Sunday, 22 January 2012

Through wind and rain...

Well, yesterday saw me run my first race of the year, as predicted last time I posted. It was the first of my race a month challenge set by the awesome Just Frances. This will see us get through 2012 with a minimum of one organised race a month. We already have a few mapped out and a few gaps in the schedule, but yesterday was the day we got it all kicked off.

And, to be honest, weather-wise, we would have struggled to get a worse day - short of blizzard conditions, that is! As Frances tells me, she's run in colder conditions, but yesterday was the whole package of yukky conditions - rain, strong headwind, bitingly cold, with muddy and uneven conditions underfoot. Added to our combined lack of training, we were fearing the worst. To be honest, I was convinced I was likely to come last having looked at last year's results. And while I'm not running to win, if I'm entirely honest, I find coming last a real problem.

But as it turns out, I did ok. My time wasn't the best (1:04:51 - my slowest yet for a 10k), and my running certainly wasn't elegant. But I didn't disgrace myself - I wasn't last, I managed to run the whole race without stopping and I crossed the finish line with some (but not a lot) of puff left. And while I was shattered afterwards and in my bed by 9pm last night, today I'm not feeling too bad at all. A few twinges but no crippling muscle strains or aching joints.

And surprising amounts of energy - must be all those endolphins. Either that or my post race nutrition - it's all about eating and drinking the right things after all...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Racing ahead of myself

Regular readers of this blog will know that last year saw me taking on perhaps my biggest challenge yet - running a marathon with my awesome partner in crime. It was, I confess, a hard slog - not all of the time but as the distances got longer and the race got nearer, it became a real trial.

I can't say that I enjoyed it but I am exceptionally proud of myself that I completed it. Before, during and after the race I was firm in my conviction that I wouldn't do another one. The pain - physical and psychological - was just too much for me, and having done it once I didn't feel any great compulsion to do it again. I can safely say I really didn't understand how people could become addicted to such a god awful experience.

Just over 3 months on, has my view changed? Not really. I'm not quite so anti trying another marathon 'in due course' now, but it's still not something I feel compelled to rush out and do straight away. I haven't given up the running however.

Or to be more accurate, I won't be giving up the running. I have rather given it up over the winter but that's starting to change. I got out on my first run in 2 months at the weekend and while my time wasn't great and I felt pretty sore for a few days afterwards, it's also true to say that I felt good afterwards. It was great to get the air in my lungs again, to stretch my legs out and to stomp round my 4 mile running route.

Which is just as well really, since the aforementioned Frances has challenged me to a race a month for 2012 and we have our first one lined up for next weekend. Luckily it's just (!?) a 10k so I've got half a chance of surviving it with only minimal training.

However, for minimal read 'No' training. And if I'm not careful that might be the way it is this year. For a variety of reasons I'm expecting to find my personal time under pressure this year. I'm not unhappy about that but it does mean I'm going to have to be much more disciplined about my training schedule. Before work runs might need to start happening once the mornings get light enough. Weekend runs will need to be squeezed in as and when to get some longer distances under my belt.

I'm looking forward to it. No, really I am. I'm particularly looking forward to enjoying my running again, without the fear of 26.2 miles hanging over me as it did for large parts of last year. But knowing me and my competitive streak, I'll just replace the challenge of endurance with one of speed and will spend my year obsessing about PBs.

Still, there are worse things to obsess about...

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Comfort for the soul

...and for the body.

You know, there's nothing like home cooked food to make you feel good. And, for me at least, nothing like making home cooked food to make me feel good. Honestly, I love it. Cooking really relaxes me. Wait a minute, let me qualify that. Cooking, when there isn't a time pressure really relaxes me. I'm not sure I'd feel the same way if I was having to churn out meal after meal to a schedule, particularly if the diners were fussy or unappreciative. I really do take my hat off to working mums (or dads, for that matter) who manage that particular miracle day in, day out.

But for me, I'm lucky. Generally the only person I have to please is myself - and I'm always appreciative of my efforts! I can pick and choose when I cook, or when I just snack. I can opt to eat in the middle of the day from the canteen at work and just have toast or something similar when I get in at night. My only deadlines are the ones I set myself, and if I'm too tired to cook but am hungry, there's usually something in the freezer that can just be heated up from one of my earlier cooking sessions. (I always make way more than I need with the express intention of freezing the rest for a later date. I know my work/life [im]balance, after all!)

So, last night, after a great day out in Edinburgh exploring what was left of the sales, my relaxation method of choice for a fun Saturday evening was to raid the fridge and get cooking. I confess that I'm not organised enough to plan menus out - unless for special occasions - and my dishes tend to be combinations of what's in the fridge/cupboard and needing to be used up. Years of Protect and Survive from my Mum have left me with a 'nuclear store cupboard' mentality to food shopping, so it's not usually too hard to whip something up from what I can find around and about of an evening.

I'll sometimes buy ingredients with the intention of making a particular dish, but more often I buy things because they look interesting, or I like the taste and know that I'll find something to do with them. As a result, I don't often follow recipes. Generally my dishes are made up, sometimes loosely based on a recipe from a book, but more often just guess work about what flavours and textures will work well together.

Don't get me wrong, I own tons of cookery books, and I love reading them. They generally make my mouth water. I also have a subscription to the ever enticing Delicious magazine. And I wouldn't be without any of them. But they're pretty much just for ideas. My true passion is creating!

And this little lot? Well, it was 2 (3 minus 1 because I had no kidney beans!) and mushroom chilli, and stuffed portobello mushrooms. I ate some of the chilli, which was very good if I say so myself, and the mushrooms have gone into the freezer for another day - probably to be eaten either on their on with a salad of some description, or as a side dish to another main meal. Can't wait!

OK, I did promise the recipes to some friends so here they are - or as close as you get to recipes from me!

Chilli - sweat off some onions and peppers, add chilli flakes and powder, cook off a bit and then add a tin or so of chopped tomatoes (plus any whole ones left in the fridge!). Throw in some quartered button mushrooms and tins of whatever beans you have handy. Cook for about 30 mins to let the juices out and flavours in. My secret additional ingredient for last night was a dash of Jerk Molasses Barbeque sauce, which added a fabulous hint of smokiness. 

A tip from a friend was to make corn bread to go with it. That's a definite for me when the remains come out of the freezer next time!

Stuffed mushrooms - take however many portobello or breakfast mushrooms you have, brush them with olive oil and put in the oven on a baking tray for 4 mins. Meanwhile chop up onions - or in this case, leeks - and sweat in butter. Add garlic if you like, I didn't but I'm sure it would taste good. I had some thyme - which is great with mushrooms - so that went in after the sweating. I also added the stalks from the mushrooms for some extra flavour and to avoid wasting them. Crumble up some cheese, add to the pan together with some breadcrumbs and an egg. Season and then pack on top of the part cooked mushrooms. Put the whole lot back in the oven and cook for another 6 mins or so. Remove, eat, enjoy!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


We often talk about the still before the storm, but what about the peace that comes after it?

As with this week's weather, there's often damage and daily lives can be thrown out of kilter. Things that have been around for a long time can be uprooted and over-turned. It can be difficult to come to terms with sometimes, and the change can be hard.

But sometimes the new perspective can be liberating - not necessarily straight away, but in time you can come to appreciate the new view that you have, the space that wasn't there before, the fresh light in your surroundings.

And just sometimes, that new light and space can allow something really wonderful to grow.

Me? Well, I survived the storm. There was some damage and things have changed, but I found my way through - and found myself at the same time. Now it's time for my something wonderful...

2012 - here I come!