Friday, December 18, 2009

Eat it: Holiday Edition

Holiday eating tips for those in the holiday spirit.

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls. Or in our case Screech Balls!

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare. You can’t find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn
into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3 . If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat. Feel free to sop up remnants with any absorbing food at hand - bread, turkey skin, your hand.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission. It's bullshit.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello? Also - no control tops. Elasticized waist is the name of the game.

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.. I mean c'mon, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

One final tip - wine. It's not just for breakfast anymore. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

EAT IT: The Cat Edition

A few weeks ago, realizing that the cat was down to his last few kernels of food I set out to make a mad dash to Canadian Tire for what I like to call the cat's "McDonald's treat". Aka shitty, cheap (and probably delicious) cat food. When I'm being a good cat mother I get his food from the Vet's office - it's double the price of the McDonald's version but it does have the benefit of actually listing a meat (in this case - duck) as the first ingrediant which will apparently save him from kidney disease in the future. It makes me feel like a good pet owner and he eats it - although lets face facts, if it came down to it he'd eat his own shit.

As I was about to head out to Canadian Tire I was reminded that a new pet store had opened in the "Spare Some Change" variety store at Queen & John. I don't know it's real name, I only know that the guy who holds the door open for me always says these words as I enter and exit the store. Good marketing.
Anyhoo, they've installed a pet store in the shitty, far side of the store that had previously housed some bullshit house plants and what can only be equated to nik naks. This pet store is going to be a freaking gold mine. It's stocked with every insane toy and gadget known to man's best friend AND it's parked in the midst of condo central. And you know what condo central means? Childless singles and couples looking for meaning and companionship through cats & dogs. GOLD.

I browed around the pet store and low and behold they actually had the upscale brand of food that I would normally get from the vet as well as an entire aisle of shiny, pretty packages of every kind of food imaginable. They even have a freezer in the dog section with freshly butchered bones and cuts of meat. Imagine the lucky bitch that gets a sirloin slab for her snack! Jealous.

And because I am like a bird and easily attracted to all things pretty I came across this new brand of food called Before Grain. I have to admit - it was the font and colour that did it for me. Look how stylized these bags are!Not to be mistaken as just a pretty bag, they also listed meat as the first ingredient! In fact the salmon version has three different meats in the first four! It's a meat extravaganza!
Needless to say - the cat loves it. More than his shit.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

At a loss this Christmas?

I can't quite wrap my mind around this one - perhaps it's the perfect companion to the Snuggy? The Hood Thong?? Could possibly go down as THE WORST clothing idea EVER.
Nipple streamers on the other hand? Pure magic.

Monday, November 30, 2009

EAT IT: Crispy Gnocchi & Lemony Greens

Having recently mastered the relatively indestructible dish of gnocchi - not to mention the fact that it pretty much goes with anything in the fridge - we've been eating it on a fairly regular basis. But I've grown weary of the "boil 'til it floats" variety of gnocchi and was looking for something different. So combined with the fact that I had a whack of kale taking up my crisper, this recipe for Crispy Gnocchi and Lemony Greens turned out to be a dream. 

Frying the gnocchi kept the insides creamy but the crispy outsides turned it into a completely different dish. The lemony greens and the bite of the parmesan balanced the richness of the gnocchi and the spice kicked everything up a few gnotches. I'm lame, I gnow.
I forgot to add the basil - it was still good. Also,  I didn't have any serrano peppers in the house so I used Rooster Sauce instead. The rooster makes everything better :)

Crisp Gnocchi with Lemon & Garlic Greens
2 – 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
About 40 fresh or frozen gnocchi
1/2 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped kale
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lemon
Parmesan cheese for grating
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1 – 2 tbsp. olive oil. Once it’s hot, place half the gnocchi in the pan. Leave them undisturbed for 5 – 7 minutes on each side, Checking the bottom of a gnocchi occasionally until they’re deeply golden, then flip. You want to make sure not to move them around too much or they won’t develop their golden crust.
Once they’re done, remove them to a plate, then add more oil and make the remaining gnocchi. When all the gnocchi is done, add the kale, basil, garlic, serrano and lemon juice to the hot pan. Sautee for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and the garlic begins to brown.
Divide the gnocchi among 2 plates and top with the kale mixture. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings.

Thanks to Bitchincamero for the recipe. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Things I Wish I Had Known Before Spinning

This week I branched out and joined a spinning class. Usually I hate group exercise - the instructors screech, the music is annoying, people smell... and I'm a cranky old lady SO GET OFF MY LAWN.
It must be said though that I actually had a good time. The class was lead by a non-gym bunny and she turned the lights down low for a sweaty, romantic vibe. It worked.

Two things I wish someone had told me:
1. Run shorts are entirely too short for spinning. Your excess lady parts will rub in a most unpleasant manner.
2. You will lose your own body weight in sweat. Seriously, I have never been this soaked.
Also, I forgot to bring a water bottle, leaving me with the rankest of pasty mouths. Apologies to the guy beside me for my unforgiveable mouth breathing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eating - not just an exercise in chewing

Over the past few years (or let's face it - since I started blogging in 2005) I have taken to photographing and discussing at length the food that we eat in restaurants. The bf used to be quite reticent about the taking of flash photography in public spaces, so now I only snap when light allows. You see - I can compromise.

The majority of the time I'm snapping images of food that I love. Food that makes me want to cry and sing and never stop eating. Unfortunately there are those occasional times when the crying and singing turns into pouting and shouting. As I get older and evolve into more of a "foodie" of sorts I have increased expectations of my food outings - and my demands go beyond the ingredients on the plate to the cleanliness of the bathroom, the knowledge of the servers and the noise level of the dining room. Call me a Dining Room Diva. I can take it.

The worst and most legendary of our food outings occurred in Dublin a few years ago. We went to a pizzeria called Mustard's which was highly rated in our travel guide. We ended up being served cardboard box pizza with raw ingredients and pizza sauce that seemed to be infused with the oils of stale cigarette buts. On top of it all we had the nastiest 17 year old Dolores O'Riordan lookalike waitress and were charged over 60 euro's for this gastric disaster. Ugh, I still shake with rage remembering that unfortunate event.

In October we were lucky enough to travel to both San Francisco and New York City and - as tends to happen with us - we arrived our first night with an empty belly and no reservations. I hate it when this happens because we end up desperate, looking for whatever is palatable and close.
In New York this translated into a diner. The first one that we chose we ended up walking out of because in the words of my bf "there are too many organ meats on the menu for my liking". I concurred. Alas, we stayed on 7th Avenue and thus were destined to a menu that specialized in taking tourists hostage thus resulting in a $19 pastrami sandwich. Ugh, I still can't believe I engaged in such behavior. I had a hankering for pastrami (hence the diner obsession) but as soon as we ordered I said "this is going to be one of those meals that I regret forever". I was half right. My sandwich ended up being fairly delicious and immense, but for nineteen diner dollars I expect more than a plate lined with a pickle slice and half a teaspoon of coleslaw. Yes, in this case quantity counts. The bf was not so lucky with overcooked and under-seasoned veggie lasagna. He suffered in silence.

