4 down, 8 to go.

Wow, a third of the way through my training plan!

I did my Tuesday morning run round the river, which was very pleasant. The only tricky thing is trying to cross roads as the rush hour traffic builds up.
Thursday was my indoor treadmill run, and technology was failing me here. My shuffle was already playing up, and the right earphone wasn’t working, and about 5 minutes into the run the battery gave up.  I knew that it would get really warm in the gym, so I was trying out the sleeveless top that Clic Sargent had sent me with their fundraising pack, but it absorbed the sweat really quickly and became sticky and uncomfortable.  It might be better out of doors.

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Without music to spur me on, I had to play mind-games with myself.  Every 30 seconds I put another click on the speed, until I was running at 10 km/hr.  I held that pace for a minute, then dropped back down to 7.5 and started again.  So it wasn’t a brilliant run, but it was OK.

Saturday mornings are now ParkRun time.  Having tried my big dog, Max, at one a few weeks ago, where he was completely freaked out by the crowds and the adrenaline, I bravely attempted to take Mini, my cocker spaniel.  My logic was – if I recorded a slow time, I could blame her, and if we managed a strong time, then it would be a case of Girl Power!  She was an angel, behaved beautifully the whole way round, sat neatly in the queue to scan our bar code, and let other runners admire her without jumping up on them.  And we knocked another minute off my time to come in at an incredible 30 mins 12 seconds!  Just a sniff away from that 30 minute mark that 2 months ago I’d have said was never going to happen.

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My one-eared shuffle came up with the goods too, with Matty Graham’s “Crazy” spurring me on.  Running is mental – running with dogs is excremental (though Mini was very good, and didn’t do anything that would have required me to stop….)


Sunday was supposed to be a 6 mile run, though the route I chose was a bit short of that.  I wasn’t running particularly fast either, at about 7.31 minutes per km, but I was really enjoying myself.  I reminded myself how lucky I am: in my 50s, I’m able to go for serious runs, in the beautiful countryside, with a pawsome dog by my side, and a supportive husband cheering me on. The signs of spring are everywhere – cheery chunky clumps of primroses on the verges, adventurous daffodils breaking free from their structured gardens, the lacy haze of blossom on the trees, and vibrant gorse and flowering currant bushes.  There were some steep hills on this route, which I walked up, but the reward for the struggle was always a stunning vista of the Lagan valley and the hills beyond.

I did go down to the Apple store to see if they could sort out my earphone problem.  I was persuaded to buy the newer shuffle, but it was only when I got it home that I realised this one is all controlled from the device itself, rather than on the headphone wires – a point I had specifically asked about.  So sadly, it’ll have to go back to the shop tomorrow, while I source a set of headphones that DOES allow me to pause, fast forward, change volume etc all without having to hoik inside my T shirt to find the device.  I shall leave you with that charming image, and a reminder of why I’m doing this.


5and2: Tuna-shrooms

Another week where I managed to get my fasts in on Monday and Thursday, which is by far my favourite pair. Husband has put on a few pounds, and said he’d like to join me on Monday. I chose a harissa chicken dish from the Hairy Dieters book, but I did it in the oven on roast veg (leek, courgette, mushroom) instead of the buckwheat salad they’d served it with (husband don’t do cold food). The chicken was great and very easy to do – just rub some harissa over chicken breasts and oven cook. They’d have been nicer if they’d had a chance to marinade first. Husband wasn’t really into this calorie counting malarkey, and had a slab of soda bread alongside his, with butter, before pouring himself a vodka. Oh well, at least he’s willing to eat the low-cal meals I make.


I tried an aubergine and haloumi burger with harissa relish mid-week, which he sullenly pushed around on the plate, much to my annoyance.

For my Thursday fast I turned to my low-cal standbys – mushrooms, tuna, and salsa.

