Friday, November 29, 2013

8 Cool Gifts for the Endurance Junkie in Your Life

You reading along G?

Who am I kidding, I gave him my list ages ago.   Of course a few of the things on my list made it on to this list.

For those of you that haven't started your Christmas shopping yet....what are you waiting for, the last minute??  Or perhaps you're all out there now taking advantage of the Black Friday deals.  If you are, good for you.  I would rather chew tin foil than face crowds like that.  That's why I've done almost all of my Christmas shopping on line, which coincidentally, is how I found most of these awesome goodies!

The best part of this list is that all of these great things are under $50!

 ROAD ID.  Anyone and everyone that ventures outside to do some form of physical activity needs one of these.   Period.  They come in all sorts of great colours and styles.  If you don't want to wear something on your wrist, they have one that even attaches to your shoe.   I have two.  One I wear on my running shoe and another I wear on my wrist when I'm cycling.

Training / Race Day Nutrition:  My pick?  Salted Caramel GU.  Lawdy Lawdy this stuff is AWESOME.  It's GU's latest flavour and right now it's a limited edition holiday flavour.  I am crossing every single part of my body in the hopes that they make it a permanent addition to their flavour line up.

Portable lights, like this Light Guide.  With the arrival of winter, most of us end up having to run in the dark.  Combine that with potentially poor visibility and running at night can become a potentially hazardous endeavor, so in the interest of safety it make sense to be lit up like a Christmas tree.  The brighter the better because sometimes just being reflective doesn't cut it.

Do your race bibs just end up in a pile of chaos in your night stand drawer?  No?  Ok, maybe that's just me.  Anyway, if they do, perhaps you might want to look at doing this:

Yes, those are coasters made out of a race bib!  I love this idea.  I have kept every single race bib from every single race I've ever done.  Yes, I'm THAT person.  Granted I'm not sure where all of them are but I know I have them somewhere.  The best part is, you don't have to part with the actual bib, all they need is a photo!  You can get them done over at  Go For A Run

If you're like me and you keep all your race bibs in a less than organized state then this lovely Bib Folio would be an awesome gift.  It's like a photo album for bibs.  And it's much nicer than shoving them into your night table drawer.  You can even get this personalized!  So everyone knows that you were the one that busted your butt training, spent a crapload of money on race entry fees, and earned every single last one of your black toenails (just in case they didn't already, haha).

We all know that hydration is of utmost importance when it comes to training and recovery.  I take my hydration very seriously so when I saw this, I knew I had to have it.  It will hold a pint of beer OR a post workout smoothie perfectly.  What's not to love?  They also have wine glasses for those who prefer grapes to barley.   #DoubleBonus

With the arrival of the colder temps, it's time to start thinking about layering.  And for me, it all starts at the bottom.  Literally.  So when I found these awesome running gitch from Oiselle, well they immediately went to the top of my list. 

Clothing can always be a bit hit and miss as a gift but I think any cycling nut / triathlete would appreciate one of these t-shirts from Apres Velo.   They have some fantastic designs for both men and women.  I would have a hard time picking just one.  So I picked three.  I think the Tyred and Cranky is my fave.  Probably because I've been there many many times on my bike. 

The best part about all of these items?  They're all available online so you don't even have to get out of your pj's.  That's my kind of shopping!

What's on your Christmas list?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Busy Weekend & A Whole Lot of Upness

I am writing this post while lying almost horizontal on the couch.  This has been a busy weekend and I'm tuckered out.  Yesterday I did another TRX class and followed it up with a 3000m swim and a peppermint mocha.   That was followed up with some Christmas shopping.  I am happy to say that I am *almost* done.  Only a couple more gifts to go and then I'm good.  WOOHOO!  My credit card will be happy to see the end of the spending. 

This morning, my friend David and a couple of pals from my run club joined about 40 other crazy like minded folks at tackled the infamous Marquis de Sade route that runs through the High Park area in Toronto's West End.  It's supposed to be 18 hills in 21km but the route is so confusing that people either miss a few hills or do more than they are supposed to.  I was in the latter group.  I ran 20 hills in just under 21km.  Ouch.  Good thing my hamstrings were sore from my TRX workout the day before.  Hopefully I'll be able to walk tomorrow, ha ha.

Technically this is a "race" so there were a few really fast folks from the Black Lungs that showed up.  Normally I'd try and hang on to the crazies but I told my friends I wasn't going to go nuts.  I saved that for the last 4km, ha ha.  It was nice to run with a group, even though we were really spread out.  And it was nice to really bust it on the hills.  My normal running route is really flat so this was a great change of pace.  Shockingly I only managed to take one picture.

