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Crawling along the Vanguard Way

The Vanguard Way is a bloody wonder.

Who would have thought that in this day and age you could walk from the coast to London city passing through an entirely rural corridor.

20140421 100156 Crawling along the Vanguard Way

I was dropped off near Forest Row, quite a way up from the coast and set the challenge of making it home before the kids had eaten all the Easter eggs.

I wasn’t too concerned. I had money in my daysack and thought I could pop into a village shop for a sustaining creme egg if the need arose. I hadn’t factored in quite how isolated this route is. After 7 hours of walking I had passed not a single shop, pub or local convenience. I survived on a bag of sherbet pips and a bottle of coconut water but by the end even the snails were looking tasty.

The Vanguard Way was soggy this morning but I had a waterproof jacket and a plastic bag to keep my sweets dry.

20140420 202148 Crawling along the Vanguard Way

The damp air didn’t deter me or the animals. Easter bunnies were frolicking, grouse and pheasant were screeching at me from the hedgerows and lambs were being born as I squelched across the fields.

Today’s pace was painfully slow, I felt fairly fresh and healthy but the hilly terrain and the littering of stiles had the effect of stopping me in my tracks, repeatedly.

I cannot abide stiles. I reckon land owners design the most evil, wobbly contraptions to deter invading walkers. One field I passed through had passed an electric cable across the handrails and it was only the occasional buzz that warned me to attempt a handsfree ascent to avoid a shocking experience.

20140420 201421 Crawling along the Vanguard Way

20140420 201314 Crawling along the Vanguard Way

As I approached Croydon across the North Downs I thought I’d stumbled upon the escape route from a local escargot farm but it seems the Romans brought monster snails to the Southern counties as well as Burgundy and these were free range Roman Snails enjoying the chalky environs of the North Downs.

I couldn’t bring any home for tea as they are an endangered species in the UK and it is now illegal to harvest them. I don’t think anyone was too disappointed.

The Vanguard Way

  • 66 miles from Croydon to Newhaven
  • There is a fantastic resource for the route available at http://www.vanguardway.org.uk/
  • Colin Saunders has produced extremely detailed route descriptions that you can download in sections and the GPS for each section is available to download. I downloaded the GPS and followed the breadcrumb trail as my printed booklets soon disintegrated in the rain.
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Swimming with the Get Speedo Fit App

20140324 083649 Swimming with the Get Speedo Fit AppSpeedo sent me an amazing gift pack with fins, paddles, pull buoys, goggles and rather thoughtfully a great big ruck sac to stash it all in.

As much as all the gear excited me, it came with the requirement to go forth and swim. I really like to swim but I cannot abide all the faff associated with swimming – changing, drying and of course the discarded plasters and hair accumulating in the communal showers.

Streatham re-opened their new swimming pool last month, after the original was sacrificed for a mammoth Tesco store. Being less than a month old I thought it would be lovely clean place to reintroduce myself to public swimming.

I was wrong. The changing rooms were smelly and hairballs skittered across the tiles like tumbleweed. I wished my speedo accessory pack included sandals but alas, I had to hop from one clean-ish spot to another until I reached the relative tranquility of the pool.

The pool at least was a joy, light bright and delightfully empty, which meant I was free to play with my embarrassing arsenal of swim gear without feeling like too much of a wally.

20140324 083700 Swimming with the Get Speedo Fit AppI took the fins, which are mini flippers that strap over the toes and a set of paddles which are plastic plates that sit in your hands and enable you to apply greater resistance as you cut through the water. The fins were amazing and I would nominate fused toes for our next evolutionary development, although they may not help with running.

I timed a few laps with and without the gadgets and despite being a bit useless with the tumbleturn as the flippers slid down the tiled walls I was significantly faster with the fins and paddles than without.

The speedo website looks to have been improved recently. As well as showcasing some fab products it now includes a whole section on technique, with videos and tips to help you improve your strokes. I used it to fathom out how to use the finger paddles.

