Friday, May 27, 2011

Boogity Boogity Boogity, Let's Go Racin'!

Call me crazy.  Or maybe just passionate....but I'm racing every weekend for the next three weeks!  This weekend is the Toronto Women's Half which is half marathon number two for me this year.  Stop number 2 on the Half Marathon Hat-trick Train! 

I'm looking forward to it but I am somewhat apprehensive because my training has not been up to par (at least for me).  I also changed my strength training routine.  Well more like eliminated it.  I decided to do a boot camp instead.  Not sure how much that helped me as much fun as the workouts were, I think I am better off actually lifting.  But that's ok, I'll just start back up with that again after this race.  I know I've gotten faster, the question is (once again), just how much.  I'm hoping to go sub 1:45, which I think should be doable.  If I'm feeling REALLY good, maybe a 1:43.  We shall see.

Next weekend I'll be racing the Bread and Honey 15k in Streetsville.   Not sure how wise that is but it was only $40 to enter, there are some amazing draw prizes and it's close to home.    Plus a bunch of folks from my run club are probably doing to be doing it.

The following weekend, I'll be doing my first tri in 3 years.  The Woodstock Triathlon is the season opener for the Recharge With Milk Triathlon series.    It's a 500m swim, 20km bike and 4km run.   Separately I can do all of those distances.  Together, well, we shall see.  The really tough part is going to be the run off the bike.    I have done 2 bricks so far this year and both of them were awful.  So I now need to somehow manage to get those in on a regular basis over the next 3 weeks.   Especially since there has been a bit of a throw down between me and the G-Man.  I've basically told him I think I'll beat him in the run.  Not that I'll beat him in overall time, just that I'll have a better run split that him.  Being the stubborn old goat that he is (he is a Capricorn after all) he refused to concede to that.  Ok then, it's on.  It's ON LIKE DONKEY KONG.  I only hope that I'm not eating my words. But a little friendly competition never hurts. 

After all of this, I think I'm going to take a well needed break.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Case of the Pre-Race Nigglies.

I think that's exactly what any sports doc would diagnose me with right now.  I'm in the middle of my taper for the Toronto Women's Half on Sunday and I am feeling all sorts of aches and pains.

There is the very real pain in my neck that stemmed from sleeping weirdly on Thursday night.  That seems to be getting better.  But it's hard for me to tell.  I do know that there is a whole lotta cracking going on in my neck and shoulders.  Which means that at least things are moving now.  They weren't on Friday & Saturday so that's a plus!

There was the knee pain before, during and after my run last night.  It's miraculously gone today.

There were the horrible foot and calf cramps I had in the pool this morning.   Gone by the time I finished my set.

And there is the general tightness of my back.   It also really seems to want to go snap crackle and pop right now.    Good thing I have a massage scheduled tomorrow night!

Apparently these are all common things that occur to folks during a taper.  They are generally more prevalent in marathon tapers as those are over a longer period of time.  All those aches and pains (nigglies as I like to call them) are apparently just signs that your body is healing.  I'm chalking my nigglies up to the fact that I started my taper early.  Not by choice mind you.  It's all my neck's fault.   But perhaps that neck twinge was a good thing.  Sometimes a bit of forced rest is for the best. Sometimes, your body knows best.

I guess I'll have to wait till Sunday to find out!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Race That Almost Wasn't

The alternate title to this could also be "Every Second Counts".    Because realistically had I gotten myself ready a little bit faster, I would have been a happy camper instead of sorely disappointed.

On Saturday night, I ran the Mississauga 10km.  I was scheduled to do a 25km run with a 10km race pace segment so I figured I'd run out to the start of the race, which was 13.2km from home, run the 10km and then do a 2km cool down.  It was a perfect plan.

Sue, my favourite partner in crime, was also going to do the race so my wonderful husband offered to pick her up and drive her out to the start line.  Knowing this, I packed a bag with stuff that I didn't want to run out with, but would need to race with.  Like my race bib.  And my GU Roctane and my Saucony sleeves, just in case.  I loaded up my fuel belt with a couple of bottles, some money, a couple of gels and my phone and headed out the door.  I gave myself an hour and 20 minutes to get to the start.  That would be a very nice leisurely pace and a good warm up.

