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Hi, I'm Whitney! I am a middle of the pack runner who discovered the fun of triathlons in 2009. Join me in my adventures in life and training. I run with the Rush Running team and enjoy the fun that comes with such a supportive group of friends who understand what running means to me. I'm newly discovering road biking and the fun that it entails.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SeaWheeze Half Marathon Race Recap

Race morning dawned at a lovely 64 degrees and overcast.  The weather was perfect for a half marathon.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the race start line and so we delayed heading down for as long as we could.  Finally around 6:30 we started the walk to the start line.  In our hotel lobby, the race had set up a fresh fruit stand and free coconut water.

We arrived to the race site and the DJ had the scene pumping.  The area was crowded with lots of people but we were able to run into the expo building to use real potties!  It was so nice to have indoor real bathrooms to use.  Then we began the trek to the starting corrals.  It was very crowded and people weren't moving into the corrals very well.  There was plenty of space but everyone just hung near the entrances to each corral.

We split up since Mandy wanted to go for a faster time than the rest of us.  She moved forward with wave 4 and we wished her luck!  The remaining three of us decided we needed one last potty stop and so we snuck out of the corral to visit the porta-potties.

We managed to work our way back into the corral and just minutes later it began to move forward.  Before we knew it, the race was starting.  The corral system worked really well to space out the racers but even so the first mile was crowded.

The first few miles passed by quite easily with some running through the city areas including China Town.  Some of the fun sights during this section were the tall bike riders.  They were along an elevated highway and so much fun to watch.  I even got to watch one mount his bike and it definitely was interesting to see how he got up onto such a tall bike.  Also, in China Town we got to see people doing Tai Chi and run past the Chinese Gardens that I had read about.

All along the course were km markers and they all had fun sayings on them.  The course also had signs marking when it would narrow.  My favorite though were the signs along pedestrian areas that asked others to Respect the Runners and avoid the course since a lot of the course was on the paved walking trail system.
Somehow the one sign I took a picture of turned out a little like a "That's What She Said" joke.
We had a 5K section that crossed over to Kitsilano...this included the biggest hill on the course which was actually the bridge to cross False Creek.  Just before making the bridge crossing you came up a short, steep hill from False Creek to a trio of cheering drag queens.  They had so much energy cheering on all the runners.  This was the first place where the course doubled onto itself so you finally got to see other runners.  I kept my eyes peeled hoping I would spot Mandy to cheer her on...and I did near the end of the bridge.  The cheering spectators were definitely the loudest when we were along Kits Beach!

As I returned from Kitsilano and was crossing back over the bridge one of the tall bikes happened to be riding by and playing some tunes.  The song that he had blasting almost brought me to tears...I definitely got emotional for a minute.  The song was Ain't Nothing Going to Break My Stride and it has special meaning for me.  This song is the song that I associate with my dad and running.  My dad is a strong athlete and he was big into the running boom when I was a little girl.  I'm sure my sisters and I developed our love of running from our dad! This song was part of a marathon recap video that I remember seeing as a little girl and I can't help but think of him and all that he has taught me about being the best me when I hear it.

I pulled it together...it was just mile 7 and I had 6 more to go! Around mile 8, we finally entered Stanley Park and the seawall.  We were welcomed to the seawall by some people in antique swim costumes.  All along the Stanley Park portion of the route there were lots of fun sights and cheer sections.  The mermaids were definitely a Lulu touch!

My favorite was the drum group...you could hear the pulse of their beat for quite a while before you passed them and it just resonated within you.  At this point in the race I thought I would start to deteriorate but surprisingly I just kept having more and more fun.  The fun distractions kept me going from km to km and the water stops were frequent.  My goal for the race was to run this as a training run and focus on not walking.  I only walked during the water stops.
Definitely smiling with the SeaBreeze at SeaWheeze!
Crowded course but very manageable.  

I got very confused on timing along the way.  About the 16KM mark I checked my watch and thought that I was near a 2:15 time overall.  I always hold to the belief that you shouldn't try to do math while running.  It just never works out but it does help distract you!  My math was definitely wrong as I realized when the 2:20 pacers started to pass by me.  I felt strong so I couldn't figure out what was happening with my time.  The last 1KM marker seemed like the longest KM ever in my life.  I had definitely picked up the pace and it was tough to maintain at that point in the race.
Finisher pic in front of the Olympic torch! 

