Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Total Immersion

Since my shoulder is feeling so much better and I have been officially discharged by my PT, I returned to the pool to work on my swimming skills. Last week was my comeback 1K and although it did feel good, it also felt tiring. So I started looking into swim workouts on YouTube and came across the Total Immersion technique which I couldn't wait to put in practice. Last night I hit the pool for another km, but this time I paid attention to the strokes more than anything and taught my body to be patient. If there is a skill that you need to perfect with this technique, that is patience.... Gliiiiiide. Now I need to also improve my breathing because I tried pretty much everything under the sun: 2 strokes/breath, 3 strokes/breath, 4 strokes/breath. I wish I could train my lungs to hold on for 4 strokes with lesser difficulty. Definitely working towards that. For now I am planning to go once or twice to the pool in a week, I love being in the water so damn much. Curious about the Total Immersion technique? Watch below:

Doesn't he make it look easy? Fact is, once you start using this technique, your workouts will start feeling a lot easier too. A week ago, without this technique, I could only swim 50m without stopping. This time I could do 200m. 400% increase in efficiency, that's something.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New PR on 5K Trial Run

Trial run days always stress me. I know that I need to push myself and I am alone. No cheering crowd, no starting line, a few traffic lights ahead and everything else that could happen going through my head. When you are in a race you just go with the flow and forget about all the details. But I can't help it and I over-think trial days a week ahead. Maybe I should sign for races on these days instead.

Today was no exception. Woke up and immediately checked the temperature. 0 degrees Celsius but no wind, yay. With a beautiful sunshine and the whole neighbourhood in church, the roads looked empty enough for me to run a few traffic lights since I rarely get them aligned perfectly on green. I went for a short warm up loop and did a few stretches then checked my heart rate monitor and iPhone. All A-OK. Started engines... Off I went!

There is always a slight climb on my way to the half point so it was no piece of cake. No matter how much you think it's nothing, when your heart rate is close to the max, any incline will put additional strain on it. I felt it for sure, but kept on going, counting the minutes till the end. I finished in 28min sharp, shaving 50 more seconds off my PR. It was a good run and I feel proud of my new PR even though I'm still a slow poke for other people's standards. 

See the Runkeeper here.
See my PR mug below.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two Long Runs

I got bitten by the bug of reading books about running, marathon and Ironman training and inspirational stories about people who managed to go beyond their limits. I think I'm still in the honeymoon phase with this triathlon thing even though I am still not done with my first goal of running a full marathon. 2012 will be the year when I'm going to do both, there's no going back now. So I am ingesting as much motivation and training tips as I can to keep me going and look past my little boo-boos. It all started with reading "Born to Run" last fall when I travelled to France for my dad's funeral. And that book was my escape, my buoy. For having failed to participate to my first full marathon due to emergency surgery and my dad's passing at the same time, I needed something to lift my spirits and boy, that book got me all pumped up.

Now that my feelings have settled a bit, I am on my way to running my first full marathon just a few months from now on May 6. A friend from Runkeeper gave me Matt Long's book "The Long Run" and I could not put it down. It took me just 4 days to finish it. Here's the description from Amazon:

On the morning of December 22, 2005, Matt Long was cycling to work in the early morning when he was struck by and sucked under a 20-ton bus making an illegal turn. The injuries he sustained pushed him within inches of his life. Miraculously, more than 40 operations and months later, Matt was able to start his recovery. In spite of the severity of his injuries, Matt found the psychological consequences of the accident nearly as hard to process. He would no longer be able to compete at the highest level.  
In the 18 months before the accident, he had competed in more than 20 events including several triathlons and marathons and had qualified for running's most prestigious race, the Boston Marathon. After the accident, his doctor told him he'd be lucky if he could even walk without a cane.
The Long Run is an emotional and incredibly honest story about Matt's determination to fight through fear, despair, loneliness, and intense physical and psychological pain to regain the life he once had. The book chronicles Matt's road to recovery as he teaches himself to walk again and, a mere three years later, to run in the 2008 New York City Marathon--a gimpy seven-and-a-half hour journey through the five boroughs. "Running saved my life," Matt says, and his embrace of the running community and insistence on competing in the marathon has inspired many, turning him into a symbol of hope and recovery for untold numbers of others.