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I mixed a small tin of tuna (65 cals) with a good dollop of salsa (30 cals) which was enough to pile into 2 portobellos (50 cals).  I even shaved a few slivers of cheese over the top, before putting in a 200 degree C oven for 20 mins.  Quick, easy and tasty.

I bought today’s Times as it has a pullout section of 5and2 recipes, so I might try some of those over the coming weeks.

Weight stable at 137 pounds, but I’m delighting in my strong nails, which have never looked better!  Maybe a manicure reward when I get to 135….

3 down, 9 to go

Week 3 of my training for the Lisburn Half-marathon, and I got my 4 training runs in.

Monday started the week in a sombre mood, as news of the tragic events at the Boston Marathon shocked the world. All those runners and supporters, trying so hard to make the world a better place, under attack from as yet unclear people and motives.

On Tuesday, I did the Hillhall Road loop to the East.  My shuffle came up with Beautiful People, which was very apt – it’s my daughter’s theme tune, and she was flying in from London today, but I also dedicated it in my head to the beautiful people of Boston.

My next run would usually be on Thursday evening in the gym, but I had planned to go out for dinner that evening with my daughter. So I took Max for a short run round the block instead. In the rain. The distance and time was much shorter than I’d thought, so it was only a 15 minute run, at a pace of 7.10 mins per km, exactly the same as Tuesday’s pace.
On Saturday morning I was taking part in the Chartered Accountants ireland charity weekend. This was taking the form of a Park Run, though it wasn’t in my usual venue. Instead I headed to the Queens sport facilities at Upper Malone. I hadn’t been here for a while, and I mistakenly went to the old buildings, but I soon spotted a group of runners hangin around at a newer pavillion. There were about 30 of us CAs running to raise money for Aware, and I managed to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen in a number of years. No chance of catching u with them on the course, though – twice round the Trim Trail, no very steep hills, thankfully, but I managed it in EXACTLY the same time as last week’s Parkrun = 31.15. I’m a wee bit annoyed at myself that I didn’t push just a little bit harder and knock even one second off my time, but hey, I’m consistent!

Sunday was my long run, and I’d signed up to do the Titanic Quarter 10k.  I’d done this race last year in 1 hour 15, so I was aiming to beat that time, though I knew from my Parkrun 5k times that a one hour time was very ambitious.  I’d carb loaded with spelt pasta and 4 cheese sauce the night before, and had a breakfast of oats soaked overnight in orange juice, with some added flax seed and dried sour cherries.  The free TQ10K Tshirts were a lovely mesh material, so I chose to wear that one, with my long trousers, as the weather was looking a bit mixed.  We headed downtown in good time, called into St Georges Market en route to pick up some bacon and black pudding bread for friends, and I didn’t eat anything more, apart form the wee samples of cheese, curry sauces etc.  I sipped on a Herbalife energy drink.


Over in the shadow of Titanic Belfast, I did a bit of last minute adjusting to my wardrobe – I wanted to have my name and number displayed, but I also wanted to wear my jacket, as it had the zipped pockets where I carry my phone, and hence my MapMyRun app.  So in the end I pinned my number onto the back of the jacket.  A quick warm-up provided by Fitness First, a moment of silence to remember Boston, and we were off!  I tried to keep my pace steady, about what I’d do for the Parkruns, and tried not to worry about everyone passing me.  Once we’d passed the 5km mark, I was able to pick off a few runners who were starting to fade.  I slowed down at the water station to catch my breath, and then continued at a good pace.  I identified a good pace setter, and used her to guide me home for the final 2 km, where I was pushing myself hard.


I didn’t catch the time displayed at the finish line, but MapMyRun suggested it was MUCH faster than last year, and when the official time was texted to me later that day I was thrilled that I’d done it in 1 hour 3 minutes!


My shuffle was on excellent form too:

Phoenix – Run, run, run

Terrorvision – Do you wanna go faster

Silhouette – I Can’t Keep Up

This last one is my TQ10k anthem, so it put a smile on my face when it came on.

