Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From Wombat to Surf Coast Century

The weekend after Tan Ultra was spent in Wombat land, trudging about and doing my best not to grimace in pain. I thought I had recovered OK as I was walking fine 2 days after, but a bit of climbing (500m elevation gain) was enough to smash my quads!

With Skye and Erin.
I slowed down considerably, much to my annoyance. I didn't want to be so far behind from the crazy peeps but Isaac threw in a curveball and took us down a 'not recommended' track which I thought was a shortcut.

We ended up on the riverbank, probably 1km away from Link Track (the usual track we would take). It's always cool to have a bit of an adventure but I think I was not in good shape to enjoy it that day!

It was such a relief to find even ground again, and I made a better effort on moving. It's the 2km stretch which I really dislike as it's straight and boring. 

Rock climbing Kiwi sheeps and Aussie mountain goats.
Photo credit: Bin.

Anthony and Erin were still waiting for us at the car park, which cheered me up. I offered them some of my mooncake biscuits, and I was pleasantly surprised that they liked them. 

Anyway, it's my fault for putting my legs through the torture. Robbo did ask me how I was feeling when we arrived early that morning but he went on to answer his own question, "You should be fine if you're here today!" 

Funny how they made me sound like a hero and an idiot at the same time ...

Besides, how could I resist hanging out with crazy people who said that they were TAPERING for Surf Coast Century??

Bloody hell. 

Anglesea Beach.

Last Saturday was Surf Coast Century weekend over at Anglesea, a 2-hour drive for us. We arrived before 3pm and hung around at the finish area before deciding on a spot to ambush our friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Possibly Mooncake Biscuits

Mid Autumn Festival was on Monday, 8th September. Mooncake fillings have evolved from traditional fillings of lotus paste, red bean or nuts to tiramisu, coffee, chocolate, etc. My favourite is always lotus paste with egg yolk, wrapped in snow skin, which needs to be kept in the fridge.

The Asian grocers have been selling boxes of mooncakes for the whole month. The only time I had mooncake was when Gary offered us some when we paid him a surprise visit last month. 

As much as I wanted to eat mooncake (lotus paste with egg yolk, please), I couldn't bring myself to buy a box. *shrug* My cravings weren't that strong.

I thought I'd make my own, haha, although not in the traditional sense. I don't have the moulds!

I went with Shanghai pastry, and followed the recipe here. I bought red bean paste as I was too lazy to make my own.

Do you think they look more like siew paus?

After making a batch sized according to the recipe, I decided to make them a bit smaller, just nice for one person to devour it in 3 bites.

The buttery pastry, although not flaky, is good enough to make you want more. This way, the paste was less sweet. Packaged paste is sadly very underwhelming and next time, I think I'll need to make my own.

I'm not happy with how pale they turned out to be, despite baking them just a bit longer. Perhaps milk should be omitted from the egg wash?

Without salted egg yolks, the recipe can make about 20+ pieces if you prefer smaller sized ones.


700gm red bean paste

250gm salted butter (mine was unsalted, so I added 2 dashes of sea salt into the flour mixture)
150gm icing sugar
380gm plain flour
1 large egg
60g custard powder

Egg wash
1 egg yolk
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP milk (will omit this the next time)

Black and white sesame seeds for decoration.

1. Sift flour and custard powder. Set aside.
2. Beat butter and icing sugar til creamy, for 2-3 minutes only.
3. Add in egg and beat til combined. Mix in flour and custard powder and combine to make soft dough. 
4. Wrap in cling film and store in fridge for 30mins.
5. Roll red bean paste into 1 inch balls, set aside. If you're lazy like me, you'll just spoon 1 inch worth of paste into your dough later on.
6. Remove dough from fridge, roll into 1.5 inch balls and set aside.
7. Prepare small bowl of egg wash and another one with black and sesame seeds.
8. Flatten dough balls and insert paste into middle. Wrap it with dough carefully before rolling it into a ball.
9. Place on tray lined with baking paper. Gently flatten it, brush with egg wash and sprinkle sesame seed on top.
10. Preheat oven at 180'C yet? Anyway, bake them for 20 mins at 180'C.

