Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Running the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff.

I had absolutely no intention of entering another half marathon after I had completed my first in October 2015 The months went by and as the new year started and new year’s resolutions begun, myself and two other family members decided to enter the Plymouth half marathon that is coming up in less than two weeks’ time on April the 17th.

The training for the Plymouth half was going really well, I was regularly doing 8 and 9 mile runs comfortably. I had even run my second fastest Park Run and was just 11 seconds away from getting a PB and then an e-mail dropped into my inbox. I read the e-mail and saw that they had re-opened entries to the Cardiff World Half Marathon again. I instantly dismissed the idea and closed the e-mail.

It would be crazy to do a half marathon in just 10 days’ time without any warning, or planning or training... Well I was training and I was feeling strong but that was for a run in 4 weeks’ time! Not in just 10 days!
      The World Half Marathon landed on Easter weekend so even if I did enter I could have two full days on the sofa to recover, if needed.... After not too much thought and just 10 days before the event I found myself re-opening the e-mail and signing up to the event.

A few days later I thought I would take a quick look at the weather to start thinking about what kit needed washing in preparation to take. AND THEN, like a slap in the face it dawned on me. I was not only running a half marathon in a few days but I was potentially now going to be running a half marathon in a predicted severe weather warning. It was bad enough having gale force winds predicted but torrential rain too, that was just so unfair and I was soon wishing I had checked the 10 day forecast before signing up.
Weather Warning for the Cardiff Half Marathon

This was only going to be my second half marathon and I hadn't yet endured a very wet run! I had done a fair few soggy Park Runs but that was only 30 minutes in the wet. I've often achieved a run in Cornish mizzle and more frequently a run in gale force winds but usually although really windy most were still dry and never more than an hour out on the roads. It was dawning on me that I needed to do some research on what exactly to wear to run for over two hours in the worst weather imaginable!

After reading a few blog posts and articles I was starting to get into a slight panic and was reading horror stories of needing to Vaseline all toes to stop multiple toe blistering. Vaseline, basically was the suggestion for everywhere as once clothes were wet and heavy things would rub more than before.

In a slight panic I resorted to asking the trusty community of Newquay Road Runners who advised me that it would never be that bad and to wear a bin bag on the start line to stay as dry as possible and to just go out there and enjoy the event regardless of the rain. They suggested a few clothing options and I was armed with slightly less scary advice on how to overcome my first very wet half marathon.

Good Friday arrived, it was the day before the run and so I found myself in the car heading on the roads up to Cardiff. The day couldn't have been any more beautiful, clear crisp blue skies, the warmth of the spring sunshine yet unfortunately I was joined by thousands of other cars on the roads also attempting an Easter getaway.
We got stuck in traffic on the A30 leaving Cornwall, stuck again on the M4 after Bristol, Stuck again before the tolls on the Severn Bridge and again the other side. A journey that should have taken just over three hours was clocking in nearer to five hours. We had spent the majority of this gorgeous sunny day on the motorway and was arriving into Cardiff with just enough time to make it to the conference centre to collect my race number.
With Race number in hand and feeling slightly drained we headed straight for the hotel for food and rest before the event the following day.
World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff race number
Due to being a World event, the race wouldn't start until 2pm due to being televised all over the world so I managed a nice leisurely start to the day. Leaving the hotel late morning and taking a drive to the city centre it was dry and it was forecast dry right up until 2pm when rumour had it, it would then chuck it down.
Start of the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff

Timing cars at the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff
Feeling optimistic we walked the 1 mile into the city centre from the park and walk car park and headed straight to the conference centre. We spent several hours in the conference centre amongst many other runners. There were people stretching, foam rolling, jumping about, eating, sleeping, the atmosphere was pretty intense as everyone muddled through the morning waiting for the event to start. As the time got closer we headed to the race start and found the massive queue for the portaloos and it was there and then in that queue that the rain started to make its appearance.
Meeting a giant red dragon in Wales

This was just typical, this could only be described as 'The law of sod' I left my partner and started making my way into the allocated pens. I was in the 'Everything else' category over 2 hours 15 minutes. I was given a plastic poncho in the conference earlier that day and had put this on in the toilet queue as the rain began to fall and was feeling confident that the rain wouldn't come to much, it had been dry pretty much all morning with only a few light showers.
Waiting in the pens to start the Cardiff Half Marathon
The race then started, we had stood in our pens whilst the starting ceremony got underway and the elite race started. We started to shuffle forwards as each of the pens was released. Everyone else started discarding their plastic ponchos and so I decided it was time I did the same. I tore and ripped my plastic poncho off and tossed it away to the side over the crowd. There were bin bags, bottles, old t-shirts being thrown into the sky and we slowly shuffled forwards again as the next lot of runners got underway.

