Wednesday, December 2, 2015

TimeOut Christmas Burger Challenge

TimeOut London released a posting titled the 'The Best Christmas Burgers in London' and I knew I found a challenge worth doing. I needed to come up with a scoring system that highlighted not only the taste of the burger but also how "Christmass-y" it was. All will be out of 10. The final score will be an average of all 5 sections.

Note: Now that I have finished this challenge, I am debating my scoring system. The 'worth the commute' really only applies to me, so why do you guys care about that? My thoughts on price also varied based on if I was at a location for lunch or dinner. All-Star Lanes for example, I think £14 for dinner to be quite acceptable. I almost feel the main thing people would care about is taste with maybe price being a secondary factor.

TLDR -> Here are my rankings for the Christmas Burger Challenge. Ranked from worst (10) to best (1). #5 and onwards are all tied for 9/10 in terms of taste, so I based the rankings from there based on Christmas factor. Don't let that stop you from trying them all though-- every single one had something that made it fantastic.

9. Reindeer Burger at Lucky Chip
8. Christmas Burger at Bobo Social
7. XXXMas Burger at Meat Market
6. Turkey Dinner Burger at All-Star Lanes
5. Crimbo Burger at Bird
4. Christmas Special at Honest Burger
3. Christmas Burger at Hawksmoor
2. Christmas Special at BurgerShack
1. Christmas Burger at Haché

Rules for Rating

  • Price: These things do matter
  • Worth the Commute: Traveling an hour for a sub-optimal burger is depressing
  • Major Ingredients: What's in this bad boy?
  • Taste: Obvious
  • Christmas Factor: Ho ho or humbug?

Burger #1 of 9: Crimbo Burger at Bird (7.8/10)

Price: £12 (with parsnip crisps)
     Score: 7/10
The 'green' is one of my five a day....
Worth the Commute: Working in the City made this about a 15 minute walk from the office.  Good as it helps to walk off some of dinner.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Fried chicken breast with cranberry glaze, sage and onion stuffing, deep fried brie, and topped with bacon wrapped jalepeños.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Out of this world. The deep fried brie paired with the cranberry glaze really takes this sandwich to another level. The chicken was incredibly crispy but the meat still maintained it's juiciness. It is quite a beast to devour so go easy on the appetisers- but don't NOT get chicken wings, definitely do. They are fantastic.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: Well-- the cranberry sauce is definitely Christmas, but chicken is not. Parsnips are fall/winter but again-- is that enough? To be fair I barely tasted the stuffing within all the cranberry and brie goodness. Not sure how Christmas works in your house, but bacon wrapped jalepeños is typically not on our menu.
     Score: 6/10

Burger #2 of 9: XXXmas Burger at Meat Market (7.6/10)

This ain't a beauty contest... and it shows!
Price: £8.50 (no sides)
     Score: 8/10
Worth the Commute: This worked well as we needed to do some Christmas Shopping around Covent Garden. Do not fear though, the Meat * enterprise has multiple locations dotted around London (just may want to check they have this before trudging over there.
     Score: 7/10
Major Ingredients: Sliced turkey, sausage & sage stuffing, cranberry sauce, bacon, gravy.
     Score: 8/10
Taste: The turkey was a tad dry (dangers of sliced turkey), however the
cranberry sauce and gravy offset that quite well. I can see the gravy being a bit dangerous as adding too much would sacrifice the structural integrity of the burger. Maybe offering some on the side in case people wanted a bit more would not go amiss. The stuffing was also quite moist and savoury, it came through quite well in the burger. I am not sure how they made a round piece of bacon-- but they did and it was wonderful. I kept thinking it would make a brilliant breakfast sandwich...
     Score: 7/10
Christmas Factor: We got turkey, stuffing, and cranberry, and no pretension of health. Deck the halls!
     Score: 8/10

Burger #3 of 9: Christmas Burger at Haché  (8.6/10)

Note-- This was a substitution from the Byron Burger listed on the Time Out article. As it even mentions, there is nothing extremely Christmass-y at all about it, and after seeing Haché's one being advertised, would make a solid contender. 

Price: £10.95 (no sides)
     Score: 8/10
This will make anyone love sprouts...
Worth the Commute: There are quite a few Haché's around (but none in my neck of the woods but
there is one quasi close to work is neighbor Shoreditch) but its worth the commute for sure.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Fried turkey patty (not ground, think like a chicken burger but turkey), pork and sage stuffing patty, pigs in blankets, Cranberry sauce,grilled Brussel sprouts 
     Score: 8/10
Taste: Oh me oh my-- this was fantastic. The fried turkey was moist, with the sprouts adding a bit of crunch to the entire burger. A nice slathering of cranberry sauce (more like a jam) and a flavourful stuffing patty, not dry one bit. The pigs in the blanket were just a happy bonus to make my eyes twinkle like the Star of Bethlehem. Quite filling even without sides, although the Truffle Fries did sound fantastic.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: This ticks all the boxes.  Although I do not do fried turkey for my holiday, I feel they are definitely in the spirit of the thing. Also, deep fried turkey is delicious and this is simply a smaller scale of that. If I was Saint Nick-- this would be a great way to break up the monotony of cookies and milk being left out for me.
     Score: 10/10

