Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesdays: the parkrun baking contest

Westerfolds parkrun turned one on the weekend, and we celebrated by having a pyjama party! I was run directing on the day, so I've already written a run report for it (clicky clicky). I like putting formatting into the run reports (this was only my second time run directing, and thus my second run report), and while the formatting is better on this report, it's still not quite right.

Last time I drafted in Blogger and sent the html of the report to our Event Director for uploading to the Westerfolds parkrun website, and later realised it was hosted by Wordpress. This time around I drafted in Wordpress (there are subtle differences with tables and the captions on photos), but there were still a few issues - mainly the width of the photos. Well, third time lucky, right?

In lieu of a proper post about my Saturday (I spent parkrun making sure it ran smoothly, and there were no problems, so it was uneventful), I'll share parkrun eve - when we put together the Westerfolds parkrun birthday cake! We had some wonderful feedback on the cake, so it's great to see that our enthusiasm for parkrun cake is shared across the wider parkrun community.
"And Westerfolds parkrun… well, what can I say about their cake other than AMAZING!"
That's the kudos we received in parkrun Australia news today, but we also received plenty of love from those on the Westerfolds parkrun Facebook page, and also from "The Prof" who shared it on the parkrun show AU's Facebook page. So I thought it might be nice to see how relatively simple it was, and assist to bring on the epic parkrun cakes!

The finished birthday cake at Westerfolds Park on the weekend.
A "cake as a topographic model of the course" was the nutty idea I had for the birthday cake, but wasn't really sure how to put it together. I discovered Leesa was a keen amateur cake decorator with a bit of experience using fondant - which I had never used, and didn't want to use on a big project where I wouldn't know exactly how to work with the fondant!

Last week I gave Leesa the "blueprints" to the cake - stencils of simplified contours from a topographic map of Westerfolds Park. She did the cake baking on Thursday, and on Friday we shaped the layers and decorated the cake under her supervision!

The base layer (where the lowest point was going to be the Yarra), and the first layer of the park.
Second layers of the park on the cake (divided by Kestrel Creek) while Mrs Event Director Iwona mixes in the colour for our Kestrel Creek and Yarra River and I start cutting out the hill.
There was meant to be another layer on the hill, but it looked like there was enough hill already! If you're wondering, the cake is to scale horizontally, but not quite right vertically (as we just used whatever height each cake slab ended up being after baking), and so there there is an inconsistency in the scale between horizontal and vertical planes. It's also not geomorphically correct - but it's a cake designed by an environmental engineer and not an environmental engineering model.

Green fondant for most of the park! It was horrible to work with on Friday as it hit 34℃ that day - but we still managed! 

Then we added the blue fondant for the Yarra River and Kestrel Creek.

The tarmac we used for the Westerfolds parkrun course, one of the two bridges, and a simplified Manor House at the top of the hill.

Some miniature parkrun flags and kilometre signage.

Then a few fondant trees here and there that Leesa had prepared earlier.

And finished off with a little bit of parkrun branded edging! Saved how the cake looked as the weather really made it difficult to smooth the edges and side of the cake.
So that was how the Westerfolds parkrun birthday cake was made! My hands are still sore from warming up and rolling the fondant as we had to keep it in the fridge because of the heat, so it was really solid each time we started to handle it again. Don't let that put you off from working with fondant - it's just that I damaged my hands/arms doing labwork early last year. I couldn't even ride my bike for most of 2013 as I was unable to hold onto the handlebars for too long without cramping!

We've set a standard for our birthday cakes now, but at least we now have a whole year to plan for the next one. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's nice to be able to run again

Whatever my asthma was, it has now passed and I'm off running again. Although I am feeling unfit after having a few weeks away from long runs and tempo-like runs, it's nice to be back out and not struggling too much. This meant a return to the Mullum Mullum early on Tuesday morning for some easy trail running.

The highest point of the run - I call it "Mt Pipeline" as the mains water runs through this patch of land, a reserve that's located between houses and is not an official thoroughfare. We're not the only ones that use it judging by the mountain bike tyre marks.

After the trail run (when Jacqui and Sophie, picture above, needed to leave for work and children) I decided to go on an additional 5km run around the area. I admit it was a test to see if a parkrun could work out, although I'm not convinced it's a good route for the average Joe now that I've completed it. I knew there would be a few steps in one section (which I took on the way down as I think you'd be less likely to trip on the way down those steps than up them), but it was the section after the steps that really made me think the route would be unsuitable. I've taken that path a number of times while trail running at an easy pace, but I can't recommend taking a trail with protruding rocks on a generally downhill section at speed. I'm sure that experienced trail runners would manage, but I'd hate to find lots of twisted ankles and falls as a result of a parkrun!

The first 3km of this route is concrete and runs along (and over Eastlink). Once the "Eastern portal" is reached, there area few steps to go down and this is followed by about 400m each of rocky trail, concrete and gravel trail. The final 800m was concrete, but I needed to double back at the end (i.e. I need to start the route a little bit further west).

Between the trail run and the additional 5km I switched from my Salomon Speedcross to one of my Saucony Triumph pairs. I recall discussing with someone that I like wearing my runners loose (I can easily slip my feet in and out without tying the shoe laces), although that doesn't apply to my trail shoes as I am happy to wear the Salomons quite tightly. I just didn't realise how loose I wore the Triumphs until I switched into them on Tuesday morning after having run in the Speedcross for over an hour, and suddenly found the Triumphs too loose! Ha! I tightened the laces on the right foot and decided it looked ridiculous so I loosened them and headed off on the run without any further problems.