And then arrived the first downpour, we hadn't even got through the start line and the first heavy rain shower hit us. We had literally just removed our waterproof poncho layers as the cold hailstone filled rain gave us a brief soaking. Things were muttered between runners and people were grumbling and moaning about being cold and wet but with my lightweight running jacket I figured I was well prepared and didn't really want to run in the poncho especially in the strong winds that were blowing up.

We were off, we passed under the start funnel and began running. I started to get warm and as I approached mile 2 was warm and dry enough to tie my running jacket around my waist. Things weren't so bad after all, it was a little drizzly and blowy but not too bad and so I started to relax and enjoy the run.
Although the weather had other ideas and the light rain started to get a little harder again. I decided to throw the jacket back on but leave it undone so that I would get too warm. I passed through mile 3 and the drinks station and grabbed a bottle of water and things were going well.

Then came the monsoon, or was it a biblical or even apocalyptic downpour? It was just horrendous, I was approaching mile 4 and the heavens literally fell out of the sky. I had my bottle of water in my hands without a lid on and I couldn't quite do my jacket up and tried to clasp the jacket together the best I could and tried to keep my head down and battle on through but it was the worst rain I'd ever experienced.

The roads started to swell with running water at the edges, the spectators, many wearing full wet weather clothing with umbrellas started running for cover and one runner shouted "IS THAT THE BEST YOU'VE GOT" and it just poured down. The rain drops were massive, I can only describe it as a bucket of water being chucked over me and everyone else. I kept going and started to get jealous of those runners still with their ponchos on. I then started to feel my feet getting very wet and they began to sound squelchy and heavy. Luckily the torrential rain didn't last more than a few minutes but it had managed to soak me completely through every layer even to my pants!

I was then approaching the marina and the barrage and I could see the sign for mile 5. As I crossed the dividing footpath between the marina and the sea the wind cut across making me feel even colder in my soaking wet clothes. I saw a bin and ditched my water bottle and finally zipped my coat back up. Although already soaked I hoped it might at least shelter some of the wind.

Mile 6 went through fairly quickly and with another water station and shouts and cheers of support it wasn't feeling as bad as 2 miles previous where I was on the verge of laughing and crying through the rain. After mile 6 we climbed over a dual carriageway and back towards the city centre, mile 7 was reached on a lonely stretch of road. Heading back into the city centre the crowds were back and moral was lifted and I was soon flying through mile 8, 9 and eventually to the dog leg section of mile 10 around the lake. I looked across the lake to see all those other runners much closer to finishing and felt strong and happy that it wasn't raining and I was literally 30 minutes from finishing.

But then the worst thing happened, I approached mile 12 and got a sudden, sharp, shooting pain in my foot. I literally ground to a halt, I stopped in agony and then gave my foot a wiggle and it kind of felt ok so I walked it off. The only way I can describe the pain was like treading on an upturned needle. A piercing pain straight up through my foot. After walking for a few minutes and passing mile 12 I knew I couldn't walk the last mile and picked up the pace back to a light jog and managed to finish the run in a very respectable 2 hours 15 minutes and 37 seconds.
Finishing the Cardiff Half Marathon
I was over the moon with my time having done it 5 months previously in 2 hours 23 minutes. I had managed to knock 8 minutes of my previous attempt. I walked through the finish funnel, collected my medal, T-shirt, water and banana and started to feel a bit achy. But at this point had completely forgotten about that weird odd foot pain. My right groin was twinging when walking and so was my right glute. I headed to the massage tent and had a massage and did the best to get out of my wet clothes and left the massage tent feeling relaxed and slightly warmer. Grabbed a hot drink jumped in a taxi and headed back to the car and onto our journey home to Cornwall.
One very soggy race number at the end of the half marathon
Sadly the following day when I woke up I couldn't put any weight on my foot. I couldn't work out what it was that I had done. As the days went past I was able to put more and more weight on the foot but it was still sending shooting pain through my ankle and foot. I managed to get an emergency appointment with my physio who at first couldn't work out what I had done but soon suggested that it was a pain brought on by the mechanics of my foot being out of line and the constant use over 13.1 miles had left a particular ligament with trauma and that was causing the pain. He strapped up my foot into a better alignment and I returned to see him after 48 hours and it was feeling much, much better. I was getting an occasional twinge but nothing at all like it was previously.

