Thursday, 30 January 2014

Race Recap: Robbie Burns 8km

So kind of unexpectedly and rather last minute I got a bib for the Robbie Burns 8km in Burlington this past Sunday. I have never run an 8km before and I was not exactly training for a short fast race - so I wasn't really sure what to expect.

I pow-wowed with my coach Michelle, and she suggested I use the run as a way to gauge where I am, kind of like a time-trial. This race was meant to be a way to check in and gain some much needed training perspective as we move forward into the winter/spring race season.

I woke up early and ate my usual pre-race breakfast (sesame seed bagel and peanut butter) and then hopped in to car to head down to Burlington. I picked up my race bib and then met up with coach Michelle and a whole host of Insta-Friends (** waves furiously at the screen Hi Mike! Hi Laura! Hi Nancy! **). We milled around for a little bit and listened to the bag-pipping group. I ate a banana and checked my bag. And before I knew it was time to squeeze in a quick warm-up and head out to the start line.

Let me just say that the weather was obnoxiously cold. It was -15C, and felt like -20C. There was also some serious wind happening. So my feet were numb to start the race, and breathing was also slightly painful. Luckily the streets were clear, and at 9:30AM we were off.

I made the mistake of lining up too far back. The start line was informal, so I placed myself kind of in the middle of the crowd, thinking my placement seemed about right. But when we started I found myself doing a fair bit of bobbing and weaving for the first couple of kms. I eventually found my pace and found some space and just went ticking along. Since this was a time-trial I tried to keep track of my kilometer splits for coach to look at an analyze post-race. My first 4km were pretty consistent

1km - 5:36
2km - 5:51
3km - ??? for some reason my watch missed this one
4km - 5:42

I felt good moving into the second half of my race. Michelle suggested that I try to push the pace here, so my goal was to start picking up the pace a bit. It was moderately successful until I hit the lake front. Once I started running across the lake I found I was struggling more with my breathing - likely complicated by the wind. I started coughing and struggled to catch my breath. I kind of stayed on pace, but lost it a bit. I finished strong though.

5km - 5:23
6km - 5:50
7km - 5:44
8km - 5:04

I finished 45:47, which is about what I expected. As always, I would have been happier if I was slightly faster, but given the weather and my lack of prep for this one I was generally pretty happy with my time. Coach said she was really happy with my race performance. And after reviewing my data, we have a pretty good indication of where I am fitness-wise. So here is what we learned from today's 8km race...
  • I was able to run a comfortable, smart race, but the fact that I was able to drop the hammer in the final kilometer probably says I could have put out a stronger effort sooner. There was more in the tank.
  • I was able to maintain my fitness over the off-season/holidays - WIN.
  • My form is improving. I was less tense on the course today and my stride was a lot more relaxed.
  • My pace is creeping closer to my half marathon goal pace, and I am on track training wise.
  • It is time to increase my mileage and push harder.
Not too shabby for a Sunday morning right?! Plus we got hot chocolate and cookies post-race, along with this hilarious medal and a cozy pair of plaid PJ pants as race swag. I am loving the PJ race swag! LOVING IT!
All and all I would say that was a pretty successful start to the 2014 Race Season.
What is your favourite kind of race swag? Have you ever done a time-trial?
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

#WIAW - Plant Fusion Giveaway

It is WIAW and I mentioned last week that one of the best parts of my Vegan Challenge was experimenting with new recipes and trying new products. And one of my latest and greatest discoveries was Plant Fusion.

Shakes and Smoothies are one of my training staples. I often reach for a smoothie post-workout as a quick easy way to get good dose of nutrition and protein to aid in recovery after a tough training session. And I personally find plant-based protein a lot easier to digest. So I was excited to try the Plant Fusion samples they sent me.

Admittedly I was kind of skeptical about them to start. The nutritional information was packed with a whole lot of goodness - including 21g of protein per serving - so I immediately assumed that they would be chalky and kind of gross. But the Cookies N' Cream and Chocolate Raspberry grabbed my attention right away, and they did not disappoint! I mixed them up with 2/3 water and 1/3 almond milk and they were delicious all on their own. The texture was also incredibly smooth, something I was definitely not expecting. And it is free of all major allergens including - diary, soy, gluten, eggs, and nuts - making it perfect for anyone with sensitivities or serious allergies.