20140323 215555 Swimming with the Get Speedo Fit App

Speedo have also released a great swimming app, called Get Speedo Fit. I’ve been really impressed with the app. I’ve tried swimming gadgets before, moving through the swimsense watch to the Garmin 910XT, both of which count laps in a “relatively” accurate fashion but don’t offer much else in terms of swim specific interest. The Get Speedo Fit app adds an additional level of graphical feedback and motivation by setting map based challenges. The app is able to identify your local swimming pool and determine the pool length, although you do have to count your own laps.

I appreciated the visual challenge and would be interested in a running app that would plot my journey across a suitably inspiring expanse but for now I’ll settle for swimming along the Thames.

I selected the Thames River challenge as its a manageable distance, requiring me to swim 3,945m from Westminster to Tower Bridge, but I could have been more ambitious and opted for the Suez Canal or English Channel challenge. I managed about half a kilometre before braving the changing rooms again. I’ve got another 3.5k to go so I’m either going to have buy a pair of flip flops or find another pool to complete my challenge in.

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A Deep Need for Heat

20140324 185205 A Deep Need for HeatDeep Heat sent me a selection of warming (and cooling) patches to trial and this weekend resulted in more than enough sore muscles to ease.

My motivation has a tendency to ebb more than it flows and so when I catch even the tiniest wave of sporting enthusiasm I’ve been doing my best to ride it. This weekend it meant cramming a weeks worth of exercise into 1 day.

Saturday started with BMF, so we were in the park by 9:30 shivering in a huddle as our Sergeant Major determined exactly how he was going to go about rubbing our faces in the mud. He opted for plank splits and monkey crawling up a sodden bank, interspersed with shuttle runs and partner shoving.

After a quick break for brunch I was off again for my final session of Olympic Weightlifting, wondering how the earlier military battering was going to interfere with my weighted squat performance.

I was noticeably wobbly from the start but after 90 mins of snatch and clean training I was ready to plonk myself on the floor and await a teleportation device. Unfortunately I still have a couple of 100k walks to train for so I had to forego any offers of space/time travel and actually walk home.

What a drag. Have I mentioned before that I find walking so incredibly tedious and mind numbingly dull? If it wasn’t for the invention of audiobooks I’d stand no chance. This week I’m listening to The Farm by Tom Rob Smith and it is sufficiently gripping to offer some pleasure with each passing mile.

Needless to say, when I woke up on Sunday there was no part of me that wouldn’t welcome the application of a Deep Heat patch. I’m hoping to keep a couple spare as light relief on the London2Brighton walk so wasn’t prepared to blow them all this weekend. I therefore wondered around for a couple of hours trying to decide which bit of me hurt the most.

I decided my deltoids were in greatest need and attempted to apply a medium patch. It didn’t want to curl very neatly around my shoulder so I whipped it off and slapped it on my ample quad. The off and on again application won’t have helped its adhesive powers but it seemed fairly secure despite a little peeling at the edges.

I then went about my day, hobbling and moaning every time I moved, making sure everyone was aware that I’d had a pretty tough weekend. Despite the melodrama I also managed a few hours on the allotment, performing light planting and sowing duties and the patch remained intact. In fact the patch stayed on for a good 10 hours, delivering a gentle warmth until I went out for a very unsuccessful jog/walk/crawl around the block. At the 2k mark I could feel the patch slipping as all the warm beads sunk downwards. At 2.5k the patch shot out from the bottom of my trousers and I had to retrieve it from the gutter.

I think thats a pretty successful test. The pack claims 8 hours of warmth and my patch remained in-situ for around 10 hours and was still giving off a faint afterglow even from the gutter. It was a bonus that I didn’t have to rip it and half a layer of epidermis from my thigh.

Product details:

Deep Heat Patch

Deep Heat Patch provides effective, warming relief from muscular aches and pains, joint stiffness and backaches for up to eight hours. Each patch contains iron and activated charcoal. When the pack is opened, the air activates a heat generating reaction that produces a warming effect when the patch is applied to the skin. This local, superficial heat improves the circulation to the muscles, so reducing pain and stiffness. Each Deep Heat Patch is active for up to eight hours after the pack is opened, providing long-lasting, deep-relieving warmth. With no smell and no associated grease, the self-adhesive patches are easy to apply and convenient for use during the day.

