The Longest Week Days Six and Seven

The challenge is DONE! Apologies for not quite making it 7 blog posts in 7 days! But this has been achieved – seven runs in 7 days, of at least 7km. The distance bit of the challenge was my own making, and luckily I am not as hung up on perfect pattern matching as some of my fellow runners out there. Or maybe I just can’t be bothered to work out how to run exactly 77.7km, when one run was 8.3, and another 9.1…Over the 7 days I ran 34.5 miles / 55.5km. That’s the most I’ve run in a week for a long time, so I am very happy with that.

This is a flower meadow area in Perivale Park. The poppies were especially pretty.

Yesterday (Saturday) I ran 7km on another trusty 6km route with an extra bit added. Afterwards I went to my outdoor gym class as usual. I have to admit that when the lovely trainer Lauren sent us round the park on a 100m sprint – 100m jog on repeat I couldn’t quite muster the energy for the sprint bit! However we did some great stretching at the end of the class which was exactly what I needed. Later on though I found myself kneeling on the floor helping put together a flat pack table and chairs and did wonder how I would get myself back up to standing.

Early morning view over the golf course.

Today I decided that as my legs weren’t feeling so bad after all, I would finish the week in style (!) and run 7 miles. Down the Grand Union Canal to Brentford and back is almost exactly 7 miles so I didn’t have to make any adjustments to a very straightforward route. It was very peaceful running along the canal, watching a boat slowly chugging along, and then negotiating a lock on the way back. It reminded me of a canal holiday I went on a few years ago in north Wales. It was fun, but I ended up with a repetitive strain injury in my wrist from operating all the locks, and also went a bit crazy at the slow speed of it all! Honestly you can walk faster than those boats! But I must admit the scenery was beautiful in many places, and maybe that slow pace is what everyone needs now and again.

Seven years ago on the Llangollen canal. We rented The Owl from Pea Green Boats.
Sunday run along the canal, under the bridge that the Piccadilly line runs along.

So the crazy running week is done, and now I will have a bit of a rest. I’m on leave this week which is very welcome. We are not going anywhere – plans to visit the Greater Manchester area to see our first grand child have had to be cancelled due to COVID restrictions 😦 but at least we can see the second baby who is close to home. Thank goodness for FaceTime and Zoom etc.

Look at that brilliant chunky medal!

I’m not sure what the next challenge will be – I am sure something will pop up and I’ll be tempted before long to sign up for another bonkers run thing!

I love the fact that you get a running bib number and such a fab medal! And lots of support from the online running community too.

The Longest Week Day Five

It’s starting to feel like the longest week now, and today was one of the longest days! That’s why this post is so late, and so short!

Early morning sun shining through the leaves.

It was a run before work today, as the temperatures were set to hit 30 degrees by lunchtime. The last couple of weeks I have been doing a hill run session on a Friday evening (I know, bonkers right?) but today even the most hardened runner – yes you David 😀 decided it was just TOO hot.

I did basically the same run as yesterday so nothing much new to report. It is noticeable that there are more people out doing personal training sessions, even that early in the morning, than there used to be. I think that’s great, although I wonder if they’ll still be there when it’s raining and cold!

More weird fungus on a different dead tree.

Only two more days of this challenge left, and then I intend to have a rest. By that time I will actually have done 8 days on the trot, as I did run last Sunday as well. The medal is already here, but I have resisted opening the package – not til Sunday!

These miniature sunflowers in my window box have taken weeks and weeks to get to this stage. To be honest they’re a bit underwhelming and next year I’ll do something different!

The Longest Week Day Four

This morning I was up very early – even before the alarm went off at 5.30. There was a reason for that which I’ll explain in a minute. Once again it was a beautiful morning in west London! I went off on another tried and tested 6km route, with a little extra loop round Pitshanger Park to get the distance up to 7km. I remembered that you can put in a target distance on the Garmin watch, so I put in 7km – and then you can see it count down the metres! It also tells you what your estimated finish time is, which is a good incentive for speeding up a bit to knock those seconds off :-D.

It was early

It’s funny how different the parks are, even though they are all within 2km of my house. Pitshanger is much more busy than the Bunny Park earlier in the morning. Today there were quite a few runners, cyclists and walkers. It also feels more like a suburban park, for local people. The tennis courts and bowling green are in central positions. The multiuse games area (MUGA) is well used.

The run felt good and it was nice to be out before it got too hot.

Weird fungus

Now this post is going to be short – it’s now almost 10.30pm and I’m exhausted. The reason I was up quite so early was sheer excitement – today both my lovely, gorgeous sons became Dads! And I became a grandmother twice over! Yes that’s right – both their wonderful, beautiful girlfriends had baby boys On The Same Day! SO EXCITING!

