Shamed Into Blogging

The Running Goth has outed me at least three times in different places over the last couple of days for slacking, so before she finds anywhere else to shame me,  here’s an update.

On looking at my Running Free Online calendar, it’s not as bad as I thought. Okay, so the blogging perhaps maybe kind of a little titchy tiny bit slightly got a tad slack but I have sort of done some exercise. Look.

rfo-19Jan I think the 10 minutes last Monday must have been some kettlebells, the 4 miles on Wednesday was, in fact, a 6 mile walk in the countryside (my Garmin doesn’t like pausing too often and when it does it robs me of my mileage. Stupid Garmin). This countryside, to be specific.

countryside

The bike ride on Friday was cycling to the station before I went pizza-making with Helsbels where we put in further Janathon effort by kneading the dough for our pizzas. It counts. Shut up.

waitrose-pizza

The bike ride on Saturday was me cycling home after the pizza-making class, after midnight.

Okay, so I was slack last week – I admit it and I did annoy myself by being so slack but after such a promising start to Janathon where I had an immense amount of energy, that energy just seemed to disappear last week.

I promise to do better this week.

PBs And The Gods Of Sloth

The Gods of Sloth were looking down on me last night as I was searching for a reason to drink wine. I knew drinking wine would prevent me from getting up early enough to go to my local parkrun but I really fancied some. It didn’t take long for me to find a reason – two reasons, in fact. The first was when I saw the weather forecast predicted 25mph winds and the second – which had me opening that bottle of wine faster than you can say ‘corkscrew’ – was when I saw parkrun had teamed up with a charity that tests on animals. Bad parkrun, bad bad bad!

Still, Janathon doesn’t care about windspeed or any other reasons for not running so I decided to do a parkrun distance on the treadmill at the gym and I must have ran like the wind because I GOT A MUTHAFUCKING PARKRUN PB, WAHOO! Okay, so I didn’t actually get a parkrun PB what with it not being done at an actual parkrun and it probably wasn’t accurate what with it being on a treadmill, but it’s the fastest I’ve run in at least five years and so I’m keeping that wahoo. It’s mine – all mine.

Oh, and in case you think I’ve been slacking the last few days – I haven’t. I’ve just been slack with the blogging but I’ve been gymming and body pumping and cycling and spinning and stuff and if you don’t believe me, here’s my calendar on Running Free Online.

Slacker? Me? Nope.

Slacker? Me? Nope.

The JogBlog Guide To Cycling Safely In Winter

Cycling Safety

I’m a raver. Aciiiiiiiiid.

Ideally, you should leave your bike(s) safely locked up in the garage until the summer, as cycling in the winter is absolutely minging but, if you’re like me and live far far away from the train station or somewhere else you need to get to and you don’t drive, you’re going to have to get on your bike. However, there are a few things you can do to make your journey slightly more a) comfortable and; b) safe, and I list these, in no particular order, below.

