Friday, May 31, 2013

Easy recipes: Harley's Oatmeal Frittata

I have a confession to make: I don't like oatmeal. But oatmeal seems to like me. I feel great after eating oatmeal. It's a perfect pre-race breakfast for me. But I can only eat it as prepared in this recipe, which I called "Harley's Oatmeal Frittata" because I first read it in Harley Pasternak's "5 Factor Fitness" book, which I bought a few years ago when I needed a little big push. I tried eating oatmeal prepared "traditionally" with water and other stuff thrown in it, like fruits, brown sugar, honey etc, but the sticky gooey texture and the almost non existent taste just doesn't do it for me. That's why I keep on making it as a frittata and I don't mind sharing the recipe with you, in case you'd like to give it a try too. Who doesn't like a healthy and filling breakfast ready in 5 minutes?


1/2 cup organic quick oats
1/2 cup liquid egg whites
Two dozens of jumbo organic raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 splenda pack or 2 tsp brown sugar
3-4 tbsp organic unsweetened apple sauce

Preparation (5 min):
Place dry oats in a deep dish safe for the microwave oven.
Pour egg whites uniformly over the oats. Add more oats to cover the liquid patches if needed.
Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar/splenda on top.
Place raisins on top. I tend to go OCD with those as you can see in the pictures.
Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in it, then microwave for 2 minutes.
Take out of the microwave (attention, it's hot) and remove plastic wrap (I thought I'd mention it, just in case).
Pour apple sauce on top and enjoy!

You can find more recipes from this blog here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We own Muskoka!

Last weekend our triathlon club the Fletcher's Meadow Cross Trainers (FMCT) organized the annual Muskoka training weekend and we decided to join in the fun. It was the perfect occasion to get out of the city and have the kids spend two days outdoors instead of glued to their favorite electronics screens. As for us, we were really eager to ride the Muskoka 70.3 bike course to see how deadly it was going to be on race day. The Ironman Muskoka 70.3 is notorious for its hills and what better way for taming the beast other than jumping on it and riding on its back?

We left Brampton on Friday evening a bit after 7pm and after an uneventful 2h drive, we arrived at Clyffe House in Port Sydney where the White Cottage was waiting for us, with the heat and lights turned on, thank goodness because it was so COLD! Brrrr.
The White Cottage
The rest of the FMCT members and their families were all scattered across the cottages on the property, so we didn't get to see many people that night. I checked in with the organizer though and learned that the majority of people were planning a 120km ride the next day, and that sounded pretty frightening to me. 94km of the Muskoka 70.3 loop was already more than I was prepared for, so I decided not to join them and stick with our original plan instead.

The next morning I did see them all bundled up and ready to go, shortly after 9am. The air was chilly and crisp and I went to check out their outfits in order to reassure myself that I had enough layers on so I don't freeze to death. Just before they left, I took the picture below so we can play "Spot the Crazies".
FMCT biking squad
We decided on two layers top and bottom, including a buff under the helmet. Zin and I left the cottage shortly after 10am and went to Deerhurst Resort where the official start of the loop was waiting for us. Upon arriving on Deerhurst Rd, we saw lots of cyclists turning on Canal Rd and asked ourselves what the occasion was. It definitely looked like an organized race since it was marshaled and protected by the police. Later on we found out that we had just run into the Spin the Lakes Cycle Tour (and missed Marlene who was doing the 110k loop!) but that leaving the cottage so late in the day was actually the best decision that we could have made as it kept us away from the race mayhem. I get very nervous when I ride in a group, so it was definitely for the better.