Burger #4 of 9: Reindeer Burger at Lucky Chip (6.4/10)

Price: £11.50 (no sides)
Pretty bad picture, and a pretty bad burger IMO
     Score: 6/10
Worth the Commute: I would not call Islington 'close' to our flat, but we happened to be in the area for watching a film. And let's be honest, its much easier to get to than Stoke Newington (where another Lucky Chip resides)
     Score: 6/10
Major Ingredients: Reindeer, (yes you read that right) Applewood smoked bacon, stilton, blueberry and blackberry gin jam, and aioli on rocket
     Score: 7/10 (-3 for taste mismatch)
Taste: This should have been the winner. In fact, starting this challenge up I was almost sure of it. I was so excited to try this burger. However, the issue with stilton is its saltiness-- and paired with the bacon pushed it well over the top for me. The gin jam added an extra taste sensation, well I would have imagined it would if not overpowered so completely by the cheese. The ONE time I would say cheese did not fit.     
    Score: 3/10
Christmas Factor: Again this ticks the boxes, its freaking reindeer. Shame it tasted so bad.
     Score: 10/10

Burger #5 of 9: Christmas Special at Honest Burger (8.0/10)

Taste perfection
Price: £12 (with rosemary chips)
     Score: 8/10
Worth the Commute: Cheated a bit here as I had it delivered to my office, but its pretty much on the other side of Liverpool Street station-- a brisk 10 minute London pace from the office.
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Beef patty, deep fried brie, bacon, cranberry sauce, rocket
     Score: 8/10 
Taste: This class, is the proper use of cheese on a burger. Bird and HB are on track with the winning taste combo of deep fried brie and cranberry. This burger sang to me. The meat was just fantastic; moist and well cooked.      
    Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: Like Bird, I am not sure how Christmass-y a beef burger is. If you would have made this a reindeer burger it would have probably won hands down.  An extra point over its competitor though as it least it kept with the central theme (no bacon wrapped jalepeños).
     Score: 7/10

Burger #6 of 9: Turkey Dinner Burger at All-Star Lanes (7.8/10)

That gravy for dipping!!
Price: £14.00 (with sweet potato fries)
     Score: 6/10 
Worth the Commute: Just a bit too far from the office for a sub hour lunch break. Required massive power walking, which was good because I did just eat deep fried turkey.
     Score: 7/10
Major Ingredients: Fried turkey burger, stuffing, Monterey Jack cheese, treacle-cured bacon, cranberry, skewered with a pig in a blanket. Served with French dip gravy
     Score: 9/10 
Taste: After gawking at the price (my fault for doing it during lunch), this burger was pretty epic. They molded the turkey burger with the stuffing to form one patty, ensuring seamless integration and delight to the taste buds with every bite. Again, the cranberry did an excellent job of adding a bit of bite to the burger. To be honest, didn't even taste the cheese. Serving with gravy is a stroke of genius.
    Score: 8/10
Christmas Factor: Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry, AND a pig in a blanket. Jingle my bells!
     Score: 9/10

Burger #7 of 9: Christmas Special at Burger Shack in the Royal Oak (7.8/10)

Don't judge a book by its cover!!
Price: £10 (no sides)
     Score: 7/10
Worth the Commute: Quite the commute for me no matter how you slice it. I feel this place is worth the trip. I also managed to pair a Christmas Run near the pub so it was not so bad. I really like this pub anyways, great selection of beer and friendly staff. If you live near Baker Street/Marylebone, this lovely drinking/eating establishment should be a firm favourite.
     Score: 6/10
Major Ingredients: Turkey patty, pork/sage/onion patty, bacon, crispy fried onions, bread sauce and topped with cranberry/port ketchup. The only burger place to have the balls to use sloppy bread sauce. This burger will not win any beauty pageants-- but no one should care about that.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Once again, Burger Shack does not fail to please. Even after my run-- this filled me up quite nicely. The bread sauce made the burger start to fall apart-- but you know what, that did not bug me at all. I just scooped that all up as it was too delicious to leave. The fried onions were a fantastic touch, it actually reminded me more of Thanksgiving than Christmas.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: The bread sauce puts this burger squarely in the Christmas quadrant. I am sure Santa would not be upset if this was left for him in lieu of cookies.
     Score: 8/10

Burger #8 of 9: Christmas Burger at Bobo Social (6.0/10)

Price: £13 (no sides)
An artform does not a Christmas burger make...
     Score: 5/10
Worth the Commute: Goodge street? Ugh. Wrong side of the Northern Line for me and bit of a pain even from work.
     Score: 5/10
Major Ingredients: Beef burger stuffed with stilton and roasted chestnuts, and topped with poached pear. This bad boy definitely raised an eyebrow.
     Score: 8/10
Taste: After the Lucky Chip debacle, I was wary about the Stilton. However, the poached pear did exactly what it should and provide a sweet offset to the salty yet wonderfully smooth cheese. A very buttery brioche nestled everything together. I only mention it because it was quite pronounced. A very tidy burger. Did not taste the chestnuts. Would probably not order it again, but they had some much tastier sounding burgers on their main menu.
     Score: 7/10
Christmas Factor: Well, considering I couldn't taste the main Christmas foodstuff, chestnuts, I guess in the end this turns out to be an interesting, posh, expensive burger.
     Score: 5/10

