Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baby steps

Wooohooo, the workouts are back! Okay, maybe there isn't much to talk about, but enough to get me excited, damn right!! I swam, I biked and I ran! Went to the pool a few times - thrice, more precisely, and increased my mileage from 1200m to 1400m in two weeks, going from sets of 100s to 200s, all with flipturns!! I sense a new season kick-starting soon ;-)
Tan lines, vintage bathing suits, goggle marks and empty pools.
Let's do this!
Good news is that my core is what hurt the most after these pool workouts. I must be doing something right. As for the flip turns, they don't make me feel like death anymore, so that's definitely progress! Just keep flippin', just keep flippin'... ummm, yea, something like that.

Then I went on the bike trainer, once, for 15 minutes, smallest gear. I must have elevated my heart rate for at least 1bpm, I even broke a sweat, despite the fan blowing sub-arctic air in my face. My hip bursa decided to act up 30 minutes later, so I didn't try again since. But at least I managed to make something flare, you know - cause and effect - because Google isn't that great at diagnosing mysterious injuries without a good cause. Needless to say, I took a little break afterwards, but there was one more thing to take care of before the end of the year.

I promised myself I'd run a mile if the injury didn't get worse. As soon as the bursa stopped hurting again, I put on my running shoes and went out. I wanted to run between 10 and 15 minutes, and I did a little loop around the block for a total of 12 minutes. Almost 2km! Yay me!! However, that was no easy feat. The road conditions were horrible, there was ice everywhere and I wasn't keen on falling on my face and breaking something else.
Ice and snow - watch your step!
So today I went with hubbs to the gym and ran for 20 min on the treadmill (1% incline). This time I ran 3.2km, and I even threw in a few strength exercises and stretches at the end.

Verdict? Nothing got worse. There might be hope after all. Here's to a promising 2014, and dare I say, pain free! Cheers, everyone, and a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Workout of the Day: Dying my hair at home

This is my first official update for the "40 steps to 40" project since I finally managed to cross off the list a goal: dying my hair at home. A workout of sorts, hence its own blog post.

First, I looked through my cabinet under the sink for the hair color box, which I must have bought sometime last year. In the process, I had to take out a large amount of items that were stored there, then put them back. Three minutes of lifting weights of 100g to 250g each, plus some leg, back and arm stretches.

I then prepared the dye by mixing several smelly potions together, then shook the bottle vigorously for a minute. Maybe this wasn't as difficult as Shake Weight, but it definitely made my right arm work a little.

I then applied the dye all over my hair, holding both my arms up for a total of 5 minutes at least, massaging my scalp lightly. Not sure how many muscle groups were used there, but for sure some shoulder, back and chest muscles were put to test.

After finishing the coloring, I proceeded to lying down on my bed and checking several social media websites for a total of 25 minutes. While on my stomach, I also did my glute exercises prescribed by my PT: 2 x 10 leg raises, each leg, bent at the knee, as well as other random leg movements that I don't remember.

Back in the bathroom, I then washed my hair while kneeling down and crouching, for a total of 5 more minutes. More work for the glutes, and some core work for keeping myself balanced while on my knees. Add holding my arms up and massaging my scalp all this time, a total body workout!

Got up (that totally counted as a squat) and applied magic conditioner cream to my hair. 1 more minute with my arms up. 

Back to crouching by the shower to wash my hair again, about 1 minute. Up once more (squat, yay!), then drying my hair, moving my arms while holding the towel, weight about 300g-400g wet.

And this is the result.
Abracadabra, no more gray hair!
Who's hot now, eh?
Damn, this workout made me look fabulous! I was feeling so good afterwards, that I even went on my bike trainer for 15 minutes (for the first time since Nov 30), on the lowest gear and I didn't get any pain. And to end the day, I put on my winter coat and went outside to walk for 2km in the snow.

This may not help burn the 8lb that I put on since I stopped exercising, but it's a start. Merry Christmas to me! A pain free day was the best gift today!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Heart and Courage

This year, for the first time ever, I applied for athlete sponsorship. I poked at other companies in the past, an email here, a tweet there, but most of them seemed to be focused on fast, super fit and rather skinny athletes, which I am not. Some answered with an email inviting me to apply, others didn't even care to acknowledge I existed. Some applications were way too complicated and made the process seem like a well kept secret to which you needed to have super powers to unlock the access, others had a gazillion questions on number of website visitors, number of social profiles, finish times, which was rather intimidating.

Enter Coeur Sports. I first learned about them via one of my friends on Twitter, and the fact that they launched on my birthday tickled my fancy. I looked at their designs and I got intrigued. Definitely stylish and the reviews were very positive. I started following them more closely as I thought they may be the answer to my prayer for a well fitting, cute and comfy kit for my first Ironman next year in August. I had no idea that they would sponsor athletes eventually. Then I watched the Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix in Las Vegas and saw their name above the finish line, and I could no longer ignore the signs. Not only they were legit and sponsored one of the coolest races ever, but they kept catching my eye when I was least expecting it. I established contact and to my surprise, I felt welcome to ask questions, to communicate, to share stories. It was so refreshing, I could not believe how different this experience felt, how friendly and caring the staff was. I kept telling myself "these people know how to treat their customers", and I wasn't even one yet.

So when their call for ambassadors was published on Facebook, I jumped on the opportunity. They were looking for people with a slightly twisted sense of humor (ha!) and that, at least, I thought I could pull off naturally (according to my kids). The application was rather straight forward - all questions were already on their website. Well organized, transparent, what else could you ask for? It took me a few hours to complete it - but I put my heart and soul in it. I really wanted this, but as with everything else in my life, including job interviews, I decided just to be myself and not try to fit the mold that I came across with the other companies. It may have went something like this. I don't have a recollection of everything I said, but it felt a bit like a braidump, more like this blog. My rule is to write and not over think - so I must have re-read myself once or twice to look for grammar mistakes, then hit send (is this getting long?).