Needless to say I was impressed. So impressed that I decided to share! I actually have a 1lb bottle of Plant Fusion to Giveaway to one of you! And you get to pick any flavor you want!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Which flavor are you most excited to try? What is your favourite post-workout snack?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 27 January 2014

#Bestfoot Link Up + The Long Game

This week I am linking up with Amanda from Run to the Finish and Erica from The Sweet Life for the #Bestfoot Link Up. We are going to be hashtagging #Bestfoot like crazy on Instagram and Twitter, and we are also going to be linking up every Monday to share our training, our triumphs, and stay accountable.

Admittedly, I have been battling some serious self-doubt and a whole lot of negative self-talk to start the new year. I have big plans, lofty goals, and I was expecting big changes. So when I spent the first weeks struggling with a nasty cold, poor weather conditions, and adjusting to my new heavier multi-sport training load - I got down on myself.

I started to question if I was strong enough or disciplined enough to make this half ironman happen. I berated myself for my poor work ethic and my lack of drive. I started comparing my training and my ability to others, and questioning if I could measure up. I was angry at myself for allowing excuses like a cold, a new job, and the weather derail my training. And I was frustrated with my lack of progress.

After a few frustrating weeks, I had long heart to heart with my coach. She asked me to pause, relax, and rethink. We are focused on The Long Game. The training schedule I am tackling is actually over 10 months. So I cannot sweat every single detail. I was feeling defeated after one hard run. I was stressing over one less than stellar week. Over the course of my training those days are gonna happen.

Training is going to ebb and flow. But you have to focus on progress not perfection. And progress takes time. Progress means that you tough out those bad days, dust yourself off, and keep going. You put your #Bestfoot forward each and every day, even when those days are kind of tough!

Here is how last week's training went...

Monday: 75 minute Hot Yoga Class.
My back needed a serious stretch and it was the perfect way to beat the cold.
Tuesday: 9km Tempo Run with my Run Club.
2km warm-up, 5km at 5:15-5:35km/pace, and 2 km cool-down.
Wednesday - Rest Day.
I had a long day scheduled at work, so the workout was not happening.
Thursday - 8km Treadmill Run at a steady 6:00km/pace
Friday - 60 Ride and 20 minute core/weight training session.
Did 60 minutes on my Indoor Bike Trainer in the Big Gears, and then worked on my core and upper body.
Saturday - Rest Day
Sunday - Robbie Burns 8km 
I finished 45:47. Full race recap coming soon!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

An Impromptu Race and A Kick in the Pants

So kind of unexpectedly and rather last minute I got a bib for the Robbie Burns 8km in Burlington this Sunday. And I think this just might be the kick in the pants I need.

I was not planning on racing this soon in the new year, but I have been struggling to find my training mojo this winter. I was sick at the beginning of the month, and the weather has been straight up ridiculous! The temperature was a whopping -26C again this week, and I needed approximately 3 layers of everything to brave the streets with my run club on Tuesday. Plus the combination of the snow and ice have really been doing a number on my back. This whole Polar Vortex has really killing my vibe.

So I think this race will be a great way to check in, and give me some much needed training perspective. I have been running consisently over holidays and into the New Year, but I have not exactly been training.

We are super serious hardcore athletes
This past Tuesday was the first time in months that I have done any speed work. In part because the weather and road conditions have been seriously lack luster, and I was trying to avoid breaking an ankle. And in part because all my races and events seemed far away, so I was coasting. Luckily training with my Run Club has helped get me working again, despite these ridiculous temperatures. Having a group of equally crazy people willing to slog it out in this weather has made my workouts more bearable. And it also helped remind me that I need to get my butt back into gear, even if this weather makes me cranky.

I know I have a lot of work to do to hit all my goals for 2014 so this race will be a good indicator of where I stand and where I need to go. I think it would be realistic finish 45:00 minutes or better, so that is what I am aiming for, emphasis on the better. One of my goals this year is to work on increasing my speed and strength, so this race will give me a solid jumping off point. I have not raced since my Marathon in November so this will be great way to see where my fitness stands and assess where I need to go from here.

EEEEP! Wish me luck!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

#WIAW - An Early End to My Vegan Challenge

It is WIAW and after 3 weeks of my vegan challenge I faced a dilemma. I had already decided that going vegan long-term was not going to be something that worked for me. I also faced a weekend of socializing where I was guaranteed little to nothing to eat matching my new vegan perimeters. So I had 2 options...

