Sunday, 27 April 2014

Feedzone Portables

For those of you who have been following either lynne's or my timeline on facebook, you may have noticed a fair amount of cooking going on. Not that this is unusual, we do enjoy a bit of bustle in the kitchen, but we have a new book, and we're cooking through the recipes in record time. 
Normally when we get a cookbook, a couple of the recipes get done, and then it sits on a shelf for the rest of time. But not this one, it seems. 
What is it, and why is that?

I first heard about the concept of good, homemade portable food a year of so ago, I can't remember where the idea came from, but it was the idea of rice balls, with cinnamon and cream cheese. I think it was a Team Sky thing, and I read it on the twitter account of the team chef. Since then, I was on the look out for ideas for real food that I could cook, and then eat on long days out on the hill. Something away from the normal sandwiches and energy bars. 

Basic Baked Eggs. 
The first book, Feed Zone, was published a couple of years ago, and was written by another cycling team chef and a nutritionist for the american olympic team. It was mainly about nutritious food for pre and post ride. Excellent for sports people going hard on a daily basis, but only a small section of it was focussed on portable food that you could take out on the hill. 
Thankfully, that was being held back for the next book, which was published a short time ago, and the one that I'm currently raving about. 

Feedzone Portables

Spaghetti balls.
The basic premise is for healthy and nutritious food, being made in small, bite-size portions that you can take out with you during the day, and eat as a real food alternative to energy bars. There is a fairly comprehensive section at the front of the book about sports nutrition on the go, so if you are particularly of a sciencey type of mindset, or have a particular interest in nutrition on the go, its a really good resource. 

The recipes vary from the sweet to the savory, and, I have to say, are particularly easy to make and taste delicious. In the first week we made 4 different recipes, and have carried on in the same vein ever since. We have been through nigh on half the book by now, and the only reason why a number of them haven't been tried yet is because we haven't managed to get hold of the ingredients yet. 

Spaghetti ball
I'd really highly recommend this book to anyone that eats food. 
There you go. 
Beef and Sweet potato pie
Seriously. Whether you make your own lunch, eat on the hill, eat when cycling, or whatever, the food that you can make from this book covers it all. Many of the recipes can be made gluten free, and there are a good number of suggested ways of doing so. However, the food isn't all that vegan friendly. You can do vegetarian options, but if you don't eat egg, then that might put a bit of a crimp in how much you can take away from this book. 
Pre-waffle and waffle iron
As an aside, you do have to enjoy the process of cooking as well. Lynne and I can spend a good few hours in the kitchen, just making snacks for the next week. Its a lovely sociable activity, and it means that we get to spend time together doing something we enjoy. 

A couple of tips if you live in the uk

  1. One of the first things we bought after getting this book was a silicone muffin tray. We started off by using a normal muffin tray, but even with smearing it with oil, the food often didn't come out in a decent enough piece to eat. Once we bought the silicone tray and it came, the food was transformed, and after we cooked them, they came out like a dream. Fantastic bite sized hill food. Excellent. 
  2. When it says use sticky rice, get tesco thai jasmine rice and steam it. Wash it first, then leave it to stand in water for 10mins, drain it, fill it with water so that it is a little deeper than the rice. Bring it to the boil and let it boil uncovered for a minute, cover it, turn it right down and leave it to steam til the water is absorbed, and once it is, turn off the heat and let it rest for 10, and then there you have it. Perfectly cooked. Mmm. Sticky rice.
  3. Make sure you have loads of cinnamon. 
    Stacks of stuff to be eaten. 
  4. You don't need a mixer to begin with, as there are plenty of recipes that don't require one, but if you start wandering your way through the book, then it certainly comes in handy. 
  5. Be prepared to make mammoth amounts of washing up. 
  6. Make sure you have plenty of eggs. 
  7. There are a lot of calories in these foods, so make sure you're doing a fair amount of exercise to burn it all off.
  8. All the ingredients are measured in american cups. You CAN do all the conversions yourself, but to be honest, its a lot quicker and easier to get a set of cup measures. 
So there you have it. An excellent book about food. Don't just buy it and let it sit on the shelf, thats a complete waste. Buy, try and be excited about the food you eat on the hill again. 

Food. Out there. 
Oh, and a short request... Is there anyone out there who has an old Kenwood Chef taking up space in their kitchen that they no longer need/use? If so, drop me a line, I wouldn't mind taking it off your hands!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Ras y moelwyn 2014

This is the 2014 race report.... the 2015 one is here....

