Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Keep on Running

A year ago I took part in my first 10k in years in Linlithgow and managed 1 hour 3 minutes. It's a course known to be a challenge for any pb aspiring runner and I took comfort in that. However it was also the kick that I needed to get my running going.

In the last 12 months I have participated in a number of 10ks getting faster each time. I even had the confidence to set a 55 minute target in order to raise money of Alzheimer Scotland.

  • Not Chipped- but there is a klaxon, a stop watch and a lot of marshalls, so that has to be accurate, right?!
  • Hill Climb factor*: 8/10
  • Scenic
  • For the more serious of runners (no fun runners need apply)
  • Highlight- The first 10k in 5 or more years and my base line. There were no highlights to this other than the walk I needed to take to avoid having an ambulance called. I nearly cried when I saw Little Sis cheering me on at 9.5k a broken woman.

Strathclyde Country Park
  • Not Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 4/10
  • Scenic
  • Good support & atmosphere
  • Highlight- This was a Tesco "Run for Life" where the runners all had "I'm doing it for..." and I had mine filled out in memory of those who are no longer around because of cancer. On approaching my Husband he let out a supportive roar of "DO IT FOR ME!". While I slogged on I had a number of supportive runners pass me with comments and sympathetic smiles. I didn't have the heart or the breath in me to say "He's not got cancer, he just wants me to do a decent time"
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 2/10
  • Residential
  • Poor support & lacking atmosphere
  • Highlight- While I shaved some more time off it was the people who over took me that stood out and spurred me on. A bare foot runner, an octogenarian celebrating his birthday, a couple of purple suited gimps - one fat and one thin- (obviously) and three super hero's. Thankfully no comedy fun running toilets passed me.
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 7/10
  • Scenic
  • Good support & atmosphere
  • Highlight- I can proudly say I ran with Ron Hill. For the uninitiated/uninterested he is Mr Running and while he is in his silver fox days he was still too quick for me to keep up. However coming round and down the Mound I managed a 100m run with my dear friend (a fundraiser for Marie Curie) and had a fantastic roaring cheer from my Husband at the foot of the Mound (despite his beer fest hangover he managed to find me and make sure I heard him) got me to the finish line. Where my little capped head can be seen on the corner of a TV interview! A celebrity at last.
  • Chipped
  • Hill Climb factor: 5/10
  • Fantastic support & atmosphere
  • Highlight-Watching some innocent park walkers get heckled by a bunch of red faced runners for not supporting and encouraging the Sunday morning female plight (it was a women only event). Only for my Husband to be cheered back loudly by said hecklers for cheering me on. He generated a lot of envious runners who then over took me. I was 5 seconds shy of my target time but I had the support of my Grandparents, Uni friend (who amusing mentioned a work nick name- The Princess of Darkness. She works in HR, self explanatory that one), Great Aunt M and as ever my number one fan - Husband
  • Same format as last year.
  • Hill Climb factor: 9/10**
  • Scenic (as ever in sunny Linlithgow)
  • limited support in the sticks
  • Highlight- In a very un-lady like manger I have found that spitting, while not speeding me up, does make breathing a bit easier. The ettiquette is not to spit on another runner. So, when mid spit out of the corner of my eye I spied a fellow runner I quickly turned my head and let leash. Only to have a mouthful of my own gob make a half hearted attempt a leaving my mouth, dangle off my chin before hitting my leg. Its a popular run and I had this happen twice. You are not a proper runner unless you have had the indignity of spitting on yourself. . .
I suspect my time will not have improved having taken an unconventional approach to training. I didn't do any. Well, I tried to convince Husband that a series of LBT classes would give me the cardio I required to get through and maintain a good time (still sub 60 min). I can confirm that LBT isn't as effective as actually pulling on your trainers but I am not going to admit that yet. At least until the times are published.

There is a half marathon in about 7 weeks (7th Nov) and I am thinking my new challenge is not about time but about distance. So having completed the Linlithgow 10k on Sunday (26th Sept) and tucked another LBT today (27th Sept) I am planning on a run tomorrow. . .

As I write this the results are in and  I am nothing if not consistent (determined, neurotic and a number of various other descriptors!).

Linlithgow 2010: 1hr 3 min.

courtesy of me

* 10- a vertical climb, 1- a canal
** o.k so the route was unchanged from last year but I am certain that the hills were steeper this year than last.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Legs, Bums & Tums

I have been attending a legs, bums and tums class regularly for about 3 months now. I like it. It offers a number of insights and observations to the human condition. Specifically the female psyche.

We are mentally unbalanced. We must be.

