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Welland Race Prep: Domination Mode

Pop quiz!  What triathlon happens in three weeks, recently got a brand new shiny name and will be not only my first triathlon this year, but my first half-iron distance EVER?   If you said Welland Rose City Triathlon, you get a cookie! But it has to be a healthy one – that race weight isn’t gonna make itself.

You might be thinking I’m a little crazy to be going all domination mode (is there any other mode?) on my first half.  I’m not going to deny the crazy part, but with so much Ironman training under my belt 1900m + 90km + 21.1km feels so totally doable that it might even be about something other than survival.  Don’t get me wrong, domination mode takes some major work. I’m going to share some of the ways I’m preparing specifically for the conditions of this race, and fortunately I’ve got some race-specific tips from an expert: Tommy Ferris from Ignition Fitness puts together these handy videos for Multisport Canada Races.

I know you’ve probably seen these videos before (I have) and thought, “oh yeah, I should watch that,” and then didn’t because you saw a funny cat picture.  Focus!  The cat pictures can wait until you’re in the midst of the taper-crazies and need some real distraction.


Swim Preparation

The canal swim is a narrow rectangle that has portions both with and against the current, which makes it difficult (and probably a bad idea) to maintain a certain pace throughout. Since I’m a numbers girl, and also recently acquired a 910XT that actually allows me to see my splits in the water, I’m going to have to be very careful to avoid getting too caught up in pace times that would push me too hard at the beginning, raise my expectations in the middle and dash them perilously to the ground in the final stretch against the current. (Can you say “bad way to start the bike”?)

Mental preparation is key for this kind of swim, because you have to be prepared to see slow pace times without freaking out early on – not that I would EVER freak out about slow pace times, right workout buddies?? :)

Learning to pace by feel is also one of the key skills in this swim; in the next few weeks I’ll be doing a couple of swim workouts designed to get a feel for my goal race pace of 1:55/100m (note that these are not designed to work on fitness – they’re a mental workout as much as physical).  A great way to get a feel for pacing is to pick a distance (100, 200, 400) and repeat it over and over and over until you get tired/close to the race distance of 1900m.  Maybe make that 2k because round numbers looks so much nicer, and we all know none of us will swim straight anyway.  Time the intervals but don’t check the clock until you’re done, and focus on trying to hit the same pace every time.  I’ll be doing something like 4×400 or 15×100 because I think 200m is a silly distance (for no reason in particular – it’s not as bad as 75m, but still…just a weird place to stop in my opinion).

Bike Preparation

Coming from a self-proclaimed hills girl, a flat bike course is TOUGH! It also has the potential to be windy, which is basically my arch-nemesis on the bike.  You know how I like doing difficult stuff?  Well don’t tell me, “Oh, Welland is easy because it’s so flat!” because dammit, flat IS difficult!

That being said, it’s also a good way to PB the bike.  As much as I love hills, I do have to admit that they generally have a negative effect on time.  The biggest focus of this bike will be setting up for a good run, which means getting in lots of nutrition and maintaining a high cadence so there is some energy left in those legs after 90km.  Practice that nutrition strategy ahead of time, particularly at race pace! Try adding 3×20 minutes at half Ironman race pace, and figure out what you can handle.  I recently did this calculation for one of my long rides as an experiment, and it worked because it got me closer to understanding my nutritional needs and what I can handle.


Run Preparation

Two words: heat training!  Last year’s race was unbearably hot and while there’s no guarantee this year will be the same, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. It doesn’t take much – one or two runs a week at noon is usually enough to get me acclimatized – but you have to start now because it takes time for the physiological adaptations!  For example, today’s long run accidentally doubled as a heat training run, mostly (okay, completely) because I slept in way later than usual and stubbornly refused to get off the couch until late morning.  We all have days like this.

Usually I schedule one run a week at lunchtime from about March until September. Yes, it sucks when it’s 42 degrees out and you’re getting weird looks as you suffer through the slowest 5k you’ve ever run, but when you finish a race in 35 degrees thinking, “oh yeah, I guess that was a little warm,” you’ll thank me.  You’re welcome.




Bike Workout: 5-Minute Intervals

These short intervals switch between a baseline intensity and increasingly shorter and more intense intervals, returning to baseline intensity between hard intervals. The profile of each set should look like the following: 20140522-120132-43292611.jpg

I teach this workout using three different drills:

  • Sitting/standing at 80rpm
  • Hills with increasing resistance
  • High cadence, between 95 and 110rpm

Each set consists of 4.5 minutes of intervals and a 30 second rest before starting the next set.  Teach 3x through each set (sit/stand, hills, sprint) for a 45 minute class, or 4 times for an hour class.


