A use for all those Sports Direct mugs

Two weeks ago I headed out on a run with a friend and we started talking about food (as runners so often do) and somehow got onto the topic of poor eating habits.

I commented that although I am guaranteed to tuck into a big breakfast each morning (usually as an avoidance tactic to put off getting ready for work) I often leave lunch unplanned, poorly planned or sat on the worktop back at home. Not great when my workplace is a half an hour drive away! I leave a supply of Cuppa Soups and my second favourite cereal bars in my drawers at school just in case I get caught out on one of those days where my lunch is still sat on the worktop. That was another great tip picked up from a runner…never leave piles of your favourite chocolate bar/cereal bar lying around or you’ll end up gobbling them when you’re not even hungry. Instead, choose your second or third favourite to stockpile and you’re more likely to eat them only when you are truly hungry.

I’ve tried several times in the past to make lunches for the week in bulk but struggled. I find if I have anything too heavy to eat during the day I struggle to stay awake in the afternoon. Soups or salads and a larger meal in the evening works much better for me. I’ve made salad in bulk before and then left it in giant mixing bowls in the fridge to dish out day by day, but by day three I often find the salad leaves have wilted and fruits are a little more squishy in places than they should be.

The friend I was running with this time made the suggestion that I cook up a large batch of soup at the start of each week and then pour the batch into mugs which could be placed in the freezer to remain ‘fresh’ when pulled out for work as and when required.

Cue the Sports Direct mugs being brought out from their spot right at the back of our kitchen cupboard. You know the mugs I mean. Everyone either has one hidden somewhere or knows someone that does. They’re very large – holding much more tea than the average tea enthusiast would ever be able to consume before they needed a toilet break. We have a grand total of five of the things. Perfectly used in this instance as one soup holder for each day of the week!

Soup in a Sports Direct mug

Last week I pulled them all out onto the worktop and set to making a large batch of soup on the hob. The great thing about soup making is you can just leave the concoction to boil at the back of the kitchen whilst making that night’s dinner. Give the slushy veg in the pan a quick whizz with the hand blender before plating up the meal for the evening, leaving the soup to cool whilst you eat your tea and then it should be cool enough to pour out into perfect portions ready to be placed in the freezer.

The soup inside the mugs has been leek and sweet potato with chunks of goat’s cheese to add a little protein.

Chopped up leeks for soup

The last thing I do before leaving for work each morning is feed the cat, whose boxes of food sit on top of the freezer.  With two weeks of soups for lunch I’m yet to forget my soup!

A little late in the day but here is my review for Jantastic week 3 (last week)… (Still on 100% sticking to my five runs a week.)

Jantastic week 3

Monday – 4 miles easy with Dan around town after work

Tuesday – Club run – 1mile jog, (200m at 8 minute miles, return 200m at recovery pace) x12, one mile jog

Wednesday – Rest day (Ofsted scare!)

Thursday – Club run – 7.3mile tempo run

Friday – Rest day

Saturday – Sheringham parkrun in 29:52 on a hilly course.  Followed by a half mile-mile jog whilst waiting for my lift home again.

Sunday – Easy four and a half miles. I had a long run written down on the schedule but after having fitted in a tough speed session, tough tempo run and taking 50 seconds off my previous Sheringham parkrun time on the Saturday I decided to enjoy a new little route in Norfolk and soaked up the sun that shone down on me as I ran.

My mileage was much lower last week at just 26 miles, but I managed to fit some tough sessions in between easy runs and my body rewarded me with some speedier-than-normal results.  When I logged in to the Jantastic platform today I was able to set my targets for February.  I’ve stuck to my five runs a week plan as this has been working well for me.  During February you also have to set yourself a target distance for each of your long runs.

Jantastic February


I wouldn’t normally set myself a 27mile run five weeks in to a marathon plan but on the 7th Feb I shall be down in South Devon running the EnduranceLife CTS marathon.  A marathon within a marathon plan!

Do you take your own lunches in for work?  If so, do you batch make you lunches?
What is your favourite soup flavour?
How was week three of Jantastic for you?