I finished up and loved hearing my name as I crossed the finish line.  My finish time was 2:18:50 which was much better than I had expected.  I ended up running 8 of the 13 miles with a pace within 3 seconds of each other.  That's my best pacing of a half marathon ever...and my final mile was one of my fastest miles in a half marathon ever!  After crossing the finish, we soon received a bottle of water and our finishers medal.  Then they clipped on a kit with some aromatherapy vials for each of us and lastly we received a finisher premium to keep us grooving throughout the year...skullcaps earbuds.  They also gave each of us a wet washcloth which felt great to wipe off the grit from the run.

There was such a mass of people at the end that it really was hard to find my friends and regroup.  I ended up running into Jules in the food line and then we found Mandy and Pauline inside the expo hall.  We were all getting cold and worn out so we didn't stay around the race site too long.

Monday, August 26, 2013

SeaWheeze Expo Activities

Oh my gosh...I was totally unprepared for the extravaganza that Lululemon put on for the 2013 SeaWheeze Half Marathon weekend.  My friend Pauline had participated in 2012 for the inaugural race and so she was our insider who made sure we were fully prepared.

The festivities kicked off on Friday morning with Packet Pick Up and the famous Expo shop.  Lulu had given sneak peaks in the 10 days leading up to the race of some of the special SeaWheeze designs that would be available for sale only at the Expo shop.  The expo opened at 8AM and we began our morning with a workout of course.  Mandy and Pauline were doing a week long workout challenge during our trip so they took Jules to the fitness center and got their workout on around 5:45AM.  I headed to the pool for the good fun of lap swimming! As a side note...we all highly recommend asking for a room on the same floor as the fitness center when you are travelling with multiple people.  It worked out great for our group since we could use the extra bathrooms and showers in the fitness center.
Yep! Swimming Rocks even on vacation!

We finished up our workouts and then headed to the expo arriving around 7:15AM...to a super long line.

Lulu fans get in line early for their exclusive clothing options! I made my first Lulu mistake and was one of the few people not totally decked out in a Lulu outfit.  I just didn't even think about that when I packed for the trip plus I don't own a ton of Lulu pieces.
One of the entertaining things wondering thru the pick up line! 
The line was very pleasant and before we knew it the line began moving.  It was a little like Disney though in that you never quite seemed to get close to the doors!  Eventually we made it in and we debated splitting up.  There were two separate entrances - one for packet pickup and one for the store.  We had decided to have one person go through pickup and the rest wait in the store line but the volunteers ended up telling us it would be faster to get into the store if we went through packet pick up.

Once we got inside for the packet line we got our first glimpse of the circus fun that Lulu had planned.

Jules, Me, Mandy, and Pauline

The pickup process was a little slow at times since the volunteers sometimes struggled to quickly find your bag but otherwise it was pretty painless.  Once we activated our timing chips, we were released into the store.

The store was organized by size groups and then products within each size.  It really made it easy to shop your size however the assortment wasn't the same across all sizes.  There were changing rooms available but most of the shoppers were just claiming some carpet space and trying on as discreetly as possible.  Most ladies were grabbing options and had large piles surrounding them since choices and quantity were limited.

After selecting items for purchase (15 piece limit - and many bought their limit!) you got into the payment line.  The line took about 15-20 minutes to move through but once you got to a cashier they were very pleasant and efficient with the process.  All of the volunteers were super cheerful throughout the expo and shop including the poor souls that had to keep stocking and restocking the product.  They were busy for sure!

The views from the expo center were gorgeous and the view included many seaplanes taking off and landing while we were shopping.   Just outside the store area was the Mantra wall.  We took turns supplying our mantras to the mantra wall.
Pauline on the Mantra Wall! 
Leaving our marks on the Finish Line banners! 

Outside on the plaza was a fun summer beach style retreat.  They had fun games and bright colored chairs to rest on.  There was even a hair and makeup station but we bypassed that line.
Hair and Nail Stations

Instead we ended up getting immediate service at the massage area. It was great to get a relaxing 15 minute massage under the sun and the aromatherapy products were amazing.

All the massage therapists had shirts that read "here for you at the Finish Line"

After our massages, we headed to the Cactus Cafe which was right alongside the plaza.  We sat outdoors and watched one of the largest outdoor yoga classes that I have ever seen.  Then we headed back to the hotel to offload our purchases and plan out our Vancouver explorations.

