Saturday, February 1, 2014

Making it Through the Cold

On Wednesday night, I woke up at 11:30 pm wondering how I dozed off a few hours earlier.  I didn't have that tough of a day and my run went well.  Then, it suddenly hit me: my run was in windchills dropping below 20C again; the fresh air knocked me right out.

This past week has been the toughest week of running that I think I've ever had running.  In Ontario, we had four straight days of temperatures dropping close to -30C with the windchill.  On Monday, I swapped my run with my Tuesday's bike workout, hoping that it would warm up a bit.  When it didn't, I cringed.

Tuesday, I planned to hit the rec centre and mill about.  I thought about it all day long and, after school, I waited to head over - as late as I could in the hope that I could have the treadmill for an hour as it would be quieter then.  At the last minute, though, I started to dress for the winter: 4 top layers, tights and a looser fitting pant over top, hat, two-layered mitts and my trusty balaclava.  Even though it was 8:30 and the temperature was at -25c, I was heading outside.

Snot freezes really fast!  Yuck!
My balaclava is what made the cold bearable.  I started with it over my nose and mouth and uncovered my nose after a few minutes.  Within the first mile, both of my nose and mouth were exposed, but I immediately recovered them when I had to stop at the traffic light.  This routine - both, one and none - of covering and uncovering through my 8 miles let me breathe properly without worrying about my asthma kicking in.  My only problem was dealing with the wet mucous that froze and melted everytime my balaclava changed positions.  By mile 6, it was so frozen that I couldn't stretch it back over my mouth so I had to rotate the entire piece and ran home with a frozen lump of snot next to my ear instead.  Yuck!

After getting through that hour, the rest of the week was much easier.  Wednesday was equally cold but I had the company of TOC-Oakville to get me through the tempo.  On Thursday, temperatures rose dramatically so that my evening run seemed almost balmy in comparison.  And now, at the end of another snowstorm, I can smile because I got today's workout out of the way before the snow started and I am looking forward to running with friends early tomorrow morning.

Clothing, timing, friends: that's what got me through this cold week of running.  What did you do to get you through yours?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Robbie Burns Race: Just a Test

PJ bottoms in our race kits!
In Ontario, the first major race of the year is the Robbie Burns 8K in Burlington, Ontario.  Now in its 35th year, it is well-organized and a favorite for many - even with a high likelihood of cold temperatures.

I have raced it several times in the past few years and really enjoy it for the competition.  Let's face it; a January race is going to bring out the toughest runners and result in some fast times.  Last year, I didn't run the course well, only to realize a few days later that I had been developing a cold which eventually led to bronchitis.  That slower time had become a monkey on my back and I simply had to go back to Burlington to wrap up some loose ends.  I wanted to find that sub-35 that I couldn't catch - and I've been wanting that for the past year.

A few weeks ago, I was beginning to think that I had been cursed by Robbie Burns himself as I developed an upper respiratory chest infection at the beginning of December, which was either misdiagnosed or resulted in bronchitis at the end of the month.  Once I felt healthy enough to push myself, I found myself facing the wrath of Old Man Winter, who threw ice, wind and extreme cold temperatures at us; the fast legs were just not there.  Going into the race, I had very little speedwork since the end of November.  I was worried.  So, two weeks ago, Coach Kevin had me set a few goals.  I decided that I wanted to:

1.  Better last year's time.
2. Run a sub-35.  If I accomplished this, I would have also met my first goal.
3. Walk away with an Age Group Award.  As stated above, the competition here is tough and any AG prize is something to be extra proud of.

I felt these goals were achievable if things went according to plan.  However, as we got closer and closer to race day, it became apparent that Mother Nature had a mind of her own and this race was about to become a test.

next post: Race Report, Robbie Burns 8K.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Embracing the Treadmill

I broke a record yesterday: my PTM count.  At this point last year, I hadn't been on the mill at all.  In fact, at this point last year, it had been more than a few years since I was on one.  Last winter, as I learned to be more determined about getting in my weekly mileage, I found myself running the 'mill twice: once in February and, again, in March.  Yesterday, I surpassed my personal treadmill count;  This year alone, I have been on the treadmill three times!
Obviously, I'm not a fan of running on the machine.  When someone mentions their workout on one, I cringe.  Ironically, I do admire those, though, who have the dedication to get on it day after day, or for longer runs.  Me?  I'll spin on a bike quite comfortably but I struggle to run a treadmill workout.
Like everyone else in Ontario, I have had a tough time dealing with this winter's cold,  wind and ice.  I clearly remember thinking we were in a "January cold" in December, and it has only gotten worse.  Thursday night, with a long run scheduled on a night with what has become typical extreme cold temperatures, I opted to wait until Friday; at least, I'd have daylight.  But yesterday, as I started to pull on my layers in the late afternoon, I suddenly changed my mind about heading outside.  Going to the Rec Centre made much more sense.
Fortunately, being Friday night, the Fitness Centre was quiet and I was able to run for 80 minutes.  While on the treadmill, I decided it was time to change my attitude and accept the good things about it.
1. Less laundry.  I know it's strange that this is first on my list, but I'm tired of the loads of wash that winter running brings.  On the treadmill, I only need one layer instead of 3 or 4.
2. Form:  Focus on form, focus on form, focus on form.  On my second treadmill run this year, I found myself stuck in front of a mirror the entire time, which meant I was also stuck staring at myself the entire time. I noticed that my left elbow sticks out a bit when I run - something that I wouldn't notice on the road.  Yesterday, I tried to focus on bringing my elbow closer to my body (or I could keep things the same so that I can elbow the competition at my next race).
3. Pace:  With the exception of warming up, I held my pace the entire time - a little slower than my marathon pace.
4. Mental power:  Running on the treadmill is mind-numbing.  The 80 minutes I spent yesterday has to be some kind of Jedi mental training to help prep for the marathon.

