Monday, August 31, 2009

End Of August Update

I thought all was fine after the Midsummer Night's Run 30km, until I tried to play Ultimate Frisbee on Wednesday. My right calf muscle twinged a bit during the last 10km of the race on Saturday but after taking Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off, thought nothing of it - until I played the first minute of the Frisbee game. The calf muscle didn't want to co-operate and I even missed hockey that night. It's now the next Monday, 8 days after, and I'm pondering my first run since the 30k.

Needless to say, my goal of doing 180km for the month of August was blown all to hell by the injury. However, I did achieve my weight goal of 169, touching as low as 168 at one point. I'm pretty satisfied with my weight level right now and just plan on maintaining for the foreseeable future.

I've committed to the St. Catherines Run For The Grapes Half Marathon on Sunday, September 28. The price was right at $45 and the course, despite being relatively close to home, should be rather interesting. The half runs through St. Catherines and the nearby wine country and coincides with a wine tasting festival (yah!). I just hope to beat the time I put in at the Mississauga Half earlier this year.

I have yet to find nutritional data for radish seed pods. I received an e-mail back from Health Canada - they were intrigued but had no information for me.

I have started another blog at - it's basically just a different picture from my archives posted each day with a description attached. Nothing too crazy, just building a nice photo collection on-line to browse.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Donald Watson: The Vegan World's Gandhi!

Unless you were vegan, you probably would have never heard of the name Donald Watson. I'm sure the name doesn't jump out at a lot of vegans either. In 1944, this is the man that created the Vegan Society in Britain and coined the term vegan by taking the first three and the last two letters of the word vegetarian.
Born on September 2, 1910, Watson became a vegetarian at the age of 14 because he became 'friends' with the animals on the family farm and realized that slaughtering these beings for food was simply barbaric.
In the 1940's Watson became vegan and in November of 1944 was instrumental in starting The Vegan Society. When approached much later about what date would be appropriate for World Vegan Day, he turned down the idea that it should be on his birthday. His logic was that he wasn't a vegan from birth and by no means did he singularly start the movement. Instead, he told them to celebrate the birth of The Vegan Society. He couldn't give the exact date but said it was sometime in November. Since 1994, World Vegan Day is celebrated around the world on or near November 1.
Watson lived to the ripe old age of 95 and attributed his longevity to his diet and having never taken medicine.
More information about Donald Watson can be found at these sites:
Toronto Vegetarian Association
Visit The Vegan Society's official site here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Radish Seed Pods

Every spring I tell myself that this is the year that I vigilantly maintain my vegetable garden. By early July, it is always obvious that I am one neglectful gardener! This year, my fiance came up with the brilliant idea to lay down cedar mulch between the plants to hold down the weeds. She put it down over half the garden and it worked brilliantly. Now, only the garden plants themselves are fighting for position.
Every year, I plant radishes. They're the red kind you find in your local North American grocery store for a $1 a bag. Every year, my plants don't get thinned out, causing the roots not to grow in beautiful round bulbs. Every year, I allow the plants to grow wild, flower and sprout seed pods. By this point, the radishes that grow into nice bulbs are so strong, if eaten raw it will lead to violent gagging and a numb tongue.
This year, I actually did a lot of reading on cultivating these little fellas. I learned a lot that I hope to put into practice next year... One thing I did learn is that radishes have a built in benefit for terrible gardeners like myself. Edible seed pods.
A specific variety of radish, rat-tail, is grown for its edible pods. However, all radish pods are edible. I was a little apprehensive, after all, the pods aren't sold in any grocery stores as far as I know and or any other nutrition value source does not include information on the pods. One day, a couple weeks ago, when I was really hungry, I took the plunge. At first, I tried popping the pods open like a pea and eating just the seeds. They were good, but a lot of effort as the pods and seeds are about 1/4 the size of a pea pod. I am noticing that unlike the peas, the age of the pod doesn't much affect the flavour - yet another benefit for the neglectful gardener.
Eating the whole pod is quite tasty. It's sort of like eating a fresh, crisp snow pea pod but the taste is much tangier, although not nearly as strong as the radish root itself. The one thing I did find about eating them raw and by themselves was that I got drymouth - probably a good idea to have a drink at your side.
I've been jamming these little babies in salads since my discovery and they really add to the flavour. I've yet to cook with them but I've read they have a great affect on cooked food as well, although, the spicy flavour dissipates with cooking.
The one thing I am still unclear on is the nutritional value of the pods. There are recipes and other information galour to be found but not a single word on nutritional value. One assumption is that they are the same as the root which is strong in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium as well as a great source of vitamin b6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium. However, logic would state that this is probably not true, at least in proportions, because the beet isn't the same as the greens and the broccoli stalk isn't the same as the florets, etc.
I've sent an e-mail to Health Canada to try and find out some more information. Until the time when I do get some hard facts, I'll continue to eat these little treats knowing they're safe, organic and healthy and leave it at that.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Race Rating: 2009 Midsummer Night's Run 30km

I've had a few days to recover and think over the race on Saturday. Here's the third installment of my race rating series, the 2009 version of the Midsummer Night's Run 30km road race. As usual, the score is from 0-3 and my comments are in brackets.

