Friday, September 28, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Going Goofy

This week I came across Cori' blog and found out that she is currently raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, thanks to her commitment of running the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge on January 12-13, 2013 with Team in Training (that's on half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday - oh boy!). She needs to raise $4500 in order to participate and she came up with the BEST idea for a fundraiser, have people all over the world run a virtual Half Goofy Challenge and enter the "race" by donating $10 to her campaign. You even get a bib, a medal and training plans with it, plus a badge for your blog like the one on the left.

All you need to do is, during the month of January 2013, run/walk a 10K on a Saturday and run/walk 21.1K on Sunday and send her proof, for example a picture of your GPS.

That's it! If you think you can do it, or you want to get off the couch and start training now for this challenge, while supporting a great cause, follow this link and join the fun!

As you can see, I have listed the Half Goody Challenge as one of my races for 2013, so I'm in! I know many of my blog readers already ran these distances before, so what are you waiting for? I will be running in memory of a young lady who left this world way too soon and whose smile and love of life I will never forget (Holly, I hope you can hear me, wherever you are).

Let's get Goofy and help beat blood cancers, y'all!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another week in the bag!

I can't believe that I'm already two weeks away from taper for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon - where did the weeks go?? That's the good news. The bad news is that I still have the two longest runs ahead of me, but if they go as well as today, then ... ok, not saying anything more or I'm going to JINX them! So, today was 2h30 of alternating Zone 2/3 and we decided to run from home to the Etobicoke Trail for 1h15 and back. Not a bad idea... until km 18 or so when I realized that we had quite a nice hill to climb back up. Too bad Scotiabank is not hilly because with all the ups and downs on the trail and the Heart Lake Hill x 2, I would have become a pro at running vertical.

Oh wait, that's what I said when I ran Mississauga as well and we all know how that went... some days there CAN be too many hills. But at least I'm going to be prepared for Around the Bay 30K, that has some nice ascents as well as I discovered earlier this year. Anyway, I think I found a good measuring tool for my fitness level, doing this back and forth on all my long runs at least for another 2 weeks. The only difference will be that the second hill will come later and later in the run, so that's going to be interesting.

Now with the GROSS, chaffing returned today, with one of my last bras under test (Under Armour), but I will spare you the pictures. Let's say it's not as bad as before, but it still stings. Where it got surprising though, was with the blisters on the feet. None between my toes since I was wearing the Injinji toe socks and that part seems to be working well, but on the sides, not so much. I give you an artistic diptych because I like playing with the Diptic app on my iPhone and taking pictures of my feet.
Sorry, you cannot complain, I haven't shown you my blisters since the Paris Marathon. Here's a better picture if you cannot stomach the one above. This was before the run, because the after was almost as dramatic as the feet.

The other activities for this week included pool x 2 (already covered), strength training, the usual Wednesday brick, which I completely murdered and even beat my road biking PR, then on Friday, the return of the negative split which wasn't too shabby either.

Then yesterday, we went out for our weekly long bike ride and the weather and just about everything was perfect, of course, it was supposed to be "easy", so for once I had fun and didn't suffer on hills or trying to race hubbs. Shitload of pictures ahead, from all angles because that's a first.

Damn, it was a good day out there! We even saw a flock of vultures, about 40 of them, circling a farm. Need to send the CSI there? I hope not. They were pretty cool though, all perched on those bald trees, just like in the Jungle Book cartoon.

That was the first movie that I remember seeing when I was a kid so it left quite the indelible memory, ok? Here, have some fun too, trying to figure out what you're gonna do. Because I don't know what I'm gonna do. Do you?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Easy recipes: Egg whites omelet

You know, I was overweight for a while. And then one day, I decided to take the bull by the horns, as they say, and do something about it, because running alone was not cutting it. So I found my coach on Fitorbit (still have him, hi Dave!) and one of the first things he taught me was to eat right. So I discovered egg whites and they became my de facto breakfast food, as they are easy to prepare, they are tasty and you can make as many variations with them as you can dream about. Below is one of my favorite combo and I am happy to share the recipe with you because I know a few people who struggle with finding ideas for quick and easy breakfast food. Just as an FYI, I wake up at 7am, by 7:30pm I am ready to have breakfast with the boys and usually by 8:15am I leave the house for work. This literally leaves me 15 minutes to prepare and eat my breakfast, so those who think it takes a lot of time, they couldn't be more wrong.

