Half marathon training: Week 5

What a disappointment of a training week!

In my attempt to shuffle our training schedule to not miss another long run because of the Sunday trail running race, I ended up doing only two proper training runs this week. Oi… not good.  This is what happens 9 out of 10 times when you try to arrange something for before 18:00 on a week day, particularly if you are a lawyer. Once you are at the office, there is just no escaping it. Not necessarily because you have to be there but sometimes only because you feel guilty to leave (or because you haven’t yet billed your budgeted hours for the day…).  And to top it all, my training partner has developed a pain in the gluteus maximus… literally! She’s still running, though – hopefully it won’t get worse.

Change of plans this week.  If I have to spend an hour or more on the treadmill, then so be it. Only one more trail run to go in the Trail Series, and then we can get back to our usual long runs on the weekends.

Summary for the week: three runs (two on the treadmill and one trail run), 1 hours and 47 minutes of running, covering 15.85km.

(head hanging in shame…)


Race report: Gauteng Winter Trail Series #2

Last Sunday was the one year anniversary of my trail running venture (and running races in general for that matter), with my hubby and me and some friends participating in the second race of the 2012 Gauteng Winter Trail Series at Hennops River. In 2011 we participated in this race, which was our first trail run ever.

The Trail Series consists of several trail running events in the Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces of South Africa, comprising short (5 to 8km), long (12km) and a few extra long (approximately 20 to 25km) distance events. The races are well organised, with plenty of food, drinks and running goodies available for purchase, some cool prizes (courtesy of sponsors such as Adidas), well-marked race routes (something that trail running organisers sometimes get a bit wrong…) and very good attendance.

The short course this year was around 4.35km in distance, compared to 6.5km last year. It was also a bit warmer than last year, something for which we were quite thankful in a Highveld winter.

The course was quite technical, with plenty of rocky sections, a hang bridge across a river and a climb over a ladder to get to the other side of a farm fence, just to keep things interesting. So now and then you have to use both hands and feet to navigate the trickier sections. Consequently, the route is not the fastest around as actual running is not always possible (giving you a welcome chance to catch your breath, though).

Quick pic on the course… people behind me are probably cursing me…

We even saw some of the local fauna, in the form of a big herd of goats (yes goats, like on a farm, not antelope). I would’ve loved to take a picture of them (they were really cute!) but the particular section of the course was very rocky and tricky and I was too busy trying not to fall on my face. Maybe one of those little sports video cameras that you strap onto you head is not such a bad idea… Taking photos on a trail run with your iPhone, on the other hand, is probably not so smart. The things one is prepared to do to document events for a blog post…

Some photos before and after the race:

Vital statistics: 4.35km in 33:39 (amounting to an average pace of about 7:45, compared to 8:26 last year on the somewhat longer course).

This morning we took part in the third race of the series at Segwati Game Ranch. Look out for a post on that race soon.

Half marathon training: Week 4

One month down, two to go!

Another week of training is behind us.  I skipped Saturday’s long run because I was participating in the second race of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series last Sunday.  Trying to do well in trail running races the day after doing a long run has not worked out well for me in the past.  Still did four runs as per the training program, though.

This week I need to shuffle our training schedule around a bit, as we’re participating in the next two races of the Trail Series on both upcoming Sundays and it seems to not be a great idea to miss the long training runs three weeks in a row.  The thinking is that a trail run is probably much better hill running practice than a hill interval treadmill session could ever be… my sore muscles after Sunday’s race seem to be supporting this argument.  So I’ll attempt to switch the two and see if we can manage a long run in the week, while adding a fifth run to our schedule from this week.  I’m not feeling up to doing an hour plus run on the treadmill, though, so I’ll try to sneak away from the office early for a late afternoon run.

Well then, summary for last week: four runs (three on the treadmill and one lovely trail run), 2 hours and 34 minutes of running, covering 22.3km.

Half marathon training: Week 3

Week 3 is behind us! Four runs, 25.2km, 2 hours and 45 minutes of running time.

Our shorter sessions were once again done on the treadmill.  I was not as bored with the treadmill as I was last week. In fact, I really enjoyed the runs.  I will seriously have to hunt for some more good running music, though, before I get bored with my playlist, otherwise I’m going to get really frustrated with the treadmill sessions.

For our long run yesterday we followed our usual, quite scenic route through Greenside and Parkview, past Zoo Lake, and back to Parkhurst through Parktown North (approximately 9km).  With a nasty cold front arriving in Johannesburg yesterday, it was a chilly run.

I want to work out some new run routes in the coming weekends, to keep things interesting and to get to know more of the surrounding areas.

At the moment our training program comprises one easy short run, one short run with hill intervals, one short run with sprint intervals and one long run per week. From week 5 we will be doing a fifth session per week, adding another longer run. Then we will begin seeing a more significant increase in mileage. We are looking forward to the program getting more challenging and pushing our boundaries a bit.

We are participating in the second race of the Gauteng Winter Trail Series next Sunday at Hennops River, so we may have to skip our Saturday long run if we want to achieve a decent time on Sunday. Hopefully the weather improves a bit this week so that we don’t freeze our buts off next weekend. A treadmill inside a reasonably warm gym actually sounds quite appealing at the moment…

Have a great running week!

Lamb neck and tomato stew

A few weeks ago I was meandering around the Woolworths food aisles trying to come up with some new ideas for the next few days’ dinners. I’ve been a bit cooking inspiration impaired since I completed a chef certificate course last year (not quite the result I expected but I suppose I overdosed a bit on compulsory cooking…), so going to the grocery store has been a bit tedious for the last 10 months or so. I suppose part of the problem is that I am trying to follow a low kilojoule eating plan prescribed by my dietitian, in order to shed those 10 odd sneaky kilograms that I picked up since varsity. It is hard to be creative with food when you can basically only eat steamed veggies, salad and lean, grilled fish and chicken. I know, I know, there are lots of interesting yet healthy recipes out there but the idea of being on a “diet” just cramps my cooking style.

Anyway, so I was wandering down the meat aisle when I saw some lamb neck cutlets. Not the most low-fat meat around, I know, but something different from my usual fish, chicken breasts and ostrich mince. I’d never cooked lamb neck myself. My mom made it from time to time when I was a kid but I never really fancied it. But seeing the pack on the shelf that day, I thought “hmm… this is something different and my husband would probably appreciate it, being the lamb nut that he is”, so I bought a pack in an attempt to break the monotony that has been plaguing my kitchen lately.

So the next evening I put together a simple yet hearty little stew. And yes, the hubby was very chuffed!

Lamb neck and tomato stew


1 tablespoon of canola or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 pieces of lamb neck
1 cup red wine
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Sprig of fresh rosemary
½ tablespoon Robertsons Italian Herbs (or a similar dried herb mix containing marjoram, origanum, sage and thyme – you could also use these fresh if you have them around)
½ tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional – for a bit of a bite!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mixed roast vegetables and mashed potatoes to serve


Heat the oil in a large saucepan to a medium heat.

Fry the onion for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent.

Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the lamb and fry on medium to high heat until browned.

Add the wine and simmer for a few minutes until alcohol dissipates.

Add tomatoes, bay leaf, rosemary, dried herbs, honey, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Turn down heat, cover and simmer gently for two hours or until the meat is soft, stirring occasionally. Add a bit more wine or water, if necessary.

Check seasoning and serve with mashed potatoes (or another starch of your choice) and a side of roast veggies for a lovely, comforting winter meal. And don’t forget the red wine!

(I added about a third of a can of borlotti beans to this batch)