  1. Lights. The absolute most important thing. I’m being serious here (yes, honestly). I see so many cyclists riding without lights and they’re fucking idiots and they really annoy me and if they get splattered by a car or go to prison for knocking over a pedestrian who didn’t see them on their lumps of metal then they deserve all they get. Lights don’t even have to be expensive – I’ve got my main lights on my mountain bike that I use most of the time to get me around but I’ve also got some of these cheapy cheapy lights (at the time of writing, they’re £1.43 including delivery – how cheapy cheapy can you get?) that work perfectly well and are small enough to carry around if I’m out on one of my bikes that don’t have lights and it’s a possibility I’ll be coming home in the dark.If you don’t have lights, you’re a dooby dooby nutjob.
  2. Hi-vis jacket. Yes, there’s a possibility you’ll be mistaken for a builder but hey ho, it’s all about being seen and keeping safe – it’s not a fashion contest. If you really don’t want to wear hi-vis (but you get used to looking like a builder, honest), you could get one of the Karrimor Reflekt jackets I blogged about the other day. They look like a normal jacket until light shines upon them, then they light up like a simile for things that light up that I can’t think of right now.
  3. Hi-vis rucksack cover. If you don’t want to wear any kind of hi-vis/lighty-up jacket, then hi-vis rucksack covers are available. You’re not so vain you wouldn’t put hi-vis on your rucksack, are you? As well as making you more visible to motorists, it’ll also keep your rucksack dry. Win-win, as saddos say.
  4. Wrap up warm. I’m still seeing some people in town wearing shorts and flip-flops but they’re hard and probably from Newcastle or something but if you’re not a) hard; or b) from Newcastle, you’re going to need to keep your bits warm while you’re on your bike. No, you mucky-minded lot, I’m talking about other bits that stick out like your fingers and your nose. Wear gloves and either a scarf or a buff that you can pull up over your nose and chin. Although, if you’re like me, you can only breathe through a buff for about three seconds before you suffocate and have to pull it down and get cold again. But, buffs are cool and keep your neck warm and they come in all different patterns and can be worn in lots of different ways.
  5. A toolkit. I bought a toolkit from Amazon for about £11 including delivery. It’s great. It attaches to your bike, so there’s no chance of you forgetting to take it out with you and contains levers, a pump, a puncture kit and other things I don’t know how to use.
  6. A carrier bag. Yes, a carrier bag. Take a carrier bag out with you and tie it over your bike to keep the seat wet in case it rains while you’re away from it.
  7. Learn how to fix a chain. Okay, so I don’t know how to use the toolkit or how to change a puncture (I’ve been relying on the ‘someone else will do it for me’ method, but luckily I haven’t – touch wood – had a puncture yet, but I have fallen off in the ice and the snow when I came to a sliding halt at a crossing (damn you, person in wheelchair; next time I’ll make you wait until I’ve gone past before you can cross the road) and my chain came off. I didn’t fancy wheeling it home two miles in the snow so I phoned Shaun and said, ‘Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp, my chain’s come off, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ and he said something about putting the bike in third gear and turning the wheel, which worked and I cycled merrily home instead of trudging along at 2 miles an hour in the sludge.
  8. Ass savers. No, I’m not talking about the carrier bag again but someone on my cycling group’s Facebook page brought to our attention Ass Savers mudguards. These are great. They don’t need tools, come in lots of different colours and will save you from getting rain and mud up your back. You can get them on eBay for about £5.
  9. Money/charged phone. Bit obvious really, but make sure you have a charged phone with you so you can call for help if you need to, and money for a taxi/train/bus/cup of tea while you wait for someone to fix your puncture.
  10. Don’t cycle drunk. You might not have a friendly policeman willing to lock your bike up for you and give you a lift home after seeing you unsuccessfully try to ride your bike in a straight line. No, of course this isn’t a true story. (Okay, it’s totally a true story. Wasn’t in London though, obviously.)

If you’d like some more cycling safety tips, there’s a pretty infographic here, but these are my JogBlog Guide To Cycling Safely In Winter ones.

Any tips you’d like to add?

Review: Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack

When I used to do a running commute, I needed a running rucksack. I’d tried running to the gym with the free rucksack I’d got from the gym but soon realised a waistband is a must, unless you like a bag full of kit bouncing up and down on your back.

My first running commute rucksack purchase was a cheapy Puma one – I think it cost about a tenner – which doubled up as a hydration backpack; it just came without the bladder. I didn’t have any need of a bladder until taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge in 2008, so I bought one on eBay to save me having to keep stopping to take my drinks bottle out of my rucksack.

puma-rucksack

The Puma rucksack has been used dozens, if not hundreds of times and although it’s the perfect size to put a few small things in, I want to do some long cycle rides over the summer and it’s not going to be big enough for a full bladder and anything else I want to take with me such as a lock and also leaving room for anything I might want to buy on my travels (for example, I can’t go past the Pilgrims Hospice Bookshop in Dymchurch without popping in and buying books).

So, an upgrade was needed and the upgrade came in the form of the Camelbak Mule Hydration Backpack.Poppy-Orange

Okay, I’m cheating and using the photo from the website. Here’s my not-so-glamorous pic.

mule-camelbak

Pretty though, isn’t it? I love the colour and I love that it’s not too big and I especially love that it has about a zillion pockets in it. It’s even got pockets in pockets and ‘integrated helmet hooks that utilize chinstraps to carry a variety of styles’ (I think that means you can carry your hat on it).

mule-camelbak-back

It comes with a bladder and I’m not going to pretend I know much about bladders other than they hold a drink and you suck it through a hose thing because that’d be lying and we all know lying’s bad, don’t we? But according to the blurb, the bladder has a 100oz/3L capacity, 1/4 turn cap, a low profile design, dryer arms and a quick link system.

camelbak-bladder

I used the rucksack on the recent 55 mile Pilgrims Hospice Cycle Challenge and it was light and comfy and it held what I wanted it to and I didn’t notice I was wearing it, which is all I want from a rucksack really.

pilgrims-challenge

If you want a pretty orange Camelbak like mine, or perhaps one in a different colour or style, you can get one at the Blackleaf website.