There we go:

Egg whites, turkey and spinach omelet
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (I buy the free run or organic kind)
  • 2 thick slices of turkey breast (my favorite is Cuddy Spicy Turkey (low fat), found at Metro/Fortinos/Superstore) 75-100g, sliced in thin stripes (roll the slices and cut them across)
  • organic baby spinach - 2-3 handfulls of leaves to fill up the pan - they "melt" right away, so go ahead and put in a lot
  • red pepper, diced (1/4th of a pepper)
  • mushrooms (1/2 portobello or 4-5 small white mushrooms, sliced)
  • low fat shredded cheddar cheese (I use this triple mix from PC in the Blue Menu line)
Put some olive oil in the pan, throw in the turkey, pepper and mushrooms and mix for about 3 minutes. Make sure the spinach is cooked so that no "raw" leaves remain. Pour the egg whites on top, wait for a minute, making sure that they are cooking evenly. Add the cheese and a pinch of salt, wait for another minute for the eggs and cheese to continue cooking nicely, then try to flip half of the omlet over the other half (don't worry if you end up with a messy omlet that looks more like scrambled eggs, the taste is the same). Put in a plate, enjoy with a piece of 12 grain toast (no butter) and a glass of 100% fruit juice (or coffee), no sugar added.

Greek omlet (replace cheddar by feta cheese, add diced tomato and olives, the rest stays)
Simple egg and cheese omlet (just the egg whites and the cheese)
Ham and cheese (replace turkey by ham, keep the egg whites and cheddar cheese)
Fancy italiano (use prosciutto instead of turkey, green peppers instead of red, feta instead of cheddar)

... the possibilities are endless! I am usually throwing in what I feel like, or what remains in the fridge.

The whole meal is usually not more than 400cal for a great amount of protein and fiber that will keep you full until your first healthy snack, about 2-3 h later). I have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day religiously, so I never feel hungry. If eggs are not part of your breakfast, you should definitely give them a try. I have significantly lowered my cholesterol in the past year and I have been eating egg whites 3 times a week. Don't be afraid, they are good for you. I may not be a specialist, but I talk from personal experience and results, I lost 30lb in 6 months by learning to eat healthy and balancing the necessary nutrients needed in an athlete's lifestyle. I kept a food diary and even had a cheat day.

It's not easy, but you can do it!! After a little while you will start craving the healthy foods and get turned off by the fast food. I know that I can't even step into a McDonald's anymore, even if I still think that a Big Mac and French fries are the tastiest foods on the planet. Just try going back after 6 months of eating healthy foods and I guarantee that your stomach will NOT like it, that's how you realize how bad these are for you.

Good luck and hope you'll love omelets as much as I do!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I must be doing something right

Last night I went to the pool for my 45min swim workout and to my surprise, almost nobody was there. I was even happier to see that I had a line just for myself and that Super Kick Girl didn't come to empty the pool with her violent leg beating that could knock out a tuna if it was passing by. Imagine what happens when I cross paths with her! Great training for choppy water, but man, I want to stop her and say something, it is almost impossible to concentrate on form or drills when you swallow half of the pool while swimming through a tsunami. Thankfully, she also takes lots of breaks (she stops for at least a minute every 25m of effort), so usually I get one length to catch my breath before the next wave comes in.

But last night, none of this mattered, I had the most peaceful workout ever and concentrated on adding more length to uninterrupted swims without the pull buoy. So I did the following workout:
  • 5x100m freestyle
  • 500m freestyle pull
  • 5x100m freestyle
  • 250m freestyle pull
I am trying really hard to slow down my own kick and eventually, coerce my brain into doing a 2-beat kick because anything faster leaves me breathless. I would really like to swim at least 500m uninterrupted, without the pull buoy which serves me as a crutch right now and I don't like it. Yes, it does feel 50% easier when I swim with it, but I don't want to depend on external factors such as the buyoncy of the wetsuit or the pull buoy forever. What if a triathlon does not allow wetsuits at the last minute? I would be screwed, not because I could not swim, I am sure I could cross the Atlantic doing breast stroke, but because I always want to do my best and breast stroke would be really meh.

Anyhow, back to my swim workout, those 100m intervals didn't seem so horrible after all. I must have been doing something right, trying to rotate my body and reach as far I could and exhale as much air as possible through my nose (when I remembered to breathe). Proof is that for the FIRST TIME since I got my Garmin FR 910XT, it counted all my laps without a glitch! C'est fantastique! Just look at this, isn't it a beauty? Ok, don't look at the numbers, I am still slow as a turtle.

