Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SeaWheeze 2013 : The road to my first half marathon

As the clocked ticked towards midnight on Dec 31 2011, I declared the new years resolution that would set my feet on the path (literally) to my first half marathon, the Lululemon Sea Wheeze in Vancouver, and one of my proudest moments.

I am a huge fan of the reality television show "The Biggest Loser." It really is one of the most inspiring things on TV, and the transformations both in body and mind that the contestants go through are incredible. The first time I told myself I would run a half marathon was during the second last episode of Season 12, the contestants, who only 12 weeks prior could barely move their bodies through a single mile, run a marathon. As I sat there, alone on my couch, probably stuffing my own face with junk food I thought "really Sara, if they can do this, what's you're excuse?"

Mine is not a story of weight loss, but it has been a transformation for me non the less. At the time, I was 23 and minimally active, the only thing maintaining my figure was the determinedly strong metabolism I'd been gifted with that kept me waif-like thin through to college. As I entered my mid 20s, it was beginning to slow down. More importantly, so had I.

I grew up playing every sport I could try my hands at, basketball, softball, soccer, volleyball, track and field, cross country, lacrosse, ballet and jazz dance you name it. I was active all through high school and well into university. However, as my science course load grew heavier with each year, and as I began to spend more and more time glued to my laptop computer, my level of activity fizzled to a stop. While I may have still been thin,  at 23 I was horribly out of shape, and not at all happy with myself.

In Barcelona, Summer of 2011.

So sitting there on my couch, Christmas and a new year around the corner, I told myself it was time for a change, next year I would run a half marathon. I declared it my New Years Resolution, and the first of my 25 goals before 25. I signed up for a Dailymile Account (which I have been neglecting to update lately), bought a membership for the gym in the building where my lab is and got running.

The first mile I ran, after the past few years of inactivity was painful, physically, mentally and emotionally. To distract myself for how badly my body was performing, my friend and I (like us females tend to do) laughed about how one runner flailed her arms as she ran. Ran laps around us that is. However I stuck with it, and by spring was signed up to run a 10km race during the Calgary Marathon. And my new boyfriend Kev (a bit of a fitness junkie) would be cheering me on at the finish line.

Summer running along the Bow River, stopping for a photo with the Peace Bridge.

I impressed myself with that first 10km, and then again with the Spartan Race in August, and a second 10km in September. I signed up for Calgary's last chance half marathon in November, and began working my way into longer runs. More fit than I had been in years, I hit the wall when I began suffering from horrible shin splints.

It was time to face the facts, the half marathon just wasn't going to happen that year. I suppose I could have walked it anyways, but it just wasn't in the cards. I wrote this post, and postponed the goal.

2013 started great, Kevin and I were headed to the beach (Cuba) for a week in March, and we were both determined to be beach body ready. I worked my butt off, kept up with the running, did a 10km on St. Patty's Day in a blizzard and felt great. However, as spring rolled into summer, and my life got incredibly busy with traveling and school I wasn't really working as hard towards my goal as I should have.

But I had paid my registration for the 2013 Lululemon Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in August, and I was not going to back down. In the month before I committed to running three times a week, got in a couple 14km runs (with hill climbing) and one 16km (my longest run ever). Kevin shook his head a me for how little I had trained, he would never commit less than 100% to a goal. A trait in him which I admire and love him for.

I told myself I would give it my best shot, and finish in less than 3hours, expected I'd probably be walking the last 4km. I hoped that the relatively flat race course and sea level elevation would help me get through it.

Before the start, in the 2.5-3 hour wave.

I decided to run with my ipod (usually I don't) and put together a playlist of songs that would keep me pumped up. I installed a pacing app, and set myself to run the first half hour straight, then do intervals of 10min running 1min walking for the rest of the race. It was me, a pair of running shoes (I wore the asics) and my stubborn determination (for which Kevin always teases me, but I hope also loves) versys 21.4km and an army of 10,014 lululemon-clad runners.

You won't spot me in the video and there are no pictures of me running (our cheering squad was a bit hungover that morning), but I don't need that kind of evidence of my accomplishment that day. My accomplishment became a part of me the second I crossed that finish line.

2 hours
24 minuetes
23 seconds

My left foot was bleeding from a blister, my knees screaming in agony, I had chafing on my thighs and from my sports bra. I was exhausted and grinning from ear to ear. Despite not feeling prepared I rocked that race, and exceeded my expectations by far. I stayed with my pace, no cheating until the last mile. And even then, with the help of the super motivating 2h30min Pace Beavers finished strong and running across that finish line.

I need to thank my running buddy that day, Sarah (@setulk) who set this goal with me, ran with me for the past year and a half and finished strong that day too. I need to thank Kevin, who I called the minute I crossed the finish line so I could share my success with him, and who sees a world of potential in me and challenges me to meet it. I need to thank my family who always supports me. Thanks to everyone who is a runner and tweets or blogs about it, I find so much inspiration from this online community. And lululemon, who despite happily taking more of my money than I should be spending there, put together the most perfect, motivating and inspiring race for a first timer like me. I plan on being back next year, and shaving another 25 minutes off that time!

If you look close, you can see my name in the top of the 'S'

Monday, August 12, 2013

Saskatoon Berry Picking

On the long weekend, right before heading off to run the Calgary Color Me Rad, I headed out berry picking with our lab tech Mona (@celli_beans).