Tonight I found myself jumping on and off of a mobile bench to a loud dance tune that had a military beat to it. If I had enough energy I would have thrown an arm into the air and shouted "Heil Frau Kelly". She was taking no prisoners tonight and the theme was death by military style circuits- it was scary how easy it was to fall into a rhythm and keep up with the pace. Brutal but possible. Well nearly possible.

In attending these classes I have come across a number of different types of aerobic "crazy".

  • The Vein One
In the 3 months I have been going to these classes I have participated in this madness on early on a Saturday morning. You get to know the regular faces. One such face attends not only LBT but the follow up Body Pump.

Last week she saw me, made eye contact and waved her arm. "Come to the front" she called out. I couldn't really ignore her but I thought it was just to fill the void she was currently standing on the edge of. By getting me to stand next to her I would then be helping to fill that void. I thought it would be good manners to introduce myself, so when I turned and said " My name is Cass, by the way" I was surprised to find I was being totally ignored.

The Vein One was standing looking at herself in the mirror with her top lifted so she could admire her stomach.

But my introduction had been said loud enough that others might have over heard. I was committed and in a louder voice I said "My name is Cass". That got a reaction. "Oh, sorry. I've been working on this stomach for the last 3 years and am really quite vein about it". So what I had thought was an introduction by a fellow LBTer was just an opportunity to for this girl to tell a random stranger about her abs. At least she was honest, she is vein!
  • The Novice
Really this person shouldn't be at the middle or the back of the class but right and centre at the front. This person was me last year.

Pre LBT I was a regular "stepper". Now with little co-ordination and a high degree of clumsiness what follows will not come as a surprise. These classes were eventually cancelled- not as a result of my clumsiness but as a result of poor attendance. I can only think it was because the routines became ever increasingly complex. To the point where during one lunch time class I tripped.

Not a quiet stumble that is discreetly recovered but a full blown throw yourself across the room trip. I was travelling across the top of the step when my left leg caught the back of my right knee (don't ask me how- I have no idea) but the next thing I knew was that I was flying. Across the room onto my bum with a thump. A soft landing, right enough, but not without the instructor loosing her own composure and laughing at my misfortune.

Un dettered I got up completed the routine and left. Very red faced.
  • The Posse
There may be comfort in numbers but I am not sure how much solace you can take when during the hour none of your group have the co-ordination to break a sweat. A group of 4 women nervously came in one Saturday morning (fortunately not the same day I was introduced to Vein ab girl) and spent the hour frowning as they tried to lunge, squat and sit up in time with the rest of the class.

It's not that I have superior co-ordination, anything but, however seeing that other women have similar issues brings nothing but a smile to my face. Unfortunately they didn't make it to any other classes, at least none that I have been to.

I can only guess that the morning after they were in too much pain to make it to the phone to book in for next week?!

Ever the optimist!

When the "crisis" comes I will be ready to lunge, squat and sit-up my way out of it. I am booked in for next week and will be attempting to distract myself from the pain by trying to understand what motivates a woman to inflict unspeakable pains on herself.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Chocolate & Orange Cake

This one deserves an entry of its own.

Please read first before attempting anything yourselves- there are valuable lessons to be learned here people!


• 115g unsalted butter, softened
• 115g caster sugar
• 4 large free-range or organic eggs
• 180g ground almonds
• 30g poppy seeds
Note: This is a nightmare to get hold of. Apparently Tescos et al believe we need it to make heroin. Us crazy home bakers!! Go to your local, organic, independent- they will be far friendlier and not question your drug taking habits when you ask them for poppy seeds
• zest and juice of 2 oranges
• 125g self-raising flour, sifted

for the orange syrup
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 freshly squeezed orange, for its juice

for the Chocolate Frosting
Note: This does make a lot so you might want to half these ingredients- this is a working creation, what can I tell you!

  • 600g icing sugar, sifted
  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 80g cocoa powder or drinking chocolate, sifted
  • 80ml Milk


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the bottom and sides of two shallow 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

1. Using an electric whisk (or if you are space deprived a wooden spoon and a bored Husband are equally effective), beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and creamy.

2. Add the eggs one by one, beating each in well.

3. Fold in your ground almonds, poppy seeds, the orange zest and juice and the sifted flour.

4. Spoon the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until lightly golden.

5. You can check to see if the cake is cooked by poking a cocktail stick into the sponge. Remove it after 5 seconds and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked; if slightly sticky it needs a little longer, so put it back in the oven.

