Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Cinnamon Trust

Back in the summer I signed up to volunteer with The Cinnamon Trust. In their own words, the Trust is a charity that "seeks to relieve the anxieties, problems, and sometimes injustices, faced by elderly and terminally ill people and their pets, thereby saving a great deal of human sadness and animal suffering" by offering short and long term fostering and extra practical help with day-to-day care of pets such as dog walking services. Pets are a great source of comfort and companionship, especially to the elderly so the idea is to keep them together for as long as possible.

The Trust takes the vetting of their volunteers very seriously. I had to provide details of three referees, all of whom were contacted. I then received an ID card along with a comprehensive volunteers guide and waited for a call but a few weeks ago I was contacted and asked if I could help out with some dog walking. A lady a couple of miles away had fallen ill and was no longer able to walk her two westies, Bertie and Polly. I was unsure about how much help I could offer but was reassured that the Trust try and find two or three people in the area to help share the load. I had a chat on the phone with the owner and arranged my first walk. I was a bit nervous on arrival. Would the dogs like me? Would I like them? What would the owner be like? In the end Polly and Bertie turned out to be very sweet little things who took me on a walk rather than the other way around. They have their route and know it well, happy to trot along and keep to themselves unless another dog shows up. 
Polly and Bertie. I'm only just learning to tell them apart.
Half an hour later and I returned two much less energetic dogs to their owner and made a plan for a next walk. Although I offered several times and days we settled on a week later. We agreed that we wouldn't be tied to a particular day or time, but arrange each visit at the end of the next and this is what we've done ever since. 
They're strong! We go at a fair clip through the woods.
Given that my lifestyle isn't suited to dog ownership, this is a lovely way to pretend I have a dog (or two in this case) and provide some much needed help at the same time. It adds a bit more exercise into my week and gives me an excuse to explore the woods nearby. 

If you're a wannabe dog (or cat, or horse...) owner or just want to do a good deed, consider signing up to volunteer with the Trust. It's a wonderful cause with benefits for you, the owners and their beloved pets.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Chobani Yogurts : Review and Recipes

If you follow any London-based fitness bloggers you may have read about a BOOM! Cycle event that was held recently. I was unfortunately unable to go but the lovely Chobani people, who were providing post-workout refreshments in the form of smoothies, offered to send me some of their lovely strained yogurts to try anyway. Chobani are a US company who are starting to get popular over here. Their 170g single serve pots contain around 14g of protein and are made with only naturally sourced ingredients. They have seen it becoming popular with the fitness community as a pre and post workout fuel. 

I returned from holiday to a cool-box full of yogurt: a huge pot of plain and 6 single serving fruit-on-the-bottom pots in blueberry, passion fruit, cherry and pomegranate flavours.

Mostly I ate the single serve pots for breakfast. At 170g they are substantial enough to have as a breakfast, particularly if you don't want to workout on an empty stomach but want something good. I didn't try them specifically pre or post workouts but I did find them quite filling. The first one I tried was the passion fruit, which I had unadulterated for breakfast. It was lovely and thick, but I expected more fruit on the bottom. In fact all the flavours were lovely and my favourites were probably the cherry, which I had as a snack, and the blueberry which I had plain and with added apple puree for breakfast.