I am always lost when I look at those graphs, especially the bottom one. But what I noticed right away, because I know how to count at least to 10, is that my strokes count is going down! I had a few lengths with 13 strokes (26 actually, this thing counts only one hand), significantly lower than 16 strokes (32 in total) - not sure I believe it. I still have work to do, but I am happy to see that something "clicked" at at least my Garmin approves.

Party cocktails all around! Wooo hooo!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ironman Muskoka 70.3: A Catcher's Perspective

Oh wow, what a day! Dipping my toes in the Ironman world, and for the first time ever, I volunteered at a race today, the mighty Muskoka 70.3. This is not your usual race report, but a glimpse into one from the "other side". I was assigned at the finish line as "catcher" and my job was to accompany the finishers from the moment they cross the finish line to the next volunteering station, that was where they were having their chips taken off their ankles. Because of the nature of the sport, most athletes give everything they have to finish this race, so for many of them, it was actually necessary to offer a shoulder or an arm to hold on to relieve the wobbly legs and sometimes, avoid hitting the ground, even if it was nicely carpeted.

A few times, I even had to pair up with another catcher to drag them to the medical tent because they either passed out or were about to, which definitely puts this sport up there on the "what was I thinking" scale. I actually did hear A LOT of athletes saying this word for word, but I was reassuring them that most likely the day after they would sign up for another one. ;-)
Because of the close contact I was having with all these people, my volunteer tshirt got soaked with at least 100 people's sweat, so after an hour of doing this job, I wasn't sure what to do with myself, especially since I knew quite a few people in the race and I went and gave them big hugs regardless. The "enhanced scent" was rather powerful at times, but as the excitement was growing and people started coming in waves thicker than the smell, I forgot about it and had no choice but concentrate on keeping them vertical.

I was happy to see so many people that I knew not needing any rescuing from mother gravity though - Mike Medeiros (4:51:05 - going to Vegas?) and Ayesha Rollinson (5:01:46) from Tri Trek Toronto, fellow blogger and Boston Marathon finisher Marlene Sykes (5:56:17) from Mission to (another) Marathon, and last but not least, the FMCT squad (Peter, Peter, Brian, Nathalie, Ryan, Joe, Colin and 3 more guys that I forgot their names).

However, some of the top pros, they looked like they needed serious help. I won't mention any names, but kudos to them for pulling through despite the circumstances. I don't have pictures of them all crossing the finish line, but Rachel Joyce (4:34:47), the top pro girl was such a sweetheart, she came back to wait for her fellow competitors and was very kind to pose for my modest camera.

Rachel Joyce - what a joy!
On the men's side, Tom Lowe (4:08:54) took the top spot and he is definitely making a name for himself in the world of triathlon, and not only for beeing Chrissie Wellington's boyfriend. It looked like it was a grueling race among the top 3 men, unforgettable for sure, especially for us catchers.

Tom Lowe - running tall
After the top 3 girls finished, they returned for a duel of Champagne bottles - that must have felt good, it was quite hot by then! Rachel Joyce (4:34:47), Michelle Vesterby (4:48:10) and Tenille Hoogland (4:44:10), ready for action in the picture below.

Ready to pop the Champagne open!
But back to my athlete catching, it was a long day in the sun standing on my feet and with only breakfast in the tank. After the 2h morning drive from Toronto, I was so anxious not to be late that I left my food, water and money all in the car, about 2km down the road from the finish line, so I only had a Honey Stinger Waffle and 2 little bottles of water during 6 hours of service. By 3pm I started having a nasty headache and touched the top of my head (I had been smart enough to put on a cap), but it was hot as hell, so I tucked in a few ice cubes and  voila, the headache melted away. I knew I was in trouble if I wasn't going to eat though, so by 4:30 I was released from my duties for the day and sent to the Athlete's Dinner where I gobbled a plate full of chicken, salad, cheese and crackers, plus a cookie because it was looking really yummy.

Oooh, shiny!

I walked back to say goodbye to our coordinator, snapped a few pictures and the headed back to the car, cheering on the last few athletes that were fighting with their will to go up and down the Muskoka's endless hills.