David jumping for the camera.  See those stairs in the back - yeah they're evil

David turned off to head home at about the 17km mark so after that I decided to drop the hammer and try and catch some of the folks out front.  My legs actually felt alright, which was surprising, so of course I let loose.  Those last 4km were really freaking hard.  And, I took a wrong turn based on some misinformation from one of the other runners.  Which added another hill.  Probably one of the worst hills on the route as well.  But I did it.  That was a whole lot of upness folks.

I got back to the store, stretched and waited a few minutes for the rest of the WTP crew to get back then it was off for coffee.  But not before we snapped a few pics.  Don't our shirts look awesome??

 I had a muffin the size of my head and an Americano.  Both really hit the spot.  I had a recovery smoothie and a bagel when I got home and I'm actually feeling hungry again but I honestly don't feel like moving.   It's times like this when I wish I had telekinesis.  Or maybe a butler / manservant.  Maybe if I whine enough, G will get up and make me a snack. 

Yeah right, who am I kidding  Football is on and he's under a blanket in front of the fire. 

Maybe I'll just have a nap instead.

Happy Sunday y'all! 

What kind of fun did you get up to this weekend?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

G.O.H.A.R.D & Another Milestone

Lately, whenever I go on twitter, I always seem to find out that it's some kind of special day celebrating something or other.   Peculiar People Day (January 10th, in case you were wondering),  Do a Grouch a Favour Day (February 16th) National Goof-Off Day (March 22nd and yes, this has been marked in my calendar) and National Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9th).  You can see the complete list here.   Not only is October 31st Halloween, but it's also National Magic Day and Increase Your Psychic Powers Day.  Seriously?  I'm dying.

Well, I've got another one to add to the list. 

Today is a day I can truly embrace (pun intended).  It's G.O.H.A.R.D day.  Normally GO HARD is something I'd say when dispensing 5km racing advice.  But in this instance it stands for Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day.

I'm a hugger.  And a runner.  So this is my kinda day.

Thanks to Run the Edge for this:  "Every runner deserves a hug. A real hug. The kind of hug that says, "Even if I don't understand why you do it, I appreciate and recognize your effort."

So, for all of you reading, I'm sending out a virtual hug (because I'm pretty sure you're almost all runners that read along). Those of you that see me on regular basis, don't be shy!!! 

On another note, you may remember (or maybe you don't) that one of my other goals earlier on in the year was to get to the 250,000m mark with my swimming.  The next big milestone (where I get another fancy swim cap and pin) will be 500,000m.  I figured it would take me a while to get there especially since I swam less during the summer.  Well folks, today I hit 400,000m and if I manage to keep up my mileage I may very well make 500,000m by the end of March. 

Only 98,510m left to go!  WOOHOO! 

Make sure you get out and hug a runner or two today!

Monday, November 18, 2013

'Tis The Season

Well gang, we're already halfway through November (WTH?!?) and judging by the influx of party invites that happened over the course of the weekend, the holiday insanity is literally just around the corner.  That means that my normally fairly regimented self is going to be shuffling things around over the next few weeks so I can get festive.  Thank goodness Boston training doesn't start till the week after Christmas! 

This past weekend kicked off our busy season.  Friday night we were over at a friends place for drinks and we didn't get in till midnight (*gasp*).  I dragged my butt out of bed a little earlier than I wanted to thinking I'd have enough time to get my run done before we had to go out to Orangeville.  Uh, right.  I didn't so I did it when I got back.  But at least it got done.  We were in Orangeville for the MSC Triathlon awards banquet.  G and I were both getting age group awards.  It was one of my goals to get on the overall podium in this series for my age group this year.  I'm happy to say that I snagged first place in the women's 40-44 year old age category.  G got third in his age group.  What I didn't realize was that had I registered as an elite (which I could have based on my times) I would have been eligible for prize money!!  Given the fact that I actually placed as an overall finisher in 5 of my 7 races I could have had at least $250 in my pocket.  Oh well.  Next year I'll think about that, especially if I work on my bike over the winter.  However, I did get this awesome plaque with one of my favourite race photos on it.