Somehow, I have a feeling that I'm going to be facing the treadmill again in the near future; it's just been that kind of a winter.  And I'm ready for it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Twenty years ago, my brother and I went to Centre Island to watch the Toronto Airshow.  In our typical sisterly-brotherly way, I brought healthy snacks and he brought the "junk".  When I finally caved in to my sweet tooth and grabbed one of his cookies, I was surprised at how good they were.  "Yeah," twenty year old Greg smiled proudly, "and I made them myself."

That cookie recipe has become a fixture in my house.  This spring, though, it has been challenged by a healthier version, also given to me by my brother who found it a   These cookies use canola oil instead of butter/margarine and can be crumply.  Be warned: they won't last long.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

 2 1/2 cups oatmeal
2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil (I used a bit more so that the batter wasn't quite so dry.)
2 eggs
                                           2 tsp. vanilla
                                           1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray cookie sheets with Pam.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients until well-combined.  The dough will be crumbly.  Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Using hands, clump dough together into a balls and place on cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set and golden.  Cool about 5 minutes.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wacky Wednesday: The Things Kids Say

Little Ironman is 7 years old.  He is a select mute and saves most of his ideas for us at home.  When they come out, they often have us in stitches.

In the past week, I couldn't help but notice how much more confident he is sounding these days.  The disappearing "baby-talk" and fluency In his speech are making me very proud.  The only problem is the ideas that he is verbalizing are making me, well, not so proud.  Statements start to sound like insults or criticism but he ends them with a positive innocence that reminds me that he is only seven.

One morning last week, LI looked at me straight in the eye and commented, "Do you know what's odd about you?  You almost old but you're still kind of fast.  That's odd."

Another night, while running around with a soccer ball and my missing more than a handful of higher kicks, LI yelled, "What's wrong with you? Don't you know how to belly bounce?  I guess you need a bigger belly, like Daddy's." 

And the "I'm cool" tones are starting to surface.  Last night, while I was spinning away on my windtrainer, LI looked at me as said, "Wow!" 
"Oh, oh, here it comes," I thought.
"Your legs are really pumped."

May he never outgrow his child-like charm.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wacky Wednesday: from the mouths of babes

Little Ironman following me during
warm-up to Sunset Shuffle, 2010.
A few years ago, while warming up for the Sunset Shuffle 6K on Ward Island in Toronto, Little Ironman followed me on his bike.  I love this picture of the two of us, especially since the sign behind him looks like a giant gas bubble.

LI is a complicated 7 year old.  He is a select mute, which is a condition rather than a disease or disability.   Basically, he is mute when he wants to be.  Around teachers, adults and in unfamiliar settings, expressing himself is very difficult.  In the comfort of his home, we can hear him loud and clear; the only way I know he is asleep is that he has stopped talking. 

Select mutism often comes across as being shy, cute, and well-behaved, but when LI hesitates to speak around his grandparents and relatives, it is obvious that there is more to him than just being shy.  In time, he will gradually outgrow this.

When he is around my running friends, LI whispers to me what he wants to say and asks me to repeat it to them.  Last weekend, after Dawn at the Don race in Toronto, Chad (one of our club's speedy college runners), LI and I walked back to the car (about 2k), where we met Dave, Skipper, Kevin and Michael (both have known LI for a long time).  For some reason, though, he instantly warmed up to Chad. 

Dave and Skipper were going to take LI while Chad and I ran through Sunnybrook Park.
After I changed, LI sat by Chad while he finished pulling on his gear.  Without warning, notoriously quiet LI yelled across the parking lot, "Somebody farted and it wasn't me!"

I think these were the first words that Coach and Michael had ever heard LI say, and I have never heard him speak loudly in any public setting.  It was hard not to burst out laughing and proudly smile at LI's sudden need to voice his thoughts.

Completely unaware of what was going on, Chad created more than a giant bubble; he brought out a new level in LI's communication. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Banana-Oatmeal Muffins

Whenever I bake, I try to remember to check that I have all of the ingredients before I start; there have been many times when I've had to knock on my neighbour's door to borrow some white sugar, oil or milk, and other times  when I've had to send Skipper to No Frills to pick up a missing item. 

I haven't had this problem in almost a year.  Last month, though, a new one surfaced.  I was half way through mixing the ingredients to these Oatmeal-Banana Muffins when I stopped cold.  "Just how many muffins does this make anyway?" I wondered.  24.  "Ugh!  I only have one muffin pan.  Fortunately, I also had one for mini-muffins, the size that is perfect for little people's lunch bags, and that solved the problem in no time.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins
makes 24 muffins; grease or paper-line muffin tins (I use Pam Cooking Spray)

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup 2% milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large bananas)
1 cup chocolate chips

1. In a bowl, combine oats and milk.  Set aside.
2. In another bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
3. Add butter, eggs, and bananas to the oatmeal mixture.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Add mixture to dry ingredients; stir until moistened.  Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling about 3/4's full.  (Hint: use an ice cream scoop for less clean-up.)  Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until muffins are firm to the touch.

These went over well with my hard-to-please, picky-eater family.   My non-picky eating friends like the mini-muffins, which we now call "muffin pops".

Happy baking!