1. Bathroom facilities - 3 (plenty of porta-potties and some great natural bathrooms!)
2. Race day organization - 3 (it has to be noted that the baggage check was the best organized of any race I've ever been in)
3. Course scenery - 3 (great scenery at all times)
4. Course creativity - 3 (great use of parkways in the lakefront area)
5. Value - 3 (got my money's worth)
6. Shirt or gift - 3 (very nice long sleeve, purple(!), New Balance tech shirt and a stainless steel water bottle at the finish line)
7. Parking availability - 0 (no parking on site - minimum $10 to park and take a shuttle)
8. Website quality - 2 (needed more details about history, previous results, confirmed entries, pictures)
9. Online registration - 3 (very straight forward)
10. Accessible for spectators -3 (with two out and backs centering around the same focal point, this race was very spectator friendly)
11. Convenience of race packet pickup - 0 (pickup was at a hotel several kilometers away at a major hotel in downtown Toronto with no free parking)
12. Pre-race expo - 0 (n/a)
13. Entertainment on course - 1 (there was no official entertainment, however the runners dressed as fairies were enough for 1 point!)
14. Post race food - 2 (standard)
15. Race day vendors/exhibitors - 0 (nothing, which is surprising considering there was a whole park that could have been utilized)
16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support - 3 (awesome as usual. police were exceptionally helpful, friendly and supportive and as I mentioned earlier the baggage check was amazingly organized)

...For a grand total of 32. 1 point behind the Toronto Pearson Runway Run 5km and the Rattlesnake Point 12.7km trail run. This is a relatively new race and is still morphing into a great race. I will most likely return next year and I know that the rating will go up.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Associated Content Article - 9 Races Beyond 10km In Toronto

Just another Associated Content article. A runner's quick guide to races beyond 10km in the Greater Toronto Area.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

Toronto Races

Friday, August 21, 2009

Race Report - Midsummer Night's Run 30km

Midsummer Night's Run 30km proved to be one of the most unique races I've ever been in. The race starts at an unassuming baseball diamond just off Lakeshore Blvd. in Toronto at 5:30 in the evening. Actually, the race started on a side street call Bouchette. To find the starting line on Google Earth, put the co-ordinates 43 39.0808N, 79 20.2855w in the fly-to space and hit enter.
The race does a zig-zag route through the industrial area of the old port region of Toronto before heading out onto the Leslie Street Spit or Tommy Thompson Park. The spit is an on-going project made of landfill from construction products in the city of Toronto dating back decades. The Spit section is basically an out and back that turns around after circling the scenic lighthouse at the tip. Once back into civilization, the last 11 or 12 km take place on a loop of Ashbridges Bay Park and the Toronto Beaches boardwalk before returning to the start line.
The weather was great. Storms were threatening all day but other than the odd sprinkle, the air remained clear. The views of Toronto's downtown skyline were awesome during the Spit section. The views of Lake Ontario were also inspiring and psychologically kept the blood running cool.
The Ashbridges Bay/Boardwalk section was nice, flat and scenic but was a bit overcrowded with beach-goers and park users that were sharing the course.
The finish area was lined with cheering spectators. The process at the finish line was very fluid with medals handed out, chips clipped off and food in mouth quite quickly. It should be noted that the baggage check area was easily the most organized of any race I've ever participated in.
The beer garden looked well-organized and very tantalizing. Unfortunately, I felt it best to make the 5km walk back to my vehicle without partaking in the festivities.
As for how the race went for me...
I spelled out 5 objectives that I wanted to aim for in an earlier post. They are:

1. beat 3 hours
2. finish injury free
3. enjoy the sights - I may be the only person that finds the Leslie Spit to be an attraction
4. get my money's worth
5. have a beer with my fellow runners after the race at the beer tent

I did not beat three hours. I came close at 3:01:27. I was up to 2 minutes and 45 seconds ahead of the 3 hour pace until I hit the 20km mark. I then slowly lost time on each and every kilometer until the end. I don't believe I went out too fast. I do believe my biggest problem was my decision to walk so much before the race. I estimate my total walking distance at around 15 km before the race even started. Five of those kilometers were with a 25 lb. pack on my back and a hot sun beating down on the back of my head. Right from the start of the run, my calves and hamstrings felt cramped. I also blame lack of long distance training runs. I usually max out at 14 to 15km on my long runs and those just aren't enough to build the stamina needed for runs of this distance and beyond.
Despite aching pretty bad that night and all the next day, I did achieve my objective of finishing injury free. This is something that comes with the wisdom of old-age! I know the signs now that indicate I need to slow right down to avoid a muscle pull. There was a time, not too long ago, that I would run through these signs and soon after be limping at the side of the road.
I did enjoy the sights. I got to see some areas of Toronto that I haven't had a chance to see before. We Canadians from outside Toronto have a habit of putting 'The Big Smoke' down, but it really is one of the world's most beautiful cities. The Leslie Street Spit is an amazing case of how Mother Nature inevitably takes back what's hers. It's looking more and more like a natural forested area every year. I'd never been to Ashbridges Bay before and was surprised at the feel of being so secluded so close to such a huge population.
I got my money's worth. I got to run a world class event with world class organizers and volunteers. I received an awesome long sleeve New Balance tech shirt, an awesome finisher's medal and an awesome stainless steel water bottle at the finish.
I did not have a beer with my fellow runners because I was concerned that I might never make it back to my vehicle alive if I did. The beer was provided by Steam Whistle Brewery, a local Toronto micro-brewery and was going for a decent (for Toronto) price of $5 each. According to , Steam Whistle is a vegan friendly beer. Next year, I'm parking closer and having a few brown pops.
The one thing I was a little disappointed with was the packet pickup location. The Delta Chelsea at Yonge and Gerrard was no where near the race site and suffered from a lack of affordable, short-term parking. Hopefully, next year they will find a location closer to the race site. My race rating of the Midsummer Night's Run will follow in a day or two.