Tips for the Lululemon SeaWheeze Packet Pick up:
1) Arrive early if you are interested in the shopping opportunity.
2) Wear layers - so that you can easily try clothing on over your leggings or tank for example.
3) Make plans with your friends - have a check in time and check in location.  It's easy to lose track of time and friends within the shop.
4) Make sure you tell your credit card company that you will be traveling outside the US and if you plan to make a large purchase at the store alert them to that so your charges don't get denied.  It was a common occurrence so much so that they announced on the PA several times to call credit card companies while you were in line.
5) Plan to spend several hours exploring all the fun at the expo site.  The massages are great and some of the activities had a line that was slower moving.
6) Bring drinks and snacks - there is a small coffee shop inside the expo hall but otherwise food and drink options are limited.
7) Stop by one of the real Lululemon shops before hand to try out the products and get an idea of your size and determine if there is anything in the normal product lineup that you like better than the SeaWheeze designs when you are at the shop.
8) Have fun!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Benefits of A-Mazing Laughter

Hidden within the depths of my travel guide for Vancouver was a brief mention of a series of sculpture that sounded like something I needed to check out.  The sculpture series is called A-Mazing Laugther by Yue Minjun.  It is located in the West End near Sunset Beach at the corners of Denman and Davie Streets.

The sculpture series depicts the many faces of laughter.  The sculptures are huge and bring immediate joy to all the visitors that stop to play and mimic the joy of the laughing faces.  The series was installed in 2010 prior to the Winter Olympics and in 2012 became a permanent installation in the city.  We visited just prior to sunset and the golden glow on the statues was gorgeous.  There were people everywhere and everyone had a smile on their faces as they played and interacted with the sculptures.

Laughter has some fun positive side effects...
- You can burn 50 calories after 10-15 minutes of laughing!
- Laughing relaxes the muscles throughout your face
- Really hard laughter counts as ab work...well maybe not but it's worth a try!

Here's a few of my laughter poses...

Make sure you take time to laugh throughout your day.  And keep me posted on whether you are including laughter as part of your core workout routine!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bowen Island - Hiking and Lodging

One of the things that attracted me to Bowen Island was the promise of hiking trails within walking distance of the ferry terminal and many of the quaint lodges and bed and breakfasts.  In fact, the entrance to Crippen Regional Park was on the walk from the ferry dock to the Lodge at the Old Dorm which was the Bed and Breakfast that we had selected for our stay.
The welcoming front porch at the Lodge at the Old Dorm

Bowen Island was a getaway spot during the heyday of the resort era in the early 1920's - 1940's.  The Union Steamship Company developed the island and promoted it as a short one-hour cruise from Vancouver.  The Bed and Breakfast where we stayed was originally a dorm facility for the staff of one of the resort hotels on the island.  The resort hotel was demolished in the mid-1960's and the Lodge at the Old Dorm was renovated over a period of 8 years beginning about 17 years ago.  The dorm originally was a compilation of 13 rooms with just 2 bathrooms.  There are now more than 2 bathrooms (thankfully!) but you will have to review the room descriptions to determine which rooms use shared bathrooms versus a private bathroom.  We opted for one of the smaller rooms in the lodge that contained two twin beds.  The room was perfect for our travel needs since this let us share a room and save on costs versus each reserving a room.

Back to the hiking fun...Crippen Regional Park features a collection of trails that vary in length from 2 - 5 km and can easily be combined to increase the distance.  Signs with maps of the trail system are located at most of the trailheads within the park and it makes navigating through the park very easy.

The Causeway is a listed part of the trails and that was the route that we took to go from the ferry terminal to our lodge located off Melmore Road.  Just before the Causeway was the entrance to the Alder Grove Trail.  This trail goes to the Fish Ladder at Bridal Veil Falls.  It was interesting to see the fish ladders that the salmon use to return for spawning.
Looking towards The Lagoon from above the Fish Ladders at Bridal Veil Falls

We joined up with the Killarney Creek trail to check out Killarney Lake.  I enjoyed looking at all the trees throughout this trail.  Some had the most enormous trunks and they were all so unique and fun to see.  Once at the Lake, we checked out the Mountain Bike Park and played a bit on one of the obstacles.

The peaceful Killarney Lake

We returned to the Meadown Trail and passed by some beautiful meadow views before exiting the trail system in our hunt to find the Artisan Square Village and Cocoa West Chocolatiers.  We weren't very successful in our map navigation and ended up walking downhill to only head back up to the shops that we didn't notice.
It's well worth the visit to Cocoa West and Artisan Eats...both stops were delicious! 

