Friday, 28 November 2014

This Is It...

This week's training:
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: 10 mile run
Monday: 4 mile run
Tuesday: 3 mile run
Wednesday: 2 mile run
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 1 hour swim session

This is it, it's finally here... G-Day. Gatliff weekend. My First Ultra. I couldn't have asked for a better week in the run up to this. It's been busy enough to keep my mind distracted from getting too anxious but one or two things got cancelled which gave me enough time to avoid panicking about all the things I had to do. 

After getting a bit of a boost from Ira  Rainey and Mark Kleanthous at the Running Show I went out in the pouring rain for a 10 mile easy trail run on Sunday and actually really enjoyed it. I even took some pictures! It helped me to make some kit decisions and gave me a real confidence boost. I had my friend's lad over for the afternoon for making and baking; the cheesecake and pizza tasted all the more delicious for those wet miles.

The 4-3-2 mile taper runs have left my legs feeling fairly energetic. I know that by the time Sunday rolls around I'll be raring to go. All my kit is together ready for the journey to my parent's tomorrow (I've packed two of almost everything) and although I've got a proper race vest now I'm still taking my camelbak just in case I have a change of heart. I don't know why. There have been a few not-entirely-reassuring mentions of the quality of the route instructions but I figure I've got a compass, foil blanket, whistle and my phone and as long as I'm not on my own at any point I'll be fine... And of course the all important snacks have been purchased (pasties, satsumas, gels and bars).

As I'm saving my legs now I'm taking the opportunity to marshal at my local parkrun tomorrow and then to meet up with a friend for lunch and a gentle stroll. This marks the start of lots of lovely socialising in the next couple of weeks as the focus shifts from Gatliff-intensity training to being a bit more relaxed with time for Christmas outings and gigs. See how I'm still distracting myself from those 30 miles by the though of lovely things still to come?

In other news I did my first swim session in ages today. I've got the good vibes from having exercised before breakfast but it was pretty demanding and demoralising for someone who struggles to swim more than 2 lengths front crawl in one go. On a more positive note I got my current assignment done and dusted so that's another weight off my mind, all be it one that will be replaced by the prospect of leading my first RunFitUK session next week. Actually that's pretty exciting!

So I end this post with two requests. One: it's going to be a long day on Sunday so any texts or tweets to break things up would be fab, especially in the afternoon. Two: the reason I'm doing this in the first place is to raise money for charity so if you can spare a couple of quid please sponsor me at or by texting  VRUN86 £5 to70070. Thank you, you're all marvellous. 

Whatever your challenges are this weekend - go smash them!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Why I'm Proud To Be Part Of Team Bear

I’m part of a club, part of a team, a member of a group that goes by the name Team Bear. I used to be part of a “traditional” running club. A combination of reasons, which I’ve written about in the past, meant I left and never joined another club. Until now.

So why this one? Well it’s a bit different. Members of Team bear are not united by geography or particular sports. Although the trinity of running, cycling and swimming are core you aren’t required to practice all three and without the aid of some serious logistics we’re unlikely ever to all meet. Instead what unites us is our desire to push our limits. Rather than gunning for rankings on a leaderboard we share an ethos that it’s the effort you put in that counts, regardless of the outcome. 

We’re a mix of wannabe’s, try-harders and high-fliers. Our motto: “Suffer But NEVER Surrender”.
To make up for our lack of physical club HQ we have a strong presence on twitter and Facebook. We share our race plans online. We race together and support on the side-lines where possible. We have team kit, and like any club worth its colours, share a love of cake. The only other group of people I’ve come across that are quite as supportive, in all walks of life, are RMR.

Team Bear is the club I hoped I’d find and although sometimes I think it’s a shame it’s only a virtual, it doesn’t seem to matter. I have actually met a few other members in real life and plans to meet others in due course. The nugget that I keep coming back to is that I’ve never been given the impression that I’m not good enough to be part of this. Some of us are accomplished Ironmen or ultrarunners, some of us aren’t. As long as you’re challenging yourself you’ll be supported and encouraged and everyone's seen as an equal.

In these last couple of weeks leading up to the Gatliff I’ve voiced concerns. My training hasn’t gone to plan. I’m scared of the unknown. What if have to walk most of it or end up crying in a ditch somewhere? What if I’m not good enough? The response to this has been the equivalent of a gentle shake of the shoulders and a group hug. A Bear Hug if you will.