And then it happened.
I was beyond myself. I was so happy, it's really hard to describe how amazing this felt. All of a sudden, my Facebook and Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree  - I felt included, that is. Being part of a team, it's always been my dream. Being connected with such a kick-ass group of athletes, it's beyond humbling. No matter how many times they went to Kona, whether they are fast or slow, or whether they did a triathlon or 20 of them, we connected. We're all in this together, with heart and courage, the values of Coeur Sports. I could not be more grateful.

Some of my online friends who have been such an inspiration for me over the years, ended being part of their Elite Team, and I'm absolutely stoked to be able to share the colors of the kit with them. It was the cherry on the cake to see them representing Coeur as well, and it definitely validated my gut feeling about the company and their ability to create a network of supportive and like minded women.

A few days have passed now and I gained quite a few new friends. We're getting to know each other, to discover our hobbies, blogs, pets and roads we travel. It's pretty cool. I feel a bit of a newbie at this sponsorship thing, I've never been looked after by a brand, so to speak - and I am excited beyond my ears. I am looking forward to getting to know the people behind Coeur a little better too.

You'll probably see me plug Coeur Sports over the next year, but it's for a good reason. I believe in their vision, I believe in their products and the way Coeur is going to help me grow as an athlete. This season is going to be awesome!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advice to live by

A few days ago I came across a great list, originally published on the website Mind Body Green. It resonated with me instantly. As I was reading each of these "20 Things to Let Go Before the New Year", I kept on shaking my head. Yep. Yep. Yeppers. Again and again. I thought I'd share because I feel that it may help others who find themselves in the same funk as me at this time of the year. Enjoy!
No worries days with the ones you love are the best
1. Let go of all thoughts that don't make you feel empowered and strong.

2. Let go of feeling guilty for doing what you truly want to do.

3. Let go of the fear of the unknown; take one small step and watch the path reveal itself.

4. Let go of regrets; at one point in your life, that “whatever” was exactly what you wanted.

5. Let go of worrying; worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

6. Let go of blaming anyone for anything; be accountable for your own life. If you don’t like something, you have two choices, accept it or change it.

7. Let go of thinking you are damaged; you matter, and the world needs you just as you are.

8. Let go of thinking your dreams are not important; always follow your heart.

9. Let go of being the “go-to person” for everyone, all the time; stop blowing yourself off and take care of yourself first … because you matter.

10. Let go of thinking everyone else is happier, more successful or better off than you. You are right where you need to be. Your journey is unfolding perfectly for you.

11. Let go of thinking there's a right and wrong way to do things or to see the world. Enjoy the contrast and celebrate the diversity and richness of life.

12. Let go of cheating on your future with your past. It’s time to move on and tell a new story.

13. Let go of thinking you are not where you should be. You are right where you need to be to get to where you want to go, so start asking yourself where you want to go.

14. Let go of anger toward ex friends and family. We all deserve happiness and love; just because it is over doesn’t mean the love was wrong.

15. Let go of the need to do more and be more; for today, you've done the best you can, and that's enough.

16. Let go of thinking you have to know how to make it happen; we learn the way on the way.

17. Let go of your money woes — make a plan to pay off debt and focus on your abundance.

18. Let go of trying to save or change people. Everyone has her own path, and the best thing you can do is work on yourself and stop focusing on others.

19. Let go of trying to fit in and be accepted by everyone. Your uniqueness is what makes you outstanding.

20. Let go of self-hate. You are not the shape of your body or the number on the scale. Who you are matters, and the world needs you as you are. Celebrate you!
Winning at life!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Unless you were on the Moon for the last 2 days, you were probably one of the 4 10 million (and counting) people who made the video of this family of triathletes dancing in their jammies viral.

And for a good reason. Even though they made this video to plug their new business, it does not take away the fact that it's pretty well done and it helped put quite a big spotlight on triathlon. Speaking of which, as soon as I saw that they competed in a 70.3, I had to look up their results. Isn't what all of us triathletes do? The husband mentioned that his wife Kim finished in 6h40, but I was curious about his time too, you know, to see how modest and ... honest they were. I am a skeptic by nature, sorry.

And guess what? In the process I found an article by Penn Holderness himself, talking about their experience at Ironman Raleigh 70.3, with video and all. Check it out!

As for their results, if you are dying to know:
Keep on racing, the Holderness family, and good luck in your new venture! (you should bring those jammies to the after race parties ;-))

Monday, December 16, 2013

Never two without three

I remember writing on December 3rd...

One: GTPS (Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, aka hip bursitis)
Two: ITBS (Iliotibial band syndrome, aka mother effing IT band hell)
Three: hey, don't you think that's enough?!

It's now two weeks later and I feel that it's time for an update on my injuries, since I cannot update you on my workouts for not having done any.

I have been mostly sitting on my butt, literally, which is another issue in itself. Why? Because 4 physio therapy appointments later, I still have pain in my right hip radiating into my lateral hip muscles/tendons and into my quads whenever it feels like it. And it's not that painful either, but it's nagging. It's there to remind me every day that I'm not getting off that easy.

So today I had my 5th physio appointment and my therapist wasn't very impressed with my progress, even though she told me that I was only halfway into the treatment and that I should be patient. While I was lying on my good side, she started poking at my butt cheek, around the original site of the hip bursitis, but a little more towards the back, away from the hip. A minute later, she hit a spot and I screamed in pain. WTF was that!? The answer was "Oh, poor Irina, it's your piriformis".

