Monday, August 31, 2015

Le Diner en Blanc

Last Thursday I attended Le Diner en Blanc in Toronto. The diner is an event that started in Paris and now takes place annually in cities all over the world. It is invitation only, so you either have to be invited, volunteer, or go on the waitlist to attend. I signed up to the waitlist in March and by some miracle got in! My friend said it was a lottery and another person told me it is a 15,000 person list (I have no idea if this is true) so I guess I was lucky!

Anyway, the diner takes place in a mystery location every year. You deck yourself out in head to toe white clothes, bring a table, chairs, table clothes, plates, wine glasses etc (you can also bring your own picnic dinner or pre-purchase food to pick up there). Then you meet in various locations around the city, where your group is sent to a second location by transit or bus. From the second location you walk to the dinner and finally find out where it is being held! This years dinner had around 2,300 people attending it- it is no small event to coordinate all that! You can see the sheer size of it here

Not my photo- taken by girl sitting next to me!
 Every person that attends the diner has to bring a guest, and I originally invited my friend Jeni for her birthday, but due to some circumstances she had to drop out and I brought my friend Veronica instead! I would have invited Cam, but it was last minute and who in the world can find a white suit on such short notice??

Veronica met at my place and we walked over to our first meeting stop 5 minutes away. We had a dolly to carry our table and chairs, so it was a breeze! After checking in with the group at the first stop, we were then given instructions to take the streetcar to Rees and Queens Quay...except that was only a short walk away so all the people with dollies or strong arms just walked! The diner ended up being held at Harbourfront Centre- really close and convenient from my condo!

I had my hair in a big bun with a white flower- turned out well! 

We got there and had to wait for our group's turn to enter. Upon entering we promptly lost our group because everyone is wearing white and it was crazy! People and tables everywhere! Finally we found out where we were designated to set up and got our table and chairs ready. I went to go pick up our pre-ordered wine (liquor laws meant we couldn't bring our own liquor). The line was long, but I am glad I went when I did because it soon got crazy long and people had to wait over an hour to get their wine and/or food! They had a band playing candlelight versions of popular songs and even had a stage with ice dancers on it- which was really cool to watch while we waited.

Setting up

The diner is supposed to be started when everyone waves their cloth napkins, but most of us had already started eating as they were running late :). Veronica and I packed salad, rice & lentils, and chicken, with cupcakes to finish. It was all so good! When night fell they handed out sparklers to everyone and we lit up the scene. Then the DJ got going and we danced the night away! Around 10:30-11:00pm we packed up our table and chairs and walked back home. There was an afterparty at some club, but us old folks had to work in the morning ;)

Napkin wave

All in all, I had a really nice evening. I was a little disgruntled about the disorganization at times (and I would have been pissed if I had to wait in that huge line!), but it really was a neat event to attend and hopefully next year I can bring Jeni along for her next birthday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I am Not a Natural Runner

Half Marathon Training Week 8:

Total Miles This Week: 27.75
Total Miles Overall: 168 Miles

Workouts Completed:
Tuesday: 4.75 Miles (4 miles slow- 10:23 avg pace, with faster intervals for last 0.75 miles- 9:56 avg pace)
Thursday: 6 Miles (1 mile slow- 10:38 avg pace, 4 miles fast- 9:48 avg pace, 1 mile slow- 10:42 avg pace)
Saturday: 5 Miles (10:42 avg pace)
Sunday: 12 Miles (10:27 avg pace)

I am not a natural runner. I read stories about people taking up running and completing their first race with minimal training or accomplishing a really fast time on their first attempt. I am not like that. Every mile I run is work. I think people read these types of stories of how "easy" running is for some people and then they go out and try and run and fail. I am the latter type...but I kept going and training and trying and now I am definitely a runner, albeit still a slower one. Wanna know a secret? I take a 1 minute walking break every 10 minutes on my runs (technically every 9, since there is 1 minute of walking in all my intervals). Running is HARD, both mentally and physically, and telling myself I only need to run for 9 minutes makes it so much easier to keep going! Also, all the times and paces I have ever posted here include that 1 minute of walking. 

Herbert the Bunny...seen on Saturday Run in Bradford

Another secret? When I started I could barely run for a minute. I had to work it up day by day (and it took me years). Which is funny to look back on now as on Sunday I ran for 2 hours and 5 minutes...which, yes, included twelve 1-minute walking breaks.

