The Race Calendar

Dear Family,

Today I finished updating Mum’s Family Calendar for 2015. You will note that I have spent a not inconsiderable amount of time labelling all the columns with our respective names, and adding birthdays and other significant anniversaries.

91gmmGFRP+L

Training dates for all family sporting activities have been added and I have also put in all the races I am planning to do – so it is now a race calendar as well. These races have been written in indelible ink and cannot be changed.

Should you want to add anything onto the calendar then you need to apply for approval, which is detailed as follows:

  • Please check before planning an event that nothing else has been booked for that day already.
  • Then double check with ‘The Boss’, aka me.
  • Once you have approval for your plans, please write it in the appropriate box for the day.

If the date of an event changes, then the following procedure should be implemented:

  • Inform ‘The Boss’ as soon as a change of date becomes necessary.
  • Check that nothing else has been booked for the new date.
  • Apply in writing – in triplicate – for a change of date.
  • Then update the calendar (this includes crossing out the old information).
  • You are also responsible for re-arranging any childcare, transport or catering resulting as a consequence of the change of date.

You may not double book anything. Obviously I have complete control of the calendar and I will always know what was written in first because I am the only one who ever writes anything in the calendar so don’t even try.

Barring acts of god (or Izzy going splat) if something is in the calendar then it will happen and you may not wriggle out of it by pretending that you didn’t know or that nobody told you. Ignorance (not checking the calendar) is not an excuse. You will be expected to attend / support / arrange childcare / look after yourself on that day.

If something you are doing is not entered on to the calendar then I do not know about it, even if you verbally told me, and I cannot be held responsible for any childcare issues or clashes that arise.

Finally, please check your change as mistakes cannot be rectified later.

Lots of love

Your Wife / Mam

P.S. I can change whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s my calendar. So ner, ner, ner, ner, ner.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe: you get cookies that have a soft, squidgy centre.  They’re simple to make – my 10 year daughter makes them for charity cake sales – and they always go down a storm. You’re guaranteed no left-overs.

We also substitute the chocolate chips for other things such as smarties or almonds. This recipe makes about 18 chocolate chip cookies depending on how generous you are with your dolloping.

 

Best chocolate chip cookie recipe

Ingredients

  • 150g salted butter, softened
  • 80g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 225g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 200g plain chocolate chips or chunks

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
  2. Line some baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  3. Put the butter, muscovado sugar and granulated sugar into a bowl and whisk until creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and egg and whisk in.
  5. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the mixture and mix using a wooden spoon.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and stir well to give an even distribution of chocolate chips.
  7. Make small mounds of the mixture well apart on the baking trays – we use a teaspoon but if you want larger cookies use a tablespoon.
  8. Bake in the oven for 8–10 mins (for teaspoon size cookies) until light brown on the edges and still slightly soft in the centre.
  9. Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack.

 

They’re lovely with an afternoon cuppa or after a long Sunday club run.

Dear Dirt Half Marathon,

Dear Dirt Half Marathon,

I wonder if you can help me as I’m having a bit of a problem with my running.

You see I’ve signed up to do your half marathon race on the 15th November but I’m afraid that date is no longer suitable for me.

Dirt Half

 

Last week my running was going really well, and I was really looking forward to the race. However, this week my running has been going backwards. The mind and the upper body might be willing but the legs seem to have gone on strike. Today, for example, I struggled round a four mile run and it took over 40 minutes! It’s a long way of my 1 hour 47 min half marathon PB.

I’ve already had implement the infamous Martin Yelling Inverse Taper to get ready for the race with my longest run of 11 miles just last Sunday and now, two days out from the race, I’ve discovered that I’m likely to be running through a thunder storm! And lightning! So far this year every race I’ve ran has been in the dry.

In conclusion, Saturday 15th November 2014 just isn’t any good for me so could you please change the date of the race?

If you could move the Dirt Half into January 2015 that would be great. It would give me time to have a break from running and get some long runs in.

Alternatively later on in December would be acceptable as it give me a chance of getting round, even if it’s not in a particularly fast time. If you could avoid the 24th-26th December and the 31st December -2nd January I would be very grateful I suspect I won’t feel like running at these times due to the amount of food and alcohol I will be consuming.

I work for myself so I could change my schedule and shuffle things around to do the race on a weekday but I do prefer to race on a weekend.

Anyway, let me know what you think and what dates work for you.