“You will be glorious. @TeamBear_Tri will be behind you.”

“The Fear is part of what makes it amazing. Pushing yourself is what makes YOU amazing.” @Rach_2_Oh
I’ve got a well-stocked 2015 race calendar having had my arm twisted by team mates to enter new and exciting events. I will be continuing to push myself thanks to in no small part to my team mates. I have a stronger belief in myself.

I had a conversation with one of our partners, Jason at PerformanceCoaching, the other day. He kept referring to me as an athlete. At the time I felt like pulling him up on that. I’m not a professional sportsperson, a member of Team GB. I don't compete for a running club or place in my events. I think of myself as pretty average by many standards. But then I had a realisation. I sort of do compete for a club; for Team Bear and against myself. I put the effort in to my training and I wear my kit with pride.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The Running & Endurance Sport Show 2014

One of the highlights, for me, of the weekend we've just left behind was the Running & Endurance Sport Show. Previously known simply as The Running Show, the event, held at Sandown Park gives anyone with an interest in running the opportunity to browse kit, find out about events, talk to brands, dip into seminars and workshops and even run a race. I've been twice previously and have always enjoyed it. this year was no exception.
Registering in advance meant entry was free with race entry just £12 for the 10k and workshops £6 (seminars free). For a free event with plenty of parking it's well worth a trip. Last year I visited on the Sunday and took part in the 10k but this year other commitments meant I had to visit on the Saturday instead and forgo the run. A pity, as it was excellent fun before but I still managed to spend most of the day at the event.

It struck me that there were fewer stands this year but with the rear of the hall being given over to the kid's indoor triathlon; a fantastic idea to introduce more youngsters to the joy of sport. But there was plenty to browse. A number of race organisers were there promoting their events, everything from 5 and 10km events to ultras, OCRs and relays. Running Fitness and Runner's World were offering great subscription deals. Plenty of nutrition brands were plying their wares; from the well-known Nuun, Clif, High5 to the lesser-known Rude Health, Beet IT Sport and Beyuna. ActivBod cosmetics look to be about to give PrettyActive a run for their money; making an appearance at a Boots near you in the New Year. Entry to the show gets you a goody bag and there were plenty of samples around too. I came away with quite a haul.
There was plenty of kit on offer from retailers like Alton Sports and brands like Mizuno. I toyed with a Salomon running vest and a new pair of trail shoes but managed to resist. But I did make a point of visiting CrewRoom to see some of their new range. I fell a little bit in love with the Just Jacket, admired the design of the Zephyr Jacket and added the duffel bag to my Christmas wish list. Their new North West hoodie is top of my list but every single piece has so much thought put into it. They've got a pop-up in Putney, in addition to their HQ, and I'm still super-keen to get to one of the SUP classes they run in association with Active360.
With a few endurance and ultra events in my diary I found Mark Kleanthous' talk on Training and Nutrition for Ultra-Running worthwhile and really enjoyed chatting with Ira Rainey, author of Fat Man to Green Man about his experiences. I walked away with a signed copy of his book which I will open *after* Gatliff I think. I was inspired enough to go out in pouring rain yesterday and enjoy a soggy 10 mile trail run.
I loved chatting to all the exhibitors, trying out some new products and discovering new companies. I'd recommend it to any runner, whether beginner or seasoned. It's friendly, inspiring and interesting. You can whizz round in an hour or make the most of it and stay all day. I'm just sorry I missed the race. Maybe next year.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Taper Time. Cue Kit Panic.

This week's training...
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: 11 mile run (3 with mum)
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 5km hills & Body Balance
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: 6 mile run

