This week, one with 126K on the program following last week's 120K, began with a day of recovery; an easy 10K in the morning, followed by an easy 6K in the afternoon.
The weather was beautiful - dry, which was a stark contrast to yesterday when I ran 32K in heavy rain, wondering how on earth it is possibly that I am training for a marathon for a fifth consecutive winter on Canada's West Coast and still do not own a pair of waterproof gloves.
I am really enjoying the three recovery runs I have each week; so far each of them have been 10K, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The double run today felt relaxing, too, and I enjoyed both sessions today, feeling my muscles loosen from yesterday's effort when I eased into the run with a sluggish body and a pace of 5:32 for the first 10.5K, followed by an average 5:23 for the next 5.5K, before turning up in the final 16K to an average 4:53.
The rain certainly underpinned my motivation for picking up the speed in the second half, as it would get me home quicker and help boost my core temperature. For a while, it seemed my body was going to tire but then it simply adjusted and happily cruised along at my chosen pace while I contemplated my astonishing lack of suitable gloves for this climate and listened to my iPod.
It was only a brief rest on the couch this Sunday, as there were chocolate breads to bake and dinners to prepare for an evening with good friends (who, incidentally, are training for their first half marathon).
I tried a new recipe from Survival of the Fittest: The Australian Institute of Sport official cookbook for busy athletes. I love great food but don't have a ton of patience in the kitchen (nor for spending hours looking for crazy ingredients in farflung places.)
Perhaps a bit risky to try a new dish for the first time when having people over, but this moroccan-style beef with couscous got eight thumbs up. The ingredients (except for the silverbeet leaves, which I replaced with parsley) were easy to find, and the dish is relatively fast and easy to make.
Serving 4, you need:
canola or olive oil (the book recommends spray)
500g lean beef, cut into strips (I used buffalo)
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
1 teaspoon minced garlic (I used four cloves, finely chopped)
1/2 teaspoon finely choped red chilli
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
400g can crushed tomatoes
250ml (1 cup) beef stock
2 zucchini/courgette, sliced
4 silverbeet leaves, shredded (I used a bunch of fresh parsley instead)
1/2 cup sultanas
2 cups couscous
1/2 cup toasted almonds (which I had but forgot to add, doh!)
Add oil to wok or frying pan and heat. Stirfry beef (buffalo) in 2 batches (I just did it all in 1 go) over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until well browned (I left it a little raw). Remove from the pan and set aside. Add onion to the pan and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, chilli and spices and strifry for about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and stock, bring to the boil and reduce the heat. Add the zucchini, silverbeet (parsley) and sultanas, simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add 2 cups of boiling water. Cover tightly and stand for 3 minutes, then fluff up with a fork before serving. Return beef to the pan to heat and serve over couscous, sprinkled with almonds.
Not in the cookbook, but from own experience: pair with a 2010 Painter Bridge Zinfandel (a yummy red our friends brought) and/or a 2011 Finca Los Primos Cabernet Savignon (our staple red).
Also a new staple on the menu will be the double runs like today's on Mondays; with the exception of next week, a recovery one, all Monday sessions for the next nine weeks will consist of a 10K recovery run in the morning and 6K in the afternoon/evening. I like them.
Next up, a 16K session including 6K at half marathon pace.