Monthly Archives: March, 2012

Giving up the Ghost

(With apologies/props to Dennis Miller) I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but is it just me or is the healthy option trend over?

For much of the last decade, fast food chains have been adding healthy options – salads, veggie burgers, etc. – to their menus. The additions were in response to perceived consumer demand for healthier options as demonstrated by the rapid ascent of the Subway chain in the late 1980’s and 1990’s to surpass McDonalds as the largest fast food chain. First, it beat McDs in number of US locations, then North America, … and then the world!

Suddenly the execs at the rivals took notice. Next thing you know, soups and salads are showing up on menus. Veggie burgers and grilled (or at least non-deep fried) chicken sandwiches started to be offered.

Some failed miserably.  KFC offered grilled chicken that somehow simultaneously had less fat but more sodium than it’s deep-fried counterpart. Wendy’s (and pretty much everyone else’s) salads were made in advance (often off-site) and kept in the fridge until you ordered. When your marketing is based around burgers cooked fresh to order, the message received is “burgers=fresh, salad=not fresh”. Wendy’s new fries seasoned with sea salt have more sodium than the old ones seasoned with iodized salt.

I don’t think anyone ever thought the fast food industry’s new found commitment to healthy eating was much more than a sop to a perceived trend of the moment. They’re real worry was the “veto customer”, the person in the car who doesn’t eat anything on their chain’s menu and convinces friends to go somewhere else. If there was just one item on that menu, that person would give up years of habit and let his friends get their Big McWhopper Classics.

The prime example is the inevitable spring special of the fish sandwich. Why does everyone who doesn’t have a fish sandwich permanently on their menu suddenly have one on special in the springtime? In a word: Lent. They don’t want to lose sales from Catholics observing the fast on Fridays during Lent. There’s only several hundred million of us in North America alone.

It didn’t work. Fast food sales have actually been in decline the last number of years. Even Subway is feeling the pinch with it’s $5 footlong offerings. Subway’s troubles have as much to do with its business model of unprotected franchises than declining sales. Like Starbucks, most major cities have a Subway within blocks of another Subway. Depending on what route I take, I can walk past as many as 5 when I walk from my apartment to the Running Room on a run night.

Now it seems like the fast food chains are going in another direction. Save for McD’s which is undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover to compete with … Starbucks(?), the fried food chains have decided to cater to the latest trend:  Internet-fuelled junk food fetishism.

KFC has the Double-Down (now in “zinger” hot and spicy flavour) which is a bun less sandwich made out of two fried chicken patties, bacon and cheese. Burger King has the quad stacker. Wendy’s has the Baconator.

That’s just the burgers!  Tim Horton’s has brought Cold Stone Creamery to Canada. Their shakes actually have more calories than the average burger. The worst offender is the PB&C (peanut butter and chocolate) shake, which clocks in at 1750 calories (1030 from fat). Thanks, Tim’s for making the burger joints look good.

Even if these items were available before I began my journey, I wouldn’t eat this shit when I was fat.  Oh, I had my moments. I would order KFC about once a year. It would serve as a reminder why I order it once a year. The salt content alone left me dehydrated for days. There’s still the odd trip to the drive thru on one of the half dozen times a year I actually have access to a car. Usually on my long road trips back to New Brunswick or Cape Breton. As much as I try to eat healthy, they haven’t made a salad I can eat with my hands while driving.  I’ve figured out some relatively decent road snacks, but the actual healthy driving meal eludes me still.

This whole junk food fetish seems to be fueled by the Internet. The ‘net has this bizarre ability to elevate any niche, no matter how random or small, to the level of international movement.  You have websites like EpicMealTime (NB: if you’ve noticed I’m not linking like I usually do, there’s a reason. Find it your damn self.) that posts videos of the team creating the most disgusting concoctions, all of which have creative uses for what they call a “bacon weave”.

And you wonder why we’re losing the war on obesity?

The marketing of this stuff even plays directly to the male ego. The tag line for the Double-Down is “Make time for man time.” Yes, the wannabe Don Drapers at KFC want you to think consuming their 610 calorie (310 from fat) and 135% of your recommended daily sodium intake sandwiches will define you as a manly man. You know what it will really define you as?

A fat man. A fat man who plays ping pong in his basement in the dark with night vision goggles that he probably got from CODMW2 Deluxe Collectors Edition. That’s what the marketers at KFC think of their customers (and they wonder why their largest franchisee in Canada declared bankruptcy).

With a day and a half’s serving of sodium in one meal, probably a thirsty fat man, too. Better buy a pop/soda, too!

