Monday, January 29, 2007

Old and Boring

I said yesterday that sometimes I feel like I'm running out of things to write. Part of the reason, I think, is my rapid descent into old and boring.
The evidence?
I'm the only person I know who goes to sleep earlier at weekends than during the week. I barely drink any more. I don't smoke. I don't have sex. I don't date. I have started listening to classical music to help me relax. I drink fruit tea. I can't remember the last time I went to a nightclub. The highlight of my weekend is experimenting with a new vegetable. Most of the clothes I've bought recently have been jumpers. I rarely go out apart from for runs, or a quick drink after a race. I don't watch much tv. I go to the cinema once or twice a year. I don't like films with sex or violence in them, or no-thinking required family entertainment on the other end of the scale, which rules quite a lot out.
While this clean living is probably good for my running, it's a bit sad that I go and do cross country or go to running club because it gets me out of the house. And it doesn't help my natural tendency to be an introvert. The less I go out, the less I want to go out and sometimes it feels like I'm retreating at speed into my shell, and I'm not sure what it will take to get me out again.
I'm not a natural conversationalist. In the kitchen at work, or the changing room at the gym I struggle with small talk (and my natural tendency to say nothing if I don't have anything interesting to say doesn't help). I have a land line phone and two mobiles, and never make calls on any of them. Who would I phone? And what would I have to say to them if I did? (My grandfather tends to be about as talkative as me when I call him). My family must think I keep stuff from them, like Eve and the marathon (both of which they found out about after the event), but it's just that I can't think of the words to tell them, and the opportunity passes me by before I work out how to do it.
At the moment I'm feeling kind of torn. I mean, I'm not unhappy with my life. I like the balance of stuff I've got going on. Mainly running, healthy eating, and getting myself to work and through the day. But should there be more to it than that? I'm not interested in shopping, or flashy restaurants, or smoky bars so I don't feel like I'm missing out not being out there more, but equally, I can't help feeling that it's doing nothing to help me actually connect with other people, and that the more I retreat into my hole, the harder it's going to be to get out again. I'm never going to meet anyone coming in from a run and spending Sunday afternoon reading the paper in my pyjamas.
I look at the cinema listings and nothing appeals. I worry about meeting up with people for a drink because what happens if I can't think of anything to say? I don't bother going shopping because there's nothing I really need that I can't buy at lunchtime or on the internet. I have big ideas like parachute jumps and activity weekends, but I never get round to doing anything about them.
I try. I went out with a friend for lunch a couple of weeks ago when I was at my lowest about this (it's improved a little since then, which is why I'm able to write about it now). I'm going for a curry with some people from running club on Thursday. The rugby season is starting soon, and I might bump into someone I know at a game occasionally. But still, it sometimes feels like I really should do something to get out of this before I completely forget the art of being sociable.
I don't know. Maybe I'm making a problem out of something that isn't an issue. I don't mind being dull, so what's the problem? But sometimes I just wonder whether it wouldn't be nicer to be dull in company, but wonder where I'll find someone to be dull with if I never leave the house in the first place.
And in other news, head on over to the running blog to read about The Truncheon of Glory.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cross Country

I don't seem to be writing much on here at the moment. I think it's partly that, two years on, I sometimes feel like I've said most of it before. I'm updating the cooking stuff and the running stuff, but in terms of big earth shattering revelations, maybe most of them have been and gone.

That's not a bad thing, by the way, but I appreciate that staring at the same post endlessly might not be exactly simulating for anyone reading this.

I've had a good weekend. I did a fantastic 15.5 mile run yesterday. That's actually my best long run to date, I think. Most of my runs in the lead up to Berlin involved walk breaks, and yesterday didn't. I even managed to persuade myself to do a route with a killer hill at about 13 miles. Steep and long, just what you want after you've passed the half marathon finish point with another couple of miles to get home. And I managed to run past the house, past the paper shop and round a little extra loop before I stopped for a paper on the way home.

I feel so much better prepared for attempting a marathon than I was last year. Last year despite my lofty ambitions, by the time I'd started marathon training I'd only really run over about 10 miles 3 or 4 times - two half marathons, and a couple of training runs for them. And I'd taken walk breaks in most of those. Now I feel like I've cracked the 10-13 mile mark and I'm far more ready to move onto something longer.

