Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Marathon 52 of 60 - The Cakeathon

Another Bank Holiday, another fab marathon organised by Traviss and Rachel ; a cakeathon to be precise. But you've already run a cakeathon haven't you Susie? Indeed I have, back in May but I really wanted to do this one (the medal is pink as opposed to the blue one I got before. Shallow, moi? Yep!) but it had sold out before I could enter so I did the other one instead. Then someone pulled out and I got my place. Hoorah!

My banana cake was well received last time so I baked another one.

Our favourite banana cake from a recipe by Nigella Lawson (with rum-soaked sultanas and walnuts)

I noticed there were a lot of vegans running this one so I thought I'd make my vegan chocolate cake and ask them for feedback on ways to improve it. I've been a vegetarian for over 25 years but I always go vegan for Lent each year so I've developed my choccy cake for those weeks when I can't partake of ordinary cake. 

Then I wondered if there would be anyone running who was gluton-intolerant and thought it would be very difficult for them so I decided to make my cake with gluton-free flour which I've never tried before. This of course meant that I had to tweak my recipe so I looked at several different recipes for gluton-free cakes on-line and then altered my recipe slightly and crossed my fingers that it worked!

As the event was created to celebrate 100 years of the Women's Institute there were prizes again for the best cakes in several different categories. 


My own vegan and now gluton-free chocolate cake creation (I didn't know what it tasted like or if the crumb would be right until it was cut up on the day!)

Right, back to the event itself. My journey there had been slow as it was very foggy on the motorway so I arrived later than planned, phoned Mike to let him know I'd arrived safely and sat in my car looking at the torrential rain bucketing down. Deep joy, this is going to be a soggy one I thought. Never mind, I haven't had a really wet marathon for a while and I don't mind running in the rain. The thunder and lightning were an added bonus!

I'll start with a few photos to set the scene:


Rachel, left and Janet in her best WI outfit.


Jackie, Queen of the cakes! She also had to fend off an army of wasps who were attracted by all the cakey goodness.

Isn't that wonderful? I hope it won a prize.

I loved this sweet little bee hive too.

Some slightly soggy runners assembling

It got much wetter after that!

These next 2 made me smile as they look so dry. Later they turned into a water course of huge puddles.


If only it had stayed like that!

Fancy dress is always encouraged and these 2 ladies looked fab.



A teabag and a cupcake, how appropriate!

Carolyn and her beautiful daughter Katy who ran one lap of the route and got her special medal.  Carolyn's son Ruaridh ran a lap too so it was a real family affair.

Traviss, Race Director extraordinaire

Pre-race announcements and Leo becomes a member of the 100 marathon club

There were lots of people I knew there so there were plenty of hugs and chats which was nice. These events are always very friendly anyway.

That's the before stuff done now for the running part. Last time I had one of those awful gremlin-ridden runs but this time I was completely in the zone and enjoyed every moment, despite the weather trying to dampen our spirits.

It didn't rain for a short time after we set off and I was having a little catch-up with Carolyn when the thunder started to rumble in the distance. It was really humid and we both commented that it was affecting our breathing. Then the rain came and kept coming for hour after hour.

We got wet. My cap was so wet that all my hair was soaked. For the first time in ages I had some chaffing but thankfully no blisters.

The paths turned into a puddle fest and you either had to skirt around the edges or squelch right through the shallower ones. As the paths were constructed of compressed grit they did drain quite well but as you splashed through the puddles you inevitably got some of the grit in your shoes and after several hours you could really feel it as it worked its way through your socks. I chuckled at Maryanne who I saw taking off her shoe and sock to try and get rid of it and exclaiming that it wouldn't come out!

After 3 laps it was time for a cake break so I left Carolyn at the water station and headed off for a piece of my banana cake. I was delighted to see Jo there, although she had to leave after 1 lap, and had another hug and a catch-up before she headed for home. I looked around for Carolyn but couldn't see her so just plodded off. I later discovered that she'd looked for me, couldn't see me and thought I'd already gone off so she ran really fast trying to catch up with me whereas I was happily pootling along behind her. DOH!

I took a second cake break after 6 laps and tried my vegan cake. I was quite pleased with it as it was really nice and moist. I think I need to work on the icing mix though as I felt it was a bit too soft. Then Jackie told me I'd won a prize which was a lovely surprise and most unexpected.

I didn't take any photos during the run as I was concerned the camera would get drenched. To help pass the time I looked out for berries of which there were many - Hawthorn, Spindle (Mandy was delighted to spot them as they remind her of her grandma. I love how little things like that connect us with loved ones), Blackberries, Viburnham, Buckthorn (those bright orange berries on shrubs with silvery leaves), Elderberries, Sloes (Mmm, sloe gin!).