I couldn't recommend this book more. I absolutely loved it and now I feel ashamed to talk about "injuries".  Saying "my little boo-boos" is so much more appropriate. Just after finishing this one I marathoned my way through another book called "The Long Run" by Mishka Shubaly. I quickly discovered this to be rather a short story for having finished it the same day, but no less fascinating.  Below is a quick review from Amazon.

What happens when an out-of-shape, drug-addled, 30-year-old alcoholic goes running for the first time? Read on. In the Kindle Single, The Long Run, Mishka Shubaly chronicles his misspent twenties with intoxicating language. "Alcohol," he says, "is a great aggregator: when you are drinking to excess, every problem seems to fall under that umbrella." And Shubaly had problems aplenty, including self-loathing, an appetite for self-destruction, and a disdain for sobriety (which he experienced as relentless anxiety, agony, and amplified boredom). When the author accidentally discovers that running puts his demons at bay better than top-shelf bourbon, he begins to shed his old life and becomes something he never wanted to be: a runner, an ultra-distance runner at that. If running is a substitute addiction, Shubaly says, it's "the dreariest, most painful, least thrilling addiction I have ever experienced." The charms of Shubaly's writing are many: his adoring metaphors for drinking reveal it as his true unrequited love; his self-examination has Thoreau-like depth; and his exposition transforms the pedestrian into the sublime. What's more, Shubaly is earnestly obstinate, yet capable of change; a nihilist, and yet he seeks meaning; a walking contradiction and a joy to spend time with on paper. --Paul Diamond
Very different writing styles and stories, however I thought several times how far from one another are these two men, both living in NYC and running miles around Manhattan. The world is small, how many times have they crossed paths, I wonder?

In the end, it feels like this sport brings us all together as I truly want to meet these guys one day. Maybe at the starting line of the New York Marathon, I will look for them and tell them thank you for the inspiration.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I can swim again!

Not much happening this week after the Monday's snowboarding adventures because I woke up the next day feeling like someone had beaten me up with a baseball bat. At least I can imagine, I saw enough movies with guys on the ground in fetal position screaming in pain. If I didn't have to go to work, I would have spent the day pretty much the same way. So I skipped a few workouts. Instead of an easy run on Tuesday I did a 7km walk and tonight I was supposed to do another 30min easy run, but I went to the pool instead.

See, I discovered a new muscle in my leg called Peroneus Longus because I have been having a stabbing pain on the side of my legs with each step that I take, especially in my left leg, that was the leading one on the board. The strain came from trying to keep my balance and turn, so I am now nursing this boo-boo. The massage therapist took care of it, my physiotherapist gave it a nice ultrasound too, so I just need to wait a bit for the pain to subside. Going to the pool was just the best decision I could have made, I felt zero pain while swimming, it was perfect!

I swam 1km in 33:22, this is the best time so far for me, so I am really happy with it. I was alternating crawl with backstroke each 50 m and was finishing each 250m round with a 50m brass stroke, just because it's my favorite of all. As an FYI, I went to the pool in my PJs and left shortly after they had closed, so I took a few pictures because the gym was looking really cool empty of people. I need to do this again!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Planking much?

If you ever thought you were tough, watch this video and think again. This guy is 54yr old and he just beat the Guinness World Record for the longest plank. I am sweating just by watching him. I can only hold it for 1 minute at a time, it does sound like ab dysfunction or something.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Beating aka How I didn't break my neck snowboarding

I am (somewhat) proud to announce that I didn't die today and I didn't even break my neck or a limb. Last time I tried snowboarding, six years ago, I broke my wrist and that, my friends, was the WORST pain that I EVER felt. (Bringing babies in the world didn't count, they took the shortcut). Because of some people's incompetence, they didn't take x-rays until a week later and that's when they noticed that my bones had set at a 15 degree angle which would have left my wrist impaired for the rest of my life. They asked me what I wanted to do though, and without hesitation, I said that I wanted a straight wrist, which meant breaking it AGAIN. So, that's what they did (I will spare you the details) and I ended up stuck on my couch, drugged in la-la land for about 3 weeks, watching the olympic winter games, what an irony. 6 years fast forward, pretty much yesterday, I was still scared shitless. I had not approached a slope, not even with the thought, all this time. When my 12yr old son, who went 4 times snowboarding this year asked me to take him to the Hockley Valley Resort this weekend, it took a lot of mental preparation to accept my fate again. I had no choice, spending quality time with my son was way more rewarding than doing nothing and waiting for the fear to pass.