Yours sincerely

Kassia Gardner

Lemon Feta Pasta Salad

When it’s warm outside I love a feta pasta salad: it’s light, cold and it doesn’t require too much cooking.  This salad is all those things, as well as being delicious. This recipe serves 4.

feta-pasta-salad

Ingredients

For the pasta:

  • 350g penne pasta
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 200g crumbled feta cheese
  • 150g chopped green onions
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • salt and pepper

 

Method

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
  2. Whilst the pasta is cooking add the dressing ingredients in small bowl and whisk together. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to cool it quickly and drain again and put it in a large large bowl.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red pepper, feta cheese and spring onions to the pasta and mix together well.
  5. Pour dressing over and toss to coat.

 

If you love feta cheese as much as I do then you’ll love this recipe.

Juggling Work, Family Life and Running

This week has been one of those weeks. As a wife, mother of two daughters, business woman, marathoner and wannabe ultra runner this week has been less about knowing how I do it and more about just getting on and doing it – even if it does leave you a little stir crazy.

Juggling running and family

“I don’t know how you do it,” is a phrase that I’ve heard quite often over the years and when asked ‘How do you do it?’ I normally just say, “I just get on with it.” Unfortunately daughter the younger had a minor vomiting incident on Monday evening which meant 48 hours out of school. As any working parent knows that means that you have to take time off to look after them which also means no running at my normal run times, i.e. during the day when the girls are at school.

I’ve learnt that when trying to balance running, family and work the very best thing you can do is make a decision. It doesn’t have to be the right decision, but you have to make a decision. If you don’t make a decision then you don’t accomplish anything: the washing doesn’t get done, runs get missed and the family starves (well not quite, but you get my point). So shortly after the vomiting incident I made the decision that I was going to get up at 5am to get my Tuesday easy run in.

It was a decision I was regretting when the alarm when off the following morning, and I seriously thought about just staying in bed but a minute or so later I thought, ‘Sod it, let’s do it.’ So off I went into the dark: the stars above my head twinkling in the clear sky and the frost beneath my feet twinkling as my headtorch lit it up.

Wednesday was much the same and very different. I was up again early, I was out running again early, except this time I was doing it in the company of Jen and Dennis who’d kindly reduced their normal 9 miles at 9 min/mile pace to 7 miles. I’ve learned that strong, fit friends (aka running buddies) pull you through what you think you can’t do alone and that was the case here. I’d have never have managed to do 7.1 miles at just under 9 min/mile pace if I hadn’t been with them, but if I want to get faster I need to run with friends who are faster. And although effort-wise it was harder than the easy run planned (more like half marathon effort) it was totally enjoyable.

Saturday meant more juggling. I’d originally swapped my parkrun with Kev so that I could go and support/run with with Donna Law in her first marathon. Unfortunately Kev decided he was going caching straight after parkrun. So faced with no Parkrun and no mid-morning when I volunteered to do the pre-event setup for MK parkrun, so I was finished running by 8:30am. Add in a pet guinea pig that died during the night as well and I didn’t even make it to the marathon course to see Donna. I was gutted to miss her marathon but she ran brilliantly and finished in a great time of 4 hours and 42 minutes!

Kassia, thanks for volunteering today at Milton Keynes parkrun. Have you realised that it’s November and you’re still running in vest and shorts whilst everyone seems to be overdressed in layers? #hardandnorthern Your efforts are greatly appreciated by us and all the runners

This week’s training:

  • Tuesday: 6 miles easy with 4 x strides
  • Wednesday: 7.1 miles at half marathon effort
  • Thursday: 12 x 200m plus 4 x 100m (same distance recovery)
  • Saturday: 35 mins easy
  • Sunday: 1 hour 45 mins long run

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Running the Road Ahead

I’ve decided to try and blog more than about once a month, but please don’t hold me to that. In the main I’ll be blogging about my journey to the standing stones of Avebury and the the back to back marathon weekends. I’ll share what goes well, what doesn’t and what I learn.

Running journey

I’m just coming back to running from three weeks off post-marathon and post shin splints. So after not really running for what feels like a very long time I was really looking forward (excited even) to getting back to running this week. Tuesday was meant to be an easy 40 to 50 minutes easy run and I managed 5.46 miles at 9:09 pace – theoretically an easy pace but it was anything but easy effort-wise. It was a real shock to the system!

It feels like I’ve lost a lot of fitness since my marathon three weeks ago, however I’m not worrying just yet as I know that if I’m sensible and I get in 4 to 6 weeks of good running then my fitness will return. I suppose at least I have a starting point and things can only get better from here.

