Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training Happy Updates - The Cambridge Half Marathon

My 2017 goal was to train happy, to stop putting unrealistic expectations and goals in the way of enjoying sport and exercise. You can read more about my training happy goal and why I needed to reach for it, click here.

This is a sentiment that's truly tested when you have lots of plans for the year in particular, I'm running my first half marathon on March 5th- the Cambridge Half. It seems a bit illogical to be running a 13.1 distance having already done a marathon but I fancied trying something new and a closed-road, big ticket race is as good a place as any to try it.

The problem with shiny new exciting things is the tendency to take a 'go hard or go home' attitude and to set myself up for my own perceived failure. So with 2 weeks to go, here's how it's going in the lead up to my first biggie of the year...

The Training Plan

I work best with a plan and because this is a transition from 10km to half marathon I chose a more advanced plan which focused on varied sessions and matched the number of training sessions I can realistically fit into a week and then tweaked any sessions as needed.

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I've really enjoyed having a weekly speedwork session- one of my modification has been to run a different session each week with my running club instead of the generic Fartleks listed. I also allowed 14 weeks to complete this 12 week program so I had some wiggle room- holidays, weather, life, worst case scenario, injuries. They all happen. And if you're on the hunt for a training plan for a new distance, I rounded up my 5 picks from 5k to half marathon right here- click if you missed it.

Attainable Goals

Because physically, I know I can complete 13.1 miles, crossing the line is the goal, but I also knew it wasn't going to motivate me, that said, I want to enjoy the day, I want to enjoy having completed so I have set a time goal, but it's limited and set conservatively. Ultimately it's about #finishlinesbeforefinishtimes which is a sentiment I shared when I was featured on the MyProtein Women Instagram feed in January.

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Listening to my body

So this is a hard one to learn. And it's why I put some extra weeks into my training. Last weekend after a long week, disturbed nights and shitty weather I did not want to run. Not just feeling a bit lacking in motivation, but full on struggling to get out of bed tired and so I didn't. I stayed home, made sure to eat properly and the result is that my final peak long run this week was my strongest yet.

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Finding the JOY

I find it hard to believe that anyone enjoys every single run or ride or gym session they do. Sometimes it doesn't go to plan, sometimes you don't feel like it, and sometimes you have to do the things you enjoy the least to see progress. But if you can't see the point in things, or you find yourself dreading all of your workouts, then maybe it's time to revisit your reasons. I found the joy in new routes, planned runs with friends and dragged Tom along for some of them too. I've also planned my year (you can read more about how I plan my race calendar here- click if you missed it) around events that sound fun or I know I love. It's easy to get caught up in race fever- entering events because other people are or they sound fun at the time, but holding out for the ones I really love or want to do and fitting in not just running but some of the cycling fun and games I crave.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Race Fever: How I Plan My Race Calendar

Race Fever. It's a real thing. The irrepressible urge to sign up for ALL the races and events. I'm pretty sure there's no right or wrong number of races or events to do, that's all down to your own preference, but as someone who frequently has their head turned by shiny looking events, and someone who has missed out on preferable events because something is already booked in, I've found planning my races really beneficial. It also helps me to stagger the cost of any expensive races and prevents me from over booking myself.

I know a lot of runners who swear by spread sheets- a page for events with their sign up dates, event dates etc, but personally, I'm a pen and paper kind of a girl..

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Actually, to be more specific... I'm a multiple notebook, sticker, coloured pens and pencil kind of a girl, and a all green everything kind of a girl. My bad.

For real though, I like the act of writing things down, it helps me to remember things and I find it easier to view than using a screen, especially in my own time as I spend most of my work day glued to a computer and a phone.

I use a Moleskine extra large 2 month planner. It shows each week to a page with a notes page opposite and it has a year calendar at the front, showing each month to a page. And it's predominantly this way that I plan my races.

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First port of call- enter any holidays, important dates, work commitments etc into the year. It stops me from booking races when I know I'm likely to be on call with the business or when I'm planning holidays.

Next in go races already booked- I had one or two events I'd already sorted for 2017 before it started- if you like big events, you may well find yourself entering ballots or signing up for events more than 6 months ahead. This year, I knew I had the Cambridge Half Marathon in March and Endure 24 in June.

Now comes the FUN bit. Races and events I already know I really want to do in the year. 10k is my happy place and I already know in 2017 I want to revisit the Vitality 10000 where I set my PB in 2016 because it was an awesome course and the high of finishing with a PB added to a great atmosphere and well organised race. It's become tradition for Tom & I to ride to Southend on the BHF London-Southend ride because it also usually falls on the Rapha Women's 100 weekend which I love, and I can usually tell whcih weekend it'll be based on the last 3-4 years. As well as these 2 biggies, a few highlights to include, in case you fancy any for yourself:

Wings World Race For Life: a role reversal for most runners, you are chased by the catcher car, so it's down to you how far you get. I had friends who ran it last May from Cambridge and I'm looking forward to giving it a shot myself. The race raises money for spinal chord injury and happens at the same time in cities all over the world.

