Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

I've been putting off writing a blog for quite some time. It hasn't been intentional but the more time that passed the harder it has been to sit down and write. This isn't going to be a "life update" but simply a recipe post. I promise the proper update will come soon... (and don't worry, all is very well in my world these days :)

I made a batch of pumpkin pancakes for lunch today. I posted the photo on twitter and have had quite the response asking to share the recipe, so thank you all for getting me to update this blog! I seriously needed that kick in the pants.

The pancakes were our post-run snack which turned into brunch/lunch with a nice cup of coffee and some lounging in front of the tv (gymnastics was on - my fav!). These were incredibly easy to make for two reasons: 1) I "cheated" by using a pancake mix and 2) I had some leftover pureed roasted pumpkin from a very delicious recipe of Noa's that I made/devoured last week. I think simple is good though so if you don't feel guilty by cheating with the mix and/or have leftover pumpkin (or a good canned one), then definitely take the easy route here. I found the pancakes to be quite savory on their own so the toppings are key.

I didn't measure out all the ingredients so the recipe below isn't exact. Just add extra water or pancake mix at the end until you reach a nice pancakey-battery consistency. You really can't mess it up!

Pumpkin Coconut Pancakes

~1 1/4 cup Pamela's Pancake Mix (a great gluten-free mix, should available at most health food shops)
2 eggs
~1 cup pureed roasted pumpkin (I roasted my own, but canned should work fine)
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup unsweeted shredded coconut
1/2 cup water

Mix it all together until the batter is smooth, adding more water or mix to reach the right consistency. Melt coconut oil in a frying pan and cook until golden brown.

Topping ideas: we had ours with goats milk butter, maple syrup and shredded coconut. I'm going to toot my own horn here by saying these were AMAZING. I had another one after my bike ride, this time topped with plain yogurt and maple syrup. If anyone tries any other delicious toppings or tweaks the recipe to make them even better, please share!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kitchen Therapy

Cooking has always been therapeutic for me and it's one of the first things I turned to when I got home to Victoria last month. There were a few days where I had slept through most of the daylight hours, but would stroll downstairs at 5pm in my pajamas to announce to Wendy (mom-in-law-extraordinaire) that I would be cooking dinner. "Are you sure? I really don't mind." And my response was always, "Thank you, but I'd LOVE to." And I really would. Cooking is relaxing for me, even though I may have five different things going at once and the kitchen looks like a tornado rolled through. I think I especially enjoy it right now because it's something I CAN do. It doesn't involve monitoring my heart rate or emotional state so I can just switch off and cook! I'm also able to create something tasty (usually....) and it's productive as we all need to eat, right?!

Here's a sweet potato salad I made a few weeks ago, and then again recently. I don't often repeat recipes unless they are really good, so this one is worth sharing. It's a variation from Eric Akis' Moroccan potato salad from the Times Colonist.

The original recipe called for a mix of potatoes, but I preferred to use all yams/sweet potatoes as their flavour and nutritional value is much my opinion :) However, when I made this earlier today I had picked up some very cute looking organic purple and regular yams (the "cuteness" factor is key for me when picking ingredients. Ask Adam.. "why would you buy carrots so tiny and pathetic looking?" Me: "Because they are CUTE!") Anyway, the purple yams weren't what I thought they were. They were really just a darker skinned sweet potato, which I think lacks flavour. Anyway, they turned out to compliment each other well in the salad so feel free to mix and match!

~1.5 lbs sweet potatoes/yams (I used about 7-8 small ones)
juice of an orange
juice of a lemon
zest of one lemon
2 tsp honey
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
sea salt and pepper to taste
a few green onions, chopped
fresh mint or basil, chopped

Wash and chop the potatoes (leave the skin on) and cover with water in a large soup pot (the size of the chunks doesn't matter, just try to get them around the same size so they cook evenly). Boil for about 8 minutes until fork tender. Be sure not to overcook as they will fall apart when tossed with the dressing. (I made them perfectly the first time, but got distracted today so they were a little on the mushy side). Drain and set aside to cool.

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in the salad bowl you will be using (lemon zest & juice, orange juice and spices). When the potatoes have cooled from "hot" to "warm", gently toss with the dressing. Mix in the fresh mint/basil and green onions and that's it. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled. I find this salad tastes better after it's settled in the fridge for a bit, especially the following day. Just give it another mix to blend the flavours before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Struggle Street

I think it's time for me to get this monkey off my back and write an update.

No news from me this time is unfortunately not exactly good news...

To be honest, I haven't felt like writing anything for awhile because I just haven't felt very good. When I don't feel quite right, I tend to close up and keep to myself, quietly looking forward to brighter days. However, this stretch has gone on long enough, and even though those brighter days are a bit distant in the horizon, I feel as though sharing my experiences might actually be therapeutic!