Thanks so much to all those who’ve donated so far – I also have a  sweepstake going to guess my finishing time – pay a pound/ a euro, closest to actual time wins a bottle of wine!  If you’d like to have a go, let me know.


5and2: Choke Ceasar

Had a good Monday fast this week – a mushroom spinach scramble for breakfast saw me through a morning meeting with the boss, then a miso soup and a satsuma at lunchtime. I’d been saving calories in case I was eating with husband at dinner time, but he wasn’t feeling well, so I made myself a quick tom-yum soup, using leeks, mushrooms, rocket, tomato and spring onion,  before heading out to Scottish dancing, where I allowed myself the smallest biscuit on the plate.

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I’d hoped to have Thursday as my second fast day, but darling daughter is over from her London college this week, and was keen to go out to dinner on Thursday night. That left Wednesday – but that was the day I was taking off work to drive daughter and friends up to the North Coast to visit my parents. Ah well, great excuse to avoid my mother’s cooking!

Breakfast was a scrambled duck egg, with a blob of red caviar from IKEA for added oomph, and a sprinkling of cress for colour.  A glass of cranberry light at only 20 calories is my go-to breakfast juice these days.

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I made sure I had plenty of water for the drive, even though daughter purloined my emergency orange! Lunch was homemade vegetable soup – I passed on the wheaten bread and cheese, as well as the smoked salmon and crisps nibbles, but did allow myself one small traybake. And one fudge Heroes. And a quality street toffee stick on the journey home.

For dinner I rustled up a rather fabulous gourmet salad. I’ve been experimenting with quark ever since reading a discussion about it and fromage frais on MFP. I’ve previously used a Jamie 15 minute recipe for a lighter ceasar salad dressing using yoghurt, so I decided to adapt that for quark.


In a bowl, mash 2 anchovies. Stir in 2 good blobs of quark, and season with black pepper.
Arrange quartered artichoke hearts and thick slices of cucumber on the dressing. Sprinkle with cress.

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The contrast of textures is lovely – the solid earthiness of the artichokes against the crisp cool crunch of the cucumber, in the velvety creaminess of the dressing, with a slight tang, and a hum provided by the anchovies. All for under 100 calories.

And I really enjoyed the suggestion of a fellow 5and2er for a special and refreshing drink – fake Pimms.  Add a splash of angostura bitters and some balsamic vinegar to a glass filled with ice, top up with soda water, and add chunks of whatever’s to hand – in my case cucumber and cantaloupe, which was a surprisingly good combination!  I must pass this on to my vinegar-loving best friend.

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2 down, 10 to go

Second week of full-on training for the Lisburn half-marathon, and I successfully completed my 4 runs.

On Tuesday morning I did a quick half-hour before breakfast, and my time would’ve been better if I didnt have to cross a rush-hour traffic-laden road!  Ran 4.56km at a pace of 7.14 mins per km.

Thursday was a fasting day, but I still managed to run for 30 minutes on the treadmill at the Leisure centre.

Saturday was the 5km Wallace Parkrun, and having smashed my PB last week I didn’t know if I could match that this week.  I started off quickly, but after the second lap I was finding my breathing difficult, and I even slowed down to walk up the hill section on the final lap.  But I did shave a whole minute off last week’s time, and ran it in 31.15, an average pace of under 10 minutes a mile, which I never thought I’d achieve.

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For Sunday’s long run, I joined up 2 of the loops that radiate from the house.  I started with the Waterloo Road southern section, and came home via the Lagan tow-path.  This run was punctuated by many stops – Max-pee-stops, re-attaching my wayward iPod shuffle, and chatting with the viszla that lives round the corner.  It was a damp morning – you know what they say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only badly dressed people?  Well, these were definitely the wrong trousers, Grommit.  Jersey is too absorbent a material to make running in the rain a pleasant experience.  Still, I did 10.29 km at an average pace of 7.10 mins per km, a total of 1 hour 13 mins.  Since I ran the Titanic Quarter 10 k last year in 1 hour 15, I’m pleased with this progress.  We shall see what next Sunday’s race brings!