The fast food scene isn’t all bad, though. Toronto-based Freshii seems to be growing quite well. Seems like they’re announcing a new location every day on Twitter.

Aside from the chains, there’s always good old-fashioned locally owned restaurants. Ottawa has it’s usual collection of pubs that serve food just a notch or two above McDonald’s, but there’s some that have innovative, healthy items and seasonal specials in addition to the burgers and fries. My two faves are the Higlander and Lieutenant’s Pump. There’s also the higher end restaurants with great chefs that prepare healthy options from locally sourced vendors. Those are pretty expensive places, like Bekta’s. There’s also a great number in between the pubs and

Eating the food that food eats

Here’s an example: The Green Door. Now that Kalin and I are an official item, Christian and his wife, Ramona, wanted to go on a “double date” with us. I let them choose the restaurant. They selected the Green Door. (Christian’s version of events and attempted conversion on the road to Damascus here)

“The Green Door,” I thought to myself. “isn’t that a vegetarian restaurant?”

Cue sinister dum, dum, dum, music,

Sure enough it was. Christian joked it was an act of revenge. For what, I don’t know and he couldn’t remember. We often take so long to retaliate against one another for our pranks it feels more like instigation than retaliation.

I got him, though. I enjoyed it! 😛

Did the ol’ Facebook check-in, where I posted the photo on the left, and was promptly heaped tons scorn by my carnivorous friends with nothing better to do on a Saturday night than to troll Facebook.

My sister took quite emphatic glee. She is a vegetarian, or at least was one. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her eat chicken and fish recently. Regardless, I’ve been teasing her mercilessly for over 15 years and she attempted some comeuppance.

In the spirit of Churchill, though, yes, I ate vegetarian, but Sunday I would cook coffee-marinated flank steak. She would still be a joyless pseudo-vegetarian.

Now for all the fun and sarcastic wit. We did have a great evening. It’s a nice place with friendly staff.  Since I wasn’t sure what I would enjoy, I took a little bit of everything. The restaurant is set up cafeteria-style and you pay by the weight of your plate. A little bit of everything made for a pricey first plate that wasn’t actually all that filling. Yep, I went back for seconds. Round two was heavy on legumes so I would feel full. It made for an expensive learning experience, but tasty one, too.

Saturday night also meant the end of our spell of nice weather. It cooled off severely overnight and was only in the mid-single digits the rest of the week. I’m just thankful it was the mid-single digits above zero.

It actually made for some nice running weather. Our 12K Sunday long run was made a little longer (by a kilometre) when I lead the group on right at an intersection when I should have gone left. I was able to quickly correct course, though. I had programmed the route into my MapMyRun account. I have the app on my iPhone so I let it track via the phone’s GPS. When I realized we were headed away from Bayswater, where we should have been going, I very quickly could find where we were vis-a-vis the route and get back on track. We met up the 2hr15 group and then quickly passed them.

We’re actually getting to the distance on the long runs where we need to take into consideration things that we didn’t have to worry as much about at shorter distances:

  1. Hydration – bring water, your own water. I run with a 750 ml Camel Back bottle and it’s so far been more than enough. Most of my runners have the belts with the little bottles, which is good, too, but in colder weather those little bottle can freeze up. There’s a couple of husbands and boyfriends that come out on the long runs with their significant others and they share each other’s water. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, unless your other sucks back all your water and leaves you empty when you need hydration.
  2. Nutrition – I’ve already written about my pre-run (oatmeal with almonds and berries) and post-run (protein smoothie). Now it’s time to think of in-run nutrition. The 13k burned almost 1,000 calories before most people have rolled out of bed on a Sunday.It’s time to start experimenting with the various gels, energy bars, and assorted snacks. So far, the gels remind me of the fluoride treatments that you get from the dentist. Blech. The experimenting will continue.
  3. Bathroom breaks – Since the Sunday runs are quite early in the morning, many of the runners who come from the office during the weeknight runs are quite hard pressed to make it on time. Since the store only has one change room/washroom, there is often a long line up for those that need to change or have a pre-run trip to the loo.  Even if they didn’t need to go before they left, the LSD runs are getting to the 90 minute mark. If the runners follow item #1, they’ll have taken in a good amount of water by the three-quarter mark of the run. One of my runners veered off into an arena a mere 2K from the store because he couldn’t hold it anymore. We need to start marking potential pit stops on the map. It will also give people a chance to fill up their water bottles.