The parkrun that almost didn’t count

Whilst back at my parents’ for the weekend I obviously made sure to fit in a parkrun.  It’s a standard Saturday morning activity nowadays and I’m determined to make a big dent in the parkrun countdown to my 50 parkrun t-shirt this year.  Plus, I really like the Sheringham parkrun course quite close to where my parents live.

My Dad dropped me off in the carpark just before 8:45am yesterday morning before nipping to Cromer to run some errands whilst I ran.  I didn’t feel too cold despite opting for only one t-shirt along with my tights in the morning.  When I walked down to the meeting point though I noticed that parts of the compressed gravel track were icy and my feet were slipping on the path.  I found out later that the Northampton parkrun had been cancelled due to the ice.  Luckily, Sheringham parkrun is run mainly through woodland, with just a small track section at the end and a slightly longer section at the beginning, but alongside a grass track you can run on if required so there was no need to cancel the run.

The first part of the course is run downhill on the gravel path.  I took things relatively slowly so as not to slip.  I got a little held up as we were directed through a side path to avoid a cattlegrid when I was behind a lady running with a child and also pushing a pram but it gave me an excuse to keep my pace steady and stopped me from rushing off too fast.  I love that children and ladies with prams are welcome at parkruns and today’s parkrun was full with kids.  In fact, I overheard a child of about nine at the startline telling their Father that they were aiming for a sub 25 minute time.  It’s a tough course for that sort of time, yet when I looked at the results afterwards there were lots of children coming in with some quick times.

I felt comfortable the whole way round the course, just like at the Multi-terrain 10k last weekend.  I didn’t push myself too hard and was very happy with my pacing at the end of the race – especially as when I crossed the line I hadn’t destroyed myself getting there and could hold a conversation with someone from the moment I entered the finishing funnel.

I stopped my watch as I crossed the line.  Just under 30 minutes.  I knew I had been close to my course PB (29:40) and was chuffed to work out I’d taken about 50 seconds off my time from the last time I’d run the course (Christmas Day).  Running in a higher group at running club (as mentioned yesterday) is clearly working well for me!

Dad was a little late picking me back up from parkrun so I went for a 3/4 mile jog around the outside of a field whilst I waited to try and help keep myself warm.  Once you were in the wind, it was rather chilly!

Blue in the back of the car

We took Blue, my parents’ dog out for a quick half hour walk and then headed home to get set up for the day.  It got to about lunchtime and I realised I still hadn’t received my parkrun text message with my time so I popped onto the parkrun website to spot that my name was not listed in the results and my position was instead listed as an ‘unknown runner’.  I dropped a quick, panicked email to Sheringham parkrun detailing the conversation I had had with the guy using the barcode scanner (so that he would remember seeing me earlier on) and sending over a link to my Garmin activity.  Luckily, the guys at Sheringham parkrun are lovely and they updated the results – no more than an hour later and I had received the usual text and email detailing my time.  With a nice surprise too…

Sheringham parkrun email…apparently I was the fastest in my age category!  (Although, a quick check through the results also showed me that I was the only runner in my age category, but I’ll take that!)

Official time:  29:52
Position:  100
Gender position:  14/38
Age category position (SW30-34):  1/1(!)

Whilst back in Norfolk I haven’t done a whole lot and it’s been pretty nice.  I’ve had a chance to read blogs, run at parkrun, walk the dog and help Mum with a jigsaw.  It’s been pretty chilled and my body feels better for not rushing around.  Although I tend to eat huge portions when back at my childhood home my meals are always veggie-filled meals and tasty…

…Salmon and salad…

Salmon with salad…Sausage casserole with veg…Sausage casserole with veg…Chicken stir-fry…Stir fry with riceI love the colours of the vegetables here and as they’re tossed in the wok.Colourful veg for a stir fryColourful veg for a stir fry

My Mum always makes sure to feed me with meals I would rarely make when back at my own home.  Those meals heavy with veg such as the stir fry would never be touched by Dan.  He would eat the chunks of carrot and gingerly pick out the chicken, scraping off as much sauce as he could.  Such a fussy eater!

