Rotterdam Race Report – Spoiler Alert: I finished, with two happy calves, a new personal best and 4 haunting seconds.

rotterdam3

Where does the time go?! I can’t believe it’s been a month since Rotterdam. Apologies for the delayed post! After Rotterdam I spent a week in Sweden visiting one of my best friends, her hubby and their adorable year old son. We went to the spa, toured around Stockholm, ate delicious treats and drank fancy cocktails (it’s a tough life recovering from a marathon while on vacation!).

Right when I got back, Andrew and I moved into our very own home! We now live in a hotel-room-sized condo in the West end of the city (new running routes galore!). Following the move, I spent a week going back to school in London, Ontario, so needless to say it’s been an active recovery.

When people have asked me how Rotterdam went, I’ve told them it was both my best and worst marathon.

I had to reach far to fight the urge to quit.

I’ll give you the coles notes version (or try to). I mentioned in a previous post my friend Clair (a fellow Angel) and I were heading to Rotterdam together. When Clair and I are healthy (we’ve both had very similar calf issues over the last year) and fit, we pace really well together. After one long tempo during training where we paced the entire way together, I compared us to Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg (except for the fact we’re no where near Olympic-level athletes haha). So needless to say I was super happy that we were doing this one together.

It was great having someone to run, go out for meals and race-strategize with leading up to the big day. I highly recommend doing races friends – and will even go so far to say I may just follow Clair around on her marathon adventures from here on out.

RACE DAY

rotterdam1

Luckily Clair and I were staying less than 1km from the Start/Finish area so we were able to do a quick warm up before dropping our stuff off at the hotel. We noticed it felt pretty warm during the warm up so I didn’t even bother with my sleeves (I had planned to wear during the race) or my throw away pants.

Our plan was to try and stay together for as long as possible. Clair had run her first sub 3 hour marathon in the fall in Philly, so I was hoping to try and stick with her. We decided to go with her Philly marathon race plan and see how we do.

Long story short: we went out a wee bit too fast.

Just before the half way point Clair told me I was going to drop her soon. I was worried her calves were giving her issues but she said her legs just felt like lead.

Don’t leave me Clair!

I crossed the half-way point (21.1km) feeling pretty good, but shortly after 25km I started to fade, my hamstrings got really tight and that’s when I realized I went out too fast. I have never “died” so early in a marathon before. I had no idea how I would get through the next 17kms feeling so badly.

30km onwards was the biggest mental and physical battle I have ever experienced while running. I would have actually stopped if I hadn’t had the experience in Boston the year before when it took me 10 times as long to get to the finish line then if I had just kept on running.

I had talked to my coach leading up to the race and she told me when it gets tough to break the race into 5km chunks. From 30km onwards, that’s what I did. It really helped make it more manageable, although I remember thinking “why is the marathon so long! It really should end at 30km. I need to talk to someone about this”.

I think a couple of reasons lead to my not-so-perfectly-executed-race:

  • Shake out race. With my last couple marathons I’ve done a race about six weeks in advance as prep to get into race mode. This shake out race helps test my fitness and gives me confidence. This year I had signed up for the Chilly half marathon in March, but I had the worst flu the week of and was unable to run it. Ergo no shake out race.
  •  Heat. While it was only 12ish degrees, it was sunny. And when you’ve trained in a near polar vortex for the last 4 months, 12 degrees felt like 25. On my long, cold runs leading up to the race, I trained with chocolate gels that were actually more like pudding because they were usually frozen. I loved my pudding treats at 5am on lonely Yonge Street. During the marathon they got so hot and turned to liquid, I felt like I was drinking hot chocolate syrup – which, on any given day I wasn’t running a marathon, I would enjoy, but not so much on this day. So I stopped taking gels after 25km which I know was a big mistake and could have been dangerous to my health.

Then came 3:00:04.

Seriously?

Seriously.

After 30km, I threw all motivation to finish under 3 hours out the window. At that point I really didn’t even want to finish. I just wanted to stop running.

It wasn’t until the last couple kilometers that I realized I would likely be right on the nose. I tried to pick it up and actually did run the last km 13 seconds faster than the one before that, but c’est la vie. Mentally I had given up 12.2kms ago.

The first couple days post-race, I altered between thinking, “WHAT THE…?!?!” and “WOOHOO!”

WOOHOO about: 1) crossing the marathon finish line for the first time in a year and a half 2) with smiling calves and 3) with a 3+ minute PB.

In the grand scheme of things, 42.2km is a long distance. Could I have taken 5 seconds off a three hour run to achieve my first sub 3 hour marathon that day? Oh yeah, most likely.

But I didn’t because the marathon gods want to me make hungrier for that golden sub 3.

Clair finished just behind me. While we weren’t overly thrilled with our performance, we learned a lot. PACING, PACING, PACING.

Did we dwell on it for the rest of the day? Heck no! We had a lot of yummy food and alcoholic drinks to get into our system! We spent the rest of the day on a ‘food tour’ of Rotterdam – sitting on patios, drinking local beer and eating (mainly) cheese and icecream.

I am so happy to have experienced this race with Clair. She is a great training partner, travel buddy and friend.

I’ve had a month to reflect on this marathon, and oddly enough, what I am most happy about is being able to run POST marathon. Last year, since I was injured after Boston, I couldn’t run for almost two months. And then came the months of “nervous running” thinking my calf might fall off at any time.

While coaches orders post marathon have been minimal running, the few runs I have done have made me just SO happy to finish this race injury free.

I’d like thank my cooperating calves, my family and friends (including all my Angels) for all the support for not only this marathon but all my races. Sometimes I think my friends must say to themselves, “not another race. Who cares Sarah.” But I still get so many messages of support and check-ins, which seriously helps fuel me to the finish line!

No recipes this time but if you’re ever in Rotterdam, eat cheese. If you’re ever in Stockholm, eat cinnamon buns. Life is too short not to indulge in everything.

Cheers to my first successful European marathon adventure!

 

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2 Weeks to go with 2 Misbehaving Calves

rotterdam

Hi I’m back! I’m alive! It’s been a roller coaster last month of training.  Here’s the Coles Notes version:

About a month ago (shortly after my last blog post), I was running home from the Monday hill work out and my right calf (formerly known as the “good” one) started bothering me.

Cue panic attack.

To make a long story short, turns out I had a very minor calf strain in my soleus. This can happen from 1) hills and 2) overuse. Makes sense since my running group had been ramping up the hills week by week  (the week before we ran 10km worth of hills that nearly killed me!). I had also been ramping up my weekly mileage (I hit 120km for the first time ever (woohoo!)) – so needlesss to say I wasn’t super surprised about the pain but I was SUPER bummed.

I took four days off which I know doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ve been running six days a week since I came back from my calf injury last May, so taking four off in a row was terrifying (I didn’t want to lose my fitness). But that break did wonders. I was actually able to finish a 33km run by Sunday of the same week with absolute zero pain. I was so giddy with happiness.

Then Monday came around and I only lasted an hour at work before I had to go home. I was hit HARD by some kind of flu. I haven’t had to take a sick day from work in well over a year and ended up having to take nearly the entire week off work. Every morning I tried to get up and shower and was so dizzy, congested and sore. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick.

Cue my second panic attack in two weeks.

Needless to say I wasn’t able to really walk straight let alone run that week. But by the end of the weekend I was feeling better and got two runs in.

Following my comeback from the dead, I was back running full time but by the end of the next week BOTH my calves were tender. I was so confused since I had given them nearly two weeks off. I saw my physio who is also my friend and teammate and she said my calves were just tight and gave me sh*t for not stretching more.

