42 km training run, anyone?

Long back-to-back training runs are an obvious part of ultra-training, but for me it was not till I ran my first longest ever 42 km training run this Monday that I realized that I am on my way to ultra. All my previous training runs before never exceeded 35-36 km, though I would do something like 36 km on day 1 and 20 km on the second day.

This week called for a 40+ monstrosity… I was supposed to do it on Sunday, but unfortunately Middle East weather gods decided to send us a nasty sand storm which made even a 5 km run impossible, leave alone a 4-5 hour adventure. This is really frustrating when you are mentally prepared to do something this challenging and you have to postpone it because of weather. I woke up at around 4: 30 am on Monday morning with a very strong desire to stay in bed and not go anywhere. I had a secret hope that when I look out of the window it will be windy and sandy and totally inappropriate for running. Unfortunately it was not and I had to literally drag myself out. Banana and almond butter for breakfast and off I go.

The plan was to practice a run-walk strategy, taking a walking break every 40 – 45 min. I decided to do so every 8 km as I like having a sort of a structure and a kilometer mark ahead to run to. Unfortunately the route was alongside not a very pretty road from Al Hamra Village to Dreamland water park in Umm Al Quwain, but I had to stick with it for the sake of just finishing the run and be done with it. Training mental toughness, you see lol.

Kilometer 1 to 8: “Gosh, I don’t want to do this. Its too early and dark, my legs are not listening to me. And I have to do this for another 4 hours? Seriously, why did I even sign up for this race! Like there is nothing else exciting in my life!”

First 2 min walking break: “Walking already? I don’t want to walk now, I have just started running!. It will slow me down!”

Kilometer 8 to 16: “Its not too bad actually, feeling good. Could do that for hours! Bring on a break, time for some chomps!”

Second walking break: “Chomps are so much better than Gu gel. Like candy. If another idiot in a passing car honks or flashes at me I’m gonna do something crazy! Like ….. nothing…. What can you do to them?”

Kilometer 16 to 24: “Hmmm… Its still cool, looks like I will be be lucky this time and won’t fry myself on the tarmac. I have just actually run from one emirate to another – how cool is that. Wondering if t qualifies for Guinness book of records! Probably not😦 Now turning back and its just a stretch home”

Third walking break: “Too lazy to get a banana out of the back pack, better stick with Gu. Yuk, this one is chocolate  mint flavor. Hate it! Not even close to real chocolate. Wish I had a peanut butter gel though, its awesome!”

Kilometer 24 to 32: “My feet are tired. Can I walk a little earlier, no one will see anyways! No, I will see, don’t be such a girl, just run. One foot in front of the other – come on, stop wining. You can have nice eggs with salad for breakfast. And nuts. apples and even some chocolate – just run!”

Fourth walking break: “Jeez, walking hurts more than running. Calves are tight. Can’t run any more… I’m hungry”

Kilometer 32 to 42: “Last 10 km… Sip some water. 9 and a half… 9 to go. Gosh, only one kilometer covered? You joking? I was running for like 10 minutes after the last break! There is something wrong with GPS! Its definitely the aliens! They attacked our planet and destroyed all the satellites and GPS is not working! 7 km to go – aliens, definitely aliens. This stupid Garmin! 5 to go – come on, you know you’ve got it! 3…. 2…. 1 – just count down in hundreds, almost there, there is the gate. Eggs are waiting. And chocolate.”

The rest of the day was aimlessly spent on the couch, cuddling with the dogs and the cat and feeling proud of the achievement. The irony of the whole thing? – It looks like I am not running the 100 km ultra in June because of some life getting in the way…

I am back with calluses and a breakfast veggie hash!

Jeez, do you know how hard it is to live without a laptop in our world? Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy! Phones don’t work – I like having a big screen to creep on facebook and reply to mails. That is probably because my eyesight is not getting any better with age and I am very old-fashioned.