I'm supposedly in my tapering phase although I don't feel as though I ever quite got ramped up as much as I'd hoped. There's a week and a couple of days to go until Gatliff and there's a distinct feeling of "I'm as ready as I'm going to be". I've had three good runs in the last seven days.
1) I enjoyed my parkrun tourism on Saturday to Orpington where Strava ambassador and fellow Gatliff participant, John, and I met up for a bit of a chin wag. He went on to smash his PB at Brighton 10k the following day - kudos John!
2) My 11 miler on Sunday was an uplifting experience, being greeted with cheery hellos from many fellow runners and running around the beautiful Danson Park with my mum.
3) On today's 6 mile run I *finally* tested out my camelbak and discovered that it did not chafe or annoy - score! Although drizzly it was beautiful outside, all those golden leaves fluttering down from the trees. I wish I'd taken some photos. I should start doing that.
Winter running. Snug as a bug.
Although my running is almost nonexistent next week it's a busy one, with two trips to London on a school night. I know I should be resting up a bit but there's so much LIFE to fit in! At least one of my social engagements is a swim and sauna evening. I'm in the middle of an assignment for my PT diploma and I'm hoping to use a new book to inspire some more RunFitUK session plans. The taster session is two days after Gatliff... I'm glad I can get away with just demoing the exercises.
Inspiration for RunFitUK sessions
I'm still floundering around with what kit I need for Gatliff. I'm not sure whether to go for trail shoes that aren't reliably blister-free after 12 miles or my road shoes. I know I can wear my camelbak but there's not masses of room in it for snacks so I'll probably take a waist pack as well. How many snacks should I take? Where the heck am I going to put my head torch when I don't need it? I don't have maps! Should I have maps? Bit late now I suppose.
But where will the snacks go!!!!
Maybe there'll be some sort of divine inspiration at the Running & Endurance Show this weekend. I'm missing parkrun so I can make the seminar on Training & Nutrition for Ultra-Running. I've got more daft events in the calendar so it'll be useful for those. I'm looking forward to browsing all the new kit ranges and seeing some familiar faces. My mum's coming along too... although she's meeting me after the seminar ;) If you're planning on being there and want to say hi just look out for the Team Bear hoodie...
Now I've not been pushing it too much but I *am* running Gatlif to fundraise for Hospiscare. I'm trying to raise at least £1,000 by taking part in these challenges. If you can spare even just a few pounds it would be hugely appreciated. You can donate via or by texting  VRUN86 £10 to 70070 to sponsor me £10 (or other amount. I'll be applying for fund matching through my company so every donation will count double!

Thank you.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review : parkrun Barcode T-Shirts

Last year, I think it was at the Running Show (which I’ll be attending again this year in its revised incarnation as the Running & Endurance Show), I discovered that you could get your parkrun barcode printedon a t-shirt. I was really smitten with this idea, more so even than the natty key tags and wristbands that you can buy these days.
At the time I was less smitten with the designs, and the price. My self-laminated-with-sticky-tape barcodes were still going strong and I’d yet to forget it on Saturday morning by virtue of having one everywhere I could think of (key dish, car, sports bag…) So I didn’t buy one. But I didn’t forget about it and when Miles Stronger, the company behind these little beauties, came up with a new colour-way and a discount code I finally ignored the little voice telling me I had enough kit and bought one.
I arrived home from parkrun one Saturday to find it waiting on the doormat. Damn! I had to wait a whole week before I could test it out. Testing day happened to coincide with meeting Strava Ambassador, John Clarke, pre-Gatliff. The distinct design would have made it easy to pick me out of a crowd, had I not arrived at 8:30 before the masses.

I am really impressed with the top. I’m long in the body but it didn’t feel short, the cut was lovely and the fabric wasn’t at all flimsy. The real test... scanning time! There aren’t many of these shorts around and the scanning volunteer at Orpington was rather impressed when I just held out the hem of my shirt. Even more so when it scanned! I’d had my usual barcode as a back up but my text and email results came through as usual so it worked! Now I just have to decide whether to wear my “50” or barcode t-shirt each week.

The shirts cost £35 but are worth the money considering the quality and personalisation. They’re made from proper technical fabric, available in three designs and come in men’s, women’s and children’s cuts.

Miles Stronger also stock the fantastic Chia Charge flapjackbars. I first tried these at the Trailblazer last summer. I really like the consistency and the fact they’re not too sweet, having a bit of sea salt in them. I might be stocking up on some of these for Gatiff… 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Review : Juiven8 Protein Fruit Juice

I've recently been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to try a brand new protein drink that's coming to market. As you know I've tried many other protein products in the past including Natural Whey Company, MyProtein and Everything But The Cow to name a few. In a market crammed with products of this nature, Juiven8 has managed to differentiate itself.
What they sayJuivenis a delicious ready-to-drink protein fruit juice, which helps promote toned bodiesboost workout performance, support weight management and aid post-workout recoveryBlended with real fruit and coconut water, Juiven8 is packed full of antioxidantselectrolytesvitamins and amino acidsAvailable in two fantastic flavours, Juiven8 is available in packs of 250ml bottles - perfect for consuming in the gym, at work, or on the go.