I love that oak tree

So that’s it from me for today! Have fun everyone!

The Longest Week Day Three

So this morning, barely 12 hours after the last run, I was out again! It was such a beautiful morning that I really didn’t mind my creaking ankles or aching feet. They loosened up quick enough anyway. I did a variation on Monday’s run, and got the timing just about right – 7km done 50m short of the front door.

Across the field at Warren Farm. The clouds were interesting – like a shelf across the sky.

There were only a few people out, mainly dog walkers. This is a change from just a few weeks ago when there were more people out very early walking and running. I’m guessing that some of those people have gone back to work. Or maybe people are feeling more confident about going out later in the day. Or perhaps they are just bored of running now! Whatever the reason it feels very peaceful at 6.15 am. And it was lovely and cool at that time too. Now it is much warmer, and temperatures are set to rise over the next few days I think.

View from the lock gate on the Hanwell Flight

Some may ask “what’s the point of running everyday?” And that is a good question. Generally speaking I don’t think it’s necessarily a great thing to do as a long term project because rest is important to restore muscle and bone. Overuse injuries are the most common reason for having to take time out from sport. Even athletes don’t train day after day – or at least not doing the same activity everyday, to give different muscle groups a break.

However I think short periods of daily running are ok, as long as the intensity isn’t too different from what you are used to. That is the main reason I have picked a fairly short target distance for each day. Over the week I am planning on a total not too far removed from what I have done recently.

I love the colour and structural shape of agapanthus.

Another reason to run every day for a week is that it’s something different to do! The last months have been a bit same-y in terms of running. Same routes, same distances, same old same old… That sounds a bit more woe is me than it should! Really it has been good, both mentally and physically, to have opportunities to get outside and exercise, run, walk, whatever, in green spaces right on the doorstep. But it is fun to mix it up a bit sometimes and do new things.

The viaduct in the background with a freight train going over – it went on forever!

Highlights this morning were: birdsong; cool temperatures; spotting the blackberry bushes that I will visit at the weekend to collect fruit; seeing another beautiful agapanthus in the Bunny Park!

Thank you for reading, and visit tomorrow for another update!

The Longest Week Day Two

Today the 7km thing went out of the window, because Tuesday is interval training day with Quit the Gym in Lammas Park, in Ealing. Because it’s intervals it’s a shorter distance. So I decided to make it a bit longer by running there and back.

Beautiful evening in Lammas Park, Ealing

The run there was a nice easy 2.89km, and then we did ten times 400m (fast) in the park, with a minute between each 400. Tough! And then I had to run home again!

The evidence! Garmin is back!

Usually I prefer to run in the morning but actually today it was good to run after a busy day at work. And the evening was beautiful, so lovely to be out in the park.

Lovely agapanthus in a street flowerbed

It’s a short and sweet post today because I have to get a good night’s sleep in before tomorrow’s run!

The Longest Week begins!

Today I began another virtual running challenge – this time with the wonderful Phoenix Running. This one is called The Longest Week or P7in7 (i.e. 7 runs in 7 days…). I like this one because it’s in real time. That’s to say everyone taking part is taking part this week, and sharing their stories and pictures on the Facebook group. It makes it feel like more of a real thing. It also helps me to feel that I’m part of a community of other runners, which is what I have been missing by not being able to take part in real runs! The great thing about this one is that it is flexible, so it suits everyone. Some participants have been very creative with their plans – basing each run round the number 7.

Here’s my race number – I have stuck it to the fridge!

There are runners planning 7.77 miles every day starting at 7am or 7pm. Runners planning alternate 7km with 7 miles each day. Runners planning totals of 77 miles/77km over the week. You get the picture!

Hydrangea highlights from this morning’s run

Other runners are planning even more complicated programmes based on the Fibonacci sequence, or perhaps huge mileage – half marathons every day – even marathons every day! As for me – well I am not that ambitious.

My plan is 7km a day. I never usually run every day, so just getting out there for a daily run will be quite challenging enough for my head and my legs. Recently I completed 5 x 10km runs in a week, so this is similar in terms of total mileage, but having no rest days. (I might even have to do 8km on one day to make it up to 50 overall!)

Today I was up early to run before work. I went out along a tried and tested 6km route, and then added bits of extra loopage in to make it up to 7km. I managed to judge that quite well, and completed 7km only a short walk away from my front door.

Rain on the canal

It was raining but not hard, and there were few people around at just after 6am. I got back just in time to see Rik Vercoe, course organiser, give his live pre-race talk on Facebook. I don’t think I was the only person who had already started!

