Quest bars- a review

I am a bit of a cereal bar addict. There are plenty of bars that I love- nakd bars, pulsin bars, clif bars, bounce bars; I find them perfect for leaving in my bag for a few days until I need a snack (much better than leaving a banana in there to turn brown and squashy). While I was away, Predator Nutrition offered me the chance to review some Quest bars, and because of my love of cereal bars, I agreed.

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They sent me a big selection of flavours!

Quest bars are protein bars (around 20g per bar), that are high in fibre (17g in some bars) and low in sugar (1g in some). They use whey protein, so they are not suitable for vegans. The flavours all sound very tempting- Mint Chocolate Chunk, White Chocolate Raspberry, Peanut Butter Supreme, Apple Pie.

My first impressions were not too good- to me the packaging is really cluttered and it was not easy to see which flavour each one was. Plus the photos of the dessert that the bar was trying to imitate seemed a bit strange- seeing a photo of apple pie with a big scoop of ice cream on it seemed a bit misleading, plus it made me want a proper dessert even more! But that may be just me!

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I packed a Coconut Cashew one when I marshaled at the triathlon, but was so busy I didn’t have the time to try it. Afterwards I had to pop to town to collect an order, so I had some of the bar on my walk back to the car, but I have to say I wasn’t keen. I was really hungry by this point (it was gone 11, and I had been up since before 6 and eaten nothing) so that didn’t help. But it seemed way too chewy, and had a weird metallic tang. When I checked the ingredients I noticed stevia on there, which in the past I have not got on with. But, some of the bars didn’t contain it, so I decided to try one of those next.

2015-09-01 13.28.58Next I tried a Peanut Butter Supreme- this one had no stevia, and I did prefer the taste, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it. The texture was still so chewy and to me it didn’t taste that much like peanut butter. The Vanilla Almond Crunch had no stevia, and the shortest ingredients list, but again, not for me.

Then, I tried an Apple Pie bar as it didn’t contain stevia- it smelled of cinnamon, which I loved, but the taste was just not for me.  I can’t pinpoint it, but they seem to taste too sweet, even though they are low in sugar.

The White Chocolate Raspberry had huge chunks of white chocolate, and freeze dried raspberries, but something in the bar seemed to overpower those flavours.

Finally I tried the Mint Chocolate Chunk, hoping that the mint flavour would overpower the artifical flavour that I kept tasting. The peppermint flavour was good, it had chunks of chocolate cookie or something in there, but I was disappointed as I didn’t like this one either.

I appreciate having the chance to try these, but they are not for me. I am not sure if it is the whey protein (when I tried that before, years ago, I didn’t get on with it), the artificial sweeteners (or I suppose sugar-free sweeteners, as stevia is a leaf so I suppose is “natural”), or the added fibre, but the combination is not for me. I think I will stick to my tried and tested favourite ones, and eat some actual mint chocolate if I want some.

Are you a fan of Quest bars?

* I was sent the bars in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

PS- If you like them, Predator Nutrition have some good deals, including some short dated stock for a reduced price.

Being a fitness first

A while ago I was contacted to see if I wanted to try out a Fitness First gym, and as there is one in the town where I work, so I thought I would give them a go.

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As well as a gym pass, I was sent a rucksack and a fitbit.

This week I went after work on Wednesday, as I needed to get a few bits in town (although I ended up leaving so late, I missed the bank). As I normally run on a Wednesday, I decided to go on the treadmill, and because I am not a huge treadmill fan, I went for a 5K hill session. This made it more interesting as the treadmill kept changing the incline level (at one point I had to slow it down as it was so tough)- I was dripping by the end. I had my phone with me and was trying to listen to podcasts, but even with the volume up at the highest I could not hear it over the sound of the treadmill belt.

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I always feel a bit dizzy after getting off a treadmill too, so walked around a bit before showering and heading home. Now, my first visit wasn’t that great. I think after work is a very busy time, so I had to wait a long time to swap my card over for a pass, and then I was just left to it- I wandered about and found the changing rooms and showers, but had no idea how to work the lockers so had to keep my bags with me- OK in the gym, but the shower cubicles were very small so I had to leave them outside and hope no-one would move them.

It was OK but I would much rather have run a 5k outside. Although I was telling myself that the hill training will help me on Sunday (the first part of the 10 mile route does contain some hills).

Anyway, I decided to give it another go on Friday morning before work (I still went to Body Pump as usual on Thursday as I love that).

2015-07-10 06.37.55I was a bit confused about when to get there- the gym opens at 6, but the car park didn’t open until 7. I really should be in work for 8, so I turned up at 7 on the dot, but I think in fact the car park would have been OK to use earlier as there were already plenty of cars there.

