Monday, 30 January 2012

The Agony of the Long Distance Walker

I'm going to say something that will shock most of you...are you ready? I HATE SLOW DISTANCE WALKING!!!!!  I think I'm too much of a speed freak or something, but I find it very difficult to do those very necessary LSD workouts. My speed keeps creeping up as my Garmin beeps frantically at me to slow down. I try to focus on technique, choosing one thing at a time (the latest is driving the knee forward rather than just swinging it passively); I try to listen to music that is the right speed.....
I think I'll have to use my mini-metronome to keep me on an even keel.  But I still won't like it.

The Gluten-free Experiment

I am on a gluten-free diet for at least 3 weeks to determine if this is the root of some "issues" I've had for a long time. My switch won't be as difficult as it might be for some as being a strict vegan means I'm used to a certain paradigm when preparing food - read every label; substitute where necessary; come up with "work-arounds"; make it up as you go and make as much as possible from scratch (processed and packaged vegan, and it turns out, gluten-free products are horrifically expensive).

I already had a lot of stuff in the pantry (like quinoa, amaranth, arrowroot, ground flax, etc.) but need to rethink breads, bagels, wraps, etc. (I'm not a sweets eater except for homemade Larabars and fruit, so that won't be an issue). You'd be shocked by the "hidden" gluten and/or wheat in things (I have to learn a whole new vocabulary of -dextrins). Yesterday was the first day at this and I made many discoveries: I LOVE corn pasta - it's so much tastier and has a better texture than multigrain or wholewheat. I made the best vegan (which just happened to be GF) waffles ever; crisp on the outside and heavenly inside, from quinoa and amaranth flour which I ground up myself in a dedicated coffee grinder (doesn't get much fresher than that). I've been dreaming about these all day today, LOL! Tossed some in the freezer to toast up later this week. Lunches around here are usually homemade soup this time of year, so that's good; very easy to adapt. We eat a lot of different kinds of rice already.

Now for the kick in the pants - beer. Yep - malt is usually malted barley. AAARRRGGHH! Those who know me know I love a rich pint of microbrew IPA. This is going to hurt. I did find a gluten-free beer today, though (New Grist). Haven't tried it yet, but any beer that's described as "crisp and refreshing" probably won't cut it for me. At least wine is GF, and I do like a glass of dry red. Sake also works.

I can smell the quick bread I put in the oven as it does its wonderful chemistry-thingie (always amazed when things poof up just right). This one is brown rice, quinoa and arrowroot with grated carrot, applesauce, fresh orange zest and cardamom. Will report back later - have to go and check on it right now!

LATER: Scrumpdiddlyumptious!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Idita-Walk Challenge

Welcome to Idita-Walk 2012!

Came across this quite by accident (click banner above). It's a great way to keep up a bit of walking in the winter months! My friend and fellow blogger Scott over at Walking to Retirement has joined up, as have some other members from our "walking family", the Walking Site forum . We're registered as the Walking Site Team and we challenge YOU  to join the walk!

Friday, 27 January 2012

More from the kitchen...

       Finished up the "Key Lime Pie" pseudo-larabars yesterday, so tried a new flavour today - Mocha (a variation on Larabar's "Cappuchino" flavour).  To the usual date/almond/cashew base (see blog post for January 19th), I added one pouch of Starbuck's Italian Roast Via (these little pouches of instant microground coffee are also incredible for camping!), a couple tablespoons of pure cocoa (fair trade if you can get it) and a half teaspoon of pure vanilla. Mush it all up together and proceed as outlined in aforementioned post (including adding extra ground almonds to make less sticky).
These are absolutely DELICIOUS!!!!!! Hard to eat just one. You end up with less caffeine than 1/8 cup of coffee in each, but the coffee flavour is amazing. Starbuck's also has an Italian Roast Decaf Via if you prefer no caffeine at all.
    I've also started wrapping each little bar individually in waxed paper, then all of them in a container in the fridge. Makes for easy eating.
   Next up - I'm planning on getting a little food processor - should make this process a lot easier than using my small blender.  Will report back whenever that happens....

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Where's a Coach When You Need One?

