Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Green Stuff

I am not talking about kale smoothies, the benefits of green vegetables or even the colour of a new pair of shorts. No, I’m talking about grass.

Since the marathon my calf/achilles issues seemed to be amplified and I have really struggles to get any sort of running done. The tarmac just aggravates my niggles and it results in me unable to run for 2-3 days afterwards. I had rested completely from running for over a month and yet my left achilles and right calf were still worrying me. I had tried running on pavements but they just haven’t felt comfortable and there is too much of a payback afterwards for me to persist. So I decided to try running on grass.

Running on grass has been an epiphany. I have no discomfort while I’m running and I don’t have the soreness in my achilles for days afterwards. I have stuck to a run/walk/jog routine as well, my own modified graded exposure* approach so that my tissues aren’t overexposed to too much in one go. Yesterday I managed 30 minutes: 2 minutes slow paced run and 1 minute walk. I was over the moon with that (which is probably odd for a veteran runner to say).

I have tried so many things for my calf/achilles and nothing has seemed to work for me. Too much rest can work against you. With rest your calf and achilles will weaken and that in itself does not help matters. Equally,strengthening exercises have also tended to aggravate the, and I’ve just found myself going round in a vicious circle. 

So since I’ve rediscovered the green stuff I have managed to do some actual running and that spot on my achilles that I have a tendency to prod and check, doesn’t seem to be as bad. I’m also finding that I’m ok getting up in the morning, I don’t feel that I need to hobble my first few steps.

So I’m feeling so much more positive about things. The trouble is that my head and my heart and lungs are so willing to get going. It can be all too easy to just go for longer and further and risking making myself worse. Mentally I’ve been finding that quite tough, to hold myself back. I’ve also been finding social media tough, trying not to get bogged down in what other runners are doing right now. I think that’s why I throw myself into my amateur athletics punditry on Twitter!

So many injuries and so much time lost. I need to buckle down and keep slogging away at my rehab. For a while yet I think I’ll stick to grass.

*graded exposure is an approach used for people with phobias and and exercise approach for chronic pain. And now repeatedly injured mid thirties runner!

P.S I’m heading up to London this weekend and I happen to have a ticket for Write This Run Monoblogues. Hope to see some of you there!

Advertisements

Waterfall Walking

Sometimes I do think for everything a reason. Training for Berlin would have been full on right now and with the boys being on holiday I think I would have found it incredibly difficult.  Maybe I just wasn’t meant to run Berlin this year. Maybe all this has happened to take me in a different direction. Or I’m over romanticising fate and the stars.

What I do know is that if I was in the midst of marathon training right now my long runs would be on weekends and I would have been too miserable to enjoy the place that we went to on Saturday. After a little bit of research we packed a picnic and headed to Waterfall country in Brecon.

We drove for an hour from where we live just outside Cardiff, to Glynneath. We decided to park at the opposite end of the Waterfall Centre at Pont Melin Fach, which I now think was genius planning hy my husband.

image

Immediately I was in some kind of heaven. The tiny car park is beside a babbling river and a meadow which is used as a picnic area. Before we’d even set off the boys were stepping over the stones in the river.

image

After a bite to eat to fuel us for waterfall hunting we headed off on the trail. The trail was stony and uneven, the trees a leafy ceiling protecting us from the glare of the July sun. However the air was still very hot and humid. The path follows the River Pyrddin and before long we had found our first waterfall. We stopped and the boys had a swing over the river via a rope strapped to a huge branch.

image

We continued on the path, finding our footing and taking care not to let the boys stumble too close to the edge. We found a few smaller waterfalls which didnt seem to impress the boys too much.  But before long we stumbled upon The Lady Falls or Sgwd Gwladus. The myth goes that Gwladus was a fifth century Princess who fell in love with a man named Einion. Their relationship was not allowed to develop and tormented by her sadness Princess Gwladus’ spirit became forever immortalised as the water fall.

image

The boys swimming in the pool with Sgwd Glwadus in the background.

I love myth and legend and the waterfalls have an ethereal feel to them. My eldest said we were on the Ewok planet of Endor and for the entirety of our trip I did feel like I was on another very beautiful planet. I have truly never been anywhere quite like it. The boys swam in the pools to cool off from all the walking and I started to wish I had taken my costume.

image

I have made peace with my decision not to run Berlin. The timing was not right with my injury and illness troubles. Instead I have been able to really absorb myself in trips with the boys without having training worries in the back of my mind. If ‘Mindfulness’ was a place I think the Waterfall Woods could be it.

Walking through those woods I obviously couldn’t help but let my mind drift to running and namely how great it would be to run over that trail. If I get myself fully fit again I may even allow myself to put the Brecon to Cardiff Ultra back on my ‘to do’ list. And with breath taking beauty like this how could I not.

image

The Lardy Runner: Slow Cooked Pulled Pork.