Put them under the grill for a while (til the top turns a bit brown) to warm them up before consumption.

*I added some roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into the red bean paste to add a bit of texture.
*Baked them 5 minutes longer.
* The next day, I grilled it for a few minutes just to warm them up before having them for breakfast. It'll give a nice brown top and looked much more appetising. Very yummy when served nice and warm.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Tan Ultra - 100KM Race Report

I know, right?
Me, running a 100km?????

Which sane person would consider spending an entire day on their feet, running laps around The Tan, and 26 laps to be exact?

Hey, I wasn't the only one!

Date: 31st August 2014, Sunday.
Event: The Tan Ultra, by Trails+
Time: 7am to 7pm
Venue:  The Tan Track, Royal Botanical Gardens.
Distances: 100km, 50km, 42km, 21km, 12km, 8km.

The days leading up to the event was a flurry of nerves. I was shitting bricks and breaking out in cold sweat every now and then, I had to keep comforting myself that I could do it. 100KM is a big fish to fry, no doubt about it. Two Bays Trail 56KM was my longest distance ever and so it came to no surprise to have some people roll over in shock when my participation was finally disclosed.

We arrived just before 6:30am to Brett and team still setting up the area. I made a quick dash slow walk to the loo and made it back in time for the briefing. Pre-race jitters!

My plan was pretty simple, spending no more or less than 27 minutes per lap. Fueling was every 30 minutes after the 1st hour. Hammer Endurolytes and AFC went together hand in hand at every hour. A power gel at every 1:30 hour, bananas/power bars/a few sips of Tailwind every 30 minutes in between. Make the first 50KM in good time for a scheduled 5 minute break, and continue on to tackle the next 50KM.

As Lap 1 included an additional 500m, I still made sure it was completed in 27mins or so. I realised I was hungry and grabbed the remaining peanut butter sandwich I was supposed to have had for breakfast. During Lap 2 and 3, despite going a wee bit fast by 20-30 secs I was feeling a bit worried. My legs were rusty, forgetting how it felt like to run. Not sure if because they were overly rested during taper week!

I could feel blisters already forming on my big toes and last toes, despite wrapping them up with Elastoplast. ARGH! I pondered about stopping for a while to wrap them up with another layer but concluded that I'll do it at halfway point. By Lap 4, I was starting to forget how many laps I had done.

SCTR's fashion parade!
Photo credit: Bin Wong

Once I had warmed up, it was easy to fall back into the training rhythm and kept on moving. I had somehow messed up the Garmin Fenix which wasn't tracking my progress carefully and I was frustrated. Thankfully the Tan track has distance markers and digital clocks at the start area and halfway point (near KM1.75) so they were good reference points monitor my progress.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Food For Friends And Crew

I went crazy last week, drawing up a menu for Sunday's picnic as well as going through my fuel plan. It was the only thing I could do while sitting around and resting during taper week. Besides the night run on Tuesday, I only managed a 5km run on Saturday, just to warm up the legs.

Playing checkers with sable cookies ... I'm so pleased to have successfully tweaked the
chocolate recipe to something I really like! 

Besides cookies, a tray of brownies and some veggie curry puffs, I wanted to bring chicken skewers (without satay sauce) and fried meehoon (vermicelli) but decided against it. Since the picnic will be with the support crews, I doubted anyone would want to move their party to the barbie pit across the road.

My puffs are always so pale!
Brownies, as always, a winner hands down!

Nevertheless, we had chicken skewers for tea on Saturday since I had marinated the chicken the day before.

I think there were 17 sticks in total.

Mmmm, it needed a bit more honey. Otherwise, I love how the finely chopped lemongrass tastes like crushed peanuts, adding texture.

Cooked this a few weeks ago with coriander, dried mushrooms, shrimps, shallots and accompanied
by fresh sambal.

Fried meehoon is a favourite go-to dish of mine, probably because I used to eat so much of it back home when I was younger. Like fried rice, it doesn't really matter what the ingredients are as long as they provide enough taste and colour. 

