Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Things I've Learned from My Plank A Day Challenge

Thanks to a bunch of folks on Twitter that I follow, I decided at the beginning of July that I was going to take part in a Plank A Day challenge for the month.  The goal was to do a plank a day and gradually increase my time until I could hold it for 5:00 minutes straight.  While I failed miserably at holding a solid plank for 5:00 minutes straight, I was able to do a plank circuit for that amount of time.  I worked my way up to 6:30.  Man was that hard.  On a good day I can now hold a plank for 2:30-2:45 and I started at being able to hold it for 2:00.  So that's a good improvement. 
Much to my chagrin, I didn't quite make the full month.  I missed *one* day.  One. Stinking.  Day.  And why?  Because I got sucked into the black hole of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies and completely forgot about my plank.  I woke up at 2:00 am that night and thought Crap, I can't believe I forgot to plank!  I was seriously tempted to get up and do it but I was having such a good sleep that I didn't want to disrupt it with a plank.  So I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Such is life.  I still made 30 out of 31 days and that's nothing to sneeze at.

I knew that by the end of 31 days, my core would be a lot stronger.  But there were some other surprising things I learned along the way. 

1.  I actually really enjoy planking.

2.  Planking is best done before you do any other workout, especially a swim workout or any sort of upper body workout.  Unless of course you're Wonder Woman.  Then you can do anything.

3.  My core is stronger than my upper body.  I found that my arms would give out sooner than my abdominal muscles.

4.  Child's pose feels like heaven after a good solid plank.

5.   I can pull of a 5:30 plank circuit after a burger, fries and a pint of beer.  I wouldn't recommend it unless you really enjoyed your dinner so much so that you want to taste it again.

6.  Side planks have worked wonders for my obliques. 

7.  I enjoy planking so much that I will probably continue to do it.  Maybe not every day but certainly on a regular basis and definitely not after a burger, fries and a pint of beer.

 Did you do YOUR plank today?

Did you follow along on twitter and if so, did your plank time improve over the last month?

(photo credit: Suanie  Image is subject to a creative commons attribution license)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Sunday Ritual: Flying Solo and an Epic Run

I can't believe Sunday is here already.  Weekends go by far too quickly these days!  At least it's a long weekend next weekend, woohoo!   Another Sunday means another round of the Sunday Ritual.  I have to be honest, I don't have any big plans for today because Gary is away for work all week.  I only bust out the fancy stuff when I'm cooking for both of us.  You know, being a good wife and all that.  Left to my own devices I'd be happy with a plate of scrambled eggs for dinner, which is probably what will happen this week.  There are three nights this week where I won't be home until later so dinner will be eaten post workout (Tuesday & Thursday) or before my appointment (Wednesday).   But fear not, I do have some plans for today as well as this week. 

The big goal for today will be to make my own energy bars.  Especially after yesterdays bonk fest on the bike.  I can't survive on gels alone on the bike, I need solid food.  I've found this great recipe formula from the No Meat Athlete that I'm going to try.  They have beans in them.  Beans!  All I hope is that my rides don't end up becoming gas powered.  But I won't know until I try and I'm always game for trying new things, especially food related things.  I'll also be making my usual breakfast fritatta.  Lunches this week will involve consuming the remainder of my various burgers, some grilled chicken breast and the remaining lettuce from the garden.

Speaking of yesterday's bike bonk, I figured that my run today would suffer big time from the thrashing I put on my legs, along with my less than ideal dinner (Woody's bison burger, sweet potato fries and a pint of Amsterdam Blonde.)  The goal for today's run was to test out my "new" long run pace.   I'm following a program called FIRST.  This program is based on running 3 days a week and it focuses on 3 key runs:  a tempo run, interval workouts and a long run.  I did something like this last year training for my series of half marathons and felt that my body responded well to the lower amount of pavement pounding.   I was hesitant to try it for my marathon because I had a time goal and felt that I had to get the mileage in so I ran 4 days a week.  That fourth day was really just junk mileage.  I didn't need to do it.  So, I'm going back to 3 days and following this program.  I do enough cross training that I'm still maintaining a good level of fitness so 3 days of running is fine.

My current long run pace is based on my lactate threshold test that I did last year.  It ranges between 5:05/km and 5:10/km (for the American folks that translates to 8:11-8:18/min mile pace).  This particular training plan uses your 10 km pace + 60 to 75 seconds per mile as your long run pace.  My 10km pace + the 75 seconds is currently about where I run now so I thought why not try my long run at my 10km + 60 seconds per mile.  That works out to 4:48 min/ km's or 7:43 min/miles.  I didn't think I'd be able to maintain that given yesterday's beat down but I thought I'd try to see if I could maintain sub 5:00 minute km's.

I started off feeling a bit rough but quickly found my stride.  I was booking it.  4:35's, 4:40's.  It felt easy.  I chugged along at this pace and was amazed at how good I felt.  My stride felt fluid and effortless.  I live for runs like this.  I turned around and 9.5km and felt like I could go on for ever.   As I made my way back, I started to feel a little tired and my pace started to slow a bit.  I didn't care, I was still running sub 5:00 minute km's.  I thought for sure the wheels would fall off the wagon at some point.  I kept waiting for it to happen but it never did.  I came running through Marie Curtis Park with Muse's Uprising playing on my shuffle.  I felt invincible.  I covered 19.04km in 1:32:45 for an average pace of 4:52/km's (7:50 min/miles).  Mission accomplished.  This called for a bit of a Sunday Gun Show from my inner super hero.
Seriously ridiculous flex face.
I had planned on celebrating by having a frosty beverage but while harvesting beans and the lettuce pictured above, I somehow tweaked by calf.  So much so that I can't really walk without pain.  So, I've taken an anti inflammatory, I've iced it and now I'm wearing my compression socks with my legs elevated.  So given the anti-inflammatory, a frosty beverage will have to wait till tomorrow.  Hopefully it's nothing serious.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Conquering My Fear with a Little Saturday Fun

