Month: September 2013

Sunday Recap: Enlightenment

I reached running enlightenment twice this week.

For me, enlightenment comes when I no longer make the decision to keep going; in fact, I stop thinking altogether and the default setting is just keep running. It doesn’t happen often, because most of time I don’t get to the point where I’m too exhausted to think and every fibre of my being is purely focused on managing the discomfort and pain coursing through my body. If you’ve ever been there you implicitly understand how incredibly powerful it makes you feel, and if you haven’t then you probably think I’m crazy for considering this a condition worth striving for.

On Wednesday nights I run intervals at Sir Winston Churchill park with a group of runners. It usually consists of some combination of 400m to 1600m intervals at 10k pace or faster, adding up to about 5km, but this week was particularly difficult (my paces in brackets, 2 minute rest between intervals).

2km at 10k pace (4:30/km)
800m at 5k pace (4:18/km)
400m all out (<4:00/km)
2km at 10k pace (4:30/km)

I took it a little easy on the first 2k interval because I have a bad habit of going out hard and lagging in the middle, and I'm trying to break this, so my pace was 4:35. The 800m interval seemed short by comparison, so I took it around 4:15 pace, and followed that up with a blazing 400m at 3:35 pace (which is crazy fast even for me). I was really nervous going into the last interval because my legs were shot (duh, that's what happens when you go too hard in the middle of intervals) and I didn't even feel like jogging 2km, let alone sprinting it.

I took off at a (relatively) easy pace for the first 400m,then glanced down at my watch and realized I was running well under 4:30 pace. Crap. Way to blow the pace, Kim. I eased up a little, but kept the pressure on because I had a buddy about 10 feet behind me, and I’d been chasing him all session. It was about 800m into the interval when the discomfort became too much for me to handle consciously, and in the absence of a decision to slow down or stop my legs just kept going. Another one and a half laps of the park, holding a pace of 4:26 right until the end; I don’t know how I did it, but I finished the interval I didn’t think I could start. Enlightenment number one.

My second round with enlightenment this week came from a much simpler process: it was my longest long run by 5km, building on my 25km run last Sunday. Last week things got rough around 19.5km, and I had to muscle through the last 5.5km; this week I lasted until 24km before it got tough, but the last three kilometres were an exercise in pure determination. I have never run so far on the verge of tears, praying for it to be over so the pain will stop; and in those three kilometres I stopped thinking about anything other than running. Stopping wasn’t an option, quitting wasn’t an option because there are no options when you can’t think; it was no longer physical, and the only thing left was just keep running.

I finished the 30km run knowing that in breaking those barriers to what I thought was possible, I gained just as much mental strength as I did physical strength this morning.

That’s running enlightenment, and it’s a good feeling.

Don Valley Trail

Coming up this week:

Not quite a full recovery week as I’m running 33km next Sunday, but I’m taking it easy the rest of the week with some slower recovery runs and no interval work (which usually takes me 1-2 days to fully recover from).

My goals this week are:

  1. Go to bed before 10pm at least 5 nights this week. As my training load increases, I’m realizing that even a consistent 9 hours doesn’t cut it, and especially on a recovery week, sleep is just as important as training.
  2. Focus on nutrition. This past week I ate a lot more sweets than usual and my body needs a reset (read: quinoa and veggies instead of chocolate and muffins).
  3. Use my roller every day (I’ve noticed a big difference since I started rolling and I’m trying to make this a habit).

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

A fun game to play with this cake? Give it to your friends, and wait until after they’ve eaten a couple slices before telling them it’s gluten-free and made with zucchini. Anyone avoiding gluten will love you forever, and fights may break out over the remaining slices.

It’s really THAT good.

I’ve tried this recipe with both quinoa flour and white rice flour and it’s much better with quinoa flour (I had lots of volunteer taste testers for both recipes). Rice flour makes the texture a little gritty and although it’s still really good, it does taste gluten-free.

Also very important: if there’s one ingredient that takes this cake from good to incredible, it’s the espresso powder. I realize not everyone has espresso powder (not grounds, the instant stuff) lying around in their cupboards, but please, if you don’t have any, go get some; add it to any baking involving chocolate and the results will be magical. And whatever you do, don’t just leave it out of this recipe!

Ingredients in bowls

The thing I love about quickbreads and cakes is that they are so versatile. I have made this recipe using bread pans, a 9×9 brownie pan, and a muffin pan (on separate occasions) and it’s easy to modify the baking time for the different sizes. Rough guidelines are about 40-50 minutes for bread pans, 30-40 minutes for brownie pans and 20 minutes for muffins; just stick a toothpick in the centre to check, and when it comes out clean the cake is ready to come out of the oven.

baking pan

Gluten-free Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Dry Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups Quinoa or rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1-1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp espresso powder

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients and add to dry.
Pour mixture into greased pans.
For two loaf pans, bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
For a 9×13 cake pan, bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

In the Zone

I use this workout to help my class figure out different intensity levels and how each feels different from the other.  It starts off relatively easy, but builds into an intense endurance interval near the end, and my class (at least those with heart rate monitors) commented that they had a higher average heart rate than usual since they didn’t have any official breaks.

I teach this class without recovery time between songs in order to add an endurance element, although I do vary the intensity somewhat throughout the interval as most people can’t maintain 90% of their max heart rate for more than a minute or two.  If you prefer to focus more on the intensity of the intervals or plan to sustain the intensity for the entire interval, spin easy for 30 seconds to a minute between zones.

