Thursday, 23 October 2014

Surgery, Running, and Complications

Last week was a little hectic. I had a big work event, I was prepping for my 8th Half Marathon, and my 7th surgery.

I was chatting with cousin (Hi Amber!!!) after one of my appointments last week, and she asked me an interesting question. She asked...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

#STWM Race Recap

Well that was a real whirlwind of a weekend!

I had a hectic week going into this year's STWM, hence why things were quiet around here. I had 3 really long days on my feet at the expo, which is not exactly ideal race prep. And when I woke at 5:30am on race day feeling a little wrung out I definitely had a moment, where I questioned "what the heck I was doing".

But this race wasn't about me. I was just running for kicks. I was heading down to the start line with 2 of my favourite guys to support them while they took their big distance plunge. Jamie was running his first Full and and my Father-in-Law was running his first half. It was a big day for the family. And I was there for moral support more than anything else.

I toed the line knowing it was kind of silly for me to be out there. I always want to run hard and run strong, but I am 2 weeks away from surgery #7 so having all kind of great expectations isn't exactly justified. And as I passed Queens Park, I found myself thinking about this journey I have been on.

I ran my first half marathon two and half years ago, and now here I was running my 8th. I knew that this was not going to be my strongest, fastest, or best race. And when my chest started to ache, and when my arm started to swell (despite my heavy duty compression gear), I felt that familiar twinge of frustration. It would be easy to consider this race a failure, to feel negatively about my body, and to be disappointed with the situation. But instead I chose to be grateful.

*You can see how swollen my left side is post-race, and I got a close up my my sausage fingers for you! Your Welcome!*

I am grateful to be running and racing just a few weeks before surgery. So I listened to my body and I walked when I needed to. I high-fived everyone who offered a hand. I thanked every volunteer I passed. And I spent those 13.1 miles thinking about how lucky I was to be out here. My body was strong enough to carry me through and I am healthy enough to be able to just casually run a half marathon (*this is not the girl I was a few year ago*).  And even though my body needs a little extra healing, I am grateful for all that it does for me each and every day. I crossed the line, smiling, swollen, and a little slower than on most days, but most of all GRATEFUL.

After I finished, I grabbed my bag and hustled back to the course to wait for Jamie. We started running together all because I convinced his Dad to do a 5km with me. And now here we all were - Bruce finished his first half marathon and Jamie was tackling his first full. Being able to share this with them has been so special. Being able to geek out and talk running together over the past year and half has been amazing. Sharing Sunday long runs and post-run coffee dates with my husband has become my favourite weekend activity. And watching him get a bazillion times faster than me (stung a little at first, I won't lie) has been a huge source of pride.

So as I saw him turn the corner and running strong to that line (at 3:29:57 no less), I cheered that an absolute crazy woman. And I teared up a little too.

It was a big day for everyone. And I am so proud of how far we have all come.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 10 October 2014

An Unexpected Lesson in Kindness

I read this article - 15 things Incredibly Happy People Do - last week. And I loved the principles! A lot of the things listed are things I try to do in my everyday. But I admit there are times, where the wear of the day-to-day grinds me down. So I have made it my mission to be more mindful of my attitude and actions each day. And one of my goals is to compliment someone every day - Kindness breeds Kindness. And I also think Kindness breeds Happiness. Happiness for others, but also happiness for yourself. I think it is almost impossible to do something kind for someone, and to not feel happier, lighter, more relaxed.

A lesson that was really brought home, but this stack of parking tickets. (yes they are all mine, kind of...)

At the moment they are doing construction on our building, so we are not able to use our parking garage. We have all been sent to park on the street for the next month while they complete the work.

And if you know anything about Toronto, than you know that the parking attendants can be aggressive. You can't even run in to grab a coffee without ending up with a parking ticket (I learned that the hard way a couple of times...)

So our building asked the city for a parking exception. And we all got special notices to post in our window. But despite having my number posted, the parking attendants in my neighbourhood keep giving me (and the rest of the people in my building) tickets anyways.

