2013 Travelling Tales and Race recaps

So, of course, today is the final day of 2013 so a recap post is due. I think these sorts of posts are really fun to write- I love going back over old race recaps and looking at photos.

This year we have had some awesome holidays, which can (through a rather convoluted set of circumstances) link back to when I was really ill a couple of years ago. I ended 2011 in hospital- this turned out to be due to a large ovarian cyst that had to be removed. We were meant to be going to New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Florida for the Christmas holidays, but had to cancel as I was not allowed to fly. Luckily we had insurance, so claimed it back (or cancelled things) but before we knew for certain Andy said to me that if we did have to cancel we could go to Hawaii in the summer (2012) instead. So we did. It was amazing. On one of the islands we went to Volcano, a National Park, and it turned out cheaper to buy a yearly pass than for the days we were there. So then we returned home with a pass for the year for all US National Parks….

Easter saw us visit Disneyland in California, before an epic road trip across several western states. We went to the Grand Canyon.

Monument Valley (not a National Park, but Andy wanted to see it)

We went to Zion National Park.

And Bryce Canyon for the day.

Plus Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and the most amazing place, Yosemite.

I am still not sure how we managed to fit all of that in the Easter holidays!

In the summer we had another epic road trip, starting in Seattle (went to Victoria in Canada for a couple of days) and taking in more National Parks including Olympic, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Grand Tetons…

We did a 10 mile round trip hike through grizzly bear country to see this beautiful lake filled with icebergs (and saw no bears).

The next day we did a short walk (2 miles) and saw several bears, including a very close encounter!

“There’s a bear in the bush”!!! Exciting and also terrifying!

We certainly got good use of our year pass.

(This has reminded me that I have not posted a holiday recap on here for that holiday- something for a rainy January day perhaps).

This year was a great year for me running wise too. I finally felt like I was back to full fitness and not only got back to my old times, but achieved pb’s in several race distances.

I ran the Brighton Half marathon in February, and got a pb- this race was great to do because I couldn’t do it the previous year as I was still waiting for my op. I also met the lovely Lara in the starter pen 🙂

I have been trying for ages to get my 10K pb under an hour, but at my first attempt this year I didn’t make it, (60.34!!) although this was a cross country course. I made up for it back in Brighton in November, when Andy paced me around and I managed 56.14! I also coined the phrase “Royal Flush negative split” which I am pleased to report has been used several times on Marathon talk now! (Each mile faster than the previous mile).

In June I managed another half marathon pb, getting my time down to 2.10.09, and then in July I had the most fantastic experience running 5 miles in the Olympic Park. Most of the course was not that interesting, but coming out onto that track at the end was just amazing. I met up with Anna briefly at the end too which was lovely. That was a pb too, as I had only ever run one 5 mile race before, which turned out to be a cross country course.

The race I most enjoyed (apart from the final stretch of the Olympic run) was probably the local 10 miler I did. It was a week after another half marathon (that didn’t go so well), it was cold and pouring with rain, but it had the most marshals I had ever seen, it was so friendly, there was a cow on the route- what more could you ask for? Again I got my fastest 10 mile time but that is because my only other 10 miler was the Great South run a few years ago.

I also started going to Parkruns this year. My Dad persuaded me to go, and I am really glad he did. I have been to 11 this year, and helped out at about 3- I don’t go every week but when I do manage it I love it. I have managed to get my 5K pb down to 26.29 which I am really pleased with.

There have of course been some disappointing moments this year. I developed a bad cough in the summer, so could not do a 10K race I had signed up for, and I have spent the last month with this little hip niggle. But I am so pleased with how my running is going- I think running with Sweatshop has helped me run faster over slightly longer distances, and going to Parkruns has helped me to get used to that feeling of really pushing yourself. I also did the marathon talk Jantastic challenge (Go Team Run Blog Bake!) and I am sure having a good base of training at the start of the year helped. All my times have gone down this year, so I am hoping 2014 can continue. When I finished the Stockholm marathon back in 2011, I felt a bit like I had unfinished business. I would love to do another marathon, but I wanted to be faster over shorter distances first, because being out running for over 5 hours is just really tough. And I am getting closer to my target time so who knows in 2014 I may sign up for another one. Maybe.

I don’t tend to set new year resolutions or anything like that, but I like to have goals to work towards. I have signed up to the Bath half and the Oslo Rock ‘n’Roll half marathon (so excited about this) so would love to beat my half marathon time in one of these races. I also need to work on my flexibility so will be carrying on with my physio stretches and looking at booking some sports massages in the new year. But really I just want to keep enjoying running- that is why I do it.

