Celtman – the final countdown
I’ve been very quiet since the Slateman triathlon as I’ve had my head down doing final training for the Celtman. It’s now only one week to go!
This race won’t be the longest I’ve ever done. I expect it to take about 18 hours, though I’m still finding it hard to judge my bike pace. This compares to four 24 hour races I’ve done in the past. The difference with this one is the fixed distances and strict time cutoffs! I won’t be able to rest between laps or miss a few checkpoints and still be able to finish.
The race is also unusual for me because I’ve invested more time and effort into it than anything else I’ve done before. I’m not sure why – except that my Ironman-finisher friends got me scared way back in November and made me feel like I had better put in some really hard work!
It’s been fun though. I‘ve got used to swimming (rather than just squawking and playing!) in waves and finding out what it’s like to swim to a distant point that never appears to get any closer.
On my final big training weekend I celebrated the Queen’s jubilee by making the most of the amazing place I live.
I did a delightful 165km loop over the Lammermuirs. This is the view up Redstone Rigg, which I have only discovered this summer.
And later I persuaded Chris (a car-owner!) to take me further north to some inviting Munros. I did 5 of the summits on the Ben Lawers ridge. I set off a bit scared about tackling such big looking mountains by myself in insubstantial running gear and carrying my small pack containing the mandatory race kit list.
Here’s the ridge:
It was much colder up at the top than down at the bottom and I was glad of my woolly hat and gloves, even in June ;-). The route I took was from MunroMagic and was a good one – not too many crowds except for the stretch between Ben Lawers itself and Beinn Ghlas. One of the best feelings about this day was being fit enough to enjoy such an adventure so easily.
After helping some girls with a photo, I took off down a tussocky grassy spur with no path. Even with my poles I managed to nearly twist my ankles several times before making it to the bottom in time for a quick dip in Loch Tay to cool off!
Several stiff days followed, so I am under no illusions as to how long my legs might hurt post-race!
And now I am into ‘tapering’. I was warned I might feel rubbish in these two weeks and it’s true. I get paranoid when I meet an ill person, I freak out every time a car drives too close to me, I imagine I am coming down with ‘something’ every other day and my body is throwing in aches and pains pretty much everywhere!
I am trying to stay calm and get plenty of sleep. This weekend I had fun swimming up at Thriepmuir Reservoir in the rain with some fellow racers and then getting totally lost running on Arthur’s Seat. People who know Arthur’s Seat will realise this was a bit ridiculous – but the fog was right down, I couldn’t see any of the usual landmarks and I lost all sense of direction! Luckily in the race, Kate will look after me on the mountain should a similar situation arise :D.
And so with 5 days to go I am into final preparations: buying my favourite foods, making lists and waiting expectantly for my supporters to arrive. Hurrah!
Haglöfs Open5 Series – North Downs
A test of nerve and mind over matter.
The sixth race in this series and we were back off the bottom of my maps! It wasn’t so bad though, as my aunt and uncle live just 20 minutes away from the venue so I could combine the race with a visit.
To set the scene, this could be make or break time for the series. Best three scores to count, and I was on the back foot with Lucy already having two wins in the bag to my one. There were also some other strong girls entered, so I knew it would be a good competition.
But there was one thing above all else I wanted to do in this race.
I love mountain biking. In January (Quantocks) I was poorly and had mechanicals. In February (Warcop) I made a tactical mistake and had no excuse. But looking at the results the speed of my bike legs just didn’t live up to those in October (Staveley) and November (Church Stretton). So I did three things differently.
1) I listened to my coach! I have only had a coach for a couple of months, in a bid to get fit for the Celtman in June. But he was telling me all week to ease off and rest up.
2) I went and rode on Saturday. I missed doing a recce for the last two races due to logistics. I can’t possibly predict or cover all the trails we will use, but in an unfamiliar area having a few reference points is useful. I find it also really helps get my brain in gear and my head into the map. Andy told me off for going too far and for too long – but it was really sunny and warm and I was having a good time! 😉
3) I used my bike computer more. I don’t know why I’ve had to learn this twice. I learnt it last year. Keeping an eye on my average speed makes me ride faster. Every time I start drifting, my speed drops and I remember to pick it back up again! Magic.