Things are feeling a lot better but I still haven't since the Cardiff Half. I'm hoping to try a little run this week whilst still taped up and fingers crossed if everything behaves itself I might be able to complete the Plymouth Half in less than two weeks’ time!!!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Storm Imogen hits Cornwall with a day of destruction and the biggest waves of the winter

On February the 8th 2016 Britain was hit by yet another storm. Yet this latest storm, Imogen was certainly an angry lady!
Storm Imogen at Portreath in Cornwall

Storm Imogen at Portreath in Cornwall

Storm Imogen Cornwall

Waves crashing up at Portreath beach Cornwall

Storm Cornwall Feb 2016

Safely watching the storm Imogen on the coast in Cornwall

Storm watching in Cornwall

Storm waves north coast of cornwall

Portreath in Winter Cornwall

Giant swell in Cornwall

Waves batter the north cornwall coast - Portreath

High tide in Portreath

Flooding in Portreath Cornwall

Storm watching activity in Portreath Cornwall

After a weekend of torrential rain and flooding across Cornwall today was the time for giant waves battering the coasts and gale force winds howling onto shore.

Winds were reaching speeds of up to 79mph across Cornwall and although the day was relatively mild and even saw glimpses of sunshine and not a drop of rain in sight the real drama was on the coastline were high tide hit at 5.10pm and crowds of people finished work and headed to the coast to witness mother natures epic show.

Myself with many other people had the same idea. Filling the carpark at Portreath were crowds of people, whole families, children and even the elderly all taken a spot to watch the phenomenal waves come rolling in.
Storm watchers Cornwall

Crowds gather to watch the giant waves at Portreath in Cornwall

Crowds gather to watch the giant waves across cornwall

Watching the epic show from mother nature

It all felt safe, keeping a distance from the waves and not going onto the beach and feeling the safety of several coastguards and police in attendance only having to tell a small minority that they were perhaps a little too close to the water.

One couple were down on the beach frantically filling sand bags as they feared there house close to the harbour would flood.
Local couple loading sand bags to protect their home from the impending waves

About an hour after high tide had been and gone, one rogue giant surge of water came pouring into the carpark and many people were seen running away from the water and the water rushed and swirled around the many parked cars. Soon people were quickly leaving the car park for fear of more rogue waves loaded with debris would come crashing into the car park.
Local coastguards on hand to protect people from danger at the coast

Coastguards get showered in sea foam at Portreath Cornwall

Coastguards at Portreath beach ready to protect visitors to the beach from danger.

Coastguards on duty at Portreath Cornwall

Coastguards protecting the shoreline at Portreath in Cornwall

Coastguard at Portreath in Cornwall

I just wanted to say what a fantastic job the local coastguards and police were doing keeping everyone safe, roping off dangerous areas and making sure that no one risked their lives for that elusive glimpse of such impressive seas. The tide is now on its way back out and when it comes back in the wind will have completely eased and the swell dropped right back and hopefully no damaged has been caused by dramatic storm Imogen.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Is cycling the Camel trail in Cornwall the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

After running my first Park Run of the year on Saturday morning my glutes were certainly feeling it, I have run a few times so far in 2016 but nothing as gruelling as the Lanhydrock Parkrun. A course of fast downhill followed by a gruelling 1.5 miles of uphill across fields and up through sticking slimey steep boggy mud.

On Sunday morning I woke up feeling rather tight across my backside! With my legs feeling fine I thought I would go out for a nice gentle bike ride. I thought about how much my muscles were aching and figured that cycling anywhere straight from my front door was a bad idea as every direction was up hill and I fancied a nice gentle relaxing bike ride to ease my legs back into it this year.

I loaded up my bike into the car and headed on the ten mile drive to reach the famous Camel Trail. The converted disused railway line has nearly 20 miles of cycle paths completely traffic free and completely flat.

Ok, so that's a small lie, the paths aren't completely flat but they are very gradually inclining and once you get yourself going you don't realise there is any uphill at all.

It was the perfect destination for a little, gentle, relaxing blip on my bike to ease the legs after the previous days run...... However it wasn't raining, It wasn't cold and so I just kept on going. I managed to cycle from Wadebridge up to Bodmin then up to Wenfordbridge. Around 24 miles in total!!!

I can't believe I have lived in Cornwall for ten years this year and have never in my life been on the camel trail from Bodmin to Wenfordbride and It is BEAUTIFUL! I have peddled the trail and even run the trail between Padstow and Bodmin many a times but never once been up this section of the trail.

Following the river camel I cycled alongside the river through wooded forests until I reached the end of the trail and the route then joined the small Cornish back roads. Stopping at the Snails Pace Cafe, although closed, I used their benches to rest my weary legs and ate my packed lunch. I had just cycled 12 miles and now was refuelled to cycle back another 12.
The Camel trail Bodmin to Wenfordbridge
This time the gradual gradient was downhill and I managed to get back in a much faster time. I whizzed all the way back to Wadebridge.
Although the day was dry, the weather over the previous few days had been extremely wet and the trail was very wet and VERY muddy. I was lagged in mud. All up the insides of my legs, splattered up my bag and even my face had a few delicate splodges.