Let me tell you, since that visit, I have stretched, rolled and heated more in the last two weeks than the last six months combined. I’m stretching at my desk at work, doing calf raises every time I brush my teeth and have a nightly date with my heating pad.

COME ON CALVES.

I am happy to report it’s been two full weeks since my calves have felt tender or sore. Now I’m tapering which will give them additional rest.

I’m not above giving them daily pep talks right now. Just give me two weeks and a solid 42.2km run and you will have all the downtime you want, calves!

So how do I feel about Rotterdam? Nervous. Extremely nervous.

My goal is to finish the marathon without injury. Of course Competitive Sarah wants to set a PB, but being realistic with the last month of training (or lack thereof) in mind, I will just be happy to cross the finish line (0k and, in a decent time).

Please wish my calves luck!

Back to food. Random fact – I love cooked apples. I am not so much a pie person (because I am biased towards anything chocolate and pies usually don’t have chocolate in them). But I do love apple pie – mainly just eating the cooked apples inside.

Lately I have just been warming up apples in the microwave with a bit of cinnamon. That’s apple love.

I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal lately – post workouts, for dinner (who doesn’t love breakfast-for-dinner?!) and oatmeal is my pre-race meal.

This Apple Pie Oatmeal is healthy, sweet, filling and easy to make. Enjoy!

oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup steel cut oats (you can use regular oats if you prefer)
  • 1 chopped apple (you can remove the skin if you like, but I leave it on)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon (depending how much you like it)
  • honey to taste (after cooking)
  1. Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20-25 minutes (until the oats are tender).
  2. Add the honey after cooking – it really brings out the apple pie taste!

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather

Just poor equipment choices. This is what my coach said earlier this week as part of an email chain that was going around between my team on whether we should move Saturday’s tempo workout to Friday because it was supposed to feel like -3o Saturday morning.

That’s chilly.

She went on to explain that it would be a good way to prepare for races with wild weather. I totally agree. No matter how hard you train, you will never be able to predict the weather on race day.

I run year round in all types of weather. I hate the treadmill with such a fiery passion that I would rather run in -30 degree temperatures than run indoors where I start to sweat after 45 seconds and get bored running on the spot after another 15.

Looking back on all the races I’ve done, there are two which stand out to me as having the worst weather conditions. Coincidentally enough, they happen to be my best and worst marathons to date. New York City in 2014 and (I think it goes without saying), Boston 2015.

It was cold and rainy in Boston. My friend Britt (who ended up being the first Canadian woman across the finish line!) and I sat in Athletes Village with 35,000 other runners shivering and trying to shield ourselves from the rain for over 2 hours before the race. At one point I remember turning to her and saying, “this is pretty insane. I can’t think of too many people who are so excited to spend over four months training to all but then spend one morning sitting around in the rain to stand up and run a marathon.”

During the actual race it not just poured rain on and off, but it was cold rain. Just as I would start to dry off and feel warm again, it would start pouring. I’m by no means a medical expert, but I do think the weather in Boston had something to do with my calf injury. I don’t think muscles react too kindly to sporadic bursts of hot-cold-hot-cold-hot-cold.

I remember talking to my coach the week of the race and stressing about the rain. She told me to bring a hat and toss it during the race if I needed to. I don’t really wear hats when I run or previously saw any benefit to them, but that hat was a life saver! Kept my face dry and my head warm.

Running in the rain is uncomfortable, but manageable to a point if you have the right equipment.

New York City was WINDY. I have never in my life experienced wind like that. To put it into perspective, I was part of a sub-elite group that was lucky enough to have special accommodation prior to the race including transportation. As we were sitting on a nice, comfy, heated bus that morning waiting to take the 1+ hour long drive to Staten Island to wait for another 2 hours outside before the race, one of the race directors told us the tent they had set up to house all 100 of us with food, water, etc. had literally BLOWN away.

That didn’t really make me too excited to run 42.2kms across New York City.

At the start of the race I remember giggling to myself and thinking, “I wish someone was filming this” because I was literally blown from one side of the road to the other – back and forth, back and forth – it was actually comical. I started to strategize and find tall people to tuck in behind.

Thanks to all the tall people who ran the NYC Marathon in 2014.

The wind eventually died down in the middle of the race but reared it’s ugly head during the last 10kms. As I was running the home stretch into Central Park, I had no one to hide behind and it was so windy, I remember thinking, “Come on! I’ve made it this far – wind you have made your point!” I had a PB to set.

This is my “wind you will not beat me” face.

nyc

Suffice to say, I think wind would be the absolute worst weather condition to run in. You can’t practice running in the wind all that well. It’s too unpredictable.

Days where it’s -30 or +30, you just have to choose the right equipment and get yourself out the door. This past week I’ve been wearing all the running clothes I own. I never find I get cold on my runs, it’s the exact opposite actually. Sometimes I overdress and come home a sweaty mess. Rather a bit too hot than too cold though on days where it’s -100.

So when did the Angels end up doing the tempo this week? Saturday – in all our glory in temperatures with a windchill of -36. It was almost 2 hours of non-stop freezing running fun.

I sound like a broken record, but there’s no way I would have left my warm bed on Saturday morning to literally have ice build up on my eye lashes to run by myself. Angel Heather made a comment afterwards that if felt badass to be out running in such a big group. A group of us were running home together afterwards and I heard a man say, “crazy girls” as we ran by. The Angels are so crazy and so badass.

That being said, when I got home I sat in the shower for 1/2 hour, using up all of the hot water and then went back to my warm bed.

Let’s talk crockpots. For those that know me, I love my crockpot. I endorse them in my spare time. You can make anything in a crockpot.

This is one of my new favourite crockpot recipes. It’s vegetarian, super easy, filling and makes a ton. It usually makes enough for three-ish dinners for Andrew and I (but if you aren’t 6’7 and/or running 120km/week you could probably stretch it out to four). I usually serve it with naan bread and salad.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Salsa Quinoa
Ingredients
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can yellow corn, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15-ounce jars of mild or medium salsa, divided
  • 1 15-ounce can of diced fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles
  • 1 cup un-cooked quinoa + ½ cup water
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (light or fat free is okay)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
  • optional: chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, sour cream
Instructions
  1. Add beans, corn, 1 jar salsa, diced tomatoes and chiles, quinoa, water, cream cheese, and salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Stir everything together.
  2. Pour remaining jar of salsa on top, then sprinkle with shredded cheese. Cover and cook 4-5 hours on high or 5-7 hours on low.
  3. Uncover, top with tomatoes, avocados, sour cream, and chopped cilantro and serve.

*Recipe has been adapted from here

Becoming a Mental Warrior – you can too!

I hit a mental and physical milestone this week! I ran the furthest I have run since Boston (10 months ago). And I did it by 7am.

I mentioned before that my upcoming European adventure is what helps me get out of the door these days, but 4:15am came pretttttty early Wednesday morning.

This is what my bathroom looks like before I go to bed most nights:

clothes

I try and get everything ready so I don’t wake up my boyfriend in the morning – but without fail he still wakes up  to make sure my clothing is bright enough and tells me to be safe and stick to the main streets (I look like a neon highlighter running up and down Yonge Street).

I always tell people training for a marathon is 90% mental. I truly believe it is. Leaving my apartment at 4:24am Wednesday morning to run 32km was a mental battle. As I was running along the deserted streets of TO (which is rare and why I prefer to run in the mornings), I realized, “Holy crap – I haven’t run this far since I hurt myself”. Which then got me thinking, “does my calf hurt right now? Is that pain I’m feeling?”

