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