Friday, 13 December 2013

CTS 2013: Dorset

After waiting for a bus load of Dutch runners to arrive and then listening to the most thorough (read: longest) pre-run briefing I have ever listened to, we finally made our way to the start. I was itching to get going; it had taken me a long time to get here. It was over two years ago when I first heard about the Coastal Trail Series and this was the first time that I was both fit and available at the same time.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Very Ominous OMM

The Original Mountain Marathon is a two day challenge that combines navigation, hiking, fell-running, generally being wet and muddy, camping and the ability to select and carry all the kit you require, but only the kit you require. Becca (my OMM partner and very tolerant girlfriend) and I had started off being very strict about all the stuff we wouldn't take. My one luxury item would be a camera,
Unfortunately this does not all fit in an 18l rucksack
nothing else non-essential. I tried several times over to ram all the essential kit into my trusty (and very light) Inov-8 Race Pro 18, but eventually I had to give in and up-size to a bulkier, 30 litre model.

As the main event drew closer, and the weather forecast became very real, more and more "essential kit" was added to our list. We had gone from deciding to take the absolute minimum to "Sod it, let's just take everything and be really warm! Let's also take loads of chocolate.. and extra meals". Soon enough, even the bigger pack was full to the brim. I'd been trying to convince Becca for weeks that we really wouldn't be running very much with this much weight but it wasn't until the night before, when we did our final re-pack and kit check and she loaded it onto her back, that she finally agreed with me.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Snowman Tri 2013

Snowman doesn't look mean there, but he is!
Not that I'm trying to lay blame or anything, but I'm not sure who convinced whom to enter the Snowman Tri. Between Ruth and I, we are probably equally responsible for egging each other on and committing ourselves to a "challenging triathlon" in Snowdonia. In my option, "challenging triathlon" isn't really an adequate description. At the very least they should rename it 'Abominable Snowman Tri', or "Snowman Tri of Doom" or something a bit scarier.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Inaugural Glow Swim

Hot Chilli Tri know how to run an event. I've been to many of their brilliantly organised open water time-trials and aquathons over the last couple of years. Even their set-up at the Club Relays was impressive with some sort of gourmet chef and printed menu scenario (leftovers of which came to the Salisbury Tri camp.. even better!). When I heard they were organising a night swimming event in the crystal clear waters of Vobster Quay, I suddenly had an unusual feeling: motivation for swimming. I signed up immediately.

We turned up not knowing quite what to expect. The goody bag contained one glow stick and a bit of string which needed to be (firmly) secured to the back of your goggles or top of your wetsuit and another glow stick "for fun" afterwards. I was sort of hoping there might be some kind of swimming rave after-party.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Quantock Long-O Day 2

After an evening of being highly amused by my Day 1 garmin data and seeing just how much time I spent looking around for controls, I awoke ready and raring to do better on Day 2. I would be attempting the long line course, which was apparently 18.7kms and involved finding the controls in number order. I figured, even if I went fairly slowly, I'd probably be looking at about 3 hours. How wrong I was.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Quantock Long-O Day 1 (and a Yeovil Parkrun Recce)

Compass in one hand, dibber in the other!
Less than two months ago I was talked into entering the OMM (a two day adventure race in mountainous terrain). Shortly after that I had a super little introduction to orienteering as I was invited along to a casual club event. It was a 30 minute urban score, which means you have 30 minutes to get as many controls (check point thingies) as you can, in any order you like. 
My girlfriend (and OMM partner) wanted to suss out my navigation skills and I think she was quietly impressed as I navigated successfully around the course. She wasn't as impressed by my sense of humour, "What does that little green cross mean?", "That's a significant bush". With significant bush to find, my new love of orienteering was born and I set about finding other events to enter. I spotted a two-day event in the Quantocks/Exmoor which described itself as "ideal training for the OMM". It also described itself as "not suitable for novices" but with my singular orienteering success behind me, I thought I'd be just fine.