Cue me stopping to stretch out my calves at 5am at the corner of St Clair and Bathurst.

I spent a lot of time over-thinking my phantom calf pain on that run. But I finished 2 hours and 44 minutes later with my calf in tact. Phew.

Whether your goal is to run 1km, 32km or to make it to the gym, getting out the door is 3/4 of the battle. Something to keep in mind on the days you need that extra push:

workout

I made a shake (protein within 45 minutes of a workout is key), lied on the floor for 15 minutes, showered and was off to work. Happy Hump Day!

I feel like I have completed one mental test in my preparation for Rotterdam. 32km done. I’m now thinking of my long runs as ‘exam prep’. I have about eight to go before taper time. Eight pre-exams means two months full of carbs #winning.

FOOD!

During the week I usually eat the same things throughout the day. (Classic Type A personality). Weekends are for indulging – in everything.

My good friend Sarah Cruickshank is a fitness enthusiast, fashion guru and someone who makes your life better. Occasionally we spin together. On one such occasion she brought me one of her homemade Almond Butter Snack Balls. I demanded the recipe have been snacking on them ever since. Almond butter and dates are two of my favourite things in the world. These date balls are a great afternoon snack that will keep you feeling full for a while (or in my case after a 32km run, for an hour).

Almond Butter Snack Balls

  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) raw almond butter

Directions

  • Use a food processor or blender to grind raw almonds. Process until almonds become crumbs, but not flour-like.
  • Add in remaining ingredients and process until fully combined.
  • NOTE: My food processor is from the 1980’s and doesn’t like dates so I chop them by hand.
  • Press and shape mixture into balls.
  • Store in a sealed container in the fridge for several weeks.

dates

What’s Up 2016?

Hello 2016! I’m back! I’ve missed you all!

One of my 2016 intentions is to start my blog again.

Let me back up a bit. One of the many great things my boyfriend has bestowed upon me, is the idea of setting “intentions” at the beginning of the year (vs. a New Years resolution). Things we both “intend” to do/work on over the course of the year (relationship, work, personal, fitness, etc). Last year I set out 10 intentions for myself and saved them in a list on my phone and would check in from time to time. Before I could set my 2016 intentions, I looked back to see how I held up to my 2015 ones. Out of ten, I achieved 8.5 (whether I’ve actually been able to improve my golf game is hard to judge). I had two intentions related to running:

  1. Circuits/strength/cross train: once a week minimum

    CHECK! Looking back at my training log, in 2015 I attended 26 spin classes and did 77 strength/circuits over the course of the year. (If you do the math, that’s about 2 cross training/strength sessions per week – I had doubled goal after I got injured). I found this was one area that would always fall off when I started running a lot because I couldn’t fit it all in. But after my calf injury, I realized how important this ‘stuff’ is to help keep my limbs healthy, so I’ve made a concentrated effort to keep it going.

  2. Run a sub 1:26 half or sub 3:00 full marathon

    Key word being “OR”. So I can check that off because I ran a 1:25:54 half marathon in March of last year – just barely made it in there! If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know I had one failed attempt at a sub 3:00 marathon in Boston because of my stupid left calf.

After I set my 2016 intentions, I logged on to my blog and it so kindly reminded me it has been 4 months since my last post (but I had over 2,200 views in 2015 so THANK YOU!). Looking back, I think after my injury when I wasn’t running as well, I selfishly didn’t want to write about my not-so-great-running experiences publicly. I ran a half marathon in November that was the slowest I’ve run in two years. There I said it! I’ve had just as many bad runs as good ones and those are the ones I learn from and encourage me to work harder.

So while 2015 didn’t end up being the record breaking running year I had hoped for, I am ready to try again in 2016!

I knew I wanted to train for another marathon in the new year, but I wasn’t about to train in another polar vortex to stay local – and I am not emotionally ready to go back to Boston.

So, really, that only leaves EUROPE as my marathon destination. I have signed up for the Rotterdam Marathon (in the Netherlands) on April 10. (I have paid for the cancellation insurance just in case.)

After my less-than-stellar performance in the half marathon in November, my running group went on a much needed break. We enjoyed two weeks of optional running followed by a gradual, easy-does-it increase through December. It was nice to run when I wanted, and when I didn’t want to – it was nice to not feel bad that I was ‘slipping behind’ in my fitness because I knew the break was needed. Now that January has hit – the Angels are back in full force! Hill repeats until our legs fall off! Yippee!

I hit 100km this week for the first time in 10 months. While I have been excited to challenge myself again, I am a bit sleepy and my legs are starting to feel tired.  9:30pm is the new bedtime and if I don’t eat every 1.5 hours, I get hangry (hungry + angry). But nothing feels as good as running full time and pain free again. The excitement of my upcoming European adventure is what gets me out of the door before 5am in sub-zero temperatures lately.

Regardless how running goes this year, I promise to talk all about the bad stuff just as much as the good stuff. This is my solemn intention to you!

run4

FOOD! Well I can’t say I took the same break from cooking or baking like I did from running. These black bean brownies have literally changed my life. They are so easy and SO delicious. You won’t believe you’re eating a can of black beans! Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups black beans (One 15oz can rinsed and drained very well).
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (or agave or honey)
2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips (NOT OPTIONAL)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top. Bake for 15-18 minutes (it usually takes 20-23 minutes in my oven). Cool completely for 10 minutes before serving. If they still looked undercooked, place in the fridge overnight and they will firm right up!

brownies

Black Bean Brownies – No Flour Required!

 

 

The 5km Race Pain is Real

Who would have thought that such a short distance could hurt so bad?

I have three official (chip timed) 5km races under my belt now and I am happy to retire from this distance.

My comeback from injury has been slow and gradual. I was allowed to increase my mileage by 5km every week until I hit 80km/week. I’ve been consistently running 80km/week since mid-July with a down week every four weeks or so.  While I’d like to run as much as much as possible in the gloriously warm weather after training in the polar vortex earlier this year, I don’t want to risk another setback by doing too much too soon. While it’s been a bit mentally painful, I am happy to report I have now completed two races without injury :).

Without injury – but not without entire-mind-and-body-pain. Three weeks ago I ran my first Women’s Only 5km race which is part of the Toronto Women’s Run Series. My coach suggested we do it as a ‘warm up’ for the 5km Road Race Championships that was two weeks later.

So a handful of Angels and I were off on our warm up race. I forgot how painful running fast was.

2015 Toronto Women's 10K/5K

To put it into perspective, my boyfriend surprised me by showing up and cheering (along the sparse course of other cheerleaders) and I ran right by without noticing him yelling because I was thinking about being someplace else – anywhere else – that I blocked the world out completely.

There’s no room for pacing error in a 5km. If you go out too fast, you’re screwed. The is one of the many reasons I love the marathon distance. Out of the 42.2kms, I can afford to run a little too fast or too slow for a couple kilometers, because it all evens out in the end. Not with a 5km though.

I finished the warm up race about 35 seconds off my PB. Meh. Not happy with it but I was reminded how painful the 5km can be and was now mentally ready to prepare myself for that again in two weeks at the 5k Canadian Road Race Championships.

Fast forward to 5:30am on Sunday, September 13 as I was sitting eating my usual pre-race meal of oatmeal thinking, “why do I keep doing this?” I reassured myself that I would be leave my apartment at 8am, race at 9am and would be back home in bed by 10am. Nice little Sunday.

There were five Angels running in this one but countless other Angels had come to cheer us on at different spots of the course. The team support was incredible and honestly keep me going right to the end.