1. Continue the challenge for the final week on principle, or
2. Call it quits and enjoy the weekend, because my long-term decision was already made.

I went back and forth about this, we even had quite a serious debate happening on Facebook, but in the end I opted for Chicken Wings.

And as crazy as it is to say this about chicken wings, I felt 100x better. So let's break down my vegan challenge shall we? What worked? What didn't? And all the rest in between?

Why did I do the Vegan Challenge in the first place?
So I am not sure if you have noticed, but I have not exactly been blessed in the whole "rocking body, pure-raw talent" department. And while I have come a long way when it comes to embracing my many Darwinian Failings, there is a very loud type-A voice that lives inside my head that wants to be competitive. And that loud voice knows I can only truly make progress through some hard-ass work and tenacity. So in truth I was looking for an edge. I was hoping that going vegan would help me tap into some unknown resource of power, strength, and endurance.

What worked?
So one of the amazing things about taking your diet and totally turning it upside down, is it helps you take a good hard look at what works and what doesn't. It also asks you to get creative, try new things, incorporate new recipes, and just generally do things a little differently.

I tried a lot of new things over the last 3 weeks. I discovered some fantastic new recipes that will now be staples in my weekly meal plans. I tried some different products and new ingredients that I never even knew existed. I discovered new fueling techniques. And just generally gave my diet a good solid once over. All of which has helped me move forward better educated and with a better understanding of what works for me and my body.

What didn't work?
There are actually three reasons I don't think going vegan worked for me. The first reason is a combination of the increased fiber intake and my hiatal hernia. So it sounds confusing because fiber is generally thought of as a good thing because of its filling slow-burning effects. But the excess fiber actually causes acid reflux, nausea, and bloating with a hiatal hernia. The hernia already slows down digestion, and then excess fiber makes it even slower, making me much more prone to the side-effects I mentioned.

The second reason is portion size. Vegan meals are extremely nutrient dense, but not exactly calorie dense. You need to take in a lot more food to reach your necessary calorie-intake. I have generally be sticking to smaller more frequent meals to manage the symptoms of my hiatal hernia. So I found the larger portion-sizes counter-intuitive and counter-productive. I was really struggling with my energy last week, and I think that had a lot to do with not being able to take in enough calories to make this diet viable.

The third and final reason is restriction. I felt very restricted on this diet, especially in social situations. I felt panicked about eating out and finding something that met my dietary requirements - and that is not something I could imagine experiencing long-term. Restriction is idea I dislike, especially when it becomes restriction for restriction's sake. I perfer to eat intuitively and enjoy food when I want to enjoy it. I am willing to make changes and sacrifices if it will be better my health and over all well-being. But I am not will to modify my diet just because. And by the end of week 3 that is how I felt - like I was doing it just because, like I had to stick it out because I said I would do this for 4 weeks. So I opted to call it a day.

Where do I stand on the diet front?
So Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean wrote an amazing post that actually sums up a lot of my feelings on this subject. 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, 70-80% of which are plant-based, but does include some meat and very limited diary, all while enjoying treats and delicious-ness when my body and soul craves it
It is not complicated. I don't count calories or macros. 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.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 19 January 2014

14 Goals for 2014

So I am a little late to the resolution-party. But I figure it is still January, so it is still perfectly acceptable to post my long lengthy list of goals for 2014. And as plot-twist, I happen to have 14 of them. Uh, fancy that?!

Since there are a lot of goals, I decided to break them down into 4 categories - Health and Wellness, School and Work, Home Life, and Personal Development. This post admittedly got a little out of hand, so feel free to skim/ just look at the highlights.

Health and Wellness
1. Finish my first 70.3
This is my big health and wellness goal this year. I will be racing the Ironman 70.3 Muskoka on September 7th. I realize I have lots of time to train, but 70.3 is a long way! And I am hoping to finished in 6:30 or better.

2. Run a sub-2 Half Marathon
This goal ties into my first goal. I have always been an endurance junkie, but I am not exactly a speed demon. In order to be able to make my half ironman time goal a reality I am going to need to get stronger and faster. I ran scotiabank half last year in 2:10:43 without racing, so I hoping to squeak closer and closer to the 2 hour mark as the season progresses. I will gladly accept 1:59:59.

3. Run Marathon #3
So originally another marathon was not on my radar for this year, but I was asked to run as a Digital Champion for Canadian Run Series. And I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. I am looking forward to going back to the course where I ran my first marathon, and finally crossing that finish line happy, healthy, and strong.

