Friday, January 13, 2017

Bullet Journal Life

I am a list addict.  And I like to write my "to do" list down by hand.  After years searching for the perfect planner, I discovered the bullet journal method last summer and retired my planner.  For years, I was posting sticky notes of to-do lists in my planners anyways, so a bullet journal seemed like the best choice for me.  Since July, I've used mine religiously and it has definitely helped improve my organizational skills and productivity.  The best part of the bullet journal is that it is completely customizable. Yes, it requires a little bit more work than traditional planners, but it is totally worth it in my books.

So, what is a bullet journal?  It's the simplest form of planner.  

Step 1) Buy a blank notebook - lined, unlined, gridded, anything that suits your fancy

Step 2) Start making lists

Okay, you can have a few more steps than that.  The main principle is that you create daily lists of tasks, meetings / events, and items to remember.  Each item gets a special bullet and when completed, each item gets an X over the bullet.  Items that are not completed are migrated to the next day's list.

It is recommended that you number your pages and create an index with a few blank pages at the front of your notebook, so that everything is easy to find.

Further, I like to create a "monthly overview" page and each week, I have a "weekly overview."  This is where I can write down events and things to remember for the coming month and then in slightly more detail for each week.  I do my weekly overview on the Thursday or Friday in advance of the next week.  I also include a "goals and bucket list" page next to my monthly overview.  Finally, you can add any other lists your heart desires - movies to watch, books to read, places to travel, money spent during the week, weekly workouts, meal plans and groceries, etc.
With everything contained in one place, you can stay organized and on top of everything!

For the athletes out there (this is a triathlon blog after all), tracking your workouts is another thing you can do in your bullet journal. I'm going to start this for the new season, but it is something I have done in the past.  I like to write out the workouts for the week, then leave space to write out what I actually did and how I felt, plus any other notes about the workout.  While there are obviously a lot more high tech options, and I use those as well, having my workouts in the same place as my other tasks allows me to maximize my schedule and foresee any barriers to my workouts in advance (e.g., a surprise birthday party the night before a big trainer ride).

My notes: 
- Currently using a Moleskin lined notebook
- Purchased a Leuchturmm1917 dotted notebook (they actually make an "official bullet journal" version as well) for when my Moleskin is full
- I use a set of Artist's Loft Illustration Pens, because I like to make my journal look pretty
- You can fall into a black hole on Pinterest if you search for bullet journal ideas.  I am not an artist and I don't have time to actually illustrate my journal. Figure out what works for you by experimenting and don't get caught up in the hype created by the internet on this stuff. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Kicking 2017 off with Whole 30

The push to do Whole 30 could not have come at a better time.  I spent the last week of December and first week of January at World Juniors (Go Canada!! Silver!), which meant eating out every meal and drinking a lot of Molson Canadian and wine at the games.  Combine that with my severe lack of training and general indulgence over the past few months, and my body was screaming at me to kick my junk food and booze habits.  I literally got a funny taste in my mouth after eating candy on January 1st and then had a bathroom break reminder not to eat candy (sour jujubes are soo good though) pre-run in Montreal (yikes! and sorry for the TMI).  Anyways, Whole 30 will give my body the reset that it needs to start the year right.

For those unfamiliar, Whole 30 is a 30 day plan that prohibits added sugars (even natural sweeteners like maple syrup), dairy, legumes, and all grains.  It is not meant to be continued strictly beyond 30 days, and is not a "diet."  Other restrictions include not being allowed to weigh yourself during the plan (which I never do anyways and didn't do before starting) and no recreating "junk" with approved ingredients. Here are the Whole 30 rules.

I usually keep a pretty solid nutrition plan going, where I limit sweets and refined grains and eat mostly veggies, protein, and complex carbs from sweet potatoes, oats, and fruit.  I have lots of healthy fats in my diet as well.  However, I eat a lot of dairy, though I've cut back a lot on that over the years, I usually have Greek yogurt at least once a day.  Lately though, things have gone south with the sweets and the alcohol, plus some not great food choices - pizza, I love you, but really shouldn't eat you more than once a week! So I'm mostly using this challenge as a way to hold myself accountable to getting back on track. It is really helpful to have my Coeur Team sisters doing it too! (See #CoeurWhole30Challenge on Instagram). And I'm hoping to see how I do with no dairy and no sugar.  Plus, reducing my alcohol intake isn't a horrible idea.

