Monday, 30 January 2012

Let's bake love!

Mrs Crimble's gone all saucy!

A while back I was introduced to Mrs Crimble's Chocolate Orange macaroons which were utterly delicious.  Lovely flavour, moist texture and don't leave you covered in crumbs.  Now Mrs Crimbles has brought out a new look and a new taste. 

Mrs Crimble’s Total Makeover

Mrs Crimble’s, one of Britain’s best-loved bakery brands, has had a total makeover and has launched a brand new product.  With the new strapline ‘let’s bake love’ Mrs Crimble’s has shrugged off her cardie and is ready to party.  The new packaging is brighter, bolder and more contemporary.  It captures the pleasure that comes with biting into a Mrs Crimble’s Choc Macaroon or discovering a large chocolate chip buried deep inside a remarkably chocolatey Double Choc Brownie.
‘Our new logo is heart incorporating an oven glove,’ explains head honcho, Jeremy Woods. ‘It symbolises the love that people have for Mrs Crimble’s products.’

Large Cranberry Macaroons - Mmmcranberry!

They're labelled as "large", and they're certainly bigger than the chocolate orange ones but I wouldn't call them large in isolation; I'd expect them to be the size of those big cookies you get in bakeries.  Anyway, that's a nit-picky point and I think Mrs Crimbles has really done it again; these are utterly delicious.

As with the chocolate orange macaroons, the initial hit you get is of sweet, moist coconut as you'd want from a good macaroon.  The next delightful flavour you get is of cranberries but they're not scarily tangy, they're more like raspberry jam.  So the overall effect is very much like a Bakewell tart.  So, with a mug of tea, it's like having a Bakewell tart but without all the heavy icing that comes with a Bakewell tart.  And I really like it.

Thinking in terms of fuelling long rides (or runs), I wondered whether these macaroons might be an option.  The criteria for me is tasty, high carb (preferably complex and simple mixed), calorie dense, not crumbly and not high in other macro-nutrients than carbohydrate.  Let's take a look then; tasty - tick, high carb - tick, mix of complex and simple carbs - nope, calorie dense - tick, not crumbly - tick, low in other macro-nutrients - no.

On balance, given the "no"s are important ones but there are a lot of "tick"s, I think these would be best kept to one or two on a long ride to help with variety in flavour and texture.  These macaroons are very nice and I really like them; more than the chocolate orange version.

(As a bonus, they're gluten free for those who have difficulties and preferences that way.)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ditto and a further comment

Mr TOTKat did a bit of a mad parkrun this morning.  Having decided to cycle to Eastbourne for their inaugural parkrun, he (unintentionally) tempted me to join him, but I knew I wouldn't be confident in being able to get to the start before 9am and didn't want to hold him back so I decided to do my long ride followed by a run by sitting on a turbo trainer in the garden, under a heater (and I still got cold toes!) for almost 4 hours before running around the neighbourhood a bit.

It seems that while the circumstances of our mornings were different in that Mr TOTKat went all the way to Eastbourne, leaving the house shortly after 04:30 and I didn't even leave the grounds of the house until after midday we had a shared experience overall.  We both felt great on the run.

We've both been training consistently since the end of December and we both felt completely fine running after just under 4 hours in the saddle.  I felt particularly pleasantly surprised when I started running off the bike... the sessions of brick circuits that Jez has had me doing in the gym(*) have made a huge difference to how my legs feel off the bike.  Previously, they'd feel almost like they were someone else's legs; heavy, wobbly and slow.  Today, I just felt like I'd had a really good warm up before my run, not that I'd been slogging in the saddle for nearly 4 hours, and I boinged off down the road.  Loving that very much!

* example brick circuits
 - 10 minutes warm up on the static bike
 - 5 minutes hard spin in a high gear, 2 minutes standing climb, 1 minute seated climb, 2 laps of the running track
 - 6 minutes hard spin in a high gear, 3 minutes standing climb, 1 minute seated climb, 3 laps of the running track
 - 7 minutes hard spin in a high gear, 3 minutes standing climb, 2 minute seated climb, 4 laps of the running track

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Judgement day, or, "I need Haribo!"

People judge.  Every minute of the day.  They have their own values and standards and ideals and apply them to others.  We all do it, but there are a large proportion of people who think it's OK to vocalise their judgement when it is a "socially acceptable" judgement to make.

I'm talking about food this time.

There I was at my desk in the office today, with a lovely Wiggle delivery, complete with the little bag of Haribo.  Someone makes a quip that packets of sweets really shouldn't be something that I have in my possession.  I make a half-hearted attempt to let them know that, actually, I'm trying to find stuff to keep me fuelled during endurance rides that aren't gels 'cause I can't stand gels, but it's sort of pointless because the people around me at work just don't get it.  It's because they don't do it.  Most are fit and healthy and some do some pretty hard sports, but simply not 3-6 hours training sessions or longer, building up to a silly-long endurance event so they simply don't come across the same nutritional challenges.