4. Practice more Yoga 
Yoga has always had a special place it my heart, it is actually what helped me get back into fitness after my first set of medical misadventures. But this summer has reminded me how healing and restorative my practice is, something I definitely needed in 2013. So my goal is to try to incorporate yoga more regularly into my training plan as a way to balance, focus, and de-stress.

5. Eat Well
I feel like I learned a lot of nutrition and fueling in 2013, and I am still just trying to muddle it all out. It is definitely something I want to continue to focus on. Food is a huge part of the training puzzle, so I want to try to continue to try to figure out what works for me. (*With room for a few treat of course! Hello post-race Chicken Wings!*)

School and Work
6. Finish my Psychology Degree
This has been long been a labor of love and sacrifice. And I am so incredibly close to having this little piece of paper in my hand, so this year I will finalize all the requirements for my degree and officially graduate.

7. Go Back To Work  Full-Time
So as you know, this has already happened. And I could not be more excited about the journey life has taken me on. I left my full-time job shortly after my double mastectomy to fast-track my academic plans, not knowing all that 2013 had in store for me. I have been working 2, sometimes 3 part-time jobs, and busting my booty to make it all work. But with my degree in its final stages, it was time to get back to work and restore the balance.

Home Life
8. Go on Vacation
So if ever I have felt I have earned a vacation, it is now! The hubby and I have agreed that before we take the plunge into home-ownership and parenthood, we could use a year that is just ours. And "our year" includes a romantic European vacation. Destination still not 100% decided, but the vaca is happening!

9. Be a Better Wife and Partner
Now I know what you are thinking with this one, but it is true. I wish I could tell you all that through all the ups and downs of the last 2 year - I have been a glowing beacon of strength and general amazing-ness. But that would be one enormous lie. Granted it is not for lack of trying. But I have been in survival-mode, battling a whole lot of stress and grief. Meaning that I have not always had the time or the patience to be able to show my hubby how much I appreciate him. It is something that has weighed heavy on my mind in 2013, and something I definitely plan to change in 2014.

10. Save for a House
So this is really a goal for late 2015, but I want to work on putting together a little nest egg to make this dream a reality in the not so distant future.

11. Spend more time with Friends and Family
Because of my crazy schedule over the past few years, this has been a struggle. I worked a lot of nights. I also often worked anywhere from 40-60 hours with night class and papers to boot. My overly ambitious schedule has meant that I have had to sacrifice a lot of my down time. And often left me guilt-riddled and stressed when I did try to find the time. So this year one of big goals is learning how to slow down and make lots of time for all of the people that I love.

Growth and Development

12. Be Present
This is not something I am good at. More often than not, I bite off more than I chew - which means I am usually running around like a chicken with its head cut off multitasking up a storm. I am constantly worrying about the next task on my to-do list, rather than just enjoying the moment. This year I am going to learn how to embrace the moment

13. Accept Progress not Perfection
It is no secret that I have seriously strong Type-A tendencies. But it is exactly that voice that rings loud and proud in my ear expecting more - always more. I have made a lot of progress in this department. And slowly, ever so slowly, I am starting to accept that not everything can be perfect and under control at all times. That being said, the voice is still there. I still battle those negative words on a semi-regular basis. So this year I working on embracing progress without expecting perfection.

14. Unplug More
I am pretty obsessed with my phone. It is generally glued to my hand. I am constantly snapping pictures, liking things on instagram, answering emails, reading blogs, and the like. I know that it can drive my family nuts. So I am going to work on unplugging more often. Some days instagram and emails will have to wait.

So those are my goals - in an extremely long winded fashion.
What are your goals for 2014?
Love you Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A New Year and A New Job

If I could tell my younger self one thing, I think this would be it. This quote has definitely described the last few years, and probably sums up most of my life as a twenty-something.

I would not say that the last few years have gone according to plan, but I think they have lead me to the place I was meant to be.

I don't talk about the early stages of my diagnosis very often, but the first chapter of my journey was hard. The initial phase of a cardiac diagnosis is dark, stressful, and uncertain. The goal in those early stages is just to get you stabilized. The cardio team wants to ensure that your your condition is managed, and in doing so, you are treated very delicately. There is no talk of adventure. There is no great conversation about the full and active life you will lead when things are all said and done. The expectations are low, and this was a incredibly hard for me. I am generally a dreamer and a do-er, so I did not take kindly to this newly imposed limitation. This was not the life I had envisioned for myself, and I lost myself for a while in the darkness of my diagnosis.