A celebratory Magnum ice-cream!

Sticking with tradition, I celebrated my run with a Magnum ice-cream. I loved the biscuit bits in the chocolate crust! I wanted to share it with the hubs but he said it was too sweet for him. *shrug* More for me!

Joanne, I think you would love this! 

Me and my Magnum, after Melbourne
Marathon 2013! PB, yay!
p.s. Lemmie the lemon tree is now dead.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why I Interview Runner Friends

No one has really asked me why, but I am glad to know that there are plenty of friends out there who enjoy reading my 'runner profile interviews' as much as I enjoy throwing questions at my interviewees.

How did it all begin?
Years ago when I was still living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I was approached by a friend for a runner profile on me. I was so surprised and taken aback as I was fairly new to the running community. Me, a runner profile??

I wasn't sure what to do or how it was done so I read up on all the runner profiles he had on his blog before I felt confident enough to tackle his questions for me. After that, I bragged to my friends and colleagues about being 'interviewed'! :D

(You can read my runner profile here. It probably needs updating!)

Back then, I was still a newbie and excited about running (nothing more than half marathons) and Dutamas Runners, the running group I was with. As I got to meet more runners from various events, I began to realise how inspiring each individual runner can be.

I started with a few friends within the DR group like Andrew, Raymond, Michelle, Melvin, Paul, Wai Loon, Kenny, etc. During a Blog with Brooks competition, I used the same approach with a few friends like Khoo Yit Kiat and Jamie Pang

How does reading runner profiles inspire others?
Everyone worships the elites of of any sport. To name a few  from trail running and running alone, there's Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Mo Farah, Usain Bolt. We read about them, their stories and achievements and we are in awe. We get inspired.

Yet we are also in awe of the people surrounding us - some run faster and better than us, some have sheer determination and will power to get out there to do what the enjoy the most, and not bothered about finishing last, some are born natural runners and some still struggle to improve themselves after years of running.

Everyone has a story to share, and the guy or girl next door can inspire and motivate you without you (or them) realising it. I strongly believe that these friends are equally as inspiring as the elites out there, if not more interesting. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunny Saturday

Bin's cousin was in the city for work training. We managed to spend Saturday with her, doing our best to be a tour guide but I suspect we may have failed just a wee bit.

The thing is, we're still not familiar with the city and unless you're interested in museums and gardens, I'm not sure where tourists should go when they're in the CBD.

We took her to Queen Victoria Market for breakfast, unsure of where to go. We decided on Simply Spanish at 513 Elizabeth Street. I was actually looking for Market Lane Cafe or Padre Cafe but kinda lost my bearings. You know me and directions!!

Brekkie Bruschetta (AUD$13.50)
with scrambled eggs, grilled chorizo, shaved manchego and parsley.

Our flat whites were not too bad. We had the Bocadillo (AUD$13.00), Claypot Eggs (AUD$14.50) and Brekkie Bruschetta (AUD$13.50). Mmmm, the scrambled eggs were a wee bit bland, probably needed a bit of salt, and the claypot eggs tasted just like tomato-ey baked beans. *shrug* 

After a quick walk around QVM, we left the city and towards the Dandenong's. The little cousin had earlier requested to see a bit of nature and wildlife, so where else to go but out of the city?

We headed to Woolrich Lookout, Olinda and dropped by Silvan Reservoir, and just drove around. While at Woolrich Lookout, we were amused to observe two ladies walking their goats.

Nope, those are not dogs.

Yep, they were goats. I'm not sure whether they were from a nearby farm or deliberately drove their goats out for a grass nibbling session and sunshine.

By the time we were done sightseeing, it was time for some food!

We finally got the chance to pop into Pie In The Sky to try their award winning pies. The last time the hubs and I wanted to eat here, the queue was horrendously long. We ended up eating at the nearby fish and chips shop, which we really do not recommend!

Chicken Korma pie with steakhouse chips.

We tried the Beef Guinness, Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Korma pies. Without side dishes, the pies come out to AUD$5.50 each, I think. 

On the menu, some of the pies are highlighted as winners such as the Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Korma pies, which are noted to be multiple medal winners. The Beef Guinness was noted to have won a gold medal once.