So why do I do it? Why do I go out 4 times a week and work my butt off like that? Why do I spend Sundays exhausted and icing my legs or schedule my plans around run times and weather? It is because I love hitting goals. My work doesn't have promotion opportunities or goals to hit, I'm not in school, my finances are fine, my personal life is very happy...I think on some level I missed working hard at something and that sense of accomplishment when you achieve it. I think I missed A+ report cards and gold stars, to be honest. I missed doing something hard.

View of Bradford

Running gives me that. Running says "by the end of 18 weeks, you will complete a sub 2:30 half marathon, as long as you do A, B, & C". So I am working through the alphabet day by day so at the end of all this I can hold up my medal and say "gold star for Casey".  Running, for me, also relieves stress. I don't handle stress well, but running gives me an outlet for all that pent up anxiety and irrational thoughts that come with stressful situations. I think more clearly when I'm running and I either work through a problem, put it in perspective, or I am just too darn tired to care any more when I get home. I also think that doing something productive when you are stressed makes you feel better too. Kind of like how I would obsessively clean my dorm room before an exam. 

So, even though I will never win races or run crazy long distances (like the 3100 mile race in Queens- waaaaht?) I am still a runner. And I will keep working towards new goals in running, and hopefully in other areas of my life too :). And I will finish that half marathon in 8 weeks and be proud of doing something hard! I am half way through training and getting very excited!!

About 5 miles into a 10 mile run in Toronto

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Half Marathon Training: Week 7

Total Miles This Week: 27
Total Miles Overall: 140.25 Miles

Workouts Completed:
Tuesday: 4.75 Miles (4 miles slow- 9:52 avg pace, with faster intervals for last 0.75 miles- 9:20 avg pace)
Thursday: 6.25 Miles (1 mile slow- 9:47 avg pace, 4 miles fast- 9:10 avg pace, 1 mile slow- 10:42 avg pace)
Saturday: 5 Miles (10:31 avg pace)
Sunday: 11 Miles (5 miles stead- 10:20 avg pace, 3 miles fast- 9:50 avg pace, 3 miles steady- 10:35 avg pace)

This week brought some new twists to the game- a long run on Thursday and then adding in some speedwork to my Sunday long run! I guess things are revving up now that I am almost half way through my training plan. It is hot hot hot out right now too, which means a lot of water and a lot of early morning. In fact, Saturday night I didn't get to bed until around 1:00am and then I was up at 7:00 to run before it got too hot! Of course, then I spent most of Sunday afternoon napping/icing my legs. How the heck do people train for full marathons??

In other news, my runger (run hunger) is as strong as ever, and so I have gotten back to tracking calories to keep it under control. My weight seems pretty steady, but my scale had been dead for a couple months so I am not sure where I started at in June. I am trying to stick to around 2000 calories a day. It is crazy, but actually during the week I really wasn't eating as much as I thought I was- usually around 1500-1700 calories. My weekends were probably around 2000 too!

I have no idea if I am doing nutrition right, but I try and follow what my body feels like. I usually eat a protein bar before a long run so I can keep my energy up, and then I eat a meal after I get home. I am also going to start trying sports drinks for my sunday long-runs too. 2+ hours of running is a lot to run off of just a protein bar and water! But I am not feeling hungry on my runs either (and it is easier for me to run on an empty stomach), so I don't think I need to supplement with much more than that for now. We shall see how things progress!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kitchen Updates!

A few weeks back I finally got around to replacing the knobs on the kitchen cupboards. The original ones had been there probably for over 10 years and they were very cheap, tiny and impossible to get a grip on, especially when your hands were wet! This of course, led to a lot of wear and tear on the handles themselves and the finish of the cupboard doors around them (not much I can do about that, but I promise it is less noticeable in person). I really hated these knobs and it was an easy choice to replace them with something more substantial.

I have been talking about this forever, but I actually did finally go and pick up all the new handles and knobs and get them installed! I need 13 pulls and 14 knobs- thankfully I actually liked the cheaper options! I got long pulls for any doors and little bar pulls for all the knobs. I recall them being cheaper in the store, but I have long lost the receipt.

For the smaller doors above the microwave and fridge, I debated knobs over pulls, but these little bar knobs wouldn't look right up there. Luckily the pulls actually centered themselves quite nicely on the doors so it all turned out alright and I like it!

In case you were wondering how I installed the handles, I just used the original hole from the old knobs and added a second hole on the doors for the long pull handle. To measure this, I just made a couple marker notches on a paint stir stick for the distance between the holes and used a level to keep them straight, then marked off where to drill on the door! I used painters tape on the fronts of the doors to protect the veneer. Also, once the drill bit started to pop out the other side, I would change and come at it from the back- I didn't really want veneer chips on the inside if I could avoid it. It was actually pretty easy!

