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.

Back to work running

Well, last Tuesday was the last day of the holidays, and my first trip to the running club since my holiday. I love our Tuesday sessions- we never know how far we will go, which route we will do, and whether it will be a steady run or an interval session.

Last week only three of us turned up, so we did a lovely route through a cycle way (an old railway line), and then we took on “the hill”- I had only run it the day before on my Bank Holiday 6 miler. Ah well, the more we do it, the better we will get I suppose.

After work on Wednesday we walked up to the cinema (Mission Impossible 10 or whatever- which I very much enjoyed) so I decided to get up early on Thursday morning. I don’t normally like to run before work, but we had a training day that didn’t start until 8.45, so I had more flexibility in getting to work.

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I left home just after 6am and was treated to a pretty impressive sunrise- it looked like the building was on fire! I did 3.5 miles and it really made me feel so much better- our training days on Wednesday and Thursday were sitting down, which is very different to my normal days at work and I was feeling sluggish.

On Thursday evening I went to Body Pump for the first time in about 5 or 6 weeks. I didn’t think it would be too bad (not sure why)- I chose slightly lighter weights for the squats, chest and triceps, but for the rest kept my usual weight. By Friday afternoon I was really stiff and sore. We got a Eurostar to Paris on the Friday evening, and spent Saturday and Sunday doing lots of walking.

Last night was another club run- a lot of them are doing a local 10K race (the same weekend I am doing the Bournemouth 10K) so we have officially started 10K training.  We ended up doing 5.4 miles (including that hill) at a pretty fast pace. By the end we were running to beat the light- it was fairly gloomy and we ran through a few alleyways that seemed quite dark. It was really enjoyable, but I felt pretty shattered when I got home and I don’t think I will be running far today!

Oahu- running gear spending spree!

So after our few days in Yosemite, we had a night staying near to San Francisco airport before flying out to Honolulu (on Oahu). With the long flight (just under 6 hours I think) and time difference (3 hours) we were pretty tired by the time we arrived, so as soon as we had checked in we headed out for dinner. Because we had been there before, we didn’t need to find our way at all, which really helped.

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I was awake before 5am, but the thought of running in the city in the darkness didn’t appeal, so I got ready and headed out a bit before 6, and was treated to a beautiful sunrise. After a lot of stretching on the beach, I popped to Starbucks (it was at the bottom of our hotel) for a cold drink for me, and a coffee for Andy.

2015-08-04 07.01.27They have flip flops on their summer cups!

We did a lot of walking around the Waikiki beach area, and to a big shopping centre, as well as some relaxing in the hotel room. I still managed over 26,000 steps (although that did include my run).

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Without fail, every day our breakfast was an acai bowl from Island Vintage Coffee- so delicious and refreshing in the heat. It was 0.75 miles from our hotel (on my first run I measured it with my Garmin!) so it was good to stretch our legs first thing each day.

On our second day we got the bus to the bottom of Diamond Head, which is a small crater that you can walk up. It is pretty tough- there were warnings about how many people they have to rescue from it- it’s quite steep, plenty of switch backs, and there is little shade too.

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It was hot and sweaty walking up there, but the views made it all worthwhile.

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You could see all the way back along the coast to Waikiki. Over 18,000 steps walked, and lots of those uphill!

The next day we had hired a car for the day so we could drive around the rest of the island (last time we came, we had a car for the whole time, but it was expensive to park in the hotel, the roads were crazy busy, and we didn’t use it that much)- so after our usual breakfast we walked to the hotel to pick it up.

Last time we had driven to Pearl Harbor and then continued to the north shore before driving back, so this time we headed on a sort of anti-clockwise loop of the island, stopping when we fancied it.

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Here, we were near the big ranch where a lot of films (like Jurassic Park) were filmed.

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(Both of those photos were taken from the same spot. It was strange having the green rocks so close to the sea).

A little later we stopped near the north shore market place, which is just lovely for a wander, with lots of quirky shops, art shops and a famous shaved ice shop. I was most excited to see another branch of IVC, and although we don’t usually have lunch on holiday, we shared a sandwich- how could I resist this- toasted cranberry walnut bread, with peanut butter and fresh mango, served with a side salad.