When I look back on the last few months, and am totally honest with myself, I guess my feelings of fatigue (more than the "norm") started before the Mooloolaba and Sydney World Cups. With the lighter training around the events, I was able to hold it together and put out some solid performances but I remember feeling especially drained after Sydney. It was an emotional race for me: my first WCS in over a year and a half, which unfortunately included a bike crash, and a sprained ankle, and finished with a trip home after being away for six months. I remember when I settled into training at home the following week I struggled with motivation. I just felt flat. I've learned over the years that we don't always feel fresh or motivated when training, so you just have to get on with it. But, this feeling carried on for the weeks I was home and I really felt things unravel my final week before leaving for our Swiss summer camp. I figured there was just one week left, and we were packing up our apartment so I guess you could say life was full-on and I didn't take a moment to reflect upon my dwindling health. When I look back and realize I was counting down the days until I got on the plane so I could SLEEP, I wish some alarm bells had gone off.

I was treated to an upgrade on the plane, and once I settled into my nice little business class pod, I was ready for snooze. But, I didn't sleep a wink and found myself sweating most of the flight. Unfortunately this was just the beginning of some of my bizarre symptoms that would linger for the following six weeks. Training was very much touch and go from the moment I arrived. Both Darren and I weren't sure what was wrong with me. After taking a full week of rest here and there, I would seem to rebound for a few very good days of training, followed by being in something just short of a complete coma for a week. I was chronically tired, stressed, sick, emotional, unable to train, counting down the weeks until races and eventually, pulling out of all races. It was not a good situation.

I decided to return home about three weeks ago and have kept a pretty low profile since (not that my profile is ever "high"!). I slept most of the first week, literally. 12 hour nights, followed by 2 hour naps. I kept saying to Darren over skype, "I feel like a teenager!" Although it wasn't very funny and was getting worrisome.

I actually thought this would be a relatively quick fix. I'm not sure why I thought that when I look back on the pattern over the past couple of months. I just figured that after a week of sleeping and being at sea level, I would be good to go again, maybe even in time for Hamburg this weekend. After two full weeks of resting, my body was still not right. Some days I am well enough to do bits and pieces of training, all with a very controlled heart rate, but others are write-offs. I've been tested for most major illnesses and thankfully nothing major has come back. I had some abnormalities in my blood work, a possible stomach parasite, and an "inconclusive" viral test, but nothing that didn't point towards "rest" as the treatment.

This has been a really tough pill for me to swallow. Last year was rough and I looked forward to this season more than anything. I always think I pay attention to detail and have good communication with my coach, but obviously something went wrong. It was possibly the ten-month training block I'm now coming out of that was too much (I was playing catch-up in the off-season after a year off), or not recognizing the signs of needing a break after Sydney, or simply getting a little older (eeek!) and not being able to handle quite the load of life and training stresses that I used to. I am sure it is a combination of all of these, but going through this has definitely been a learning experience. All of my previous setbacks have been structural injuries so to be honest, these symptoms and feelings weren't on my radar as being terribly problematic. One thing is for sure though, both Darren and myself will be experts in the field of monitoring "over-training" (or rather, "under-resting") by the time this is over. It sounds like athletes can vary dramatically in terms of symptoms, but now that we've been through this, we've created a whole catalog for reference!

As for now, I'm having more and more moments when I feel like myself. And I love that! When I'm having a good day, I will be busy in the kitchen, catching up on emails, laughing, jogging, swimming and spinning. Thankfully theses days are now beginning to string themselves together and I look forward to my return to Switzerland at the start of August. As for racing, unfortunately I can't put a date on that. My body is clearly on its own schedule right now. I will continue to "test" it gently everyday, but I need to give it respect and understand that it will allow me to rip-it-up in races when the time is right.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

International travel and the can opener of doom

International travel sure can have its moments. Last night's events are a perfect example of a situation that made me want to cry and laugh.... and I'm pretty sure I was doing both at the same time.

I wasn't feeling too great (as the blog below describes) and decided to make a simple dinner: vegetable curry. It was basically sauteed onions and fresh ginger with curry powder, then adding a pot-full of every vegetable available (you can't be terribly picky in a Swiss mountain town), adding a splash of water, putting on a lid and cooking it until the veggies are soft. I know it sounds simple and even I was surprised by how flavourful it was. Ok, back to the story... I was going to add some chickpeas at the end so I got my can all ready to go, but when I went to look for a can opener, all I could find was this device:

I figured it had to be a can opener as it had a twister-type knob and a little bladed wheel, but I had never seen one quite like this before. It looked way too simple, but yet seemed to require an engineering degree to use. After about ten minutes of very unsuccessful attempts at even coming close to piercing the can, I gave up. It would be a low-protein dinner. Adam rings on Skype around this time and I tell him about the can opener. "What? What do you mean you can't open it? It's EASY!!" This is followed by some laughter and more laughter when I show him the actual can opener over skype. I'm really not that big of a princess if I've never seen this before, right?! He gives me a lesson and I have another go at the can. Literally twenty minutes later, with sore hands and chickpea juice everywhere, the can is destroyed.. but opened! YES!