Speaking of working on my bike...I managed to last 90 minutes on the trainer yesterday without 1) losing my mind from boredom and 2) losing feeling in my crotch.  Number 2 is huge btw.   I have been having crotch issues all freaking season and it's come down to finding the right saddle.  That was my longest trainer ride this year and even then, I'm still not 100% sure about this new saddle.  Well, new to ME saddle.  It's the Adamo time trial saddle I bought G for Christmas last year.  He wanted it, I so I bought it, he ended up hating it, so now I have it.  Merry Christmas to me I guess, ha ha.  It's definitely better than my old saddle but I'm still not 100% sold.  I think it's just a bit too wide.  But I'll keep using it for the next couple of months.  Mainly because I don't want to spent the $250 on a new one right now what with Christmas just around the corner.
Not sure why I look so scared...must be the giant 'fro I'm sporting
Speaking of Christmas...who has started their shopping?  Who's got their decorations up already?  I've bought ONE thing so far.  One.  As for decorations, since I live with the Grinch (and you thought G stood for Gary, ha ha) we probably won't have anything up until mid-December.  G isn't a huge Christmas lover....mainly because it means that winter is here and he hates winter.  So unfortunately Christmas, being at the time of year that it is, takes the brunt of the hate.  He's not a total Grinch, he's just not as enthusiastic as I am.  If I have my way, we'll have a tree in and set up by the first weekend in December. 

Do you start your Christmas shopping early or wait till the last minute?  I usually start fairly early but somehow end up leaving a few things to the last minute every. single. year.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Runner's World Cookbook Review

Disclaimer:  I was given this cookbook by Runner's World Magazine in exchange for an honest review.

When Runner's World offered me the opportunity to review this cookbook, I was giddy with excitement.  I have a confession to make.  I am a cookbook-a-holic.  A recipe junkie.  There is something about cracking open a cookbook for the first time and flipping through the pictures that excites me.  I love food and I love to cook.  Especially good for me food.  So this opportunity was definitely one I wasn't going to pass up.

After much trials and tribulations with Fed Ex, the book arrived via G.  Thank goodness he works in the U.S from time to time!

I sat down with it immediately and flipped through it.  It has an excellent intro that goes through the nutritional requirements of runners.   Within the intro is a series of guides to things like oils, grains and proteins.  They list different types of each, along with suggestions on how to use them or in the case of proteins, what cut gives you the best nutritional bang for your buck.  A fantastic thing to have regardless of your level of expertise in the kitchen.

The cookbook itself is divided up into the following sections:

Breakfast (this features an entire section devoted to pancakes and toppings.  I seriously died and went to pancake heaven)
Snacks and Smoothies
Salads and Dressings
Soups and Stews 
Sandwiches, Pizzas and Burgers (YES!)
Sauces and Pasta
Meat and Poultry Mains
Fish and Seafood Mains

This is where most cookbooks would stop.  But since this is a cookbook geared towards fulfilling the unique requirements of runners, they've taken it one step further and categorized each recipe using the following keys:

low cal
gluten free

There is also a handy section on how to stock your pantry and then to top it all off, there is a special recipe list at the back of the book that groups everything according to the above categories.  Looking for a recover recipe?  Instead of flipping through the book to find the tab under the recipe, you can just refer to this list.  How awesome is that?

When I got the book, I bookmarked no less than 8 recipes I wanted to make immediately.   I decided on 3 and made my grocery list.   I wanted something that was quick and easy (Thai beef and snow pea stir fry), I wanted a soup because it was starting to get cold out (sausage and mushroom soup) and of course, I wanted a pizza (caramelized onion and fig pizza).   None of these recipes disappointed.  The thai beef stir fry was definitely quick, easy and very tasty.

The sausage and mushroom soup was very hearty.  I had some cooked quinoa that I added it to it instead of the rice and it was delicious.  It also seemed to be one of my more popular instagram posts that week, ha ha.  Must have been the colder temps.

And lastly, the pizza.  Oh lord almighty.  Caramelized onions and figs are a match made in heaven.  Add goat cheese to the mix and it's beyond amazing.  I didn't make my own crust, I used a pita instead.  I don't really think it matters too much what you put this on, the combination is so good, it would make cardboard taste delicious! 

I'm happy to report that this book has not left my kitchen counter since I've gotten it.  I've made a couple of other recipes that have also been very easy and incredibly tasty but didn't make it in front on my camera or my phone before they got gobbled up.  The recipes are easy to follow and don't require any crazy ingredients.  I think the recipes in this book would be easy enough for kitchen newbies to follow and are tasty enough for seasoned pros to enjoy as well.  Suffice to say this book has quickly become another go to source for flavourful and healthy recipes that keep me up and running. 

