Monthly Archives: February, 2012

New year, same dilemma

Another fabulous week. Looks like my fears that we would return to the seasonal cold in Ottawa were, for now at least, misplaced. The weather in Ottawa this past week has been nothing short of fantastic.

Winter has not yet left, though. It is like the proverbial B-movie villain, you only think it’s dead and then it comes back. In fact, we’re under a winter storm warning and supposed to be getting 15 cm today. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the tease of spring while preparing for the enemy’s return.

I have to admit that Sunday’s run was a tad frustrating. My grumpiness began when my Garmin took seemingly forever to get a signal. The slower pace groups left before mine and we had to pass them on the narrow downtown sidewalks as we started. To avoid the bulk of the crowds coming to the Rideau Canal for the last weekend of Winterlude, made all the worse by the fact the NCC finally clued into the warm weather and closed the skateway, we ran mostly on the Gatineau side of the river. Normally, I like running on the Gatineau side, particularly when we turn right off the Portage Bridge towards the Museum of Civilization.

Sunday, we turned left. Since the sidewalk on the river side of Rue Laurier was not cleared, it was a two part crossing at Laurier and  Maisonneuve and the traffic signals are set to ridiculously long intervals in Gatineau. I swear the crosswalk buttons are there just to make you feel like you’re doing something because they certainly didn’t speed up the signals. The frequent intersections meant several unscheduled stops. I think our last 10 minute interval was the only uninterrupted one.

Another problem was speed. This one is my fault. With the frequent waits for walk lights at intersections, the slower pace groups would catch up. Not wanting the groups to get mixed up, I would start off at the intersection a little fast and then once we had gained some distance slow them down to their expected pace. As I slowed them down after the last intersection, I noticed one of my pace group trying to pass me. I warned her to slow down. At that point we were going near our tempo pace of 5:50 min/km, way, way too fast for an LSD run.

Instead of taking my advice, she complained we were going to slow. I honestly believed the oxygen wasn’t getting to her brain. Her posture was that of an 80 year old man and her breathing was that of a pack-a-day smoker, but as my father would say, “You can’t tell a Heinz pickle nuthin'”.

Maybe she legitimately belonged in the faster pace group? “What’s your best time for a 5 or 10K?”

“I did a 10K in 42 minutes.”


“5 years ago.”

Slow down.

After some back and forth, I just relented, reminded her if she gets injured there’s no refunds and let her get ahead. We caught up to her before finishing our 7th km.

Tuesday and Wednesday’s runs were much better. Tuesday we had a 3K tempo run after our clinic talk. Our clinic talk was about clothes this week. Unfortunately, the crowd was down because it was reading week at the universities so many of the students who are in the clinic weren’t there. The clothing talk is a rather important one for this particular clinic. In the sixteen weeks between the start and end of our clinic, we will train through pretty much anything God can throw at us. We start in winter, train through spring and by the time Ottawa Race Weekend comes, the weather will be summer-like. In all the years I’ve been going to ORW, first as part of Christian’s cheering section/post-race gin dispenser and now as a participant, race day weather is almost always mid-twenties in base temperature with humidity. Last year, the temperature jumped ten degrees in as many minutes before gun time for my first 5K.

The extremes of hot and cold are easy to dress for. It’s the middle temps that are difficult. I’ve tended to overdress for the more mild temperatures. It’s not such a big deal for the shorter distances, although Wednesday was warm enough I shed my gloves mid-run, but it can be a problem for the long runs. Either way, the new habit of bringing a change of clothes to the Running Room comes in handy. As I wrote last week, changing prevents you from cooling down too fast and properly regulate your body temp.

Wednesday we had a 4K tempo run. It was also Ash Wednesday. Like a good Catholic, I went to mass and got ashes on my forehead. I had to explain a few times on the walk home what the “stuff” on my forehead was. Oddly enough, the first time was at the Bridgehead coffee shop a mere two blocks from the Cathedral. By the time we finished the run, any semblance of the sign of the cross on my ashen forehead was gone in favour of a big blackish grey smudge.

Yes, it’s Lent again. This year’s dilemma for a Lenten fast is pretty much the same as last year’s. Most of the junk food that I gave up when I began my weight loss journey last year has not been re-incorporated in my eating habits. What has returned is taken so infrequently that it would not be a sacrifice to give it up, thus negating the point. Example: chicken wings and pizza. I’ve had each these exactly twice since reaching my target weight. Giving them up for 40 days would be no sacrifice. I no longer crave these items. Like last year, I’m going with more behavioural sacrifices.