Royal Parks Half.: You might already know I did secure a ballot place for this. I knew it was going to be luck of the drawer, but I alo knew when it would fall and the Women's Running Magazine 10k series would have been my alternative race as it falls the same day, local to me in north London, Finsbury Park.

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Oh yeah!

March AC Summer Run: having join a new running club in 2017, I thought I'd better mark the race the club hosts into the the diary fairly swiftly this July. For anyone reading in Cambridgeshire, we'll be hosting on July 2nd.

London Marathon: I'm not running it, but decided I wanted to volunteer this this year. I'm supporting the Cancer Research administration team on the day as it's a cause important to me, and I get to soak up some of the atmosphere

Ride London: I represented Team Skoda in Ride100 in 2016 and had a blast. You can check out my photo diary from the 100 mile closed road route if you missed it. I didn't get a ballot place, but as last year proved- anything can happen! It's also hellish trying to get around London on the day, so it's a useful date to be aware of.

And last off, I've been pencilling in races I've been too late for or unable to fit in this year as well. I know this might sound a bit odd, but it'll help me keep track for next year- I'd love to do the Disney Paris Half in September 2018, which I can't fit in this year, and I quite fancy running my 'local' half marathon- The North London Half, which is just a bit too close to the Cambridge Half for me this year.

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So far, 2017 is shaping up to be a fun year event wise. I'm excited for the events I've decided to do and have been lucky with my Royal Parks place. I'm eyeing up more cycling adventures for the summer months which is typically when I run a bit less- I'm not a good hot weather runner!

As for frequency, this seems to be a hotly debated issue. There are stories of heroes running marathons weekly, I have friends who race once or twice a year, just keep them in their trainers and people who book lots of events and struggle to complete them all due to injury or conflicting commitments. In 2015 I raced a lot- if you're new around here and you want to know why (and what got me running) you need to read this post. In July 2015, I spent 3 weekends of 4 attending races, and for me, it was too much. I'm not an early riser and cherish a weekend lay in, so extra early starts didn't help, travel time to-from venues meant I lost at least half a day at a time, and I was shattered. As an inexperienced runner, I didn't have enough time to recover before throwing myself into the next event. In 2016 I went the other way. I imposed a one race per quarter limit, and I was bored, missed out on things and ditched the idea mid-year.

This year, I'm aiming for roughly one event per month, cherry picking my wishlist races first and foremost, and then taking it as it comes. It's not exact- I have 3 events between May 7th & June 11th, but not consecutive weekends, and I'm nipping off on holiday straight after Endure24 on June 11th. My point- it's very much a personal thing. Family life, work, cost and time are all factors so what works for me, might not work for you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Slow Cooker Recipes: Winter Favourites

The slow cooker. Mine was a Christmas gift back in 2012 when Tom & I were living on one very minimal graduate salary in a shithole flatshare in E14. It was a lifesaver for making cheap food that neither of us had to put a lot of effort into between working, studying and a health hazard kitchen. My love for the slow cooker has stayed with me though and especially in the cooler months, it's such an easy way to cook. With that, here's a few of my favourite recipe. A lot of them are American (because they love their Crockpots over there) and Pinterest is a goldmine of slow cooker recipes if none of these grab your fancy!

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Thai Chicken Soup (Foodiecrush)

Think Thai curry flavours in a soup, great for a working lunch. Because our slow cooker is small, I use half the ingredients would usually add noodles instead of rice. It also is lovely with spinach stirred through for some extra fresh and would work well with leftover roast chicken shredded through the soup based if you're keeping it economical.

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Image: Foodiecrush

Mexican Mixed Bean Stew

This is one of my own from 2016, but one I've been making for a while. If you fancy a hit of extra protein, add chicken thighs to the bottom of your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours. I like to serve this over a baked sweet potato with a sprinkle of cheese over the top and plenty of diced peppers mixed through.

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Korean Beef (The Recipe Critic)

This works equally as well for chicken but I love beef for something a bit different (I eat a lot of white meat & fish). My only edit to this recipe is that reduce the sugar content- I use 1/4 cup sugar and a tablespoon of honey instead of 3/4 cup sugar. Another top tip, because I loathe wasting plastic bags on coating meat- put the raw beef in the slow cooker dish first, sprinkle the cornflour over and mix well to coat.

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Image: The Recipe Critic

Sweet Potato, Chicken & Quinoa Soup (Chelsea's Messy Apron)

This is a weight soup, but great for post-run food or a filling al-desko lunch. This recipe does appear to be designed for an industrial sized slow cooker though, so to scale down:

I  tend to use just the one standard UK can for the tinned ingredients (drained, that's usually around 250g, this recipe calls for over 400g tins), I use an empty can (about 400ml) to measure out the stock and add only 2.
1 large sweet potato should do it
2 chicken breasts should be plenty or 4 chicken thighs
I used approx 50g (dry weight) of Quinoa

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Image: Chelsea's Messy Apron

Winter fought off in a bowl! Now, to find my favourite spring recipes in the hope that the sun will come out to play!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winter Training... On The Cheap

Winter running is a funny thing. Whilst some people loathe it, and I can't deny that sometimes the motivation to venture out when it's especially dark, windy and/or frosty, but there seems to be a camp of runners into which I fall, the one that finds winter training infinitely easier than summer training. The only snag, is that colder weather requires seemingly endless layers and whole array of technical fabrics you never knew existed, let alone thought you might need, all with a price tag. And frankly, this weekend, it's really fucking wintery.