RRP for a single Deep Heat Heat Patch is £2.07; Boots.com
RRP for a pack of four patches is £6.25. Boots.com

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Olympic Grade DOMs

I have a passable Snatch, a fairly confident Jerk but I am afraid my Clean is just an embarrassment.

Before my blog gets to sound too smutty I must tell you that I am in week 2 of a 4-week Olympic weightlifting course and the snatch, clean and jerk are of course, powerful weightlifting moves.

The finish point of the Snatch looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014 03 09 at 20.50.50 Olympic Grade DOMs

I think I look a lot like this, only my bar has next to no weights on it and my squat is decidedly more vertical. I’m only in week 2 though, I should be giving this chap a run for his money in April.

If he saw me after last weekends session I doubt he would be worried.

The sessions last for 1.5hours and involve alternating sets with a partner. Almost every Olympic weightlifting move incorporates a full squat so I estimate that I was doing deep, weighted, squats for at least 30 minutes last Saturday.

For someone who was scared to curtsy less than 3 months ago I think that is a huge progression.

My quads certainly thought it was a huge progression.

My thighs humoured me while I insisted on walking home – 12 miles across London, but for the next four days they laughed in my face.

I suffered with quad DOMs almost as severe as my first running attempts when I found myself a prisoner in my third floor flat. This time I could make it into work and up the stairs to my desk, but from then on in I was trapped, desk bound. My legs would not function for descents.

It wasn’t so bad, the desk binding DOMs coincided with a work week from hell, where I was tied to my computer for 14 hour days and my colleagues took enough pity on me to fetch my daily supplies of black coffee.

After day 4, when my legs started to consider bending again, I started practising the squat manoevre. I dragged out the kettlebell and commenced an urgent practice before the next Olympic session. This fantastic tutorial from Nerd Fitness tells you everything you need to know to perfect the squat.

As this week’s session started I was relieved to find I could squat down to my haunches again but I soon discovered a new flaw in my Olympic weightlifting armoury – elbows.

My elbows let me down for the Clean, which is an odd unbalanced move, requiring you to flick the bar up on to your collarbones, elbows up, before dropping into a front squat.

My elbows absolutely refuse to move up. My wrists double back on themselves but still my elbows won’t budge. This means when I attempt even the teeniest hint of squat, I pitch myself forwards and lose the move completely.

I now need to spend the rest of the week adding elbow stretches to my squat routine.

20140309 203029 Olympic Grade DOMs

The London2Brighton training still needs to be fitted into my weekend, so I’ve added a cross London commute into the mix. I trog across the classy suburbs of London: Maida Vale, Little Venice, Paddington, South Kensington, Chelsea, Battersea, Balham, peering into the gardens and front rooms of the well to-do.

Although I’m fascinated by the Lambourghini’s littering the streets in front of the Victoria and Albert, my favourite point of the walk is the river crossing.

20140309 203150 Olympic Grade DOMs

I get to choose between the two most impressive structures in the whole of London: the Battersea Power Station and Albert Bridge.

I couldn’t decide which was my favourite this weekend, so spent at least an hour circling between the two, enjoying the setting sun over Hammersmith and waiting for the majestic lights on Albert Bridge to impress the dusk.

20140309 214708 Olympic Grade DOMs

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Quorn Lasagne

With two teenagers in the house, meal times often become complicated. One does not cope well with one-pot amalgams which are my fall back staple and the other is a VEGETARIAN!

It is not unusual to have three different dishes on the go and I’m afraid the vegetarian often suffers from my lack of imagination and gets a Linda McCartney fakey on her plate alongside a floret of broccoli and a bit of carrot – the only two vegetables she’ll contemplate eating.

Quorn sent me through a few sample products recently and I have to say the Quorn mince is an absolute winner. It’s a healthy protein source and can form the basis of a tasty meal without the heavy, greasyness that beef mince can add to a meal.

It is tasty and meaty enough, in a better than meat sort of way, to be acceptable to everyone in the house.

We had the in laws around this weekend and they added “not fond of red meat” to the list of food requirements. With the Quorn mince at the ready I was able to knock up a pretty darn tasty lasagne that suited everyone’s tastes and it was quite a joy to have everyone around the table enjoying the same dish.

