Monday, 31 March 2014

#BESTFOOT - Prepping for a 5km

I am running a 5km this coming Saturday. I am signed up for Harry's Spring Run Off. This is actually the third time I am doing this course. I ran it as one of my very first races in 2011. And I ran it last year at just 9 weeks post-op. So I am excited to go back and tackle the infamous hill for a 3rd time.

5km's are kind of outside of my comfort zone. I am not exactly a speed demon, so I tend to gravitate towards distances that focus more on endurance. But one of my goal for 2014 is to push myself - and ideally increase both speed and strength.

I am taking a slightly different approach to my race day strategy this time around. I have recently found myself running strong - but second guessing my ability when I look at my pace. I feel good, but then the numbers seem too fast, and I slow down. I have always struggled with my cardiovascular fitness, so I often second guess my ability to maintain a faster pace. But when I look back at my data my heart is preforming well, even during my faster intervals. Which means I have second guessing myself unnecessarily.

So on Saturday I am going to take pace out of the equation. I am going to run to effort instead. I will only be tracking my Heart Rate during the race. And my goal is to spend the race entire 5km in Zone 5 (aka working at 90% of my cardiovascular effort), and see what happens.

This is a big time experiment so I am not going to put any time predictions on this one. I am just see what happens!

Have you guys ever done this? Run without a watch? 
Or just run with Heart Rate?

Last Week's Training...
Monday - 2 hours of Bouldering
Tuesday - 11km Speed Workout with my Run Club
Wednesday - 1500m Swim
Thursday - Tummy Troubles, so opted for a rest day
Friday - An easy 17km
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 30km Long Run and helping my Brother-In-Law and my Soon-to-be-Sister-In-Law move

Friday, 28 March 2014

Ask Me Anything?!

I try really hard to respond to all my emails, Instagram comments, and Social Media questions. In fact hearing from you all generally makes my day. 

And I am still stunned that you all care enough about the goings-on in my little corner of world to read and contact me?!  So I try to respond to all my messages in a timely thoughtful fashion. 

But lately I have been getting lots of questions about everything from health, to blogging, to running, to eating, to clothes, to you name it! So I thought maybe creating this little forum would be the way to go, in case all of you guys wanna know this stuff. I figured I would try to a post like this a couple times a month (as long as you keep asking me question). So grab a cup coffee, put your feet up, and let's chat!!

Goodness knows I am generally an open book, so feel free to send me your thoughts and questions!

1. How did you get diagnosed with your heart condition?

So the reason I never really talk about the early part of my diagnosis is because it was over 10 years ago now. I am definitely kind of hazy on the details now, and it really feels like a lifetime ago now. 

I grew up in a small town, with a loving family, happy, active, and healthy. The summer before I started my senior year of high school, things started to change. I started to have dizzy spells at work. Nothing crazy, but they were happening more and more frequently. I would feel light-headed, maybe even a little woozy. It had happened enough times that it gave me pause, and I even felt the need to mention it to my worry-wart Mom. “You need to eat more” she said. “You are probably dehydrated” she suggested. It was hot, and maybe I wasn’t eating enough? That made sense. So off I went to work with extra snacks and bottle of Gatorade. 

But the solution wasn’t quite so simple. 

I left work the same way I left work every day, on that fateful Thursday. Expect this time I only made it around the corner. This time my dizzy spell progressed into a black out. And I woke up staring at the floor boards of my Dad’s Jeep. I sat up just before my jeep drove head on into a van driving in the opposite direction. On that day everything changed. I lost consciousness while driving home. My car crossed the center line. Both vehicles were totaled. And while both the other driver and myself were bruised and shaken, we were otherwise okay. But that was the day I knew that my dizzy spells were a lot more serious than a little low blood sugar, and I was scared. 

I had more doctor's appointments that year than I can count. With little to go on, we decided to just try to rule everything out. I was sent to the lab for blood work. I went to the cardiac unit for an EKG. And I went to the neurologist for a CT scan. My results came back all clear - except for that EKG. My lab report was marked with two little words - Long QT. It is hard to believe how quickly two little letters changed the course of my life.