For me, stable was not enough. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be strong. And more than anything, I did not want to be defined by my diagnosis.

It took time, but I stated to make changes to my lifestyle, and slowly but surely my life began to change. If I took care of my body, then my body would take care of me. My body became healthier. My heart got stronger. And I found myself again while out on a run - a run that would never have been possible for me without my trusty little FT2 Polar Heart Rate Monitor. That little FT2 changed my life. It opened up a world I thought was closed to me forever, and made this journey possible.

I ran to lose weight. Then I ran to to train, to hit new distances, to get stronger, and be healthier. I ran through the ups and downs of the last few years. I ran to remind myself that even though I felt broken, I was not beaten. I just kept training. I just kept running. Even my 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. Running helped remind me that even my worst day (and I have had a few of those) is a blessing, so I would keep moving forward. I discovered a love of fitness and cherished my new found health. My heart condition did not limit me, it drove me push my boundaries.

This was not the life I had imagined when this journey began, but it is one that I am so incredibly grateful for. So to be able to say, that I now work for the company that made this wonderful, crazy, beautiful life of mine possible, is a dream come true. I started working for Polar Canada full-time this month, and I absolutely love it! Today it is my job to share the healing power of a run and the benefits of Heart Rate Training. Today I get to work for a company that is as enthusiast about heart health and fitness as I am. And I could not be more excited.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

#WIAW - Vegan Challenge and Spelt Berries

It is WIAW and I am on the 3rd week of my Vegan Challenge. So how are things going? How am I feeling? Do I think I will continue to be vegan after the month is up? I have been getting lots of questions, so let me break it down for you.

How are things going?
So admittedly the first week was rough. I had no clever meal ideas. I had to suffer through some painful meals out on the town. I also tortured myself by starting this challenge pre-New Year's Eve. There was cheese EVERYWHERE - like literally everywhere. Like a cheese dish in every room. And I was feeling pretty angsty about it.

But last week I started to settle into a groove. I made a trip to Whole Foods - which is maybe one of my most favourite places on earth - and stocked up. I also got sent some vegan inspiration courtesy of some awesome internet friends (**Hi Cara and @Runalicious! Waves frantically at her computer screen**). And I ended up making some pretty yummy, nutrient dense, awesome vegan things. I think I have found my groove a bit in the kitchen department.

How am I feeling?
Well that is kind of the tricky thing, isn't it? I don't really feel all that different. Now I don't know if I was expecting too much, but everyone was telling me that I was going to feel AMAZING. And well... it hasn't happened yet. If anything my stomach has been slightly rebellious during this whole process. And I know there is a certain amount of transition required, but I am 17 days in and things just seem status quo. I basically feel the same, but with less food options.

What's my vegan forecast?
Christmas-indulging aside I think I generally eat pretty well. Yes meat was part of my diet, but in small quantities. And I would say 70-80% of my diet was already plant-based. I also spent a lot of time dealing with tummy issues and dietary changes in 2013, so cutting out diary and tweaking things isn't all that strange either. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Perhaps I still need more time to get the full vegan-effect. But at this point I am not super sold on going vegan for the long haul. I still have 16 days left in my vegan challenge, so I won't make an official decision yet. But without some sort of miraculous change in my over-all well-being I think my love of eggs and post-race chicken wings may override my desire for a vegan lifestyle.

That being said, I have made some pretty delicious recipes since starting my challenge. And these winners will definitely stay in my regular rotation. One of my new favs is...

Spelt Berries and Chick Pea Curry
Makes 3-4 portions depending on how hungry you are
Cook Time: 90 minutes

1 cup dry spelt berries
1 can chick peas
1/2 onion, chopped
1 eggplant, sliced and roasted
2 cups spinach
1 can coconut milk
1.5 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp brown sugar

1. Add 1 cup of spelt berries and 3 cups of water into a pot. Bring water to a boil and then turn down heat to low and let simmer for 90 minutes.
2. After an hour, slice the eggplant and place on an oiled baking sheet in a 375F oven for 20 minutes.
3. Cook down onions and chick peas for 5-7 minutes in a large wok on medium-high heat. Then add the coconut milk, red curry paste, tahini, and brown sugar. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring all the ingredients together.
4. Add the roasted eggplant and 2 cups of spinach. Once the spinach has wilted the sauce is read to serve.
5. Top the cooked spelt berries with the veggies and sauce. Serve and Enjoy.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Tri Talk - Not exactly my best foot forward

Despite being ready for a new year and a fresh start - last week was not exactly my best week training-wise.