This photo is from a few days later, but you can see that tightening up the forefoot looks ridiculous. Bulgey bits everywhere! Although I know from experience that it doesn't actually feel good during the run, although it'd be nice if I could still have it tight through the arch (which is something I do like with the Speedcross).

While I had my shoes out and my camera, I decided to compare the two pairs of the Saucony Triumph 10s, 400km apart. The pink pair are a women's 11 and a touch small (I'm consistently a women's 11.5, and the 12 was a touch large). I found that slightly too large shoes induced black toenails, but have since found slightly too large induces black toenails too! Men's shoes are far more easy to source in half-sizes at my end of the shoe size scale, and the red pair are a men's 10 (European 44, the same size as my Salomon Speedcross).

125km-old Triumph 10 on the left, 525km-old Triumph 10 on the right.

Despite the pink Triumphs being a lot more "experienced", they only feel a little less bouncy that the younger red pair. But there's obviously a difference in how the soles look with most of the wear on the outside and middle of my forefoot, and some wear on the outer heel. I suppose that confirms how I feel when I run, where I tend to think I'd a mid-foot/fore-foot striker, although I know that I like to land on my heel a bit more when descending. The other difference between the shoes is to do with my toenails - the half-size does make a difference. So I now use the red pair for long runs (and parkrun as it matches my red five30runners shirt and visor), and the pink for shorter runs. 

I'm interested to see how long the Triumphs continue to feel good, as I found the Mizuno Wave Rider 14s I had before this became very squidgy after about 600km, and just made for tiring runs. Not fun. 

Although I'm freely running again, I'm still behind on my monthly target - 173km, which is 16km more than last month (and what I need to keep the Towering Stairs badge going on Smashrun). After 22km and 24km weeks, my legs are definitely feeling the 34km of running I did this week (43km if I include cool-down walks and dog walks). I do include the walks in the Smashrun tally, but it now means I need to accumulate 46km over the next 5 days. I have a feeling Saturday's parkrun is going to be a slow one!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesdays: Anniversary Eve

Don't be deceived by the sunshine, parkrun on the weekend was quite fresh! It made for really good conditions for those chasing a PB - and the stats show that it was a speedy morning with 23 of the 82 parkrunners ran PBs! There were also some hooligans with some stencil graffiti...

It's spray-on chalk! Discovery of the year! The template does need to be a little bigger though...
As the most recent addition to the Westerfolds parkrun Run Directing department, the pressure was on Chris as it was his first time in the role. There didn't appear to be any problems during the morning or even afterwards while processing results, so clearly supporting RD Rohan trained him well. :)

The Westerfolds parkrun pre-run briefing.
Image from Westerfolds parkrun #53 photo album.
It's taken a while, but we're starting to have a few more additions to the parkrun 50 Club, as Brett has now joined Ehuli (and Michael, although he's a 100 Club member). I suppose it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise that these three ended up on top of the male points table for the year! We're not sure when Brett (or Ehuli for that matter) will receive his 50 Club shirt as a new supplier is currently being sourced now that Adidas are no longer a sponsor of parkrun Australia. For now we can acknowledge the achievement with the little digital badges that appear on parkrun profiles and in the results!

Brett on his 50th parkrun!
A couple of juniors picked up their Junior 10 Club certificates, and another few will be inducted next week as they were either absent on the weekend or ran their 10th parkruns on the weekend!

Our latest Junior 10 Club members!
Images from Westerfolds parkrun #53 photo album. 

My parkrun was fairly uneventful - I started with Wendy but dropped off after about 3.5km as I started to do my "Strides" workout (20s intervals of tempo running, 40s recovery) and went off-course to try and avoid the tempo intervals on the hill (which is what happened last week). I didn't calculate it well again, so I ended up doing a couple of intervals on the hill - but at least none of them were downhill this time around!

I may love Smashrun, but Strava does a cleaner run profile.
Strava activity here.
After finishing I went back along the course until I came across Leesa and Frankie. Leesa missed a lot of parkruns while struggling with an injury so she's just getting back into it, and Frankie was helping her finish in under 40 minutes. She ended up with 39:49! :)

With one week to go until the most important date of the Westerfolds parkrun calendar (the birthday/anniversary run), I spent most of the post-parkrun chat time plotting. I had a nutty idea for the cake, but knew I wouldn't be able to pull it off until I discovered that Leesa was one of those mums who attended cake decorating classes and had quite an impressive looking little portofolio on her Instagram account! If you're a parkrun regular there is no doubt that you have seen more than a few impressive cakes at parkrun birthdays and special occasions.

Lots of impressive parkrun cakes so far! As they say, "parkrun is not a race, but a baking contest".
Clockwise from top left: Kawana parkrun, Merimbula parkrun, Kalgoorlie-Boulder parkrun, and Tuggers parkrun.
Images from each parkrun's Facebook page. 

We decided that we would give the cake a go last week, sent a few messages and photos to each other during the week (which is when we decided to follow my nutty idea), and then met up again during parkrun to finalise how we were going to pull off the cake.

Secret cake plotting with Leesa, although our security was compromised by the photobombing Frankie!
Image from Westerfolds parkrun #53 photo album.
We're assembling the cake on Friday, so hopefully it will all work out well - three of us will be there, although Iwona doesn't yet know the extent of our plans! As the wife of Event Director Scott, she may be impressed or mortified! :)