For those of you that have a runner / foodie in your life, I think this would make an excellent gift.  Especially for YOU if that runner of yours does all the cooking.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why We Train: Featured Athlete - Courtney Fields

This week's Why We Train Featured Athlete is Courtney Fields.  Courtney and I "met" through the Sweat Pink community.  She is a fellow triathlete who has set some awesome goals for herself next year.  Today she shares her story as to how she got started in the sport of triathlon and what keeps her going.
Perhaps a bit of background about myself would be nice. I'm Courtney, 25, recently married, currently underemployed for my education and experience level, own a house and a crazy chocolate lab named Griswold with my husband Rob, and we live in the thriving heart of New York wine country. 

I've been athletic my whole life just about. My parents had my brother and I in all sorts of sports growing up. I dabbled in gymnastic, showed horses competitively for three years and did a season of swim team that I was not a fan of. But I found my athletic niche early; running. 

I joined modified track at the tender age of 12 and from there I developed a love for running. I ran track all through junior high and high school and even qualified for states as a short distance hurdler, the 110 meter and 200 meter hurdles respectively. Don't let my skill over the hurdles fool you though. I top out at 5'3.5" on a good day, but I'm bottom heavy so I'm all thigh, which made me an excellent jumper. I also competed in, and frequently placed at, the long jump. And even taking full course loads, working full time a BBQ joint, and taking a night class at a local community college, I managed to make time for track up until my senior year, and even after that I still ran and worked out regularly. 

Off to college I went and it was at orientation that I learned of women's rugby. I had always been fascinated by full contact sports and longed to play one, so I joined rugby my second semester at college. This was both good and bad. I loved rugby, and still do, but I felt underutilized and over looked. It was a club sport and we didn't have a coach, so our team was run by captains and playing time was seemingly directly correlated to how much you partied with the team in your free time. And while I do enjoy a raucous college party as much as the next kid, I had my own friends I preferred to party with, so my field time suffered. Over the two years I did spend on the team though, I played enough to have some fun and get hurt a few times. One broken knuckle, one torn meniscus, and one cracked rib that was my final straw (the knee and the rib were back to back weekends too, which should tell you how hardcore women ruggers truly are. Don't think we don't tackle bitches just as hard, if not harder, than the boys). And while the pain in my knee flairs up, usually from too much driving, my rib dent has almost all but returned to a normal, not sunken in and terrifying state. 

It was with Rob at college that I competed in my first 5k. I had been only running here and there and from time to time at this point, nothing consistent. We tried to get out and trail run or go to the gym sometimes but it was infrequent. The day of the race it was horridly hot and humid and the course was an out and back in the direct sunlight on the shoulder of a busy county road. I walked twice, complained, panted and cried. As someone who was a state qualifying track star, this was a low place to be. 

It took some time post college for me to get back into running and working out on a regular basis. I accepted my first big girl job right out of college, a teaching position at the worst (I'm not lying, the state and national statistics back my claims) school district in the state and one of the worst in the entire country. The full time job I was verbally offered fell through after I was hired and by the time I signed my contract I had a piece meal job working in three different school all on opposite sides of the city, teaching half the day outside my certification to Spanish speaking students (I speak zero Spanish, in case you're wondering). It was exhausting, mentally, physically, emotionally. I spent an hour drive in, about half an hour driving from school to school, and an hour drive home. My weight suffered terribly and the kids were horribly mean. They spit on me, cussed me out, threw things at me, told me they hated me, called me fat, you name it. Nine times out of ten the parents didn't give a crap about the behavior their kids exhibited and the administration was even worse. It varied from school to school and when one would become successful they'd refuse to share whatever secret they had figured out with the rest of the district. I got scolded, belittled, and demoralized. And even though in February of that school year I was offered employment elsewhere, I toughed it out. But you better believe in August when they called me back at a cut position I politely declined. 

From there I spent about eight months unemployed. As if working in Hell prior wasn't defeating enough, being unemployed definitely was. Nonstop job applications just to never even merit a rejection letter and the only places offering me employment paid minimum wage by the hour. I was so over qualified for the educational requirements that were generally high school diploma or GED, and there I sat half way through my Masters. 

Finally, I got a call from The Council. They were offering me a job. They were the job I turned down in February, re-interviewed for in August and got turned down for the position, and now they were calling just straight up offering me a job. And I jumped. While the pay isn't great, and it's not teaching, my passion, it utilizes my health degrees and the benefits are fantastic so I can't really complain. And now I've been here about a year and half and it's just peachy (minus being chained to desk 9-5 unless I'm out at a program, ugh). 

