TWIR #65: Running on Empty

Well, I have been firing on all cylinders this week out of necessity and my workouts have suffered. Was it better than last week? I guess. But that’s not saying a lot. It is frustrating to experience back to back weeks of poor workouts, and to feel like I’m regressing in both fitness and strength.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats:  really-not-restful-day-of-housework
Observations: I worked all day and my only reward was a shitty gelato.   Actually, that’s not true. I also had a delicious fish burrito (tasted better than it sounds) and I cooked absolutely, utterly, undeniably perfect salmon. It was really perfect, so much so that I will likely never replicate it.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7 km
Observations: Welp. This felt hard. I commend myself for doing at all.  I wasn’t feeling a workout but knew that taking the whole weekend off was a bad call for my emotional well-being, and that a Father’s day BBQ would surely mean eating a lot of crap (and by crap I mean delicious but not the healthiest of treats). Though not a substantial run, this seems to be about my max these days so I guess it wasn’t so bad.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 20 min. stairs + 25 min. strength
Observations: Good god, I do not want to do strength training these days. When you regret getting off the stair machine, you know it’s bad. I hate the stair machine. It is one of the most boring pieces of exercise equipment that exists, perhaps second only to the elliptical. It makes me long for the Rogers Arena staircase that was so near my old home. Sigh. At any rate, the second I started doing strength work I wanted to stop. I did only three sets of anything, and barely used any weight and I could not wait to get to a cumulative total of 45 minutes of exercise because that felt at least reasonably respectable.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: My shoulders were not happy with anything this entire workout. Stuff I’ve been doing for ages felt impossible. My lower back kept getting tight in any exercise involving carrying weights above my head. It was the kind of workout that makes you want to throw in the towel. Then I had to kill three hours downtown,and pay $9 to park for an interview. All I wanted was to go home and take a nap, but those plans were immediately foiled by a pressing need to run around like a chicken with my head cut off for four hours straight. Thankfully there was Dairy Queen. My boyfriend knows how to soothe my anxiety and squelch my grumpiness.

Activity: abby grind (“hike”)
Relevant Stats: 4 km, 400 m elevation gain
Observations: I don’t think my hamstrings have ever felt tired when I’ve hiked, but they did during this hike. While it’s fascinating to pay attention to the ever-changing landscape of my muscular responses, I’m sort of over it right now. I’d like a workout that just feels good, please.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 43 min.
Observations:  This run was even worse than Monday’s. Oh, the walking breaks were plentiful. 43 minutes seems like a decent amount of running time but I am embarrassed to admit the meagre distance. Most days I am quite kind and accepting of my current running fitness, but other days I am like a hyper-critical record stuck on repeat, “I can’t believe how slow I am now.” It’s not helpful.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: it’s not just laziness
Observations: We are hitting the road today and that means there’s no time for a proper workout. Okay, that’s a lie. But I ran yesterday and this body is not ready for back to back running days, and there is no time to fit in a drive to the gym, a workout and the drive back. If you ever need an excuse for bailing on a workout, you know where to find me. I will pack workout gear under the guise that I will actually work out this weekend when, in reality, I will probably drink a lot of wine and eat a lot of ice cream instead.

Though I’m generally unhappy with my body this week, I do suspect that stress is playing a part in my recent downturn in energy. I’m optimistic that answers and decisions over the next week or so will lead to a rebound in energy.  Fingers crossed. Now happy Friday! Go and get yourself a glass of wine (or an alternative vice of your choice).

This has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but cute baby animals always make me feel better so it felt like the right way to close off the week.

Real Talk Thursday: things i’m unimpressed with this week

It feels like it’s been a doozy of a week over here. There’s been a lot bubbling up in the career and home arenas, which I hope to be able to talk about soon.  Though much is exciting, it’s also been exhausting and I’ve been a total grumpus.  So today is an airing of all my minor grievances for the week, because I’m a firm believer that if you voice your complaints you can let go of the negative feelings associated with them.  Here goes nothing. Let’s get rid of these grumpies!

Things I am Unimpressed with This Week

1. Allergies: Seriously allergies, are you done yet? Just when I think they’ve passed, I wake up to a series of ridiculously overpowering sneezes and never-ending congestion.  The bushes in the ravine behind our house have sprouted new blossoms and I blame them entirely for this allergy resurgence. Super uncool.