Despite not really racing much this year, I've really been enjoying my time out on the hill. As we were staying in the Rhinogs this Easter weekend, (family duties) we were well placed to get over to the Moelwyns. It just so happened that it was an afternoon start as well, so no early rising for a race for once.

We got over to Blaenau Ffestiniog in plenty of time for the start of the race... Though we thought the race started at 2, as we arrived, there was a sign saying "ras y moelwyn, 1pm" 45 mins til the start... Best start getting ready, though there really didn't seem to be many cars in the field. After registering, we asked and realised that, no, actually, the show starts at 1 and the race starts at 2. Phew. Still, a fair amount of time to faff around. 
recceing the finish
Lynne, my parents and I walked over the first kilometre or so, which was not only the route out, but also the route back in... Always a good idea to recce the end of the route. 
The sun was glorious, and the air was clear. We could see right the way to the top of the final climb from the start/finish funnel. Other runners started to arrive, and pretty soon the parking field started to fill up. True to form, my Dad muscled in and helped out the marshals with car parking duties as things got busier, so I got on with warming up and saying hi to the various people arriving from Glossop and  Pennine, and other randoms that I happen to know. 
The route. Useful to know. 

Overtaking... on a climb!
Racers gathered, and pretty soon it was time for the off, and we crowded under the goal at one end of the football pitch. There was a short spiel in welsh, which probably said something along the lines of "good luck, race fair, don't fall over too much" which was a pretty good idea seeing as the kit requirements were... Take what you want, or don't if you don't want to. So a fair few runners were taking advantage of that, and not carrying anything in terms of equipment. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that, and had my bum bag with waterproof, map, compass, whistle and a bit of food. You can't quite take the sensible bit out of me, no matter what.

Whistle, and we were off. Chris from Glossop got a pretty fast start, and was way out in front of me across the first field, as was Carl. I was in the top 20 or so from the start, and gradually worked my way up through the runners along the first part of road until I was in the top 10 going across the first bit of bog. My plan was to run as much of the uphills as possible. It worked on the race at Foel Fras last year, so it might well work this year. I passed Chris Atherton at the bottom of the first climb, along with a couple of others, and then made my way up the banking along the side of the river. I'd walked up here a good number of years before, and done various sections of the route, walking, of course, as a child. This time, I was fighting for places up the hill.

Uphill, into the sun
I kept my place, and managed to do so along the flat, and to my utmost surprise, on the next ascent, caught up with and overhauled another runner! Lynne also happened to be there as I did so, and ran alongside me, speaking?shouting? Words of encouragement. I was taking care not to redline it, as there was still a decent amount of climb to come. We flattened, and then went up a proper kicker, which was the first time I had to walk for the whole race, through a slate quarry type thing, and then, bog.

One of the glorius things about this race is the sheer amount of different ground you get underfoot. From slate to knee deep bog in the blink of an eye.

On the ascent up to Moelwyn Mawr I could see 4 runners in front of me on the race line, and an eryri runner waaaay off to the right. There was also another racer up on the hill, but not in my sight.
Never looking behind me, and focusing on the guy in front I just tried to keep the same distance from him. To be honest I was gaining on him on the ups, which was nice, but certainly not by much. In my head I kept trying to make the hill less long and less steep than it actually was.

Keep running, keep running, keep running.

The guys up ahead started to walk up the hill, steepening to the top, I swung right early. If it was
going to get steep, I might as well go steep now. Pounding on up to the top, just as I was getting to
the trig, the others were thrashing their way past me down the hill. Up, round the trig, thank the marshals, and plunge down. Well. Kind of. The bloke in front of me was still in sight, but he had already got past the technical bit and was right at the bottom before I had even got over the top... I knew I had to get down there, just not which line to take.

As it was, there must be a much faster line down than the one I took, but where it is... not a clue. Good thing I'm not too shabby a descender and managed to get down unscathed. The going then got really rough and rocky, sharp stones, and dodgy underfoot. A good thing there were a decent number of marshals about, or else the going would have been a lot slower. Navigation was not a problem, more of a case of joining the dots of the marshals, which was fantastic.

Again, guys in front of me were in sight, but not really the line they had taken, so it was pretty much guess, and try to make good. The next hill was fine, a section of running and walking, and one of the guys in front seemed to be dropping back. I was nearly on him after cresting the second hill, and once the descent got really technical and we dropped down through a gully, I caught and passed him with no problem at all, then it was all guns blazing down to the dam, behind a Buckley runner had been just out of my reach pretty much from the beginning.