Anyhow, after almost 2 weeks of being laptop-less I have finally got myself a shiny new toy and back into the 21st century with a boom! The boom was delayed by several days though because I could not figure out how to install MS office. Their new office 365 is weird and me and him did not really go too well.

Anyhow, enough about technology. Lets talk calluses.

Calluses

 Never in my life have I thought I will be shaving my calluses off when having an evening bath. How awesome is that? Apart from usual legs and stuff I now get to shave the palms of my hands! This is twice a week routine now – shave them off and moisturize, shave off and moisturize. I think my hands will soon look as ugly as my runner’s feet are. Talk about being a true lady…

I am really sorry for posting my post-workout hands before the recipe, but I just could not resist. Wondering if anyone has any secrets to keeping hands in good condition.

And now that I have spoiled your appetite for the rest of the week – shall we have some breakfast?

I love myself a nice hearty breakfast. Steak with salad as you first meal of the day? – Sounds good to me! This morning I had a veggie hash with poached egg – not quite a steak, but still does the job! Very tasty, filling and does not take 3 hours of your precious morning time to cook. You can throw it together with almost any veggies you have in the fridge, really. This morning I had sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms.

Veggie hash with poached eggIngredients (Serve 2):

Prep time – 10 min. Cooking time – 20 min.

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of dry parsley (or chop fresh if you have it handy)
  • 1/2 tsp smoky paprika
  • 2 eggs for poaching
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Finely chop the garlic and cut  your sweet potato into small cubes and fry in olive for 7-10 min till half-cooked
  2. Meanwhile finely chop zucchini and mushrooms and add them to sweet potatoes.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley and paprika. Fry on low-medium heat for another 10 min, stirring occasionally to avoid burning.
  4. While hash is being cooked – poach the eggs.
  5. Put you hash on a plate, top it with the poached egg and … eat up!

Oven-cooked steak with mushrooms and zucchini

This is a real treat – possibly one of my favorite ways to cook beef and pork. My mom used to make something similar when I was a kid, but with mayo, cheese and other effing delicious but not paleo-friendly stuff. I am having this for dinner tonight and I can’t wait to come after a 10 miler so that I can shove this deliciousness in my face. Hopefully it will make me run faster.

French meat

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. beef steak or pork (I prefer beef to be not very lean, this way it turns out much softer and juicier)
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 onion cut in rings
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3-4 tbsp coconut cream

Instructions:

  1. Prepare your meat by cutting it into portion-sized steaks of somewhere around 1.5 cm thick, this way they don’t take ages to cook. Pound steaks to tenderize.
  2. Mix oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and half the garlic, cover your steaks with this mixture and let them marinate for an hour or two (if you have time) .
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
  4. Take an oven-proof dish and start layering the ingredients – first onion rings, then meat, and finally mushrooms and zucchini.
  5. Beat 1 egg yolk and 4-5 tbsp of coconut cream, and a pinch of salt, pepper and remaining garlic. Poor this mixture over the top layer of grated zucchini.
  6. Cook in the oven till ready for 45-50 min, depending on the thickness of your meat.
  7. Don’t be surprised when your neighbors start knocking on the door asking what is that delicious smell coming out of your kitchen.

Gear review – Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ Vest

Since starting my training for a 100 km ultra in June I’ve been having a pleasure of spending ridiculous amount of time … no, not running, though I do that occasionally too…  researching all the awesome trail running gear! Apart from the obvious shoes, clothes and head torches, the next most important thing is of course your backpack!

I find that women have been really deprived in the backpack department, it is a sort of trail running discrimination going on here. Every backpack that I have tried and tested just does not fit. Yes, you guessed it right, it does not fit because of boobs. You see, unlike all the awesomely fast and lean female ultra-runners that do 100 milers for breakfast, I am not that lean and pretty gifted in the boob department which becomes a problem when choosing a backpack. Gosh, I think I am talking too much about boobs now and I will surely get some requests to prove my words with photos.