This visit was more successful- the person at the front desk helped me out as on the previous visit it turned out I had been given the wrong card, and should have handed it back when I left (but this wasn’t explained on Wednesday). I was given a quick tour of the gym, shown where the studios were, told how to work the lockers, and then left to it. Although this was useful, it was eating into my time because I had to leave there by 7.45 to get to work. Anyway, after body pump I often get really achy legs, and I didn’t fancy the treadmill again, so I went for a bike this time. I only managed 20 minutes because time was ticking, but it was quite enjoyable. I listened to some marathon talk (the bike doesn’t make much noise) and rushed back for a speedy shower and a change (hooray for dry shampoo as no way did I have time for a hair wash and dry, even though they had nice hairdryers in the changing rooms). As I left I was even shown how to validate the parking (it’s a town centre location so was expensive on Wednesday when I had to park elsewhere).

Now I have a studio timetable, I will have a look and hopefully try out a class, because I think that is what would persuade me more than the equipment. I do want to give yoga or Pilates a try, but I need to work out if I could fit one in this week at some point. The timetable is pretty comprehensive- loads more classes than my local gym, and sorted into morning, afternoon and evening time slots so you can start to work out which one would suit you. There are lots of body pump classes, but I love my instructor and I don’t know if I would like it so much somewhere else.

Anyway, I am very glad I went again, because it was a much better impression this time!

The fitbit has been interesting too. It didn’t come with instructions, just a link to the fitbit setup website, but once that was sorted it seemed to work well. The website dashboard has loads of sections to track different aspects of health- it even tells me how much water to drink in a day! I have my vivofit, so at some points in the day I have been looking at both to compare the steps and distance (although at the moment the distance is in km so I need to work out how to change it) and the steps seem to be fairly similar, although sometimes the fitbit has been a bit higher. More on that once I have used it for a bit longer.

Are you a fan of the gym? Which classes do you prefer? 

*I was sent the pass and fitbit to use in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own.

WR10K 2015

This Sunday I was up bright and early to drive up to Milton Keynes for the Women’s Running 10K race. I did it last year, and really enjoyed it (despite not being sure if I would like a women’s only race- and yes I know I have now joined a women’s running club but they are the only running club in my town, and also I love them).

Last year Andy dropped me off, as it was a Saturday and he was off to watch the qualifying at Silverstone. I got a taxi to the shops after (I had illusions of walking the 1.5 miles, but realised I would get hopelessly lost, and it was raining, and I was tired…)- by the time he picked me up I was a bit grumpy- shops on a Saturday are not my thing, and especially not lugging around my stinky running clothes. Anyway, back to this week.

The race had moved to a Sunday after their feedback from last year- so I drove myself as Andy had no idea when the race would end, plus after last year I didn’t want to hang around too much.

I listened to Marathon talk in my car (oh, I am loving the novelty of being able to play podcasts through the stereo system), and arrived with about 45 minutes to spare.

2015-07-05 09.26.40I had a walk to the lake, and to the real toilets in the park (they did have port-a-loos but there was a big queue and I would rather wait until the end of the race than use one), and then headed to the bag drop, where I came across my lovely OH ladies run leader- I knew she was marshaling but didn’t expect to see her there!

I joined in with the warm up, which was actually pretty good, led by a runner (she worked for the WR magazine and had run distances from 5K up to ultras, so she knew her stuff)- no leisure centre aerobic warm-ups here.

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This year they had introduced a 5K option at each race (and if you wanted to swap from 10 to 5 on the day, you could, you just had to get a new number), and so the 5K was one lap, and the 10K was two laps of the lake. Everyone started together, but they only had pacers for the 10K times, so they were saying if you were aiming for a 30 minute 5K, go with the 60 minute pacer etc.

I decided to aim for an hour, and keep with the 60 minute pacer. It was cloudy, but very muggy so I didn’t know how I would cope in the heat. I thought that if I was feeling OK I would try to speed up a bit in the second lap.

The course is really good- it is all on footpaths around the lake. I saw some geese and their goslings, and lots of people were out supporting. The final part of the lap is lovely as it goes through some woods. I kept behind the 60 minute pacer for the first lap, along with a big crowd of other women. The pacer was lovely- really encouraging, and even reminding us to keep tall as we ran up inclines (it is flat, but every now and then you run up and down sort of bridge things- they go over storm drains into the lake or something- basically like running down and up an underpass). I looked at my watch a few times and saw 9.30ish pace, so I knew I was OK for around the hour. There were marshals at very frequent points, and I liked to think I knew the parkrunners as they all said “thank you marshal” to each one. I saw lots of Redway Runners, and realised the reason for their name at long last- Redways are paths around Milton Keynes. I have seen them (the runners, not the paths) at local races before but never worked out the reason for the name!

