. They are amazing structures and well worth a visit if you are around that way, we might take the kids back later in the year when it is a bit warmer for a picnic and a play in the river.

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Where we stopped is somewhere near a place called Hill End, badly named since it didn’t seem to me like the hill ended. In fact it is at this point that I start to dispute the “last bit is all downhill” that I had been told, as it really wasn’t. We climbed back up from where we had stopped, that hill went on for quite a while longer than I had wanted it to, but the downhill afterwards was quite nice again. After this bit you are back on busy roads which is a bit of a shame, but Frosterley and Wolsingham are beautiful villages and it was fun to have a nosy. On our way out of Wolsingham we came across some friends of ours out on their bikes and stopped for a brief chat, or rather yelled at each other across a busy road. They mentioned having a near miss on the big downhill they had just been down and at this point I was like hmmmmm I thought it was all downhill. Apparently J had forgotten to mention that it was all downhill “except a couple of uphills” and after waving goodbye to our friends we proceeded to the first of these uphills, which after 40 miles of cycling seemed a bit like Everest.

The nasty hill up to Crook has three stages, separated by a roundabout and a bit of flat but it just goes up and up and up and up. I thought about getting off and pushing but my pride won over and I managed to keep going despite the fact that I am missing my lowest gear (did I mention that already?!). After the mammoth hill it still wasn’t what I would class as downhill all the way, but was at least familiar territory and nothing too major apart from some very potholey roads, which on a rather painful posterior was not nice.

Finally home arrived though and a welcome sight it was. We’d been out for just under 5hrs – I had forgotten to stop and start both my Garmin and bike computer at various points, and hence the actual time taken is a bit unclear, but I’d say around 4hr 45. I was quite impressed by this until J looked at his history and had done the same route in 3hr 30 last summer, but I’m still a novice and actually just pleased to get round in one piece, and still enjoy it!

Vital stats as follows:

Time: 5:21:57
Moving Time: 4:54:17
Elapsed Time: 5:38:23
Avg Speed: 9.9 mph
Avg Moving Speed: 10.8 mph
Max Speed: 41.7 mph

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I’ll take an 11mph or so average quite happily, and also say that the max speed is not a mistake, that was down one of the big hills and I needed to change my underwear after that, I’m not such a big fan of speeds like that!

Probably the best thing was that I felt fine afterwards, we pootled happily into town with no leg issues and then spent the rest of the afternoon on sunbeds on the patio before heading out to a rather nice dinner at our local italian place where I took full advantage of the fact that I had burned nearly 2000 calories. God love refuelling! And God love my bike as well, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly so much without him. Pinky is off at the bikeshop at the moment to get his gears looked at and hopefully fixed so I can get to the lowest one, and I hope he is back soon as I miss him 😦 (note I am not one of those objectophile people, I don’t want to marry my bike, just use it to take me nice places and have fun).

Mostly I like Easter though, and it was still only Friday. Wheeeee!

Oh I wish it could be Easter every day

I’ve got to say that four day weekends are pretty much the best thing ever. Especially when the sun is out, it honestly doesn’t get any better. Loads of time to run, bake, sleep and repeat as well as other fun things like golf, biking and lying in the sunshine, I wish it had never ended.

To go back a bit further though, I did indeed make it to the track session on Wednesday. It consisted of a long warm up and then 5 x 800m with 400m recoveries in between. Although having said that my Garmin only recorded 4 sets, so maybe I wimped out of the last one, oops. It was hard anyway, 800m is a fair old way to go flat out, but it was nice to be back doing some speedwork and I enjoyed the session. Rough timings below, but pretty consistent 8 min miles for the 800 sets which I am quite pleased with. The GPS trace on my Garmin amuses me too, especially as it seems to have got itself a little confused, or the world did indeed move quite significantly while I was running round, hehe.