I was feeling pretty enthusiastic about 2014. I was all geared up. I had a plan. I picked a race.  I was starting a new job (more on that later this week). And I was ready to train my booty off ironman-style. But by Saturday I had a scratchy throat. By Sunday the aches started to set in. And by Monday I was barely keeping together at work - surviving on DayQuil, Crackers, and 7pm bedtimes. BLAH! I was sick! And I am pretty sure these freezing cold temperatures and hustle and bustle of holidays are to blame.

Needless to say training was not high on my priority list, especially as the Polar Vortex continued to reign supreme in our fair city. Despite only squeezing in half of my scheduled workouts, I did make some key training decisions.

1. I got a gym membership
After complaining about this crazy weather and my spoiled runs - I received an email inviting me to special sneak peak of the new Goodlife Fitness facility at 555 Richmond. (*the clouds parts and angels sing*). This could not have come at a better time! I was really excited to see what the new facilities had to offer, because admittedly it has been a very long time since I have been to "the gym".
I gotta say, the new location is pretty swank! It has pretty much everything this little training triathlete could ask for - spin classes, colourful kettlebells, group fitness, and a sauna for post-workout. Plus, it was warm! (*insert blissful sigh*).

We got to check out the facilities before their official grand opening the following day, and sample a few of their awesome group fitness classes. I think it is safe to say that I am not coordinated enough for their step class, but some of the classes we sampled packed a serious fitness wallop! And the line of fancy state-of-the-art treadmills really sold me. I will be beating the cold and kicking it at Goodlife this winter.

2. I have joined a run club
Yep, it is true.I have decided to spend my Tuesday Nights (and maybe Wednesdays too) training with the Marathon Group at my local Running Room.

I have long been a bit of a lone wolf in the running department. I have always logged the majority of my training runs alone. And have preferred it that way, mostly because deep down I am kind of insecure about my running ability. or lack there of (*ahem Robot Heart. Always screwing up my cardiovascular fitness*).

But I have decided that a little push from a group environment might help me dig a little deeper and hit my time goals this year. And having a bunch of equally crazy people to tough out the winter and those difficult speed workouts might just make training a little more fun. So I am trying to step outside my comfort zone this year and am taking the run club plunge. I have signed up and I am running with the group for the first time this week. Fingers crossed I don't totally suck. And I am also hoping I don't get my ass handed to me at this week's training session! EEP!

Sick, Gym, Run Club - that about sums up my week!
Are you a gym regular? Do you think training with a group helps or hinders?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

#WIAW - Vegan Challenge Update

So I am on Day 10 of my vegan challenge and I thought I would give you all an update for WIAW. I am battling a cold at the moment, but otherwise I am feeling pretty good. I won't lie to you though, eating out this past weekend was a struggle.

On Friday night we had made plans to have a double date with a couple of friends. We had settled on Fresh - a delicious, local, vegetarian restaurant, also known for their vegan-friendly options. But when we arrived Friday night the restaurant was closed because of a burst pipe. DANG IT! This silly Canadian Polar Vortex strikes again! So we opted to head to a Thai food place instead. They had lots of vegetarian options and I opted for the Veggie Red Thai Curry. It was delicious, but I am not 100% convinced it did not contain fish sauce. It wasn't listed on the menu, and was flagged as a vegetarian option, but in the interest of full disclosure... Confession: I may or may not have ingested a small amount of fish sauce on my vegan adventure.

Saturday was really no better. My sister was flying back to Halifax after the holidays, so we met for brunch before she caught her plane. Ummmm FYI: Brunch as a Vegan is TOTALLY LAME! Everything either is eggs or has eggs in it. SIGH! Eggs has actually been one of the hardest things to give up. With my tummy troubles over the summer, eggs have become a huge staple for me because they are protein packed but easy to digest. So being vegan meant the brunch menu was pretty much off limits for me. I thought about just getting a salad, but even all of those had meat and cheese. So I ended up with veggie pasta at 10:30am...not my first choice. Especially when surrounded by so many delicious looking pancakes!
In other words, this week I learned that eating out as a Vegan is very tricky. It is hard to guarantee exactly how your dishes are prepared, and the menu options are limited. I admittedly don't eat out a ton, but this is definitely a negative point for the vegan lifestyle long term. I just found it stressful. But we are only 10 days in, so we shall see.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2014 - A Year of Health and Running

"By the time I started running I already knew how to suffer" - Scott Jurek

So I don't know if you have noticed, but I sort of picked a strange time in my life to take up long distance running. Or not so strange, if you come from the Scott Jurek school of thought. The past 2 years have been hard, tumultuous, and heart-breaking in ways that I never expected, but through it all I ran.