The real star for me, though, was the plain yogurt. I started out using a little of it to cool down a curry and then for breakfast with granola and apple puree which kept me full until lunch (unusual). The plain seemed even thicker than the fruit versions and smelt slightly like cottage cheese but lends itself very well to being used as an ingredient. I got tipped off by the chobani twitter feed that you could use equal parts yogurt and self raising flour to make pizza bases so as someone who gets easily phased by the idea of making anything bread-like, I felt compelled to give this a try.
I'm not one to worry about my pizza being the right shape...
I mixed 1/2 cup plain chobani and 1/2 cup self raising flour in a bowl until it started to come together, then turned it out onto a floured surface to knead it for a couple of minutes. After rolling it to what seemed like an appropriate thickness I put it on a baking sheet I added my toppings. I use some home-made arrabiatta sauce as my tomato base and topped this with roasted peppers from a jar, dried italian herbs, pitted black olives and some "pizza cheese" from the freezer. You really couldn't make this any easier. Into the oven at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes and dinner was served! I managed to restrain myself to eating only half the pizza, saving the rest for lunch the following day.
Pizza doesn't get any easier than this
I still had a little plain chobani left so I decided to make a coleslaw to supplement my left overs. A grated carrot, a grated golden beetroot, a sliced shallot, 2 sliced chinese cabbage leaves and 1 sliced pointed green cabbage leaf joined about 2 tbsp of  chobani in a bowl with a little olive oil, lemon juice and 2 tsp of wholegrain mustard for a good mixing. A really delicious autumn coleslaw!
Autumn coleslaw and pizza leftovers
Although I did enjoy all the yogurts, I probably wouldn't choose Chobani over other fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts but I would definitely get the plain yogurt again for using as an ingredient. The chobani website have some great recipe ideas. Chobani are being stocked in more supermarkets across the UK including Morrisons and are currently 89p for the 170g pots in Tesco's.

Disclaimer: I was sent the Chobani free of charge to try in return for a review but all opinions are my own.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sluggishness and Nerves

Last weekend got off to a brilliant start as I made it to parkrun and ran a very satisfying 27:47 - 20 seconds away from my PB! I couldn't go this week as I had my Gym Instructor assessment (more on that in a minute) but I also couldn't fit in my PT session or go through my program more than once by myself so I doubt I'd have seen any improvement. I am so keen to see my speeds drop I'm prepared to put the effort in, it's just a question of available time. How long before I'm seeing parkrun times starting with a 26 I wonder?

The rest of the weekend was equally fab involved food and friends more that exercise. I treated myself to lunch on Saturday, went to wedding reception on Saturday evening, was treated to brunch with my fella on Sunday and ended it by travelling up to see my lovely friend Alex in Ipswich on Sunday afternoon. She's just started her training for the Brighton Marathon next year and is embarking on a low carb diet and having an hours PT session once a week to keep her on the straight and narrow. It'll be the second time she's taken part in the marathon and I'm so proud of her. I wish I could do it with her but I can't face the fundraising I'd have to commit to for a place so I'm just looking forward to the training run we're doing together in February in the form of the 10 Miles Carnival du Nice. Oh and I'll be going along to support her in Brighton of course. Can't wait!

I didn't get back from Ipswich until Tuesday and had intended to do a Group Kick class that evening. Unfortunately a tummy bug and all the driving wiped me out so I cried off. I regret that now as I'm starting to really feel the sluggishness of a more sedentary lifestyle kicking in and getting frustrated by it. I'm not bemoaning my social calendar or commitments but when I felt so much better for finally getting to Body Balance on Thursday evening and doing something. I made the effort to get up early this morning and work out to a DVD. I used to find it fairly tough but it's testament to my training this year that I felt very strong in class last night and this morning.

Tomorrow morning I take my Gym Instructor assessment. I'm a bit nervous but the things I'm worried about (stumbling over my words, getting things in the wrong order) aren't the end of the world. I do know my stuff and I've informally taught most of it to friends before, even before I started the course so it should go ok.

I'd love to get up to my allotment in the afternoon but the weather forecast predicts storms which gives me the perfect excuse to hole up in the gym a while and attack some intervals and weights. In the evening I'm going to my first ever ice hockey game with some friends. Pretty darn excited about that!! My fella has suggested going for a run together on Sunday which I'm unduly nervous about. I expect to be grumpy for most of it as I'm sure I'll be dragged out rain or shine and there's bound to be hills involved. On the other hand I know I'll feel better for it and there'll be tea when we finish. Can't argue with tea.