The rest of the week was better. I was running an easy, slower pace but without the pressure to keep up with the club it was more enjoyable. On Thursday we had travelled up to the North East to see my family so I got to run on Seaburn Beach, do Riverside parkrun in Chester-le-Street and do my long run along the coastal footpath between Whitburn and South Shields.

Whilst up in the North East I also got the opportunity to visit The Ultra Runner Store in Cramlington. I tried on lots of ultra race vests and eventually settled on the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta, although to be honest I didn’t have much of a choice as it was the only one that fit because I’m so small. I was keen to get out and test it out but I thought wearing it for parkrun might be a bit overkill so that had to wait until Sunday’s long run.

I was pleased with my parkrun this week, it was 26 seconds faster than the previous Saturday. Obviously Riverside parkrun doesn’t have Milton Keynes’ zigzags but I don’t believe those zigzags make that much difference.

Kassia, your time in position 100 today at Riverside parkrun was 25:59. A two and three-quarters lap course and you didn’t get lapped by the leaders although it was close, very close. Well done…service powered by aql

I love running around this area, running along the coastal footpath with the incidental music of the waves crashing on the rocks below in the background whilst listening to Martin and Tom from Marathon Talk collapsing in a heap of giggles (I imagine) at the fact that Martin nearly said Daz got ‘punched’ by a horse is certainly good for the spirits. Of course once they started giggling so did I. Have you ever noticed that you always pass someone coming in the opposite direction when you’re laughing? Once again I got that look from a walker coming in the other direction, you know the one that says, “You’re laughing and running? You must be mad!”

Still I was wearing just a running vest and shorts whilst up North so I didn’t look too out of place. I can’t believe it’s the start of November and it’s still warm enough to wear a running vest rather than a t-shirt! Can you?

This week’s training:

  • Tuesday: 5.5 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 4.2 miles easy
  • Friday: 6.2 miles easy
  • Saturday: Riverside parkrun hard effort
  • Sunday: 8.8 miles easy

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

 

 

P.S. As a parkrun run director I love visiting other parkruns. Riverside parkrun is beautiful and the team there were very welcoming. It was lovely to join them afterwards for a coffee and a cake. If you’re ever up in that neck of the woods then you should get yourself along to Riverside parkrun.

Race Training and Accountability

If you want to make sure you do something then you need someone to hold you accountable, and that’s what I tell my BizWhizz clients. Of course, there’s accountability and then there’s accountability…

My accountability coach crossing the line at the Chester Marathon kids run.
My accountability coach crossing the line at the Chester Marathon kids run.

I believe in self-esteem, I believe in challenging yourself. From my perspective the whole point of life is to reach outside of my comfort zone and test myself just that little bit more each day, month and year with new goals and new challenges. That’s why I want to do the Comrades Marathon, and as part of the run up/training for Comrades I planned on doing Race to the Stones.

But there’s no getting out of Race to the Stones now because daughter the younger, Izzy, has taken accountability to a whole new level. Ever since the Chester Marathon she’s been telling the whole of the school playground and the teachers at Giles Brook Primary School that, “Mummy is going to do an ultramarathon!”

Race to the Stones is a 100km (or just over 62 miles if your brain works in old money like mine does) race along the The Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is recognised as the oldest path in the UK. Along it’s length there are traces of generations stretching back over 5,000 years. It’s lined with Bronze Age hill forts, neolithic burial chambers, Roman river crossings and culminates in the largest neolithic stone circle complex in Europe at Avebury.

The route starts in Chinnor in Oxfordshire and passes up and along the high ground between there and the Thames crossing at Goring. From this point the route rises up onto the North Wessex Downs before the iconic finish between the towering standing stones of Avebury. There’s a non-stop option and a two day option. I’m going for the two day option, whilst some of my friends are attempting the non-stop version – I would say that based on this I’m not as mad as they are but that is probably debatable.

To help me on my journey I have a coach, Emily Harrison, to help me with the training and everything else that comes with running your first ultra marathon – including holding me accountable as well. I completely trust Emily, after all it was her suggested race strategy that got me my new PB at Chester Marathon – if it had been left to me I would have set off a bit faster and therefore probably finished a bit slower, but shh! don’t tell Emily that ;-). Plus I have some good friends who’ve done ultras before, including Race to the Stones so I have plenty of brains to pick.

However first things first, Race to the Stones is in July and there’s the small matter of back to back marathons (and hopefully a new marathon PB) in April 2015 as I’ll be running the Greater Manchester Marathon on the 19th April and the Virgin Money London Marathon on the 26th April – race place courtesy of the Adidas 26rs.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

Chester Marathon 2014

Here I was standing on the start line: the nerves that make me feel like puking the night before and been replaced with a quiet calm. Could I break 4 hours and put the demons of London to bed? I certainly believed so, the only question in my mind was how far sub-4 could I go?

