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,

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#WIAW - Beet Red Velvet Cake

It is WIAW and the kitchen experiments continue over here at the Bishops. And since I am gunning for "Wife of the Year", I have been baking treats to keep the husband fueled during the peak weeks of his marathon training (it is strange how the roles are reversed right now).

We regularly joke, that Jamie let's me try a sport/distance first, and then he learns from all of my mistakes. And the truth is, looking back, my first marathon was one big lesson in "What NOT To-Do".
  • My body was not ready - I don't recommend running your first marathon 7 months after a double mastectomy. 42.2km is a long way, so you want your body to be at its best before you tackle that kind of distance. 
  • I over-trained - I ran way too many miles and I ran all of those miles hard. I never took an easy run, and as a result I was burnt out before I set foot on that starting line. 
  • I went out at a way faster pace than I had practiced, because I thought the race day adrenalin would just carry me through. (Hint: that is not how that works) 
  • And I fueled badly. I didn't adjust my calorie intake enough to compensate for the intensity of peak week.
But since we have learned some lessons along the way, we are fueling differently around here. There’s been a lot of hype around beetroot juice lately. That’s because a few recent studies have shown that daily consumption of beetroot juice reduces the oxygen cost of exercise and increases high-intensity exercise tolerance. Making this recipe perfect for budding endurance runners.
Beet Red Velvet Cake

3 eggs
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup of shredded beets (cooked 1 beet is enough)
1/2 cup coffee
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cup coconut flour
2/3 cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Boil Beet in water for about an hour. Peels and grate.
2. Preheat oven to 350F and coat pan with coconut oil.
3. Blend coconut oil, sugar, and eggs until mixture is fluffy.
4. In a separate bowl stir milk with beets, coffee, lemon juice, and vanilla. Then add flour, cocoa, baking power, baking soda, and salt.
5. Combine both mixtures together gradually. The batter should be smooth, but the coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture, so if it looks too dry add a little extra coconut oil and milk to smooth it out. Place finished batter in pan.
6. Bake for 60 minutes.
7. Let cake cool before removing from the pan.
8. You can serve it plain,or add a simple vanilla icing to top it off.

Hope you guys enjoy!
Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chase the Coyote

While I was out in Vancouver this summer I fell in love with trail running. The scenery is beautiful (<---- exhibit A). And compared to road running the experience is completely different. So on a whim I signed up for a trail race. I going to run the 14km Chase the Coyote on Saturday.

When you first start running, every race is a victory. You are hitting new distances. You are getting stronger. You are getting faster. And every race is a Personal Best.

The momentum is addicting. But the longer you run, the harder it is to hold on to that. You start becoming addicted to the numbers - "What's my Pace? What's my Time?" And those numbers start to dictate how you feel about your training and your races. You stop enjoying the experience.

At least that has been something I have struggled with this year. If I am not getting faster and I am not going farther - then I am not succeeding.

But the truth is, running is about more than that. And I know it. So it was time for a change - something different to shake-up my perspective and challenge me in a different way.

Enter Trail Running. 

So first of all, the pacing is completely different. Because of the terrain and the changes in elevation you can not pace yourself the way you would for a road race. Your pace has to be slower to manage the slopes and the uneven footing. It is also impossible to compare distances/results because each race will be different - different elevation gains, different terrain, different routes - all mean different challenges.

Those changes and challenges take the numbers out of it. I have never run a race with hills like this or with this type of elevation change. So I have no expectations going into Saturday's race. I am just planning to run to feel (and heart rate of course). And to enjoy the process! I will keep you guys posted.

Have your ever tried trail racing? Do you have any tips and tricks for me?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

#WIAW - Sage Onion Soup

Last week was the perfect week for me. It was quieter than usual, so I was able to breathe, relax, and just get caught up on a few extra things. You always know I am relaxed when I spend lots of time in the kitchen. I love to cook, but more often than not, it is a scramble to just get something on the table, before you move on to the next thing. So last week's relaxed pace meant I had some extra time to experiment and enjoy the process.

Even though it is still technically summer, it does not really feel like it here in Toronto. It has been chilly. I know I needed to get out my sweaters and my cold weather running tights. So last week I decided to dust off my soup-making skills. It was the perfect way to warm up at the end of the day after a chilly run.