Is anyone else struggling to get into an autumn workout routine? Ever been to watch ice hockey? What's it like?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Quorn and Green Bean Curry

Here's a really quick and tasty, warming meal to help keep those autumn chills at bay. I was inspired by a Hugh F-W recipe from the Three Good Things book which I adapted to use up some beans from the allotment and substituted the original squash for Quorn to up the protein element. Also, I didn't have squash in the house and I wasn't about to go out in the rain for it. The garlic and chilli will help boost your immune system and the coconut milk just gives you a big ole hug making this perfect mid-week, slumming on the sofa food. It also goes well with a beer or a glass of wine. I know, I tested it. So without further ado I give you...

Quorn and Green Bean Curry

Serves 3-4 depending on appetites and accompaniments.
Keeps well in the fridge for a day or so for a "left over lunch".
  • 200g Quorn Chicken Style Pieces
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil 
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
  • 2-4 mild or medium red chillies, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tbsp curry powder or paste
  • 400ml tin coconut milk 
  • A good handful of green beans, cut into pieces
  • A squeeze of lemon juice 
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently  until softened for about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add the garlic and chillies and cook for another couple of minutes then stir in the curry powder or paste and cook for another minute or two. If you're unsure how hot the chillies or curry powder are, add half the amount to start and add more at the end of step 4. I think I used all the curry powder and 3 chillies.
  3. Add the Quorn and cook until starting to get some colour. This will take longer if you're using it from the freezer.
  4. Pour in the coconut milk, stir well and bring to a simmer then leave it be for 15 minutes or so.
  5. Add the beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the beans are cooked through but not mushy. 
  6. Season to taste, add some lemon juice and serve with rice or flatbreads of your choice.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Putting yurbuds Through Their Paces

I don’t know about you but I am a fan of music. I enjoy working out to music and although a lot of people prefer to run without sounds I find my long runs are just a little bit easier when I’ve got some good beats going on.

I use an iPod nano for my sporting needs and have tried several sets of headphones in an attempt to find some that stay put when I’m active. The best I’d found so far were a pair of earphones that hooked over my ears for about £20 in a running store. Nothing special but they stayed put, although I usually only run with one in so that I can hear more of what’s going on around me. Safety first people!

But then I started hearing about a product called yurbuds, a range of in ear buds that have racked up an impressive number of awards. They’ve recently launched a version called Inspire Pro, designed especially for sport and women so I was keen to put them through their paces.
The earphones have been specifically designed for smaller ears and come with two sizes of enhancer, the rubbery bit that slips over the main body of the bud to allow a snug, ergonomic fit in the ear. They claim to be sweat and water-resistant, allow for ambient noise awareness, and are guaranteed never to hurt or fall out.

I’ve tried these on several runs now and have to say I’ve been impressed. I did not expect these to live up to the hype, having have poor experiences with sennheiser earbuds in the past, but the small size fits my ear perfectly, the sound quality is great, they are comfy and do stay put. To get the best fit you twist the bud into your ear and as I prefer to wear the cord to the back of my neck this made them slightly less secure but at no point did I think they were going to fall out.

It was easier to hear ambient sounds but on a particularly dark and foggy morning I still only wore one, as a precaution. The only downside I’ve found is that as well as enhancing the ambient  sounds, they also enhance the sound of the wind which can result in a whistling sound, even when it’s not very breezy but it’s not a big deal.
The cord is nice and long, giving you flexibility about where you thread it and where you carry your music device of choice. You get a little wire clip and a carry pouch in the box to keep it all under control. At the Y-intersection on the cord is a three-button microphone system which allows you to control the volume, skip tracks and answer calls (they are designed to be compatible with Siri on iPhones as well as iPods and iPads).

They aren’t cheap, retailing at about £45, but you’ll get a choice of three colours (aqua, pink and purple) and possibly the best set of earphones on the market at the moment.

Disclaimer: I was sent a pair of yurbuds free of charge to try in return for a review but all opinions are my own.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Green Tomatoes and Session Plans

Hello, how are you? That's a lovely outfit you have on. Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you? Well I do so thanks for stopping by to read my ramblings.