I ran along Lakeshore at a nice easy pace.  It was actually a nice evening, despite the rain.  Not too cold and hardly any wind, which was great.   When I hit Port Credit, I noticed that traffic had started to get quite bad.  I then noticed the police redirecting traffic up Stavebank Road, which meant that you couldn't cross the Credit River on Lakeshore.  Hmmm....not good.  I called Gary and gave him a heads up.   I figured it wouldn't be too hard to find an alternate route.  Boy was I ever wrong.

I got to the start line with about 15 minutes to spare.  I called Gary right away to find out where they were.  The answer I got was not what I wanted to hear:  "Um, we're not sure, we got redirected".  Awesome.  He asked me to look up the nearest cross street on my phone because he didn't have his GPS with him.   So I hung up and tried to do that but my GPS didn't seem to want to work.  I called him back and told him as much as I could about where I was and he said he'd call me as soon as they arrived.  So I got in line for the porta potty, figuring I was going to miss the start anyway.  I get out to see the crowd filing into the starting corral.   I start pacing as I'm getting antsy.  And cold.  I was quite damp from my run over. 

The countdown to the start begins and I watch in dismay as everyone jockeys for position.  At this point I was ready to just say screw it and go find a pub.  The gun goes off and I start walking away from the start line towards Clarkson as I figure that's where Gary will be coming from.  I am watching an old man get into an altercation with a police man about not being able to drive to his street when my phone rings.  It's Gary and from what I can tell they're almost there.  Great only 5 minutes late so far.  I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I'm seeing other runners tearing towards the start line.  Apparently several other folks misjudged the traffic as well.  I finally see Gary and Sue and I start peeling off my fuel belt and jacket.  Gary tries to help me but I snap at him to drop my bag and let me deal with it.  I grab my race belt, stuff my jacket and fuel belt into my bag and start rummaging around for my sleeves and gel.  I get the gel and start eating it, Sue says she is going to use the porta potty so she runs off saying she'll meet me at the start line.  I finish my gel and start running only to see that the start line is in the process of being torn down.  CRAP.  As I get closer I see they are pulling up the timing mats.  CRAP CRAP CRAP.  I yell "one more runner coming" and they stop.  At this point I have no idea if my timing chip is activated or not.  I assume that it is since I crossed the line as the mats still looked like they were all down.

I then start running like someone who was being chased by rabid dogs.  Heart rate?  What's that?  Oh right, it's redlining right now.  I didn't care.  I just wanted to catch up to the tail end of the pack.  I quickly caught some walkers and then gradually started picking off some of the back of the pack folks.  I caught Sue and she said she didn't make it to the porta potties because she saw them tearing everything down.  I chat with her for a bit, wish her well and take off again.  By the 3km mark, I had made a good dent into the group.  I was still running a whole lot faster than the folks I was running with so that was a bit frustrating.  Nothing I could do about that except do my best to get around people without running them over.  That proved to be a challenge on the bike paths so I spent a lot of time running in the grass.  I figured that once I caught the larger part of the group that I'd ease off a bit but that never happened.   Not really the way I had planned on racing that's for sure.

I started to hurt a bit around the 8km mark.  I looked at my watch and I had hit 8km in 37:14.  2 seconds slower than what I did at the Harry's Spring Run off.  Not bad considering I had run 13km TO the start of this race (vs. 8.5k to the start of the other one)  AND I had been fighting to get through folks for a large portion of the race which slowed me down in some spots.  There was an aid station just past 8km so I grabbed some Gatorade which was just what I needed.  I figured I knew exactly where I was going as the race course is run along the same route I do my long runs on.  Little did I know there was a little out and back on the bike path around the Marina.  ARG.  That slowed me down a lot as there were people coming in and people going out on this one little path so we had to run single file.  I felt like I was jogging on the spot at some points.  Eventually there was a break and I managed to get around the pack in front of me.  I knew that once I got out of that little loop that I was almost done.

