Saturday 31 December 2011


Oh!  The last few runs, shhhh!, my knees have been FINE!  Even today, in the slippery mud at Parkrun.  Not a peep out of them.  Kinda slightly a tiny bit happy about that.  Really hope they continue to behave, starting with tomorrow's Parkrun triple!

Friday 30 December 2011

Contemplating caffeine

I love tea.  Really really love it.  It's the first thing that passes my lips in the morning, it makes me feel comforted and soothed, to me it's (to use a revolting cliché) a hug in a mug.  And I drink quite a lot of it.  Anything from 3-4 mugs a day to sometimes clear of 10.

There's never been a reason for me to give up tea.  I won't say caffeine here because the only significant source of caffeine I take in is tea.  I don't drink colas and very rarely have coffee (not a great fan of the taste, though the smell can be glorious).  Why should I give up tea?  What measurable detrimental effect does it have on me, vs. the enjoyment I get from drinking it?  I actually have no idea.

I accidentally gave up tea once, when I started at university.  Moving from an environment where tea was drunk several times a day, by the pot, at home to one where it wasn't around and available and quite often made by someone else, I had to go out of my way to have tea.  I'd bought bags and milk and there was a kettle in the halls kitchen, but I just didn't get around to making any.  That lasted for about a week, over which I had increasing headaches, crankiness and crabbiness to the point where I was pretty much a total bitch to everyone.  Then I had a cup of tea at the weekend and it all got better.  The penny dropped and I got back to drinking tea several times a day.

So, back to the detrimental effects... I don't know that I'm suffering any because I've never known any differently.  You know when you've been ill for a few days and then you get better and you realise how rotten you'd been feeling by how great you feel now?  Well, that could be it.  Maybe I could feel better than I do now.  I'm not saying I don't feel good, but what if it might be that I could feel great?  Wouldn't that be something?  Something worth a few weeks (at least) off tea to find out?

Thursday 29 December 2011

I Have A Mad Husband, But...

Mr TOTKat can be a bit mental sometimes.  This particular time was the announcement that not only did he want to run the Parkrun triple on New Year's Day (9am Bushy Park, 10am Nonsuch Park, 11am Riddlesdown Park), but he wanted to cycle there, between and home again.  3 Parkruns in 3 hours, not so bad.  Cycling around 8-10 miles in between each is going to be tough.  (It's all urban cycling and subject to lots of traffic lights, traffic, people etc.  The potential saver is that it will be New Year's Day morning so no shops open and not a lot going on.)

So he needed to do a recce run to see what the ride might be like and I kinda needed to get out on my bike so we went together.  Boxing Day traffic was horrific.  Hideous.  Really.  Having to go through Kinsgton town centre in both directions was some kind of purgatory and the ride back through the outskirts of Croydon to get home after Riddlesdown was bordering on suicidal with some spectacular idiocy from some drivers.

That's the mental bit.

The good bit was on the way to Riddlesdown from Nonsuch.  We were coming up to a junction where we'd been before to pick up the kitties when we first got them.  There's a nasty old hill that we drove up on the day we got the cats and as we rounded a gentle bend towards the junction, Mr TOTKat yelled over his shoulder, "I hope we don't have to go up _that_ hill!".  Hah.  Hah hah hah.  Hah.  We did have to go up that hill.  A 1.26km long hill that was rather steep.  Mr TOTKat stopped at a bend to check we were going the right way (we were) and I almost cursed a lot having lost any momentum (which I get a bit hung up on sometimes).  On the way back down, it seemed a lot longer and steeper than on the way up by quite a bit.  Anyhoo...  having checked out the Hell Of The Ashdown course, there's only one hill that's rated harder than that one so I've got something of a confidence boost that I might be able to do it now with bugger all long rides to date, with or without hills, and 8.5 weeks to go.

 The interesting bit is that I'm pretty sure he'll manage it but only if I'm not trying to keep up.  So I think I'll cycle to Bushy, run Bushy, then skip Nonsuch and cycle straight to Riddlesdown, run Riddlesdown then have coffee and cake.  We'll see.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Lamb Madras

It was Christmas Eve, I had some lamb neck fillet and a hankering for curry...

(serves 4 - chills and freezes well)

Slice onions (2x medium), chop tomatoes (3x large) into small cubes.  Blend tamarind with warm water (4 tbsp water or so to 1tbsp tamarind).

Toast coriander seeds (1.5tsp), cumin seeds (1.5tsp), peel garlic (1/2 bulb), cut tops off chillies (2-3 large reds), peel ginger (2-3cm cube), measure curry leaves (4 fresh or 1/2 tsp dried) and salt (1/2 tsp) and add all of that into a blender with measure oil (10ml) then blend into a paste.

Toast fennel seeds (1tsp) and keep to one side.

Cube the lamb (500-600g) and toss in turmeric (1.5tsp).