People are brainwashed into a simplistic viewpoint that sweets, biscuits, cakes, fried food, pies etc. are all "bad" and that anyone fit and healthy "should not" and would not be eating that stuff.  But as any fule kno' who does a serious amount of training, and particularly a serious amount of endurance training, you really will need to eat stuff which is commonly considered to be "bad" otherwise you'll have real difficulty in functioning with your training load.  Take long distance cyclists; it's well known that they can't get enough of Percy Pigs (M&S chewy sweets), Haribo, Jelly Beans etc.

OK, they -could- get a lot of their fuel from "real" foods, but the sheer weight to carry and the volume to ingest would be impractical.  There are a number of reasons that sports science has come up with carb drinks and energy gels and it's mostly because: A. energy take-up mechanisms for one simple fuel (e.g. glucose only fuels) can't dump enough into your system fast enough for long sessions (so you really need a mix of -oses); and B. simple sugar rich natural foods are bulky and heavy and often contain other macronutrients in large doses that you don't want to be processing large amounts of during an endurance event.  The rule of thumb is 60g carbohydrates per hour of effort and trust me, that's a LOT of sugar!

Yes, on a normal day, with a normal training duration I'd eat real food by preference, but god help me if I don't practice, try, and error and find out what high density carb fuels work for my digestion in advance of the longer races.  So don't judge me by the average standards; I need Haribo!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Consistent training... early results

Consistent training.  That's the key.  And the last 3 weeks have been really quite good (I was ill 4 weeks ago, so missed a few sessions).  If you look at the sessions success, you'll see a few red ones in there, but trust me it's a lot more consistent than it used to be and I don't really have a proper training plan so I'm just trying to get more base stuff in there than I had before.

And the results are really starting to show in my performance charts (the blue line is overall fitness, pink is fatigue levels, yellow is "freshness").  You can see clearly an improvement in fitness, though the significance of the scale eludes me at the moment, upwards seems good to me.

What really caught my interest was the small dip in fitness where I didn't do much while I was sick - the big drop in the pink line - really was quite small in the grand scheme of things.  My fatigue level dropped significantly, which helped me recover from being ill and conversely the freshness level goes up and I'm back on my feet again not much lost over that 2.5 week period of two illnesses back to back (one chest infection and a gastric thing).  Onwards and upwards now and I'm looking forward to see how things shape over the coming weeks and months.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Good route, bad route signage

National cycle routes.  They're a great idea, but ohboy is the signage on the routes a bit pants at times.  So, I got a bit lost today:-

See that lovely bit where I go 'round in almost circles a couple of times between Shepperton and Chertsey?  That's because there's a critical junction where National Route 4 is sign posted in only one direction, but it's a little loop if you're coming in one direction so you cross it when you're going the other way and can end up going the other way and not noticing it.  Especially if you're taking the alternative bit of the route to avoid the bike ferry crossing (which is only 3 quid for 1x adult with 1x bike and runs every 15 minutes on request by ringing a bell).

(I left the HRM on all the time, even when stopped for food/drink/route checks.  But accidentally ended recording about 59 minutes in to the ride when I stopped for a wee at the one of the locks and thus ended up with two sessions recorded for it.)

Anyway, it wasn't the end of the world and the route section I cycled today from Kingston, out West and back again, was a mix of road, on-pavement cycle path, gravel track, dirt track and paved pedestrian/bike shared use paths.  The majority of the surface and traffic conditions meant that I mostly kept to my objective today of staying in heart rate zone 1.  There was one hill which could have ruined it all, but thanks to the advice from Jonny Brownlee last week about getting into an appropriate gear -before- the hill starts rather than my old habit of hitting the base of a hill in a reasonably high gear and then trying to go down through the gears as I slow down (thus losing power quite rapidly), I managed to keep my heart rate much lower than usual on that hill.  The tow path along the side of the river was almost cobbled in places, otherwise dirt/mud tracks with exposed roots, pot-holes and lots of Sunday cyclists, runners and families out with dogs, so I had to keep my speed down to be polite most of the time.  OK, so there were a few times on the way back where I had to keep things in check as I found myself somewhat lamping it as the wind was less right in my face in that direction and the general, gentle, downwards gradient.  And I stopped a few times for drinks and food (yeah, I -still- can't take a drink in the saddle whilst moving but I'm working on it).

