Going Further

Going further

In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.

With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?

Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.

But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…

Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.

So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.

Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.

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I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.

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What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?

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After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀

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After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.

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Nice design and good, friendly atmosphere, you can’t go wrong.

The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.

Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.

Good Pains in Strange Places

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I’ve started going to the gym and for the first time in a long time, I’m bringing back strength and conditioning sessions in a big way. But boy, it does hurt so good.

Strength and conditioning is an area I confess to having neglected in all my years running. Lifting dumbbells, doing squats and squeezing out a few press-ups are all the types of exercise I would typically hate. I always felt they were boring exercises- like sport without any of the joy. Coming up to marathon training time, I’d resolve to make sure I did at least one proper session per week and then also including a few exercises in my everyday post-run routine, such as heel lifts, wall-sits and planks.

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But in all honesty, I probably have not been doing as much as I should have been doing and now that I’m out of (temporarily!) the running game and sitting on the sidelines, injured for the foreseeable, I can’t help but wonder if I had been more diligent about my strength and conditioning training, I might not be injured right now. I might still be running about blissfully ignorant and injury-free.

I’m not a shoulda, coulda, woulda person though, so I bring this up as topic not to dwell on the past but to learn, plan and build for the future. I want to be stronger, I want to be faster and I always want to be better. (I don’t need to be higher 😉 )

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…and I always want to eat scones.

What’s the Plan?

Joined a gym, had a personal consultation and have a training plan. 2-3 days a week, I’ll be doing an hour of strength work, mixed with a short interval of cardio. In addition to that, I’ll be out on the bike at weekends and as the days start to get longer, I hope to get out a few mornings or evenings before or after work. I hope to get in one or two swims during the week too.

My program consists of:

  • Chest presses
  • Leg presses
  • Step-ups
  • Planks
  • Russian Twists
  • Face Pulls
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep Dips
  • 15-20 minutes cardio (I’m having a go at rowing to try something different…)

Nothing revolutionary here – and if you’re a runner, you’ll probably be very familiar with most of these exercises. What I like particularly about this program is that it aims to build a basic level of strength and it also incorporate specific exercises that will be good for running, when I start back.

Leg presses will help develop the quad muscles as well as the glutes – also excellent for cycling (and my butt!)

Step-ups are a simple but excellent strengthening exercise that every runner should be including in their daily routine –  as well as the exercise helping to work the glutes, quads and your core, this move also helps to develop good balance and running form. I quite like doing these too.

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Planks and Russian Twists – work your core/ abs mostly but planks are an overall excellent strength exercise.

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I did the full program for the first time during the week and while I enjoyed doing that night… oh my sweet Lord, did it hurt the next day. I know since not being able to run for 10 months, my arms, abs (and general upper body) have just gone to flop. You just don’t use your arms that much on the bike and your entire upper body is more or less stationary for the entire ride – you don’t use it at all the way you do when running. So right now, I have NO upper body strength. It’s pathetic.

I could not lift my arms above waist height on Thursday after my weights session on Wednesday night. And there were aches and tendernesses in back muscles and shoulder places I have never felt before. Have you ever seen a person trying to massage their own back muscles? Not an attractive look. I cared not!

So onward and strong-ward! If you are also someone who has been avoiding strength work because you too find it boring and tedious, please PLEASE heed my advice and just do it anyway. Find a way to get it into your week – if you’re not someone who enjoys lifting dumbbells or churning out squats, then go to a class like bodypump or bootcamp. Ignore this element of your training and it could end up costing you dearly – both literally or figuratively.

Let me put to you this way – would you rather spend your hard earned wages on physiotherapy, MRI scans, doctor’s appointments, blood tests and consultant visits (still with no diagnosis or end in sight…) OR on the entry fee to the Boston Marathon?

Easy, right?

 

Let’s Talk About Feet (again)

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Full disclosure-these are not my feet but I love this picture. Happy feet or what?!