Add oil (another 10ml) into a large non-stick pan.  Add sliced onions and heat until softened.

Add the curry paste and cook for a minute.

Add cubed lamb and brown.

Pour in 2/3 tin coconut milk.

Bring to a bubble and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, cracked cardamom pods (x4), toasted fennel seeds, the rest of the tin of coconut milk and a cracked cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer for 1.5 hours until the lamb is tender.  Add a little water if it dries out too much.

Add Garam Masala (1.5tsp) and the tamarind paste and cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Remove the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick before serving with brown rice or naan.

Monday 26 December 2011

Winding it back up gently

Over the last 3 weeks I've been variously ill.  5th December I came down with a chest infection.  It knocked me completely flat for 5 days.  The first 4 I just slept most of the day; the first 2 I couldn't even get up the energy to read or piddle about on the Internet.  On the Saturday, we were due to get up at stupid o' clock do some Parkrun tourism in Sheffield, so I gave it a go.  It was icy, cold and hilly and probably the worst Parkrun time I've ever put in.  But felt rather good to have done -something-.

The following week, I still had the remnants of the chest infection early in the week, so sacked off planned sessions until the Thursday swim, did a nice strength session that killed my legs, arms and back for 4 days afterwards(!) and a long, slow run on Saturday.

Last week, I've had a horrible crampy stomach on a couple of the days, and been pushing to complete a critical project at work which needed 100% focus from me.  That said, I got more sessions completed and had a good upper body strength workout with Jez.

This week... well it's only just started and I'm hoping this cramping nonsense will bugger off, but I've got today's swim in already so that's promising.

Thursday 22 December 2011


It's a drink.

And the manufacturers claim that when you drink it, it could cause you to burn up to 200-odd calories without lifting a finger.

The idea is that there are ingredients in it that have a high metabolic cost to process. It's the same idea as Weight Watchers focused on in their new Pro Points scheme.  Everything you eat has a metabolic cost.  Some things are simpler/easier to convert into energy and building blocks than others; some things require more energy spent by your systems to perform that conversion than others.  And there's been a (fairly limited and not statistically significant) study carried out by Leeds Metropolitan University which seems to show that resting energy expenditure could well be appreciably elevated  for a period of time due to drinking Aspire. 

I'm not the biggest fan of cranberry, but the taste is actually quite pleasant.  This is mostly because it's not overly sweet.  There's a hint of the "seltzer" to it and I guess that's down to the added vitamins etc.  As a soft drink goes, I think it's one I'd think about buying to keep the variety up (especially while I'm Not Drinking).  And with talk of there being a new flavour launched in March, it's a real candidate to add into the variety rotation of drinkies to stave off the taste boredom.

If there really is an effect, it might be a nice little helping hand to general calorie expenditure, but even if not it's quite a nice drink.

Sunday 18 December 2011

I knew it'd be difficult

This "not drinking" thing.  I knew it'd be difficult (but at the same time, easy, when I'm doing it), but I didn't realise how hard it would be before it started.  13 days to go before the cessation of alcohol and I'm finding myself sabotaging normal days because of it now.  Because I'm not going to be doing it fairly soon, I make excuses do to it way more than normal now.  Normally I'd have a drink 1-2 days a week.  This week, so far, it's been 3 days and I find myself thinking about it quite a lot.

Partly, I'm thinking to go down the route of least stress, i.e. stop worrying about it, go with the flow.  Stress is worse (to me) than "bad" nutrition - mostly because we eat a hugely abnormal proportion of unprocessed food compared with most of the population (almost none, in practical terms) - I'm less worried about nutrition than I might be.  Partly, I'm getting wound up by what the scales say - which I need to get a grip on mentally as I've been ill and not exercising and eating odd amounts of food and being in varying states of hydration so it's not a useful measure at the moment.

13 days isn't all that long, so maybe the easiest thing is to take each day one at a time and accept what the scales say.  Then when the new year comes, be happy in the fact that life is easier, schedules are easier to follow, nutrition is easier to deal with...

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Remember the Olympic Ball?

We went to the British Olympic Ball in October 2011 and there was a silent charity auction.

We bid on The Brownlees, given we're slightly fannish and... come on, it's the Brownlee brothers!  When the price went over a certain amount, cut our losses and stopped bidding.  Then in a fit of slight drunkenness on the way out to go home a final bid went in.  Given the guests at the ball that night, we thought we'd not win the lot in a million years...


Well, it turns out we did.

So, on 13th January 2012, we will be spending the day with Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee, the 2011 ITU World Champions (1st and 2nd place at Olympic distance and 3rd and 1st place at Sprint distance). We'll head up north and have lunch with the boys, then a bike ride and a run then dinner.

Excited?  Absolutely!  Scared witless I won't be able to get up the hills?  Ohgodyes!  Happy at least in some part to be supporting British athletes for the Olympics in 2012 in more ways than just sitting on the sofa and cheering, or even lining the cycle route, by donating a reasonable sum of money to the Olympic charity organisation?  Yeah.  Actually, I am.

