Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Looking Towards the Future

After my half on Sunday we drove up to Whistler and spent Monday wandering around the village and enjoying the Olympic atmosphere. It was a BEAUTIFUL day out. I have seriously never, ever seen the mountain that clear. We didn't ski as I felt like that wasn't the best idea, having just completed a half marathon and all, but it was fun to be up there nevertheless.

We bussed back down on Monday night, as the boy's mom was staying an extra night and we drove up in her car, and arrived back at home at around nine pm. We threw together some quick stirfry with a combination of broccoli, zucchini, and carrots I had steamed on Saturday night that we had leftover, some chicken we picked up at Whole Foods on the way home, and our favorite stir-fry sauce which is made up of: soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, red chili flakes, a bit of turbinado sugar, and water. I had mine wrapped in a whole-wheat pita with leftover spinach salad in maple balsamic vinaigrette (also made for Saturday night) on the side while the boy had his over pasta.

Yesterday I lazed around, took the dog for a walk (we are dog-sitting while my boyfriend's mom is out of town), and eventually went to work at 3:00.

Today I made some banana-almond butter oatmeal for breakfast and then I decided my legs felt good enough to go for a short run. I went to the gym and completed an easy three miles on the treadmill. It felt awesome to run and my legs felt great. I then did twenty minutes of core work and upper back/arm weights. Then I came home and threw some honey, a banana, and some granola into the waning Greek yogurt container and mixed that together. I also had some coconut water and half a sweet potato.

In other news I'm considering what my next races should be. I am terrified at doing a full marathon at the end of June, but I really think I can do it. More than that I think I should. I wasn't afraid of doing a half, but the idea of a full marathon does scare me, and I think, therefore, that I should do it. In order to make sure I am truly ready to take on a marathon, however, I plan to run a few more races first. There is a 10k trail race on April 17th that I really want to run because a) trail races are fun b) I like the 10k distance its short, quick and you feel like you've accomplished something at the end and c) the start is five minutes from my house. Then there is the BMO Vancouver half marathon on May 2nd. I would like to get another half marathon in, and this seems like a good one. The timing is good, and with the exception of the prospect point hill (which comes right in the middle) the course is fairly flat.

Then there is the Seattle rock n roll full on June 27th. I haven't registered yet because once I do I've spent 100 dollars which means I can't back out, but I think I will soon.

Anyway, the plan for the rest of today? Clean the kitchen (our next apartment will have a dishwasher, even if it has nothing else), pay some bills (boo), and head to work at 5pm. I also promised the boy I'd make him lunch but we're a little low on lunch-making ingredients, oh well I'll come up with something.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fort Langley Historic Half

So yesterday I ran a half marathon. I got up, I made a bowl of oatmeal with almond milk, smashed banana, and a spoonful of almond butter. I put on my favorite running clothes, picked up my dad and brother from my boyfriend's mom's place where we were staying and headed out to Fort Langley. The weather was perfect, high of 15 C, sunny, clear skies... I ran the entire race with a perfect view of Golden Ears... I realize the problems the weather has caused for the Olympics but I was thankful for it.

We got into Fort Langley at about eight am, sat in a warm coffee shop for about twenty minutes while the boy got a mocha, and waited for my dad to park the car. Then we headed up to the fort, where the race was starting. I for one, was a bundle of nervous energy. This was it, this was what I had been training for not only for the last 13 weeks since I officially started a targeted half-marathon training program, I started preparing for this in September 2008 when I decided it was time to take control of my life and my body and get healthy. Except I didn't know then, I didn't know how much I would change, how much my perspective, approach to things, and just everything would change.

I started running in February 2009, after loosing roughly 20 pounds and finding that it was possible. I started off doing just fifteen minutes at a time, taking five minutes in between to walk and stretch out, slowly I put the two fifteen minute segments together and started running for thirty minutes with a five minute walk break and then another twenty minutes after that. Then I put those two halves together. I remember the day I first ran 50 minutes straight, I ran slowly, only covering four and a half miles during that time, but when I stepped off the treadmill I felt something changing.

