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!

 

Brain vs. mountain

Well.

I lived. Am here to write about it.

Jill and I arrived in Lake Louise super stoked about snowshoeing out to Skoki Lodge. Woohoo – January challenge is in da howse!  After checking in at the Lake Louise Ski Area reception and cramming into the gondola with our packs, snowshoes, poles and three other boarders that we squashed against the windows, we made it up and over the mountain to Temple Lodge, a log cabin restaurant/bar on the back side of the ski hill.

For some reason, the directions from Temple to the Skoki Lodge trail head just didn’t seem logical. We ended up screwing around for a bit looking for the trail head, and it was in the that moment… that exciting rush of “we’re going to do this!”… that I freaked out. Silently.

My pack was heavy: “better safe than sorry” had been our packing motto. The air was thin. Bloody thin. There were skiers & boarders zipping by us from every direction. Lots of curious stares. The day was already passing quickly (gotta go! gotta go!) which meant the later we started, the later we got there (aka in the dark). My glasses were fogging. The one night stand I had with Rock Creek Dry Cider wasn’t offering any strength to fall back on. And we couldn’t find the trail head.

Turns out that the little sign indicating the way to Skoki is about 100 metres up Larch run #143. We marched – vertical nightmare – up that damn ski run and every cell in my body screamed for oxygen. My legs felt like lead. My lungs could barely suck in enough air. Sweat dripped from my brow as I stood heaving in front of the sign that pointed to a pretty little path through the trees.

At that point, I didn’t care. Not a bit. I took a photo of the sign for posterity, and shoved my camera back in the pack. Jill lead the way, and I followed, feeling sorry for myself. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t keep up with her and I couldn’t breathe. I quietly suffered. Or maybe I wasn’t quiet. I might have bitched and moaned but I don’t remember.

All I know is that it was HARD.  It made every bit of “training” I did seem like a joke. I was sad.

He loved mountains, or he had loved the thought of them marching on the edge of stories brought from far away; but now he was borne down by the insupportable weight of Middle-earth. He longed to shut out the immensity in a quiet room by a fire.

~J.R.R. Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings

At that point it became very much an individual sport. I locked into my own world and just walked. One snowshoe in front of the other. When my heart hammered too excessively I stopped and I took long steady breaths, and then started up again when ready. (I felt awesome standing still – I just had trouble with the moving part).

The trail gradually looped up through the evergreens and out into an alpine meadow bathed in sunshine and gloriously warm temperatures for January. I caught up to Jill and we talked to passersby (uber fit skiers, dogs with little jackets) and soaked up the sun as we stood in the middle of the trail eating beef jerky, cheese and energy shots (mmm… Salted Caramel GU).  This break came around 4 kms into the snowshoe.

This was my first experience of athleticism being a mind game  as much as a physical ability.  I calmed down, I accepted what I could do today, and then I did it.  Wasn’t a race, it was a marathon.  It truly did become the journey over the destination.  My body no longer exhibited signs of fight or flight, and I just kept moving slow and steady.

Following the gradual climb to the alpine meadow, we began the short ascent of Boulder Pass, winding up a fairly steep route between boulders capped like massive snow mushrooms. At the top of the pass, frozen Ptarmigan Lake stretched out in front of us with the trail  leading up and over Deception Pass at the far end.

This was my moment of joy.

Not because the lake crossing guaranteed absolutely no incline, but because there was something delightful in front of me.  A couple of the people who’d passed us earlier on the trail were now skimming across the icy surface on their snowboards attached to giant, brightly coloured kites.  Kiteboarding!  How awesome was that?  The thought that people were willing and able to hike into the backcountry in the dead of winter to a frozen lake at several thousand feet above sea level for FUN… So cool. I loved it.

We motored across the windblown lake at a good clip and began the slog up Deception Pass.  One. Two. Three.  Four.  Five.  Six.  Seven.  Eight.  Stop.  Repeat.  That was all I could manage.  Tired?  A bit.  But just not able to physically do any more than that.  Not far behind us was a father-son duo also headed out to Skoki for the night.  Climbing the pass on their backcountry touring gear proved to be challenging for them as well.

