Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Quinoa-walnut burgers (vegan)

Quinoa-walnut burgers, vegan 
(makes about 10)

adapted from original Moosewood cookbook’s “lentil walnut burgers” but using quinoa instead of lentils

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
¾ pound mushrooms (about 8 large), chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
2 Tbsp ground flax
4 Tbsp water
½ cup vegan bread crumbs (or processed oats)
Oil (for sautéing and frying)

1) Put quinoa and water in a pot and heat till water boils. Lower to simmer and let  cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all water is absorbed.
2) In a fry pan, saute onions, mushrooms, garlic, and carrots in oil until soft.  Add walnuts and sauté a bit longer.  Add oregano and basil.
3) Transfer contents of fry pan to food processor and process quickly.
4) Combine cooked quinoa to processed mixture in a bowl, and add soy sauce and mustard.
5) Add water to ground flax, let sit for a few minutes, and add to above mixture.
6) Add bread crumbs, mix with your hands, and form into patties (about ten).
7) Fry about 5 minutes on a side. 
8) Enjoy with your favorite bun or toppings or alone!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon May 6, 2012

BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon 
May 6, 2012

Short story: Not my day for a good race, but an amazing weekend overall. 8)


Splits from my Garmin here: (The first kilometre was a little off as my watch didn’t lock into the signal right away).
Elevation profile from my Garmin: (The GPS gets a bit confused downtown; there was only about 40m elevation gain in the last 2K, not 100m. The rest is pretty accurate, though.)

Long story (why can't I write short reports?):

Back in October of last year, the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon committee announced two new courses for the full- and half-marathons. Everyone was excited about the prospect of net downhill courses that went through beautiful parts of the city. I was not sure what to expect with this new half-marathon course; the old course with Prospect Point hill was gone, but I OWNED that course and that hill. It was my first half-marathon back in 2004, and I raced it five more times after that, missing it only in 2006 when I did the full marathon and in 2009 when I was injured. I knew the course well, and nailed it last year for a PB time of 1:47:xx. Could I be in shape to better that time this year? 

On race day were blessed with gorgeous weather, and I woke up feeling great. I left my house just after 6:00 to walk/jog over to the start, just 2K away. The corrals were well-organized and not crowded, but many people seemed to be arriving late and trying to jump the fences. We were off just a bit later than 7:00, and I saw Rob cheering on the sideline—gave him a quick high-five and I was on my way.

My plan was to hold as close to a 5:00/km average pace as I could, figuring I could tack 6K onto the pace I did in Birch Bay 15K in March. I expected the first half to be a bit faster than the second with the downhill start. My race started well – the course started on a bit of an uphill but then quickly started downhill as we headed north on Cambie. This felt great; I was keeping a great pace but it did not feel tough at all- I was just taking what the downhill gave me. The first few kilometres were under 5:00/km, and by 5K I was at about 24 minutes. The course flattened out after that and actually had some rolling hills through the downtown area. I took it easy on the uphills, and then tried to get back the lost time on the downhills. The strategy seemed to be working well. 

At 10K I was just over 50 minutes. I knew I had lost a bit of the time I banked on the downhill, but I was still feeling very good. The next 5K had some rolling hills with an out-and-back along Stanley Park Drive before we head along the side of Lost Lagoon. I walked a bit on the uphills, trying to conserve energy and saving them for the downhills. At 15K at just over 1:16:xx (close to my Birch Bay time); so I had lost some more time but I still kept holding on. Yes, it felt tough, but I kept telling myself, “it’s ok, it is supposed to feel tough.” I thought if I could just get past 16K I could go into autopilot and take it home.

But around then is where I started feeling some twinges in my calves – similar to what I felt last year at Scotiabank Half in June. I thought it wasn’t too bad and just tried to relax into it. I thought if I could just hold on to as many kilometres near 5:00 I would still be able to finish well, but my time was slipping away as I needed to walk or relax to let the calves release. I stopped to stretch at one point, but that did not help. Sometimes when I started to walk I felt my lower legs start to go numb. Then I would get moving again, and the cramping continued into my feet and the sides of my legs. By 18K I was just holding on to finish, hoping I could make it without any serious damage to my calves.

The last uphill along Pender before we turned at Hastings would have been cruel in the marathon, but at the end of my race it was almost a relief. I was not moving very quickly at that point, but I knew I was almost done. I finished at just over 1:53 on my watch.