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We had a wander and bought a picture (the same artist as we had bought on our last trip- Heather Brown– she has a really unique style), Andy got some shaved ice and we both bought some t-shirts there, before we headed back to the car. On the way back we stopped at the Dole plantation for a pineapple float. We were trying to get to the running shop for me to collect my race bits, but traffic was bad, so we just returned the car instead and left it for the next day. After dinner we were walking back along the beach and two runners passed us, both wearing different Hawaii running tops with pineapples on them- once we got back to the hotel I googled them and found that a running store a mile from  our hotel sold them, so I made a note of the address in case we had time to get there.

On our final full day on Oahu we got the hotel shuttle to the big shopping centre, as the running shop (Runner’s Route) I needed to visit was close by. Picking up the race pack was great- I was pretty relieved that there were pages of entries (as when I signed up, the entry list was something like 16 people)- and it was in a really nice running shop so I had a browse. I had left my visor at home (just hadn’t thought about it) so when I saw they had a few nice ones I bought one.  The store had loads of race t-shirts for decoration, so it was great to look at past Hawaii marathon tops and so on. The shopping centre is massive- we went past a Lululemon with a sale, so I had a look at the capris- I like short length ones and they actually did a pair that were the perfect length, so I bought some.

We could have got the shuttle back, but I wanted to see how to get to and from the race (it started at the beachfront park close to the shopping centre) so we walked the 2.5 miles back to the hotel, which was nice but pretty hot! When we got back to our hotel, our room was about to be cleaned, so we quickly got some water and then headed out in the other direction to the other running shop (Running Room) in search of the pineapple top.

In the end I was spoilt for choice- they sold it in different vest styles, t-shirts and long sleeved tops, in a variety of colours. I was very restrained and only bought one!

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We walked out for dinner, and then to watch the fireworks (they have free ones set off by the big Hilton hotel)- we had walked over 23,000 steps that day, not bad.

The next morning was my race, so my alarm went off at 4.45am, ready for me to leave the hotel at 5.15 and run the 2.5 miles to the race start. Once the race was over, I picked up breakfast on my way back, and had a quick shower as we had a flight to catch- next stop, Kauai!

A run in the rain, feeling better again

Since getting back it has been hard to get into a routine. We landed at lunch time on Monday, and I felt pretty rubbish that afternoon (I think a 10 hour overnight flight will do that to you). Of course, even though I was tired, I ended up waking up at 1am, after only a few hours of sleep, and despite my best efforts I just could not get back to sleep. On Tuesday I met friends for breakfast, went in to work, and had planned a club run that evening, but I felt shattered and gave it a miss.

Wednesday I went out and did 3 miles on an out and back route. Heavy rain was forecast, but it didn’t start until half way into my run. Then it poured so hard that my t-shirt was sticking to me and my feet were squelching. Luckily I had worn a visor so I had a little vision through my glasses! Andy saw the rain and left me a towel at the bottom of the stairs before he left for work- I had to take everything off as water was pouring all over the place. I was so cold I put on some old clothes and had some tea before a shower. I quite enjoyed it, but it felt quite hard, although I am blaming the lack of sleep for that.

Thursday I spent all day in London with friends- if I was home in time I would have gone to body pump, but I was back too late.

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We got cakes from Hummingbird, and I took one home for Andy, although annoyingly I was given black bottom instead of red velvet for him.

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Friday I went out first thing (making the most of the last few days of holiday). I decided to do a 6 mile route, out and back. The weather was nice- it was breezy and sunny but not too hot. I was catching up on old marathon talk podcasts, and although I do enjoy my “me” time, it gave me too much time to ponder. I felt like I was plodding along, and wanted to stop and walk, and although I don’t run to time, I did wonder how on earth I ever managed a 10K in under an hour. I know it was down to tiredness (and I will have lost some fitness as I think I ran 6 times in 3 weeks on holiday) but I was just a bit grumpy when I had finished.