I was the kid who walked the mile in middle school. I was the kid who was picked last because I wasn't athletic and was always, always, always slightly overweight. I didn't start really gaining weight until I started University, but even in high school I weighed 185, at 5'7. Long story short, running was something I hated, something I could never do, and something I never thought I could do.

On that first day where I ran for fifty minutes straight, I knew I was onto something. I felt dizzy with happiness. I felt powerful and capable, and I felt myself changing. I left behind the middle-schooler who was picked last, I left behind the high-schooler who wore oversized pants so people didn't notice how much weight I carried in my lower half. I left behind the university student whose mom died and used it as an excuse to put on another thirty five pounds. I also started to think: if I could run for fifty minute straight, maybe I could run for longer, maybe I could one day do something amazing, like run a marathon.

When I chose to take this year off of school, I decided I had a goal. By the end of summer I had lost 40lbs and with roughly 30 left to go I figured why not spend this year losing those last 30 and training for a marathon. I shyly told my plans to my boyfriend, to his family, and to my own, and was happy to find them generally encouraging. I picked a November 10k as my first race, figuring that was probably the first step. At 6.2 miles a 10k race is just under half of a half-marathon, I figured it was a good test. I didn't really have a plan, I mostly just ran a lot, and on November 15 I lined up at the starting line, and ran my first ever 10k. I finished soaking wet due to the rain and wind (oh Vancouver weather...) and in just under an hour. I went home and registered for my first half marathon, February 21st, the Fort Langley Historic Half, simply because I wanted a February half, and it was the only one being run around Vancouver.

I pulled a training plan off of and followed it diligently. I started with seven mile runs and worked my way up to eleven. I ran in the pouring rain, returning from one particularly rainy nine-miler looking as thought I had just stepped out of the shower. I forced myself through some insanely painful mile repeats. I pushed through every-single tempo. I ran eleven miles, twice, and I loved it.

So yesterday when I lined up at the starting line I felt good. I had a goal of finishing in under 2:10, averaging less than a ten minute mile, nothing spectacular, but respectable and I was confident. I zap-strapped my timing chip to my shoe, pinned on my race bib, and waited for the race to start. I set out, at a steady pace, going through the first mile in 9:24, the second mile in 9:20, and then the hills started. No one told me just how hilly the Fort Langley half was, but I discovered it quickly. After each turn there seemed to be another hill looming waiting to suck energy out of me. Nevertheless, I continued. We ran through a wildlife preserve, where I saw two zebras, and I was treated to beautiful panoramic views of the BC mountains throughout the entire race. At around the 10k mark I felt my energy waning, so I took my first cliff-shot energy gel, and just as it kicked in as I was running down a hill, and I saw my boyfriend, with the camera, standing at the bottom, I waved, and I smiled for the camera, thrilled to see him and feeling fantastic, as I turned the corner onto yet another hill, part of which he ran up with me. Then I continued.

Around mile 8 things started to hurt. The ball of my right foot started to hurt and one of my toes started to go numb. But I kept going. I thought about everything I've accomplished this last year. I thought about how it would feel to finish. I thought about what my mother would say if she was here. I thought about how hard she fought, for eight years, against cancer, a much bigger challenge than a half marathon.

At mile 10 I turned another corner to see the biggest hill yet, and I felt my heart sinking. I inhaled my last cliff-shot, and promised myself I would RUN up this last hill. I know walking is an ok thing to do in a half marathon but I didn't want to. I wanted to run the whole thing. So I did, I moved slowly, but surely, telling myself I would make up the speed on the downhill. Telling myself I could make it. That I would make it JUST UP THIS HILL. And then I saw my boyfriend standing halfway up with my Dad and brother. I think he could see from my face how badly I was hurting because he jumped into the street and ran up the hill with me. Promising me it was downhill and flat from here on out, and it was. I made it over the crest of that last hill and then surged downhill, doing what you're not supposed to do for the sake of my legs and just letting myself fly down the hill. I only had a mile and a half left to go, and I really wanted to finish in under 2:10. Then it flattened out, and I fought with my legs, forcing them to move at a 9:20 mile, and before I knew it I turned the corner to see the finish line up ahead, my watch beeping to tell me I had hit the 13 mile mark. I forced my legs as fast as they could go, which lets face it, wasn't that fast, and crossed the finish. Exhausted. In 2:07:13. Perfect.