If, like me, there are NO racewalking coaches anywhere near you, what can you do? Check out Carmen Jackinsky's answer to that question here:

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Pause for Thought

"It's been a long road, gettin' from there to here...." 

...and what did I learn along the way?
 This book:
Product Details

was a turning point for me many years ago. It is wise, funny and hits you hard right where it counts, especially if you are a "certain age", which I proudly am.
So what have I learned so far?

1. Have goals
                 I know that I work best with something tangible I am working towards. For me, it's half marathons and hiking/trekking trips.

2. Make it a Habit or your New Job
                 I have enough bad habits; this is a good one. Making exercise and eating properly a part of your life, especially after retirement, takes "willpower" out of the equation (which is good, because I don't have much of that commodity). To paraphrase "Younger Next Year", make it your new job; show up ready to go; apply your work ethic to training.

3. Community is good
I prefer to race and train alone, except for my husband Mike, but it's also good to have the support of other like-minded people.  I found that community in the Walking Site message board (  A great, supportive bunch of people who have (for the most part) never actually met each other in the flesh. They're kind of my "walking family".  Check them out!

4. Track Your Progress
          I've never been much of a journal-er; in fact, I find it kind of artificial to write something each day even if nothing happened. However, a training journal is a different matter, and helps immensely when preparing for an event as well as makes you accountable to yourself. It also gives me a kick to see how far I've come!

On June 14th, 2008, the year I turned 51, I wrote in my journal, "Did a high level walk for one hour. Walk was great - felt very invigorated. Got the nutso idea to do a half marathon in October."
And I did it, too, that October 19th. It was my first - the Detroit Free Press half marathon, and I walked the whole thing. I hurt for a few days afterwards as I didn't know anything about technique.  I didn't realize it yet, but I was hooked.

5. When Necessary, Seek Help
          Women are better at this one - sorry, guys, but it's true. There are no racewalking coaches anywhere near me, so I rely on the expert advice of a remote coach - Carmen Jackinsky. She also turned me on to getting a muscle weakness/imbalance assessment done by a Sports Physiotherapist, which has been very enlightening. I now have the tools to correct some of the physical problems impeding my progress, which is very empowering.

So here's what I am walking away with at this point: I just turned 55 last week and I feel better than I did in my 30s. I know many of my capabilities and limitations. I have done four half marathons and have two planned for this year as well as two 10km races as training walks. I started taking Iaido, a martial art the year I turned 54 having never done any martial arts before (so it really is never too late).
To be continued, I hope, for a long, long time!

Monday, 23 January 2012

More Olympic Walkin' Info

How the Olympic Team is chosen:
The selection for the Canadian racewalk team is as follows, as far as I know: there is a "qualifying window" ("The Olympic Games qualifying window opened as of September 1, 2010 and will close April 15, 2012"). Within this window, athletes compete in any (or all) of a series of accredited races attempting to make either the A or B standard:
         -Women's 20km - A [1:33:30]  B [1:38:00]
         -Men's 20km - A [1:22:30]  B [1:24:30]
         -Men's 50km - A [3:59]   B [4:09]
Those who make this standard then compete in the selection trials:

"The qualifying period culminates with the Canadian Championships and Selection Trials in Calgary, Alta., June 27 to 30. All athletes with aspirations to the Olympic team, outside of the 50-kilometre race walk and marathon events, must compete and finish in the top 3 at the Selection Trials in order to be eligible for nomination."    (more here:

The team is then composed of these top athletes achieving these standards, a maximum of three at the A level and 1 at the B level. As of this date (to the best of my knowledge and research), we (Canada) have one athlete qualifying at the A level in the men's 20km racewalk and at least one athlete qualifying at the B level in the Women's 20km for the trials.

As I mentioned yesterday, the trials for the US team 50km were held in San Diego, with John Nunn winning with a time of 4:04:38 and Tim Seaman coming in second at 4:05:50, both under the B level cutoff.  Nunn will go to the Olympics. Erin Taylor-Talcott, the only woman allowed (so far) to compete in the trials for the 50km came 6th out of 12 with a time of 4:33:22, an average 8:48 pace!