So to add another injury to an injury, there is a number three after all:

Three : Piriformis strain (aka MORE pain in the butt)

Most likely it's been there since the beginning, but hidden by the most acute pain, coming from the hip and the ITB. Now that the first two have subsided, the deeper aches start to surface. Again it is hard to pinpoint exactly what happened. I may never know, but one thing I do know, is that I do a lot of things that prevent it to heal. Sitting all day and putting pressure on the strain is the worst. First change I need to make is to buy an inflatable donut cushion (or sit on my exercise ball - great idea, thanks Marlene). That's going to be interesting. Next, I need to stop crossing my legs when I sit. At home, whenever I lie down on the couch, my legs are always crossed as well. Last but not least, my PT noticed that I always point my feet inward, even when I rest. This is "mechanically" bad and I should stop doing it.

To treat it, ICE is my friend, as often as I can, especially during the day. Thankfully I'll be on vacation next week, and I can R.I.C.E all day long. Copious amounts of wine and chocolate should also help. Until then, I'll be waiting for a sign, and that sign is SILENCE (total Silence of The Lambs reference there). No more screaming in my hip, leg and butt cheek. And when that happens, I'm going to celebrate with some more wine and chocolate. Then hop on my bike for an easy spin, maybe a 15 min jog and a few easy laps in the pool (rest assured, not all at once). The New Year needs to start off the right foot, and not because it's at the bottom of my good leg. The New Year is going to be PAIN FREE and I know it's possible. I don't believe in miracles, but I believe in the power of positive thinking. I am going to get better.

This is not a very serious injury, I hope. But I am treating it with caution because it could blow up as quickly as it showed up, uninvited, that is. This is my year and nothing can take it away from me. It's better now than later (*taking notes for the next time that I start crying*).

I am going to get better. I am going to get better. I am going to get better....
Hang in there my friends... I'll be back in a jiffy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letting go of guilt

It's been a week post injury and after spending all my free time asking myself the same question over and over again - "why?" - I think I am finally ready to move on and let more constructive thoughts occupy my brain. The "why" of the matter may just be impossible to answer. I talked to a few people, they all have their own theory - I have none. I've always thought that I knew myself so well, that I didn't see this coming - at all. For sure, I took my time to rest and the workouts that I did, they were no different in intensity than what I did over the summer. Maybe I overdid it at Yoga. Maybe I had too much fun bowling, or maybe doing single leg drills on the bike ad nauseatum was the last nail in the coffin, but if injuries were a science, we would know how to prevent them 100% of the time.

For some people, getting injured during the training cycle is like a badge of honor. "I took my body to the limit" - yeah, maybe, but I don't see who really enjoys being sidelined. Everyone I know got injured over the past 3 years, and maybe my turn came because I have been so damn lucky all this time. Either way, it's been hard not to think that I did this to myself (but of course I did! who am I kidding) and maybe that I should have listened to coach and not run the Hamilton Marathon. But I did listen to my body - and never, not once I had pain in my hip. Achy knees, sure, the whole year they kept reminding me that everything around them was tight: muscles, tendons, whatever. Was I always stretching, rolling, icing, massaging? Far from it. Just like Sam, my favorite healing method is to stare at my muscles and hope they repair themselves. No kidding, I must be champion at healing by telekinesis.

So anyway, here I am, torturing my brain, day in and day out, wondering, why am I my worst enemy and freaking out, of course, because "did I just break myself for good?". What about the IRONMAN?! If I break now, will I end up in a million pieces by the time August comes? Oh you have no idea what kind of thoughts circle inside my head at 300km/h. And they make me exhausted with guilt. A week and 3 physio therapy appointments later, the hip pain improved dramatically, I even went to the pool today and did a bit of aqua-jogging and swimming with my pull buoy. But some pain is still there, still reminding me of my "negligence". Another week of minimum walking, no running and no biking should do the trick, I can only hope. I have another PT appointment tomorrow and we shall take it from there... Will I be able to return to my favorite activities? I better be, or I'm going to LOSE IT.

Until then, guilt begone!! I am a runner, I am a triathlete, I am legit, dammit. I may not be training for the Olympics, but I'd rather be happy and deal with a little injury than bang my head against the inside a bubble wrap.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So, I'm having some... ummm, technical difficulties

To be more specific -

One: GTPS (Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, aka hip bursitis, aka pain in the butt)
Two: ITBS (Iliotibial band syndrome, aka mother effing IT band hell)
Three: hey, don't you think that's enough?!

So. Nothing until pain goes away. Not even massage, rolling, stretching, yoga, walking or swimming (unless it's with a pull buoy).

There is no other explanation than a change in routine. My physio therapist said it's most likely because of going all out in yoga, swimming and biking after resting for weeks. And let's not forget bowling, which I had not done in years (mandatory corporate fun day will always bite me in the butt, literally)!! All those workouts taxed the hip big time and the fact that I only did them once a week did not help either. Given that I reduced the intensity of workouts from 100% to 5% after my last triathlon, then I went back to doing long and hard bike spins, pool sprints, and holding the pigeon pose for 3 minutes (because I'm such an over achiever), it was just "too much too soon". And I thought that looking at this schedule, I was a lazy bum.

Well, I was, but I should have started back gradually that is. It is not clear whether the ITBS is a result of the GTPS or vice versa, but bottom line, I've got horrible pain from the hip all the way down my leg when I walk, with a bad limp and achy wobbling in the knee. Speaking of the knee, my physio is worried that my left knee is quite unstable, which explains a few things. But I will talk more about this with her after I stop hurting. Good thing is that it's an acute injury and I got it early.