We started our ride just after 11am and we barely met a soul the whole day. The hills never gave us a break. We pushed and pushed and we took pictures and we laughed, and cried and grunted and gave ourselves pep talks to forget the pain in the crotch, shoulders, arms and legs. Zin often would ride ahead of me and then wait for me to catch up. It was ok, I knew he wasn't far and I was reassured not to find him splattered on the asphalt. I did the stretches on Hwy 35 and Hwy 117 entirely in aero, they were not very technical, but the rest of the ride was tricky and not only because of the constant up and downs, but also because of the poor conditions of the roads. They should definitely pave them sooner or later, some stretches like Dwight Beach Road is even dangerous. We made only one stop in Dorset to refill our water bottles and use the bathroom and 4h later, we arrived back to Deerhurst Resort where I collapsed, happy to have completed my mission, but totally defeated. I could not fathom running a half marathon after that, my legs were like Jello. I spent 5 good minutes laying on my back, looking at the trees above me and wondering what I've gotten myself into. Thankfully I snapped out of it quickly and reassured myself that there are 3 more months of hill training and bricks. I felt really proud for not walking my bike up any hills and never dismounting unless I had to put back my chain, which managed to fall twice, how rude. All in all, a very successful day. Here's how it looked in pictures.
Back when the ride was still beautiful
Wheee, this is so much fun!!
Look, ma, no hands!
Aero Riri racing the cars
One more hill done, 99 to go!
4h later... This isn't fun anymore!!
The End
When can we do it again?? The answer is next month! We're already planning another weekend of 94km of hills for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and hopefully we can see some improvement after setting the baseline for this sufferfest. Maybe we'll even run a 10k off the bike. Who knows how adventurous we'll be by then?

So anyway, until then, let's continue with this weekend's recap. We went back to the cottage where we took a shower and cooked some BBQ dinner and made sure that our kids were still alive and well. They had finished all chocolate bars and candy while playing tennis and baseball, but thankfully they were not hyper at all. After ingesting enough food so I could stay upright without assistance, I decided to take an "ice bath" in the cold waters of Mary Lake. What a letdown that was!! As soon as I stepped in the water, it was clear that I was cheated, the water was definitely not cold enough, even though it was rough.
Looks cold enough, right?
This lake is sure wet!
That's how far in the water I went, but I found no numbness in my legs.
Back to the cottage after 20 minutes of counting the waves, I put on dry clothes and joined hubbs and the boys in a Smores fiesta by the fire pit. So much fluffy goodness in them, I had to have two! Then we all went to bed, hoping that the night would not bring any handicapping pain to sideline us on the next day.

And oh THE MIRACLE, next morning there were no aches anywhere (someone has to explain this to me as I write this 4 days later it's still the case and I haven't stopped working out). Just before bed I emailed my coach and asked him what the plan was for Sunday. Candidly he said, do 30km bike easy and a 10k run. Say what?! Okay... so there we go again. Most of the FMCT folks went biking again too, but the plan was to go for coffee 28km away in Baysville, which meant more kms than I needed on my odometer that day. I recruited Lorraine, another tri friend from FMCT who also wasn't really looking at biking that long, but she said that she wouldn't mind doing some shorter distances with me.

So our trio went on an out and back, slower to make it "easy" since there was no way to flatten the  landscape. Time went by so fast, in less than 90min we were starting our run. Plan was to go  "downtown" Port Sydney and have coffee and a scoop of famous Kawarthas ice cream, then see how the legs feel and decide whether to continue or not.
Looks familiar? This time on foot!
Crossing the dam. Don't look down!
I looked, and it was terrifying
Much better from far away
Kawarthas Ice Cream lives here
Muskoka Mocha and a very excited Riri
And there you have it. I ended up running the 10k without getting lost or eaten by a bear. I saw lots of deer though, it was really cool.

I can't wait to go back!! We had such an amazing weekend, a bit on the chilly side, so we didn't swim, but if the water wasn't so rough, I may have just put on my wetsuit and gone in regardless. I made it halfway, didn't I? Ha! I think I'm ready to start this triathlon season!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The long and winding road

After a few days of rest due to a cranky calf muscle, I returned on the road today to complete my week's long run. After 4 days spent icing, stretching, massaging and rolling the hell out of it, the calf did not throw a tantrum and it behaved, which allowed me to keep a steady pace and finish 10k without any incident. Win!