Speaking of food, I’ve been experimenting with a couple of sides that I subjected to friends this weekend. The main was salmon fillets crusted with a cajun spice rub Vicky’s parents sent back with her for me as a Christmas present (BTW, thanks Bernice and Claude!).  First experiment, kale. I’m not fussy on raw kale, but when I made the rigatoni dish a couple of weeks ago, I noticed how easy it was to cook in a frying pan. I’ve been flash frying it in olive oil, garlic, chili pepper flakes, and oregano. It literally takes five minutes and is delicious. We all know those leafy greens are good for us.

Another thing I did was roasted fennel. I halved a fennel bulb and chopped into half inch strips. I brushed some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roasted it along with some eggplant for 40 minutes at 400F.  The roasting brings out a black liquorice taste that is quite good, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like black liquorice.

Still enjoying the Greco workouts 3 to 4 times a week. I’m typically going Monday and Friday at 7 am for the regular Lean and Fit workouts and Tuesday and Thursday at 8 am for the Extreme Lean workouts. This week’s workouts were killer. Tuesday’s included super high box jumps, with the bench stacked to about my mid-thigh. I felt like Spiderman every time I landed the jump going up and was scared shitless jumping down. Just hoped it didn’t aggravate the right shin muscles. I still don’t have the full mobility back, but it only bothers me when I’m twisting it some unnatural way to get a post-workout stretch on. Might be time for a massage.

Also noticed my right forearm isn’t as strong as left one. Please hold the masturbation jokes. I’ve already heard them. Hurt like hell doing a squat row yesterday morning with a kettle bell in each hand. I could only manage the 8kg bells. This morning for the regular Lean and Fit, we did the one bell/two hands version of the same exercise. I was back to using a heavier bell, but still felt it in the arm when I was done. Hope I haven’t worked my way into an injury.

Whatever the problem is, I’ll figure it out and adapt my training to compensate. No station stops. This train only goes forward.



Warming Up

This weekend was an exercise in JFDI. A northern cold front blew into town and dropped the base temperature to -18 Celsius.  It was the coldest base temperature of the season. With a bit of wind, it dropped to -24 with the windchill on Sunday. While not as bad as my first Sunday run of the year, even for us Canucks, it’s the kind of weather that makes you want to stay inside.

Instead: JFDI (c)





And did I ever JFDI.

The low temperature and high wind made for some interesting runs this weekend.

That’s right, runs. Two run weekend.

Saturday was the Second Annual Beaver Tail Run. This was a social run organized by one of the runners from the Slater St. Running Room. Pretty simple premise: run 6 or 8K on the Rideau Canal, be back at the Rideau Locks end in time for the Beavertails huts to be open, have a beavertail.

Sounds simple enough. It was a fun little challenge. It was my first time actually running on the Canal. Yes, I wrote “on” the Canal.

Running on a sheet of ice is it’s own special challenge. I don’t have Yak Trax or anything like that for ice running. The shoes are also nearing the end of their life expectancy and the treads are pretty flat. Amazingly, I did the 6K route without falling on my arse, although there were a few close calls. We got back to the locks as the Beavertails hut was opening. I went for chocolate hazelnut and promptly made a mess of myself.

Nom, nom, nom.

Seriously, is there anyway to eat one of those damn things without looking like a total slob afterwards?

Not so delicious was the brown water they sold me as hot chocolate. I guess there are some drawbacks to being the first customer int he morning.

The next morning was the regular Sunday practice run, a 7K LSD run.

It was probably the first time I may have underdressed for a run. I used the Bank St. Sport 4’s Renovation Sale as the excuse to invest in some Suogi running gear. With 20% off the lowest marked price, meaning it was 20% off stuff already marked down for seasonal clearance, they had some really great deals. The weak link, however, is the outer shell. It’s a little thin for -24 and I could feel the cold penetrate it as I ran. Even though I could feel myself sweat under my gear, I never felt warmed up .

One lesson learned this weekend: bring a change of clothes to winter runs. Even if you don’t feel warmed up, your heart rate has accelerated, you have warmed up, you have sweat in your clothes. Once that heart rate gets back to its normal resting rate and your core body temperature drops, you will notice just how wet your inner layers are. With wet layers in severe cold, it will take forever for your body to properly regulate your core temperature back to normal.

I learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday. Between the winter coat and pants, headband, face guard, sunglasses and inner layers, I had dressed adequately for the run conditions.  I worked up a pretty good sweat and those inner layers got quite wet. I went for post-run coffee at Bridgehead and then walked home in the cold. Between the weather and wet inner layers, I was chilled to the bone by the time I got home. I stood in the shower for what seemed like forever on Saturday before I filled up the tub and allowed myself to soak. The pool at the building was closed for repairs, so soaking there and using the sauna was not an available option.