Burger #9 of 9: Christmas Burger at Hawksmoor (7.4/10)

Price: £14 (no sides)
     Score: 4/10
Worth the Commute: This burger is only available at the Spitalfields (after 1730) or Knightsbridge (lunch onwards) but luckily the Spitalfields branch is close to the office!
     Score: 8/10
Major Ingredients: Two patties, one turkey and one ginger pig, cheese, cranberry ketchup, sausage gravy for dipping. Allegedly there was supposed to be bacon and sprouts, but neither myself or my burger co-hort tasted this. We did not care.
     Score: 9/10
Taste: Let's be honest, we knew this was going to be expensive and delicious. I definitely went nuts with the gravy. I lost structural integrity about 2/3 of the way and resorted to fork. The was fine because I could get more gravy that way. I was slightly miffed the gravy did not have sausage chunks as everyone else seemed to talk about in their reviews. It was still slurp-able. The sausage patty has a wonderful heat to it, really pairing well with the smooth cheese and tangy cranberry ketchup.
     Score: 9/10
Christmas Factor: If I was Santa, I would never restrict this burger to just Christmas.
     Score: 7/10

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Running in Ottawa -- Finding Inspiration

Sometimes its the shorter runs that make you feel, "Wow I am so happy I am a runner". That can take a lot for most people to say and can easily be cast aside if not careful. Once the title 'runner' is lost it can be hard to FEEL like a runner again.

I was in Ottawa for a few days visiting friends. I have never been before, so I was eager to explore. One absolutely amazing thing about Ottawa is the vast green spaces and trails interwoven in and around the city. Our friends explained that Ottawa for a long time has a protected Green Belt (equivalent to London's Green Belt) that is owned by the City. They have also built their impressive Transitway upon this land, meaning little to no houses were affected by the building. What is this transitway? Its like a highway for buses and emergency vehicles ONLY. That means less congestion on Ottawa's roads.

Anyways this Green Belt is connected via paths and trails, not to mention the canals and river have their own respective walkways. How much you ask? About 150km worth (93 miles). What's even better is that one can take the 'O Train' to the Ottawa River waterfront.

My three runs in Ottawa utilised this Green Belt to (what I feel) is a good extent. I did a run to an old Quarry (Conroy Pit) and enjoyed some light trail running. The quarry also allowed for dogs off their lead, but when I saw a dog who looked excited to see a running thing I simply slowed down and held my hand out. They sniffed and moved on (guess I am not exciting). However I just loved the trail, it was great having the exhilaration of trail running on a sunny but chilly day. Everything seemed perfect!

The last run I did involved running along the Ottawa river to Parliament, then a quick huff and puff up to Nepean Point near the National Gallery of Canada. The view, even on a bit cloudier day than the previous, was fantastic. It's views like this that reaffirm your love of running :)

Hate to say it but I do not do so well on out and back runs-- I like to make a loop or mix it up whenever possible. So I decided to follow the Rideau Canal back to the O-Train. Again, lovely pathways and bridges all the way along and people saying 'Good Morning' (it IS Canada!).

If you happen to find yourself in Ottawa-- do definitely bring your running gear, you will NOT be disappointed!

Good Running Routes

  • Rideau Canal: easy to navigate and various connection points to the Green Belt
  • Ottawa River: always pretty easy to navigate a river ;) 
  • If you are lazy and are near an O-Train you can follow my 10k route, starting at Bayview and ending at Carling
  • Green Belt: Obviously check where you are staying but chances are there is a green spot not far away!
  • Gatineau Park: On the Quebec side of Ottawa -- could not make it this trip but it looks fantastic!
Where to Eat/Drink Back Calories:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding Inspiration

I see on the Twit-o-verse (is that a thing?) quite a few times of people in a slump and looking for inspiration. I thought it may be good to compile a by no mean exhaustive list of potential inspiration points. Hopefully this will help someone get their running mojo back!

Variety is the spice of life
I think I have one of the best standard running routes - the Thames. I feel like I know the section between Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge like the back of my shoe. That being said, even I get bored of it sometimes!

I try and have my LSR (long slow runs) in a different location/route. Living where I am I am pretty spoilt for choice. MapMyRun has a route genius that you can use to find new runs in the area, or you can plot out your own with their online tool. Or if visiting somewhere completely new, Google and Twitter are your friends!

The point of this is to get a change of scenery. If you are typically a city runner, try a route in the countryside or vice versa. Try a different neighbourhood. Keeping your eyes stimulated will keep your feet moving, and you will be looking forward to what's over the next hill/bend :)

Moose recommends for Londoners:  Limehouse Cut Canal, Regents Canal, any part of the Thames Path (if you hate crowds, avoid Southbank unless its very early), South Downs/Box Hill

Hills/Track Repeats
Speaking of hills (*groan*) yes, yes I know many people hate them. To be honest though they keep a route interesting and typically give you a nice reward when you hit the top (a view!). I like the idea of meeting someone at the top of a hill with a nice picnic as a post-run reward (only after you go up and down a few times of course!).

