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Hardmoors White Horse Trail Half Marathon

As part of my preparations for Ötillö and as a test of my new-found running skills, I entered the Hardmoors half trail marathon at Sutton Bank, ‘The White Horse‘. I’d watched the video and thought it looked like the kind of event for me i.e. not too sanitized!

In the preceding month I’d had a cold and was also rather too busy travelling here and there, including two trips abroad – most unusual for me. However, I’d had a good couple of weeks and was looking forward to seeing how I would do in a race that only involved running and no maps. Not counting Parkrun, I did just one race like this last year and only two the year before!

I like to know what I’m letting myself in for when I race. My research on the route had told me three things. 1) It was 26-27km long. 2) Lots of the route was on the Cleveland way or on what looked like wide forest tracks. 3) It was flat, then downhill, then went uphill for the final 7km sting in the tail. I had also looked at the entry list and compared it to the results from previous races. I knew there was at least one very fast girl, but thought it was realistic to at least aim for the podium and a 6 min/km pace.


Are you ready, number 135?!

Two weeks ago I had images of skipping round the course under sunny blue skies wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The mandatory waterproof would be overkill. In the week before however, the forecast didn’t look so great, and didn’t improve! Andy was also doing the race with me, and we woke to the sound of rain hammering on the bedroom window. As my mum drove us over to the start we could hardly see where we were going and we went through some major puddles.

I dithered over what to wear, but the trip to the registration tent and back convinced me to put on a ‘winter outfit’. I was already shivering! This meant a long sleeve technical tee and my Haglöfs shield jacket. It’s only windproof but even in rain does a good job of keeping the cold out. I still carried my waterproof as back up and was glad I am used to training with a small backpack. I opted for trail shoes with moderate grip.

Apparently we ran up this - though I don't really remember it! (Photo: Andy Petford)

Apparently we ran up this – though I don’t really remember it! (Photo: Andy Petford)

The briefing was short and we were off. It was still tipping it down with rain and blowing a gale. I wanted to run at my own pace, but quickly appeared to be rather near the front of the field. The fast guys soon disappeared and after a couple of km another girl came past. I was sure it would be Helen, the girl I’d spotted on the entry list. So I wasn’t too fussed and let her go. This wasn’t a race to go chasing early on. With a distinctive red jacket, she was in and out of sight for a while, until some point when she decided to turn on the gas and disappeared from view!

Meanwhile, I kept moving and checking my watch when it bleeped to tell me another km was done. Compared to a training run, the beeps seemed to come so quickly after each other! Sometimes I was running over trickier ground and didn’t risk glancing then. I realised I was moving faster than expected but felt good, so I kept going.

Then we went up this, which I do remember ... (Photo: Debbie Mutton)

Then we went up this, which I do remember … (Photo: Debbie Mutton)

After 1.5h I still felt like I was cruising. I wondered if this was what BeetIt did for you, as I was trying it out for the first time before this race. Literally about 5 mins after I had that thought, I started to feel a bit weary! Ha ha. I ate a gel rather than a bar because my tummy still felt full from breakfast (which had included a generous portion of homemade ciambellone*.). Not a moment too soon, as I tripped and almost fell flat on my face. Just saved it! But a sure sign of tiredness. Although the allegedly fantastic views had been largely lost under the clouds, the vision of Rievaulx Abbey before us in the valley was amazing.

Along the way I ran with a few people. Many thanks to the guy who I made an effort to catch and hide behind on the open headwind section! It was nice to chat with different people, especially along the road section that seemed endless and hurt my legs with its hard, monotonous surface. As we turned off the road, we went through 21km in 1:49. I was pleased with that, considering that the route had included a couple of technical sections and other long stretches where the path was either somewhat uneven, muddy or narrow and puddly. Basically, nothing like a standard half!

Rievaulx Abbey (Photo: Andy Petford)

Rievaulx Abbey (Photo: Andy Petford)

I knew there were just 5 or 6 km to go. I mentally told myself now was the time to dig in. ‘Only a Parkrun left’, I thought. On the way down south I’d spotted that M&S Colin the Caterpillars are now veggie. Too good an opportunity to miss, so I bought a bag (or two) thinking they’d be good for the race. I carried four and ate just one, at this critical point. Shortly after, we hit a steep uphill. My companion and I caught two other guys we’d been following for ages. They were walking but I was determined to keep running and was hoping for the caterpillar effect to kick in. I managed to joke: “Is it like this all the way to the finish?” and got an assured “No, this is the worst bit!”. Encouraged, I forged on.

We meandered along and up, mostly up. Through Cold Kirby and into a field. I wished I’d studied the end of the route (even) more carefully so I would know exactly what to anticipate. The map was in my bag, but I had no time for that. I kept following the yellow tape. We entered some woods next to a bike trail. Then the path tilted upwards again as we wound through the trees. There was no way I was easing off now – I had 3 guys to keep behind me! Despite feeling a bit sick, I was sure the end must be near.