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I have been using my tea pouches (there was a David’s Tea in San Francisco- I only came across it on our last day)- I do have some mini infusers but sometimes a teabag is just easier, so these are perfect for working my way through my piles of loose-leaf tea.

Saturday was parkrun day! Hooray! I knew a few of the ladies from the club would be there, so it was lovely to see a few of them before we started running. It gets a bit bottle-necked at the start because you run through some woods, and I didn’t see any of them whilst running, but I just enjoyed being out there by myself. I had no idea of what time to go for, and pushed my Garmin around so that I could not even glance at my pace. I had forgotten how hard the finishing hill is, but of course after a few minutes of getting my breath back I was fine, and good to chat with the other girls about how their running had gone. When I looked later on Strava I was pleased to see my mile times as 9.38, 8.42 (a big downhill bit here but often I find I slow in the middle) and 9.09. A bit erratic I suppose but the course is up and down so it would be hard to get gradually faster.

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I attempted some baked french toast as I thought it would be easier than cooking it in a pan- not sure if it was. I used half a mini pannetone (I had a sort out of our cupboard and found it, and some Easter eggs- they need to be eaten), basically I beat together an egg, some almond milk and some vanilla extract, put the sliced bread in there with some blueberries, and left to soak while I was at parkrun. Then before I got in the shower, I put it in the oven for 30 minutes. I cooked an apple to go with it, so I don’t think it saved time in the end!

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Later on, we walked up to Sweatshop, as while I was away I had received an email from Panshanger parkrun saying that I was the monthly prize winner! I was very chuffed indeed. (Each parkrun chooses one person each month, and that person gets to choose a new pair of trainers from Sweatshop).

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I wore my current trainers there, as I have been getting on really well with them, and they advised me to keep to the same style- luckily they still had the same model, so I have a second pair now. Thanks lovely Panshanger event team!

Sunday I was busy marshaling at the triathlon- again I thought I might run after that, but I didn’t finish until midday, when it was estimated that we would be done at around 10.30, and then I had to collect some orders from shops, have breakfast and so I didn’t fancy it.

But having a three day weekend meant I had another chance for a run. The weather again was forecast as heavy rain, thundery showers- not really the best running weather. The club was having a “Bank Holiday Special run” at 8.30, but I didn’t set an alarm as I wanted to try and sleep a bit. In the end I was ready to run at 8.25, but I would not have had time to drive to their meeting place, so I went out on my own. It wasn’t raining when I left, but I knew it wouldn’t be long. I had no idea of what route to do, and could not even decide how far to go. I didn’t fancy the out and back from Friday, I didn’t want to go on the fields because of all the mud, so I decided to head to an old Sweatshop route, the dreaded “hill” route. As I was running I just felt much better. I have no idea if it was the cooler air, or having a longer sleep, or a combination, but I felt like I wanted to keep on going. At the point where I normally loop back, I realised that in our OH runs we sometimes arrive at this point from another direction, so I checked the maps on my phone and decided to keep on going. At one point I did worry because I didn’t recognise the road, but of course everything looks different from the other direction. At least I knew that if I got really lost I could retrace my steps, but I didn’t need to. I could have gone further, but it was raining, and every minute it was getting harder, so I decided to head back. In the end I got home with exactly 6 miles run, and I am quite pleased to have made my own new running route. I felt brilliant when I got home. It wasn’t a fast run, but it was enjoyable, and I felt like I could have carried on for much more.

At the moment I only have 10k’s booked for the autumn, but there is a new 10 mile race in Brighton, in October, so I am trying to decide at the moment whether to sign up or not. Pros- 10 mile distance is great, Brighton is great, new race is always great. Cons- would have to travel the day before, probably have to drive because the trains are not running all the way through on the Sunday, hotels might be expensive, don’t have many free weekends to catch up on work…..

What are you looking forward to about autumn? I feel like now it’s September, I can mention it!  Although I love sunny days, I do find that I run better when it is a little cooler, plus it warms me up for the rest of the day, instead of making me too hot.