Everyone hiding from the rain before the start
Day 1 didn't start until lunchtime so I had plenty of time to make my way to Somerset. It made perfect sense to go via the new Yeovil parkrun at Montacute House and break up the journey with a 5k run. 

The house itself is a marvelous sight (even in the rain) surrounded by spectacular ornamental pathways and courtyards. I only had time for a little investigate before heading over to the start area. Disappointingly, you don't get to run through/around any of the interesting stuff; the course takes you on a little lap and then a big lap of the grounds. The whole route is on grass and although it isn't hilly, running on soft grass certainly does sap the energy out of the legs! One of the best things  though about having a parkrun in the grounds of a National Trust property is that the toilets were positively luxurious, what a treat!

You don't run through this...
...or this

A glorious 25% road led up through thick fog to a flagged car park. On any other day I would be wishing I was on my bike with hills like that to play on, but not today, today I was excited for an orienteering adventure. Day 1 was a 3 hour score event with 21 potential controls to bag along the way. The whole thing was pretty much being run out of a van, and displayed in the window of the van was a version of the map without the controls. My heart sunk; the features were scarce and the contours were abundant. Being that my previous orienteering experience was on an urban map with very easy roads and obvious paths to follow, this was definitely going to be a bit more err.. challenging!

I set out keenly, jogging along an obvious path and past controls that were set out for the kids. Just past one of the controls was a sign with a sad face on it, I hoped that this wasn't some sort of secret orienteering language that meant 'don't go this way'. I headed across rough, gorse-covered moorland looking for my first control, I couldn't find it. I ran around a few times and went back to the path to get my bearings again. I could see another orienteer in the area but it looked like he couldn't find it either. Not being a patient type of character, I decided to ditch this one and try to find another.

The next one was on a steep bank that led down to a river. The entire bank was covered in ferns that were chest height on me and try as I might, I couldn't find this one either. It was not a good start. I ran back to the path and navigated around the edge of the forest looking for a "significant tree" to locate my next control. To be honest, all the trees looked significant, it was a forest! By this point, 45 minutes had passed and I started to wonder if I would find anything at all.

I delved into the forest proper, hoping that the river and some big tracks would lead me to success. I was looking for a point where two paths met next to the river. When I got there, I looked up to where the control should be. It was up very steep hill with no sort of path. I trudged up very steadily, grabbing hold of trees as I struggled to keep traction. Out of nowhere, there was a teeny platform with a control on it. I was so elated to have actually found one, it had only taken an hour! After just about managing to stay upright as I skidded back down the bank, I went on to have a mini string of success as I took some bearings, did things properly and baggsied another two controls.

Description should be "small rock", not "crag" #justsayin
From here I only had a couple of choices. The scoring system meant that I could only go for controls that were of equal or greater value than my last control. I jogged along a good track through the forest, making a beeline for a 30-pointer that was located by a "crag" on a steep bank next to the path. According to the contours, the crag should be around 10m lower than the path, easy to spot, surely? I ran up and down looking for it, nothing. Exploring the steep bank was treacherous and I was falling all over the place but I was absolutely determined to find this one. Eventually (about 30 minutes after I'd started looking) I spotted something grey through the trees and fell over twice as I headed for it as I didn't want to take my eyes off it for a second! It was absolutely not a crag. What is more amazing than actually finding it is the fact that someone else came upon this tiny feature in the middle of a steep-sided, tree-filled bank to put it there in the first place!

Orienteering really is a bit bonkers; it's like going on the most confusing trail run ever crossed with a very difficult treasure hunt. It's a true adventure sport, they have you going over all terrain regardless of how impassable it first appears. I failed to find the 40-pointer I'd hoped to find near the finish, arriving back with plenty of time to spare and a new found respect for orienteering.