The finals for the 20km racewalk (US team) will be held in Eugene, OR: Men's on July 30 and Women's on July 1.

[On a personal note, bringing the Olympics a little more "up close and personal", I am rooting big time for my Mentor, Carmen Jackinsky (check out her archive at, in her bid for US Olympic status. Go, Carmen! I have also been following the career of Canadian Rachel Seaman on her blog as she works towards Canadian Olympic trials qualification. She is only 3 SECONDS off the qualifying time for A level!!!! She is from my neck of the woods (Peterborough, ON; I was born in Lindsay; almost next door!).]

The actual events are scheduled as follows in London:
-Men's 20km: August 4th
-Women's 20km: August 11th
-Men's 50km: August 11th

...and that's the situation so far!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Olympic Trials Today!

Just popping in quickly to remind all of our racewalking fans out there that the US 50km Olympic Racewalking trials are being held today near San Diego.  As many of you know, this particular event is only open to men. [Women can compete in the 20km].  In a weird twist, however, officials are allowing a woman to compete in the trials:  Erin Taylor-Talcott. "As the only female on the starting line, Taylor-Talcott will walk with the men, but is unable to qualify for the Olympics because the 50 km race walk is not offered to women."  You can read about it here’s-best-to-compete-at-U-S--Olympic-Team-Tri.aspx . Still, all the best to the men competing today and a special "thank-you" to Erin for persevering in getting her foot in the door, so to speak. You can read about it here’s-best-to-compete-at-U-S--Olympic-Team-Tri.aspx

Later today, check out the results here:

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Homemade "Pseudo-Larabars"

One of the joys of being retired is that I have time to do some major cooking and food prep (you know - soup stock from scratch; large pots of beans, etc.). I LOVE Larabars, but they go for $2.00+ a pop in this neck of the woods, so I thought I'd try making my own substitute; after all, they're limited-ingredient snacks, so I couldn't go too wrong. Best thing is you don't bake 'em! I thought I'd start with a version of "Key Lime Pie" which is one of my favourite flavours. (Please be aware that I always approximate everything when I cook, so take everything as "about that much".)  I soaked a cup of dates in hot water to soften them up. While they were soaking, I chopped 3/4 cup of raw almonds and 1/4 cup raw cashews in the blender, grated the zest of one fresh lime and squeezed the juice of the lime into a small container. Then I pureed the drained dates and spooned the puree into a bowl, added the chopped nuts, the lime zest and juice and a pile of shredded coconut (I get really incredible freshly shredded coconut at my local Asian market, but unsweetened dessicated coconut works, too). I found this to be kind of sticky (probably because I had to add a bit of liquid when blending the dates; if you use a food processor, the texture probably would be better), so added some ground almonds (I always have some on hand - it's a vegan staple) and kneaded the mixture. I pressed the resulting "dough" into a pan lined with waxed paper, shaped it into a flat rectangle about 3/4" thick and threw it into the fridge to firm up. After a bit I sliced them into smaller rectangles and put them in a container in the fridge (even though there isn't much in these that can go bad easily, I'm kind of paranoid about spoilage, so thought I'd better keep everything chilled) for handy snacking. They are delicious and taste remarkably like the real thing.; AND they're about 1/6 the price! More experimenting will follow with some of my other favourite flavours and perhaps some new ones of my own.
Just remember they're basically half dates and a bit more than half nuts with "other stuff'" (maybe PB or cinnamon or dark chocolate or coffee or dried cherries or dried blueberries or ??????).

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Just a quick post to congratulate fellow blogger Scott on his completion of a full marathon yesterday at the Museum of Aviation Marathon. Grit and determination - that's what gets you through a full. Kudos, Scott!
Read his race report here

Good Stuff for Walkers, Part 3: More of the Same

Here is the third installment in our wildly popular series highlighting products, tips and tricks for walkers. All have earned the Good Bunny Seal of Approval.