My husband said this is the one of best meals I have ever made, which is pretty high praise, because he doesn't often sugar-coat it when he doesn't like my kitchen experiments. So this one is definitely a winner and perfect for this week's WIAW. I know we will be placing it one our regular meal rotation. I hope you like it as much as we do.

Sage Onion Soup

2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of EVO
a handful of sage leaves
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
4 shallots, chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 Spanish, chopped
3 cups of beef stock - you can make your own, or if you are lazy like me, you can just buy pre-made stock
slices of crusty bread and cheddar cheese to garnish

1. Put butter, olive oil, sage, and garlic in large non-stick pan.
2. Add onions and shallots, season with salt and lots of black pepper. Stir, and place a lide on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook slowly on low-medium heat for 50 minutes.
3. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes, when your onions are golden and silky, add the stock. Bring the stock to a boil, and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4. Toast your bread, and place on top of the pre-portioned bowls of soup. Top the toast with a slice of cheddar cheese, and broil on high for 1 minute.
5. And you are ready to serve.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A Marathon Decision and a Peaceful Place

Last year, right around this time, I did I shoot with the lovely Alyssa Wodabek. We both got busy, and the pictures kind of got lost in the shuffle. So when she sent me these last week I struck by two things...
1. I have come a long way, from where I was in these photos
2. Running is and always has been my peaceful happy place.

At this point last year, I was deep in the throws of greif. I had just lost my Dad a few short weeks before. I was stressed. I was scrambling to squeeze in as much work as possible to make up for the time I had taken off. I was burning the candle at both ends to keep up with my school work. And I was training for my marathon.

I was emotionally exhausted. I was physically drained. And I felt so lost.

I remember so clearly how painful this moment in my life was. But when I look at these photos, I see so much joy. That is the power of the run.

Running is and always has been my peaceful happy place. So when I set out to do my long run on Sunday, that was forefront in my mind.

I set out with my husband. I had had a great week. I had visited with friends. I had a chance to get caught up on work and a few outstanding life things I had been putting off. I had time to bake. I finished the book I was reading. And I had done some running - just no crazy mileage and no intense speed work. I felt good. I felt relaxed. I felt balanced.

We chatted. We ran. And before I knew it we were at 16km. The weather was perfect. I felt energized. But 20km just felt like enough. Jamie kept running, he had another 8km to do. But I hopped off to grab a coffee and a cookie, and to to take the subway home.

I found my peaceful happy place again. I felt that joy. And at this moment in my life, that is really all I am looking for.

I am going to run the Half in October.
It is what my body needs. But I think it is also just what I need right now.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Let's Talk Food

Over the past couple of months I have been getting quite a few questions about food and my diet, and it's WIAW so let's talk food shall we?!

If you have been following along than you know that I struggled with stomach problems for the better part of last year. And for about 5 months, while waiting to have a scope done, I worked with a nutritionist and followed a strict Elimination Diet. The elimination diet was a way for me to manage my stomach and address any potential food allergies while I waited for more definitive answers. The scope revealed a Hiatal Hernia, which makes you more susceptible to acid reflux, but no serious food allergies.
Food from my recent trip to Vancouver

Since my scope last fall I have added all of the eliminated foods back into my regular diet. And here is what I have learned...

1. The majority of my stomach problems are Stress Related.
I think eating a lot of bad things can obviously irritate your stomach, especially if you have an allergy, but for me most of my stomach problems stem from stress. Last year was an extremely stressful year. And I believe that, more than anything else, contributed to my stomach problems. It has been especially apparent this year, when stress has ebbed and flowed, and stomach problems have coincided.

2. Elimination Diets Work
While the elimination diet can feel restrictive it does eliminate the vast majority of stomach irritants from your routine. And regardless of source of your stomach issues I think it would have an impact. In the end I was not diagnosed with a food allergy, so eliminating those foods was not necessary from that stand point. But last year I was not in a position to lower my stress levels either, so modifying my diet helped me ensure that I was doing everything in my power to alleviate symptoms and give my stomach a chance to heal.