So what's new? Well I've been desperate to join a team for the Adidas Thunder Run but to no avail. I've had my first session of PT on my new programme, skipped Body Pump (lazy), went to Body Balance (felt strong), walked the dogs twice (more on that another time) and have a plan to go to parkrun for the second week on the trot tomorrow. This week I have also mostly been eating green tomato cake and writing session plan after session plan for my Gym Instructor assessment next weekend. I'm almost all done and will spend the next week looking like a loon as I practice teaching various stretches and exercises to someone who isn't there... resulting in talking to and possibly shouting at myself as I get the timings and names muddled up AGAIN. It'll be fine. It'll be fine. It will. Probably.

I made the cake because my mum had a surplus of green tomatoes after the plants died and we couldn't bear to waste them. It is addictive. I probably ate half of it in the last four days. I also made chutney but that has to mature for a while. I've also started to get a veg box again so have had no excuse not to eat healthily. The only challenge has been trying to eat things before they go off while not eating the same thing for three days in a row and eating larger portions than usual. I'm failing on that count at the moment. Batches of soup would be the order of the day if I had space to freeze them.

My new PT session is pretty good. I'm doing half an hour of intervals on the treadmill followed by chest press, shoulder press, lat pull down and leg press rounded off by abs work. I'm starting doing 3 sets starting with a manageable weight for 10 reps then increasing it by 5kg for 8 reps and again for 6 reps. It's HARD and I feel like a real weakling but I have to start somewhere and I'm desperate to see the weight increase so I'll persevere. I'm going to try and repeat the programme outside of the PT session but probably not this week as I'm focusing on my assessment.

Next week I'm all over the shop but plan to try out a Group Kick class, get to the gym once and do Body Balance again. I won't be able to fit in a parkrun before my assessment on Saturday 26th but I'll probably go for a run after, either to burn off excitable energy if I pass or to clear my mind if I don't.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Quinoa Apple Salad

Here's a great tasting little salad that I made recently that used up a few random odds and ends I had in my fridge. It turned out so well I felt obliged to share it with you. I made mine with quinoa but you can substitute almost any small rice, pasta or carb. It would probably work well with puy lentils too. The ingredients are mostly white or green so it looks really fresh and has a lovely combination of textures. Feel free to change it up a bit; add some avocado, play around with the nuts and seeds or maybe add some olives. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!
Apologies for the poor photo, but it's the only one I have!


Approx 1 mugs of cooked quinoa
2 sticks of celery, chopped
half a cucumber, chopped and deseeded
half an onion finely diced (salad/spring onion would be better)
half a green pepper, chopped
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1 peeled and diced apple
a large handful of toasted hazlenuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds (lightly crushed or chopped)
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of coarse salt (I used salt with chili)
2 tbsp yogurt, sour cream or sour cream and chive dip 

The hardest part about making this is all the chopping and toasting. After that all you have to do is mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, cover it with some cling film and pop it in the fridge until you're ready to eat it. This will keep for a day or two so should see you through two lunches. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

New Objectives

That's it! All the big events are out of the way for this year. I do technically have one more scheduled for next weekend but my partner-in-crime is on the verge of flaking out and I'm not sure if I want to do it on my own, having been scarred by Tough Mudder.

This means no more training. Or at least not the sort of training I've spent the last 10 months doing. I haven't signed up to do any more marathons and although I've already got a few events in the diary for next year the longest is half marathon distance, something I'm relatively comfortable with. So with that in mind I thought I ought to think about what my aims actually are now and have a review with Dave. On Wednesday I went in for a session and had a health review at the same time. My blood pressure and resting heart rate have dropped dramatically which is amazing, but my weight and % body fat have not budged a smidgen. Slightly annoying but basically it just means that although I'm fitter, I still eat cake :)

When I started having PT sessions 5 months ago my aims were to get triathlon fit, increase upper body strength and improve my running endurance. Now I've decided that I want to improve my speed endurance (I can run fast, I just can't maintain it) and keep working on my upper body strength. I think these are sensible goals and although I don't have a measure in mind for the upper body strength, I'd like to see if I can smash a sub-25 minute 5k by Christmas.