I didn't need to rent anything, I already had my boots and snowboard, but they were rather dusty from sitting pretty in the basement all this time, so I asked a guy at the rental shop to take a look at my bindings and make sure everything was in order and off we went. First on the "Teddy Bear" hill which I climbed a few times by foot because I was even too scared of the baby lifts and all the crying toddlers hanging around them, literally. Those few runs on the baby hill were a disaster, I could only face downhill backwards if you see what I mean, unable to make a turn to face forward. That's because I obviously have no abs to pull myself up, so I had to flip on the stomach and get up by pushing on my arms. Since I was constantly on my toes, my calves took the first beating. Of course, knees followed closely since they were the natural, most readily available joints to fall on. I was getting quickly frustrated, so I went and booked a 1h semi-private lesson for me and my son. $100, cha-ching! But that was the only thing that was going to save the day, someone to remind me the basics.

We had peanut butter and nutella sandwiches for snack and while waiting for the lesson to start, we decided with my son to take the ski lift up and then the long, gentle slope down. I fell off the ski lift pretty badly, banged my elbow and shoulder again. But guess what, I didn't fall once going down the hill. I kept doing the "leaf" across the slope, but as long as I was standing, I was WINNING! One more descent and it was time for the lesson. He took us to the baby hill again and tought me how to take the kiddie lift, but shortly after that I said enough, I hate this damn slope, I can't get up. So we took the lift up again and after receiving the necessary pointers from the teacher, I had to launch myself into actually making turns. "Keep that goofy foot forward and rotate upper body with the arms out in the direction that you want to turn". Sounds easy enough, right? Well, that's about where the falls started and lasted a long, long time. I counted about 50 for the day. My tailbone and knees are bruised and I feel like I took a beating all over. By the end of the day my quads were spasming, the calves were crying and I was taking it all with the smile. Figured I'd stop while I was still standing and if shaky legs were a sign, I definitely listened.

Here's a picture from our last run, taken by my son.

Am I ready to start again? I need to let my bruises heal, but I think I'm game!! That'll teach me to complain.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Maximus : Are you not entertained?

So here's what's happened. Last night I walked 7.5k for a scoop of ice cream. Yeah, to each their own. Fast walk, in winter rubber boots (that look almost identical to these) because they were lighter than my usual boots and I was too chicken to wear my running shoes with the cold and snow and all. Anyhoo, fact is, I woke up with a very upset Gluteus Maximus. A bit like this Maximus, you know? Hurting like hell. So I gave him hell too in return. 5 good minutes on the foam roller and boy he didn't like it. Then I wrapped him in 2 pairs of tights and fleece pants on top and took him on a 1h30 run with negative split. Started easy, gorgeous day with bright sunshine and no sunglasses for added vitamin D, a bit icy, but not too treacherous and a nice tail wind, alas on the first half of the run only. Finished the run with a high that lasted a good hour afterwards. I was happy, but Gluteus Maximus was still upset. I stretched him well, but tomorrow I'll spend the day on the slopes trying to remember how to snowboard (last time I did I broke my wrist and that was 6 years ago) so he's going to take a beating, literally. I'm a bit scared for him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm still standing

Tough week. Lots of work in the office, long days, workouts whenever I can, but at the end I haven't missed one. It all started last Sunday with a 1h20 long run that I decided to do on the treadmill since it was cold and icy outside. I was hoping to find a button to adjust the pace, instead I found one for the speed. You can tell I don't use treadmills that often. So anyway, I did a quick math in my head, I was planning to run at a pace of 6:30/km, but of course, treadmills are in miles. Multiplied by 1.606, so I got something like 10:11/mile and I rounded that up to 6mph. Just like in Office Space, those decimals did their job and after proudly finishing the 8 miles in the hour twenty, I put everything in Runkeeper and it ended up being a run at 6:13/km instead of 6:30/km. I had never done a run over 1h quicker than 6:30, so I officially run my fastest "long run" by quite a few seconds faster than what I had planned for. That'll teach me.