I'd told Mike I might do an extra lap if I'd done my last lap in about 5:15 and felt OK. I said I'd phone to let him know so he didn't worry but decided against it in the end as I couldn't get a phone signal and it would have taken me over 6 hours to finish. I'm regretting it now. Serves me right for taking cake breaks!

Anyway, I trundled home happily in 5:32:57 with more left in the tank which bodes well for the ultra I have planned for the end of September.

Traviss presented me with my lovely cakey medal complete with a special badge for having run 300 miles at their events this year. I shall certainly be running more of their events next year as not only are they within comfortable travelling distance, they are so well organised and friendly.


My lovely pink medal to sit alongside my blue one

My trophy for best vegan creation
Many thanks to everyone who made yesterday special.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hip Hip Hoorah!

Hoorah number 1


The last crochet square is finished and they just need to be joined!

I just gave them a light blocking using steam and pinned them out roughly to shape

I faffed around for ages trying to choose the arrangement I liked best then dragged Mike in to see if he agreed. This is what we settled on:




Here they are next to my freeform cushion which they will sit alongside:

I'd orginally thought of using the brown as my joining colour but then I wondered about using the dark red or even a combination of one of them with cream to keep it nice and light. I might just play around with a couple of ideas to see which I like best.

This is the curtain fabric on which I based my colour choices. I'm still undecided whether to use this as the backing or to stick with the neutral cream fabric I used for the other cushion. I used to be undecided, now I'm not so sure!!!

Hoorah number 2


I've lost track of the number of hours I've spent knitting or crocheting in hospital corridors this year, suffice to say I'm glad I have had something to take away the boredom of waiting.

Mike always comes with me, sitting patiently and trying not to get anxious. It's hard being the support crew. Sometimes he wanders off to read posters which always leave him worried, bless him. Appointment times seem to be completely irrelevant. Nursing staff rarely seem to manage a smile and I've heard several people make comments about how surly some of them are. That's really sad as a simple smile and a cheery demeanour can reassure worried people and help soften the stress of waiting, the endless waiting.

On our last visit to this particular clinic we arrived far too early. We are always early for everything but this was exceptional even for us so we had time to nip into the coffee shop for a drink and something to go with it (oh my goodness that Danish pastry we shared was divine!).


We found a table by the window which looked out onto an overgrown courtyard. Did you know that hospital patients who are lucky enough to have a view of garden/trees etc recover quicker than those without a view of nature?

The pigeons were sunbathing on the roof

My eye was drawn to the shape of the vents….

…and the very 60's pattern of the tiles on the ceiling (an interesting play between light and shade)

What struck me most about the cafe was the huge array of exceedingly unhealthy fare such as pasties, sausage rolls, cakes & giant biscuits. The walls were covered in huge photos of tempting cakes and biscuits which didn't seem appropriate for the setting. But then I thought what the heck, if you're stuck in there you're probably either waiting to see a Specialist or to visit a loved one so all you really want is comfort food; I know that's exactly what we wanted!

Anyway, the upshot of that last visit means that there will be no more hospital visits for a while (well, until next year, fingers crossed). Amen to that!

Hoorah number 3


There have been so many beautiful butterflies and moths in the garden this year but I've also managed to capture some amazing caterpillars too. Here's a selection:

The striking stripey caterpillar of the Cinnabar moth on Ragwort. I am careful to remove the flowers of this plant so it doesn't spread - it's highly toxic to horses and although they wouldn't eat the plant when grazing, if it gets into their mix of hay then the smallest amount can cause liver damage.

Here's an adult Cinnabar moth I spotted earlier in the year. Stunning isn't it.

Although most moths only fly at night there are lots of day-flying moths about.


This little punk-rocker with his tufty Mohican was found on the crabapple tree when I was collecting fruit to make crabapple jelly. He's the caterpillar of the Vapourer moth.

I spotted this colourful caterpillar of the Knotgrass Moth on a Teasel leaf.

The next day he was busy spinning his protective layer

Then he was joined by a predatory wasp - they lay their eggs in the poor caterpillar which gets eaten alive, yuk! However, the next day the whole lot had dsiappeared and I assume it must have been eaten by a bird. 

Caterpillar of the Large White butterfly on my Cleome leaf (and smaller ones in the next photo).

I checked which plants the caterpillars like and took these babies to feast on some in the wilder areas rather than in my planter by the front door!

A Red Underwing Moth on my cactus in the porch. You only see his red part when he opens his wings, hence his name.

He was quite a large moth.