Tuesday’s run was a quick 4K tempo. I took the group behind Parliament Hill from pathway entrance near the the Portage Bridge. This meant we had the double hill at the Rideau locks around the third kilometre. The other groups went the other direction, entering from Confederation Park, and went down the hill. Since we started that way on Sunday, I did the opposite. My runners did a fantastic job of taking the hill. I gave them a little walk break at the top of the hill before proceeding with the last kilometre.

Speaking of hills, Wednesday’s hill training actually went better than the previous week’s. The cooler temperature probably had something to do with it. One kilometre warm up, followed by five hill repeats, and a 2K cool down back to the store.

As you could probably imagine following such a run, my Thursday morning extreme lean class at Greco was extra fun. I chose the exercise station that would best help the legs work out the kinks as my first station. It was a weighted curtsey lunge. It was slow, at first, but I managed to work out the kinks pretty quick and the rest of the exercises went rather smoothly. Friday’s regular Lean and Fit class was also a great balance between upper, lower, and core body. Great way to end the week.

But wait. The week isn’t over.

Getting an extra run in tonight. It’s “bring a buddy night” for Kalin’s 5K clinic. Guess who she’s bringing.

Allons-y!

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Me? I’m Dodging Raindrops

It was a cold, foggy morn. The rising sun was trying to burn a whole through layers of dew, but failing miserably. Still shining streetlights could barely be seen from my window. Their shine reduced to that of dim embers on a campfire about to be extinguished.

Appropriately Irish weather for St. Patrick’s Day.

I was not in Dublin, though, but here in Ottawa. Kalin and I navigated the soup-thick mist to make our way to Immaculatta High School on Main St. for the St. Patrick’s Day Races. We decided before we left that the St. Patrick’s Day bling was going to stay at home. Even though the weather was going to be nice later in the day, it seemed like the hats we bought would only get in the way. The green cowboy hat with the blinking LED shamrock and the sequinned poor boy cap would have to wait until next year.

The St. Patrick’s Day Races are a great combination of race and fun run. There are plenty of people dressed up for the occasion, although none more so than the folks up from the Perth Kilt Run.

Where's Longshanks?

It’s also chip timed, so those of us that looking for official stats to improve upon are happy.

It’s a flat course along the Colonel By Dr. side of the Rideau Canal that’s easy to personal best on.

And personal best I did.

I exploded from the start gate. The wet air immediately played havoc on my lungs. It was as  if the bronchitis from which I suffered as a child had suddenly come back. I pushed ahead anyway. While surrounded by hundreds of competitors, there was only one I cared about: my last finish.

With my half-marathon training, I’m now used to running a fast tempo 5K without the 10 and 1 intervals. I tried to keep it below the 5 min/km, aiming for a sub 25 minute finish. Even if I fell short of this goal, I would achieve my primary goal: a new personal best. I was shooting for the stars in order to get to the moon.

Look at those quads! I guess I'm a runner.

In addition to running continuous instead of intervals, I also ran without listening to music. I had my iPhone, as is my habit, in its armband, but did not use it. I followed Christian’s advice and forewent the tunes to pay more attention on my breathing, posture, form, people around me, etc. Since I only bring my iPhone on my clinic runs for emergency purposes, I figured I should race as I train.

Had a couple of WTF moments on the run. The 1 km marker showed up around 1.3 km on my Garmin. It then would signal I was at 5 km about 180 m short and the finish line. As it beeped 5 km, I looked forward and between the fog and a twist in the road, the finish line was nowhere in sight. Garmins et al, are great guides but do not be fooled, they’re not military-level precise. They were military-level precise when the Soviet-era satellite on which they lease bandwidth launched towards the end of the Cold War.  Now I get why “smart” bombs sometimes hit the wrong building.

NB: I’ve been told since that the 5K course was, in fact, about 150m too long. Since it would be impossible to adjust the results accordingly, I’m going to consider it an unofficial sub-25. The official sub-25 will have to wait for another race.

Not seeing the finish line ahead, I just pushed faster until the line was in sight. When the outline of those red arches became visible through the soup, I pushed faster still.

Finished!!

After a quick cool down, I waited at the finish line for Kalin.   She hadn’t run in a couple of weeks because she was fighting a chest infection. She didn’t feel like she could handle 5K and settled for the 1K.

As she, too, began to emerge from the fog, I cheered her on. I could see her look my way and suddenly pick up speed. She crossed the finish line … and came to a dead stop in the middle of the chip time pads.

“Kalin! You’ve got to cross the second pad!” She snapped to attention and took the next few steps so the chip would record her completing her first race since her cancer diagnosis two years earlier.

We embraced at the finish line and went to the gymnasium to await our scores being posted. I ran into Scott, the manager of the Slater St. Running Room, who was kind enough to snap this photo of us.