Until then, fire away. Call me all names that you want, I deserve them.
L O S E R is a good start me thinks.

Ouch. To be continued.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Adventures in food

So it's been exactly 3 weeks since I've started making changes to my diet. As a reminder, the exercise was to restrict the sugar, carbs, grains and dairy I would eat after lunch, while still not going overboard in these categories with the rest of the meals. The end goal was to increase my intake of daily fruits, veggies and protein and reduce the rest because I'd have less options for snacks and dinner. I've kept a strict diary of everything that went into my mouth during these three weeks, you can see it here if you're curious. I haven't gone Paleo overnight, far from it, but I tried to inspire my cooking from it. I even bought a book of Paleo recipes and started collecting ideas from websites I've come across and that have been recommended by friends who are in the process of doing the Whole30 challenge, more or less ad infinitum.

And it's been challenging, not only because it made me go out of my comfort zone and forced me to learn how to cook, but because it removed some of my coping mechanisms. It is no secret that I've been having quite an emotional attachment to food, because it's been making me feel good. I love everything about comfort food, but I am convinced that in quantities larger than my body can handle, all this "comfort" ends up making me sick. It's a vicious circle and it's been interesting to see how I can cope without giving into little daily cravings. And the answer is, I'm not so sure. If you haven't read my previous post, it looks like I'm struggling with short episodes of depression that keep poking at me every so often. I am thinking that reducing both exercise and comfort food, my most trusted therapies, I let some of that depression coming back to haunt me. But don't be alarmed, it's really not that bad. I feel that as soon as I'll go back to my 10h+ of training, all these issues are going to take care of themselves.

Now, weight wise, I don't think I've lost much, maybe 3lb so far. I would need to lose 2 more lb in order to win my Diet Bet, but I won't make a scene if I don't. I think I have given myself a good routine and eventually the weight is going to come off, especially if I increase the amount of exercise. Anyway - 3 weeks later, I don't feel magically "better", I didn't get any epiphany related to food either, but I feel stronger with regards to cravings and I am happy that I've started to cook more and make better choices at least half of the day. It's a move in the right direction for sure.

Below is a compilation of meals I had in the last 20 days:
I am going to keep on eating this way, I don't see a reason to stop - it's totally manageable and I believe that health wise, it can only be good for me. And once a month, just like I did today, I will allow myself to indulge in a favorite dessert. This month, it was chocolate mint ice cream at Demetre's. But of course. It was as awesome as I could remember it.
And now, reset. Bring it on, December!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Too many variables

Every day I feel lethargic. I sleep well and I wake up without problem, but by 9am I want to go back to bed. I come from work and all I want to do is to go to sleep. During the day, I can barely keep my eyes open.
I am moody. I am melancholic. Sometimes I am on the verge of crying for no reason at all. I cannot explain it. It just is. I don't know what I want or what I miss.
I don't feel like exercising. I could go to the pool, I could hop on the trainer or hit the treadmill at the gym. But all I can handle right now are the weekly yoga class, the group swim and the group bike classes. On my own, nothing at all.

I have been in this funk for a few weeks now and I don't know why.

Too many variables:

Maybe it's Seasonal Affective Disorder because I hate the cold and the way it makes my body feel (Raynaud's, asthma, dry skin) and I'd rather be somewhere sunny instead?
Maybe because I changed my diet and my body misses the double dose of carbs/sugar?
Maybe because I am often feeling hungry and I run out of energy?
Maybe I am just hangry?
Maybe because I'm tired and need a vacation?
Maybe because my body is all screwed up since I've cut 3/4 of my workouts out (4h/week instead of 12h)?
Maybe because I'm no longer racing?
Maybe because I'm getting older?
Maybe because I miss my friends and being social?
Maybe because I'm scared of what's to come?

It can be any of these, or none, or all at once. I have 2 more weeks to snap out of it. Until then, I leave you with a picture that makes me feel better. I don't know who took it, so I apologize to the owner for not crediting them here, but it's too beautiful not to share.
I see me.
Hope your winter is sunnier than mine.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A weekend in Ottawa

Last weekend we went to Ottawa on a whim. We needed a change in scenery, a little escape from our daily routine and surroundings. We like it in Ottawa, there is a great bakery there, the Byward Market, a few friends that we had not seen in ages and overall, and a different vibe that makes it a great destination for our little family. The city was getting ready for Veterans' Day, so there was a festive yet solemn feeling in the air. It was pretty cold, and we could sense that we were going to see the first snow of the year while there.
Don't mind me, I'm just hanging on this branch with my friend the owl
Saturday started with a walk along the Parliament buildings and on the pedestrian paths that were pretty deserted this early in the day.

We went for breakfast at the Moulin de Provence, where we "sampled" a few desserts and pastries, Continental Style, followed by coffee: Tim Hortons for hubbs, Starbucks for me and Yanis because YOLO, if you were to listen to my son. The sugar overdose had just begun. We returned to the hotel and decided on our next destination, Altitude Gym, a short drive to Gatineau across the river. We weren't quite sure what we'd find there, but from the magazine pictures, it looked like fun. And we were going to climb walls.
Once we got there, however, we felt really intimidated seeing Spiderman-like people with fancy shoes swinging their way across colourful and frightening tall walls. We weren't quite sure what we got ourselves into, but we signed our lives away and paid for a "fun" activity called Clip 'n Climb. We only waited for a few minutes, then we had to attend an orientation meeting, at the end of which we were given harnesses to wear around our legs and waist. We discovered that the Clip 'n Climb activity was in a different part of the gym, that looked nothing like the "traditional" climbing walls that we saw when we arrived.
That was more like it! If the kids can do it, so should I (I was wrong, by the way). The video sure makes it look like a LOT of fun, doesn't it! (I did not see this beforehand)