2. What made you start writing your blog?

So I have thought a lot about this one. And the truth is I think I started writing for my younger 17 year old self.

When I was first diagnosed with my heart condition, and especially before my first surgery, I spent a lot of time scouring the Internet. I was in a dark place. I was scared. And I felt really alone. All my friends were worried about what they would wear to prom, which university they would go to, exams, etc. I was worried about all that too, but deep down I was wondering if I was ever going to get to live a normal healthy life again. I was looking for someone who going through the same thing. Someone to tell me that all my feelings were normal. And that even though things were hard - they would get better, and this darkness wouldn't define me.

I started writing thinking no one would read it, but maybe, just maybe someone who needed it would find it. That was my hope anyways. And it is one of the reason I have continued to write - good and bad - because some days are hard, sometimes life is hard, but you will get through it. 
3. Have you had any negative experiences while blogging?

So this is sure to land me on GOMI but the truth is - not really. 
My brief little battle with the National Post about the representation of BRCA and genetic treatment was really the only slightly negative experience I have had since I started writing my blog.
Otherwise it has just be a fun, positive, somewhat therapeutic experience for me.

Happy Friday Friends!
Until next time!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Resting and Resetting

I mentioned last week that I was struggling a bit with my training and some serious self-doubt. I got swept up in the idea of "Keeping Up with the Jones" and found myself stuck in a negative cycle. This is really the first time I felt like my social media blogging addiction had a negative impact.

I have met some seriously amazing people here in my small little corner of the internet - many of whom have become "Real-Life Friends". And this community has always been extremely supportive, warm, and wonderful. Writing and sharing my experience has also helped challenge me and push me to do things I maybe would not have done entirely on my own. I definitely credit my online friends for encouraging me to sign-up for my very first half marathon. And now here I am with a serious love of running, training for a Half Ironman after completing another 6 half marathon, 2 full marathons, and a whole bunch of races. I am not sure I would have taken the plunge without this little blog. And writing about all of my adventures - good and bad - has been extremely cathartic and therapeutic while I muddled my way through the last few years.

But I can also see how our community can be intimidating. I started comparing my progress, my race times, my training, my body-type - to everyone on the internet. My instagram was chalk full of clean eats, long training hour, fast paces, PR's, and rock hard bodies. And I started to feel like I didn't measure up.

So last week I took a step back. I relaxed. I re-evaluated. I reset my focus and my expectations. And I feel 1000x better!

Last week...
  • I took 3 days of rest. 
  • I treated myself to a manicure/pedicure. 
  • I went out with my girlfriends for burgers and french fries. 
  • I also had a Coke for the first time in approx 10 years - it full of chemicals and sugar, but it was delicious!

  • I chose to skip my long run on Sunday and visit with my family instead
  • I had a great visit with my Nana and Papa
  • I ate candy and binge watched Season 2 of Girls
  • I went Bouldering - it is hard and my arms felt like jello the next morning
  • I gave up the scale
  • I unplugged for a little while
  • And I just relaxed
The truth is you only get to see what people want you to see. And that is not necessarily the whole story. So instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing, I am just gonna worry about me. This is my journey - complete with a broken body, a robot-heart, slow (but steady) progress, and "sometimes" clean eating. It is not about being perfect. It is about being healthy, happy, and balanced.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 24 March 2014

#BESTFOOT - Happy Heart Virtual 5km

Last month I launched my Happy Heart Project in honour of my Dad and thanks to all of your support and generous donations we have already raised $1644.00 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation! Which is 30% of my Fundraising Goal! I have been overwhelmed by your amazing response - so Thank You!!

It is no secret that this past year has been hard. And grief is still a work a progress. Running and training has been a big part of my healing process. It is during my weekly runs that I often find myself talking to my Dad, where I work through my tears, and where I find my peace. (**the extra endorphins don't hurt either**). I am training for the Muskoka Ironman 70.3  in honour of my Dad. I will swim, ride, and run 70.3 miles to commemorate both the joy and tenacity that defined him and his life - while raising money and awareness for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. 