Deception Pass rewarded us with stunning views from the top, looking over Skoki Valley and the peaks beyond that would be our backdrop for the next few days.  We had only a few more kilometres to go before reaching the lodge, and all were downhill!  We stopped for a celebratory swig (or three) of peppermint schnapps.  Papa Bear and his son swooped past us on their skis as we continued to snowshoe down into the valley.  Gravity blessed them with a time advantage on the flip side and they made it to the lodge a whole hour before us. (Not that it mattered…but Papa Bear pointed that out to us over dinner later that night…)

We arrived at Skoki Lodge, about 5 hours and 15 minutes from the time we began.  A bit weary on my part, but pleased.  And totally within the suggested travel time to Skoki of “three to five hours”.  Overcoming my own mind seemed to truly be the biggest challenge.  Silly brain.

The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.

20/20 vs. beer goggles

It’s come down to budget: contact lenses or adult beverages?

The adult beverages won out.  I know – terrible, right?  Rather than ensure clear visibility whilst snowshoeing through the delightful Canadian Rockies, and avoiding the maddening fogging of the glasses/goggles, I’ve opted for bringing a mini bar into the backcountry.  I never claimed to have good judgement.

Skoki Lodge, the destination of my ultimate January snowshoe challenge journey, is a rustic mountain cabin built in the 1930s, and was recently given a celeb-boost by the stay of HRH William & Kate in 2011.  In the winter, it’s an 11 km ski or snowshoe into the backcountry of Banff National Park up and over two mountain passes.  All of the meals are included – and are reputed to be nothing short of spectacular – along with all bedding, so no sleeping bags required.  Technically, only clothing and snacks are necessary for me to carry in, but my pack list is as long as my arm. It’s WINTER. You never know what might go down, man.

I’ve got everything from duct tape to the lodge-worthy flannel shirt going.  Knife. Emergency blanket.  Hut booties. Head lamp. Down jacket. Toothbrush and face cream. Rebel, Flip, iPod. Camo buff for cool photos. Insulated Skhoop skirt for awesomeness. A bunch of the aforementioned adult beverages.  Jill had read somewhere that the wine – ordinary wine – was $40 a bottle out there. They do, after all, have to pack it with their supplies.  So, I figured I’d save a dollar or two and bring my own. Captain? Aye-aye!

Two more days until we hit the road for the Rockies!

The mountains are calling, and I must go. ~John Muir

Outdoor gear for the morbidly obese

In order to travel the 11 km into the backcountry for my January challenge, I had a choice: cross country ski or snowshoe.

I’m an amateur cross country skier, never properly trained, with a tendency to fall over randomly whether I’m in motion or not. Not so promising.

I’ve heard that “if you can walk, you can snowshoe” so I figured snowshoeing would be the best bet for the mountain adventure. And it can burn up to 600 calories an hour! Woot!

Off I went shoe shopping online. Reading, reading and more reading, I went from the idea of picking up a cute set of snowshoes, poles and matching travel bag for about $100 to realizing that I was screwed.

I weigh 235 lbs. Snowshoes have weight limits, I learned. Every women’s snowshoe I saw was listed as maxing out at 160, 170 or at the very most 200 lbs. What the fuck? Is this another case of fat people don’t leave the house (jus’ layin’ on the couch eatin’ my bon bons and watchin’ my stories)? Am soooo sick of that.

This issue has already plagued me in finding outdoor clothing. I love Eddie Bauer, for example, and they offer loads of plus size stuff in their casual outdoor wear; however, in their higher end technical clothing line of First Ascent, the cut is slim, and the women’s options end at a skinny XL.  I want the Backdraft jacket, the lined Travex pants, etc, but I simply can’t squeeze into any of it.  (Oh – I can fit the gloves)  For long underwear, I gave up and bought a men’s XXL from MEC. And even then, I had to mail order because my local store didn’t carry the bigger sizes.

I know – lose weight and I can fit the clothing. I get that. But I need to wear something  while losing all this weight outside!! No one wants to see a nudist weight loss project in Canada when it’s below zero.

Back to snowshoes… I settled on a unisex pair from the good folks at the Atlas Snow Shoe Company of Seattle, WA.  The Atlas 1235 are uber light mountain hiking snowshoes that can handle up to 300 lbs.  (That ought to cover both me and my backpack full of donuts).  The price jumped from average joe to the best of the best at $280 CAD.  Wowsers.  But they are beee-ooo-tiful.  They are like budd-ah. They keep me from sinking up to my waist in the 83 cm of fluffy stuff we’ve had so far this winter here in the Great White North.

So, with clothing and snowshoes, let the games begin!