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…)?

Duathlon – Done!

I actually held to my exercise routine last week which looked like:

Weds – 6 mile club run (~1 hour)
Thurs – 1 mile swim (~43 mins)
Fri – 25 mile bike ride (~2 hours)
Sat – parkrun (~30 mins)
Sun – Duathlon (~2hr 10)

After 17 hilly miles last saturday followed by a bike ride and strength and conditioning on tuesday that makes for a full on week. I had also been sensible with my diet, so you can imagine my utter joy on Saturday when I realised that I had lost a measly 1lb all week, and I managed to put that back on this weekend so am now exactly the same as I was a week ago. And am currently eating a chocolate bar just to cap it all off. ARGH.

Anyway, club run wednesday was lovely, out on some trails and so nice to be off-road after the long dark winter of the soul. Good swim on thurs in a rather more crowded pool that I would like, but it certainly helped stretch my muscles. I didn’t want to go for a bike ride on Friday, I was tired, grumpy, and on the back of an upsetting exchange of words but dragged myself out with J and enjoyed the ride in the end, despite having to walk up my nemesis. Saturday’s parkrun was a celebratory affair with some clubmates reaching their coveted 50 and 100th parkruns, some other friends were helping pace a running colleague to 30 mins, that didn’t quite go to plan but I sneaked in just over 30 and the lady in question got a new PB so all good. New PB for J too – agonisingly just 5s or so off the magic PB but not bad when he wasn’t expecting anything! The rest of Saturday was sorting out wedding stuff, buying a new telephone and some plants, and watching about 14 zillion episodes of Masterchef New Zealand.

Sunday was the Duathlon, a local event (10 mins cycle from RunBakeSleepRepeat HQ, quite a nice change after last weekend’s 3hr journeys) and my first ever multi-sport event. The logistics of multi-sport events are quite a bewildering change from just putting on your shoes, strapping your Garmin on (unless you forget it like I did at the GNR last year, ARGH) and going. The transition from run to bike is littered with time penalties just waiting to happen; make sure you touch your helmet before your bike on the way out, but put your bike away before you touch your helmet on the way back; rack your bike up so the number is the right way round; make sure your number is on your front for the run but on your back for the bike, and so on). The number issue was particularly vexing since I only had safety pins and I wasn’t sure whether I would need to either repin the number halfway through (!) or some other such contortion, but it turns out that in the absence of a number belt (#1 on my Christmas list, especially as it comes in pink and will therefore match Pinky) simply pinning your number on your back and leaving it there was fine, phew.

The event had a briefing beforehand which contained another set of bemusing rules about putting your feet down at junctions, but fortunately it was a very friendly event and I knew a number of the marshalls who all reassured me that there would be help on the course where needed so not to worry. All that remained therefore to be worried about was actually doing the 5k run, 25k bike and 5k run and not coming last.

Things did not start well, I was plum last by the first corner and also realising that I really should have worn trail shoes as the ground was quite muddy and I was sliding everywhere in my road shoes. The course was three laps of a loop around the transition point, the first bit was muddy and hilly, the second on track but into a headwind before a blissful third bit that was downhill and not too muddy. There was a killer hill at the beginning of the lap which I did not like one little bit, especially when I realised that I actually had to go up it six times in total, since the first and last runs were on the same course. I managed to overtake someone on the hill the first time round but everyone else remained way out of sight until I started to get lapped by the frontrunners (only 5 in total got past me and not anyone I knew fortunately!). It was a bit demoralising since I knew I would be unlikely to make up many places on the bike ride, but I kept going and reached the transition point after lap 3 – around 30 min for the 5k I think.

First transition was ok. No shoe swapping required since me and clippy pedals do not get on, so it was a case of put helmet on, grab bike (from deserted transition area since everyone else bar one person had gone!), run with bike to mount point, chat to marshall about how 30 mins for an XC course wasn’t too bad, then set off. After the pounding of legs on the hill the bike was a blessed relief and I enjoyed the first 2 min coast down to the first hill. The chap who had been behind me in the run overtook me just after the first hill, so I was back to being last which was not ideal, but I could see a couple of people in the distance so got my head down and went after them. The bike course is nice but requires nearly all of the effort in the first half, so it was uphill most of the way for the first 6 or 7 miles, then you hit the hill (below).

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It might not look like much, and in actual fact it is better than it sounds, it isn’t vertical steep by any stretch of the imagination but it does go on, and on, and on. I’d managed to catch and pass one person on a downhill part before the hill and was quite pleased to see someone else in front of me walking up the hill as I knew that if I just stayed on my bike I could get past them. Very slowly (I was doing <4mph!) I caught up and hurrah! went past them into third from last. I was determined that they wouldn’t catch me so pushed on through the next much smaller climb until hitting the joy that is the downhill section. There is nothing quite like the high from pedalling along at 30mph and I really enjoyed the downhill bit. I was also mindful of some advice I’d been given about keeping your legs moving so tried to keep them pedalling even in the downhill bits.

