Race report – Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Women’s Run & Walk 2015

Training run = success!

The Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s annual Women’s Walk & Run had a blue-sky day and soaring temperatures for this mountain trot through the woods.  A perfect race weekend!

So excited that I managed to run 10K (surrounded by other people) and I didn’t die.

Top three things about this race:

1) the location (location, location)
2) the super nice, easy-going people (organizers, volunteers & runners)
3) the thoughtful touches, like cold aromatherapy towels post-race

RMSC tents
Organization:
 I’d heard about the RMSC’s annual run in Canmore from a friend who’d run it last year and said it was a blast.  The event – aimed at celebrating women and in support of the charity “Rethink Breast Cancer” – included 5K, 10K and half-marathon options and was a very open-arms approach to participants of all fitness levels, babies, strollers, etc. I hovered over the keyboard when the registration opened  (January 1st!) and signed up right away.  The Saturday races (May 23) sold out first, and quite a bit later, the Sunday races (May 24).

The registration process was smooth, and all my questions were answered personally by race organizers over email – nice touch. Package pick up was in both Calgary and Canmore leading up to the race, and then on site the morning of, which was very helpful for us out-of-towners.

Being at the Canmore Nordic Centre, I had confidence in the venue and set up.  The sound system was a little squawky at first (during the warm up session my husband complained that even his “heavy metal ears are bleeding”) but it got sorted out fast enough.

The expo had the most I’d ever seen at a run, with a variety of vendors and charity groups.  Happy to see the 5 Peaks crew on hand, and they even gave me an awesome cup.  After the warm up, we had a chat about mountain animal safety and then boom! Off went the half-marathon runners, quickly followed by the 10Kers – all pretty much on time.

I truly think my only organizational observation on the down-side would be that the aid stations had trouble keeping up with water for the runners.  The first aid station was only a few km into the race and there was a bottleneck of runners waiting for water to be poured (keeping in mind the half-mara runners had already gone through, along with many of the 10K runners). Ditto with the second table. The third one was the best in keeping up to the hefty demand of thirsty runners. The volunteers were working as fast as they could – I don’t think they realized how many ladies would be stopping for water…the energy drink provided was not as popular.

After the race, each participant received a delightful cool aromatherapy towel, and a gift bag from the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. full of product! Wow – so thoughtful!  The post-race snacks were fruit and Honey Stinger organic waffles, and then inside the Nordic Centre was a buffet of penne and pasta sauces (veg options available), plus a leafy salad and bread sticks.
RMSC swag

Course: The 10K track was a double 5K loop with a sufficient number of hills for both testing your mettle and active recovery. It was all on the wide paved paths on the Nordic Centre grounds, hence one of the reasons we didn’t need to carry bear spray in this race.  The half marathon runners used the 10K course plus were out running along the road up to the centre – a long, hot slog. Much admiration for those ladies!

My run: My husband came out to the mountains for my race, and it was really, really special to have him there.  We actually went into Banff rather than Canmore for our overnight, and stayed downtown at Brewster’s Mountain Lodge.  We started the day with a visit to the Wild Flour bakery where I snarfed down a ginger blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. I’d had a banana earlier as well, and sipped my Energy&Endurance leading up to race time.

Out of tradition, I positioned myself near the back of the racers to start.  My goal for this race was to be a training run for my half marathons a few months away. Saturdays are typically my “long run” days and even though the training schedule only called for about 6K, the timing was awesome for this weekend. My “easy run” pace on the treadmill is about 13:20 min per mile. I was hoping to maintain that and get ‘er done.

Right off the bat, I could see there were little rolling hills on this course, plus a long slow descent/ascent thrown in for good measure. Last year, my tactic with hills was to walk up and run down.  This year, I’m trying to train a bit on hills, so the new method is to keep running (read: teeny jogging micro-steps) up, crest & push through keeping pace, and then letting gravity pull me down. Sounds reasonable, right?

For my first five kilometers, I hung in there always running, but on that second loop, I started to throw in some power walking, especially on that long slow hill in the middle of the course.  I was pretty much sucking wind really hard the whole race, but managed to keep moving, and totally surprised to see that my pace was not my usual 13:20 but rather moving between 10:42 and 12:45 min per mile, depending.  That’s a big deal for me.

In the end, I came in at 1:16 hrs on my Nike running watch.  Very happy with the time, as it’s a benchmark and I can’t wait to work on improving!

Would I do the RMSC women’s run again?  Well, since my latest thing is to use running as an excuse to travel and/or get to the mountains, then YES, I would do this one again. May is a great month for me to get back into outdoor races, and I can see this one being a regular.