All in all, a good ride.  Objectives met despite getting a little bit off course a few times.  Plus, I got a bit of work in on getting out of the saddle and there's a lot of improvement there too.  Not to the point it'll be useful to get up hills, but again I'll get there and there's still a good bit of time before I really need it.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Rockin' smoothie!

Despite the fact that Mr TOTKat doesn't like this one, I absolutely -love- it:-

Mint, Choc smoothie (serves 2)
1 cup Liquorice and Mint tea
1x small banana (flesh only)
1x frozen peach
1x avocado (flesh only)
70g chopped Chinese Leaf
75ml skimmed milk
2x scoops chocolate flavour whey protein
1x handful of fresh mint leaves

Make the tea well in advance so it has a chance to cool properly (this is the bit I didn't bother with so it was all a bit faintly warm), chill it if at all possible.  Blend everything else very well, then add the tea and blend again.  Serve in tall glasses with straws.

It tastes like melted mint-choc-chip ice-cream :o)

One thing at a time

I decided that now is the wrong time to mess about with my tea drinking too much.  I do like it a lot and it doesn't impact my training anywhere near as much as alcohol.  OK, so I am drinking some herbal infusions (BTW the Super Fruit TeaPigs tea is horrible, so I'm sticking to the gorgeous liquorice and mint) which knocks one or two cups of real tea off the count during the day, but otherwise I'm staying on tea.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Solitude vs Clubs

It seems strange that I learned this from a day with two top athletes and I'm under no illusions that I was privileged to learn that way...

Me, at 18 months, with my dad at Leeds University pool 
I'm relatively new to sport and fitness.  Having spent a chunk of my life being more than chunky and more than averagely sedentary, I came to sport very late in life.  As a child, I swam from the age of about 2 to 11 and part of that was as a member of Croydon Amphibians swimming club and then Stevenage Dolphins.  I don't really remember much about the swimming clubs other than being in races with my dad shouting encouragement from the crowd and the occasional being picked on in the changing rooms as I was a bit younger than most of the squad.  (Having gone to primary school in the Elephant and Castle, I could more than hold my own when being picked on; by comparison the home counties lot were amateur bullies ;o)).  But when I went to secondary school, the swimming pretty much ground to a halt.  Though there was a pool at my school, the support for sport wasn't brilliant and we weren't that good at athletics or team sports as a school.  However, there was a great swimming pool in the town centre, a 50m (Olympic) length outdoor pool where I got my mile swimming badge and my Personal Survival awards around the age of 8 or 9.  Shortly after I left my secondary school, the outdoor swimming pool at the school was filled in with concrete *sigh*

So, pretty much from the age of 12 I did no more sport.  Around 25ish I dabbled with swimming again (mostly to impress a boy) and I ended up doing a lot of long swims - never less than 1600m and on one particular occasion around 4800m.  But pretty much, from the age of 12 to 37 I did no sport and, near as dammit, no exercise.  And, to compound the problem with my own body, I lost a butt-load of weight and a large amount of muscle into the bargain.

In 2009 I got married and something clicked in my head that I wanted to fix the problem that I'd lost a lot of muscle and I was weak.  I may have been a lot less tubby, but I couldn't lift boxes to help someone move house and that made me feel quite worried.  So, I joined a gym and started to do resistance training.  A couple of weeks after that, I started to get off the tube a few stops earlier and earlier and walk the last few km home.  Getting frustrated with how long that took, I decided to try Couch 2 5K and dived in several weeks into the programme.  My heart rate would rocket to 190 or so for the periods I was running and I felt -terrible-, but I persevered and after a few months raced my first 10km race putting in a time under 60 minutes despite a touch of food poisoning and a roaring hangover.

Having messed about with cycling a tiny bit (pretty much learned to ride a bike to visit my then boyfriend, now husband, in 2008), cycling a couple of times a month for a few km at a time, along with being a swimmer by background (and now starting to put in some distance swims) and starting in running, I decided to join Mr TOTKat in doing some triathlons.  I set to, having heard horror stories about the fist-fights in the swim, looking for triathlons with the swim leg in a pool rather than open water and I came across the Thames Turbo sprint series. 

Thames Turbo are the greatest possible start into triathlon.  The races are extremely well organised and run, the club and marshalls are friendly and supportive and I think that made a huge impact on our feelings towards the sport of triathlon and made us want to do more.  We improved our times through the series in 2010 and in 2011 we signed up for a lot more triathlons, including a couple of Olympic distance ones (with some pretty robust open water swim starts - needless to say I'm pretty comfortable with that now) and I DNFed a lot due to a knee injury.  Training was erratic and inconsistent but we were just mucking about really.  The Ironman idea came up and that meant we were going to need to take things a bit more seriously.  Training to date had been a solitary affair for me, with the very very occasional ride or run with Mr TOTKat.