Bring on Day 2!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Andover Parkrun and the bonus Cake Garden

As much as I love being a tourist and visiting parkruns all over the country, there's nothing like a run at your "home parkrun". Andover is my local; it's a small, super friendly event with plenty of regulars. It's always nice to go and see familiar faces, chat to some Andover Tri folk and run a lovely two-lapper on the mixed terrain of Charlton Lakes.

I had the family down this weekend and had roped mum into volunteering in an official capacity rather than having her do her usual favourite job of being the loudest, most enthusiastic supporter (which, it must be said, she is very good at).

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Seriously Chocolatey Brownies (Healthy Ones!)

Sometimes I put a load of stuff together in the food processor and it turns out pretty well (read: edible and not entirely disgusting). Sometimes it's an enormous failure, my attempt at raw flapjacks last week did not go so well.. they came out of the dehydrator completely flavourless and were only reasonably okay when immersed in honey. It turned out they weren't dehydrated enough either, as when I went back to them a couple of days later I discovered a fine web of flapjack mould was being spawned. Delish!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Wingin' It

The theme of all race-related activities this year has been "winging it". It's actually pleasantly surprising what the body can do on an average fitness base and a mind that believes it is capable. It's very refreshing to switch the focus to doing stuff because you want to do it rather than feeling that you must do it. My training calendar is by no means empty, it just all goes in there retrospectively  in a very unstructured manner.

I admit though, there has been a niggling feeling that I'm not quite reaching my potential with this blasé attitude. This feeling was fully realised at the National Triathlon Club Relays, an event I'd done twice in the past. The relays are a fun, team event that some teams take very seriously and others absolutely do not. Our team was called "Team Wing-It" and epitomised the very nature of the name in every way. We weren't stressed by finish times or pre-race nutrition or any of the usual nonsense; frankly we were more concerned about posing in our team capes and looking like superheroes.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Colwick Parkrun: A Tailrunner's Tale

I am a huge advocate of Parkrun and enthusiastically talk about it with everyone I know, and some I don't. Before going anywhere at the weekend, the first port of call is to check out where the nearest Parkrun is and to plan the usually quite over-complicated logistics of fitting it into my travel plans. I can proudly say I've introduced several tens of people to the free, weekly timed 5k run, many of whom have become as addicted as I am.

What I love is that Parkrun is entirely inclusive. From the club runner pushing the course record, the person aiming only for survival on their first 5k, runners pushing buggies, excited racing dogs, children crying whilst keen no-nonsense dads 'gently encourage' them, other children running so quickly that their parents don't stand a chance of keeping up and everything in between.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Negative Split: Check. Next: World Domination

Yesterday I was in a state of pure delirium. I wandered up my driveway tapping frantically at my Garmin₁ to see what I had just run. It had felt good, but usually when a run feels good it is because I have pootled along without much effort .  This felt different. The data looked promising, but I stopped myself getting too excited until it was uploaded, then I could view it and analyse it properly and be absolutely sure it was good. Until you can see numbers on a computer screen, it doesn’t count.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

54321 2013

I have a rule about local races. I never enter anything that you could just run yourself from your own doorstep.  After three years of not entering the 5-4-3-2-1 under my previously stated rule, I was aghast to learn that the route of the 21k (and longer) actually takes you through secret and usually inaccessible areas.  I listened eagerly as Liz regaled me with tales of hidden castles and grand estates on the way home from Southampton Parkrun last week. Whilst still on a post-parkrun high, I signed up.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Stansted Slog 2013

It has been boiling recently and I have been really struggling to run in the heat. My 5k times which were slowly coming down have shot back up over the last couple of weeks as I've melted whilst attempting to run quickly.

Probably not ideal for a half marathon then? Well, no. But we did one anyway.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Post-Parkrun Market Mayhem

My sister and I had a plan for today, a simple one, a healthy one. We would head over to the Parkrun at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and do a day of juicing. Maybe we would wander to the beach and have a paddle in the sea but generally a fairly chilled, but nutritionally brilliant day in preparation for a half marathon tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

"River Swimming" with Ruth

Knowing I'm not one to pass up on a little adventure, Ruth had very easily enticed me to check out a "wild swimming spot" just down the road from her house. "It's not really deep, but it's enough for a swim stroke", she said. So on this very warm, July evening we wandered down to the river. A spot just next to the bridge looked like a good place to get in. 