5km2

Again, my boyfriend showed up to surprise me along the course (at two different spots). He may not know this yet but he’s now set an expectation which I’m not sure he is ready to commit to.

This race went better than the Women’s Only by about 15 seconds (so 20 seconds off my PB) but I still felt pretty meh about the result.

What have I learned from these 5km races? To temper my high expectations. Not every race is going to be the best race. I was so fortunate to have an amazing 2014 race year, with a PB in every distance. 2015 is an injury-recovery-rebuilding year, but LOOK OUT 2016.

I have one race left and am so happy it’s in my hometown of Hamilton!!! On November 1, I am doing the Hamilton Road 2 Hope half marathon for the first time. I’m also raising money for Save the Mothers organization. This international organization aims to improve the health of mothers and babies in Uganda. If you would like to donate (and I promise to run extra fast), please click here.

Looking ahead over the next couple of weeks, I am excited that I’m allowed to run 90km/week until I start to taper at the end of October. I wish I was doing the full, but I know my body wouldn’t hold up for that kind of mileage and I plan on running my next marathon in 2:59:59.

FOOD!
A little while ago I posted a picture on Instagram of my weekly meal prep and a friend suggested that I include it as one of my blog posts, so this is for you Laura.

It’s there’s only one thing I need to do on Sundays, it’s grocery shop and meal prep #typeA. Ok maybe two things.

I usually make the weekday lunches on Sunday. The salads vary from week to week, but consist mainly of:

  • Spinach and/or kale (usually a mix of both)
  • Peppers (yellow, orange or red)
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Broccoli slaw
  • Beans (I alternate between black beans, lentils or this 6-bean medley you can buy at the grocery store)
  • Avocado
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Goat cheese
  • Nuts/Trail mix

I have been trying to incorporate more protein in my diet so started adding a hard-boiled egg and/or nuts. With more protein, I find that I stay fuller for longer.

I’ve been using the dressing from the Crunchy Asian  Ramen Noodle Salad I posted a couple weeks ago since it’s so delicious!

foodprep

The 5km Race Pain is Real

Sometimes Running is Really Hard

Which is what I said to my boyfriend Andrew after a recent interval workout as I was laying on my living room floor with a cold, wet bath towel covering me.

It got me thinking: do the top athletes go through the same pain during their workouts? Is running just as hard for them as it is for the rest of us? It would make me feel a lot better about how exhausted and worn out I feel after workouts knowing everyone hurts sometimes.

After taking a month off of running post incident and an additional month off of group workouts (I was allowed to do short, easy runs every other day), I am back running with my Angels full-time.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I really didn’t think it would be so hard.

The first workout I went back to I couldn’t finish. Mentally and physically, I just couldn’t do it. Its tough to get the drive to do intervals or a quick tempo knowing 1) you’re not at the fitness level you were just a couple months ago; and 2) you’re going to be very, very uncomfortable the entire time.

But it’s like ripping off a bandaid. The sooner you do it, the better off you are. I could barely run home from that workout and while I was trying to catch my breath on my kitchen floor (you’ll notice a pattern here), I thought to myself: I can be upset that I’m not in racing shape anymore or I can be excited that I’m getting back in the groove.

I chose the second option. As frustrated as I was, I am too competitive and know I am capable of pushing myself harder. My challenge now is not to get back to my pre-Boston fitness level, but to get faster while staying injury free.

That was eight weeks ago and just now I’m finally starting to feel strong again.

Like me, a couple of girls on my team are struggling with injuries and muscles that just don’t feel quite right. My coach has sent reminders about doing three strength sessions per week in order to get stronger for the fall race season and prevent injury. Before I joined the Angels, I didn’t do any strength work so I feel like I could become a body builder now. I don’t enjoy it as much as running, but I enjoy being injury free and the idea of becoming a faster, stronger runner – so I have welcomed it with sore arms and wobbly legs.

I’ve talked with a couple friends recently who have put off exercise for other priorities in life and are scared to get back into it for fear of how out of shape they think they are. My advice is to start slow and get your endorphins going. Endorphins are magic and make you feel so good! When I get back from workouts now, I find I’m looking up races for the fall and am now researching my next marathon (for next year).

A few other tricks of my trade:
1. Make a date to meet a friend to workout. Getting up at 5am sucks but abandoning your friend on the street corner will make you feel worse.

2. Pack your bag or get your workout clothes ready the night before. A friend once told me they slept in their gym clothes so they wouldn’t have an excuse to not be prepared in the morning!

3. Make it a routine. I meet a couple Angels every Tuesday at 6am for circuits. Counting on Tuesday circuits is helpful so I know I’m always going to be a little bit sore on Wednesdays 🙂

courage

Back to food!

I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with this salad. It’s easy to make, it’s colourful, it’s delicious and makes a ton. I’ve never seen Andrew go back for seconds of salad before I made this one.

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad

asiansalad

Ingredients
Salad Ingredients:

  • (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages of ramen noodles, crumbled (you will not use the seasoning packet)
  • 1 cup shelled and cooked edamame
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and julienned (or diced)
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onions (scallions)
  • Asian honey vinaigrette (see ingredients below)

Asian Honey Vinaigrette

  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (or any cooking oil)
  • 1/3 cup honey (or agave, to make this vegan)
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch of salt and black pepper

(Optional first step: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread the crumbled ramen noodles and sliced almonds out on a baking sheet, and stir a bit to combine. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until the almonds and noodles are slightly toasted and golden. Remove baking sheet, and give the mixture a good stir to toss. Then return it to the oven and toast for an additional 3 minutes. Keep a very close eye on the mixture so that it does not burn.  Remove and set aside.) Add ingredients (including the vinaigrette) together in a large bowl, and toss until combined.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (This salad is much better eaten the first day, as the noodles lose their “crunch” the longer it sits, and the avocado may brown a bit. Still, it’s perfectly edible and enjoyable even after a few days!)

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad (a.k.a. Basically The Best Potluck Salad EVER)

 

Sometimes Running is Really Hard

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way & Mia Bettio Proves Just That

Let me tell you about Mia. After meeting at work four years ago, she has become one of my closest friends. She is a real life Disney Princess – and she runs too.

Three summers ago I started a running group at a community centre for anyone who wanted to learn how to run. Mia eagerly signed up and without fail, showed up every week wanting to improve her running. We started with a 5km race. Now if you can run 5km, you can run 10km. So she did the Sporting Life 10km race the following year. If you can run 10km, you can do a half marathon. You’ll start to see my thought pattern here. Nothing is out of reach so long as you’re prepared to put in the work to get yourself there.

So last year me, Mia and another friend of ours (who was new to running as well) signed up for the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. We checked in regularly to keep each other motivated to run. On June 1, 2014, I was happy to run along side Mia during that race and watch her push herself harder and further than she ever had before. She is one determined Disney Princess.

Earlier this year Nike announced a new Women’s 15km race in Toronto on the island. I remember her texting me about it after she found out. She was going to do it! I was excited for her.

This would be the first race that Mia trained completely on her own. She didn’t know anyone else running. For me, that makes getting yourself out the door that much harder when you don’t have someone to check in with who is training for the same race as you. But Mia was determined. Through a hectic spring season at work, she still managed to find time to make sure she got her runs in – on her own.

Everyone is busy – work, friends and family take over and often we forget to make sure we do things for US – whether that be running, yoga, cooking – any activity that makes you happy. I was explaining to one of my colleagues this week, one of the reasons I started running  was because I love how I completely check out of life during those runs. No phone, social media, tv or interruptions.