After dinner I head down to our laundry room to do a quick load of laundry. I needed some clean cycling gloves and tights for the morning, so I figured I would pop it in for a quick wash and get it out on the drying rack before bed. It's just after 7pm at this point so PLENTY of time before bedtime. Or so I thought. I toss the clothes in, close the door, put the liquid soap in the drawer, and go to put the money in the coin slot... it only takes 1 franc or 20 cent coins and I only have a 2 franc coin. Oh well, I guess I won't be doing my laundry tonight. I go to open the door and it's locked! And, the pink soap has already rushed down the inside, covering the clothes. Crap. After pressing every button on the machine, I realize it's just not going to open without running the cycle. I then remembered from last year that if the previous person's load didn't use the all the money they paid, the next person can use the remainder. I turn on the control and it starts! I select the short wash and the timer counts down from 45 mins. Perfect, not long at all. After an hour, I cruise downstairs (4 flights I might add, and the elevator is broken). The power is off and the clothes are sitting in water. Crap, I have mixed light and dark so this is a recipe for disaster. Now I really cannot leave it until the morning.... I go back upstairs to check all my pockets for coins. Nothing. Back downstairs I decide to twist the coin return slot on the other machine. Two 20 cent coins come out! YES! I put them in my machine and it's back to life. 35 minutes to go. I'm getting tired by this point so I'm down there right on time but again, the door is locked and the power is off. Having no more change and all shops in town being closed at this point, I'm doomed. I resort to crawling around on the floor, looking under the machines for dropped money. I see the glimmer of a 20 cent coin in the far corner of the room. I go back upstairs for my broom and wedge it out. YES! I pop it in the machine and the timer says 4 minutes to go. I sit there watching nervously, hoping it runs through this time as my next move would likely involve a break-in of someone's apartment or vandalism of the machine. I'm watching the timer count down... 1 minute... still spinning...boom-boom-boom (that's my heart beating)... spinning stops... silence... CLICK, the door pops open! Massive sigh. The clothes are clean.

And I wonder why I slept so well last night!


I'd say it's time for an update! It sure has been a busy past month. Now that I'm in settled in one place and can take a deep breath and look back on things, I'm amazed just how much I was able to pack in there (but, not without consequence... more on that in a bit!).

I flew home after Sydney WCS and spent the first week recovering from the race and travel, rehabbing my ankle and spending the much needed quality-time with Adam and my family. Six months was by-far my longest period of time away from home so it was a bit overwhelming in terms of catching up on "life."

But the weeks at home flew by and I was able to put in really solid training block, even able to celebrate a few milestones along the way:

My sister, Amanda was bit by the running bug a couple years ago after being a self-proclaimed "gym rat" for most of her adult life. I was thrilled when she decided to get off the treadmill/elliptical and join a running club about a year ago. And she didn't start with a learn-to-run clinic, but found herself a competitive club with a great coach that she's able to meet up with at Stanley Park a couple of days after work. She's now running intervals, learning paces and testing the waters of the competitive running scene. One of her first races was the Vancouver Sun Run, back in April and my gosh, she was rolling! She paced it perfectly, ran a huge PB and even had energy for some mid-race dancing.

Adam also has some serious reason to dance.... he seems to be on a roll at the moment! Shortly after I got home he finished his final exam and paper and within a few weeks had his marks. He's officially a law school graduate! I would love to share his grad photos on here but I fear he might seek revenge by posting some dreadful teenage photos of me... so I will just let you picture him smiling (beaming?!) in a cap and gown :) A few days after this celebration he goes off to run the Elk-Beaver Ultra, Canada's 50mile trail championship. To those who know the 10km Elk Lake loop in Victoria, you are probably in agreement with me when I say that running 8 LOOPS of the lake is insane. Adam loves this stuff though and it turns out he's really good at it. He not only won the race, but set the Canadian record, running the 80km in 5hr and 44 minutes!

Last week I packed up to join my squad in Davos, Switzerland for our summer training camp and base for the next four months. Before the trip I had an incredibly busy week with some solid training sessions as well as packing up our apartment, packing up for the summer and saying goodbye to everyone. I had a few "warning signs" in terms of over-doing things but I figured rest was coming in the form of travel and and easy training at the start of camp. Yes, now that I look back on it, travel and adjusting to altitude is NOT recovery, but added stress on the body. I didn't feel too great when I got to Davos but figured things would come around. I came down with a cold within a few days of arriving and for me that is a big sign that I've bitten off more than I can chew. The cold is easing but my body is still feeling run-down so my start to the training camp is slower than I would have liked, but I need to give my body the respect and rest it deserves.

Despite feeling pretty rubbish, I have had the chance to take some photos of this lovely place I will be calling home for the summer.

It was full-on winter when I arrived! I thought it was safe to say I had avoided this snowy stuff by spending the entire winter in Australia...

A few of my goat friends on the climb to Durrboden.