Ruth had suggested that we just swim against the current, but upon seeing it I estimated that the river was probably flowing at approximately 0.2 mph. Nonetheless, the water looked clean, and we were hot.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Fabulous Forestman Middle

I’ve said all year that I wasn’t going to race. Although I’ve been back running and cycling since the end of March, everything has been at a fun, easy and sociable pace and if I’m honest, I didn’t want to disappoint myself by being much slower in a race compared to this time last year.

A bit of triathlon passion was reignited last weekend as I went to support friends at the UK Ironman 70.3. One friend had hardly trained at all due to an injury and made it way beyond her initial goal of "the first buoy" and all the way to the end of the bike. The other, my previous training buddy turned triathlon superhero, Ruth, absolutely stormed it round the course. I was having a marvelous time supporting but I couldn't help feeling a little bit jealous.

Fortunately, due to an evening involving wine a few months ago, I had entered the Forestman Middle distance. This was a new addition to the well-established Forestman family run by the brilliant Race New Forest team and involved one lap of Ellingham Lake (1.2km), a 60 mile loop in the New Forest and a hilly, off-road half marathon. For the vast majority of those few months, I was pretty certain that I wouldn't actually do the race but seeing a whole host of people running ecstatically through the finish line at Wimbleball gave me the boost I needed. I was rather looking forward to getting my teeth into a triathlon.

Having not been swimming since December 8th (I don't know why I remember the date, but I do), the plan was merely to finish the swim gently, push hard on the bike and do my best to enjoy the run. Some doubters - who will not be named - said I wouldn't be able to stick to this plan and that I would see red and get carried away. I'm glad to say, they were wrong.

As it turns out, when you don't have high expectations of yourself or put a lot of pressure on yourself, these triathlon thingies can be thoroughly enjoyable and dare I say, fun, experiences. The water at Ellingham was perfect, a little bit of argy bargy at the start (which I mostly created myself) but after five minutes or so I had my own water and settled into a good, steady rhythm. Halfway around the loop I couldn't help wondering why on earth I'd stopped doing this in the first place, it was lovely!

I trotted over to the transition tent and had a fairly leisurely time getting my socks and gloves on, none of this stressful rushing business. Once I was away on the bike though, I found my race face. Despite not doing any even remotely fast cycling in the last few months, I found some pace and started chasing down anybody I could see ahead of me. I savagely attacked my banana, tearing it from the side with my teeth to avoid having to slow down. I was actually a little too out of breath to eat properly; wild open-mouthed chewing ensued as I focused carefully on not inhaling it. Luckily nobody witnessed this fairly disgusting display.

The tailwind at the back end of the loop was a joy, everybody was flying along having a jolly marvelous time. I battered myself up Ornamental Drive, especially as I saw my main rival my lovely fellow clubmate, Nicky Yevko up ahead. I failed to look casual as I breathlessly passed her.

Loving the support and picture taking
from Davie! 
I had gone out quite hard on the bike but I managed to keep the pace going through the undulating route. Various friends and clubmates were out on the course shouting support generally being brilliant. Hearing someone go a little bit mad and screaming your name does wonders on a long race! Every time I saw a girl on a bike ahead of me I just couldn't help myself, I didn't care if they were in my race or not, I was going to catch them. I had some good banter with a few blokes as well, as we played cat and mouse up and down the hills.

The final stretch, right into a strong headwind, was a killer on the legs. I could have been sensible and cranked down the power a little bit, but I was having far too much fun having some back and forth with a chap from Andover Triathlon Club called Nick. In fact, if it wasn't for Nick, I think I wouldn't have enjoyed that last little bit at all.