I've always had an overactive imagination.  It's no wonder I ended up studying Fine Arts in university.  This overactive imagination can sometimes get the better of me especially since I'm not sure how to control it when it plays on my anxieties.  To those of you that have been reading this blog since it's inception, you know just how petrified I am of open water swimming.  It's ironic given that I love the sport of triathlon.  People have asked me why I don't just do duathlons (run, bike, run) and my answer is that they're too freaking hard.  Seriously.  It's all legs all the time.  At least with triathlon, you've got a chance to give your legs a break before you beat the crap out of them.   All that aside, I always struggle with the swim leg of a triathlon.  I don't know what it is about open water that sets me off.  Creepy things on the bottom of the lake? The Loch Ness Monster?  Murky water?  Or the worry that I'm going to all of sudden not be able to swim anymore and I'll be in the middle of a lake...?  I'm sure it's a combination of all of those things.  So it never fails that I always have some kind of panic attack when I'm in the water.  I'm one of those people that you see doing backstroke to calm down.  The ridiculous part is that I know how to swim and I'm actually not that bad.  So when my better half said we were going to ride at Lake Wilcox today and we were going to swim first, well, I had a bit of an internal freakout.  I said I'd do it but I was nervous about it all last night and when I got up this morning I had butterflies. 

And so the self talk began. 

"Why are you so afraid, you know how to swim?"  I know, I don't know why I"m afraid.  I know it's irrational but I never claimed to be a rational person.

"What could go wrong?  You'll have a wetsuit on so you can float and there will be other people around."  I know, but I can't help but worry. 

"Stop worrying and just do it.  Focus on everything else but the fact that you're in open water."  Ok, I'll try.

And on and on it went.   At one point I almost managed to talk myself OUT of getting into the water.  But then I got annoyed with myself.  I've registered for 2 sprint distance triathlons so I have to get in the water and get used to it.  So I set myself the goal of getting in, putting my face in and swimming a few strokes to see how I felt. 

We pulled in the parking lot at Sunset Beach and it was packed with triathletes which I figured was a good thing as that meant that there should be a lot of people swimming.  The other good thing I saw was that there was a line of buoys that went right across the lake.  Awe-some!  I am horrible at sighting so to have something to follow is very helpful.  We met our friends Linnea and Glenn, got our wetsuits on and made our way down to the water.  I felt like barfing or maybe even crying. We got down to the little landing and we were greeted by a bunch of ducks just chilling out as well as a few other triathletes getting ready to swim.
Duck Posse, Chillin by the Lake

I hesitantly made my way into the murky water.  The bottom wasn't too bad, it was fairly sandy for the first few feet, then it started to get muddy and weedy.  This is when I started to get a little freaked out.  I decided to just jump in and breast stroke for a bit.  That is no easy feat in a wetsuit.  Linnea asked if I wanted her to stay with me.  I was tempted but the stubborn part of me wanted to do this on my own.  And, she came out to do a swim, I didn't want to hold her back so I told her no, it was ok, I'd be fine.  Then she said well at least it's not the Ironman Switzerland swim, right?  God love her ability to put things in perspective.  That made me feel a bit better.  I joked that I didn't even think I'd make it over to the buoys and she said just take your time.  I figured I was in the water, I might as well put my face in and try to swim.  So, off I went.  The first few strokes felt a little weird.  I always forget how different swimming in a wetsuit is.  I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried not to think about what I was doing.  Then the panic struck me out of nowhere so I stopped and looked around.  Everyone was still nearby so I put my head back in and swam over to towards the buoys.  The next thing I knew I had made it to the big red buoy that started the line of buoys that went across the lake.  Linnea said that it was about 1km across the lake.  I could see a red buoy out in the middle and figured I'd try to make it to that one.  I knew that everyone wanted to swim across the lake but I couldn't bring myself to do that just yet.  Baby steps.  Gary asked me if it was ok if he went.  I wanted him to stay with me but I didn't want him to miss a workout so I said no, go ahead.  I really had to do this on my own.   So he went off and I followed on his feet for a bit and then looked up and freaked out.  I was getting farther away from shore. 

This is ridiculous.  You can do this.

I decided that staying close to shore would probably be the best thing for me at this point.  If I could see the shoreline, I'd feel better.  So, I swam back to red buoy, floated on my back for a bit to get my breathing back to normal, then rolled over and started to swim back to where we came into the water.  I thought that maybe if I thought about my form and worked on my sighting that might be distraction enough.  So I picked a point along the shore where there happened to be a guy fishing, and used that as my focal point.   

One two three, breathe, one two three, breathe & sight.

Sometimes counting makes it better. 

Before I knew it, I was almost at the shore.  I rolled over on my back and floated for a bit.  That was actually really relaxing.  I tried to backstroke but it made me kind of dizzy so I stopped.  I tread water for a bit and figured I'd try swimming back to the red buoy.  So, off I went.

One two three, breathe, one two three, breathe & sight.  God I'm tired.

I stopped once to take a breather.  Swimming in a wetsuit is hard work until you get used to it.  My shoulders were tired and I think I was swimming faster than I would normally.  I wasn't far from the red buoy so I put my face back in and continued on.  I got to the red buoy and actually thought, wow, that wasn't so bad.  So I decided to swim up the line of buoys.  I made it to the second one before I started to panic a bit.  Ok ok, don't push it, you've already done way better than you expected.

It was true, I had.  I didn't even think I'd make it over the few hundred meters to the red buoy, let alone swim back and forth between it several times.  With that little victory, I turned around and swam back to shore, practicing my sighting and thinking about my stroke.  I swam through a bunch of weeds coming towards the shore and got grossed out so I flipped over on to my back and backstroked until I could touch the bottom. 

First open water swim, a success.  I might have only swam about 500-600m but it wasn't about distance for me.  I just had to be able to know that I could get in and do it.  The next time we go out, I'll try to swim a bit farther.  It's all about baby steps.  Today I was a happy camper.