But after a few minutes of climbing, I was ready to cry. My arms and hands were screaming in pain!! The first wall that I tried was the green and purple one with rotating holds and zero grip on them. I gave up after a few minutes. But decided to have fun no matter what, I went after easier walls. But they all required upper body strength to hold onto them and quickly realized how little I had. I was happy that my kids and husband were not struggling as much as me, at least they could take advantage of every minute that I was spending in a corner massaging my fingers. They could rest assured, they had no competition in me. The hour went by slow enough for me to try most of the walls and end with a leap of faith from the top of the wiggly pillars. That, my friends, was the culmination of this weekend. I climbed, and climbed and I reached the end of the damn pillars, but by then I was ready to pee my pants. I could feel so much FEAR and it was not comfortable. It was making my insides shake. My legs and hands were shaking too. The higher the pillars, the shakier they were too.
The Towering Inferno
I am glad that Zin took this picture of me because I don't think I'll ever go up there again. But I did it once and I feel a lot of pride for going out of my comfort zone like that.
We all agreed that we'd have to come back sometime (now I need to look into similar places in the GTA). Outside, it had started snowing.

We went back to Byward Market where we met with one of our friends for a late lunch/early dinner. It was almost 3pm by then. We settled on the Fish Market restaurant. We had mussels and fries, and we all ordered a different kind with the intention of sharing, but in the end we didn't because we all liked our choice too much to give it up. After stuffing ourselves with mussels, we returned to the bakery for desserts. More sampling ensued. After a while, we decided to put an end to our gluttony and head back to the hotel. I was slipping in a food coma, walking slowly, trying not to puke. I was not proud of my antics. Even though I did not have a big quantity of food when you think about it, the wide variety of sweets, especially when not used to them, and the repeat performance had put an end to my tolerance for sugar that day. All I wanted was to lie down and wait for my stomach to decide that it had punished me enough.

So we headed back to our hotel room and while the boys decided to have fun around the pool, I went to the sauna. 3 times 10 minutes, with a dip in the not-so-hot tub in between. It was really good, it was exactly what I needed. Calm, quiet and sweaty. Thankfully nobody came to chat, I was really not in the mood!
Aaaaaahhhhhhhh, that's more like it
A few hours later, guess what, we were hungry again. How was that possible?? Wait, sugar, quickly gone. Alright, next then. It had to be within walking distance, and there weren't many choices that were fitting in our budget. We ended at a little Thai place where we had Tom Yum soup and shared a pad thai. Both very decent, it was a good choice. Fast service, fast dinner, happy belleh at last. Back at the hotel, we bought a pay per view movie, Red 2, and we all watched and laughed a lot. Family time wise, this was all that we had asked for.

Next morning we all agreed that we would not go back to the bakery. That was enough stomach ache for the weekend and as a matter of fact, it was at that moment that I decided to clean up my diet. Seeing how much this little excess cost me health wise, I figured that I should not put my body through this regimen any time soon. Anyway, we had breakfast in a place called Eggspectation and as you may have guessed, we had eggs. Outside it was still cold, but also raining. Not very pleasant for a walk or any outdoor activity as a matter of fact. I had planned to go geocaching, but the motivation was slipping away with each minute. Eventually we called it a day and we decided to head back home since we still had a 5h drive ahead of us. Quite a workout in itself, it always is.

Speaking of which, we arrived home exactly at 7pm, which gave us enough time for a spin on the trainer before bed. In the end, a great weekend, with new and exciting memories made and a good time had by all. I can't wait to do it again, minus the sweets binge. Lesson learned!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Because I like making lists: 40 steps to 40

Did you know that in less than a year I'll be turning 40?

Yep, no matter what, 40 is happening. But how I get there, it's a different matter altogether. I want to turn 40 with a bang!! (I'll make sure to put that on the list by the way). Yes, I know that I've signed up for an Ironman, but I need some backup plans because shit can happen and then what?
Besides, if you dedicate your whole year to the Ironman and put on hold everyone and everything else, most likely you (that's me) will get alienated by the monotony of workouts and the constant focus on fitness. I think it is important for your psyche to keep a somewhat normal life around Ironman training because you never know when you're going to need to look back and say "this was not a complete waste of time". I've learned some lessons along the way...
I'm a big kid now
So I've made a list of 40 challenges, goals, stepping stones, whatever you want to call them, which should be enough to keep me busy in all situations. Half of them are fitness related because it just made it easier to fill up the list. The rest I got with help from friends, Pinterest and my bored mind. I want my 40s to be the best decade yet. Here we go. Deadline is September 18, 2014.
1. Finish Ironman Mt. Tremblant
2. Clean up my diet. I have a plan for that.
3. Lose weight to reach 125lb
4. Run a 5k race under 25min
5. Run a 10k race under 52min
6. Run a half marathon race
7. Complete a duathlon
8. Complete a 70.3 triathlon
9. Swim 1000m with flip turns
10. Swim 4x50m medley non stop
11. Swim with fins in open water for fun
12. Go skinny dipping
13. Bike to Niagara Falls and back
14. Bike to Blue Mountain and back
15. Bike the Caledon Trailway
16. Climb a mountain
17. Volunteer at a race
18. Volunteer at a soup kitchen
19. Read 5 books
20. Dye my hair at home
21. Find 100 new geocaches
22. Make a jar of something
23. Make 12 new dishes
24. Spend a whole day at the movies
25. Do something fun on New Year's Eve
26. Go on a date night x 4
27. Make something with my cork collection
28. Make a dreamcatcher
29. Use my 10 classes Yoga pass
30. Try paddle boarding
31. Learn how to roll sushi
32. Express gratitude for at least 40 days
33. Host a party/BBQ with friends at home
34. Ride the Leviathan rollercoaster
35. Ride the Behemoth with my younger son
36. Go fishing with my boys
37. Try a new food
38. Go to the reflexologist
39. Get a mani/pedi or a spa treatment
40. Turn 40 with a Bang!