It hit me the other day, it's like weight loss. Even though right at the start I must have had the potential to be 150lb, and I had the tools (on the basis that my basic plan hasn't changed in any fundamental way since then), that didn't mean it would happen overnight. Every pound still had to be lost, and sometimes it took longer than I wanted. The same with marathon running. I know I'm capable of running a marathon, and I had a training plan to get me there, but I just think I needed a bit more time to get my body used to it. So fingers crossed this year's attempt will show the benefit of that persistence.

Even better, my legs didn't really hurt this morning. Is it pineapple juice doing the trick? I've been tipped off that it's good for aching muscles, so I'm giving it a go. The downside of that was that it didn't really give me an excuse to skive off cross country. Yesterday was a glorious running day. Today... wasn't. And the start seemed to be in the windiest, most exposed point of the hill they were making us run up and down. Brilliant. There are times when I wonder exactly why I pay for the privilege of standing in the freezing cold, running up a hill through mud, and not even winning anything for the effort. But if I want to be a fit, running club type person, then running is what I have to do I suppose. And at least I placed in the first four for my club, so it was worth me turning out. Despite the tired legs, and despite my main incentives for doing it being to get me out of the house, and to justify drinking the remnants of a bottle of wine later today.

I was chatting to my trainee the other day about various plans I have (one being some friends who are doing a week long charity walk to Wales - I'm not doing the whole thing but have agreed to do one leg with them - on the proviso that some of them run it with me), and she said she'd love to be fit enough that she could just get up in the morning and decide to do something like that (the leg I'm doing is 18 miles, and will fit nicely into marathon training, which is why I want to run it rather than walking). It's hard work, and it's taken time, but yes, it is fantastic. On a bright winters day I can just throw my running kit on, lace my trainers and head out there. I can run far enough that I can get to somewhere with a bit of scenery, and I have enough confidence in my ability that I don't even take my bus pass any more. If someone suggests a crazy fundraising idea I'm almost always fit enough and light enough (parachuting etc) to do it without a second though. I can run cross country and place for my club.

It took time, and it took mornings standing on exposed hillsides in a vest and lycra, but if that's what I have to do to be the sort of person who can just decide to do things, then it has to be worth it, doesn't it?

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Today was another day when it felt like I was living someone else's life. When, precisely did I become the sort of person who gets up early to make some homemade soup to put in a flask so that she has something warm and filling to wait for her at the end of a half marathon. And who then ends up taking 5 minutes of her half marathon PB. (In fact, when did I become someone who even has a half marathon PB?)

And yes, put like that, it seems like hard work. The fact that I work out every day before work. And then work out two nights a week after work as well. And then do long runs at the weekend. The fact that I rarely eat anything that I haven't cooked from real ingredients. The fact that I don't drink for a week because I want to be in top form for my race at the weekend.

But it does get easier. Not physically easier, because I'm still doing the stuff that I was doing before, and I will have to keep on doing them indefinitely. Well, I could take other approaches, I could cut my exercise and cut my calories to compensate, but I have to keep on doing something. But mentally, it is easier. I get myself out of bed without questionning the sanity of going for a run when it's cold or wet or icy. I look at ready meals and don't see the appeal of something that can just be put in the microwave but is made from ingredients which are sometimes not exactly natural. I've learned to stop listening to the voices that say "it's not fair".

Maybe it's just a case of perception sometimes. If you think it's going to be hard, it is hard. If you accept the lifestyle changes and stop complaining about them, just do it without thinking about hard it is, maybe that makes it easier, or at least not so soul destroying to think about forever. And maybe that's what effortlessly thin people do. the more I look at them the more I realise that they do the same stuff I do, in varying amounts, but they don't make an issue of it. They do exercise, and they do eat relatively sensibly, but they accept that as part of their lives rather than something that they want to fight and rebel against.

So I'm glad that when I started this, someone benevolent switched my brain and stopped me thinking about how hard it is, and just let me embrace the changes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Yesterday I cried. At my desk, at work. I struggled through the day, and the bloke doing my appraisal must have wondered what he'd done to upset me. It was nothing to do with that though (actually, my chat with him helped me talk through a few issues I've had at work recently, and made me feel a little happier with things).

I'm very much a bottling up sort of person. I guess it's partly because I don't really have anyone close who I can speak to and unburden my problems onto (and try as I might, I find it hard to find the words to say it on here). I tend to suffer in silence, and keep my problems to myself. But yesterday I think it was the impact of TOM, and some worries about my grandmother's health, and I just started crying and couldn't stop.