Cutting to the chase... Friday 13th January 2012 was the first time I've been out on a bike and a run with more than one other person (apart from races of course!) and it turns out that it's really quite nice.  So far, I certainly have preferred to train alone.  I'm an anti-social beast at the best of times.  Previously I was worried that for Ironman it is a big mental event where you have only yourself to rely on and your own determination and mind, I didn't want to come to rely on being in a group, get too used to it and the supportive environment of it.  And I worry ever so much about being The Slow One and holding people up.  So I'd really not wanted to join a club or train with others.  But that day with Ali and Jonny Brownlee, incredible as it was just to be with them anyway, showed me that people really don't mind as much as I thought they might.  It also showed me that, although I was quite ginger about most of the first part of the bike ride, overly worried that I'd mess up in some way, fall off, bin it down a hill or something, once I'd relaxed and warmed up a lot, the three boys really helped me fuss less about my usual worries by being so supportive and considerate.  It also resulted in me being a bit more gung ho towards the end, slogging up the long hill in the final stages and bombing down one descent, to catch up with them at the bottom, a lot more quickly than I'd been previously comfortable with.

I'd really like to learn new routes to run and ride as I'm not that imaginative and all I seem to see are the difficulties and negatives.  It's probably time to join a club and enjoy some company for at least some of my training sessions, have access to some other very experienced coaches, plus I'd really rather like to race in Thames Turbo colours :o)

Sunday, 15 January 2012


I've been experimenting a bit with smoothies recently (again), but the ones that you end up putting in a bowl because they're way too thick to drink.  So far, I've made:-
  • Peach and raspberry (with spinach)
  • Banana, chocolate and peach (with lettuce)
  • Chocolate, peanut butter and banana (with avocado)*
  • Salad vegetable smoothie (avocado, pepper, tomato, celery and avocado with olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
And they're all gorgeous and full of vitamins and minerals in an easy to deal with form that's relatively natural (so the combinations for absorption are there, rather than the isolated vitamins and minerals in pill supplements).  But.  Tricky to eat in that they get quite fluffy and aerated.  When you're in a hurry, that sucks quite a bit.  On weekday mornings, it won't work for breakfast as there's just not the time.  However, in general we should all be taking a good length of time to eat our meals, mostly to allow the body to figure out that we're eating and release the relevant satiety chemicals and then react to them etc. so it can really help with that as the texture forces you to slow right down.  The icing on the cake is that they taste pretty good.  OK, so they're mainly sweet flavours and I've not got a huge sweet tooth so I'd like to work out some more savoury ones.  So far I've managed to make a very thick version of V8 in the savoury flavours; pretty limited imagination there on my part.

I'm not likely to be making and eating smoothies a couple of times a day, or even every day; it's just not convenient time-wise.  If I could make one in the morning and have it still in a good state for an afternoon snack at work that might work, but it seems to me that they're best consumed within an hour of making at the longest.

Anyone of the smoothie making crowd out there got any suggestions or experience in keeping them fresh for a few hours or longer?  And any ideas for more, distinctly different savoury smoothies to make?

* - recipe added on request:-
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein, or 1tsp good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 fresh avocado
  • 1/2 fresh peach (do not peel!)
  • 25g crunchy peanut butter
  • 2x ice cubes
  • 150ml skimmed milk
Blitz the lot in a blender/with a hand blender.  Add ice to thicken more or water to thin out if it's too thick.

Friday, 13 January 2012

An afternoon with @AliBrownleetri, @jonny_brownlee and @n0rm

The day we'd been looking forward to, with a little bit of appropriately respectful fear as well as excitement, finally came.  This week will go down on the record as being golden and star-studded; having met 4 times Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington on Monday at Audio Fuel's product launch, on Friday we went out for a bike ride and a run with two other world champion triathletes at the Olympic and Sprint distances, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.

We briefly met them back in October at the British Olympic Ball where, at the time, I was a little bit furious with Mr TOTKat for his last minute bid at the silent auction on "The Brownlees", but was pretty certain we'd've been out-bid after we left to go home that night.  A couple of weeks later, we found out that we hadn't been out-bid and we owed quite a bit of money to the British Olympic Association.  Not that there is any grudgingness at all about supporting Team GB at the 2012 Olympics at all, it was just a bit of a shock.

Thursday evening came and we drove up to Otley, to the Chevin Country Park Hotel to get some sleep in before the treats that were in store at midday on Friday.  We arrived quite late and tired and only got 6 hours in, but felt pretty good for it.  Had a bit of cereal and a lovely cooked breakfast - a couple of Weetabix with some raisins, one thick rasher of smoked back bacon, a poached egg, a slice of black pudding, a grilled tomato and a dollop of gorgeous haggis with some toast on the side.  Nicely set me up for a 90 minute ride and a 30 minute run that were way less flat than I'm used to.

