Monday, 30 September 2013

So Why a Marathon?

The Distance - 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometres.
The Race - a Marathon.

So why a marathon? 

The truth is its not really all about running.It is not even about time. And It is not just a race. It is about heart. It is about spirit. It is about perseverance. It is about life. The marathon is the very measure of our ability to endure.

I am not sure if you have noticed but life has seriously been kicking the SH*T out of me lately. The last 2 years have been hard. They have been really hard. So much harder than I had ever bargained for. So I think  It is safe to say that my spirit has been crushed more than a time or two.

Robert Frost once said "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on". And so do I.

There have been moments over the past few years where I have found myself questioning my strength, even questioning my sanity. There were moments where I felt beaten. There were moments where I felt broken. There were days when burying my head under the covers seemed like the only action I could muster. But I kept training. Even your worst run is better than no run at all. And I made a promise to myself, that even though things were hard, I would keep going. Even your worst day (and I have had a few of those) is a blessing, so I would keep moving forward.

The marathon has been that one little beacon of hope that I cling to. It is the one day that I prove to myself, to life, and to world that I will not be broken. The world can knock me down a thousand times, but I will always get back up - ALWAYS. Life can be tough, but I am tougher. And on November 3rd I will run 42.2 kilometers and I will remind myself that I am bigger, badder, and stronger than anything life can throw at me.

Lets do this!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Friday, 27 September 2013

Random Happiness Friday

I have been work hard to restore some balance to my life, but it hasn't been easy. I am still struggling to remain present and find my peace, while striving for my goals. So today I want to take a minute a focus on a few of the things that have been making me happy this week.

This week's marks 3 weeks of perfect marathon training. Despite experiencing tummy troubles the last few weeks, I have been able to log all of my necessary miles. I have been running strong and feeling great. I am not sure if this last ditch effort is going to be enough to undo the earlier struggles in my training season, but I am still going to give the next 5 weeks my all.
I think if I can get a couple long runs up and around 30-32km before I start my taper than I should be okay. Maybe not perfect, but okay.

Then there is this...

So I haven't really written much about this, mostly because I was fairly convinced this was a mistake. But I have waited almost a full month, and my swim time still stands. That my friends is a first place next to my name (even though it is spelt wrong) with a swim time of 11:12. I pretty sure this will be the first and last time I will ever see my name associated with first place, so I will take it!

I am heading up north tonight for the Tough Mudder Toronto event. I will be there with Clif Bar, so if any of you are racing this weekend please come by grab some samples and say "Hi!". Even though I will be out of town I have stocked up on yummy healthy tummy-friendly goodies to take with me. I want to make sure my training and my tummy stay on track this weekend.
Christina aka the athletarian and Barb aka Mizuno Barb have been raving about these Quest Bars. They are Gluten-Free, packed with 20g of protein, and Sugar-Free because they are sweetened with stevia. Let's just say I am officially obsessed. Where of these been all of my life? My bags are packed with quest bars, trail mix, dried mango, and kombucha. So I am ready to rock.

What are you happy about today?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

#WIAW - Parsnip and Apple Soup

Happy WIAW! Generally my tummy seems to be improving since I began working with my holistic nutritionist and starting my new diet. But for two Saturdays in a row I have experienced setbacks. These setbacks always happen when I am out and about and on the go. When I am organized and completely in control of what I eat and when I eat - I feel great. If I throw off that routine even a little bit, than it is pretty much a guarantee I will spend the rest of the night battling acid reflux and being sick to my stomach. It is not a very glamorous way to spend a Saturday night.
This weekend I am heading out of town with Clif Bar for Toronto's Tough Mudder. (<--- if you are going to be there come by the Clif Bar tent and say "Hi!"). And with an out of town trip looming I know I need to be organized to keep my tummy happy. These past two weekends have taught me two very important tummy lessons...

1. I need to be organized
Options can be limited when you are out and about. So I need to pack snacks and the things I need to have a proper meal. I also have to embrace being that annoying person at the restaurant who asks a million questions when ordering their meals. On a couple of occasions I didn't ask enough questions about how a meal was prepared and I ended up eating something I shouldn't. So meal prep and planning is a must.