I didn't think I had it in me but I started to run faster.  I saw Gary with the camera and I waved.  Only about 500m till the finish line.  I pushed harder.  As I came up to the line I looked at the clock and saw 57:14.  I looked down to stop my watch and it said 46:37.  Holy crap.  That was a P.B. for me for 10km.  Nothing like starting a race 11 minutes LATE to get the adrenalin pumping.

I had hoped that my time had gotten recorded properly.  I saw the results posted but never bothered going to check them. 

I went to find Gary and cheer Sue on.  We found Sue and headed back to the car in the rain chatting about the race and both of us hoping that our times would get recorded properly as Sue had a P.B as well.

I get home, shower and stretch while Gary decided to pull up the results and check.  "Well that's odd" he says.  "Your gun time and chip time are exactly the same but Sue's were recorded properly".  CRAP.   Now I'm annoyed.  Obviously the timing mat had been disabled by the time I had crossed it.  All because I decided to stand around and have my gel.  Had I just grabbed everything and ran, I would have made it.  To make matters worse, Gary then proceeds to tell me that my time would have gotten me first place in my age group!  Ok, now I'm REALLY PISSED.  So if he had actually been on time, I could have been on the podium.  Sigh.

Nothing I can do about it at this point so I have to look to the positive.  I ran a PB with a 13km warm up.  And, as a friend of mine so eloquently put it:

"Think about the gift you gave to the woman who thinks she won your age group, because she would have been number two officially, and now she is happy. You really DID win, but she won't know, so you can both feel like winners."

That and I know I can bust it on tired legs which is going to come in handy in a couple of weeks time!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Keeping the Ladies in Their Place

By "ladies", I mean breasts. Boobies. The things that go bounce on the front of your chest.

Until recently, I have always been a small in the back, big in the front kinda gal and have been since tender age of 13. Looking back, that would explain why the boys in my grade school would religiously sit by the edge of the track while us girls used to run relay. Our grade 7 4x100 relay team was a fairly busty bunch from what I remember. Back in those days I knew nothing of "sports bras" and I'm pretty sure most of the female population didn't either as womens athletics was really just starting to come into it's own.

Fast forward 25 years. I've been running regularly and racing in triathlon for several years at this point. Sports bras for me were just tight spandex crop tops. As long as they kind of held everything in place, that was good enough for me. Until I saw my finishing photo for the 2008 Muskoka Long Course Triathlon.

Oh My God.

Somehow my breasts had managed to defy the laws of gravity. One of them was bouncing up somewhere around my chin and the other was miraculously falling to somewhere around my stomach. Absolutely MORTIFYING. Sure it could have been just the angle of the camera combined with the way I was moving that resulted in that unfortunate image. Either way, it was awful.

I was wearing my favourite Nike "disco" sports bra (named such by my friend Sue because of the somewhat shiny pattern on it that looked like sequins). I thought this bra was great because it had a nice thick band around the base and thicker straps. Thick = support. Or so I thought. All it really did was squish my breasts down into lumpy quasi-pancakes. I had a ton of sports bras like this. Well, it was time to do some purging. And some investigation. Sure enough good old Runner's World came to the rescue with a review of sports bras. Lots of good choices especially for bustier runners. I decided that I should be wearing a bra that actually reflected what my bust / cup size was. What a novel idea!!  And since I have such a wonderfully attentive husband, guess what I got for Christmas that year?

The best sports bra EVER. The "Fiona" bra by Moving Comfort. You can check it out here.

This bra uses both encapsulation and compression to offer the best support and shape.   Bras that use encapsulation usually have molded cups, while compression bras flatten the breasts, thereby restricting movement.  So you are getting the best of both worlds for your ladies!

It fit perfectly.  And it was actually fairly nice looking!  I have to admit some of the bras for bustier runners were NOT incredibly attractive.  But this one could actually be considered cute.  Especially since it comes in more than just black or white!    The straps have velcro closures on the front so you can adjust it accordingly like you would a regular bra.  Very handy in making sure that the straps are secure.   I was a little concerned about the hook at the back causing chafing but they have covered it in a very soft fabric so you don't even feel it.  It also fit me a lot tighter than I was used to.   It did flatten my chest a bit but still offered a relatively nice shape without making my breasts look like torpedoes.
My first run in it was a joy.  There was no bounce.  None what so ever.  A-MA-ZING!

