Going solo*

*sort of

An actual adventure. Featuring a lot of cake!

I like to tell everyone that I’m a strong and independent woman, and yet I seem to do everything with the Husb. Time to put that right (if only for myself!!) I had a week off between jobs, so I headed off on a modest cycling adventure from Cheltenham to Devon. Six days cycling between kind friends’ spare rooms…and it was very sunny. Lush!

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Day 1: Ottery St Mary to Evesham
(With a little help from the train)
Weather – sunny
The ride – the first 25km followed my usual route into Exeter, so that was easy. The second leg was 30km from Cheltenham to Evesham, which was fine apart from my route planner plonking me on a busy main road which required a re-route, and an entertaining section across an actual field. Gorgeous countryside and weather made up for all!
Challenges – negotiating the UK rail system with a bike….actually it wasn’t too bad as I’ve done it before, but COME ON PEOPLE.
Highlight – staying in a converted railway carriage at Kirsty and Marcus’ Orchard GetawayΒ (go there immediately if you fancy a spot of glamping!)
Lowlight – the man sitting in my reserved seat on the train who refused to move.
Cake of the day – Kirsty’s double triple quadruple chocolate cake.

Day 2: Evesham to Ledbury
Weather – sunny
The ride – 50km along a ridiculously gorgeous route amongst glorious hedgerows, offering splendiferous views.
Highlight – having the opportunity to try and keep up with Kirsty for the first time in several years! And Lauren’s quiche.
Lowlight – realising I hadn’t actually put my wine down before playing rock paper scissors with 7-year old Annabelle. Good job she’s practically french!
Cake of the day – Lauren’s carrot cake, a close second to the quiche.

Day 3: Ledbury to Malmesbury
Weather – sunny
The ride – 80km including a non-negligible hill. My longest ride since October so I was worried….it was fine, not least because I had a long lunch with Loz to break things up!
Highlight Views from the top of the hill.
Lowlight – the horrible bit of cycle path that should have been lovely (traffic free) but really wasn’t (SO BUMPY!)
Cake of the day Salted caramel brownie after an insufficient (but delicious) lunch.

Day 4: Malmesbury to Bristol
Weather – sunny
The ride – ‘but however will you ride through Bristol??’ exclaimed one of my ex-colleagues prior to this trip. Erm. Well. I’ll put one pedal in front of the other as usual I suppose…. In reality, most of my ride through Bristol was on wonderful traffic free cycle paths. Planning your route carefully pays off! The bit before Bristol was pretty alright too, yet more lovely lanes, who says the UK’s rubbish for cycling?? 60km in total.
Highlight Catchup up with so many lovelies in such a short period of time. And the pizza and Franco Manca.
Lowlight Having such a short time with aforementioned lovelies.
Cake of the day I actually can’t remember. I am sure there was one! There was definitely wine….

Day 5: Bristol to Glastonbury (well, Street)
Weather – ahem, what is that wet stuff falling from the sky??
The ride 70km over the blinkin’ Mendips the hard way! Lush to ride with Grimes and Luce though, what a treat.
Challenges Blagdon hill. And having to ride to the supermarket when it transpired that Street YHA did not to food (or wine).
HighlightBlagdon hillΒ Cheddar Gorge, which I haven’t visited since 1996 despite living in Bristol for 8 years in the interim.
Lowlight – Blagdon hill (not really, I LOVE hills! ;))
Cake of the day – It was a hard choice with such an impressive selection at the Gorge cafe in Cheddar, but I went for coffee and walnut.

Day 6: Glastonbury to Ottery
Weather – better. No sun though.
The ride Grimey headed back to Briz, leaving Luce to chaperone me for my final 75km. Another splendid day, and the Blackdowns weren’t nearly as beastly as the Mendips.
Highlight the hilarity of our ‘road’ route as it sent us down the most overgrown lane in Somerset. Oh, and the lush cafe we found in Langport.
Lowlight THE END 😦
Cake of the day Devon Apple cake.