The runners triumphant

Official time for me 25:27. The Garmin version for those that like maps and moving pictures and stuff.

Pretty damn good, if I don’t say so myself.  Do I feel robbed of the  official sub-25 finish I wanted? No. That’s a lifetime goal, not an immediate goal.  I was below the 25 minute mark when the Garmin said I was at 5K and that’s good enough. I know I can do it. Next time. Or the time after that. Having shaved seven minutes off my finish time in 10 months, I don’t think I have much to prove anymore in the 5K.

I’m a runner. A pretty good one, at that.

Now it’s on to the next challenge: the half marathon.

As proud as I am of my own result, I am more proud of Kalin’s. Two years ago, she was running 5kms faster than my pace today. She’s been cancer-free just over a year and is starting the slow, frustrating process of getting back to where she was before it struck, both professionally and physically. Saturday was the first challenge and she succeeded. Cancer, your ass is kicked. She makes me a proud boyfriend.

In fact, she made me even more proud on Tuesday when she told me that she had signed up for the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K and the Running Room’s 5K clinic. Just in the nick of time. The Ottawa Race Weekend 5K sold out mere hours after she registered and the clinic starts … tonight. If you want to run that weekend and haven’t registered yet, there’s two options: the 2K family run or the Full Marathon. Talk about extremes.

All this adventure was done before 10:30 am on St. Patrick’s Day. We killed the rest of the day with brunch at the Sandy Hill Lounge and Grill, which took way longer than it should have even when busy on St. Patrick’s Day in the heart of the UofO student ghetto, and a late afternoon showing of John Carter at the Imax in Gloucester (which was freaking amazing).

BTW, if the zombie apocalypse struck a college town on St. Patrick’s Day, would you notice? These are the kinds of questions that go through my head when my energy is low, I’m surround by deadites …. er, undergrads … on the weekend of the Walking Dead’s season finale.

Even though the legs were stiff, I did our 10 km LSD Sunday run.  There was a little concern from my running friends if my legs were up for it, but I couldn’t skip this one. Christian texted me the night before to say he was going to run with us. It was great having one of my best friends run with us. If you haven’t read it already from my reblog, you can read his account here. I actually missed a turn that added a little more than kilometre to the run. Another missed turn, from St. Patrick through the park that goes to Charlotte St. was recovered by a detour through Beausoleil and Chapel to Somerset East. Better more than too short. It started as a cool morning, but warmed up considerably by the time we had finished.

Tuesday’s 4K tempo run was a little rough for my runners. Even though Sunday became an extraordinarily beautiful day, it started as cool as foggy as Saturday, near perfect temperature for a long run. I don’t think the fog truly lifted until we hit U of O. Tuesday, the heat had set in and was still quite warm after we did the clinic session and headed out for our run around 7.  There was a great breeze as we crossed the Portage Bridge that gave some temporary relief. The sun may be hot. but the melting river is still ice cold and that affects the air above it. A couple of my runners failed to hydrate properly, though, and hadn’t brought water with them for the run. The result was they were dehydrated and lost energy towards the end of the run. They stopped a mere 100m from finishing a route they had done several times before.

I hate to complain about the awesome weather we’ve had this week, so I will posit an observation instead: we’ve skipped spring. We went from low negative temperatures to mid-twenties above zero basically overnight. The human body needs time to adapt to such a drastic change and we haven’t had it. From the looks of the forecast, like all good things, this too shall end and we will be back to normal shortly.

Wednesday’s hill training was rather fun. It was even hotter than Tuesday according to the Weather Network. With the way the winds blow along the Ottawa River, we actually had a bit of a breeze on the hill, strong enough to knock a few degrees off the thermostat. Even with the slight relief, we runners retired for a post run drink and meal at Lieutenant’s Pump for some wings and bronto beef ribs. Beer may be loaded with carbs, but it’s really nice for a post run drink. At least I drank an organic brew.

At some point I’ll take a second, pull out the camera, and grab a photo of the hill. It’s actually the driveway to the heating plant for the parliamentary precinct, which hill staffers affectionately refer to as “the pit”. I’ll have to be rather creative to come up with a name for it as dramatic as the one Christian uses for his training hill.

Summer weather has also lead to some fun with food. I had Kalin and Vicky over dinner and Sunday (What? You didn’t actually think because I have a girlfriend now that I would kick one of my best friends to the curb? I’m a jerk, not an asshole.). I prepared crab cakes with a roasted sweet potato salad with spinach that I read about on Tony Greco’s blog. Kalin brought some dragon fruit for dessert. Vicky brought a wonderful late autumn Riesling.