It occurred to me that without a training schedule I'm free to introduce more variety into my fitness regime and am looking forward to doing a few more classes. I've already booked up to try Group Power and Urban Rebounding as well get back to the occasional Body Balance. I'm planning to start going to parkruns again when I can and any mid week runs will be for fun. So my weeks will now likely include a PT session, a class or two, a visit to the gym on my own terms and a run or two outside. That's plenty!

I'd like to do another triathlon next year so thought I might actually take some swimming lessons in the new year so I can swim front crawl rather than breaststroke for once. I can struggle through a few lengths of it but with absolutely no grace or form.

How often and when do you review your goals? What are you working towards at the moment and how are you getting on?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Bournemouth Marathon : The Spectator's Review

Today we have a guest post from my mum. I wrote about my experience of the Bournemouth Marathon earlier in the week but I thought it would be interesting to hear about it from the other side of the barriers. As ever we'd love to hear what you think, whether it be about the post itself or the race. Don't be shy, comment below!

We have been along to many races to support Vikki over the years, including the London Marathon. Last weekend we set off to Bournemouth to support her as she ran her second marathon. Apart from having arranged our accommodation, we had not really planned the weekend at all, in fact it was only the afternoon before that I actually looked at the race route. It filled me with dread as I realised that unlike London, we had no idea at all of how to get around Bournemouth to see Vikki at different points of the route. The shuttle bus had to be pre-booked (we didn't even know there was one) and all tickets had been sold anyway. How to see Vikki at the start, at the finish and ideally at least two other points along the route to encourage her, which she really needed during the London marathon? I envisaged running a marathon myself! We were not getting to Bournemouth until late afternoon, so there was no chance to familiarise ourselves with the route beforehand either.
Red sky at night, runner's delight!
So after a hearty breakfast, we set off to the start area, about a mile from our B&B. Everything about this day turned out to be the complete opposite to the London marathon. The start area was the football stadium, so we all had the use of the stadium's facilities, including toilets and cafes. All very civilised, no burger vans here! The start area was not busy at all, so very easy to meet up with Vikki's friends. There wasn't much of an atmosphere at the start, yes people were excited, chatting and laughing, but there was no loud music or warm up to get people psyched for the race. Being the first Bournemouth, the number of runners was much smaller than I expected, so it didn't take long to see them all set off, then it was time to find our way around the route.
Vikki and co.
In the end, there was no need to have been concerned. The route twisted and turned along the way and we were able at some points to stand in one place and see them pass twice, say at mile 5 and then again mile 8. We then only had a shortish walk down to the sea front to see them run along there. This was a particularly lovely part of the route for runners, as it was a beautiful sunny day and many of the locals had come down to sit outside their beach huts to watch the race.
Wave your hands in the air like you don't care!
Along the route there were plenty of proper toilets, (I never once had to venture into a portaloo!), plenty of cafes if we fancied a coffee, and ice cream vans if we wanted an ice cream to cool us down (have I said it was hot?!) We managed to see Vikki at least half a dozen times along the route which was fantastic. We had no reason to have need of the shuttle bus, although it would have been nice at the end as the finish was quite a way from the start, so therefore a long walk for the already tired runners. Don't worry, we left Vikki on a bench and went to get the car for her.
Sporting a fab finishers t-shirt and medal.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, the weather obviously helped, but the route was lovely, very well thought out from the point of supporters.  The only thing I would have changed about it would be not having the 18 mile point next to the finish, passing that and being told you ONLY had another 8 miles to go, seemed a bit mean. All the volunteer marshals (and there were many) were very good, especially the ones at the finish, some of them helping the odd runner overcome with cramps, across the finish line, and shouting much needed encouragement.