Tour de France 2014 Yellow Jersey Infographic

Cycling is out for me at the moment, as I’ve got the lurgy. It’s especially a shame as the weather outside is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for cycling in. Although, last time I went for a bike ride, I did 60 miles and got sunburnt and I’m wondering if that’s the reason for my lurgy.

Still, the Tour de France is starting soon and here’s a pretty yellow infographic about the yellow jersey for you to look at.

tour-de-france

Infographic supplied by www.yellowjersey.co.uk

Juneathon 2014 – Day 22 – Great Kent Bike Ride

I’ve taken part in the Great Kent Bike Ride twice before, but only doing the short route of 35 miles. This year, I thought I’d do the long route but then the bastards decided that the long route wasn’t long enough at 60 miles and added a new 100 mile long route. So the long route is now the medium route and so it was the medium route I did.

In previous years, I’d ridden my beautiful Pashley Poppy although I rode it into town the other day and because I’m now used to my lighter, nippier bike, it was like riding a tank, albeit a pretty pink tank and I have no idea how the hell I’ve done 35 miles on it in one go.

I was up bright and early, got all dressed up in my cheapy cycling gear from Sports Direct (don’t knock Sports Direct – it may look like a jumble sale and you always feel like you might catch something in there but they do have some great bargains) and I almost looked like a cyclist.

great-kent-bike-ride

That’s not fat squidging out the back of my top, it’s flapjacks, honest. Trek Bars to be precise. Peanut & Oat and Mixed Berry to be even more precise.

It was a quiet ride this year – the only reason I can think of is because of the new 100 mile route as I reckoned the people who usually do the 60 mile route would have gone for the longer route this year and they had to start between 7 and 8am, unlike the lightweights doing the shorter routes who didn’t have to start until between 8 and 10 (‘between’ being taken literally by me, as I turned up at 9).

Despite the info saying there was a refreshment stop every 10 miles or so, the first one didn’t appear until 22 miles and even then there was no tea on offer, just water. The next stop – at 40 miles – was a cafe but you had to leave your bikes round the back and as there were only a couple of people around, I didn’t want to leave my bike unattended and I hadn’t brought a lock with me. Someone told me the next stop was only 5 miles away though so I carried on and, hurrah, the next stop was indeed only 5 miles away and they had tea, yay.

The ride was great and the weather was perfect, except for the wind in places, especially down the really boring long road along Dungeness – the struggle on that road not made any easier by the dents in the road every two feet. In fact, the only real moan I have about the ride is because of the roads in places – there had been a lot of resurfacing taken place recently which is obviously a good thing, given the state of the roads, but it’s not a good thing when you’re on a bike and the resurfacing means the roads are basically made of gravel with a good chance of skidding.

At 54 miles, the route split again with an arrow pointing one way for the short and medium riders, and an arrow pointing the other way for the hardcore long route riders. I briefly pondered whether I fancied doing another 46 miles but decided I didn’t, so I followed the arrow that took me to the finish line where I was handed a certificate and a bottle of water.

Then I cycled the two miles home and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden with my Kindle and cold cans of Budweiser.

Juneathon 2014 – Day 19 – 20 miles before lunchtime

I’m taking part in the Great Kent Bike Ride on Sunday. It’s a great ride through gorgeous countryside and on the two previous years I’ve taken part, I’ve cycled the 35 mile route. This year, however, as I’ve got more cycling miles under my padded shorts now, I’ve decided to be hardcore and do the 60 mile route.

I haven’t been out on my bike much lately though as I joined a local social riding group but the last time we went out, I was too slow for them and I had to turn around half way and go back which isn’t very social, if you ask me (I should probably point out I wasn’t asked to turn back – I just didn’t want to spend the next 30 miles feeling bad for holding people up). This made me a bit despondent and demotivated and I haven’t fancied going out on my own since but as I’ll be doing 60 miles in a few days, I thought I’d better get on my bike and get some mileage in.