Now, many times when I run on this trail I arrive at this spot and all of a sudden I get thinking instead of zoning out. Today for example, I was going to write a post in the morning, quite the pity party. Yeah, the kind of party with sad clowns and a leaky inflatable castle. I decided against it, I thought I'd give running a try and if that didn't cure it, I'd exorcise it with a naked dance around my BBQ while cooking a pair of old sneakers on it.

So when I got to the spot, I took a picture and started thinking about all the witty things I could poop out of my brain. It gave a new purpose to my run. It was obvious to me, but how could I make sure that everyone gets it? Was the picture I took even showing everything I wanted it to? (actually no, there is a port-a-potty on the right that didn't get in the frame, boo).

But let's analyze it because I'm all about analytical thinking these days, job interviews and all. First of all, this trail is a winding road. Hold onto that thought while I say something about the 5 seconds that preceded the moment I took this picture. I crossed another road, called Sunny Meadow. Why did Riri cross the road? Well, to get to the next point, of course. Mindblowing, I know. Next point being that life itself is a winding road. I'm sure you weren't expecting this, right? (yeah, right). And within the 5 seconds that followed, I had to make a decision: continue onto the paved path to the right or cut through the grass straight ahead, thus taking a shortcut. Guess which way I went? (hint: there is a 50% chance of getting this right). Today (like all other days until now), I followed the road and that brought upon me a great sense of accomplishment for not cutting around corners, literally. I know it's just 10 extra meters, maybe, but when you take the long road towards reaching your goals, every step and drop of sweat counts.

This road ahead of me - be it in my quest for finishing an Ironman, landing a new job or bringing two boys into adulthood, it's never easy. I knew it from the beginning, that no matter how many twists and turns it throws at you, without hard work and dedication, you won't get to reach the end. And so I made a lot of hard choices until now, but I never left the paved road. I still have my eyes on the prize and with every day that goes by I try to keep my head up high and keep looking ahead.

There will always be distractions (see the park and the monkey bars on the right) and there will always be opportunities for taking shortcuts. I haven't found a reason to leave the main path yet (even though I throw in some trail runs for good measure). I just need my port-a potty for the shitty days. Thankfully that one is on the paved road as well, but I confess that I had to go in the bushes a few times before. Anyway, I don't like to take myself too seriously, after all life is too short not to take a few risks - like updating this silly blog with craptastic jokes instead of writing cover letters and sending resumes.

And I guess that's it. I ran out of ideas, not that I would need any more to make my point. Got it? Now tweet this shit, it'll bring you luck and I promise you won't get a saddle sore in the next 7 days. And you will get a PR in the next 12 months without performance enhancing drugs.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

This eye. Times two. Polarized sunglasses makes it even more striking. But I don't complain, it's my own augmented reality. Just like Instagram.

The reality of my bike rides is that I can't get enough of the beauty of our countryside and oftentimes I take photos while I ride, in the hope of improving my bike handling skills. Or so I think. I also improve the chances of either my phone or my head hitting the pavement as well, but when you ride for a lot of miles, your memories start to get fuzzy and what better way of reviving them other than looking at pretty pictures?

Next week we will be going with our tri club, the FMCT to Muskoka for a training/chillaxing weekend and given that we want to take the advantage of being "on site" to ride the Muskoka 70.3 bike course, we had to ramp up our outdoor rides to a mileage that can guarantee that we're not going to die on those hills. As a reminder, there are 94km of those mother effing hills and not a single break in between.

Given how winter lingered around these parts, we've only been outside on our bikes less than a dozen times, but we've made good progress and kept adding about 10-20km to our long rides and almost doubled the elevation each time.