Getting the completely soiled wheels off the bike and into the car was interesting to say the least and before I knew it I was covered in even more mud!

I loved my gentle Sunday cycle ride even If I cycled much further than I had intended, but it is so easy to do when your enjoying the day.
Mandi Brooks Cycling the Camel Trail In CornwallCycling the Camel Trail In Cornwall

Making it to Wenfordbridge on the Camel trail, Cornwall

Getting home covered in mud and slightly cold and then having to clean the bike was a slight downside to the day but hopefully the summer is just around the corner and the weather will start to pick up and we will all be able to enjoy the Cornish countryside with maybe slightly less mud!
Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge on the Camel Trail

Check out my progress and the route on my Strava profile here.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New Years Eve Fancy Dress

I can't believe that this time last week I had a drink in my hand and was just a few hours away from seeing in the new year. For a long time New Years Eve means fancy dress, friends, booze and usually a very late night and this year was no different.

With an invite to a hats and wigs party, this year was to be a more mature affair, not full blown fancy dress but simply the addition of a hat or wig to add an element of fun to a house party full of adults. However it is really rather impossible to simply wear a hat or a wig without dressing the rest of your outfit to match the chosen head wear.

I decided to opt for the gorgeous purple curly haired wig from Tickled Pink fancy dress because lets be honest, who doesn't want to have gorgeous long purple curly hair without having to use hair dye or curling tongs!!

With the addition of the feathered headpiece over the top I was soon transformed into a 1920's inspired character. Then it was simply a case of wearing my own clothes to suit the wig and headpiece. One polka dot wiggle skirt and a plain black top and I was ready to go to the party. My partner who likes fancy dress a lot less than me was reluctant to wear a wig and was insisting on wearing a beanie hat! Anyone that knows my partner will know he always wears a beanie hat and that doesn't really count as fancy dress!!!

After a few phone calls we had borrowed a steam punk themed bowling hat that teamed with a smart shirt and trousers worked really well with my 1920's look.

It's great that with a few simple additions to your existing wardrobe you can make a complete fancy dress outfit without breaking the bank.
All I need now is another excuse to wear fancy dress again. I might well have turned 30 but there is no way that I am giving up behaving like a child and getting out the dressing up box and wearing something awesome.

Here's to 2016 a year filled with fun times with my wonderful friends, lots of running and surfing and lots more adventures with my camera in Cornwall.


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

12 months as a runner.

After reading a fellow Newquay Road Runners blog post about their journey from running their first half marathon to full marathon including moving to Cornwall during this journey I felt inspired to write about my story into running.

When I was at school I loved running, I loved sports day and I certainly had that competitive edge. I was part of the hockey team and basketball team, as well as the athletics team and outside of school I was a member at the Melbourne Athletics Club in Chelmsford, Essex and regularly used to compete in the 800 Metres, 1500 Metres and the cross country.

But at the age of 15 I became less and less interested in competing and missed more and more training sessions and found new hobbies in boys, drinking and going out. By the age of 21 I had had enough of growing up in Essex and my life had lost a lot of direction. I used to dable in a little swimming before work and often cycled to work but other than that I wasn't very active. At the age of 21, I decided that what was the point in living somewhere that you didn't particularly like and what was there to stop me moving somewhere else?

Just weeks after my 21st birthday my plan was made and I was off to Newquay. The coast of dreams, I was going to live by the beach and be happy ever after away from the city life I hated so much in Essex.

Things went fantastically well, I landed a job in a holiday park behind the bar, found a place to live and started to make friends and begain my new life in Cornwall. Over the years I moved from place to place and from job to job. I joined a ladies surf club and really was living the dream. However fast forward several years of living in Cornwall I was invited to attend my first Park Run event with my sister.

Now to give you a little more background, my sister wasn't in any of the sports clubs at school and certainly didn't go to after school athletics clubs. So for her to invite me to a running event I felt that I couldn't say no. Deep down I was thrilled to be running again, although the realisation that I no longer had suitable running shoes and barely owned enough gym clothes to take part in a run was a slight issue. I hadn't exercised for ages and was certainly very, very unfit.

With a seriously old and squashed pair of very warn trainers and some old skool Addidas three stripe trousers I was on the start line with my sister and taking part in my first bit of running for nearly 15 years.

The event started fast and everyone disappeared off around the course and I don't think it had even been a mile before I had to walk a section. With another flat section I tried another little run but then another hill and I was walking once more. With a combination of walking and running I managed to get around the 5km course. Although I struggled the whole way around I enjoyed it and I really wanted to attend again.