Friday 9 December 2011

22 days to 9 months of teetotalism

From 1st January 2012 to when Ironman Wales 2012 is over, I will not be drinking any alcohol.  (There may be 2 nominated exception days - the day after Ironman UK 70.3 and perhaps 13th January - I've not yet decided whether I will do that or not.)

It's just going to be easier that way.  Easier to keep to my planned nutrition - alcohol tends to lead to eating more than required/planned.  Easier to keep to my planned training schedule - alcohol leads to poor quality sleep, lack of enthusiasm the next day and is pretty poor nutritionally.  It'll just be easier all 'round if I don't drink at all.  Drinking a bit, setting a weekly/monthly limit isn't going to work.  It's all or nothing 'cause that's how I am.  I'll miss the wine, for sure, but some things are worth quite a bit of sacrifice.

Stopping right now isn't something I need to do, nor is it all that practical when there's wine in the house ready for Christmas, so the date is set for 1st January.

Some perspective

Sometimes I need a bit of perspective.  I need to remember where I've come from.  I learned to ride a bike pretty much 3 years ago and then didn't do much cycling until this year.  I learned to run 2 years ago - honestly! - and did very little running until this year.  OK, I swam a LOT from the age of 3 to 11, but then stopped until I was 23, did it for a year, then stopped again until 18 months ago.  And I had a bike crash that messed up some of this year's season...

Come September next year, I'll have gone from not being able to run to an Ironman in just over 3 years.  From being completely and utterly unfit to Ironman in 3 and a bit years.

Thursday 8 December 2011

2011 - the year of too many races

2011 was the year of too many races randomly sprinkled through the year, no actual training, too much annoying knee injury, but lots of fun:-

(our wall of races, needs to come down now)
  • 5x Sprint Triathlons
  • 2x Olympic Distance Triathlons
  • 2x Half Marathons
  • 1x Thames swim
  • 1x London to Brighton
  • 3x 10Ks
  • And a bunch of Parkruns, but they don't reaaaally count.

2012 looks like this:-
  • 1x Sportive (February)
  • 5x Sprint Triathlons (April to August)
  • 1x Olympic Distance (May)
  • 1x Half Ironman (June)
  • 1x Ironman (September)
  • (and a bunch of Parkruns, most likely)
NO ENTERING ANY MORE RACES BEFORE THE END OF SEPTEMBER! (Long running events, sportives and century rides are allowed -if- they fit with my training schedule and are treated as training sessions, but otherwise, NO!)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Learning some more

Whacked out, flattened, laid low and all that... I have a chest infection and it's knackering.  Short of breath sitting down doing nothing is pretty demoralising.  I napped twice yesterday, woke up dribbling. Snored all night last night and woke up with a cardboard tongue.  My chest aches and coughing is quite violent when it happens.


I have been doing a lot of lying on the sofa, reading books in between napping and reading articles on training, rest and recovery.  It's hard to be not training, but I fully understand that starting training too soon is actively counter-productive.  Yes, I'll be losing endurance, muscle mass, general fitness etc. while I'm ill but a lot of that is a direct result of the illness itself rather than the lack of exercise.  There is nothing that can be done about it in the slightest.  Training while ill can cause all sorts of problems, right up to and including dropping dead while training due to myocarditis.  So it's pointless.  Better to rest, recover relatively quickly (pushing yourself while ill can prolong recovery) and get back on track later when you're well again.

Hard for me to deal with, mentally, while there's events looming on the horizon; 13th January and 26th February aren't that far away and they both involve things I'm really not very good at... hills.  Tough poop though.  Gotta stack me some more Zs and stay out of the trainers/cycling shoes for a couple more days yet at least.

Monday 5 December 2011

Runner's trots?

I think I had my first real case of runner's trots on Sunday.  Sparing the vile details, I just about made it to the loos on the Common in time, seconds from a horrible clean up operation and a curtailed run.  On the up side, my new Nike running tights (Nike Tech Tights) are lovely; soft, warm, easy on the waist and grippy at the ankles.

Today I are be mostly hiding under a duvet on the sofa, coughing, blowing my nose, trying not to eat my own bodyweight in analgesics for the headaches due to sniffling pretty much all day for the last two days.  *wheeze*

Saturday 3 December 2011


I could -kill- a nap right now.  90km cycle ride today on a gorgeous bowl of porridge with raisins, banana and maple syrup, with a double chocolate brownie half-way around.  Sliiiightly under fuelled, but I didn't bonk.  It was colder than I expected (forecast said 12C, it was definitely not that warm as I needed to keep my long sleeved top on over the short-sleeved one, over my long bib tights) and windier too.  Not as windy as last week, but still a bit tricky on a few sections of the route.