There was one more different thing, but it was a last minute decision. Chatting to Ruth an hour before the start, we were commenting on how difficult it would be to escape back to the finish on the bike if it was all taking too long. I always run first, when I’m fresh, and bike second. But this made me think – maybe I should bike first, get a really good round in and then construct a run route to fit the time available. So:
4) I biked first!
I was anxious before the start. I couldn’t focus on potential routes or see any sensible ways to go. My mum had come to support me and was trying to calm me down, but I was too worked up! Having ‘series leader’ in yellow pinned to my front and zip tied to my bike only added to the pressure. Regardless of what happened with the results, I wanted to give a performance that did the label justice.
The start was a gentle spin up the road. It was already raining, but we were down south, so it was mild (or so I thought). I faffed around in transition and put off the moment of starting. Then I got the values and information on ‘no controls’ (i.e. controls worth zero) and fretted a bit more before I set off.
From that moment though, my head was in the zone.
I pedalled as hard as I could nearly all of the time. The exception near the start was the singletrack called ‘summer lightning’. The control was in a mystery location somewhere along the route, which always makes me slow down as I’m paranoid about riding straight past it! Once that was out of the way there was no stopping me. Looking at the results I seem to have made an ‘unusual’ route choice – but it made sense to me at the time! The area had more minor roads than usual, and I made the most of them to cover distance quickly.
As I headed back to transition I realised it might be a little cold, as I was having trouble changing gear properly (my fingers weren’t working). I was a bit slower than usual as I had to fiddle with double knotting laces on running shoes instead of doing buckles on biking shoes.
The cold didn’t register properly until about 10 minutes into the run when I was really shivering! I worked out why when it started snowing. Not just a bit, but full on wet snow, coming down sideways in the wind. Even though I had my waterproof on, the thin tops I had on underneath weren’t enough, and my spare top was in my bike bag – back at transition. Doh! Whilst trying to keep moving and navigate I decided my only two options were to run faster or get my silver cape out and put it on under my coat. One would speed me up and the other slow me down – so I went with option one!
Things almost went wrong right at the end. I lost the path in the woods amongst a load of informal little trails and ended up bashing through the forest to get to the main track I could see below. This was allowed in the rules, but wasn’t very fast! Then there was a long haul back up the road with aching legs. Just one last control to collect and time was tight. I missed the first footpath turning, found the second one, got disorientated, almost panicked, then … regained composure, found the control and sprinted up the last bit of hill. I haven’t had to run so hard in a long time and thought I might pass out at the end. I certainly wasn’t cold any more and best of all, I was back in time! 37 seconds to spare – wonders never cease.
I knew I had raced hard and hadn’t made any major mistakes. It was a good feeling, as I felt whatever the outcome; I had done what I could.
As it turned out, I got my second win of the winter. This means the series will go right to the last race and be decided in April, when I will have to go through it all again! 🙂
The weather conditions were worse than a lot of us had anticipated and caused a few people to pull out or cut short their races. It took me about an hour to warm up afterwards! However, I scored 520, my highest score of the series so far. I was also joint 5th overall (my best ever Open Adventure result); beaten by Sabrina and Ben in the mixed pairs (who got an excellent 530 even though they came back freezing 20 minutes early), a male pair and two male solos. I think I should hope for bad weather every race! Here are the full results.
I was also helped by my aunt who pampered me and cooked awesome race food, my uncle who gave me a lift out for my ride on Saturday and my mum, who took me to and from the race, cheered me on and was official photographer. She’s been my lucky charm so far!
I had a great weekend and never knew what fun you could have riding up the Downs. I finished it off on Monday with home-made cheesecake for breakfast before heading for the train back home. I wish every race weekend could end like that!