Apparently people who didn’t grow up near an ocean like their salt water swimming pools warm.


(Apparently there’s actually city rules at what temperature swimming pools in apartment buildings and hotels must be kept at. As if the city doesn’t have enough to do, like kicking smokers off patios and out of parks.)

Sunday, I packed a change of clothes. Pretty much shed every piece of gear for street clothes except my socks and sneakers. I even brought a spare jacket. I found the inside of  my winter running jacket gets quite damp and sometimes doesn’t fully dry the time I’m leaving for home. Not much point in dry inner layers if I’m going to toss on a wet shell. Just more clothes for the hamper when I get back to the apartment. Made for a much better post-run coffee and walk home.

Despite the frigid temperatures of the weekend, it was actually unseasonably warm this week.   A slight breeze on Tuesday meant it was a mere -3 for our clinic night run.

Wednesday, despite some morning flurries, it was +2 by the time we had our practice run. It felt fantastic to run in warm weather again.

Yes, after last weekend, two degrees above zero is considered warm.

I actually saw a guy in shorts and a t-shirt walking down Bank St. That was a little much.

Maybe the Canadian groundhogs were right and spring is just around the corner?

Yeah, right.

The weekend forecast has some great mild temperatures in store for us here in Ottawa before going to back to seasonal temperatures. This week’s warmth will likely prove to be like the proverbial last dance at a strip club before last call. As soon as you let yourself think it can last, the song ends, the lights come on, you empty the last twenties from your wallet, and you’re thrown out into the night cold and alone.

Not that I know from experience. I only go to those places with friends.


Now slow down there, son

Had another great week. It was largely uneventful: workout at Greco, run with Running Room, apply for jobs, wash, rinse, repeat.

There was a football game on Sunday? Didn’t bother watching the Super Bowl. Frankly, when it comes most sports, if I don’t have a dog in the hunt, I really don’t care about the big game. I find it hard to root for a team in the finals about which I was either apathetic, at best, or rooted against, at worst, during the regular season. I really hate the Patriots, but not enough to bother watching. From the commentary prior to kick-off, you would think the game is the space between commercials. This year, most of them were posted online prior to game time and, of course, they’re all online after they air so you can watch them whenever you want. As I wrote in last week’s entry, it’s an excuse to eat junk food and drink. Might as well send an alcoholic to a bar.

Instead, I had a friend over for dinner. I cooked the almond crusted chicken I previously wrote about. As a side, I made white asparagus and fries … eggplant fries. I looked around at different ways to do this and settled on this experiment:

I took a large eggplant and sliced it into rounds, about 2 inches wide. Cubed the rounds into fries. Brushed the fries in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then dredged the fries in a mixture of flour (I believe rice flour can make this a gluten free dish), minced garlic, and salt. Lay the dredged fries  on a wire rack over a cookie sheet. Roast the fries at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.

Everything turned out really well. They even made good leftovers. I intentionally made a little extra to have a few lunches at the ready this week. On Monday, I made this dish from Weight Watchers.  Since I couldn’t find the rigatoni in whole wheat, I substituted whole wheat penne. It was tasty, but not substantial enough to be a meal unto itself. Instead, I used it as a side dish with lunch leftovers.

Product review: Garmin Ant+ Adapter for iPhone/iPod Touch.  Two word version: total fail. I thought it would be neat if I could upload my run data from my watch to Garmin Connect through my iPhone. Unfortunately, that’s not what this product does. It, along with a $0.99 app, turns your iPhone into a Garmin. You don’t actually need the adapter to do the run, but to wirelessly sync  your run info through an Ant+ stick. It’s a proprietary bluetooth dongle. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you already have an Ant+ stick for your computer, you probably have one of the later model Garmin watches already, so you don’t need this product. In fact, the $5.99 Nike+ GPS app does everything the Garmin adapter, app, and stick does combined for a much lower price point. The app, itself, is worth the $0.99.  It’s a better way to access your Garmin Connect information than going to the website on your phone’s browser. Why you can’t send the data collected on the app directly to Garmin Connect is beyond me. Actually, it isn’t. They want you to pay $50 for an adapter you don’t need in the hope of creating a want. Sorry, Garmin, no dice on this one.

Run like you stole something: My half marathon clinic started this week. The training schedule actually started the Wednesday previous and we had our first clinic session on Tuesday.