For simplicity and lack of hills while I start to try to build endurance; keep HR as low as I can, ideally 135 or so on the flat when I'm properly trained; I cycled out to the Thames Turbo sprint bike leg route, went 'round it three times and then home again.  90km in 03:54 at an average HR of 153..  If you remove the hills, the average would be a bit lower, so I'm reasonably pleased with that.  It will come down over time.  Secondary learning was getting back used to riding again and more comfortable on the bike.  I still can't get down onto the tri-bars or drink on the bike (i.e. get the bottle out of the cage, drink and put the bottle back again) and I need to be able to do both of those.

I've been inhaling food since I got home around 4pm (started out a lot later than intended); a bacon and cheese bagel, a huge chicken salad (with more bacon in it!) and I've got my eye on something involving Marmite later.  I'll be a good 1400kcals under maintenance for the day most likely but seeing as I had a bit, fat pizza and potato wedges last night that's not going to be a problem.  I just want to sleep now that I've had dinner and a nice, hot bath.

Friday 2 December 2011

The bottom step

Apparently I can swim now, so now the actual training can begin.  I can't wait!  How perverse is it to have done a load of work and be so pleased to be at the start of the actual work?  :oD

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Fuelling within the day

Today I have a couple of training sessions scheduled in; spin session and a swim session. The challenge is to not leave the majority of the kcals for the day's efforts right to the end.  So, I need to eat more, earlier in the day. Obvious innit?

Thing is... unless I'm ill, recovering from a massive effort the day before, hung over or $other, I don't get all that hungry in the mornings so it's quite an effort.  Today, I shall be mostly doing this:-

06:30 - Greek yogurt with protein and fruit compote
09:15 - Muller Vitality cherry yogurt
09:45 - Graze, black pepper crackers and mango dip
10:15 - Banana
11:00 - spin session
12:15 - Protein shake
13:15 - Chicken and black olive salad (with lettuce and sweet pepper)
14:30 - Broccoli, cauliflower and cream cheese soup
15:30 - Spelt and seed crisp bread and cream cheese
17:15 - Graze, fruit and seed flapjack
18:00 - swimming session
19:15 - Graze, almonds, cranberries and sultanas
20:00 - Venison steak with mashed potato and acorn squash, and peas

Calories (kcal) 2075
Protein (g) 185
Carbohydrate (g) 211
Fat (g) 57
Fibre (g) 30
Fruit & Veg 10

As you can see, it's a lot of little snacks and for the kcal total vs cardio work, the carb level is too low and protein a bit high.  So I'm looking at trying to move my during-the-day training session to the afternoon and get some couscous or pasta into my lunch to up the kcals and carbs before that session.  Perhaps replace the yogurty breakfast with a porridgey one on cardio heavier days.  For some reason, weekends are easier to figure out, nutrition-wise and I think it's because (at the moment) I can get going and out running/cycling/whatever first thing rather than going to work and sitting down for hours before any training.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Lickle bit of rest and a lovely ride

"Only" 7.5 hours training this week.  But I did have two full rest days and a nice, gentle-ish ride today.  Went up to the Thames Turbo race route and went around the bike leg a couple of times.  No hills at all but it was a bit blowy.  Really really enjoyed it.

(red means I did 0 - 50% of the planned session, yellow is 51 - 80%, green is over 80%)

Need to try to keep it sensible next week, so planning to commute only once to keep the bike hours at a reasonable level.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Learning the hard way - Part I

Some lessons I seem to learn only if I learn the hard way.  This is one of them.  Or, in fact, three of them.

Having undertaken very very low levels of training all year, in fact ever, I raced a few races and didn't do terribly badly.  Fared well in my age category, improved a little and then the season ended.  My pathetic levels of training dropped off to pretty much nothing at all.  I went on holiday and got a bit tubby.  I came back.

With no races to keep me interested, no goals in place, no plans or thoughts other than the distant mountains next year, I was in a wilderness.  So I forgot how little I'd been doing before, forgot that I'd been doing almost nothing for a couple of months and threw myself into an ill-considered 'base training' plan.  I forgot that my endurance levels were never really that great and that my power wasn't ever that great and my technique is nowhere (though improving significantly in swimming over the last couple of months).  For example, I worked out that I'd run six times in August, the last month of the racing season for me; then twice in September - and one of those was a half marathon; and once in October.  This is really bad.

Last week, I did 2x runs, 2x swims, 2x strength sessions and a cross-training session with Jez.  I had one rest day.  6 hours training from pretty much nothing.

This week, I started back cycling to work again... Monday 30km, Tuesday 30km and a planned swimming session with Jez.  Wednesday strength session, Thursday cycle and swim.  Friday strength session.  Saturday rest/Parkrun/  Sunday long slow run.