 

Pre-race day carb loading

Chicken pastaRaces make me crazy nervous. It’s a day out and yesterday I ate, like, three bagels in anticipation.  Y’all know that’s not carb-loading…that’s just plain nerves. (Even on a good day, nobody needs THREE BAGELS.)

So, here’s a quick and easy (and a little more healthy than three bagels) pasta meal that satisfies the need for carbs and still fuels the bod on multiple levels.easy steps for supper

Grab a pan.  Chop up, then saute garlic & fresh basil; add 3/4 cup of cubed, cooked chicken & 1 cup of sliced grape tomatoes; then add 1 cup of cooked rigatoni & 1 cup of fresh spinach…stirring gently until the spinach just wilts.  Plate (or bowl) and top with cheese. Throw on some cracked pepper or sea salt to taste.

Done. And tasty!

Back to the racing nerves…I guess for me it’s the crowds, and the excitement, and the general “I’m in a race!” breathless giddiness that comes with bursting out onto the trail at a speed I simply can’t maintain.

To be honest, being surrounded by confident, trim, healthy-looking runners often hits my confidence levels.  I get sent right back to my very first 10K…it was part of the Dubai Samsung Marathon in around 2003, where a bunch of us from The Fairmont Dubai were planning to sign up and run. In the middle of the group, a snotty blonde looked me up and down and said, “Oh, YOU’RE running??” Well – I was actually only considering it, having never run a day in my life. But after she said that to me, hell YEAH I was running!!!  (Funny what fuels us…)

One thing I’ve come to learn about the running community is that 99% of the folks that run are super nice, and wish everyone well. Your biggest competition is yourself, and that’s all we need to run for. And if someone is all judgmental, just feel sorry for them…they obviously have something going on they need to deal with.  Enjoy the race day atmosphere and camaraderie along the course. All good.

Tomorrow’s race, the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Women’s Walk & Run, is my very first race this year. And a 10K at that. But – prepared am I in my own little fashion. I’m going into the race as a training run. Slow and steady, enjoy the trails and the mountains!

Training week #2 recap:

MON: Easy run (40 min) = DONE. It was the holiday weekend, so I went back to the gym in the morning, and hit the fancy treadmill for this undulating slog through some trail on New Zealand’s south island. Then I met Miz N. for more running and a killer workout that had me laughing/crying by the end. 

TUE: Pilates/Yoga – PiYo “drench” (45 min) = sort of DONE.  About 20 minutes in, I’m all “These aren’t the Pilates/yoga combos I’m looking for…move along.”  And I switched that sucker off. (Jedi self-talk.)

WED: Run w/ hill intervals (40 min) = DONE, mostly. I made it to 32 minutes, with 6×60-second intervals. It was hard.

THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “cardio fix” (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min) = half DONE. Did T25 lower focus and an 8-minute ab workout (my core strength is lacking).

FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time = well, not really done. Just regular walking, but no stairs.  

Off to the mountains in a few hours!  Woohooooo!

 

(Long) weekend update: cookies & running. And more cookies. And maybe rum.

The beauty of a long weekend…perfect excuse to eat every delicious BBQ food in the WORLD.

It started quite innocently (let’s invite cousin Matthew & Martina for dinner) and ended in a new BBQ purchased, eighteen thousand full-fat side dishes to accompany chubby cheddar smokies, and pina coladas made with our fancy-dancy new blender thingy from Air Miles… (Bacardi makes pineapple and coconut infused rum. Just for the record.) Oh – AND – the baking of some crazy good (read: addictive) cookies. To eat with ice cream, of course. A few raspberries thrown in to avoid scurvy.

I mean, who doesn’t want Dulce de Leche Stuffed Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies?  Hello? Besides, it was an excuse to go buy a jar of dulce de leche… and try something new. I came across the Wright Family Table blog via foodie pic posts on Instagram and HAD to try these cookies. Yum.

Hot chocolate cookies

So, as you’ve guessed, the weekend tear through BBQ food world was delicious but not exactly on track.  My hands were even swelling two days later. (Sodium?  Lack of rum?) Training, however, was actually decent, and am quite proud of sticking to my little workout schedule leading up to my 10K run this Saturday.

Last week’s training plan and results:

MON: Easy run (30 min) = DONE. Ran outside for the first time in a year, and it was an all-singing, all-dancing panic attack. Every muscle in my body seized up and it was the hardest run in the world hitting the pavement in my neighbourhood.  I did get a high-five from a toothless guy having a smoke outside a local bar. That kept me going for two blocks, and then I had no choice but to keep motoring because the ladies on the next corner, like, OWN that corner and I am not permitted to stop.  In the end, my legs were rock and I could barely lift my feet. I counted the seconds until the 30 minutes were up.