Nice cone head. 
With the swim done, it was time to ride.  I knew the ride was going to be tough because I was riding with the speedy folks today.  I didn't really know where I was going but everyone made an effort to come back and ride with me and thankfully, they never really got that far ahead of me.  Except when I stopped to take some pictures.  This was the first ride where I spent most of it in my big chain ring.  The route is a lot flatter than what we normally ride so it just felt right.  I worked at getting into my aero bars and staying in them.  My longest ride this year was just under 50km.  I had a feeling that today would be a bit longer than that.  I was actually feeling really good so I was actually able to stay pretty close to the group.  The plan was to ride out for an hour and then turn back.  That plan gradually started to change the further along we got.  We rode out an extra 10 minutes to get to a little diner so everyone could fuel up.  I was ready to turn around.  Thankfully everyone else was as well.  I was still feeling pretty good so I hung on and climbed some of the smaller hills in my big chain ring.  At about 1:30 in I was starting to hurt.  1:40 in and I was struggling.  I had been eating gels but I don't think that was enough given the slightly harder than normal effort.  Glenn stopped to give me some Cliff shot blocs.  That helped for a bit.  At the two hour mark my legs just ached.  Since I slowed down it gave me the opportunity to take a few pics.

Huge horse farm.
The Yellow Jersey & Fluffy Clouds
We stopped at a set of lights and Gary said that we were almost done, but that we had one last hill to climb.  I wanted to get off my bike right then and there but I thought NO, suck it up and get it done.  We turned the corner and I saw the hill.  Ah. Crap.  My left foot had developed a hot spot and it was hurting like hell.  I couldn't really put much pressure on it at all so I basically had to cycle up this hill one legged.  I grit my teeth, put my head down and reefed on my handle bars.  I may whine and want to quit but my bull-headed nature won't let me do that so I'll always finish.  It may not be pretty but I'll get it done.  Today was exactly that. 

Total ride time: 2:21:54.  Distance covered 66.17km.  Longest ride this year and my fastest average pace too.  Woot!

Today's little adventure has done wonders for my confidence.  I'm actually kind of looking forward to getting into the water again to see how much farther I can go.

Call me crazy but that was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.   Maybe it was the 2 coffees I had before we started.....

Enough said.

Is there something you're afraid of doing?  Have you been able to conquer that fear? 

What's your idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday morning?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Playlist Thursday: Vacation Jams

Here it is, another edition of Playlist Thursday.  This weeks theme is Vacation Jams.  I have to admit when Pavement Runner put that out there I immediately thought of the Beach Boys and that sort of summertime music.  That wasn't totally what he had in mind for the post.  This is the deal:  "Ever have a song that reminds you of someplace else? How about a song that instantly transports you to a different state of mind? Well, that’s what this week’s theme is all about. Songs that send you someplace. VACATION JAMS!"

Thank GOD because I would have struggled with this weeks playlist if we had done it my way, ha ha.

The "rules" of Playlist Thursday:

Something Old: These will be songs that are at least 5 years old.
Something Current: These will be songs that have been released within the past year.  Always a tough one for me.  Thank goodness for Genius on iTunes!
Something to Consider: These will be songs that are not typically heard on the radio and may be by artists you’ve never heard of or considered running to. This is the wild card category, can be old or current.

Something Old
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Title: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Side Note:  Sunshine, convertible, open road, cranked.  Enough said.
Quotable:  "I ain't here on business baby, I'm only here for fun".


Something Current:
Artist: Foster The People
Title: Pumped Up Kicks
Side Note: This one is a little over a year old but whatever.  The beat and tone of this song feels like summer to me.  Chillin' on the dock at the cottage, lounging on the beach, whatever, this song takes me there.  Shame that the lyrics aren't terribly nice.
Quotable:  "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, outrun my gun"

Something to Consider:
Artist: Buena Vista Social Club
Title: Candela
Side Note:  These guys were the other group that I thought about when I thought about summertime music.  Buena Vista Social Club takes me back almost 15 years ago to an amazing summer that involved learning how to salsa.   Lots of late nights, dancing and sweating and playing this album over and over.  Oh the memories.
Quotable:  "So now if you all want to dance, find yourself another drummer." (thanks to whomever translated the You Tube video as I don't speak Spanish!)

What do you think?  Are you ready for a vacation yet?

What are your Vacation Jams?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Top 10 Medals

Once again I've been inspired by Pavement Runner and his post on race hardware.  I've done so many races I've lost count.  But there are several that will always stand out for me.  This list is a combination of sentimental favourites and the "just plain cool".  Without further adieu, here are my top 10. 

10.  The Midsummer Night's Run 30km.  This was the first race I actually wore a "costume" for.  I ran 30km wearing a tutu and a "crown" of stars (it was really some kind of party decoration but whatever).  It was also the first race I ran at night.  I love the detail on the medal.  It ties in so well with the Shakspearean theme of the race.  (race report)

9.  Run the Runway 5km.  This race was held on one of the runways at Toronto's busiest airport, Pearson International.  It was pretty cool to be out there running while planes were taking off and landing a few runways away.  This was also a PB and an overall women's win for me. (race report) 

8.  The Toronto Women's Half Marathon:  2011 & 2012.  These are the first medals I don't feel like an idiot wearing around days after the race!  Last year I did every race in the Toronto Women's Run series and I can't speak highly enough about this race series.  It's fun, the race swag is always great and the atmosphere is so laid back.  It's totally geared towards a woman's sensibility.  I've worn both of these necklaces many times and I always get compliments on them.  You know I'll be signing up for next year so I can add to my jewelry collection! (2011 report & 2012 report)

7.  Recharge with Milk Triathlon Series:  Cobourg Duathlon 2011.  There isn't anything special about the medal itself but it was my first ever overall race win, and it was completely unexpected so it makes it that much more special. (race report here)

6.  Around the Bay 30km.  I've run this race several times and my goal has always been to get that elusive silver medal.  You are awarded different coloured medals based on your finishing time.  For women you have to break 2:30 to get a silver medal and 2:15 to get a gold medal.  This was my first big race this year so I wanted to be smart about it.  I paced myself really well and still had a lot left in the tank at the end to book it over the last 3km.  My final time was 2:17:17.  I got my silver medal and gained confidence in my ability to actually pace myself properly.  (race report here)

5.  Ottawa Marathon 2002.  This was my second marathon.  It was the first time I ran a race with Gary and it was the first time I qualified for Boston so there is some serious sentimentality connected to this race / medal.