2. I need to eat small meals every 3-4 hours
I need to pack lots of snacks. On both Saturdays I waited way too long in between meals. There was nothing easy for me to grab and go, so I just waited. But waiting too long, even if the meal I end up having is on point, is a recipe for disaster. Eating regularly helps keeps the acid at bay so this is a must. Again meal prep and planning is a must.

The overriding theme here is meal prep and planning is must. So I am trying to ensure I have lots of easy grab-and-go meals as well as snacks packed for this weekend's adventure. I made a batch of The Eat-Clean Diet Parsnip and Apple Soup. It was the perfect fall meal full of lots of veggies!

Parsnip and Apple Soup

1 large leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 celeriac, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 tsp sage
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp EVO

1. Add EVO and leek in a soup pot over medium-heat. Cook leek until soft. Add garlic, parsnips, celeriac, apple, sage, broth, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and partially cover to simmer until all vegetables are very soft - approx 25 minutes.

2. Use hand-held immersion blender to puree soup

3. Add almond milk, lemon juice, and blend together.

Hope you enjoy!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Zoo Run and a Lesson in Spectating

This weekend was the Canadian 10k Championship and the Toronto Zoo Run. And as shocking as it may sound, I was not running it. Weird, I know. I was tagging along as a spectator. My hubby and Dad-In-Law were both running, so I found myself in the unusual position of cheerleader. Over the past couple of years I have run quite a few races, many with early morning wake-up calls, and my family has been there to cheer me on and support my training. So this weekend it was my turn to return the favor.

The alarm went off at 5:45am, but instead of being amped with race day adrenaline I slowly dragged my butt to the coffee pot. Discovering a new found respect for the all the cheerleaders in my life. Surprisingly, when you are not racing it is harder to be excited about waking up before the sun and spending several hours in rain. Illustrating the commitment of the spectator runs deep.
The weather was pretty terrible - it was absolutely pouring. So while Jamie packed his extra clothes and running gear, I grabbed an umbrella and my rubber boots. The race was huge! And the elites were a sight to be held. If you ever wonder what it takes to get to that level just watch a group of elites warm up - it is truly inspiring. I met up with Barb and Jillian and got special VIP access with Mizuno Running. We were rooting for our Mizuno Teammate Dylan Wykes (Yeah, you know, just me - slow-poke robot-heart girl and a freakin Olympian. Not out of my league at all...)

After the race began we trudged through the zoo and bee-lined it for the finish line. I made it just as the elites were flooding the chute. Reid Coolsaet took 1st with a finishing time of 29:50 and our Mizuno Boy took 4th overall and 3rd in the series with a blazing fast time of 30:11. (*As you can see I am beaming just a little bit. I tried really hard to keep my cool while meeting Dylan, but I gotta admit it was really exciting*)

The course is a tough one with lots of hills. 180's, and uneven terrain. All made even more challenging with the rain. Jamie crossed the finish line 45:34 and Bruce finished 57:46. The boys both ran fantastic races even with all of challenges.

It was great to be able to be there and cheer them on. And even better to be able to share the sport I love with the people I love! With the added bonus of a visit to the new Panda exhibit while we were at it.
How was your weekend?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

#WIAW - Vegan Gluten-Free Pizza

One of my all time favourite foods is PIZZA. In fact I could probably eat it several times a week. It just scratches that perfect savory itch.

So when I started my new meal plan - and cut out gluten and dairy - all I could think was...

I knew it was the one food I could NOT say goodbye to forever - a girl has limits. And it turns out pizza is one of mine. So I have spent the past few months experimenting with gluten-free and diary-free alternatives, and I am sharing my winner for WIAW. It has taken several attempts, but I think I finally mastered the Vegan Gluten-Free Pizza!  It's packed with veggies and flavor so I definitely don't feel like I am missing out on much.

I experimented with a few different gluten-free crusts. But at the moment the winner is Nate's! Big plus it's also a local Canadian Company. It comes with 2 pizza crusts in the package. I found 1 crust fed myself and my husband quite well - averaging out to about 3 pieces each. I used the crust straight from the freezer, just sauced it, topped it, and baked.

Eat Clean Spinach Pesto

2 cups Spinach
1/2 a Purple Onion (diced)
10 Button Mushrooms (sliced)

These 3 are best if they are sauteed separately in a pan first with a tsp of olive oil. You just want to remove the water so the crust stays crispy.