The pool in Davos is closed for the week so we've been commuting to the nearest pool. Distance-wise it's not far, but if we're tracking elevation, it's quite the commute! Up and over Fluelapass every morning.

I suppose there could be a worse view going to/from a swimming pool!

And, you've got to love mountain weather, snowy one day and twenty degrees the next!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sydney WCS

It's pretty late at night but I'm riding the post-race wave of insomnia so thought it might be a good chance to share my experiences from today's World Championship Series race in Sydney.

I had the opportunity to dust off my ITU race skills at Mooloolaba World Cup a couple weeks back, finishing in 9th, after a 20-month hiatus from racing. I'm pretty sure I had the biggest smile out of the entire field that day as I was SO happy to simply be back on that start line after everything that happened last year. There really were many dark days when I doubted I would ever be healthy enough to train on a daily basis, let alone return to a world-class level, so you can imagine my joy when I finally crossed that finish line. I made mistakes in that race, had my cap AND goggles ripped off in the swim, but came away with a strong sense of accomplishment and belonging. I didn't know how I would fare in a WCS field though, but I finally felt I was ready enough to give it a go.

The field today was stacked with the top 66 athletes in the sport. To be honest, it was the most competitive race I've ever done, Olympics included. My ranking was 60th, probably my highest ever, but I guess that's what you get for taking a year off! I guess one positive is that I didn't have to stress over where I would pick for a start on the pontoon as there were only a few open spaces by the time I was called down!

My swim start wasn't terribly rough, which is a very pleasant experience and I found myself holding a nice rhythm right out to the first turn buoy. With a field this big it did get a little messy as we made the turn but I didn't experience much of the dunking, grabbing or pulling that I had in Mooloolaba and I felt like those around me were also focused on moving forwards rather than fighting for position. I had no idea where I was in terms of position because all I could see was a sea of women around me. Once out of the water I knew I wasn't too far down from the leaders but probably mid-field. I got on my bike and chased hard as I know how critical the first lap can be as the packs establish themselves. I knew I was at the tail-end of the lead group and after chasing with a few other women for the first lap, we were able to tack on. It was a pretty large pack at that point and the pace seemed to be all over the place; very slow on the technical corners, many random surges, followed by sudden slowing of pace. I was a little nervous at times, especially after the multiple crashes in Mooloolaba that I managed to narrowly avoid. However, on the 2nd or 3rd lap I was in the middle of the pack, quite close to the curb, when I saw someone go down a few bikes ahead. The bikes then started piling up and I had nowhere to go as I was blocked on both sides. I knew I was going to go down, but it all happened in very slow motion. I don't remember much of it, but I think I did bike over someone, ending up on the road, lying on my side. I got up as quick as I could and hopped right back on my bike. My ankle was aching as I tried to pedal but I didn't put too much thought into it, hoping it would warm-up as I got going. I obviously lost the lead pack after this pile-up so focused on chasing. A pack from behind soon caught me and we worked until we caught back up to the front pack. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I made it there again! I never knew making and staying in the front pack could be so challenging!! I wasn't feeling too wonderful at this point though and was really looking forward to getting off the bike. I had a great T2, exiting within a few steps of the lead women. Unfortunately my legs were not turning over too quickly and I couldn't go with them. I wasn't feeling terribly fantastic out there but ran as hard as I could, finishing in 10th.

Initially I was disappointed with my run as I didn't feel quite like myself out there, but maybe that's to be expected after all the drama on the bike. When I look at the big picture, where I've come from over the past 6 months and the sacrifices I've made to get here, I'm really quite pleased. To start the season ranked 10th amongst the world's best is more than I could have ever hoped for.

There's no question the excitement of the day though was Paula's WIN. Even from back in 10th place I could see the race unfolding at the front and was quietly screaming for her inside my head. I can't think of a better way to start the season than on top!

I found this photo from an album on Facebook. I'm not entirely sure how this picture was taken (helicopter?), but it shows the carnage on the bike. I think I'm second from the bottom, lying on the road, still clipped in! It sure was messy!

Thanks to super-therapist Sam for taking such good care of my ankle after the race.

Now the best news is that I will be going HOME to Victoria the day after tomorrow. Yep, the five and a half month-long camp has finally come to an end. Am I excited? Just a little!!!!

I've got an entire day to spend exploring Sydney first though so as long as I can walk/hobble, it should be a great day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunday Comfort Food

Today was a very rare occasion... a sleep-in morning! Last night I declared that I would take full advantage of this extra rest, sleeping as long as possible and lounging around in my pj's until I absolutely had to put the bike shorts on. Well, that didn't exactly pan out as I has hoped, the sleeping part anyway. My internal clock seems to be stuck at 6:15am. That, coupled with the anticipation of Adam's 50km race result, got me out of bed pretty quickly. I immediately checked my email for an update, and there was one from his mom, Wendy. All it said was: "he's done hurting, but he's ok." Knowing Adam and how crazy hard he can push, right away I'm thinking this either means he's "at the hospital, but alive," or "fell down the mountain, broke a limb, but still finished the race." Thankfully it was neither, just had a rough patch mid-race, but came home strong, finishing 8th. I'm sure there will be a race report up on his blog in the coming days.