I’ve talked about my feet so many times on this blog that I’m starting to feel they have more of a presence than I have on here. In fairness, their drama, trips, days out, dates and life in general has been far more exciting than my own of late…

For those who don’t know (and have been saved that pedi-saga) I injured both feet in the run-up to the Paris marathon 2016, in or about March last year, which has resulted in me being benched from running for nearly 10 months now. Since then, I’ve seen numerous physiotherapists, a GP, a chiropodist and two orthopaedic surgeons who specialise in feet – all of whom have given me a different diagnosis in terms of the source of the pain in my feet. The first physio told me it was soft tissue damage, “just a battering” from all the marathon training. The second physio (from the same clinic) told me it was NOT a soft tissue injury at all, rather it was more likely a rheumatological condition, possibly rheumatoid arthritis.

On foot of what physio no.2 said, I visited my GP who ran blood tests which confirmed no inflammatory markers in my bloods. So, she ruled out the possibility that the cause of my foot pain was rheumatoidal. She referred me on to an orthopaedic specialist who specialises in foot problems on the basis that the pain could be a result of a stress fracture. On inspection of my feet, this orthopaedic surgeon was of the opinion that indeed the source of my foot pain was most likely a result of a stress fracture – 90% sure it was a stress fracture in the 5th metatarsal – to be precise.

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Went for an MRI… went back to Mr. Ortho… no stress fracture, anywhere in my feet. He then promptly informed me that he could do nothing further for me given that the problem did not appear to be a bone problem nor could he offer any opinion on what was wrong with my feet.

At this point, I cried.

It had been 9 months of different experts, with wildly different views on what is wrong with my damn feet. And here I was, after spending a chunk of money on all these guys and having not been able to go for a run in so long standing in a car park outside a hospital thinking I’m never going to be able to run again…. and not one person can tell me what is wrong with me. So I cried. With my Dad (who had kindly come with me to the appointment) looking at me like I was crazytown.

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This week I went to see another orthopaedic (foot) surgeon for a second opinion, which if nothing else, was hilarious. What my mother calls a good old-fashioned surgeon- glasses, dicky bow, abrupt, utterly unsympathetic, impatient and entirely forthright and opinionated – I loved it. After examining my feet, he took the view that I have basically bad feet. I have splayed, wide feet, with bunions, swelling in the forefoot and collapsed arches – basically, all these factors combined mean that the mechanics of my feet is all off. He told me that the custom orthotics I had made many years ago were useless on their own and that they would not be effective without accompanying exercises to make them work.

So what did he decide should be the next step? A physio! No, but not just anyone, he specifically recommended a Dublin physio who has worked with Athletics Ireland specialising in sports injuries with good experience. Given that this glowing referral came from a man who strikes me as exceptionally hard to impress, I’m expecting great things. I’m honestly very excited and feeling more positive about this than I have in months.

I have an appointment in 2 weeks time and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I also have an appointment to see a rheumatologist to investigate my Reynaud’s and just to rule out any rheumatoidal cause of my foot pain.

For the moment, I am still cycling away at weekend and early mornings before work, when I can. The mornings are slowly getting brighter earlier and the days are starting to stretch out and I can’t wait for those long Summer days… I also just joined a gym to action my new year’s resolution to get stronger this year. Strength and conditioning is an area I’ve neglected for a long time and I’m hoping if I can work on it, it might help with my feet/ knee/other injuries going forward.

Injuries suck, no doubt. I miss running massively. Word. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like there’s hope that maybe some day in the near (ish) future, one of these experts will tell me it’s time to run again.

And what a wonderful day that will be. Happy running folks, enjoy!

Meaty Confessions

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I like meat, I like fish and I like vegetables. I’m a big egg fan and I’m quite certain I’d be miserable if I gave up dairy products. I don’t do strange diets, I’ve never tried to be a full-blown vegan and I’m still not entirely sure what “Whole 30” actually means.

This is my confession.

Like most people out there, I’m going into the new year with good intentions of eating healthier and losing some weight. But I’m not about to dive into a sufferfest. If I’m going to succeed in the long term, it has to be something that I both enjoy and is sustainable. Not something that has me barking at people, losing my mind because all you can think of is a rasher sandwich or dreaming of cheese because you’ve crossed that off your list of “acceptable foods”.

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I fly the flag for free range, sustainable farming and proper treatment of animals, as well as only choosing to eat fish that are in season – no question. I grow a lot of our own vegetables at home in the front garden, my Dad collects honey from our own beehives (leaving plenty for the bees to eat during the winter) and our family is very conscious of food waste, recycling and generally finding ways to promote sustainability and kindness to the environment.