Over too soon. But at least a new adventure awaited in the form of a new job I suppose!

Beach, bog and brownies

The Grizzly. 20(ish) brutal miles of typical East Devon terrain. Surely you’d have to be mad to do that…???

When we first moved down here, it’s fair to say I took a bit of convincing. But as soon as you’ve realised that everyone does it, the FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in and before you know it, you’re clicking on the website as when entries open. Once you’ve sampled the fantastic atmosphere and impeccable organisation, you’ll be hooked, and telling your friends they’d actually be mad not to do it!

I previously ran the full distance in 2014 and, having been away from all things Devon while on a cycling adventure for 15 long months, I was especially eager for a return appearance. Slight snag….I’d run just ten times in those 15 months, and would have only four months to train. AND I had a grumbly knee from too much cycling. Could I do it?

I thought I probably could. I settled on a training plan which started with the lowly goal of running just three miles, three times a week. I increased my weekly mileage by just 10% at a time, topping out at a rather unimpressive 25 miles. My longest run was just 16 miles, and that was on the flat…. But I was in one piece. I ran consistently three times a week for four months, with a couple of weeks off due to a cough and a niggly calf. I saw the physio twice about the niggles…AND then did my prescribed daily dose of rehab exercises, stretching and foam rolling with something approximating to enthusiasm πŸ˜‰

Race day dawned, and I was in one piece! As long as I took it super easy, drank and ate well, and managed not to fall over, I was confident I would make it.

As the title suggests, there was beach:

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Two sections in fact, this one is only a few miles from the end and you know what, I ran the whole thing. At the pace of a snail….but I was still running!

And there was bog:

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Two bogs, in fact, deep joy! Quite fun I suppose, but I could have done without the ton of mud and stones in my trainers afterwards. Sigh. Moving on!

There were also hills a-plenty, culminating in the ‘staircase to heaven’ which is infamous, but not actually THAT bad. Or maybe I was just distracted by the view.

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There were also thousands of smiling runners, hundreds of cheering marshalls, and an excellent cake stop which we ran through twice. There was also a bagpiper. And a samba band. And various ensembles and quartets to keep us entertained. So much going on, I barely had time to feel tired….or maybe I just wasn’t running fast enough for that πŸ˜‰

I was the slowest runner in my entire running club, and yet I felt prouder of my achievement than I have when closer to the top few. Grizzly 2019, done! I’ll certainly be back.

I promised brownies. Disclaimer: the brownies I actually made for Grizzly weekend weren’t particularly good. I’ve used the same recipe a couple of times and it seems to split – not sure what I’m doing wrong. So instead, here’s my reliable Green and Black’s recipe which I think I will be reverting to in future!

You will need:
* 200g butter
* 100g dark choc
* 350g dark brown sugar
* 4 large eggs
* 1tsp vanilla extract
* 200g self-raising flour

I use a square brownie tin, lined with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate and butter over a low heat (I can’t be bothered with a bain-marie but it is probably a good idea to stop things splitting!)

Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and stir into the mixture.

Pour it all into the tin and cook at 180 degrees for 25-30 mins until the top is crispy but the insides are soft.

Enjoy! Best serve warm with vanilla ice cream πŸ™‚

Malteasers reunited

I distinctly remember the first time I met Maltease Kris. I was in the Anchor pub in Cambridge, bonding with some new friends. I’d heard a lot about him already, and I certainly heard him before I saw him. It was definitely ‘start as you mean to go on’, as we proceeded to spend a good chunk of the next three years in various public houses around that small town, rather than devoting ourselves to our studies…. I’d like to say we’re more sensible these days, but I suspect we’re just old. And more inclined to go running.