My Blogging Goals

It's been several months and I've yet to post what I expect to get out of Being A Vegan Athlete. The idea first came to me when I was hiking in the spring this year. I tend to retract into my own little world when hiking or running. It really is the greatest form of meditation because your mind is able to focus and be creative while your body is deteriorating around you! I also find it hard to have negative thoughts while I'm running or hiking, or biking for that matter.

I was thinking, that day, how it would be a great idea to write a book after my 1 year anniversary of becoming vegan, which is November 4, 2009. I would write the book to help people pondering the thought of becoming vegan but who had doubts and worries about how the shift would affect them, especially when it came to participating in sports - most importantly endurance sports. I wanted to expose the myths as what they are, just myths.

Then the idea of writing a blog hit me like a ton of bricks. What a great idea. I could basically do research and jot my ideas down on the web and possibly be of assistance to someone immediately instead of waiting until after November 4. I'd also been intrigued by the idea of blogging but had never really come up with a solid topic that I could continue writing about on an almost daily basis. Being A Vegan Athlete was perfect.

Enough rambling. These are my goals pertaining to Being A Vegan Athlete:

  1. Continued learning and interest in the aspects of being vegan. By constantly having to come up with and research new ideas, I am constantly learning new things and am having my conviction constantly fortified.

  2. To help, encourage and support others in their own quest to do the moral and ethic thing by eliminating the suffering and murder of so many billions of innocent beings. It is a pretty scary decision to make and it is pretty much guarenteed that most will not get a lot of support. I often think that it would have been easier to tell family and friends that I was gay or was dying of cancer (by the way, I have the utmost respect for those who are gay or that have any form of cancer - these are people who will fight battles that most of us will never dream of in our wildest nightmares) than to tell them that I no longer was a savage.

  3. To be a role model and lead by example. I never get into the 'my lifestyle is better than yours' argument with anyone. I do what I do. I state the facts if anyone sincerely asks for my opinion or wisdom. I maintain my diet and fitness level and hope that those around me notice and make the connection between the two. By the way, they do. I know I have affected people. I see it happen gradually. The questions first start with 'oh my god, how can stand not eating meat???' then they move on to more intelligent questions like 'do you feel healthier?' or 'do you think it will help my blood sugar problem?' and then eventually, sometimes, you hear 'I cut out meat for the past week and I've lost weight and feel great'. How does this pertain to blogging? I'm just writing the facts and not dissing anyone else's lifestyle. Recently, I've found a particular doctor who likes to litter the web with anti-vegan material. I thought about writing a piece about him, but what would that do? I would look like a militant terrorist and that's just not me. I believe one of our great role models, not just as vegans, but as human beings, should be Gandhi. The man changed the lives of a billion people by practicing non-aggression - we all can do it too.

  4. To make a dime. Come on! It's not bad to try and make money on the web. This blog won't make me rich, but it might someday make enough to buy a new watch or a case of beer, maybe. Don't forget, as a vegan, and as an athlete, you need to earn more money because you are obviously going to live longer. I'll be damned if I'm going to live to 120 but can't do anything because I didn't make enough cash!

That's it. That's all, folks. I plan to continue on with this project for a long time and I hope to look back at these goals from time to time to find that they are just as important to me then as they are now. And - I do still have aspirations to write the book...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Race Strategy: Midsummer Night's Run 30 km

My time to beat is 3:08:29 to achieve a PR in the 30 km distance. This is certainly not a monumental feat but I only have one previous attempt at this distance and that was at the 2009 Around The Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ontario.

4 degrees celcius, rain, hills for the last 10km and questionable fitness level versus 20 degrees celcius, sunshine, flat course and optimum (somewhat) fitness level. I should be able to do it and then some.

Smart or not, I'm parking close to 5km away simply due to the fact that parking in downtown Toronto is expensive and I can't afford to park in several different locations throughout the day. I've decided on the underground at Simcoe Place as it's the epicentre of the events on Saturday. From that location, it is 2 km walk to the packet pickup at Gerrard and Yonge and close to 5km to the start line. I have to go up to the packet pickup location and back then I plan to attend the Can-Fit-Pro fitness trade show across the road from the parking lot at the Toronto Convention Centre. I will then slowly make the walk along the lakeshore to the starting line. I have time on my side. Pickup opens at 10am and the race doesn't start until 5:30, allowing a slow, leisurely walking pace and plenty of time for fuel.