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My Dad was a farmer and we were raised to appreciate and respect the food that we were given. My parents didn’t have a lot of money when we were kids, but they always told us that spending money on quality food was important. We learned about the value of food and the animals behind the finished products. My Dad would tell stories of his farming days in Denmark where he ended up with a pet pig (Oscar) because he couldn’t bring himself to leave him at the Abattoir after he escaped and made a run for a nearby wedding reception, where he was found standing on a table eating the wedding cake (true story).

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My Dad is an animal lover. He feeds the birds in the garden every day, talks to the robin who keeps him company as he weeds the vegetable patch and since our dog Molly has died, he frequently rambles down to the local pet shop to see how they’re all doing. Without fail, Molly was always the first in the house who he’d say hello to in the mornings or upon returning to the house. He’s also saved the life of many a bird that has smacked into the kitchen windows, mending wings and carefully nursing a few back to health with boiled eggs and milk.

My Dad eats meat every day of the week. Give or take. So how do you reconcile all of this?

Appreciation and respect.

He has utter respect for animals and in turn, appreciates the sacrifice of animal life and the food they provide to sustain life.

I respect completely other people’s views and how they choose to live their lives. How others choose to live their lives is their decision and I don’t feel it’s for me to judge anyone else. As for me, I have grown up with a man who loves animals, cares for and respects them more than anyone I have ever met. I have grown up with a farmer who acknowledges the value of meat and dairy products, as well as the sacrifice involved. I have grown up with a man who eats meat.

Incidentally, I’m actually a veggie lover and my diet probably comprises 80% vegetables and fish. I eat meat about once a week. The point is I do eat meat and I probably always will. Like my Dad, I’m an animal lover and I’m always conscious of the ultimate sacrifice animals make, as well as the impact on global carbon emissions.

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I eat a lot of plates that look like this. Spuds, fish and all the greens…

 

To say that I will never eat meat again would be dishonest and just never going to happen. But what I can do and what we all can do is reduce the amount of meat that we currently eat – if you eat 7 days a week, then reduce it to 6… then 5…. then 4…

And don’t be weird about it.

Not eating meat doesn’t have to equate to sitting down at the dinner table with sad bowl of iceberg lettuce. Who would do that? Have something tasty, like pizza, welsh-rarebit, butternut squash Thai red curry, spaghetti, creamy mushroom tagliatelle or lentil lasagne. Oh, or giant baked potato and baked beans… stuffed jacket potatoes. Now you might be starting to realise why I eat vegetarian most of the time just because I want to…

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Mmm…grapes…

Eating meat is not something you have to be ashamed of. But not having respect, or an appreciation for it or where it comes from, is. Reducing how much you eat and ensuring the quality of the source it comes from (ie. free range) IS something YOU can contribute in ensuring a better world for animals and human beings alike.

These are just my scribblings on thoughts that regularly rattle around my head and are not intended to be advice or opinions that I would inflict on anyone. It’s just me trying to make sense of my world! Thanks for reading x

Sunday-ness

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Happy Sunday one and all! If you too are in full-throttle Sunday mode, chilling out, feet up and looking for further validation that it is in fact okay to do this once a week, then look no further.

I’ve had a good old fashioned chill weekend, full of long bike rides, rugby matches, a little bit of reading, a fair bit of baking (once you start…) and nice chunk of Netflix.

My Mom headed off to Oman on Friday for a week of meetings so I’m home alone with menfolk for the next 7 days. To kick things off, I headed to the Ireland v Canada rugby match in the Aviva stadium in Dublin last night, which despite the massive scoreline of 54-21 (or something like that!), it was actually quite an entertaining game, with the Canadians making the Irish lads work for their win.

Good weather and a fun crowd in the Aviva made for a very nice way to spend the evening with my Paps.

I headed out early this morning for a long ride from Naas to Clane, then on to Carbury, Edenderry and home via Rathangan, bringing the total distance up to nearly 97km. Although the roads were pretty wet, it stayed dry throughout the ride and there was little wind. Happy days. A bit miffed though when you cycle 97km… and it’s JUST shy of 100km. Last week I did that demented thing of riding up and down the road until my watch registered the 100km, but this week I couldn’t be arsed.