To have not one but two wonderful women in my life like this really is an embarrassment of riches. Vicky is and always will be a very important part of my life.  Her suggestion of the RMT a few weeks back has largely cured me of the nagging pain in my shin and forearm. She wasn’t the first person to suggest it, but, as is the case with our friendship, she was the first person I listened to.

Yes, that was lunch.

The barbecues are back out at my building and I wasted no time in using them. I found a rib steak on special while getting groceries on Tuesday and quickly made it my lunch along with some sweet potatoes (roasted with basil and thyme), onions, red peppers, and carrots.

I intentionally cooked more veggies than I needed. Now I have several portions ready to re-heat, I just need to cook some meat. On Wednesday, for example, I fried up a quick chicken breast, topped it with some pesto, and served it with my leftover veggies. Lunch in less than 15 minutes.

Remember, proper planning prevents piss poor performance. The one thing I’ve discovered over this journey is that nutrition is the key to success. Exercise may build muscles and help burn stored fat, but without proper nutrition, you won’t have the fuel to build this muscles and burn the stored fat. Planning those meals properly is the key to success as an athlete and in life.

Allons-y!

I managed to convince Christian to join my clinic for one of our long run practices. Truth be told, he convinced himself. Here’s his tale of the experience.

Old friends, new friends

Well, it was a pretty exciting week. Mostly the good kind of exciting.

The reason why I posted last Friday ‘s blog so late in the day compared to usual is that I was volunteering for the day weekend at the Manning Networking Conference. It gave me the opportunity to meet some new friends and reconnect with my Hill friends who I haven’t seen much of this year. By volunteering on Friday, I got to go to sessions on Saturday for free. I managed to get up in the front row for the afternoon presentations and even scored some one-on-one time with Daniel Hannan, Member of the European Parliament.

For those unfamiliar with why Hannan is the current darling of conservatives everywhere, watch this.

One of the folks I was able to chat with was David Wilkins, the former US Ambassador to Canada. I met Wilkins a number of times when I was at the Speaker of the Senate’s Office. He is the epitome of the Southern Gentlemen and wily politician all wrapped into one. When in Canada he likes to open his speeches with Would have liked to have gotten a not fat photo with him to replace the old fatty photo, but I caught him on the fly as he was heading into his session.

The really big news this week is that our story made the Running Room Magazine.

I intentionally use the plural possessive pronoun. While I wrote the profile, regular readers know this was not a singular effort on my part. I had a lot of help from my friends to get to my goal and I still lean on them. It may be my article, but it’s our story.

The genesis of the profile came about when I met John Stanton, CEO of the Running Room, at the 3K warm-up friendship run prior to the Canada Army Run last September. We chatted for a bit about how running contributed to my weight loss. I showed him the before photos on my iPod Touch. He suggested I do the profile for the magazine. I actually let it slide until the editor of the magazine contacted me back in January. They were kind enough to give our story the full page spread. I only asked that they photoshop the before picture to change the beer in my hand to an actual good brand. It’s been on the blog for months now, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think I actually like Heineken. That, and my east coast friends would probably disown me. Thankfully, they cropped it out.

The reaction, so far, has been wholly positive. Many people ask me who the photo of the guy in the tie is, not realizing it’s a before photo. I’ve taken to using the comment from Wednesday’s post, someone I used to know.

It was a good running week, too. The weather for Sunday’s 10K was nothing short of beautiful. It was still rather cold in the morning so I didn’t shed the pants for shorts. The early morning runs are sort of catch-22 this time of year. It’s still rather cool in the morning, but it warms up quickly enough that you may find yourself overdressed by the time you get too far into your run to shed a layer. I noticed that despite the warmer forecast, many in my pace group looked like the same as they had a few days earlier when it was substantially colder. A lot of them were tying their jackets around their waists during the last couple of kilometres.

Tuesday’s 4K tempo run was unintentionally adventurous. At the beginning of Pretoria Bridge, we ran past a woman who was laying down. My runners spotted her, but by the time they told me we were already too far to turn around on the bridge. By the time we got turned around, Joanne, Phil (the Running Room’s area manager) and another runner had stopped to assist. They had called for an ambulance, but she was rather cold. They flagged me down and asked me for my jacket. Joanne knows me well enough to know that I had a long sleeve on underneath. I tossed my equipment off and handed over the jacket. I then proceeded to run like I stole something to catch up with my pace group. I wanted to make sure I finished the run with my group to give them that motivational push for the last couple hundred meters. I caught up with about half a kilometre to spare. Wonder if I can keep that up for 5K on Saturday.