I want to start the race slow, but not too slow. I want to have energy to finish strong but do not want to have to make up too much time over the last 10km. I'm sure that my creaky hamstrings and calves will ensure that I don't start like a rabbit, or run like a rabbit at any point over the 30 km. I'm going to do something that I rarely do in a race and that's make a point to get water at every single water station. I may even carry food with me - another rarity.

So - what I want to accomplish on Saturday is this:

  1. beat 3 hours

  2. finish injury free

  3. enjoy the sights - I may be the only person that finds the Leslie Spit to be an attraction

  4. get my money's worth

  5. have a beer with my fellow runners after the race at the beer tent

5 simple objectives for an enjoyable day of running. Tune in later for my race report and race rating.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lose Television, Live Life

If you have any respect for yourself and the life you’ve been given, you’ll take seriously these 6 compelling reasons for giving up television. The great television is nothing more than a tool. It is a tool to tell us what we want, to tell us what we should act like, to tell us who we should and shouldn’t like and to tell us what to fear.

Reason#1 – Television is the leading cause of wasted time.
“In our busy lives, we find it hard to find the time to do the things we want to do.” We hear this all the time. Must of us have said it and most of us believe it. Television constantly tells us this. It is nothing but pure bullshit. Even those who only watch 1 to 2 hours of television per night are wasting their lives away. We all know how much we can produce at our day jobs if we really want to. It’s amazing how much some one can get done when they’re on the clock. However, when we get home at 5, we have a hard time getting the lawn mowed and the dishes done before bedtime. Why? Because out of the 6 hours we have between work and bedtime, most of us will spend 4 to 5 watching the tube.

Reason#2 – Television is hard on the environment.
There are many households with a television running all day long. Some televisions never get turned off. Ever. Increasing numbers of households have more than one television running non-stop throughout the day. This is a definite strain on our power grid. More than that, televisions are increasingly a strain on our garbage dumps. Once, there was a time when a television lasted 20 years or more. Now, with rapidly improving technology, televisions are being dumped in favour of new ones after only a few years.

Reason#3 – Televisions are an over-all money waster.
The cost of cable is ridiculous. Some are paying upwards of $200 per month! That equals $2400 per year! Even at $100 per month, that’s still $1200 per year. Add to that the fact that most new televisions are running from $1000 to $4000 and you’re now expected to upgrade every 3 to 4 years. Add to that the damage being done to your hydro bill. Add to that the specialized furniture and cabinetry that has to be purchased to accommodate your television. Oh, you can’t forget surround sound systems. That equates to a lot of living that you and your family could have been doing.

Reason#4 – Television is a medium for advertisers to brainwash us all.
Think about it. Is McDonald’s healthy? Does the Canadian Olympic Team eat McDonald’s everyday and maintain their world class athletic ability? To both those questions I answer “I think not.” How come we see Canadian Olympic Team members, or any other muscular, highly athletic, young person for that matter, sitting at McDonald’s, wolfing down a Big Mac and Fries? The reason is we’re being brainwashed and lied to. This obviously just doesn’t go for McDonalds. This goes for most any corporation that advertises on this horrendous device.

Reason#5 – Television is one of the leading contributors to obesity.
Of course it is. You burn more calories when you’re asleep than you do attached to the couch and mindlessly staring at the screen. Not to mention, how many of the previously mentioned fast food meals have been bought because there’s simply not enough time to cook a real dinner on ‘Survivor Night’ or ‘Big Brother Night’ or ‘American Idol Night’ or, well, you get the picture.

Reason#6 – Television lets us watch others living out their dreams.
I believe I’m paraphrasing Anthony Robbins on this one, but it’s so true. Do you think Will Smith or Jennifer Aniston became such huge stars by sitting around for 5 or 6 hours a day and watching others on the screen? I have a personal saying that goes “On your deathbed, will you look back and be proud that you saw every episode of ‘Seinfeld’?” The answer will most always be ‘no’. Just think of the things you could be doing that you would be proud of at the end of your life.

Okay, let’s be reasonable. There are many who would never, ever, never give up television. But, if you are one of those, consider putting time restraints on your viewing. Or, consider recording what shows you feel you must watch and fast-forwarding through commercials. Or, as in the ‘olden days’, treat television like a treat and only allow yourself to watch it after you’ve completed your chores or to-do list.

Regardless of your decision, realize that maybe television isn’t the greatest invention of all time.

Uh Oh! Does The Beer You Drink Contain Animal Products?

It was like a nightmare. It was potentially a deal breaker between me and veganism. Beer containing meat products!? There are only three forms of liquid that enter my system on a regular basis: water, green tea and beer.

It turns out that beer can contain any of the following:
  • albumin - derived from eggs or dried blood
  • casein/caseinate - derived from milk
  • charcoal - sometimes derived from bone
  • colourings - sometimes derived from insects
  • glyceryl monostearate - an anti-foaming agent that sometimes is an animal derivative
  • isinglass - swim bladders from fish
  • lactose and lactobacillus (lactic acid)
  • gelatin - made from bones, skins and tendons
  • pepsin - a heading agent sometimes derived from pork
  • sugar - white sugar is often whitened using bone charcoal

Before you panic about not being able to enjoy a cold one on a hot summer day or after the hockey game in the winter, all is not lost. It seems few beers actually use these products. Basically, they are used as clearing agents to take the blur out of beer and give it clarity. They are mostly used on stout beer. There are two websites that I have found that contain extensive lists of vegan friendly beers and breweries.

