It’s been four weeks since I started my marathon training plan, and so far so good. I have managed four runs every week except one, which was for logistical reasons involving Christmas Day.
There are four runs every week. At the moment they go something like this: 1) an easy shortish run, which gradually gets longer but is always at an easy pace; 2) two interval sessions – one with short intervals and one with longer intervals; 3) a long run – getting longer and longer! but usually at an easy pace. That’s the basics. Some weeks there is only one interval session, and some weeks the long run has some faster bits in the middle.
I have managed to set up the interval sessions on my watch. This is actually quite easy but it is so long since I did it that it took me a little while to remember how to add in repeats! It’s great though, because now my watch beeps to tell me when to start going faster, and when the recovery time starts. It also beeps frantically if I am not in my time range!
So far I have managed to time most of my runs to coincide with reasonable weather. Today there was a little shower while I was out, which was nice because then I saw a rainbow. But about half an hour after getting home there was a hailstorm! I felt quite smug.
This afternoon I went shopping for an essential piece of kit for women. While out running today I almost had a disastrous wardrobe malfunction when the zip on my sports bra became disconnected. Luckily I managed to fix it, but the rest of the run I was in nervous anticipation of another technical failure! Good old Marks and Spencer to the rescue, and I now have two new bras, and the old one can be relegated to the recycling 😂. (Sorry if that’s too much information for some people 😉.)
The big announcement of this post is that my fundraising page is now LIVE! I am hoping to raise at least £1000 for JDRF – the charity that is dedicated to finding a cure for Type1 diabetes. Please do visit their website by clicking here to find out about all the fantastic work they do.
My fundraising site can be visited by clicking on this link. I appreciate that there are many demands on limited resources. Thank you for every penny and pound you can spare for this great cause.
Another banana bread?! There are, it seems, an infinite number of recipes and variations on the banana bread theme, and this one was created on a special day – the birth-day, of my third beautiful grandson! So it’s a birthday banana cake!
I wondered what kind of cake to make and looked around the kitchen.. lo and behold a bunch of bananas just about to go past their best! And I also had some dates from a while back. A quick search on the internet for a recipe – there are lots – and I found just the thing.
This iteration is banana-date-walnut with a touch of honey. I made a few tweaks, and didn’t do the honey/ walnut glaze, as I thought that was a bit too much.
The recipe is from the BBC Good Food website and can be found by clicking here. So what did I tweak? Well I made it in a loaf tin not a Bundt tin. The main reason for that was that the loaf tin was to hand, and the Bundt tin was buried somewhere in the cupboard. Also it’s a pain greasing the Bundt tin so that the cake reliably turns out without sticking. I added a bit of nutmeg as well as the cinnamon. And I changed the method a bit.
3 tbsp clear honey – mine wasn’t clear but I don’t think it makes any difference
2 overripe bananas – 350g with the skins on – I used 3 & 1/2 small ones
200g stoned dates, chopped
50g walnuts, chopped
Heat the oven to Mark 3 (but I actually set mine closer to 4); 160C or 140C fan. Line a non stick loaf tin with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the vanilla and honey. Add the flour and spices. Mix in the dates, walnuts and banana. Mix well. Turn into the tin.
Bake for 50-60 minutes – check with a cake tester or skewer – it should come out clean, and the cake should just be pulling away from the sides of the tin.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.
The cake was very delicious. The dates are like little nuggets of caramel dotted about, with the slightly crunchy texture of the walnuts an excellent contrast. I think a bit more cinnamon and other spices wouldn’t go amiss next time. Altogether a very nice recipe, and quick to prepare. Recommended!
As I mentioned in my previous post my ability to process sugar is not good, and I have pre diabetes. A cake like this with sugar, honey, dates and flour is not a great addition to my diet, sadly. However there are proven ways of reducing the blood glucose spike that will inevitably occur after eating a piece of cake. So with a little adjustment I can have my cake AND eat it (albeit only occasionally). Tonight I had my slice as dessert after dinner, and then went for a 30 minute walk. I am hoping that this is enough to prevent a spike. The last couple of months have been an interesting learning curve, and I may well write a post at some point about some of the fascinating things I have learned. The main one is that running a lot is not enough!
In 2016, long before I was even thinking of writing a blog, I ran the London marathon. It was an amazing day, very emotional and exciting. It was the beginning of my fundraising journey for JDRF, raising over £2000 that year. It was also incredibly hard work, not just on the day but in the weeks leading up to the actual day. I can remember the last few weeks being totally dominated by long runs, short runs, getting up very early to eat breakfast before a run, organising my social life to fit round runs… So I said NEVER AGAIN!