Last week we tackled 60km and a total elevation of 460m. That profile doesn't look too friendly, does it? But I loved every moment of it. That was Caledon East.
The weather kept changing which made for some interesting photo opportunities. I snapped away and in over two hours, we went from cold and rainy to a gorgeous sunshine that almost put the fields on fire. On a second thought, these may have been dandelions which soon are going to end up my nose and in my mouth. Reminder: stop grinning for the damn camera and close your mouth when you ride your bike.
Drama in the sky
Gold farm
Yesterday we went on our longest ride to date (the pattern is going to continue, please bear with me). It was a perfect day, not too hot, no rain, just a bit of cross winds, but nothing upsetting. This time we chose Caledon West to keep it interesting.
Add 740m of elevation that looks like the elephant inside the snake in the Little Prince. I have no words for this ride. It was just.... wow. Speed, sweat and sun. Nuff said.
Look, I found the elephant!
Does this hill make me look bad ass?
The long hilly road ahead
Next weekend I will most likely be crying in pain, but for now I am looking at these pictures and I am thankful for being able to ride my bike and discover new places, new gears and new muscles in my calves. Life is beautiful. To stay with the Little Prince theme, "it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. The essential is invisible to the eye". Despite the polarized glasses and Instagram, I have been looking within my heart and it longs for the outdoors and adventure. I am learning every day to embrace the moments that flee too fast in life and riding my bike makes those moments last, at least as long as a triathlon season.

Speaking of which, I signed up for another olympic triathlon, less than a month from now. I want to be out there and feel my heart racing with the wind. I want freedom from all the bad thoughts that come haunt my brain more often than necessary these days. This is one of the magic pills and it works for me. I'll keep snapping pictures to document this journey, I know it's all worth it.

Free Stuff Giveaway: the results are in!

This was a lot easier than I thought. We got a whooping number or 13 comments on the giveaway post, out of which 8 were draw entries and 3 were my own ramblings. I put everyone's name in an Excel spreadsheet to make as official as I could, then I went to the website where I used the random number generator to find the winners.

Since there were two hats and only two entries for these, that made it straightforward enough, we have two winners!! Mihai and Marga will both get a technical Running Room hat.

For the Under Armour tshirt, there were also two entries, but only one shirt, so I had to use the random generator. Man, the computer took much longer than I thought to give me that number. It ended up being 1, so the tshirt will go to Fran!

As for the New Balance tank top, we had 4 entries and 2 tops, so I worked that random number generator twice. Below are all the results.
That means Cori and Marga will get a tank top each! Sorry Julia and Jenny, it looks like it wasn't the day for the letter J. 

If you are a winner send me your address by email to ririnette [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you all for participating, it was fun to put this draw together. Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Free Stuff Giveaway

Right off the bat, I wanna tell you guys that this isn't going to happen very often. First, I have received no compensation from these companies that I'll be talking about today. The stuff that I'm giving away I either received as a gift, I won or I redeemed, but often with things that come for free, you don't have much of a choice. I could have sold these things or donate them to a thrift store, but since they are pretty good quality and people reading my blog could benefit from them, why not. Everything I am giving away today is brand new and has never been worn before. But let's get started, so I can get it over with before I go to my job interview. And yes, I am writing this post as therapy since I am anxious out of my mind and I feel a panic attack coming any minute now. I need a distraction before noon and this is a good one.

Here's what I am talking about. Looks like Christmas yet?
1. Two New Balance Lightning Dry® Tank Tops M (women's)
2. Under Armour Technical Tshirt XL (women's).
3. Two Running Room caps.

More details below.

1. Two New Balance Lightning Dry® Tank Tops M (women's)
Sometime at the beginning of the year, Kellogg's started this campaign to give out technical tank tops made by New Balance if you were eating enough of their cereal. We don't eat cereal, but we eat lots of cereal bars, which were also good in this promotion. So we bought 4 boxes, we got a tank top. And I really liked it. I got mine early, a size S. And then we ate more cereal bars. And redeemed more tank tops. But by the second and third time, there were no more small sizes left, so I asked for medium, already thinking about you, my blog readers. Therefore I have two extra tank tops, that are too big for me.