Vegan and appear to be the leaders in providing vegan/beer information to the world.

Fear not you Canadians who drink from either of the two domestic giants, Labatt and Molson, unless it is a stout beer, all their products are vegan. I prefer Polish, German and Czech beers that can be purchased from LCBO stores in Ontario. These too, are pretty much 99% vegan. An interesting fact, though, is that Reinheitsgebot, the German purity act of 1516 actually does not forbid these meat products because it is assumed that they are not part of the finished product.

So, yes, one more thing we have to be on the look out for in our quest to survive in a savage world. Be aware, as well, that wine may use the same items for the same reasons. Once again, search the web and you will easily find out if your favourite winery is vegan or not.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Associated Content Article - Weight Loss Stategy That Works

Just a quick note that I have another article on Associated Content. This article details the 10 basic principles I use to lose weight and to keep that weight off.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

Weight Loss Strategy that Works

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Portable Workout I

I thought I'd share with you a workout that I do when I'm either short on time or away from the home gym. No equipment is necessary, however, if I'm at home, I do the sit-ups on the decline bench at the 1st or 2nd notch and a weight on my chest.

This is real simple stuff and, although I'm not yet a certified personal trainer (I'm working on it), I can truly say that it is an effective workout. The workout consists of 4 exercises done in a cycle with anywhere from 3 to 5 cycles in a session. This particular workout focuses on the abdominals. Often, what I do is 3 cycles of the 3 abs exercises and in between each exercise do 15-20 pushups so I end up with 9 sets of pushups.

The exercises are:

  1. Sit-ups. I do the standard old-school sit-ups and, as I said previously, with a decline bench and a weight on my chest if possible. I usually strive for 20 per set or cycle. Crunches can be subbed in as well.

  2. Plank. For those who don't know, a plank is done by lying face down and holding yourself up by the forearms/elbows and your toes. Your elbows should be shoulder width apart and slightly forward. Your body should form a straight line from heel to shoulder by way of the buttocks and abs. To complete the exercise, all you have to do is hold the position. Anywhere from 30-60 seconds and beyond is enough time for this exercise to be effective. You should focus on your abs and, as they say, squeeze your gut like you're getting ready to take a punch. You will feel the burn in your stomach and lower back.

  3. Leg lift. Lying on your back on a flat surface, lift your legs up straight and together about 6-8 inches. Once again, hold the position for 30-60 seconds with your head lifted as if going into a crunch. Once again, you will feel the burn in your stomach and lower back. Try lifting your legs to different heights for a different feel.

  4. Push-up. The travellin' man's standard. This is always a great exercise for the whole upper body. Don't cheat yourself by not lowering your body far enough. Your chest should be close to touching the floor at the lowest point. Anywhere from 15 to 30 push-ups per set is good.

There are many variations of the exercises you can incorporate. Try doing the plank with your feet raised on a chair, bench or bed. Try the plank with your hands on the ground in front of you and your body in a raised push-up position (remembering to keep your body in a straight line). Try doing the leg lift at different heights. Try the push-up with your feet raised.

Don't rest between exercises for the greatest benefit. This should only take you 15-20 minutes to complete and you'll be feeling pretty good about yourself.

Challenge Updates

I must say that I didn't take the easy road to achieving my 3 current personal challenges. I'm almost halfway through the month of August and I have tough but achievable expectations of myself in regards to the two challenges that are due at the end of the month. As for the one that's due September 13, that's a different story.

Run 180 km in August

I am at 59.3 km for the month to date, not including tonight's planned 9km run. This leaves me with a necessary average of around 6.4km per day for the remaining days of the month, assuming I run every day. Interestingly enough, I missed several days due to strained left hamstring and calf muscles from - get this - weeding the vegetable garden!

Don't forget, though, that 30km of the remaining 120 will all be run at one time on the 22nd of August as I run the Midsummer Night's Run in Toronto.

Weigh 169 lbs. by the end of August

I'm currently hovering around 172, making the goal very achievable. I'm continuing with my strategy that I outlined at the start of the month and am certain of success.

Run virtual 615 km from Orangeville, ON to Montreal, PQ

I may have severely overestimated my potential mileage on this one. I currently sit at 279.6 km with a month to go. I have my doubts about putting in over 300 km in 30 days. However, I will achieve the goal, it just won't be on time. On September 13, I will give myself an appropriate extension, if necessary.

That's the early-mid month report card. Barring injury and with great focus, I very much plan to knock off the first two challenges. As for the third, we'll play it by ear...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Race Rating: 2009 5 Peaks, Rattlesnake Point 12.7km

Today, I'm adding my new race rating system to July 2009's Rattlesnake Point 12.7 km trail race which is part of the 5 Peaks series. The first race to be scored using this system was the Toronto Pearson Airport 5km Runway Run. That race achieved 33 points out of a possible 48. Once again, I will give scores for each category and comments in brackets.