Garmin was hacked! Panic! But I think it’s ok now…

I scream you scream we all scream for…

ICE CREAM! Specifically homemade roasted cherry-chocolate ice cream. Making ice cream is a bit of a mission, but as long as it’s not time critical it’s straightforward enough. This particular mission started on Friday evening stoning 500g cherries, and roasting them in a hot oven while family Zoom quiz night was on. The bowl from the ice cream machine went in the freezer to um, well – freeze.

Roasted cherry chocolate ice cream

Saturday morning I heated up the cream and stirred in chocolate until it melted – then into the fridge it went once cool. Then the fun began!

Stoning cherries is very messy work!
Almond is a flavour that enhances both the taste of cherries and chocolate.

Saturday afternoon – get the now frozen bowl out of the freezer, and try and pour liquid cream/ chocolate mix into it while the paddles turn, without pouring it all over the kitchen. Watch the paddles slowly turn. Carry on watching the paddles turn and churn. And a bit more. Add some chopped up roasted cherries. And continue to watch the paddles turn. To be fair it did thicken up a bit, and maybe I am impatient. Or maybe my cheapo ice cream machine is just a bit rubbish! In the end I gave up and poured it into a plastic box (an old ice cream container as it happened). Unfortunately it wasn’t ready in time to eat it on Saturday evening.

Ready to go in the frozen ice cream bowl of the machine
Watch that paddle go round and round… and keep watching …

But – the best things happen to those who wait. And tonight (Sunday) we had delicious chocolate cherry ice cream, with added cherry compote and an almond biscuit. I have to admit I did not make the biscuit – it was from M&S, and was yummy.

I used this recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen, which was easy to follow and worked very well. The only thing I did differently was to reduce the amount of almond extract, as I thought 2 tablespoons was possibly a typo, so used 2 teaspoons which was fine.

It was really delicious. Proper ice cream takes a bit of time, but is well worth it.

Because this blog is also about running now is the time to tell you all about the next running challenge! Starting tomorrow I will be running every day for 7 days, taking part in The Longest Week 7in7 challenge with Phoenix Running. The idea is to run everyday – for as long/far as you feel like (min. 1 mile). This will be a challenge for me as I have never run for more than two consecutive days, and rarely even that! My plan is to run 7km every day from Monday to Sunday. It’s going to take a bit of planning because I’m at work every week day, and have various other commitments too. However as you may have realised by now there’s nothing I like better than a challenge! It’s gotta be done!

I will try and post an update on each day’s run but I’m not making any promises!

Cherry frangipane tart

Cherry season is in full swing, and that’s really good news because I love cherries. I can eat cherries like children eat sweeties. I also like cooking with cherries. Quiches have been a thing in our family in the last few weeks, with the family WhatsApp chats highlighting some great looking savoury tarts. I made a caramelized onion and olive quiche a few weeks ago that worked very well. But today is all about a sweet dessert tart. Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this post about cherry pie. Those pies were made with sour cherries, but today’s tart is made with sweet dessert cherries.

Frangipane or sometimes frangipani, is a filling for many different tarts, and is made from eggs, butter, sugar and almonds. It’s rich.

I find making pastry very relaxing. Although many people buy pastry ready made I rarely do, unless it is puff pastry which is a bit of a bind to make yourself. Many people make pastry in a food processor, and for years I did too. Then my old one broke, and the new one does just not mix it like it should. So I have gone back to the old method of rubbing the fat into the flour with my fingers, and mixing it together with a knife. And it is a very calm process. You cannot hurry it or else the whole thing blobs up. (Two family members share a guilty pleasure – eating raw pastry. Yuk. My left over pastry goes in the bin or is rolled and cut into shapes and baked into little biscuits.)

Stoning cherries is also very meditative, and easy with a cherry stoner tool thingy. Making a tart is not difficult but it does take some time, as each element has to be made, and then the whole thing assembled. But the satisfaction when it’s finally done, and sitting on the table ready to serve makes it all worth it!

I used this recipe from the BBC GoodFood website, which worked very well. I did do some very slight tweaking. I didn’t have any cherry liqueur, as used in the original recipe, but I did have a bottle of homemade damson vodka. I used 2 tablespoons of that in the frangipane and also to loosen up the damson and cherry jelly (also homemade but not by me), that I used for glazing the cherries at the end. I think the damsons give a certain depth of flavour to the cherries.

I served the tart with ice cream and (or) creme fraiche. It was delicious!

Key Lime Pie – Happy 4th July weekend!

Key lime pie is very American isn’t it? And yesterday was Independence Day – I hope all my readers in the USA had a happy and peaceful day. For me Key lime pie is associated with Florida and the happy holidays I have spent there with our friends. It’s a tradition – first grocery shop includes a big pie, which we then have for dessert every night for a few nights!