Along those lines, track repeats, though they sound boring, keep you on a pace for a certain duration of time, typically outside of your comfort running zone. This is how strength and endurance is built. Think of it as a challenge! You do not have to do it on a track, but it makes its a lot easier for figuring distance. I find the best time to do this is when its horrible weather out and you are stuck in the gym.

Moose recommends for Londoners:  Primrose Hill, Greenwich, Epping Forest (not too crazy hills, but nice undulating ones), Richmond Park

I know some races you cannot use headphones, but in training music can really help in squeezing out the last ounce of strength in a run. Nike+ had (and probably still has) a 'PowerTrack' you could automatically queue up if in a slump. Having a driving baseline can get your pace in the right place. The Spotify Running program determine the BPM based on your pace (think it only records it at the beginning though so from that point on its a constant). Be sure to add/remove tracks so to keep things interesting!

Moose recommends (for kick it up a notch running): 'London Can Take It' by Public Service Broadcasting, 'Call on Me' by Eric Prydz, 'My Generation' by Limp Bizkit, 'Bangarang' by Skrillex, 'Dyers Eve' by Metallica

There are probably quite a few different running podcasts out there but its amazing how just hearing/reading about other people running can influence you! Running websites and magazines help you keep up to date on upcoming events, and can include very good race reports, which is important if you are on the limb about signing up. is just one example of a 'race report' website. Podcasts help you realise that there are so many others out there like you with running gripes and fears-- and hearing them discussed is a relief!

Moose recommends: MarathonTalk podcast. A weekly podcast by two runners talking about running news, events, and interviews. Not being a marathoner myself (yet) I feel a bit cheeky, but I have gotten so much inspiration listening to these guys and the people they interview-- you just want to get out and run!

Group/Solo Running
The point of this is to try the opposite of what you normally do. Either one can sound daunting, but just give it a shot and you may be amazed at how much more you enjoy running. I know this is something I need to work on, as I am a solo runner and want to try and do more group runs. My reason (excuse?) is that I like to run on my own schedule, but I know if i find a group I really like it will become part of my schedule.  I also have no excuse for different days as I have three different runs clubs operating almost every day of the week near me. Time to nut up or shut up :)

Other Runners (normal to extraordinary)
Everyone runs for a reason. Many of these people blog about this, and many are doing some pretty inspirational goals for a great cause. On Twitter this is very prevalent. It is amazing to read of the trials and tribulations that led people to the runs they are doing-- its a selfless thing. Maybe you can gain motivation from them and donate or you can research a charity you are passionate about and race under their banner. Either way your soul will feel much better!

There are also what I call 'extreme runners', or people doing some crazy things that most of us would consider 'a bit off the deep end' but actually have a sense of utmost respect for what they are doing. They are all over the charts: 52 marathons in 52 weeks, 10 marathons in 10 days, running 18000 km from Canada to Buenos Aires, running the South West Coastal Path... (the last two I heard about on the MarathonTalk podcast)

If they can do it-- surely you can fit a run into your day?

Take a Break
It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes you need a break to re-assess why you want to run in the first place. The break could a day, a week, or a month. You can also cut back on running and try a different activity. Boxercise, swimming, cycling-- mixing it up in your exercise routine can give you that extra push in your running.

Ultimately, you are responsible for you. If you are unhappy with how you look, how you feel, your mentality... YOU need to change something in your life. Your partner can't do it for you, nor can your parents or pets (although they certainly can help!). If running was easy, we would all be Paula Radcliffe's or Mo Farah's. The only way to improve is to change your self, understand your weaknesses, and work to improve them.

Moose says: You never regret going for a run, you always regret when you don't

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wandering the Wandle

I cringe when people say that running in London is boring. I really cannot fathom why anyone would say it. Sure it doesn't have the stunning views of peaks, but honestly not many places in Southern England do. I love its varied terrain and surprise hills (well love on the latter is a string term). I also become indignant when people moan about the lack of green space in our fair city.

According to the Independent, "47% of London is green space" (source: Sure this was in 2014... but it cannot of changes that much! I will admit while working in the City its very hard to believe that number, but you just need a map and a tiny sense of adventure. And Oyster card helps too :)

This weekend I did 'Wandle Trail' which is an 11.68 mile trail going from Croydon to Wandsworth Town. I took the train from London Bridge and in about 30 minutes (and one change) I was in Waddon trying to find the start of the run. I am not going to lie, I was stopping a lot and checking my GPX route I found a link to from this Guardian article. I felt like I was following the Wandle Trail signs, but then checking my GPS it was saying I went off track.

It was only after going in a loop (literally) that I stopped and had a think. I whipped out my paper map I printed out (yes folks, I had a backup because YOU NEVER KNOW) and noticed that my GPX was for bicycles, hence not exactly following the Wandle Trail footpath. Once I decided which one to follow (cycle path 20) all my issues suddenly disappeared and I was off.

There was so much green on this run it was great, and had I chosen the actual footpath there would have been very little road running. The few sections I did have on road all had pavements so it was safe. Plenty of other people out as well, so never got the 'creepy isolation vibe'. Morden Hall Park was amazing and would be great for a run in its own right. I also found out Mr. Moose's dad used to do cross country running there when he was secondary school-- which made the run even more awesome because it was a bit of family history that I didn't know about.