This week’s fave running tracks have been

Spek – I’m a Hippie (but I got a tattoo)

The Smiths – What Difference Does it Make?

Thicke – Get You Alone

A big thank-you to the nice people at Just Giving – I’d stupidly managed to set up 2 pages, so they quickly helped me to delete the wrong one.  The right one is


and thank you to the generous donors to date.

5and2: Hairy Dieters

I managed to fast on Monday and Thursday this week, which is my ideal spacing of the 2 low days.

On Monday I had Scottish Dancing in the evening – having something to go to which requires me to drive is a great way to take my mind off fasting. I munched my way through half a bag of dulse during the day – that’s a local dried seaweed, which is full of mineral goodness but only about 20 calories per bag.  Must get some more of this for next week.   I defrosted a portion of my chicky-leeky soup as a quick meal before I went out.

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On Tuesday, even though it was a normal day, I tried one of the Hairy Dieters recipes – the parma wrapped cod on roast veg. Husband thought it delicious  and he’s keen to try other recipes from the book. It seems to be a great source of ideas when sharing meals with family. We went to see the guys at their stage show on Sunday, so I’d bought a signed copy of the book there.

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Thursday I took a different approach – I knew I’d be having a sandwich lunch through work, so I made myself a typical under 100 cal breakfast, and was amazed that I had a choice of several meals in mind for under 100 cals for dinner. I could have made a big fruit salad with melon, blueberries, grapefruit and pears. I could have used those zero noodles and done a tomato based sauce to go with. I had an aubergine which I could have turned into a sort of dip to eat with celery sticks. In the end, I went to the gym first, ran for 30 minutes without any problems, and wasn’t that hungry when I got home at 8. I made a small salad with half a tin of mushrooms, spinach leaves, 2 anchovies, 5 black olives and a splash of balsamic. Finished off the evening with 2 strawberries and an options hot chocolate, feeling really upbeat and positive. I might use this approach again in future, though it doesn’t get the “fasting” benefits.

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At the weekend I experimented with a low cal dessert recipe that was in the grauniad – lavender and banana ice-cream in parsnip tuile baskets. I had to hunt for lavender, but I got it in Sawers delicatessen eventually. As my daughter would comment “Mum, you always order the most random thing on the menu!” The ice cream bit was lovely – I always stick my over-ripe banananananas in the freezer, and they’re very easy to squish out of their skins and mix with a flavouring.  I’ll definitely be doing more of that.  But I didn’t get the tuile biscuits right, maybe the oven wasn’t hot enough.

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And since husband couldn’t believe that their were pies in the book, I made the Hairy Dieter’s chicken and ham tangle pie for Saturday dinner.  This was very tasty – full of flavoursome chunks of chicken, and I used a pack of ham hock from Sainsburys as the ham element.  I’m now poring over the mouthwatering photographs wondering which to try next!

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Half-marathon: 1 down, 11 to go

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to complete a half-marathon. I’ve done a few 10ks in the past, so this seemed like the next step, and I’ve signed up for the Lisburn Half-Marathon in June. That’s 12 weeks away, so the “beginners” training programme that I’m following kicked in this week. Prior to this, I’d been running 1 or 2 times a week, but that’s now upped to 4 times.

I have several routes that I run from my house, which is on the edge of the city. Heading North, I can run on the tow-path and cycle paths by the river, which is a very pleasant environment for running, is dead flat (once you’re there, although there’s a hill back home), and I love seeing the signs of spring.  One day maybe I’ll get to see a kingfisher!  Most of this is within the Lagan Valley Regional Park http://www.laganvalley.co.uk

Heading east is the Hillhall Road.  This is a fairly busy route, but at least there’s a footpath to keep out of the way of the traffic.