2. Price of parking downtown: At the risk of sounding like my father, who can rant about parking like the best of them, I’m going to rant about parking. I went downtown for an interview on Tuesday and had to pay $9 for 1.5 hours. I should be used to this. I’ve lived in Vancouver almost my whole life and it’s just the way parking is here. But somehow we’ve crossed even my threshold of acceptable parking prices. In my mind, $7 was reasonable for 1.5 hours.  The extra $2 was just not okay.

3. The new season of So You Think You Can Dance: Years ago, me and one of my best friends were roommates and we were addicted to watching SYTYCD. I remember amazing music and routines that stuck with me for days after watching. I was super pumped to realize the show is still on the air…until I watched it. Where was the dance? I think I saw about four routines in the entire hour of the audition episode. Most of the time was devoted to dancers’ dramatic backstories. I want the dance, not the filler! Give me the dance!

4. My upper body strength: Even after several days of rest, I continue to struggle with even 5 consecutive negative push ups. I don’t know if it’s the allergies, the stress, or just ebbs and flows in body energy, but I am now struggling to keep my form for more than 2-3 push ups. It’s ridiculous. I haven’t even attempted negative pull ups. Ugh.

5. Vacuuming stairs: I haven’t lived in a place with carpeted stairs and no-built in vacuum…ever. Granted, that’s because I’ve only had stairs in one of my rentals in the last almost twenty (!!!!) years. Using an upright vacuum in stairways is practically a death mission. I am constantly terrified that I will trip over a cord and fall either to my death or paralysis, not to mention it feels like a full-body workout dragging that thing from step to step.

Ahhhh, that does feel cathartic, doesn’t it? Things are looking sunnier already.


Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of Fort Langley Gelato Part II

Oh, do I have a doozy for you today. And not in a good way. If you recall, last week I visited one of two gelato shops in nearby Fort Langley.   This weekend, in my quest to find gelato perfection, I returned to the other gelato shop.  Did I get closer to perfection? No. In fact, I found myself far, far, far from it. Like really far.

You can tell even from this picture that this is not gelato. Also, apologies for the picture taken while walking because I forgot before I started to eat it.

Where: Daily Scoop (no website), Fort Langley 

What I Had:  I had the Espresso Chocolate Almond Crunch (or something to that effect…the exact name escapes me now) and Rum Raisin.  My boyfriend tasted the Nanaimo Bar, after which he promptly switched gears and ordered the Belgium Chocolate (which, I assume, they meant to name Belgian Chocolate, but who knows).

What stood out:  I should have known by the utter lack of web presence that we were bound for disappointment. Last week when we went inside to check it out, but didn’t order anything, I was also thrown off by the lack of standard gelato cases. The gelato was nowhere to be seen, tucked away inside sterile looking stainless steel freezers.  Like I said last week, one of the joys of gelato, or any frozen treat really, is being able to see what you’re going to order before you order it. I should’ve trusted my gut.

We received another early warning sign. My boyfriend asked to taste the nanaimo bar.  I can tell when he loves a food item because his eyes tend to light up like a small child at Christmas. There was no sparkle of joy in his eyes. When I asked how it was he paused and responded “well, it doesn’t taste like nanaimo bar.” He ordered his Belgium[sic] Chocolate. The moment they set it on the counter I looked at him and said, “that’s not gelato.” There, on the counter, looking oh-so-chocolately, was ice cream plain and simple, scooped by an ice cream scoop in a rounded ball rather than the typical gelato spade. Uncool.  His chocolate ice cream–I’ll just call it what is is–tasted quite good but, really, it’s hard to mess up chocolate.

I still ordered because I do my research for this blog, and I couldn’t write a scathing review without having tried it. I wish that I hadn’t. I wish I had just formed a snap judgment on appearances alone and left it at that. Instead, I ordered the two above mentioned flavours.

Had the rum raisin not been called rum raisin, I never would’ve suspected that was its flavour. The supposed rum flavour was undetectable, and there was a nary a raisin the be found. It also had an odd texture, one I’m still struggling to describe, sort of a grainy and…dare I say, gelatinous feel to it. Zero gelato creaminess was present. Textural issues continued in my espresso “gelato”, which barely tasted of coffee and lacked the promised crunch.

I think you can tell that all in all it was a drastically disappointing experience, so much so that I barely ate any, drove all the way home without touching it (by the way, it barely melted on the drive home, yet another sign it isn’t legit gelato), and tossed it in the freezer for later.  The final insult: the gelato sat in the freezer all afternoon without so much as calling to me. I assure you that this never happens when I have frozen treats in my freezer. Most of the time, I can barely stop thinking about them and I rarely would’ve survived the whole afternoon without swan diving into the leftovers.