I don't thing I realized what I accomplished until this morning. I spent most of yesterday in a half daze, happy but completely spent, but this morning, I woke up and realized what I accomplished.

I did it, I went from the girl who hated running to the girl who completed a half marathon, and I cannot wait to run more, to complete more races. I'm looking towards a 10k trail run in April, and another half marathon in May, and a full in June. I have a lot of work to do. I need to get into better shape, I need to strengthen my hips because they were insanely painful at the end of yesterday, I need to mentally prepare myself for the challenge of running for four hours straight. But I can't wait.

So to everyone out there who is doubting their abilities to accomplish something amazing, go out there, start, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bikram and Running

OK, so today was slightly ridiculous. I slept in till about9:30, and for the first time in about a week I didn't set an alarm. It felt so so so nice. I had some peanut butter granola with vanilla almond milk and the boy and I watched some Olympic broadcasts, lazed around and eventually got going. I grabbed a quick veggie burger - Amy's veggie burger on sandwich thins with baby spinach and a mix of hummus, nutritional yeast, and tahini (it seriously tastes like cheese) for lunch. I then dropped the boy off at the bus stop, and then went to Bikram yoga. For some reason I struggled today. I felt dizzy and slightly nauseous and actually had to sit down a few times, but I got through it and per the usual felt amazing afterward.

I was starving when I got home, so I had had lunch number 2: whole wheat tortilla, almond butter, banana, cinnamon, and raisins rolled up and microwaved for about thirty seconds, and then shoved in my face. It was delicious, best combo ever and the microwaving caramelizes the bananas ever so slightly and with the cinnamon its pretty much the best thing ever.

Then I went for a three mile run. I figured I'm in the week leading up to my half, its already a cut-down week until the actual race, I should stick to the schedule. I did a quick three miles on the treadmill, while watching the women's snowboard cross (yay! Canada won gold!), and then came home, starving again and had an apple which I sliced up and then slathered in almond butter. I don't know how it has taken me so damn long to try that combo. It was amazing. Seriously the almond butter tasted like frosting I just about died of happiness.

Then I went to work. On my way I grabbed a pita from the pita pit, it had the following: whole wheat pita with humus, copious amounts of sprouts, grilled green peppers, mushrooms, and onion, banana peppers, feta cheese, hot sauce, and tzatziki. I heated it up in the microwave at work during my break and thoroughly enjoyed it. Will be having the combination again, potentially for lunch tomorrow as we are out of dish-soap, and therefore the kitchen is a hot-mess that makes cooking difficult.

Anyway, the combination of bikram/running/and work has left me exhausted. Time for Greek (yes I watch trashy television) and sleep. Its going to be a good combination.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eleven Miles

My baking experiments last night turned out fantastic. The raw chocolate chip cookies were AMAZING, and the chocolate puddle cookies were a success, success measured in how the boy reacted, his words being 'I think these are my new favorite chocolate cookies, I want to take them to work so I can brag about them.' I unfortunately undercooked one pan, so when I removed them from the parchment paper they turned into a goopy mess, but the boy promised he'd still eat them, and there are about another eight cookies that turned out fantastic.

So I thought I had to work from 11:45-8:00pm today, so I figured I'd get up early and pound out eleven miles before 10:30am so I had enough time to sit around, shower, and eat. So I got up at about 7:30 made two pieces of Irish soda bread toast with almond butter, raw honey, and some raisins, and drank a pretty good amount of water while browsing the Internet and waiting for food to settle. I had one mocha flavored cliff shot before leaving and packed a strawberry flavored run where that 6.5 mile point where I always, always hit a wall, and left the house.