A 20 mile route was downloaded from Strava and added to my Garmin Edge Touring. The Garmin Edge Touring  is a sat nav for bikes and I love it so much. I’d been wanting one for a while now but they’re not cheap – I think the one I’ve got is the cheapest available and that’s around £200 – but it’s totally worth it. You can let it choose a round route for you or you can create your own routes on your app/website of choice and export them to your Edge. Select your map and off you go with no worrying about getting lost, just enjoy the ride. Because it’s a sat nav for bikes, it’ll choose the quietest route and you can also tell it to avoid hills where possible (an option I have permanently ticked).

garmin-edge-touring

The only criticism I have of the Edge (apart from now reminding me of U2, dammit) is that unless you’ve plotted out the route yourself on roads, it’ll try and make you go down trails/paths if left to choose for you. You can ignore this and carry on going though and after bleeping at you for a while for going off course, it’ll recalculate the route and get you back on track.

I hadn’t meant this to turn into an advert for the Garmin Edge Touring but if you want to cycle further than say about 10 miles, you should get one of these – I’ve cycled to lots of different places since having one without wondering if I’ll be able to find my way home again. Love love love.

Juneathon 2014 – Day 11 – Don’t be a-llama-d but I redeemed myself today

Okay, so that title doesn’t actually work as it wasn’t llamas I went to see today, it was alpacas. Look, little cute baby ones. Aaaaaahhhhh.

1499004_10152088316621389_6746512322765964042_o

I wasn’t just poncing about the countryside looking at fluffy white things though – I’ve been commissioned to write an article about an alpaca trek I went on recently and so I cycled back to the farm today to ask the owner a few questions. But the 11 miles there and the 11 miles back was a decent Juneathon effort, I reckon.

Food for Fuel: Quorn and Red Onion Bolognaise

quorn-spaghetti-bolognaise

It’s become something of a tradition for me to eat spaghetti bolognaise the evening before a race. Not that I – in my usual place at the back of the pack – think it’s going to help me go faster but just because it’s become part of the lead up to standing on the start line.

Last Sunday I took part in the Pilgrims Hospice Cycle Challenge – a 45 mile hilly route looping around Ashford and Canterbury. Despite this not actually being a race, it involved getting up early on a Sunday and wearing a number (well, actually, it was my bike that wore the number) and therefore spaghetti bolognaise was required the evening before. Unfortunately, Shaun had been at work all day and didn’t get back until 8pm, so it was too late to go to the supermarket for ingredients and start cooking. Yes, I could have been organised and gone myself earlier in the day but… I don’t know, I was probably pissing about on Facebook or something.

Still, had I had my traditional pre-race spag bol, it would have been along the lines of this one, using Quorn instead of cow, what with me being a vegetarian and that.

Quorn and Red Onion Bolognaise (serves 4)
(Taken from Leith’s Vegetarian Bible)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g/11oz Quorn mince
1 x 400g/14oz can tomatoes
290ml/1/2 pint vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons mushroom ketchup

To serve

340g/12oz spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan-style cheese

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, pepper, carrots and leek. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until softened.
  2. Add the Quorn mince to the vegetables and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Increase the heat and allow the Quorn to colour slightly.
  3. Add the tomatoes (these can be liquidized for a smoother consistency, if liked), stock, tomato puree and mushroom ketchup.  Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the liquid is well reduced.  Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  4. Meanwhile, bring  a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes until al dente.  Drain thoroughly and rinse the spaghetti under hot running water.  Drain well.
  5. Place the spaghetti in a warmed serving dish and pour over the Quorn bolognaise sauce.
  6. Serve with Parmesan-style cheese sprinkled on top of the sauce or handed separately.

Janathon Day 31 – Janagone!

Got up late, got detoured by a flooded subway, got lost, got my hair cut, got wet, got a cup of hot chocolate and some toasted Bara brith, got warm.

Okay, I lied about the last bit, I haven’t got warm yet.

So, Janathon is over; I’ll write a longer post tomorrow but well done everyone, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Janathon 2014 totals:

Days exercised: 31/31
Running: 26.66 miles
Cycling: 151.89 miles
Cross-training: 11:42 hours
Calories: 11,745

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