Do you eat the same types of foods at home as when you visit your parents?

Working hard and determined to succeed

I don’t want to jinx things but I feel like my running is very strong at the moment.  I moved myself from Group 5 up to the higher Group 4 just before Christmas after a few friends assured me I would cope with the pace and that running with others quicker than myself would be good to improve my own speed.

I am very much in the middle to the back of the pack of runners each session in the higher group but determined to do well and keep up with the others as best I can.  I’ve not fallen greatly behind in the group yet which encourages me to keep at it.

Tuesday night and the session showed 1mile jog followed by (200m at 8 minute miles, return 200m at recovery pace) x12 and a mile jog back to base.

Now, usually when I run at recovery pace I would take it at about 11 minute miling.  Really steady so that I know I would be fully recovered by the end of my ‘recovery’ section.  Apparently this session was to be run at active recovery…approximate 9:10mm.  I don’t consider that recovery!

I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the end after the first three or four reps.  I was falling a little behind the other runners but I stuck at it, counting down the reps silently in my head.  “Woop!  Halfway done!” I exclaimed to the runner just infront of me as I counted the sixth rep.  Turns out, she was under the impression that we were only doing ten reps, instead of the twelve we actually worked through and this broke her a little inside. Sorry!

When there were only two reps remaining, I knew that I would get through to the end despite my body telling me it was done!12 speed reps on the Garmin

I felt so happy and proud when I returned from my last rep.  Running with the big boys now!7 miles on GarminI think this is possibly the first time all splits have been under 11mm and there were so many 8:xx miles in my stats as well.  Especially as the run includes all stops for traffic, turn backs for other runners and chats explaining which path to take next.

I took Wednesday night off from running as this was the day we had had the Ofsted scare at school – potentially meaning I would have to spend hours writing out detailed lesson plans and ensuring everything was up to date in the department.  I took a brisk half hour walk after school instead whilst waiting for my lift home so that I had a little break from being sat at the computer and stretched my legs out after the speedwork the day before.

Thursday I was back at club again.  Thursday nights are traditionally the ‘long run’ and this week was no different.  We managed to fit in 7.3 miles on a large loop around the outskirts of town.7 and a half miles on GarminAlthough my stats don’t look that impressive, they are still a huge jump up from when I was running in Group 5.  I never have my Garmin on auto-pause, so it records every single wait at a pedestrian crossing, all chats with the coach, each jog back to collect the back runners…

I have felt much stronger over the past few weeks and I hope that my determination and grit will see me get that marathon PB at the start of May.

I spent some time last night entering a couple of races.  Milton Keynes Marathon was the marathon I have gone for and I also entered Dusk ’til Dawn 50 for the third year running as I heard places were filling up fast.  There was an announcement on Twitter last night that entries for Grim open this weekend, so I shall get that booked up as well whilst I’m in year-planning mode.

Race entries 2015

Goal races entered…now all I’ve got to do is run them!

Have you decided on your goal races for this year yet?

First race of 2015: Wellingborough Multi-Terrain 10k

I’ve been rubbish this year at blogging for Janathon.  Although I have been including little #Janathon snippets on Twitter on the days that I haven’t written a full blog post.  I have also been sure to exercise each day.  Even on days like yesterday, when we had the dreaded email warning us that Ofsted may be with us in the morning.  (Luckily not long after, we received a second email letting us know that that was no longer the case…Phew!)

As well as exercising and tweeting about it (when not blogging) each day, I have also been keeping on track with my Jantastic goals.  My target number of runs for each week in January was five, which I completed in week one.  I’m happy to say that I completed at least five runs again last week (depending on how you count it).
Monday: (no run)
Tuesday: (3.7m easy with Dan)
(6m trail)
Thursday: (4m easy with Dan)
(10.3m trail)
(no run)
(1.5 mile run to race, 10k race, 2m to car)

Jantastic week 2

Sunday was my first race of the year and one I went in to without a solid game plan.  With the race held just up the road from our running club meeting point and as one of the races selected to make up our trail running league we had a fantastic turnout with 29 of our club turning up to run one of the three distances offered; 5k, 10k or 15k.