Tuesday’s adventure taught me two lessons: One, I need better situational awareness on the fast, short runs. I’m usually pretty good at scanning my surroundings for potential obstructions or threats, incoming runners, bikers, etc. I didn’t see this woman because she was off to the side of the bridge on the alcove look-outs. I need a broader view.

Two, I need to re-certify my first aide training. I used to volunteer with St. John Ambulance in New Brunswick. Tuesday night made me realize that I haven’t taken a first aide or CPR course in over a decade. Need to correct that while I have the chance.

Finally, Wednesday, we began hill training. Hill training seems to be pretty divisive. People either like it or hate it. So far I’m in the like category. What was interesting though, was how quickly they ignored everything Phil and Maya told us the day previously, particularly how they sprinted down the hill instead of taking a brisk walking break down the hill to bring the heart rate down before tackling the hill again. A few were dragging their asses on the last hill because they didn’t give themselves the proper rest between runs.

Since many of our runners in my 2h and Joanne’s 2h10min group were tackling hill training for the first time, we cheered them on. Maybe it’s spending a good chunk of my formative years in Fredericton where I was around military men from CFB Gagetown, but when I shout words of encouragement while running, I tend to sound like Gerard Butler in 300. Must be the common Scottish heritage. Some of the marathoners who arrived at the hill later due to a longer warm-up run took umbrage to my shouting, “one more.” My reply:

Not my fault you showed up late to the party.

I would make R. Lee Emery proud.

The Result

Had some fun food experiments this week. I made chicken parmagane from scratch. My girlfriend (more on that later) is allergic to nuts so it was back to panko bread crumbs for the chicken coating. I flattened the chicken breasts and then coated them in flour, followed by egg, followed by breadcrumbs with some seasoning added. I panfried them in olive oil for a few minutes per side until done. Once done, I placed the breasts on a parchment lined cookie sheet and proceeded to make the tomato sauce.

The sauce was a variation of a sauce I watched Gordon Ramsey (again with the angry Scots) make on the F-Word earlier in the week. I made it with some olive oil, garlic, oregano, fresh basil, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (halved) and some cornstarch to thicken it up (I would normally use tomato paste for a sauce, but I didn’t have any).

As a side, I made some whole grain penne rigate with some nut-free basil pesto.  I made far more than required for the two of us which gave me the opportunity to experiment with some leftovers in the freezer for my earlier meals.

The results:

Monday - Penne bolongese with sautéed kale

Tuesday - Penne with sautéed sweet Italian turkey sausage and sautéed spinach

You may have noticed a passing reference to a girlfriend. Yes, there is a new cast member in the play that is my life. Her name is Kalin. Say hello, Kalin.

You can probably guess by the photo, she was the unnamed friend who I taught how to skate on the Rideau Canal. My version of how we met is she crashed my birthday party last October. Her version is she was invited, just by someone else. We didn’t really start hanging out, though, until the new year and, even then, we both thought of each other as friends. The friends saw otherwise and, for once, were right.  We only clued in, ourselves, about a month ago. Saturday we mark a milestone: our first race together. We’re running the St. Patrick’s Day 5K together.

Don’t let the cute looks fool you. She’s smart as heck with some interesting stories to tell. She’s going on her own health journey and I’m happy to be a part of it. As you can probably tell from the photo, she has a pretty good sense of humour. She’ll need it she’s going to put up with me.

If you’re nice, I may let her write a guest post.

Allons-y!

Going Continental

Welcome readers of the Running Room Magazine!

For those of you that don’t get the magazine, yours truly was featured in the most recent issue that hit stores and mailboxes yesterday. Here’s the link: RR Mar/Apr 2012. I’m on page 8.

So far, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the article and few chuckles over the photos. I’ve been asked more than once, “Who’s the chubby fella in the photos with you?”

To quote a song title, someone I used to know.

Goodbye, Winter.

Maybe it’s the run I just came on before I started to write this post, but I’m a little excited.

Last week, I stared winter in the eye and told him to bugger off.

This week, he did.

He skulked off, but not before a final tantrum.

The weather on Saturday was a real mixed bag. It was warm with a high wind. The day’s warmth caused a significant melt. That night, the temperature dropped rather suddenly. It was still mild by winter standards, but enough to turn the mist into flurries. The melt froze overnight and made for a truly treacherous Sunday Run. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/154839996

It was a chilly -11, but that wasn’t so bad after we got our heart rates up. I doubt we had more than a few dozen feet of bare sidewalk the entire run, though. Those fleeting feet of bare terrain were … on the hills. That’s right, the dreaded hills. Starting at 6.15K, we actually had two hills in the same 10 minute interval. The hills were a nice preview of things to come for my pace group, but the ice-covered terrain made for a slow run overall.

