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?

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?

For the love of running and a new day in the life post

Last night I ran out with Dan. Early on in the day I realised that there just would not be time for me to drive to club (20minutes), run for an hour or so, stretch (and chat) for a further 15 minutes as well as drive home again. So Dan and I headed out in the drizzly rain a little before 7pm for four miles last night instead.
Running out with Dan I decided to stick to Zone two heart rate (130-143bpm) although my watch had other ideas…at one point it clocked that I was running with my heart rate at 199bpm! Pretty sure I wasn’t as I was holding an easy conversation at the time and a few minutes later it flashed up on my watch screen that I’d run that mile in 13 minutes. I’d be a little concerned if my running had dropped off so much that I was running 13minute miles using that much effort! The watch lied!
I ran out with Dan last week as well. It’s the perfect way to relax and get my head in the right place after work because my new job is very much go, go, go still at the minute.
Here is a typical day…(today)

5:15 – My alarm goes. I silence my phone and quickly check any emails from bed that have come through in the night. I usually also check Timehop, which fills me in on what I was doing over the last eight years on the same day. My Facebook statuses from eight years ago often make me cringe and I usually spot a link I had posted about and forgotten about on Twitter from last year. Twitter feeds move so quickly!

5:25 – I nip to the loo and head downstairs to let the cat out. If I am not working to deadline like this morning then I might pour myself out a bowl of cereal which I slowly pick at, putting off getting ready for school. (just like a teenager!)

5:35 – Time to jump in the shower and wash my hair. I usually wash my hair every day during the week and leave it at weekends. It goes in a plait most days. This is because I’m lazy and plaiting it requires less time and effort than straightening it and means I don’t need to worry about drying my hair before leaving the house.

6:00 – I get dressed and call Bella back in. She often comes running upstairs with me so that she can jump in the bath and roll around in the remnants of my shower water. (She is an odd cat!) I check that Dan has woken up to his alarm, as he has problems getting up when it goes off some days!

Bella in the bath6:20 – This is when we aim to leave the house by. It doesn’t always happen although today we were pretty much on time. Dan drives as he works in Cambridge and I work at a smaller town on his way into the city. I usually use my travel time to prep lessons in my head for the following day and reply to emails and texts on my phone. This morning was no different.

6:55 – Arrive at school. Lug my boxes of marking up the flight of stairs, checking my pigeon hole on the way and I french plait my hair whilst walking around the classroom turning on the 32 computers in my room. I fill up my water bottle and check that I have all resources ready for my classes for the day. Today is one of my lighter days and I have two PPA hours (Planning, Preparation and Assessment) as part of my timetable so I catch up on writing some year 9 reports instead.

Hair in a plait

(Not the most attractive of photos, but it is early in the morning!)

8:45 – First up today I have a year nine class. It’s a low ability group but it’s a nice one and they’re coming up with ideas for their own games…a task they enjoy!

9:45 – The first of my PPA periods and I get some marking done before my upcoming year ten lesson.

10:45 – Break time and one of my year seven students knocks sheepishly on my door to tell me he doesn’t know how to do his homework. I spend fifteen minutes helping him to complete his worksheet.

11:05 – A year ten class after break and they are finishing some work on images and copyright independently. Another lovely class.

12:05 – As the year tens leave, my year eight class is already stood waiting by the door. They are having their first lesson learning to code in Python and they all did very well. One of the students who caught my attention last lesson for being silly (this is only my second time meeting the class) really shines today when it turns out he codes at home and he whizzes through the work for the lesson, able to help others in the class too.  I made sure to reward him with some merits.

13:05 – This is lunchtime but I have a meeting scheduled with two of the other Computing teachers about the progress of our year nine classes.

13:30 – When the meeting finishes I have enough time to peel three clementines and grab a Cuppa Soup before shutting myself away in the office to catch up on some more marking ready for my classes tomorrow.  I’ve gotten into a bad habit with Cuppa Soups again lately.  I really need to make sure I plan all lunches out the night before.
This is my second PPA session of the day. I have four spread across the week but it just happens that two of them fall on a Wednesday.


15:00 – End of the school day! I take a quick break to scroll through some blogs for half an hour then crack on with some more year nine reports before Dan picks me up.

16:50 – Dan calls to say he’s in the car park downstairs. I decide I’ve had enough of marking for today so don’t take any folders home with me and instead turn all lights off in the department and head to meet him for the drive home. I write most of this blog on the journey home using my tablet in the passenger seat whilst munching on some cherry tomatoes.