I was feeling a little "blah" today and with the Autumn weather in full-effect, I was craving some comfort food. Because I'm still very much in love with butternut squash, there was no question, it had to be a starring role. I paired it with lentils and cooked up a pot of steaming curry. Needing to satisfy my sweet tooth (and also thinking of those at morning swim tomorrow), a cake was also needed. Both were incredibly simple and worked out wonderfully. I think it was start to finish within 90 minutes for everything, and the smells in the kitchen were incredible. I didn't think curry and cake could combine aromas nicely, but trust me, it works!

Butternut and Lentil Curry

olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large chunk of ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp curry powder
~1 butternut squash (1 medium size, or 2/3 of a large one), peeled and chopped roughly
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils ("split peas"), rinsed well
5 cups good quality vegetable stock

In a big soup pot, saute the onion and ginger with the olive oil for a few minutes, until softened. Add the curry powder and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, giving it a stir every 10 minutes or so.

Ok, I have to start with a confession. I know I preached about how bad white sugar is in my last post, but I used it today... To be honest, I didn't have much honey, maple syrup or agave left and I'm trying to use up what's in the pantry before I leave in a few weeks, so couldn't justify buying more. There are a lot of GOOD things about this cake, so let's focus on those... ;) I'm looking forward to trying this cake when I get back home with an alternative sugar (maybe coconut?) and a different type of flour. I really like the coconut milk base, it gives it a nice rich flavour and chewy-yet-light texture. I think the variations with this cake are endless so if anyone gives it a try, please let me know. I'm already thinking about macadamia nuts, blueberries, maybe a touch of dark chocolate...

Raspberry Coconut Cake

1 3/4 cup finely shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup self-raising wholegrain flour
1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 170 Celsius (for those back home, 350 degrees Fahrenheit).

Mix together the shredded coconut and the coconut milk, and let rest for about 20 minutes while it forms a nice paste. Next, mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Add the flour slowly and mix until combined. Just before baking, fold in the raspberries. Spread into a greased or parchment lined loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let it rest in the baking pan for awhile before cooling on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!

In non-cooking related news, I kick off my World Cup season next weekend in Mooloolaba! I have a solid 4 months of training under my belt and a handful of tune-up races so I'm itching to get out there and see where I'm at. I'm also looking forward to the beach and the warmth! I won't complain about the "cold" Canberra weather on this blog because it still is over 20 degrees during the day. It's actually quite a lovely time of year with the seasons changing.

I also wanted to share a few incredible photos from Canberra's Hot Air Balloon Spectacular. Every morning at 7am this past week, the balloons rose above Parliament, floating across the lake. I'm on the bike at that time every morning, either heading out for a ride or to the pool, so have been able to admire them rising at the same time as the sun. A lovely start to the day!

Monday, March 14, 2011


Despite cooking for one and having to use pedal power to get to the grocery shop (rather pathetic pedal power, I should note, see photo below), I've been fairly creative in the kitchen lately. While in the thick of training I seem to go through phases where I never want to cook a thing, opting for take-out or unenthusastically throwing together very simple meals. Or, in contrast, there are times when I go all-out in the kitchen, trying anything and everything. I used to think there was a correlation between the amount/intensity of training and the culinary creations, but I'm not so sure anymore. I simply love cooking but just like other aspects of life, there are ebbs and flows, and my energy and creativity for cooking tends to fluctuate. I'm pretty sure though that the "next chapter" in my life will involve many hours in a kitchen, whether it's through culinary school or as a full-time chef for my ultra-running husband, attempting to keep him fueled (I'm only joking about this last one.. sort of... but he is training for a 160km RUNNING race, so I can only imagine the sheer quantity of food he's consuming). Right now though, I find cooking to be an enjoyable way to "switch-off" after training and a way to satisfy any craving I might have.

With the training we've been doing, I've been craving more sweets than usual. I know, this isn't ideal from a "health" perspective, but it's just the way it is for me when things ramp up. I try to avoid sugar whenever possible, especially white, refined sugar, so I often make my own sweets using other sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, fruits, etc). I thought I'd share my 6-ingredient "jewel" cookies. They happen to be vegan, wheat-free, sweetened with honey, and very tasty (in my humble opinion :) If you end up trying them, please let me know how they are!

Jewel Cookies

1 cup oat flour*
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
2 tbsp coconut oil (if you don't live in a hot climate, heat until melted)
pinch of salt
fruit jam of choice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together everything but the jam and roll into small balls (if the dough is a little on the dry side, add a touch of water, or too wet, add a little extra flour). On a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet, press into patties and create a little dip in the middle of each cookie with your finger. Dollop a little jam into the dips and bake for about 12 minutes until crisp on the bottom.