TUE: Yoga – P90X2 “X2 yoga” (67 min) = mostly DONE. Beachbody on Demand streaming died two-thirds of the way through, and I could only hear Tony Horton, not see him. And then the stream kerplunked all together, so I surfed around in BOD looking for alternative stretchy clips. Found some “classic” (aka cheesy) old ones to do.

WED: Tempo run w/ speed intervals (30 min) = DONE and AWESOME. Went inside on the treadmill and calmed down (compared to Monday’s run) and got ‘er done. This was after a 0500 hrs workout and a night of stair walking in the River Valley. #crushedit

THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “dirty 30″ (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min) = DONE, mostly. Did the Dirty 30 but not the Lower Focus. I was beat after yesterday’s workout extravaganza.

FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time = RESTED. Needed it. Got in a short walk outside but that was it.

SAT: Long(er) run (4.5 miles/~7KM) = DONE, mostly. I had aimed for 4.5 miles, but managed 4 miles at my mellow, “easy run” pace on the treadmill. It took an hour…I am not winning any prizes with my pace, but I know if I keep up the training, my easy run pace will slowly increase over the next few months.

SUN: Easy run (20 min) + Sunday morning Yoga (Meadows Rec Centre) = DONE! The yoga instructor at the Meadows on Sunday is AH-MAZE-ING. She teaches so many lovely lessons about body and life throughout her yoga flow hour.

10K pop-up training plan (aka I forgot I had a race)

Just had that runner’s moment…

seawheeze shortsMy Seawheeze race shorts arrived in the mail on Friday, and I was all “Woohoo, I still have 3 months to train and fit into these size 12 shorts.” (Kinda nice that you get ‘free’ shorts as part of your race registration fee.)

Then today I realized…I should check my calendar…

And HOLY CRAP I have a race in two weeks.  It’s only a 10K, but when one has done strength training and not a lot of actual RUNNING for the past few months, this is kind of a challenge!

So, yes, I’m a little worried I will be miserable or screw up my knees, therefore I’ve developed a pop-up training plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel:

Week 1

MON: Easy run (30 min)
TUE: Yoga – P90X2 “X2 yoga” (67 min)
WED: Tempo run w/ speed intervals (30 min)
THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “dirty 30″ (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min)
FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time
SAT: Long(er) run (4.5 miles/~7KM)
SUN: Easy run (20 min) + Sunday morning Yoga (Meadows Rec Centre)

Week 2

MON: Easy run (40 min)
TUE: Pilates/Yoga – PiYo “drench” (45 min)
WED: Run w/ hill intervals (40 min)
THU: Cross training – 21 Day Fix “cardio fix” (30 min) + T25 “lower focus” (25 min)
FRI: Rest day – walking YEG river valley stairs at lunch time
SAT: RACE DAY! (10K)

And – promises of rolling out the muscles and stretching really well every night.

I checked my Nike running watch and the fastest 10K I’ve ever pulled off is 1hr 11min, and that was part of a longer run. Mind you, last year was about survival, not really about excelling at anything.  Given that this is my first race of the season, and that I’ve been a sloth and not gotten the training miles in properly…I don’t have high hopes for nailing any personal bests. I will consider this run a “training run” unto itself. (Is that a cop out??)

I apologize in advance for not training more to the good people at Rocky Mountain Soap. While it’s my first time participating in the Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s Women’s Run & Walk, I’ve done a 5 Peaks trail run in the same location, the Canmore Nordic Centre…and it started with 2K of UP and required a canister of bear spray.  Doh.  I think this run is a little more gentle??

Looking forward to a great weekend in the mountains for the race – just need to earn it now…!  Pop-up training plan is a GO!

 

Easy peasy chicken breast recipe

Looking for a versatile chicken breast recipe?

[Is it juicy? Is it sweet?]

Chicken is high upchicken for the week on the list for family favourites and I absolutely love this recipe for it’s reliability and versatility.  Add it to salads, pastas or just eat it on it’s own.  Chicken totally nails the protein needs for any nutrition plan, too.  (Oh Lord, just ask me about the chicken + yams, yams + chicken….)

It literally fits into a meal EVERY day.  So worth baking up a batch at the beginning of the week.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Lazy tip: place foil over your baking sheet. God knows I don’t want to actually clean a pan.

Season the chicken breast on both sides with salt &pepper to taste, and about a teaspoon each of paprika, garlic powder and onion powder.  Drizzle a little bit of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil over each breast to keep them moist. Cook 20-25 minutes.

