Archive for May, 2015

This was my third go at the George Ogle Memorial Race – just a short hop from home and taking in the bottom of the Derwent Valley. It’s a nice tight run, six compact miles up the Derwent Walk and the trails around, and a great family feel with the local clubs well represented.

I felt so much better running it than in earlier years, I think the core training with Chris at NUCAS has paid off, with my newly discovered (but as yet still unseen) core.

The rain stopped just before the start and held off in a glorious window of running-ness, and I managed to pull off a new personal best on the course. No walking, either, though I still blame last year’s plodding down to ill-advised crisp eating on the afternoon before.

The time? Well, 46:18, and here’s a shot of me coming into the finish taken by Chris Haswell, (hellfirex on flickr).


So here’s the deal – I’m rubbish at nutrition while running. Truly dire. I’ve always considered eating to be one of my finer talents, but when running long distances I’m about as effective as trying to eat soup with a fork*.

It turns out that lots of other people are only mildly better at this than I am (who knew?) so as a bit of a public service, I’m going to run about a bit, eat things, run a bit more, and let you know what happens (to a more or less graphic degree depending on what happens, if you know what I mean).

I’m sort of hoping other people may take up the baton, or even the French stick, and give it a go too and maybe we can come up with some useful information. That’s highly unlikely, even on my own the information is mildly amusing at best, but you can aspire, can’t you?

The key attributes of any stuff that I’m going to try are these:

  • They should be light
  • They should not make huge mess when in a bag
  • They should not require further prep once I’ve finally remembered to eat
  • They should not have acres of packaging to then be secreted in the various pocket of my shorts
  • They should not be gels – recently discovered that gels are why I always feel nauseous part way into a run…
  • They should be tasty (this should be number 1?) if I can’t be bothered to eat them then they’re no good to me
  • Ideally they should be quite savoury as I get really sick of sweet things really quickly.

That enough criteria? I think so, I can always make more up as I go along.

First up then is these beauties:


See, I can tell you’re liking the idea already. Oaty, wheat-free, vegan, CHOCOLATE, all the main food groups are represented.

(Almost) seriously though, I saw these in my local health food shop and figured why not give them a go? But first, a little about their nutritionalishnous. Per oatcake (and let’s be honest, I’m not going to start weighing out 100g of oatcake on the trail, so no need to worry about that) you get:

  • 45 calories of chocolatey-biscuity goodness
  • 1.7g of fat, of which 0.8g is saturates
  • 6.4g of available carbohydrates, of which 1.9g is sugars (which is 40% less sugar, it says so on the packet)
  • 0.7g of fibre
  • 0.8g of protein (that’s where the vegans are getting it from then, eh?)
  • 0.08g of salt

I make that 9.68g per biscuit, but the comparison to 100g suggests it’s closer to 10g, so I can only suggest the remaining 0.32g is magic-fairy-running-dust. Fingers crossed that one turns out to be right…

It’s a minor aesthetic note, but my biscuits were oblong, with rounded ends, not the circular jobbies you see in the picture. In some sense that’s a good thing, as it means they’re less likely to roll away down the mountainside I’m undoubtedly sitting on to have a well-deserved summit-reached snack.

Ingredients-wise, they contain wholegrain oats (59%), dark chocolate chips (9%), (sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, emulsifier, soya lecithin, natural vanilla flavouring) , sustainable palm fruit oil, Demerara sugar, dark chocolate powder (5%), (sugar, cocoa mass, fat reduced cocoa powder), dietary fibre, partially inverted syrup, potato starch, barley malt syrup, raising agents (ammonium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate),sea salt, natural flavouring.

Sounds tasty, eh, I mean, there’s nothing that isn’t improved with a little added dietary fibre, is there?

Anyhow, that’s not getting to the nub of this wildly dangerous vegan-ultra-snack-food testing, is it?

For this inaugural, death-defying, snack-food attempt, I went for a lovely 20 mile gambol up the Derwent Walk. I’ve never been that far up it before, and discovered you run through Blackhill (home of one of the hilliest Parkruns in the WORLD) and then on to Consett – famous once for it’s mighty steelworks, but now mostly for the Tesco car park with the nicest view in the North East. Seriously, it’s a cracking view over to Weardale once you’ve got the hulking supermarket out the way.

Right, well, I headed off, full of the excitement of an adventure, and mostly enjoyed the sun, the discovery, the dog walkers, the flowers, you know, all that kind of stuff. It was ace – I can highly recommend a trip up the Derwent Walk to anyone in the area.


Ooh, it’s lovely, eh?

Ten miles up to Consett, vague though of a coffee but couldn’t be bothered, so turn around and back we go – there are little picnic areas at Shotley Bridge and Ebchester, but I’d decided to hang on to about 15 miles in before checking out the snacks – the idea being if I had a replay of what is now known as the Unspeakable Peanut Butter Incident, then I wouldn’t be too far from home.

Fourteen and a half miles and I was feeling a bit peckish, so I got out a packet of the biscuits. The come in four little packs of four, each set in a plastic wrapper. So only moderate points for lack of rubbish, but they scrunch up well and fit in one of the gel pockets I no longer need since realising gels are bleargh to me.

The biscuit was crisp, crunchy and not too bitty – you know how sometimes oat biscuits (I’m looking at you Hob Nobs) feel like they’ve got tiny splinters of wood in them? Well, there was none of that. Chocolatey, and pretty much a fun snack. Goes well with a swig of water after, though as I’d only been able to find one water-bottle before heading out I was running a bit low by this point, so it was a very small swig.

In fact, it was so nice I ate all four (in the packet, not all four packets, that would be greedy this early into a run, surely).