Last km, down and up, and down again.
Those hills, that make Muskoka one of the toughest 70.3 races on the circuit (or rather 72.7 because the bike course is longer by 4km) are many people's nemesis. I, for one, know that I am determined to go back next year to race on them and have someone else catch me, if they can (hopefully on the course rather than the carpet!). Also, running down this chute, with the loved ones at the end, must be wonderful.


Will I do this again? Absolutely! But it's not for everyone, especially if you don't like exchanging body fluids with strangers, I can see how this can turn some people off. I didn't even wear gloves, although sometimes I wished I did because puke, blood and feces didn't look out of place and you never knew what was going to land on you. However, I'd say that people's emotions were harder to deal with. From the girl who got her spotlight stolen in front of the camera and her heart shattered, to the son or daughter who had lost a parent to a terrible disease and were trying to cope, to the first timers who didn't know what was happening to them, to the too proud who didn't want to be touched, to those who needed a moment alone, you better know what to say or rather shut up. In the end, I think I learned a lot about this breed of endurance athletes that makes them more human than you'd think - the majority are happy but exhausted, and don't like to be rushed. Some will tell you they are ok and you know you can trust them, others will fool you to get a dirty flirty full frontal squeeshy hug out of you (don't laugh, it happened!) and other will roll their eyes backwards before they get to say their name and you better be there for them. In the end, most will thank you and you get on with your day. Volunteering is what makes triathlon turn round and around and I feel privileged to have been part of this well oiled machine today.

Until the next time, on the other side of the finish line with a race report - you have my word!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Meeting Chrissie Wellington

Ever since I discovered Chrissie Wellington while watching the 2011 Kona Ironman World Championships, I told myself that I would like to meet her one day, hopefully at the finish line of an Ironman, most likely around midnight when she usually returns putting medals around finishers' necks. But next thing I know, she decides to take a break and write a book on her life and career called "A Life Without Limits", and that's ok with me, I need a few more years to get to cross an Ironman finish line anyway ;-) As an inspiration, I bought her book as soon as it got announced and counted the days until I could hit the button "Download". No surprise there, once that day arrived, I stayed glued to my iPad's screen, holding my breath, until I finished the book, in less than a week (or was it two days?).

Shortly thereafter, I also found out that she was going to go on a tour to promote her book and one of the destinations was going to be Toronto, yay! Made sure that the date was in 2 of my calendars because I have no more brain cells left. Waited, and waited, and then Chrissie had to reschedule her visit because of a "Muppet moment", but 2 weeks ago, finally (oh the excitment!!), she came to GEARS Toronto for an evening to introduce her book, her passion for the sport, her kindness, and her great humour to her biggest fans in Canada.

I made sure I arrived there with enough time to spare since I had to cross the entire Greater Toronto Area in rush hour and with Chrissie's book in one hand, a coffee in another, I waited for the event to start. I was there first, so I got seated on a couch just across from her, but alas forgot my camera at home and was left with the mediocre pixel count of the iPhone 4 to capture the moment. Not much later, fellow blogger Doug arrived, who I recognized right away, and who had just become first time Ironman at Mt. Tremblant - way to go, Doug! - so I spent the rest of the time chatting with him about photography and all things Ironman (and his shiny new medal).

Chrissie arrived on time, but sporting a hard boot on her left foot, so she joked about being jinxed every time she gets to travel to Toronto, but hey, this time I swear it wasn't me, I even left my Muppet t-shirt at home.

Chrissie in a boot
I was wearing the t-shirt I got at the Toronto Triathlon Festival instead, since it was from my first tri ever, I was rather proud of it. I realized by looking at these pictures how I should have asked for the small size, I look twice as big as Chrissie in these pictures. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if she has twice as less fat anyway, she is really thin and much taller than me.

Once she finished telling us her story and the Q&A session concluded, we all lined up to have our book signed. I kinda jumped the line towards the front since I had been there first anyway, then waited my turn, face flushing red, white and purple the closer I was getting to her. I may have had a hot flash and a Raynaud's attack too. I was a pretty shaky mess once my turn arrived and quickly I told her that I was one of those noobs that didn't know anything about triathlon before seeing her racing in Kona, but that I was determined to finish an Ironman, so she wrote on the back of my t-shirt "You can do it!". She also wrote "Smiles" in the book, which of course, could not be closer to the truth. Look at her smile and look at mine too, I think I may have dislocated my jaw because it stayed like that for the rest of the week.

All smiles!
Not sure what to do with my t-shirt, I haven't washed it since, I am afraid that the sharpie marking will go away, I don't want to take the risk - I may want to keep her scent on as well, look at that hug that she gave me, a full armpit's worth. I think I am in love. Or high, whatever.