Our recorder group branched out again the other week and tried another new place in Newington (Edinburgh) – Tanjore. I checked the menu online and couldn’t wait to go and eat there. It came with a recommendation from an Indian friend – a good start! We always have to be quick, but I enjoyed what I had and was soon back for a more leisurely full 3 course meal with Andy. Total price for two people for 3 courses, plus lassi and tea – £35. Bargain!
This is South Indian cooking, so it is quite different from the usual Indian restaurant fare. So far, I’ve sampled the Tanjore Special Dosai and the Kothu Parotta with egg. The first is a big pancake stuffed with mild curry and served with delicious sauces (tomato, coconut, mint), a sambar and podi. Podi is a tasty spice and oil mix – a bit like dukkah – if you’ve ever had that!
The Kothu Parotta was totally different from anything I’ve had before. It was chewy little pieces of parotta (a type of bread) with tomatoes, spices and eggs served with sauces.
We also tried new things for the starters – paniyaram (little savoury cake things – also available in a sweet version for dessert) and vadai (lentil doughnuts!).
After we had finished our main course we saw a huge puffed thing going to another table. Turns out it was “channa batura” – I’ll be having that next time!
Early on a Tuesday it was very quiet and the waiter was just a little too attentive. However, we were served quickly :-). On a Saturday evening there was a steady flow of people and the room was filled with chattering diners. Our waiter was very friendly and did a good job.
Tanjore is BYOB and cash only.
I can’t really do justice to the food with my descriptions and there are all sorts of other tempting dishes that I’ve never heard of before on the menu. My advice? Just go there and try it for yourself!
Tanjore South Indian Restuarant
6-8 Clerk Street,
Tel: 0131 478 6518
The Roseleaf and Café Nom de Plume
It’s been ages since I’ve done any ‘eating places’ reviews and now I have two at once!
For ages Andy has been saying “can we go to my mate Jonny’s pub?” Last weekend it finally happened. I had been ill all week and this was my first proper trip out of the house! Although I had a sore head walking there, by the time food was served and I was merrily chomping through my tasty meal, I felt about a hundred times better :-).
This place was really busy even at 2pm, and I can tell why. We both had the tomato and fennel soup to start with … yummy. Andy then had a veggie breakfast served on a metal platter thing with a hot handle. It looked great. I had something called an ‘Amazing Grazer’. After generously donating all the bits of lettuce to Andy, I was very happy with what was a mixed plate of bulghar wheat salad with pomegranate seeds, veggie pâtés, toast and hot halloumi. I couldn’t resist a fudge brownie and ice cream for afters. The drinks went down well too – homemade ginger beer and ‘rooibois cappucino’ which came with a frothy top and honey.
I was left intrigued by preparations for a madhatter’s tea party on the table next to ours, and the concept of cocktails served in teapots …. I should also mention that the toilets had great character and were definitely worth two trips :D. I can’t believe this has been just down the road all this time and I only just discovered it. Must go back soon!
Roseleaf: 23/24 Sandport Place, Edinburgh, EH6 6EW
Tel: 0131 476 5268, email: email@example.com
Café Nom de Plume
My recorder group has relocated from Southside to the Northside for the month of January. The great thing about this is the opportunity to sample new pre-playing eating places! However, we’ve only made it to one place and have kept going back.
Nom de Plume is near the bottom of Broughton Street. I’ve seen it many times and never been in before. I was pleasantly surprised though! I love the atmosphere; warm, cosy and inviting. The menu is also good, with not only several vegetarian options, but as many again vegan! So far I’ve tried the French onion soup and a chickpea curry. The hot mulled ginger wine did wonders for my sore throat last week :-).
This place meets all of our Tuesday night criteria, namely: veggie options, nice ambience, quick, good value, decent food.
Next week I am going to save a special hole for veggie mince in a giant Yorkshire pudding!
Café Nom de Plume: 60 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3SA
Tel: 0131 556 5758
Ginger Biscuits and Salty Chocolate
Last week during our Italian class, we had to talk about what typical things we would offer guests to our house.