The final call: I honestly would’ve tossed this gelato in the garbage after two bites had I not just dropped $7 on it.  And so, my quest for gelato perfection continues…

Oh, and in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, and because this is a battle of gelato, if you’re in Fort Langley and jonesing for gelato, definitely go for Maria’s.


TWIR #64: the week of exhaustion

I have no explanation for how tired I’ve felt this week. I stopped taking allergy meds late last week, and yet for the better part of the week I continued to feel beyond exhausted. I had little desire to work out, and napped frequently. If this is still related to seasonal allergies, may I be the first to say that pollen can kiss my ass.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I think this may have been my only good workout the entire week. I remember being tired, but not so much so that I didn’t force myself to do negative pull ups on my own. That’s saying a lot.

Activity: planned rest day + putting green
Relevant Stats: amazing 30+ foot putt!
Observations: No, I’m not attempting to claim that going to the putting green is exercise. It is not. I merely wanted to brag about my amazing long putt. Seriously, it was beautiful. It was a fluke, of course, but beautiful nonetheless.

Activity: yoga
Relevant Stats: 90 min.
Observations: I wrote about this on Monday, but my body simply did not want to do anything remotely intense.  I’d forgotten just how difficult yoga is when you lack any semblance of flexibility.  I wished desperately that I had a legit yoga block. Instead, I had to use various makeshift items like books, or a small upturned basket, or a tin box. Resourcefulness at its best. At the end of the day, my legs felt the best (i.e. least tense and stiff) that they’ve felt in ages, so I think it was the right call.

Activity: personal training
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I sort of thought I’d bounce back from yoga day and be ready for intensity. Sadly, this was not the case.  The early morning wake up call on Tuesdays is always rough, but it felt even rougher this week. My SI and lower back were also causing me issues. My trainer has noticed that my right shoulder isn’t functioning properly again, which is causing me to strain my SI with certain types of motions. Good grief. Will my body ever function properly? I rounded out my day with not one but two naps. I told you I was tired this week.

Activity: mostly an unplanned rest day with some half-assed yoga
Relevant Stats: 30 min. yoga
Observations: Honestly, I was going to do nothing on Wednesday. I spent most of the day dreading any kind of workout. After popping out to run an errand (at 3:00 in the afternoon, no less), I had a brief surge in energy and contemplated a run. By the time I got home, the moment had passed and I thought yoga instead. My heart and body were not in it and I abandoned course after a pretty weak 30 minutes.

Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. stairs + 50 min. strength
Observations:  It took everything, and I mean everything, to get me to the gym. I had no interest in going. Once again, an early morning trip into the city had left me tired and unmotivated. I forced myself to the gym and somehow managed to stick it for an hour. If I’m honest, it wasn’t a great workout. I wasn’t drenched in sweat by the end, so there was little pushing it. Oh, also, there may have been another afternoon nap. WTF.

Activity: run
Relevant Stats: 7.5 km (!)
Observations: I expected today’s run to be short-lived and painful so I meant most of the morning dreading it. Sometimes the universe hands you a most unexpected good run, and today was that day. All things considered (tiredness, still-not-so-great-SI, mental state, etc.), it felt pretty good and I was able to run a reasonable distance (for me these days).  I do enjoy when my workout week ends on a high note.

There is no hiding the fact that this was a piss poor week for workouts. I can only hope that whatever crippling source of exhaustion struck me this week disappears as quickly as it came. If it is just allergies, all I have to say is:

Pollen, if I’m unfairly blaming you for my tiredness, I’m sorry. But chances are, it’s you.

Real-Talk Thursdays: on being wrong & Father’s Day

I hate being wrong. Is anyone really okay with being wrong? For me, it depends on how much I think I’m right or how much I care about the subject at hand. Was I wrong about what we had for dinner last week? That’s fine, I don’t really care. But was I wrong about who sang that song on the radio just now? No, no I was not, and I will Shazam the hell out of it right now to prove how right I am.  So yes, I don’t like to be wrong when I’m certain I’m right.