April 22nd would have been my Dad's 61st Birthday. And as the date creeps closer, I find myself struggling. This was usually a day of celebration. But now it just reminds me of how much I have lost. I miss my Dad everyday, but this day is going to be especially difficult.

As always, I know it is necessary to do something positive with my pain in order to heal. So I plan to spend most of the day either sweating, crying, or both. To prep for Muskoka and as a way to honour this day and my Dad I am planning to swim, ride, and run 61km for the year that should have been.

I will swim 1km
I will bike 55km
And I will run 5km

I am asking you to join me for the Run. I am asking you to run/walk/hike/bike/move for 5km on April 22nd (or any time during the week of April 21-27th) and dedicate it to the Happy Heart Project. I have 25 amazing prizes up for grabs! And you will be immediately entered to win with your Virtual Race Fee.

How To Participate....
1. Please Visit My Donation Page and make a $20.00 donation as part of your Virtual Race Fee. 
Your donation will get your online bib and make your eligible for some seriously awesome prizes.
2. Run Your 5km wherever and whenever you can during the week of April 21st-27th
3. Share your run on social media by using the Hashtag #HappyHeart5k
(Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
4. Come back and visit the on April 22nd to log all of your awesome Happy Heart adventures into my handy Rafflecoppter App for additional entries and extra social media fun!


Prize List....

There are seriously awesome prizes up for grabs and all the money and social media buzz we generate will go towards Heart Health.Heart Disease has broken my heart both literally and figuratively. Literally with my own diagnosis. And figuratively with the loss of my father. The impact of both have been profound, devastating, and life-changing. So I want to celebrate this day by working towards a future without Heart Disease.

Please come run with me!
Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Friday, 21 March 2014

Saying Good-bye to the Scale

So I mentioned on Monday that I want to go Scale-Free for the next 30 days – and the response I got to this post and the subsequent Instagram Post was huge. So I thought I would talk a little bit more about this and my reasons for ditching the numbers.

I set this very lofty distance goal and I have spent a lot time doubting myself ever since.

I am who I am – Darwinian Fail, Robot Heart Wearing, Bionic Woman. I know my strengths, but I also know my laundry list of weaknesses. From a Cardiovascular Perspective progress is slow and I will only ever progress so much. Which means I have spent a lot of time researching other ways to make progress. I have been looking for that edge. I have been looking for the missing piece of puzzle to push myself.

Should I go Vegan? Should I be training more? Should I run longer? Should I spend more time running faster? Should I just log more hours in general? Should I lose weight? Am I spending enough time on the Bike? Should I start weight training? All of these things swirl in my head. And for some reason the scale started to become my focus.

I have read a lot of articles about ideal body weight, ideal fat percentage, power-to-weight ratios - and this became my fixation. This was the missing piece of my puzzle. I went from never counting calories and weighing myself once in a blue moon to stepping on every scale I saw. I would weigh myself 3-4 times a day. My weight didn’t really change, but for some reason I started looking to that number to validate what I was doing with my training.

I started logging my food and feeling guilty about everything I ate. Am I eating too many carbs? Am I taking in too much sugar? I also started adding mileage and extra workouts to my already full training load. I was skipping rest days. And then beating myself up for not seeing immediate changes.

I knew things were getting out of hand last week. I was tired. I was starting to feel worn down. And I was comparing myself to everyone on the internet. And after cutting my long run short on Sunday I felt myself spiral. And I realized I had gone too far.

I need to step back and focus on why I started. I train as a way to honour my body. And I race to love my body for what it can do, and not for what it looks like.
The comparison game is not constructive. And the number on the scale is not a measure of self-worth.

I plan to spend this weekend giving my body a break and giving myself some love.
I hope you are all doing the same.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Monday, 17 March 2014

#BESTFOOT - Banning Negative Self-Talk

So I have spent a lot of time in my little corner of the Internet talking about health, self-esteem, body image, and more importantly Body Love. But I must confess, lately I have not been practicing what I preach. My head has been swimming with negative self-talk.