Zone 1: Easy endurance, just above recovery but still working.  Heart rate should be between 70-75% of max.
Zone 2: Moderate endurance intensity, a level that could be maintained for a while with some fatigue.  Heart rate 75-80% of max.
Zone 3: Tempo/endurance intensity, breathing should be heavy and muscles should start to fatigue within the interval.  Heart rate 80-85% of max.
Zone 4: Hard tempo intensity, near the lactate threshold so perceived exertion and fatigue increases .  Heart rate 85-90% of max.
Zone 5: Maximum intensity, all out effort at around 90-95% of max heart rate.

In the Zone Spin
Total ride time: 1 hour (51 minutes intervals, 9 minute cooldown)

Zone 1: seated flat, warmup and intro 90rpm (Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5 – 3:21)
Zone 2: standing flat or light hill 70rpm (On the Floor, Jennifer Lopez – 3:39)

Zone 1: seated flat 90 rpm (Higher, Taio Cruz – 3:08)
Zone 2: jumps (Hips Don’t Lie, Shakira – 3:40)
Zone 3: standing 90rpm (No Regrets, Dappy – 3:50)

Zone 1: seated flat 90rpm (Heart Skips a Beat, Olly Murs – 3:21)
Zone 2: moderate hill, seated 65rpm (She Makes me Go, Arash – 2:58)
Zone 3: stand/hover (Feel This Moment, Pitbull – 3:50)
Zone 4: seated sprints 110-115rpm (Feel the Love, Rudimental – 3:46)

Zone 1: jumps (Kiss the Stars, Pixie Lott – 3:15)
Zone 2: moderate hill, seated/standing 65rpm (You and Me Belong, Jes – 5:06)
Zone 3: stand/hover (Let’s Go, Calvin Harris – 3:47)
Zone 4: seated sprints 110-115rpm (Fix You, Vita Chambers – 3:35)
Zone 5: standing sprints on a hill (More More, Red One Jimmy Joker Remix, Usher – 3:40)

Cooldown and stretch

Duathlon National Championships 2013

Typical for me, my race in Montreal was just another whirlwind trip as part of a busy weekend and training schedule. My main focus right now is the Hamilton Marathon in November, so this was a training race with the goal of qualifying to compete in the duathlon world championships in Spain next year; going in to the race I was aware that I wouldn’t need to go all out just to qualify, and decided not to waste precious energy on trying to place.

Of course, the week leading up to the race wasn’t exactly ideal: I didn’t taper – in fact, I did a bonus 9km run with Mike (B) and Mike (O) on Thursday – and I hadn’t been on my bike since the world championships almost a month ago. But since when have I let details like that bother me??

I drove to Montreal on Friday, arriving at the hostel at 10pm and going straight to bed as I was up again at 5:30am and trying to find somewhere to get breakfast. I had planned on my usual Tim’s bagel breakfast sandwich and coffee, but settled for a 24hr McDonalds down the street from the hostel (which messed up and gave me an egg mcmuffin rather than a bagel breakfast sandwich). Mistake: thinking an egg mcmuffin and coffee at 7am would keep me satisfied until noon when I finished the race.

I arrived in time to see the start of the Ironman distance race, and realized why the transition was so gigantic: the Esprit Triathlon de Montreal included sprint, Olympic, half iron and full iron races on the same day, on the same site, in addition to the sprint and Olympic duathlon races! I have to say the race organization was stellar, although the French race briefing was significantly longer than the English one…so I wasn’t really sure what the course was. Oh well!

The weather was initially threatening, but cleared up before the start.

The weather was initially threatening, but cleared up before the start.

First Run – 10k

The first run started out in the middle of nowhere on a gravel path, but quickly joined the main trail for two laps around the Olympic basin. I had planned on running about a 50 minute 10k, but my legs were tired and I was struggling by the halfway point so decided it wasn’t worth trashing my legs. I managed to draft off a bigger runner for one particularly windy section (which helped maintain my pace) and I finished the run in just over 51 minutes. Heading into T1 I and was feeling a little less lethargic (although a little hungry) and looking forward to hopping on my bike for some speed!

Bike – 40km

As soon as I got onto the main bike course, my first thought was OMG the bike course is the Formula One racing circuit. I had been worried about a crowded bike course because I had to do 9 laps and the full and half-iron athletes were already on the course, but it was fantastic! The turns were tons of fun, the road was wide enough that passing and staying out of the drafting zone (which was 12m per ITU rules) wasn’t really an issue. The trickiest part was remembering to say “gauche” and ” droit” instead of “left” and “right” when passing.

I don’t think I stopped smiling for at least the first three laps, and by then I was almost halfway through and my legs had warmed up. I glanced down at my watch and realized I was averaging about 32km/hr, much faster than usual! The wind picked up a bit in the second half (and my legs were tiring) so I ended up finishing the bike portion in about 1:18, matching my 40km personal best from August. And I even managed to count to nine laps!

Second Run – 5k

I was feeling great heading off the bike, especially knowing that I was on track to beat my goal time of 2:45 by a significant margin. My legs felt strong coming out of T2 and I ran my first kilometer in 5:16, but the lack of taper and proper breakfast was starting to catch up with me and my pace slowed as I continued around the basin. With a few hundred meters to go I glanced around to see if there was anyone else close by in my age category, but was surrounded by men and decided my legs didn’t have a sprint in them anyways. I picked up the pace a little as I neared the finish, just to make sure the photographer caught my good side, and crossed the line in 2:39:40 with a 27 minute 5k.

Photos and Sportstats Results

Mission accomplished! My 5th place finish snagged me a place on Team Canada for the AG duathlon world championships in Spain next year, and I finished the day knowing that I executed my race plan perfectly. Although I could have gone faster had I tapered and focused more on the race, I was satisfied with a solid time in each event and knowing the race fit into my marathon training plan.