Ali and Jonny arrived on their bikes at 12 and I was a bit of a wuss and let them know that I'm not so great with hills.  Off we headed onto the Yorkshire roads and the first new experience for me was riding two abreast and chatting while riding.  I normally ride alone or behind Mr TOTKat, so riding in a group of 4 and actually chatting most of the time was an interesting change for me.

It was a chilly, crystal-clear, bright day and I was very glad of the skiing socks and overshoes I had on.  It took a me a good while to get warmed up and the first few rises and hills were hard.  With my relative inexperience on the bike, I'm not as confident as most so descending and corners can be less than fun.  But as we made progress I got up the hills, making my apologies for not being able to talk while going up them, albeit slower than the boys but I got up them indeed.

As we rode, I chatted mostly with Jonny; about all sorts of things, the boys' training schedules, how they train (mixture of types of sessions in intensity, discipline etc.), triathlon as a sport, training camps in Lanzarote, easy changes I can make to climb hills on a bike better (get on the small ring earlier, get down the gears earlier to keep things moving - it's all about keeping things moving), Top Gear, the fact that Jonny doesn't drink tea or coffee and the time he got a fly in his eye going up the hill we were climbing at the time.

The Brownlees were great, lovely, sweet, considerate guys and patient with me being not so strong on the bike.  Any time the boys steamed up a hill and I was plodding up, they'd scoot back down a bit to make sure I was OK (I'm just not that quick up hills, getting better though!).  I really really enjoyed myself.  And then there was a 30ish minute jog afterwards, over terrain Mr TOTKat and I, as city-based runners, are just not used to.  Uneven ground, adverse camber, tree roots, rocks, puddles and mud, crunchy frosty grass (sounds great underfoot)... great for the core and brain.  Makes for not making as much distance in the time out running compared with running on park trails and pavement and it can be difficult to come to terms with it, but you (I) just need to get over that and see it for what it is... not the same thing at all as running on park trails and pavement.  But again, we both enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

As we got ready to go out for the run and hung about in the hotel foyer, I caught a glimpse of Jonny's midriff as he adjusted his clothes before heading out.  My goodness me, professional functional fitness generally results in a pretty cut physique, but the likes of David Beckham in his undies commercials photo shoots would be put to shame by Jonathan Brownlee.  If Jonny is ever short of a bob or two, I'm sure he could easily scrape a few extra pennies in from advertising Armani boy-knickers or similar.

OK, so they're both professional, world champion athletes, so you'd expect them to be good but they're so incredibly graceful when running and cycling.  Always moving on the bike, always keeping the pedals turning and at a pretty constant cadence, effortlessly and frequently getting out of the saddle at what seem to be only very slight rises to keep moving at a constant rate.  Running behind them, the thing that struck me and Mr TOTKat was how incredibly light on their feet Ali and Jonny are.  Ali in particular looks like he's floating on a springy cushion of air.  While they're really fluid, natural and lovely to watch on the bike, running is clearly their naturally strongest discipline.  Where Mr TOTKat and I were gracelessly stumbling about over the rocks, roots and mud, Ali and Jonny skimmed over it all, seemingly effortlessly.

As we got changed for the run, Mr TOTKat and I were talking about just how much we enjoyed the bike ride and I had a huge confidence boost from it as climbing is my biggest weakness on the bike.  Mr TOTKat said I'd got a lot better since the last time we were out together on a ride with any hills; he was only 15s or so faster than me up the long hill towards the end of the cycle route.  Looking at the ride afterwards in MapMyRide I was even more pleased to find that there were 2x Cat5 hills and a Cat4.  Great news for Hell of The Ashdown in a few weeks with the 5x Cat5s and 1x Cat4.  I think I might just get 'round without turning into a snotty, teary, broken person at the side of the road walking up a hill 'cause I can't get up it on the bike :o)

Today, Friday 13th January 2012 has been a really great day so far.  I feel on top of the world, motivated, inspired, my confidence really boosted, and appropriately humbled, as expected, by a pair of young men of great character at the top of their sport.  And to top it all off, we're having dinner with them this evening!  Hopefully the photos that were taken of us before our ride out together will turn up soon too.

...and I'm not cross with  Mr TOTKat any more for that last minute bid.  Quite the opposite.

Meeting @chrissiesmiles (thanks to @audiofuel)

...and she does.  A big, infectious smile.

