Monday 27 March 2017

2017 Curry Recipes: 1 - Butter Cauliflower and Chickpeas

I've finally got 10 mins to write down the first of my current trio of great curry recipes, so here it is!


Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main.

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1 tin of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced finely
  • 100-150g salted butter (for a vegan version, use 100g coconut oil)
  • 1 small can coconut cream (160-200ml)
  • 2 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 150-200ml double cream (for a vegan version, double the amount of coconut cream and omit this)
  • 1x red chilli, sliced finely.
  • 1 pinch smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp toasted, desiccated coconut
  • salt to taste
  • toasted flaked almonds and coconut chips or shavings to serve
  1. Toast the desiccated coconut and set aside.
  2. Toast the almond flakes and coconut chips/shavings and set aside.
  3. Sweat the sliced onion in a pan with half of the butter until the onion is translucent and sticky.
  4. Add the cauliflower chunks and the rest of the butter, tossing the cauliflower until it is coated with the hot butter.
  5. Sprinkle the turmeric and paprika into the pan and toss the cauliflower until it is fully coated. add more butter if the cauliflower doesn't get fully coated with the golden liquid and you can see white patches still.
  6. Cook the cauliflower for a little while until it starts to soften.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the coconut cream.
  8. Cook the mixture and as it thickens, add the double cream, desiccated coconut and ground almond.
  9. Cook until the cauliflower softens nicely, add a little water if the sauce gets too thick - it should end up thick enough to stick to a spoon and not drip off.
  10. For the final couple of minutes of cooking, add the sliced chilli, then drained chick peas, then Garam Masala (don't cook that too long or it will taste bitter).
  11. Season with salt to taste (don't add it too early or the chick peas will harden and be crunchy).
  12. When ready to serve, spoon onto serving dish and garnish with the toasted almond flakes and coconut chips/shavings.

Sunday 19 March 2017

LEJoG 2017 - FAQs Part 1

It's definitely time to put out some FAQs here as I've had more than a few questions so far:

1 - Who/What charity are you running for?

I'd normally get pretty pissy with this question in relation to races and/or touring runs. I  run because I enjoy it.  I may not be an elite athlete and I'm never going to win a race, be fastest at anything etc. but I really do enjoy it.  I also find it uncomfortable and distasteful to beg for money from friends, family and strangers, especially for enjoying myself and doing something I'm pretty sure I'll achieve.

However.  This is different.  1000 miles is an 'ing long way, especially considering I'm carrying all my own stuff.  So it's actually a challenge that I'm not certain I'll complete.  I also finally have found a cause I really do care about (and they just got charitable status, but not yet set up on a mass fund-raising site yet, so watch this space).  This time, yes, I will be raising money and awareness for


2 - You're running a long way, in the middle of nowhere a lot; what about food?


So.  I almost always run before eating; my stomach is just happier that way.  I'm OK eating *while* running but generally in the morning it works out better if I start out before breaking fast.  I'm intending to eat one meal per day, usually.  It worked really well on my 6 day running tours and I often eat 2 or fewer meals per day anyway these days.  I'll carry some emergency food for when I end up camping wild and away from anywhere I can buy food for the day.

On a related note; water. I'll be carrying 1.5L. That's heavy.  Water is all over the place, in shops, pubs, cafes, etc. as well as springs (there's a ton of them all over the place) and I have capability to purify 80L over the time I'm away.

3 - Have you practised putting up your tent in a howling gale and downpour?


Three points on this one.  A. I'm not intending to camp every night - I'm carrying a tent for the times I want to stop for the day and there is no hut/bothy/yurt/barn/B&B/hostel or cheap hotel.  B. There are extremely few exposed parts of the route I have mapped (plus, I'd have to be really unlucky to get that sort of appalling weather in June).  And C. my tent is *extremely* easy to put up.  In a light breeze, it takes just over a minute.  (and a couple of minutes to put away)

4 - Have you checked your stove is safe to use inside your tent?

It isn't.

Again, two points. A. see above about weather/exposure. and B. Heck no! It is *never* safe to use a gas camping stove in an enclosed/unventilated space.  If I'm camping and the weather is appalling and there's nowhere nearby to get a warm meal/drink, I just won't have one. It won't kill me.

5 - Can I come and run with you?

Mostly no.  For safety reasons, my location will be known to very few people, and by a satellite tracker.  I may make an exception for the last day of my run, which is planned to be only 8 miles up to Duncansby Head, but *when* I'll get there is pretty much down to how things go in the 36-41 days before that.

I'll have a PLB a bit like this one. But not this one. A different one.

6 - Safety?

This is the big one.  I'll never be more than 15 miles from civilisation in some form.  I've got a satellite tracker/personal locator beacon that will last for 45 days of active tracking at a 10 minute interval before I need to replace the battery (and I'll have spares).

Being in the UK, there's pretty much nothing venomous enough to really do damage, and no large predators that would want to eat me.  I'm reasonably experienced with bull, cow, sheep and horse wrangling where I need to get by and they're in the way.

7 - Aren't you going to get really tired?