Note, while I understand that Whole 30 is meant to be followed to a T, I am just going to do my best to stick to it 90% or more of the time.  I'm on day 5 and I've already had two glasses of wine and a few tortilla chips during taco night on Tuesday.  Am I a failure? Not in my books, though the die-hard Whole 30 crew may disagree.  For me this challenge is mostly just to get back on track with my eating and not to determine if I am actually allergic to any foods.  So I'm doing my best and t that will be that.

Here's to feeling better inside and out, and to a healthy, happy 2017!

The key to Whole 30 is eating delicious, nutritious and varied meals.  I'm taking this as a great opportunity to get back to my food blogging ways, so I'll share all of the recipes that I make for this month!  Starting with week 1...

Week 1 Recipes: 

Mexican Meatball Soup - modifications were to use all broth in place of broth/water combo and to use sweet potatoes, as my store was sold out of butternut squash.

Crockpot Sweet Potato Chipotle Chili - modification was to cook this on the stovetop in my Le Creuset.  I cooked the meat first along with the onion and then added spices as it was close to finished cooking, then I added the remaining ingredients, brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down and simmered for about an hour and a half.  Serve with avocado for some healthy fats!

Chorizo Egg Cups

6 eggs
1 link chorizo sausage (ask your butcher if it has sugar in it!)
1/3 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped spinach
Salt and pepper

Remove the sausage from the casing, and cook over medium heat, breaking the sausage up as it cooks into small pieces.  When the sausage is nearly done, add the diced red pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir the spinach into the sausage and pepper mix. 

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with salt and pepper. 

Grease 6-8 cups of a muffin tin with coconut oil, then divide the sausage and vegetable mix evenly between the cups.  Divide the egg mixture between the cups (I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup and poured the egg over the sausage and veggies).  Bake 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are firm to the touch.  Cool and store for up to 4 days. 

Date Balls

1 cup dried, pitted dates
1 cup nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon shredded coconut
1 tablespoon almond butter
Himalayan salt

In a food processor, process nuts until finely ground. Add remaining ingredients and process until a ball starts to form.  Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then form into small balls. Return to either the refrigerator or freezer for storage.

Some other things that I've been snacking on include dried figs, apples with almond butter, nuts, and Coconut Barnana!  While snacking is also not technically recommended on Whole 30, I have allowed myself snacks between meals.  I'm trying to get better about grazing, and I am going to work on reducing my reliance on dried fruit and fruit for sweets next week after a better meal prep this coming weekend for week 2!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Another 2016 Review: Goals

I'm not sure where my motivation is these days, but I'm really working hard to find it!  I realized that I even took a lazy route in my 2016 recap by ignoring the fact that I had set some goals and intentions for myself.  So as I struggle to define my goals and intentions for 2017, perhaps a look back will help me figure out what is next!

Here were my 2016 goals: 

Goal: Qualify for Age Group World Championships (Olympic Distance)

My goals were pretty detailed, listing out the "why" and the "how," along with how I would measure the achievement of the goal and by when. I'll give you the short version. I did qualify for Age Group World Championships in the Olympic distance. I had a horrible day out on the course, which was turned into a sort of duathlon and meant I lost my strongest leg, the swim. I ended up in the medical tent too, which isn't really how you want to end your race. But I did it! I was happy with my bike split and I am excited to be on Team Canada for another Worlds! Rotterdam, here we come! (See my race report here).