Anyhow, after some research and loads of deliberation I had a choice between Salomon SLab 5 and Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ vest. My dearest BF has got himself a Salomon and absolutely swears by it, but being a rebel that I am I decided to be different and get SJ vest. It has absolutely nothing to do with me thinking that Scott Jurek is awesome (despite being vegan) and is my ultra-running hero. So very well-calculated and informed decision was made here.

I was finally able to order it online on Amazon and it arrived a couple of weeks back.  I took it out on quite a few road and trail runs of up to 4-5 hours as well as a 36 km race I ran last weekend.

Fresh out of the box!

Fresh out of the box!

Now you must be telling me, Tania, STFU and finally get down to the actual review. Ok ok, here is goes.

Positives:

  1. It FITS AMAZING! I got a small size as this is the one according to measurements on Ultimate Direction site and it is just like a glove! I didn’t even have to adjust anything. No bouncing, no chafing – you basically do not notice the damn thing when running. It has stretchy straps on the front that you can slide up or down to adjust the fit so should not be a problem for anyone.
  2.  Separate word on front bottles. My initial fear was that mounting water bottles on the front over my boobs will make me look like Pamela Anderson impersonator, however surprisingly enough the bottles feel comfortable and do not annoy me at all.
  3. The Vest comes with 2 bottles and I absolutely love them, especially their kicker valve, and it also comes with a whistle that is normally a mandatory requirement for the majority of trail races.
  4. The vest is extremely light and well-made – craftsmanship and materials are pretty impressive. Cuben fiber that they are using for the vest is extremely strong and light as well as moisture resistant – simply perfect. The vest dries very quickly and is super-breathable. Side and back compartments are made of stretchy material and can accommodate a tonne of stuff! It is actually surprising how much fits into the back pocket and how expandable it is – according to the site the total capacity of the back-pack is 9.2 liters. I didn’t measure it, so I believe them.
  5. The vest design is well thought through. It has so many pockets and compartment for everything – ipod, phone, money, gels, bars, valuables – you name it.  One of the back compartments can accommodate a bladder as well. It also has holders for trekking poles and Ice Axe – which is an absolute necessity for me as I use an ice axe on my runs in a desert in 30+ degree heat like.. all the time!
  6. I read in some reviews that people find it difficult to access mesh side-pockets because they are positioned somewhat towards the back. It was not a problem for me, but could probably be related to how flexible you are.
  7. Last but not least is the price. 125 $ for a vest of this quality, including 2 bottles – not too shabby!
Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Negatives (yeah, there are some):

  1.  Hydration pack does not come with the vest and is not easy to find one that fits into the very short back pocket. I am using some cheap Quechua bladder that seems to be fitting well, but most of the bladders that I see around, something like Camelbak or North Face, seem to be too long.
  2.  If you keep your full bottles on the front and do not carry anything equally heavy in the back compartment (like a hydration bladder) the vest tends to pull forward. Not a big problem for me as I drink like a camel and always have a bladder at the back, but it could be for someone who wants to run with only 2 bottles.

Verdict: I’d give it 9 out of 10 – super comfortable, practical, lightweight and very reasonably priced (stingy 9 only because the vest does not include a hydration bladder). Definitely my choice for an upcoming ultra!

Pumpkin and Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I am a total breakfast person – I need to eat in the morning. And I need to eat something substantial, meat being the best option. Give me a juicy steak for breakfast and you made me happy till the end of the day! I’ll eat steak for lunch and dinner too, thank you!

A lot of people hate eating in the morning and an idea of stuffing their face with meat will just make them sick. Well, then smoothies are the best option for you! Here is the one I had this morning – pumpkin and berry smoothie. I was in a rush after my morning run and was too lazy to make breakfast the night before, so smoothie it was.

I am having a pumpkin obsession period right now – everything needs to have pumpkin in it! You can add protein powder as well, but I haven’t yet found one that won’t make me bloat. Any suggestions will be most welcome!

Pumpkin and berry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1 cup almond milk ( or more if you want your smoothie more liquid)
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flax powder