Holy crap, it’s huge. We probably have 90 people registered and it easily fills the store. Have to say I’m jealous. The most I had registered for my 5K clinics was 8.

We had a 7k long slow distance (LSD) run on Sunday.

Tuesday was a 4K tempo run.

Wednesday was a 3k tempo run.

As a pace leader, I’ve had to learn a whole new vocabulary for the half-marathon training. Our 5K training method only used the LSD intervals. Now I’m leading tempo runs (fast, continuous pace) and steady pace (slow, continuous pace) as well as the LSD runs on Sunday.

Yes, I know what else LSD stands for. My parents are baby boomers. Stop snickering.

As the title suggests, speed has been an issue the first few runs. I wasn’t exactly diligent at watching the Garmin on Tuesday and we all ran far faster than we should have for the 2h pace. The upper end of the pace range for a 2h complete is 5m50s/km. We running about 5:30ish. At the turnaround point on Tuesday, I checked the Garmin and it was at 5 min even.

As one member of my pace group chuckled afterwards, “I guess everyone’s a hero at 4K.”

I did a better job on the practice run on Wednesday. My friend, Joanne, ran with our group. She’s an experienced half-marathoner at that pace and gave me a lot of great tips for pace leading. It’s going to be a little tricky getting used to coordinating my  pace.

The fast run on Tuesday did, however, inspire me to sign up for the St. Patrick’s Day 5K. I figure I can do one more 5K and set another personal best, maybe even get a sub-25 min time. It will actually cap off my first year as a runner. It was just a little later in March 2011 that I started my Learn to Run clinic. It will be a good way to mark another milestone.

The Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon sold out this week, a little more than 4.5 months before race day. They sent an update out through social media on Tuesday around 3 pm that it was 95% sold out. The remaining spots sold out by 6 pm. Good think I registered back in December. It’s a hugely popular event that sells out earlier and earlier each year. The growing popularity of the Army Run in September is one of the reasons I registered as soon as it opened last week. I have no clue if I’ll even be living in Ottawa come September. Looking forward to race day in May … and September … and whenever (and wherever) I run number three.


… Mmmm Fooood

I hear there’s a big football (No, non-North Amers, not soccer, the other one with pads and stuff) game this weekend. I’m told that this game is often used as an excuse to gather together drink and eat copious amounts of food. Seems like as good an excuse as any to write about one of my favourite subjects.

Let’s start with a hard, maybe uncomfortable, truth.

Fat people like food.

That’s it.

Pretty simple.


The reasons may be conscious or subconscious, but the point is their brain signals to them food=good. It’s not a bad thing to enjoy food, the problem is when you enjoy too much of the wrong things and don’t compensate on your activity level, you’re going to run into trouble. It’s not even that fat people don’t like exercise. I know a lot of overweight people who are quite active. Some wish they could be more active, but the extra pounds they are carrying have ruined their joints.

Of course, the opposite is true, too. When people who don’t like food refuse to eat or eat and then purge, they’re setting themselves up for big health trouble.

The relationship you have with both food and exercise is just like any relationship you have with human beings. You need to maximize the healthy ones and end the unhealthy ones.

Like all relationships, it will be a work in progress. Unlike the toxic girlfriend/boyfriend you broke up with, you can’t kick food out of your life. You can’t change your locks on food. You can’t change your phone number on food. You can’t send your new boyfriend to explain how the world works to your old boyfriend. Sorry, you’re going to have to stay together for the kids’ sake.

You may be stuck with your relationship with food, but at least it’s an open one.

Newt Gingrich’s favourite.

To reach your fitness goals, you’re going to have to say to a few lovers, “It’s not you, it’s me,” when it really is you. It’s not that you don’t like them; you don’t like what they do to you. They’re the friends that are good to you but not for you. You want something they just can’t provide: nutrition.

Unfortunately, it won’t be a clean break up. Your favourite bad-for-you foods are the proverbial stage 5 clinger. They’re waiting for you to break up with that skanky ho you dumped them for so they can swoop back in. They’re never going to grow up and meet Mr. or Mrs. Right.

I know. Some of the former flames I thought I left in other provinces and even other countries have found me here in Ottawa. One has now formed an unholy alliance with one of my new loves. Covered Bridge Potato Chips are now being sold at Freshii, my favourite spot to grab a quick, healthy post-run meal.




I wonder if they talk about me? The ex seems determined to get back together with me, so is probably talking smack to the new love as we speak. Dear Freshii, don’t listen to her.