Triathlon was always something that intrigued me. But it wasn't until August of 2011 that I said, "I can do that". That year, a number of people I had gone to college or high school seemingly participated in the Syracuse Iron Girl, a longer sprint tri. I saw the pictures and facebook statuses and thought "pfft, if they can than so can I". And I did. When registration opened at midnight on November 1st for the 2012 race I registered. It sold out in 23 hours. Now, with a goal in mind and paid for, I had to get back to working out. I started running again and I had started going to a beginner’s lunch time spin class while I was unemployed. Once spring rolled around I started popping into the local YMCA to use the pool. And on August 5th, 2012 I stood on the shore of Oneida Lake ready to plunge into my first ever triathlon. 

The Syracuse Iron Girl is the longest of the IG triathlons, topping out at a 600 meter swim, a 30K(18.6 mile) bike ride, and a 5k run. I crossed the finish line in 2:14:45 and something in me changed. I’ve never really been able to describe what it is about triathlon that is so different from other sports, but there is something unique, an indescribable and overwhelming feeling of accomplishment unlike that of any other sport I had participated in. And as someone who had done so many other sports throughout my life, I can say with certainty that it is something unique and great. Something just clicks that first time you cross the finish line of one. And from that point forward I was hooked. 

This summer I ran three triathlons, two sprints and an Olympic, and five road races including my first half marathon. I frequently place for my age group in 5k’s and 10k’s thanks to all the hard training I’ve put in. Next season I’m already looking at six potential triathlons including the grueling Rat Snake Reverse Tri and my first half Ironman, Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, which I’m already registered for. I plan on running my first full distance Ironman in 2015 either in Chattanooga or Lake placid.  

I truly believe triathlon is a sport that anyone can get into and realize how special it is and how amazing you are. Everyone is beautiful, everyone is capable, and I truly believe anyone can become a triathlete. 

You can find Courtney online at:



Thank you Courtney for allowing me to share your story!  Best of luck with all your races next year!  I know I'll be watching and cheering you on!

Monday, November 11, 2013

November Nuttiness + a Nutty Recipe

Here we are almost half way into November.  I feel like I haven't been doing much yet I've been insanely busy, thus my lack of blogging.  Weekends just seem to fly by.  Weeks have been rolling into one an another and I'm becoming all too aware that we are creeping closer and closer to Christmas.  I had my first red cup (Gingerbread Latte!) of the season on Saturday and, miracle of miracles, the barista got my name right.  When I told her my name, her response was "Oh, like the play?" My jaw dropped.  NOBODY ever knows that there was a play called Phaedra.   Turns out she studied latin for three years, ha ha.

One thing I have started to work on is getting back into heavier lifting.  I also decided that I wanted to add one more strength session a week but I wanted it to focus on the smaller stabilizing muscles that I don't always work.  So, I went to my first TRX class.  Holy moly.  It was a great workout.  I'm fairly strong so I was able to do pretty much all of the exercises.  Had I been smart, I probably would have backed it off a bit on some of them because it totally kicked my butt.  I went Saturday morning and by Saturday evening, I could feel the DOMS setting in.  Sunday morning I got up and I felt like I got hit by a truck.  Needless to say I skipped my Sunday morning swim.  I made it in this morning though and it wasn't pretty.  I'm still really sore.   But, I can't wait to go back and do it again!  I'm going to have to wait a couple of weeks because next weekend is the MSC Triathlon series awards out in Orangeville.  Remember that goal I had at the beginning of the season?  The one where I wanted to get on the podium for the series in my age group?  Well, it's official.  I did it.  I actually won my age group.  G also managed to get third in his AG too so both of us will be getting awards.  YAY!  That's a really nice way to cap off my season of racing.

One thing I have NOT managed to do is get my butt to yoga.  My normal yoga studio closed a couple of weeks ago so now I'm trying to find a new place that is close to home / work and that has classes that fit in my schedule.  Ugh.  I really need to get on this because I'm having knee issues again.   The sports doc said it was patellar tendinitis.  I don't have a problem running, it's after the run that is the issue.  I've been to physio and have been given some exercises to do for my hips but I also need to work on my ankle mobility as well as my calf flexibility.  Apparently my calves are super tight.  So in lieu of yoga, my foam roller and I have been getting re-acquainted for the time being.   So. awesome.  At least I'm working on getting it sorted out now before I start ramping up my training for Boston.  I don't think it helps that I spend a large portion of my weekend standing around on tiled floors either.  I spend a fair bit of time in the kitchen cooking on the weekends so of course I'm standing, however, if happen to be just surfing the net or even blogging, I almost always stand and lean against the counter.  It drives G nuts.  I have to make a conscious effort to sit my sorry butt down every so often.