And... I'll get hot, cold, scratched, sore shoulders, sore feet, back ache, cut, stung, grazed, blisters, sun burn, wind burn and chafing.  I'll probably have nights with very little sleep.  I'll also trip and/or fall over, especially when I'm tired.  And I'll make poor decisions through inexperience and/or tiredness.   I've also got a route that avoids any of the particularly difficult parts of the UK; the Pennines, most of the Lake District, the Cairngorms.  Anywhere really high that can get difficult in "weather" is off the route.

This isn't a walk in the park.  It isn't easy.  It's a very long way.  I'm not deliberately setting out to sit on a spike here, but without increasing the time for the trip (which would cost me a lot of lost earnings at work) and spending a *lot* of money and/or carrying a *lot* more kit, it's not going to be a luxury trip.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Race Report: Moyleman 2017

Trail marathons are never 26.2 miles long.  If you want exactly 26.2 miles, run a road marathon.  The same applies to any standard distance race name applied to off-road running.  And I'm OK with that. More than OK in fact, but it often results in weird conversations with non/road runners afterwards.

 Other Person -  "Oh you ran a marathon? What time did you get?"
 Me - "Um, 5 and a half hours."
 Other Person - *disappointed noise*

Most people know "The Marathon" as the race that's run in the spring in London and are unaware that there are other races of that distance that are called marathons too.  A subset of those people think that marathons are 26.2 miles run on road and/or don't realise that they're not always flat, and so any time under 4 hours (or whatever their weird uncle ran 15 years ago) is usually greeted by "oh that's alright then" but anything over 4 hours is usually considered pedestrian.  Fewer still understand that there are such things as marathons that are run off-road, and sometimes even up and down hills, moors, bogs, mountains even.  And once you go away from flat and off the road, all bets are off with times.  But, these are generally not people whose opinion I value when it comes to running.

The Moyleman is an off road marathon run in the South Downs.  It's a bit hilly, occasionally muddy and is actually approximately 26.2 miles.  I attempted it last year, but ran into trouble on the day and pulled out at half way.  It was the first of two races that helped me to understand that my stomach prefers to start a morning run empty (turns out I can eat fine while I'm running or afterwards, but sometimes when I eat before a morning run my stomach isn't happy about it and gets painful).

I went in with an aim to get around with no heroics; approx 50 mile pace. Conditions much better this year for this race. No slippery chalk and very little mud. A touch warm for the first half though. Took a long time to warm up properly, felt really lumbering despite only 1kg pack. Trashed my quads quite early on with really bad descending - seems I've forgotten how to do that. Got pretty pissed off with water station 2 (mile 10) having no water; I'd not re-stocked at mile 5 because I'd not had much of my bottle, and had about 1/4 bottle left at that point. No water for me!

Got pretty bored with the scenery and had a bit of a chat with myself at half way where the only way to DNF was to walk into town and wait for a bus - might as well get on with it!

Half way/relay handover point was a shambles; couldn't even find the water tables due to relay runners crowding around them. Eventually figured it out, filled up and carried on. Over the last half I overtook about 20 people, which was psychologically boosting. Squeaked my way down the last couple of hills - quads pretty sore and "sprinted" the last 150m or so. 5.5ish hours, pretty happy with that given the "no heroics" goal. Quads are pretty ruined though! 3,200ft of ascent and even more descent overall.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

LEJoG 2017 - 10 weeks to go!

I've got just over 10 weeks to go before I start running from Land's End to John O'Groats. That came around quickly!  Training, in as much as you can train for this sort of thing, went through a bad patch for a couple of weeks but is turning a corner again now.

I had a stretch of maybe two and a half weeks where every single run was awful.  I couldn't hit the pace on any efforts, everything felt really hard, I was too tired and stressed to fit in all my planned runs and I was getting really wound up about it all.  But then, as with all endurance events, things started to get better again.  Running to/from work is helped by great views like these, now that the days are getting lighter:

Hello goosey!

Turns out it's quite good running on that bank in the morning before the tourists descend

And my local trail haunts are gorgeous:

North Downs Way - my absolute favourite so far.

This run stopped me from going totally bonkers recently!

A few administrative points are coming together too; I have found a charity I would like to support and I'll talk more about that in a few weeks time once they've sorted out Gift Aid applications and I can link to a donations page for folks to help the cause. Looking to get one or two companies to support a little too, waiting to hear back from folks who know how to do that sort of thing because I have no idea how to go about it (too damned English and self-effacing!).

I've tested out putting up my tent and my tea/hot food making capability:

Needs a bit more practice with the roof tension.

Super roomy, length-wise and I'm not short.

This little fella is my best friend! And my trusty Asics :)
And after a false start with a different 30L one, I've found a pack to run with that fits properly, doesn't bounce around when I run and has perfect capacity for what I want to take with me.  It makes me feel a bit self-conscious when I run with it at the moment as it's designed for and marketed towards the Marathon des Sables market, but it's perfect and thanks to MyRaceKit for shipping swiftly so I could get on with using it and getting used to it!

Raidlight 30L Ultraraid Vest (shown here with iSIS Freeloader solar cell)

I've also put my spreadsheet skills to good use with a tool to figure out pack weight depending on what I'm carrying.  I just select the number of each item, it calculates the total weight and it's reusable for any event or training run :)