I wore mine during the Run4Hope 5K race as you can see below. It's very light, it stays put (does not ride up) and indeed, it dries lightning fast. And I got a PR and second in my age group in it. I bet it has some magical powers that you'll have to discover as you wear it.
I took more pictures of my tank top, as a reminder, I did not open the other ones, they are still in their baggies and not very sexy looking when you point a camera at them.
There is a reflective New Balance logo on the top right and a Special K on the back between the shoulder blades, really not that big, it didn't bother me at all. Given my camera's inability to choose a proper RGB combination, you will have to take my word on the color combo: the tank top is made of a red front panel and a back burgundy (dark red) one. 

Again, both tank tops are a size M and I would say that they are good for sizes 8-12, depending how snug of a fit you want. I am not small (134lb, 5'3" and I have a healthy chest), but the small fit well, so now you have a reference point.

2. Under Armour Technical Tshirt XL (women's).
My mom bought me this tshirt from France and I'm pretty sure she spent good money on it. It's incredibly soft, light and I'm sure I could fold it and fit it into a Kinder Surprise egg. Ok, maybe not that small, but you get the idea. It feels very comfy to wear, the only problem is that it's 3 sizes too big for me. Mom didn`t get the memo that I lost 30lb, but I'm sure she meant well.
As for the color, I'm sure that you must be rather puzzled by now, but my camera didn't quite know what to do with it, again. I would say that the following picture (with the tank top) is probably the most accurate. It's... green-yellow-ish.
By reading the sticker on the front, it appears that it has built-in sun protection as well, so you won't need to put on sunscreen underneath. D'uh. It has two Under Armour logos, in the front and on the back, both I believe are retro-reflective.
Last thing about this thsirt, it's pretty big, but not huge. I don't think it fits my husband for example, so I'd say maybe a women's size 12-14. Below I put the tank top that I described above (size S) on top so you can see the difference.
3. Two Running Room caps.
These two I got when I went to the Around the Bay runners' expo and spun the wheel at the Running Room booth. Both my husband and I won one of these caps, but we have many others, so again, one of you may want one instead.  They are orange, I bet they dry fast as they are mostly made of mesh and have quite a few reflective logos.
The black lining is made of absorbent fabric (towel like) to prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes I suppose. A nice touch. They are size adjustable in the back so these look pretty unisex to me (or rather anysex).

Now, how do you get to win one of the above? You will have to leave me a comment for each item, if you want to participate to the draw for more than one. Of course, tell me which item you want in each post. Do NOT request more than an item by comment because it will make my brain hurt. Ideally, it would be nice to have some competition in the draw, or at least as many entries as there are items, so feel free to tweet about this giveaway or talk about it in your blog. I can understand if you don't want to, but some people like to live more dangerously than others. Or if you know someone who wants something but you don't, let them know. It's that easy. Tell them to come over and leave me a comment for a chance to get it.

Easy? Now get commenting! I hope someone will want something, if not, that's gonna be embarrassing.

You have until Saturday midnight (EST) to leave me a comment. I will come back with the results on Sunday.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taking it easy

Almost a week has passed since my last race, the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon and under orders from my coach, I did my best to stay put. Thankfully there has been enough excitement this week to keep me from going cuckoo. Here's a little update, with pictures, because I can't keep my phone away. It's like having a third eye, minus the wisdom.