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The remains of a long bike ride… carnage

I’ve been trying out different energy bars and foodie bits on the bike for energy over the longer rides and I’m really liking the Powerbar energy bars at the moment. I nabbed about a dozen of them at the Dublin Marathon expo a few weeks ago for a bargain price and have been trying out lots of different flavours. When I first tried the mango flavour, I thought it was just weird but then I came around to it and now quite like it. The Salty Peanut flavour is really good too.

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A good tip is to cut the bars in half before you head out, so you don’t have to be messing around with wrappers, trying to open them with your teeth as you also try to keep from crashing your bike. Then they’re ready to go when you are. I do this with bananas too.

I’m also trying out different recovery drinks at the moment. I like to make my own recovery smoothies and play around with different flavours but sometimes it’s just so handy to have something pre-made when you’re too exhausted to care about making your own flavours.

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One that I’m really enjoying at the moment is Avonmore Protein Milk, a 500ml carton of low fat milk with extra protein and flavoured with vanilla. It tastes like a vanilla milkshake but with the consistency of milk. Delicious and nutritious with over 100% of your daily calcium needs in there, along with vitamin D and 27g of protein. It’s also considerably cheaper than any protein milkshake or drink you can buy off the shelf.

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Upbeat strawberry protein drink was on sale for half-price in Tesco this week at 1.49 euro so I picked up a bottle to try. Tastes like a Yop or other yogurty drink of the same ilk and contains 20g of protein. I thought it was very nice and I’d happily have it again.

If you’re looking for a good novel to read at the moment, I’ve just finished Tony & Susan and wrote a review over on my other blog here, which I highly recommend. You may also know it by the title Nocturnal Animals, which has also recently been released in the cinema.

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Netflix. I get a bit lazy sometimes when it comes to Netflix, easily giving it to browsing fatigue when I fail to find something I want to watch within the first 5 minutes of scrolling. But I’m eager to break this nasty cycle in the belief that there must be a cave of hidden gems in there that I’m flippantly skipping over in my haste. What I’m watching at the moment are:

The Crown. A dramatised series following the current British Queen Elizabeth in her early days, starting off from her wedding to Prince Philip. I’ve only watched one episode but so far, so captivating.

Narcos. Okay, so who isn’t watching Narcos at the moment? It’s really very good though, in a Colombian The Sopranos, funny but oh-so-horrible and violent kind of way.

Until next Sunday, have a good week!

 

New Bike! Liv Envie Advanced 1

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BIG NEWS my friends…………..

NEW BIKE!!!!!

There has been some serious saving going down, serious planning and some down right serious time spent shopping around for a new two wheeler. After an acceptable amount of binging on bike window shopping, the big decision has been made.

She’s hot, she’s foxy and she’s all mine.

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Sin e… ain’t she pretty?

If I won the Lotto, the very first thing I would do is go to Base2Race – incredible triathlon shop – and buy the blingiest bike they have. I LOVE LOVE LOVE bikes – the mechanics, the designs, the different ride-feel on each bike, how everything comes together to flow beautifully… I love everything about them. Art in motion.

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Giant Speed Control brakes.

I got my first road bike about 1.5 years ago and she has served me very well indeed. The Carrera Zelos is very much an entry level road bike, consisting of an aluminium frame, a 7 speed cassette, Shimano Tiagra gears and Tektro brakes. It retails in or around 500 euro. At the time, I needed a bike for triathlon but wasn’t all that into cycling so I didn’t want to spend too much in case I decided after a few weeks that actually, I really don’t like cycling.

Cycling was initially the hardest part of triathlon for me.

I was also nervous about the swim but knowing that it’s always the shortest part of a race has always helped keep me settled.

But the bike – the bike is long so if you don’t like it or find it tough, the time can really drag. That’s exactly how the cycling leg of a triathlon was for me for the first few races but then I became determined to work on it and get better. Having people overtake you all the time can be a real inspiration to get your butt in gear and work harder.

Since being sidelined from running for the last 5 months with ongoing foot injuries, I’ve been spending way more time on the bike and I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my average speed. Where I really noticed this was in an Ironman 70.3 I did a few weeks ago. I flew the cycle, keeping my pace consistently high (by my standards – not elite standards, you understand…) and I was still overtaking people right up to the end of the 90km. From about 50km onwards, I felt really strong and thoroughly enjoyed that last 40km. This was the first time I ever felt this way during the cycle leg of a triathlon and made me realise how much I actually enjoy being on the bike.

