Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Steve Cram at Bristol Half Marathon Workshop

I can hardly believe that a whole week has gone by without me writing a post about the brilliant talk/Q & A workshop given for the Bristol Half Marathon. It has been a busy week; my book Go Faster Food has become available for pre-order, I've been getting ready for the Stockholm marathon on Saturday, my eldest daughter has started her GCSEs and the kid's half-term has crept up on me rather too quickly. 

It is not often that us mere mortals get to meet, run with and receive sound wisdom directy from top sports people, and the Bristol 1/2 organisers have really got it together this year, with talks from eminent Olympians and top coaches such as Liz Yelling, Steve Cram, Bud Baldaro, Nick Rose etc. Last week's session, hosted by top coach Bud Buldaro, was given by Steve Cram, along with Full Potential's Nick Anderson (who, by the way, coached the top three finishers in last year's 1/2 marathon) and Clare Callaghan, from Bristol University's Sports Medicine Cinic. For my part, the most interesting comment from Steve Cram was that he had really never enjoyed training, it was the winning that made it worth it! 

Tops points to go home with were:
  • Build up a good aerobic foundation before you start training hard
  • Train at least three times a week, with one long run, one speed session and one steady run.
  • Alternate your interval/speed sessions to make it more fun (fartlek, tempo runs, 1 min fast, 2 mins slow etc)
  • Warm up and warm down properly, think about stretching during and after runs (but not before the run) and stretching late at night before you go to bed
  • Listen to your body, don't overtrain or start doing too much too soon, as this will normally lead to injury 
  • Refresh targets, be realistic with your ambitions
Run Bristol have one more training camp before the Half Marathon on September 6th 2009 and it sounds like it will be absolutely brilliant - 18/19th July - you get advice from top athletes and you get to run with them, it only costs £10 per day and the lunch is always fabulous.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Triathlon Pasta

As an ardent pasta eater, I always welcome any new types of pasta  with open arms...and this one really made me giggle. It's brilliant. I can't imagine who might have had the time to think up such a mad idea - the triathlete's/runner's answer to alphabeti spaghetti! Great to eat yourself or a perfect gift for any of your friends who are addicted to running, swimming or cycling! You can also get packs for cyclists (just pasta bikes) or marathon runners (just pasta men running).

This brilliant company Foska certainly puts the fun into training, whether you are a runner, cyclist or swimmer. Take a look at their website and you'll find cool kit like marmite cycling tops and running shirts.

I tried the triathlon pasta out on my daughter and she was sort of impressed (although slightly embarrassed about eating little pasta men and bikes). I cooked the pasta in salted water, drained it and added it to some sauteed lardons (bacon pieces), mushrooms, spinach and garlic. We ate it topped with some parmesan shavings and torn up basil leaves in large bowls and then drizzled the whole lot with some tasty extra virgin olive oil. Fun to eat and very tasty! We fought over the green bikes though...for some reason they tasted the best.

Spaghetti with mussels and how to prepare well for a long training run

I have just had the joyful experience of running 20 miles twice in 4 days. The first run was just abysmal, my worst run ever and a blow to the confidence; the second was thankfully much better...really good, in fact. I 've run 20 miles tens of times before, but it has never been this bad. That is why I decided to do it again with Mark at the weekend instead of doing the 10k that I had booked myself in for. I am not sure about the physiology of doing another 20 mile run only 4 days after the previous one, but it was necessary psychologically to put myself through it.  And it was worth it. Everything about the second run was brilliant and having analysed why, it is really not surprising...

"Bad 20 miles"...or.."what not to do before a long run"

The days before - I sang in a choral concert the night before.I stood on my feet all night and ate very little supper, and then drank a glass or two of red wine before I went to bed. Singing makes you really thirsty - I should have drunk lots of water instead. In fact, I was so busy with other life matters (kids, work, house) that I failed to drink enough fluids in the days leading up to this run as well. All my running the week before had been on the Devon coast path so my legs were tired from all the steep hills.

Morning preparation - I was feeling a bit wobbly - a sure sign not to embark on a big run - and I only ate a small bowl of porridge (although it was with blueberries and honey), no toast. And then I set off with a tiny running bottle filled with lucozade and forgot my gels....and consequently suffered dehydration and glycogen depletion. 