The finish area was great too, it was very easy to find Vikki, having first acquired the compulsory ice cream! We thought the medals were particularly nice too, possibly the best Vikki has, and she has a few ;)
Just one or two medals from 2013... can you spot the Bournemouth one?
We are extremely proud of Vikki having finished this marathon almost one hour faster than the London one and we were very relieved she had no injuries and managed to smile all the way round, even at the end. Yes our feet ached from all the walking, but we didn't have to run a marathon to see Vikki as we feared, everyone was happy and cheerful, and the sun shone. What a great day!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I recently came across the word "kaizen". Kaizen is Japanese for "improvement", or "change for the better" and refers specifically to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement. It's predominately used in manufacturing, engineering, and business management but is also starting to be used to refer to improvement of the self. It's this latter use that I'm really interested in. When I heard the word explained in this way it was as if my world suddenly sharpened in focus. I realised that this was how I was trying to live my life, with a philosophy of continuous improvement and changes for the better. 

I've barely stopped studying since I started school aged 4. After six years at Uni I devoured all the learning opportunities I was offered at work, I took on an OU short course, then a Diploma. I took another short course and have started on my Personal Trainer Advanced Diploma. I'm always seeking another opportunity to learn. Kaizen.

I often despair at the amount of "stuff" I own and try and clear it out because that would be a change for the better. I try to buy less and make the most of what I already have. Kaizen.

I have an allotment and grow some of my own food. I try and cook from scratch as often as I can and try new recipes because these are "things that are good". But I get angry with myself when the weeds take over on my plot and I can't find a free evening to invite a friend for dinner. I start to feel as though eating from the freezer is a cop out (it's really not).

I enter races partly to have fun, but also for the challenge. I get upset with myself if I don't think I did as well as I could have done. I get frustrated when I don't see my times dropping or when I can't find time to put in the work to gain those improvements. I give myself more reasons to challenge myself (for charity, for health). Kaizen.

When I look at everything I try to take on in the name of improvement I see it's not really improving me at all. It's setting myself up for a fall which gives rise this odd mental glitch of thinking I need to do even more to be better. I give myself so many goals that I cannot possibly meet them. Everything I'm taking on in the name of kaizen is actually having the opposite effect. So perhaps it's about time I stopped trying to do everything to perfection and just focus on one thing at a time. 

I will stop entering so many races; just a couple where I can really test my progress against other goals. I will stop comparing my green-fingered efforts to those of the retired gentlemen whose plots border mine. I will complete my current course to the best of my abilities because it's a step towards true self improvement and I will focus any training I do on getting faster over the 10k distance in the next 6-8 months because that is something I've wanted to do for a long time. But most importantly I will start cultivating a positive mental attitude, one of contentment with what I have achieved and what I am capable of. Now that really would be kaizen.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Training for and running the Bournemouth Marathon