I’m not sure what took me so long, but I finally visited my favourite Malteaser for the Malta Half Marathon in 2013, with Doddski in tow. This dose of winter sun has become something of a tradition, and missing last year (due to more extensive adventures) made us all the more eager for this year’s jaunt. It’s cheap, it’s usually sunny and, while Kris laments the mildly shambolic organisation of the race itself, we find it nothing short of charming. Various husbands and friends have joined in along the way, whether to run or simply to soak up the mediterranean atmosphere. Oh and to eat the pizza and drink the wine, obvs.

Things didn’t go quite to plan this year, however. Kris had been sending alarming weather predictions all week. We packed our cagoules. And as we approached Malta, the pilot informed us it ‘might be a bit bumpy’ as we landed in the early part of Malta’s worst storm in years. We’d left the UK in the midst of its warmest ever February, and landed in 4 degrees and driving rain in the middle of the Med. The poor little rock was really taking a battering, with angry seas, trees blocking roads and widespread damage to buildings. Not quite what we had in mind and, surprise surprise, the race was cancelled!

TBH, Doddski and I weren’t that disappointed as it did look borderline biblical, and I’m pretty sure the husbands were relieved they didn’t have to go out in it to cheer us over the line. And Kris still held his post-marathon party, including the famous Maltese pastizzi, which was the main thing after all πŸ˜‰

The weather subsequently cheered up on Monday, so we donned our race t-shirts and went out for a 13.1 mile run, encountering many of the other ‘disappointed’ non-participants. Who were full of smiles and waves, which suggested they were also happy enough with the organisers’ decision. While we didn’t have the usual race-side entertainment from every band in Malta, or the cheers from the uniformed Scouts who staff the drinks stations, it was a pretty good substitute. And we picked up our medals en route, too cool.

The sun came out for Tuesday and Wednesday, so we managed to soak up some rays while enjoying some of Malta’s finer points. I mean the surroundings really (Valletta and the Three Cities really are lovely) but we did indulge ourselves in sunny alfresco drinking and dining as a bonus. It would be rude not to.

And all too quickly it’s over, and we’re back to reality! Lovely muddy parkrun at Killerton for me yesterday, followed by some hills and storm Freya today…. And then it’s the Grizzly A WEEK TODAY. How has that happened?? I definitely don’t feel ready, but you never do, right?!

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Aside: I didn’t really eat any cake in Malta (no space after all the pizza) but I did make this rather delicious pudding when my friend Emilie came for dinner last week. Highly recommended. And it contains apples so it must be healthy πŸ™‚

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Plan D

Today is my friend Super Luce’s birthday. How would she choose to celebrate?

  • Plan A was to race the Trail Events Co. 12K on Dartmoor yesterday. Then it snowed…a lot.
  • Event postponed by one day. Plan B was to race today instead. Then it snowed some more.
  • Event cancelled. Plan C was to do our own thing and run along the coast path near Budleigh Salterton.
  • The ‘footpath’ leading to the coast path was, in fact, a private farm track. Plan D was a slightly amended loop!

While the change of day was a slight inconvenience in that we’d be running with mild hangovers after Saturday night’s birthday dinner, I’m pretty happy that things worked out the way they did. What a glorious day!

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East Devon. Not too shabby.

It also fitted in nicely with my training this week. When the race was cancelled, I jumped at the chance to squeeze in a cheeky parkrun. Even though it would push me 5K over my sensible distance tally for the week (I love parkrun too much to pass up this opportunity). But plan D was precisely 5K shorter than plan A, so I’m right on track! It was meant to be πŸ™‚

The icing on the cake* was being reunited with our friend Grimey (find her blog here)Β who recently returned from a year cycling the Americas. Her running legs seem to be in far better shape than mine were when I started running again! She says it’s the red blood cells from cycling at altitude, so hopefully that’ll wear off soon πŸ˜‰

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Wanda the dog could work on her photo presence

Oh yes, that cake. After the vocal disappointment from many readers at the lack of a cake recipe on my last post, I thought I’d better rectify the situation. I recreated the aforementioned coffee and walnut cake for Luce:

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Claudia Winkelman’s favourite, apparently.