The hiking trails were all very well maintained and wide enough for 2-3 people to walk across.  There were many people out on the trails and though the trails were suitable for running most people were hiking.  The picnic area at Killarney Lake had some of the cleanest trail side restrooms I have ever encountered.  They were so clean and didn't have that lovely aroma that you normally encounter in restroom facilities along a trail.
Clean restrooms along with picnic tables near the Killarney Lake Dam
We finished up our hiking and lunch at Artisan Square Village and then headed back to the Lodge to collect our bags in order to return to Vancouver.  There is a two hour period around lunch when the ferry doesn't run so make sure you plan accordingly.  The first afternoon ferry is around 3PM and was quite popular with day trippers that had visited the island for hiking the trails.  In fact on this day, there was a large group of women hiking the island trails.  We talked to them and they told us that they meet up each week to hike local trails, normally on a Friday but they had moved to Thursday in order to take advantage of free ferry service since they were all of retirement age.  It was fun to see how much fun they had and it definitely seemed like a great day trip from Vancouver.

Waiting for the ferry at Snug Cove

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Shirley J Prize Pack Winner

Congratulations to Melly who won the Shirley J Prize Pack giveaway!

Tonight before drawing a winner I tried out the Basic Cookie Mix.  The box requires just 1/3 C of water and then whatever mix in additions that you want to add.  I went with chocolate chips and mini Reeses pieces candies.  I need to take a treat into the office tomorrow and this mix allowed me to have cookies mixed and baked super fast.  The mix made just over 2 dozen cookies that were about 1 TBSP drops.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway and congratulations again to Melly!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sea Kayaking on Bowen Island

Over the coming days I will be recapping my trip to Vancouver for the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon.  In researching the trip, I looked for some fun day trip options for things to do in and around Vancouver.  Our group had split arrival times and so two of the group were heading to Whistler and the other two of us were looking for something to do closer to town.  One place that I discovered was Bowen Island.

Bowen Island is a small island that is a 20 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay just outside of downtown Vancouver.  To get to the Horseshoe Bay terminal, you can either drive or take the city bus system either the 250 or 257 Express bus.  We got lucky and the first bus to arrive at the downtown City Center bus stop was the Express bus!  It was late afternoon and the bus took a little longer than we anticipated to make the drive but it was fun to see parts of the city.

The bus drops you off at the ferry terminal where you can purchase your ferry ticket to Bowen Island.  The ferry runs about once an hour...except between 1-3.  There are waiting rooms with free wi-fi access in the terminal building.  Once the ferry arrives there is a quick turnover as passengers and vehicles exit and then the loading process begins.  Passengers can walk on and choose many different locations to sit including indoor cushioned seats or outdoor benches on the upper deck.  Several people also chose to stand on the car level which is the lower deck of the boat.  The ferry trip is quite fast and before you know it you'll be pulling into Bowen Island's Snug Cove.

Just off to the side of the dock you will notice several small buildings including Nancy's Tacos, Lime and Moon Pie Company, and Bowen Island Sea Kayaking. BISK offers rentals and guided tours for both sea kayaks and stand up paddle boards.  We signed up for the Sunset and Evening paddle which is a three hour guided paddle for $65.  Our flights were delayed slightly so we ended up arriving off the ferry at 5:30 and still needed to check into our B&B.  The guides told us to take our time and started our tour a few minutes late.

That night there was also a large children's group out for a paddle and lots of locals taking part in local night out paddling the waters.  My friend Jules and I were paired up with a guide named Kyrsten.  Kyrsten gave us a basic tutorial and laughed that we were both super nervous about getting into the kayaks without dumping into the water!

The kayaks had a rudder which was controlled via foot pedals inside the boat.  The foot pedals took some getting used to for both Jules and I.  Luckily we started out going through the bay so the water was nice and calm.  We had fun checking out all of the boats that were harbored in the bay.  There were a few close calls as we learned how to make the turns and navigate the boats around each other.

Midway through we paused for a photo op.  I made the transfer to pass my phone over to Kyrsten with no problems but then Jules and I had to get lined up for the photo.  Just as Jules neared my boat, I reached out to grab her boat and nearly capsized myself.  We were all cracking up at how unbalanced I got the boat.  Once we got the picture taken, we took off heading along the coast to next bay.  We checked out all the "beaches" along the coast and by "beach" I mean small rocky patch.  We saw a beautiful Heron and even a little seal playing in the water.

Being the runner that I am...I wore my Garmin for the kayaking trip.  Every so often I would check out speed in nautical miles which Kyrsten thought was fun.  She kept telling us that we were ahead of the average tour group!  We ended up covering 6 miles in our 2 hour paddle, which Kyrsten told us was 2 miles further than the normal tour group normally goes.  We had plenty of time to add on additional distance but Jules and I were both exhausted from our travel day and we were starving since we hadn't had time to eat dinner before the kayak trip started.  The last 20 minutes were tough for me since I was trying so hard to stay awake.  I had barely slept the night before and then didn't sleep on the plane at all.