Sit/Stand Set:

Moderate resistance, adding on standing intervals; maintain 80rpm throughout.

60 seconds seated, 60 seconds standing
45 seconds seated, 45 seconds standing
30 seconds seated, 30 seconds standing


Hill Set:

Moderate to high resistance on baseline intervals, adding progressively larger amounts on hard intervals; maintain 65-70rpm throughout.

60 seconds at 80%, 60 seconds at 85%
45 seconds at 80%, 45 seconds at 90%
30 seconds at 80%, 30 seconds at 95% (all out)


High Cadence Set:

Maintain enough resistance to prevent spinning out or bouncing in the saddle, try to keep the resistance up on fast intervals.

60 seconds at 95rpm, 60 seconds at 100rpm
45 seconds at 95rpm, 45 seconds at 105rpm
30 seconds at 95rpm, 30 seconds at 110rpm


Music: I’m a big fan of the Steady130 Spin/Cycle mixes for time-based workouts.

Sporting Life 10k Race Report

I think this race gets filed under the “I forgot I’m doing an Ironman” category of race entries.  In February, March and even April it was easy to keep thinking that I had lots of time before my long course races – Welland, Ironman Canada, Barrelman – that is, until I realized that Welland Rose City Tri is on June 15th, which is NEXT MONTH. Exactly 5 weeks, which is considerably less than the “lots of time” I thought I had.

I pretty much signed up for this race because I wanted to buy an Icebreaker merino shirt, and I got a $35 gift card with my $40 race entry. That was about 87% of the reason, the other 13% being that I really love racing.  Like, really, really love it.

That being said, I did pretty much everything wrong in training:

#1: I haven’t done any speed training since last October unless you count a track meet, a half marathon, or a 3x1200m that I did sometime in March.

#2: I’m only doing two decent runs a week: hills on Tuesday and long on Sunday, with some scattered recovery (read: mind-numbingly slow) and brick (read: mind-numbingly slow and uncomfortable) runs. Did I mention that I walk-run my long runs? I don’t know what fast is anymore.

#3:  I spent over 9 hours training in the week leading up to the race, including 5 spin classes from Wednesday to Saturday.  I went a little too hard on my Thursday class, because apparently I don’t have an off switch.  Oops.


But who cares about race-specific training for a 10k, right? I have a half to train for in…oh yeah (eep!)…5 weeks. (more…)

Training Update: It’s going to be a big week!

I just looked at my training plan for next week: 14 hours of riding, including 5 spin classes (3 of them on Wednesday) and Collingwood training camp with the Toronto Triathlon Club on the long weekend. A total of 19 hours of training when I add in a couple of brick runs and some swims, but the focus is on the bike.

Training Peaks weekly plan

It’s going to be a tough week (anyone willing to make me food will receive my endless love and devotion), but a big block of training is going to get me in awesome shape for the MultiSport Canada Welland Rose City Tri in only 5 weeks!

My focus this week will be on maximizing my recovery: sleeping a lot, drinking water and eating lots of nutritious and healthy food – before, during and after workouts.
Also naps. Lots and lots of naps.

Bike Workout: 1-2-3-4

Here’s the deal for this class: you never do the same thing for more than a minute. There’s no excuse to get bored, and if you take it really easy on the recovery sections you’ll be able to go even harder on the intervals.


Each interval builds on the last by 1 minute, with 1 minute breaks between each interval and each set. I went through the whole set four times: seated climb, sprint, standing climb and sprint.

Warmup with easy spinning for 10 minutes before starting the sets.

Hill Set:
1 min 65rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 65rpm + 1 min 70rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 65rpm + 1 min 70rpm + 1 min 75rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 65rpm + 1 min 70rpm + 1 min 75rpm + 1 min 80rpm / 1 min recovery

Sprint Set:
1 min 110rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 105rpm + 1 min 110rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 100rpm + 1 min 105rpm + 1 min 110rpm / 1 min recovery
1 min 95rpm + 1 min 100rpm + 1 min 105rpm + 1 min 110rpm / 1 min recovery

Repeat as necessary and spin easy for 10 minutes at the end to cool down.