Monday felt great.   Tuesday morning was a less pleasant ride to work and then I got to my session with Jez.  I was mentally already not feeling very up for it and, thinking about it, I was already about 1200kcals in deficit for the day (how I got there I'll explain later) and with a hormonally abnormal state (for me) due to trying out being on the pill again (another post for another day).  And I did a few lengths to warm up before the session.  Felt OKish, a bit more whacked after each pair of lengths than usual but nothing to make me really worried.  Then we started training.  And I was increasingly getting wound up about how out of breath(!) and prickly (you know that hot, prickling sensation you get in your muscles when you do a lot of low weight repetitions for a while... that) I was feeling after each drill.  Eventually Jez stopped the session and we chatted a bit.  He basically said 'Stop getting so wound up about going so hard with cardio now.  It's wrecking your training and it's achieving nothing.  Now is not the time for this stuff, now is the time for strength and conditioning.  Rest at the weekend.  Stay in Zone 1 otherwise.  Now it the time for catching Zs as much as you can."  So I ate my banana and cycled home.  I tried to keep it trundly, but I got angry a couple of times as car drivers tried to kill me and/or got stroppy that a bicycle dared be on the road and that ended up with a bit of high heart rate towards the end.  I got in to the house and fell apart a bit.

We were supposed to be having cottage pie for dinner, but ohgod I didn't feel like it by the time I got in, plus MrTOTKat was working late and not back yet.  So I got pizza in.  *ding* once the potato wedges had hit my stomach, I started to feel a whole lot better.  Slowing down to munch through the pizza, I did the calorie calculations for the day and it turned out that by the time I hit my swimming session, I had about 1200kcals to take in to maintain the activity I'd already done that day.  The banana I had afterwards just about put back what I'd taken out during the swim and by the time I got home on my bike, I was another 400 under where I should be for the day.  1600kcals in deficit by the time I got home and -of course- I was going to be feeling awful!  I don't deal with deficit very well (cranky, tired, wobbly and if I don't make up most of the deficit I start to lay down fat and put on weight!).

So there we are.  Three enormous mistakes.   Three lessons to learn, not just one.

A - too much too soon from nothing is BAD
B - underfuelling within a day is BAD (physically AND MENTALLY)
C - now is the time for long, boring, gentle cardio, not thrashing it on the commute to work

A and B are quite easy to deal with, C... less so if I want to cycle to work.

Monday 21 November 2011

That wasn't so bad

I've not been cycling on the road more than up to the common for Parkrun in... around 2.5 months.  I lost the love.  That and the miserable state of the traffic on the route to work; so many other bikes, so many of them being assholes (running red lights, cutting people up, being wobbly etc.), it just meant I really didn't want to get to work that way.

I finally found enough love to get back on the commuter bike and do it this morning.  And it was great!  Because we're getting up early anyway at the moment, leaving the house at 06:45 wasn't hard.  The traffic on CS7 is not too bad at all at that time and, more importantly, there are far fewer cyclists and those that are out are the more confident and experienced ones (easy way to determine that is to do a cleat count at traffic lights, 4/16 at the last set were not wearing clips of some sort).  45 minutes in, which is pretty zippy for a first time in ages and not putting in masses of effort, and no rage at all.  Score one!

(the down side was that my wash bag as work was 1/2 full of shampoo where the bottle cap had been leaking for weeks...)

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Back to it

What's the best thing to do after 14 days doing very little exercise (OK, 1 5km run and 3 trips to the gym)?  I know!  Let's go gung ho back into things and lack any sensibility!

Since we got back on Thursday night last week:-

Friday - rest
Saturday - 10km run, 4.5 hours hard gardening
Sunday - 2 hour bike ride, 4 hours hard gardening
Monday - swim session

and then

Tuesday - gym session
Wednesday - swim lesson/training session
Thursday - tri training session
Friday - depends what we did on Thursday (so, choice of gym or spin bike)
Saturday - Parkrun
Sunday - long slow run

Hmm... not -exactly- easing back into things when I never did have a particularly high training load anyway.  Time to start gently laying out a rough idea of a training plan.  Not specific sessions just yet, but an idea of how much I'll be doing, what intensities and durations and when I'll start the actual Ironman trainnig schedule itself.

There are a few events in next year's calendar already, starting with the shorter Hell of the Ashdown bike ride in February (it's a tiny bit hilly), which doesn't give me long to get my cycling legs up to spec.  I've not really even done hills as such (London to Brighton a couple of times doesn't count) and my cycling endurance is through the floor, having done bugger all cycling the last 4 months or so.  And I'm not feeling the cycling commute love still (mostly around not wanting to play with cars so much), so we'll see how long that lasts before I either feel like doing it again or end up having to force myself.

Swim session with Jez tomorrow and a tri session on Thursday... and hopefully a bit of a read and a play with training plans over the next few days.

Friday 11 November 2011

Heavenly soup!