I ran my very first half marathon the day before my double mastectomy and fell pretty hard for running from there. Over the past 2 years I have run 2 marathons, 5 half marathons, and 2 triathlons. I have also had 3 surgeries and unexpectedly lost my Dad, so I think it is pretty safe to say it was not exactly the most ideal time in my life for training.

But that is kind of the thing about running - especially the thing about running distance. Overcoming the difficulties of a distance reminds me that I capable of overcoming the difficulties of life. A reminder that has been very necessary the past few years. When I felt broken - and I did - running helped remind me that I was broken not beaten. Running is about heart, spirit, perseverance, and our ability to endure - and it is all of those things that make me love this sport.

All that being said, a girl could use a break. 

My biggest wish for 2014 is to have a year of calm. I want to run races, push further, train harder, go longer. But I want to do all of that without all the other bullshit. In other words, I would like training to be my biggest obstacle this year. I want to be healthy. I want to heal. And I want to Run.

So my race calendar for 2014 looks a little like this....

March 2nd - Chilly Half Marathon
I am returning the scene where it all began, and I am hoping for a PR. In an ideal world I would love to sub-2hrs at this one. But the weather is notoriously unpredictable, so we will just have to see how things go.

April 5th -  Harry's Spring Run Off 5km
I have run this one a couple of times, and it is pretty fun way to kick of the spring/summer running season. So I am going back with my family in tow.

April 13th - Yonge Street 10km
It has been awhile since I ran a 10km. And this event always looks so fun. So this year I am gonna work on my speed and go for it!

May 4th - Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon
Since I think there is a good chance I won't get the half marathon time I am hoping for at the Chilly Half in March, so I am banking on this one for good things. The course has a lot of downhill, and it literally runs right by my house, so it seemed like the obvious choice for a potential PR.

May 25th - Toronto Women's Series Half
I am throwing another half into the mix, because I want to work on nailing this distance before my triathlon season starts. Plus I have heard awesome things about the Women's Series and would love to run a women's only event. I have heard the course is challenging, but I think it would be good practice for what is to come in Muskoka.

June 14th - Welland Triathlon
This is the first triathlon I ever did, and it was great way to kick off the season last year, so I want to go back and see if I can improve my course time. I am doing the Triathlon distance which is a 750m swim, a 30km bike, and a 7.5km run.

August 10th - Bracebridge Olympic Triathlon
I am going to kick my triathlon distance up a notch here and tackle the Olympic distance. This is a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike, and 10km run.

September 7th - Muskoka 70.3
This is the big one. The one worth all the marbles. Time-wise I don't really know what to expect, but I would like to finish sub-6:30. But realistically I would just like to finish!

October 19th - Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
I am heading back to Scotia for Marathon #3. This one is a little crazy admittedly. It is just 6 week after my Half Ironman, so my expectations are low. I would obviously love to PR (who wouldn't), but I also understand I am likely going to be tired and not exactly in perfect Marathon form. So the goal is to just finish smiling - no tears at the scotia finish-line this time.

October 25th - Toronto Women's 5km
Just to round out the year. I gotta throw one more in the mix.

Are you racing this year? Which ones are on your 2014 to-do list?

So that is the plan as it stands right now.
I think (hope and pray) that this year is gonna be a GREAT year.
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 3 January 2014

Triathlon Talk - Oops!

So remember how I just finished telling you that I had my triathlon plan all ironed out? Well when I was going over my 2014 calendar I realized that I am double booked the weekend of the Niagara Half Iron. We have a friend's wedding that weekend, so there is really no way I can swing that plus a half ironman. It is just not happening. So despite the fact that the Muskoka course scares the ever-loving daylights out of me, that is the race I am doing! We are back to the original plan. This little newbie (in typical Krysten fashion) is just going jump head first into the ironman deep-end, and tackle this super challenging course.