3. I can Eat Anything in Moderation
I had gotten to the point last fall, where if my Gastro Doc said I had to continue to eat the way I was, I would have been okay with it. I discovered a lot of great recipes and I found a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free options. (I actually still eat a lot of them in my regular diet because I like the way they taste). And I was just happy to be feeling good.

That being said Cheese is good! Wine is good! Candy is yummy! And I really like Chicken Wings and Pizza. So I was not sad to be reintroduced to my old friends! I can't eat them in excess, but all foods are A-okay in moderation.

4. Eating Intuitively Works Best for Me
I think as adults our feelings about food can become a little convoluted. And I will freely admit that I struggled for a long time with my relationship with food. Either eating too much and using it as comfort. Or trying to be too restrictive to lose weight or to focus on athletic performance. Neither is healthy or sustainable. So at this point I don't really fuss that much about what I eat. I don't count calories. I don't track macros. I don't follow a meal plan. And nothing is off limits.

I have spent a lot time over the past couple of years trying LABEL my diet and to fit into a prescribed bubble. I have tried a lot of things - vegetarian, paleo, pescatarian, gluten-free, vegan - and everything in between. But to be honest I feel most balanced, happy, and healthy when I eat intuitively. And my happy-healthy-intuitive diet generally means focusing on...

Eating whole-foods, 70% of which is plant-based, but does include some meat and limited diary, all while enjoying treats and delicious-ness when my body and soul craves it

It is not complicated.  There is no real label for this. And while I know very little about nutrition, I know that this is what works best for me. I will continue to strive to learn more and incorporate healthy changes as my journey progresses. But I will strive to do all of that free from dietary labels.

Kinda boring, and maybe not the answer some folks were looking for, but that's kind of it.

Do you follow a specific diet? Do you have any food-related questions for me?

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail

Monday, 8 September 2014

Where I am right now...

Photo Credit Alyssa Wodabek

So I have spent the last few weeks trying to figure out Where I am Right Now.
  • Where am I mentally? 
  • Where am I physically? 
  • Where am I life-wise?
  •  And what do I really want? 
These are questions I have been debating for months. Last week I filled you in on some of things that I have dealing with this summer. And I confess that a huge part of my training struggle this year has been mental.

But I also revealed that my upcoming surgery didn't come as a huge surprise. And that is because things have not exactly been clicking either - typically on my long runs. During my long runs (usually 25+km) I have been struggling with swelling on the left side, some bruising, and just some general discomfort.

I am confident nothing disastrous will happen if I continue to train and run my Marathon. Primarily, because my cardio team gave me the green light. Cardiologists are notoriously conservative, especially when it comes to patients with robot hearts running marathons. Endurance Sports are typically things they are not very keen on. So regardless of my love of distance running, they would be more likely to advise against it, than they would be to support it.

But let's be honest and say that running a Marathon can be painful even if you are at full strength, so does it really make sense to take it on knowing I am not at my best? That is the big question.

I am torn. I don't want to give up, just to play it safe. But I also don't want to go out there and suffer through it, just to say I can suffer through it. (**been there done that**).

So I have decided to test the waters this weekend with one more long run.

I am going to run 26km with bits and pieces at race pace to see how I feel. This run is going to tell me Where I am. If the run goes well and I feel good, than the Marathon is go. If the run is bad and I have to battle through it, than I will drop down to the half.

I think at this point it just makes sense to train smart, take care of my body, and focus on health.
So we shall what the long run decides...
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 5 September 2014

5 Fabulous Things Friday

It is Friday, which means we are only hours away from enjoying another fabulous weekend. And I know I am definitely looking forward to it. So to celebrate I am sharing a few of my favourite fabulous things. I hope you all are having a great week!
1. Vancouver
It has been over 15 years since I was last on the West Coast, and I gotta say, I can see what all the fuss is about. It is absolutely gorgeous. You are constantly surrounded by mountains, the ocean, and amazing vistas.  And it is basically a Running Paradise! I was up bright and early every morning (because of the jet lag) so I would lace up my sneakers and run 5-10km along the Seawall. It was the best way to start the day. Plus the change of scenery definitely helped shake off some of the motivational cobwebs.
2. Internet Friends
Despite the fact that this may make me sound like a complete Wackadoo, I have met some amazing people from my computer. It is probably the best part of blogging. Every single person I saw this week while in Vancouver were all people I have met from this little blog – some old, some new, but all AWESOME. I had dinner dates, workout buddies, and great conversations all week. (*And apparently everyone who lives in Vancouver is tall...or I am just a midget...whatever...*)