Things obviously got a bit back to reality again in Wandsworth Town, but I was lucky as there was a coffee shop and biltong stand (two separate stalls-- would be weird combo) right outside the station! So I got my protein and caffeine all in one easy go.

I am a huge fan of varying your running routes to keep things interesting. I encourage people to find a path near you and give it a go. If unsure, Google is your friend as are running stores near you. Heck they probably have their own group runs in case you are nervous venturing out on your own!

Here is my route in case interested... my loop added about another mile to my run, which was fine by me as it allowed me to see some pretty parks and lakes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Running in a Herd

Mrs. Moose flips through her Running Guide to London Book...

"I think I am going to go do Petts Wood and Jubilee Park tomorrow. I think I can make it a 10 miler if I loop both"

Mr. Moose looks up from his computer screen, and tentatively asks...

"Can I join you?"

This was one of the best questions my husband ever asked me (besides the obvious one of 'will you marry me'). I have always felt pangs of guilt as I would jog away from him to take my place on the starting line of a half, and always wished he would give it a try himself. I would never race WITH him.. no no, I want to have a LONG and PEACEFUL marriage. Knowing he is running the same race as me however I would find very motivating and we could then celebrate together. He is slowly getting back into running after a long hiatus, so I am silently hopeful. Supportive but not pushy.

"Of course!" I say delighted.

There are certain things everyone in a group run (be it 2 or 20 people) must understand on the get go. These are more guidelines really, as some running clubs can be very competitive (causing most of these rules to fly out the window). Think of this as more 'running with mates'.
  1. ONE person leads. The last thing you want is a quarrel mid run. Just roll with it unless there is some major deviation. Believe me, the leader will feel silly and buy you a beer afterwards. 
  2. Be flexible. This seems a bit weird after Rule One, but sometimes NOT following a path can lead to wonderful views, tucked away pubs, animal sightings, etc. 
  3. Long runs are not meant to be race runs. Its good to settle on a pace range before setting off, but don't suddenly try and take lead. It's weird and causes aggro. 
  4. If you are running with mixed abilities, don't get angry if the final distance was way shorter than your desired goal. You can always get more miles in-- group runs are about camaraderie
  5. Let people know if you will be stopping and taking pictures. People can then get a free 'slow' pace whilst waiting and then you simply catch up. Back in the game!
I am not use to running with others on non-race days (moose are quite isolated creatures), but I really enjoyed running with my other half. We both had headphones on but its was reassuring to have him there, especially when we did get a tad lost (yes yes I was leading...). He likes a bit more structure to his runs (a set, known path that can be easily followed) but we made it work, and I felt I could help him pace himself.. leading to his longest run in a while. He helped me by being there in the peripheral vision-- willing me forward on the inclines (I can't let him see I am tired!!)

We got off at Chiselhurst and the Wood literally started across the road. It was bit confusing at first (where does this trail start??) but we eventually found the Petts Wood Circular Trail and set off on it. We passed horses, cows, sheep, and an amazing house that looked like it belonged in an alpine forest (*jealous*). There were some inclines, but the views were wonderful. It was hard to imagine central London being only 25 minutes away. This map may have been helpful but hindsight is 20/20...

::Waiting at the train station post run ::

Mr. Moose looks at me and smiles, "Thank you for letting me come with you. It was an amazing run!"

Did I do my desired mileage? No. But with praise like that from my best friend-- I was not too fussed ;)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock N Roll Dublin: My Race Day

I had high hopes for this my Rock n' Roll Dublin Half. Sure, I didn't train very well and my eating habits were lackadaisical at best. But come on, I have done a few half marathons before so I should be fine right? I could still try for my sub goal of 1 hour 55 minute or even bust my PB of 1 hour 50 minutes? 

Sunday August 2
0630: Wake up, run to bathroom-- this can't be a good sign.
0720: After having a sensible breakfast of cereal and some fruit with my parents (who were over visiting and would be their first ever race they have watched) had to run upstairs to the bathroom AGAIN...
0729: ONE more trip... then I will be fine. Off to the race!
0732: Ok, seriously last one before go time. This is not good.

No it was not good, although the Irish powers that be held off on the rain for the duration of the race (it wasn't looking that way walking to the start), I could not shake this upset tummy. I am not entirely sure what caused the uncomfortableness, but I have a feeling it had to do with the drinks consumed the day before. I thought I would be fine as I stopped well before 2100 and was not drinking in fast succession, just slow and steady throughout the day. Guinness at lunch, Guinness at the Guinness Factory... more beers pre dinner and one drink at dinner. I wanted to blame the food, but in my heart of hearts I feel that it was probably the black stuff resulting in my current state.

Oh well-- nothing to be done about it, the gun has gone off and I had to start the lovely 13 mile run through Dublin.

I was doing pretty well pace wise for the beginning 10k-- I had my Garmin letting me know when I went above a 8:45min/mile pace as that was the slowest I wanted to go. However around the 5 mile mark I started to feel the rumble in my bowels...

I immediately thought of those photos of runners who went to the bathroom but skipped the bathroom part and just kept running. Paula Radcliffe has some doozy's if you want to Google Image search.

However, unlike Paula, I am not a World Class Athlete with records to break, and with my parents watching I decided it may be best to not defecate myself. Luckily the Rock n Roll logistics crew (AMAZING maps by the way-- anytime I have a scale chart I am pleased) had port-a-loos strategically placed so I was able to duck into one fairly quickly. However, this of course effected my official time...