Taking part in the London Marathon this year was possibly the best experience of my life. I had some problems and although I got around I didn’t do it in a time I was happy with. I honestly thought I’d only ever do one marathon. They’re time consuming to train for and mentally challenging too. But somehow, in the endorphin-fuelled aftermath of the VLM I found myself looking at the flier for the very first Bournemouth Marathon and encouraging Amy to sign up in an I-will-if-you-will way. She did so I did. So I found myself preparing for a second marathon.
The Posse: Amy, Anna and me. We mean business
I developed a relatively solid level of fitness over the Spring so decided that a 12-week plan would be sufficient. I ended up training for a couple of triathlons before hand as well as fitting in study so juggling everything was challenging to say the least. I found training through the Summer in the heat as opposed to the cold, dark and wet Winter a lot easier in some ways as I had more daylight to play with and could do my long runs during the week but the sheer amount of "stuff" I had to balance stressed me out. Towards the end, very little went to plan. I didn't get in the long runs I wanted and my longest run ended up being a split one, 8 miles in the morning and 12 in the evening. That was it. I only managed a 16 miler prior to that, so not the best.
Cheesy pre-race photo! I have the BEST supporters :)
In the week before the marathon I had a bit of a holiday. I completely chilled out, ate ridiculous amounts of food, drank more in 4 days than I had the previous month, and had two very treacly runs where everything felt wrong. Apparently this put me in very good stead for the event. I hadn't really thought too much about it, I wasn't psyched up in the same way as for London. In fact I felt pretty zen. I stayed over in Bournemouth the night before the event in a lovely little B&B with my parents. We spent the evening eating lovely food and watching the sun set over the sea, had a slap up breakfast in the morning and strolled the mile to the start area where I met up with Amy and Anna. We'd decided to start the race together, which was the best decision I made, it stopped me from going off too quickly, chatting took my mind off things as it just felt like a training run, and we got loads of support from the spectators thanks to Anna's fabulous tutu.
Check out that amazing tutu
The start of the race was at the local stadium. There seemed to be plenty of loos, the baggage drop lorry was well manned and it was really easy to find our start pen. What I hadn't given much thought to was how much smaller this event was to London. It took almost no time at all to get over the start line and I started to get concerned about how I'd manage to stay motivated with smaller crowds and possibly fewer people around me at the end of the race. I needn't have worried. It was a glorious day, slightly too hot for running truth be told, but it brought the locals out in force, particularly along the front at the beach chalets where several people set up unofficial water stations for the runners.

The first half of the race zoomed by. We chatted to bat woman, a couple of 100 Marathon Club members, superman to name but a few. We looked out for friends on the switchbacks and I spotted some Tough Mudders, Farnham Runners and Reading Road Runners. I parted company with the girls shortly after the halfway point to maintain my pace and found myself still in good nick by mile 18, the point at which things fell apart for me in London. The last 4 miles were a bit hard but I was still able to run a bit and power walk. A few niggles but I couldn't believe how good I felt (for running a marathon, it's all relative).
High fives from my fella. Rock on!
My favourite part was through the park between miles 18 and 20, there was shade and some nice downhill action. I was met by my fella who offered encouragement, ran with me for a while and then poured water over me before sending me back out into the scorching sun.The heat cause a few people issues; I saw a several people receiving medical treatment and I made sure I took on a little water at each station to stay hydrated. I'm rocking a spectacular runners tan now! I ended up not using my iPod at all, instead chatting to Anna and Amy, enjoying the encouragement from the sidelines and the few bands on route. I wanted to soak it all up and not miss a moment.

I was very impressed with the organisation, especially as it was the first event. There were loads of marshals, all in high spirits, friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The water stations were frequent and well stocked and many had gels available in the second half of the race too. Because of the route along the front there were plenty of public toilets we could use, with no queues! The course itself was relatively flat, save a couple of hills which I just power walked. Most of the course was along the front, starting off on roads and then dropping to the promenade, zig zagging up and down and going out onto both piers and back. Taking us under the finishing arch around the 18 mile point was a bit mean and the last 6 miles up and down the promenade was hard work, being flat, open and monotonous.
You can't see it but I AM smiling!
There was still a massive crowd when I reached the finish line and although everything ached, I still managed to run over the finish line with a smile on my face. I didn't feel as emotional as I did after London, or indeed the last few events I'd done. I think the difference was that I was well rested, relaxed and had built up some tolerance for fatigue. The finish area was well organised, obviously by the time I got there it wasn't very crowded so I was filtered through as fast as I could manage to collect my (amazing) medal, goody bag (containing arnica gel, mints and other bits and bobs) and a technical t-shirt in my favourite colour (purple).
I knocked a massive 57 minutes or so off my London time and although I've already been asked when I'm going to do my next one and get a sub 5-hour, I don't have the same high as I did from London so I'm not sure if I'll do another or not. That said, all in all I loved every single moment of this race. There was a great atmosphere, excellent organisation and even at around £45 I thought it was a good value race. There were many other events going on as part of the bigger festival with a 5k, 10k and half marathon as well as kiddies events so something for everyone.
The tradition of the post race ice cream continues. Check out that bling!
Vital Stats
Race number: 6445
Full time: 05:05:34
Split 1: 02:29:01