4 Weird Ways I Trick Myself into Drinking More Water

We’ve all heard the rule that you need to drink 2L of water a day, more if you work out or drink caffeine. As a population we also generally suck at drinking even half that amount, which has led to every health website out there extolling the virtues of drinking water and the myriad of ways you can convince yourself to do so.

This post is not going to repeat what you’ve heard everyone else saying. You already know you should be drinking more water, and you already know a bunch of ways to make it more appetizing. If that advice was working you probably wouldn’t be here.

So if you’ve already used all the typical ideas like adding lemon juice and keeping a water bottle handy, try one of these 4 weird tricks.

1. Race yourself.


Everything is more fun as a competition, which is why runners innocently out for their morning 5k are constantly losing races they didn’t know they were in. Apply the same concept to water consumption, and suddenly you’re racing to see how much water you can drink by lunchtime (my current PB is 1.25L) or how soon in the day you can finish 2L (my PB is 2:36pm).  Of course drinking 2L of water in the morning and then nothing the rest of the day isn’t going to help you as much as as spreading it out over the day, so use this one within reason.  On your mark, get set…go!

2. Refuse to go to the bathroom until you finish your water bottle.

stubborn girl

Missing those good old days when you could be a stubborn child and refuse to do things, just because? Relive those memories by stubbornly refusing to use the bathroom until you’ve finished your water bottle. You’ll be chugging that water like it’s a sugar-loaded Coke.

3. Write deadlines on your water bottle.


You might get some odd looks from coworkers who wonder why your water bottle has every hour written on the side in sharpie, and you might find yourself chugging that last 100mL every hour to stay on target…but dammit, you’ve got a schedule to keep! Just divide 2L into manageable chunks of time, and mark down times on the side of your water bottle. For bonus points, give handmade water bottles to coworkers as birthday gifts. Who’s laughing now?

4. Train yourself like a dog. Use treats.

dogs & chocolate

Positive reinforcement isn’t just for dogs and children anymore. Make a rule that you have to drink 500mL before your morning coffee, or finish your water bottle before taking a morning break…or if you’re really serious, try my favourite: no chocolate unless I drink 1L by lunchtime. Chocolate creates a lot of incentive.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever tried?

Bike Workout: Ladder Hills

This week’s spin class was a hit! The long hills are awesome for building endurance and although it’s a tough workout, nobody got bored.  You can also modify this class to suit any length in 10 minute increments – the long workout is up to 2 hours 20 minutes!

Ladder Hills
Time: 50 minutes + warmup and cooldown

Warmup for a few minutes: 90rpm with some short bursts at 100rpm

Set 1:
8 minute climb at 65rpm and 75% resistance (2 minutes sitting, 1 minute standing)
1 x 30s sprint at 110rpm, 30s recovery
1 minute easy spinning

Set 2:
7 minute climb at 65rpm and 80% resistance (2 minutes sitting, 1 minute standing)
2 x 30s sprint at 110rpm, 30s recovery
1 minute easy spinning

Set 3:
6 minute climb at 65rpm and 85% resistance (2 minutes sitting, 1 minute standing)
3 x 30s sprint at 110rpm, 30s recovery
1 minute easy spinning

Set 4:
5 minute climb at 65rpm and 90% resistance (2 minutes sitting, 1 minute standing)
4 x 30s sprint at 110rpm, 30s recovery
1 minute easy spinning

Set 5:
4 minute climb at 65rpm and 95% resistance (2 minutes sitting, 1 minute standing)
5 x 30s sprint at 110rpm, 30s recovery
1 minute easy spinning

Cooldown and stretch

Long Option:
Time: 2 hours 20 minutes + warmup and cooldown (you can adjust the time by eliminating sets)

Increasing Sets:
Set 1: 8 min @ 65rpm / 1 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 2: 7 min @ 65rpm / 2 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 3: 6 min @ 65rpm / 3 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 4: 5 min @ 65rpm / 4 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 5: 4 min @ 65rpm / 5 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 6: 3 min @ 65rpm / 6 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 7: 2 min @ 65rpm / 7 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning

Decreasing Sets:
Set 8: 2 min @ 65rpm / 7 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 9: 3 min @ 65rpm / 6 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 10: 4 min @ 65rpm / 5 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 11: 5 min @ 65rpm / 4 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 12: 6 min @ 65rpm / 3 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 13: 7 min @ 65rpm / 2 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning
Set 14: 8 min @ 65rpm / 1 x 30s @ 110rpm, 30s recovery / 1 min easy spinning



How Being a Perfectionist Changed my Eating Habits

Sometimes I’m so full it hurts and I’m already thinking about when I can eat again. Right now, I’m wondering if I should eat another dried fig, or maybe a slice of bread with almond butter. I already ate dinner and I’m definitely not hungry, but I can’t stop thinking about food. At the same time, I’m trying to suck in my tummy because I feel fat – it’s not the same as being fat, because I’m not – but I feel like my tummy sticks out more than it should. And if I slouch I get a crease between my belly and ribs and that really bugs me because I’m a thin person, and thin people don’t get creases in their tummy when they slouch.