Goal: Qualify for 70.3 Worlds (2017) at Timberman

The field at Timberman was supa-dupa fast for my AG and I knew it would be, so no I did not qualify for Worlds. (I'm trying to remember not to set goals that rely on other people's performances for 2017!!)  But I had a fantastic day at Timberman. It was so much fun! I executed my race plan from start to finish, and my mom was there to cheer me on all day long! I will be doing another 70.3 (or more) this season, with my next one at Victoria in June! PS crushed my swim and bike goals at Timberman! (See my race report here).

Goal: Learn new skills!!

I liked the "why" behind this one:
  • Diversifying my athletic tool kit will allow me to have more fun with friends and be a more well-rounded athlete! 
  • Learning new things helps to push me outside of my comfort zone 
  • Learning new things requires me to practice patience and to believe in myself 

And I also achieved my goals, both in spirit and in measurement. I really pushed out of my comfort zone and had to be very patient with myself by learning to skate ski, which was a very foreign activity for me. And by the end of last ski season, I was really starting to get it, which made it a lot of fun. Snowshoe running was also a source of joy, and I'm excited to get back out on the trails, and maybe even race again this winter.

As always, the #1 goal was to have FUN! And that was definitely achieved!!

A big thank you to some of the best ladies on the planet too for allowing me to be part of their amazing team - Coeur Sports - in 2016. My 2016 was definitely more fun, stylish, and fulfilling because of this team and company! And they have me very excited about the new year and season as well.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Wrap-up and onto 2017 planning!

Goals for the new year... blog more!

Seriously though, I am hoping that with a return to training (soon, I swear) that I will also get back to blogging regularly.  For today though, I am looking back on my 2016 season with lots of warm and fuzzy feelings. I had a pretty good year in sport and life, and I am so grateful that I have my health and the support of my friends and family to thank for that.  Here is a quick wrap-up of 2016, month by month.

January:  Lots of time spent learning to skate ski! 

 February: My first snowshoe race and a 1st place to boot!

March:  Last ski of the season and I crushed the climb up Fortune.

April:  A trip to Colombia for some R&R in the sun, plus my 30th birthday!

May:  A new, beautiful Argon 18 E-117 Tri and my first race of the season, the ever fun, local Early Bird Triathlon.

June:  A return to Tremblant to conquer the sprint as a healthy athlete!

July:  A brutal day at Nationals, with no swim, but still a spot for 2017 Worlds. 

August: My first Half Ironman at Timberman 70.3 was a huge success and a super fun day! Thankful to have mom there to cheer for me! Plus a first place finish at Cornwall Triathlon sprint!

September:  The most fun of my season at the inaugural Amphibious Challenge Swimrun. Obsessed!

October:  Brought home my new puppy!

November:  Lots of puppy time and very little training. 

December:  Cheering on Team Canada as Dad is coaching for the World Juniors Tournament

And now, I'm into my planning phase for 2017.  I have a new coach, Dave from DEKK Coaching, and I am currently filling out my goals and training objectives for the season.  When they are ready, I'll share them here for some extra accountability!  I do have two big races on the calendar already: Victoria 70.3 and Age Group World Championships in Rotterdam! It's going to be another awesome year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

George and the Off Season

For the past few years, I've definitely taken an extended off season after my races wrapped up for the summer and this year has been no different.  However, the motivation to take an off season has been very different this year.  This year, I have a puppy, who has taken up all of my free time and put training in the almost non-existent zone.  And you know, I have been okay with it.  Our bodies process all stress in the same way, and we have to be careful not to overload ourselves with work, family, relationship, training, life stress.

Lately, my stress has been coming in full steam from work, relationship, and oh yea, being a new puppy mom!  So it's meant that I just can't handle stress in the form of training.  Of course, I do find that I handle other stress better when I have the endorphin hit of a workout, but lately that hit comes from my daily walks with George.  I'm still learning how to balance this new responsibility with the rest of my life.  It is a work in progress, but George is growing up (he is now 5 months!) and getting a lot easier to manage.  He is such a sweet, well behaved dog and he makes life a little bit more fun. He loves to play and run (which will make him an awesome running buddy a few months from now).  I love this sweet pup!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Team Coeur Sports 2017