After ticket #4, I started to get frustrated. Will they revoke these tickets? Will I have to pay all of these fines? Am I parking in the wrong spot? What the heck?

So I called the city to ask what was going on. I ended up speaking to the woman who is responsible for ticketing/parking grievances in my area. She was defensive and not extremely helpful. I didn't really feel like she was listening to me, and I felt myself getting upset. I could hear my tone change. I was starting to get short and match her terse attitude.

But as we talked, I realized that she must spend all day being defensive. All she gets are calls from angry people who have been ticketed or towed. No one says thank-you. No one calls to say great job.  It must be hard to do this type if job day in and day out.

So I relaxed my tone. I thanked her for being patient and for talking with me. I also told her, that I realized this must be a pretty tough gig, so I appreciated what she did.

She laughed, and I could tell she was smiling.
I was smiling too.

How often do we overlook that person on the other end of the phone. How often do we curse that guy that cut us off. How often do we ignore someone else's experience and someone else's plight, but galvanize our own?

Kindness breeds Kindness. And it requires so little of us - maybe a little more patience, maybe a little more empathy - but it can have such a big impact.

I challenge you to do something kind today. 
Maybe we will all smile a little brighter this week.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

#NoJunkFoodChallenge and my Mushroom Tart

Last week, I must confess, I let my stress get the best of me. I had a busy week with lots of work deadlines and events. I was also trying to balance scheduling other life things, while feeling a little frustrated about the prospect of my upcoming medical drama. And I found myself stress eating. Some of it was for convenience. And the rest was just me eating my feelings. I had Pizza twice. I had a bag of sour patch kids. And I ate a good portion of 2 bags of chips. I woke up Monday morning with an upset stomach (*shocking I know?!) and realized that perhaps this is not the best way to prep for surgery #7. 

So I posted on Instagram that I was going to try the "Stop Eating Junk Food All the Time" diet, and a whole bunch of you also piped up (guess I am not the only one!). So I decided to start a 1 month #NoJunkFoodChallenge. There is nothing crazy involved, the goals are just...
  1. No Junk Food/Fast Food 
  2. Focus on eating all whole/real foods (as opposed to processed)
  3. Try to eat an extra dose of fruit and veggies each day
It is up to you how you want to interpret the rules. Some people have said they are cutting out all processed sugar. Others have mentioned focusing more on a plant-based or vegan lifestyle. It is completely up to you! I am planning on limiting sugar and processed foods, but I am planning to eat everything in moderation. I am also planning to have a treat after my half marathon next weekend. But you can structure the challenge in a way that works best for you. I figured if we all used the hashtag #NoJunkFoodChallenge on social media we could connect and support each other.

So if you are game, and you want to join in, use the hashtag and feel free to tag me as well (@darwinianfail). And we can all plan to have a healthier month!

Plus since it is WIAW I have one of my new favourite recipes for you. I made this tart a couple weeks ago for friends, and it was a hit!
Mushroom Tart

1/2 cup of cream
1 egg
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp of EVO
1 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp fresh thyme
500g Oyster Mushrooms
500g Brown Mushroom
150g of dried wild forest mushroom mix
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup of fresh Pecorino Romano Cheese (grated)
2 tbsp of Parsley
1 pie shell - you can make your own, or if you are lazy like me, just buy a pre-made one

1. Preheat over to 375F. And Pre-bake the pie shell
2. Place dried mushroom in a bowl of boiling water, and let sit while you prep other ingredients.
3. Combine cream, egg, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots of saute for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, fresh mushrooms, and thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
5. Drain rehydrated mushrooms and add to plan with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Cook until sauce has evaporated. Set mixture aside to cool in a bowl.
6. Blend in cream and egg mixture with mushroom mixture. Place into pre-baked pie shell, sprinkle with cheese and parsely. Bake for 25 minutes and serve.

Hope you guys enjoy!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 6 October 2014

I am right where I need to be

On Sunday my husband innocently asked me if I was going for run, and I burst into tears.