And waited.

The trick with these things is the wait. Something can seem perfectly edible until you get half a mile further and suddenly your guts attempt to escape from your body. Or the contents thereof. Ick!

So, I plodded another couple of miles, and it all seemed quiet on the digestive front. This is good. I felt a bit of a lift from the biscuity goodness and the chocolatey masterfulness of the snacks, so all good so far – no gut-pixies emerged from the undergrowth, ready to cast unpleasant curses on my nethers, so I chalked it up as a win.

In fact, I chalked it up as so much of a win that at mile 16 I ate the other pack I’d brought, all four.

Still no unfortunate events, or even a funny tum-feeling, either.

I got all the way home, I had a shower, I wrote this, I fed the dog, I took him for his walk and then I went on the bus. All went well, so I’m considering this a BLISTERING SUCCESS!

In something approaching a summary, which as good as you’re going to get, they’re light, don’t make much mess, don’t require additional prep, have a bit of packaging but not overkill, didn’t make me nauseous, were quite tasty and not too sweet. On that basis, they have a place in my bag – as they’re light I reckon they’re a carry-with rather than a drop-bag item. A single pack of four gives you 180 calories, and 25.6g of available carbohydrate, compared to the 95 calories and  23g of carbohydrate in my usual gel so it’s not a million miles away. Who wouldn’t prefer to eat biscuits than neck gels?

Right, off to think about the next ill-advised vegan food challenge – anyone for sushi?

*For editorial accuracy, I tried eating soup with a fork – it’s really difficult, unless you have very thick soup of an unduly spoony fork, some might even call a spork.

Right, so there’s a few weeks to go until my next big run, and I figured it’s the right time for an honest-to-goodness appraisal of where I need to put in a bit of work to round off my planning.


The raw material – one older, portlier-that-hoped-for runner with bad feet and a dreadful attitude to nutrition.

So, in no particular order, the bits I need to concentrate on are:

1. Uphill

Yes, it may be a bit of a cliche, but I’m not that good at going up hills. In fact, that’s not true, I’m dire at uphills. When I was running at Jedburgh I had to stop as the static-vision started in at the edges, and I realised I was about to faint. So I stopped had a bit of a worry while my heart calmed down and then on I went, plod, plod, plod. So, more uphill practise, I think.

2. Downhill

So, what goes up must go down. I thought I was canny at downhills, not fell-racing-mad good, but not that bad, either. Well, I’ve seen the person in front of me disappear from sight the last two times I’ve been to Parkrun, showing that I could definitely get a little better.

3. Flat

I don’t mind the flat, but it does rather go on, doesn’t it? The Glasgow to Edinburgh run was canny in its own way, but it took its toll on my feet – not sure they’ve ever recovered. I could certainly improve on my ability to run on long, flat stretches.

4. Undulating

While we’re on, that’s not so much fun, either, I mean, you can’t get yourself in a rhythm, can you? The run around Kielder Reservoir is one long undulation – it’s around 26 miles, not that much elevation change overall, but it just can’t make it’s mind up, one minute it’s up a bit, the next it’s flat, then it’s down a bit – after that, guess what, it’s up a bit again.

5. Walking

I never thought of walking as an important part of running. But it is, though, especially when you’re going a long way. I spent part of the Glasgow to Edinburgh run being leap-frogged by a couple of walkers – I ran past them, then walked, they walked past me at super-speed, I ran past them, and so on. I think (though I don’t know for sure) that my feet hurt more for walking than for running. If I tried to get better at walking then I might be more effective overall, you never know.

6. Standing still

I know, how could you be bad at standing still? Check points, drop bags, it’s all the fun of the fair – at Jedburgh I was 28 miles in and only a 10 mile stretch to go – got to the check point, bent over to get something out of my bag and CLURK! my back went a bit ouch. See, even inactivity can have it’s dangers…

7. Nutrition

You’d think if there was one thing I would have a god-given prodigious talent for, it would be eating. I mean, normally you’d have to hit me over the head with a brick to stop me from eating things, but when I’m running I kind of figure I’ll have something in a while, maybe another mile, maybe when I get to the top of that hill, eh, it’s always easier to eat going along the flat bit. Before you know it, I’m a bit hungry, but still struggling to sort myself out. I also can’t find good things to eat – as a funky vegan I’m already on a short list of things, and lo-and-behold most snack food joy is not vegan.

I managed samosas mid-way through Glasgow to Edinburgh, which were canny, and I’m in an experimental phase right now, with plans to try spring rolls (thank you Guy), pasties, sushi and maybe some kind of vest made out of knitted noodles so I can wear my dinner?

8. Navigation

Well, I can read a map well enough, from the comfort of my own living room, and imagine with excitement the majestic sweep of the landscape, that tarn up there, the funny way that fence dog-legs back onto itself  and forces you to run an extra mile if you’re not a fence-leaping-goat. But, I’m a bit pants when it comes to staying on the right course. Sometimes this is down to me, like at Jedburgh, where I ran an extra 1/2 mile, taking another three runners with me before we noticed no-one was following. Sometimes it’s because I blindly follow the fools in front of me – at the Dark Skies run at Kielder, I followed a confident-enough-looking group of runners along the wrong path then the scuttle back to the right path across the undergrowth.

I’d love to try a mountain marathon one day, but I’m scared I’d be found upside down in a ditch looking at the underside of my compass and wondering what had gone wrong.


Maybe I just need to zoom in on the map a bit?

So, in conclusion, I think that if I can just nail uphill, downhill, flat, undulating, walking, standing still, nutrition and navigation then I think I might be in with a chance.

Did I mention choice of clothing? I’m not that good at that either…