1. Bathroom facilities - 2 (very few portables but forest in all directions!)
2. Race day organization - 1 (lineups for number pickup and gift pickup were mislabeled and a disaster)
3. Course scenery - 3 (awesome! even in the rain, the Niagara Escarpment is always beautiful)
4. Course creativity - 3 (very challenging course with very few duplicated sections of trail)
5. Value - 3 (can't complain - got everything I paid for)
6. Shirt or gift - 2 (socks and a water bottle - different but nothing spectacular)
7. Parking availability - 3 (ample parking)
8. Website quality - 3 (great website - part of the whole 5 peaks series website)
9. Online registration - 3 (no problems)
10. Accessible for spectators - 3 (spectators could view the race from several locations along the trails without obstructing the race)
11. Convenience of race packet pickup - 1 (same day only. see comments about race day organization)
12. Pre-race expo - 0 (a few sponsors were at the race before and after but there was no 'race expo')
13. Entertainment on course - 0 (just not possible on a wet trail - unless you include the group of screaming young Japanese tourists - very enthusiastic!)
14. Post race food - 2 (standard)
15. Race day vendors/exhibitors - 1 (only 2 or 3 - the major sponsors of the race series)
16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support - 3 (as usual - awesome! considering the weather conditions - thunderstorms - they deserve an extra thank you)

Score: 33 out of 48 - tied with the Pearson Run.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Recipe: Cauliflower Indo-Roman

This is actually an original Tom Samworth recipe. I needed a way to cook up a head of cauliflower that had pretty much outstayed its welcome in my fridge and I came up with a combination that shocked the heck out of me because it tasted pretty darn good! This is a simple recipe that won't take up too much stove space and will be on the plate in a short period of time. It can be served as a side for omnivorous guests or as the main deal for those like you and me. As for the name, I'm afraid I wasn't very creative. Indo because of the curry powder, Roman because of the tomato and garlic powder and Cauliflower because of, well, the Cauliflower! The great thing about Cauliflower is it really soaks up the seasoning and juices that you cook it with so each bite is savoury.

  • 1 yellow or cooking onion, chopped or sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped, skin left on
  • 1" jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 3-5 TBSP of olive oil
  • 1 TBSP curry powder
  • 1 TBSP black pepper
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • soy sauce to taste


  • In a large frying pan, saute the onion and jalapeno in olive oil over medium-low heat until onion is soft, yellow and opaque.
  • Add cauliflower pieces, mix and cover for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and seasoning, mix and cover until cauliflower is soft but not mushy (15-20 min).
  • Serve in a bowl or on a plate and add desired amount of soy sauce to enhance flavour.


  • Serve over rice, pasta or sliced Italian bread.
  • Mix in lentils or chick peas to power up the protein.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Race Rating: 2009 Toronto Pearson Runway Run 5km

I'm going back to June to do my first race rating using the system I created and outlined in this previous post. The 2009 Toronto Pearson Runway Run is a very unique 5km race that takes place on a runway at Pearson Airport in Toronto, parallel to a runway that is fully active. It is an out and back course that is very wide with absolutely no chance of getting boxed in!

Here's the report card with individual scores and comments in brackets:

1. Bathroom facilities - 0 (they existed but were too few and there was no 'natural facilities')
2. Race day organization - 3 (very organized considering how secure an airport of that size is - thought for a moment that the start was behind because of poor organization but it was because they were waiting for fighter jet to fly by to signal start of race - very cool)
3. Course scenery - 3 (what more can you say? airplanes taking off and landing right beside you...)
4. Course creativity - 3 (it's a runway at a very busy international airport! what more needs to be said?)
5. Value - 3 (great value - definitely get your money's worth)
6. Shirt or gift - 3 (shirt was the same as last year but it is a nice, subtle design)
7. Parking availability - 3 (no issues with parking)
8. Website quality - 2 (an off-shoot of the GTAA website. could be more detailed with last year's results and more pictures)
9. Online registration - 3 (no problems)
10. Accessible for spectators - 1 (very little access due to security reasons)
11. Convenience of race packet pickup - 3 (pickup at Running Room in Mississauga or race morning at the event)
12. Pre-race expo - 0 (non-existent)
13. Entertainment on course - 0 (non-existent and not possible)
14. Post race food - 2 (the same - bananas, apples, cookies and bagels)
15. Race day vendors/exhibitors - 1 (really lacking this year - kind of a disappointment)
16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support - 3 (awesome!)

Final Score: 33 out of a possible 48 points.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Kohlrabi

It's always available in most grocery stores year round. Yet, ask anyone if they eat Kohlrabi and chances are you'll get a strange look and a 'No'. I worked in a produce department of a major grocery chain in my youth and I must confess, I may have put these little gems on the counter but never once held any curiosity as to what they might taste like. I assumed, as with so many other products in that department, it was food for 'foreigners' and probably was crap!

So, last week, I'm in my local grocery store and Kohlrabi catches my eye. It's not very expensive so I decide to give it a try and buy a bunch. After I get home I jump on the computer and do a little research. I'm assuming that there's going to be some complicated cooking technique to make this stuff taste good. How wrong I was. Apprently, Kohlrabi is enjoyed raw! I soon found out that this was right. I cut up one of the bulbs and added it to a salad and it was delicious.