How was 2013 for you? 

Hello from Nice!

Hey peeps!

So as I mentioned in the last post, on Boxing day we were off to NIce for a few days.

We hired an apartment, and this was the view that greeted us out of the window when we arrived. Gorgeous.

We had a run along the seafront on our first morning- we did about 4.5 miles weaving in and out of people walking, running, cycling and roller skating along- I only wore a t-shirt and capris and I was very hot by the end- it was very warm. I packed my elastic band thing from the physio, so did my exercises and stretches before my shower. Then I walked to the shop to get us some fresh bread, cheese and salad for a lovely lunch.

In the evening when Andy had finished work we walked to the main square to see the Christmas market.

There is a new park that runs down the main road between the tram lines. It has all these fountains in it, and just looked so pretty in the dusk.

There were loads of stalls at the Christmas market. I had a hot chocolate, and then we shared some churros with nutella. So good! But so sugary! Our apartment has a little kitchen so we bought some soup to have a savoury dinner after all that sweetness.

Rain was forecast for Saturday, but when I woke up it was dry so I went for another run along the seafront. It was much cooler, and when I left the front door I was wondering if I should have worn something more, but of course I warmed up when running. I did the exact same route, but it ended up being exactly 4 miles- shows how much weaving I did the day before. At one point a group of runners overtook me and sort of did a fist pump to me (you know, as if you were saying something like “good on you”)- I had my yellow Sweatshop t-shirt on, but I saw some other people with very similar ones (yellow, adidas, writing…) for a marathon, could not work out which one, so maybe they thought I had done that marathon?

Anyway, it was still not raining after breakfast so we went out for a walk in the old town, and to some shops (I bought some Christmas macaroons- they are sparkly!!), before it started to pour. We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out in the apartment- much nicer than being confined to a hotel room. A cup of tea whenever we want! Plus we found Elf being shown on TV so had a final Christmas film fix.

But the next morning my right leg/ hip (whatever it is) was feeling really sore and stiff. So annoying! We went to Antibes for the day, which is a town further west than Nice- weirdly it reminded us both of Sienna in Italy- it had a lovely old town to wander through, and some lovely looking chocolate shops.

Then we came back and walked to the Christmas markets again. It was jam packed! But lovely to walk around and see all the stalls.

I  bought some tea, and was tempted by gingerbread, but was still full from our late lunch/ early dinner.

This Christmas tree is my favourite- you can ride in the baubles!

My leg is feeling OK today, but I want to be cautious. Today I am going to have a walk along the seafront, as the sun is back again, and if all is well I might try a gentle run tomorrow. I am also pondering whether to change my Jantastic number to 3 runs per week- I had originally chosen 4 per week, but if the problems with my hip are going to carry on then I need to be sensible and not push too hard. So, I have that to ponder this week.

I think there was going to be some fireworks here for New Year’s Eve, so hopefully we can see them before we come home.

Any plans for New Year’s Eve?

A perfect Christmas Eve

Hey peeps! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.

Love this jumper! 

Rewind to Christmas Eve. As the weather was meant to be better I had planned a run, but as it was so gloomy first thing I had breakfast, wrapped some presents and then headed out before lunch. I could not decide on my route- I knew the fields would be a no go because of all the rain (I tried them the other weekend and it was rather bog-like), so I headed off and started to think about trying “the hill” route (a Sweatshop run). It was so windy that for the first mile I could barely hear my podcast and the going was very slow! My leg was feeling fine so when I got near the hill I decided to go for it and see how I managed the route. I took the hill very slow, but I felt good. There was lots of flooding around- at one point I had to run on the road as the pavement was so flooded, at another point I ran down to an underpass, saw the flood and ran back up again. After 4 miles I was feeling so good- I was about a mile from home but there is a little loop I can add on, so I went for it. There is a ditch (or a small stream or something) and it had flooded and water was pouring out over it, across the pavement and into the road. I have never seen that before- shows how much it rained on Monday. Anyway, I got home having run 5.5 miles and feeling really good. Hooray!

Once I was out the shower (and put on my Home Alone jumper!) Andy got home from work so we had lunch and then settled down for some festive movies. We put on “It’s a Wonderful Life” and did some more wrapping. The weather was still good so we stopped it half way through for a walk in the sunshine (well, as it was setting). Then I started decorating our Christmas cakes as we finished watching it.