1. Good Stuff for Your Body
For competitive walkers, it's not "Lions and Tigers and Bears", it's "Aches and Cramps and Knots". Here are a couple of things to help you banish a couple of them:
            a) The Tiger Tail
I'm sure most of you have seen "The Stick" massage tool at marathon expos. It's a great idea (if you like pushy salesmen), but personally I prefer the Tiger Tail to massage legs, back, etc. after a particularly gruelling workout. The roller part is dense fom on a solid base as opposed to the beady-things on the Stick, and I just prefer the feel of it. I have also heard (not sure how true it is) that the beady things can get caught in body hair...ouchy! Anyway, I've used this one a lot and really like it. You can usually get deals on eBay.

           b) Self Massage for Athletes
I love this concept! I was searching the 'net a while ago when I had a glute problem and came upon this site:  What I liked best about it was that you can try all of the massages through free videos on the website. I liked what I tried so much that I bought the book. Really, really useful and has saved my butt (pun intended) many times. Highly recommended. Of course, if you have a really serious problem you need to get your little self to a health care practioner, but for the day-to-day boo-boos this is great. Plus, you get to call yourself an Athlete....

2. Metronome
For any of you who had to suffer the dictatorship of the metronome in childhood music lessons, I have to tell you that Mr. Maelzel's wonderful invention has great walking applications. If you want to work on cadence there is no better tool. I picked up a tiny (it's only 2 x 1 inches) clip-on one on eBay for a few bucks (as in 6, including shipping).
                                                    Item image
(Mine's the blue one). I can clip it on the neck of my tee shirt and work on steady cadence for a bit. It has a headphone jack, but the beep is quite loud (has to be if used in a music lesson), so just let 'er rip without the earbuds. You can also use it for your tuba lesson.

                                That's it for now. Tune in again when our topic will be websites and other cool 'net destinations for walkers.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Good Stuff for Walkers; Part 2

Here are some more recommended products,and some tips for you walkers/hikers out there. They all get the Good Bunny Seal of Approval.

1. Udder Delight Footsies Moisturizing Foot Salve
I came across this incredible little local business when hiking near Glenwood, New Mexico a couple of years ago. They've since expanded, and continue to have a wonderful line of personal-care products made in-house. Now the "udder" in the company's name alludes to the fact that they use goat milk in most of their products, so off-limits to us vegans, but their foot salve ( is vegan except for the beeswax (for the very strict vegans out there), and absolutely wonderful for pre- or post-walk foot care. It smells great and works extremely well as a protective layer to prevent blisters. The ingredients are:  Comfrey leaf infused into olive oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, rose hip oil, avocado oil, mango butter, shea butter, bees wax, lemon & peppermint essential oils.
Just one warning: I have found that it can slightly stain some socks; not really a huge deal compared to the comfort you get.

2. Dewalt Bifocal Sunglasses
Now you have to understand that I have pretty bad eyesight, especially up close, and that I don't like wearing clipon sunglasses with my hefty bifocals. Nor do I have prescription sunglasses. I need to be able to see my Garmin readout when working out or racing on a sunny day. While not fashion sunglasses (these are actually smoke-lens safety glasses), these are incredibly comfortable, light, don't press on your temples (I hate that in glasses), don't slip down your nose, are virtually unbreakable (I know, I've stepped on them...accidentally), have UV protection and don't look any worse than "regular" sunglasses.... AND they have a bifocal insert at the bottom which you can get in a variety of strengths!!!!!! This is perfect for reading anything up close, and they are in the bottom of the lens so don't get in the way when you're looking straight ahead. I am notorious for losing my sunglasses, so I bought two pair just in case, and have had both for a long while now. WAIT! IT GETS EVEN BETTER! They are dirt cheap compared to sports sunglasses! You can pick up a pair for around $13 at Amazon: . It don't get much better than that, my friends!