Looking like I'm having a much better
time than Ruth!!
T2 was quick and running actually felt quite nice and easy compared to pushing so hard on the bike. That's not to say I was running fast, but it felt light. A mile up the road and I hit the Salisbury Tri Club aid station, where I stopped briefly for a little chat with the crew. The little chats were plentiful on the run, I was taking it really rather easily and as a result, I was having a great time. I stopped to assess the snacks at all the aid stations (Southampton Tri Club were the clear winners with a choice of biscuits and the biggest sack of jelly babies I have ever witnessed) and got to know a couple of other triathletes on the course. The whole atmosphere was so friendly, everybody was cheering on everybody else and it was all very sporting.

I was soon caught by the Yevko, the running machine that she is. She actually lost herself a good half a minute or so by slowing down and having a quick chat before shooting off into the distance. I managed to keep jogging up the last big hill before getting back to the STC stand, with only one mile to go I picked up the pace and gleefully made my way back to Sandy Balls and a big welcome at the finish line.

I felt totally elated. I'd pulled a triathlon out of the bag and I'd really, truly enjoyed the whole experience.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Parkrun and a Half

Occasionally, I come up with an idea that's inspired. Sometimes - due to my over-enthusiastic head - those ideas turn out halfway through to be ridiculous, not inspired. This one was borderline. My sister had been going on about the South Downs Half Marathon for a few months, the the seed had been planted but since it has been quite some time since I've run a half, I wasn't sure I was fully up for it.

In amongst this period of time, a parkrun had begun at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, very conveniently where the SDHM started. I thought, if anything, I could go and do the parkrun then plonk myself down and cheer my big sis on. Then, over the last month I got myself back into running and with a couple of steady 10 milers in the bag, I decided that the half marathon was possible. This was the point that the wild enthusiasm kicked in and the great idea emerged: if you're going all the way over there, why not just do both?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bodyboarding and Big Hills

The last time we went to Devon for a little holiday, it was absolutely freezing cold and we sat in a still sea getting hypothermic praying for some waves to arrive. They didn't. We ditched the sea and found a carvery instead with a very generous chef who succumbed to our wily, female ways as we flirted outrageously in return for seconds.

This time around though, my luck has changed. Not only has my week in Devon coincided with the actual start of what appears to be summer, but the waves have been decent too. I decided to give bodyboarding a go, it's not something I'd ever done before and seemed to require far less in the way of skill than surfing. Not only that but the board is easier to carry to the beach. I was sold.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

1000 Miles in May

I've missed big cycling epics. Winter was especially unkind to the cyclists of Britain and only the truly hardy and dedicated (of which, this year, I was not) have reached spring in good fitness. Whilst I've dabbled a bit on the bike in March and April I am a long way away from the pedal power I had at this time last year.

Raw Coconut and Lime Pie

This was not just pie-making, this was a coconutty adventure of grand proportions. Firstly, I needed coconut, in many different forms. I saw that Waitrose were selling pre-cut coconut chunks but I always feel far more righteous eating something I've made entirely from scratch so I found two of the hairiest coconuts I've ever seen in my local Asian shop, as well as picking up coconut oil and dessicated coconut. As I wandered home something struck me; my coconut cracking experience was limited to the odd coconut falling and breaking from the coconut shy school fetes. I was approaching 30 and was missing a vital life skill.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Fighting Fit and Getting Hit

I've recently taken a new and exciting venture into the world of martial arts. A few sessions at the local boxing club led me to discover a sport that I'd never even heard of before: Muay Thai.

Muay Thai sits somewhere in between kickboxing and mixed martial arts. They don't seem to be too worried about silly things like "rules"; hits can be landed anywhere and made with knees, elbows, fists and feet. Fights also include "clinching", which is where your opponent gets a hold of your head and does their best to keep you there whilst getting some good knee action into you.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Easy Peasy "Spaghetti Bolognese" ... raw

This is such a delicious alternative to traditional spaghetti bolognese; the flavours in the raw sauce are so much better when the ingredients aren't cooked!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sushi with Mooli Rice

Rice isn't bad for you; there's nothing wrong with rice whatsoever in my opinion but in the spirit of all things raw, this is a great alternative. If we can make spaghetti with courgettes then why not make rice with mooli!?