This is a method to my madness. (I also put the list on the side so I can keep track more easily).
Everyone say hip hip hooray!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's time for a change

It's that time of the year when I like to reflect on my diet and see what changes I could/should make going forward. Not only I can see the numbers on the scale going up as the workout volume is going down, but just like the previous times that I gave myself challenges, I know what my issues are and once more, I need to get the upper hand on them. I have talked about my sugar and carbs intake before, and while it's nothing too alarming, I know that these two don't play nice with my body. Besides, even though I may be in the best shape of my life (fitness wise), it's not an excuse for filling my body with empty calories and this is the one trend that I am trying to reverse. I have friends on every diet spectrum possible and while their efforts in sticking with a method are really inspiring, I do not believe that I could make such drastic changes without making it so much harder for my family. We also have no medical reasons for changing anything that we're doing right now (but neither should we wait for them), plus I do not believe that one particular diet is better than other (I am talking in terms of lifestyle changes, not weight loss). We have a fairly clean diet, varied and devoid of fast food, pop, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, colorants and other chemicals. We try to buy as much local/organic food as possible and limit our eating out. Despite my sweet tooth, I have been able to maintain a stable weight throughout the year and I even saw my fat mass decrease.

As you can see, nothing wild happened over the past 12 months. I am exactly at the same weight as a year ago. So now that's out of the way, let's talk action plan. I need to make some changes in order to eat at least 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, while reducing my carbohydrate intake (Tim Hortons, I am looking at you). I checked out the Paleo diet and I know that it is not feasible for me, because I have no desire to completely remove wheat, dairy and grains forever (everything but the cheese, please!!). There are enough populations out there that live to a hundred years (Okinawa Island, Crete etc.) on diets that are very different from Paleo to convince me that this is not the only answer out there. If I had a chronic illness that would justify it, why not, but I am healthy as I've ever been and it's not for having eaten Paleo everything. However, the fact that this diet forces you to eat more veggies and be more creative with your cooking, it is a good enough reason to try following its principles at least half a day, each day.

So this is what I decided -
From breakfast to lunch included, I can eat like before (including bread, homemade banana bread, french crepes, croissants, toast etc), but in moderate quantities. I will not eat my cheesecake or pizza for breakfast, rest assured. Bottom line, I will not move meals around just to justify eating junk.
Lunch can have carbs/starch or not, but I will try to have more often veggies than mashed potatoes or rice.
After lunch, I will stop eating:
-carbs (as in bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, baked goods, pizza etc.)
-alcohol (only one a week, in the weekend)
-other sweet drinks

The idea that I can fight a craving until the next morning instead of the next month is much, much more appealing to me. Plus, most likely the craving would be gone by next day = win!

To keep me motivated, since these changes should also lead to some weight loss eventually (I put on 5lb just in the last 2 weeks, mostly due to marathon carb loading), I signed up for Michael's Diet Bet challenge. This will be my second attempt and I hope to be successful, unlike the first time when I plateau'd after losing 3lb.
I find the off season to be the perfect time to experiment with dietary changes. There is less pressure to eat enough calories to sustain a high intensity workout volume and I have more time to improve my cooking skills. I think this way of eating would benefit me from many points of view. But most important, it feels right for me.

After a weekend of binging on desserts (the Moulin de Provence bakery in Ottawa is deadly!!), it is now time to stop the madness. Not only I got really sick and bloated from eating all these sweets, but I also questioned my motives. I had none other than "gourmandise" (greed sounds like such a bad word). I started making changes right away, on my way back home when we stopped for dinner.
This was my plate at Swiss Chalet. No more chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes or bread bun. An hour later I was hungry again, but I ate a fruit cup. I am on my third day and I feel that I already ate more fruits and veggies than in an entire week.
At lunch yesterday, despite not bringing anything with me, I went to the cafeteria and bought this:
I had beef with cauliflower and carrots in teriyaki sauce, and I asked for double the broccoli and zero the rice on the side. I also bought a cup of pineapple and put together a small salad (cucumber, tomato, egg, no dressing) for snack. It took me through the day alright, although I felt my stomach asking for food sooner than usual. In the evening, I made myself an egg white omelet with spinach, chicken and red peppers.
I went for a run and ate a banana afterwards.
So it's now the third day, I even went swimming this morning and I see no change in my energy levels and I had no cravings. This feels very doable in the long term and I believe that it can only be good for my health. I made those changes the first step in my "40 Steps to 40" (OMG I'm turning 40!!!) set of challenges over the next year. Now I only need to come up with the other 39.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hamilton Road 2 Hope Marathon Race Report

Another year, another marathon, because life is too short not to go for more. The rest is between my shrink and I. Just that I haven't seen a shrink in many years, so I had to convince my coach that I needed to run this distance even after finishing a 70.3 triathlon instead. He didn't think it was a good idea because I am now officially training for the Ironman and I cannot afford any boo-boo's, but hopefully after this race he's accepted the fact that I may be an alien and that I'll survive outside of Area 51. Not only I had one of the best days in my life, but I also came out of it unscathed, without a single chaffing mark or blister. I even have all my toenails. Who am I?