Quorn Lasagne Recipe

20140309 190313 Quorn LasagneHere’s the bulk of the ingredients I gathered for the vegetarian Quorn Lasagne.

  • Onions x 3
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Quorn
  • Marmite (1 tsp)
  • Splash of Worcestershire Sauce (I hope this is vegetarian)
  • Passata
  • Tomatoes fresh
  • Tomatoes tinned
  • Oregano
  • Tomato purée
  • Sun dried tomatoes x 4ish

20140309 190326 Quorn Lasagne

The carrots are an optional extra but I use them to bulk out the mixture and to sneak a few hidden vegetables into the teenagers.

Chop and fry the onions and then garlic. Add in the carrots and fresh toms before chucking in all the wetter ingredients. Add a teaspoon of marmite and dash of Worcestershire sauce for the umami hit and then simmer for approx one hour while you faff with the cheese sauce.

20140309 194419 Quorn LasagneI always revert to Delia for my white sauce but I do add a bit of cheese for taste. (I didn’t get to be this weight by cooking cheese-less sauce!). I also made extra by doubling up on the quantities so I’d be sure to have enough for 2 generous lasagnes.

I ended up with quite a lot left in the pan though, so if you can cope with a 1.5 x calculation I’d recommend you go with it. It was my intention to go with 1.5 x Delias recipe but I messed up when measuring the flour and you really don’t want to make a cheese sauce with too much flour – always go for less rather than more flour or else it will taste disgusting.

Next its time for the layering.

20140309 190340 Quorn Lasagne

Start with a layer of ragu, followed by cheese sauce then the lasagne sheets. You want to aim for three layers of pasta sheets, finally topped with white sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

The three layers ensures that the cooked lasagne has a bit of rigidity and doesn’t serve up like a dollop of Bolognaise sauce. I got it perfect for one dish but the second was too shallow to cope with a full 3 layers and I felt cheated at dinner time when I was served from the sloppy tray!

20140309 190353 Quorn LasagneHaving prepared this at the crack dawn, I then went out for a very long walk. Leaving instructions for the oven to be switched on about an hour before my estimated arrival and was very glad to arrive home shattered but rewarded by a lovely sizzling feast.

Quorn samples have been doing the rounds of the running blogger world and here’s a few of the other Quorn recipes I’ve spotted:

Helsbels – Made a creamy pasta dish with the Quorn Meatballs
JogBlog – Made a Chicken Quorn Lattice Pie

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What a Drag

I can’t tell you what a drag it is to start “walking” training again. I don’t know why it bothers me so much but walking and running are at polar opposites in my life.

I walk 10k and my mind is full of moans and groans. I run 10k and I’m tired but I feel great, I feel superior, and fit, and deserving. Deserving of a pint of Stella, and maybe a Sunday roast and at least an afternoon in front of the TV. A 10k walk leaves me decidedly maudlin, and achey and quite frankly old!

I walked just over 10 miles on Sunday. Across London. I intended to photograph all points of quirky interest but I was so obsessed with the whole misery of the ordeal that I managed only 3 uninspiring snaps.

20140204 201658 What a DragI will spare you 2 of them and leave you with the Harvey Nic’s window display. I was shocked by the half-mast trousers that seemed to overtake Sloan Street but didn’t have the energy to retrieve the camera.

I’ve just signed up for another 100k attempt – The Grand Union Canal challenge, and have almost recruited a walking partner.

If she reads this I imagine I will have just lost my walking partner. There have got to be more joyful pursuits than walking 24hours with a hiking depressive.

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Almost a Sick Note

Recently, whenever I start to prepare for exercise I feel as though I am about to have a heart attack. It’s not extreme pain but does feel as though I have an elephant sitting on me or more precisely a belt tied tightly around my chest.

Today the plan was to attend an early morning BMF session, our first since xmas, and so Lynn was inclined to assume my groans were some form of psychosomatic / exercise avoidance attack.

