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!

Back in the gym

Finally!  A week where I went to the gym three times!  And I already feel loads better for it.  My core supporting bits and bobs are feeling so much more -there- and useful.  OK, so I didn't get my planned swim in (as wasn't well early in the week) and due to busyness at work I didn't get to get a run in either (though I'm planning to get out tomorrow), but THREE gym sessions!  Woooo!

It's now that I need to get the base levels of strength and endurance on the increase; start to get some longer and longer bikes and runs in.  And that's where I run into some difficulties...

The "easiest" way to get a long run in, given time constraints, is to get on the treadmill at the gym in a lunch break at work.  But I can't use treadmills.  I can't run on them at any decent speed and feel seasick when I get off the damned things.  So.  Sod that.  It will have to be the old trick of using my commute to get a run in.  Start off by getting on the tube and going part way home before getting out and running the rest of the way.  Gradually making the tube journey shorter and shorter until I'm not using it at all and just running all the way home.  I can make that a 15km run if I start from the door of the office and finish at the front door at home, which is good enough for me for now.

Thankfully, cycling on a turbo trainer is actually not difficult (in terms of getting used to the sensation).  Plus, it gives the chance to get long, constant power output stints in.  That's something you can't do on the roads around here as there are so many interruptions (remember, 75 traffic lights from home to office... that's a lot of stop start if even only 15% of those lights require a full stop).  So, when we get back from holiday later on in the year, I'll be cutting back the bushes in the garden and erecting a gazebo (kindly lent to us by my parents), so the turbo trainer can be set up in the garden (we don't have anywhere in the house with a large enough expanse of concrete floor to put it on to absorb the anti-socially loud vibrations which make it sound like a jet turbine) underneath it for lots of sitting and grinding through turbo sessions and not getting too cold or wet.

I've not got a plan laid out yet as I've not sat down and thought it through and done all of the research around building a base level of fitness just yet.  I'm thinking November, December and part of January should be a good start to that before the real training plan begins 16 weeks out from Wimbleball.  Some re-reading and thinking to be done, then I can lay out a plan that's achievable rather than too difficult to fit in and resulting in huge amounts of stress.