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Shimano Ultegra drive train, gear shifts etc… finally got my mitts on these!

Cycle to Work

This time around, I bought my new bike under the Irish Cycle to Work Scheme, the beauty of which is that it allows employees to purchase a bike up to the value of 1000 euro and if you decide to spend more than that on your bike, you agree to pay it back in instalments deducted from your salary. Obviously the idea is aimed at encouraging more people to cycle to work and boost the health of the nation, which I think has been one of the few brilliant initiatives to come from the Irish government in recent years.

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Introducing the Liv Envie Advanced 1

My new bit of road bling is the Liv Envie Advanced 1 …….. which I bought from Base2Race in Ballymount Retail Park (my absolute favourite shop on the planet, highly recommend these guys for runners, wetsuits and all things bike). The Envie is priced at 2249 euro.

I had never heard of the Liv brand before so for those who likewise may not know, Liv is, in fact, Giant’s specialised female bike brand. The Liv Envie which I bought is actually the female version of this Giant bike:

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Giant Propel Advanced 1

Differences between male and female bikes aren’t massive but there are differences, such as length of reach and “women specific geometry”that can make a big difference to a long ride, including overall general comfort in the saddle after say, 60km. Crank length, stem length, the position of the saddle, the height of the handlebars… the detail may seem small but each has the ability to make or break your ride. To suffer or enjoy.

Specs

The Envie boasts a Shimano Ultegra 22 speed drivetrain and a Giant Speed Control brakeset, loaded onto an Advanced Grade composite carbon frame and fork. The saddle is a Liv Contact SL and can be adjusted to move it further forward or back, depending on your personal measurements and how you prefer to ride. The tyres, rims and hubs are all Giant.

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Aero Design

As you can see from the pictures, the Envie was designed to be more aerodynamic than a pure road bike, making it more of a triathlon bike than a road bike tailored towards endurance cycling. Giant makes claims of this being a “fast” bike, ie, that you get for the same amount of effort, you can theoretically get more speed out of it. The structure of the frame compared with my other bike, naturally has you sitting more forward on the bike and if you hunker down low onto the drop handlebars and get pedalling, I can easily see how this could have you going faster.

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Saddle is comfortable and adjustable to a more forward position for racing or time-trial position.

Stiff feel

Sitting up on the bike for the first time, one thing I immediately noticed was how much stiffer and sharper the handling at the front felt compared with my old bike. It took a few minutes to get used to it but I rather like how sharp and responsive it feels and the noticeable extra control it gives you going into corners.

Design

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The guys in the shop were all gushing about how much they each loved the design of this bike and I’d have to agree with them. This is a very nice piece of work by Giant/ Liv, from the overall look of the bike to the colour scheme they decided to run with. I’ve seen the new 2017 Envie but have to say I don’t quite like the new colours as much at all…

Another neat feature on this bike is the internal cabling which pops in and out very neatly, so much so that you hardly notice it unless you went looking. Tidies the bike up very nicely and contributes to the overall compact look of the bike. In keeping with this theme, the design team have also tailored the seat tube to the shape of the rear wheel which is a lovely touch.

Conclusions:

I’ve been the proud owner of this beaut for less than a day and have taken her for a grand total of 1 ride so it would be premature to make any grand conclusions about the Envie.

On the first cycle that I took her on today, I found it to be significantly more responsive than my Carrera Zelos, more aggressive and pretty fun to ride. I was a bit wobbly at first as it’s a much smaller frame, the handlebars are lower and much shorter and it is a much lighter bike. But taking on the advice I got today from Base2Race about posture, hand position and riding technique, I soon found I was enjoying the cycle and having fun on the new bike.

I even went a bit further than planned (in pretty windy conditions) just because I wanted to stay on the bike for a bit longer. Like the kid who doesn’t want to go in for dinner…

Thus far, I am beyond happy with the Envie and can’t wait to go exploring on this nifty bit of kit. No doubt happy times ahead 😉

I may not have won the Lotto (yet) but getting on these two wheels every morning certainly has me feeling like I am a very lucky girl indeed!