4.  Ironman Switzerland 2008.  This was my second Ironman and it was a stark contrast to my first one.  The day just went from bad to worse but I managed to finish and finish with a PB no less.  The best part of this day was the fact that there were a bunch of us racing.  8 of us made the trip to Zurich so it was a blast.  I raced with my best friend and my husband as well as a bunch of other friends.  It was also my first trip to Europe so that in itself overshadowed any negative experience I had on race day.  2 weeks in Europe with 8 friends and a big huge race in the middle...it doesn't get much better than that. (race report here)

3.  The Vancouver Marathon 2001.  I  decided that I wanted to celebrate turning 30 by running a marathon so this is the race I chose.  I had never been to Vancouver but I had a friend that lived out there so I figured I might as well head out there and run this race.  Coincidentally it was the 30th anniversary of the race as well so the medal is the number 30.  Pretty cool momento.

2.  The Boston Marathon 2003.   It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  That was the title of my race report and I think it accurately sums up the day.  I caved big time, I wanted to quit & I cried a lot but I made it to the finish.  Whenever I look back on the day, I don't remember the pain I felt or the sunburn I got, I remember the crazy girls at Wellsley College, the line of revving Harleys in the Newton Hills & the drunk frat boy that ran with me up Heartbreak Hill.  Those things made it the best of times.  Boston may have broken me that year but I look forward to going back next year to hopefully set the record straight.

1.  Ironman Lake Placid 2006.  My first Ironman and hands down the best of day of my life aside from my wedding day.  10 months of training with my husband and a couple of friends culminated in the most fun I've ever had racing.  Our families and several of our friends came out to cheer us on and they positioned themselves at various places along the course so it was always a bit of a surprise to see them.  It was kinda like playing Where's Waldo.  Every time I saw them there was a lot of cheering and high fives.  I'm pretty sure I was smiling from start to finish.  After I finished freaking out about the swim of course.   The best part of the day was my husband giving me my finishers medal.  (race report here)

This is now where all of my medals rest, with the exception of the two that I actually wear.  I think I'm going to need a new vase pretty soon.  Either that or another way of displaying them.

What are your favourite race medals and why?  Is it the medal itself or the memory of the race?

How do you display your race bling?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Go Big or Go Home: The Triple

I've done it again.  I've signed up for 3 races over the course of 3 weekends next month.  Yup, it's another Go Big or Go Home month.  I did this last year at the end of May, running the Toronto Women's Half, followed by the Bread and Honey 15km, followed by the Woodstock Triathlon.  Needless to say I was punched by the end of those 3 weeks but I think I gained a lot both in fitness and in mental toughness from the experience.  It also really made me appreciate the time off afterwards!  The distances I'm tackling this time around are a bit shorter (i.e I'm not kicking it all off with a half marathon).  To make it really interesting I've got marathon training to fit in there somewhere.  Good thing I've got a week off next month.  

August 12th:  Toronto 10 Miler.  Perfect considering my training plan has me scheduled to run 10 miles that day.  It's supposed to be an 10 easy miles but I'm not the type of girl to enter a mid-distance race like this and just take it easy.  That's just not part of my DNA. 

August 19th:  The Bala Falls Triathlon.  750 m swim, 30km bike and 7.5km run.  Given that we are on holidays that week, I better get out and 1) actually do some open water swimming and 2) get a few more bike rides in.  I've done this race once before and it's a tough one.  The bike is all rollers and the run is as well.  Should be a good challenge.   And, to top it off MSC has made this a "retro" race so apparently there will be prizes for people with the best retro triathlon gear.  I can't WAIT to see how many guys show up in neon speedos!

August 26th:  The Toronto Island Triathlon.  750m swim, 30km bike and 7.5km run.  I've watched Gary do this race many times and I've always thought it would be lovely to swim at Hanlan's Point (clear shallow water and totally sandy bottom) so I figured why not.  I'll have to practice my turning skills as the bike course has a couple of sharp turns in it.  I usually brake, unclip and put my foot down but I'm a big girl now so I *should* be able to make the turn without having to do that but we'll see.  Hopefully I don't take out any spectators!

I was feeling a little unmotivated but now that I've started to fill my race calendar again, I'm getting excited.   It also gives me some "mini-goals" to work towards.  Like making sure I get to the pool more than once a week so I don't have to do backstroke for the entire 750m swim.  

I'm not sure what has happened to me over the last couple of years but I've really taking this racing thing to a whole new level.  I used to be afraid to race two weekends in a row because I didn't think my body would be able to take it.   Oh I need the time to recover.  What the hell?  It's not like I'm 80.  I've learned that your body can adapt to pretty much whatever you throw at it.  And, if you learn to listen to it, it will tell you when it's had enough.  Is 3 weeks in a row of racing crazy?  To some perhaps.  To me it's an opportunity to build strength both mentally and physically AND most importantly to go out and have fun doing it.  The best part is that I get to race with my husband.  It's been a while since we've raced together (he doesn't run that much) so that's what I'm most looking forward to.   We're both a wee bit competitive so I suspect there might be some side bets going on but that's part of the fun. 

Do you have any races coming up?

Have you ever done multiple races either back to back or over the course of several weekends?  How did you feel by the end of it?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sunday Ritual: The Freezer Clean Out

I've been a little guilty of hoarding as of late...let me explain.  We used to buy most of our meat at the local organic butchers but for some reason that stopped.  I think it was when chicken breast went on sale at our local grocery store and we bought about 6 bulk packages of it and put it in the freezer.  Then the next week something else was on sale, and then something else.  You see where I'm going with this right?  I went by the grocery store today to pick up a few things and lo and behold pork tenderloin was on sale.  Sweet!  I was hoping to make pulled pork on the BBQ so I figured I'd get some of this and give it a go.  I got home and opened up the freezer to put things away and thought to myself "Geezus what the hell happened in here?!?" as a couple of bags of unidentifiable frozen things fell to my feet. 

Meat hoarding is what happened my friends.   It was not pretty.

I had ziploc bags with random pieces of chicken thighs, turkey sausages, flank steak, ground turkey and shrimp.  Not to mention a whole package of chicken breasts and a bunch of pork chops that I just bought last week (and didn't get to cook, but that's another story).  I also had 2 ziploc bags with my assorted burgers that I've made over the last couple of weeks.   Something had to be done.