Oh, and whilst I'm at it. This post does not contain any links, nor does it contain any paid for product placement. I've been given items by brands and I'm very honest about that, but this is not an advertising piece, it's an honest look at how to curb the cost when it's REALLY easy to keep spending.

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I've been really lucky over the last few years to work with some awesome brands who have broken serious ground with technical running kit- you might remember me posting about Helly Hansen and their Norviz kit last year (click if you missed it) and more recently some of the MyProtein kit- surprisingly good by the way! But I do also spend my own hard earned money on the kit I wear and whilst some of it has been a bit... miss, there's been some hits too. So, winter training, on the cheap.

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Highstreet Hits

The rise of highstreet sportswear has been stratospheric. Supermarket clothing ranges, designer collaborations and a splash of fashion is everywhere. Not only has it made sports kit more affordable but it's also more accessible- no more specialist shops or websites or worst of all- high and mighty assistants! Check out H&M for classy kit, Clothing at Tesco for bright prints and colours and ASOS for big brands.


There's all kinds of ways to save money on branded kit- sales are always a good bet but websites like SportPursuit offer limited discounts on specific kit and better still offer a points scheme for discounts and vouchers.

Other websites like have made there mark by offering consistent mark downs on trainers and other sports kit, specifically the very searchable brands like Nike. I also managed to snag a pair of my absolute favourite Norviz running tights with 75% off in clearance.

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Helly love, and my horrible twisty form

Looking beyond the obvious

Some of my favourite and most relied upon kit has come from places I would never have thought to look before. The 'budget' supermarkets Aldi & Lidl both regularly stock assorted fitness items- my favourite baselayer comes from Aldi's recent skiwear promotion and my flashing arm bands came from a Lidl cycling sale. Outdoor brands like Mountain Warehouse have diversified their offerings and the long sleeved mid-layers are my go to for a flattering cut and some extra warmth.

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So, whilst the sky keeps leaking as it defrosts, don't be fooled into thinking that the only time of year to start running is spring or summer- that comes with it's own problems- hell hath no fury like an overheated sweaty runner, and don't go thinking you have to spend a fortune either. There are a hundred memes about expensive kit people buy when they run, and it's true, you can. But just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Happy Running.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Chloe Likes To Eat:Weekend Brunch Ideas

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I live for weekend lay-ins. If I can possibly avoid setting an alarm on the weekend, I do and it's rare for us to be up and dressed before 1100. This lends itself well to a fabulous brunch once we do eventually surface and it's a favourite meal of the week so I thought I'd share some our best brunches- ones you can make at home without having to spend half a week's rent or queue up to get into. Just sayin'...

The Ultra Low Effort Brunch

Scrambled eggs, smoked salmon & toasted muffin- naturally that's an *artistic* drizzle of sriracha sauce to spice things up a little too. I actually make my own English muffins- way easier than expected FYI, I use this English Muffin Recipe.

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The Any Day, Anywhere Bowl

Buddha, Grain, Burrito you name it and it comes in a bowl... Well you can add brunch bowl to the list. It's a great one to pre-pack if brunch on the go is your thing and it's comfort in a bowl on a dull afternoon.

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Scrambled eggs, avocado & cherry tomato salad- mixed with lemon juice, sriracha & a touch of salt, and a cauliflower fritter- (I posted a recipe for this last year, click if you missed it) and it would also work really well with my Smoked Salmon Burgers too (click if you missed it)

The One I Call Eggy Bread (French Toast)

Growing up, I went to a Girl Guides group for a couple of years. On pretty much the only camp trip I ever went out, at breakfast served up was something I'd never had before, referred to as 'eggy bread' bread dipped in beaten eggs and fried. So no, I don't call it French Toast!

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This works best if you have stale bread to use up and this slice of loveliness was actually dessert but it's a cracking brunch if you fancy something sweet- whilst still hot, spread with peanut butter & top with frozen berries (warmed through in the microwave is my personal preference) and I drizzled some additional raspberry syrup over it, because syrup.

The One With All The Cheese

Cheese, glorious cheese... Anyway...

Sweetcorn fritters lurk underneath a pepper & tomato salsa and the whole lot is topped with feta and some bonus smoked cheese.

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For the fritters: Blitz 1 small tin of sweetcorn with one beaten egg and 50g plain flour. Season with half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a twist of a salt grinder. Place spoonfuls in a hot pan until golden on each side flipping when needed.

For the salsa: Chop 1 red pepper, 1 red onion and a generous handful of cherry tomatoes,  add the whole lot with a splash of oil to a hot pan and stir until softened. Season with salt & pepper and a sprinkle of chilli flakes.

There you go, 4 brilliant brunches that are easy to make, a change from avocado toast and easy to make.