The discomfort lasted right up to our arrival at the park and I very nearly got out of the group exercise torture. When I got out of the car and stretched it had disappeared though and I’d also determined that the new pain coincides with the precise moment I fasten my sports bra. So it’s probably an indication that my girth has expanded rather than a shrinking of my cardiac arteries.

British Military Fitness was a bit of shock to the system this week. We may as well have been first timers again, weeping silently as we did wide legged pressups into a muddy puddle. The only thing that keeps me going is the image of me as GI Jane. Almost there I think.

20140126 180637 Almost a Sick Note

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Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military Canal

Both fitflo and jogblog have noticed my absence and have been kind enough to send out a search party.

I’m still here, quietly dabbling with Janathon, which of course is not the point – Janathon is supposed to be shouted about on a daily basis.

20140119 232041 Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military CanalThere has been some daily form of exercise happening. This weekend for example, was given over to hiking as the London2Brighton training has started in earnest again. From now until May I will have to gradually increase my weekend walks until I can happily skip my way across 100km of the South Downs. Given that neither Lynn or I actually enjoy walking, that should make for a few grumpy weekends.

We tried to make the most of the first training hike by booking into our favourite sea-front hotel in Hastings, and spent the first evening plotting what appeared to be, an exciting 11 mile route along the Royal Military Canal. The walk sounded exciting and a touch romantic.

20140120 083231 Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military CanalWe managed a little enthusiasm at the first WWII pill box but very soon descended into a downward facing trudge. The canal was monotonous and it was a cold day, which never helps. The ground was so slippery that it was constant battle to keep your feet from sliding back and losing ground.

I won’t go on with the moaning or you will soon find yourself joining the funk.

20140119 232051 Not a Lot of Fun on The Royal Military CanalI woke the next day with thighs that carried the pains of at least twice the distance walked. My daily commute has clearly not been preparing me well for sliding across grassy trails with 20kg of excess mud attached to my cleats.

Today was a much brighter day and we celebrated with a more leisurely stroll along the sea front.

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An Icy Thrill

I’ve written off three pairs of shoes in the last month and have come perilously close to not having the right shoe for the job since then.

20140112 232438 An Icy ThrillToday’s run on Mitcham Common was crying out for a hardcore trail shoe that could spit in the face of mud and other soggy park crud. Fortunately I took delivery of a replacement pair of Inov8 Roclites yesterday and they sounded like they could cope with all Mitcham had to throw at them.

It was a lovely run, with our efforts exhaled like misty clouds against the bleak common. We ran on, crunching through the frosty grass and cracking through frozen puddles, trying to avoid turning our ankles on frozen clods.

20140112 232453 An Icy ThrillThe far end of the common must have seen more than its fair share of sun as the ground turned soft and then wet and then gave way to a faux river. I love splashing around, so ran straight through, enjoying the thrill of icy water between my toes while Lynn held back. She seemed to be intimating that there was no way she was going to continue but I’d gone on and could no longer hear her complaints.

20140112 232503 An Icy ThrillAfter some lengthy consideration, which I like to think was accompanied by rhythmic clapping, she began the run up for a rather impressive triple jump. She hop, skipped and darn near flew over the soggy obstacle and we were on for lap two.

I love winter running.

It doesn’t half play havoc with your shiny new shoes though.

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A Near Fail

I came very close on the 11th.

It was 11:45pm and I was settling down to watch episode 4 of The Bridge, when Lynn started the Janathon countdown. I told her didn’t matter and I wasn’t doing it anymore but she wasn’t having any of it.

I’m a starter-leaver by nature. I love the thrill of a new project but have very little interest in following anything through to the end.

I married a completer-finisher which can lead to an interesting dynamic, where I tend to have a million and one things on the go and Lynn feels some sort of compulsion to make me finish…. them…. all. I’ll be run ragged by the time I reach my grave.

Anyway, back to last night.

With 15 mins between me, The Bridge and Janathon failure, Lynn had me off the settee and on the carpet performing a sequence of BMF inspired exercises. I did a 57 sec plank, 15 push ups and 10 squats. Unfortunately I can’t provide photographic evidence as I was wearing the same t-shirt as yesterday and can’t have you thinking I’m stinky as well as lazy.

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