The race offers the three distances over a 5k loop.  If you are competing in the 10k distance, you run the loop twice…Three times for the 15k.  I can have a bit of a love hate relationship with lap courses sometimes and these points sprung to mind over the weekend:

Love them because I know what to expect of the course after the first lap…
Hate them because the course never really thins out from runners…
Love them because the crowd of support is never far away…
Hate them because it’s likely you’ll get lapped…and have to stick to one side of the path for the rest of the run…Usually the muddiest side of the path.
Love them because you can encourage other runners from your club at several points out on the course where the route overlaps.

Because the football team Dan plays for was playing in Wellingborough on Sunday morning I suggested that I share his ride and jump out of the car a mile or so away from the race start line, to allow me time to warm up and get a few extra miles in.  After the race I also ran to the park where Dan’s team were playing to wait for him which added an extra two miles to my overall distance for the day.

I never intended on ‘racing’ the 10k Wellingborough Multi-terrain race.  I just loved the look of their medal on the Just Racing facebook page (below).Wellingborough Multi-terrain dirt run medalIn fact, for the first five minutes of the run I casually trotted along next to another member of the club, chatting and laughing away.  I wasn’t really aware of the speed which we were running at, but it was slow enough that I could chat and laugh, so I figured it would be fine.  As the other runner pulled away in front I took a bit more notice of my surroundings.  I’ve run the course numerous times before as it’s so close to home.  A mile in from the start of the race is a very steep hill that gets muddy very quickly at this time of year.  Especially when several hundred runners have already gone up it infront of you!  I powered past a lot of runners here who were busy pussy-footing around the muddy sections (impossible!) or had slowed to a walk.  There’s something to be said for training on lots of hills!  Luckily the photographer wasn’t at the top of that hill, but instead at the bottom of the muddiest downhill section instead another mile into the course.Wellingborough Multi-terrain dirt run photoI don’t do downhill running very well so it’s not the most attractive expression on my face in that photo and I won’t be adding it to my photo wall!

As I began the second lap I realised how comfortable I was finding the race.  I glanced at my watch briefly to see 160bpm according to my heart-rate monitor and decided to try and keep my heart rate between 160-165 for the remainder of the race.  Or at least until the end was in sight!

I overtook a few more people side stepping muddy puddles through the trees and a huge collection of runners when I ran the steep hill for the second time.  The light was just wrong coming up the hill and I was squinting to see what was around me.

The final 3/4 mile is run in sight of the finish line…

Wellingborough Multi-terrain dirt run photo

…before tucking away again into a back field out of sight, through a thick muddy patch and back into sight as you come along to the finish arch.  There was a lot left in me for a sprint finish so I made sure to produce one!  No-one was catching me up here!  The lady in blue on the far left of that photo had been infront of me for the majority of the race and I used her as my unofficial pacer – a guide to sticking to a regular pace until I got to that final 3/4 mile and then I don’t know where she went!  I’m not even sure if she was running the 10k or 15k distance…I’ll have to have a look in a minute.  **Edit, just looked, I beat her at the 10k distance by 4 seconds**

As I crossed the line, I spotted someone I’d marshaled with at Country to Capital the day before so stopped for a chat.  Normally when I cross the line I either throw myself onto the floor from exhaustion or have to continually pace until my heartrate returns to normal so I was happy with how quickly I was able to recover once over the finishing line here.

Wellingborough multi-terrain dirt run medal

I watched the last few runners from our club come over the finish before taking the slow jog over to the football field.

Finishing position: 143/180
Official time: 1:00:37

I was really happy with my finishing time as I took more than two minutes off my time that I’d run the same course last year (62:53) and I’d put much more effort in last year than this.  Times aren’t everything though, and I was much more happy about the fact that I’d paced my run consistently, without pressure and remained upright over the finish line!

Lap lover or hater?  Can you think of any other lap love/hate comments I’ve forgotten?