Mia has been an incredible source of support for me – she even came to Boston in 2013 and cheered for me along the sidelines. I am forever grateful to have her in my life. So today I decided to surprise her with a friend of ours along the sidelines of her first 15km race to show her how proud we are of her.

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Well needless to say Mia had an amazing race. She said this was the best race mentally she has ever done! Incredible! She can now check 15km off her race list. She signed up for this race not knowing anyone running, trained after long hours at work and through some pretty unpredictable weather.

mia

Where there is a will, there’s a way.

Mia I am so proud of all your running accomplishments since you showed up that first day of my running clinic three years ago! Now if you can run a half marathon…. 😉

On a related note, Nike put on an incredible race. As part of the lead up, they held Nike Training Club (NTC) circuits at cool venues across the city. I did an early morning class at the Art Gallery of Ontario before it opened daily to the public! How cool is that? This weekend Nike set up a barge on the water for special NTC classes. Sunday morning challenging core classes are so much better on the water! Awesome job Nike. Can’t wait for next year.

mia3

 

Back to food! As promised in my last post, this is one of my favourite dinner recipes. You can make this recipe vegan as well. Warning: it is labour intensive! It takes about two hours from start to finish, but it’s worth it!

Eggplant Quinoa Parmesan Casserole 

2 cups cooked quinoa (you’ll need about 1 cup / 6 oz / 170 gr of uncooked quinoa)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large eggplant, cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 29 oz / 822 gr can (good tasting) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup / 1.8 oz / 50 gr Parmesan cheese, grated* (this is what the recipe calls for but I usually double any amount of cheese)
½ cup / 0.9 oz / 25 gr Romano cheese, grated* (see note above)

*Vegans: sub this with vegan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) and lightly grease a 8×8 baking dish.

Fill a large bowl with cold water, add one teaspoon of sea salt and stir until it dissolves completely. Place eggplant cubes into the water and let sit for 20 minutes to draw out the bitterness.

Drain the eggplant cubes and pat them dry.

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon of sea salt and saute’ for 6 to 7 minutes, or until onions are translucent.

Add eggplant cubes and saute’ for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, making sure that the eggplant doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add tomato sauce, basil and ½ teaspoon of sea salt, turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in another dry non-stick pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat, toast quinoa with red pepper flakes, black pepper and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine quinoa, eggplant sauce and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.

Transfer quinoa mixture to baking dish, top with remaining Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes and carefully brown the top.

Remove from the oven and top with fresh oregano leaves (or basil ribbons). Allow to sit 10 minutes and then serve.

As noted above this casserole will be better the next day or even the day after that.

http://www.theironyou.com/2013/09/eggplant-parmesan-quinoa-casserole.html

Cabot Trail Relay Recap. Spoiler Alert: We Shattered the Female Course Record

Last weekend was one for the record books – literally. My team had been preparing to run the Cabot Trail Relay in Nova Scotia which is a 276km race made up of 17 legs or mini-races varying from 12-20kms. From the very beginning my coach told us we were going with the goal to break the female course record. No if’s, and’s or but’s.

After the incident in Boston a month earlier I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run Cabot but my physio (also our Cabot Trail Captain) promised me that I would be ready to go by then. At the very least, I was going to go to support my team, but I really wanted to run and be part of the experience.

Clearly I didn’t have much time to prep with the whole torn calf muscle thing, but Andrew and I spent the long weekend a week earlier at his parent’s place in Bracebridge, Muskoka. If anyone has been to Muskoka, you’ll know there is no shortage of hills. I had just gotten the OK from physio to start running again so my coach told me to do a couple easy runs there to test the calf with the hills. Good lord, they were hard. I swear the hills had gotten bigger since the last time I had run there.

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We arrived in Nova Scotia on Friday evening. The race started bright and early in Baddeck at 7:00am on Saturday and would finish about 30 hours later back in Baddeck after (literally) climbing mountains, mastering the rolling hills, bearing cold, icy rain and running through the pitch black night. Daunting? Yes, but the Angels are hardcore.

But mid morning on Saturday we were off to an amazing start. After finishing as the first place females in the first four legs of the race, the race director approached us and asked, “where the heck did you girls come from?”. He later told us that after race officials saw that the Angels were winning all the legs, they put someone on “Angel watch”.

My leg, lucky leg #12, was at 12:30am. Yikes. For those that know me, I am a morning runner through and through. 4am running – no problem. 12:30am running – problem. I even struggle with Monday night practice after work. Andrew told me to look at it like a new running challenge knowing I will accept any sort of challenge especially as it relates to running. While I wasn’t quite sure I was up for said challenge, one of the things I love about Andrew is how he pushes me to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I would become a midnight runner for my team whether I enjoyed it or not.

All day I felt uneasy about my calf. It felt tight but I wasn’t sure if my mind was playing tricks on me. One of my teammates asked me what my goal was and I said I just wanted to finish without pain and with my calf in tact. Right before I jumped out of the van to head to the start my coach said, “Sarah, you are going to rock this”. Mind over matter.

At 12:20am I stood at the start line with all the other runners who were crazy enough to spend a weekend running along the highway for fun. It was cold and dark. I kept telling myself “calf please be ok”. I didn’t want to let my team down if something happened and I couldn’t finish the race. Disclaimer: I know I am going to drive myself nuts (and those around me) for the next year whenever I toe the start line over-thinking my calf.

The only way I can describe running along the Cabot Trail highway in the quiet darkness is “weird”. After passing people at the beginning and settling into my race pace, I was completely by myself. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me or anyone behind me at all. I was wearing a safety vest and had a headlamp on but I still wasn’t able to see a foot in front of me. It was such an odd feeling. At one point I felt myself starting to climb a hill and thought “huh, I wonder how big this hill is and when it will be over”. I just had to go with the flow.

I still don’t know if the quiet loneliness was peaceful or scary. What I do know is that I finished leg #12 pain free. Goal accomplished. The icing on the cake was that I finished as the first place female.

I could go on and on about this race. It was so inspiring to watch every girl on my team go out there and give it everything they had – at all hours of the day – climbing mountains, running through a downpour, off no sleep, with two Angels even running two legs. So incredible.

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Stewie, our fearless leader, finishing the last leg of the race, 30 hours after the start – as the first place female.

Well we won 14/17 legs. We beat the female course record by over 40 minutes. We caused quite the commotion at the awards ceremony -this mysterious all-female team that had never been a part of this race before shows up and wins nearly every leg and shatters a record that was held by a team from Maine for a number of years. We even got a standing ovation. It was very surreal. The race director told us he was happy the record was brought home by a Canadian team.

cabot

Goal accomplished. Coach was happy.

Race aside, Cabot weekend will be one of the most memorable weekends of my life. The girls I run with are so inspiring. It was awesome to spend time getting to know everyone better. We get together at least twice a week for workouts but never really get the opportunity to have real-life conversations between the intervals, hills or tempos – because no one has time to catch their breath, let alone string together meaningful sentences.

Now what? This is the first time in what seems like years that I don’t have any runs scheduled on my race card. Nothing planned whatsoever from here on out. It makes me a bit anxious. My short term goals are to make it back to my group workouts while continuing with cross training and strength training. Slow and steady wins the race. My coach told me I can run up to 40kms next week spread out over four runs (5km, 10km, 10km, 15km). YIPPEEE! You’d better believe I will be smiling ear to ear for all 40kms. I am so happy to be running pain-free again.

I’ll think about my fall race card in a month or so, but for now I have more time to focus on a couple other activities I am trying to get better at – golf being one of them (which deserves a separate blog post on it’s own).