What makes it different:  Out of existing products that I'm familiar with I would have to say that Juiven8 is most similar to Everything But The Cow. Both are ready mixed, fruit based protein drinks but Juiven8 contains coconut water, which EBTC doesn't, and has a higher protein content at 12g vs EBTC's 7g. 

What's in it: Lots of good things but predominately fruit juice, puree and coconut water with a little bit of stevia for natural sweetness. Coconut water is known for being naturally isotonic, rehydrating and rich with natural electrolytes, cholesterol free, 99% fat free, low in carbs and naturally occurring sugars. Depending on which variety you opt for you can also benefit from high fibre and antioxidant acai berry and vitamin C rich blackcurrants or digestion assisting pineapple and immune system-enhancing mangoes providing a hit of vitamins A, B6, C and E.

My verdict: I didn't expect to like these as much as I do. I found them to be delicious and refreshing without the slight heaviness you sometimes get from a protein drink. I thought it more like a smoothie than a whey drink and a great alternative to milk or milkshake based protein drinks. Because it's pre-mixed you don't risk lumps of powder spoiling an otherwise delicious drink.

These have been especially good for me post-workout in the evening. If I've eaten dinner before working out it's nice to have a protein drink afterwards to stave off midnight hunger pangs. My favourite is the Mango and Pineapple variety, not only because I'm a fan of mango but also because it was slightly smoother than the Blackcurrant ans Acai flavour, which have more noticeable bits in it, presumably from blackcurrant skins.

I can't comment on whether or not these live up to any claims about boosting performance and so on, but there are studies that support these claims for protein in general terms so I see no reason why these, in conjunction with a balanced diet and regular exercise wouldn't contribute to recovery, performance and weight management.

At £3.95 RRP these aren't cheap but if you use protein drinks, value natural ingredients and convenience then they might be for you. They are available to order online and will soon be coming to selected gyms and retailers.

If you fancy trying Juiven8 I'm delighted to be able to offer you a 10% discount on all orders until 1st December using code V9CRD4DM7LW1. This can also be used in conjunction with the free shipping that's being offered on packs of 12 or more so there are some good savings to be made. Enjoy!

Find out more about Juiven8 on Facebook and twitter.

Disclaimer: I was sent six bottle of Juiven8 for free in return for writing a review. Opinions are my own.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Loudly Proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!"

This week's training:
Saturday: parkrun
Sunday: Rest day
Monday: 4 mile run
Tuesday:  8 mile run & Body Balance
Wednesday: 6 miles on cross trainer, 5 mile cycle
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: Rest day

Woo! Finally! A good week's worth of training. Much needed after a couple of "off" weeks. It's been cold wet and miserable but I found a way around it - the gym. Now I'm not a fan of running in the gym; give me a cross trainer or a bike though and I'm pretty happy, but if it's between that and not doing anything, then I'll do that. It's warm, dry, safe and makes use of a membership that was neglected over the summer. On the downside I do end up staring at the TV screens and inadvertently getting involved with The Apprentice, Eastenders and all sorts of rubbish. There's a joy in being almost the last one there of an evening and going home to PJs and chai tea in bed.
In my PJs... in the garden, at the weekend with my mum. Girls having fun!
I could have done with an extra day to recover from a weekend of frivolity but it's been an insanely busy week. Making time for exercise was one of the best things I could have done for myself. It may have felt like just one more chore on the list but having nothing to concentrate on but moving is surprisingly rejuvenating. I've even managed to keep up with my meditation and flexibility exercises every day. Juggling work, study, training, hen do arrangements and session planning for RunFitUK not to mention PT sessions, baking a cake and packing for the weekend has been a challenge, not least because it all had to be done before Thursday morning. The urgency was because last night I traveled to my parent's for a weekend of birthday celebrations for my dad. There's a full house so I'm relegated to sleeping in "the music room" in between stacks of CDs, recording equipment and guitars. I'm actually rather looking forward to it.
Tomorrow I'm going to be a parkrun tourist at Orpington. When I'm at my parent's I usually got to Bexley but I'm meeting up with fellow Gatliff-participant, John, for chit chat before the day. It just seemed natural to use parkrun as our meet-up, and it's a great excuse to try a different course.