Training wise, coach had to be creative and increase my mileage conservatively, while putting me in the best position mentally to run the distance. This is what my last month before the race looked like. I missed about 5% of workouts that he had scheduled (not on this page), but I tried to follow his plan the best I could and remain in tune with my body and not hesitate to take a day off when I didn't feel recovered.
Volume wise, it was nothing extraordinary, and certainly not your regular marathon training program with 20+ mile long runs and 40+ miles a week totals. Heck, I didn't even run more than 3 times a week, but I put all my energy in the LSDs, with some tempo thrown in the middle for extra fun (not!). I ran at least a half-marathon distance 5 weekends in a row, with very little taper in the end. And it worked.

Many of my friends were going to race as well, either in the full marathon (Carol, Mandy) or the half (Sam, Nicole, Patty, Emma, Amy). It was going to be a party! I knew that with such a company, I'd have enough inspiration surrounding me for weeks. Carol decided to spend the day before the race in Hamilton and I booked a hotel room as well, just minutes away from the finish line. This ended being the best decision ever. She and her mom came to pick me and my older son up around noon on Saturday. Roughly one hour later we arrived at the expo, but we only spent about 1h there as it was wet and cold and we needed to stay off our feet.
First tent: pick up bag, bib and chip.
Second tent: pick up tshirt and spend your money
I ended buying a Sugoi winter jacket because I had been looking for one for a long long time and I was glad to see it so heavily discounted. Then we stopped for a quick lunch and a cup of tea before heading for the hotel to unpack, rest and rewind.
Teenage sitcoms are the best for falling asleep
No name on the bib? Come'on!
The hours went by fast, then it was time for dinner. We went out to East Side Mario's where I had a generous plate of "make your own pasta" (fettucine and shrimp for me) and shared a slice of strawberry cheesecake with my son. It was satisfying to say the least.

Back to the hotel again, I prepared my stuff for the race: gels, puffer for my asthma, water and pickle juice bottles, fuel belt, bib, socks, gloves, buff, insulated tights, wool tshirt and Sugoi outer layer. The only big unknown, which plagued my brain for over a month, were the shoes. I had brought two pairs with me: a new pair of trustworthy Adidas Glide 2 (one of the three pairs that I had bought 2 years ago) and my new love affair, the K Swiss K-Onas in which I had trained most of the year and which quickly became the most comfortable pair of shoes that I owned. The Adidas were known to give me some blisters on the inside of my feet, but not a handicap for the marathon, while the K Swiss always left my feet impeccable, but I had never tried them on distances longer than 24km. Also, the K Swiss were much lighter than the Adidas, with a smaller heel drop as well. Were they going to kill my joints and calves over 42.2km? That was a risk I had yet to make my mind on.

We switched off the lights at 10:45pm and made sure that alarm clock was set on the iPhone (which was going to magically change time by itself at 2pm). I slept pretty well until 4:30am, then I tossed and turned until 6am, feeling more rested than anxious, thanks to the extra hour. Got up 2 minutes before the alarm and got ready for the 6:45am departure with Carol and her mom. Made myself a sandwich with butter and a few turkey slices and ate a banana. Put another banana in my throw away sweater's pocket and off I went. Just 30 seconds before getting out the door I put on my K Swiss shoes and decided not to over-think my last minute choice.

We were dropped at the starting line in some sort of recreation center with a full sized gymnasium and a few baseball fields around. We made our way inside the building and started looking for familiar faces. Eventually I found the #burlingtonskirtbrigade and Nicole who was sticking out like the one sane person out of the bunch. No offense, ladies, but skirts in -7C? Cuckoo, all of you! I love you anyway, but don't mind me if I call you the #burlingtonskirtasylum from now on.
From left to right: Amy, Emma, me, Sam, Patty and Nicole.
I'm pretty sure I don't know anyone else in here
We exchanged hugs and took a few pics, then we all went on a mission to find port-a-potties with no lineups. But guess what, no such luck. Carol and I ended sharing some bushes, which pretty much sealed our best friends for life status. (Psst, her bum is whiter than mine!)

As the starting time was fast approaching, I followed with some dynamic stretches and did a few accelerations and ABCs (not in the bushes!!), then joined the crowd for the national anthem. I placed myself just ahead of the 4:15 pacer, hoping for a final time between a 4:10 and 4:30. The magic pace for a 4:10 was 5:55min/km and I was hoping to stay on track for at least 30km, then adjust my expectations depending on how my body would feel. However, even a 1 min PR would have satisfied me if things were to turn sour.
A quick countdown and at 8am sharp the race started. There were some rollers right off the bat and I wasn't quite sure what my pace was since at km 1, the 4:15 pacer passed us. It seemed to me that I was going a bit fast, but I could not understand why the pacer was going even faster. I noticed that the first km was actually at 1.1km on my watch and realized that I was not going to rely much on my overall pace if the GPS was all over the map. So I eventually decided to hit the lap button whenever I'd run past a km marker and do a mental calculation to make sure I wasn't going slower than 6min/km. At least I knew that I could rely on my 6 multiplication table. Isn't school wonderful? Stick with it, kids, you never know when your GPS is going to fail you.
The view along Ridge road for the first 8km was absolutely spectacular. The sky was so clear, you could see Toronto and the whole GTA. I could not get enough of these sights and kept telling myself how this course was as beautiful as the County Half, minus the rain. I was in heaven.