I had a load of cauliflower and broccoli hanging about in the fridge just before we went on holiday, so I decided to do the usual of making a soup and freezing that in portions, so it wouldn't go to waste.  And this one is a total and utter bowl of heaven:-

Broccoli and cauliflower soup

Ingredients - makes 4 servings

  • 2 vegetable stock cubes (I used Knorr organic ones)
  • 1 medium head of broccoli (about 250g)
  • Most of a small tub of soft cheese (I used 180g Philadelphia extra light)
  • 1 Romanesco cauliflower (about 400g)
  • 1 large onion (about 275g)
  • 10ml mild olive oil
Finely chop the onion.  Break the cauliflower and broccoli into florets, discard the leaves and cut the stalk into chunks.

Sweat the onion in a pan with the oil, until the onion is soft and translucent - do not brown the onion.  Add the stock cubes so they dissolve/melt in with the onion pieces and coat them.  Add the cauliflower florets and chopped stalks and toss with the onions for a couple of minutes.  Add enough boiling water to just cover the vegetables - don't worry if a few bits stick out - and simmer for 10-20 minutes until the cauliflower and broccoli are tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little.  Once the liquid is cool enough not to burn if you are splashed by it, add the soft cheese to the pan and blend everything to a smooth, creamy soup with a hand blender.  If it is too thick, add a little more water.  If it is too thin, blend thoroughly and then return to the heat and simmer off a bit more of the water.

Divide into portions and chill/freeze to reheat later.

Nutrition Data Per Serving
Calories (kcal)157.4
Carbohydrate (g)11.5
Protein (g)12.0
Fat (g)7.1
Fibre (g)4.2
Fruit & Veg3.0


Back from hols.  Got a couple of extra pounds, unsurprisingly despite the gymmage and Parkrun tribute that happened while we were away, though I was already a bit lardy before we went.  Feeling quite spaced.  Few days ramping down but eating little and often to get my stomach back to normal again.  And a good week of no drinking.

Photos in processing... didn't take that many really.  Too busy doing naff all and snorkelling a lot.

Thursday 27 October 2011

4 years

Longest I've stayed with one company... 4 years.  It's hard, it's exhausting, it's changed so much over the last 4 years, but... it's great, you could -never- say it's boring, what we're doing is cool and clever.  Yup.  Gonna take some cake in to celebrate the 4 years.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Yep, I like me a Mule

Those little Mule MegaBites really are the trick.  I've had to buy a load more.  They're just great; a perfect little ~100kcal boost before or after a training session.  Just keeps the wolf from the door and the mental frame a bit more even.  Even at 99p a bar from Evans, I'm not bothered about trying to make my own version.  Life's too short.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

I give up

Right knee naffed and no good reason for it; 1km into the parkrun on Saturday "ow".  *sigh* Will have to see about a physio appointment this week - not many days left for it!

Monday 17 October 2011

Running flats...

I -think-.  These running flats make something for a difference.

With no training (honestly, I've done bugger all running), I've pulled 30s off my 5K and 120s off my 10K PBs and the only real difference is the shoes.  They're last season (SS11)'s Saucony A3...

...and they weigh nothing at all.  That's not where the big win comes from (for me, for now), though.  It's the lack of hugely built-up heel, which forces me to strike mid-foot to front-foot and not with my heel.  You just can't heel strike in these 'cause it jars your foot, ankle and knee and there's instant feedback of "Bad" to your brain so you stop it pretty quickly.

The really good thing was that because they were last season's design, they cost a princely sum of £29.99 (list price £72).

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Mule bars - review

Mule Bars... their idea is natural, wholesome fuel for active/sporting people - "Natural Tasty Energy".  Kinda like 9 Bars, they're made from fruit, nuts and seeds and a bit of something to help stick it together (e.g. honey, or rice syrup).

 With 3 options for fuel and one for refuel and a large range of flavours across the board, they look like a great choice for vegetarians (and the gels are all vegan happy too) and those who want a nutritionally balanced, natural fuel which is organic, Fairtrade, top award winning across the sports press and endorsed and used by top athletes ("Tour de France winners, World champion Ultraman racers, Ironman competitors and triathletes, footballers, World Cup winning rugby players, surfers, sailors, kite surfers, kayakers, downhill (and uphill) Mountainbikers, High altitude mountaineers, free climbers, slackliners, rollers skaters, bladers, boarders and skiers, frisbee players, sculptors, winemakers and dairy farmers (yes really), golfers, gymnasts and yes, last but not least, even crossword setters.").

I got a taster pack with some of each to try.  Though I'm now out of race season (got a 10km in a week and then an offroad run in December, but nothing longer than an hour's activity), some of these will be tryable in training and to help me get through some of the long days at work.