Once we were back at the dock, we had to navigate getting out of the kayaks.  We both managed to do it but were surprised at how tough it was.  My bottom had fallen asleep during the paddle and it felt so good to get to stand up and stretch.  We helped dock the boats and then headed to Doc Morgans for some dinner.  The Cheddar Ale Soup tasted awesome and hit the spot.

We had lots of fun kayaking with Kyrsten and the Bowen Island Sea Kayaking crew.  Next time, you are in Vancouver consider a side trip to Bowen Island.  Not only is there great kayaking but there is also a great network of trails for light hiking on the island.  More on that in another post!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Healthy Breakfast Options and Giveaway

**Disclosure - I received product samples from Shirley J to complete this review.  All opinions are my own based on my experience cooking with the samples provided.  

I was really excited last month to hear from a company that I hadn't heard of before called Shirley J.  Shirley J is a baking and cooking products company that is all about making everyday cooking easy and simple. They have been around for 30 years and are most known for a product called Whisk Bliss, a universal cooking base to make quick, creamy soups, sauces, etc.   The timing was perfect when I first heard about them...I was about to embark on a healthier eating plan and having a healthy hearty breakfast was a key part of my eating makeover.  I needed to incorporate a breakfast that would keep me from getting the snack cravings by 9AM that would send me to the snack shack for unhealthy options.

Enter the Shirley J Timeless Grains Cereal - Cranberry Almond.  Below is the product description from the Shirley J website.
With 18 natural grains, nuts and fruit we've given you the perfect combination for better health, higher performance and quicker recovery in our all-natural cereal. 32 oz. Ingredients: Oats, barley flakes, cranberries, rye flakes, organic evaporated can juice, almonds, long grain rice, yellow corn flour, wheat, amaranth, millet, flaxseed, buckwheat, organic quinoa, spelt, cinnamon, sesame seeds and sea salt.

The cereal sounded perfect to incorporate in my healthier eating plan.  I enjoyed looking around the website and discovering some new recipe ideas for other ways to prepare the cereal instead of just as a hot, oatmeal. Anything with cookie in the title for breakfast appeals to my sweet tooth!  The site is really helpful so you can search for recipes by product or by meal type.  So convenient to select the product you have and see several recipe options for you to try.

For my first recipe to try, I prepared a full recipe of the hot cereal by combining 1 C cereal mix with 3 C water.  It took about 15 minutes to cook on the stove top and was super easy.  I just made sure to stir every once in a while to prevent any spots from sticking to the pan.  Then I portioned out the cereal into 3 reusable containers so that I had 3 breakfasts ready to take to work.  Each morning as I packed my lunch bag for the day, I included some chopped fresh apple to add to the hot cereal.  It was easy to reheat each container for about 1 minute in the office break room and then when I got back to my desk I added the fresh cut apple.  Any fruit would do to add in and truthfully the cereal was just as good without it.
Hearty hot cereal got my brain fired up for a full day of work! 

I also tried the breakfast cookie recipe.  I think if I made this one again I would reduce the peanut butter because that taste simply overpowered the other flavors in the cookie.  I might just increase the apple sauce to still get a moist cookie but with a better blend of flavors.
Ready for the oven...each cookie had cranberries in it! 

I also got a chance to try the Shirley J Mugging line, which are baking products meant to be prepared in the microwave in single serving sizes.  I tried the Quiche mix but didn't have any fresh mix-ins to add to my mix.  I think next time I would incorporate some of the mix in suggestions on the box to get more flavor and a more filling breakfast option.  Some fresh ham or even veggies would have been a great addition...I'm not a very good grocery shopper since I don't always plan out meals in advance.  Something I need to work on!

I haven't had a chance to try out the Mugging Chocolate Brownie Cake yet...part of my healthy eating restructure the last few weeks has been to reduce extra sugary foods in my eating habits.  The photos of the cake look awesome so I'm looking forward to trying it as an evening treat once I start incorporating small doses of sugar back into my diet.

Now is your chance to try out some of these yummy Shirley J products.  I'm running a Rafflecopter giveaway to try out some of the same products that I tested.  Please enter below!  The contest will run through 8/14 and I will announce a winner on the blog.  You can earn entries multiple ways and some allow you to earn entries each day.

a Rafflecopter giveaway