Categories
Travel

Oh, Canada: Toronto Vacation for the Win

I was standing on a busy street corner last week when a strange man I didn’t know leaned in from behind. “Nice sunglasses,” he crooned. Well-trained NYC women know not to engage with random weirdos offering compliments, so I murmured a sarcastic “thanks” – just shy of the “thanks, creep” I wanted to say – without turning around. As the light changed and I went to cross, I glanced back. Turns out he was a uniformed police officer, wearing the same exact sunglasses as me, which he’d wanted to point out. He smiled and waved. He wasn’t a creep at all.

He was Canadian.

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And he lived here!

I don’t know if you’ve recently traveled to our neighbors to the north with their charming apologies and their decade+ of marriage equality and their adherence to the Paris Agreement, but MAN there’s a lot to like about it.

Sure, they have a handsome president prime minister, but they offer so much more:

  • Their fast-foot joints sell delicious meat alternatives.

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    This is a Beyond Meat sausage egger and cheese from A&W and it’s amazing.
  • They’re all about reducing waste.

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    This friend of a friend’s store, Pretty Clean Shop, has refillable laundry detergent so you never have to throw away an empty container again.
  • You don’t have to give away your peanut butter cups if a guy names Reese comes asking.

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    They aren’t possessive here! No wonder Canadians don’t understand that Mitch Hedberg joke!

During a week in Toronto, we experienced so many delightful things: delicious Thai food, fantastic dim sum, barrels of Timbits, buckets of Caesars (i.e. a Bloody Mary with Clamato juice), and, oh yeah, some non-eating memories too. But hands down my favorite thing about the city was how damn active it allowed us to be.

While I never once put my running shoes to use while visiting “The 6ix” (thanks, Drake), I was still able to keep moving in this walkable, pedestrian-friendly metropolis. By trekking around the waterfront, hiking over to Kensington Market, and exploring the islands on foot, we were able to log 8 or 9 miles a day most days, making me feel slightly less bad about all the pineapple pizza I was eating (don’t @ me).

AND I was able to supplement that walking with some other forms of exercise (plus wedding dancing!), which may sound like vacation torture to some other people, but to me, it was a perfect way to relax on a week off from work:

  • BARRE: I belong to a Barre 3 studio in Queens, so I emailed the Toronto franchise to ask if I could pop in, and they offered me a free class! Huzzah! The moves were essentially the same, but the 80s and 90s inspired playlist was to die for.
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Show Me Love! Though I’ll admit the American Beauty soundtrack during stretches DID creep me out a bit.
  • YOGA: It’s hard to call a restorative class a workout, but considering I fell asleep in every single posture, it seems I really needed it. I went to two different sessions at Toronto’s Yoga Tree studio, and those naps were worth every Canadian penny (which don’t exist anymore, but you know what I mean.)
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I’ll give you ZZZZZen.
  • BIKES: Is a 4-seater bike ride still a workout? Unclear, but it was super fun cruising around Toronto Island with my friends, especially when the journey ended at a lakeside bar.
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EYES ON THE ROAD, BOYS.

Well done, Canada. Until we meet again. ❤

Categories
Travel

Hurdles

A good, creative runner can always find an excuse not to train – this weather is too hot, this weather is too cold, my friend Goldilocks has been eaten by bears – but the excuses I’ve encountered these last few weeks have started to get ridiculous.

First I couldn’t run because of recurring knee pain that I self-diagnosed as runner’s knee because I have an MD in googling symptoms. When that pain subsided, I planned to make up a missed long-run before work – but slept through it because my 5:00 a.m. iphone alarm was set to silent (Tim Cook: Why is that even an option!?) So I planned to do it the next morning instead – and woke up with a bout of apparent pink eye, making contact-use impossible. Add on top of that two lovely weddings in as many days this weekend that have left me in a mild state of hangover for 36 hours straight, and it’s starting to feel a little like the big running coach in the sky secretly wants me to toe the starting line in Staten Island two months from tomorrow woefully unprepared.

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But champagne is good for your fast-twitch fibers, right?

Luckily, this isn’t my first rodeo, so I know what I’m supposed to do: Even though my training has been derailed on and off for several weeks, I should in the words of the infallible Ms. Swift shake it off and throw myself right back into my workout schedule as of today. A week of missed long runs and hill repeats isn’t ideal, but a few sessions off won’t kill me, as long as I lace up today and train this week in earnest. The course of action I should take: I should put the past behind me. I should recommit myself to my marathon goal. I should just get out there and run.

That’s what I should do – but I’m not going to. Why, you ask? Because I also should be boarding a flight to Greece in 9 hours for a week of rest, relaxation and running.

Good bye, marathon training recovery. Hello, spanakopita.

Of course, I’m not going to arrive in the birthplace of the marathon without my running shoes in hand, and I’m hoping to stick to my training schedule as close to possible while summering in the Hellenic Republic. But with so many seaside beaches and bottles of wine already calling my name, something tells me this isn’t going to be the most industrious week of this marathon training cycle. Ah well. Pheidippides probably would have wanted it that way.