I have been hung up on the number on the scale. I have been counting every calorie. I have been berating myself for every treat. Nit-Picking my reflection in the mirror - questioning if I am making progress and getting stronger.

I have also been agonizing over my training - asking if I am doing enough, logging enough miles, and pushing hard enough. The answer I come up with is always "No" these days. If I log my usual 10-12hrs of training I curse myself my not being committed enough to log 20. I kick myself for being tired. And hate myself for not be stronger, faster, better.

I have been stuck in my own head - and all I see is all the way that I do not measure up.

It has not been all motivation and positivity over here. And I gotta confess I have been struggling.

I need to reset. I need to relax. And I need to remember why I started this whole adventure in the first place - as a way  to honour my body and my health for all that it does for me each and everyday.

So a couple of things are happening...
1. I am putting the scale away. 
I will not step on the scale for the next month (maybe more)
2. I will focus on eating clean, but not stress about every calorie. 
Food is meant to nourish me - body, mind, and soul. And I need to start thinking about it like that again.
3. I will trust my training. 
And I will remember that as long as I give each session my all than I am doing all that I can do - and that is enough.

Putting my #BESTFOOT forward this week is remembering that I am enough.

Last Week's Training...
Monday - Lunch-Time Pilates and a Hilly 10km Run with my Hubby
Tuesday - 10km with 6x 250m Hill Repeats
Wednesday - 1000m Swim and 60 minutes on the indoor trainer
Thursday - 90 minutes on the indoor trainer (because the weather sucked)
Friday - 8km Speed Session at the Track
Saturday - Hilly 10km at an easy pace
Sunday - my 25km turned into 15km  - could not tough off the freezing temps and the crazy head winds, so I called it a day early.

How do you ban negative self-talk? 
Do want to join me in a Scale Free 30 days?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Pilates Reformer Class

One of my goals for March is to work on strengthening my chest, correcting my alignment, and balancing out some of the muscle imbalances that have developed while rehabbing from surgery. 3 surgeries in the last two years have left my chest and by proxy my core weak.

I have noticed that my posture borders on horrible these days. I stoop quite a bit, as a way to compensate for the weak muscles through my chest. I also find that my back tends to cramp and fatigue first on my long runs - again likely from my poor posture and from overcompensating for my lazy chest and core.

I spoke with Anita at Imprint Pilates about their Reformer Classes and some of the benefits of adding this type of targeted strength training into my routine. Pilates focuses on spinal and pelvic alignment while helping to improve flexibility and muscle strength - all areas I need help with right now - so we agreed this would a natural fit.

I had a Private Introductory Session with Anita last week, and I must admit, I think I am in love.

We started off on the mat so Anita could assess my alignment and flag any areas of weakness. My chest as I suspected was an area of concern. My quads and psoas muscles are tight from running, but my inner thighs and glutes are weak. I also hyper-extend all of my joints. So with all of that in mind we started our work on the reformer. 

This little machine is a bit of a monster (in the best possible way). It has various levels of tension, making the moves much more challenging than I anticipated. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I thought it would be easier! I thought I would just kind of float up and down on the machine, but I was sadly mistaken. It takes a lot of strength to move the reformer - meaning you are spending a lot of time doing weighted squats and lunges. Maintaining your alignment, working against the weight of the reformer, and maintaining your balance were all really tough. My muscles were engaged and shaking. The unstable hold on the ropes asks your body to activate your small stabilizing muscles, and works muscles that often get overlooked. I definitely felt the burn.

Plus the stretch my tight muscles received (especially post-race) was absolutely amazing. It was the perfect balance of strength and flexibility, so I am looking forward to making this part of regular routine. I think this is going to have a huge impact on my core strength and make a big difference to my overall training. I have signed up for 2 Pilates classes this week (1 Mat-Based and 1 on the Reformer) and I am planning to do 2 classes a week for the rest of the month. I can't wait for my next class!