After that I never really fully recovered. It didn't help that miles 6 and 7 were kinda boring and narrow. Phoenix Park was a welcome change of scenery, especially with the Irish Countryside looming in the distance. That feeling of joy soon turned to terror as there were some doozy hills right at the end.

I had all but blocked out my helpful Garmin vibrating to let me know that I was still going slower than my desired pace. Mile 7 was my last vestige of staying around my goal-- it was all going to shit (pun intended). I saw a woman being treated by medics and thought "I could just lie down right next to her and say 'when you have a moment' to them".

Below is the elevation chart with my mood...

That last hill, I sincerely thought of giving up. It took (what I felt) as every fiber in my being to keep going. I suppose this is the wall people always talk about. It was horrible. It was even more disheartening to see the 2 hour pacer pass me. He heard my audible swearing and encouraged me to keep up-- which I kind of did but not as closely as I should have.

That feeling seeing the timer on the last hundred meters or so is the 'do or die moment' for every runner. I decided I was going to try and up my speed and at least cross the line with the 2 hour pacer. Like a bulky freight train I gave it the beans, and I could feel my chest constricting-- I had so little left in the tank. I was urged on by the sight of my parents, my mom screaming wildly at me whilst my father looking the wrong way.

Bowels grumbling, chest heaving, I gave it the final push across the line.

My official time was two hours and 50 seconds. A far cry from my goal and actually it is my worst half marathon race to date. I feel it was a defeat in some ways, but in trying to find the silver lining I feel that this was the first race I did that I really wanted to give up but did not. One more race to chalk up to experience!

You can see the race info for me below. I hope everyone who raced enjoyed it-- it was a lovely day in a lovely city. I cannot thank the Rock n Roll team and all the volunteers. Maybe next time I will lay off the black stuff next time :D

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hitting the Plateau

It's true-- I cannot seem to bust my 8:30/pace. In face, I am doing worse!

I ran the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge with a very respectable 8:03 min/mile but that was for 3.5 miles. My last runs have been averaging 8:45 minute miles :( Looking back at these three runs:

Run One
Distance: 4 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:23
   Mile 2: 8:57
   Mile 3: 9:01
   Mile 4: 8:27

Run Two
Distance: 6 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:25
   Mile 2: 8:52
   Mile 3: 9:04
   Mile 4: 8:51
   Mile 5: 8:35
   Mile 6: 8:25

Run Three
Distance: 3.35 miles
Average Pace: 8:43/miles
   Mile 1: 8:50
   Mile 2: 8:31
   Mile 3: 8:35

What I see from here -> My pace is everywhere!

I need to pay more attention to my pace on my runs... and really do the whole tempo/pace/long run. Not sure I can pick it up in time for the Rock n Roll Dublin-- but plenty more I suppose to look forward to! How do you, lovely internet people-- deal with setbacks?

One thing though I will say-- regardless of my distance, I am consistent overall: silver lining and all that :D

Lunch for the Week: Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup
   ^ Deliciously spicy and makes quite a lot for continuous lunches. Served with crusty bread this is a sure fire winner
Yummy Dish: Purple Potato Salad
   ^ Seriously, go find purple potatoes. This salad is amazing. If you are in London, Turnips in Borough Market has them

Friday, July 3, 2015

Project Fit: A Review

So today was my last class from my 10-day Project Fit try-out. Wanted to provide some thoughts on the place in case others were looking into it!

Classes: I did three of the normal classes (tried to get into the running one but there was a wait list). And was an intense 50-60 minute workout. We swapped between the floor (where we used mats, free weights, and steps) and the treadmill (hills and speed workouts). Bit of time (~1-2 minutes) between sets. Definite workout.. definite sweat box. For the treadmills they would shout out three different speed settings so you could push yourself to any of those.

The big thing here was EVERY class was different. I was not doing the same routine for any of my 3 classes within the 10 day period. This is good, because it shocks your body into new workouts and routines, thus burning more calories and not really giving you a chance to 'go easy' or plateau. (9/10)

Instructors: I only had Joel as an instructor but he was very good. Not crazy pushy, but there in case you had any issues and offered corrective movements on posture. Always moving around, between the floor and the treadmills, making sure everyone was doing OK. When changing moves on the floor, he would demonstrate the workout as well, very useful for someone who does not know the difference between a tricep extension and a curl (well now I do). (10/10)

Facilities: Free lockable lockers, plus sweat towel and shower towel. The ladies changing/shower room was a bit small and there was a queue for the showers for both my 0720 classes. The 0620 one there was none. I am lucky my office is nearby so I just went back there and showered. But I had a peek back there, and everything looked nice and clean, which for a ladies shower is saying something... what it looks like at the end of day I cannot comment on  (7/10)

Cost: Like any boutique gym (not sure if that is the official name), its a bit pricey unless you start buy in bulk. Classes start out at around 20 GBP a class. There are quite a few package available, but the break down is still quite pricey. Let's assume you go 4 times a month, once a week. (5/10)