The issue at hand is not simply a matter of getting what I pay for - it's of not wanting to waste my time on awful or "good enough" food. If I'm out (especially if I'm traveling) I want to spend my time discovering hidden treats and enjoying every last bite and sip of every plate and cup on my table. My friend over at Bon Vivant said it best recently "... this gets back to the argument that we all work too hard for our money, and our time on this blue-green orb is too short to waste time with mediocrity like this."

Three cheers Bon Vivant, I knew I liked your dinner table for a reason. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dear Toronto; New York has something to teach you

Sunday while the bf was having a post-race lie down I went to wander Fifth Avenue. Examining some jewelry at the Met gift shop the saleslady asked me if I'd like to become a member of the Met. I explained that I was from out of town and only there for the marathon.
She got very excited.
I explained how refreshing it was to see so many locals actually excited about and supporting such a HUGE race.
I asked her - don't people get pissed off about being so inconvenienced?
She says "Honey, if you don't want to be inconvenienced than you've got to move OUT of the city".

Snap Toronto. You've been served.
Now quit your damn whining.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10 things I've learned along the way

I've been thinking about writing this post for quite some time now - but figured that I needed to actually complete my goal before entertaining thoughts of "what worked?". Seeing as I'm now 10 days out I think that it's time to figure out what worked and didn't work in the days - nay, months - leading up to my race.

1. DO leave enough time. I planned a 21 week training schedule. Gave me enough time to anticipate any injuries of which thankfully there were none after week 6. Technically this is three weeks longer than most training schedules - but it worked for me.

2. DO join a group. I know I know, this is ME the GROUP HATER saying this but I can't stress enough how helpful it was. I do wish that I had made it out to more long runs with the full group - but I can't imagine doing hills or track without them. It's not like we were constantly cheering and smacking each others asses, but just having someone out there slogging away with me was really, really, really encouraging.

3. DO drink Gatorade BEFORE you leave the house. Can't remember who suggested this but it was great advice. I found that if I sipped a cup with my breakfast it would help keep me hydrated on the run. Also - Blue Gatorade all the way.

4. DO watch your form. After our first hill training session I thought my back was going to snap in two - so when my coaches suggested that my Beyonce Butt was to blame I made the adjustment. Pushing my hips forward kept me in alignment and now it's something I always check on a hill. Thanks Beyonce.

5. DO turn your socks inside out. It seems like no matter what sock I wear there are always mad seams in the toe area. After a few ill-placed blisters I turned my socks inside out and haven't turned back since.

6. DO nod to your fellow runners. Bus drivers do it and so can we. If you're out on the road and you're slogging through your miles and another lone soul comes towards you - ACKNOWLEDGE them! We're on the same team here! Unless of course Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher are reading this - in which case go ahead and trip each other ladies. But for the rest of us weekend warriors a little smirk goes a long way.

7. DO ice. Controversial and hard for many to even consider - but ice is your friend. And yes I may have scarred the cat for life by the amount of screaming that I did from my frozen bathtub, but it was worth it. And hey after a few minutes you don't even feel it anymore - and by "it" I mean your soul and your lady/man parts.

8. DO distract yourself on long runs. My distraction of choice - audiobooks. The trashier the better. In fact I made it through the entire Twilight series while training for this race. The simple teen dialogue and lack of multi syllabic words is all the better for your starved brain. Also recommended: Dan Brown and Ken Follett.

and a few DON'Ts for good measure :)

9. DON'T forget to sleep. Not to say that you should spend your training hours in the sack - but don't underestimate the value of a good, solid rest. I had a nap after nearly every long run this summer and it was brilliant.

10. DON'T poop your pants. There is a certain natural incontinence that comes on race day - can barely be avoided. And hopefully it doesn't happen on the course.  I did my best by always taking a Tums before runs longer than an hour. Helped to settle my stomach with the added bonus of upping my calcium intake :) Also, if you do have to use a portapotty on the race course for God's sake - please don't shit on the seat. It's just rude.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cheesecake Factory gets on my happy

As any self-respecting Canadian will tell you - when we go to America, we like to eat our faces off.
I like to eat all of the things that we can't get here. In the olden days I used to go hog wild on all of the "Fat Free" products that were made for the massive diabetic contingent of American society, but these days it's all about the restaurant chains. And my chain of choice - Cheesecake Factory.
I LUUUURRRRVVVVEEEEE the Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes. So creamy, so fresh, so teeth-achingly sweet - what's not to love? I go there maybe three times a year and no matter how much my gut is threatening to break through all the layers of my clothing, I will always order the cheesecake.

So imagine my surprise last weekend when we arrived at the San Fran Cheesecake Factory only to discover that they had taken the unprecedented move of indicating the calorie content on EVERY SINGLE cake in the display case. The horror!!!
I had to take a snap of the piece of cheesecake that could do the most damage, and as was expected it was not only a cheesecake, but also a brownie....covered in chocolate sauce...covered in icing.....topped with additional chocolate shavings. Mother of God.
And it didn't end there! When we were seated for dinner our menu was accompanied by a separate book containing the nutritional information for every item on the menu. Clearly this did not affect my glycogen starved brain, as we immediately ordered up a serving of deep-fried mac & cheese balls. You heard me right.

The damage: 1 serving = 2000 calories. 65 grams of fat.

The next time someone asks me why I ran a marathon I'm gonna show them this picture and say - for two servings of the most magical dish on earth.

EAT IT: Creamy Polenta with Sauteed Greens

Last week on Mark Bitten's NYT Blog he discussed polenta. I have a weird fear of polenta - mostly because I hate corn bread and consider them to come from the same gross family. After reading all the rave reviews of this little number though, I had to give it a try. Some of the other foodie blogs that I read were suggesting a topping of sauteed greens and fried egg. One word, three syllables: DELICIOUS.
My polenta turned out to be instant (not stone-ground) so it got a bit stickier than I hoped. But the oil from the greens and the creamy yolk from the egg turned the whole thing into a dish-licking dinner. I might even try this for breakfast one day. "EGGS FOR BREAKFAST" you say? That's right - I'm just THAT crazy.

Here is his recipe:

Polenta Without Fear

Yield 4 servings
Time 25 minutes

For creamy, soft, mouth-filling polenta, stir in butter and Parmesan -- the more the better. If you want something more flavorful but still a little austere, add herbs, like marjoram or thyme, along with a handful of parsley or basil, and a couple of tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil. For polenta firm enough to grill, broil or sauté, cook it until the creaminess is gone and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, then turn it out onto a plate or a board and let it cool until firm.
  • 1 cup milk (preferably whole milk)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup coarse cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or more freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste, optional
  • 1. Bring milk to a boil with 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and add a large pinch of salt. Adjust heat so liquid simmers. Add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking as you do to prevent lumps. When it has all been added, let mixture return to a boil, then turn heat to low. Polenta should be just barely simmering.
  • 2. Cook, stirring occasionally and being sure to scrape sides and bottom of pan, for 15 to 20 minutes, until mixture is creamy and cornmeal tastes cooked. If mixture becomes too thick, whisk in some water, about 1/2 cup at a time.
  • 3. Taste and season polenta as necessary with salt and pepper. Take pan off stove, stir in the butter or oil and the cheese if you are using it, and serve, passing more cheese at the table if you like.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's next?

Sooo yah, here I am. Just sitting on the couch. Belly full of blue-cheese stuffed olives. In the middle of a full-night line-up consisting of Dexter, Gossip Girl, a re-run of House and a sincerely revolting Oprah episode on the subject of southern Fall fairs. If I hear the words "deep fried butter" again - it will be too soon.

