Banana, spelt and oat muffins…

Hello! Yes, I’m back again. I went and ran a marathon in Manchester – 4:28.27, in case you were wondering. It was a bloody hard run and I pretty much loathed miles 16-23, but I’m proud of the fact that I eventually managed to pull myself together and leg it for the last three miles! During my seven-mile pity party the 4:30 pacer overtook me, which led to another round of ‘This is all pointless, I am rubbish, I’ve buggered it all up’ wailing, but with a mile and a half to go to the finish on Sir Matt Busby Way I overtook them again and ended up with mile 26 being the fastest mile of my entire race (a habit that drives my running coach friend absolutely crazy as I do it all the time in training as well. And I do all my training runs at or faster than marathon pace…). Before the marathon, my goals were a) to run faster than I did in London last year (4:32) and b) to come in under four and a half hours. So on paper, I achieved everything I set out to achieve. I just need to come to terms with that and stop thinking that if I’d paced it a bit better and not had a complete meltdown with ten miles to go, I might have come in nearer the 4:20 pace I set out doing.

But enough of that! Muffins. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, which I originally adapted from this BBC recipe when I was in Somerset over Easter. My mum had some seriously manky bananas in the fruit bowl, so I turned them into muffins. And then this week my housemate also had some blackening bananas, so she told me to feel free to make muffins with them as well!

I wanted my muffins to be a bit healthier than the original recipe, so I added oats, used coconut oil instead of butter, reduced the amount of sugar, and this time I used spelt flour instead of ordinary flour. It worked really well – they’re nutty, not too sweet and nicely oaty. I’m going to give you the full recipe that I used here, because it’s changed so much from the one that inspired me that it’s pretty much a new recipe in its own right!

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Banana, spelt and oat muffins

Makes 10 muffins

 

75g coconut oil

200g spelt flour

75g oats (any oats will do – this time I used M&S five grain and seed porridge which was awesome)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

50g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 large, ripe bananas

2 medium eggs

125ml milk (I used Koko coconut milk)

 

1. Preheat the oven to 190C.

2. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan and allow to cool slightly. In a medium-sized bowl, mash the bananas well and beat in the eggs, vanilla extract, melted coconut oil and milk.

3. In a separate bowl, add the spelt flour, oats, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, salt and spices and mix together.

4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and give it a quick mix until just combined (it’s OK if it’s still a little lumpy).

5. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

 

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A lovely day…

The weather has been gorgeous this week. On Sunday I spent most of the afternoon (after my 15-mile run, of course – yes, I’m marathon training again!) in a pub beer garden with friends, wearing a short-sleeved dress and sunglasses! And it’s been gorgeously sunny all week.

I think all the sunshine must have inspired my latest papercut – I’d been wanting to experiment with adding words to my papercuts, which is a bit more fiddly than an ordinary design because everything is drawn and cut on the back of the paper, so your words need to be cut out backwards so they’ll be the right way round on the finished design. It’s fairly straightforward thanks to the wonder of tracing paper, though, and I’m quite pleased with my first attempt! I’m learning as I go – I’ve discovered that the coloured paper I have, while cheerful and bright, is a bit too thin and that means it’s difficult to control the craft knife. My 150gsm art paper is much better – and I can always use the coloured paper as gorgeous backgrounds to show off the designs!

IMG_20140314_135458I’ve also set up a Facebook page for my work, so if you fancy having a closer look just go to Allie in Wonderland on Facebook and ‘like’ the page to receive all of my updates and whatnot. And do get in touch if you’d like to buy a personalised design – I can do any name or short message, with whatever background colour you’d like, and papercuts like the one in this post, which are 21x21cm, are £18 unframed or £20 with a frame.

London Marathon 2013…

A little late with my report on my marathon efforts, but here we are!

After one of the craziest weeks of my life, which involved not sleeping for 36 hours but ended with a friend having an amazing baby so it was all OK in the end, I had about a day to get my head around the fact that I’d be running the London Marathon on Sunday 21st April. Thankfully a lovely friend of mine lives just a few minutes’ walk from Blackheath, where my start was, and she kindly put me up on the Saturday night which meant I didn’t have to worry about getting over to the start from Ealing. There are three starts for the marathon – Red is for charity runners, Blue is for runners with ballot places and Green is for celebrity/media runners and those with good for age places (runners who have met a particular qualifying time in a previous marathon). Having been lucky enough to get a place via the hugely oversubscribed public ballot that takes place every year, I was in the Blue start – and you line up based on your predicted time so I was quite near the back, in pen 7 of the 9 pens! Chatting to the runners around me, we were all aiming for around the 4:30 mark, and we were all worried about the warm weather. Yes, I know to most people a forecast 14 degrees might not seem warm, but given the fact that we’d all spent six months training in sub-zero conditions, the sunny weather on marathon day was a bit of a concern!