I made us little gingerbread men and holly leaves (I used cutters for them) as it matches my Christmas teapot.

Hooray! We had a Christmas Eve tea- bread, cheese (Wensleydale with cranberries for me, and some sort of blue cheese for Andy), salad and pickles.

And of course some Christmas tea (Celestial Nutcracker tea which is black tea with vanilla and spices). The teapot was a bit drippy when it was full- not so good. But it looks pretty! We also had a slice of Christmas cake- very tasty indeed.

Then we watched The Snowman- I just love it. I saw that the new one was on so have taped it, but not watched it yet.

Then I got out my cake decorating bits again, and started doing the cakes for our parents. I had seen these cute reindeer on The Pink Whisk so I started making them. I had some Lindor truffles which I thought would be perfect for their bodies.

They were not the easiest to make- the heads were a bit heavy and kept sliding off at first. But I managed to make 4 in the end, phew! I could not decide what should be on the rest of the cake, but I had these snowflake cutters so I coloured some icing blue, cut out the middle with the smaller one, then added purple to the leftover icing before cutting out with the larger snowflake. I also had some lustre dust so added that for fun.

The only problem was that their antlers were a bit too high meaning that the lids would not shut on the tins. It made for an interesting car journey as Andy had to hold both cakes on his lap- luckily it is only a ten minute drive!

I tied ribbons around the cakes too, but not sure where that photo went.


While I was finishing up, Andy then watched Die Hard. We had a bit of a move marathon!

The other week I bought some pretty topcoat (a pearly one) and last week I painted my nails with lilac topped with it for a frosty look. Once the cakes were decorated I swapped for a pink with the top coat for a more festive vibe. Finally I made some cinnamon roll dough (it needed to go in the fridge overnight) ready for breakfast. Then we did a little bit of packing.

On Christmas morning we opened a few presents at home- we gave each other small presents are we are having a few days in Nice for our Christmas present to each other.

Then we loaded up my car and headed to my parents first. We had the cinnamon rolls and swapped presents with my family. My Dad and brother were very pleased with their Parkrun tags- I was impressed that my Mum had managed to keep it a secret (as she had to find out their barcode numbers and let me know).

Then we headed to Andy’s family for lunch. After lunch we played games, went out on a walk for some fresh air, played more games, and then swapped presents when Andy’s other brother came around (he was working earlier in the day).

We tried not to have too late a night, as we were up pretty early to catch our flight to Nice. But more on that next time!

How did you celebrate Christmas this year? Found anything good in the sales? I have had a little look on-line but nothing has really leapt out at me.

Home-made gifts

Hey peeps!

I am about to get on with a big mountain of present wrapping. This year I have made a few home-made edible gifts too, so thought I would share them with you.

First up, Christmas pudding fudge. Do not be scared of making fudge! A sugar thermometer makes it easier, but if not you can test that the sugar has reaches the soft ball stage by putting a little bit in cold water, and seeing what the texture is like.

I just add in a bought pudding (as they are cooked), but you could add your own mixture of dried fruit, nuts and spices.

Last week I made some candy cane fudge.

This was the same basic fudge recipe- 100g butter, 450g light brown sugar and a tin of light condensed milk, melted together in a pan to 113C.

Then I added 100g dark chocolate and a drop of peppermint extract, and then beat with an electric whisk. It went crumbly very quickly- the chocolate must change the texture. I then poured it into a lined brownie pan.

I crushed up some peppermint candy canes (think they were from Sainsbury’s) and some chocolate, and sprinkled this over the top while the fudge was warm.

The chocolate melted and then stuck the candy cane pieces to the fudge. It looked so pretty!

Spiced nuts are always a favourite of mine too. Last year I made some gorgeous spiced nuts with cranberries and coconut. This year I tried out a new recipe from The Pink Whisk, for honey roasted nuts, but I think I prefer the other recipe (I did add in some cinnamon). These had to bake for 45 minutes in total, which seems a long time for nuts I think. I tried a few and they are still tasty.

You can’t see the nuts that well as the tags are in the way- oops!

Last night I spent some time making some Christmas chocolates. I saw that Laura made some chocolate coated figs, and I had some figs in the fridge. Although I missed off the salt in the end.