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Thursday morning I got up early and went swimming, 1 mile in about 42 minutes so not bad. The pool was a bit busier than it is in the afternoon and there was this really annoying old chap who stopped me mid-length to tell me I was swimming the wrong way (I wasn’t), but I did it and it was nice to be finished by 9am and know that was my exercise for the day, as well as setting me up nicely for the long weekend. Bring it on!

 

No pain no gain

The fell race on Sunday has battered my legs a bit, my knees have been awfully creaky and I’ve got a couple of nasty blisters but fortunately it has not stopped me getting on with some running this week.

Monday evening was a nice 4 mile run out with some clubmates. We took full advantage of the lighter evenings to go off-road and it was also lovely and sunny, albeit with a bit of a nip in the air. Nice to return to some of the old routes and not have to do the usual trog through town in the dark. I’m liking sunny running a lot!

Tuesday I did 4 miles at lunchtime with some colleagues, it was also gloriously warm and within about 5 minutes I massively regretted wearing my thermal top. T-shirt next week for sure! My poor legs got doubly battered since it was then Strength and Conditioning in the evening. Andy had devised some evil exercises involving a cross taped on the floor (highly appropriate for Easter!) – just goes to show you can work out without expensive gym equipment since the only other bit of kit we used was a tennis ball. Oh and an evil elastic band thing – which sadist came up with the idea of putting a resistance band around your thighs and then having to do a plank? Still, it is good for me and I will really miss it when the course ends in two weeks. I will also need to find something else to do on a Tuesday since my pilates class has been cancelled too (I think everyone swapped to SNC and there was no-one left!) and I really need some sort of core-bashing stuff to complement the run/swim/bike training.

Tonight is a track session I think, then swim first thing tomorrow so I can get home at a reasonable time on Thursday to start the long weekend. Woohoooo!

In other news the wedding dress diet is going ok. I seem to be back on the straight and narrow and am 3lb down this week, just as well as I have eaten sensibly and exercised my arse off so it only seems fair. Now I just need to not screw it up over the weekend but with everything I have planned it is going to be tough to find the time to chow down, just as well probably!

Navigationally challenged

I am really not good at directions. It doesn’t help that I can’t tell left from right – yes, I know if you put your hands out in front of you then the one that looks like an “L” is the left hand, but they both look like L’s to me (marginal dyslexia) and so I have to mime writing to see which hand I write with, but by then the turning has gone past and it is too late. I am also not really the best with a map and compass, as my friend Helen will testify to after a rather long slog around Manchester city centre trying to find Chinatown (sorry Hels!). This is what has always scared me about fell races. I’m not quick and usually languish around the back of the field and in fell races this usually means that there often aren’t many people to follow. I took the wrong road at the Captain Cook’s Fell race on New Year’s Day, merrily leading several other runners off in the wrong direction before realising my mistake and tracking back, but in the back of my mind is always the fear of wandering around completely lost and alone before having to ring mountain rescue. I am reassured constantly by club mates that it is impossible to get lost, but know of people who wandered off course and were rescued by the emergency services, so tend not to believe them and so my tactic is usually to find someone in front of me who looks like they know where they are going and stick to them like glue. It had worked ok up until this race…

So, Guisborough Moors was where it was at. 12.5 miles of the finest fells the north east has to offer including climbs up to Captain Cook’s monument, Roseberry Topping and Little Roseberry. I’ve done the Captain Cook climb before (it was very steep!) and since this is one of the club GP races and I had thoroughly enjoyed the last long fell race I’d done (Hexhamshire Hobble) I thought I would give it a go. The weather was ok, some sun and some cloud to begin with. It was a bit chilly especially in the wind but no need for anything other than a thermal undershirt and vest, especially as gloves, hat and waterproofs were in the required kit along with a map, compass and a whistle.