5 Sundried Tomatoes (sliced)
Olives  (lots)
1 Pepper (diced)

I feel like the salty/savory flavor of the olives help replace the flavor of the cheese, so I am fairly heavy-handed with them. But that is obviously a personal preference. These topping can be added when you are ready to place the pizza in the oven.

Cook at 450 for approximately 10 minutes. The crust is already cooked so it doesn't require a lot of time, just long enough to heat the pizza all the way through and crust up.

Hope you enjoy!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Marathon Training Thursday - 8 weeks

Last year Running became my outlet. When times got tough - and they did - I ran. When I needed something to look forward to, it was a race. When need something to drive my recovery, it was running. When I needed to prove to myself that I was stronger and badder than anything life could throw at me - I ran. Running has become an essential part of me and my go-to coping mechanism.

So running my Marathon, was never really about running a Marathon. It is that one little beacon of hope that I have been holding on to. It has been that one thing I keep clinging to, looking forward to, and striving for.

So I am not going to give up.

I have 8 weeks until the Hamilton Road4Hope Marathon and I am going to train hard. I will continue to focus on my diet. And I am going to make time to nurture my body, mind, and spirit. I will give the next 8 weeks my all! And who knows what will happen...Its worth a shot!

Here's how this week's training is going...

Sunday Long Slow Run
I ran 20km with my hubby. I was grumpy when I woke up in the morning, and not that keen to get out and log those miles. But after a few kilometers I immediately felt better. And I ended up having one of the best runs I had had in a long time. Although Coach has informed me that I need to really need to SLOW DOWN my long slow runs. So I promised to focus on my pace a lot more during my training runs.
Monday Survivor Clinic
I coach a clinic at the local Running Room for Breast Cancer Survivors and Previvors. We are training for the Toronto CIBC Run for the Cure. A lot of the women are just getting into running, so we are working on building up their mileage. We ran/walked 3 km.

Tuesday Run
Just an easy-peasy 6km run during a study break.

Wednesday MaraPace Fartlek
My goal time for the Marathon is 4:30 - which means my goal pace 6:20. Today's run was about focusing on this pace. All my pick-ups were done at Marathon Pace and the rest of the run was long slow pace. My 10km felt good - even though it was stinkin' hot.

Thursday Yoga
I met Robyn this morning - bright and early - for 75 min of Hot Yoga. It was a great way to refocus and start the day. Plus it was nice to have some early morning girlie time.

Tomorrow I have a track workout planned, and then a rest day on tap for Saturday.
It has been a good week, a balanced week, and a focused week. I am ready to show this Marathon who's boss! Let's do this!

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Confessions of a Secret Sugar Addict

Over the past month I have started working pretty seriously with a Holistic Nutritionist. This was a pretty scary leap of faith for me - because the truth is I like Food! And on occasion I like to celebrate with yummy food - aka food that might not rank really high from a nutritionist’s stand point.

I run a lot, and if I am being really honest one of the reasons I run as much as I do is so I can eat the things I want without stressing too much. I believe in everything in moderation, so I would happily enjoy a nice glass of wine, a good piece of cheese, or a healthy serving of pasta. But after months of tummy troubles I decided it was time to take a good hard look at what I was eating, as scary as that was.
One of the questions she asked during my initial consultation was “What was my sugar intake like?”. I responded that I thought "it was pretty low". And I really and truly did. I don’t generally eat sweets or desserts. I am not a soda drinker. And I very rarely drink alcohol. So I thought my sugar pitfalls were negated.

But when processed sugar was one of the things she asked me to eliminate I was in for a huge wake up call. Sugar is in pretty much everything! And I was in serious sugar withdrawal. Sugar was creeping into my diet without me even realizing it. And I was shocked by how much I had come to rely on it for energy. So for WIAW I have a confession to make...


Here are my Top 3 Sugar-filled Offenders and the swaps I have made to ex-nay the processed sugar from my life.  

Coffee and Lattes
It is no secret that I am a coffee addict. But I had never considered the amount of sugar I was taking in along with my caffeine fix. My regular Venti Lattes from Starbucks have a whopping 41 grams of sugar – which is equivalent to 10 teaspoons. I would never put 10 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee on my own! And on a long day – filled with running, studying, and work – I might have 2 of these! GAH!