  • PAYG: 20 quid (1 credit = 1 GBP, 20 credit for one normal class)
  • Bundle of 240 credits (total 204 GBP): 12 classes over 3 months, averaging to be 17 GBP/class
  • One Month Unlimited (220 GGP): Includes express classes as well as standard one hour classes. Still assuming you stick to 4 classes a month this equates to a whopping 55 GBP/class! You would never choose this option unless you are doing at least 12 classes in a month, or 3 classes a week
Right now I think cost is the most prohibitive thing about this gym. However, that being said, I have never sweated as much in my normal gym classes than I did in these. Maybe its because you start out at intense and have the option to go into beast mode, whereas normal gym classes its such a wide range of people and skills you feel you can coast along, and the desire to push harder is not as 'there'. Its like in University when your class size was over 100... you felt like you blended in and could get by without getting noticed by the professor. If you have a smaller class (10 people), that anonymity suddenly diminishes and you feel like you must perform or be noticed by the teacher. 

Verdict: Will probably make it part of my strength routine once a month, or when I need to change things up in my workouts. Will not be using it exclusively though, I still feel gyms provide more flexibility and value for money.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Colour Run Review- June 28- Kempton Park

Hope everyone has been soaking in the sun these past couple of days! I wanted to give a quick write up on the Color Obstacle Rush I did on Sunday at Kempton Park.

Registration: There seemed to be confusion with where to go (as some people got goody bags and some didn't) but once the correct queue was figured out the wait was not too bad.
Loos: Ugh. Being a girl sucks sometimes. Pretty long queue regardless of when I went. Guys didn't even have a line. Such sadness.
Course: Flat but interesting enough. There was a nice lake on the course and of lets not forget the obstacles and color stops.
Obstacles: Pretty fun but apparently quite dangerous. We had to wait a long(er) time to start as someone fell right after the first obstacle (an incline with a drop, I imagine she didn't realise this and twisted an ankle). I also know someone who injured themselves on the last obstacle as the mat was pushed away and she landed on the ground.
Spectators:  They probably felt a bit bored after watching their runners take off... had to wait another 25 minutes or so for them to turn up at the last obstacle. Although they were close to the music and can always people watch others. I thought it would be cool for them to set up wireless cameras at various obstacles and then feed them through monitors, just so they could get a feel for the other obstacles around the track and potentially spy a friend/coworker/loved one.
Music: Pretty kickin music, although once you got past the beginning it wasn't music at every location.
Transportation: We had some people take cars and others (like me) on mass transport. Parking seemed OK but reports state the traffic around the area was quite bad. Not sure if this was due to event or road works, but I suppose its always to be expected. Trains out from Waterloo was fine, however getting back required a 28 minute wait for the next train. Lesson Learned: ALWAYS check CityMapper when finishing a race so you know how much time you have until the next train!

Overall: Pretty fun run, would never hit a PB on it, but its not meant to be like that. The loo thing has become par for the course unfortunately. See below for a video I made of it.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Branching Out from the Gym

I am giving up my Virgin Active gym membership, and its a bittersweet decision. I decided I was not going enough to justify the cost. Plus with summer now (hopefully) in full swing, the only things I really go to the gym for are swimming (which is more stress than relaxing due to the size) and spinning (and there are gyms specifically for that).

That being said, I am looking for other gyms/options. Luckily being in the City for work, I am very spoilt for choice. However there are a few more 'unique' gyms I would be interested to try:

  • Project Fit:  So this place claims burning 1000 calories in an hour, a pretty bold claim. They have a variety of classes and each class costs X credits to do. One credit equals 1 GBP. Of course buying in bulk makes it cheaper.
    • 1 Hour Class: All seeing, all body workout 20 credits/15 credits off-peak
    • Express Class (35 minutes): Like the one-hour class, just shortened 12 credits
    • Core: Just the legs and core (35 minutes) 12 credits
    • Run Class: 55 minutes of varied running + 5 minute cool-down 20 credits
  • 1Rebel UK: This seems like the same concept as Project Fit, although I am sure someone will tell me its very different! One session starts at 20 GBP-- same cost as Project Fit. 
    • Ride: Spinning class. It somehow incorporates hand weights? (30 or 45 minutes)
    • Reshape: Running with all around body strengthening (45 minutes)
  • Cyclebeat: This does exactly what it says on the tin. Spin classes in 30, 45 and 60 minute chunks. One class is 16 GBP, and like all others offers discounts when buying in bulk.
All three have intro offers so I will be trying all three, starting with the Project Fit on Wednesday! We will see how it goes. After my 10 day trial offer (thanks TimeOut!) I will report back on the classes, locker rooms, craziness of instructors, etc. If people know of any other ones round The City do let me know!

30 day fitness challenge almost fell apart after my 13 mile run on Sunday-- however I persevered. I found it much more tolerable breaking it down into sets of ten each until I was finished. 

Speaking of my long run-- my last blog post I encouraged people to get out there and find somewhere else to run. With this run I did just that. I recently purchased "Runners Guide to London" and I am taking a lot of inspiration from it. One of the routes is the Regent's Canal route, and they also offer going west via the Grand Union Canal. Sure it seems a bit of a faff to go on the tube/train but trust me, its well worth it!