What does any of this have to do with Father’s Day?  Well, this week, I had to tell my father he was right. It wasn’t about anything terribly consequential, mind you, but it was still so very hard. Like many father/daughter dynamics (I think), my father and I love each other very much but also annoy the hell out of each other on the regular. At times, it feels I’m pre-programmed to disregard his suggestions and he seems pre-programmed to expect me to do just that. I like to think it’s endearing, though I’m sure he’d have another word for it.

Earlier this week, I was telling my parents about my shower-door-soap-scum-removing concoction, one I’d found via Google, which was a combination of Dawn dish soap and vinegar. I’d had to wrap an old scarf around my nose and mouth while using it to avoid some very unpleasant vinegar-induced coughing. My father was not pleased with my selected method, and told me to stop using it immediately. His advice: baking soda. He told me it would easily clean the shower doors without any of the harmful fumes.  Like most of my father’s suggestions, in the moment it fell on deaf ears. I mean, I got my suggestion from Google, and Google does not let you down. Besides, it had sort of worked after an hour of scrubbing, so why not just keep going with it?

When I went to revisit the shower door a couple days later, I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to breathing vinegar for an hour, not to mention it hadn’t worked as swimmingly as the internet promised.  Sheepishly, I went to my kitchen cabinet and pulled out my baking soda.  Sure enough, armed with nothing but a damp rag and a sprinkle of baking soda, soap scum started to come off easily. Damn it, he was right.

So today, a few days shy of Father’s Day, I got to give my dad what was probably the best gift he’s ever received from me: I called him and told him that he was right. After recovering from the shock of it, I believe he appreciated knowing that I had listened to his suggestion, and really, really appreciated hearing that he had been right. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is admitting, without preface nor justification, that you were wrong. You’re welcome, dad.

Mid-Week Tangent: Battle of the Fort Langley Gelato Part I

Unbeknownst to me until last weekend, I have not one but two gelato shops right in my own backyard (not literally, of course, although that would be a pretty fantastic backyard).  Now that I’ve kicked off my summer gelato challenge , I think I am hyperaware of gelato shops everywhere I go, sort of like when you buy a new car and then you start to see the same model everywhere you look.  What I was most excited by is that there are duelling gelato shops.  While not quite directly across the street from one another, they’re pretty close and I think that gives this gelato-off a very West Side Story vibe. I’m excited to see which gelato shop reigns supreme.

We checked out the interior of both shops this past weekend before choosing where to taste first.  I admit, I may already be biased against one of the shops. Bucking all gelato trends, they’ve opted not to display their gelato. While I’m usually supportive of bucking trends, part of the delight of gelato is being able to scan the flavours in their glass case. I’m not sure how I feel about sight-unseen gelato. But we’ll get to their products next week. For now, let’s take a look at our first Fort Langley gelato experience.

Reminder: I am not a food blogger. My goal is shoot as fast as possible to commence eating. But kudos to me for actually taking a picture before eating half of it…unlike the last two weeks.

Where: Maria’s Gelato, Fort Langley 

What I Had:  For some reason, though I typically select the most sickeningly sweet and rich dessert options, when selecting gelato I love me some fruit flavours.  It’s inexplicable to me. That’s my Cherry Mania on the left there, and my boyfriend’s (wiser) choice of coffee and salted butter caramel. I also sampled the peach gelato.

As a sidenote, I was disappointed in the lack of really interesting flavours. Aside from the pistachio and rosewater and strachiatella, most flavours were completely standard fair, lacking that Italian flair that I’m ultimately seeking in my quest for gelato perfection.

What stood out:  I had lower expectations for this place. For once, I did my research before checking out a gelato shop. The things I do for this blog! At any rate, I read countless reviews of tiny portion sizes, high prices, and rude service. I didn’t find any to be fair reviews.

As you can see from the photo above, these are fairly standard gelato serving sizes. My own theory is that customers are comparing to ice cream shops where double-scoops are often the size of your head.  It’s not ice cream. This is how gelato works. As for prices, I felt they were comparable to other shops at $5-7ish, depending on how much you ordered. Maybe it’s because when I lived downtown all the ‘artisan’ ice cream shops charged an arm and a leg for ice cream, but I’m not phased by that sort of price tag. Lastly, service was fine. It was pretty empty when we went, though, so perhaps when it’s busy service goes downhill. But I also have pretty low expectations for service. If I were scooping gelato on the daily, you’d better bet I’d have trouble being pleasant when customers want to sample every flavour under the sun and suffer from analysis paralysis when it comes time to place an order.