I have sort of, very gingerly begun running again. The most I can run at any time in one go right now is 15 minutes. This has been built up by walk/running on grass. My main concern right now is to load my calves and achilles very very gradually while trying to cause minimal discomfort. It is taking a lot of patience and restraint on my part. A bit like this recipe.

I have been cross training and rehabbing as quietly as I can wihout getting over excited. Sometimes I think it can be the passion for running that can hinder the injured runner when you’re trying to get back into it. The mind is willing and can over rule the head, persuading us to do more than we should. Reallly I should harness my passion to get back into running and channel it into my rehab and the long term goal of being injury free. 

Anyway, enough waffle. Food is what we’re here for. I don’t know why but I just really fancied pulled pork with coleslaw and barbecue sauce. I looked for a few tips on line and then used my own judgement to come up wih the following:

You will need:

Shoulder of pork. Roughly 2kg. Yesterday one shoulder fed two adults and two children with enough for second pickings.
Salt and pepper.
Olive oil.
One onion/red onion

For the coleslaw:
1/2 White cabbage
Red onion
1 apple
1 carrot

For the BBQ sauce:
Ketchup
Balsamic vinegar
Worcestershire sauce
Brown sugar
Salt and pepper to season

Start by rubbing olive oil into the pork shoulder and seasoning well. Pre heat the oven to 150 ºC/ 130 ºC fan. Place the pork on a metal rack over a roasting tin. Pop into the oven on a low shelf and cook for 4 -4 and a half hours. Half way through cooking slice up an onion and place under the rack to sock up the juice from the pork.

You’ve now got plenty of time to do other things while the pork is slowly cooking. The smell from the oven was amazing yesterday and it was making me snack so I did end up going for a little jaunt round the block.

After my run I set about making my coleslaw and barbecue sauce. For the coleslaw just slice up the cabbage and onion and pop it into a bowl. Using my vegetable peeler I thinly sliced up the apple and carrot and popped this in with the cabbage and onion. Squeeze copious amounts of mayonaise into the bowl and stir. If you are being health conscious I did see a recipe yesterday which used natural yoghurt and  a squeeze of lemon in place of the mayonaise.

For the barbecue sauce I poored half a small bottle of ketchup into a small pan. I then added dashes of Worcestershire sauce,  balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Heat over a low flame and stir. I have no idea about amounts for the sauce. I just keep adding and stirring and tasting until I feel I’ve got the right flavour.

When you feel the pork is ready bring it out of the oven and set it to rest.  Place it on a carving tray and start to, well, pull it apart. No precise carving skills required.

Make sure the sauce is heated through and then add the onions that were cooking underneath the pork.  Place pork, coleslaw and sauce on the table for everyone to help themselves. Yesterday I served it with warm crusty french bread, new potatoes and peas.  The boys loved the pork. My 4 year old called it a dinosaur dinner so I would say it’s a great meal for all ages.  And definitely a good one for runners: protein, vegetables and loads of flavour. After a run this really hit the spot. Plus I thought ahead and made enough for leftovers today!

image

A tip that I read on the Good Food site yesterday is to pre cook the pork in the oven and then finish it off on a BBQ the next day. I could  imagine taking the pork and a portable BBQ on a picnic and having your own mini hog roast somewhere scenic!

The recipe that inspired me was one by James Martin although I exchanged the red wine vinegar in the sauce for the balsamic vinegar. The recipe is on the Good Food web site.

The Lardy Runner: Pysgodyn Pie (Fish Pie)

As a family we can get a bit bogged down in the same old menu routine, week in, week out. Occasionally though I have a ‘wait a minute’ moment and declare that we should have something that we haven’t had for a while. Yesterday while in the car wondering whether we should have another Sunday Roast I had a moment of genius: ‘We shall have Fish Pie!’.

If I recall Fish Pie was traditionally a way of using up left over fish and shell fish. What they didn’t realise back then is that they had invented what was to be one of my all time favourite dishes. It is comforting and so simple and yet you can dress it up and make it as fancy as you like. Plus I would say it is an ideal dish for runners because you can make it as healthy or as decadent as you choose. It is packed full of good fish proteins and oils.

Yesterday my husband served up a really tasty Fish Pie which I’ve now christened ‘Pysgodyn Pie’*. It has been adapted from a Marco Pierre White recipe. I have cooked this Fish Pie a few times but it can be even better when it’s made for you!

For your Pysgodyn Pie You will need:

Butter

Onion

2 eggs which have been hard boiled.

Smoked fish of your choosing.

Salmon.

White fish of your choosing.