All that standing around paid off nicely this weekend though.  Those of you that follow me on instagram would have seen my post from a couple of weekends ago when I made my own cashew butter.  That's almost gone by the way.  I made another jar of awesomeness yesterday.  I had this idea early on last week and figured I'd try to execute it this weekend.  Now of course, I didn't actually write all the quantities down.  Like I said, I'm a freestyler in the kitchen.   Anyway, I made my own chocolate peanut butter.  I think it still needs a bit of tweaking but I'm happy to share the initial recipe.  Perhaps you folks out there can let me know what you'd add or do differently.

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter

1 454g bag of roasted unsalted peanuts
2 tbsp of peanut oil (approximate - I didn't measure)
1.5 tbsp of raw cocoa powder (this I actually measured!)
1 packet of stevia (by packet I mean like the packets like you'd find in a coffee shop)
salt to taste

Pour the bag of peanuts into a food processor.  Give the peanuts a good whizzing until they are ground down a fair bit.  Add the oil and the cocoa powder continue to process.   The mixture will start to get smooth.  At this point, add the stevia.  Process some more until it's mixed.  You can then add the salt if you like and process some more.  I like the combo of slightly salty and slightly sweet.   I haven't tried this on anything except a spoon and even then it was still pretty darn tasty.

 I do feel like it might still be missing a little sumpin' sumpin' but I haven't quite figured out what just yet.  More chocolate?  Maybe.  More sweetness.  Possibly.    If you decide to make this, let me know what adjustments you make, if any.

Happy Monday folks!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why We Train Wednesday: Featured Athlete - Shaun Johnson

Today's Featured Athlete is Shaun Johnson and he blogs over at Top Runners Review.  This is the story behind his first step.  You might want to grab a tissue, I know I did.


I want to clarify,  I have always loved running. In elementary school I was considered the fastest kid at my school.  In Jr. High I would wow the coaches with my mile time.  In high school, I did not do track because the track coach was fat, and I though that a fat guy would have nothing to teach me about running, but I did do football, and I could run almost as fast backwards, as my opponents could run forewards.  I have always loved running, but it was not really a part of my life until 2010.  2010 was a bad year for me.

I can still remember the day, September 12, 2009.   My wife and I had gotten into a horrible fight. She took our kid and went up to her parents house to cool off.  I thought this was it.  Our relationship had been on the rocks for a while and I though that this was the straw that broke the camels back. I hated the thought of divorce.  I feel that when you get married, barring extreme circumstances, you are in it for the long haul.  A big fight is far from extreme circumstances, but I still felt like this was it.

I did not know what to do.  I spent the evening by myself.  I tried to use the tv to distract me, but that didn't work.  Loud music, reading, playstation, nothing seemed to work for me.  I couldn't stop stressing.  I lay in bed for a couple of hours, but I wasn't tired.  At 1:00 in the morning,  I put on some cross trainers and shorts and headed out into the rain.  Yes, on a night like that I though it appropriate for a run.

I walked to a local park and ignored the sign that says that the park closes at 10PM.  That's where I relearned to run.  Lap after lap, I didn't want to stop. I didn't even take walking breaks.  A few laps in my nose started to bleed, I didn't care.  I was there to run.  That is where I came up with the term, 'Just me and the wind'

When my friends ask why I run, I tell them, 'because it is just me and the wind', and that is what this run really was.

That night I didn't really do a lot of thinking,  but I did manage to relax.   I convinced myself that it would all work out.  I realized that there is so much in life that doesn't matter.  I learned to enjoy every moment of life, just like I began to enjoy running again that night.  I learned to run.

But I quickly forgot it again.

After running for 3 hours I went home just in time to receive a phone call from my wife telling me that she was sorry, and she wanted me with her...and that is the last run I had until the end of the year.

December 4, 2009, same story, different chapter...different ending.  An even bigger fight, nothing had changed since the September fight, things had only gotten worse.  Her parents hear about it and come to pick her up the next day.  I helped to pack her up and then I kissed her goodbye.  Yes, we kissed goodbye as my wife drove off to move in with her parents while we try to get things straightened out in our marriage.