Tasting like Broccoli stems but with the texture of say, raw new potatoes, it certainly was a pleasant surprise and I became an instant fan. I have yet to try the greens, but they are edible too - in the way that beet greens or swiss chard are.

It can be cooked as well. In fact, the larger the bulb, the better off you are cooking it because it gets tougher with size. Check out this site for some great Kohrabi recipes.

Here are some fast facts about Kohlrabi:

  • also know as German Turnip

  • meaning in German: Kohl=cabbage, rabi=turnip

  • it is of the cabbage family

  • 1 cup raw contains 140% of RDA of vitamin C!

  • very low in calories at 36 per 1 cup

  • minor source of protein with 2g in 1 cup

  • also a significant source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, copper and manganese

Associated Content Article - The 5 Best Trails To Run, Hike or Bike Around Orangeville, Ontario, Canada

Just a quick note that I've published an article on Associated Content. The article features the 5 best trails to run, hike or bike on in the Orangeville, Ontario, Canada area. Orangeville is somewhat of a hotbed for trail systems as it is at the crossroads of the Bruce Trail and Trans-Canada Trail. Within 25 kilometers of the town, there are many trails systems to discover.
If you are new to the Orangeville area, a long-time resident who is new to the outdoors, or a visitor to the Greater Toronto Area, this a great guide for you.
A great companion to this article is Google Earth. All the trails are accompanied with co-ordinates that can be cut and pasted into Google Earth search to pinpoint the best parking and starting point for each of the trails.
Of course, there are more than 5 trails to discover in the area, but these are a great group to start with an will provide 100's of kilometers of travel the way nature intended - without a motor.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

The 5 Best Trails to Run, Hike or Bike Around Orangeville, Ontario, Canada

Race Rating System

I've come up with a rating system for running races that will help others and myself decide what races to enter in the following seasons. As usual, I would like to acknowledge the fact that most races rely entirely on volunteers. It is without a doubt that any volunteer is a great volunteer. This rating system is not meant to offend anyone by any means. Chances are, if your race gets a bad score, you already know there were issues. If you happen to be a race organizer or race volunteer and you read a bad review about your race, don't get hurt - this is very constructional criticism that can help you make changes and pull off an awesome event next year!

First - the score card. Then the explanation...

1. Bathroom facilities
2. Race day organization
3. Course scenery
4. Course creativity
5. Value
6. Shirt or gift
7. Parking availability
8. Website quality
9. Online registration
10. Accessible for spectators
11. Convenience of race packet pickup
12. Pre-race expo
13. Entertainment on course
14. Post race food
15. Race day vendors/exhibitors
16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support

Each of the above items receives a score from 0-3. Here is an explanation of those values:

  • 3 - Awesome! It was as good as possible and contributed to a great race experience.

  • 2 - Good / Indifferent. Could have been better but did not contribute to a negative experience.

  • 1 - Bad! Left a taste on your tongue but probably won't cause you to avoid the race in the future.

  • 0 - Non-existent or downright horrible! This is the race killer. This is something that annoyed you so much that it was on your mind the whole race and would seriously cause you to avoid the race in the future.

Explanation of the categories:

  1. Bathroom facilities. Judged not so much on quality but quantity. The pre-race urination is so incredibly important to a runner. If you're in a lineup 30-deep with 5 minutes to go before the start, you're going to be stressed beyond belief. Note that my judgement will not solely be based on the number of 'port-a-poddies' but also on the available 'natural environment'. For example, the Pearson Runway Run had insufficient washroom facilities in '09 and also didn't have any wooded areas or back alleys, either (score: 0!). The 5 Peaks Rattlesnake 12.7k had insufficient facilities however there was a vast forest within 100 metres of the start line (score: 3). Cleanliness will rarely sway my score in this category - it would have to be a pretty extreme situation.

  2. Race day organization. Once again - any volunteer is a good volunteer. However, when you have 100's or 1000's of runners roaming around, nerves pumping, things need to be very straight forward. I need to know exactly where I have to be and when. I need clear and regular announcements as well as signage - the more the better.

  3. Course scenery. I know you can't have a snow-peaked mountain view during the Toronto Marathon, however, there are beautiful neighbourhoods and not so beautiful neighbourhoods in every city. If the race organizers have worked with the roads that are available to them to try and run past as many local attractions then that's all we can ask.

  4. Course creativity. Similar to the previous category. Out and backs are boring - very boring. Adding mileage along trails instead of roads is creative. Tunnels are creative. Finishing inside big league stadiums is creative.

  5. Value. The race distance is the same so why is the price different? There better be a good reason for an $85 half-marathon opposed to a $45 one.

  6. Shirt or gift. Face it, when you're like me and are still on the course when the race winners are sitting at the pub, drinking a cold one, the goodies in the race packet can make or break your experience. Shirts are awesome. In 20 years, I've never gotten sick of getting a shirt at a race. Some, I wear out in public. Some, I would only wear under my hockey equipment. It's not just the fact that there is a gift, it's the thought that went into the design and quality of that item.

  7. Parking availability. Huge item. This can be a big contributor to pre-race stress. Parking should be close to the start/finish and should not be an additional expense. It's understandable in some large cities where the race takes place in the downtown core that this is simply not an option but most places should have facilities available.