Wound up and fidgety, the woman who left everything out on the lava plains of Hawaii in October 2011 was sitting a couple of feet away from me on Monday evening this week.  Scar on her left calf, from a nasty bike crash two weeks out from the Ironman World Championships, still very much in evidence and from time to time, swinging her legs like a school girl while she told stories and answered questions from the audience.  She comes across as a bright, talented athlete with little time for voodoo and quackery and puts her trust in natural ability and the capacity for the human body to achieve really unbelievable things if you work hard and push yourself with the right training.

Mr TOTKat and I were lucky enough to get a place in the audience of the Audio Fuel "Tri Harder with Chrissie Wellington" launch on Monday this week.  In the basement of a swanky bicycle shop (srsly, there were Venge frames and suchlike, just hanging on the wall - as Chrissie put it " we can perv at all the bike porn") 100 people gathered to learn about the new product and hear what Chrissie had to say.

There are four sections to "Tri Harder - a comprehensive range of training programmes for triathletes and runners, designed and coached by World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington.".  LACE UP (with part of the proceeds going to CAF), Ride Harder, Run Faster and Relax With Chrissie.  We were treated to an explanation and demo of parts of the Tri Harder product - a set of audio tracks to help a triathlete run and bike faster, plus a couple of relaxation and mental preparation ones.  A chirpy young lady called Ellie, a personal trainer from Barnes, demoed a section of one of the bike tracks on a turbo trainer and then Shaun from Audio Fuel persuaded Chrissie to demo part of one of the run tracks on a treadmill.  Thankfully for those of us in the room who are amateur athletes, Chrissie had the good grace to be a bit breathless after a few minutes at 18kph on the treadmill!

After the demos, it was time for Q&A with Chrissie and the floor was opened up for questions.  Mr TOTKat asked the final one, around being a first time Ironman trainee this year and what tips she might have for a first timer.  Chrissie was wonderfully supportive and positive and quite honest with her answers and explained a bit about Kona 2011 and finally getting to actually race.  Getting to the start line knowing that winning was not a certainty and probably not even a likelihood.  Having to live in the moment throughout the race, facing the very strong temptation many many times to pull over and stop and beating it every time.  She talked about her first pro coach and what he said when she asked him if she had what it took to be a professional triathlete and he answers that yes; "(you've) physically got what it takes but we'll need to chop your head off".  At the time, Chrissie was over-analysing, over-thinking, beating up after a bad training session and being really hard on herself all the time.  Rest and relaxation she saw as "weakness".  Mr TOTKat commented to me afterwards the parallels he sees between that and me (a flattering comment, but the way it was intended was more that I have similar challenges to that one Chrissie had way back).

So, aside from the great opportunity to meet such an inspiring, strong, world champion as Chrissie Wellington (every time I hit a hard patch in a training session, I think of what she's achieved, her great big smile, how strong she is and I push on through - it's true to say she is my greatest inspiration in my Ironman journey), I think the Tri Harder suite has bits of interest to me.  I certainly would like to take a look at the LACE UP and Relax components as they cover areas of particular challenge for me; not so much the Run and Cycle ones as I do have a coach who has a programme, drills and training sessions for me.

Messages from Chrissie that I took away from the evening are:
  • The most powerful piece of equipment in your training and racing kit is "your mind".
  • Enjoy the journey to Ironman, don't focus solely on the race.  It's a long journey!
  • Getting through pain and in general - be in the moment.
Next on the awesome luck and World Champion heroes front comes later today... we go for a bike ride and a run with Ali and Jonny Brownlee.  Watch this space for what we get up to and exactly how humbled we are by putting in physical effort alongside superlative athletes.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tea that's not tea

In the quest for "interesting things to drink" that aren't alcoholic and in a half-baked investigation of Not Drinking Tea, I had a bit of a taste of some herbal infusions.

To be honest, I've always found herbal infusions to be pathetic and disappointing.  They always smell great and then taste of naff all.  So I wasn't expecting a whole lot when I bought some TeaPigs - Liquorice and Mint tea.  I'd bought some for my mother for her birthday last year and I'd been recommended that liquorice tea might be good for some little imbalances in my overall well-being (more on this one later) so I picked that rather than a more traditional peppermint or camomile.

And thank god I did.  The first taste test, I brewed a cup for 5 minutes or so and had a sniff.  It smelled pretty darned good, to be honest, but then I've been lured by a good smelling herbal infusion before.  I took a sip and the first second confirmed my prejudice from before; bland, pathetic, wishy wash.... ohgod!  Suddenly sweet!  And minty!  And really rather tasty.  After the first split second of the watery, mildness, I was pretty blown away by the flavour.  But after the first cup, despite being surprised by the power of this infusion, I wasn't fussed about having any more again.

The second cup I had a day or two later was just as good.  Then the next day, in a meeting, I found myself fancying a cup.