Overall finish position: 1688 of 3001

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Apple, Celery and Stilton Soup

This soup was dreamt up on a day when I'd done a split long run (8 miles pre-breakfast, 12 miles after work), knew I'd be hungry, would need something warm, simple, quick, tasty and hearty and wouldn't feel like going shopping. I had a bit of cheese and a pack of celery languishing in the fridge, a big bag of apples from my mum's tree and a few small spuds hidden away in a cupboard from the allotment, so I came up with the soup idea. These ingredients just seem to have a natural affinity and I was really pleased with how this turned out. Adjust the amount of cheese to suit your taste but a blue cheese does work best in my opinion.

Apple, Celery and Stilton Soup

Serves 2
1 tbsp oil
1clove garlic
1 smallish white onion
4 sticks celery
750 ml vegetable stock
2 medium apples
1 medium potato
1 tsp dried rosemary
30-50g stilton

  1. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a pan. 
  2. Peel and crush the garlic, peel and roughly chop the onion and celery and add to the pan. Soften over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and add to the pan.
  4. Roughly chop the potato and add to the pan. You can peel it if you prefer but I didn't bother.
  5. Pour over the stock and add the herbs. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the potato is cooked through and soft.
  6. Crumble in the stilton, stir and leave to melt for a minute or two then remove from the heat, blend, season to taste and serve! 
This is especially good with croutons or crusty bread. Enjoy!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Tips on Healthy Winter Eating

Nasty illnesses such cold and flu can be frequent during the winter season with the assaults to the immune system. You can keep going and boost your immune system even during the winter months. There are some tips and great foods for remaining healthy in the winter months. There are a number of foods that will help you to remain healthy all winter long:

  • Citrus fruits including lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges are excellent sources of immune boosting vitamin C. 
  • Carrots and green vegetables that are high in antioxidants
  • Pomegranates
  • Potatoes
This time of year eating fruits and vegetables is a must. Boosting the immunity can be done by eating carrots, which have anti-oxidants and beta-carotene; other great foods include mangoes and squash. Green mangoes can be used for salads while salsas and smoothies can have the mangoes that are riper in them.
Getting a veg box delivered over the winter can make life easier
Probiotics that help to protect against infection can be found in yogurts because of the live cultures in them. You can also add yogurt to recipes to boost the immune system farther, you can even mix it with cream cheese to use a spread. Garlic is also something that can be used all year long to help boost immunity and fight against illnesses such as cold and flu.
Yogurt with added protein will give you a boost.
Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits will help to keep the immune system working properly in order to keep you healthy. Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes and juices are a source of vitamin C that can help to ensure that you get the recommended daily dose without having to take supplements.

Pomegranates and their juice are full of antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of free radicals into LDL cholesterol. The oxidation causes plaque to build up in the arteries, and drinking pomegranate juice can keep the blood flowing freely to the heart. Vitamins A, C, and K can be found in escarole, mustard and collards, which are also source of folate.
Why not try my Apple, Celery and Stilton soup? Blog post soon!
Soups are an amazing way to keep yourself eating healthy in the winter. You can fix soups with a variety of vegetables to help ensure that you get almost all of the nutrients that you need.  An example would be adding potatoes that are rich in vitamin B6 and C. Vegetarian chili will help the body that is afflicted with a cold or the flu. There are antiviral effects from garlic and onions while the immune system benefits from beans. Spices aid in clearing the sinuses, which can help you to feel better if you have the flu or a cold.

There are dozens of healthy seasonal foods that can be eaten in winter such as collards and mustard greens, which can be planted in a small space in your yard. Eating a wide variety of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals will help you to receive the antioxidant boosting properties and natural probiotics that aid in digestive health. A wide range of colours and textures will help to make sure you are eating a healthy combination.

This post was written by Tammy Mahan, a medical/health freelance writer who contributes articles to Healthline.Com. You can find more Healthline content on twitter and Facebook.