It's been a mad and productive week but a terrific one and I'm looking forward to next week which will be equally mad. On top of all the usual I've got a couple of reviews to write, a talk on Nutrition at the local bike shop, the Running and Endurance Show, a girl's night in and an afternoon entertaining a 13 year old boy. He's asked if we can bake/make things. Fine by me! Here's to squeezing the most out of life...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Tagnix Watch Tags : ID for Sportspeople

What do you take with you when you go running? If I'm going on a long run, something 12 miles or over, my list looks a little like this:
  • Waist pack
  • Tissue
  • Plasters
  • iPod and/or phone
  • Gels/nakd bars
  • Keys
  • Garmin
That's it, aside from what I wear on my person. A jacket may get tied around my waist and I'll take some hi-viz if it's dark. I occasionally take money and I'll stop in pubs for water (I dislike carrying a bottle and I'm not yet on good terms with my camelbak). If I'm going out for a shorter run the list is more likely to be:
  • Garmin
  • Keys
I'll take my iPod about 50% of the time and rarely take my phone. When you run the same roads, locally, repeatedly, it's easy to become complacent about these things. At this time of year, especially, I should always take my phone, some cash and some ID, just in case something were to happen. I now at least have no excuse not to have some ID on me thanks to tagnix.

Tagnix make a range of ID tags and bracelets that can be engraved with your details so that someone can be contacted and vital medical information is readily available. They already offer shoe tags which would be great for runners, but I know I run in different shoes and it would be easy to forget to switch it over. Even better, in my opinion, are the new watch tags. I am never without my Garmin on a run so having some ID that attaches to it makes perfect sense.
They come in two sizes and a variety of colours and just like all their other products, can be engraved with your choice of details of up to 6 lines of text and 25 characters per line. I've been rocking the wider tag in green for a couple of weeks now. As more of my running takes place after dark this definitely gives me (and my mum) peace of mind.
Barely visible
I got mine engraved with my name, ICE details, NHS number and allergy info but you might want to put your blood type, club details or postcode on there; anything you feel is pertinent. The coloured part of the tag is made of a flexible, silicon-type material, which makes it really easy to slip over buckles and so on, to attach to your watch strap. I have to tuck the end of the strap underneath it every time I fasten the watch but other than that I forget it's there. It just quietly sits there, doing it's job of recording information, and I don't give it any thought. that's exactly what it needs to do.
The metal part hasn't threatened to come away from it's strap, scratched, dented or faded. Of course it's early days but  so far so good.

If you're like me and prefer to travel light or are prone to forgetting to take ID with you, then this would be a great product for you. These aren't expensive and are a good investment.

Tagnix very kindly provided me with a tag to test for free in return for a review. All opinions are, as ever, my own. I genuinely think these rock.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Can I Be Weak?

I won't lie. There's no point, and regular readers have probably noticed anyway. I've been struggling with my training. Dark nights, wet weather, illness... all conspire to sap my motivation and turn determination into despair. It's not long until my first ultra and I know I'm not as prepared as I need or want to be.

My self motivation has been petering out and getting past that has been really tough. I found myself being a little hesitant to ask for help and support in the usual places. As a Personal Trainer and coach it's part of my job to encourage and motivate others. Surely I should be able to do that for myself as well? Can I still be credible if I need to ask for help and support from my friends and social media? A piece of me doesn't feel as though I can admit to this sort of weakness on such a public platform any more. I should be demonstrating enthusiasm, eagerness and strength at all times.

But in reality I am only human and subject to the same barriers as any client I may have. By recognising that I'm struggling, identifying my barriers and the sorts of help I need, I am demonstrating a strength. So what's going on and how am I going to deal with it?

Running Alone: It's easier to make excuses to yourself than someone else and sometimes running alone is just plain boring. Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and go to whatever running club sessions I can that fit with my training plan, just for variety. I know a couple of people at work who could be persuaded to go out for shorter runs at lunchtime. I can badger local people on twitter a bit more and make more use of the RMR group on Facebook to find running buddies.

Time Management: I have a goal and a focus. But there are lots of other things happening in my life right now that threaten to take over. I already try and put my runs into my diary as appointments but it's not fail safe. There's not enough time to put more structured training in place for Gatliff but I can take the lessons learned from this into the next plan. I will have less runs but better quality sessions, targeted strength training and recovery. I will set expectations with friends and family more strongly.

Illness: Not much to be done about this one. Allow time to recover. Pick up where I left off and don't try to cram in missed sessions.

Nerves: I'll get round it, through sheer determination, by repeating the Team Bear motto (suffer but NEVER surrender) and by thinking about my Aunt who was so brave, supportive and strong.