I packed a few in my bag for work, for emergencies, and sure enough I ended up needing to use one to get me going for a training session with Jez.  We've been doing a few swim technique sessions and a couple of tests to sort out HR zones, and last week we finally did a speed work session to get started on the more general triathlon training.  It was a 60 minute session of multiple T2 bricks; bike, run, bike, run, bike, run, bike, run, bike, run.  All at pretty high intensity.  I'd had a hard, intense day at work and not really had enough to eat by the time it was an hour before my training session, so I chomped on one of the MegaBite (30g) fuel bars.  I'd packed the "Hunza Nut" (apricot and walnut) flavoured bar and it was really rather nice.  A neat, small, manageable 105kcal boost of energy and pretty tasty.  I couldn't really get much of the individual flavours, but it was neither sickly sweet or too crunchy or sticky.  And it perked me up a good deal for my training session.

Usually during a session with Jez in the gym I feel pretty cruddy and underfuelled.  I don't like training at the end of a work day for this very reason.  I don't like races that start much after 11am for the same reason; I'm not confident with the fuelling after I've had part of a day.  No idea how my body uses fuel through a "normal" (no exercise) day, so come 6pm I have no bloody idea how much I've used, how much I need still and how much extra I need to be not in deficit at the start of a training session.  Having had that pick-me-up Mule Bars, I felt a -lot- better this time.  No sicky feeling during the session (having tried a banana to get me through a session before a couple of times, I had some unpleasant acidic feeling and general nausea).  Thumbs up for the MegaBite there.  Very good indeed!

A couple of days later, I had a long slow run in the schedule and I was utterly starving afterwards, so it was a good opportunity to try one of the Refuel bars.  I thought the banana chocolate one would be a good mix of flavours as I generally like those two together.  However, I was quite disappointed.  There was almost no chocolate flavour and the banana tasted like a slightly unripe banana that had been squashed - you know the ones that have greenish skin with black marks and black squashy bits of flesh inside though they're not quite ripe.  Not horrible by any means, but not all that nice either.  It did fill a gap but I needed a lot of liquid with it too as it was also a bit drier than I was expecting.

More tastings to come when I move through the other bars and the gels...

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Cooking up batches

Even without masses of training, there's often not a lot of time to cook on a work day and it just gets stressy and mentally tricky when you come home and need to think about making a meal.  And given that I prioritise home made meals (mostly because I can control the ingredients and proportions of things to my needs and tastes) I don't want to be buying ready meals, no matter how well-balanced and carefully sourced they are.  So I do try to cook up batches of meals at the weekend and chill or freeze them for re-heating.  The easiest things are chilli, stew, soup, curry, casserole etc. and you can cook up bases of things to add other ingredients when re-heating.  A couple of hours of preparation work at the weekend avoids a lot more during the week and really reduces the stress levels.

However, at the weekend, this can result in quite some chaos in our tiny kitchen...

That was ingredients and preparation for three meals; beef and ale casserole (with braising beef, pearl barley, chioggia beetroot, red carrots, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion and Guinness)


Lamb Rogan Josh (lamb neck fillet, home made rogan josh paste (Jamie Oliver recipe), onion, chilli peppers and tinned tomatoes)

And butternut and chick pea curry (courgette, butternut squash, chilli pepper, chard, chick peas, onion and home made curry paste (my own recipe))

The kitchen smells incredible when curry is on the go, so it can be quite hungry work.  But worth it for 16 individual meals ready for heating and eating.

You do need a lot of plastic tubs and freezer space (that's my current limitation).  And a better labelling system than post it notes as they tend to fall off in the freezer!

So, on an average week, our evening meals would look a bit like this:-

Monday - grilled salmon fillets with cous cous, sweetcorn and peas (prep 2 mins, cooking time 6-7 mins)
Tuesday - re-heated lamb curry, wholegrain rice (25 mins rice cooking time)
Wednesday - re-heated chilli, cous cous, sweetcorn and peas (prep 5-6 mins)
Thursday - frittata (prep 5 mins, cooking time 30mins)
Friday - re-heated vegetable curry with added chicken breast, wholegrain rice (prep 5-6 mins)
Saturday - fillet steak, new potatoes, salad (prep 15 mins, cooking time 5 mins)
Sunday - roast chicken, roasted sweet potato wedges, peas, cauliflower, gravy (prep 15 mins, cooking time 70mins)

Sunday 9 October 2011

When I grow up, I want to be like Chrissie...

Chrissie Wellington is my hero.

I already did have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Chrissie Wellington and then there was Ironman Hawaii, the Ironman World Championships 2011 yesterday.  A couple of weeks out from the race, she had a bit of a crash and banged up the majority of the left side of her body; massive bruises, abrasions, the press was full of photos of the road rash.

In her own words... "Not once did I equate a triathlon race to armed conflict. That was until i crashed the bike last weekend, and ended up battered, bruised and yes, covered in sore, bleeding ‘war wounds’. Asphalt 1 = Chrissie 0. Long story short. I had a flat front tyre, didn’t realise, took a corner relatively fast, the wheel slipped from under me, skin hit tarmac. Or more accurately my left elbow (taking the epidermis off ones funny bone is decidedly unfunny), my hip (a bit of padding would have been nice – should have eaten more donuts), and all of the skin on my left leg ended up covering the tarmac.  (Unfortunately i also took out Drew Scott, who also suffered the consequences of the crash – for which i am hugely hugely sorry).