Okay, gentlemen, this one is for the ladies, so go off and talk among yourselves while I present:
3. Moving Comfort Venus/Vero Bra
In the search for the two Holy Grails of feminine walking (shoes and bras), discussion can get heated. Yes, it is a personal choice and preference as no two bodies are built the same. Therefore, the same caveat goes for this bra as went for the shoes: "This is the bra that works FOR ME"....but you may want to try it, too! We ladies spend a lot of time and money trying to find something comfortable and supportive in the undergarment department. If, like me, you are not overly well-endowed in the bosom department but still need good support, try this bra (it goes by two different names). It has become my everyday bra it is that comfortable, and gives great support...also comes in some cool colours. There - I said it - it's cute.  If you are one of those so inclined (I'm not), you could also wear it as a workout top. The straps are convertible, but I have a real problem with "racer" style straps due to a recurring neck problem, so the regular straps are a nice alternative. It wears very well, lasting longer than most bras even with frequent wear and laundering. You can usually get good deals on it from Amazon or Running Warehouse.

Okay, gents you can come back from the study, but leave your cigars and brandy behind...well, at least the cigars.

4. Cleaning Tech fabrics
They get stinky, don't they? And regular washing doesn't seem to get that distinct odour out, does it? Here's a tip I learned from the web and have used ever since because IT WORKS! First, before washing, rub colourless hand sanitizer into the pits of the shirt (use a fair bit and rub it in well). Then, when washing, add some good old fashioned borax to the water with the detergent. VOILA! No more stinkies. You can expand your workout wardrobe to include all those shirts you like but don't wear because they don't smell too genteel.

That's it for today. There might be more tomorrow. Who knows? You'll have to check to see!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Good Stuff for Walkers; Part 1: Things to buy!

Time to list some of my favourite products for the walkers out there. All of these have been time-tested by ME and given the Good Bunny Seal of Approval.

[Just so you know, I have no connection to any of these companies except as a very satisfied customer.]

1. Shoes
Okay, if you've been following this blog at all, you already know the answer to this...Re/shod ( Check out previous entries on shoes and see why I give these
5 out of 5 bunnies

2. Capsurz
Say what? Well, doncha just hate it when you're trying to concentrate on good form and your cap keeps blowing off your head? It's a real pain in the neck to hunch your chin down or have to hold on to it with one of your hands. Enter Capsurz ( . An ingenious idea and an inexpensive one, too. Might look a tad geeky, but I can live with that.

5 out of 5 bunnies

3. Nathan Fuel Belt
I like to carry what I need with me, but don't like a ton of extra weight. Enter the Nathan Speed 2R Auto-cant fuel belt ( There are many things to like about this belt as compared to others: the angled back; the pouch in front; the easy-drinking bottles which hold just enough water for a half marathon (I hate drinking from cups at aid stations - totally messes up my stride); the comfortable fit, especially for women. I did add a small pouch to the front (actually a small neoprene camera pouch from the dollar store) as I tend to carry a bit more than most. It's lightweight, durable and a great little workhorse.

5 out of 5 bunnies

4. Garmin Forerunner
Okay - I use the older 301 model, so I can only comment on it, but this little baby has served me faithfully for a lot of years, both hiking and racing. It's a bit large and looks kind of like Dick Tracy's two-way wrist radio (you have to be of a certain age to understand that reference), but you get used to that quickly. Downloading from the computer program works well, as well as uploading to Google Earth, etc. You can also get printouts of your workouts. Mine has a heart rate monitor interface, a very helpful tool.

5 out of 5 bunnies

5. Races 2 Remember
Simply the best source for specialty back bibs, pace bands, etc. Very cool!
Again, 5 out of 5 bunnies

6. Food
Larabars and Clif Shot Bloks. Larabars as they are limited-ingredient powerhouses with no added sugars or artificial ingredients (and are vegan - important for us Volksvegans out there!) and Shot Bloks as they are not gooey and messy, are easy to pre-package for access during a race and again are vegan.

This is getting monotonous.....

NEXT: Good Stuff for Walkers Part 2: More Things to Buy & Tips and Tricks

Monday, 9 January 2012

Shoes, shoes, shoes again!

Okay - so I promised an update on the Re/shod shoes. My original pair (see "Shoes, shoes, shoes" on Sunday, Jan. 8th) brought me a PB (Personal Best, not Peanut Butter) at the Columbus Marathon Competitive Walking Half in October, including an award plaque for second place in my age/gender division. You can't get much better than that out of shoes! I seemed to roll long, getting more and more comfortable and fast as the race progressed.
No aches or pains, all toenails intact, etc.! Seldom have I felt so "in control" of my pace and results...and I feel I owe a LOT of that to the shoes.