The heart rate was a bit too high for my taste though. In high zone 4 (170+ bpm), I needed to bring it down a little. Hitting the lap button regularly helped, and I finally settled in a pace that seemed to gravitate around 5:55 as planned. Mandy caught up with us and for a moment I imagined us three crossing the finish line together in 4:10, just like we dreamed.
Carol in Mandy are in tune
Shortly after km 8, my phone shut down by itself. Right away I thought it died of cold, so I didn't even bother to resuscitate it. Alas it meant the end of the pictures for me. Pace was nice and steady, heart rate was coming down a little. I was running relaxed and enjoying every moment.
I ate my first gel between km 5-6 and drank a bit of water. I decided not to stop or take drinks at the aid stations unless really necessary. We made another turn after 10km, this time running along some corn fields. Still quiet and peaceful, I was keeping an eye on my pace, another on my heart rate. All systems a-ok! Around km 12 I took out my first homemade cereal bar and I ate it all (I made them smaller than usual though). Carol made a run to the bushes for a pee break and I slowed down a little, hoping that she'd catch up. 5 minutes later, there she was! Mandy had taken off and she looked pretty strong, so I wasn't even sure that I'd see her again that day.

Three kilometers later I hit my lap button as usual and noticed that the pace had dropped into the 6:05min/km. I told Carol that if we wanted to stay on 5:55 pace, we needed to speed up a little. We had done the first 10km in under 1h, I wanted to stay on track for the next 10, and the next. I pulled away just slightly, but I could still see Carol over my shoulder. I thought I'd need to pee sometime later as well, so I imagined that we'd lap each other a few times until the end. By km 18, I was hungry again. I ate another gel and downed it with some water. I think I took my first sip of energy drink at that water station because I heard someone saying Gatorade. Gatorade my ass, it was Honey Maxx. Some kids knew what they were talking about, others were totally off track. Anyway, I decided to stay away from the mystery drinks and stick with my own liquids.

I also ate an orange slice and that felt sooooo good, I wanted to run back and grab a handful! But then the Red Hill Valley Parkway (aka the death-to-your-knees downhill) came, I was way too happy to care. The whole time I wanted to stretch my arms out and yell "I'm the queen of the world"!! I made sure I ran in the middle of the road to make it my OWN.  I was also on my own from then on.
Thankfully a photographer was there to capture the moment. I believe I can fly... In the middle of this euphoria, I drank half of my pickle juice. My legs were a bit achy and the last thing I wanted to see was a cramp to take me down. I was having a great time on that highway, but I knew that all good times had to come to an end and eventually a ramp took me out of this rollercoaster and onto the city streets again.

But not for long, because to my surprise, the next part of the course was on a trail with a very nasty downhill and some weird bricks that made me go ouch ouch ouch, followed by a hill steeper than the stairmaster and the same weird bricks. To make sure I was not going to leave an ankle in the dirt, I walked those few steps up. I don't think anyone ran there, unless they had Achilles of steel. In retrospective, these were the only steps I walked during this marathon. I still cannot believe it. We were approaching the 30km marker and just after passing this funky bridge, I looked at my watch and got really excited to see that I was still on track and that I had just beaten my 30km PR by over 5 minutes with a time of 2:59.
As I approached the lake shore path, I started hearing the waves and got thankful again for being able to run without music and enjoy the nature's sounds instead. It was really amazing, not a single negative thought had crossed my mind until then. I ran on. I could see marathoners coming back already, which meant that they were only 2-3km away from the finish. Add another 10 for me. I noticed this funny guy in a Mario costume up on a bench and I started laughing. I had no idea that I was looking at Marlene who was there to cheer on her hubby! 

Soon enough, the path split and we were taken away from the beautiful sight of the lake and onto a residential area. Oh well, it was time to eat again. But first, the pickle juice. I finished my bottle, then let my stomach settle a little. A km later, the 4:15 pacer passed me and I knew that I was now running my regular long run pace of 6:15min/km and that I had to say bye bye to dream goal of 4:10. No biggie, I was feeling strong, no aches anywhere and the waves were just around the corner. I ate my last gel at km 35 and went back to drinking water.

Not long afterwards I returned on the "happy" path with the soothing waves. I was in la-la land and the idea of jumping in the lake for an ice bath after crossing the finish lane was a powerful mind numbing drug. I kept on running, but I never had to go to the dark corners of my brain. I saw the 40km sign and I remembered an Instagram picture that said that I was close. You bet!! I found enough energy to speed up and run the last 2km strong, bursting into a loud cheer across the finish line.
I DID IT!! I beat my PR by 18 minutes and finished in 4:17:19. This whole day was just perfect, what a treat!! Now I can rest and embrace the off season. Was it worth it? Absolutely! I had another chance to measure myself against the marathon distance and I am extremely happy that I raced smart and not unnecessarily aggressive, got my nutrition in at the right times and even adjusted my footing to fight stitches the few times they tried getting the best of me. Finally, after 2 bad marathons, I could fully enjoy the experience again. I don't promise that the next will be as pleasant as this one, but one thing for sure, I will try to keep my smile until I cross the finish line.

Geekery below:
Many many thanks to my coach David Jenkin who always comes up with the smartest training plans, that fit me perfectly and keep me injury free. One more PR to make you proud!!

Also, a million thanks to my husband Zin, my most dedicated cheerleader, who put up with me throughout the year and especially in the last weeks of this training cycle - we both know it wasn't easy! To my son Yanis who came with me to the race and cheered me on, and gave me his jacket when I was freezing cold. Love you, my son!

To Carol's mom who drove us around and invited us for dinner. You made our weekend so much easier!! Thank you for your generosity!

Last but not least, my friends online and in real life who share this passion with me and who provided me with a constant dose of inspiration to take me through the best and worst times this year. To many more PRs, BQs, high fives and running skirts - or not. You know who you are - Thank you!!!