But the years have passed, and the memories of the pain and exhaustion have dimmed, blurred and softened. Yes I can still remember the pain in my knee, the feeling that I couldn’t take one more step, the loss of my toenail (!) but hey! I’m still here aren’t I?!
Let’s also add in an inspirational woman called Gurdeep who started working in our admin office at work over a year ago. Gurdeep is a serial marathoner, the sort of person who goes on holiday specifically to run a marathon. She’s run marathons all over the place, the most recent was in Stockholm. Ever since Gurdeep found out out that I like running she has been trying to persuade me to run a marathon.
So – I hereby announce that on 19th March 2023 I will be in Rome (with Gurdeep!) to run a marathon! I think I am somewhat crazy, but logically these are the arguments why it’s not so mad: 1) I’ve done one before, albeit a while ago; 2) in 2019 I did 12 half marathons, and that’s not so long ago; 3) since April 2021 I’ve been doing a strengthening and stability programme that is absolutely brilliant and now I’m much stronger than I was in 2016 (and I still try and get to the wonderful outdoor gym class Quit the Gym); 4) it’s time for a new challenge and 5) it’s time to raise money for JDRF again.
I’ve downloaded a plan from the London marathon site. It’s a 16 week plan, but I’m starting with only 14 weeks to go, so that’s two weeks already crossed off. Only 14 weeks – if doesn’t sound like long that’s because it ISN’T long!
Update: Now it’s a few days later. And now it’s only 13 weeks to go, because I have completed Week One of The Plan! Four runs done – it was very do-able, and hopefully I continue to report good progress.
I will be fund raising again for JDRF – a charity dedicated to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Over the next few weeks I will write a bit more about this amazing charity and the research that they fund. I’ll be setting up a fundraising page and when I do I’ll definitely be posting it here!
Oh, and there will be less cake, as I was recently told that I have pre-diabetes – which was a bit shocking if I’m honest. But I’m sure there will be some cake, and I can’t get through Christmas without these Best Ever Mince Pies!
Saturday 3rd December – a very cold morning, grey skies and a chilly breeze. I wasn’t feeling 100% either, having a croaky voice and sinus problems. Okay I probably should have just stayed in bed, but of course I didn’t.
Osterley 10k is always quite a busy race as it is flat, and is scheduled right after the Parkrun. In previous years I have done both, but I felt that really would be too much yesterday! I managed to find a parking spot, and went off to find my friends. We stood around waiting until the very last minute to take off the layers and hand in our bags.
The warm up by the steps to the house was fun, and certainly got the blood flowing – why is it that you always feel exhausted after the warm up?! Then you have to run 10k!
It’s a friendly race, people chat to each other very readily, and while we waited for everyone to get into place for the start there was lots of conversation about times, mud, the cold.
And then we set off! The course is basically two laps, or a lap and half, but each lap is different. The route goes through the garden, and all round the grounds. There a few bits that are easier to run than others – the wide paths round the grounds are good, but the narrow pavement outside the walled part is annoying! And you have to do it twice! It wasn’t as muddy as I thought it would be, and although there were some puddles they were easy to negotiate round.
I was glad of my Santa hat to keep my head warm, although the dangling bobble was never going to be a good idea, so I tucked it in my collar. I also thought it would be fun to wear Christmas tree earrings – the jangling was quite annoying!
Even though I wasn’t feeling at my best I felt ok running. I had decided that if I felt unwell or out of breath I would slow down, walk or even stop if I really didn’t feel good. But in the end I did it in 1 hour and 28 seconds. And I really did feel all right.
However then we had to queue to collect our bags. Now I know that races rely on volunteers, and I am very grateful to all those who came to help out by marshalling, handing out water, setting up signs and organising the bag drop and all the other myriad jobs that have to be done. But. It was really cold, and we had all just got quite warm and sweaty running. This is not a good combination for standing around in a line. I think it took the best part of 30 minutes to get my bag and by the time I did I was frozen. I got in the car, put the heated seat on and the heated steering wheel but was still frozen when I got home. Then I had some hot food and got into bed. Three hours later I was just about thawed.
The actual run was really great, but getting so cold did rather put a dampener on the experience I must say. At least in the queue I had a good chat with various people, including a man who only took up running a few years ago and now does ultras! (More than marathon distance.)
Osterley Park is a lovely place to visit. I wrote a little bit more about it in this post from 2019 – the year I ran the equivalent of a half marathon every month! And in that post is a photo of me in a Christmas pudding costume – and that was in 2018! So I’m sure I will be back next year. I just might find a way of keeping my bag more accessible at the end!