But one thing you should know, Chrissie Wellington rocks. And the inspiration that she gave me and the love for this sport that I am trying really hard not to get drunk on, I will pay them forward by volunteering at Ironman Muskoka 70.3 race this coming weekend. Smile on!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Time for a recap: Running

Last in the series of late recaps, my running comes as a natural suite to the weekly swimming and biking adventures that make this triathlon bouquet quite a wet and smelly mess.

Stretching my calves on the stairs and drying my boob sweat...
Currently training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, my running regime has been a combination of brick runs, hill repeats ad nauseatum , speed intervals which push my maximum HR off the charts and long slow runs in zone 2-3 which I've been spicing up by getting lost on trails like these:

My longest run of this marathon season has been 2h today, in which I ran a little over 18km. I usually do all my runs with hubbs and since he's new to distance running, it's cool to be with him when he reaches those "longest ever runs" milestones that I hope will motivate him to join me for a marathon soon.

I am always a bit apprehensive of marathon training since it spoiled the party several times by bringing me pains in places that I never thought I'd get to complain about, such as the arches of my feet, the back of my knees or my Achilles tendons. But this time around, armed with a ton of info on barefoot running thanks to the revolutionary book "Born to run" and thousands of articles on this topic, I am convinced that mechanically, I'd be better off using the balls of my feet more efficiently. If you still haven't read Christopher Mc Dougall's book, you can listen to him or watch the "The Perfect Runner" short film by David Suzuki (only available for viewing online in Canada, but you can read the scientific information part, it's pretty much a summary).

...Followed by icing the legs
I am not particularly interested in wearing Vibrams or going completely barefoot, but rather teaching myself a forefoot/midfoot strike instead of a heel strike. And this is exactly what I've been doing since I started training for this marathon. I took a new pair of Adidas Glide 2 shoes out from the box and started doing all my long runs using a forefoot strike. At first I kept wondering what I looked like, going from hippo to ballerina - and spending 1h on the balls of my feet definitely felt like a workout. The long runs kept getting longer but I stuck with it, nursing my calves with ice baths and compression socks - and for the first time in a month, this week I put on my older sneakers to go out for my speed workout and I just could not make my brain do anything else but forefoot strike. Then I did the 2h long run today and this new way of running felt entirely natural. It took one full month, but I think I managed to alter my running form for the better and with zero pain as a bonus (I am not talking about muscle soreness, but injury - so far, so good, touch on wood).

Not sure how my training schedule is going to shape up over the next few weeks, but I know that my longest run will be 3h30. Hopefully feet are going to get even stronger by then. I am getting pretty excited to see that I can hit sub-5 intervals with a new and alien form of running. If it keeps doing its magic, I may even see further improvement in my overall speed and who knows, a marathon PB? Coach said to trust myself - now, that's going to be a challenge.

Funny thing is, I am getting blisters in new places, such as under and between my toes. With every long run, I have been trying different pairs of socks in the hope of finding the magic ones that leave my feet smiling. I don't know whether I should shout "Eureka!" just yet, but running with a pair of Injinji toe socks today didn't bring any tears or fears.

Toe socks rock!
Happy feet!
However, I am having a serious problem above the waist where chaffing is taking new shapes and sizes. It's not easy to know what to do since I lost a few bra cup sizes in the process of shedding 50lb, but all my sports bras, being stretchy and all, still seem to fit. With "seem" being the emphasis here because in the "feel" department, it looks like this (front and back). Dark spot in the middle of the top pic is one of my gallbladder surgery scars, but the pretty butterfly underneath is entirely courtesy of my Polar sports bra. The front chaffing scar is about 4 inches large at the top, 2 inches tall. The ones in the back, I have no freaking clue where they are coming from, I suspect they were produced by the seams because the bra does not close at the back. Nice and symmetrical, I am a work of art. Oh le sigh.

Lesson learned, this is the second bra that I am retiring from the long runs, the previous one being the Moving Comfort "Juno" that imprinted the darker spot on the bottom right since the Paris Marathon.  I cannot win, I think I may start a bare-chest running movement (with duct tape for support). Who's with me for running naked? Or have you found no-chaffing magic clothes? Either way, do tell because... Ouchie ouch!

Until then, enjoy the ironic photo of the day - who says that I don't know how to sport a butterfly?