Prawns, pre cooked and peeled probably easiest (can also add scallops if you’re feeling fancy).

Roughly 250 mls of single cream (we used soya cream and it turned out great).

Potatoes.

Cheese (can use lactose free.

Peas.

1. Fry the onions in a knob of butter, or oil if you prefer, until soft.

2. Add the cream and then double the amount of water to the pan. At this point you can add a fish stock cube but you don’t have to. Add the fish and poach it in the cream/water and onions.

3. Once the fish is cooked remove it from the pan and place it to one side.

4. Add any vegetables you like to cook away in the liquor while waiting for it to thicken. We added peas yesterday which gives the dish a lovely shot of colour.

5. Peel your potatoes, boil and then drain and mash them (don’t want to teach you to suck eggs, just make sure you have enough mash to top your pie).

6. Flake your fish and add to a pie dish. Pour your poaching liquor over the top. Chuck in your prawns and/or scallops.

7. Chop up the egg and place this amongst the fish and prawns.

8. Just before you pop the mash on you can add a layer of cheese. Spoon your mash over the top and smooth it down, peak it with your fork, make a funky pattern or sprinkle more cheese over the top.

9. Place in your oven at about 150 degrees (ours is a fan though so you may be able to go higher) until it is hot all the way through (I’m no good with times, but probably about 20 minutes will be enough).

wpid-img_20140713_183403.jpg

Serve with other vegetables you like or just a have a massive bowl of it on it’s own. When I’ve cooked this before I’ve added some spinach or some chopped cherry tomatoes to the pie just to give it a twist. It doesn’t need a lot of seasoning in the cooking process as your fish should be full of flavour. If buying the fish individually is a bit expensive then most fishmongers and supermarkets have a pre-prepared fish pie mix.

Excuse the rubbish photo I took on my phone. As this little idea progresses I’m hoping that this is one aspect that will improve. Plus it might have been an idea to take the photo before we’d started to eat.

As I said in my last Lardy Runner post I really want to get this up and going as a sharing meme. I had hoped to do that this week but I didn’t realise that you need to be self hosted for Linkys. Argh! So it might take a little bit more self learning, planning and organisation on my part. I am so blog illiterate it’s not even funny.

In the meantime, if you have found a great recipe or you’ve blogged a recipe that you really want to share, please leave the link in the comments for others! This feature was partly inspired by recipes I’ve found on other running blogs.

*Pysgodyn is Welsh for Fish!

The Lardy Runner: Gin and Tonic Cake

If you know a Physiotherapist you might know that we love cake. And chocolates. And biscuits. Any Physiotherapy department staff room is guaranteed to have some kind of treat sat on the table. Most Physiotherapy departments I have worked in have also had a cake rota one day a week, whether it be shop bought or home made. Nobody is really bothered because the Physios just want more cake.

I think the work cake rota was when I took a notion for baking and actually started to like it and not be afraid of it. Then when the boys were born I decided to try and make birthday cakes myself. Sponges I can do but decorating is not where my talents lie. My Iggle Piggle was more like a drunken looking blue blob. But the kids loved it.

Anyway, as time has gone on I’ve become a little bit more adventurous. Which is why I got a bit excited when I saw this Gin and Tonic cake recipe posted on Facebook by an old Physio colleague.

Gin? In a cake? Madness I thought to myself. But then not so when you think of chocolate cakes with Guinness or other various beer type things in them. So I decided to give it a whirl.

And I’m so glad I did. I suppose it’s another version of a lemon cake I do but with the addition of gin. I wonder if the gin makes the sponge that little bit more moist. The batter was a little bit wetter than I’m used to and it took a bit longer than the 45 minutes stated despite my fan oven.

Et voilà!

wpid-img_20140707_163208.jpg

 

It’s really lovely. There is a wee hint of gin and it’s not overpowering. In fact next time I’d be tempted to use a tot more of gin than I did. I may also try it with lime next time just to see what happens. It’s a perfect, light summer time cake.

You can find this fantastic recipe over on the Pudding Lane blog.

P.S Thinking of making Lardy Runner a feature over on this blog and turn it into a recipe sharing meme with a linky possibly. Not just cake either, it could be any recipe which you think is perfect for running fuel, running recovery or simply just enjoying. Let me know what you think!

In The Moment

Something that the Mindfulness course brought home to me is how for a very long time I had failed to live ‘in the moment’. Every day was full of what if’s and what have’s. I would be doing one thing and instead of concentrating on what I was doing I would be thinking about three things ahead of myself and worrying about all the tasks I had yet to do. I now realise that when my husband would hug me I wouldn’t just enjoy the hug, I’d wriggle free as him hugging me was preventing me from doing all the other things that I felt I was meant to be doing. That’s really pretty sad.