The following week, this time with a pair of newly acquired running leggings I was back on that start line taking part in my second Park Run event and I loved it even more than the first week. People were friendly and encouraging and getting a faster time then the week before fuelled my desire to go again and again.

That was just 12 months ago and now exactly one year on I have not only attended 24 Park Run events. I have also joined the Newquay Road Runners club and competed in two races for the club including the Cubert 5 and the Falmouth 5 Mile Mob Match. But the  biggest highlight of the last 12 months was reaching the age of 30 and signing up to my first half marathon, which I completed in October.

I now try to run every Tuesday night at the intro to running night put on by the Newquay Road Runners as well as attend Park Run on a Saturday. I might not be running very fast or very far but I am loving being a runner again and can't believe what I have achieved in the past 12 months.

I can also confirm that in the 12 months since I started running I am the proud new owner of several new pairs of swanky running shoes and the old trainers and Addidas three stripes will never be seen out in public again! I have made loads of friends since that first Park Run and personally achieved so much and I can't wait to see what my rekindled love for running will give to me next year.

Here's to 2016 and hopefully another great year of running.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

WIN Bedding For Life Competition!

I love my bed, I mean, I REALLY love my bed. I get a bit excited at bed time and still do a little cold dance under the covers when I first jump in. Leaving my bed in the mornings is a painful affair where I want to stay snuggled up for hours.

There is nothing better than crisp fresh clean bed sheets, perfectly ironed, perfectly made, with plump pillows and a warm snugly duvet..... Well actually there is something much better and that's crisp clean Brand New bed sheets EVERY year for life!!! 

I have stumbled across exactly that in this fantastic competition from elinens where you can win £100 worth of bed linen every year of your life!!!
Win free bedding from Elinens
Just fill out your name and your e-mail address to be in with a chance of winning, it couldn't be easier. ENTER HERE

If you aren't lucky enough to win then you can still get an exclusive 10% off orders at www.elinens.co.uk using this code at the checkout – elinens11

Good Luck

Monday, 26 October 2015

Wet weather weekends are the perfect reason to stay indoors and bake!

With the weather turning wet, windy and wild over the weekend it's time to stay indoors in the warm and put my baking hat back on.

With a whole weekend to myself I decided to make not one but two bakes this weekend starting with a gorgeous carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese frosting. Followed by a rustic scotch egg pie.
Having a peek in the fridge on a soggy Saturday morning I noticed the sheer amount of carrots lurking in the salad draw and thought to myself what a great excuse to make a delicious carrot cake.
Carrot Cake
I trawled through my recipe books at home and couldn't find a recipe that I liked and headed off onto the Internet to stumble across this recipe by Paul Hollywood. Looking in the cupboards and not wanting to go out in the rain I amended the recipe slightly to feature walnuts instead of pecan nuts and I had to miss out the mixed spice as this was missing from the spice rack, however I did increase the Cinnamon and ginger slightly to make up for this missing ingredient.

Carott Cake By Paul Hollywood
155ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
230g self-raising flour
 1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
230g light brown muscovado sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 satsuma or mandarin, plus strips to decorate
100g pecans, halved
260g carrots, coarsely grated
 3 medium free-range eggs, beaten

For the icing 
50g butter, softened
200g full-fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
2 tsp orange juice

01. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease an 18cm loose-bottomed round cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Add the sugar, zest, pecans and grated carrots, then stir until well combined. Stir in the beaten eggs and oil, then mix well. 

02. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack, leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely before icing. 

03. For the icing, beat the butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer until really soft. Add the cream cheese and beat again until well mixed. Sift over the icing sugar, add the orange juice, then beat until smooth. Store, covered, in the fridge until needed. 

04. To decorate, fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, small nozzle with icing, then carefully pipe lines across the top of the cake. Give the cake a quarter of a turn and pipe more lines across. Dust with a little icing sugar and scatter some grated satsuma/mandarin zest on the top. 

I've got to say the bake went beautifully, an easy recipe to follow and a great cake and once cooled I moved onto creating the cream cheese frosting. Sadly this is where mt cake was a little bit of a let down. I had bought a healthy living version of cream cheese rather than full fat and it was seriously watery. I tried to make up the icing the best I could but the liquid icing was impossible to thicken up.

Even half a box of icing sugar later couldn't help! A light drizzle of the icing was used on top of the cake and it tasted delicious even if there was a lot of wasted icing and it wasn't quite like the picture.