We headed down the Deerfoot and out of town to Okotoks and the Saskatoon Berry Farm, to U-pick ourselves some berries. I had never had a fresh Saskatoon berry before (think blueberry crossed with cranberry) and was looking forward to picking some.

The berries grow on bushes, and we got there right at the peak of the season, as they were getting nice and ripe and purple.

It wasn't long before we had filled up our buckets ($14 dollars worth of berries each). I took mine home to make into Saskatoon Berry Jam.

How else do you enjoy Saskatoon Berries?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Color Me Rad Calgary

If you've been following my twitter (@Turner_SR) you may know that yesterday I rocked my first ever half marathon in Vancouver (the SeaWheeze). A week before that, however, I took to the hillside at Canada Olympic Park to do the Color Me Rad 5km.

Almost clean pre-race (however got colour bombed by randoms while we were having a pre-race beer!)

I was registered for this race with a team, however, since the race date was changed on acount of the flooding, they all ended up being out of town for the long weekend, and I was running solo.

However not for long! I tweeted out to the world, and Bex (from the Bex Factor) invited me to come run with her and friends! And I'm glad I did (super great people) and she is one pretty impressive gal!

Here we are post race! Turns out I was mostly covered in pink! Actually I found that once the first dry colour covered you in a layer, mostly the other colours didn't sink thru (except for the wet colours of course)

 The whole day was a bit of a party: beer gardens, copious amounts of coloured powder, fun DJs and a little bit of a run in the sun shine. I can't wait to do this race again next year (June 28th)!

And thanks again Bex for having me out to run with you guys!!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Just Like Nana Does it: Homemade Fettuccine

With the end of summer not all that far off, I find myself thinking of tomato sauce making day at my Nana's. Every year we crush and cook about 800 jars of tomatoes for sauce, and on the day of eat it fresh with fresh made Fettuccine pasta.

How to make Fresh Fettuccine

Start with 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs in a bowl (I always make too big a mess when I start my pasta right on the counter). Begin mixing with a fork, then get right in there with your hands.

The eggs alone wont be enough to hold the dough together, once you get to the above state (the dough all in little bits and pieces) begin to add a dash of olive oil, followed by a dash of water. Just until the dough begins to hold together when you are kneading it. Remember, this is pasta, the dough will be tough, and should never feel wet or sticky.

You know it is ready when a small piece pinched off can be sheeted in the pasta machine as shown above. As the dough should always be dry to the touch, you will need no additional flour on the rollers. Also, don't worry about kneading it to too smooth a consistency, as you work it one by one down the sizes on your pasta machine, it will do this work for you.

Cut your dough into eighths, and begin sheeting pasta! You'll need to pound it out into a flattish piece before starting the dough on the widest setting. Pass the dough through, fold it in half and pass it through again a couple times on each size until you get it to the thinnest setting.

Then pop over to the fettuccine side and cut your pasta!

I also ran some through on the spaghetti setting.

The pasta should be let to dry a bit before cooking, you can do this by hanging it over a wooden spoon weighted under a stack of dishes. Or if you plan to store the pasta (or freeze it!) nesting the fettuccine may be a better option.

To cook, throw the pasta into salted boiling water, and cook only until it comes to float. I promise it will taste a thousand times better than any pasta out of a box!

Note: it is theoretically possible to make this pasta without the machine, rolling the dough thin with a rolling pin and cutting strips with a knife. But a pasta machine like mine can be picked up fairly inexpensively (mine was about $40) and every kitchen should have one!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Happy August Long Weekend People!

Ok I know....It's been a while.

So let's recap where I've been.

From June 13 to June 20th, I was cloistered in a tiny room in the library, upwards of 8-10 hours a day studying.

whatshouldwecallgradschool: After Spending All Weekend Studying.
credit: Daninfrance

On June 20th, mid afternoon, I was woken from my isolation by an email from the University, it went something like this:

"Due to the flooding, the City of Calgary has posted the evacuation of the following neighbourhoods...."
Now, having spent the past 3 weeks in a tiny room in the library with no windows, this was the first I heard about flooding...and I thought to myself whaaaaaa?

I drove home that evening, down Memorial Drive along the Bow River, which was beginning to look something like this:

 Image Source

In a panic about my candidacy exam the next morning, and the idea that I might not be able to get back across the river in the AM to get to it, I promptly evacuated my Beltline Apartment and headed to Kevin's and higher ground.

Despite the flood, the closing of the university, and being kicked out of my exam room by security, All 5 of my examiners, my supervisor and my neutral chair made it in to Foothills safely, and conducted my exam, for which I am eternally grateful.

And I passed!

I spent the rest of the weekend celebrating with Kevin and friends and alcoholic beverages.

The following Thursday, I was headed to the airport to spend 10 days in London and Dublin.

It was an amazing trip, tonnes of fun (and one long winded sinus cold) and I'll be sure to devote a couple posts to it this month!

I got back to Calgary during the tail end of Stampede and with just enough time to bang out 6 days of experiments before my mom came to visit (oh and I ended up spending a good chunk of the time she was here in the lab too).

She headed back home to Ontario, and I headed back into the library to finish out a review paper on my project that we submitted for publication this week. All the while working my way through a stack of experiments, homemade scratch cooking and reading a book for a volunteer thing I'm doing come September.

Needless to say, life has been busy! too busy for me to justify spending time blogging, when I should be either reading, in the lab, writing or sleeping. (Eating and running were fit in there too).

So here's to making up for it this August.

How have your summers been treating you?