I am completely bored.
I'm one of those total assholes that needs to have an answer to the question - What's next? And truthfully I have no idea. I was considering participating in a local 5km run before the end of the year - but it turns out that Toronto isn't organizing a Resolution Run on New Year's Eve this year. Instead they're doing it on December 27th. What the eff Toronto!? Last I checked there were no cultural groups celebrating a new year on December 28th.

As of right now it looks like there's nothing on the race schedule until the end of March - that is TOO LONG! I need a quick goal, one that won't take me 20 weeks to achieve.

Please. Don't make me run the Santa Shuffle.

Friday, October 23, 2009

And now for a musical interlude

For the past few weeks I've had a serious addiction. It consumes me at least once a day.
I sit in my office, put on my headphones, lean back in my chair and laugh until I cry - all while tapping my feet and chair dancing.Yes - I'm addicted to watching Backstreet Boys videos on Youtube. Not even those of the original boyband - but of lip syncing strangers with alot of time on their hands.
I can't stop. Also, it's a really good song.

I love everyone in this office. Even the douche-y lady. 

These boys are also pretty hilarious - and dedicated to their craft, if not to basketball.

Thank you America: The Frying Cheese edition

Whenever we cross the border into America I am always quick to establish the presence of a Trader Joe's.
I love TJ's.
Like LOVE it. When I learned that my soon-to-be in-law's in Atlanta had lived there for 10 years and had never even heard of it I had to rethink whether or not this is the type of family that I wanted to be a part of. Excuse me? You don't know that you live within minutes of the MOST MAGICAL GROCER ON EARTH? I tried to remain calm.

So naturally we had to visit the closest TJ's last weekend in San Francisco. Usually the bf (yes, I'm going to continue calling him that until I find a suitable short-form for the foreign sounding FIANCE) is very blase about my obsession with grocery stores. He'll wander the aisles and remind me that we don't actually need to purchase every new flavour of potato chip that we meet. To which I respond - oh really, and when are we going to find lamb & mint chips again!? WHEN? (ps. thank you England)

Anyhoo, so I'm perusing their magnificent selection of packaged candies when the bf comes down the aisle with eyes as wide as saucers. I consider briefly that he's found a package of hummus resembling a Star Trek fighter jet. As if in a haze he mumbles the words "frying cheese" and shakes his head in the direction of the sample lady. Yah that's right - Trader Joe's is selling a product called "Frying Cheese". As in cheese that you can put in a greasy pan, top with sauces and then cram quickly into your mouth. I reckon that the bf might even agree - it's WAY better than a Star Trek fighter jet.
Unless that fighter jet could be fried like cheese.

UPDATE: Thanks to Jolene for being smart enough to take a photo!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Race Report: Nike Women's Marathon

I'm not even quite sure where to start - engagement story aside it was still a pretty insane weekend.
We landed in San Fran on Friday morning and after checking in I made a mad dash for the "Expotique" (their word, not mine). It was pretty girltastic and everything was painted pink and covered in "girl affirming" language. I must admit that I'm not a fan of the slogan "Run Like A Girl". I understand that it's supposed to be a re-claiming of the word girl, but it still kind of irks me. I much prefer the local Toronto race slogan of "Women Set the Pace". But that's just me.
Expotique was off the hook but at the same time it was strangely small and contained, very unlike every other large-scale race expo I've been too. Lots of cool samples though and if you could make it through the lines there were offers of manicures, oxygen treatments and iPod engraving. I skipped it all and went straight to Nike Town to purchase my gear - and I didn't go crazy. I bought a race jacket, bag, half-zip sweater and commemorative print. Altogether I'm very happy with my purchases, not to mention the fact that I actually finished the race and am therefore allowed to wear it all!

But back to the actual RUNNING part.
Sunday morning I was awoken by room service at 4:50am with the smallest bagel ever known to American society. Seriously - where is my gluttonous, double-serving size America when I need it? Ate the bagel and promptly held down the urge to toss it back up - I was crazy with nausea and anxiety. I was pacing, psyching myself out, fidgeting and overall being insanely annoying.
Thank god that my closest friend called at 6am - just before I headed out to the start line. She has no idea how much she talked me down. She was calm, reminded me of all my training and how I shouldn't think of this any differently than my long runs. She did good.
By the time I got outside there were many Lulu'd bodies hanging around. I made my way to my corral and then the bf hugged me goodbye - commence crying jag #1. I couldn't stop but it felt really good.

Felt pretty shitty. Legs were tired and heavy. Stomach wasn't all that better, plus I had to stop and pee at 3km. The tall buildings threw off my Garmin so I couldn't get a lock on my pace, but it didn't matter since there were SO many ladies up ahead. At 5km the bf met me and ran with me for a bit, warning me of the murderous hills coming up. I was ready.
[Soundtrack: 80's/90's mix]

I wasn't ready. Holy shit. The hills. Or as I saw them in my mind "Da Hillz" - cause let me tell you, these hills were gangsta. I totally kicked ass up the first bit of the hill without realizing that the top was just the bottom of the next one...and then the next one. It seemed like it would never end!! At one point we were actually running in the fog and the trees were dripping all around. I had to really focus to keep my form up and by the end I was completely exhausted. Finally the big downhill came.
[Soundtrack: hits of Michael Jackson]


And we kept running DOWNHILL for 16 minutes. I'm not joking. No wonder my quads were beyond repair this week because I totally gunned it down the hill. We were running downhill beside the most gorgeous view of the ocean that I've ever seen.
I was running a full minute under pace just to try and make up some time - this is how DUMB the race made me. I've heard all the stories about not going out too fast and leaving some gas in the tank - but I threw it all out the window.
Entering the park was pretty fantastic and there were SO many people cheering (take note Toronto!). Golden Gate Park was gorgeous - amazing grounds, amazing trail, even a waterfall!! I hardly noticed the gradual hills because everything was so freaking pretty.


After we left the park the marathoners finally split away from the half-marathoners. No offense, but I was so happy to have the number of runners dwindle away. It was much easier to run and keep pace without having to duck around people every few minutes. I get so irritated with runners that don't run by the rules (I know, I'm anal that way). Let it be known that walkers ALWAYS move to the side! And look behind you before you start walking!
This part of the race sucked goats. At 30km I took a walk break and huffed loudly enough for the lady in front to turn around. We walked together and commisserated for a bit. It was great to articulate our hatred of running at the moment. And still, we kept going.
The BIG MOMENT came at 32km ;)
[Soundtrack: Madonna Celebration album]

After the BIG MOMENT all the girls around me were in a flurry - I was still crying while running and they all wanted to see the ring and call my bf a jerk for not waiting until the end! I was glad to provide a distraction at that point in the race, I think we all needed that. From that point on every time I looked down at my Garmin I saw my ring - and I started smiling and giggling. It was crazy. I wasn't exactly picking out dresses but it definitely got my mind off the road. At 36km they had "The Chocolate Mile" where they gave out small bars of chocolate. I couldn't even think about it, but I pocketed one for my bf  fiance later ;)
The last four kilometres are a blur. There were so many people at the sidelines, and so many coaches that were running back from the finish line to help people cross - it was a total circus. I couldn't see the finish line but I could hear that we were getting closer.
At this point I knew that I was WAY past my goal but there was absolutely nothing I could do to possibly make my legs go faster. NOTHING. I tried bribing them with promises of money, a pet monkey, illicit drugs, sex - they wouldn't budge. But thankfully they never gave up on me, they kept going right until the bitter end and when that tuxedo'd firefighter presented the Tiffany's box containing my medal I nearly tore his hand off.
[Soundtrack: Lady Gaga - got turned off before the finish]