If I head south, there’s some quiet country roads to run on.  If I take the short 4 mile circuit anti-clockwise, there’s a steep hill early on, but after that I have gravity on my side for the most part.  Doing this in the other direction means a long slow slog uphill, and a very fast descent at the end.

Heading west I cut through the back of Dobbies car-park, to some more quiet roads, some of which are on the actual half-marathon route.  Each of these can be done in a circuit, can have little bits extra added on, and will link together when I get to the stage of seriously long runs.

On Tuesday I took the river route, for a “30 minute easy” run.  I took 38.37 minutes at a pace of 7.34 mins/km.

On Thursday, I did the west short route, managing 34.03 minutes at 7.40 mins/km.

I was aiming to do the Wallace Parkrun on Saturday morning, a timed weekly 5k.  But in the middle of the night, I got up to tell Max off, tripped on the stairs in the dark, and badly stubbed my toe.  Max himself has been in the wars recently, and had just had a bandage removed from a badly gashed paw, so we were sore-paw-pals together.

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I did wonder about the wisdom of running on it, but was keen to try incorporating some sprint intervals.  The parkrun is 3 circuits, and I had picked out a flat 100m section which I wanted to try really increasing my speed over.  Bruised or broken toe notwithstanding, I just got in the zone for the run, and smashed my personal best time with a 32.21 – an astounding 70 seconds off last week’s time!

On Sunday, since Max is still out of action as my running mate, I decided to try Mini.  However, this was her first time jogging with me, she’s inclined to get excited every time she sees a bird, and her long hair gets very mucky and matted.  But we managed to get round the south route and do 6.49 km at a pace of 7.32 mins/km.  Sundays will be my distance run each week, increasing by about a mile each time.

My favourite running tunes this week have been:

Kasabian – Club Foot

Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick

Annie Lennox – Little Bird

Oh, and I’m not just doing this for the good of my health, you know!  I’m raising money for Clic Sargent, who do wonderful work for children with cancer.  You can sponsor me at



Or you can give me a pound/ a euro and have a guess at my finishing time – closest to the actual time gets a bottle of wine (supplied by me).

Rest day tomorrow – thank goodness!

Chicky Leeky Soup

Over indulged a bit at Easter – I loooooove marzipan, so I treated myself to a pack of mini Simnel cake bites, which I’m spreading out over the days. Thursday was out this week as a fast day, since I’m going to my Scottish Dance Class’s end of term dinner. Wednesday was a good choice as husband would be away all day. I don’t know that I’m strong enough to do either 2 days back-to-back or a weekend day just yet, so Monday became the other fast day.

I started Monday with one of my favourite all time breakfasts – soft boiled egg with steamed asparagus to dip in.

For dinner, I stir-fried a load of veg – mushrooms, onion, red pepper – using some Big Tom spiced tomato juice as the liquid.  It was quite filling, but my digestive system complained about that amount of veg in one go.

One Wednesday, I had breakfast of smoked salmon.  I was at work, and had a meeting in the afternoon, so I didn’t want any tummy rumbles  and so spread my calories throughout the day.  I spread a Laughing Cow Light on 2 Ryvita Black pepper crackers (this flavour is really good with cheese) mid-morning, and had a Tesco Chicken Noodle Cupasoup for lunch, followed by a satsuma.  Had a 10 cal jelly mid afternoon, and a string cheese immediately before my meeting.

For dinner, I made what I’m calling Chicky Leeky Soup.  I cant call it Cock-a-leekie as it uses breast, but it made 3 decent portions, so I’ve got plenty of options now in my freezer.

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One large chicken breast, in bite sized pieces

100g leeks

100g mushrooms

2 stalks celery

200g turnip or swede

a chicken stock cube.

Add all the diced veg and the chicken to about a litre of stock, and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables tender.  Season with black pepper.  Divided in 3, each portion was about 120 cals.

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