The week that followed kept the madness to a high level and seemed like a neverending workout. On Monday I did my first official "brick" even though my legs were really sore from Sunday's run. 30 min bike, followed immediately by 30 min run. I survived.

On Tuesday I was supposed to do hills, but I chose to postpone them until the next day and treat my legs with some painful rolls on the foam devil instead, inspired by the video in the previous post.

Wednesday was another long day, that ended with a fancy dinner at Baton Rouge restaurant. I took the special "Mardi Gras" fixed menu and worked my way through the 3 courses, trying not to finish everything, and especially not the decadent chocolate brownie nut cake that, I found out later on, had a whooping 1250calories in it!! Thank goodness I only ate half. But at the restaurant I knew that my day wasn't going to end on another defeat, so I went straight to the gym to attack those hills. I did 6 repeats at 8% incline and a constant 5.5mph pace, for a total of 40 minutes with the warmup and cooldown. By the end of it, I was ready to throw up the beer, the salad, the steak, the sweet potato fries and coleslaw and especially the damn chocolate cake. Miraculously though, I held all this in and managed to finally get into bed by midnight with stomach cramps that made me swear never freaking Mardi Gras again.

Thursday was a 50min run which I did with no surprises other than the nice weather.
Friday was back in the gym for bike intervals, those killer 5/1s which I attacked moderately hard while reading a new book (more in a following post).

And today, to almost end the week on a light note, I did a 7.5k walk to have a scoop of ice cream. Caramel turtle truffle at Baskin and Robbins, with coupons that we had for about... 10 years. After a few minutes talk with the manager, they accepted the coupons, so yay for keeping them for so long (and not cleaning up some piles of paper all this time). I then lost a few more electrolytes while crying my heart out at "The Vow", the latest tearjerker with Canuck Rachel McAdams (she's hot!).

Eventually made it home to type all this. And yes, I am still standing, but will soon have to walk up the stairs to go to bed. A 1h30 negative split run is waiting for me tomorrow. I guess I have to figure out what speed I want to run at... without throwing away the decimals this time... Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recovery foam roller routine

I have been looking for a little while for a quick routine for recovery on the foam roller. Tonight, voila! I found one, I like it, I'm about to do it. My quads are screaming!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Getting faster!

So far this week has been great! Monday was run for 30 min and Tuesday was hills. I also had physiotherapy on Tuesday which didn't leave me enough time to go outside and find a decent hill in the area, plus it was past 8pm, so I ended doing them in the gym. I warmed up for 10 min, then did 5 x 45sec climbs on 8% incline with 1 min recovery in between. I finished with another 10 min cooldown. Overall the workout wasn't too bad, but the hills felt much easier than outside. Maybe because I kept my speed constant across the intervals instead of running harder during the climbs? I don't know, I'll try to push a little harder next time.

Today I was craving another run, so I'm glad I had a challenging one. 40 min negative split which I did right after work. It was cold and windy and hilly, yet I did my negative split under 6 min/km with an overall pace of 6:11 min/km. This is the fastest I've ever run a negative split. I think I'm getting faster, it's encouraging! The reason why this makes me happy is because it's opening a lot more possibilities for running with a buddy, since I seem to be the slowest out of my runner friends. I'm catching up with them, yay! See Runkeeper link.

Ironman pro and not so much

I learned today that Lance Armstrong is going to compete in an Ironman triathlon this year. He didn't say whether it's in a half or a full, but my guess is a full. Here are the news, from the horse's mouth.

In other news, I found out thanks to Steve that there is more than one Ironman organized yearly in Kona and this one, happening just this coming weekend, promises to be a blast. I wish I were there, at least to take pictures. Since the rules are so relaxed, maybe I'll make this one my Ironman goal, haha. I could have a relaxing holiday at the same time, wouldn't that be great?