Sorry no recipes this week! I spent most of the week catching up on sleep so wasn’t very creative in the kitchen. Stay tuned for one of my all time favourite dinner recipes on the next post!

My Road to Recovery

It’s been 21 days since I tore a muscle in my calf during the Boston Marathon (which I will now refer to as “the incident”). I can’t remember the last time I took 21 days off from running – if that’s ever happened.

I’ve been going to physio twice a week and receiving lots of treatment. Since I’m still allowed to cycle, I went back to the gym for the first time in oh, about five months. Nothing like an injury to get yourself back at it. I’ve been to the gym more in the last three weeks then in all of 2014. As much as I miss running, I’ve actually enjoyed my time there more than I thought I would. I’ve challenged myself with spinning classes.

Leading up to Boston when I was running all the time, my boyfriend asked if we could start cycling more in the off season because he wants me to be able to walk beside him when we’re 70. Although I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with his impression that running must be bad for you in the long run (pun intended), I thought it was sweet and I agreed. I’ve always found cycling challenging, but as competitive as I am, I want to become better at it. No I will never become a triathlete, but I love a good challenge.

My physio homework last week was to try some “light jogging”. So one morning when I was meeting my big sister at the gym, I decided I would run there. It’s about 1km from my apartment so I ran without pain except for how painfully slow I went. I was being cautious. After our sister gym session I ran home and started to feel a dull pain in my calf (but not in the spot I tore it). My physio said that’s to be expected since I haven’t been using it and not to worry as long as it didn’t linger. In my mind I had expected to be 100% healed so I was pretty bummed when I felt that pain. It had been 17 days at that point! Come on calf.

However yesterday I had a slow but successful 5km run! I stopped a few times to stretch my calf because it felt tight, but I didn’t have any pain. To say I felt euphoric is an understatement. I am so happy. I am having another ultrasound done on Friday to give me peace of mind that the tear is gone before I get too crazy though. Slow and stead wins the race.

This injury has given me a lot to think about. I will (hopefully) have tons of races in my future. Not all of them are going to be my best and I need to become OK with that. I am sure I will have another race that I won’t be able to finish (although I really hope not). This is just one chapter in my running book that hopefully I’ll look back at in the future and see it as a stepping stone. I’m not referring to it as a setback because I plan on coming back from this stronger than before.

Do I wish I didn’t have to have this learning experience with 8kms left in the Boston Marathon? Of course. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

In more exciting news, my boyfriend and my best friend ran a marathon last weekend! It was my boyfriend’s first marathon! No, I didn’t pressure him into running one. It had been on his bucket list for a while but he was injured the last two years so wasn’t able to train. But not this year! I am so unbelievably proud of him.

andrew

It’s one thing to train for a marathon in the worst winter on record when you’re a running addict. Even if I wasn’t training for a spring marathon, I would have still ran in the -20 degree weather. Andrew likes running but I wouldn’t say he gets ‘irritable’ if he can’t run – like me. He’s a basketball and golf addict. If outdoor golf courses and basketball courts were open in the winter, he would have played all winter long and he actually did play indoor basketball three days a week on top of his marathon training. To train for something you’re not incredibly passionate about in a ridiculously harsh winter – that’s remarkable.

I haven’t asked him if he plans on doing another one, but I secretly (or not so secretly via this blog) hope we can do one together.

And Jen freaking Raven ran her second marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon a second time! She is a force to be reckoned with. Her coach gives her weekly workouts but she does them all on her own! Intervals! Tempo! Solo! Talk about Superwoman. Not too many people can say they qualified for the Boston Marathon on their first try. That is truly incredible.

raven

Back to food.

I recently bought Martha Stewart’s new cookbook called Clean Slate from a colleague who accidentally bought two copies (long story). I recommend it for those looking to “reset your health, detox your body and feel your best”. I made the granola last weekend and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to store bought granola. It was significantly cheaper and my mind is already racing on all the different variations I am going to make with it.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled barley flakes (I couldn’t find these so used rye flakes instead)
1 cup rolled spelt flakes
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1 cup sliced almonds
1⁄3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Toss to combine all ingredients in a bowl, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring halfway through, until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Store granola in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

Nutritional Information per Serving: 193 calories, 7g total fat (0g sat. fat), 0mg cholesterol, 29g carbohydrates, 6g protein, 4g fiber

granola

Boston Marathon Recap. Spoiler Alert: I Didn’t Finish

April 20, 2015 proved to be the hardest day in my running world.

We arrived in Boston Saturday evening. Sunday I woke Andrew up bright and early so we could do my shakeout run to the marathon expo and pick up my bib right when it opened.

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So excited.

In keeping with tradition I laid across the finish line and thought “see you tomorrow”.

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We had a great day seeing the Red Sox play (unfortunately they lost),  and had a really amazing dinner at Galleria 33. Highly recommend this place for anyone going to Boston who is looking for a great Italian meal.

Monday morning I woke up at 5am. I was meeting Angel Britt at the bus at 6:15am. One of the most challenging things about big races like Boston is the waiting game. After meeting Britt at 6:15am, we took an hour long bus ride to Athlete’s Village where we waited (in the rain) for just over 2 hours before we could walk to the start area (and wait for another half hour). The waiting game really toys with me mentally. It’s like waiting for an exam and you’re with people who are talking about all the training they’ve done, eating things that make you think “should i eat more? Should I be eating that?” and people who look so much faster than you. It’s tough.

Luckily this year I was in wave one which started at 10am. Wave four didn’t start until 11:15am so my mental state was happy to be in the first wave out of the gate. Walking to the start line, I was so excited. It was familiar. I’ve mentioned before Boston is the only marathon I’ve done more than once – I loved being familiar with it.

I had a race plan that I had discussed with my coach right before I left. She said SUB 3 and I said WHAT. She told me she thought I was capable of running a sub 3 hour marathon at Boston if I executed it properly. I have a good/bad habit of reading a lot of blogs about a marathon right before I run it. This jointly scares and prepares me. From what I had read I knew if anything, do not go out too fast. That seemed to be lot of people’s downfall especially since the biggest downhill is in that first mile. My goal was to head out at 4:15/km pace, no faster than 4:10/km pace. 5km down, I felt great and was right on pace.

The neat thing about Boston is that you’re ranked going into it based on your qualifying time. So standing at the start line, I was surrounded by people chasing that sub 3 hour marathon. I crossed the half way point at 1:29:01 feeling good and excited.

Looking back at this time last year I hadn’t broke 1:30 in the half marathon and here I was a year later with two half marathons under my belt at 1:25 and 1:26, and was on pace to run two sub 1:30 half marathons back to back. If you asked me if I thought that would ever be possible a year ago, my answer would be HELL NO.

After crossing the half way point on pace, I mentally prepared myself for the hills that were coming up. I told myself, “just make it to 34km and the hills will be over”. The final stretch is one big downhill and then you’re sailing flat to the finish. While I still wasn’t sure about a sub 3 finish, I was pretty confident I would PB (i.e. sub 3:03). I felt good.

The hills were hard. It was pouring rain on and off so my clothes got heavy and I was cold. At 28km my left calf felt off. I figured it was probably because of the hills and would fix itself once they were over. At 30km I stopped briefly to stretch it out. At 32km it felt like someone had stabbed me in the back of my leg. I had never felt pain like that before. I slowed down thinking maybe I can just “shake it off”. It got progressively worse and at 34km I couldn’t handle it anymore and walked off the course.