  8. Website quality. I want to see registration information, race day schedule of events, course map and elevation, previous results, race day climate, expo and packet pickup information, etc. There is no limit to information that can be uploaded to the web - upload away.

  9. Online registration. A) you better have it. B) it better be easy.

  10. Accessible for spectators. We simply want friends and family to be able to follow the race with ease.

  11. Convenience of race packet pickup. I realize that the goal is to have everyone attend the race expo, look at all the exhibitors, then pick up the race packet. If there is no race day pickup, then please, please, please have the expo open long hours for those of us that are coming from out of town or unfortunately have to work.

  12. Pre-race Expo. If I have to go to the expo in order to get my race packet, it better be good. I want to see new and innovative products, new and interesting races or events, DEALS!

  13. Entertainment on course. There really is no excuse not to have at least one band playing along the route. Up and coming musicians would gladly volunteer their time in exchange for the exposure. By the way - we're getting sick of 'Born to Run' by Springsteen...

  14. Post race food. It's a necessity. Chances are your baggage is packed in an area with 100's and 1000's of others. If there is something nutritious packed in your baggage, chances are it's going to be a long time before you get your hands on it. The post race food and drink is what keeps you on your feet.

  15. Race day vendors / exhibitors. An extension of the race expo. Maybe after struggling to finish the race, you now realize that the products you shunned at the expo might actually be for you! This is also for the family and friends that have to wait in agony at the finish line for you to hobble in...

  16. Volunteers / marshalls / police and emergency services. I can pretty much guarantee that this one will always get a 3.

All my future race reports will include a rating. I will also be retro-rating some of the more recent races that I've been in.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Dragon Fruit

I've always been adventurous when it comes to food. In my meat-eating days, my favourite place to go was Louisiana, USA because if there was something that lived, you could eat it there - most often deep-fried.

Being Vegan has opened up an amazingly large new world of food that I never even would have noticed before. I often get the same line from friends, family and total strangers: don't you get sick of eating the same thing everyday? What!?!? Well, you have only two choices, a salad or a stir-fry...

Let's see... pork, beef and chicken. There's three choices. Oh right, you cut them different ways and it's a whole different dead flesh experience. There are thousands of different types of fruits and vegetables in this world - there are 7500 variations of the tomato alone!

When I visited Chinatown in Toronto for the first time since changing my lifestyle, I was overwhelmed, as you can imagine. The markets along Spadina and into Kensington are full of fruits, vegetables, roots and herbs that I'd never heard of before in my life. Funny thing is, I'd walked by them many, many times before and didn't give them a second glance. I was probably more interested in the animal carcasses hanging inside the front windows.

One fruit that really caught my eye was Dragon Fruit. It is commonly know throughout the world as Pitaya or Pitahaya. I didn't buy any that day because we had come down on the subway and I didn't feel like carrying groceries around for the rest of the day. However, I asked the folks at my favourite Thai/Vietnamese restaurant, 7 Stars, in town and they were more than happy to pick one up on their next shopping run. Of course, they thought I was crazy. In Vietnam, where they come from, Dragon Fruit is just a cactus that grows wild and no one eats the fruit despite its abundance.

I took it anyway. I ate it and it was great! The taste is sweet but not to any extreme - some would even say it was close to bland. The fruit is white fleshed with a texture that I would say is a mix between watermelon and kiwi fruit. It is very high in water content like the watermelon and would be a great 'hydrater' on a hot summer day. It also would be a great addition to a fruit salad, mixed in with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, etc.

Here are some fast facts about Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya:
  • Grows in dry, tropical or sub-tropical locations
  • Red flesh variety from Costa Rica can cause pseudohematuria - colours urine in the same way that beets do! Always a great trick to pull on unsuspecting guests...
  • Native to Central America but grown throughout southeast Asia, Mexico, South American and Northern Australia and pretty much anywhere tropical
  • Called 'thanh long' in Vietnam - translates to Dragon Fruit. The cactus will grow up the side of tree and make the shape of a dragon
  • Latin name is Hylocereus undatus
  • Flower is 35 cm long and 25 cm in diameter (30 cm = 1 foot)
  • Flower blooms at night and lasts only one night - sometimes called a moon flower
  • Contains laxative properties! Careful how much you eat at your rain forest resort!

The fruit is highly nutritious and is a substantial source of Vitamin C. It is also a great way to control type 2 diabetes. For more information, check out this site.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vegan Spanish - Part III

Spending the day at Wasaga Beach, surrounding by pretty much every language thinkable at Canada's most ethnically diverse resort area, I have been inspired to add the 3rd installment of Vegan Spanish! (see Part I and Part II)

In Part III, I have 10 more words and three more phrases. Just like Part I, the vocabulary is all fruits and vegetables.

Lesson III


ciruela = plum
patata = potato
pimienta = green pepper
frambuesa = raspberry
fresa = strawberry
colinabo = kohlrabi
melocotón = peach
pera = pear
cereza = cherry
brécol = broccoli


Hay algun platillo que no tiene carne? = Do you have a dish that doesn't have meat?
Me podrian preparar una ensalada? = Could you prepare a salad for me?
Tiene carne? = Does it have meat?