The thing I like about the fells is that the scenery is always changing and you are so busy concentrating on where your feet are going that the miles and minutes tick by almost without noticing, as opposed to on the road where I look at my Garmin about once every 10 seconds. This is easily avoided on the fells since generally glancing anywhere apart from your feet e.g. to look at your Garmin or to admire the view usually ends in disaster as you inevitable trip over a rock or exposed tree root that you failed to see. So, eyes down and only to be raised when on solid ground. There is also much less pressure on pacing. I know I aim for 9 min miles on the road and get cross if it is above that but again on the fells, anything goes. You can go from running down a steep, well surfaced road at 7 min miles to climbing on your hands and knees up a muddy slope at a pace that makes your Garmin autopause in a matter of seconds, so average pace means very little and time is really the only consideration, and even that becomes immaterial towards the back of the pack. It really is about enjoying the views when you can (and getting round in one piece!).

The first bit of the course is a bit of a climb (see contour map below courtesy of Esk Valley Fell Club) but I walked where I needed to and soon reached the top of the moors.

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It was a bit boggy here, ok a lot boggy, but wet feet is a common occurrence and my trail shoes dry out quite quickly so it was easy to push on. The really steep downhill bit was like a lunar landscape with enormous person sized ruts, but the ground was hard so I made my way down in one piece. The climb up to Captain Cook’s monument was a bit relentless but all on tracks so much better than the scrambly path I’d been up before. The ensuing downhill bit on massive stone slabs is not fun to run down (my poor knees) and I also saw a guy with dog completely wipe out on the gravelly bit but he got up ok and carried on. Up again, again on some gravelly track. I was passed by a clubmate at this point who said that the hard bit was done. I’m not sure if she was having me on, but she was wrong! Looming ahead was Roseberry Topping, practically vertical and scary as hell. Hands on knees job and my Garmin autopaused and refused to start again so slow was my pace. A few steps before the top I landed a bit funny and tweaked my ankle a bit which didn’t help when it came to the very steep rugged downhill bit directly afterwards, but I ran it off ok and ploughed on.

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Picture courtesy of Esk Valley Fell Club

 

The field had really thinned out by this point but there were a couple of people ahead of me who I stuck to. I was feeling ok, much better than I had been at Coniston despite all the hills and uneven ground and looked to be well within my 2 and a half hour target, so all good. The last climb is up some more stony paths and then a bit more boggy heather, before hitting the woods. It was at this point about 11 miles in that I started to regret not eating something along the way as I started to feel a bit sick. I’d had shreddies and a chocolate hot cross bun for breakfast and half a cup of water at the water station but that was it and I was low on fuel. I had a selection of stuff in my bag, so slowed down for a bit to grab a pouch of pear purée (baby food!) and slurp it gratefully. I’ve not tried this gel-alternative during a race before but it really worked a treat as it is slightly wet so refreshing and doesn’t taste like flavoured snot, I will definitely be buying more as it sorted my sick feeling out immediately and didn’t do odd things to my guts like Haribo or Jelly babies can do, all good.

Or so I thought, but unfortunately as I was scrabbling around in my bag to find the pouch I had slowed down enough that I lost sight of the guy in front of me, and made the catastrophic error of thinking I knew where I was going. Trundling happily down an enormous hill with only a mile to go I felt great, but then suddenly realised that there was a big uphill coming and I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. I hadn’t lost that much time with my eating behaviour and should have been able to see the guy ahead of me somewhere, but nothing. I pulled out the map, and tried to locate myself using my phone but there was no signal. I then had a dilemma, carry on going and assume that I’d just slowed up more than I thought and missed the guy going over the hill, or run back up the massive hill I had just run down and try see if I’d missed the marked path. The latter option was the most sensible so I trogged back up the hill to where I’d turned on to the track. I didn’t see any other runners but I did see a bit of red and white tape pointing off the beaten track that I had totally missed, ARGH. This little detour had cost me about 20 mins and most of the remaining energy in my legs, and enabled my clubmate to get past me, so I was more than a little peeved to finally come home about 10 minutes over my target and pretty much plum last. I had however fared better than two running club buddies, one of whom was nursing a nasty looking ankle sprain and the other with a pulled calf muscle and I also got a random box of chocolates from the organisers (they had about a bazillion bottles of wine and chocolates as prizes but ran out of prize winners so invited people up to come and get a prize if they hadn’t already got one, result!). I’m stiff today but still got round in one piece and until getting lost, was going great guns so I am not too disappointed. The next fell outing is the Swaledale marathon in June. I am reliably informed it is hard to get lost here too, so will be boning up on the route extensively beforehand since taking a wrong turn is all too easy and I definitely don’t want to do that and end up running more than I need to in the middle of a marathon! Or getting rescued by Mountain Rescue…