The challenge:  to use up all the bits and pieces for meals this week.

First up:  The flank steaks.  Easy.  They are currently marinating in the fridge in this recipe so that's what we'll have for dinner.

Next:  Chicken thighs.  There are only 4 of them so I think I"ll marinate those and bring them into work to cook on the BBQ there.  I'm going to marinate them in this recipe

Ground Turkey:  The bit that I have left is going to be added to the package that I have opened to FINALLY make those chipotle burgers I was going to make last week.

Shrimp:  There aren't many but I will bring them to work this week and cook them up with some garlic and use them in a salad with some peanut sauce.  I may have to add some chicken and some nuts (cashews would be good!) to this given the low calorie count of shrimp. 

That should help take care of all the random bits and pieces and make bottom half of the freezer an easier place to negotiate.

The top shelf will have to wait till next week.  It's filled with random packages of bread, wraps, bagels and who knows what else.  I can't face cleaning that out right now.  

In other news, I'm having another love affair with chick pea flour.  I used it last week for the crust of my country breakfast pie and I loved it so much I decided to make another pie this week with slightly different ingredients.  Instead of roasted red peppers & aged cheddar, I used sundried tomatoes and parmesan cheese along with some frozen spinach and turkey sausage.  Oh yeah.  And while I was at it, I made a chick pea & coconut flour pizza crust which I'll put in a ziploc bag and stash in the fridge for Tuesday night's post run dinner. 

Breakfast pie assembly
Fresh out of the oven!
 Good thing I did some of this stuff yesterday because I'm freaking tired. 16km run today and, I was up at 4:45 am this morning to go and cheer on my hubby at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.   If that's not love, I don't know what is!

What did you get up to this weekend?    Did you race or take it easy?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Playlist Thursday: Danceability

I'm a music lover so I'm always looking for new tunes to work out to.  Thanks to Pavement Runner and his weekly post Playlist Thursday, I can check out what other runners are listening to.  There is always a theme for Playlist Thursday and this week it happens to be "Danceability".  I've been known to bust a move or two in the middle of a run so I decided to join in the fun this week. 

To make it really interesting, he's got 3 categories that your song choices should fall in to.

Something Old:  These should be songs that are at least 5 years old. 
Something Current:  These should be songs that have been released within the past year.  This is a tough one for me given that I don't listen to popular radio.
Something to Consider:  These could be songs that are not typically heard on the radio and may be by artists you've never heard or have never considered running to.  These songs can be old or current.

Something Old
Artist:  Prince
Title:  Let's Go Crazy
Side Note:  If you want a kick in the pants mid run, crank this.
Quotable:  "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life".

Let's go crazy/Prince & The Revolution by gaimon5656

Something Current:
Artist:  Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera
Title:  Moves Like Jagger
Side Note:  I'm squeaking by with this one as it was released in June of 2011, but the beat is good and it really does pick me up if I'm starting to feel rough.
Quotable:  "Maybe it's hard when you feel like you're broken and scarred"

Something to Consider:
Artist:  Divine
Title:  Native Love
Side Note:  I'm digging into the archives for this one.  It was always a song that would get me out on the dance floor and now it's in regular rotation on my running playlist.  The beat is perfect for running and the chorus is a great reminder to put one foot in front of the other.
Quotable:  "My car is by Ferrari and my body's Jack LaLanne, my clothes are by Armani and my hair is by Elaine."

Would any of these songs get you up and dancing? 

Have you ever busted a move mid run? 
  I have on several occasions.  Sometimes it just feels right, no matter how tired you are. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Sunday Ritual: A Top Up.

Here we are again!  Another Sunday already.  Given I didn't bring my lunch much last week I have a fair bit of goodies left from last week which means I don't have to make much this week.  Whatever I make this week will just be a top up to the rest of the things I already have stashed in the freezer.  It might also mean that I won't have to make anything next week except my breakfast!  The stove has been fixed so today I'm planning on FINALLY baking some protein bars and I've made something a little different for breakfast.  Yup, I'm giving my usual fritatta a break.  I made a "Country Breakfast Pie" from Fuel Up.  It's got a cornmeal crust and it's filled with turkey sausage and roasted red peppers.  I didn't have cornmeal so I made a chickpea flour crust and added some spinach to mine for a little extra veggies.  I love being able to take a piece out in the morning, pop it in the microwave and 45 seconds later I have nice healthy breakfast.  Makes my mornings that much easier.

yum yum yum!
I'm also going to make these burgers.  I was going to make them last week but the couch won out and I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out.  These will probably be part of dinner tonight. 

As for dinner this week, I don't really have too much planned but I do have the fixings to do a whole lot of grilling this week.  It's supposed to be a scorcher weather wise, so the BBQ will be getting a nice workout.   I've got the get some hickory chips so I can smoke some chicken breast.  I'm also keeping my eyes peeled for a sale on some pork shoulder or butt so I can make pulled pork.  I'm craving smoky BBQ like nobody's business.

This is what I'm thinking for the first few days this week:

Monday:  Garlic & thyme grilled chicken (a great Martha Stewart recipe, surprise, surprise) + grilled zucchini with sauteed tomatoes and dill.

Wednesday:  Grilled pork chops with maple & mustard glaze + whatever veggies I can toss on the grill.  Probably mushrooms, peppers & pearl onions.

Not quite sure what I'll do on Friday.  I'd love to find me some nice halibut steaks to make this recipe.  Perhaps that will be my mission during the week. 

What are your meal plans for this week?  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Here We Go Again...

It's coming.  Another 17 weeks of busting my butt for 26.2.  I've been enjoying these "lazy days" in between.  Not running if I don't want to, or, only running as far as I want to but I've got to say,  I'm kind of looking forward to getting back on plan.  Over the years I've learned that I don't really do well without a plan.  I need the structure or else I just get lazy.  Speaking of a plan, I haven't quite finished working out all the details of this one yet.  I'm thinking that I might actually try to get away with only running 3 days a week and supplementing my Saturday run with a ride.  I'm going to have to do a bit more research on that though.  It's still endurance cardio and who knows, the cycling may actually benefit my running.  Plus I just got fancy new shoes that match my bike so I'm excited to get out and ride.  Hey, don't judge!