No more food until the morning. I’ll be better tomorrow – I won’t eat as much, and then I’ll feel thin again. I can do it. I just need to be stronger.

I’ve never told this to anyone except for one person I absolutely trust, but I think other people need to hear it: I have (or had) an eating disorder.

…Maybe a better way to put it is I have a disordered eating habit.  It’s not that I’m anorexic or bulimic, but my relationship with food has a tendency to be more about controlling how I look rather than enjoyment or giving myself the nutrition my body needs to function.

Food is strongly connected to how I feel about myself because it allows me to control the way I look. It’s not that I don’t think I look good, it’s that I don’t think I look perfect.  Although there are many good things about being a perfectionist, the drive to constantly improve also means that nothing is ever good enough; an imperfect body is a daily reminder that I have failed. Even worse, being an athlete gives me an excuse to obsess over details like weight and body fat percentages in the name of performance while fueling unrealistic expectations of how my body should look. I don’t just want a thigh gap or a bikini bridge, in my mind I should have both – and be able to run a sub-45 minute 10k.

It’s easy to tell myself that this is an unreasonable way of thinking, and that none of us are perfect and never will be. I get that; my brain understands the concept, but it doesn’t override the feeling that I could be better than I am. Couldn’t we all improve in some way?

An increased focus on athletic performance last year gradually led to an extreme preoccupation with food and weight loss. I tried a variety of methods to control my image and performance: from tracking everything I ate and obsessively analyzing macronutrients, to cutting out whole food groups and even trying a cleanse. I saw some temporary “success” which only fueled my obsession with whatever I was doing, but I weighed myself every day and eventually the number on the scale would go up – renewing the spiral of guilt and increasingly extreme attempts to control my eating habits.

During this time I didn’t actually lose any weight, but became more and more obsessed with food until it was all I would think about. Every waking moment was spent calculating calories, planning how little I could eat and thinking about everything I wasn’t eating.

On a rare beautiful evening in March, I had some free time and spent it walking around downtown Toronto, surrounded by people but all alone with my thoughts for an hour and a half. I thought about what my eating habits were doing to me emotionally, and how I was negatively impacting my health by using extreme methods to strengthen my control. I was tired of being unhappy and guilty about something that is meant to be enjoyed.

That night, I wrote a very short post about my decision to become vegan. The choice was a result of a very strong feeling that I needed to change what I was doing to myself, and strengthen some core beliefs from my childhood that had gotten lost as I grew up and adapted to society’s expectations. It hasn’t completely cured me of my obsessive tendencies surrounding food and I don’t think it ever will, but it helps by providing enough structure to make me feel comfortable about how I am eating.

It’s amazing how much stress can pull you down, which I realized as soon as the weight was lifted. Living in a way that supports my core values surrounding the treatment of animals and the environment while eating healthy foods has really made me feel good about myself.

If you talk to most people who have made a significant change in their life, they consistently talk about how their transformation was the cumulative result of small improvements over time rather than some great fundamental overnight shift. It’s so true that you’re never done growing, and although I’m on the right path I still struggle with the desire to use food as a method of proving that I am in control rather than enjoying it for what it is.

Every once in a while I need a reminder, and that’s why I wrote this; I think there are other people out there that might need a reminder sometimes too, and some more who might not yet be ready to make that change. If you ever feel like you need more than a blog post, talk to me. Send me an email, leave me a comment or find me on Twitter. We all have to look after each other because that’s what makes the world a better place.

Spiced Lentil Muffins

This post originally appeared on Our Fresh Kitchen, a healthy food project I started with my partner Hector. I really wanted to share it here because it’s such a crazy cool way to get your legumes!

Most wonderful things start out with a crazy idea.  Some people say it’s because you have to see the world a little differently to create something wonderful, but I think wonderful ideas are all around us and the trick is following where they lead.