Moral of the story, don't be healthy when baking! Always use full fat cream cheese when it tells you to. Hopefully the judges on the Great Denby Bake off aren't as strict as Paul Hollywood and will give me credit for my resourcefulness and adaptation of the recipe.
Carrot Cake

Whilst that cake was cooling it was time to make me a pie! This weekend I was joined at home by my poorly partner with a snuffly flu type cough and cold. What better way to make your loved one feel better than with home made pie. Again heading straight to the Internet I found a recipe for a scotch egg pie from the BBC and this time I altered the recipe slightly to feed just the two of us.

Scotch egg pie - BBC
8 medium eggs
14 Lincolnshire sausages
1 tsp ground mace
1 tbsp thyme leaf
100g fresh breadcrumbs
500g pack shortcrust pastry flour, for dusting
1 tbsp sesame seed

01. Put 6 of the eggs in a large pan of cold water. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Leave for 5 mins, then lift out eggs and cool under cold running water. Peel. 

02. Snip the ends of the sausages and squeeze the meat out into a mixing bowl. Add the mace, thyme, 75g of the breadcrumbs, 1 remaining egg and some ground pepper, and mix together well – you’ll probably need to get your hands in. 

03. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Criss-cross 2 long strips of baking parchment in a 20cm pie tin or round cake tin (to help you lift out the pie). Roll out half the pastry on a lightly floured surface to line the tin. Scatter remaining breadcrumbs over the base of the pastry, then pat in about a quarter of the sausage mixture. Evenly space the peeled eggs on top, then gently pack the meat around and over – trying to evenly cover the eggs without leaving any gaps. 

04. Roll out remaining pastry, cover the pie, then trim the edges. Pinch and crimp edges to seal, poke a steam hole in the top, then glaze with the final egg, lightly beaten with a fork. Scatter with the sesame seeds, then bake for 30 mins. 

05. Remove the pie from the oven and carefully remove it from the tin. Place on a baking tray and return to the oven for 10 mins to brown the sides of the pie. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then serve in chunky wedges. 
Scotch Egg Pie

I made my own home made pastry and whilst this chilled in the fridge I moved over to hard boil some eggs and make the sausage meat mixture. Once these were done it was time to assemble the pie and bake.
My only criticism on this pie is that the pastry was maybe a bit too thick and I had to bake the pie for slightly longer as sections were a little doughy. But that was my fault making too much pastry and insisting on using it all! I love to be a bit naughty and love pastry so the thick delicious pastry wasn't a problem but next time I will use slightly less and save my waistline the trauma of eating additional pie pastry!
Scotch Egg Pie

All in all both recipes were great, both easy to follow and easily adjusted to what I had in the cupboard and avoiding any trips to the local shops in the gale force winds and sideways rain.

I will definitely make both items again and the best bit of news, the pie and cake made my poorly boy feel better.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Running The Cardiff Half Marathon

This time last year going for a run was something that I did not do. I couldn't run for 5 minutes, I had running trainers but these were about 10 years old and hadn’t seen the light of day for many years. But after hearing about Park Run I attended my first 5km run in December 2014.

I started off jogging and soon found myself out of breath and walking around the 5km course but I got around the course and although I came in last with only the tail runner behind me I felt great having attempted to run again. The following day I could barely walk, my muscles hurt, going up and down stairs was a challenge but after a few days of this wearing off I was already thinking about going to Park Run the following week.

As the weeks went by I was not only going to Park Run on a regular basis I was getting quicker and beginning to really enjoy running. As the weeks passed I bought new runner trainers, new running clothes and was really getting into my new hobby.

As the spring approached, so did my 30th birthday and with this I decided that what better way to celebrate then signing up to do my first half marathon. In May 2015 I signed up to run in the Cardiff Half Marathon in Cardiff in October 2015. I figured that was plenty of time to get fit. What I hadn't anticipated was that not long after my 30th birthday I had pulled a muscle in my calf that just would not heal.

After weeks and weeks of treatment through the physiotherapist and the chiropractor and joining a weekly yoga class just six weeks before the big day I did my first run in three months. The massive break was absolutely heart-breaking. I had only just found something that I really enjoyed and was really looking forward to it and all this seemed to be in jeopardy with my injury.

However those six weeks before the half I started training, I started with walking gently building up the miles walked before adding a one mile run in themiddle of my walk. Slowly I gradually started to build the distance back up and hoped that in just six weeks I would be able to run a whole 13.1 miles.