However I do have 2 very minor complaints about this bra.  1) the strap style.  I wear a lot of racer back tanks in the summer and this bra is literally an over the shoulder boulder holder so you see the straps.  Call me conservative but I'd rather not look like Madonna when I'm out on my run.  2)  The velcro at the front of the bra can cause chafing on very long sweaty runs if it's not properly secured.  I did a 34 km run on a VERY hot and humid wearing that bra and I came back to some rather unpleasant chafing.  

Moving Comfort has become quite the popular line with the introduction of this bra.   Their Canadian sales reps have had bra fitting clinics at various running stores across the GTA.  The most recent one was last weekend at Running Free in Markham.   If you're in the market for a new sports bra for yourself or perhaps your wife (if you're a guy reading this) then I would highly recommend this bra.  The ladies in your life will love you for it.

You can purchase it online here.    If you enter this coupon code at the check out, you can save an additional $5 off a purchase of $50 or more before tax!   Using this coupon gets me points towards my team passport.  The more coupons redeemed, the more points I get.  And points are what I need to make it back on to next year's team!  So feel free to spread the savings around!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mucking About In The Kitchen

I like to cook. I'm always looking for new recipes to try. I wouldn't say I'm an advanced cook by any means, more like the lower end of intermediate but I can definitely hold my own in the kitchen.

I have been very much inspired by the recipes of the lovely and talented Georgie Fear ( She mentioned she was working on a recipe for turkey sausage patties. Oooh ahhhh, I thought. I love sausage but finding a low fat option that isn't filled with preservatives and nitrates is tricky. So I hopped on to and did some digging. I wanted to see what sort of things people used in them. Did they use eggs as a binder or breadcrumbs? Or did they not use anything at all. I found a recipe that didn't use anything but ground turkey and some herbs and spices. Perfect. I loosely followed the recipe, adding some other spices that people had suggested. End result - pretty good, but still room for improvement. Mainly in the amount of particular seasonings.

Today I attempted to make them again with the seasoning adjustments and I think I've found a winner!

Now of course, I neglected to take note of how much ground turkey I used but I'm going to guess it was probably just over 1 lb. Maybe about 1 1/3 lbs.

PK's Turkey Sausage Patties:

1 1/3 lbs of ground lean turkey (approximate)
1 tsp of dried minced onion
1/2 tsp of ground sage
1/2 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of granulated garlic
1 tsp (approx) of worcester sauce
1/8 tsp of cayenne (or more if you want them spicier)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything up thoroughly and form into oval shaped patties.

Heat up a frying pan to medium high heat and coat with non stick spray. Add patties and brown on both sides until cooked through.

I think this took me about 20 minutes from start to finish. I got 6 various sized patties out of this. Had I actually made them uniform size it probably would have made 5. I had 2 for lunch with a nice big pile of roasted veggies. Delish!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Squashing the Specter of Self Doubt

After 13 years of running you'd think that I'd have this whole confidence thing down pat. Well, I don't. I have doubts. And I have them often. Although to my credit, I have gotten better over the last year or so. I do see that my hard work is paying off but....yes, there is a but.

But what?

Really there should be no but. I put in the effort, I train hard and I eat well. I am seeing results from this. Why do I doubt in my ability? I have tried very hard to answer this question. I think I expect so much of myself that I worry that maybe, just maybe, I won't live up to my own expectations so I start to doubt that I'll actually be able to do what I set out to do.

Silly, I know.

How do I stop this? Well, today I just went out and ran. I was supposed to do 20km but that turned into 21. I haven't done a long run since April 22. That's over 2 weeks. Between recovering from the Good Friday 10 miler and getting a cold, there was no chance for a long run. I was apprehensive when I walked out the door today. It took me a little while to get into a groove and the constant wind blowing in my face at about 25km/hr didn't really help either. But I chugged along nicely once I warmed up, hoping of course that the wind would be at my back when I turned around. I actually ran 21km because I didn't realize I had passed the 10km turnaround point. I was feeling really good. Sure enough when I turned around, the wind gave me that bit of an extra push and my hear rate dropped nicely. I felt good until about the 1hr 25 minute mark. My legs were starting to feel tired and sore. Not surprising. I soldiered on. At about 1:35 in I was starting to get sloppy. 5 minutes later I figured, ok, I'm going to push the pace home. Wow. That was HARD. I got to a point where I just couldn't make my legs go any faster. BRUTAL. I pushed as much as I could, up my street back into the wind. I was 1.5 minutes faster on the way back.