Even writing this down has immediately made me feel more positive about the few weeks of training I have left, and also about my next training phase. If you or someone you know is also struggling, try making a list of issues and solutions. It could be extremely helpful.

Do you have any other tips for overcoming bad patches in training?

Friday, 7 November 2014

How Hard Is It To Take A Sick Day?

This week's training
Saturday: Rest day
Sunday: 12 mile run
Monday: Sick day
Tuesday: Sick day
Wednesday: Flexibility exercises
Thursday:  Hill session, Body Balance & flexibility exercises
Friday: 6 mile run & flexibility exercises

I hate being ill. It doesn't happen often thank goodness but I'm not a good patient. I don't much enjoy the broken sleep, congestion, snotty nose and unpredictable appetite part. I quite like the being-off-work part, although the ability to work from home these days means it's harder to justify taking a proper sick day. And if I can justify a sick day then you can be sure I can't be going out gallivanting around in my running gear. So I fester on the sofa in my sweatpants under a blanket, drifting in and out of consciousness as some Scandinavians try and solve a murder on TV, feeling sorry for myself and thinking of how I could make better use of the time if only I felt well, imagining that my fitness is deteriorating with every minute that passes.

I'll stare out of the window at the glorious sunny day and think how I should be out there making the most of a day off work by doing a long run... completely missing the point of being off sick. I stress about my next race. How will I ever cover the distance now I've missed two, no three, training runs in a row?!
My Monday looked a lot like this.
This is irrational. I need to rest. My body needs to recover, to sleep, to repair. These things happen and the race will be what it will be. I will complete the distance. It may not be comfortable but I know I can do it. Provided I'm sensible. So I've spent some days this week practicing the art of not worrying about my missed training runs and trying to enjoy afternoon naps. I cancelled my long awaited bike maintenance class and caught up on my Nordic Noir instead. I took a few early nights and ate lots of fruit and veg.

I'm grateful that I was able to enjoy my weekend before this, whatever it is, set in. A visit to London to see a friend started on Halloween with pizza and films. Can you believe I've never seen The Addams Family all the way through before? We paid a visit to Tate Britain to see the Turner exhibition (my favourite artist ever since school) and I got all inspired at the European Outdoor Film Tour, which was at the Royal Geographical Society. All the times I've visited the Royal Albert Hall and I never realised the RGS was just around the corner.

I think the illness started to kick in on Sunday. My planned long run turned into 12 miles paced by some Audiofuel. It was good to practice running slowly. While I've been thrilled to be hitting 8:xx miles more regularly that sort of pace won't do me any good on my ultra so it was not a waste of a run at all. I doubt I'll get in the sort of miles I want to before race day now but there's no point fretting. If I don't let myself get better I won't be running it at all.

How do you cope when you're ill?

I'm running Gatliff 50k on November 30th in aid of Hospiscare and in memory of my Aunt. I'd really appreciate your help in trying to raise £1000. If you can spare a few pounds please hop over to my JustGving page to donate. Thank you.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Vegetarian Cooking with Quorn

I've been a vegetarian, by choice, since the age of ten. Becoming vegetarian so young meant that I didn't learn how to cook with meat but started out by using meat replacement products like Sos-mix, TVP and Quorn. Choices were rather limited but I especially liked Quorn because it doesn't have a strong after taste and is great at absorbing flavours. Their mince and chicken pieces were a staple in my freezer. 

Over the years my style of cooking developed and the way I think about putting a meal together now differs from most of my meat-eating friends. I tend to make pulses and vegetables the stars rather than using meat substitute products. But there are a lot more choices these days and every now and then I will pay a visit to the vegetarian sections of the chiller and freezer aisles to see what's new. 

Supermarket own brand products are improving but Quorn are ahead of the game in my opinion. Not only are their products a good, lo-in-saturated-fat source of protein but their range is vast. I've tried many of their sandwich slices, burgers, sausages and fillets but I've also tried some of the more adventurous products such as "pork" pies, "pepperoni" (worked well on pizzas) and "scampi". All good. In fact the only product that I would never return to was their bacon. Most recently I've tried their chorizo sausages.