Okay, enough about the boring stuff, let’s get on to the taste! I’ll start with the worst of the day: the peach gelato. Granted, I had the world’s smallest sample, but the artificial peach flavour was noticeable nonetheless.  Perhaps since peaches are out of season, they are supplementing with artificial flavours…I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but something tells me I’m being overly optimistic on this one.

The cherry mania and coffee were both fine.  Flavour-wise, they were about what I was expecting.  The cherries were delightfully tart but the base was otherwise a fairly typical vanilla.  To me, coffee ice cream is coffee ice cream. I’ve yet to had one that blew my mind, so I’d say this one was perfectly fine. But I’m looking for perfect not perfectly fine with this gelato challenge.

The salted butter caramel, on the other hand, was a flavour explosion, so much so that I immediately regretted ordering only one flavour (seriously, why did I only order one flavour???). If you don’t like the flavour of butter, you will hate this gelato. If you’re like me, though, and have a mild butter addiction, this flavour is the only way to go. It is so rich and so over-the-top bold in its buttery-ness that you will be swooning. I may have eaten more of this flavour than my boyfriend. How he so willingly shares sweets is beyond me.

My biggest letdown at Maria’s wasn’t the flavour profiles, though. I need to talk texture and creaminess.  In the end, I would classify this gelato as more akin to ice cream.  It was still a bit airier than gelato, and lacked the rich creaminess that I was craving. For ice cream, it was good, but it didn’t have that velvety, easily-melting, supremely smooth quality for which I love, love, love gelato.

Overall, I’d say that I had a positive experience at Maria’s, but more as a destination for solid ice cream than gelato. I can’t wait to see whether the other Fort Langley gelato offerings blow my mind. But for that, you’ll have to wait until next week.

Trail Tuesdays: 3 W’s of Hiking in Crappy Weather

Not all hiking days can be blue skies and sunshine.  Particularly here on the west coast, regular hikers are going to encounter inclement weather, everything from low cloud to absolute downpours. Let’s be clear here, hiking in heavy rain sucks. Today’s tips are more for those days when weather is unsettled, the kind of day when you know the clouds are never going to part and it’s probably going to rain here and there, but not the kind of all-day-rain-fest that can happen in the mountains. No one wants to hike in that.  Though it can be tempting to avoid hiking in iffy weather, sometimes you just want some fresh air, scenery and the healing power of nature.

The problem with hiking in crappy weather is that you’re probably not going to see a whole lot from the top of a mountain.  Trust me, I’ve hauled ass up many a trail to see nothing but cloud.

Exhibit A: No view after hours of hiking uphill.

Sure, it makes for a good workout, but it’s far better to save the epic mountain viewpoints for sunnier days.  On a crappy days, the three W’s can help you keep your hiking mojo even in less than ideal conditions:

1. Wildflowers:  Unlike mountain tops, wildflowers aren’t going to be obscured by clouds. On a crappy day, a hike through fields of wildflowers adds a pop of colour and some visual interest even if all the surrounding mountains are obscured by clouds. As a bonus, wildflowers actually photograph better in cloudy conditions than in full-on sunshine. If you get to know your area’s wildflower season and hot-spots, these become great destinations for less-than-perfect days.

Exhibit B: it rained for this entire 18 km hike and I never saw a mountain, but I think we can agree this is pretty damn beautiful.

2. Water: Select a trail that leads to a waterfall or a jewel-toned lake. Similar to wildflowers, jewel-toned lakes pop in grey conditions. Because they’re often found at the base of mountains, those pesky clouds won’t get in your way either. As for waterfalls, they tend to be underrated even though they can be simply stunning.  They’re also more likely to be found at slightly lower elevations, meaning good visibility even in the worst of conditions.  Seeking out both these destinations will keep you from slogging along a ridge line during a torrential downpour.

Exhibit C: Crap day, stunning lake.

3. Waterproof: I’ve written about having the right gear for hiking, and about an epic hiking weekend in which Mount Rainier decided to bestow upon me almost nothing but torrential rain. In other words, I have suffered through a lot of ill-prepared hiking in the rain.  Regardless of the type of trail you choose, the number one most important thing is some high quality, waterproof gear. In particular, you’ll want a waterproof jacket and hiking boots.  All the waterfalls and wildflowers in the world won’t save your hike if you’re soaking wet and cold.

So get out there no matter what the weather and remember your three W’s: water(falls and lakes), wildflowers, waterproof. I promise you it’ll help you make the most of an iffy day.