One girl suggested ‘biscotti alla canella’ (cinnamon biscuits). Malcolm next to me went for ‘biscotti alla mandorla’ (almond biscuits). Now, I love biscuits, which is why I almost never buy them because they would get eaten too quickly and they are not full of healthy things, like cabbage is (which I was eating at dinnertime today, in a cider, cream and mustard sauce with butterbeans, leeks and thyme, served with stove-top butternut squash scones … but I digress).
So I chipped in ‘mi piacciono molto i biscotti al zenzero’ (I really like ginger biscuits). I didn’t get round to explaining they have to be the ones with big chunks of stem ginger in them.
Next thing, I’m being asked by the lovely Carlo (our stand-in teacher for the week); ‘se veniamo a casa tua stasera, ci serviresti i biscotti al zenzero?’ (if we were to come to your house tonight, would you serve us ginger biscuits?). Unfortunately, no, I have no ginger biscuits in the house (see above). But, luckily, I have something else very special. ‘Non, ma offrirei il cioccolato alla sale. Solo cioccolato che è fatto di 70% cacao, minimo’.
Salty dark chocolate. Ranks up there only with soft salty caramel wrapped in dark chocolate. I’ll also eat dark chocolate with chilli, lime, spices or orange. But it has to be dark.
According to Carlo, I’m very ‘cutting edge’, but I have to admit I was introduced to these delights by someone else, to whom I am forever grateful!
* Apologies for any language gaffes. It’s so much easier to hide mistakes when it’s not written down!
Tapa Coffee and Bakehouse
This review is for the Tapa Coffeehouse on Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow.
I visited Tapa for the first time last weekend and loved it! Having got out of bed early enough to get over there from Edinburgh in time for Sunday brunch with a local friend at 10.30, I was not disappointed. I had the mushroom and spinach eggs Benedict, followed by French toast with maple syrup and banana, accompanied by a very good cup of coffee and then a fantastic chai tea. My friend had the full veggie breakfast.
My only regret was that I couldn’t stay even longer and move onto the fantastic sounding soups (beetroot and tomato or butternut squash and coconut), inventive sandwiches, ‘real’ bread from their own bakery and an array of good looking cakes. The puy lentil and pine nut burger was also crying out to be tasted, so I think I’ll be back soon.
A relaxed and friendly atmosphere prevailed, with attentive service (though we were nearly undercharged by half – since the food was so good we made sure that was corrected!). If it looks busy when you get there, you should know there are also tables hidden downstairs.
I can’t believe I didn’t know this café /deli existed before now! I went for my first visit at the weekend and was bowled over.
Vegetarian options abound. This time, my partner and I had the fantastic bean enchilada on toasted flatbread (one of the two special main courses) and a mushroom, gruyere and spinach crêpe. Both came with a selection of the salads which were definitely not your usual limp lettuce. On offer were: quinoa and green bean, beetroot and egg, carrot and pumpkin seeds and fennel, courgette and pea. Servings were generous so we both got a full plate of food for only about £7 each. Bargain!
It took us a long time to choose our lunch and we’ll have to go back to sample some of the other items on the menu, including; adventurous baguette fillings, soup of the day (salsify and potato when we were there), a vegetable ramen noodle soup, flatbread pizzas with a choice of toppings, a daily tart or tortilla and a veggie breakfast. You could also order a full plate of just the salads, which change regularly (even whilst we were there, in fact!). A look at the twitter feed on their website will give you a taste for what has been on offer recently.
To finish off our meal we had a large slice of freshly baked cake, plus homemade granola with Greek yoghurt and fruit compote. The latter was strictly part of the brunch menu but I fancied it for pudding!
There was an informal atmosphere and you order at the counter when you’re ready, or you can go for the takeaway option. It is also now open until 7.30 pm if you want an early evening meal. Finally, a nice touch was the fact that every customer was asked if they had enjoyed their food when they paid, and the lady seemed genuinely interested in the answer! Highly recommended.