If you’re lucky, you’ll make it to your goal without backsliding. If you keep your fitness regimen as part of your maintenance plan, there may be a temptation to have the occasional quickie with the old flame. After all, you told them it was you and now you’re better, right?

You could always do for your former food flames what your real life, human friends helped you do: make them better.

I love to cook. A person who loves to eat should love to cook. In the Ten Minute Cooking School segments in his DVD extras, film director Robert Rodriguez likes to say cooking is like making love; you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life so you better be good at it.

When I first went into Free Form Fitness to meet for the information session, the owner, Rob, asked me if I was on a desert island and could ask for one food item what would it be.

My answer: MacGyver. I’d claim to be a cannibal and ask for MacGyver as a meal only to use him to get my ass off that island!

And once MacGyver got me off the island?

Shepard’s pie.

Mmmm. Shepard’s pie.

Since potatoes of any kind were out of bounds on the early stages of the meal plan, I needed a substitute for the topping. A lot of recipes call for the ground beef to be cooked in ketchup or chilli sauce, which is thick ketchup with chilli peppers mixed in. Both are high in added sugar and were also no-nos on the plan. Corn was also a no-no, but I wasn’t much of a corn in shepard’s pie person

My phase 1 substitutes – the ketchup/chilli sauce is easy: salsa, the hotter the better. You only need a couple of dollops. Two tablespoons of salsa is 10 calories. Two tablespoons of ketchup is 50 calories. The meat and whatever veggies you use (I use carrot, celery, and onion) will absorb the excess juices. For the potato substitute, cauliflower puree. Steam the cauliflower, toss in a blender with some yogurt, a clove of garlic, and a pinch of sea salt. You may have to keep adding cauliflower to thicken the mixture to mashed potato consistency.

In phase 3 when complex carbs were back on the menu, roasted sweet potatoes became the topping with a little mozzarella cheese on the top for colour contrast instead of cheddar. Sweet potatoes are so naturally creamy they mash up quite well with adding any dairy. I call this version my cowboy pie, since cowboys are the shepards of the southwest.

Yeah … that’s it.

Pizza craving? I found this recipe for cauliflower crust pizza. One of those packages of pre-chopped cauliflower from the salad section of your grocer should be enough for a full sized pizza. It also holds up well for leftovers.

Fried chicken? This one is work in progress. Toss some almonds into a food chopper and chop to the consistency of crumbs. Throw the crumbs on a plate and season with your favourite herbs and spices. Wrap boneless breasts in plastic wrap and flatten by pounding with a heavy pan (This helps them cook faster and evenly in the pan. If you’re going to try baking the breast, you can skip this step). Dredge breasts in flour, beaten eggs, and then crumb mix. Fry in a pan heated with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Few minutes a side and you’re good to go.

Burger? Have a hamburger. Just don’t have the bun if you are in the early stages or sub a whole wheat/multigrain roll in the later stages. If you’re ordering at a bar, no fries. Get a soup or salad as a side.

Getting the nutrition equation right is going to be key as I train for my first half marathon … and my second.

That’s right, I wrote second. Registration for the Canada Army Run opened up this morning.  Since I was up late last night, I went to the website and registered not long after it opened. It’s September 23rd, a week earlier so it doesn’t conflict with Battle of Britain commemorations and the Terry Fox Run.

Yes, despite just starting the training for my first half marathon, I’ve registered for my second.   The popularity of the race means you need to register early. Ottawa Race Weekend Half Marathon is already 85% sold out and we’re a little less than four months away from race day.  Getting the coveted black jersey to add to the collection this year. I registered the 2:15 time, but am going to train to finish under that. I also indicated a size medium for the jersey. I wonder if that will be too big by September.

We actually had our first training run of the half marathon clinic on Wednesday. A quick 3K tempo run. Since most don’t realize the half marathon training schedule begins on Wednesday with our first clinic night the following Tuesday, there weren’t a lot of people. The two that wanted to run with the 2:15 group quickly fell back to the 2:30.  Since we have over 50 people registered for the clinic, I’ll have more next week.

In fact, I’m thinking of taking up this challenge:

I’ve always been a big Drew Carey fan. I loved his show. Now that he’s on daytime TV, I sort of lost touch of his career until he guest starred on episode of Community.  At first, I only recognized him by his voice. I think of myself as the last person to get starstruck, but when I see people, famous or otherwise, go through what I’ve gone through and have come out the other end the better for it, it powers me onward.

So Drew’s time will be my goal. Not my immediate goal, but my long term goal. I’ll keep doing half marathons until I reach it.