Nike had quite a good spread of post-race nosh including bananas, bagels and chocolate milk! And thank god because in his pre-engagement haze my bf fiance completely forgot my finishing bag at the hotel.
We didn't stick around the finish line too long, I knew I wasn't ready for a massage and all I wanted to do was fall into an ice bath and call all my friends with the news! Oh, and kiss the bf fiance :)

So yah, it was a really, really, really tough race. I take comfort in the fact that even Boston Marathoners consider it one of the toughest courses. And I'm okay with being 18 minutes slower than my goal - because it can only get better from there, right?
Yes, that's right - I'll do this again. I have to now! I love the Toronto course and I really can't wait to run it next year. Well...actually...I can wait. Time for a little rest and socializing now and maybe in a couple of months I'll revisit that training schedule :)

Thanks to all for your cheers, happy words and thoughts this past weekend, you really have absolutely no idea how many times I read and re-read them before the race. In the loneliest parts of the road they were the best things to keep me going :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another reason to take walk breaks

To set the scene:
Mile 20 (32km) of the marathon. It's tough. It's awful. If I wasn't trying to conserve energy I'd burst into tears. It's notoriously the WORST part of the marathon - which is why the bf planned to meet and cheer me on there.
He starts running beside me (as he had earlier in the race) and I'm completely depleted. 

Can't look at him. Can hardly speak. Can only give him the "thumbs down" signal. 

Cue script:

Bf: maybe you should take a walk break

Me: no way. this is a downhill. can't walk now.

Bf: no really, I think you should walk.

Me: [thinking he's saying this because another really awful hill is coming up] no way! why?

Bf: because if you don't stop then I can't put this ring on your finger.

And that's how I got engaged at Mile 20 of my first marathon :) 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Back to life, back to reality

Soooooo, yah. I didn't make my goal :(
4:24 was just out of my reach.  Apparently I finished with a time of 4:42. Not AWFUL. But I must admit that I was disappointed - which, I know, right? Is insane. My body managed to KEEP RUNNING for four goddamn hours and 42 bleeding minutes. What more can I ask of it?
To be clear, I never really hit the proverbial "wall".
My body never said "You shall not run anymore today".
It just clearly enunciated that I would not be running very fast.

I took a look back at my pacing today and I must admit that I kicked ass on the hills, which took up most of the first 15 kilometres of the course and climbed nearly 400 feet. It was after that when things started to wind down a bit.

I have much more to say on the topic, and a full race report is imminent :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Magic Number is 4:24

This is it - Marathon Week. Nothing I can do now can change any of the effort that I've put in over these past 5 months. All I can do is rest, take care of myself and send good thoughts out into the universe.

So here it is universe - I will finish this marathon within four hours and twenty four minutes. 

A seemingly bizarre number, I realize. Unless of course you are an avid fan/reader/stalker of Kathrine Switzer. Of which I clearly am.  You see when Kathrine Switzer first ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 (and made history as the first woman ever to do so as a registered runner) her finishing time was 4:24. It was her first marathon - the first time she proved to herself and others that she could do the distance.
Of course she then went on to demolish the time and concentrate her efforts on a sub 3 hour race (something I probably won't be attempting) but I say pishposh to that - a first time is a first time.

I've had a pretty great week of taper runs that included a great Yasso 800 workout last week. Now it's all rest and bon bons until Saturday when I'll do a very short run along the opening stretch of the race course before doing up my shoelaces for the big event on Sunday.

Without mincing words - I'm completely terrified. And make no mistake, I have a long list of things that could go wrong pre/during/post race. I just have to keep faith that these past 20 weeks have prepared me for whatever this mofo course can throw at me.

Sidenote - I'm also really excited that our hotel is within crawling distance of both a Cheesecake Factory and a Shoe Pavilion. Because if a girl can't have banana cream cheesecake AND buy pretty shoes - then what the hell is this all about?

Side-Sidenote - please send me and the all-mighties your good thoughts and bedazzled prayers on Sunday. I'm gonna need every ounce of all things good that I can muster :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Bestest Banana Bread Ever

My baking career has not been all that extensive - I'm much more of a casserole and soup kind of girl. I like things where you can just throw together a bunch of ingrediants, stir and heat. Which is exactly what you do when making this recipe for banana bread.
Banana bread is one of my countertop staples - I MUST have it and could eat slice after slice until I have a banana bread baby. I've done a lot of experimenting with different recipes and have come to the conclusion that every recipe comes down to the bananas. They must be perfectly overripe -they need to have large, dark spots on the flesh (this means they're full of sugary goodness). I've taken to freezing a few bananas once they hit this perfect moment, always making sure to slice them up before placing them in the ziplock baggie.

Another staple of mine, and I know this will be slightly controversial - flavoured dessert tofu. So far I've used the almond and banana flavours. Both are delish and make the bread super moist. I use this instead of the milk, yogurt, coffee or applesauce recommended in other recipes.

So here it is, give it a whirl.

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup WW flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
Mix all of these together, make sure they're mixed well.

3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs honey
2 eggs
Blend these together until creamy
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup walnut oil (or just do 1/2 cup oil if you don't have walnut, trust me though - invest in the walnut)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Blend until mixed
1 package dessert tofu
Texture will be a bit clumpy, stir until smooth

Add wet ingrediants to the dry. Mix until blended.
In separate bowl mash up three ripe bananas.
Swirl the bananas into the mix. This is also the time to add chocolate chips if you're into that.
ps - I just wrote this recipe from memory - THAT'S how much of an addict I am. 

I like to line my pans with butter and parchment paper (NOT WAX!) this makes it easy to lift it out of the pan once done. This also makes for a much quicker transition from cooling on the counter to being shoveled into my mouth.

Pour into bread pan - bake for 60 mins at 350 degrees.

Smear with butter. You're welcome. 

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Three words - Chocolate Covered Peeps

You heard me correctly! CHOCOLATE COVERED PEEPS!

If I have to travel across the border for these - I will.
Original Peeps always seemed to be lacking a certain something for me, one was delicious but two had my mouth crawling with a sugary cement.
I think that chocolate is the perfect addition to the Peep world. 
And now I can't wait for April.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Horseradish + cheddar = a party in my mouth

Um, have you seen these in the store?
They're Herr's Chips - which I particularly love because of their association with that episode of The Office where Jim helps Karen find a bag after the vending machine and all stores in the vicinity run dry thereby kick-starting their doomed relationship and elevating Jim from loser/newbie employee status. But that's besides the point.

These. Chips. Will. Blow. Your. Mind.

I tried to have them as a "snack" when I got home from work tonight and ended up eating fistful, after fistful, after fistful. My mouth was on fire in the most pleasing and delicious way.
Let me be clear though - the horseradish is NOT a subtle a flavour. There's certainly no mistaking its presence. It beats you over the head and leaves you lying in the snack aisle with cheddar coloured drool on your face - again, in a delicious way.
Side benefit: totally clears out your sinuses as you snack.

Week 18: 75 hours 23 minutes and 57 seconds

As I type this the countdown clock on my desktop tells me that in 12 days and 21 hours I will be running my marathon. gasp. gasp. Can't breathe. I seriously can't believe that the time is almost here and I must admit that a large part of me never thought I'd make it. I thought for sure that over four months injury or just plain old "I can't do this!!" would take me down. It was one of those lofty goals that I set and then just kind of gave in to - I planned my training, joined the group, read the literature, bought some pretty gear and oh yah, put in the miles.

To be exact, over the past four months I have covered 730 kilometres for 75 hours 23 minutes and 57 seconds and burned 39, 413 calories.

Oh lordy. My feet hurt just thinking about it - and also, I think I deserve a few fistfuls of gummy bears. On top of pancakes. With whipped cream.

This week kicked off the beginning of the end. I'm slowly settling into taper mode - which means that while I'm still getting in quality runs my overall distance is getting shorter and I'm supposed to be preparing my body for the big day with lots of sleep, lots of good (nutritious) food, cutting down on the alcohol and caffeine and healing all the cracks and kinks in my legs. I'm so ready for this part.

Wednesday: 6km tempo. Went out on my own for this one. It was so cold that I started running before my GPS had a chance to find satellites - once I got going my body warmed up okay but the wind was wicked and I was glad to get home. Good pace, legs felt really good.

Thursday: Track repeats. Ran from the Nike Runner's Lounge with my group. You could tell that training season was winding down - aside from the guys smoking pot in the middle of the field the track was practically a deadzone. We ran a pyramid repeats - 400m x 800m x 1200m x 1600m x 1200m x 800m x 400m. Felt good and hit my mark at every repeat. Finished up the night with a Starbucks Hot Chocolate :)

Saturday: I deluded myself into thinking that all my Nuit Blanche walking made up for the 6km I SHOULD have run that day. C'mon, it was a ton of walking.

Sunday: 23km LSD. The bf joined me on this run which was really fun because we NEVER run together. People always say when they find out that we run "Oh, it must be so nice to run together as a couple!?". I wish I could live that fantasy where we run hand in hand and gaze lovingly into each others eyes at stoplights and water breaks - but I can't. He runs too fast and I get too competitive. Match made in heaven.
Anyway the bf has been battling an achilles injury and claimed that running with me would prevent him from running too fast. I ignored the blatant insult and just enjoyed the company :) I must admit that it was nice having a partner on a long distance - especially one that knows my low tolerance for chit chat.

Marathon countdown: 12 days.
Up next: I'm definitely losing two toenails. Thank god sandal season is over.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

If only Angelina were a runner

The night before Sunday's Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon I had one of those running dreams - thankfully not the kind where I'm late for the starting gun, can't find my bib or have legs made of jello. No, this was a celebrity running dream - a first for me.
In this dream Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise (strange pairing for my liking) came over to my place to check out my Dyson vacuum. This didn't really seem all that strange because who doesn't love a Dyson vac? Am I right?
So I'm tooling around the living room demonstrating the famous suckage of this handy appliance and eventually I just have to ask Tom - how is Katie's marathon training going?! I'm deeply interested in the distances she's running, her time goal at NYC this year and whether she's got around to picking up a new sports bra? We're deep into our running talk when I realize that Brad is bored - he's playing absentmindedly with the Dyson and not participating in our convo AT ALL. And that's when it hits me - I have nothing to say to Brad because ANGELINA DOESN'T RUN.

Yes - apparently I'm just as snobby in my dreams as real life.

Side note - in my dream Tom told me that Katie had to slow down her training because she's pregnant and didn't want to push it. If this comes to fruition after the race I am most certainly buying a neon sign and opening up shop.

Running with (or like) the wolves?

While I understand the desire to have the stealth agility and power of an animal - I must admit that I do not get these shoes. Apparently these are a prototype shoe designed by artist Bob Basset.
The fashion supplement of the New York Times described them as "leather paw shoes that make it easier for you to free your wild side." Apparently the artist is all set to start making custom designs and colours for clients.
As for me, I think I'll stick to get my wolf fix from Wolverine and Team Jacob. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Please mister dj, find me a good song!

Only 19 days to go yet there is still one issue pressing deeply on my brain - what song will I play while I'm crossing the finish line!?
When I finished my first half-marathon I played Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson - definitely in the ass-kicking genre of songs on my iPod. Lately I've been running to audiobooks and haven't really been creating playlists or considering the beats per minute of my song list, so I'm a little out of the loop. Lots of people have written lists of their favorite power ballads but I'd like my song to reflect something of the times or even the place where I'm running.
While I was running on Sunday (to music) my shuffle mode delivered "We Built This City" by Starship to my earbuds - and I must say that it's got potential. The song mentions San Francisco, it makes me sing out loud and it has that cool part where the guy comes on and does the weather report - I know, weird, but I like it okay!

Here are my criteria for an inspiring marathon-finishing song:
- a good, but not insane tempo (120bpm-ish)
- preferably lyrics that have something to do with strength or perserverance or even running
- nothing techno, should include drums and guitar
- preferably female singer(s), although I'll make exceptions for some
- bonus for thematic links to San Francisco

Suggestions please - Aaand Go!  :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 17: The Dress Rehearsal

Last week the majority of people in my run clinic started tapering in preparation for Sunday's Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon - and in a strong show of solidarity I did the same ;) Okay, I was lazy and tired and just wanted to slow things down for a bit. The presence of Joan Benoit at the Nike lounge did serve to light a fire under me though and I was able to slog through my VERY LONGEST long slow distance run on Sunday - boy was she a doozy.

Monday and Tuesday: Off. I did some weights and yoga on Tuesday just for kicks.

Wednesday: 6km group run. I have no idea if this was meant to be a tempo run but it was kind of a "slow tempo", more of a rumba run if you will. Good times, the run ended in the dark giving us another taste of Fall.

Thursday: 5km Running-In-The-Basking-Warmth-Of-Joan-Benoit's-Wisdom. This was a Nike Runner's Lounge run. They were giving out personalized shirts that night so most of the RR clinic was there. My shirt was going to say "I eat hills for breakfast" - but the lineup was crazy and after the run the Nike girls seemed frazzled and tired, so I left with a non-personalized shirt. Whatever, it was still free.
Friday I woke up with a wicked sore throat - I attributed it to standing around outside in shorts and t-shirt for quite some time before heading out to run Thursday night. It was chilly! Anyhoo, spent the day alternating between hot baths, under the covers and making tea. It worked - felt much better on Saturday.

Sunday: 36km long slow distance. So I bandited the Waterfront Marathon you guys. Shhhh! Yes, I ran the route without paying the fee. I didn't get a bib, a shirt, a timing chip, or a medal, or drink the Gatorade or use the toilets. Okay, okay I did use a toilet at 27km but there were no runners waiting! Gah. Anyway it was a great dress rehearsal before my big day. Tried to go to bed early on Saturday but was way too wired, woke up at 6am to pound in a bagel and tea, did some stretching, readied my iPod, sorted my gels, poured my Gatorade, stashed some cash and I was off and running at 7:30am - my earliest LSD run in 17 weeks. The crowd was massive and it took me 8 minutes to cross the START line. Madness.

The first 16km of the route are shared by the half-marathoners so it was amazing how quiet things got after that - no offense, but the half-marathoners are a CHATTY lot. I saw quite a few runners starting to shut down around 23km, lots of walking, lots of bending over and massaging legs, lots of inappropriate shirt removal. I split off from the marathon group at 30km and started to run back, I only needed to go 36km and running towards the Beaches would have taken me further away from home. All things considered it was a really great run. I never felt like I NEEDED a walk break but I made sure to take them on schedule. I had to remind myself to keep my pace slower than race pace which was hard given the energy of the crowd, they just make you want to run faster. I still had energy left when I got to 36km and I ran just a little bit further to get me closer to home. Given all this I think that I'm pretty well prepared for my own marathon :)

As for the Waterfront Marathon, I'm not sure that I'll ever pay to run this race. As much as I admire the work of the Canada Running Series I can't say that I loved the course. It wasn't as "Waterfront" as I thought it would be - I saw way more of the Gardener than I did of the lake. I really like the routes that the Toronto International Marathon has had for the past few years - it's a good mix of hills through the downtown and quieter areas of the city. I wish these two races could get their shit together and either merge or cooperate so that Toronto has a Spring AND a Fall marathon. And would a nice race shirt kill anyone? I mean really you guys?

Marathon countdown: 19 days

Up next: Slow ride, take it easy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

After that line was crossed, it was never the same again.

This past Thursday evening, a group of 40 runners stood behind the Nike Runner's Lounge listening to the one and only Joan Benoit Samuelson. It had been announced earlier in the day that she might join us that evening but once we all arrived and there was no sign of her we started to lose hope. Her Nike handler was nowhere in sight and there didn't seem to be the official "celebrity station" that they usually erect for such appearances.
Suddenly and quietly a tiny woman in jeans, t-shirt and Nike Lunarglides appeared in the back of the store. She seemed to be shopping and not to notice or care about the giant wall poster bearing her image from 25 years earlier. With little hoopla or ceremony she joined us outside before our run and gave a few words of wisdom.
She recommended NOT checking out the course beforehand - it will only make you more nervous and not knowing what to expect makes it easier to keep going.
She also advised NOT running with your running partners - they'll only slow you down or make you feel bad for speeding up.
She said to run your own race. Don't worry about those around you, run for you and run your best.
Did I mention that I love this woman?

Apparently she's on a fall marathon tour and after this will also be making stops in Chicago, San Francisco and finally New York. Which means we get to hang out in two other cities include MY MARATHON!
Yes, I'm excited.

I'm glad that I was able to snag a pic on Thursday even if I was all sweaty post-run and even though I had to interrupt her shopping spree in the Nike store, it was worth it.
Next time we meet I'd like her to sign either my shirt or my bib or my person. We'll see. How cool would it be to finish my first marathon with Joan Benoit's signature on my back?
This is probably one of my most favorite video's about the 1984 Olympic Women's Marathon. The soundtrack could have something to do with it, whatever it is I always end up in a ball of tears by the end. It finishes with the statement "After that line was crossed, it was never the same again". And it's true. I won't get into the history of women's running (many others have done that more eloquently than I could), but the very idea that the first women's marathon took place during my lifetime is very hard to fathom. Prior to that some sports officials believed a long distance female runner would lose her uterus - insanity. It's not that I EVER imagine myself in the class of elite female athletes, but the very idea that I am allowed to run and can run my own race is in very large part due to this lady and those ladies that helped push for a race of our own.

The one question I wish I had asked her the other night - does she still have that wicked cap? 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lentil & Egg bake

In an effort to max out on healthy proteins last week (did I mention that my legs have been sore lately?) I found this easy peezy recipe for baked lentils and eggs.
I've been experimenting with a few different types of lentils lately and the one that seems most stable and suitable for this recipe is the french green lentil. It doesn't get mushy like the red lentil and it doesn't stain my pots like the black beluga lentil.
The garam masala adds a really nice spice to the dish and I ate it for breakfast the next day on top of an english muffin - delish!
It was quick, cheap, it kept well and it filled me up real good. What more do you want?

The summer we tried to kill ourselves with food

Yah that's right, the bf and I occasionally ate like we were trying to off ourselves these past few months. It's what happens isn't it? The hot weather combined with traveling food trucks and fall fairs = death foods. Foods that should require you to sign a waiver or pass a cholesterol test before biting into.

Exhibit A: Tiny Toms Donuts [photo credit rbraeken]

A must-eat when it comes to the CNE but I have very specific requests when it comes to these donuts - I like them to be more crispy than cakey and covered in cinnamon sugar. The bf got plain old powdered sugar this year, and fine I wouldn't kick the donuts out of bed or anything but it still felt like something was lacking.
Years of life lost - 9 years for every dozen.

Exhibit B: The Corn Dog - or Meat on a Stick

I should clarify and extend this exhibit to include any "on a stick" variety of food. I also ate several butter-dipped cobs of corn on a stick this summer- I failed to get a photo because both my fingers and face were covered in said butter.
But back to the corn dog - it was like heaven. For serious. The batter had a bit of a spice to it and the dog itself was a delight. I slathered it with mustard and ate it as slowly as I possibly could just to savour Every Single Bite. The bf and I sat outside the "Food Pavilion" (always my favorite of pavilions) and watched how quickly those around us could demolish their food. I saw a guy eat his corn dog in five bites. FIVE. BITES. His wife (whom and I can only assume is now his widow) sat mortified beside him. We sat in slack-jawed awe.
Years of Life Lost: 2 for the dog, 1 for the coating.

Exhibit C: Deep Fried Mars Bar - or Dessert on a Stick

Okay, so we didn't actually eat this but I did get a snap of the unfortunate lady in charge of creating these death sticks. We did WATCH a guy eat it and let me tell you - that was enough. The same guy in fact that ate his corn dog in five bites ate this - so he's doubly dead. This was the first time I had seen DFMB in real life, I guess I'm sheltered. It's the most hideous, horrifying thing I've ever seen and I can't believe I didn't put it in my mouth [that's what she said].
Years of Life Lost: 27 if you eat it. 5 just for standing next to someone eating it.

Exhibit D: The most glorious peanut butter cup known to man

We bought this while on our mini-break to Blue Mountain Resort which meant that we were well into our weekend of sloth and excess while simultaneously being surrounded by a group of fit mountain dwellers - awkward.
This is the kind of thing that I would dream of every Easter when I dipping my Mr. Solid into the tub of Kraft peanut butter - except that this isn't crappy chocolate and unsweetened PB. This. Is. Heaven - if heaven were made of peanut butter and chocolate. You'll noticed that I actually cut the cup into quarters like a pie, it was really the only way to be done. The bf and I were splitting it and I insisted on seeing the cross-section. See, we aren't SAVAGES.
Years of Life Lost: 4 per quarter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Book Report: The Children's Book / A.S. Byatt

As someone who readily admits to being lured in by cover art let me just say that as soon as I saw this book I desired it desperately. C'mon, it's gorgeous right? Something about the colours and fonts brings me back to the old fairy tale editions that I had as a child - which, I guess is the point.

"The Children's Book" - or as one reviewer called it "Possession - the next generation" is a novel spanning 25 years in England and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. It's a massive and exhausting read, in fact it took me several months to get through. Mind you, I was simultaneously reading three non-fiction titles.

The first half of the book immerses you in the daily life of the Silver Age of England. Everything seems tinged with magic, loveliness and tea time. The children of the central family have idyllic yet independent lives running through the fields and play rooms of the countryside; and the adults have passionate, intellectual and creative relationships with large groups of artists and thinkers. Their stories made me want to don a heavy velvet dress with intricate brocade and host a backyard staging of Shakespearean drama. Alas, velvet makes me itch and I don't have a balcony let alone a back yard.

This is one of those books that tells stories within the story. Olive Wellwood, the main female character, is a writer of children's fairy tales and she maintains a tale based on each of her children, adding to it as they grow. Brief chapters from each of these tales help to introduce us to the children and also to highlight her relationship and expectations of them. They're fascinating and dark stories with adult twists that make Harry Potter look like a nursery rhyme. In fact Byatt has made no secret of the fact that she was disappointed by JK Rowling's lack of imagination and pedestrian narrative - Byatt is clearly more a fan of the slow-burning, insidious brand of evil.

I liked this book very much although I must admit to being bored and frustrated when Byatt wandered away from the drama at hand only to introduce a history lesson - ensuring that the reader understood every minute historical reference was distracting and diminished the impact of some highly emotional story lines. This was particularly disruptive in the last quarter of the book as we enter the era of WWI. I don't think I'm giving much away by saying that alot of people die in these last chapters and I found the treatment of some of them to be very quick and dismissive. There was a lack of closure and the suddenly stoic and unemotional voice felt foreign to me. Perhaps this had more to do with evoking the tone of war and front-line response than I was prepared for.

All in all this was a very engaging, engrossing, amusing and distressing read. The style of her writing is very high-brow and reflects the time period of the characters. This would be a great story to read over the winter, definitely one where I could curl up with a cuppa tea and get lost for a few hours.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Week 16: No time to slow down

This was a pretty great week. I ran my FASTEST EVER 6km tempo run on Tuesday and had a really fab long run. Overall a week of little pain, so that's always a plus.

Tuesday: 6km tempo. Our coaches sent us out in waves so that the slower runners (ie. me) weren't overwhelmed by the rush of speed demons - I very much appreciated this. Sure, in the end we were still passed but it took a good 4km for that to happen. It was a great run and I kept pace with a group of ladies that ran only slightly faster than me. Ended up being my fastest 6km on record :)

Wednesday: Yasso 800's. This was my first time attempting the Yasso's and naturally I was terrified. It wasn't until I arrived at the track that I found out we were doing them, so I had no time to freak out or escape. Essentially a Yasso 800 is this: you run 800 meters around the track (that's 2x around usually) then you take a break, then you repeat 10 times. Apparently if I could keep up a pace of 4 mins 24 seconds for every repeat then I am highly likely to run a 4 hour 24 mins marathon. I know, sounds like witch doctor-y to me but apparently it works. Turns out I averaged a 4 min 10 second pace. We'll see how this all plays out in the end.

Friday: Quick 5km on treadmill. Felt fine, good morning wake-up.

Sunday: 23km LSD. The bf and I went away for the weekend and didn't get back until the afternoon, so I waited until 5:30 to head out. The sun was going down and the streets were pretty empty - it was glorious. I had probably one of the best long runs that I've had in weeks. Conditions were perfect and all my joints and muscles seemed to be getting along together quite well. I did start to feel a heavy, dull ache in my knees and quads around 19km. Could this be the effects of lactic acid that I've been hearing so much about?

I really enjoy running at night so I'm actually looking forward to the onset of fall and daylight savings time. The only downside - the freaks. A guy on the Danforth started running along beside me and yells "How about this - if I can run faster than you, you have to go on a date with me?". Not that I wasn't impressed by his bohemian-inspired stubble or his delicate Eau du Labatt's fragrance - but I asked him nicely to leave me alone. And he did.

Marathon countdown - 26 days.

Up next: I bandit a popular Toronto road race.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Week 15: Need to lie down

Despite the fact that I only got in three runs this week (shhhhh) I felt totally drained and lifeless. Not sure if something was up with my immune system or what, but allz I know is that all week I was moaning that I NEEDED TO LIE DOWN. Yah, I'm a baby. I know.

Tuesday: Missed my clinic and had to head out on a tempo run by myself. This resulted in a less than tempo-esque run. Went for 6km instead of 8km (see baby comment, above).

Wednesday: The day I nearly died on the track. Unbeknownst to me track training is very different from hills - apparently adding another lap every week isn't enough - no, we need to do these strange pyramid structured distances. I had never heard anything like it before in my life. And it made me want to lie down. After a 3km warmup we did the following track repeats: 400 m x 800 m x 1200m x 1600m x 1600m x 1200m x 800m x 400m. Get it? Yah, it's mental. But I managed and even ran a pretty decent time at the low end of my permissible time range. Unfortunately I didn't bring enough G-juice with me and ended up nearly crawling back to the Running Room.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday: I mostly did nothing, with a little something in between.

Sunday: 32.3 mofo km. That's right, my LONGEST distance EVER. Do you hear that? EVER! I found a cool route using the Garmin website that pretty much took me out towards Ossington and then up and across Danforth and back through the Beaches. Quite beautiful and it was a lovely day - thank god for sunscreen. Let me be clear, it took me a long time. Enough time to watch four episodes of True Blood, or eight of Weeds or the entirety of Gone with the Wind - including potty and popcorn breaks. Yes - I worked all of that out while I was running.

And after my run - I didn't lie down :)

Countdown to marathon: 32 days.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What's in a runner's kitchen?

Runner's World posted this little article by the brilliant Mark Bittman. He is the man responsible for my most favorite cookbook right now - or at least the one in highest rotation in my kitchen "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian". I love that it isn't one of those cookbooks showing you how to swap out meat in traditional recipes, but that it gives genuine and delicious veggie-based meals. And it isn't one of those glossy reads with shimmering, porno shots of impossibly baked creations, it reads more like an encyclopedia. But a really GOOD encyclopedia. You want food porn? Go pick up a Nigella book and be gone with you.

Anyhoo back to that list. Mark Bittman suggests the following items for a runner's pantry:

Olive Oil
Long-Keeping Vegetables and Fruits
Fresh Herbs
Soy Sauce
Dried Fruit and Nuts
Canned Tomatoes
Dried Mushrooms

I'm going to add a few (seemingly obvious) suggestions of my own:

Chocolate milk - fellow blogger Running Shorts gave the lowdown on the deliciousness and suitability of this drink. I concur. My personal favorite - Neilson's Ultimate Chocolate Milk. Oh god, it's amazing, like liquid chocolate pudding. And I love that I can buy a bunch at a time and it doesn't need to be refridgerated until it's opened! Love love love.

Bananas - probably the only thing I can keep down when I return home all queezy and exhausted. Plus it tastes really good with the choco milk.

Nutella - do I sense a theme here? My friend Derek swears by this stuff. High in protein and more luxurious than peanut butter. And really, really decadent on fluffy, white bread (the crack of bread).

Sesame oil - I've been in a bit of a soup phase lately and this stuff takes soup to a whole new dimension without making it too salty. Just a wee teaspoon gets you all the rich, nutty flavour you need.