What surprised me though was how I reacted. I always park my car at the leisure centre on a Monday so that it's there for when I finish running club. So I had to go up there to pick it up, and on the bus up there the last thing I wanted to do was to run. I would have quite happily jumped in the car, driven home, picked up red wine and chocolate on the way back, crawled under my duvet and comfort eaten all evening long. I got back to the car and I was very close to doing just that.

But I persuaded myself to change into my running stuff. Then people started arriving in the changing rooms, and I started to join in their conversation a little. Then we went out for a run. And all my problems seemed to be lifted off my shoulders. Even though I'd run 12.5 miles on Sunday, my legs felt good, and my mind seemed clearer, and the hills just let me concentrate on my breathing, and my running, and before I knew it I'd run over 7 miles, and felt a lot better than I had done before I set out. I got home, I prepared my bag for today, and I avoided the alcohol and chocolate entirely.

I've never hidden how much I have fallen in love with running, but it is rare that it dawns on me quite so much just how much of a sanity building experience it is, it's perhaps even better for my mental health than it is for my physical health. Yesterday's run wasn't about burning off 700 calories and it wasn't about half marathon training. It was about giving me a bit of sanity in an otherwise depressing day, and about helping me clear my mind and unburden some of my problems.

It did it so much more effectively than the wine and chocolate would have done, too. Remind me of that next time I complain that I don't feel like running.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I've got my appraisal coming up at work on Monday, and it got me pondering about where I want to go with my career. The general conclusion is, not in the direction that work would prefer to steer me towards. I don't dislike my job as such, but it dawned on me that as I progress through the firm I'll end up doing more of the stuff I don't like and less of the stuff that I do. I loved it when I was a trainee and I could go away and research an interesting bit of law, and when I was a student and I could just learn. What I don't like is the whole client care, fee earning, schmoozing side of it. I love the law, but I don't like being a lawyer. The targets they set me at work don't motivate me because I don't want the rewards I'd get for achieving them. I don't want to be an associate particularly, so why would I work my guts out to achieve it? I get easily sidetracked when I'm doing a job if I find an interesting bit of law to read about. It might not be relevant to the client, and it might not be chargeable, but I find it far more interesting than "earning fees".

In late 2005 an academic job caught my eye, but i didn't go for it. I'm quite glad I didn't, and that I gave what I'm doing more of a chance, to see whether I could grow into my role as it changed. But it's getting more and more clear that I haven't, so maybe it's time to think about other directions I could take my career in. I'm clear that I don't want to move to another firm to do what I do. If I'm going to do this, I'll stick where I am. I don't want to move for the sake of moving. But if I could find something that ticks more of the right boxes, then maybe I should think about taking a deep breath and just going for it, to see what happens.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Surprise Surprise

I'm so excited. After an uninspiring day at work during which I was pondering (among other things) trying to change the direction of my career, I got home, and it was dark, and cold and windy. All day I'd been playing the old game of "work out something to cook using the remaining few ingredients in the fridge", and I'd just about worked something out.

I opened the front door and there was something different. A different smell. It smelt earthy, and I was sure it wasn't my dirty cross country trainers (which now live in the porch due to the amount of mud they're carrying along with them). No, it smelt more wholesome than that. More like...


I prodded around (carefully) with my feet for a while and found something hard and, well, box shaped. I started getting very excited, I wasn't expecting a veg delivery until next week but Thursday is veg day so it couldn't possibly be, could it? I opened the second door (behind which lies the light switch), turned the light on and checked.

It could be! I have veg!

I realise that I'm getting indecently excited about the arrival of some grubby carrots and parsnips and onions and potatoes and cauliflower and brocolli and leeks, but I've been meaning to set this up for so long that I'm glad I'm finally started.

Plus it lets me sit down and plan what I'm going to eat for the next week. I'm going to enjoy this. (Well, perhaps excepting the eating broccoli part, but I've got to start sometime)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I'm in a good mood today. I've finally done one of the things I've been considering (and putting off) for months. I've signed up for an organic veggie box! I've been looking into it for what seems like an age, but kept on stalling because I was about to go on holiday, or some other reason. Before Christmas I pretty much made up my mind to do it once I got back from Spain, so today I sorted all the details out, handed over my front door key, paid for the first week and crossed my fingers. I won't actually get a delivery until next week (Thursday I think), but it's on its way.

The main motivation is a continuation of last year's "eat more fruit and veg" theme. I do eat a lot of fruit and veg, but quite a lot of the time it's the same stuff, in different combinations. I want to break out of that a bit and force myself to try something a bit different from time to time. Of course, I can feel smug about it being organic and local and whatnot, but it's the variety that's the real selling point as far as I'm concerned.