For the third year, I'll be joining Team Coeur Sports!  This group of women have become an incredible group of friends and inspiration to me.  I'm so grateful to be included among these strong, empowered, courageous women.  And I'm excited to represent a company that not only makes the best, most stylish and comfortable triathlon gear out there, but also represents values so well aligned with my own - women supporting women, heart & courage, inclusiveness, integrity, and empowerment through sport. Thank you Coeur Sports!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Race Report: Amphibious Challenge

Well, it is officially off-season and I have obviously been notably quiet.  It is funny how the second I finished my race season, every other area of my life picked back up to fill the void (and then some).  In the weeks since the Amphibious Challenge Swimrun, which I'm very excited to tell you about here, I attended two weddings, brought home my adopted puppy, and had the busiest period of the year at work.  It has essentially meant a forced break from training.  Unlike at the end of last season, I was actually on quite a high following my last race and felt like I was motivated to train still.  However, this busy season has prevented me from really getting any training in, save for the odd run and for my Tuesday night coaching duties at OTC's Tour de France.  I'm working on getting back into the swing of things though and figuring out George's (my puppy) schedule and how to fit training in around his walks.  I'll leave this though so we can talk about the swimrun!

First, what the heck is a swimrun? 

This was a question that I asked myself when Dave first mentioned this race to me.  After a bit of research, I discovered that a swimrun is an adventure style race that incorporates multiple legs of open water swimming and running over various types of terrain.  The story is that the event originated as a drunken bet between Swedish brothers.  The original swimrun, held first in 2006, ÖTILLÖ has grown massively and is now considered the World Championship, consisting of 75 kilometres of which 10 km are open-water swimming and 65 km are trail-running, across 24 islands in Sweden. There are a number of swimruns, both independent and under the ÖTILLÖ banner,  now world-wide, and I was fortunate enough to participate in the first swimrun in Canada - the Amphibious Challenge.

So what is the Amphibious Challenge? 

Canadian adventure racer, entrepreneur, and founder of Stoked Oats, Simon Donato, brought the concept of the swimrun to Sheenboro, Quebec with the Amphibious Challenge.  The race consisted of about 12k of running and 3k of swimming.  It started with a longer run of ~9k at the historic Hotel Pontiac and then proceeded with shorter swim and run segments across 6 islands in the Upper Ottawa River to finally return to the Hotel.  All of the racing is done while wearing both a wetsuit and running shoes given that there are a lot of short transitions between swimming and running.  I'll talk a little bit about my equipment next. 

As I mentioned, this was the first event of its kind in Canada.  Simon, obviously has experience with the format, as he raced at ÖTILLÖ for his show, Boundless.  He also benefitted from amazing community volunteers who helped put on a truly incredible event.  It was one of the best supported, friendliest events that I have ever participated in and it was so heartwarming to see how much pride the community had in Sheenboro. 

So how'd the race go? 

Before I signed up for the race, I had a chat with someone who had completed the Casco Bay Islands Swimrun.  He told me that it was, "the most fun [he] had ever had with a bib on."  Well, we didn't wear bibs, but I can definitely agree that swimrun is a blast.

I spent the week ahead of the race organizing my gear: wetsuit with the legs and sleeves cut off, whistle, compass, pull buoy, paddles, trail shoes (New Balance Vazee Summit), merino wool socks, Coeur Sports bikini, cap and goggles.  I posted the before and after image of my wetsuit on Instagram to the shock and dismay of many that I would take scissors to a wetsuit.  It allows you to run more freely, as well as stay cooler while running though still retaining some warmth for the water.  The pull buoy involved creating four holes through the pull buoy, with metal bushings to ensure the bungee cord didn't rip through the foam, and bungee cord to secure the whole thing to my leg while running and swimming. I followed this pull buoy modification tutorial from Head.