The short of it is, it's good.  I like it.  Like it enough to go through the same process again with the Lemon and Ginger flavour.  Less of an initial success so far than the Liquorice and Mint, but I think it might grow on me.  Next on the list is Super Fruit and I have high hopes for that one.  TeaPigs, so far, really quite rock!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Smoothie test

I read a few blogs here and there, mostly because they're health & fitness blogs and I've followed the people for a while and am interested in what they have to say and in following their journeys as people.  One of these is a lady who (amongst many things) is a vegetarian with a focus on raw foods; Laura.  She's a total whizz with the green monsters and smoothies in general, makes them all pretty and textured too, and I'd been interested in smoothies for a while.  I've dabbled here and there and been mostly limited to quite boring, samey ingredients of banana, banana, strawberries, banana, maybe blueberries, but that's been it.  I've also tried getting greens into the smoothies but I've only ever had "difficult" greens available for that; things like kale and winter greens are extremely fibrous and with a hand blender, you end up with a very tricky (in fact bordering on unpleasant) smoothie that really feels like you are forcing yourself to eat it.

In an attempt to have more of a proper go at smoothies, I got some peaches to freeze and decided to try the other blender attachment, which is basically a small table-top blender that you fix the motor section to the top.  And this is the result...

Having checked Laura's blog for some recipe inspiration I blended up:-
  • Half a frozen peach
  • Half a frozen banana
  • 1/3 iceberg lettuce
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein
  • 100ml milk
  • 2x ice cubes
And was amazed by how thick it turned out.  It's like a mousse!  And it's a huge bowl.  Really a lot bigger than I was expecting and a little bit too sweet and slightly bland, but I'm having it for breakfast anyway.  Next time, I'll drop the milk down to 50ml, up the peach to a whole one or even two and see how that changes the taste.  I'm looking to get more acidic tang from the peaches and a bit more flavour.  The texture is so aerated that it's a bit difficult to eat; you need to chew the air bubbles out a bit before you can swallow.  Not sure it's a practical breakfast for me seeing as how long it takes to eat, but it's a bunch of fruit and veg in a bowl in an easy format which has to be a good thing.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Another learning - again, the hard way

Virgin Active Bank has a new masseuse since I last had one.  This one is -good-.  I had a deep tissue massage today with her and for the first time, I felt utterly beaten up afterwards.  Thing is, I had a training session with Jez booked for 2 hours later.  Biiiig mistake!

Jez started me off on a cycling intervals, 5 minutes sprint, 2 minutes single leg each side then 2 minutes out of the saddle.  I managed the first sprint and the first single leg, then swapped legs and things started to feel odd.  The power went out of my leg and it got a lot harder very quickly.  I banged through the hill climb drill then back into the sprint again and my legs drained of power even faster.  My heart rate wouldn't go up over 158 - usually I'd be banging around the high 170s to low 180s at this point - and it was clear something was not right.  My legs were burning and lacking in any power and I just couldn't get my heart rate any higher, then suddenly I felt like I was going to throw up.  So we stopped.

Turns out that with a proper deep tissue massage, you can end up shunting a whole bunch of crap out of your muscles and into your blood stream and if you try to push it hard with all of that going 'round before it's processed out properly, stuff Doesn't Work.

So there we are.  From now on, no deep tissue massages within 24 hours  before a training session of any kind.  Ideally I'd have it right after a training session on the day before a rest day, but that may not be do-able as I want Mondays to be my rest day.  We'll see.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Thank you

I'd like to thank a few people today:-

  • The Parkrun volunteers.  Every single person who got up on New Year's Day to help with a Parkrun.  Thank you for making a bunch of nutters very happy!
  • Riddlesdown Parkrun team.  Thank you so much for the warm welcome and the chocolate cake.  It really picked me up after all the physical stress of the morning.
  • My mother.  For helping me see perspective this afternoon.  I never did intend to do all 3 Parkruns today with cycling as transport.  Given how slow I am at running, it was not realistic.  Thank you for reminding me I'd only intended to do two and two I did.
  • My dear, beloved MrTOTKat.  For telling me he'd let me have the bath first and make me tea when we got home.  And then doing it.  <3

You're all great.  Thank you very very much.

Parkrun Triple - I got lost!

It was always going to be hard... 9am Bushy Park, 10am Nonsuch Park, 11am Riddlesdown Park.  They're 13km and 16.3km apart.  And Riddlesdown is up a hill (the clue is in the name; it's a Down).  We had a 12km ride to get to Bushy and 19.5km to get home as well.  Top it off with 3x 5km runs, one at each Park and that's quite a challenge at this point in the year.