Chester Marathon

Training hadn’t exactly gone to plan this time round. I’d lost my running mojo for about a month in late July/early August due to stress caused by the death of my Auntie Joyce and work.

In early August I was having to fight my body and fight my mental attitude just to be able to run for two and a bit hours at 10 minute mile pace. How the hell was I ever going to run sub four hours for a marathon?

Salvation came in the form of Jen who emailed me to suggest that I do some of my marathon training with her and Dennis (they were training for an ultra). So I joined them for a 10 mile run at 9:30 min/mile pace followed by a half marathon because jumping from 15 miles to 23 miles is sensible isn’t it? And that’s the rhetorical question by the way so don’t answer that.

Well it worked! And it helped turn my negative thoughts into positive ones. The rest of the training went well although I was always lacking time on my feet due to the Summer Doldrums until the last week when I got a tight hamstring and shin splints. Can you believe it, getting injured in the last 6 days! But treatment by my physio Caroline meant I got to the start line in a fit state to run. Round 1 to me!

The plan was to run between 8:50 and 9:00 min/mile pace on my watch and try and hit the mile markers on the road at 8:55 pace.

Back on the start line again the start gun went off. This was the start of my race, my Chester Marathon.

About 30 seconds into the marathon I noticed that all three fields on my Garmin were showing time I’d been running. I must’ve accidentally knocked my watch whilst waiting to start! Mentally I blew a raspberry and swore but I didn’t panic. Instead I spent the entire time running round Chester racecourse adjusting two of the fields on my watch back to pace and the distance fields.

Once onto the roads I started to run and settle into my rhythm. Although the course was proving to be hillier than I expected pacing was going well and I was enjoying it.

Then after 5 miles I started to get stomach cramps. Argh! There were some toilets at the water station just after 10k and as I ran past the water station I was ‘uming and ahing’ whether to use the toilets or just carry on and wait to see if the discomfort passed. In the end I chose to stop and take the hit on on the time. A short stop later and off we go again, and I’m feeling much better thank you very much!

The calmness I’d felt at the start was still with me and I didn’t panic about being behind. I had the words of Emily Harrison ringing in my head, “Relax, relax, relax” so I set myself the target of making up the time I’d lost by half way. My watch registered 1:57:00 as I crossed the halfway mat, my chip time was 01:56:56 – just seven seconds behind where I should be.

From about 9.5 miles to around 14 miles we were running into a headwind, it wasn’t strong but it was consistent and I definitely noticed it, as did some of the other runners who were commenting on it. I did think about trying to draft someone but I was by myself and unwilling to speed up to catch the group about 30 metres ahead of me.

From about 12.5 miles it certainly felt as if you were either going up or down and there was no flat running (this might not be strictly true but that’s how it felt). The one at 16.5 miles was particularly gut wrenching if only because you come down a steep hill, cross a bridge and then head back up a hill as steep as the one you’ve just ran down.

But I’m still feeling OK, although a little tired. It’s the miles between 15 and 20 that normally get me, they’re a bit of a no-mans land – you’ve passed half way but there’s still a long way to go.

Then about 17.5 miles I went SPLAT! I fell. At the time I wasn’t sure how but it was on a single track road that was obviously used by farmers so it had muddy bits in the middle and up the edges, having been squeezed from a two lane road onto a single track road it was a bit crowded and I think I went over on my ankle as I noticed my ankle was sore after I’d finished. Anyway I went down like a tonne of lead bricks.

I got myself sitting up almost immediately and then before I really knew what was happening I was aware of two blokes pulling me back up to my feet and asking me if I was alright: Mr Orange Vest and Mr Blue T-shirt. Mr Blue T-shirt very kindly said he would run with me for a while to make sure I OK, which he did until I dropped him at around 18 miles.

I think the adrenaline from the fall made sure nothing really hurt for a while. I knew I had a grazed right knee and hand and at the 18 mile water station I was tipping water over my hand and down my leg to try and clean them up but I wasn’t going to stop – I might not start again. At about 18.5 miles both knees started to ache and hurt but I just focused on keeping on running. It was now a case of mind over matter and being completely focused on doing what I needed to do to finish. I never doubted I would finish, I never doubted I would get sub-4 but there was no more high-fiving the kids or anything, I didn’t have the energy to spare.

