Monday, 15 June 2015

Food | Review: The Gallery Cafe, Bethnal Green

It was always going to be a match made in heaven in my books: a not-for-profit vegan community cafe. Done.

On my way to the osteopath this morning I did a quick google search to try and find a good place for a pre-physio coffee and up popped The Gallery Cafe - nestled underneath St Margaret's Community Project on Old Ford Road in Bethnal Green. With the promise of dairy-free milk and WIFI calling I arrived at the entrance and was instantly transported away from the dirty, dusty streets of East London to a mecca of urban cool.

The prices are incredibly reasonable: buns from £2, pancakes are £3.50 and cooked breakfast starts at£6 this is sustainable, responsible dining at it's best. If the vegan trend is a step too far there are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu and there is also a full allergen's key that comes with all the dishes which are homemade on site. Gluten-free? No problem. Can't eat seeds, mustard or soya? Won't be an issue.

I ordered a vegan cinnamon bun and an almond milk latte as I'm currently still practicing my Vegan Before 6 lifestyle. The coffee was perfect - froth is a challenge with dairy free-coffees but this was expertly done. The bun itself was more bready than cakey which made it like the best, goey, nutty, spicey roll ever. It reminded me of Christmas and holidays and naughty treats, all in a delicious dairy-free offering.

The Gallery Cafe's passion for fresh food, local suppliers and seasonal ingredients shines through in their menu and delicious food offering. And when is a naughty treat not a naughty treat? When the proceeds go to charity obviously! As a social enterprise, The Gallery Cafe's profits are poured back in to the work that St Margaret's House does including supporting other local charities, access to fitness and the arts and providing the community with low cost events.

In fact, The Gallery Cafe is so great: maybe it's time you considered moving to Bethnal Green.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Health | AROO! Spartan challenge and competition

Anyone who sends me an email signing off with the phrase 'AROO!' deserves my attention. So when the guys from Reebok's Spartan Race contacted me and signed off in that exact way, I got a bit excited. I've thought about doing obstacle races before but have always wimped out in favour of other ridiculous challenges (including recently fell running in the Lake District and my first triathlon). However having accomplished some of my more far fetched challenges recently I felt it was time to step up.

Spartan Race is the worlds leading obstacle racing series with over 130 events in 17 countries last year. Unique to most obstacle runs this isn't simply a challenge: it's a race. And I love I good race. So yes, primarily completing it should be your first goal, but then beating your friends, yourself and your other Spartan opponents is your next goal. 

There are three different lengths you can enter: Sprint (5km and 15+ obstacles), Super (13km and 20+ obstacles) or Beast (20km and 25+ obstacles) and they happen across the UK with upcoming races in South Wales, Manchester, Scotland, Cambridgeshire and Battle, East Sussex.

As I read through the instructions online my favourite pre-race advice of any race I've ever entered has to feature under what to wear, "shorty shorts, monkey suit or Lycra". Awesome: monkey suits at the ready people. Obstacle course runs are a chance to accept you might fail, accept it might get messy (actually: will get messy) and accept you won't have a beautiful swishy hair finish line photograph. But that's kind of the point: who wants to look perfect anyway? Instead don't we want to run until we get that giddy breakthrough feeling in our legs, until others will boggle at what we are planning to achieve and until we can cross the finish line and feel an overwhelming flood of pride for our achievement.

As races increase in distance and we are told to keep striving to go further and faster, isn't it about time someone grabbed the racing world by the scruff of the next and threw the original aim at us: get fit, be strong, have fun, be challenged, thrive.

And if you've always been too scared to enter now is your chance! The guys at Spartan are offering a free place to one reader of my blog at one of the 2015 Spartan races near you. To enter the competition, simply comment below answering: Why would you like to compete in the Spartan race? Competition closes on 30th June and winner will be announced the next week on my blog.

You can also get 10% off any Spartan race by entering the discount code BLOGGER15 online.

So meet me at the start line of the Cambridgeshire Spartan Sprint where I'll be competing or find the race nearest to you. Whatever you do: do it with conviction. AROO!