So we all set off, and I was amazed at how quickly we got to the start. I’d been warned it could take 10 or 15 minutes – or even half an hour – to get to the start but in fact before I knew it I turned the corner and the start was there in front of me! I think I was only about seven minutes behind the runners in the front pens. And the first few miles breezed by. I had a whale of a time running around bits of London I’d never seen before, past the Cutty Sark, and through Rotherhithe, where I lived as a student. The crowds were incredible and it seemed like every time I looked up, I was approaching another mile marker. My plan had been to set off at 10-minute miles and see how long I could keep that up, but of course I got a bit swept up in the atmosphere and ended up averaging more like 9:45/mile for the first 10 miles or so. I made a conscious effort to slow down, but until mile 18 I was still having a brilliant time, breezing along without too much to trouble me except the fact that I was extremely warm. They have ‘showers’ – mists of water to run through – en route, so I made full use of those, and the fire brigade helped out by hosing the runners down at a couple of points! At mile 17 I saw my friends who live on the Isle of Dogs, and I’d already seen a few Ealing Eagles out and about on the course cheering the 25 runners who represented the club. Then I knew my parents would be at mile 20, by which point I – mainly mentally – was struggling a bit. The sun really started to affect me from about mile 18 onwards, and my mental state wasn’t helped by the fact that every time I went through a tunnel or under a big bridge, my Garmin watch lost its satellite signal and started telling me I was doing 12-minute miles. I knew I’d slowed down but I didn’t think I’d slowed down that much, and even though realistically I knew I was still doing OK, I started to believe that I’d messed up my race. I had a bit of a self-pitying moment when I saw my parents – who couldn’t understand what I was on about because I’d told them I’d probably be passing mile 20 at about 1.30pm and it was bang on 1.30pm when I arrived – but still I was saying ‘I can’t keep it up, I can’t do it, it’s all gone wrong’. Nevertheless, I knew I only had another three miles to go before I’d see the incredible Eagles cheering squad, who had set up camp at mile 23. So I soldiered on and tried to ignore the voice in my head that was telling me I’d be lucky to come in under five hours, let alone hit the 4:30 target I was aiming for. Seeing the Eagles was amazing and it gave me a huge boost – around 100 friends and supporters from my running club all screaming my name! That got me through the euphemistically-named ‘Lucozade Tunnel of Yes’ at mile 24, which was more like the Lucozade Tunnel of Wee as all the men took the opportunity to have a quick wazz while out of sight of the crowds.

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And then I was on the Embankment and I could see the Houses of Parliament – and across the river, St Thomas’ Hospital where my friend had assured me that she and her brand new baby would be waving from the window overlooking the Thames! At this point I ‘only’ had a mile to go…but of course it felt like the longest mile of my life. At the ‘600m to go’ point I saw a man who had collapsed and was receiving treatment, and the thought of how awful it would be to have to give up having come so far spurred me on to what in my mind was a ‘sprint finish’ but what actually was just ‘lumbering along a bit faster than I had been before’. When I saw the official race clock was at 4:39 I knew I was OK – I hadn’t managed sub-4:30 but I was there or thereabouts. And as it turned out, my official finish time was 4:32.40 – not bad for a first attempt at a marathon! Talking to people afterwards the consensus was that everyone had been affected by the warm day and everyone had found the last 10 miles really tough, which made me feel a lot better! And actually when I looked at my official splits, I was extremely consistent until mile 18 and even after that my pace didn’t drop as dramatically as I’d thought at the time!

All in all, it was an amazing day – I couldn’t believe the crowds, the atmosphere and the noise all the way around the course! People who have run London in previous years said that this year’s support was the best ever, and it certainly felt like that. And I’m happy with my time…although I’ve put my name in the ballot for next year so I can try to get that 4:29!

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It’s been a long time…!

Over a month since my last post. Whoops!

Good old marathon training has truly taken over my life in the last few weeks. 20-mile runs, interval sessions, 10 miles every Wednesday…it doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else! Add to that the fact that I’ve had the dreaded IT band issues (a phrase to strike fear into the heart of any runner and something that affects lots of people when they start marathon training) and I really have been eating, sleeping and breathing running. Thankfully my running club is sponsored by an excellent physio clinic, and they’ve certainly been doing well out of us recently – just about all of my training buddies have suffered some sort of injury or niggle! I’ve been having weekly physio appointments since my leg started hurting (and after a truly terrifying experience when what was meant to be a 22-mile run ended up with me stopping after 8 miles with stabbing pains in my knee…) and I’ve noticed a massive difference. My legs are stronger and I’m pretty much pain-free (apart from the obvious post-run aches!)