Now this next moth caught me quite by surprise. I was busy making bread in the kitchen early one morning when he suddenly popped out from behind the pelmet, flew onto the window and started to suck the condensation on the glass. I picked him up to put him outside but he flew straight back to the window so I guessed that he must have just emerged from his chrysalis and was hungry.

He's a Yellow Underwing moth (although it's more of an orange colour actually!)

I mixed together some honey and water which he slurped up until he was full and I took him outside to explore his new world.

See how he's using his proboscis to drink the nectar mix.


This weekend there's a Bank Holiday on the Monday after and I've got a marathon to run. It's another Cakeathon so I'll be busy baking on Sunday in preparation.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Shawl showtime and nearly there on the crochet front

Shawl Showtime


I've finished my laceweight version of  the Miss Dashwood shawl and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. Although the border required my full attention, the body was easy-peasy and great TV knitting.

Blocking wire, pins and mats at the ready. The shawl looked really small at this stage.

I finally bought myself some mats for blocking rather than using large towels spread on the spare bed! Rather than spending silly money on the expensive mats from the knitting companies I chose these cheap and cheerful playmats which I bought for a fraction of the price. I've read cases of the more expensive ones bleeding colour when damp wool is place on them but the reviews of these was good and they are perfectly adequate.


Tilly thought this was tremendous fun and decided to add more of her hairs to the wet wool to join those already knitted into the fabric!

I'm helping!
It's wonderful to see the pattern brought to life as you pin and stretch the knitting. Of course I hadn't got enough fine T pins for all the picots and had to resort ot dressmakers pins.




The reason I chose a laceweight rather than double knitting yarn was that I wanted a light and airy shawl, to wear with the point at the front and the ends dangling beside it, to fill the triangular gap at the neckline of my favourite blanket jacket.


The blue yarn was chosen to bring out the blue stripes in the jacket.

It's too hot to model it myself but this gives an idea of how it will look.

Circles of the sun


I've just got one more square to make which I'll probably do this evening and then it's time to join them. I shall either use the brown or dark red and will make the backing out off the same fabric as our diningroom curtains.


Playing around with the position of the squares

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Marathon 51 of 60


The Battle of Britain Challenge, 12th August


This was another of Traviss and Rachel's fab events, this time to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain which was fought over the skies around Dover. Many of those brave young men lost their lives so that we could have the freedom we experience nowadays. We will never forget their sacrifice and this was a 'must do' event as far as I was concerned.

I left home at silly o'clock in torrential rain but made good time and when I reached the outskirts of Dover it was just cloudy with a bit of drizzle. Mike told me later that the rain had been heavy all day at home so we were lucky to have missed it.

The event was held at Samphire Hoe, just outside Dover, which I wrote about earlier this year when I did the Wonderland Caucus Race. It was an appropriate setting as the Battle of Britain memorial is not far away, at Capel-le-Ferne and when I'd parked up I took a few moments just to look around and think what it must have been like during the battle. I'm sure that I couldn't really imagine the horror of it though.

Last time I was here my camera died but now it's been replaced I was able to take a few more shots before the start with the rest taken on the last lap. I'll let the photos do most of the talking:

Runners starting to gather around the Visitor Centre which is near to the start. I love the fold of the cliffs and the brightness of the chalk even on a dull day.

View back to the car park. 

Looking towards Dover

Traviss - Race Director and ultra-running legend (and jolly nice chap too!)
Some of the wonderful support crew. In the foreground is Janet sporting her special tee shirt - isn't that fab. She and Greg are getting married early next year and there's even a marathon to celebrate (yes, of course I'm doing it!). 



On her far left you can just see Dee peeping out. She very kindly took some lovely photos of everyone. In the background is Jackie, maker of yummy fudge, who looked gorgeous in her wartime outfit (see below).


Celebration time always means cakes made by the very talented Heather. On the left is a beautiful rendering of the white cliffs complete with planes overhead which was to celebrate Hazel's 100th marathon meaning she is now part of that elite club of runners (that's her special medal in front of the cake). 

Then there were 2 other special cakes for 2 special people, Carolyn and Traviss, who shared the same birthday that day, albeit a few years apart. The hamburger and fries, made by Heather, is for Traviss (isn't it amazing!) and the one in front was for Carolyn, made by her beautiful daughter Katy, complete with Scottish flag and Bonnie the dog. I've never actually tasted any of Heather's cakes as they've always gone by the time I finish!


Just before the start Traviss always stands on something, this time it was a table, and gives a speech (ably assisted by the lovely Rachel) including details about the course and any special announcements such as Hazel's 100th. He then made a moving speech about those who lost their lives in the Battle of Britain and we all sang the National Anthem and gave a 1 minute round of applause for the brave pilots.