Here's the link to Steve's post about this "Just for fun" Ironman. Seriously, I'd love to do this one day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On the edge of reason

I am either a glutton for punishment or I like living on the edge... of reason. Saturday was supposed to be my rest day, I went for a 6k walk. Yesterday I was supposed to do a 1h10 negative split and that went really well, I run about 10.7k but in the evening I went out for more and banked in another 7k walk. Tonight I run for 30 minutes and tomorrow I'm scheduled for hill repeats. Remember this post in about a week when my calf will be aching and I will be crying. How can I say no? This winter has been nothing like one. Look below, where is the snow? That's me, with a lamp post sticking out of my head.

I LOVE Burrito Boyz

Today I went for a vascular test to see what's going on with my Raynaud's. Actually I have no clue why the doc sent me there, whether it's for confirming his diagnostic or ruling something else out. Anyway, on my way there I drove by Burrito Boyz and promised myself that I'd have one on my way back to work. See, this is pretty much the only place in the GTA where they toast your burrito and where you can find fish stuffed burritos. I remember asking for a "Hali" but I ended up with a "Haddie", whatever, tastes just the same. HOLY YUM.

Don't judge. I only go there twice a year.

Workout chatter

Found these clouds on the Runkeeper blog. This is what people say after finishing a workout. Pretty neat!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Switching gears

Last night I switched gears, so we speak. My bike intervals went from 2/1s to 5/1s, which means pedaling hard for 5 minutes, rest for 1 minute and repeat 6 times. With a 5 min warmup and 5 min cooldown, I got a nice 45min workout. By the third interval I was starting to wonder whether my coach wanted me to reach my max heart rate or was doing some sort of evil experiment on me. Of course it didn't help that I chose level 10 on the bike to add some nice resistance and tried to stay above 100rpms for all 5 minutes at each interval. As a result I was sweating buckets of water and was about to pass out by the end, starving! I finished by biking 20.2km with an average pace of 2.14min/km. I felt proud, thus a blog post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

45 Easy

So I am currently training for the Mississauga Marathon and there are 12.5 weeks left before the big 26.6. Last year I spent the summer training, but just before the marathon I got sick and had surgery, so now it's a new start, new program and a coach to keep me on track. My schedule is fairly simple for the moment, I do 2 bike workouts and 3 runs a week. Tonight was a 45 min "easy run" and I'm glad that I had a rest day after the hill repeats I did on Tuesday because my glutes were screaming at me yesterday. They calmed down since and I could do this run in peace. Pure bliss. A bit tough around the corners as I didn't pay too much attention to my breathing and had a few stitches here and there, as well as a bit cold by the end of it. Once I got home, hubbs said "you have sweat frozen around your face". Hmm. Underneath my outer shell I was drenched. Go figure.

Here comes the Runkeeper. The light was absolutely gorgeous, so I took a few pics. I even photographed the baby hill (4% incline) that I use for my repeats. I definitely have to find myself a better one as this one is on a major route without sidewalks and where everyone speeds. It is called Countryside Dr., literally. On the right, a corn field, on the left, our subdivision that is only 5 years old. I don't want to get killed.

Step Ahead Podcast Guest and a few Salty Facts

A few weeks ago I was invited by Chris Luckhardt and Carol Levesque to be their first guest on the Step Ahead podcast. It was a great experience and to my surprise I managed to contain my nervousness and not screw up too many English words. Overall it looked like I was on drugs as I was giggling uncontrollably, but to tell you the truth, I was really excited and happy to talk about running (which makes me happy to begin with). There is video too!!

Most memorable brain slips : "neutral" vs "natural", "forfeit" (do you even say that for a marathon race?), "running" vs "run" (not quite sure when to use which), "well..." (at some point in time it seemed that I was starting all sentences with it), getting my Adidas shoes models backwards (the most recent being the adiSTAR Ride 3 and the older one, most comfortable, the Supernova Glide 2).