I saved the route as a course to upload to my Garmin 200 so I'd not get lost on the way to each one - I know the way really well to Bushy but no idea about the other two.  Thing is... the Riddlesdown Parkrun course is nowhere near where we rode to on our recce ride the other day.  We checked the additional bit using Google Maps and Streetview and figured out what to change for that bit.  As it turned out, I didn't remember the extra bit so well.

Having had a hearty porridge brekkie (50g oats, 20g raisins, 15g maple syrup), we toddled off just after 8am.  We arrived at Bushy Park nice and early for the first Parkrun and started pretty much on the dot of 9am.  I needed to not thrash it completely during the runs to stand a chance of finishing the whole thing.  26:35 was the result and thankfully as it's a very slick operation at Bushy, barcode scanning had no queueing and I skipped through, changed shoes, put helmet and gloves on, took a swig of carb drink and headed off to Nonsuch.

(cycling only)

Pretty much no traffic meant the cycle sections were much faster than during the recce, but I still didn't make it to Nonsuch by 10am, saw the runners head to the corner where the course meets the path and had to carry on to where I was going to leave my bike, change shoes, lock bike, forget to take off helmet, run back to bike to drop off helmet and then join the run course.  Ohboy it was muddy.  But I reeled in a few runners and made it 'round in officially 32:29, but I started 7ish minutes late, so probably a similar time to Bushy in the end.  As I neared the finish line, I saw a few people trotting back to the car park so asked one of them if they were doing the triple and whether they could tell Riddlesdown I was coming 15 minutes late.  I was worried I'd not find the start as they'd've packed it up by the time I got there (hah, little did I know...).  Finished up, another speedy scan of the bar codes and then I forgot how to get back to my bike, cursed parking it so far from the finish as it added about another km to the run at the end to get back to it.  Changed shoes, unlocked bike, helmet back on and looked at the time... 10:41.  Not Good.  19 minutes to the start of Riddlesdown.  I wasn't realistically going to make it to the start on time but would have been fine to start up to 20 minutes late, in my mind.  39 minutes to Riddlesdown, should be do-able, right?

My legs were quite weak by this point and I was a bit worried that the hill at Riddlesdown might be too much for me, so didn't push it too hard.  I did take as much advantage as I could of the downhill sections to gain some speed, but it just wasn't enough.  I got the junction where the route diverged form the tested route, let the Garmin make the nasty noise it makes when you're off course and carried on down the road, heading to my left hand turn for the park.  It was now 11:10.  I thought there was about 5 minutes cycling to go, so I'd be OK to get to the start a bit late but not too late.  Counted the little stubby left I was due to pass, saw the second left but the road name was wrong.  Cue confusion.  I carried on down the road further losing confidence quite rapidly.  After another 500m or so I decided I'd missed my turn, did a 360 and headed back to that turning with the wrong name, turned up it and it was a horrible gradient that I just couldn't manage so I got off and walked.  As I turned at the top of the road, it became apparent that it really was the wrong turn and I'd joined up with the route we took on the test ride.

So, I decided to carry on that way, got back on my bike and rode up through Riddlesdown Park.  Through the car park, on down the gravel track.  I had to freewheel as it was so rough and I was worried about skidding and my wheels and tyres.  The track went on and on and came to a gate.  On the other side of the gate the track got rougher, muddier and steeper so I got off, changed my shoes and trotted along, wheeling my bike down the track.  It went on and on some more and popped out at a timber merchant.  Argh!  I had to work out where the hell I was as it was Just Wrong.  A quick Google Maps check on my iPhone told me I was still not far enough down the original road and had another few km to go to the left hand turn I needed At The Roundabout!  Dammit!  The roundabout that I'd forgotten we talked about when we checked Streetview.  If I'd only remembered there was a roundabout I wouldn't have messed up, turned around and turned up the left that was waaay too early!

Carrying on to the roundabout, turning left, I was faced with That Damned Hill AGAIN.  I just couldn't.  I had to get off and walk again.  There was no way on earth I was going to be running Riddlesdown now.  It was all about just finding the damned thing now.  I was tired, demoralised, angry I'd forgotten the one bit of the route the Garmin didn't know about and really quite hungry.  At the top of the hill, the road kept going and I saw a sign opposite a school "run start this way" and I knew I was there.  6km further cycling than on the recce run, to the start of the race.  I turned in and found a load of people crowding around a gazebo in a field.  They were Parkrunners, picking up their gear after the run.  It was about 11:50 and faaar too late.  So I admitted defeat, changed my shoes, laid down my bike and stuffed a Soreen bar into my mouth.

(not including getting home)

Next year...

(We went to the pub, drank tea, ate chips and cake and cycled home slowly in the pouring rain.  Sports gear straight into the washing machine.  Us straight into the bath.)