The race was a Saturday morning, so I traveled up to Frankie and Dave's cottage after work on Friday.  We had a lovely group dinner, along with Valerie (who was also racing) and her family.  After dinner we all made our last equipment adjustments, then got to bed for a 7 am wake-up call.  Dave made a delicious baked oatmeal breakfast. We also got to kick off the day of celebrating Dave and Frankie's 33rd anniversary by listening to a great song by a Canadian artist, Royal Wood, that was absolutely perfect given the day, "Forever and Ever." (There was also a breakfast of Stoked Oats and Kicking Horse Coffee at the event, but we decided to eat before going over. I love Stoked Oats though too!)  We made our way to the Pontiac Hotel - the race start and finish location - to get ready for the day.

It was absolutely freezing and the river was cloaked in a thick blanket of fog that morning, so Simon and the race organizers postponed the start a bit until the fog lifted in order to ensure the safety of the athletes.  Meanwhile, we all huddled inside the hotel dining room to stay warm and laughed about how silly we all looked in our wetsuits and running shoes.  It was a small field of about 23 people, and there were quite a few familiar Ottawa faces amongst the group.

Photo Credit: Christina Williamson Photography

It was finally time to get the day started, and we got to enjoy a beautiful rendition of "O Canada" along with a speech from the mayor of Sheenboro.  Then we made our way onto the beach for the start of the race.

The first run was about 9k, and I took off conservatively, though was trying my best to stay close to the lead group.  While it was quite cold, I warmed up very quickly given that I was wearing a wetsuit. Eventually, I unzipped the back to let some breeze in to cool me off.  I had also strapped my paddles to my race belt, which turned out to be pretty annoying at first.  But the scenery was beautiful enough to distract me from those concerns as we ran through the woods on a four-wheeler trail.  All along the way, we were greeted by cheering Sheenboro residents and cottagers to help motivate us and guide us along the route.

Once we reached the first water entry-point, I grabbed a drink and walked into the river.  After swimming a few strokes, I realized that I had forgotten to zip up my wetsuit, and struggled to get it zipped so I could continue on my way.  As I got closer to the first dock to exit the river, I also realized that my bungee cord had come loose and I was about to lose my pull buoy.  So the first part of my run was a trot as I tried to fix the bungee cord.  In fact, most of my "running" from that point on was more of a careful trot due to the topography of the islands we traversed along the route.  Each island was beautiful and we were always welcomed warmly.  At each re-entry point for the river, we were checked off the tracking list and pointed toward the next island.  All of the volunteers were fantastic, and many of those volunteers were actually the owners of the islands, so it really was wonderful of them to open their land for us to use during the race. Thank you!

The swims became increasingly choppy as the wind picked up throughout the day.  I also spent three of the 8 swims with a man drafting on me.  In the type of conditions we faced, it meant that I was doing a lot of extra work and probably swimming much slower than I would have liked.  I finally lost him as I tried to pick up the pace in my trotting across the islands, so I was able to complete my final two swim legs on my own.

The final swim was by far the hardest, and it seemed that the shore would never appear.  The current was stronger at that part of the river, and there were a few boats passing, so I ended up sighting quite often to ensure I wasn't wasting time going off course, or about to get run over by a boat. I finally reached the beach for the final run to the finish.  It was wonderful to be greeted by lots of spectators and volunteers at the finish.

After a fun day of swimrunning, I was quite happy to finish 4th overall and as the second woman (Michelle crushed it and I had no hope given that first longer run portion).  We cheered in the other finishers and tried to warm-up (I immediately put on my new Farm to Feet socks that we received in our race goody bags).  Then we enjoyed a fantastic lunch with chili, salads, homemade baked goods, delicious bread, and cookies.

All in all, I would highly recommend this particular event and swimrun in general.  It was an awesome experience, a lot of fun, and a great new challenge.  The Amphibious Challenge was one of the best events that I have participated in due to the great support of the community.  If you are looking for a fun challenge for next season, you might want to make a trip to Sheenboro!

The weekend was also a really wonderful one overall.  A huge thank you to Frankie and Dave for being such gracious and generous hosts.  They also shared a lovely gem with us - the North Fork Country Kitchen - where we had a fantastic dinner on Saturday evening.