Remnants of the Canal's Past... 
Along the Canal near Maida Vale 

Dinner of the Week: Parmesan Pesto Potatoes + Speedy Spinach Pesto + Chicken
BONUS: If you double the pesto recipe (easy to do with spinach) you have enough pesto for  sandwiches or another pasta dish dinner
Dessert of the Week: Lemon Blueberry Bread
Lunches for the Week: Mushroom Pilaf with Brown Rice

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Finding Inspiration

Sometimes between races I get a lull-- where I don't feel like running and the morning workouts get abandoned more easily than they should. We all have them, its all part of the running cycle :)

I really enjoy running in different places. Don't get me wrong, London is lovely, but sometimes a change of scenery is what is needed. Last weekend I was up in Cheltenham, so I decided to take a run in the Cotswolds - half road half trail.

The Cotswolds are a lovely part of England, so wonderful in fact, it is considered an AONB. Heck they even have a long distance walk that covers most of it. I was hoping to do a 10 mile run but could feel some blisters forming so wanted to get back. It didn't help I got a bit lost (thank goodness for Smart phones and friendly people on the path!) but the views were fantastic.

So I highly recommend if you are feeling in a rut-- take a train somewhere and go for a run, you will be surprised what you find!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day 3 Update: Food, Glucose, and Digestives

Good Morning everyone! With the weekend looming I figured I would post today some things done this week:

Working in the City, I find it very difficult to resist the urge to head to <insertChainRestaurant> and pick up something to eat when all I have is a droll sandwich. These two recipes I found super delicious and easy to make ahead.

Chicken Soba Noodles with Spinach
Spicy Chicken & Avocado Wrap: Obviously some assembly required when you are in the office, but the chicken is very versatile and can be thrown in many different combinations of wraps or sandwiches. Running out of avocado, I substituted a salsa/sour cream blend and it tasted fantastic. Throw some spinach in there-- boom.

Chicken Soba Noodles:Definitely make this in large portions, it is delicious. Serve nice and chilled, it's lovely for eating outside on those days you sneak out of the office to grab some rays on your lunch break. I added spinach to bulk mine out a bit, and I had to substitute some thai noodles as soba was no where near to be found at Tescos (yet they have 4 different types of chili sauce... makes no sense)

I got a pack of these in my Bedgebury Trail Half race kit (one of the nicest race bags in a while) and I decided to give them a go. For some reason I imagined them more like gummies, but sadly this was not the case. In talking with the UKRunChat crew, its a great way to get instant energy before a race, but not so good mid-race. I can see this, trying to chew this chalky pill could be dangerous without copies amounts of water, which, when running, can be difficult to obtain.

So I had a morning run scheduled and instead of banana I had a glucotab with some water. The flavour (juicy raspberry) was not unpleasant, albeit a bit chalky.  I could see me using this on morning runs when I can't be asked to wake up earlier or overslept (like that has EVER happened!). It could also be good for mid-work day jogs if you are one of those people have to be pried away from the desk to get out there and run. Normally though, I would be happier with actual food.

I also assume the number you have depends on the distance you are going. I went only 5.5miles, maybe even one was overkill? The website seems to infer it to be used to fight fatigue, but I cannot see this trumping coffee any time soon.

I love McVitties Milk Chocolate Digestive biscuits. It's not even funny the love I have for them. I made the mistake of buying a whole pack and having them in my office. Now I can hear them during they day, constantly torturing me. This was a bad move on my part. So I will need to bring the package home and only bring in one or two into the office each day. Willpower is diminished in the office, so this will curb my binges. This does not solve the issue when I am at home, however I find it easier to say no at home... which is a bit strange. Does anyone else experience this?

Well thats it people, have a lovely weekend. This is my first weekend on the 30 Day Fitness Challenge, we shall see how we fare!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Road to... Where?

I currently have no race to train for, as my next Half Marathon is not until August. It is kind of a relief, but anyone who trains knows the awkward, empty,  feeling of not having  plan typically makes one quickly scan the racing calendar for upcoming events. While I do have a few smaller runs in the agenda, I am trying to curb the urge.

Instead I am trying to focus on strength for a few weeks with runs built-in to mix it up (and keep me at my current levels). With this, I hope to accomplish a better core and overall fitness to help improve my running-- maybe with the added benefit of some more toned arms and tummy! :)

I have a HIIT workout I will use (will attempt to find the video to share) as well as starting the 30 Day Ab & Squat Challenge by As I am a member of Virgin Active, I should probably look there for some classes as well. If any has any good recommendations please let me know!

Speaking of the gym, I hope to incorporate once a week swimming and/or spinning. Well, seeing as I have a bike, I wouldn't mind the real thing, but it's getting out to a place where its not stop-n-go traffic which makes it a bit more difficult.

Finally, I hope to return to my calorie logging with MyFitnessPal. With less running, I assume I will need to monitor my intake a bit more. Although if I keep my goals up, I am not sure if my needs will change too much! It you want to see my progress or add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal (camaraderie in battle is always appreciated!) check me out here.

Throughout the time, I will be posting updates on new workouts, new gear (yay!), and tasty recipes, with the potential complaint along the way.  The blog will hopefully be my motivation to keep going, and hopefully inspire a few others to keep going as well.

So Day 1 of #30DFC is done, healthy breakfast has been consumed, and my packed lunch is ready to go... let's begin! :D