The summer is winding down, but we still have a little more time to squeeze in some time by the lake. Finding a swimsuit is always a struggle. Let’s be honest, my chest is pretty mangled with scars, and robot hearts, and the whole double mastectomy thing. Which is not so noticeable in a sweater, but it is a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to bikinis. Enter Leonisa Swimwear, their suits are really cute and the bandeau style top is the right cut to help make me confident when hitting the beach.

4. HipS-sister
I have actually been using this a ton during my long runs lately. It has been humid around here the last few months, which means I have rocking shorts and tanks for all my training runs. The only problem is that is these things do not have a lot of pocket/storage space. Enter HipS-sister! It has a pocket in the front and the back, and it is really comfortable! It has be perfect for storing my phone, stocking gels, and even holding some cash for a post-run treat. It has been really handy!
      5. Wave Hitogamis
These are fast becoming one of my new favs and I am obsessed with the Green. I have been loving the Mizuno Hitogami for my shorter races and speed work. They are a traditional Japanese racing flat with a sleek low-slung ride. They are light (just 6.2 oz) and they have a really comfortable and flexible support. Plus I think the bright green helps you channel your inner speed demon. The Hitogamis and the Sayonaras are my go-to training duo!

Hope your Friday is Fabulous!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Conquering the Grind

The last time I visited British Columbia I was 13 years old, and on a West Coast family Vacation. We spent a lot of time checking out the mountains, but most of our sight-seeing was done from a gondola. I was convinced that we could easily ascend one of these peaks by foot, and get a real taste for the landscape. But my parents insisted that this was easier said than done, and informed me that we would not being doing that. I was desperate to climb one of the peaks none-the-less, and spent the whole 2 weeks we were visiting scheming and sizing up the mountains that surrounded us.

Fast forward 16 years, and I finally made it back to Vancouver. But a lot has happened in the mean time, including developing a pretty serious phobia of hills, let alone mountains. Regardless, I was determined to finish this unfinished business. So I set off to tackle the infamous Grouse Grind.
The Grind is a 2.9km trail with 2800 feet of elevation. Distance-wise it is not long, but holy-moley is it steep. 

Anyone who has ever run with me knows I hate hills and it all stems from my first summer as a runner. While tackling one of the hills on my regular running route, my heart rate reached my max-threshold and my defibrillator fired. It hurt like a Mother-Fucker, and it also scared the shit out of me. (I have never run without my Polar since that day). 

And while I have run for over 10 years without any problems, I still feel a certain amount of anxiety when I approach a hill. I shy away from hill repeats, and I often chose to take a walk break if I encounter a good size incline. Deep down I know I don’t need to, but this fear of hills is one I have struggled to shake.
So Grouse Grind was going to be my hill, or mountain, depending on how you look at it. I was going to climb that beast as fast as I could, and get rid of this phobia once and for all.

I arrived at the base Tuesday night after work. It was hot, but I was excited. I started out at a comfortable jog, but that only lasted for about 5 mins. The elevation is no joke, and the “steps” are not built for short legs. I tried to maintain a steady pace, but I was breathing hard in no time, and barely covered any ground.

When I made to the half point I felt exhausted! How could this only be half way? And the terrain was getting steeper. The guy who rented me my rental car had told me that 45 mins was a competitive time, so secretly I was aiming for that. But there were points in the second half that I literally had to scramble up rocks, so I knew 45 minutes was not going to happen. I was sweating like crazy and heart rate was high even though I was barely moving faster than a slow walk.

1:01:57 later I made it to the top! The views were amazing, and I was absolutely elated! It was hard. It was scary. It was way outside my comfort zone. But I did it. And it was a welcome reminder of how far I come.

Have you ever tackled the Grind?
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,