I did draw the line at mushrooms though, and put them on my exclusion list. However, I didn't exclude anything else meaning that I might force myself to eat brocolli or cabbage one day. (Actually, I've started on cabbage recently, although I haven't cooked it in anything yet). I'll see how it goes for a while before deciding whether to switch to a different box, or different frequency, but at least now it's all set up I have something to try to see whether it actually does what I want it to do.

So, if that's one new years resolution vaguely sorted out, what are the others? Nothing too exciting, mainly a continuation of what I've already been doing. Carry on eating well, running, try to do more active hobbies, that sort of thing. Nothing worth listing in a huge amount of detail.

However, there's one interesting idea I've been pondering recently. This is a real case of deja vu, as I said something very similar last year and then it got sidetracked by the great vegetarianism experiment.


Last year I said I wanted to try to start eating it. Within 6 weeks I'd gone veggie "temporarily" and put it to the back of my mind. Where it has stayed. But when I was in Spain over christmas I really started to consider eating it. For the first time in my life it actually occasionally seemed appealing. Yes, I was in shock too. I pondered a little, and came to the view that it might not actually be inconsistent with what I'm doing. My reasons for going veggie were primarily to increase the range of things I ate, and to take away the "easy" options I'd sometimes choose to eat. If there's only one veggie dish on a menu, I'd have to eat it whether I'd tried those veg before or not. I've always been clear that it's not because I have any strong feelings about the rearing and killing of animals. I've come to prefer a diet rich in fresh veg and grain and pulses, but I don't have an ethical objection to meat. Or fish for that matter.

But in GC it can be very hard to find a decent vegetarian option on some of the menus. Witness my scambled eggs with surprise ham. And moreover, where my parents live is right on the coast, and a lot of the restaurants specialise in fish. Lots and lots of fish dishes to choose from on the menu together with the meaty dishes. I'd considered relaxing the no meat rule when I'm over there, but I don't like being inconsistent. If I allow myself to eat meat in Spain, why don't I allow myself to eat it when I go to see my grandparents in the UK? Or at christmas? Or at a breakfast meeting if there are bacon sandwiches on hand? It's the old slippery slope argument rearing its ugly head. No, selective meat eating and the way my brain works aren't compatible. I even considered giving up the no meat rule, on the basis that I've achieved what I set out to achieve and it has served its purpose, but I don't think I want to do that just yet. One day I probably will, but not yet.

But fish. Fish has never been an easy option for me, so it's not something that I'd dive into with gay abandon. It's also not something that I'd cook for myself, or that I'd choose to eat if there is a decent veggie alternative. But it could fill the gap in Spain and give me a bit more choice, while also ticking the "try new foods" box. The slippery slope argument is lessened considerably, fish is meant to be good for you, and I get a bit more choice when I need it most. The advantage of this resolution is that it's not something I need to work on straight away. I'll be in Catalonia briefly next month (but so briefly I wouldn't get bored of tortilla), but might not be in GC until June so there's plenty of time for me to build up to working out what I want to do. But it's a thought, so it might be worth watching this space.

What else was there? I can't remember. Just the usual stuff like running marathons, I guess...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Follow me, people

I have a new little project on the go for the new year. Inspired by some of the foodie blogs I've seen around, I've decided to keep my own little resource. It's part sharing what I eat, and it's part online recipe book for my own use (having discovered that I can use tags to sort my posts to show recipes using specific ingredients if I tag them right). I'm not claiming it's an original idea, but it's a little project which should encourage me to try new recipes so that I can post the results. I get the best results when I bribe myself...

Anyway, it's still a work in progress, but you can find it here if you want to pay it a visit.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm back!

Before I get onto the Christmas stuff, Eve. I finally got hold of a copy at Manchester Airport this morning (I saw it once in Spain, but only last months, not the new one), and it wasn't as bad as I was fearing in my more panicy moments. There are a couple of things I'd have changed (like printing that before pic - when she asked for one I specifically asked whether it was one for publication, or one to just give her an idea of the change, she said it wouldn't be published so I just sent her the one on the top of here rather than looking for anything slightly less hideous). Gah. Anyway, it's not too bad. I'm not going to post it on here at this stage, as while it's still on sale (even if not abroad) the IP lawyer in me says that breaching their copyright isn't a great idea. However, (whispers) I have it scanned into my computer and it is emailable (looks around hoping they weren't listening).