But it was all down to the anxiety and my heightened state of awareness. I was constantly scanning my environment looking for potential threats, not physical ones, but mental and emotional ones. To protect myself I was basically living on my adrenaline. I was exhausting myself and had barricaded myself into a worry trap. Worrying about conversations that had never happened or had yet to happen. Worrying about whether I said the wrong thing in a chat and had offended somebody. Worrying about races that I’ve booked in to. Worrying about running. Worrying about not running. Worrying I hadn’t done enough running.

Constant worry, worry, worry invading all aspects of my life like a parasite

And then I span off my worry axis and plunged to a fiery apocalypse into the anxiety sun. The End.

Well not quite.

I’ve been trying to retrain my brain to be more in the moment. You would think it would be easy but it’s not. Running used to give me that ‘in the moment’ feeling but as I’ve said before, being injured and ill meant that this mechanism of coping wasn’t available to me. So what I’ve been trying to do is become absorbed in other things to get me in the moment.

I play my guitar because you have to be totally in the moment to do that. I read a book, although I do find my mind can wander when I read. I bake because if you’re not in the moment and concentrating it can go horribly wrong. And more importantly for my family I allow myself to be hugged by my husband and I forget about my mental list of things while I play hide and seek or tag with my children. It’s only now that I realise how many lovely moments I could have missed while failing to be in the moment.

And so to running and ‘being in the moment’.

When I think about some of my happiest times running it was when I was a teenager. I would just turn up to the club, be told what I had to do and without questioning it I would just do it. If there was a meeting at the weekend, I would turn up, run and go home. It felt effortless. Well obviously the training and the racing were not effortless, but the execution of it was. There was no self judgement or baggage attached to any of it.

As children, and to some extent as teenagers, we are incredibly mindful and I feel like I need to bring some of that ‘childishness’ back to my running. I have been running on my own and trying to do it all myself, training programmes and races, for such a long time. Maybe it’s time to try something a bit different, let someone else decide the sessions, just turn up somewhere and be in the moment. Joining a club might help me do that. Time to stop my anxieties paralysing me and and start seizing more of what my Mindfulness teacher calls strawberry moments.

wpid-wp-1404723991732.jpeg

 

Ship Wrecked

Words I like to think I can attribute to myself: stubborn, competitive, passionate, loyal, determined, strong willed. I think I can say that occasionally I do demonstrate some of these traits. I think it’s these things that got me to the start line of the London Marathon. It’s these traits that helped me to find the courage to make it to the start line and achieve the goal of running the London race. I didn’t run it in the way I wanted to but I think I’ve let go of that now. I hope.

What I didn’t fathom was how utterly wrecked very little base line training and cramming marathon long runs into ten weeks would leave me. Both mentally and physically I have been left all at sea, drifting, swimming against the tide and the current that is pushing me back. I have been fighting against taking the path of least resistance for a long time but after having to take my second course of steroids for my chest in the space of two weeks I have to admit defeat and just go with the flow.

I don’t want to give up running. I am determined that I will be back running but right now I need to get myself better. And so I have made the decision not to run the Berlin Marathon later this year.

I can’t quite believe I just typed that. I was so excited and felt so lucky to have got a place on such an iconic marathon, but when I looked at how things have been going I just knew I couldn’t do it to myself. I wanted to follow the Hanson programme for the next marathon I ran but I’ve already lost nearly 7 weeks of training through being ill. I don’t want to be in the situation that I was with London where I was forcing myself to do long runs to get ready to run 26.2 miles. Getting ready for London messed with my head and left me feeling in a bit of a mess. I’m just starting to get on top of my anxiety and I think marathon cramming would just send me backwards.

So again I feel cut adrift from running. Not really sure where I’ll be taken. If I’m honest I feel like a bit of a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I can relax and just move with the ebb and flow rather than fight to keep my head above water. I know that when I am fit I am decent runner and I thrive on hard sessions but right now I’m just going to see where a bit of rest and recuperation take me. I just feel my body is crying out for something different. Maybe it will be cycling, maybe some more swimming. I quite fancy doing some weights and strength and conditioning and even possibly finding a tap dancing class (something I have wanted to do for a VERY long time).

I’m not gutted that I won’t now have a Berlin Marathon medal. I’m not really fussed for bling and medals, we weren’t given them for every race I did when I was a teenager so I don’t think it’s my main motivation for racing (caveat to say that if that is what motivates you then this is fine, it isn’t what drives me personally). All I want is to be able to run to the best of my ability. That is what drives me more than anything. To know that I have done all the training I can to be able to run and turn round and say I’ve honestly done my best. Right now I just don’t think I could say that. I’m salvaging this ship wreck of a runner while I can.