It was cloudy and gray when I left the house, but as I ran it started to clear. I ran by the hockey rink, where they were setting up for the games going on later today (UBC's Thunderbird Hockey rink is hosting a ton of the Olympic preliminary hockey games so they have a whole set-up over there...), and then around the back of campus as the clouds began to lift up and clear, by the time I was running my last loop back up Chancellor blvd (eleven miles takes two loops, one seven mile one, one four mile one around UBC campus). The sky had cleared, the mountains were coming out and it was all shaping up to be one of those absolutely stunning Vancouver days. It's true, Vancouver gets a lot of rain, so much rain that most of the population spends December, January, and February suffering from various degrees of SADS (seasonal affective depressive disorder), no really. I know I do. After three weeks of rain I'm generally in a pretty crappy mood. But, the upside of Vancouver's rain is that when the sun comes out, not only am I reminded of how absolutely beautiful this city is (see current Olympic broadcasts for footage of what a sunny day in Vancouver looks like - AMAZING), but the entire city comes out and you can see on everyone's faces just how happy they are. I know I personally am suddenly filled with absolutely inexplicable joy as the sky turns blue and I am reminded of how painfully gorgeous this city truly is.

When I finished my run, and hit the stop button on my Garmin, I stopped for a moment and threw my head back sucking in air and smiling staring up at the sky just unbelievably happy. It was one of those moments that reminded me of why I run, why I slog through eight, nine, ten, miles in the pouring rain, or why I deal with those painful days where I spend an hour arguing with myself and forcing myself not to stop. Today was just plain wonderful.

I stopped at Starbucks on my way home and grabbed a frappucino for the boy and a grande iced unsweetened green tea for myself, which I pretty much chugged by the time I made it across the street to my apartment. Then I made myself the green monster smoothie I had been fantasizing about for the last five miles of my run: 1 cup vanilla almond milk, a handful and a half of spinach, about a half a cup of strawberries, a whole banana that I split into a few chunks so my blender would have an easier time of it (we have a pretty good Cuisinart blender that was a Christmas gift a few years ago, but breaking stuff up as much as possible before it goes in tends to be a good idea, I've found), a scoop of protein powder (muscle repair yay!), and some flax to get some omega-3s going on. I then blended it and more or less inhaled it.

My manager also called me about halfway through my run to inform me that I could have the day off, apparently we've been slower than expected. So that was certainly exciting. I'm pretty sure the plan is to sit around, watch the rest of last week's biggest loser (yes I'm addicted, don't judge me), maybe bake some carrot cake cupcakes (I found a recipe I'm pretty much dying to try, will post the link if they turn out) if I decide I have the energy, and watch the pairs short program in anticipation of tomorrow night's long programs which I AM GOING TO! So so so excited to be going to an Olympic event. Let's face it, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

In other exciting news, my half marathon is a week away and my dad and brother come in on Friday night (they're coming to see my race, which I'm super excited about). It is going to be a busy week, but hopefully a super good one.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eight Days and Counting

A week from tomorrow I will run a half marathon. Indeed, the even starts at 9:00, so I will likely be done by this time next Sunday. I am so excited. I can't wait to run it, I can't wait to be there and feel the energy and accomplish something that a year and a half ago I thought was impossible.

I have today off, yay, and so far have enjoyed a wonderfully relaxed morning. I woke up at about 7:30 and messed around online for a bit, then made some delicious oatmeal with 1/2 cup of oats, 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/3 cup water, almost a tablespoon of vanilla (I don't believe there's such a thing as too much vanilla), one smashed up banana, a tablespoon of chia seeds and about two teaspoons of almond butter, and about a tablespoon of agave. I whipped it up until it was a fluffy oatmealy-mess on the stove then topped it with some raisins, goji berries, and about a quarter cup of nature's valley peanut butter granola, which is my favorite stuff in the world. It was delicious, the granola added the perfect crunch and its kept me full all morning. After breakfast, and the daily run across the streets for caffeine (although as the boy and I were saying this morning I really should just buy a coffee press and grinder... then I could just make my own french press, and it would be more or less free as I get a free pound of coffee a week), the boy and I sat in bed watching the Olympic broadcast, and talking. Pretty much a perfect Saturday morning.