Find out more about the Spartan Races online here >>

I'm delighted to announce Patrick Aubrey has won race entry to a Spartan of his choice this Autumn. I'll be participating at the Cambridgeshire Sprint Spartan on 5th September so look out for my race report shortly after!

Patrick said:

Well done Patrick!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Health | Taking on the Triathlon

Do you ever get those moments where you think you just need a good challenge to look forward to? Having rediscovered the joys of sports and the outdoors and found my love running, I love looking forward to the next crazy challenge. Races are a great example and they really help give me something to look forward to and train for but doing a 10km race has become a bit too normal. Please don't get me wrong: if you are about to run your first, second, third, even tenth race that's brilliant and you should be so proud of yourself but there comes a time where 10km races are all about hunting down the perfect time and completing the race isn't really the challenge anymore. 

Feeling I needed a challenge that was a bit more, well, challenging, I signed up for my first triathlon: a nice local race featuring a pool swim. I entered the Walden Sprint Tri: a 400m pool swim, 25km bike ride and 5km run. And I have to be honest, I was pretty terrified. My terror came from three main sources: 

1. I don't swim. I do know how to swim and I used to swim as a child but as I've grown older body consciousness in the past has always prevented me from being much of a swimmer. But I treated myself to a new racing bikini (as in one designed to swim properly not simply pose in) from Sweaty Betty and when I went for a couple of training swims I loved it. I also discovered that swimming is a little bit like riding a bike: once you've learnt you never really forget. 40 laps in the pool in my training session took away that fear of the swim and I'd definitely recommend if looking into triathlon's with pool swims if it's your first race and swimming is your weak discipline.

2. I don't own a proper bike. I love cycling and I'm pretty good at it. That said I own two bikes: a vintage 1970s Raleigh bike with a cracking wicker basket and moustache called Maurice and my adorable Bertie the Brompton folding bike. They are both brilliant bikes but not designed for 25km road races. Who cares though right? So the Brompton got packed in the back of the zip car and after a slightly fraught experience at the start where I almost got disqualified for having wheels that were too small (a squabble ensued here as I was told the reason that was an issue was it made me less stable at which point I pointed to a painfully light and expensive carbon-fibre bike and said "Surely I'm more stable pootling round the course than that guy is".) Avoiding disqualification as they couldn't quite work out the rules Bertie was lined up at the start to the amused smiles of my competitors.

3. I've been struggling with a back injury. If you're a fanatic follower of the Cambridge Parkrun leaderboard (really? Just me?!) you might have noticed that I lost my top spot a couple of weeks a go and haven't been running since. I had a horrible back injury rip through me during my normal parkrun about 4 weeks a go and have been desperately trying to rest and work out what happened since. So normally 5km would be easy. However 5km after all the spine problems I'd been having was a bit daunting...

With the husband
So there I was, feeling daunted and lined up in my tri-suit, swim cap and goggles at the start of my first triathlon thinking "Why on earth did I think this was a good idea?" And then the whistle went and off I went and it was amazing. The swim was great: challenging and I struggled with my breathing a bit, but great. Then my first transition was fantastic: off I went running out to my bike, quickly dried off and stuck on my t-shirt, helmet, socks and shoes and I was off - out in the countryside on Bertie Brompton ticking down the miles. No, I wasn't fast on a folding bike, but I did it! Then as I came back in to transition I was made for the cycling to running swap: no shoes to change and used to a commuting bike dump I was out like a lightning bolt. Running after you've put swimming and cycling in to your legs is hard and I struggled with the first 500m which was a hill ascent but after that it was just like the second half of a long race- you enter a section of your brain where you aren't really thinking about what you're doing its just happening. When the finish lane came I'd recovered enough that I was surprised it was over so soon. My husband (who naturally beat me as always) greeted me at the finish line with a smirk.

Me: "What's so funny?"
Him: "You found that a bit too easy didn't you."
Me: "It was great! When's the next one?"

Unflattering but accurate! Image: Joe Higham Reportage
Swim: 10:50
Cycle: 61:00
Run: 28:44
Total: 1:40:34
Final placing: 23rd female out of 31 (only person on a folding bike!)