All too soon the hills were over and it was back to the transition point. I got off my bike rather gingerly and after stowing it back in its slot and taking off my helmet I rejoined the run course. I reckoned I’d knocked a few minutes off my bike time from the week before, coming in around 1:08 but that combined with a 30 min 5k meant that the majority of people had already finished by the time I started running again (the top 10 all finished in under 90 mins) so it was again a bit lonely out on the running course, but one of the rather nice marshals I know pointed out a couple of guys ahead of me who were struggling and told me to go and catch them. My legs were a bit odd at this point, the blood had pooled while cycling and they felt like lead weights, whereas my upper body felt as light as a bird, it was most odd. I ran as hard as I could though and caught and passed the two chaps on the second lap. There was a veritable cheer squad assembled by the third lap (club mates who had finished plus a spectator or two) which was nice, and I finally finished in around 2hr 08 (Garmin). Slightly disappointingly I have somehow managed to not appear on the results so have no idea what my final times were, but I had wanted to get somewhere near my recent half marathon time so can’t be too upset. J had a great debut finishing in just over 1hr 40 and his last 5k was only about 30s slower than his first, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

Otherwise though I was pleased to knock a chunk off my bike time and still be sprightly enough to cycle back home up the hill. The rest of the afternoon passed in a tv induced haze as we watched the women’s T20 final (won by Australia, bah), Catching Fire and the remainder of Homeland 2 while eating snacks and congratulating ourselves on a job well done.

The week ahead looks like:

Tonight: hopefully 5k recovery run if I get home in time
Tues: lunchtime run ( no strength and conditioning, out for dinner and a show in the evening)
Weds: nothing (Eldest’s birthday so out for dinner then home hopefully in time for Man Utd v Bayern)
Thurs: nothing (going to visit a friend’s new baby after work so late back)
Fri: swim (maybe swim training…?)
Sat: parkrun
Sun: 12.5 mile fell race

So, a pretty light exercise week with lots of eating out – uh-oh. However if this week is anything to go by it probably means I’ll be 2 stone lighter come next Monday – one can hope.

Back in the saddle

I finally made it back out on my bike!

Due to attending a meeting near to where I live, as opposed to where I work, I thought I would get up early on Tuesday morning and go out for a bike ride before heading to my meeting. This meant that I still got to get up an hour later than usual (yesssss) but as I sprang out of bed and opened the curtains it was clear that there would be no bikey since it was chucking with rain. This unfortunately meant that I had to go back to bed for another half an hour and then had to have a leisurely breakfast with J, I was very upset as you can imagine but the forecast was set to clear up and hence I figured I would go after my meeting instead. The weather did indeed clear up and the meeting was actually really interesting, plus I got a lead on an owl dress (obsession #45) so all good. The not so good part was that I accidentally fell in a big muddy puddle on the way home when I tried to jump over it forgetting that my boots have no grip so I just slid gracefully over and ended up sat in the puddle. Fortunately no-one was around to see either when it happened or see the state of me when I got home so public humiliation was mostly averted. It was pretty funny to be fair and no harm done except me having to wash everything that I was wearing including my coat and bag. Next time I am going by road!

Anyway, after that excitement I donned cycling clothes and set off. I wanted to do the duathlon route to make sure I knew what I was letting myself in for on Sunday. The first part is a route I know quite well which is a bit undulating but nothing too severe in either the up or down direction. The main issue was lorries and buses whizzing past but I managed not to get minced despite a few close calls. There is then a left turn and up THE HILL. I am putting it in capitals since it is the only category climb on the route and golly is it a big one. 3 stages of steepness with a bit of a respite in between, I did not go fast (3mph on average I think) but I did get to the top intact albeit panting rather heavily. From there it is pretty much downhill all the way and mindful of J’s advice not to brake I hit 30mph on one section despite a headwind! Finally back to the start in just over 1:11 (~16 miles), better than I expected but it would still put me pretty much last on the bike compared to the duathlon results from last year, and since I’m also about 4 mins slower than everyone else on both run legs I suspect I will finish bottom on Sunday. Not fun but at least I am not trying to kid myself, and I just hope they haven’t started packing up the course before I arrive!

It was nice to be back out on pinky though – I rather impulsively bought him last year just before the Great North Bike Ride. I couldn’t wait long enough to set up the cycle to work scheme so just bought him on sight and I don’t regret it, he’s lovely (as the picture below shows) and a joy to ride. Note I have not graduated to clippy pedals yet, I am nowhere near experienced enough to do that so am sticking with these for the moment and at least it will be easier to transition.

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After cycling I changed and then headed out to Strength and Conditioning. Lots of balance work this week which was fun but could also be renamed “Death by Shoulders”. We did get taught about how beneficial rolling a tennis ball under your foot could be and I definitely saw benefits with just a few mins of massage as well as it feeling absolutely amazing so I must go and purchase a couple forthwith. There are only three weeks of the course left which I am sad about, I’ve really enjoyed it and think it has made a difference to my fitness so I will have to look for something similar elsewhere.

Tonight is running night (5-6 miles at a medium pace), swim tomorrow then back out on the bike (this time with J) on Friday before parkrun on Saturday and I have to fit some wedding stuff in there too, it’s going to be a busy few days!