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!

 

Fast food for the backcountry

Planning continues for the backcountry hikes this summer.

No surprise, I’ve been working more on the “hmmm, what can I eat” rather than the “how many stairs can I climb” questions.

Stockpiling trail food

I seriously have an arsenal of dehydrated shepherd’s pie, spaghetti and meatballs and bananas foster, among others.  I could very well be a doomsday prepper at this rate.

Here are my top five greatly-anticipated pre-packaged trail meals for this summer:

1. Shepherd’s Pie – like mom used to make, Backpacker’s Pantry
2. AlpineAire‘s Forever Young Mac & Cheese
3. Tsampa Soup – channelling the power of the Sherpas
4. Peanut & Raisin Oatmeal, Backpacker’s Pantry
5. Fire Roasted Veg Blend, Mountain House – eat yer veggies!

[And stay tuned for reviews later in the summer as to whether these lived up to their reputations!]

The pre-packaged dehydrated meals often have a reputation of being hit and miss, not to mention chock-full of sodium… I actually don’t mind the fact that that sodium levels are a bit high on these meals.  I’m huge on losing salt when I sweat, and without a serious replenishment, I am apt to become generally useless, drool or pass out.

As for taste, well, it comes down to a wee bit of desperation because you’ve been on the trail for 4 days already and there’s not a cheeseburger in sight.  Mostly, the flavours are slightly off the mark compared to the real thing, but you just tell yourself the faulty Star Trek-esque replicators were malfunctioning. Sometimes, though, going through the homemaker motions of preparing and eating a meal is actually quite comforting when, hey, you’re sleeping in a tent for yet another night with mere microfibers between you and big giant bears.

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

Yummers! Bananas Foster in the wild

The majority of the pre-packaged meals I’m bringing I’ve already tested on the trail, and am happy with, or I’ve watched my companions chow down and thought I should get some (as a result of a little camp-food envy).  I’ve bought a few new ones to try, like guacamole; although I’m not sure how to avoid crushing the chips that come with it.

I’ve dabbled in the idea of dehydrating food on my own, and even ordered a book on it. Alas, I actually don’t anticipate ever investing in a dehydrator, so … I may attempt it all on a very low-set oven temperature.  But I am kind of too lazy to do this… we’ll see.

Trust me, my entire oh-so-gourmet backpacking menu won’t be “fast food” per se… but it’s good to have a few pre-made foil packets each trip for the nights you are too zonked to play house, or if the rain is belting down and you just need to eat and hit the sack…

What are your favourite backcountry foods?

 

 

Race report – 5 Peaks, Canmore

Still last. Well – 4th from last. Or something like that.

The final race for the Southern Alberta 5 Peaks trail running series was at the Canmore Nordic Centre in the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Following a week of cool weather, snow flurries and the like, Saturday was blocked in with fog hiding a spectacular bluebird day.

I signed up for the “Enduro”, which was 14.7 km, I believe, for this particular race. My strategy behind signing up for this race was that it’s a nice longish run in preparation for the half marathon I have in two weeks.

Organization: You know what, out of all the 5 Peaks I’ve been to this season, I have to give it to the Southern Alberta crew. Informative, rah-rah emails leading up to the race; great location using the main lodge at the Canmore Nordic Centre; lots of sponsors and vendors pop-tented at the start/finish line; and hey, a good sound system with lots of tunes throughout and a fun race director MCing the whole thing. LOVE the super samples given out by the Clif and there was some cool 5 Peaks gear for sale. Parking was spacious, and package pick up was swift. Got a 5 Peaks toque with my reg package along with a mini Builder Bars, Kicking Horse coffee, etc.

Course: The 14 km Enduro had its very own course (yay! Love this as opposed to doing two laps of a shorter course). The course came with hills, technical bits and crazy gorgeous scenery. After leaving the start line, the course ran up into the mountains and the majority of the run took place weaving through the trees. Being in the mountains and inhaling that crisp, cool pine air = wow. Good to be alive.

My run: After the helpful bear spray demo (spray was mandatory for this race) we were off! The Enduro runners began at 9:30 am, and I seeded myself about ¾ of the way to the back. Super excited. The course began with a gradual incline (where I was passed by the remaining ¼ runners), which then became kinda a steep road up the hill, which then turned into like, a gnarly (not in the kewl way) hiking trail.

Oh my gosh – SUCKING WIND, dude. All the way. For two kilometers of UP – sucking wind. All I could think was: I shouldn’t have had that beer last night;  I should’ve left earlier yesterday to drive from Edmonton to the mountains; I shouldn’t have slept in my car; I should’ve trained more; I should’ve stayed home. I was sad and sorry.

I regained my breath sometime between kilometers two and three, and then suddenly – miraculously – the trail evened out and I was a runner again! My pace went bonkers as I juked through the trees, leaped over roots and zipped through snow-covered trails. I was Chariots of Fire. I was Rambo. I was John McClane running over broken glass in Nakatomi Plaza. I was awesome. (No, really – that’s how I felt). I was out of the fog and it was a bluebird day above.

The kilometers flew by after that. I chatted with some nice ladies on the trail, stopped to take a few selfies beneath snow-covered peaks, etc. The trail rolled through the forest, with some more uphill and steep downhill, but those proved to be some good active recovery moments. Of the two aid stations out on the trail the second one had water plus a selection of gels (Salted Caramel GU!) and chewy bloks – so spoiled. But by the time I’d sucked back the sugar, and was on that final four kilometers, I was beat.

My feet hurt, my body slowed down to a crawl and I was sooo tired. Am assuming this was a case of going too flat out on the midsection of the race. All that superhero running I’d done was totally catching up to me. I truly was enjoying it – and trying to make up time for those first two kilometers of “hiking” – but clearly going for it had some consequences.

The last few kilometers were at a shuffly little pace. I walked any remaining hills. Saw a squirrel and a deer. Shuffled down the last stretch towards the finish line. Right when I was in view of the crowds, I started to feel tiny clenching muscle balls in my calves. I stopped twice to try and stretch them out. Something down there was not going well. Made it across in 2:16…ironically a few minutes longer than my 5 Peaks 16 km run in Terwillegar earlier in the year!

Either way, all good. There was still a lot of food left and I sat and had a snack while I listened to the announcer give away prizes etc. Very peppy, happy little atmosphere in Canmore. Being one of two Athena racers I was also presented with a wicked awesome 5 Peaks swaggy medal – best ever.

I had so much fun at this race that I think I’ll go out of my way to make sure I do another Southern Alberta 5 Peaks again next year. Good times. The only thing that would make this race better would be beer.*

 

*I’m not sure the 5 Peaks folks roll that way on the race grounds, tho – so general imbibing takes place post-race, in town or at at a campsite. I did, after all splurge on a campsite for my second night in the mountains – haha. No more sleeping in the car.