The weekend of the half marathon arrived and we left Cornwall and drove the three hour journey up country and across into Wales. Arriving in Cardiff we ventured into the runners village to get our bearings to know where to head the following morning. We then found the hotel and had a lazy evening of carb loading and watching movies.
Nervously waiting to start my first half marathon
Nervously waiting to start my first half marathon

As the morning of the race approached I couldn't sleep and woke up at 6am full of nerves and excitement. I tried to get some breakfast down me but being so nervous and up so early I could only manage to eat a small cereal bar. Not before long it was time to leave the hotel and take the 30 minute walk from the hotel to the start line. As we left our room there were lots of other runners also out early on the Sunday morning and we followed crowds of people walking the same direction in running clothes into the city centre.

Waiting to run the Cardiff Half Marathon
Waiting to run the Cardiff Half Marathon
Looking at the crowds at the start of the cardiff half marathon
Looking at the crowds at the start of the cardiff half marathon
Finding my pen, which wasn't hard as it was the slowest pen of the day right at the back, I joined the massive queue for the portaloo and after a 20 minute wait there, it was time to line up and get ready to run. There was literally 5 minutes to spare where I strapped my phone to my arm, arranged my headphones and gave my hoody to my partner and it was time to go. The crowds sang the Welsh national anthem, which I didn't know but it felt rather patriotic with 20,000 people all singing along. As each of the pens were released the gun would sound, the runners would set off and we would shuffle forwards getting closer and closer to the start line. Being my first half marathon I was really excited and really nervous, I was carried along in the crowds and the excitement and it hadn't really dawned on me about the actual run ahead.
Team Panda at the Cardiff Half Marathon
Team Panda at the Cardiff Half Marathon
Before I knew it we headed around the corner of Cardiff castle and the start line was in sight, the gun sounded and the pen in front of us were off and it was now our time to go. It was about 15 minutes since the official start at 9.00am when our gun fired, my heart skipped a beat and we were off. Cheering, screaming, clapping, the crowds were amazing, I bounced along smiling as I went, waving at completely random people as they called my name off of my running vest.
Approaching the start line at the Cardiff half marathon
Approaching the start line at the Cardiff half marathon
Crowds pour through the start of the Cardiff Half Marathon
Crowds pour through the start of the Cardiff Half Marathon
 Then the crowds died down, the runners started to spread out and we got into our groove and It was there, I was running my first ever half marathon! The emotions came over me in waves, running behind someone which had 'Nan' on their running vest and running for Cancer Research made me well up and felt a sense of amazement that I was one of these awesome people up early on a Sunday morning doing something gruelling to help others. I was doing this to raise money for WWF and help the environment and endangered animals and again feeling a sense of pride the emotions of the day washed over me. 

After about 15 minutes we had left the city centre and was now running alongside industrial area and car show rooms the crowds of support were not as present in this area and this was when it started to dawn on my just how much of a journey I was going on this morning. I don't know Cardiff and I had never done a half marathon before so all was a new experience to me. After several more minutes of running I saw the sign to mark the two mile point. I'm not sure what happened to the 1 mile mark I must have missed this but hitting the 2 miles it really dawned on me just how far this run was going to be.

Just after the 2 mile mark an ambulance sounded it's sirens and started to gently work its way through the runners to some body in need. This completely shocked me into reality, this wasn't a 5km park run jog around, this was a massive challenge and I had over ten miles to go and already people were in trouble and needing assistance. In my mind I thought about my run and worked out in my head that I would use an energy gel at each 4 mile marker and I only had 2 miles to go until my first boost of energy.

Reaching the 4 mile mark I reached for my first energy gel and managed to squeeze most of the contents of the sachet all over my hands and down my front and found myself in an awful sticky mess! Now not only was the realisation that I was running on empty and the cereal bar that I had for breakfast several hours earlier wasn't much sustenance to run 13 miles, my first energy gel was all over my body rather than in my body.

My mood was picked up by the glimpse of boats on the water and the sound of music up ahead and I picked my head up consumed what was left in my energy gel and carried on. As I continued plodding along I soon reached the Cardiff barrage and was jogging along by the sea. Having lived in Cornwall for the last 9 years seeing the sea gave me another boost and before I knew it I was passing through the 5 mile marker.

Continuing along the marathon course I turned right away from the water and headed through the six mile marker and passed through the water station where I was grateful for a bottle of water not only to drink but to rinse over my hands to remove some of the sticky mess that I had got into a couple of miles previously. I ran through cheering crowds, live music and lots of support, passing under a poster saying nearly halfway there I was feeling really strong and really enjoying the run.
Spotting me on the television at the Cardiff Half Marathon
Spotting me on the television at the Cardiff Half Marathon coverage on the BBC
I knew that I was now working towards seeing the support from my boyfriend who had promised to try and see my pass at mile eight.
To get to mile seven and eight was a little bit challenging, as you left the beauty of the harbour and the distraction on the sights and crowds the miles went by quite quickly. However the next two miles were up and over a duel carriageway. There were a few supporters on the side of the road, some set up for the morning with deck chairs and flasks but the gradual uphill over the roads below and seeing cars whizzing up alongside us on the other side of the dual carriageway was mentally quite draining but as we reached the end of the dual carriageway we headed back into the city and back into roaring crowds of support.