Also, if you have eagle eyes, you may also have noticed I replaced the lights on the track lighting system with matching ones. Lowes had these on sale for $5 each a couple weeks ago, so I snatched them up. I don't love-love them, but they are a huge improvement over the old lights. I also installed 4 instead of the 2 I originally had, so I can redirect them to where I need light more. It is so bright in here now!

Lastly, I installed a broom holder on the bit of wall beside the fridge. I should have done this ages ago! Now all my brooms and mops are neat and tidy!

The kitchen is really coming along (and I am still loooooving it!). Next I just need a new oven and fridge! But I'll wait for boxing day sales for those :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Half Marathon Training: Week 6

Total Miles This Week: 24.75
Total Miles Overall: 113.25 Miles

Workouts Completed:
Tuesday: 4.75 Miles (4 miles slow- 9:37 avg pace, with faster intervals for last 0.75 miles- 9:20 avg pace)
Thursday: 5 Miles (1 mile slow- 9:55 avg pace, 3 miles fast- 9:14 avg pace, 1 mile slow- 10:28 avg pace)
Saturday: 5 Miles (10:27 avg pace)
Sunday: 10 Miles (10:05 avg pace)

I surpassed 100 Miles of training! Which is 160 km. Which is basically the distance of my condo in Toronto to Buffalo, NY (on the highway...not as the crow flies)! And actually I have run more than 100 miles so technically I could have detoured to Niagara-on-the-Lake for some wine too. #funwithmaps

I also completed my longest ever run of my life this week- going 10 miles on Sunday morning, while actually maintaining a fast-for-me pace. It was a beautiful morning and I really got into my groove around 5km in. I made it all the way out to the white bridge at the Humber River and back, which was a huge goal of my last summer! I live farther away from it now so it was tough!

I also had some adventures on my runs this week. On Tuesday it looked VERY stormy out, but I went out for my run anyway in the hope that the rain would hold off. It actually did and I made it home JUST as the clouds let down a waterfall. And it was my 3rd fastest run of that distance so clearly threatening clouds are a good motivator for me. I also saw a rainbow and I love rainbows so very much!! 

On Thursday I went out later than normal and got to watch the sun set on my way home- it was a gorgeous colour!

And also, on Saturday, part of Lakeshore, including my running path was closed in the morning for a Para Pan-Am games event so I got diverted to the actual road. It was kind of nifty getting to run on a major road like that with so few people out! And the road was just repaved last year (or the year before?) so it was comfy underfoot.

Overall, it was a great week of training- The weather was cooler, I got to see some interesting things, I kept up a great pace all week, and I set some new records for myself! My legs are still a little sore from Sunday, but I am just going to take it easy on my shorter runs this week. This Sunday I am going up to 11 miles and I will need my strength!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Half-Marathon Training: Week 5

Total Miles This Week: 18.75
Total Miles Overall: 88.5 Miles

Workouts Completed:
Tuesday: 4 Miles (9:52 avg pace)
Thursday: 4.75 Miles (4 miles steady- 10:55 avg pace, with faster intervals for last 0.75 miles- 9:42 avg pace)
Saturday: 4 Miles (10:38 avg pace)
Sunday: 6 Miles (10:33 avg pace)

I felt very sluggish this past week- I struggled (and failed) to get anywhere near my usual 10:00 min pace on my last three runs (though I am still ahead of the pace the app is telling me to run, so yay?). And this week was actually less mileage than usual because it apparently was "shorter to allow you to absorb the past training and get ready for the big training weeks ahead". 

Oh boy- that sounds fun.

Actually, as I ripped my July calendar off the fridge I noticed that I have basically no 4 mile runs anymore and my "shortest" run of the week is now going to be roughly 4.75 miles (7.6ish km). A run of that distance will take me over 45 minutes so that is no joke!! Plus next weekend I am running 5 miles on Saturday and then 10 miles on Sunday :S. And I am doubly nervous because I have never run 10 miles in my LIFE. Oh- and by the end of the month I will running 13 miles...which is almost a half marathon!!!!

I guess the one upside is that this increase in mileage is coming at the same time as a decrease in temperature around here. We are supposed to be back to down to seasonal for a couple weeks now. 

In other news, all this running is making me one hungry Casey. My scale battery died ages ago so I have no idea if my eating or my running is winning the calorie game. But holy moly can I pack it away nowadays.