You think you won that round, Winter? You may have slowed me, but I made it to the end with my pace group.

Really. I’ve outlasted you every season for 34 years. Most people would have given up trying to break me after a couple of months. Remember, I’m the descendant of steelworkers, coalminers, and carpenters. My stubbornness is in the genes.

Tuesday night was still cold, but only -5 degrees which meant I could lighten up on the layers. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/155605681 We had a great run across the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau and back to Ottawa across the Portage Bridge. Unlike the last time we ran in Gatineau, there were no intersections with 5 minute waits between walk lights.

By the way, whoever programs those lights for the City of Gatineau: go fuck yourself. That is all.

It was the first time I ran a 5K at a 2h tempo pace. It was rather illustrative because I’ve been thinking about running a continuous pace for the St. Patrick’s Day 5K instead of the usual 10 and 1 intervals. I think cutting out the walk breaks and going with a continuous race pace will get me to break the 27 minute mark. I don’t know if a finish in the 25 minute range is in the cards, but I’m giving it a try.

Wednesday, Winter packed his bags and left town. It was 10 degrees above zero. Hallelujah! It was my first run in shorts. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/155846498 It was almost a shame that for such nice weather we had such a short run. That’s okay. It’s supposed to be 11 on Sunday when we do a 10K LSD.

I can’t f*****g wait. Sure the forecast for today and Saturday is a little on the chilly side, but the long term forecast is warm, warm, warm.

I’ve had some fun workouts at Greco LeanandFit on the days I’m not running this week. On Tuesday’s Extreme Lean workout, they had an exercise which now qualifies as my least favourite: the upside down military press. You start with your feet firmly planted against the wall and do a push up. While holding in the up position, you walk your feet up the wall. Once you’re up, you do another push up, which in that position is a glorified upside down military shoulder press.

My problem was my shoes. I use my old runners as my gym shoes. Any grip from the treads are mere memories. In fact, I’ve been using my original running shoes, my Brooks. My most recent old shoes, New Balance, when I switched to Mizunos at the beginning of my half-marathon training were even more worn out than my previous pair. They didn’t even have the traction to allow me to complete a regular push-up, more or less what the trainers at Greco had cooked up.

It was finally time to invest in a proper pair of trainers. After a year of getting by with older shoes, I needed some new ones for the gym. Since the Running Room doesn’t carry cross trainers, I shopped around a bit. I found a sale on at Sports Experts and picked up some Nikes for $90 after taxes.

I have to say, I made the salesmen, a shaggy looking fellow, earn his commission on that one. When he asked how I felt, I replied, ” Not sure. Do you have some empty wall space I can test these on?”

Stunned look follows.

“How can I decide which shoe to buy if I can’t do an upside military press?”

Stunned look continues.

“Buddy, I’m kidding. The shoes are fine.”

I repeated the joke to the cashier, who at least had the sense of humour to laugh at the absurdity of my question.

When I returned to Greco on Thursday, I promptly put the Nikes through a proper test by attempting to perform an upside down military press.

I performed five.

Test passed.

Allons-y!

So now what’s you’re excuse?

HT @RyRobbins.

“There have been about 514 Leap Years since Caesar created in 45BC.

Without the extra day every 4 years, today would be July 28, 2013.

Also, the Mayan calendar did not account for leap year …. so technically the world should have ended 7 months ago.

Mind=blown”

If your excuse for not getting off the couch was “let’s wait and see if there is a next year”, guess what? There is.

It’s already half over.

The world will move on.

You have one less excuse.

Cold comforts

Okay, Winter, we get it.

You da man.

We’re just your bitches.

At least that’s what you want us to think.

Sure, you may routinely cow us into submission and send us indoors or onto planes in search of warmer climes, but we emerge, we return. We look you in the eye and laugh in your face.

We Canadians are warriors. What else do you call a people who spend half the year getting punched in the face by the forces of nature and stay? Every year, winter rides in to town and takes over. At some point, it gets bored at toying with us and moves on. Sometimes, it teases us with what looks like an early departure and then makes the typical B-movie villain move of the last-minute return.

What do we do? We just roll our eyes and endure another few weeks.

Winter has come back with a vengeance to the Ottawa region. We not only got the winter storm that was called for in last week’s post, but another one is raging while I write this a week later. In between, wind, wind, and more wind.

Last Friday, mere hours after the blog post went up

Yet, we endure.