Go Big or Go Home, I guess...(gulp!) The bike course runs around the Lake of Bays for Ironman Muskoka making it 5km too long and super hilly. So my plan once the weather gets slightly more bearable here in Canada is to ride Hill Repeats like it is my job. There is a deadly hill in my neighborhood, behind the university campus, which I plan to become BFFs with. So if you are looking for me this spring you will probably find me there - Crying, Cursing, and Grinding It Out. I will make hills my friend. I must!

In other triathlon news, I am pretty impressed with how I managed my training over the holidays (**if I do say so myself**). I may have fueled myself primarily with cookies and cheese, but I did get my workouts in. It is all about balance after all. The weather has been pretty brutal here - snow, ice, crazy cold temperatures - you name it. But I think I still managed to get in some good training sessions in. I used the pool while I was home visiting my Mom and got a solid 2.3km endurance swim in. I also rediscovered my love of the snowy run. And did my first indoor training session on Betsy and stuck to my goal of 90 RPM. I know it is only Day 3 of 2014, but I would say operation #make2014mybitch is off to a pretty good start.

I am starting to wonder though if I might need to get a gym membership. I hate the tredmill and have always opted to slog it out outside - but today's temperature of -35C (which is -31F for my American friends) is just too ridiculous! I am a Canadian girl through and through, but it is not fit for man nor beast out there. I went to the indoor university track for my speed workout today, but it is starting to look like we could have quite a few more days like this this winter. So finding a more realistic indoor option may be a must. In other words it is on the to-do list for next week.

Well I think that about wraps up my holiday triathlon adventures.
How were your holidays? Any tips for tackling hills?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

#WIAW - 2014 and a 30-Day Vegan Challenge

So the Toronto Ice Storm really did a number on my regular routine. The roads were too treacherous for my regular long training runs. I had no Internet to keep up with my Instagram and Blogging obsession. And we were without power and heat. So in other words I had a lot of extra time to hunker down under the covers with a good book and to plot my next great adventure. 

I revisited a few of my favourite Runspirational Reads and noticed a trend - quite a few of my favourite endurance athletes are Vegan. Scott Jurek, Brendan Brazier, and Rich Roll are the first that come to mind. They are all plant powered, fast, and tackling serious distances including Ultra Racing and Ironmans. Which got me thinking about the year ahead, my next big adventure, and the best way to get my body ready to tackle 70.3 miles.

I have always been drawn to a plant-based lifestyle. I was a vegetarian for over 6 years. And I briefly attempted to go vegan after reading Brendan Brazier's Thrive way back in the day. But I think from a nutrition standpoint I just was not at a place where I could prep and execute the vegan lifestyle properly. I had a meltdown over seed burgers about 6 days in, and have yet to attempt vegan-ism since.

But this year I have learned a lot about nutrition and I think I am in a very different place with my diet now than I was then. My tummy troubles this year and my work with my nutritionist have really increased my food knowledge and awareness. I have also learned a lot about fueling, creating nutrient dense meals, and the benefits of clean eating. (*Especially as a way to manage the symptoms brought on by my hiatal hernia*). So I have decided I am finally in a place where I could actually execute this properly.

I have some seriously lofty goals for 2014...
- Run my 1st Ironman 70.3 and finish 6:30 or better
- Run my 3rd Marathon
- Run a sub-2hr Half Marathon

All of which require a healthy body and proper fueling. I want to train harder, push further, and go longer than I ever have before. So I want to make sure I am giving my body all that it needs to power through my training sessions. Which is why I have decided to take a 30-day Vegan Challenge...well technically a 34 day Challenge.

I started this challenge on Monday, because Monday always seems like a good day to start something new. And I am planning to be all about the Plants and Greens for the rest of January. I initially wanted to announce that I was going Vegan for 2014, but to be totally honest I panicked. I had flashbacks to my seed burger meltdown and I questioned how I would feel with this new diet with all my training - so I thought I should at least test the waters first. Which is what the next 31 days are all about. I will be posting my daily eats on Instagram if you are curious and want to follow along. Also feel free to join the fun. Tag me on facebook, twitter, and instagram and we can go Vegan together!

At the end of January (barring any major seed meltdowns) I will see how I feel and assess the plan for the rest of 2014! This little fail might be going vegan this year?! Time will tell!

Any big resolutions happening in your neck of the woods? What are your goals for 2014?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,