I’ve been on my travels again, and am now in Woodbury, Minnesota, just outside the Twin Cities. We’re staying with more very dear friends, Tracy and David, who we haven’t seen since 2019 when we were all in Florida.
They are in the process of moving home, and had a sizeable bowl of lemons as part of ‘set dressing’ for showing their beautiful home to prospective buyers. And now they have a buyer (fingers crossed!) so what to do with a large number of lemons? Why, make a lemon cake!
Tracy kindly lent me the use of her kitchen, and also helped out with measuring, melting, turning on the oven, washing up and generally being very useful!
I would recommend the use of a microplane zester for the lemons, as you can make very fine zest that mixes evenly with the rest of the ingredients. Also you wouldn’t have to ice them if you wanted to keep the sugar content down a bit. Instead you could dust with icing sugar just before serving, or even leave them plain. We tested for doneness after 20 minutes and then 25, and the cake appeared to be still too wet in the middle. But – another 5 minutes and they were almost TOO done, so I would advise taking them out of the oven just before you think they are actually cooked – tricky timing, and it’s not the end of the world. But they could’ve been just a little bit more squidgy for maximum deliciousness!
The recipe is from this website Bakerella, but there are many versions of it, and a lot of the recipes are exactly the same. I do not therefore have any qualms about reproducing it here. Actually I am not reproducing it verbatim, as I have adapted it (as usual 😂), and added some blueberries.
FOR THE BARS:
1 cup plain/ all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lemon zest (approx 3 lemons)
3/4 cup unsalted (or salted – omit the extra salt) butter almost completely melted and then cooled
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of blueberries – optional – my addition!
FOR THE GLAZE:
1.5 cups icing sugar/ powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp (or a bit more) lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
Grease an 8” square pan or line with foil/ non stick parchment. Preheat oven to 350*/ Gas mark 4.
Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest using a whisk.
Add melted butter, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla. Stir until completely combined. Add the blueberries.
Pour into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. But not TOO done. Remove from oven and cool.
Make the glaze by mixing the sieved icing sugar with the lemon zest and juice, and pour over the cooled Lemonies. Let it set before cutting.
I am excited to introduce my first guest baker – one of my very dearest friends Christine Rookwood. Now living in Nelson, BC, Canada, Chris is a talented potter. Her work can be found in several art galleries and craft shops locally, and she also does commissioned work. I’ve known Chris for 43 years (I can hardly believe this!), and she has always been a fantastic baker.
We are staying with Chris and her husband Paul (who I’ve known for even longer!), in their beautiful home just outside Nelson, a lovely old town on the Kootenay River.
On the drive from Vancouver we went through an area known for its fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, and bought a box of peaches (as well as some apples, pears, tomatoes, corn and little purple potatoes). Some of the peaches made it into a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, but some were destined for a peach PIE! Oh yes, dear readers, Chris made a delicious pie for us.
The crust was a basic shortcrust made with butter, and formed galette style. This means the pastry is rolled quite a bit larger than the pie plate and then folded over the filling. The filling was chopped peaches, mixed with some sugar, vanilla and a little cornflour to thicken the juices. The peaches were left for an hour or so to combine nicely with the other ingredients. Baked in a hot oven for approximately 45 minutes, and then allowed to cool on a rack, the pie was served with softly whipped cream. How lucky was I?!
And it doesn’t stop there! Two gorgeous loaves of bread shared the oven space with the pie. Stuffed with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and some plump raisins, I am looking forward to some delicious toast tomorrow morning.
You can check out more of Chris’s work on Instagram – @cvrookie or on her website by clicking here.
Happy 10th Birthday to the fabulous Ealing Half Marathon! Number one was set up to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics and has run every year since. Every year apart from one – in 2020 no race took place in real life, but there was a virtual run which I undertook on a very cold and wet day in Suffolk. I just re read that post, and oh my it was a very different experience from the one today! For a start it never seems to rain on the last Sunday in September in Ealing! The weather today was perfect for running – sunny, blue skies and not too hot.
As usual I knew quite a few people taking part, and also lots of the volunteers and supporters along the route. It’s always fun looking out for friends. It’s a while since I ran alongside another person (I mean apart from the crowd) but today my son Jack decided at the very last minute to take part. Later he told me that this was the only the 5th actual run he’s done in two years! So he was basically running on no specific training at all. Crazy. But it was very nice to have the company, and the encouragement. He set his fancy watch with a target of 2 hours and 5 minutes – ambitious. The first half we were on track and I managed the fastest 10km I’ve done for years! But after that the second half began to take its toll on our legs. There’s a point where the route goes quite close to our house – and his – and it is hard to run past that point when your legs are screaming STOP!