Key lime pie bars – made by me!

Last year my friend gave me a bottle of Key lime juice to bring home, and somehow I have only just now got round to using it. Don’t know how that happened, because making a Key lime pie with ready made juice is as easy as – pie!

Yummy 😋

So what’s the difference between an ordinary lime and a Key lime? Well part of the clue is in the name – the Key lime was traditionally grown in the Florida Keys, and I guess that’s why you can buy a Key lime pie just about everywhere in Florida. The lime is sometimes known as a Mexican or West Indian lime, and has a distinctive flavour compared to the more ubiquitous Persian lime. I’m sure fresh lime juice is always superior in taste than bottled but as Key limes are smaller than regular limes you need to juice about 20 to make a pie. Hmmmm. It’s way easier and quicker to use the bottled stuff, and to be honest it looked and smelled like the real thing.

Regular limes on the left.
Image from this site, which has an interesting article about why key limes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be in the 21st century…

I decided to make a bar version of the pie, mainly because portion control is a whole lot easier that way. It is simplicity itself to make, and I used this recipe from the Martha Stewart website. As it happens this weekend there was a really good Felicity Cloake ‘how to make … the perfect key lime pie’. Unfortunately today I can’t link to it. But in a few days it will be available on the Guardian website I’m sure. (It’s almost exactly the same as the Martha Stewart one in fact.)

Everything you need
Ready to go in the oven for 10 minutes, just to set the filling. Then it has to chill for four hours.

This is definitely something I’d make again – even if I have to squeeze the limes by hand 😉.

Decorated with piped whipped cream and a few shreds of lime zest.

Summer solstice challenge: Day Five

I have done it! This morning I finished the challenge by running the final 10k of the 50k. Just a reminder – the challenge was organised by Maverick Running and was to run 50km within 7 days. Some people ran ultras on one day and completed the challenge in one go. Others ran shorter distances such as half marathons over a few days. I wanted something that would be a challenge but doable, given that I am actually still going to work! So I split the distance into 5 x 10k runs. I also thought my legs would need a couple of rest days so I ran on Saturday and Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the final run on Friday. I also decided that I would do a different route every day.

The sky as seen in Pitshanger Park this morning. One of the reasons I run outside is to look at the sky, the trees, the flowers.
Ealing Half Marathon 2017 – happy days

Today I was up very early and out of the house at 5.45. I did a route to celebrate the wonderful Ealing Half Marathon, which I have done 6 times. Very sadly they have decided to cancel this year’s event because of COVID-19. I was actually hoping to volunteer this year, and give back to an event that has been so enjoyable every time I’ve run it. So this morning I did some little sections to remember the good times! One such section is quite a long hill. At one point half way up I did think why was I doing this at the end of the week, and not the beginning!!

The hill – Park View Road , Ealing

In fact all the way round I did quite a lot of thinking about why I was doing this at all? I’ve decided – I am a person who likes a challenge.

Challenges. There are those that are imposed on us, like school exams. At the time I probably moaned as much as the next person, but actually I have to admit that I don’t really mind exams. As long as the preparation has been done ( a very big qualification I will admit!) then the exam is half done. That’s not to say I didn’t get extremely nervous. Very, very nervous – one violin exam I did my hand shook so much the bow was actually bouncing off the strings!

2016 – truly the biggest running challenge of my life – the London marathon

However there are also self imposed challenges, and those are the ones that I love best! Last year my challenge was running 12 half marathons (or equivalent) in 12 months. In 2016 my challenge was running the London Marathon. In 2018 I did a great team challenge at work – the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. My team and I had a lot of fun trying to beat the other teams in our area in terms of racking up the steps and activity levels.

One of our ‘awards’ our team got on the Virgin Challenge! I had such a great time doing this!

Races and trail runs are challenges too, and that’s what I have missed since lock down. Individual challenges are good fun, it sometimes it’s nice to feel that you are part of a group challenge, and everyone around you is feeling it too. So for the moment it’s going to be virtual challenges instead.

Throwback to the last actual race I did with my son Jack. January 2020.

The thing about self imposed challenges is that when an external one comes your way you are prepared. You know you can take it on. It gives you confidence in your ability to prepare and plan a strategy to deal with it. After all what about all those training plans? Those revision timetables? Those index cards….! But the stakes are lower so you can have fun too. With a self imposed challenge it doesn’t matter if you change it a bit, revise the training plan, postpone a run.. Just don’t abandon it forever.

So what now? At the moment I don’t have anything planned. I’ll have a little rest and then get out there for a recovery run or two. And I’ll look around on the internet, and have a think about what challenge to set myself next. Ideas welcome in the comments box!