This next block of training should help me get a bit more focused on my late season races as well.  There's been a lot of hemming and hawing about what races I'm going to do, lots of thinking and talking but no doing (i.e forking over the dough) just yet.   Once I put pen to paper (or turn pixels into words in this case) I'll probably have a clearer idea of what I'm going to do when.   I do know that I'm going to New York with no time solid time goal.  When I filled out my application they asked me what I thought my finishing time would be and I said 3:30.  I figure that's a bit of an easier pace than I ran Mississauga and if I'm slower than that, who cares.  I'm heading to the Big Apple for the experience.  That's not to say that I won't work on my speed over the summer.  Nope.  There is one thing I have decided to try and do.  3 weeks before New York, on my last long-ish run, I'm going to run the Scotiabank Half and try to break 1:30.  That is the big goal for the second half of the year.  New York will just be the icing on the cake.

Have you ever trained for a marathon on 3 days a week?  If so did you supplement with any other cross training like riding?

Are you able to just go and workout, run or whatever on a regular basis, even if you aren't training for anything or do you need to have a goal and follow a plan to stay on track?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Sunday Ritual: An Easy Week

It's that time of week again! Given that I am going to be shooting 3 days this week, I don't need to worry about lunch every day.  It likely means I'm going to be home late as well so there won't be much in the way of cooking for dinner.  But that doesn't mean that I'm not going be prepared, it just means that I won't be making as much. Our stove has still not been fixed (probably because it took me 2 days to find the manual & serial number) but it should be fixed by early next week. In the meantime, I busted out the cast iron skillet to make my frittata on the BBQ once again.  This one has sauteed onions, mushrooms, zucchini, red peppers, spinach, a bit of 1% cottage cheese and goat cheese.  YUM.
Hot off the BBQ.
The G-man is back and will need food for lunch so he'll probably grill up some chicken breast tomorrow night.  Speaking of chicken, I have some ground chicken that I'm going to make into burgers. I usually make this recipe, sometimes with chicken, sometimes with turkey but I want to try something different this week.  I hit up allrecipes and found a few really yummy sounding recipes.  I also had some ground turkey so I decided to make these Spinach and Feta Turkey Burgers. Putting spinach in your burger=amazing.  I love sneaking veggies into things.  I put spinach in my smoothies so why not put spinach my burgers?  I found a couple of recipes for chicken burgers as well so I'm not sure which one I'll make, if an,y this week.  I kinda just want to sit on the couch and read.  But, if I do this now, I'll have plenty of goodies to cover me for lunches and the occasional I-don't-feel-like-cooking-dinner for a couple of weeks.  This is what has made the cut, now I just have to pick one and actually make it. 

Cilantro Chicken Burger.  You either love cilantro or you hate it.  I love it so this sounds amazing.

Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burger.  I love me some smoky chipotle but only in small doses because I'm a wuss when it comes to spice.  That and I don't enjoy getting sweaty while I eat.  What can I say, I have a sensitive disposition.  Pretty sad for a girl who's got the Islands in her blood.

Spinach, Feta & Turkey burger

I've got dinner covered for the few nights this week that I'm actually going to be home.

Monday: Spaghetti squash with meat sauce.  I usually cook spaghetti squash in the oven but, I've done it in the microwave as well so that's what I'll do tomorrow.   Since I've got more ground turkey that's what I'll use for the meat sauce and I'll throw in some garlic, onions and spinach, along with some tomato sauce .  Yummy.

Wednesday:  Cedar planked salmon with a maple balsamic glaze & grilled veggies.  I'll have to remember to soak the plank in the sink before I leave for the day.

Both of these recipes are things that I've made up.  I'm a bit of a "free-form" cooker, I rarely write anything down, I usually just wing it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.   Perhaps this time I'll write everything down and post the final products here.

The rest of the nights I'm either at my run club, working late or we're out for dinner with the family.  Saturday I'll grocery shop and start this all over again.

The one thing that never fails when we're shooting is that there is always a lot of food around.  Some of it good (if I have anything to say about it, it's generally healthy) and some of it not so good.  I have very little self control so I have a hard time staying away from the goodie table.  But, if I bring my own snacks, then I'm less tempted to eat crap.  So, I'm going to cut up a bunch of veggies and have them ready to go and I'm going to make some roasted chick peas on the BBQ.  Low fat and protein packed, you couldn't ask for a better snack.  That's next up on my list and then, the couch may just win out.

Which burger would you make?

Do you have any strategies for eating healthy and staying on track?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Cookies!

So after my post about my meal plan, I got myself organized and ready to cook only to find that our oven decided not to work.  The stove was fine but the oven wouldn't light (we have a gas stove so I don't want to mess with anything).  I turned it on and let it sit, watching the preheat light flash.  I let it sit for 15 minutes.  Nothing.  I turned it off.  I turned it back on and went through the process all over again.  3 times.   Still nothing.  Gah!

What to do? Given that I had all the ingredients for my frittata ready and assembled, I went outside and fired up the BBQ.  I was making it in a cast iron pan so why not cook it on the Q?  Amazingly, it turned out perfectly.  I didn't scorch or overcook it.  That cast iron pan is hands down the best $20 I've ever spent.

Just like camping with a slightly smaller chance of charring!

The other dishes I was planning on making required either the BBQ or the stove top, all with the exception of the one thing I had been craving.  Those delectable chocolate peanut butter protein bars. I wasn't about to hazard making them on the BBQ as protein powder tends to make baked goods quite dry if you over bake it even slightly.  This made me cranky.  My crankiness faded as I was shuffling through a few papers on the kitchen counter and I came across this recipe for no bake cookies that I had printed ages ago.  They weren't protein bars but as far as a sweet snack goes they were better than a chocolate bar or some other baked good filled with refined ingredients.  I put all the ingredients together and found I had to add some coconut milk to get the right consistency.  Popped them in the freezer and about 10 minutes later, voila!  A tasty little treat.