True to its description, the beef guinness pie was not great at all. I would describe its flavours as poor, and not very inspiring at all. The tandoori chicken which the little cousin ordered was flavourful enough. I liked my chicken korma best as it was creamy with hints of spices. 

I think I shall attempt to make some one day!

Before we headed back home to recuperate before dinner, we stopped by Lysterfield Park for a while. It's a popular mountain biking area, and kangaroos are aplenty. We ran here once before, but it got too dark before we could explore further. (Yeah, we came too late in the evening!)

We spent some time watching kangaroos, trying to spot a joey in its momma's pouch. When its mum bent down to munch on some grass, the joey would munch on grass, too.

If you love wide tracks and prefer a non-hilly place for a run, Lysterfield Park is probably a good place to go. It is so open and spacious. For me, I think I prefer the Dandenong's for its tall trees and lush greens.

Later on that night, dinner was at David and Camy Noodle Restaurant for some dumplings, rice and noodles. We were stuffed from all the eating we did the entire day but it was the last thing we had to do before dropping her off at the airport. :)

And all we did yesterday to burn off the calories was a bit of hill reps at Lyrebird Track, Kokoda 1000 Steps!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

Ten days to go ...

Grilled salmon with salad - the skin was not crispy enough.

Nothing much has been happening on the culinary side of things. No new recipes nor food experiments, merely eating for the sake of eating. Cookie baking has become a habit, twice a month, just because ... uhm, I am probably too reliant on cookies to go with my coffee or tea.

The only recipe I have managed to tweaked so far is the steamed glutinous rice with chicken, realising that in no circumstances should one scrimp on dried shrimps (heh bee). No, no, no. It is the key ingredient. (A non-meat version would only have Chinese mushrooms, shallots and dried shrimps. Cooking wine is probably not necessary. Best to garnish with chopped chilli or spring onions then, for added fragrance in terms of taste.)

Last weekend was spent helping a friend (or should I say 'mate'?) move out of his rented place to his new home. He rented a 3-tonne truck with no movers (to save cost :D) and it took 2 trips that day. I was helping his wife with her stuff and unpacking them in their new home. 

I made a bet with the guys that we would finish unpacking the kitchen before they'd even assemble the beds. We won, of course. Muahaha!

Everyone was quite exhausted by the end of the day, except for the two little munchkins who were so excited to be in their new home and having guests over. We haven't seen them since ... we had brunch together early last month. The kids are growing up quickly but their cheeky grins never fail to make me smile.

I was hoping to keep my next event as hush-hush as possible, but who would have expected the race director (who is a friend on Facebook) to happily declare to the world of my registration.

The thing is, 100km is a different kettle of fish altogether. (Erm, is that the saying? I can't for the life of me remember the exact phrase!)

I had toyed with the idea of running jogging crawling 100km sometime this year. We had plans to run the Surf Coast Century 100km in September but after Buffalo Stampede, we decided to rethink it. With bigger plans in the pipeline (new house, new job, holidays, etc) we decided that we would forgo SCC. 

A couple who runs can be a pricey thing, and to spend AUD$1,000 on a weekend alone can be really painful. (It's just a rough estimate: registration fee of $298 per pax, accommodation and food, petrol, etc. A big ouch.)

Deep in my heart of hearts, I know that I can do it. But no matter how strong my faith or belief is, the training has to be double the faith or belief. What's the point of believing something so strongly but not working on it?

A few friends had disbelief etched on their faces when I shared with them my possibility of signing up for the event. That pissed me off but I don't blame them.

But it made me more determined to prove them wrong, that by hook or by crook, I will complete the damn distance!

The problem is, the cut off time is 12 hours, and I think I need 13 to be comfortable. Hmmm.

So the hubs tells me to prepare for the worst case scenario. He reminds me how terribly upset I'll be if I fail, and this time round, would it be any different? I hmm-ed for a while and replied that I will be OK as long as I get past 80km.

Are you sure? he asked.

Long pause.

I will have to, won't I? I said reluctantly.