*For oat "flour": pulse whole oats in a food processor to a mealy-consistency. I don't have one with me in Australia, so I used some elbow grease with a mortar and pestle! It worked great!

Happy baking!

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I raced Australian Sprint Champs in Geelong this morning. It usually takes me more than a few hours after a race to write a report, but without having to pack up and rush to the airport tonight, I've found a few quiet moments to put my feet up and share my thoughts.

I flew into Melbourne yesterday afternoon with one of my training partners, Czech athlete, Vendula (Vinnie) Frintova. The two of us hired a car; I was the driver and Vinnie the navigator, armed with a very small scale map of the area and a crappy GPS. The car was manual (not exactly my specialty) and visibility was next to nothing with the bike boxes packed up in the back. Oh dear... I was driving even more like a grandma than usual, chugging along the motorways in and around Melbourne. Thankfully we arrived unscathed and without any major dramas. However, upon check-in we realized our hotel had no power. We also realized there was a bit of chaos surrounding the Saturday races, with the postponement to Sunday due to stormy weather and unsafe water. This didn't affect us apart from having to start a few hours earlier, which I would prefer any day. We braved the windy conditions and hopped down to the course for a ride and picked up some pasta take-away for dinner. Our hotel still had no power when we returned and it was getting dark at this point, so it made for an eventful night. I was rooming with Kirsten so those that know the two of us can imagine the giggling going on as we chatted in our room with only one flashlight between the two of us. If it weren't for the plush beds, I'd say it was pretty similar to summer camp. There was no giggling though when the lights and bathroom fan burst on at 1am once the power was restored. That was quite alarming!

I was really relaxed going in to this race. I think having done a couple other events has eased my nerves a bit and helped to get my mind back in race mode. Much to everyone's surprise, the swim was declared non-wetsuit just before the start (this may have been a first for Geelong). I decided to warm up in my wetsuit as I know how the water can be chilly when things are borderline, but I was pleasantly surprised. The water was actually quite a bit warmer than the air so staying warm wasn't a major concern. It was a deep water start and I had a smooth, clean start. There was no fighting for position and I found myself right on the feet of a pack of four. The pace was solid but nothing out of control. I struggled however to find a rhythm like I have in training and at the previous race. A small gap opened at the final turn to shore and I could see it, but couldn't seem to respond like I know I could. By the time we hit the exit ramp, the gap was about five seconds. I got to my bike as the other girls (Kirsten, Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson, Liz Blatchford) were hopping on their bikes. I had a good transition but couldn't close the gap and watched them pull away up the road. I was really disappointed but thought I might have a chance to catch them on the bike with the help of the girls coming from behind. My group ended up having about five or six women (or maybe more, it was hard to tell). I was committed to working hard, but unfortunately there were only two others who could or would help. We rode well considering we were chasing four strong, organized girls, losing only about 20-30 seconds over 20km. I had a good T2 and was first on to the run from my pack. My running legs were slightly better than Devonport but by no means did I feel speedy. I ran solid, had a few moments where I felt like my old self again (it's been awhile...), and finished in 6th place.

It's amazing how one small slip-up can really set the tone for the day. I wasn't upset with my effort on the bike, or most of my swim, or even my run. But, those few moments in the swim where I made some errors ended up significantly impacting the outcome. I can't lie, I was really disappointed in myself. I was disappointed because I don't feel as though I swam to my potential. But, I'm trying not to beat myself up. I came here to learn and determine what still needs work, so it's all part of the process. As much as I'm itching to be out there smashing it and winning, I've got to remember it's still early season, not to mention coming off a year of no swimming or running. I just love racing fast but have to keep things in perspective and give myself credit for the small improvements along the way.

I'm really looking forward to this next block of training. What I love about races, good or bad outcome, is the motivation and "fire" I return home with. Darren and I have compiled a checklist over these three races of the things that still need work, so we're going to continue to plug away and check them off. It's five weeks until Mooloolaba World Cup and seven weeks until Sydney WCS, so it's time to get down to business.

Congratulations to Emma Moffatt for an impressive win, Kirsten for her solid 2nd place and Emma Jackson for 3rd. And thank you to USM Events, Triathlon Australia, and all involved with the race. It was yet again another fabulous Aussie triathlon, impeccably organized, even with the last-minute changes. And thank you, Geelong for being so lovely. I have now fallen in love with yet another beautiful coastal city. The photo above shows a few of the many wooden characters along the waterfront. As someone who loves all things artsy and crafty, you can imagine my excitement to check them all out. I need to find the story behind them, so stay tuned for an update on that!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Caloundra Enduro Triathlon

I traveled up to the hot and muggy Sunshine Coast last weekend for my second race of the year. It feels odd to write another race report this early in the season, and like Devonport, the decision to race was made about a week ahead of time. I'm beginning to get used to Darren saying, "How do you feel about racing next weekend? I think you should go." I am also quickly learning that when those words are spoken, it immediately becomes part of the program and isn't really a question at all. That's ok though, I've got plenty of racing excitement banked from my year hiatus so I am keen for it.