Have your tried Reformer Pilates? 
What is your favourite way to Strength Train?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Cardiac Rehab and a Lesson in Patience

I reached a pretty big milestone last week. 

I have been training with my Polar GPS since my surgery last February. It gives you feedback about your training and cardiovascular efficiency after every training session. And try as I might, because I have been rehabbing my heart, I could never get it to read “Steady State Basic Training” and my Running Index has been stuck in the 40’s (aka average)

My heart was simply working too hard. Even though my pace was slow and comfortable, my cardiovascular fitness had not caught up yet. 

Well last week, a full year of running and training later, it FINALLY happened. I ran an easy 10km at a 6:15km/pace and my heart rate was where I needed it to be. My session was “Steady State Basic Training” and my Running Index was 52. I did it! 

My Running Index was good! 
My heart was strong again... maybe for the first time ever (*if I am being completely honest*)

It took a year of consistent training, a marathon, even more training, and whole lot of perseverance – but I made it (robot heart and all). 

It has taken a lot of work to get this point. And it has also taken a lot of patience. I am obviously extremely happy with the progress I have made over the last year, but Rehabbing is Hard. It is frustrating to put in so much work and have not have the times and the strength that you think your effort warrants. The process is slow. And no matter how much you wish you could rush it, change it, and speed through - you just cannot. It is hard to be patient and embrace the process when it seems to come so easy and effortlessly for others. But you have to have faith that you will get there eventually - when you are ready.

Today is proof that no matter where you are in your journey, know that it will get better, and you will be stronger because it. Just keep pushing.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 9 March 2014

#BESTFOOT and A Progress Pic Debate

Alright, so this post ended up getting kind of long...I haven't blogged since last week so I got long winded! Sorry and bear with me!

I have never really purposefully set out to take Progress Pictures before, but it seems like a lot of people swear by them. And they are an interesting way to be able to track your progress, and potentially see changes that you might not notice looking in the mirror on a day-to-day basis.

So I took a set of pictures last month and then a set of pictures last week, in the same clothes in the same spot. They are probably only about 3 weeks apart. But these picture raised some questions around my household - specifically between my hubby and I.

I wanted to take the pictures as a way to track my progress over the next 6 months - no serious objectives, just to see what Ironman 70.3 training would do to change my body. But my hubby questioned if health, strength, and training were really the focus of this sort of post. Or if it immediately  became about appearance and size because of the nature of these pictures?

I thought about it for awhile and I must admit I was conflicted on this one. I have generally shied about from sharing numbers and stats, because I have always wanted my focus to be on health and the journey. And I have personally found that the scale and size were detrimental to my journey  in the past. This this is not a lifestyle I believe in or a culture I want to be part of perpetuating. So discussing my numbers is something I have done very carefully.

But training for an event like this requires a certain level of commitment, strength, and dedication. It is this spirit that I want to capture with my monthly update.

So I have decided to leave my first set of progress pictures in this post, and to open the debate up to you guys. Leave me a comment below or visit my Facebook page (we are already discussing it over there) and let me know what you think. Should I document my stats and share progress pictures? Or should I just talk about training, strength, and conditioning?

Body Stats...
Weight: 113 lbs
Body Fat: 19%

I am down 3lbs and have lost 1% body fat since I last weighed in. Generally I don't notice much of difference, but maybe things are a little more defined...I don't know...

Goals for March:
I am trying to focus a bit more on my nutrition. I was really on point with my diet pre-marathon, so I know I need to get back to that. But I has deep fried pickles and a donut for dinner on Saturday. And always celebrate post race with Chicken Wings and bag of Sour Patch Kids... So let's just call that a work in progress. I know I need to be more discipline with where I am getting my calories during training, so I will try to limit my candy/junkfood intake to post-race celebrations only this month.