Admittedly my reaction was slightly melodramatic. It is not that I don't want to run and train hard, it is just that it is not the right thing for me right now. I have been trying really hard to be zen and accepting of the changes to my training and body - but this is by no means what I would have chosen. I have been struggling to accept the changes I have made to my race schedule this year. And I have been struggling to accept that I am heading back to the just a few weeks.

Despite the lofty health/wellness goals I set out for myself at the beginning of 2014, 3 of 5 have not come to fruition. And as the 2014 race season winds down, I find myself feeling frustrated and a little disappointed. Deep down I know that I made the right decision. I know choosing to slow down, step back, and say that this year is not the year is what was best for my body and for my mental health. But that doesn't mean that it hasn't been hard.

I feel like a have written this post a thousand times before, and it is the same old battle. With each medical setback, I struggle to make peace and feel positive about my body. I wish I was healthier, stronger, better, different. All negative. And all a waste of energy.

So instead of wallowing in my tears and lamenting my lost race season, I packed up my gear and went to my local yoga studio. I often seek the solace of my mat when I am looking for balance. It is a place to restore my spirit and to heal my broken heart (both physically and metaphorically).

As I lay in Savasana, I set my intention for the class - Self-Acceptance.

I moved mindfully and slowly through each pose. I was respectful of my body and focused on being present. As the class progressed I felt myself let go of the negative and detrimental self-talk that had been swirling in my head. 

Today I am embracing what my body needs in this moment.
Today I need to go a bit slower and move more mindfully.
Today I need to let go of expectations - both my own and others.
Today I need to accept that this is where I am, and that is right where I need to be.

All of this is hard. All of this is unnatural. But all of this is necessary.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 28 September 2014

6 things I learned from My 1st Trail Race

Yesterday I ran my very 1st Trail Race. You may recall I signed up on a bit of a whim last week, as way to shake up my running routine and do something completely different. There was a 5km option, but I figured I may as well go for it and sign up for Challenge Distance - 14.4km. And I gotta say, this was exactly what I needed. (SPOILER ALERT: I loved it!).

I went in with little to no expectations. My goal was really to try something different and just enjoy it. I knew that I had to adjust my pace expectations because of the terrain and elevation gain. And I had been told this course was pretty technical. Coach Michelle had also instructed me to walk the hills - to conserve energy and decrease lactic acid build up. So I thought 2 hours for 14.4km would be pretty realistic, especially since this was first time trying trails.

I was ecstatic when I crossed the line comfortably 1:51:35. I was ahead of schedule, which almost never happens, and I had lots left in the tank. Plus it was good enough to take 3rd in my age-group! What?! Crazy!? That has literally never happened to me before. I was admittedly way behind the others girls (like 30 minutes), but I will take my 3rd Place water bottle and use it proudly.

My Face say "Hey Guys, I can't believe I am up here!" Tehe!

Road Running and Trail Running are completely different beasts. So I learned a lot at Chase the Coyote.

1. Getting there is part of the Adventure
Most Road Races start at an obvious intersection, local monuments, or easy to spot landmarks. Trail Racing, not so much. I don't know if it was my GPS, or what, but I definitely traveled down some interesting and narrow dirt sideroads to get to Mono Cliff Provincial Park. I also went to wrong entrance to start, and had to back track a bit to find the place.

2. Trail Running makes you feel like a Badass Forest Fairy
Maybe, that is just me. But the trail ambiance is pretty magical. You are running through fields of wild flowers along a single track. You are leaping over logs and splashing through creeks. You are scrambling up hills and bounding over rocks. The terrain and scenery is constantly changing and it definitely keeps things interesting.

3. It is very easy to Fall
I luckily did not fall, although I definitely stumbled more times than I can count. You have to have your whits about you. Especially when your legs start to get fatigued. I am notorious for not picking up my feet when I am getting tired. And the second half of the race was where I started to have the most trouble. I definitely stumbled over quite a few roots, and had to really focus on my footing and picking my feet up.