Actual run - it was very, very windy, grotty weather and I set off at breakneck speed with the wind behind me. By mile 4 I felt like giving up but I persevered and then turned round to run back after 10 miles - into the wind and feeling exhausted. At mile 16 I started to feel dizzy and a bit disorientated; I stopped and sat down for a while and felt sorry for myself and then struggled back home, running/walking.

" 20 miles strong"..."how to prepare well for a long training run"

Preparation - I realised my error as soon as I returned from my failure of a run and immediately got some fast-acting carbohydrate down me - a lucozade gel and a sports drink, a peanut butter sandwich and some rice pudding which was in the fridge. I spent the next couple of days really making sure that I was well-hydrated all the time.

Night before - a quiet night with the kids and a delicious bowl of spaghetti with mussels (click for recipe) which is a great meal for endurance - high in low G.I. carbohydrate and brimming with vitamins, iron and protein. Breakfast was a decent-sized bowl of unrefined porridge with forest fruits and walnuts, followed by a slice of homemade wholemeal toast and honey.

Actual run - it was a beautiful day, sunny, warm and not too windy. I started off at a very easy pace and gradually increased this pace over the 20 miles - start easy, finish strong is what the experts say and they are right! We took plenty of water and popped a lucozade gel every 30 minutes. This worked brilliantly for me.

Post run - At about mile 12, I started to dream of pancakes. It just had to be pancakes with ham and cheese, (I often dream up recipes when I'm running! - click for recipe). These pancakes are not only delicious but tick those post run nutrition boxes - protein, salt, minerals, carbs. It really helps recovery if you eat within about 15 minutes of completing any endurance exercise as 

this is when the muscles are at their most receptive.  I knew there was some pancake mixture already waiting as the kids had been feasting on them as we left the house, so as soon as we walked in the door, I started to cook and we were replenishing all that depleted glycogen within 5-10 minutes of finishing our run. Perfect!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sweet Potato and orange soup with garam masala

Anyone who ran the Bristol 10k yesterday might enjoy this delicious and comforting...and cheap...soup tonight for supper. It is dead easy and quick to make and absolutely stuffed with goodness. Sweet potatoes are really high in anti-oxidants; they are an excellent source of vitamin A (beta-carotene), they are high in vitamin C and manganese and also contain copper, fibre, vitamin B6. potassium and iron. Yes, they are basically very healthy; they are good for the immune system and contain anti-inflammatory properties to help tired muscles. Worth including in the diet then, especially if you are pushing your body with training. 

Although sweet potatoes are sweet in flavour, they only have a medium G.I. so they won't give you a quick blood sugar rush and then leave you desperate for more food an hour later. This soup should satisfy your hunger and keep you going for a while. The garam masala seeds still remain partly intact after the soup has been liquidised, and so you can enjoy tiny bursts of flavour with each delicious mouthful.
Here's the recipe:

Sweet Potato and orange soup with garam masala
Knob of butter
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 onion, sliced
450g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp whole garam masala*
Zest of one orange
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

  1. Gently saute the onion with the butter and oil until soft.
  2. Add the garam masala seeds and stir around for a minute until the delicious aroma of the spices starts to release.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and the orange zest. Stir around for a few moments and then add the stock.
  4. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 25 minutes or so until the potatoes are really tender.
  5. Whizz it all up until smooth, season with salt and serve with some lovely crusty wholemeal bread. You could decorate the soup with some orange zest and some coriander leaves.
*The garam masala I use in this recipe is from a pack of whole seeds (from TRS) but you can make your own by combining a teaspoon each of cardamom seeds, whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a little nutmeg. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Telegraph Plug

I've just had a lovely plug on the health section of the Telegraph.

Matt Potter has listed me in Wellbeing on the Web - "The 9 wellbeing blogs you need to bookmark".  Thank you very much for that, Matt and welcome to any new readers. I hope you enjoy the recipes.

Whilst looking through these 9 sites, I came across a video made by Flora which made me laugh and laugh out loud and brought back some hilarious post-run memories. Anyone who has run a marathon will just love this...but don't let it put you off if you haven't, the pain only last for a few days! 

I've just made a delicious new soup - Sweet potato and orange with whole garam masala. Recipe to follow in the next post as I need to take some photos first!