It seemed that mile seven on that dual carriageway was ages ago and I was now starting to feel the run in my legs but I knew that seeing my boyfriend would spur me on. As I started getting to what I thought would be closer to mile eight where we had agreed he would try and see me the crowds were all starting to build. I kept to the middle of the road and scanned left and right desperately trying to spot him. To my delight I could see him up ahead on the left, I started to weave in and out of runners and make my way over to the side of the road with a swift high five and a shout of good luck I continued and headed towards mile 9.

I was really starting to feel it now and consumed another gel shot, this time I opened it more carefully and managed to actually eat the majority of the gel. The support around these miles was great there were crowds in the streets cheering us on there were people holding out trays of jelly babies and the local church offering out cups of water. After mile 9, I approached an out and back section and got a glimpse of people 2 miles ahead of me passing me at their mile 12 point and it was here that I really hit the wall.

As I approached mile 10 we were running alongside the Roath Lake. I passed an old peoples residential home where all the elderly were sitting outside wrapped in blankets holding up signs saying only 2.5 miles to go. It was here I started to hit the wall, 2.5 miles to go, this was like doing another whole parkrun. I was seriously flagging, I kept getting glimpses of the runners on the other side of the lake that were closer to finishing and I was really struggling on through. I turned the corner at the top of the lake and knew we were heading back into the city now and then BAM. I got cramp in my toe!

I wiggled my toes to try and rid the cramp and then it went from cramp in a toe to my whole leg going stiff, cramping and into spasm. I went from the steady paced jog that I had been doing for the last 2 hours to a walking limping cramping mess. I decided that now was the time to consume my last energy gel to get me through the last 2 miles. I could see the mile 11 marker in the distance and told myself to walk and consume the gel and consume some water and hope that the cramp would soon go. Of which it did and with people calling my name and cheering me on I picked up the limpy walk fritted my teeth and got back into a slow jog and found myself getting back into the grove a bit... and then comes the hill!!!!
I was warned about the hill at mile 12 and I looked at the gradient map and though pfffft If I can do Lanhydrock Park Run which is one of the toughest park runs in the UK then this hill would be a doddle. OH how wrong could I be, the minute I hit the change in gradient and the change in pace the cramping and twinging fired back into my leg. I walked up the hill and was joined by a fellow panda named James also running for the WWF. We walked up the hill together chatted a bit and then both reached the top, commended each other and were ready for one last mile to the finish line.

At this point things start to become a blur, as you reach the city centre the crowds start to build and the runners start to funnel in close to each other and sweep through the city roads. At this point I'm not really thinking about anything, just concentrating on not stopping and keeping one foot in front of the other and as I turn a corner I see it. The Finish Line. It's literally a 100 metre run to the end, I was coming to the end of my first half marathon.

I raised my arms in celebration at crossing the finish line and get chorused through by volunteers passing you water, bananas and directing you to receive your sized running t-shirt and finally your medal. I heard my name being called and realised that my boyfriend was there at the finish line and had watched me come through. I walked over for hugs and continued to walk through to the exit of the finish line.
With my medal at the Cardiff Half MarathonMandi Brooks with my medal at the Cardiff Half Marathon
I didn't want to stop at this point, I felt like I was floating I just kept walking. I drank the water, had a recovery sachet and ate my banana and finished with a massage and wasn't feeling too bad so headed back to the finish line to support any runners still yet to finish. After cheering and waving and clapping other runners through we decided we should start making our way home as we had another half hour walk back to the car and a three hour drive home. The walk back to the car was gruelling I really was hurting at this point. The back of one knee and the opposite hip were throbbing and upon reaching the car I flopped into the passenger seat where my partner kindly drove us home.

Mandi Brooks with my medal and T-Shirt at the Cardiff Half Marathon
Mandi Brooks with my medal and T-Shirt at the Cardiff Half Marathon
I wore my medal and commemorative t-shirt the whole way home and felt so proud. The next few days were interesting when walking upstairs but after a couple more days my legs were feeling more normal.

I had done it, I had run a half marathon. From my first ever Park Run to a half marathon in just 10 months and I had raised over £400 for the WWF.

Running my first half marathon in 2 hours 23 minutes
Running my first half marathon in 2 hours 23 minutes
I felt AWESOME and it wasn't long before I was back at Park Run the following week and already perusing through the internet finding out what my next run to enter would be.