I was elated to finish and get my medal, a then a water bottle and a food bag. Even though my race did not go as I would have liked, I toughed out another finish and that made me very happy. I dug a banana out of the bag, the only thing I could stomach at that point. The long walk to the gear check area (seemed like about a kilometre) was brutal, although not as bad as it could have been because of the beautiful weather. About half-way to the gear check area I made the mistake of nonchalantly stepping down a curb and both calves seized on me. I was literally screaming in pain, and a couple people came over to me to see if I was ok; I choked out, “Yeah, I’ll be ok”, looked around for a medical tent but there was nothing around. So I sat there and waited for the cramps to relax. When they did, I tried to get up again—too soon! Both calves seized again and the pain was worse than before. I was trying to work it out, breathing into it and letting them relax (I had had this before and knew what to do), and eventually they did. But I was afraid to try to get up again. Luckily at that point I saw a couple friends who had finished shortly after me. They were my saviours- when I was ready to stand up, my calves might have seized again had they not been there to help me support my weight. We slowly walked to get our gear (another problem, but I won’t get into that here).  After relaxing, getting a coffee, some more food, we went back to the finish line to cheer in our marathoning friends.

Now that it is over, I am not sure what I think of this new course. I knew not to get too excited about the net downhill profile, and in the end my race was very similar to Scotiabank Half last year (also net downhill with one long 2K drop). Maybe the calf cramping can be avoided with a more moderately-paced start, and I just paced too aggressively for my fitness. I have been advised by a few people that the cramps can be avoided by addressing hydration and nutrition; I have my doubts since it only happens on courses with big downhill grades. But since now two of the big half-marathons in the city have this profile, I really want to figure this out. Overall I loved the new organization of the races and the scenic courses; the race committee does need to work out a few of the organizational kinks with transit, post-race support, and gear pickup, and I hope they fix these. 

Others have their own stories to tell, and there are many. For now will just say that it was great to share this weekend with so many wonderful people. The weeks and days of training and camaraderie leading up to the race, cheering for each each other during and after the race, and hashing out the good and the bad after -- the support and friendship of my running communities cannot be beat.  This to me is what running is all about.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Birch Bay 15K, March 31, 2012

“Wow, you are really looking at things from a glass-half-full perspective today, aren’t you?” That was a comment from a friend during a long run yesterday, and it nicely summarizes my attitude about my running lately. Saturday’s race was far from perfect for me, but it was a good race and I took away a lot of positives from it. I am looking forward to some continued improvement this spring.

Early Saturday morning  my friend Rob and I drove over the border to run the Birch Bay International Road Race. "International" because it attracts about equal numbers of participants from both sides of the border, most of whom from British Columbia or Washington state. This was the second year for both of us in this race, Rob in the 30K and me in the 15K. Last year I finished with a time of 1:14:28, and was hoping I could better that this year, or at least break 1:15 (5:00/km). Since Rob was planning for a similar pace, we decided to start together, lining up near the "8:00/mile" cone in the starting chute. (Funny that the paces were always described in miles (as they are in the results), but the course was only marked in kilometres.)

In the first 5K we were going a bit faster than 5:00/km with a tailwind. The new course surprised both of us- last year we turned around at about the 2K mark, but this year we continued to about 7K before turning around. This made for an overall flatter course, and in the first 4K I felt like we were flying. The nice tailwind had something to do with that, and I knew we would feel the effects of it after the turnaround. Rob and I stayed together for about 5K, but then he told me to go on ahead. He caught back up to me around 7K and I thought I could try to keep up with him, but he would eventually pull ahead. I always had him in my sights, but could not keep up.

We came out of the park at about 7K but did not feel the full effects of the headwind till about 9K when the shoreline turned. Perhaps I went out a bit too fast at the beginning or I was fighting against the wind too much, but every step felt like a struggle in those middle kilometres. I also had to stop to retie my shoelace at about 8K (boo! not again!). I passed the 10K mark at just over 50 minutes and knew I was still on track for a good finish if I could hold on. I kept pushing, repeating my mantra "run hard, run happy." I slowed a bit, but fought hard to make sure I didn't slip too much. I accepted a gel from the aid station at about 11K and choked down half of it, taking some water at the next station. We turned around at about 13.5K and I thought about Rob and the 30K-ers continuing on for another 15K, glad I wasn’t one of them. I saw Rob up ahead in the distance about a minute ahead of me, and had a feeling he was going to have a good race.

If we had the benefit of a tailwind for that last kilometre along the bay, I couldn’t feel it. At 14.5K we turned up the hill to the finish. It seemed like forever at that point, but I crossed the line at just under 1:16 on my watch. The timing company had some mishaps, partially because of a rear-ender accident on the way to the race. Their printer was broken so no results were posted; I thought I had a chance at an age group award so I waited as they announced the winners and awards for the 15K. When they got to F44-49 they gave the third place award to a woman with a slower time than I had, so I figured they must have messed up my chip time when I switched distances. I went to the timing truck to sort it out, and they said they would take care of it—sure enough the official results were corrected with me listed as third in my age group (out of 37 women). Unfortunately waiting around for the age group awards meant that I almost missed Rob coming up the hill to finish his 30K.  He finished in just over 2:26 with a sizable negative split—his hard training is really showing now, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do in the Vancouver Marathon next month. Being there to share his awesome finish was worth the trip alone.