Banana Ice Cream & Candied Pecans

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Slowness-to-cotton-on-to-worldwide-human-trends is a personal trait I flaunt with no shame. It’s generally accompanied by a quiet smugness that lets you watch everyone else get all excited by a new trend, while you hold off and then watch it burn out. Then just when everyone else is nearly done with it, you jump on board and get to enjoy it all as if it were brand new. Because it is – to you.

Flares, fringes, mobile phones, skinny jeans, cronuts (I actually still haven’t yet tried one of these magical creations), frappuccinos, smartphones, apps of every kind (I only joined instagram a couple of months ago) and…. vegan ice cream made from bananas.

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Ignorance… Is it blissful?

You are no doubt well-informed peeps and already know all about frozen banana ice cream. Indeed I must have read about it somewhere in every blog, food magazine and recipe website on a near weekly basis for the past few years – freeze bananas, whip em up and hey presto – ice cream! This concept seemed to drift across the front of my eyes, slowing down for a few seconds as it passed across my thought process and then disappearing again as I no doubt scoffed and unconsciously dismissed the notion as a sad attempt to find an alternative to ice-cream.

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I make no bones about this – I like ice cream. A lot. So much so that I have an aversion to ice-cream that simply does not come up to scratch. In other words, I am an ice-cream snob. I will reject anything that fails on texture, flavour or which is too airy, too rich (yes it is most definitely possible) or screams of synthetic flavours (vanilla essence, I’m looking at you)

Satisfying me with vegan alternatives is, you see, a tough task.

Avocado Based Ice-Cream… Big Liars

Avocado based ice-cream does not do it for me and after getting all excited about the release of an Irish avocado based ice-cream in a certain national supermarket in recent months and forking out 7 euro (reckless spending of moolah on my part!)… I was grossly disappointed. Never again people.

A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones – taught me otherwise

Banana ice-cream, however, has won me over, heart and soul. Creamy, rich, delicious.

I mentioned in my last post that I recently got my hands on Anna Jones’ cookbook A Modern Way to Cook and contained therein is a recipe for banana ice-cream. I had a go, I polished off the bowl and I am now a committed banana ice-cream fiend.

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Get your frozen banana pieces (chop em up before you freeze them) and chuck em in a blender with a few dried dates, a splash of vanilla essence (not too much or you’ll end up with an overpowering forced vanilla flavour….or use a vanilla pod if you have it) and a dash of cinnamon – whip it up and boom, you’re away with the ice-cream fairies. Don’t have to be too exact with the amounts – it’s whatever balance suits your tastes best.

An even better addition is a teaspoon of coconut cream if you have some around, it adds a beautiful creamy, rich texture to the ice-cream.

The candied pecans are the perfect accompaniment but you don’t have to if you don’t like pecans or are just too impatient to be messing about with nuts and frying pans. They are very quick to rustle up though and are absolutely worth it if you ask me.

For Your Nuts.. 

Toss 20 grams of roughly chopped (not too small, mind you) pecans into a pan over a medium heat and toast for a few minutes until you can get that lovely roasted nut smell. Shake them about and don’t be letting them catch. Burnt nuts are a tragic thing.

Add 1 tsp of maple or golden syrup (because this is Ireland and maple syrup is a challenge to locate…) and let it cook for a minute. Remove to a sheet of baking parchment and let cool.

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Endless Possibilities…

Chocolate chips, peanut butter, dessicated coconut, a splash of rum…. the possibilities are endless for what you could chuck into the blender to change up the recipe according to your mood or taste preferences. Have fun people, there’s always more bananas…

Health Benefits

Apart from taste and sheer foodie enjoyment, this ice-cream is also a perfect food for runners – it’s basically just banana and dates whizzed up – so all carbs, low in fat and easily digestible. Great energy food. AND it’s a great way to use up ageing bananas and using up leftovers. So no look – you’re saving the environment, keeping your running energy levels in good nick, looking after your health AND it tastes yum. What more can I say?

I said that this ice-cream was worthy of its own blog post and I mean it. It’s bloody good and so easy – so you’ve no excuse not to give it a go. I spent years ignoring media telling me to make ice-cream out of bananas and now I can only rue those lost banana ice-cream eating years.

My wisdom to you.

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From the most simple things can come the tastiest, most unctuous, tongue slapping, lip smacking, take-me-away-to-a-dessert-island desserts. Nuf said.