If you would like to do the same, here’s how.

For the cake (slightly adapted from this recipe) you will need:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g walnuts, finely ground
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 270ml plant milk (I used soya)
  • 60ml mild oil (I used light olive)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Mix it all together. Put in lined tins and bake at 150 degrees (fan oven, otherwise 170 degrees) until it’s done. I used two smallish tins and it cooked in 25 mins. The recipe suggests one 16.5cm tin and cooking for 1 hour.

For the icing (from my Mum’s ancient cookbook; I didn’t really like the icing from the cake recipe):

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 40g margarine
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water

Heat all ingredients (except the icing sugar) gently in a pan until the caster sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then take off the heat. Mix syrup into icing sugar. Chill until completely cool. Fill and ice cake πŸ™‚ Decorate with walnuts, if you like.

Attempt #2 was just as good as attempt #1. This one could become a regular!

By the way, you can follow me on instagram, if that floats your boat. @101adventureswithcake. And twitter, @girlcalledcake (I am yet to tweet, bear with me). Gone are the days when you could have the same username across all platforms, one of the alleged ‘golden rules’ of social media. Β I’m clearly late to the party….

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Gratuitous pic of the view from Budleigh Salterton, taken by the Husb.

Hello, world!

Oh hi there. I’m not sure if we’ve met. TBH, I’m something of a blogaholic, so maybe we have. After several years of writing on various topics including triathlon, food, and adventuring, it feels like high time I consolidated. Well, mostly. Two of the above three may yet live to fight another day πŸ™‚

A girl on a bike
All the gear and very little idea at Bristol tri in 2015

The Husb and I recently returned from a grown up gap year (aka mid-life crisis) which involved cycling 14000km around various parts of our wonderful world. Read all about it via above link. While that was all well and good (ok ok, flipping amazing) I am a runner at heart. So the current adventure is getting from zero to Grizzly (20 miles of muddy hills, read all about it here) in the princely sum of 4 months.

Man and woman on bikes, surrounded by tropical foliage
Feeling the heat along Malaysia’s back roads

You see, dear reader, I know myself all too well. If I chose a goal involving nice flat tarmac, I would be liable to battering myself towards speediness, no doubt resulting in injury. After 18 months of almost zero running, aiming for a flat 10K would actually be far worse for me than a hilly 20-miler! The Grizzly is probably the most talked about race in our area; the iconic event that everyone’s done or wants to do. I have done it before, but it was a bit of a disaster, so there’s certainly unfinished business to be settled!

Working back from the goal distance, and allowing myself a mileage increase of just 10% per week (based on something some sensible coach once said), I reckoned I could just about do it. Provided I was really sensible, and only aimed to ‘get round’, i.e. with lots of walking. Provided I listened to my body and did all the sensible things like fuelling properly and foam-rolling religiously. Provided I did not try to do a million other things in parallel. Honestly, who is this sensible person? I hardly recognise her.

I’ve run 3(ish) times a week for the last 10 weeks. This week I’ve run over 20 miles, which feels like a satisfying (if arbitrary) milestone. I also did my first long run on proper ‘Grizzly’ terrain, which meant lots of hills and mud along the South-West coast path. And I almost enjoyed it.

While I haven’t found any cake on my runs (disappointing to say the least), I did make this rather fine coffee and walnut extravaganza for my friend’s birthday.

A coffee and walnut cake
Tasted as good as it looked

More soon. Not always about running either πŸ™‚

Note for blog nerds: for the entirety of my blogging ‘career’, I have been cursing the wordpress editor for, quite frankly, making my life unreasonably difficult. This is my first ever post using the ‘iA Writer’ app to draft the post in markdown, and then share to a wordpress draft. Let’s just say that my blood pressure has remained normal, for the first time ever ;). Please do say if you’d like more info, as it’s literally taken me five years to find a decent solution.