The race was a style that I've never done, two back-to-back super super sprint triathlons: 400m swim - 7km bike - 1.8km run - 200m swim - 7km bike - 1.8km run.

As you can probably imagine, this was an incredibly technical race. With two "T1's" and "T2's" (even a "T3": run - swim) there was a lot of planning, and with such a tight, short circuit on the bike and run, focus was paramount. My racing skills aren't feeling totally polished at the moment so I had a few more pre-race butterflies than normal. The field was very small, with only 5 women, but I'd say the depth was pretty solid: Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), Liz Blatchford (GBR), Barbara Rivers (CHI), and Canadian teammate Kirsten. I knew the first swim was important and could really make or break the race. I had a good one, felt comfortable up at the front, alongside speedy swimmers Kirsten and Liz. Barb was right with us too but when we hopped on our bikes we could see we had a small gap over Ashleigh. We were all aware of her run speed so we had to take this chance to get away. The four of us starting working right away, the gap grew, and we established ourselves as a pack of four. By the end of the first run we had strung out slightly, but bunched back together once in the water for the second swim. I have to admit, I have never felt this awful swimming in my life. I'm not even sure if you can call it swimming. It felt like diving in for a "band-only" swim with a heart rate of about 190. I thought for sure I was going to be popped off the back and possibly even drown, but thankfully the others must have felt just as awful as we stayed together as a pack. I got some rhythm back near the end and took the shortest line to shore, moving up to the front of the group. The second bike was uneventful as we saw our gap was larger over Ashleigh so it would simply be a running race between the four of us. The run went around a 380m block which was so short and fast that there was no "settling in" or really doing anything apart from moving the legs as quickly as possible. The last run is a bit of a blur apart from Barb taking over the lead early on and Liz going by me with about a lap to go. It was a close finish with Liz 3 seconds ahead and Barb another 6. After 48 minutes of feeling pretty darn uncomfortable, I was happy to be able to stop moving and catch my breath!

Photos copyright 2011 Des Thureson

Next up is Australian Sprint Champs in Geelong next weekend. This will be my final prep race before Mooloolaba World Cup and Sydney WCS. As fun as these weekend racing adventures are, I'm looking forward to giving my bike case a rest in the shed for awhile and settling in to a good block of work. Swimming and biking has been my focus for so many months so it's time to put some work into the run. Hooray for that!

Until next weekend...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Devonport ITU

This is definitely a first for me: a January race report!

As much as I'd love to buckle down and train hard until the first race, coming out fit and ready to roll, I haven't earned that luxury. Without racing on the ITU circuit since September 2009, I am well off the radar in terms of World and Olympic Rankings, not to mention a little rusty when it comes to racing. So, to ensure I get a start at the first WCS race in Sydney and to get myself on the board for Olympic points, Darren and I decided I should head south to Tasmania for the Devonport Oceana Sprint Champs. It was also a great opportunity to see how my fitness is coming along and go through to motions of prepping for an event. I have to admit, I was pretty hesitant to commit to this event in the first place. It was early January when Darren first suggested it and coming off a large swim block and some bike and run strength work, I wasn't feeling overly confident in my race speediness. I figured though, I could either overthink things to death or just get on with it.

So, I packed up my bike and joined training partners Dave, Mike, Andi, and Barb in Tasmania. It turned into quite the trek to get down there with some stormy weather canceling our flight from Melbourne. We were re-routed to another airport and by the time we landed we discovered the race was turned into a duathlon because of the heavy rain. And here's another first for me: I was disappointed the swim was canceled! In previous years I'd be doing a small happy dance inside her head with this news, but what I really wanted was the chance to see the progression in my swim. Anyway, I had to get over this disappointment quickly and mentally prepare for a completely different event: 5km run-20km bike-2.5km run.

With junior world champion and speedy runner, Ashleigh Gentle in the race, and WCS winner Barbara, I knew we were in for some quick running. I prepared myself by thinking of the first 5k as a road race and I'm glad I did because my legs haven't moved that quick in...... oh, a very long time. Ashleigh pulled away from Barb and I on the first run so once we got on our bikes, our mission was to reel her in. We were quickly closing the gap by the 3rd of 4 laps but when we rolled through transition with one to go, we noticed her bike was racked and she was out running! Barb and I continued because we knew we had one lap to go, but officials quickly stepped out in front of us and told us to turn around. It was a bit of a messy situation and I had a very slow T2 as a result. I left transition in 3rd and that's where I finished. Once the officials had time to look at the splits, they quickly realized that we had done one less bike lap, but because everyone did one less lap, no one was disqualified. It was chaotic, but I guess that's the way it goes sometimes. For an race officials point of view, I can understand how they could have got mixed up as we were on the course with about 50 junior women, all on different laps of the bike. Besides, the onus is always on the athletes when it comes to counting laps.