How do you keep your marathon training on track while simultaneously stuffing your face with feta and grape leaves? All advice appreciated.

Categories
Training

Strength in Numbers

Tomorrow I’m going to arrive for my second monthly biometric weigh-in, and the results are not going to be pretty.

I realize that statement opens the door to all kinds of follow-up questions. What’s a biometric weigh-in? It’s a chance for me to stand on a body-fat scale and learn if I’ve built any muscle over the past four weeks. Why do it? Because after reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Racing Weight, I realized I wasn’t going to get any faster until I upped my muscle content. Who performs it? The free nutrition coach at my office, which, let’s be honest, is a cool perk. Who’s my favorite ninja turtle? I’m embarrassed you had to ask.

For years, I didn’t give a darn about fancy things like BMI and muscle mass and Donatello, assuming that because I ran upwards of 40 miles a week in training for an annual marathon that I surely boasted a healthy body composition. But after I read Racing Weight, I decided to make sure. I made an appointment with my local nutritionist, stood on her shiny scale, and learned the disheartening truth: I have the muscle composition of a 47 year old woman.

Also, the celebrity crushes of a 47 year old woman. Thank you, Joe Biden.

I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t bulky muscle weigh a runner down? It could if you look like the former California Governor, but for most runners, a little lean muscle goes a long way toward injury prevention and higher metabolism and proper alignment and street cred with a West Side Story snap gang.

With that knowledge, I approached the circuit of strength exercises my nutritionist gave me with the ultimate vigor. I did squats. I did lunges. I did alternating superman, or as I preferred to call it, the Christopher Reeve/Dean Cain. And I felt sore and tired and awesome, and vowed to keep it up three days a week between now and the marathon.

I then I went on vacation. And oh man, when I go on vacation, I do it right.

I went to North Carolina and drank all the wine on the Eastern Seaboard.
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And chased it with seafood doused in butter by the pound.
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Then I went to a wedding where the main course was pig.
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And there ate several slices of a real, authentic “cheese cake.” They were just blocks of cheese in a pile. I fell in love.
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With that kind of month in my recent history, I can’t imagine there’s anyway I could step on that scale leaner and stronger tomorrow than I was a month ago. There’s no way around it: the numbers are not going to be pretty.

Fortunately, my last four weeks were pretty pretty themselves.

food

Do you work strength training into your running routine? How about cheese cakes?

Categories
Travel Uncategorized

My Maine Squeeze

Last week as the temperatures hovered around a blustery 20 degrees, my boyfriend and I decided to do what so many other New Yorkers have done before us: we fled the city for kinder climates.

Just kidding. We drove due north.

Why, you ask? Because we’re masochists, no doubt, but also because I wanted him to finally see for himself what I’ve been saying all these years: Maine really is the way life should be.

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Simpson’s Point: where circulation in your toes goes to die.

You might be asking yourself what the Pine Tree State has to offer two New Yorkers during what I can only imagine was the coldest week in the history of the world. What’s that, you say? It gets even colder up there? My God.

I’ll tell you what Vacationland gave us: three of the best meals I’ve ever had in my entire life. Also, some wool socks form Reny’s.

Now I’m hesitant to tell you what these so-amazing-I-could-die bites were because I’m pretty much just recommending everything that pops up in Google search for “best Portland Maine restaurants nom nom nom.” But I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t suggest you drop everything and immediately book a flight to the deep south of the far north to experience culinary bliss yourselves, so here goes. The best things I ate in Portland were:

  • The lobster roll at Eventide Oyster Co. on Middle Street. There was nothing fancy about this lobster roll, and that’s what made it so darn good. Brown butter, melt-in-your-mouth roll and, you guessed it, lobster. Paired with a spoonful of lobster stew and a half dozen Casco Bay oysters, and I was one content once-and-future-Mainer.
  • The Brussels sprouts at The Front Room in Munjoy Hill. We’re talking a dinner plate layered with roasted sprouts, candied almonds, grain mustard vinaigrette, whipped goat cheese and the true meaning of happiness.
  • The Belgian fries and truffle ketchup from Duck Fat on Middle Street. In the words of my boyfriend, “If I were on death row, this would be my last meal.” I’ll be honest: I am actively considering premeditated murder in hopes I’ll get to eat this side-dish again soon. Maybe that was Adnan’s motive.

Our brief but filling trip also took us to the Allagash Brewery, the L.L. Bean flagship store, a local hockey game, and many walks through the Old Port, most of which culminated in a croissant from Standard Baking Co. or an embarrassingly large number of taste tests at Gelato Fiasco. So while the faint of heart/scarf might want to opt for spring before making their trek up North, be sure to put Portland on your travel wishlist in 2015. You won’t regret it, even if your belt notches do.

 

Truck you, loading dock, for ruining this shot.
Truck you, loading dock, for ruining this perfect shot… for Ben, who really took this photo.