The descent was more of a boggy slide, which I descended on a barely controlled skid, again, apparently there is a better line. Again, I have no idea where it is, but will need to follow someone closer next time! Or else get out and properly recce the route. (Which is a point, the views from the tops of the hills were fantastic! If ever there was a day to be a marshal, today was the day. I very nearly stopped and took in the view a couple of times, it wouldn't have hurt my race too much as the next guy home was about 2 mins behind... Its just that the route down would have been a little less obvious with no-one to follow).

Me coming across the finish line
Bash across the dam, where there was a lovely spread of jellybabies and oranges and water laid out, didnt touch them though, as I was too busy trying to catch that blue buckley vest, and then a steep climb on the otherside, followed by a horribly runnable climb to the top of the last hill.
Gaining on that blue vest, but not quite being in touch with it, he led me off that last hill, and down the long
long descent to the lake.

I just didn't have the legs to catch him, but kept my legs turning over. I must have been about 40yards behind him as we hit the track we had run up, and he kept that advantage all the way down, along the last lumpy moorland, and back into the football field for the finish.

6th. 1:24:16. .
Which I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with. I was a littke concerned coming into this as my training involved deadlifts in the last week, which sometimes plays havoc with my lower back when i try to run too fast. It didn't affect me at all, which was fantastic.
All day, the marshals were fantastic, very helpful, and cheery. I tried to make sure each and every one of them got thanked. If I missed you, my apologies.

There were also a huge number of photographers out and taking pics, so as and when I find them, or indeed, one of me, then I'll try and get permission to use it here.
The pictures here are pretty much all taken by Lynne, who provided some excellent shouty support on the way up the first climb.

Thanks to the organisers for a fine race. Well organised. Delightful route.
Caity, Me, Noel and Chris. Post race banter. 
Put it on your list for next year!

I had a fantastic day at the race, and now the results have come out, I thought it would be nice to mention that the Buckley runner that just beat me here, by all of 23 seconds, came second at Foel Fras last year, and beat me by 5 mins or so. There were also a good few names on the finish list from this race that either beat me at Foel Fras, or were very close to me... I seem to have improved somewhat since then. Which is good news.

Also, the race results don't seem to be entirely accurate. I'm not sure what the mix up has been, but the ladies results are somewhat topsy-turvy. Jackie Lee was definitely first lady in, with Caity Rice in close pursuit. Something odd has gone on there.

But to finish on a funny note, The top 5 guys were all V40's. So I was the first person home in my catagory. Boom!
I've just got to work out how to beat those old knackers now.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Pendle Fell Race- 2014 English Champs AS

I haven't blogged about a race for a while, mainly because I haven't done any since the Shropshire weekend. I haven't really done that many kit reviews either, and for that I must apologise- I've been on placement in the NHS for the past 6 weeks, and what with that and doing a fair amount of running around and training, there hasn't actually been all that much time to sit down and type much.

As a brief intro for this one- Pendle is the first of the English Championship races this year. There are 2 at each distance, Short, Medium and Long. The first 50 places get championship points, ranging from 50 points for 1st, to 1 point for 50th. The rest. Nothing.
My aim for this year, having never done an English Champs race before, is to accumulate 10 points over the entire season. No idea if it is possible, but it is certainly a challenge. The main reason for that is that I would imagine that each and every race is going to be populated by a large proportion of Englands best Fellrunners, so there won't be a soft race in which to try and grab a load of points. The focus is entirely on me getting better, rather than getting lucky in a race.
Map- and instructions

With that in mind, I've been doing a decent load of training in the weeks and months leading up to this one. Pendle being the first one of the season, I knew was going to be Ultra competitive. Lots of fast people turn up, and as its only about 5 miles long, it was going to be eyeballs out racing all the way around.

I got a lift up with some lads from Pennine, and we got to the race start just after the ladies race had gone off. It being an AS and championship race, men and women raced separately. Stevie K and I got changed and took a bit of a jog around the start and finish of the race. I knew most of the race route, having done the Full Tour of Pendle last November, but the finish was a little bit different, and definitely needed to be recced. We had a quick blast around it, and it was certainly a good thing that we did - as it was not as straight forward as blasting down the road. We reached the end just in time to see the first of the ladies coming in - and saw Glossopdales Caity coming in 5th, with a superb effort of a run.

Deciding we should probably get warmed up, we headed down to the hall, and I went off to warm up.
40 mins later, we were at the start. There were 320 or so of us, and I heard one spectator saying "crikey, you can smell the testostorone".
Not sure that you could... but the front of the pack edged further and further forward up the road away from the starting line as the beginning speech was being made. There was no ready steady go, just a siren, and the pack of us was off, nearly tripping over one another as a parked car made a pinch point. So much so that it pretty much became a mass conga.