I didn't really finish strong but, I finished. And considering it's been 2 weeks since my last long run, I can't really complain. I pulled a 1:54:20 21km out of the blue. I'll take it.

Next week I've got 25km scheduled with a 10km race pace segment. Good thing I've signed up for the Mississauga 10km next Saturday night. I'm going to run 13km out to the start and hope that I can hang on to 4:45 km's for the 10km. We shall see. Getting that race / run under my belt will definitely be a step in the right direction to squashing that nasty specter of self doubt!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Go Ahead, Stuff your Face!

Time for more food talk. And pics.

This was last night's dinner. Rosemary, lemon & garlic grilled chicken with grilled asparagus. The chicken is based on a recipe from Fuel Up. Thank you Georgie!

That is what a typical dinner looks like for me since I started eating the PN way. Before PN there would have been potatoes with that. For sure. And I would have felt stuffed. Now I just feel satisfied.

I could go on but I digress.

My post from Sunday piqued a few people's interest and I had several folks ask me just what on earth do I eat to fuel my longer workouts. When I started the PN program, I did try eating eggs before my swims and long runs. They did not sit well. I didn't really experience any energy crashes per se though. My stomach just felt funny. And all I could taste was eggs. Not a pleasant thing on a long run, let me tell you.

So, I went back through the PN binder and checked out their post workout meals, figuring that I could use them for PRE workout if I was doing a long cardio effort.
What I noticed was that in addition to carbs, these meals all had a hefty dose of protein in them, either in the form of protein powder, cottage cheese or greek yogurt. Interesting. Before PN, I would have oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar, almond milk and some walnuts and maybe dried cranberries or other fruit. And I would usually be STARVING by the time I finished my workout. Even if it was only an hour long swim or 1.5 hour run. Now, I make sure I add some protein to my meal. My current fave thing to eat before a long run or swim is quinoa. "Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. Not only is quinoa's amino acid profile well balanced, making it a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein intake, but quinoa is especially well-endowed with the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair." (taken from It is also an excellent source of magnesium which can help stave off cramps. Very handy for a long run in the heat.

Needless to say I've become a big fan of quinoa. I usually top it with some greek yogurt and some berries with a bit of agave nectar or honey. YUM. If I don't have quinoa, I will use oatmeal, the quick cooking kind and treat it the same way, adding protein from greek yogurt or a scoop of protein powder.

So a typical day of food for me on a swim or run day might look like this:

Quinoa for breakfast

Post workout smoothie with protein powder and a banana with some other kind of fruit.

If I'm really hungry I usually have half a bagel with this - usually sprouted grain and then I'll top it with natural peanut butter (no sugar added).

Lunch will be a protein with veggies and a healthy fat - like a grilled chicken breast with a spinach salad, with walnuts, pears and avocado + a honey dijon vinaigrette.

Afternoon snack: hummus & veggies. Or a couple of hard boiled eggs and veggies. Always veggies.

Dinner would be somewhat similar to lunch. Or maybe it's a homemade pizza on chick pea flour crust (good source of protein!).

Either way, I never seem to get bored. And considering how much I love to eat, that's a good thing!

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Food For Thought, Pass it On!

My current obsession right now is to try and do ONE chin up. My upper body is incredibly weak so this is something I have been working on for the last month or so. Granted I haven't been incredibly consistent but even with my inconsistency I've still seen progress. I am doing assisted chin ups and can manage a progression of 5, 5, & 4, gradually reducing the counter weight with each set. Yup, I'm working on turning my twigs into branches!

Where has this obsession come from? From a challenge that was "loosely" thrown down on the PN forum. There are a couple of incredibly amazing women whose logs I follow regularly and they were trying to get to 10 chin ups. Both of them got there relatively quickly.