Note: If you use a knife be careful because it can look horrendous when you slide in a nice clean nice and it creates a HUGE tear in the middle of your cake when you try to pull it out if its not cooked in the centre.

6. Allow the cake to cool on a rack & move onto making the syrup.

7. Make your orange syrup by heating the sugar and orange juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. While your cake is still warm, make lots of little holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour your syrup over.

Note: It's probably best to point out that the syrup needs to be applied to the sponge before the frosting. Otherwise you end up making a bit of a mess- perforating the sponge with a cocktail stick and saying a silent prayer that the syrup makes its way through to the bottom layer of sponge.

Also WAIT for the cakes to cool before applying the frosting otherwise the top layer makes a bid for freedom . . .

8. For the icing. Beat the icing sugar, cocoa and butter together gently (otherwise you're going to have to work in a very sugary tasting cloud).

9. Gradually add the milk and continue beating until light and fluffy (5 mins'ish) The more its beaten the more fluffy it gets. Use husband beating when your own arms start to ache- he'll appreciate it more having contributed to the "hard" work himself!!


(or rather my results)

As you can see I was rather impatient and forgot to apply the orange syrup before I iced the centre and put the top half on!! I think it was also retaining some heat hence the icing didn't really hold up to the job of stick to two halves together.

It does taste delicious - even if I do say so myself!

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Lone Wanderer

Here is your follow up to The Human Toboggan. I know you'll have been holding your breath waiting to hear what happened next.

My sense of direction isn't great. However since meeting and marrying my Husband I have been taught how to map read (and am I am secretly quite proud of this). As a back up we also have a sat nav- which can at times be a bit temperamental. For example if it can get us to take the longer of two routes to get anywhere it will do! I wonder if it has been pre-programmed to make sure that we don't become 100% reliant on the technology and are capable of retaining some basic life skills like swearing and speed map reading.

Now, prior to the development of these particular skills I relied on signs. And believe it or not I got on fine. However every great hero has her nemesis and mine is Perth. I can get there no problem. I can find find Kinoull hill no problem but getting out of Perth is a nightmare. And in this particular case it was going to be a major problem.

I was, if you remember, sitting in a car park with my jeans on the passenger seat. I still had to get out of Perth. So I resigned myself to the fact I still had to get home some how and started the car up. Within 10 minutes I already knew that I had missed a turning. I'll be honest, I couldn't tell you which turning I had missed but I knew I had gone wrong when I hit a culdesac that was looking particularly residential and not at all like the motorway to Edinburgh that I was searching for.

After driving for a good 45 minutes it dawned on me that I had only one option.

Because I didn't know where in Perth I was, a map would be useless and that fact that I lacked the skills to read a map it would have been pointless to dig out the pristine map* that I did in fact own.

I had to ask for directions.

I had to stop someone in the near vicinity and ask for their help.


In bare legs, in February. I had to ask for directions.

Now at the time I was a single lady and I can confirm the existence of Murphy's Law. In a very real way. The minute I reached the decision to ask for directions dozens of young, attractive men began to appear on the streets of this residential culdesac. So I drove on hoping that a sign saying Edinburgh would appear.

No road signs for Edinburgh but a little old lady dragging a tartan case on wheels made an appearance like a mirage in a desert. I thought she would be an ideal person to ask for help. I just had to be sure and not alarm her with my semi naked driving style.

I pulled over and rolled the passenger side window down and shouted a friendly "Excuse me"

I thought the best course of action was not to draw attention to the fact I was sitting in a jumper and pants with my wet jeans next to me. I was going to be completely relaxed, like it was perfectly normal to drive around in pants during winter. Her reaction was what I can only describe as strange. She lent into the window to find out what I was excusing myself for.

Then she lent in a bit further. And a bit further still. She very calmly gave me the directions I needed and made no comment what so ever about the absence of trousers of any sort. Maybe she was used to drivers not wearing trousers.

Perhaps there is an undergound driving-in-your-pants thing that is such common place in Perth that she wasn't surprised at my appearance. . .

I reached the motorway no problem and spent the next hour driving along doing my best to be a model motorist. The very last thing I wanted was to get pulled over by the police. Or get over-taken by a heavy goods vehicle, where the driver would be at such a height they could see into my little car.

Despite having the heating on full power my jeans were no drier than they had been when I walked across the car park in Perth. I wont say that I am faster than Usain Bolt but I can move quickly when I need to and I had called from the car to get my sister to keep the front door open. The sprint from the car to the house was the fastest move known to Bonnington.

*My Grampa in his wisdom knew that it would come in handy after I passed my test. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I couldn't read it properly. The shame.