Before Easter training really ramped up an extra notch as I did 20 miles on the Sunday, 10 on the Wednesday and then 22.5 on Good Friday. Ouch! Last Friday saw me complete my last long run before the big day – a nice 16 miles along the river to Chiswick – and now I’m doing what’s called ‘tapering’, where you reduce your mileage in order to conserve energy for the marathon. I am having the classic ‘But surely I’m not running far enough? What if I suddenly lose all my fitness and forget how to run 20 miles?’ freakout, but I’m assured that’s perfectly normal, as is worrying about every single twinge and ache! But we’re less than two weeks away from the big day, and I’ve followed my training plan and worked my way up to some serious distances, and I’ve got three 20+ runs under my belt, so now I just have to trust that everything will be OK!

I will leave you with a photo of the amazing hazelnut meringue cake that my mum made for Easter Sunday lunch – and I’ll be back with the recipe!

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Veg Box Day: 19/02/13

The veg box is starting to get a little greener…!

IMG_20130220_095525Apologies for the dark photo but in there we have watercress, chard, potatoes, onions, carrots, a swede and some portobello mushrooms. I think watercress pesto (I’m going to try freezing it) and onion soup might feature over the coming days…I’ve got a ton of onions to use up!

I didn’t have time to make anything with my veg last night, because I was out having a sports massage (ow) and then at a talk by the hilarious former 10,000m world record holder Dave Bedford, but on Monday night I made a restorative supper after my weekend away running the Brighton Half Marathon. If I was putting it on a gastropub menu (with all the necessary capitalisation) I’d call it ‘Pan-fried Smoked Cheddar Polenta with a Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Ragu’. It was totally inspired by Hugh F-W – I’d watched River Cottage Veg that afternoon as part of my day off loafing around and the chefs in the Canteen had made polenta with tomato sauce. I realised I had all the ingredients for something similar, so off I went! And it was very nice indeed. To make the polenta I boiled a cup of water with a bit of veg stock and then whisked in half a cup of polenta, and kept whisking until it was all thick and smooth. Then I stirred in some salt and pepper and a little bit of smoked Cheddar (I have some in the freezer from Christmas!) and spread the mixture out in a little dish to cool. While it was in the fridge, I roasted a red pepper (from my last veg box) and then chopped that up and cooked it with onions, mushrooms and a little tin of chopped tomatoes. Then I cut the polenta into strips and cooked them in a dry non-stick pan until they were nicely toasted.

IMG_20130218_211159The half marathon weekend was fab, too – I stayed in a huge house with about 25 other Ealing Eagles, and we all had a great time! We had chips on the beach for lunch and a carb-loading chilli party on the Saturday night, and everyone did amazingly well in the race itself. Almost everyone got a PB! I managed 2:01.03, which is not a PB and not quite what I was aiming for (which was sub-2 hours) but I’m OK with it – it’s not bad for a training run and it’s given me some valuable race lessons (namely do not persist in keeping up with the 2:00 pacer if your watch is telling you he’s doing 8:30/mile…). We all headed out for a brilliant afternoon/evening of well-deserved eating and drinking, followed by a fry-up the next morning to fortify us for the trip back to London. Here’s just a few of the 40 Eagles that took part!

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A long run…

I realised the other day that I haven’t really said much about my London Marathon training efforts. To be honest, it’s only in the last few weeks that it’s really felt like training instead of doing my usual runs – I was lucky enough to start with a good base thanks to my regular weeknight runs with the running club and my Saturday 12-miler, so it’s only recently that I’ve really had to make the effort and increase my mileage.

But after yesterday’s run, I felt like I ought to post something…because it was my longest run ever!

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17 whole miles! And a bit extra, so I even had a chance to practise my sprint finish for that all-important last .2 of a mile. So far training has been going reasonably well, although it was disrupted in more ways than one by the cold and icy weather we had a few weeks ago – I had to miss a couple of shorter runs because the pavements were too icy, and I did 15 miles in the snow, which was great fun at the time but it seems to have left me with ITB trouble (the dreaded iliotibial band, which causes no end of leg and knee trouble in distance runners!) But I’ve got myself a foam roller, which you roll about on to release tension in your muscles – it hurts like nobody’s business but it really does help – and I’m doing lots of stretching and my leg seems to be holding up well on my long runs, so fingers crossed. My next challenge is the Brighton Half Marathon on February 17th, and then I’ve only got to add five more miles on to my training runs before the marathon on April 21st! Easy, right?

Oh, and I forgot to say…I got my marathon place via the public ballot, so I’m not obliged to raise money for a charity, but so many people asked if they could sponsor me that I ended up deciding to start a JustGiving page so I could take the opportunity to raise a bit of money for a very good cause. Please do take a look if you have the time!