I got a bit of a stitch around the 4.5K mark, but managed to run on- and I saw my run leader as I passed the half way point so that gave me a boost. I was feeling OK, and although it was muggy there seemed to be a bit of a breeze on the second lap. The big group of runners diminished a bit as some of them were doing the 5K, but it was still a bit congested so I went a bit ahead of the 60 minute pacer then. I could still hear her behind me and it was nice to hear her encouragement still.

At the 5 mile point my watch beeped and I had been running for 47 minutes, so I knew that even if I slowed down a lot I should manage the sub 60, although sometimes this does not help as then I get a bit of an adrenaline rush. I got a stitch at the 9.5K point too- no idea why as that was a flat part through the woods.

I really like the two lap route, and the second lap always feels faster because you know exactly where you are going, so the finish line seemed to appear suddenly, and by that point there were loads of people out supporting. A few people put on mega sprints to pass me with a few metres to go, but I was happy to finish strong. The announcer was calling everyone’s names as they came up to the finish which was a nice touch.

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My run leader was handing out bottles of water, so I had a quick chat before collecting my goody bag, t-shirt, drink and ice cream, and sitting down on the grass to stretch for a bit, and rest.

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The marshals had lovely purple technical t-shirts, and I was hoping for one of those, but ours were white. Still nice, The protein ice cream was disgusting though! I was given banoffee flavour, and I am not a fan of banana flavoured things, but this just tasted almost bitter it was so artificial. And with a very weird texture too. I won’t be having that again! Ice cream should be a nice treat I think and should not contain whey protein isolate or xylitol.

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The goody bag was pretty good- (ha ha, like the name)- two magazines, dried mango, teapigs tea, foot lotion, gel, rehydration tabs, a hairband, crackers and popchips (I ate those in the shopping centre). No banana through 🙁  I got someone friendly to take my photo on the stage.

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I had packed a  nuun tab, so I had that in my water right away. As well as the mouthful of gross fake ice cream, I had a sip of the soya drink they were also handing out, but again it wasn’t good. After cheering some runners over the line, I went back to the real toilets to change- I always feel a million times better after a face-wipe and change of clothes.

I chatted a bit more to my run leader- there were still people finishing (this was around 100 minutes after the start time) so she was still handing out water. I had some malt loaf in my bag so had that as my post race snack as I didn’t fancy any of the bits in the bag.

Earlier in the week I was set on driving straight home, but I had taken the postcode for the parking just in case, and was glad I had, as I was quite hungry, thirsty, and needed to get a few end of term presents.

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After getting a bit stressed with finding the parking (it is very weird in Milton Keynes- it seems like you park next to offices, and all the roads look the same, and the shopping centre is partially/ mostly hidden from the road, I headed to Starbucks for a sit down.

I ended up shopping for another hour or so- (I was very pleased as I managed to get everything on my list and didn’t get too stressed) by the time I had driven home (another hour) it was late in the afternoon, and we were going to Andy’s parent for dinner so it was too late for lunch. I had a cup of tea after my shower, and that gave me an energy boost for a bit!

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The medal is engraved with the date and place on the back, which is a nice touch. Although it was hard to photograph!

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I got a text through saying my time was 59.09. I am pleased with that time (a whole 10 seconds faster than last years time) but I think they mean gun time. We did run over a mat at the start, and I didn’t try to be too far forwards as with a chip it doesn’t matter. I pressed my Garmin as I crossed the mat both times- but there is nearly 20 seconds different (plus everyone has the same start time if you look at the results, whereas in fact it would have taken a bit of time to cross)- so I think this must be because the start mats didn’t work. (Strava thinks 58.44 so even quicker). I don’t mind because I still got in under the hour, but I am not sure if the 60 minute pacer would have made the  60 minute gun time, which would be disappointing if that is what you were aiming for.

On the whole this event was really good, and I am glad I went there again this year. Parking is right by the start, the bag drop worked smoothly, the warm up was good, the support was good, the route is nice, the goody bag is good, the medal is pretty, and you get a technical t-shirt.

However, the technical t-shirt is quite short- I might save it for an extra winter layer. They could do with sorting the chip timing, and a changing tent would be good . But those are small things and I would look at another one of their events next year.

What makes a great race for you? I prefer the smaller races, I always love a technical t-shirt, and a pretty route helps too.

Getting some speed back

After feeling like I would never recover from Brighton, I am feeling like I am nearly there now.

The last few weeks have gone like this:

5 mile Tuesday night club run which was hard, but made me confident I would be OK for the 10k at the weekend. Then 4.2 mile SRC run on the Wednesday, Body Pump on the Thursday, and then rest days (well, lots of walking on the Saturday) before the 10k on the Sunday. I was so pleased with how it went- I knew I wouldn’t get a pb but the more I think about it (I was under the hour) the more pleased I am, because for years I tried to get that sub 60 time, and this was not an easy course, especially with that bridge.