My official results:
Time: 1:15:39
Overall place: 48/285
Females: 12/197
F44-49: 3/37

So my time was a bit slower than last year by about a minute, but over a minute faster than what my other races this spring would have predicted. I learned that I can definitely benefit from some practice at the longer sustained hard runs and know I can continue to improve. I earned an age group award and placed in the top 6% of all females in this race. And I was able to be there to share my friend’s great result. It’s all good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"First Half" Half-Marathon race report

First Half Half-marathon, February 12, 2012

My results, by the numbers:
Chip time:  1:50:51
Gun time:  1:51:02
Overall placing:  724/1982
Age group placing (F45-49):  33/158
Placing out of all females:  284/1166

A bit of history of the First Half and me:

2005 - volunteered and was hugely impressed with the race organization and quality
2006 - raced it as a training race on the way to my first marathon:  1:56
2007 - had a great race with a 1:51; that would stand as my PB for over 3 more years
2008 - was away
2009 - had been injured but still ran as an easy run:  2:04
2010 - race cancelled because of the Olympics
2011- had to miss the race at the last minute because of my mom's stroke
2012 - so happy to be back- one of my favourite Vancouver races

Although I had to miss this race last year, I did do three other half-marathons:  Vancouver Half-Marathon in May with a PB of 1:47, the Scotiabank Half in June with a disappointing 1:54 (bad calf cramping in last 7K), and a decent showing in Portland in the fall with 1:49, a month before my marathon.

The original plan in training for this race was to build off my post-marathon fitness toward a possible new PB.  But a slight injury setback in mid-December forced me to cut back my distances and intensity for about a month.  Starting in mid-January I was able build back my distances and ease back into the hard runs.  My race plan yesterday was to start at a pace of around 5:15-5:20 and bring that down later in the race if I was feeling good.

I started faster than planned and found myself at closer to 5:00/km.  It felt great for the first 5K, but I worried it would be tough to hang on with my lack of hard training lately.  Perhaps I let it get to my head a bit, but I did settle down into a pace closer to 5:10-5:15 for the middle 10K.  Overall it felt tough but really good the whole time; I was able to tackle each kilometre and mile as it came without looking too far ahead. The course is mostly flat with a little jaunt through downtown, a scenic run along the water in English Bay, and then a beautiful trek around the entire Stanley Park seawall.  I know the route very well, running on these paths often several times in a week.  We were blessed with much better weather than I had expected; just a light drizzle and almost no wind. So pretty much perfect conditions for racing in the park.

The half-way point was in Stanley Park and I was still feeling quite good.  My watch said 54:something and thought I might even be able to pull off a 1:48 finish.  But I started to really suffer after that; every kilometre was a push, but I just kept on.  Seeing Chantelle at her volunteer post at around the 14K mark gave me a huge boost, but the rest of the loop around the park was still really tough physically and mentally. 

Before heading out of the park we did a quick loop around Lost Lagoon. I was anxiously awaiting the 10-mile mark, for me the real beginning of the end of the race, which I knew would be part-way around the Lagoon.  At that point I was at about 1:23;  I did some mental math and figured I could still come in under 1:50 if I could maintain close to a 5:00/km pace, but my legs just did not have it  for the final stretch.   Funny thing about an “almost flat” route-- you really do feel every hill (or at least I do).  My pace suffered on every  bit of an incline, including one coming out of the park around 18K and two brutal little ones in the last kilometre (coming up under the Burrard and Granville bridges).  In my good races I can power through the last 5K at a faster pace, but I slowed quite a bit yesterday.   Still, I was able to hang on strong enough and was thrilled to come over the line with 1:50:xx on my watch, 1:51:02 on the clock.  My splits from the Garmin can be found in this file if anyone is interested.

So it wasn't a perfect race by far.  I ran with a slight positive split, having started a bit faster than I planned and slowing at the end. But I am very happy with what I had yesterday.  It felt great being able to push to the limit again, with no injury pain or discomfort at all, and with a time slightly better than I was expecting (just 3 minutes slower than my PB).  As usual, the race organization was superb with so much volunteer support.  I saw almost all of my running friends at this race, many of whom ran PBs or close to them.  I did not get to see Dylan Wykes on the course since there is no chance to see the leaders while running this race, but I was thrilled to find out he set a course record with 1:04:21.

Next up?  I am still waffling between doing the full distance the BMO Vancouver Marathon, (I am already registered) or switching to the half-marathon distance there.  I know I can be ready for the full distance but I am just not sure that it is the best race choice for me now. I will also likely go to Birch Bay again at the end of March for either the 15K or 30K distance.   And in June I will probably do the Scotiabank half-marathon.  After yesterday's result it looks like it could be a good spring for racing.