For 3 weeks I cut out caffeine all together. But now I have added it back in in moderation. Instead of my usual lattes and coffee creamer I am just having a cup of coffee with almond milk in the morning, or a homemade matcha latte also made with almond milk. (** I will on occasion use soy if I am out and about, but I try to stay away because most commercial soy products are not organic and GMO soy can be dangerous, especially for us BRCA-gals )

Fruit Juice
I very rarely had a cup of juice in the morning, but I did regularly add it to my morning smoothies. Smoothies have become a staple for me this year. And while my smoothies are always full of fresh fruits and greens, they often included a ½ cup to a cup of prepared fruit juice and water. I thought I was buying “healthy” juices, supposedly with no sugar added, just 100% juice, etc. But the sugar count in them was 27 grams a serving – aka 6 teaspoons.

Instead of using prepared juice to spruce up my morning smoothies I have started juicing a whole orange or a lemon instead. It still gives my morning smoothies some zing, but without the extra sugar.

Granola Bars and Protein Bars 
Because I am often here there and everywhere these little bars were always stuffed in my bag for an easy snack on the run. I was always snacking on granola bars when I had to go too long in between meals or grabbing protein bar for boost post-workout. But when my nutritionist assessment my food diary she said my quick fixes were adding up to 10-15 extra teaspoons of sugar a day. 

That is a lot of extra sugar for a girl who thought her intake was low. So I have given up the bars and swapped them for a handful of raw nuts or just a nice piece of fruit

Kicking my sugar habit was tough. I really had rethink a lot of my habits and easy go-to solutions. But my stomach has been improving since I started making these changes. It has forced me to take a good hard look at what I was really eating. And I think I am making changes for the better, so here goes nothing!

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Yoga: The Elusive Search for Peace

I have long found it difficult to remain present. My mind is often a busy place. And my life is frequently moving in several different directions at once. I also happen to be notorious for over-extending myself. So I regularly struggle to embrace and enjoy the moment before moving on to the next task on my to-do list. It is something I have been trying to work on.
But after unexpectedly losing my Dad last month, I have found this task even more daunting. The precarious edge between life and death on which we dwell has become forefront in my mind. And the thought that I will “just do that tomorrow” or “get to it next time” – no longer holds true for me. Because it is possible that “next time” will never come.

My mind has been racing with my life-long to-do list. And the things I thought I had plenty of time for – travel, home ownership, races, babies – all now feel very urgent. These are not small to-do list tasks either. They are not things I am going to be able to tick off tomorrow. But they are things I want for my life none-the-less. And while I work toward these goals I need to find a way to breathe and enjoy the journey.

Yoga has always been a very healing and restorative practice for me. It quiets my mind, strengths my body, and helps me restore the balance. So I have committed to taking 1-2 yoga classes a week. I treated myself to a month of unlimited yoga at my local Ashtanga Studio. And I plan intersperse classes into my regular marathon training in the form of cross training and active rest days.
I need my body strong as we move forward. And I need a way to calm all the questions and the unknowns that swirl in my head. My goal for this week is to stay present, balanced, and centered. 

Do you practice yoga? What are your goals for the week?

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A bad month, a rough year, and my Marathon struggle

Remember way back in January when I wrote a hopeful post about how fabulous this year was sure to be, including all the races I was going to run and all of the shiny new PRs I was going to get? That feels like a lifetime ago now. And I don’t feel nearly as bright and hopeful.

Life has had other plans for me this year, none of which have matched my fabulous expectations. This year was supposed to be easier than last year. It had to be. I really needed it to be. But it was not.

I have tried really hard, I mean really hard, to bounce back. But things have not been clicking. And life has not been cooperating.

The surgery was my first setback. I had worked really hard to get my body back into shape following my last trip to the OR, so going back under the knife just 11 months later was devastating. I knew my body wasn’t ready to do that all over again. I knew recovery would be hard. And I was right. My body has been struggling ever since.

The drugs they use and the trauma that these surgeries cause to the body is difficult to explain. I spent months trying to heal, and then many more months trying rebuild. A task I am confident isn’t yet complete. My left side is still weak. I have yet to regain full range of motion through my chest and shoulder. And it is that same side that always fatigues on my long run – seizing and cramping as the miles creep up.