I’ve had a few good ones…

  • Running outside during a polar vortex deep-freeze, on multiple occasions.
  • Trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon with 10 weeks of training (not recommended).
  • Moving to Singapore for four months on an academic exchange.
  • Signing up for an Ironman (we’ll see how this one goes).

The cool thing about crazy ideas is that even if they don’t turn out the way you expected, you usually learn something or at least have a good story to tell.  In this case, it resulted in possibly the most versatile (in a dietary sense) healthy lentil muffin recipe you’ll ever make.  These moist and lightly sweetened muffins have some pretty awesome fiber and protein, and can be made vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and either nut-free or soy-free depending on what type of milk you use.

If you don’t have some of these ingredients, don’t worry.  Not everyone has a kitchen equipped with the ingredients for vegan and gluten-free baking, and that’s totally cool because just about everything even remotely specialized about this recipe can be substituted with the most basic ingredients you have. Don’t have chia seeds? Use flax meal or egg.  Almond milk? Soy or dairy milk will work too.  The only extra step – compared to regular muffins – is cooking the lentils, and that hardly takes any time at all.

Making the muffins

There are four basic steps:

  1. Cook the lentils
  2. Mix chia seeds with water to form a gel
  3. Combine cooked, wet and dry ingredients
  4. Spoon into muffin pans and bake


Bring water and salt to a boil, then add dried lentils and simmer for 20-30 minutes; you’ll know they’re done when all the water is absorbed and you have a creamy brown sauce.  The lentils can cook while you preheat the oven and get everything else ready.

By the way, brightly coloured silicon baking cups are fantastic. You don’t even need to grease them, and they look so pretty when they’re all ready for muffin batter.


While the lentils are cooking, mix the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl…


…and after about 10 minutes you get a nice thick gel that replaces the eggs in traditional baking.  If you don’t have chia seeds, you can substitute 1:1 with flax meal to keep it vegan or use two eggs (in this case leave out the water too) and skip the 10 minute wait.


While the chia seeds are working their magic, mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  I prefer quinoa flour for baking because I find it has a good texture in most recipes, is sold in my local grocery store and means I don’t need to keep five different types of flour in my pantry (not that I don’t have five types of flour in my pantry – I just don’t need to).  If you’re gluten-sensitive, you can try using other gluten-free flours like rice, almond or coconut, but I haven’t tested anything other than brown rice flour.  On the other hand, if you can eat wheat, then regular whole wheat flour (possibly with some wheat bran) is also an option – just leave out the xanthan gum.

Once the lentils have finished cooking, add them to the chia gel along with the remainder of the wet ingredients – just be careful not to stir too enthusiastically at first or the oil might go everywhere (like mine did).  I generally use unsweetened almond milk in my baking, but any milk will work here; soy, coconut and flax milk are all good options to keep the recipe dairy-free, and regular cow’s milk works too. So go nuts – or should I say nut-free?

Finally, add everything together and mix until you get a nice fluffy batter and all the lumps are gone.


Spoon the batter into your brightly coloured baking cups (you have those right?) or greased muffin pans, dividing it evenly between 12 cups.  The muffins don’t really rise, so the batter should be mounded over the tops of the pan.


Bake at 350F until a toothpick stuck in the center of the muffin comes out clean, which takes about 20 minutes.  Let the muffins set in the pans for about 5 minutes, then cool them completely on a wire rack.


If you’re not eating them right away (I can never resist eating one straight out of the oven), they will last several days at room temperature, up to a week in the fridge or about a month frozen.  Before serving, thaw and reheat them in the oven at 250F for 10-15 minutes.


Serve with love :)

 Spiced Lentil Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Cooked Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup split red lentils, dried

Wet Ingredients

1/4 cup chia seeds
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 c. chopped dried dates and/or walnuts (optional)

Dry Ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour (+ 1 tsp xanthan gum if using gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil, then add lentils and simmer on low for 20-30 minutes until water is absorbed.
  2. While lentils are cooking, preheat oven to 350F and grease muffin pans.
  3. In a large bowl, combine chia seeds and water, letting them sit for 10 minutes until the mixture forms a thick gel. In a smaller bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  4. Add cooked lentils and remaining wet ingredients to chia gel and mix well, then add dry ingredients and dates or walnuts. Stir until combined.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin pans and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack. Store in a sealed container for several days, or freeze to enjoy whenever you wish.
Nutritional Information

205 calories | 7.2g fat | 31g carbs | 6.2g fiber | 12.9g sugar | 5.5g protein