But the fantastic support from the crowd, offering jelly babies, water and general cheering really does give you a boost. There is also plenty of music and drums along the way, with the Hanwell Ukelele Group smashing out tunes, and a fab dhol player outside the Sikh temple on Drayton Bridge Road. Click here if you don’t know what a dhol is! There were also some great drummers on the Uxbridge Road which was a great energising sound to hear at mile 12.
As always superb organisation and a huge army of volunteers of all ages from Beavers to seniors made this a fantastic event, enjoyed by everyone.
Jack and I finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes. Hurray! He wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t done it, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it that quick without him, and his ambitious target! At the end my feet, legs and back were killing me, I’m not going to lie. However, after a long soak in a hot bath and an extremely good Sunday lunch at The Green W7 in Hanwell I am feeling ok, if a little tired.
Shout out to Race Directors Sandra Courtney and Christina O’Hare. As usual you have done an amazing job. And thanks of course to the founder of Ealing Half Marathon Kelvin Walker, without whom this wonderful race would have never existed. If you have never thought about doing a half marathon then start thinking about doing this one next year!
Tomorrow it’s Ealing Half Marathon Day! Therefore today I’m going to eat cookies! I am really looking forward to running tomorrow, although I have not prepared as carefully and rigorously as I could have done. I have run quite a bit, and done some long runs in the last few weeks, so hopefully it will come good on the day.
I have made this recipe twice now. It is from the Sainsbury’s site, by Mitzie Wilson, and can be found by clicking here. It’s very easy and quick to make. It would be good recipe for children because the easiest way to mix everything together is with your hands. I also think it is an ideal on the run snack cookie, as it is full of carbs and protein. Next time I’m on a long run I think I might try this out! I will probably freeze a few for this very purpose.
I made the first batch faithfully following the recipe (apart from using dark brown sugar both times as that was what I had). The second time around I adjusted it slightly. I never thought I would say this but you CAN actually have too many chocolate chips 😂. There were so many the first time around I had a lot of trouble getting them all to stick in the cookie dough. Second time around I reduced the amount from 100g to 80g and still had to press them in individually to use them all up.
Second time I used a different type of oats – the first time I had some very classy jumbo oats, and used up the last of them. Second time I used regular porridge oats (the cheapest ones from Lidl as it happens). I think it actually works better with the cheap ones as the jumbo oats don’t stick together quite so easily. But either is fine.
Further adaptations: I also sprinkled just the tiniest bit of salt on top of each cookie before they went in the oven because chocolate, peanuts and salt go well together. I also reduced the cooking time by 1 minute to make them a bit more squidgy – they were fine with 15 mins, but almost getting on the dry side.
Well – it worked! Bursting with chocolate chips and peanuts, and with the nuttiness of the oats and tang of salt they are a Taste Sensation!
I can highly recommend this recipe; quick, easy and very tasty.
My version of the chocolate chip peanut butter oat cookies! :
200g crunchy peanut butter (you could use smooth too)
100g dark brown sugar (or whatever brown sugar you have)
100g porridge oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
80g dark chocolate chips (but milk would work too)
Before starting get 2 baking sheets and line with baking parchment. Put the oven on to Gas Mark 4, 350 F or 180 C.
Beat the peanut butter, sugar and the egg with an electric whisk until well blended. Add the oats, baking powder and chocolate chips. You can mix with a wooden spoon but it’s easier to squash together with your hands. Form into 16 balls and flatten slightly on the baking sheets. If you like sprinkle the tiniest specks of salt on each.
Bake for 14-15 minutes. Let them cool for 5-6 minutes before transferring to a metal rack to finish cooling completely.
Contrary to popular belief I don’t eat cake all the time. I like baking and eating cake, but recognise that a daily cake habit is probably not something that anyone would recommend as part of a healthy lifestyle.
It’s becoming more and more clear that maintaining a healthy gut biome is important for overall health – both mental and physical. And although we would all like to think that cake plays a major part on this it seems that sadly it probably doesn’t! Luckily I like a range of food, and fermented food is something I do enjoy. I also enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with different things, and making my own kimchi is something I have been doing for a little while now.
Kimchi is a Korean speciality; it’s fermented/ pickled vegetables, often Chinese / napa cabbage and Korean radish, but can be many others too. It’s often spicy, and flavoured with fish sauce, but many regional varieties exist. In the days before refrigeration was available storing food was tricky. And in the winter people relied on many different ways of preserving the harvests of summer and autumn to see them through the winter. Drying, salting, fermenting, canning, pickling, jams and jellies – all necessary methods of ensuring that you could feed your family throughout the year. Sauerkraut maybe familiar to many in the UK and Europe, and kimchi is essentially a variation of that.