17:30 – There is a note through the door to say our neighbours have taken a parcel in for us.  I shriek when I realise it is from the lovely guys at nakd who sent me a selection of bars to try.  (I can only ever seem to find a few flavours in the shops around here and I really wanted to try the Bakewell Tart one!)

Nakd bars in a box17:35 – Time for a few odd jobs before my run.  I wash up and put drying away, plan lunch for tomorrow, put some washing on and the recycling out before pulling my hair out of the plait and getting changed for the run.  My hair goes super wavy and big!

Windswept after a run

18:30 – I jump in the car to head into town to meet seven others for an hour and a half trail run.  It’s pretty wet out and we run alongside the river.  A few times I thought I was going to end up IN the river it was that slippery along the bank.  I end up nice and muddy!  It’s not a real trail run unless you arrive back home splattered with mud!

Muddy legs20:45 – I get home to be presented with a beautiful pizza that Dan has gotten ready whilst I’ve been away.  (Guess which half of the pizza was mine?…!)

Ham and spinach pizza21:00 – I finish this blog post whilst Planet of the Apes plays in the background.  Dan had already seen half of the film by the time I got home but I sprawled out on the sofa next to him for the second half.

21:45 – I hope to be in bed!  I’ve struggled with not getting enough sleep and being really zonked by 3pm over the past fortnight.  Tracking my sleep with Garmin, you can really see how my sleep has dropped since returning to school.

sleep patternsMy real focus for the next few weeks is going to be getting to bed early enough that getting up at 5:15am each morning doesn’t leave me sat in meetings later that day desperately trying not to jerk my head too violently when I wake from a quick sleep!

Do you get enough sleep in during working weeks?

Clean no more!

My beautiful new trail shoes are clean no more…!

Muddy trail shoesThis morning I headed out on a trail run with ten other runners from club.  The idea was to run the 5k course for the Welly Multi-terrain races which start next weekend so that we could all become familiar with the course.  I ran it twice last year so it is firmly etched in my mind…especially that big hill in the middle of the park.  No forgetting that!  I shall hopefully be running the 10k route next Sunday and the 15k version a fortnight after that.  I’ve never raced 15k before, so that should make it an automatic PB for me if I get to the finish line.

After the 5k loop around the park, five of the runners looped off to head home and we were left with six of us wanting to top up our run to 13 miles by running out along the river and across the land back again.

Four miles later and we lost one as he limped down the road to call for a lift home after a reoccurring knee injury began to play up.  Another two miles in and a second decided to loop back round to run for home.  Just leaving four of us to finish the run.  Another three or four miles we thought.  We were very, very wrong!

18.5 miles we ended up running in total!  18.5 very wet, muddy and hilly miles.  In my quick rush round before heading out that morning I hadn’t been able to locate my running bag, so had crammed my mobile and a strawberry cereal bar (as they were all that would fit) into my race belt to help get me round the half marathon distance I thought we would be running.  As my watch ticked over onto the 14 mile mark and I couldn’t make out the town we were aiming for in the distance I was aware that I probably should have brought more supplies in case this happened…it seems to be a theme on our trail runs lately…getting lost!

We made it back, and as I had parked on the outskirts of the park the others dropped me off at my car before heading back towards their own within the park.  I’m not sure I could have run any further.  I was beginning to feel a little weak by this point and anxious to pick up some food to munch on.
I had to head into Tesco to pick up a few things for lunch anyway and, knowing that I needed to get something into me and quickly, I grabbed this carton of Coconut and Chocolate milk I spotted.  I’d not seen it before, but as a massive fan of both coconut milk and chocolate milk after a run, I thought combining the two would be a great choice!  (It was!)

Tesco Free From Coconut and chocolate milkI got a few odd looks in the supermarket for having my legs and trainers covered in mud.  (I had scraped off the worst of it outside, and was sure to scrub my feet on the mat until the bottom of my shoes were clean.)  It was mainly kids that stared though and I survive being judged by kids on a daily basis at school so I made it through the shop with no dignity lost!

This week was the first week of Jantastic – run by the guys at Marathon Talk and all about setting targets for your running in the build up to marathon season later in the year.  My target for the first week was to head out on a total of five runs, which I managed to do.  An easy run with Dan on Monday night, club run on Tuesday night, trail run Friday, parkrun on Saturday and my long run today.  100% so far!

Jantastic week 1


Now to keep it up!

Do you ever get lost when heading out on a run?
If you’re taking part, how did you do on your first week of Jantastic?