After she left I went inside, and instantly I knew the solution.  I dusted off the treadmill, and I ran.  I put in a movie this time, and again, I got so lost that I found myself.  It was starting to click how important running was to me, how I needed to run.

Throughout the first half of 2010 I really tried hard to fix my marriage.  I signed up for marriage counseling, but my wife would never show up. I took my wife out on dates, and they were fun, but they always ended back on her parents door step. Every so often, I could feel things building up inside, and I would run on those days. By May, I had gotten sick of trying to fix the marriage alone, I went for a run, and then I filled out the divorce papers, and then I went on another run that same day.

June 2010, my brother got in a horrible long board accident and we were told that he only had a small chance that he would live through the night.  I couldn't run, but I wanted to.  The first chance that I felt like I could step away from the hospital (a couple of days after the accident and my brother had stabilized) I ran.  This run was much like the first, just me and the wind, no deep thoughts, no pain in my legs, just me, and a realization that part of my life is to run.  That is when it clicked,  I am a runner.

I haven't had a perfect running schedule, there have been months where I don't run, but I always come back.

My brother has recovered to 90% of normal and I'm now divorced.   I've also become a runner.

That is Why I Run!

Thank you Shaun for sharing your story!

Follow Shaun online:

Twitter:  @Smadd18

Facebook:  Top Runners Review

Monday, November 4, 2013

Going Hard With GU: Roctane & GU Brew Recovery Review

Disclaimer:  I was given these products from Running Free in exchange for a review as part of my Team Running Free sponsorship.

Those of you that read along know just how much I put my body through on a regular basis.   I raced 13 races this year with number 14 happening in December.   Almost all of those races were over an hour and a half in duration.  That means I go through a whole lot of fuel both in training and in racing.

I have been using GU for years now.  I find it to be one of the most palatable gels out there.  It's not too sweet and the flavours are excellent.  So when GU released their ultra endurance gel, Roctane in Canada in late 2008, I was totally game to give it a try.  GU made some pretty lofty claims about this gel, the main one being that it was able to act as a buffer in slowing down the release of lactic acid, thus allowing you to go harder, longer.  Seriously?  Sign. Me. Up.

This is the science behind the product, straight from GU's website:

We start with original GU's superior mix of complex and simple carbohydrates that provide quick and sustained energy, electrolytes for replenishment and caffeine to tap more power and diminish pain.

From there we increase the amount of histidine, an essential amino acid, to act as a buffer and slow the energy-sapping acid build-up in muscles.  We also add more of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine and isoleucine to serve as another fuel source, aid in recovery and help maintain mental focus and reduce fatigue by limiting the central nervous system's production of serotonin.

Finally, we add a new ingredient, the amino acid complex Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (OKG) which limits the body's tendency to break down muscle protein tissue during extremely hard training and racing days. OKG keeps you going longer and promotes a speedier recovery.

Roctane is GU sports’ high-performance energy gel that utilizes a similar formula to our original GU Energy Gel, but with significantly higher concentrations of amino acids and citrates, plus a new amino acid complex—Ornithine Alpha-Ketaglutarate (OKG). These ingredients mitigate the energy-sapping effects of lactic-acid build-up, produce energy more efficiently, improve recovery through a decrease in exercise-induced muscle damage and maintain mental focus through delayed onset of fatigue signals from the central nervous system. The result is a premium sports nutrition product that allows athletes across all sports to perform at a higher intensity for a longer period of time.

Science wasn't my strong suit in high school but even this makes sense to me.   The product itself didn't disappoint in terms of it's claims.  I just had to manage to get it down my gullet first.  The first few flavours that came out were, let's just say, an acquired taste:  blueberry pomegranate,  pineapple and vanilla orange.  They all tasted a bit odd and the pineapple was super sweet.  I'm chalking that up to having to mask the taste of the additional BCAA's.  Anyone that has used BCAA powder when weight training knows just how nasty that stuff can be unless it's heavily flavoured.   I used the pineapple for a while and then switched to the blueberry pomegranate as I found the sweetness of the pineapple on too much for longer races.  GU has since released several more flavours, all of which are much more palatable.  There's cherry lime, strawberry kiwi, island nectars, passion fruit and my hands down favourite, chocolate raspberry.

 With the arrival of the newer flavours, Roctane has become a staple in my racing arsenal.  I use it for all my endurance events and I can honestly say it works.  As G likes to say, it's almost like rocket fuel.  It gives you that little extra oomph and helps you push just *that* much harder for just *that* much longer.  I find it also helps keep me mentally dialed in when I'm racing.  I know I need something when my mind starts to wander in a race.  When that happens, it's usually time for a gel. I find even half of one is enough to make a difference when I'm going through a race induced fog.  This Roctane stuff is no joke.  It's like premium race fuel for your race car.  As long as GU keeps making this, I'll keep using it. 