Today I drove my boyfriend to work, and then went to buy some new/old running shoes (new in that they are new, old in that I bought the exact same model I had before as I adore them - mizuno wave riders, pretty much the best shoe ever). My old pair have served me faithfully since early August, and have taking me through my 10k and all my half marathon training, but I think they are just about done. I know you aren't supposed to run a race on new shoes, but I have a three miler today, an eleven miler tomorrow and some runs next week that should break them in in time. After buying new shoes I stopped at whole foods so I can make these raw chocolate chip cookies and these chocolate puddle cookies I promised the boy I'd make. Of course, me being me, and whole foods being whole foods, I also bought a ton of other food to experiment with this week. I just can't help myself when I am in there, but as my dad said, it's a good sign when the thing you spend the most money on other than rent is food, it means you're buying good food. So I'm going with it.

Now there is a three mile run and some strength training in my future. The question is whether or not I feel like braving the rain for three miles or braving the 'dreadmill.' Chances are, seeing as it is only three miles I'll do them at the gym, that way I can easily transition into doing some weights, planks, stability ball crunches etc. Then I get to come home and bake, bake, bake... and then the boy and I are celebrating our four year anniversary (again, as the first time around was our semi-disastrous snow-camping adventure) at Vij's one of our favorite west-coast style Indian places. Seriously some of the best food ever.

Ok. Time to stop procrastinating and start running.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

T-12 Days and Counting

That's right, 12 days from now I will have hopefully just completed my first ever half marathon. I am insanely excited, and somewhat terrified. But mostly just excited. First off, I love racing. I had so much fun at my 10k, I like the slightly competitive aspect. While I realize I am unlikely to ever win a marathon/half marathon/any running race, I do pick someone slightly faster than me and try to stay on them, and maybe even edge them out at the end. What can I say? I'm competitive. I also like the energy, all the people, the adrenaline, the spectators, the volunteers who cheer you on, the food at the end of the race, the sense of accomplishment, the race shirt. In short, there are a lot of things to love about racing, and even though this will only be my second race, I am thoroughly smitten.

I ran eleven miles on Sunday, and it was fantastic. The first three miles hurt, and I felt sluggish and my legs didn't seem to want to respond, and I almost threw in the towel, but instead I told myself I could do it, repeating over and over in my head that I was strong enough to do this and pushed through, around mile four I started to feel good, at mile six the adrenaline really kicked in and I finally hit that zone, runners high, whatever you want to call it where the world goes blurry and the pain dulls, and everything is suddenly crystal clear, and I remembered why I run. Why I love to run, why I started running in the first place. I came home and baked vegan super-charge me cookies (from Eat, Live, and Be Vegan) which were delicious, and some full-fat full sugar banana bread for my boyfriend because I promised him I would actually make good banana bread as the last time I tried it I accidentally only put in half the banana which meant it wasn't nearly as moist or banana-tasting as it should have been. This time it came out perfectly, and was devoured in just over 24 hours (yes I had a piece, or two).

I took yesterday off, because I worked out every single day of last week (Bikram Monday, run Tuesday, run and climbing Wednesday, run Thursday, run Friday, Bikram Saturday, run Sunday), and baked up some spicy kale chips, which were amazing and so so so healthy, and some homemade power bars which I accidentally over-baked a little bit so they aren't as chewy as they should be, but are overall pretty good, and a great post-run recovery food because they have protein and complex carbs.

Today I woke up and made myself a green monster smoothie with almond milk, spinach, banana, a half a scoop of protein powder, some honey, frozen raspberries and a spoonful of almond butter because my life is incomplete without almond butter (yeah it sounds melodramatic, but its true). It was delicious, and great fuel for my easy four mile run. Now I'm off to go shower and then head off to work. Tonight we're going climbing and I'm hoping I can convince the boy to go to Foundation, which is only the best vegetarian restaurant ever, because I am dying for some of their maple-tahini quinoa (I really need to learn to make it at home because oh my god the stuff is amazing, it's like good for you crack. No really.)