I can't recall ever eating real chorizo but often come across recipes that use it so was keen to try the vegetarian version. I rather struggled for ideas but hitting the cook books soon turned up a couple of recipes I fancied trying. First up a frittata inspired by a recipe from Jamie at Home. 
I fried half an onion, two sliced Quorn chorizo sausages, a handful of boiled and sliced potatoes and some fresh rosemary over a medium heat until the onion was soft and everything else a little crispy. To this I added four beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked it for a couple of minutes to set the bottom then popped it under a preheated grill until the top was puffed up and golden.
I used blue heritage potatoes for colour and served it with some roasted vegetables, peas, beans and a Leffe Ruby. The chorizo had a lovely smoky flavour and made for a very hearty meal. The frittata was equally tasty served cold with some salad for lunch the next day.
I still had a couple of sausages left so decided to make butter beans with tomato & chorizoThis was proper comfort food and so quick and easy to make! Despite being a small portion the chorizo made it really filling and I thought that the flavour and texture shone through a lot more here. Of course I don't know how the taste and texture compares to the real deal but it was much as I expected it to be, having watched many many cookery programmes. 
This is one of the most interesting Quorn products I've tried lately and I'm considering getting another pack of these sausages so that I can try these spanish rice and all day breakfast recipes. Quorn also do chorizo in slices which might be an interesting addition to a tapas board.

Although I don't expect to suddenly start using a lot more meat replacement products in my cooking it's nice to be able to ring the changes and have some more options available to me, especially when entertaining meat-eaters. I fancy trying the pork steaks, garlic sausage, turkey burgers and Chef's selection meals.

You certainly don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy Quorn. My dad, a dedicated meat-eater in a family of vegetarians, enjoys their pork pies and cooks something he calls gumbo (nothing like the authentic version) with the mince. If you are stuck for inspiration when faced with cooking for a vegetarian why not check out their recipes. Get inspiration for Meat Free Mondays from twitter and get involved on Facebook.

Are you a fan of Quorn? Could you be persuaded? If you're a vegetarian are there any other meat replacement products you'd recommend or do you prefer not to use them at all?
Disclaimer: I was sent vouchers to try a selection of quorn products of my choosing for free in return for writing a review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

I'm sorry about the title, I couldn't help myself. I should also state up front that this post has absolutely nothing to do with running and is picture heavy. I rarely write anything that isn't related to health or fitness but I really wanted to share a bit about my recent jaunt to Copenhagen with a good friend of mine. I spent it mostly in a state of glee, starting with a trip from Heathrow car park on a Pod... have you ever been on one of these? It's like being in the future. These driverless vehicles transport you right to the terminal door. It's awesome.

Our first day was not actually spent in Copenhagen at all. As an avid fan of The Bridge I was thrilled (yes, still) to take a trip on the train over said bridge to Malmo. We spent the day exploring the town, the castle and the museum. We also had the most amazing cheesecake.
The only picture I could get of the bridge...
The most amazing cheesecake. We shared.
Amusingly named restaurant that we didn't patronise.
Can't get away...
The museum consists of about 5 different buildings and numerous exhibitions. It was well worth the entrance fee. One of the most fun was the Technology and Maritime Museum. Here we got acquainted with planes, trains and submarines. Oh and tractors :)
It's not quite a brand new combine harvester...
I miss my bike sometimes.

By chance we visited at one of the times of year when the amusement park, for lack of a better term, Tivoli is open. Tivoli is a magical place full of rides, amusements, stalls, restaurants and theatre that gets decorated according to the season a few times a year and opened up for just a few weeks at a time. I didn't get any really good night shots... but my friend got a brilliant bit of video of the amazing Zombie Dance Show that I hope to get a copy of.
Gateway to wonder land.
We walked a LOT during the rest of our time in Copenhagen. It's a beautiful city. If you've a soft spot for architecture or history there's a lot for you there. If you like cake or dragons there's also a lot for you there. Particular highlights for me were the Round Tower, unexpectedly finding ourselves in the Green Light District in Christiania and Tivoli.
I'd recommend taking one of the canal boat tours and just meandering the streets, especially the side roads. There are an abundance of cool cafes, bars and shops. I found a lot of beauty there.
The Little Mermaid
We were told we should pay a visit to La Glace, a beautiful cake shop that serves around 20 different varieties. Queues stretch out of the door almost all day but it's worth the wait and the staff's efficiency means you have exactly enough time to drool over the window displays before you get seated.

I did think about running while I was away. It was only at the weekend that I saw any significant number of runners. It doesn't seem to be much of a scene but maybe I'm wrong about that. I have said to myself that I'll investigate what races they have over there and maybe use it as en excuse to go back... I was pretty sad to leave, there's more I'd love to explore... and there's lots more cake I want to eat!