On Sunday I was down in Southampton while Andy was at the football. I only wanted to pick up some candles in Ikea for my parents, but I ended up picking up a few treats too. Those little flower things are tea infusers- they are meant to float in your cup.I also bought some cute little spotty bowls, marzipan oat rolls (just to try them), and some marzipan and chocolate alongside a recipe card for marzipan treats. And Dime bars. I was very excited to see these back again, as the last few times I have been to Ikea they only had their own brand ones which were not as good (we tried them). Oh, and mince pie filling from Holland and Barrett! Anyway, the point of that is that I did the marzipan and figs together.

I melted the chocolate to dip the figs in, and then had a bit of fun with my chocolate mould tray making little marzipan sweets.

I melted the chocolate, put some in the mould, then added a little bit of marzipan (and sometimes a dried cherry too) and then topped with more chocolate.

The figs are on the left- baking paper on a table mat for them to harden on.

I added a little white chocolate star to them too, just to make them look more festive. And I had a little bit of marzipan left so just made them into balls to dip into the last bit of chocolate.

They popped out of the mould really easily too.

Yum- looking forward to having some of these as a snack later when I watch The Snowman- my favourite Christmas Eve tradition. (I will take some for my parents too- they are not all for us!)

Finally, I made a gingerbread house!

Er, it didn’t go quite as planned. I think the icing was too runny, so the first time I put the roof on it fell off.

Then the front sort of caved in a little bit, but I don’t think you can tell!

This is really a present for Andy, as he loves gingerbread.

Literally right after I finished this, I watched the Bake off Christmas special, and they made a gingerbread house. I have never thought of it before, but they decorated it before they put it together. No drippy icing troubles. I shall have to remember that for next year!

Note to self- it is not a good idea to get out the Christmas table cloth right before getting royal icing all over it…

One year I made some gorgeous apple and mango jam too- no time this year so will save that for another time. It was a good flavour to go for as I have not seen it in shops so it made a change.

Right, after being cooped up inside all of yesterday I am going to head off on a run as the rain seems to have stopped. I went for a gentle one on Saturday and it seemed to go OK, so I am easing back in gently, and doing my stretches too.

Have a lovely Christmas Eve!

What home-made presents do you like to give or receive?

Treats and Eats

I hope you are all staying out of the storm. After seeing the weather forecast I had decided to have a run on Christmas Eve, and spend today catching up on work. When I woke up it was not actually raining, but as I had my huge list of work in my mind I decided to stay in and get started. I have been working all day and have pretty square eyes now, but the rain is lashing down and the wind is howling like crazy- I am not even going to brave a walk in that. I am hoping that it will clear up and I can have a walk later, but I am not convinced.

Anyway, I have been sent some gorgeous treats to sample over the last couple of weeks:

Some tiffin from Perkier (all gluten free).

They are so good! I love tiffin- they have added honeycomb to the usual raisin and biscuit mix, to make it even more irresistible! We have eaten one tub already but are saving the rest for after Christmas now- we have a lot of goodies to eat.

Some chocolate from Sainsbury’s.

This chocolate has already been eaten- dark chocolate with candied orange peel in there- so much more sophisticated than a standard chocolate orange. Plus you get the proper chocolate hit from the dark chocolate, instead of the normal sweet milky stuff.

And some cake decorating bits from Dr Oetker- I have used the icing to top the final Christmas cake.

I started making a gingerbread house on Saturday with a view to using some of the decorations.

Last year I bought a kit in Lakeland with cutters, as I used to draw out my own templates on baking paper, and this seemed less faff. Be warned, the picture makes it look like a gentle slope, but actually the roof slopes steeply so is hard to stick on.

The finished house will be up later!

I was also sent a very cool t-shirt from t-shirtprinting.net.

How very true! The t-shirt is a lovely soft fabric, and I love the colour too (antique cherry red)- I have it on right now. I love that you can personalise them- I keep going on at Andy’s family for us to have a trip to Disney at Christmas, and my main stipulation would be that we have personalised t-shirts to wear (so many families do that and I love spotting them). I have a feeling it may do more to dissuade them though…

Finally I have been sent some Cherry recovery powder to review. For some reason I thought it would be like cherryactive, but powdered. But when it arrived and I read the box, it turns out to be whey protein powder. I will review it properly in January, but I tried a little bit. It smells like cherry flavouring (which I quite like), and tasted like cherry yoghurt. I don’t have a shaker so I just poured water into a glass and stirred with a fork- it seemed to blend OK. I think I need to hunt down some protein powder recipes as I am more likely to use it that way.

Right, I am off to make some spiced honey nuts as I have been sitting at a computer all day and need a break!

How are you keeping during the storm?