Where's the chocolate?
  It didn't satisfy my chocolate craving however.  And that's when it hit me.

Why not make these CHOCOLATE coconut cookies???  D'uh!  I promptly set about getting all the ingredients assembled and mixed.  I added 1 tbsp of cocoa powder to the mix and 3 tbsp of coconut milk to get the batter nice and moist.  Laid them all out on a cookie sheet and popped them in the freezer.

Oh yes.  This is what I had been looking for.  It was a Mounds chocolate bar minus the guilt.  Ok so they aren't exactly low cal or low fat but I know what's in them.   Thanks to Katie for the original recipe.

Chocolate Coconut No Bake Cookies

True to Katie's original recipe, these are grain free but given that I used protein powder sweetened with sucralose, they're not totally sugar free.  My recipe made 6 cookies but I was pretty generous when doling out the dough.

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup chocolate flavoured whey protein powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 rounded Tbsp good quality cocoa powder.  I used Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Stevia to taste  (If your protein powder is sweetened you may not want to add this.  I didn't.  The cookies aren't overly sweet which is fine for me.)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp of coconut milk if required.
Add dry ingredients (flours, protein powder, cocoa powder, salt) into a bowl and mix well to combine.
Melt coconut oil in the microwave and add in vanilla. Pour coconut oil mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.   You may need to add a bit more liquid for desired consistency.  If so add 2-3 tablespoons of coconut milk.

I flattened mine into cookies but you could roll them into balls as well.  Place on a cookie sheet and put into the freezer for 10 minutes or so.  Makes 6 medium sized cookies.  Wrap 'em up and keep in the freezer.  I let mine thaw out for a couple of minutes before eating.


There's the chocolate!!!

Do you crave sweet or salty things?  

If you crave sweet, is there a particular flavour combination that you love?   I'm a sucker for chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate and mint.  Preferably dark chocolate.

(photo credits: Phaedra Kennedy)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer Runnin', Had Me A Blast....Until I Got Heat Stroke

Doesn't that look refreshing??
 Ok, I didn't really get heat stroke but I have had it and it isn't pretty.

Yup, the summer heat is upon us but you don't hear me complaining.  No siree.  I'd rather it be sunny and hotter than a hairy armpit instead of grey, cold and white.   Here in Southern Ontario we've actually been dealing with the heat a lot earlier than we're used to which leads me to believe that this summer is going to be a scorcher.  Given that we're in our second heat alert and it's only the first week of July, I don't think I'm going to be proven wrong any time soon.

This obviously makes running outside a wee bit uncomfortable and perhaps a bit crazy.  I've always been a little on the crazy side and since I'd rather chew tin foil than run on a dreadmill,  I head outside and usually learn the hard way just what the heat can do to you.  It's funny how I forget from year to year. I must be getting old or something.  Last weeks tempo run was no exception.  Talk about caving.  But I survived and was quickly reminded of all the other heat related meltdowns I've had.  Nothing like a good slap to the back of the head from Mother Nature to remind you that you're not invincible.

If you hate the dreadmill as much as I do and want to run outside, sweat your ta-tas off and not keel over from heat exhaustion then read on.

1.  Start your run hydrated.  People don't necessarily pay attention to hydration during the day.  I know I've had days where I'm stuck at my desk and I'm lucky to get one glass of water down my gullet.  You know you're not properly hydrated when your pee is the colour of mustard.  If you're planning on running in the evening, make an effort to stay hydrated during the day, even if your office is as cold as a meat locker.  If you start your run dehydrated your body is going to have an ever harder time trying to cool itself down. 

2.  Carry Fluids & Sip Often.   I shouldn't have to tell you to carry some kind of fluid with you on a run when it's hot out (booze does NOT count) but I'm always amazed to find that some people don't.  Granted they could just be out for a short run but still.  Maybe I'm just uber cautious but I'll take fluids with me on pretty much any distance when it's this hot out.  On runs longer than 45 minutes, you really should be carrying fluids.  The goal is to drink between 4 - 8 oz of fluids ever 15 to 20 minutes.  That should help you stay hydrated.

3.  Run Early or Run Late.  This may mean running at 4:00 am or 10:00 pm.  Do whatever works for you.  It may mean a few days with a little less sleep but you'll get over it.

4. Ix-nay on the Ava-Jay.  I know some of you are die hard coffee drinkers and you love your afternoon coffee almost as much as your morning coffee.  Well, I hate to break it to you but you might have to rethink that afternoon cup-o-joe if you're planning on running in the evening.  Since caffeine is a stimulant, not only does it elevate your heart rate but it can also cause your body to generate more heat.  Neither of which you want heading into a run in the heat.

5.  Run for the Shade or the Water.  Running in the heat provides you with the perfect opportunity to dice up your running routes.  If you normally run on the open road, try to pick a place that offers more shade.  Or, if you happen to live near a large body of water, like a lake, head to the shore and lace up your shoes.  I live very close to Lake Ontario and there is a marked difference in temperature by the lake in comparison to the city, usually about 5-7 degrees.  As our neighbourhood slogan says:  It's Cooler By the Lake.

6.  Lighten Up.  This is not the time of year to be wearing your black tights and long sleeve shirts.  Unless you're in the MMA and you're trying to cut weight.  Seriously folks, lose the layers.  Get naked.  Or as close to it as you're comfortable with.  It's HOT.  Wear loose, light coloured clothing, you'll feel a lot better, I promise.

7.  Adjust your Expectations.  Heat adversely affects performance.  Period.  If you're training over the summer for a fall race, chances are you're going to have to slow down some of your training runs.  There may be days that you're not going to hit your goal pace.  It's not the end of the world.  Do what you can and don't beat yourself up over it.  The same goes for racing.  Everyone else is suffering just as much as you are and I would bet you $5 that very few people (if any) have ever PB'd in extreme heat conditions.

8.  Make a Stash & Be Prepared.   For those of you training for fall marathons, summer long runs in the heat can be downright nasty.  Who wants to carry enough fluids on them to stay hydrated for 3 hours? It's not like I have hump where I can store my water either.  So you have to be prepared.  Plan your route out in advance and if you can stash water bottles along the way, do it.  This only works if you're in remote areas where there isn't anyone around to pick up your stash.  If you do this in the city, cover your ass and bring some money. 