I recently ordered another pair, using a grey version of the same uppers. This way I'll have a pair for training and a pair for racing, they can dry out between training sessions and I won't be without shoes!  As you know if you read the previous installment on shoes, my unique foot and structural demands mean that I can't use racing flats, so after finding uppers that worked for me, Carmen Jackinsky of Re/shod shoes ( worked her magic on the soles.

Here are some comparison photos:

Quite a different profile, all the way through the heel to the toe! But the real difference, the clincher for me, is the heel height and width:

This eliminates the "braking" effect the flanged heel of the original shoe had.
The soles, too, aid in rolling through the stride:

So, again, many thanks to Carmen for making my fast walking possible!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

I'm Ready For My Closeup!

Okay - there is nothing like a video of yourself to make you cringe, but I guess I can handle that! I made this little video of myself "Racewalking" at the local track last November so I could see what I needed to work on.

Helpful, but painful at the same time! Well, at least I know what I'm doing right and what I need to work on!

Shoes, shoes, shoes....

This is a copy of a report I posted in May of 2011 on my favourite Walking Forum at The Walking Site ( Wanted to post it here as well. I will also post an update on the shoes, written several months and a half marathon later as well as my new pair of Re/shods soon....

First, the caveats - my experience will likely be atypical as I have extremely messed up feet, knees, back, etc, so shoes that work for me may not work for you (I won't get into the medical issues and surgeries - too boring). Also, I have to use fairly major orthotics (yes, HAVE to: I can barely walk without debate). Finding even a regular pair of athletic shoes that I can wear is a major deal. All that being said, bring on..... THE SHOES!

After long and hard searching, I had found a pair of running shoes that worked - Ryka MC2 Walk shoes, so I bought up several pairs when they were on sale (good thing, too, as they've been discontinued). Comfortable, worked with orthotics and stability issues, etc. The problem? Wide, flanged heels, working almost as a brake when getting into speed work with walking. Still, I knew I absolutely couldn't wear racing flats and couldn't yet afford a custom pair of Herseys. What's a girl to do? I came across Re/shod , read some reviews and decided to try them. Somewhat cheaper than Herseys, they use your own tried-and-true upper, remove the original sole and cobble on a sole more usable for fast walking. I sent off my shoes, with a few twinges of trepidation....would the sole be too thick?...too much like those hideous toning shoes?...would they look weird? (I know -shouldn't be an issue, but ah, vanity!)...would they be flexible enough for toe-off? with orthotics? get the idea.

Let me say from the get-go that Carmen is a truly wonderful person to work with, and a woman with a vision. Her idea is truly a unique one.
The day arrived when the shoes arrived. I opened the box and the shoes looked like they were originally designed with these soles! Seamless, smooth and not jarring.
The orthotics fit in them perfectly (I knew they would as I had used the uppers beforehand). Carmen had also included a "break-in" outline, a really nice guide to racewalking  (from Jeff Salvage) and some info on books.

I wore the shoes for about 4 hours that first day (including a tempo walk on the treddie). Five minutes after I put them on, I knew these shoes were meant for me. I used them several times over the next days, trying not to overdo it (difficult because they were SO comfortable!), and making sure that I did extra strength work on my shins and calves, knowing that the lower heel would necessitate that. I really felt that my heel strike was greatly improved, adding to my speed, but hadn't really tested that yet. Several more treddie tempo walks and graduated interval sessions just reinforced what I thought. Today I did 4 miles outside with quarter mile speed bursts (in terrible weather, I might add!) and I can now confidently say that these shoes will work for me!

Now, I know they look bulky (I have to go up a size to accomodate my orthotics), but my shoes always look like that. The Reshods are actually lighter than my original shoes!

The walk left me invigorated, and that with disintegrating orthotics.

So to sum up - flats they ain't, but flats I can't use anyway. These are the racing shoes for me. Any speed I'll ever get I'm sure I'll get in these shoes. Thank you, Carmen! You are da Woman! Thus Spake Volksvegan!