Last but not least, you may have wondered : "running better because of the salt"?? What in hell is she talking about? Did she really say that? Well... (hehe) I dunno. I was thinking that maybe the salt in the air was helping increase performance as there must be a highest concentration of it along the ocean. After all, salt is good for runners, right? I remember when I was a kid, growing up in Romania, I visited this salt mine that was a few hundred meters underground and that had a running track. Many of the Romanian athletes were going there to train because of... the salt? The naturally purified air? I have to find proof that works, if it's not more than an old belief. But given the large number of world records established by Romanian athletes when I was a kid, maybe there is some truth to that. Or steroids. Nah, that can't be it. Where is my Romanian pride, dammit?

There you go, found an article about the salt mine Salina Veche (Unirea) in Wikipedia:
After 1970, the mine becomes a touristic objective, offering exceptional natural conditions as a result of its microclimate rich in aerosols, which proved its well known efficiency in treating the respiratory diseases. The air-conditioning of the mine is natural, with a constant temperature during the whole year of 12 °C, an atmospheric pressure of 730 mmHg and a humidity with an average of 10% lower than the surface average.

[...] Some of the mine chambers were transformed in sport courts where athletes perform their trainings.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meal snap

Today's meals:

Cheese and ham omelet (with egg whites)
Trail Mix snack
Turkey sandwich
Cranberry/almond Thin Addictives cookies
Salmon and broccoli

Total cals: 1308
Protein: 113g
Carbs: 103g
Fat: 51g
Fiber: 16g

Two new recipes

This week I took a few days off work because my physician thinks I need to relax. And what better way to relax than cooking a few meals? Although I don't like spending too much time in the kitchen in general, I am always eager to try something new. Today I came across this link for DYI Dried Apples. Since I love apples and I had a few sitting pretty in the fridge, I put myself to work and peeled, soaked, baked and ... voila!! 4h later in the oven at 175F (my oven wouldn't want to go lower than that), with a flip at half time, I have two dozens of apple chips. They are delish!

But this was just the warm-up. While I was preparing dinner, I told myself - why not make that quiche that I saved in my Training Peaks library for so long? Those baby spinach leaves are going to turn mushy before I schedule them for a meal! So I took out all the ingredients and prepared it as following:

In a pan, cooked 10oz of spinach with 1.5 portobello mushroom and some butter until they all melted nicely. Set aside in a bowl and added half a red bellpepper, diced. Added a cup of 0% Greek Yogurt (Liberte), 1 cup of egg whites, shredded cheese (I used the light 4 cheese blend) and grated parmesan. Mixed everything and baked at 350F for 45min. Result below. My hubby approved, so it shouldn't be bad at all. Apparently it tastes like cheese, no kidding!

There you go. Hungry much? Stop by anytime.

A Few Numbers

One thing I noticed across all fitness blogs that I visited is that people love numbers. I am a geek at heart too, so I will probably share numbers with you, although I don't think I will go in too much detail as I rather post the links that do so. For example, if you want to see my splits on a particular run, I will post a Runkeeper link to that activity and you can see all the details there.

I will give you some overall numbers though so you can get the big picture.

-Been running since October 2009
-Run the following races so far (see race results on the sidebar)
  • Toronto Women's Run 5k (2010)
  • Island Girl Women's 10k (2010)
  • Longboat Toronto Island Run 10k (2010)
  • Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon (2010)
  • Around the Bay 30k Relay (2011)
  • Mississauga Half Marathon (2011)
-I am 5'3" and currently weigh 141lb (goal of 130-135lb)
-I am a mom, I have 2 boys, 10 and 12 yr old
-The longest I've ever run was 3h in summer of 2011 when I was training for the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon. I could not participate because I had my gallbladder removed a week before.
-I completed four times the 60k Walk to End Breast Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Hospital
-Played volleyball for about 10yrs recreationally, then did 10yrs of martial arts (karate and taekwondo) before starting to run
-I love to hike, mostly for the purpose of geocaching. I often go at night with a bunch of friends because well, the day is not fun enough. The longest hike I did was about 20k in a day.
-I can play a mean ping-pong.

Alright, that's enough for now. In the next post I will talk about one of my favorite subjects, food. For now, I gotta eat my snack.