My watched beeped for the final time at 26km and before long I was back on the road we had started on. I could see my mum in the mist up ahead and was relieved – I’d come in almost 15 minutes earlier than I had told her to expect me! I felt like a champion as I charged up the road, with the handful of spectators braving the now improved weather (just drizzly and misty) and cheering and clapping. At the timing tent I was asked “10k?” “No, half!” I proudly responded.

I had finished second female, just 5 minutes behind Helen and averaging 5:16/km, which was way above my expectations. Total time was 2:18, and the extra effort I’d saved for the end meant my pace held pretty steady, despite the change in gradient. I wasn’t sure at what price though – because as soon as I stopped I felt sore and various bits of me were complaining loudly! Luckily, by the next day everything seemed to have settled down and I only had usual post-hard-run muscle soreness.

We waited for Andy to come in, and I was pleased to see he looked happy and had had a good time. We hung about for prize giving then headed off to another Abbey (at Ampleforth) to refuel. All round, a great day out; well organised, fun route, friendly and good value.

* Ciambellone is an Italian cake that is apparently perfect for breakfast, snacks or dinner. I easily achieved all three this weekend.


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!

Dosai and sauces. Ours came wrapped round the curry rather than in a pretty cone shape!

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!

The Roseleaf

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:


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

Haglöfs Open5 Series – Quantocks

I was surprised how many people I spoke to didn’t know where the Quantocks / Taunton are when I told them I was going to race there. Then again, it’s a full 425 miles from where I live, or 515 if you take my route via Leeds. It’s near Bristol in SW England.

I was never going to do this race until I hatched a plan which seemed entirely reasonable at the time. I would travel to Leeds by train (changing at York so I could get a cheap ticket), stop off with the lovely Dave and Ruth, get a lift with them to the race and then reverse on Sunday / Monday. The East Coast man who got my bike off the train in York gets double brownie points for admiring my bike! 🙂

The Quantocks, courtesy of James Kirby. Next time I am going to bribe him to take a picture with me in it. I am sure his lens will be fine!

I was back to racing solo again. This time I didn’t have the luxury of riding in the area beforehand, though Dan gave me some good tips and I whiled away the hours on the train doing intensive map study.

I had to have a wee rant about dinner in the pub the night before the race. Whilst the others tucked into quality meaty fare, the one veggie option was a rather pathetic slice of goat’s cheese on a tiny square of filo pastry with chutney on top. Served with two measly new potatoes and a load of veg. No sauce, no carbs, no choice. Grrrr!

I’ll say now that even setting aside dinner, I’m beginning to think that me and January races don’t really mix. (I had a bad time of it at Sutton Bank this time last year). The weather for this one was benign, and the run actually went OK. My leg didn’t hurt, I navigated accurately and I got back in 2 hours after a 15km romp. Must just work on those uneven downhills – there’ll be plenty more of that come June. I also had a fantastically quick transition – in and out in 2:19 and 10th quickest – yay!

The Map of Doom!

Sadly, something went awry shortly after! I made a mistake navigating to the second bike control. I knew something wasn’t right but had to stop and check several times before I figured out what I’d done. In hindsight it should have been blindingly obvious – a steep downhill into a valley vs. an undulating traverse round the top?! After getting back on track I started to ride uphill only to be nearly thrown from my bike as I got chain suck. I didn’t have my computer in this race either as I lost it in Bacup – I now realise how much I use it to estimate distances between junctions and controls. All of this seemed to combine to make me slip into old bad habits of a) riding too slowly and b) over-checking the map. The chain suck also meant I was super cautious on hills and grinding along in the big chainring as I wallowed in mud.

Sometimes things just don’t click and my race head was obviously still indulging in the Christmas cheese and port.

Despite all this, I do remember rather enjoying the descents – so it wasn’t all bad! Somehow, even though I felt sick by this time, my legs must have suddenly woken up between the last two controls as I came in 3rd and 1st fastest on the last two legs. What a shame it was about 3 hours too late! I finished more than 8 minutes over time (meaning I got 18 penalty points).

I came 2nd to Lucy Harris, who had a good first race in the series. Funnily enough, we collected exactly the same controls, though in a slightly different order (and she did it quicker!).

Coming back in the car I had great time chatting with Dave, but we got in after 1.30am. After a long day of racing, travelling and 5 hours of talking I needed a decent sleep, so it was unfortunate that we had to get up at 6.30! Getting over-tired and run down in the winter is never a good idea, and sure enough by Tuesday I was fully knocked out and off work sick …

Roll on February, I will approach the race with renewed energy and verve, and with my fingers crossed for some epic weather – it suits me better! 😀

Full results are here.

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.

Broughton Delicatessen

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.

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