By 20 miles I was tired and my brain was fuddled. After the fall I was incapable of working out my the mile splits: at 20 miles I though I was about 1 min 10 secs behind where I should be, and I still don’t know how I got to that figure, as in reality I had some how got 15 seconds ahead.

Anyway, I knew my first 10k split on my watch was exactly 55 minutes and I thought that if I could do a 55 minute final 10k I would be 3:53 (and maybe 3:52 with a sprint finish) so I made that my target. In the end that didn’t come off (and I’m not disappointed by that) but having a mini-target helped keep me going – I was slowed down by the hills at around 21.75 and 24.5 miles which were a bit of a killer for me (I’m sure Chris & Andy promised semi-naked hot men in uniform to encourage people up the hill – or was that just my imagination/wishful thinking?)

After that hill at 24.5 miles I was just focusing on keeping going and trying to maintain a strong effort level – I don’t think I looked at my watch in the last 3 miles. I spotted a club mate, Tim Miles, up ahead and I knew I would catch him so I focused on that till I passed him at around 25.5 miles, then I then realised Amy Inchley was just added of me so I focused on catching her. Then it was onto the grass track for the final 300 metres, I heard my family yelling at me and I just focused on getting to the finish line as quickly as possible without falling or twisting my ankle – I’ve already had one fall on a grass track at the end of a race this year and it’s not an experience I want to repeat.

They had the distance to the finish spray painted on the racecourse, 200m to go, 100m to go, 50m to go. I’ve done it! I’d love to say I was ecstatic crossing the finish line, but I was just too tired to be anything other than ‘Oh my god I’ve finished!’ I was so tired I even forgot to check my watch until my family asked me how I’d done. I knew I’d gone sub-4 but by how much?

3 hours, 53 mins and 45 seconds on my watch (official time 3:53:41). I’d smashed the 4 hour barrier to smithereens!

And that was it, I had a trip to the first aid tent who cleaned up and bandaged me up – it looked worse than it was due to the dried blood and dirt – and I had a cup of tea and some biscuits (I’d packed proper recovery stuff but tea and biscuits is what I really wanted) before heading to the place we were staying for a shower and a proper meal.

The Chester Marathon was just brilliant. It had a lot to live up to – excellent reviews, great scenery and fantastic organisation – and it delivered on all accounts. It’s a marathon I’d definitely recommend.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner

 

 

 

P.S. If you want to know about Kev’s geocaching whilst I was running you can read his blog about geocaching in Chester.

Comrades Marathon: What goes up, must come down

Comrades Marathon, the world’s oldest and largest ultra marathon run over a distance of approximately 90 km (56 ish miles) between Pietermaritzburg and the coastal city of Durban in South Africa.

life's an adventure

The direction of the race alternates each year between the ‘up run’ in odd numbered years that starts in Durban and runs up to Pietermaritzburg and the ‘down run’ in even numbered years which starts in Pietermaritzburg and runs down to Durban.

I first heard of the Comrades Marathon on Marathon Talk when co-hosts Martin and Tom entered, trained and ran the race. At the time I thought it sounded like something amazing, I had a look at the website and then I forgot about it.

In May this year I heard of Comrades again on Marathon Talk. Just hearing the start song – the traditional mining song Shosholoza – followed by Chariots of Fire and the Cock crowing gave me goosebumps, but still it was little more than something that sounded amazing to do and a trip around the Comrades Marathon website, but perhaps the seed of an idea had been sown.

Fast forward a few months in which I’d been training for the Chester Marathon with a couple of friends, Dennis and Jen, who are doing an ultra at the end of September and once again Comrades is on Marathon Talk. This time though the interview is with Tom’s dad, Brian, who has signed up to do Comrades even though he’s only ever ran a half marathon. I just found it really inspiring because he’s not an ultra runner or fast marathoner, he’s an ordinary bloke doing an extraordinary thing – they don’t call Comrades ‘The Ultimate Human Race’ for nothing! So now for the first time I’m thinking, “I can do that.”

One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. I’ve talked to Kev, my husband, about what I’d like to do and he’s being very supportive so now the goal has been set and I’m stating for the record that I would love to do the 2016 Comrades Marathon. In fact as I’m writing this blog post I can here Kev tell his parents of my plan which makes it all the more real. I’ve also had a chat with Emily Harrison and training for the Comrades Marathon with my current committments is realistic. The training wouldn’t have to differ much from my current marathon training apart from some back-to-back long runs over some weekends.

And finally he’s an image for Tom’s dad who has inspired me to give it a go and made me realise that anything is possible!

goal dream

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner