Tuesday, September 29, 2009
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
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
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
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?
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
"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
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
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
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:
Long-Keeping Vegetables and Fruits
Dried Fruit and Nuts
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
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
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
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....