Anyway, Spain. It was fantastic, the first time I've had a two week holiday for over four years. Or an intentional two week holiday anyway, there was the time I had to stay on long because I broke my leg of course - and I "celebrated" the fourth anniversary of breaking it while I was over there. Anyway, the two weeks seemed to go on and on, in a good way, and it wasn't as much of a rush to do everything I wanted to do before heading home as it usually is.

Also different this year was that I was there for the full "12 days of Christmas", including "Reyes" (12th night) for the first time, and new year for the first time in three years. It was nice to see a couple of extra celebrations, especially the Spanish celebrations on Friday night for the eve of 12th night. There was a big procession round one of the local towns. It started off with just the three kings on (real) camels and the children carrying their gifts, then as they went round town they stopped in a couple of places for a bit of a play, and to pick more people up, "locals" (as in people from a village near bethlehem) including the best behaved goats I've ever seen and people from a "roman fort" on horseback. Then they get a blessing from an angel and head to the manger outside the church for another bit of dialogue. We left at this stage because the dialogue was quite hard to follow in Spanish, in a noisy crowd, and sometimes without microphones, but we saw the procession, and it was a good night out.

Eating wise, it was patchy. There were some days, mainly the days when I ate in where my eating was virtuous. Salads, and fresh local tropical fruit (canarian pomegranates in particular are fantastic and so cheap compared to here, I also got into the habit of having fresh papaya, orange and strawberry juice mid morning). The ingredients are there, if you go out and find them. Where I still struggle is eating out. The idea of vegetarian food seems to be a little alien (and I suspect that if I looked too closely into some of the vegetable soups available I'd find meat stock in there somewhere, so I chose to turn a blind eye). The best example was one day where I saw "revueltos riojanos" on a menu, where they were described as scrambled eggs with garlic, pepper and red wine. It forgot to mention that behind eggs the main ingredient was ham, which I then had to laboriously pick out. Tortilla espanola is always an option, together with pizza and pasta, but I do wish they could bring themselves to make a salad without tuna! Or at least a more interesting salad than slices of tomato with onions or cheese. That said, I ate a lot better than I have been known to there, and I have discovered a fab place in Las Palmas that does a three course vegetarian lunch special overlooking one of my favourite beaches in the world, so that will probably become a regular stop.

There was the christmas food, of course, although this year mum made far more of an effort not to buy me too much sweet stuff to bring home. Some dates stuffed with marzipan, a pot of chocolate covered pistachios and one solitary turron. In terms of the other stuff (christmas cake, christmas pudding, mince pies, reyes cake, alcohol, more alcohol) yes, I overindulged a little, but it was all worth it, honest, and I'm not daunted by working it all off again. In fact, I'm re-energised for the challenge. I realised that the days I felt best were the days when I ate well, not the days I gorged on chocolate, and it made me determined to eat the stuff that makes me feel like my body is working properly rather than the stuff that I used to see as a treat. So I went to buy lots of fresh fruit to juice, and lots of veg to turn into soups and salads almost as soon as I got home.

Exercise was pretty good. When I went to Spain in November I managed a grand total of 3 miles of running. This time I managed 9 miles (3 x 3) in the first week, and 15 (2 x 6 and 1 x 3) in the second. That's not too bad, and I'm particularly happy with those 6 mile runs. Because my 3 mile route is essentially out and back, it's quite hard to motivate yourself to go round again after 3 miles, and run the same stretch of seafront another two times when you've already done it twice. Particularly if you do it when the day is heating up (or indeed cooling down too quickly). I need to start building up my mileage (I've got my Edinburgh "in training" t-shirt through so I had better start doing some!), but for a holiday that's not bad. Particularly on Friday when I did one of the 6 mile runs and then followed it up with 28,000 steps over the rest of the day.

The nicest thing though was seeing family. It really struck home that what's important isn't where you spend christmas, or what you eat (it was my first veggie christmas, and I wasn't sure whether I'd crave turkey - I didn't), but who you spend it with. We might not be the most talkative or demonstrative of families, but they're still mine, and I wouldn't spend christmas anywhere else if I had the choice.

And now I'm back home. Mum and dad are coming over here on their way to Egypt in a fortnight so I'll see them pretty soon, but I'm not sure when I'll next make it over there. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can get another visit sorted out.

I do have some vague plans for this year to share, but they can wait for another post.