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This week went:

Monday- Rest

Tuesday- OH run – interval training. We did 3.4 miles alternating walking (pumping out our arms), gentle running, and sprinting, even doing this up the final hill. Tough, but good. We were even given homework of 50 squats per night! I didn’t manage them on Tuesday, but I have since then.

Wednesday- SRC- managed to persuade my running buddy to come along, hoping it would be the fields (phew, it was)- lovely to run and chat, ended up doing 4.8 miles.

Thursday- Pump was not on, so we went to the allotment instead.

Friday- Rest. Waffle House after work.

Saturday- I got an email from parkrun wishing me a happy birthday! So it would have been rude not to go!

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The bluebells were still all out, it is just so pretty there. I saw another OH lady there so we had a chat at the start. I wasn’t aiming for anything, but the ground was nice and hard (no slippery mud in sight) and I was going pretty fast. I made myself not look at my watch as I have a tendency to panic if I think I am going to get a pb (I am not good with the adrenaline rush). Anyway after pulling some awful faces running up the final hill, and crossing the line, my watch said 27 something, so I was keeping my fingers crossed.

I caught up with the club runner, and then treated myself to a chai latte from the coffee van, before walking back.

Later on, the text came through- 27.44 which is a course pb, and my fastest time this year (and I have been to the other one, although I could not remember why, and just realised it was part of a 12 mile run so that may be why I didn’t go too fast). Anyway, still brilliant.

What I had planned to do this weekend is 8 or 9 miles, but we are going away tomorrow so I will have to see what time we get home on the Monday. The half marathon I am signed up for is not until June, but we are going away at the end of May, so will miss two weekends for that, and the weekend after our holiday I am doing a 10k, so I actually only have this weekend, and the next two for long weekend runs. Hmm. Not ideal- may have to do some longer ones after work. Although I suppose when I was marathon training I did some 8 milers in the evening, so it is possible….

How are you spending the long weekend?

Penultimate week

Although Jantastic has finished, I have enjoyed doing these weekly reviews for my marathon training. Last weekend I did my long run on the Saturday, to combine it with parkrun, so on Sunday I only did a short run (I was relieved as the weather was horrible- so windy and rainy). I then went out for breakfast with friends- the place even had a log fire burning- very cosy indeed.

Monday: I kept it as a rest day, although my long run had been earlier, I don’t do too well running more than 2 days in a row.

Tuesday: OH ladies run. Most of the runners cancelled for various reasons, so it ended up being just two of us. We did an out and back, fairly hilly course, and both of us were surprised with how fast we went (I think we were trying to outrun the wind and storms that kept blowing over). 3.5 miles in 34 minutes- not bad considering the hills.

Wednesday: Nothing. I was going to run, but work has been so manic and I felt exhausted, so was sensible and rested.

Thursday: Body Pump. Also the start of the Easter holidays at long last!

Some yummy chocolates and cards from people at work:

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Friday: 4 mile run first thing- it had stopped raining so dashed out before it started again. Achy legs from pump meant it was a bit slower but not too bad (41 mins I think). Later on we walked around the town and did a bit of shopping.

Saturday: Parkrun! Hooray!  Just me this week, but I met a running buddy at the start line- she is usually faster than me but had hurt her knee and had not run for a few weeks, so we ran together, chatting (well, at times- not on the hills!)- very enjoyable and I think my third fastest time at Panshanger. Later on, more walking as on Friday my click and collect order was lost, so I had to go back.

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I won some Hot Cross Bun tea from the Bluebird Tea facebook page (the awesome tea shop in Brighton) and it came on Saturday, so we enjoyed a pot of that in the afternoon. Scrumptious! 

Sunday: 8 mile run. I decided to do an out and back route, because my usual loop is closer to 9, with added optional extras, and I wanted to be sensible. I decided to aim for 10 minute miles, and apart from the first two (and at the start of the second I had to slow to take my jacket off) they all began with a 9. I felt good.  Just two more and a bit to go next weekend…

While I was out my phone beeped, and when I got home I saw it was a reminder for the marathon next weekend (as if I could forget). I listened to the latest Marathon Talk (well, the first 80 minutes) and their training talk was just what I needed to hear. They were talking about long runs, and how to approach the final few long runs (a bit late for me to change anything, but it helped to set my mind at ease). They did have a rule of thumb for the longest 3 runs to total 60 miles, and mine don’t quite (I think they total 58), but they were also talking about going beyond 20 (I did- 0.6 beyond!) and not going on time but going on miles (which I also have done). Some more reflecting will come later in the week, but I am feeling alright about the training now it is basically done.

So, 4/4 runs. 18.7 miles.

Most of the people I know training for marathons are training for London, so they are still in full swing, and it does feel a bit strange having less miles to run, but I am trying to embrace it and trust in my plan.

How have you been spending the long weekend?