The one thing I didn't notice from using Roctane was an improved recovery.  But Gu has you covered there as well with their GU Brew Recovery.  There are plenty of recovery drinks out on the market and most of the ones I've tried taste disgusting.  They are chalky, sour tasting and they don't generally mix very well.  Not this one.  I can put 2 scoops of it in a shaker bottle with some almond milk, shake it up for a minute or so and voila, it's all mixed together nicely.  And it actually tastes good too!  My favourite is the chocolate (go figure) but the strawberry watermelon is also a good one. 

Gu Recovery Brew is made with whey protein isolate which is about 90% pure protein (from dairy) which is just what your achin' muscles need after a hard workout.  It also contains the amino acids arginine and glutamine which help promote recovery by supporting a strong immune system and lessening the negative effects of intense training.  Of course, it also contains simple and complex carbs to replenish your glycogen stores and to top it all off, it also contains over 100% of your daily allowances of vitamin C and E to keep those free radicals at bay.

I've been using this product for the last few years and I can honestly say it works.  It's become a regular part of my training routine because the older you get, the more important recovery becomes and the way I push myself, I need all the help I can get.

Now for the good news!  I'm giving away 3 of the newer Roctane flavours!  Head on over to my facebook page to check it out, there's only a little over a day left to enter AND, it's open to US and Canadian residents! 

Do you use a recovery drink after a hard workout?

What is your go to race fuel?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Funday and Aiming High

I came home Monday night to find this waiting for me:

Not a bad way to start your week!  Of course it got me thinking about next years goals.  I had originally said I wanted to break 3:15, which would mean I'd have to take 1:03 off my time from last year.  Of course, G being the loving and supportive hubby that he is said "Good to see you're aiming high".  Oh SNAP.  He means well really, he does.  He believes that I am capable of more than that.   So, I decided to step outside my "feel safe" zone and aim high.  I put it out there on Instagram yesterday.

Yes, that says 3:10.  I get butterflies just thinking about it.  I'm going to be following the same plan I followed last year.   I really hope that my body can take it.  I'm sure I'll have a good idea in the first few weeks.  I'm not going to be an idiot about it.  I know it's going to be tough and if I find that I'm killing myself and not making any progress, I'm going to re-asses.   Next year's training plan will also involve a fair bit of cycling as well so I'm really going to have to listen to my body and make sure I get adequate recovery.

Speaking of recovery, I have recently been introduced to the most amazing pair of shoes ever.  Krysten posted about them a couple of months ago on Instagram and my interest was piqued.  She talked about how comfortable they were and called them her recovery shoe.  Then the lovely Michelle Clarke finally introduced me to my first pair of Barefooters.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These things are so comfortable.  I put them on at the end of the day and it feels like I have little minions massaging my feet.  I haven't worn them out of the house yet, mainly because it's been raining a lot and these are wee bit on the holey side.  You can bet that these will be my go to footwear for all my marathons both on the road and in the kitchen.  You can actually win a pair of your own from now until November 6th if you enter their #feelgreat selfie contest.  Details can be found here.  Who doesn't love a good selfie?  Ok maybe me.  I am a bit camera shy.  My feet aren't though. 

This was my first week back into my regular routine and it was tough.  I was still dragging my butt early in the week but I think I'm almost back to normal.  I ran 16km yesterday and it totally sucked, but I got it done and that's all that matters.  I had a monster swim this morning (almost 3km) followed by 1 hour on the computrainer.  Yes, the bike is back in my life.  It has to be.  I don't want to go into tri season playing catch up with my cycling.  Especially if there is the potential for something longer than a sprint.  That's all I'm saying about that right now.

There was a whole bunch of racing awesomeness this weekend with NYCM and the Hamilton Road to Hope happening.  My instagram feed was filled with images from NYCM.  Almost made me regret taking the money and running after last year.  But, I will go back.  I'm going to try and re-qualify in with a half sometime next year.   I had several Blends running the Hamilton Road to Hope:  Krysten, Christina and Danielle all raced.  Krysten ran the full and Christina & Danielle ran the half.  I have been coaching Danielle and her goal was to break 1:50 for the half.  I am proud to say that she killed it.  She ran a 1:48:46.  That totally made my day. 

Did you race this weekend?