The second I walked off tears started streaming down my face. I walked into the medical tent and four volunteers looked up at me and I said, “my calf hurts”. I thought “ok we have 45 seconds to collectively fix this then I can get back out there”. Wishful thinking on my part, but I’ve never had a running injury take me out before so I thought maybe this will pass quickly.  The medics looked at it, massaged it, iced it and I tried to jump back in. I knew my PB was out of sight now, but I wanted to at least cross the finish line.

Not a chance. It hurt too much to run. By that time I was shaking I was so cold.  I turned around and walked back into the medical tent and sat there and cried until they could take me to the finish line.  It took over two and a half hours to get back  – the bus had to stop at every medical tent to see if there were other people injured who needed to get back to meet family/friends. I was in panic mode because I knew my family and friends were tracking me online and would start to stress after I stopped tracking at 30km. Plus my boyfriend Andrew and I had plans to meet at 1pm (3 hours after the start) and since we were in the US, his phone was off so I couldn’t get a hold of him.

I borrowed a phone and made two calls – to my mom and Andrew. I have no idea what I said on either voicemail, a lot of crying and that I hurt myself and wasn’t able to finish the race but not to worry. I didn’t get dropped off at the finish line until after 3pm (the 5 hour mark of the marathon). I limped right away to our meeting spot and Andrew wasn’t there. I was so panicked I didn’t know what to do. I literally had nothing with me and I was shaking I was so cold standing in the rain. Andrew is 6’7 so I NEVER have a problem finding him in a crowd but I looked all around me and didn’t see him. I walked to the end of the street and when I couldn’t see him, I started crying again. People walking by must have thought I was crying because I was so happy to be finished so they were congratulating me. I wanted to disappear.

Then I saw him. He came running over and I have never cried so much in my life. It was like a newborn baby / ugly girl / can’t breath / hysterical – crying. I was so upset and just wanted to forget this happened and immediately be back in Toronto. Andrew literally gave me the shirts off his back to keep me warm and then put me on a warming bus while he ripped off my bib to go and find my bag check. He had spent the last 2 hours running back and forth between our meeting spot and the medical tent trying to get updates on where I was and if I was ok.

What a nightmare. When I imagined going back to Boston over the last four months of training, I never in a million years thought this would happen.

Monday night we had plans to meet up with friends for dinner. Limping back to the hotel after the race I was going to cancel. When I finally warmed up I decided I wasn’t going to wallow in our hotel room all night – heck we are going for dinner and I will drink ALL the cocktails in Boston. After dinner I wanted to keep myself distracted so Andrew and I went to this really cool live reggae/jazz music joint called the Beehive where I continued to drink ALL their cocktails on the menu.

I woke up on Tuesday thinking it was a bad dream. We weren’t flying home until that night and had plans to rent bikes and tour around the city all day. Luckily I didn’t feel any pain while biking so we were still able to do that. We tried all the famous pastries in Boston, ate pizza and drank beers at Cheers – all the things I had been avoiding leading up to the race.

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I had my calf checked out when I got home by Angel Stewie who is a physio on my team. She is like a ray of sunshine. Turns out I tore a muscle in my calf during the run. That explains the stabbing pain I felt. It’s not a bad tear though and Stewie told me I was wise to have stopped running when I did before it got worse.

Coming to realize that I actually didn’t finish the marathon has been challenging. I’ve been way more emotional that I thought I would be this week. I also feel silly being so upset because in retrospect, it’s just one race. I’ve done countless races over the years. But it’s Boston. I’ve never not finished a race before. I trained so hard for this one in the coldest winter on record. I felt good going into it. Marathons are my favourite distance.

Running is huge part of my life and who I am. I had a good talk with my coach afterwards. She said I need to take care of my mind and body now, not to lose confidence in my ability to run and that I will come out of this stronger.

While I left Boston feeling pretty defeated, I was full of pastries, pizza and new life lessons. Sometimes no matter how hard you train things happen that are out of your control. Sometimes life’s a huge bitch. But I’ve been lucky to make it to Boston, my calf will heal and so will my heart.

I will go back to finish what I started – with a vengeance – under three hours.

Thanks to all my friends and family for the unbelievable support xo

Boston Bound – Legs Don’t Fail Me Now

On Monday I’m heading to Hopkinton, the start line of the Boston Marathon, along with 30,000 of the best runners from around the world. Eeeek.

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This week has been a bit tough to get through mentally. I’ve been hyper-sensitive to anything that feels off (I thought I pulled my hamstring while sleeping the other night). On top of that, the weather has been incredible which makes me so envious of all those bare limbed runners outside! Less is more. That’s my mantra for the week.

I powered through the ‘never-ending 1k repeats’ with my group last Saturday. They felt pretty good and my coach said I looked strong. I have to remind myself to have confidence in all the training I’ve done. It’s hard not to second guess yourself for a couple missed workouts or bad runs. But one bad/missed workout doesn’t make or break your training plan. Gotta keep moving forward and not dwell. Easier said then done, but it’s true.

Less running means I have more time to eat! One (big) perk of marathon training is guilt-free carbs. It doesn’t mean eating bagels at every meal, but starting four days out I definitely increase my diet by adding more carbs in – pretzels and fig newtons are my favourite. If it was possible to add more sweet potatoes into my diet, I would.

pretzels

These are the best pretzels in the world.

For my pre-race meal in Boston, I’m going to an Italian restaurant that was featured on Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey! Hopefully Gordon was able to turn this place around – I need a good Italian meal to get me through all the hills on the course!

I’ve been focused on getting eight hours of sleep each night this week because I know I won’t be sleeping soundly come Sunday. Although Boston is the only marathon I’ve done more than once, the nerves don’t go away.

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Boston 2013

The last time I ran it was in 2013, the year of the bombings. It feels surreal going back. I left Boston in 2013 feeling very scared and upset. On Monday I’m running Boston Strong thinking about all those who were affected by the bombings two years ago.

This taper week included a rainy interval workout with the Angels (my running group) on Monday. Tuesday I did an easy run with fellow Angel Paulina (we got wild and just ran around TO without a route planned!) and Thursday I ran with Angel Julia – she recently joined the group, but I met her doing the Cabot Trail Relay last spring. We were assigned as roommates and hit it off instantly. I have met the most incredible people through running and am lucky to have such a great support system.

Speaking of support systems, if you haven’t met my boyfriend Andrew, he is actually the greatest human on earth. He moved in with me the week of the NYC marathon last fall. I remember thinking if we made it through that first week living together with him moving cities, starting a new job and my anxiety with the marathon, we could make it through anything. That’s been the best week of my life. He’s been so awesome this week giving me daily pep talks and making sure I’m feeling ok. I feel so lucky to have him as my training partner, roommate, best friend and now Boston travel buddy!

The support from my family, friends and teammates has been incredible. I will be thinking of their constant encouragement and motivation from kilometers 0-42.2km on Monday.

See you soon Heartbreak Hill 🙂

So carbs. This week I made a Chicken, Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole. It made enough for two dinners for Andrew and I which always earns bonus points in my recipe book.

 Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese (any kind will work, I used Swiss)
  • 3 cups fresh broccoli florets (one head of broccoli)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Sauce: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish  Bring the chicken broth and ½ cup milk to a low boil in a saucepan. Whisk the other ½ cup milk with the poultry seasoning and flour; add the mixture to the boiling liquid and whisk until a smooth creamy sauce forms.
  2. Assembly: In a large bowl, mix the sauce from step one, one cup water, and quinoa, and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Dice the chicken and lay the chicken breasts cubes over the top of the quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with the seasoning if you would like. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Broccoli: While the casserole is in the oven, place the broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute until it turns bright green and then run under cold water to blanch it. Set aside.
  4. Bake:  Remove the casserole from the oven, check the mixture by stirring it around in the pan, and if needed, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes to get the right consistency. When the quinoa and chicken are cooked and the sauce is thickened, add the broccoli and a little bit of water (up to one cup) until the consistency is creamy and smooth and you can stir it up easily in the pan. The amount of water will depend on how thick the sauce is.  Top with the cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or just long enough to melt the cheese.
  5. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe and picture from: http://thelifeofvida.blogspot.ca/2014/04/creamy-chicken-quinoa-and-broccoli.html

Vancouver is my Happy Place

I just got back from visiting my best friend Lauren (aka L, former roommate of eight years, also my soul mate) who recently moved to Vancouver. I’ve always referred to Vancouver as my ‘future home’, and this trip pretty much solidified it for me. Now I’m just working on getting my boyfriend on board and then we’re set.

I started tapering for Boston just before leaving. While I’ve been looking forward to running less, it was tough to do in Vancouver. L lives exactly 300m away from Kits Beach where there is a great running path along the water. That combined with the warmer weather and Cherry Blossom trees, I was seriously in running heaven. My girlfriend Gill (also former roommate) and I got up bright and early on our first morning for a run. I have a self-imposed rule that I run everywhere I go, on every trip I go on. Ibiza has been the only place I’ve visited in recent memory where I didn’t (more like couldn’t) run, because it’s Ibiza and Ibiza warrants a separate (non-running) blog post on it’s own. Anyways, I think there’s no better way to see a city and pretend you’re a local than running around it. I usually just ask a stranger to point me in the direction of the water because more often than not, where there’s water, there’s a running path.

cherry

Well wouldn’t you know, half way through our run along the water it got so warm that I needed to take off my jacket! My arms have never felt so liberated! Day one in Vancouver was a beautiful 10km.

I saved my weekly long run to do in Vancouver on day two. It was 24km and I coerced my university neighbour Rob to run with me along the Seawall in Stanley Park. Rob is training for his first full marathon in the fall (New York City!). As we began our run toward Stanley Park I asked him how far he had run this year and he said about 14km. 24km would be a bit of a leap but Rob is one of those naturally super athletic guys (the ones we all hate). We had a great 2+ hour catch up while running along the gorgeous Seawall. Rob is a champion and you would have never of guessed this was his longest run yet. LOOK OUT NYC! Sometimes I think you just need a friend texting you at 7:30am on a Saturday morning telling you to get your running shoes on so she doesn’t miss her brunch plans – to push you a little outside your comfort zone. Rob -next time we’re running the entire Seawall!

I woke up each morning (listening to the birds chirping/calling my name to come outside) in Vancouver excited to run. I haven’t felt like that in wintery Toronto in a long time. While I’ve been so focused on Boston, my training has become almost more of a “must do” than “want to do”. I am really grateful having had these last few days to remind me how much I actually love running (when it’s not -30 and I’m wearing 10 pairs of pants).

happy

I ran 56kms in Vancouver over four days – which could have easily been 100+kms if I wasn’t tapering. I could run forever in my future home.

I also climbed a mountain on my trip! L, Gill, Joanna (not my former roommate but also one of my bffs) and I headed to Squamish on our last day to hike “the Chief”. I literally felt like I was climbing nature’s stair master. The Chief has three peaks and after a couple chain ropes, steel ladders, a fake first peak and a lot of climbing, we made it to the top of the real first peak.

photo (8)

Suffice to say, that was enough for us. I’ll save the other two peaks for my next trip. To say the view was incredible is an understatement. It was so surreal. Eventually we had to get back down which was a lot harder on my legs than going up. It took us about four hours round-trip. It’s been two days and my quads are still feeling it.

photo (12) photo (11) photo (9)    

So with under two weeks until Boston, I am starting to feel pretty antsy. This week I am running half as much as my peak weeks so I’m trying not to spend my new-found free time getting anxious about the race. I have “never-ending 1km repeats” (direct quote from my coach) on Saturday so am hoping I feel good during those. At this point less is more and I just want to feel confident going into the race. Legs don’t fail me now!

Sorry no recipes to share this week. Although we tried cookie butter and cookie butter cookies from Trader Joes that Jo had brought us from Seattle. And by “tried” I mean we ate two boxes and more than half the jar.

OH.MY.GOD.

photo (5)

Vancouver is my Happy Place

Mind Over Matter Will Make You Invincible

This week marked my last long run in the 30+km distance and a tough interval workout. This was my 7th run in the 30-36km range since February, all of them in frigid temperatures. To top it off, Monday’s group workout was 16X400M! I have never in my life done 16 repeats of anything.

Whether it’s getting out the door at 4am to do a 2.5+ hour run in a polar vortex, or psyching yourself up to make your legs go fast 16 consecutive times after work – it’s as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one.

I often think running in general is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I understand why people might be hesitant to start because of how daunting any distance seems.

I like numbers. I studied Economics in university and currently work for the Ministry of Finance. When I have a long run or an ungodly amount of intervals to do, I like to break it down in my head to make it more manageable. Since I often run really early in the morning, I have a 16km “loop” around Toronto that sticks to main lit streets (safety first). This week’s long run was 32km – perfect – only TWO loops! 32km is tough, but two loops – no problem. Sometimes I break it down by “tv shows” (thank you Netflix). If I’m running easy, I’ll run a 5km in the length of an episode of Friends. When I’m at 27km of my long run, I just think to myself, “you can definitely run for one more episode!”. Those commercial-less sitcoms seem so short!

16 X 400M repeats. That was a little harder to digest. A handful of girls on my team are running Around the Bay 30km this weekend (GOOD LUCK). Those who were racing had 8X400m repeats (to save the legs for today’s race), others had 10 repeats and those training for Boston (Britt and I) – had a whopping 16 to do. As I spent the morning wondering how I was going to manage this, Paulina on my team emailed me and offered to pace the remaining repeats with me after she was done her 10 – that’s six more than she was supposed to do! Talk about teamwork. I’ve said it before, but I am truly grateful to run with such amazing women.

So four repeats down, 25% done. Feeling good. Another four down, half of the girls were finished and we were half way done. Ten done and it was just Britt, Paulina and myself to do the remaining six. Then my mantra kicked in, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Finally I told myself that the last three were victory laps.

I felt invincible after we finished that 16th interval . I have never pushed myself to do 16 repeats of anything – and just like that – the workout was done. ONE STEP CLOSER TO BOSTON.

I ran home frozen in the dark and ate everything in sight before passing out at 930pm.

If you think running is daunting, start with “one loop”. Work your way up. You’ll be at 100 loops and three times as many episodes of Friends before you know it.

You’re probably wondering what I devoured after those repeats. This week I had mini salmon cakes with salsa. My little sister (physically and I am one minute older), bought me the Runner’s World Cookbook for Christmas a couple years ago. Well I love it. It categorizes the recipes by “fast, pre-run, recovery”, etc. I spend a lot of time on Sunday evenings preparing food for the week so I don’t end up eating a jar of peanut butter while I’m cooking dinner.

This recipe is super easy. It makes 12 salmon cakes and stores up to a week in the fridge.

IMG_3863   IMG_3886

Ingredients
2 cans (6 ounces each) wild salmon, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 red bell pepper, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 eggs
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh salsa

Mix everything (except for the salsa) together until well combined. Divide mixture among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Let salmon cakes cool before removing from the cups. Serve topped with salsa!

 

Mind Over Matter Will Make You Invincible