Four day working week this week (wooohoooooo!) so the schedule is as follows:

Mon: recovery run (3-4 miles slow)
Tues: lunchtime run with colleagues, Strength and Conditioning
Weds: early morning swim, track session in the evening
Thurs: day of rest (hence doing swim the day before)
Fri: long 50-60 mile bike ride with J on road bikes
Sat: parkrun
Sun: North Tyneside 10k

 

EDIT And PHEW I accidentally closed this window while writing the above but wordpress saves drafts as you go along, I have never been so relieved!

 

Food Glorious Food

The blog has been a bit running heavy recently so I am ringing the changes and talking about food for a change. I am absolutely unable to stop eating at the moment, it is quite scary. I think I’m stressing about everything (work, wedding, you name it) and that manifests itself in a desire to eat my way out of the doldrums, but that in return just makes me more miserable when I weigh myself so I get caught in a vicious circle from which there is seemingly no return. This does have the bonus that I have plenty of food to talk about on here, but really I need to have a word with myself. And after the weekend I will. Honest.

Anyway, a mixture of food topics today – firstly my love for new chocolate bars knows no end. Last year I scoured every newsagent in a 2 mile radius to try and find White Lion Bars (I failed, but a lovely friend sent me some in the post), so now whenever I see something new I buy it immediately in case I can’t find it again.

Cadbury are a good source of new food, and I’ve found my local Tesco Metro an excellent place to find hidden gems, especially since they have a World Food section with US, Irish, Polish, Indian and many other foods, it is rather exciting (albeit pricey!). My first offering comes from there – Tiffin Dairy Milk (usually available in Ireland). It’s like Fruit and Nut but with biscuit swapped for the nuts (much more sensible) and is rather good.

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Next up are two further Cadbury newbies – Ritz and Lu biscuits with Dairy Milk. The salty/sweet combo is one I am not usually enamoured by and in fact I ended up eating the crackers and then the chocolate which is not quite as intended. The biscuit one is nicer I think, but I’d still rather tuck into a bar of Dairy Milk on its own :purist:

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Next up and finally some baking. Scones from our recent weekend away and some peanut butter squares made for the Sport Relief bakesale at work.

I use Nigella’s recipe for Lily’s Scones as it really is the best – light and fluffy and very quick to knock up. We have a little ritual where before we leave for the weekend I rub the butter into the flour before we go and take the flour mix with me, then add the milk and mix the dough and get them in the oven while J is unpacking the car when we get there. J is fussy and likes plain scones whereas I like cherry so I usually have to halve the batch but at least that way I get an even number to myself! Serve with jam and clotted cream, preferably when they are still a bit warm out of the oven, utter bliss.

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The peanut butter squares are a source of frustration to me since they taste better than pretty much anything on earth, but it is a Lorraine Pascale recipe and I have to admit I am not one of her biggest fans. Anyone whose cookery book contains more pictures of them than the actual food is just wrong, and she really annoyed me on My Kitchen Rules as well. However her peanut butter squares are absolutely to die for, so I just try and not think about her while I am shoving them in my face at a rate of knots.

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Anyway, I am off to mull over the unwiseness of writing a blog article about food and cake when I should be thinking about lettuce and celery, hopefully there will be some book talk tomorrow since I have finished a couple recently. Who says I can’t be well-rounded (literally and metaphorically…)?