Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nutrition for Better Running

This week has been a complete whirlwinputting us though our pacesd of activity.

I gave a talk at one of the Full Potential workshops on Saturday which was specifically designed around the theme of Nutrition for Better Running. The day consisted of four talks on different aspects of nutrition - from the basics of nutrition for running, to putting all this into practice with food and meal ideas (that was my bit), views on supplements and then the latest advice on race nutrition from the Lucozade Sports Scientists. There was a totally brilliant coaching session in the middle of the day in which top class coach Nick Anderson put us through our paces - yes, I mean literally! He encouraged us to work out our 5k, 10k and threshold paces. If only I had a personal trainer like that every week....completely inspirational.

Now I'm getting organised for my book launch next week, which is going to be hosted by the University of Bristol Sports Medicine Clinic. If anyone fancies popping along, you are very welcome - 12.30 to 1.30 at the University Sports Centre, Tyndall Avenue. I'm going to give a little talk and then there will be some tasters of Go Faster Food and of course an opportunity to buy a signed copy of my new book.

Between all this activity, there's been the Cancer Research UK's Race for Life, and the British Heart Foundation's Bristol Harbour Run, my daughter's French exchange has arrived, the builders have turned up to plaster our bedroom so we have decamped to the sofa bed in the office and I made some nice little banana cakes - recipe to follow in next post...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A fresh approach to carbo-loading

I've just spent the past 9 hours doing a post-marathon clean of the house. What a workout! I have absolutely no need to run or go to the gym today! I have to say that when in training I do become a master of the art of "skim cleaning" - it is just one of those chores which gets put on the back burner as I hate it so much, so the place really needed some serious attention! 

We had our first taste of the new season's peas today. Exquisite and packed with nutrients, with good amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Popped directly from their pods, they taste unbelievably good. There are all sort of ways of cooking peas if you can manage not to eat them straight from the pod -  simply boil them in water for a couple of minutes and serve with a knob of butter and a few sprigs of mint or chervil, or with some feta cheese and bacon, or fresh tender baby leeks. You could also try them cooked in a little stock with a few fresh wilted lettuce leaves. But for us athletes, they make the most delicious summery risotto - fresh tasting, quick to make and really high in carbohydrate. The combination of risotto rice and fresh peas is pretty low G.I. and will keep you sustained for hours, fantastic for the night before a long training session or a race. 
Creamy Risotto of Fresh Peas and Chervil (use mint or flat-leaf parsley as alternative).

Serves 4

50g unsalted butter, plus a knob of butter for the end

1 onion or leek, finely sliced

1 stick of celery, finely chopped

80g pancetta cubes, or bacon, cubed (optional)

350g Arborio risotto rice

1¼–1½ litres vegetable bouillon or chicken stock

250ml white wine

300g fresh peas, podded

large bunch of fresh chervil, chopped

100g freshly grated parmesan

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat up the stock in a saucepan so that it is ready to ladle onto the rice.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pan, gently sauté the onion and celery in the butter/oil over a low heat until translucent. Add the pancetta and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains become translucent and glossy.
  4. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed.
  5. Add a ladle of hot stock and stir constantly until it is almost absorbed. Add the rest of the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring constantly. You need to make sure that each ladleful is absorbed by the rice before you add the next one. This should take about 18–20minutes. Youmay need more or less stock according to the type of rice and the rate of absorption.
  6. When the rice is almost cooked, add the peas and the chervil or mint (save a little to sprinkle over the top). The texture should be nice and creamy. You may need to add some salt at this point, it depends how salty your stock is.
  7. When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, stir in the parmesan and a knob of butter. Let the mixture stand for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining chervil or mint and a few grinds of black pepper. 
  8. Serve with a rocket salad and some fresh parmesan shavings

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stockholm Marathon

Mark and I had a most wonderful kid-free weekend in sunny Stockholm, marred only by the fact that we ran the Stockholm marathon in the blazing heat on the Saturday, when other more sensible people were picnicking in the parks or swimming on the Stockholm archipelago! 

No, it was good, really, and the support was tremendous, much better than expected...