All kitted out and ready to go
Thankfully, we spread out (a little), and the road kicked up to quite a degree, so within 300metres of the beginning, there were runners who had started way too near the front of the field that were already falling by the wayside. I darted through gaps as and when they opened, sneaking my way up the field, and up the hill. Little bursts of speed, followed by a relaxation into a pace, and then another burst to get past more people.
As we crested the rise, a break between the good and the not so good was forming, so I took the opportunity to dart past the last few people in front of me in order to tag onto the back of the disappearing
crowd, finding myself keeping pace with Nic Barber. Which was a surprise.

Along the track and then the kicker up onto the hill was where I lost a few places. An internal dialogue was already logging how I felt- and realised that my hills still need a load of work. I managed to keep a running pace up the grass, though with only x-talons on, and with 80+ women already having done this route, and 80+ men just in front of me, it was getting pretty churned up. Mudclaws may have been a better shoe for this race, but I was just going to have to do with what was on my feet.
I managed to keep Nic in sight for most of the climb, and at one point, Jack Ross was only just in front of me. Though to be honest, I kept my head down and concentrated on where my feet were going for the most part, not actually caring who was around me.
After a significant, but horribly runnable hill, we topped out, and blasted down a footpath. A bit too lumpy for running down with complete abandon, but easily runnable enough to really not get your breath back. I felt like I really wasn't going as hard as I could down there, and only overtook 1 person. The over-riding though was "am I losing my descending mojo"? Disaster! I might be...

Still, I kept it together, and hit the bottom of the steep climb hard. A couple of people overtook me at the bottom of the climb, but there was a very obvious and well used trod going all the way up. I chose not to get into that, and scrambled my way up ever so slightly to the left, and gained a fair few places on the way up. Not something I've ever been strong enough to do before, so that was really encouraging. Not getting stuck into the same pace as the guy in front... that's a way to kill your race. I concentrated on how I felt, and just how many bursts of hard speed I could get out of my legs on the way up, without ruining myself for the descent.

I have no idea how long the climb took. One moment I was looking up at a huge climb, the next, I was at the trig. There was just quite a long time in the middle when my entire focus was on the 3 foot in front of my nose. Round the trig, and a long descent. Someone overtook me immediately.
Damn. I MUST be losing it. Nevermind. Just keep the faith and head on down as fast as you can.
There were 5 runners in front of me, that, in my head, and by rights, I should have been able to catch and zoom past, but today, my legs and my head just were not playing ball. Down and down, for what seemed like an age, and I just couldn't get to them. The ground underfoot was slippy as a very very slippy thing, and even with x-talons on, I wasn't 100% sure of my grip. I took a wide line down onto the concrete path that lead back to the finish, and a Calder Valley runner came past. No way I was going to keep his pace.

With only a mile to the finish I was really starting to feel it. Thoughts in my head turned to just stopping. Does it really matter? I could just sit down here really. It's not all that important really.
But the guy in front of me was behind me just now. I think I can beat him. Though it might be hard. Don't think about the pounding feet on the concrete behind you. They don't matter. Don't look back. Concentrate on the ones in front.
Final pull up the hill, the one so recently recced, and I pulled in front of the runner just in front, I could dimly hear Caity, Zoe and Linds shouting encouragement at me. A sharp right turn through a gate, and into a field that was so grim and muddy that it reminded me for all the world of school cross country. Muddy gloop, sucking at your feet as you struggle to maintain any semblance of running form. If I'm having trouble, everyone must be having trouble.
I kept my head up, kept the legs going, and chased the people in front of me. I felt so slow, not managing to gain any ground at all, on someone who was only 4 seconds ahead. But I was beating the chap who was challenging me just now.
Last 500 yards, and I managed to hold him off, coming in at 38:59. 69th. The winner was Tom Addison in 32:55.
No Championship points gained this time, but always good experience.

What was even better was heading back, slightly before the finish, to join with Carl and Beryl who were cheering in the runners, so I added my voice to theirs, and was astonished to be encouraging runners to the line who normally trounce me in races.
The training certainly seems to have been paying off, though this is no time to be complacent.
Coniston is in a month. I'd best be looking at the route and working out a bit of a strategy.
I might even get around to writing a couple of blogs inbetween times.... (as ever, if I find a photo of me running, I'll try and get permission to post it up here... might take a while though).