Very inspiring stuff. At least for me anyway.

It's one of the many reasons I love that forum. The other reason is that one of those crazy chin up ladies, also happens to be an amazing Registered Dietician by the name of Georgie Fear. Yes, that is her real name. Georgie is a fantastic cook, who knows her stuff. And she is also willing to share all of her recipes with the folks on PN. Every recipe of hers I've tried, I've loved. And that's saying a lot as I've got some pretty picky taste buds.

She has a website on which she shares a bunch of her recipes for things like homemade protein bars (which are amazing) as well as great ideas for dinners, snacks and healthy desserts. She offers up insightful info into things like carb cycling and supplementation and she also answers readers questions. She has also put together an amazing cookbook called Fuel Up. I got my hands on it a while back and it is fantastic. Filled with all sorts of nutritional info as well as flavourful, easy to prepare recipes, it's a steal at $25.

If you're looking for some healthy inspiration, look no further than Fuel Up.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Food For Thought

After my marathon debacle last September I took a week or so to lick my wounds and then I started to think. How had I gotten so slow? What on earth happened to the girl who wasn't afraid to throw it down? The girl who ran like her life depended on it? Who wasn't afraid to mix things up workout wise?

She somehow got lost in long slow and easy. I had to find her again.

Finding her again meant taking a look at my current routine, from how I was training to how I was eating. I was already formulating a plan regarding my training but my eating, well, I thought I was already eating healthfully. Sure I weighed more than I had in years but I attributed that to 1) all the fertility drugs I had been on and 2) just plain getting older. I figured once I got back to the gym, the weight would start coming off.

It didn't.

It was time to take action. I just wasn't sure what to do. I've never been a dieter and I wasn't going to start now. Then one day on CP24, I happened to be watching Wylde On Health and he was interviewing a guy by the name of Dr. John Berardi. Dr. Berardi was talking about a program he designed called Precision Nutrition. The basic principle of it made complete sense to me. It was all about nutrient timing. What you ate was just as important as when you ate it. So I googled Precision Nutrition. My interest was piqued. This was something that made sense to me. Perhaps I was eating the wrong things at the wrong time? I ordered my binder (it was $100 and it included a cookbook + some more 5 minute meals in a separate section). I figured $100 was a small price to pay if this program was as good as it sounded. The binder came a couple of days later and I started reading. There was a LOT of info to take in. There were 10 key habits that he outlined. At first it all seemed incredibly overwhelming but Dr. Berardi suggests getting one habit under your belt before tackling another. Which is exactly what I did.

The big thing I noticed with this program was that starchy carbohydrates were limited to POST workout. Really? As an endurance athlete this was almost blasphemy to me. But I knew I needed a change so I figured I'd give it a go. I struggled a lot with what to eat for breakfast. Eggs and vegetables were the recommended things but they didn't always sit well before for a swim or a run. Luckily the PN package also came with a membership to their online forum where I found a whole bunch of incredibly helpful folks. Granted the majority of them are lifters vs. endurance athletes but there were a few folks who offered some great suggestions. I discovered a whole new way of eating. Simpler was better. Meals became easier to prepare and just a flavourful if not more. I also started using protein powder. I realized that my previous way of eating barely even covered my protein needs. I now made a conscious effort to get protein in at every meal, along with veggies.

An amazing thing happened. I no longer had those unpleasant afternoon crashes I used to have. My energy levels remained constant throughout the day.

And I started to lose inches. The weight came off as well but what started to change first was the shape of my body. I really started to notice it through my bust & mid-section, which was where I carried most of my weight.

At my heaviest last May I was 138lbs. Which at 5ft 5in is still within "normal" range. But that was not normal for me. I was normally around 130lbs. I managed to lose a few of those lbs during my marathon training. I think I got down to 134. After 7 months of following PN, I have gone down to 125lbs. The biggest change is not on the scale. It's in my body composition. I am the leanest I've ever been. I'm stronger than I've ever been. And, I think I've managed to coax that girl who ran like her life depended on it out of hiding.

I did vow that 40 was going to be the best year of my life so far. And so far, I'd have to say I'm right on track.