As expected, Monday was slow. Woke up to very achy quads and hubbs suggested that I take some Advil. Oh the miracle, I found 3 gelcaps in a bottle, enough to last me the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yum. I think they helped, mostly with going up and down the stairs without screaming Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Whenever I'd find myself near the backyard, I'd go out and take a peek. For the first time ever, I have a flower bed and stuff is coming out of it! Living things, that I planted last fall and never thought they would survive the winter, with my luck and all. Since then, there are a lot more tulips in bloom, red and yellow ones.
Nature in progress
So that is going pretty well as you can see. Also, my baby Katsura tree is more beautiful than ever, in its third year of growing roots in my backyard. Since I am such a good mom, here I was giving it water because it was thirsty, and it smiled back with a rainbow.
Can I have a Unicorn with that?
It is a safe thing to say that aside from looking at the pretty flowers and rainbows (and my computer screen), I did nothing all day on Monday. A true lazy bum. On Tuesday, I picked up the pace, so to speak, which meant getting out of the house. The mission was to make it downtown Brampton with my camera and take pictures of the cherry blossoms. I started by going to Target to pick up a chess game to play with my sons, after they proudly announced that they have mastered the rules and it's now time for some face to face action.
After completing my mission of finding a decent looking chess board, I started making my way towards the cherry blossoms, one or two kms north on the Etobicoke Creek Trail. Hint, there is a creek running along it. I took a small break to retrieve a geocache and pause my thoughts for a bit.
Unfortunately, since the mosquitoes were already out and ready for a bloodbath, I decided to leave my reverie and continue on the path, onto safer grounds. Stopped for another cache, but after 20 minutes of turning over rocks under a bridge, I decided to give up. Too many possibilities, my patience ran away.
Eventually I found the Sakura and they were as beautiful as I had imagined. You definitely cannot compare them with those from High Park in Toronto, but they were good enough to lift my spirits and inspire me to take a few pictures.
It was all worth it. After I got tired of snapping away, I went for one last geocache, on the other side of the creek, inside a wooden area. It was quite fun, until I noticed prints on the ground. A lot of them. Not human. They didn't look like deer, they didn't look like raccoon, but something scarier, and rather BIG. I am no expert in wilderness, but I'll take a guess and say coyote. I decided to GET THE HELL OUT as quickly as I could.
For sure that got my heart racing. I am such a baby when it comes to facing anything that's faster than me and has long and sharp teeth. After feeling pavement under my feet again, I walked back to my car and returned to safety, aka curled up in a ball in my bed. Workout : almost 5k walk and a near cardiac arrest to make it count.

In the evening, I went back to the pool, for more pull. Did a repeat of Sunday night, swam until I was too dizzy to count the laps. On Wednesday I went for massage therapy and it was a beautiful sufferfest. Nuff said. He knows what he's doing, so I trust this man to give me new legs every single time. Came out of there refreshed and to prove it, took my bike out for a spin in the evening, my second outdoor ride this year. A very straightforward out and back, and seeing how I was zooming on my way out of the house, I figured that it was not going to be that easy coming back. Indeed, a fierce wind made the second half totally miserable. However, 25k in the bank, I did not complain. It needed to be done, it was on the schedule after all.

And then Thursday came and I woke up with no pain at all in my legs. That was the signal that I could run again. In the morning I had to go to a job interview (oh yes, things have started moving, hallelujah! Two more interviews next week!), which went very well. I was feeling quite joyful the whole day, so I put on my shorty shorts (another first!) and went for a 6k run, a quick and easy one, right? What I had not anticipated was that by the time I went out, there were already 27-28 degrees C, which made the day August material. With no water, I quickly got thirsty and the entire workout was a countdown to me drinking a tall, cold glass of water in the shade. I think it also made it faster than what I had planned, oh well, I didn't die and my legs didn't complain either.
Cooling down with a stretch and lots of water
Yellow as far as you can see. Thankfully I have no allergies.
And with another swim in the evening, the loop is now looped. I have reached the end of another hard week of training and racing and I can rest my bum on the good ol' couch, while I apply to jobs and enjoy the time off. Soon, I know that the madness will start again and I'm going to beg for 5 minutes of laziness.

UPDATE: Some people told me that those prints in the mud are rather those of a big dog, like a Great Dane or similar. What do you think?

PS. Totally unrelated: check out my Bling-bling page, new with my medal and race shirt collection. ;-)