Don’t overcook!  ‘Cause dry chicken is so not fun. Yes, cooked chicken that’s still pink can be safe to eat — but only if the chicken’s internal temperature has reached 165° F throughout. With so much soy pumped into chicken nowadays, sadly, a bit of pink is always going to be there, unless you’re totally organic. So, don’t feel the need to bake it until it’s extra dead…yuk.

Economical tip: buy the big packs of chicken breast from Costco and do your meal planning and prep on Sunday nights for the rest of the week.

Loyalty vs. critical thinking: making the right choice for you

I’m a very loyal person.

Maybe it’s the Virgo in me.  Or perhaps simply because it’s a safe place to be – pick your team, support ’em, make it work. Be happy with your choice and be exclusive, no exceptions. Show everyone you are committed.

Well.  Perhaps loyalty can be slightly misguided.

I grew up with two kinds of pop (Coke or Pepsi), two kinds of toothpaste (Crest or Colgate), two kinds of gum (Dentyne or Trident), two teen hearthrobs (Leif Garrett or Scott Baio)…you get the picture.  When I was a kid, you staunchly defended one or the other. Never did you jump ship to the other side. (I still feel guilty that I like Pepsi now when I was a Coke girl all my life).  Now, I can stand for 20 minutes in front of a gum rack at the grocery store and still not know which one I want.  So many options.

Let’s take fitness: I want to believe that there’s one “right” way to get in shape, feel better and trim the fat. I like knowing I made the “right” choice, am following the plan and will get results. But that’s so far from the truth that I’m feeling a little foolish.  Not only is there NOT one way for everyone, there’s not even a single way for ME.

I suppose it’s all in perspective. I have to shift my thinking that I’m not cheating on running with yoga, but instead they’re both doing different, positive things for my body. That switching from one trainer to another will continue to build my strength and to try new things is probably good for me on a bunch of different levels. Just because I tried something and it didn’t work, the “failure” is a learning experience, not a reflection of a crappy choice.

Being practical, and thinking critically are habits I need to develop.  I want to be loyal. But I shouldn’t confuse loyalty with laziness (lazy to try, lazy to change, waiting for ideas to be handed to you….).  I have to face the fact that just because the marketing is good, or the concept worked for someone else, that certain fitness plans won’t always be the be-all, end-all solutions, and I need to be SMART about my choices.

I am here to be the best I can be.  So, I’ll continue to share my adventures… like trying out DietBet or Weight Watchers… this week I bought a new skipping rope and have been inspired to practice headstands.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Food police. Not to be mistaken with the Dream Police.

My obsession with eating clean, getting in shape and losing weight has me on the verge of orthorexia nervosa.

I’m not quite there, but I can see this going down in a pretty ugly way. For the past two weeks, sticking to my exercise training plan and my food plan, I’ve become ridiculously fixated on righteous eating.

My life has begun to orbit around my food rules. When to eat, what to eat, how much to eat. Packing my lunch. Tupperware, Tupperware, more Tupperware.  Sizable lunchbags to compete with those at a construction site. Chaos and mayhem if my carefully orchestrated menu is disrupted by the daily comings and goings of family, friends and work, God forbid. Cancel ALL social situations revolving around a meal/snack time, which is, really, ALWAYS unless you catch me in some lucky 2-hour window before my next broccoli break.

“I’m TRAINING,” was my answer. “How do you expect me to get in shape and lose weight if I make exceptions every five minutes??”  If not the plan, my SHEER WILL will certainly burn fat.

And even worse, I was channeling not only my INNER critic but the words were marching to the edge of my tongue and preparing to dive off: “Um, you really shouldn’t eat that you know, because …. it’s full of sugar/fat/processed/etc.”  Hello?? I’m the one with the weight problem, not them. Let them have their doughnuts, pizza, and ALL that dressing on the salad with the chicken that STILL. HAS. SKIN.   P.S. Elevators are for sissies.

Time out. TIIIIIME OUT.

Musical interlude: And now I’m caught in a trap. I can’t walk out. Because I love you too much, baby. Why can’t you see?  What you’re doing to me?

And THEN – so I allowed myself a rest day or two where I ate lasagna – and M&Ms (it’s like, if I’m not being very, very good, I’m simply being horrid) – and then felt the need to jump up and work all that off before it could settle gleefully onto that tire around my waist. Argh!

So. Yes, okay, I don’t really have orthorexia nervosa after only a week or so, but I get how easy it is to slip into the rut.  I feel like I’m the food police and I’ve GOT to ease up..

I need to be Zen about this for the rest of the month.

Proceed.

Peace.