I was initially disappointed with my result. Again, I don't like racing if I'm not "really" ready. But, looking back on it, I realize that I did have a solid race. And, my gosh, it's only JANUARY. Sometimes you have to keep things in perspective.

This race also took place exactly one year after my bike crash in Maui last year. I never thought it would take me a full year to get back out there, but I guess better late than never.

Many thanks to my wonderful homestay, the Lyon Family and to the hospitality provided by all involved with the event. Tassie spirit is even more spritely than I remember, and it is a stunning part of the world. I look forward to returning one day with Adam for some serious adventuring.

And now, with almost the entire D-squad in Canberra, we're into the swing of things. It's hot here and we've got a fantastic, motivated (sometimes crazy) squad. I couldn't ask for more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Christmas Down Under

It was a different sort of Christmas for Adam and I this year. Having spent the last 28 Christmases in BC with my family in the cold, damp west coast weather, always with an explosion of presents under the tree, a non-stop buffet of the usual Christmas tasty treats, and permission to act like a five-year-old on Christmas morning for all days leading up to the "big day," this year couldn't be any further from the norm. I guess you could say it was somewhat subdued compared to this usual fanfare.

Adam arrived on the 18th, but with my training still on the go for another week, I wasn't a whole pile of fun, but he quickly meshed in to the athlete life. Don't feel bad for him though, because if you asked him what his ideal holiday would be, he would say running all day, everyday in beautiful places. Thankfully the trails around Canberra met his picky trail running criteria, so while I was out swimming and riding, he was busy in the hills. However, I do have to note that he would frequently start the rides with our group, backpack with run gear over his shoulders, and ditch his bike in the bushes out of town, heading off for a run while we did our session. Holiday for Adam is catch-up time for all the running he missed while in class and studying (aka over-training galore).

The last scheduled training session was over by mid-day on the 23rd and it was time to get into the Christmas spirit, ASAP. I had planned on an epic shopping session at the mall but after about 30 minutes walking through packed shops on tired legs, I was over it. We did go to a craft fair though and buy the most amazing Christmas cake, my favourite holiday treat. That was definitely a highlight! On Christmas Eve we joined our neighbours at the historic church across the street for some carol singing. It was a blast! And, if you need a giggle, just ask Adam to sing "Hark now hear the angels sing!" That guy has got some serious chops! ;-)

Christmas morning began with a run up and around Mt. Ainslie, the trails closest to our house, present-opening, and a pancake breakfast. We then drove up to Sydney and walked around the city for hours on the most beautiful and hot of days, and judging by the size of my feet and ankles that night, I probably walked more than ever before! The streets were packed with others who were also away from home and the holiday energy was infectious. Boxing day began with an ocean swim with with training mate, Dave at Bondi Beach and then a slightly-toned down afternoon of walking. I thought North Americans knew how to shop on Boxing Day, but Aussies take it to a whole new level. Shops opened at 5:30am and the streets were absolutely jammed with happy shoppers from sunrise to sunset. This was the first year in awhile that I haven't had my partner in crime, my sister Amanda, for an epic Boxing Day shop and you can be assured that Adam is not a sufficient substitute in this department. Sadly, there was no "shopping arm" for me this year (that is the medical term, coined by Amanda for the pain from carrying too many bags).

Next stop were the Blue Mountains, about an hour west of Sydney. We stayed at a cozy B & B in Wentworth Falls and spent our 1st wedding anniversary exploring the lush jungles and steep cliffs. If it weren't for the "leech incident", I would have described our hike/run as memorable, but now it definitely goes in to the category of "unforgettable." We had been on the move for quite awhile and were in the thick of the jungle on the valley floor when I felt something on my ankle. I looked down and saw the biggest, slimiest creature clinging to me. I went to flick it off only to realize that it was stuck inside me! I screamed, or rather had a serious panic attack as I had no idea what this was, but I was bleeding and couldn't get this thing off of me. Then I saw there were more, inside my socks, and others on my shoes trying to get their sucker into my skin! It was getting dark at this point and we still had to climb back up the mountain so there wasn't a lot of time to freak out. I pulled myself together the best I could and we ran out of there as quick as possible, doing mandatory "leech checks" every 10 mins. I felt sick to my stomach by the time we got home, but now that days have passed, I can laugh about it... sort of. An unforgettable anniversary no doubt!

We're now back in Canberra and training is back to normal for me. Adam is here just for a few more days and although it has been a fantastic holiday together, it's really hard to think that it will be over 4 months until I see him again. I've got to say, Skype sure makes life a whole lot easier!

I will be posting a race schedule soon. It sure seems like awhile since I've used those words! Bring on 2011, I can't wait.

Happy New Year to all! Here's to a new year full of health and happiness!

Christmas morning at Mt. Ainslie

Mt. Ainslie

Blue Mountains

Decending the valley. Look closely and you can see the stairs.

Some sections required ropes to descend!

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, just outside Canberra.

A wild emu!

My city wheels