In other other news, cookies are no longer allowed in the condo. 
.....Except for this weekend when I am making them for a party. :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Canoeing the Toronto Islands

Happy Civic Holiday, my fellow Ontarians! I have no idea why this is a holiday, but I'm not complaining, especially since it was supposed to thunderstorm all weekend, but so far has been very nice! I hope you all got it off too, since it isn't actually a stat holiday (don't tell my boss).

For my birthday this year, Cam gave me the awesome gift of a 1 day canoe rental from the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre. My birthday was back in May, but we kept waiting for a day with good weather and no plans so it took us until August 1st to cash it in! We rented our canoe on the mainland and canoed across the channel to the islands, and then puttered around the island's rivers for the day, stopping at beaches and such for picnicing.

If you aren't familiar with the islands, here is a picture!

The islands are an amazing part of this city, that I honestly didn't appreciate for years until Cam and I started regularly visiting last summer. For the record, on the west end is Billy Bishop Airport, then you have Hanlon's point, where there is a clothing optional beach, then Centre Island, with restaurants and an amusement park, and finally Ward's Island, which is home to the residents of the islands and is covered in adorable cottages. It is all connected with bridges and paths and there are almost no vehicles on the islands so everyone just walks or bikes!

To get to the islands you have to take a ferry or water-taxi (there is a tunnel to the airport, that literally just opened, but no access from the airport to the islands due to all those pesky planes taking off and landing). But on this occasion Cam and I used our own arm power to get there!

Renting the canoe was fairly simple. We emailed a few days in advance to reserve it (they do sell out!) and then we just loaded up at the dock, did some back and forth paddling in the harbour to prove we knew how to canoe, and off we went! They warned us the winds might pick up (thunderstorms were in the forecast, but thankfully never came), and offered to pick us up at the islands if we couldn't make it back across the lake. And they give you a laminated map! Great service!

Cam and I are actually pretty decent canoers- he has been canoeing at the cottage since he was a kid, and I actually took lessons at summer camp from ages 8-16. I can't ice skate, but I think Canada let me keep my citizenship due to my ability to canoe. Though, I really suck at portaging (don't tell the government)

We started off canoeing around the west end and soon decided we wanted to try and get to a beach for lunch. However, you aren't allowed to canoe around the back of the islands and therefore you can't access the main beach- Hanlon's Point, so we beached our canoe somewhere in Trout's Pond and semi-portaged it around. Unfortunately it was too far of a walk from where we were to the main beach, so we ended up hanging out at a little private spot in the south for a bit. I went for a swim and it was FREEZING!! It was otherwise a nice spot, with logs to sit on, and sandy waters, and I saw a mink...but ya...too cold for my blood.

Then we loaded our canoe back into the water and continued paddling around for a couple hours, going all the way to ward's island in the east and back.

We ended up at a small island in the west end that had a beach (Hulman's Pond)- it is only accessible by boat, so there were just a handful of people there. I relaxed in the sun and Cam went for a swim in waters that were much shallower- and therefore warmer- than the main lake. Here he is chasing a family of ducks :).

Finally, we loaded all our stuff up properly in the boat (AKA- back in the relatively-waterproof bag), and forged across a now very-choppy lake Ontario to return our canoe. FYI- if you ever are boating in the channel...please slow down around canoes! I swear 2 water taxis were TRYING to swamp us. Thankfully we did not tip, but I was very sore and tired from fighting the waves by the time we returned! I think we were canoeing from 10:30am to 4pm, with only a few short breaks. My shoulders and back were not happy campers regardless.

We had a lot of fun on our adventure and I can't believe it took me so long to canoe here! I got to see so many parts of the islands that you would never see on foot and we had so much fun. If the thought of crossing the channel scares you, you can also rent canoes and kayaks on the islands- the water around there is very smooth and the boats all go super slow so it is quite safe for beginners.

The islands are definitely one of my favourite parts of the city, so check them out if you are ever in town!

PS- I recommend taking a water taxi over (unless you wanna paddle over yourself!). The water taxi's are $10 vs $7.25 for the main ferry, but there is never a line and they come often. Cam and I take ours from the foot of Spadina St and I swear every time we just walk down and get right on one that will take you to any of the three different docks of the islands. Also, of the taxi services is Tiki themed and amazing. Then we just return on the main ferry- which is free for returning to the city. But now I think you can finally buy tickets for the main ferry online in advance, so it may not be so bad now!

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