Yes, i have some nasty wounds. That day i lost the battle with the bike, lost a whole heap of bodily fluids and a considerable amount of skin, but I didn’t lose my fight."

It would have had quite an impact on training and mental state on the lead up to the race.  You can read the race reports elsewhere, but there was a lot of worry that Chrissie wasn't doing so well as she dropped further and further back on the bike leg, ending up 21 minutes behind the female leader.  It didn't look good at all.

Then on the run leg, she started to really reel them in.  One by one she passed athletes to come in the World Champion for a fourth time.  Through pain, the grind, the aching injury, the heat and the ground she needed to make up.  She did it.  She won and she showed the world that she is a one in a generation phenomenal athlete who is master of her own mind and body like nobody else.  And she came to professional sport late in life, to dominate the world of long course triathlon, showing us all that it's never, ever too late.

From Twitter...

Chrissie Wellington

i defied what i thought was possible. This is a dream come true.
Chrissie Wellington

But I hurt like i never have before, and had to dig into the depths of my body and soul. I think i need a plate of chips
by chrissiesmiles
Post race press conf: 'I left every ounce of my heart and soul on the race course today'

When I grow up, I want to be like Chrissie.  Only it probably is a teensy bit too late for me to win at Kona ;o)

Saturday 8 October 2011

British Olympic Ball (2012)

How lucky am I?

I got tickets to go to the British Olympic Ball, 294 days out from the 2012 Olympics.  A charity dinner, hosted by BT, at the Grand Hall at Olympia, with 140 British Olympic medal winners (83 golds) in attendance and a great show.

We arrived on a "red"(gold) carpet with god knows how many Olympians and other assorted famous people in a media circus...

(shoulda ditched the bunny... I had glorious collarbone in that outfit, dammit!)

...and headed in to an impressive sight of the Grand Hall set out with 179 tables and a huge runway stage for the displays and show later on.

Chinawhites provided the bars and lounge area in front of the dining area and we mingled around a bit before spotting a few people we recognised... Denise Lewis (looking strong and beautiful in a flowing, black, backless dress that showed off her gorgeous back), Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Tessa Sanderson and then... Alistair Brownlee (squee!), followed by Jonathan.  Gah!  They were standing a few feet away from us so we finally gave in, did the shameless thing and asked for a photo with them.

Had a bit of a chat with Jonathan more than Alistair and he was a sweet guy, very down to earth and un-fussed by the media attention.  We quickly ran out of time and had to find our table for the start of the proceedings.  Our table turned out to be right in front of the stage where Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart were leading the proceedings and introducing the various speakers.  After the initial fun and games with the autocue having been set up more for people of Colin Moynihan's height than these two, there was much self-deprecation in the presence of quite so many of the best athletes in the world.  You could hardly blame them for using their physical differences for humour at such an event; one of the things that struck me most about the Brownlees was how tiny they are.  I knew they were light and lean, but crikeybobs it's a different matter close up than it is on the telly.  Miranda looked stunning in a simple black outfit, lovely golden skin and make-up.  Wish there was more of her on the telly!

After the initial display from various athletes (BMXers, trampolinists, gymnasts, judo players, break dancers, Tinchy Stryder...) we were treated to speeches from various members of the British Olympics organisations, from the Princess Royal, to Sir Clive Woodward, Colin Moynihan, Denise Lewis and a couple of others.  It didn't take long to settle into paying attention, despite the next table along being oh so star studded (Mark Cavendish - who seems to be really quite shy, but was immensely gracious about having his photo taken with us, Ed Moses, Clare Balding, Katie Melua, Peta Todd, Alice Arnold, James Toseland...)

Food came and went and was, as you'd expect in such a huge venue, tepid and forgettable (due to it being tepid, I'm sure it would have been fabulous if it'd been hot.  Sorry Tom Aikens, but the venue was against you there).  Wine was plentiful and resulted in things getting a bit fuzzy from here on in.  We had some fun bidding on one of the charity auction items (we were never going to win it, given the sort of people in the room)...

And then danced about a bit to Tom Jones' hour-long set (yes, we saw you Denise Lewis, boogieing away to Mr Jones!) before deciding to call it a night.

There were so many more huge names of sport there that we didn't see.  Like, seriously, Bradley Wiggins, -how- did we not see him?  And loads of others.  All in all, a great night.  We're both really fired up about the impending Olympics.  It's a real shame we don't have tickets for any of the events, but damned sure we'll be rocking up to watch the non-ticket bits of the triathlon and road cycling events.  2012 is the Year of Sport and I can't wait!