 Where will you 2015 travels take you?

 

Categories
Travel Weight Loss

Vacationing on Vieques

I’ve been home from Vieques, Puerto Rico, for nearly 18 hours, but I’ve been putting off writing the following recap because to do so would be to concede that I am no longer on vacation. (Other telltale signs that my Caribbean escape has come to a close? I’m dressed in layers and there’s not a poolboy name Saúl refilling my boyfriend’s empty pint glass.)

It’s not just a tropical paradise that has been snatched from my cold, dead warm, bronzed fingers. A diehard practitioner of the one-two punch, the world has also cruelly taken a precious hour from me this daylight savings morning as it looks to thrust me kicking and screaming back into non-vacation mode.

But I won’t have it. There are 14 more glorious hours ahead before my scheduled Monday morning alarm, and I intend to live every last one of them like I’m still on vacation (that is, I’ll be sleeping for 10 of them and lounging in a supine position for the remainder.)

But before I make my way back to the sun-drenched couch, I figured I’d give you a quick summary of how I made do with my five pre-trip goals.

  • Spend some quality time with my boyfriend. Check. Whether it involved kayaking together in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay, flushing away our life savings on a swanky couples massage, watching old movies during an afternoon downpour or gorging ourselves silly on surf and turf combos, we spent hours and hours simply enjoying each other’s company, which sure beats our usual pastime of recapping the workday. This photo may be fuzzy, but I think it sums up our somber mood during the duration of the trip:

  • Maintain my 10K training plan. Check. It’s tempting to forgo the gym in favor of an extra hour of sleep wherever you are, and it’s no different when you’re residing at a tropical resort. I’m not going to lie: the idea of doing a 50-minute tempo run on an inside treadmill during sunset/happy hour Thursday evening did not have me teeming with excitement. But once I manned up, walked to the gym and completed six fairly grueling miles at an 8:30 pace –vacation and all – I was filled with both a gratifying feeling of accomplishment and a physical hunger that totally justified my back-to-back pork chops at dinner that night. Seriously, check out this graph. Twenty-seven+ miles is not bad for a week during which I needed only walk 15 feet from our patio to the pool bar.
  • Get a tan. Check. I may be the palest of my mother’s children, but I’m the tannest in my relationship, so that’s got to be worth something.

  • Enjoy the local culinary fare without breaking the bank calorically. Check-ish. I made a handful of poor nutritional decisions this week, including eating two giant cheeseburgers, two sides of fries and the most delicious plate of pancakes I’ve ever consumed. These aren’t things I frequently allow myself in New York, but I caved to the vacation mindset and upped my calorie intake exponentially during a couple of meals. Fortunately, I made better decisions at the majority of other mealtimes. For example, most days, I ate for breakfast a granola bar from home and a free apple from the W Hotel gym, setting me back a total of 300 calories and filling me with fiber and nutrients, instead of hitting up the $28 breakfast buffet that would have undoubtedly seen me stuff my pockets with high-cal cured meats just to feel like I was getting my money’s worth. I also opted for side salads over fries during three out of five lunches and forwent sugar-tastic piña coladas for light beer or red wine. I certainly didn’t return home to find myself leaner than when I left, but remaining cognizant of (most of) my culinary choices left me with few regrets.
  • Learn how to fold towels into the shapes of all my favorite animals. A big negative on this one. Turns out upscale hideaways like the W Retreat & Spa don’t fold their towels into anything other than the oh-so-overdone folded towel shape. Vacation 2013 – Disney World, here we come!

What are your tricks for a healthy-ish getaway? And more importantly, why isn’t this my everyday view?

Categories
Running Travel

Maintaining Fitness in Margaritaville

This morning, my boyfriend and I are off to the island of Puerto Rico, which I can only assume in Spanish means “more fried plantains, please.” I’ve been to Puerto Rico twice before — in 2008 for the spring break of a lifetime with the creepiest friends I know and just last year for a pre-cruise romp in glorious Old San Juan — but I’ve never before been to the Puerto Rico sub-island of Vieques. Fun fact: Vieques is backdrop to both The Bachelor on ABC and my next blog post. Stay tuned.

My goals for this trip are five-fold:

  • Spend some quality time with my boyfriend when we aren’t frazzled from long days at the office.
  • Maintain my 10K training plan, complete with a 50 minute tempo run in the W Hotel fitness center and an unorthodox cross-training session wearing a snorkle. Vacation fitness may not be the easiest, but at least I won’t be logging 30 loops of the Carnival cruise “track o’ seasickness” again this year.
  • Get a tan. (Hey, I’m allowed to be a little shallow here.)
  • Enjoy the local culinary fare without breaking the bank calorically. This primarily means aiming for five fruits and veggies a day, including at least one order of non-fried plantains (oh, the humanity!)
  • Learn how to fold towels into the shapes of all my favorite animals. This one really should be at the top of the list.

How are you spending the first week of March?