My tummy troubles have been an accidental side-effect of all of this. Every trip to the OR means a regular dose of anesthetic, antibiotics, and pain meds – all of which do a number on your GI system. Combine a weaken GI system with a whole lot of anxiety about how all of these setbacks will affect your education, your career, your financial situation, your relationships, and your family – and you have got yourself a recipe for an ulcer.

My surgery was 7 months ago, but I am just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dealing with my stomach problems. It has been difficult to diagnose and it has been very difficult to treat. I am taking conventional ant-acid medication and currently waiting to meet with a GI specialist for a scope. But my appointment is not until December (<--- yeah you read that right). So in the meantime, after meeting with a holistic nutritionist and a month on an elimination diet, I have decided to continue to eliminate… Gluten, Diary, Processed Sugar, and Red Meat. I am also taking Glutamine, Probiotics, and Licorice Root in the form of supplements. 

Healing takes time and consistency. It probably also requires some rest and less stress – but sleep and serenity have been elusive since I lost my Dad. My world has been turned upside. And some days my grief simply overwhelms me.

All of this is to say…this year is unlikely to be my year in any sense. I am 9 weeks away from my Marathon, and with each passing day I feel my perfect sub 4:30 goal time slipping farther and farther away. I have trained hard. And I have tried really hard to stick to my schedule, but this month has been a complete write off and many weeks have been hit or miss. I don’t think this is going to be my race.

It hurts to write this, and tears are in my eyes as I hit publish, but I am trying to be realistic. I will continue to train hard for the next 9 weeks, and I will race on November 3rd. I will give that marathon my all - heart and soul - but I think there is a good chance I will fall short of my initial time goal. I will keep keeping on, it is what I do. But I think my perfect marathon will likely have to wait for another year.

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

#WIAW - Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Muffins

About a month ago I met with my Holistic Nutritionist about my tummy troubles and she recommended some changes. The changes were scary. I am not a girl who does “diets” well. And “restriction” is something that really bothers me. But the truth is after months of pain, discomfort, and an upset stomach – I was desperate. So I agreed.

I cut out a lot of things. The big 4 being – Gluten, Dairy, Processed Sugar, and Coffee. Admittedly, these 4 things had a very prominent fixture in my life and in my diet. I am a self-professed coffee queen, cheese is pretty much amazing, I heart bread, and processed sugar is in just about everything. 

The first few weeks were torture. And I struggled to get creative with my meal planning. Slowing I eased into a new routine and I felt better. The tummy troubles disappeared. And I was a convert.

FACT: I did cheat a few times while I was at home. We have a lot of Italian friends and they grieve with food – primarily lasagna.  I think we received 8 lasagnas and 3 pizzas in approximately 3 days. These dishes are pretty much my tummy’s nemesis – gluten, diary, red meat, and tomatoes. It was bad news bears, but I ate it anyways.

My little journey to cheats-ville, did remind me why I decide to make these changes, and has allowed me to test what works and what doesn’t. After experimenting I have decided to continue to avoid
        Processed Sugar
        Red Meat

Those are my new big 4. Coffee is a drug I just can’t quit. And if I keep my addiction to one cup a day, my tummy remains happy.

This is all new to me, but it has gotten easier. And I have started to discover some pretty tasty alternatives. So I wanted to start sharing some of my new recipes with you guys since it is WIAW over at Peas and Crayons. 

Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Spice Muffins
3 vegan eggs (aka 3 tbsp of flaxseeds and 6 tbsp of water blended)
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup corn flour
1 cup  gluten-free pancake mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.
2. Blend the “eggs” till frothy, and add the oil; whisk to combine. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk well. Add the honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and Pumpkin Pie Spice and whisk to combine.
3. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together the corn flour, Pancake mix, baking powder, and sea salt.
4. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, add the dry ingredients into the wet; and stir by hand just enough to make a smooth batter. Portion into twelve muffin cups.
5. Bake on a center rack in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or so, until the muffins are firm to the touch and golden.

*Note: because there are no preservatives, these muffins will turn very quickly. So it is best to store them in the freezer and defrost when you are ready to eat. I usually microwave 2 muffins for about 40 seconds in the morning and they are ready to go.*

Hope you all enjoy!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,