Conditioning Stats...
Strength: Cardio Endurance
Weakness: Chest and Glutes

I gotta say the side profile and my booty kind of caught me off guard. My glutes were flagged during my body composition as a weak point for me. And judging by my starting pic I think we can see why - can you say "flat runner butt". I took this set of pictures 3 weeks apart, and I was personally surprised by the changes I have made in the glute department. I started following Tamara Grand's Ultimate Booty Workout to target my butt last month. I started Phase 1 and have been doing the routine 1-2x a week with my regular training. I personally had not noticed a difference until I saw these pictures. Clearly my glutes are getting stronger.
Goals for March:
Continue with The Ultimate Booty Work, and move on to Phase 2.

I do think my posture has improved a bit as well. I have been stooping quite bit following my surgery to compensate for my weak chest. So I am working on strengthening my chest and core. It is definitely still one of my weakest areas. I will be doing weekly Yoga and Pilates sessions to help focus on my alignment and to target these weak points.

Performance Stats...
Half Marathon: 2:03:38

So last week I improved my Half Marathon time by 7 minutes. And I was pretty happy with my results considering the conditions were not ideal. But this is still not where I want to be. I want to strive for sub-2, with my ideal time being closer to a 1:50 finish. I realize that 1:50 is ambitious (and it might not happen this year), but a girl can dream.

Goals for March:
I want to increase my overall mileage this month and continue to work on my speed. My next half isn't until May so I have time to get my body to where I need it to be.

Join the Progress Picture Debate? Yay or Nay?

Love your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

Sunday, 2 March 2014

#Bestfoot - Chilly Half Marathon Recap

Today was my first half marathon of 2014.

All week they were calling for frigid temperatures, but I was hopeful that the weather man had it wrong. Saturday gave me some hope, since the sun was out and it was a balmy -1C. But all that did was bring the snow. I woke up to 10cm of the white stuff and temps at -20C. It also took us 4 attempts to get the car up the ramp of our parking garage, but we eventually got on our way. The day wasn’t exactly off to a smooth start, but we were on our way none-the-less.

I was feeling good. But with the weather being what it was and this race being so early in the season, Coach said I should race conservatively, and opt for a negative split if possible. So with that in mind, I lined up at the very cold start line.

I started out at a 5:50km/pace. I was comfortable. I felt good. But I didn’t want to be arrogant and overestimate my abilities. So I kept it steady. I ran a steady 5:45-5:50km pace all the way along.

Kilometer Splits for the first 10km

1km – 5:51

2km – 5:48

3km – 5:49

4km – 5:52

5km – 5:46

6km – 5:42

7km – 5:42

8km – 5:49

9km – 5:46

10km – 5:48

At 10km I felt strong. I felt like I could go harder. I felt like I had more speed in my legs. But I questioned my ability to push the pace and maintain it for the remaining 11km. So I stuck to my plan – run steady for 16km and kick for the final 5km.

I felt good throughout. I walked through the water station at 16km, drank a full cup of water, and started my kicked. I pushed my pace down to 5:40-5:33km over the final 5km, and crossed the line with a Personal Best – 2:03:38.

That is 7 minute improvement on my last half marathon and almost 15 minutes better than when I ran this course 2 years ago as my 1st half marathon. But I would be lying if I said I was completely happy with my performance and my finish. It is true the conditions were less than ideal. It is true I followed my race plan. It is true my legs are sore today. But I believe I had more in me, I just was not confident enough to execute it.

I wanted sub-2. And I think I was capable of that today, maybe just 1:59:59, but I think if I ran a more aggressive race it could have been mine. My heart rate remained comfortably in zone 4 for the duration of the race. My cardiovascular fitness is on point for the first time since my surgery last February, maybe for the first time ever, if I am being honest. And maybe because it has failed me so many times before - I did not trust its strength. I hesitated. I opted for the pace I knew I was comfortable with. And because of that my race results did not match my expectations or my ability. 

But now, now I am hungry. Now I want it. Now I know I am ready. And next time I won’t play it safe. My next half marathon is 8 weeks away. And I plan to spend the next 8 weeks working, training, sweating, fighting, and pushing. Next time I won’t hesitate. Next time is mine.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,

PS the Hubby killed the course today with a Personal Best of 1:40:48. So dang speedy!

Link Up with Us. Tell me what Motivates you? 
How did your week go?