Mooli, for those who are vegetably uninformed, is a type of radish. It looks a bit like a white carrot but is softer in texture. I've not seen them in the supermarkets but they're always in Asian food shops and they're cheap as chips.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Raw Cabbagey Slaw

Cabbage is super healthy and nearly always in season. This is a really simple, cheap, refreshing slaw recipe. Keep it in the fridge for a few days for snacking, make a salad sandwich with it or use it as a side dish.

1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
1 small head green cabbage, shredded
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp olive oil (I actually used 1 tbsp flax oil and 1 tsp olive, but all olive is fine)
1/2 tsp salt

Blend or mix together the oil, vinegar, garlic, agave and salt. Add the mixture to a big bowl containing the veg and massage it in. You want to get the oil and salt mixed well into the raw cabbage.

Leave covered for at least 30 minutes and then, enjoy!

Monday, 1 April 2013

12 Week Challenge, Week 1, Day 1

I weighed in on day 1 at bang on 59kgs this morning. No wonder pull ups have been feeling harder. So, the goal for the 12 weeks is to lose 6kgs. Half a kilogram (around 1lb) each week, simple.

That is all!

Courgette Spaghetti with Cashew and Dill Dressing

This is a refreshing and super healthy alternative to a "ranch" style dressing. Lovely served on a bed of curly courgette! Serves 2.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The 12 Week "Dietary Clean-up" Challenge

It's been a while since I've embarked upon a challenge. To be completely honest I haven't been in the right frame of mind for it for the last few months. I lost the usual Eggy zest as I hit a bit of an emotional dip and am only just starting to recover from what has seemed like the longest bout of insomnia ever. Over this time my physical activity levels dropped dramatically, comfort eating rose up and reigned over healthy choices and I felt highly stressed in general. I ended up feeling a bit like a big, fraught, tired, unhealthy blob. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, 25 March 2013

A Very Wintry Exmoor

Before deciding to take a bit of a training break and before getting all unfit and not riding my bike for months, I had booked a cottage in Exmoor for a training weekend. It was a chance for Wimbleballers to scout out the course and for anyone else to come and play in the hills. I had imagined a long weekend of spring sunshine, hours in the saddle and the great company of friends. One out of three ain't bad!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Losses and Gains

I've been dealing with a loss. I hadn't realised exactly, but after a conversation earlier this week it occurred to me that I "lost" the marathon, and without me knowing, it had really knocked my confidence. With a gammy knee it seemed it was taking ages to get my trainers back on again. Sick of the frustration of not being able to run and sick of the silly weather that makes cycling not fun and/or unsafe, I made a sudden decision to jack in triathlon for the time being and focus on other things.

I've been trying to gain strength in weightlifting - specifically power-lifting - for ages. I've dabbled for the last couple of years but endurance sport and power lifting are enormously incompatible. One heavy squat  session will ruin my cycling/running legs for days and long runs or rides will prevent good, heavy lifts. When you try to be good at lots of different things you inevitably end up being mediocre at all of them!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Running on Ice

When I think back to the last time I was in Alpe d’Huez, my favourite activities – in order of preference – were:

1. Drinking cocktails
2. Drinking shots
3. Eating enormous sandwiches whilst drunk
4. Dancing on tables
5. Gaining extensive knowledge of French confectionery and biscuits
6. Socialising
7. Eating enormous sandwiches whilst sober
8. Skiing/snowboarding

Now I won’t pretend that this time around, I didn’t do any of numbers 1-7. However, what is different was that priority number one was getting in big days on the mountain, closely followed by priority number two: testing out my Yak Trax.