Unlike most marathons which start early in the morning, the Stockholm marathon kicks off at 14.00, right in the heat of the day, which last Saturday was really quite intense (about 25-27 degrees), and just when the tarmac on the streets had had the chance to warm up nicely! A beautiful day for a picnic on the beach, but not for running a marathon! A girl from San Fransisco came in just after me and had almost expired with the heat and suffered serious cramping -  " Hey, we get up at 5 a.m. to run when it is hot, we don't sit around and wait until the hottest part of the day"

Having said that, I must say that, unlike the dire situation at the Edinburgh marathon this weekend where the water was stolen, there were loads of drinks stations with water, quite a nice grapefruit and lemon flavoured sports drink called Maxim, vats of water to throw over you and showers to run under. Towards the end of the race there were stations serving knorr vegetable stock drink (nice and salty but no thanks), gherkins/pickles (again, no thanks), flat cola and bananas (yes please). Next time could we have slices of orange to suck on please!

And the race is really pretty - quite slow, crowded and unexpectedly hilly but very, very beautiful. Take a look at the official video for a taster.

It was not a day for personal bests. I actually ran 20 minutes slower than my target time of 3 hrs 29 and so I was quite disappointed with that. I think I was more set on getting my drinking strategy right so that I didn't cramp. I actually stopped at most of the drinks stations and went to the loo twice (that must have wasted about 5 minutes!).
The result of that is that my recovery was almost immediate and I had no particular stiffness over the following days, unlike my normal state which usually entails the total avoidance of stairs etc! "Should've tried harder", my husband keeps reminding me. It might also be because there were lots of high G.I.carbs in the goodie bag, which I managed to get down me immediately to replenish my glycogen levels, within the magic 15 minute window when the muscles are at their most receptive.

I'm quite amazed and very chuffed to see that I came 38th in my age group and 227th overall (women, that is).

So, to the pre-marathon meal. This was fab! We found a delightful little Italian restaurant called Paparazzi and had the most amazing fresh pasta - better than I have ever cooked myself. I had papardelle with lobster in a cream and brandy sauce (I would normally avoid creamy sauces and seafood before a marathon, but I couldn't resist). Luckily it wasn't too rich and the lobster was very fresh. After the marathon we were taken to the coolest bar in Stockholm, apparently, the Lydmar Hotel, where we had the obligatory entrecote, delicious potatoes and salad, preceded by some of the best fish soup I have ever tasted. Someone once told me that Scandinavian food was nothing special, but I have to say that my experience of Swedish food was a very positive one. Perhaps that is because I avoided the hotdogs and meatballs (yes, just like you get in Ikea) which seemed to be on offer everywhere!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Go Faster Food Book Review

Just staggered in from running the Stockholm Marathon to find this lovely book review waiting for me from the resident runner at Fitness Footwear. Thanks a lot Adam, I'm glad you liked the book! 

Go Faster Food Book Review

feature photo

Go Faster Food already has a list of recommendations as long as your arm with endorsements from Olympians, running magazines along with a foreword by double Olympian Liz Yelling, but what stands out about this book is not only the excellent advice and recipes, but how wonderfully written it is.

From the very start, Kate Percy’s personality shines through, delivering helpful tips concisely, but in an everyday language that’s a pleasure to read. So not only are you taking advice from a real person with their own real life experiences, but this person is also being realistic about what to eat and when to eat it.

Even a nice cold beer is recommended as a recovering drink if you’ve been working particularly hard, simply because you deserve it.

Before getting down the recipes, Kate speaks about her own experience in running and how diet is such an important part of it. It’s not about just eating well, it’s about eating the right things in the right amounts and how to maximise the energy they offer to literally Go Faster.

The book is very well laid out and easy to follow, especially for someone who reads as impatiently as myself. As such, the book is divided into two sections, the first detailing nutrition and training, like what to eat and when, as well as the importance of hydration.

Meanwhile the second half is all about the recipes, which run from morning meals to midday and evening. With over 100 recipes, Go Faster Food deserves a permanent place in your kitchen.

Quotes from Kate’s running friends can be found throughout the book, recommending their favourite meals, all of which have been included within this 280 page volume. Naturally, these vary from steak and chips washed down with a beer to pasta and more exotic dishes, proving that to train efficiently you don’t have to eat nothing but sensible salads.

Go Faster Food is an essential recipe book that will turn runners into faster runners, food connoisseurs and maybe even master chefs. Who ever imagined that beautiful cooking could go hand in hand with health and fitness?

To buy the book, learn about the nutritional value of food which will help you go faster and read Kate’s regularly updated blog for her latest dishes and training methods, visit

Go Faster Food is available from the 2nd of July and is priced at £12.99

Report on Stockholm to follow in next post...