Then it was announced that it was his birthday and Mel popped out to say it was Carolyn's too so she was summoned to the front.


We sang Happy birthday to them both and then it was time to do a bit of running.


I hadn't got a plan and was just going to run and enjoy it in however long it took, which as anyone who's read my blog knows can be anything between 4:42 and 6:15 based on the times I've produced this year so far! I thought 6 hours sounded about right and so it was that I found myself running along happily with Carolyn right from the start. 

Thanks to Maryanne Aitken for the photo
Now what I haven't mentioned so far is that Carolyn had done 2 marathons at the weekend and tough ones at that but she looked remarkably fresh to me and ran really well. We caught up with eachother's news and then chatted about anything and everything which really helped pass the miles.

In the photo below we are running alongside the railway line and behind us you can see the tunnel you have to drive through. It can be difficult to get a phone signal once you come through so I'd taken the precaution of phoning Mike to let him know I'd arrived safely whilst I waited at the other end.

Thank you to either Maryanne or Dee for this photo (I've lost track of who took what now, sorry!)

The first part is on tarmac and trail then you go down an incline (ie a HILL), the bottom of which you can see in the photo below, and onto the seawall. The word "seawall" sounds lovely doesn't it, conjuring up visions of azure sea for miles. Well it was OK on the first bit but then you turn a corner and the wind was so strong that it felt as if we weren't moving forwards! It also felt as if it was giving our bare legs derma-abrasion as the grit really stung.

I can't remember why I took this photo of the bottom ot THAT incline. It's one of those hills that's OK if you just have to run up it once or twice but as we were running loops we had to run up the blimming thing 7 times for the marathon, or even more for those doing an ultra, by which time it feels like a mountain and you end up walking up it. There's a 100 mile utra marathon being held here later this year and I expect that hill will sap everyone's strength - especially since it's 27 laps!


Is that Foxy Davy? 

The second part of the concrete stretch taken on our last lap, hence not many people about

Hang on a minute, she's getting a bit too far ahead……. (that might have been because I was looking at the Limonium (aka sea-lavender although it isn't related to lavender at all) growing inbetween the concrete of the seawall)…..

I had to sprint to catch her up!

Then you turn a corner out of the wind (hoorah) and head towards the turnaround point.

Thanks again to Maryanne for this photo. She had come to support and brought her gorgeous dog with her so she took a walk along the route with Dee.

I was struck by the colours along the edge and the shapes of the rocks - seen through the eyes of a knitter they suggested Fair Isle patterns to me.

The turnaround point. I was fascinated by that cave you can see on the left.
The next few photos were taken on the last lap so there aren't many runners still out there but they give a feel for the rest of the route.


That's Gary up ahead trying to walk extra fast so we couldn't catch up with him!

What looks like a fresh fall of limestone from the cliffs onto the beach.
So that's most of the route covered. After each loop we took a short break for a chat and to nibble  crisps/chocolate/sweeties. These events are so sociable and everyone's very friendly. You can easily find yourself chatting to someone who's done hundreds of marathons/ultras but they don't have any airs and graces and everyone's very supportive.

Carolyn said I should go ahead if I wanted a decent time but I really wasn't bothered. It was lovely to just run gently and chat and I felt honoured to share Carolyn's birthday with her. We certainly covered a wide range of topics and there was plenty of laughter. All I can say is that whatever was spoken at Samphire Hoe, stays there!

On our last lap we seemed to speed up - how does that work then 'cos I often do that?

Going down the incline to the finish there was a small Adder sidewinding across the path and ordinarily I'd have stopped to take his photo but I wanted to cross the line and ring the bell together so I didn't stop. We finished in 6:02:07 so an excellent result for Carolyn who was running on tired legs. Of course I had to dash back up the hill to try and spot the adder but he'd disappeared.

Dee very kindly took these photos of our celebration:




Methinks Traviss might have got in on the act!

What a brilliant medal. The ribbon has the famous quote from Winston Churchill  "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". Indeed. We will never forget.
Afterwards Philip (who ran his first marathon last year and already has many more under his belt) very kindly gave me a can of cold Irn Bru which I haven't had for years. Unfortunately I was too proud to admit that I couldn't open the can (my arthritic fingers struggle with ring pulls) and ended up snapping off the ring. Many thanks to Philip who came to my rescue and managed to open it with a bit of poking with a corkscrew.

My journey home was uneventful and we celebrated with a bottle of something sparkling. I can hardly believe that I've run 51 marathons; but I have. It's amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Now I've got a couple of weeks until my next one which is my second Cakeathon but this time the medal's pink - it just had to be done didn't it?!