Yesterday

It made for some frosty runs. Sunday was a nice, clear sunny day that was … -22 degrees. We had a great 9K route that took us from the store on Slater St. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/152817451

Tuesday and Wednesday were both 4K tempo runs. Tuesday: http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/153565861

Wednesday: http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/153809346 A little slower, a lot colder. The wind had increased considerably and was blowing against us the entire time. By the time I had changed into dry clothes, there were snowflakes in the air, harbingers of the storm to come.

The cold weather also gave me the inspiration to make some comfort food. It’s those warm comfort foods that get us through the winter. It’s easy to sneer at Old Man Winter when you know there’s a hot, stick-to-your-ribs meal waiting for you. Even before the storm hit Friday, I gave into the temptation of the Red Apron’s Mexican tomato soup and a chicken po’ boy sandwich.

Yep, first Friday of Lent and I’m already breaking the fast. Only took one of the Rockvillians from Lemay House a minute to see that photo on Facebook and rightfully scold me.  Someone’s got to keep me on the His path, and I’m pretty sure after all the “What’s that smudge on your forehead?” questions I got on Ash Wednesday, most of my Ottawa friends aren’t up to this task. In my defence, I need protein, there was no seafood option, and the vegetarian option was a greek salad sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like. I’m sure it’s delicious, but it’s just not going to satiate my hunger. I’ll add Friday’s lunch to next trip to the confessional. I’ve already stocked up on seafood options to get me through the next few Fridays. Today’s lunch, for example, will be seafood chowder.

My favourite comfort food is chicken soup. I like to make chicken soup in the winter and freeze a some portions for the inevitable seasonal cold and flu. There’s not much point in waiting to get sick. You’ll be so weak, you’ll run out and buy the canned stuff. That’s pretty much what happened when I got a late spring cold last year. All I wanted was a chicken vegetable soup. Was there a single one on the shelf that didn’t have some kind of starchy carb in it? No. It’s a two day ritual for me.

Day 1 – Make the broth. I simmer the chicken for at least two hours in a stockpot filled 3/4 with water.  I stuffed the chicken with the fennel fronds leftover from when I roasted the bulbs. In the simmering pot, I toss in four cloves of smashed garlic, two thinly sliced leeks, and a bulb of fresh ginger. I’ll also toss in some basil and paprika to taste. After two hours, I remove the chicken and let it cool. It always falls apart, so I scrape the pot with a slotted spoon. Let broth cool to room temperature then place in the  fridge to cool further overnight

Day 2 – Once cooled, the fat will have risen to the top. I scrape it off with a slotted spoon and discard. I shred the chicken and two stalks of celery and two carrots, both thinly sliced.  Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about half an hour, until the veggies are cooked.

The Result

I must have put back two bowls after my Sunday run. Nom, nom, nom.

I don’t like adding rice or noodles because I find they absorb too much broth and in a few days, it’s more like a casserole than soup. I would suggest making a portion of noodles or rice separately and adding the soup like they do at restaurants like Freshii.

Another old friend is making a return in a new form: oatmeal. I’ve been noticed a considerable drop in energy in the morning. My current routine is wake-up, protein shake (whey, frozen berries, 1/2 banana, ginger, yogurt, Omega 3-6-9 oil, veggie greens, and phyto-berry), morning coffee (black) while walking to my workout at either Greco Lean and Fit or my swimming pool, post workout snack of a protein bar, (usually Elevate Me) or yogurt and fruit, and a coffee for the walk back home.  The problem is I’d be ready to go back to bed by the time lunch came around. Despite having a healthy lunch, it felt like I was playing catch-up with the rest of the day.

Since we had nutritionist Heather Moxley as a guest speaker at my Running Room half-marathon clinic this week, I figured I would take her advice and and make some oatmeal for breakfast as a pre-workout meal. Oatmeal is one of things I can make in large quantities, divide into single servings,  and take out as needed. I used steel-cut oats to get the most nutrients and add chopped almonds for protein and some frozen berries with a little bit of maple syrup to get some simple sugars in me for an early burst of energy to start the workout.  I’d offer a picture but it doesn’t last long enough. Now I save the shake for when I get home.

Update: I finally remembered to take a picture.

Yum!

So far, so good. No crashes and my energy levels are pretty consistent. Good thing I caught this problem when I did. Wouldn’t want to bonk on a long run.

For the non-atheletes, “bonking” is not what you think it is. It’s slang for hitting the wall. Please allow Mr. Pegg to demonstrate:

In running, being told, “I’ll never bonk with you” is, in fact, a compliment.

And for the record, dear readers, I will never bonk on you.

Allons-y!