Ice cubes - okay, technically NOT a food but still really useful. Whether for cooling down my homemade Gatorade or for piling in the bathtub for post-run torture, the stuff is going out of style in my house.

So runner, what's in your pantry? (sidenote - who says pantry anymore?)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Week 14: Travels and travails

This week I traveled to the Far East known as Newfoundland to visit my bestest of friends "Modie" and her new beautiful baby. Somehow, despite my instant deep need to lay down, start nesting and cuddle that baby until it was old enough to protest - I still made it out to run.

Running while traveling has never really worked out for me. My first trip after I started running was for a work conference in North Carolina. Since I had absolutely no knowledge of the area and I was terrified of any type of hilly terrain (plus the fact that there was a female-hunting psycho on the loose - when isn't there?) I made due by running around the parking lot of the big box stores next to the hotel. One loop turned out to be about a kilometre - so a few loops later and I had all my window shopping done. Unfortunately something went terribly wrong with my Saucony sneakers and I ended up with the WORST and most PAINFUL heel blister of all time in all of humanity. Yes, that's right - I suffered more than any human has ever suffered from a blister. No doubt about it. I compressed it with hot cloths and soaks every chance I got - praying that the poisonous venom would escape from it's fleshy bubble and allow me at least pretent to wear shoes like a normal woman. It took days. Since then I have diligently packed my shoes with the promise "If there's time..." and then kept them hidden in the hotel closet until checkout time. But given that I am in training week 14/20 I thought that it might be helpful to keep up the pace and try to keep to schedule. I did fairly well, considering.

Monday was my rest day and Tuesday was my travel day - so no running.

Wednesday: 8km. Modie drove me out to the flatest area of the most mountainous towns - which meant running along this gorgeous river and mountains. Jeebs, aside from the fact that it was also along a "Service Road" (aka a road where big trucks speed through to the highway) it was a gorgeous view and the breeze (okay, wind) helped to cool down the sundrenched area. Oh yah, here's the view. Proper, right?

Friday: 6 X 800 metre repeats. Prior to this trip I emailed the Corner Brook Running Club to ask if they could recommend anywhere in the city for running repeats - a track? or a flat stretch of road? A guy named Steve wrote me back the most AMAZING instructional email ever. A long, detailed list of where to run in the city and pro/cons for each. Unfortunately there is no running track in CB - a fact highly lamented by Steve. There is a track in the college gym but it specifically states NO RUNNING. Hmm I guess the run/walker animosity has reared its ugly head out here.

Anyway, back to the repeats. They were fine. Great in fact. I chose my stretch of road and simply ran it six times. Not sure if it has to do with the fact that I wasn't circling around a track but I was able to go about 10 second fast for each repeat. I ran 4:00 repeats this week while last week I was around 4:10. Strange. I didn't feel like I was going any harder but I was certainly tired when it was all said and done.

Saturday: Planned on getting in a few km's when I got home, but flight was delayed and didn't get in until way late.

Sunday: 24km LSD. Something that I digested along the way on Saturday did not sit well. I was up most of the night with a strange stomach bug and by the morning I still felt a little queazy and alot dehydrated. Headed out on the Martin Goodman Trail - worst. decision. ever. Two words - Air Show. Ugh. Not only was the trail packed with people but it was also loud as F#*@. How's a girl supposed to listen to her audiobook in these conditions? By the end I was spent. In fact, by midway I was spent. Long, slow, deathly pace for the last 10km. Recovery was good but I was mostly in a prone position for the rest of the day.

Six weeks left.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The elusive fast food lobster

A few years ago I was in Rhode Island for a conference and after an exhausting first day I collapsed in my room cradling the room service menu. And what to my wondering eye should appear? But a soft butter roll stuffed with lobster meat! It was the most delicious, decadent and satisfying meal - every bite made me sad that I came closer to the end. Sadly - I can't find the picture which I of course took before diving in. The lobster roll is usually best during the late summer season and is served on a soft white roll with very minimal interference. The lobster is usually mixed with a small amount of mayo and occasionally with some chopped celery or green onion. My RI version also came with a plate of delightfully crispy french fries. Oh god, I'm drooling with the thought.

I was reminded of that moment today - in the middle of my Newfoundland vacation - when my best friend and I entered a Subway Sub shop. Yah, ok - not exactly an executive chef type of situation. But lo and behold they had a lobster meat sub! Stomach issues be damned - I ordered it up. 6-inch (to be safe) with onions, tomato, cucumber and mayo. Keep it simple was my thought. It was satisfyingly salty and definitely had that distinctive lobster flavour. Not exactly the same punch as the Rhode Island Dreamwich - but what do you expect for $6. I left the store satisfied and several hours later I still have my digestive system in check. Lunch well done.

And while we didn't get to enjoy a Guinness with our lunch (c'mon, Newfoundland isn't THAT liberal!), I did think this was an apropos time to pull out this old gem ;)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The twitch. The fix. The re-up.

Despite a sketchy past littered with empty Diet Coke cans and even a brief stint with those little pink Wake-Ups in high school (yes, it was my Jessie Spano moment) I have consistently tried to downplay or limit the role of caffeine in my life. It's an endless battle. My best friend in high school drank Pepsi for breakfast. In university my roommate worked for an upscale coffee joint and we would eat chocolate covered espresso beans for dinner. In later years I would come to respect the delicate balance of my stomach lining and find comfort and solace in a cuppa tea - but I would always turn back to coffee when looking for a little jolt, a little fix, a little kick in the pants. I've never been the hardcore type that could drink it black - no, I'm a coffee pansy that is for certain. In grad school I was frequently asked if I wanted some "coffee with my sugar?". So I distinctly remember the very first time that a cafe latte touched my lips. It was Fall 2000 and a good friend had just moved to downtown Toronto - so swanky! He lived near the Starbucks at College & Euclid and that is the spot where I first fell in love with the delightful mixture of syrup, frothed milk and espresso. It was love at first sip.

Over the years I tried to make my own. I used a crappy Salton machine, a pretty Italian Moka, various Bodum accessories - but it never tasted the same. I was never the Barista of my dreams. And so it passed that in the Fall of 2008 during a trip to Spain my bf and I were introduced to the miracle of Nespresso. At first I mistook it for the powdered Nescafe coffee shite - but after being brought into the mecca that is a Nespresso store in Valencia I was shown the error of my ways. It had all the elements that made it attractive to a coffee snob - exclusive club, quality espresso beans, shiny coffee toys and smart, pretty people to man the counters (not to mention Clooney as the spokesperson). But don't be mistaken - there is no purchasing a cup of joe in these stores. Oh no. They'll certainly brew you a shot or a drink, but it's free and meant to entice your taste buds and open you up to a much bigger purchase. The store is there only to sell the beans (or pods if you will), the machines, and the various elements for drinking (cups, sugar, spoons).

I bought a machine for the bf for Christmas this year and I swear that I saw a tear in his eye - unheard of for a hard-hearted Englishman, trust me. I knew once I saw him documenting the entire experience on film that he was hooked. And so was I. The machine came with a small frothing machine that makes the most perfect quality steamed, frothed milk EVER. That's right, I said it IN CAPS. Last week I experimented for the first time with an iced latte and Nespresso didn't let me down. It frothed the milk cold! COLD!

So good - once it hits your lips....