4. Leave the GPS at home.
It is basically impossible to pace yourself the way you would for a road race. This particular race had 2 major hills, mixed in with plenty of rolling terrain. There was a also a huge set of stairs (64 to be precise). And tons of rocks and roots all the way along. You have to be really mindful of your footing, and some points are easier than others to gain speed. I opted to run just based on heart rate - my goal was to target zone 4, and kick it into zone 5 at the end. Which is exactly how my run played out.

5. Trail Running has Better Snacks
There are not as many proper water stations along the course, because it is not really possible with the terrain. But this race had 3 - the last one you passed 2x so technically 4 potential water stops. And along with water and HoneyMaxx, you could also grab yourself an orange and a cookie mid-race! Yay Cookies! I opted for an orange and my gels during the race. But I was very happy to help myself to some pizza and cookies post-race. (**Take note Road Races - Pizza and Cookies trumps Plain Bagels and Bananas.**)

6. The atmosphere is awesome
I don't know why, but for some reason everyone seems so much more relaxed. Everyone comes to hangout pre and post race (I think the pizza helps). And everyone is extremely friendly. I ended up chatting with so many people out on the course.

Moral of the story: I will definitely be back. And I see more trail running in my future. Taking some time off the road was exactly what I needed. I fell back in love with Running this weekend.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 26 September 2014

Ask Me Anything - Blog Edition

So I have not done one of these in a while, and admittedly I had meant to write this one months ago. But it got a little lost in the shuffle, so I am just getting caught up. 

I frequently get asked questions about blogging, getting started, and the whole Social Media thing, so I am going to do my best to answer them.

     1. How do you get started?
So I realize this sounds ridiculous, but you kind of just start. It can be easy to get bogged down the details – I need to have the perfect layout, I need to have a big social media following, etc. But you definitely do not have to have it all figured out from Day One. 

I started with a stock template from blogger. I started my twitter account when I published my first blog post. And I just kind of muddled my way along, and may still be muddling if we are perfectly honest. I just started writing, and building a little online community, and slowly by surely the blog grew.

Gradually I tweaked things, customizing my template, adding pages, plugins, buttons, ads, etc. But that all happened in time. And I think the most important part of the blog is just creating content. You have write things so people will visit – the rest will just all come together in time.

2.       How do you get Followers/Grow your Community?
I think this is the hardest part, because it generally takes time. You have to accept that there will probably be a period of time where you are writing to no one. I remember being really excited that 26 people read my first blog post! That was HUGE! Especially because I was fairly convinced that only my Mom and Dad would read it. 

I have been writing for 3 years now, and my readership has grown, but it didn’t happen overnight. And it does take work, and that is probably one of the biggest obstacles. You have to keep working at it - I probably spend approximately 20hrs a week on my blog and social media, so it can become like a part-time gig.

Social Media (twitter, instagram, and facebook) definitely all played a part in reaching out and growing my community.  I try to be honest – I think I share the good, the bad, and the ugly. And for me honesty is BIG part of it. Social Media is really just people watching to the tenth degree. 

3.       How do you get sponsorship and make money off your blog?
I am going to let you in on a little secret; the Canadian Social Media Game versus the American Social Media game is VERY different. So I am not sure I am the one to ask about this stuff. I get paid do some free-lance work every once in a while (most of which is not actually published on my blog), but I am not exactly making crazy bank over here. (Which may be a faux-pas to admit, but it is true)

I do work with some companies, but for the most part these relationships just help make my hobbies more viable. I don’t have to spend as much money on race fees, running shoes, protein shakes, etc. Plus I get the opportunity to do some cool stuff - try a new race, meet some interesting people, go to a fun media event, etc.  I know there are bloggers out there that have made a career off of social media – but I am definitely not one of them.

I guess technically my current full-time job with Polar, all started because of my little blog. It is how I was introduced to the company, and began doing some contract work for them. Eventually my role evolved, and in January I started with them full-time. But my blog itself is really just a hobby. It something I do because I like to, and the rest is kind of just gravy.

Do you guys have any other questions for me? Social Media or Otherwise?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,