9.  Channel your Inner Child.   It may not be the best thing to do at the start of a run (don't want squishy shoes right off the bat) but I highly recommend running through a sprinkler or a water park / splash pad, especially if you're starting to feel a little rough.  I actually did this on a long run once, much the amusement of the kids that were playing in it.  It felt great and it re-energized me for the last part of my run.

What are your favourite strategies for beating the heat?

Has the heat ever gotten the better of you?  If so, when and how did you deal with it?

(photo credit: Phaedra Kennedy)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Plank A Day Challenge

I bet if I did a poll amongst all my runner & triathlete friends about which body part they wished was stronger, I think the overwhelming response would be "my core / abs".  It's an area that often gets neglected as people either don't like to do it or can't seem to fit a full on core workout into their routine.  And by core I don't just mean your abs.  I mean your entire midsection, lower back included.  A lot of people don't realize how much strength and power can be had simply by having a strong core.   I'm not talking about doing 100 crunches at the gym either.  I'm talking about one move that will work at strengthening both your abs and your lower back.  Let me introduce you to the Plank.

How do you do a plank?  Simple.  You get on your feet like you're going to do a push up, bend your arms at 90 degrees and rest on your forearms.  You can either have your arms almost shoulder width apart or closer if you're really strong.  Then, you hold it for as long as you can.  Easy peasy as you can see by the bulging veins in my neck.

Planking - the tough way.

This is how I feel after planking the tough way.  Also known as Planking The Easy Way!

Thanks to the folks at Fit Fluential and Dr. Sherry Pagoto I have embarked on a Plank a Day challenge for the month of July.  My core strength isn't bad but my back strength leaves much to be desired so I figured why not, what have I got to lose? I already do a plank circuit once a week so I figured taking the time to do one plank a day can only make me stronger.  I know I'm able to hold a plank for at least a minute so my goal is to get to 5:00 minutes by the end of July.  A challenging but doable goal especially considering I was able to hold my first plank for 1:45.  I'm going to try to increase the time by 5 seconds per day for the first week and then figure out what I need to do from there.

Do you have a move that you like to do everyday?

Do you want to be a part of the Plank a Day Challenge?  Follow along on twitter @redrunningshoe, @FitFluential @PlankADay and tweet your results.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Sunday Ritual

Farmers Market Goodies
Over the last year and a half, I have followed  the principles of a program laid out by Precision Nutrition.  It helped me lose over 20lbs (at my lightest) and has helped me maintain my weight at around 120lbs.  A weight that I haven't seen since high school, over 20 years ago!  One of the main principles of this program is to eat "whole foods".  If it has more than 4-5 ingredients in it, then it's not worth putting in your body, a concept I never really grasped until recently.  I enjoy cooking but there were times when I'd come home late from work and not feel like cooking so dinner would end up being that frozen pizza we bought or we'd order some kind of take out.   Little did I know that those choices were part of what kept my weight holding steady at around 135lbs.  I was never overweight but I was never really lean given the amount of exercise that I did. Even training for Ironman, I only managed to get down to around 128lbs.  Now I'm training less (5 hours a week vs. 12-15) and I'm leaner.  I'm chalking that up 100% to the way I eat.

Given PN's emphasis on whole & less processed foods, this obviously means I'm cooking a lot more.  It also means that I have to be organized when it comes to what I eat.  This means planning my meals in advance.  Winging it usually results in a trip to a greasy burger joint so I try not to do that often.  I also find that when I plan my meals, we don't throw out as much food.  In fact, it's a rare occurrence now.  A win-win for my wallet and our green bin!

Since I have to be organized, this means I have to actually sit down at some point and figure out what we're going to eat for the week.  This also has to include my lunch.  So, I troll some of my favourite recipe sites and go through a few of my go-to cook books for inspiration.  I try to make my meals do double duty by making extra for dinner so I can take it to work the next day for lunch.  That helps a lot.   Before the chaos of the last couple of months ensued, I would usually take a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to make several of the dishes on my list.   Since these last few months have been incredibly busy with travel and racing, I've had very little time or energy to stick with my Sunday ritual.  Now that things are back to some semblance of normal around the Kennedy Compound, I'm bringing the Sunday ritual back.  In fact, I'm going to try and make it a weekly feature on my blog.  A little re-cap of all the goodies I'm making for the week.  It will help keep me on track and hopefully provide you with a wee bit of inspiration.

I took a trip to the local Farmer's Market on Friday and picked up a ton of asparagus (3 for $5!) a basket of sweet potatoes for $3, 3 zucchini for $2.50 and 2 bunches of fresh garlic still on the stalks for $5.  There were a ton of berries as well but given that I barely made it through the last pint I bought, I figured I'd pass.  The thing I'm most pumped about is the garlic.  I can't even tell you how much I hate grocery store garlic. Most of it comes from China and 90% of the time, it's soft and dry.  That may be a good quality for your armpits, but not for garlic.  I have to wait for these 6 cloves to dry out a bit before I can use them.  In the mean time I lucked out and found some good quality garlic at a small local fruit market. It's from California which is still not great but it's better than China.

So, on tap this week:

Grilled pork chops
Salmon Cakes
My usual breakfast frittata.  This one will probably have mushrooms, zucchini and asparagus. 
Grilled chicken breast.  Some with garlic & herb & some plain.   This I'll either eat as is with some veggies, or put on a salad.
Black Bean Burgers (from Fuel Up).  I'm a huge fan of burgers with or without the bun.  I tend to make a huge batch of turkey burgers and freeze them.  I have a few left from my last batch but I wanted to dice things up a bit and make a vegetarian burger.  These are fantastic topped with some avocado.
Something for my sweet tooth.  Perhaps these.  It's been a while since I've made these and I've been craving chocolate and peanut butter.  This should hopefully prevent me dunking a Dairy Milk into the peanut butter jar.

There you have it, my plan for the week.  Time to get cooking!

Do you plan your meals out for the week or do you just go day by day?

What are your favourite cooking websites or cookbooks?