As kimchi has become more popular in the west it has undergone many iterations and variations to accommodate the western palate as well as the availability of vegetables here. Because it takes time to prepare it can be expensive to buy. It is so easy to make that if you like eating it then I really would recommend having a go at making it yourself.
Anyway – back to my kimchi! When I first started making kimchi in 2020 I used a recipe by Felicity Cloake in the Guardian. I like this recipe partly because it is based on manageable amounts. There are some great recipes and articles/blogs about kimchi and many are very authentic. The problem is that the really authentic ones use a lot of cabbage! I don’t really have the space or inclination to make such huge quantities.
The first couple of times I followed the recipe above pretty much exactly. But then I started tweaking it a bit, either out of necessity – not having quite the right ingredients – or just to see what happened. My variation now is still based on the recipe, but is slightly different. The next time it might be different again.
Why eat kimchi? Why eat any fermented food? Because it is chock full of many ‘good’ bacteria that help your gut become the best it can be, improving your immune system, reducing chronic inflammation, reducing your chances of cancer, probably improving your mood, and maybe even helping you lose weight (if that’s what you want). Professor Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, is a big fan of fermented foods, explaining here why some of the things we have been told in the past about healthy eating are actually not true. (I’m a big fan of a Tim Spector – look up the Zoe podcast and have a listen.)
When I make it I grate the radish, the carrot and – a beetroot. I smash up the garlic and ginger in a mortar with a pestle with a pinch of salt. I didn’t add any fish sauce or salted shrimp this time so it is vegetarian. I do sometimes add them though, it depends what I feel like. I have made this with ordinary English radishes sliced up, but I do actually prefer the daikon/mooli. The one thing I think you really should try and get is the Korean red pepper flakes as they definitely do have a distinct flavour. I don’t always add as much as the recipe says though.
How long it takes to ferment depends on the ambient temperature. In the winter (in my freezing cold house 😉) it can take a week. At the moment it’s a lot warmer so after just 2 days it is already audibly and visibly bubbling away, and the smell is quite strong. I think I’ll probably leave it another 24 hours at least to do its thing a bit more, before decanting into smaller jars and putting it in the fridge. Even in the fridge it will continue to ferment, just much more slowly.
People sometimes ask me what I eat it with. The answer is really whatever you want. In Korea is is eaten as a side dish, or added to fried rice, egg dishes etc. If you do use it in cooked food take care to add it right at the end of cooking because you don’t want to destroy all the good stuff by too much heat.
If you’re not a fan of spicy then try making sauerkraut- I have to admit the only time I tried this several years ago it was a bit of a disaster. I really should try again. I have made water kefir which is a bit like kombucha. That was really easy, and very tasty, but I ended with litres of the stuff, and couldn’t drink it fast enough so I haven’t done that for a while. I’d be really interested in your experiences of fermenting or pickling in salt/brine, please do comment below.
I’ve been away for a long weekend in Rye, East Sussex. I haven’t done a lot of running because I’m only here for a short time, and also it is the middle of a heatwave, and far too hot at most times of day to do much of anything, let along running.
But this morning I was awake at 5-ish, so I made the most of the cool(er) temperatures and went out for a 10km (6 miles) run.
There was almost nobody about. I saw a couple of other runners, a couple of touring cyclists who stopped at a bird hide on the nature reserve, and a couple of dog walkers. Oh and a man delivering today’s newspapers to a shop.
Rye used to be next to the sea. I spent about half an hour looking on the internet for a picture of Rye in mediaeval times, and found one on another blog called LoveTravelEngland. Then I spent another half an hour reading the blog, which is great by the way!
Then longshore drift created a spit of pebbles, and storms in the 13thC hastened the silting of the harbours and rivers. Now the town is 2 miles from the sea, and ship building, which was a major industry for hundreds of years, is dead.
Nowadays tourism plays a big part in the town’s economy, and it is easy to see why. The very picturesque buildings and cobbled streets are full of art galleries and shops full of nice things. (I bought a nice red hat…and a handy water bottle…)
There are lots of literary connections too. Lamb House was once the home of Henry James and later EF Benson (of Mapp and Lucia fame).
Back to the run. We’re staying right in the centre of the town, so the first part involved a few steep cobbled streets – careful! Then a long stretch of road to the village of Rye Harbour, passing many industrial buildings and factories. And finally to the Nature Reserve, which was looking beautiful in the early morning light.
It was a lovely run, not at all too hot. And I was back at around 7am! All done!