Sunday, February 28, 2010

an olympic letter

Dear Canadian men's hockey team,

Please win today.  No, lives don't depend on it and it will not be the end of the world if you don't win. But we really would love it if you did. Who knows, if you DO win, maybe Marianne St. Gelais will get as excited for you as she did for Charles Hamelin! (and if you're lucky, maybe she'll let you smack her butt too :) And since she gets my gold medal for Olympic cuteness (and as the athlete who has probably made me smile the most), I don't see how you wouldn't want to make her cheer.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

an olympiad thus far

I guess since I love the Olympics so much, it makes sense that I got married in an Olympic year. What did we do the morning after our wedding? (no, I'm not about to gross you out of divulge too much information) We watched the gold medal hockey game. Yes, that's right- Canada wasn't even in the game, and yet we somehow ended up watching hockey. I guess since our first date was to a hockey game it just made sense.

As I watch a different gold medal hockey game (yay for Canadian women!) all by myself, I know that this year is a little odd, but that despite only seeing each other on weekends, it hasn't been terrible and it will get better soon.

Apparently the first four years of a marriage are the toughest. If this is as tough as it gets, I can't complain.

Monday, February 22, 2010

winterman marathon relay- fun stuff

This weekend was the last weekend of Winterlude in Ottawa. While I don't normally get behind anything that outright celebrates cold, ice, and snow, the Winterman race seemed like it might be fun. It took a few tries, but I managed to convince three other suckers to join me, and thus began the "Will run for Bacon" team that will eventually become legendary. (yes that's right, legendary for sure)

All week the weather network was calling for weather around the 0 degree celcius mark and SUN. Sun and warm! Yay! Yeah, that didn't quite happen because this is what it looked like at the start:
It wasn't all that cold, but the wind and snow were a little unexpected. But as a team, we were not deterred. We thought "this is could be so much worse!" And as the horn went (set off by the amazing Ray Zahab) we embraced Winterlude:

(ok, we embraced the mascots- what are they...mice?)
As usual, we also got a little goofy. I have no idea how this happened, but a couple of days before, Suz and her friends came across the pope flashing the "mano cornuta" and thus started a fairly amusing series of race pictures.

As I said, our first leg started with gusto and then our second leg started with even more gusto:
The first two legs went well. Hugh- our first leg runner- was running in his first race and said he had a lot of fun! He may have had the hardest leg since he was the only one who had to worry about the traffic jams that go along with the start of a race. While that was a little annoying, he said it may have helped him in the end because it meant he couldn't go out too fast. Suz was out on leg 2 and not only managed to run a negative split on a sore hip, but found the race photographer and flashed the "mano" for a perfect picture! (check out zoomphoto for proof)

I was up third but also had some company. Jordan had to get more than the distance of his leg in as a part of his long run, so he ran my leg with me and it was kind of nice to have someone to run with. The course was a 5K loop with no spectators (seriously- who wants to be out there in February) so it was kind of boring and I was grateful for the company. There were a few spots that the snow got annoying, but the footing was pretty darn good for being a winter race. 

Besides being a loop course, it was also decently hilly. I think the best descriptor is "undulating". You were either running up or down and the only flats were right at the turn-around points. I know that I'm not a really strong hill runner (although I AM working on it) so I found the course a little challenging but I made it through with only a few complaints to Jordan (who basically told me to suck it up and speed up). After the last hill felt like it kicked my ass, I wanted to finish strong on the downhill and flat to the finish. So I was working pretty hard at the end of my leg. Was Jordan? I'll let you be the judge of that:

(a friend has said that together we're a mullet since I'm all business and he's all party)
The good news is, I ran my first ever negative split! I'm usually a go out fast, then crash and burn kind of runner, so it was kind of nice to see that I got quicker on my second half. I also know I could have gone a bit faster if my head had been in it a bit more. I need to work on my "race mentality". I don't really have that killer instinct to make it happen and I think it would be nice to learn how to do that. (this was clearly not the kind of race that i was looking for the killer instinct...just thought I'd bring it up as an aside) But my goal with the Winterman was to have fun and to keep it to under 55 minutes. I did both of those things, so I'm pleased. The bad news is, the race photographer must have been on a break while I was out on course- there are pictures of everyone else on the team, but not me. Good thing we brought the camera :)

After my leg, we sent Jordan on his way. His goal was to run his leg at marathon pace and although his first loop was a little fast, he stayed on pace for the most part. Since he was the last runner and all of us had done 10K, he had the pleasure of also running an extra 2.2K to make it the full marathon distance (so in case you're counting, Jordan actually ran 22.2K) which we called the "victory lap". Here he is charging in to finish the first ever Will run for Bacon marathon:
(yes that's right...charging)
All together, we ran it in 3:38:47- which is probably the closest I'll ever come to seeing a time that would qualify for Boston :) We finished 5th out of 20 teams in our division (although we're pretty sure the 2nd place team accidentally cut their "victory lap" short- but even if they hadn't, they'd still have beat us) and of course- it was a lot of fun.
Yay team!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

my new almost favourite olympian

Dear Bjorn Ferry,

I have no idea if biathlon is a sport that gets a lot of attention in Sweden- it certainly isn't a "sexy" sport here in Canada. I don't really know anything about you except that according to  CTV you are 6'4", 180 pounds, and you will be 32 in August. And apparently you are married to an arm wrestler. Most importantly though, you are an "anti-doping hardliner." Just how much of a hardliner? So hard-core that you now have my favourite quote of the games thus far (and it will be pretty hard to top):
"If it were up to me I would dish out the death penalty in doping cases," he said. "Or at least lots of kicks in the balls." (source)
Yes, that's right, kicked in the balls. So while you aren't a superstar here in Canada (and maybe not in Sweden either), I love your style.
For that Mr Ferry, you get my best rating ever: 6 thumbs up. Enjoy your gold medal!


Monday, February 15, 2010

olympic randomness

Like my sister, I LOVE the Olympics. I'm not sure there is anything about them that I don't like. I love the sports, I love the drama, I love watching people live out their dreams. Since I'm feeling a bit random, I thought I'd put together a list of random olympic things or moments that have stood out to me so far (and I'm sure I'll forget a thing or two).
  • Loved the moment when (dutch speed skater) Sven Kramer ran across the ice, jumped all of the barriers, and ran into the stands to hug his family once he was sure he won the gold medal. I also loved his interview with CTV afterward- he commented that he had worked his ass off and that this is what he wanted. Plus he's a cutie. (funny that when I google image searched him, google wondered if I meant "sven kramer shirtless")
  • To stick with speed skating, I really loved seeing the moment when both Kristina Groves and Clara Hughes found out that Kristina had won bronze. The look of excitement on both of their faces was awesome. You genuinely couldn't tell who was more excited. Love the team spirit.
  • Jennifer Heil's grace in dealing with winning silver instead of the gold that she and the entire country were hoping for was impressive. I haven't dealt with disappointment even close to that "important" with even half the grace of that. I'll have to remember her next time I'm disappointed.
  • Every time I see them together, I kind of wonder what Canada AM's Beverly Thompson thinks of TSN's Jay Onrait. He cracks me right up but I kind of wonder if his sarcasm is lost on Beverly.
  • According to his little feature on CTV, Jeremy Wotherspoon's quads are 70cm around (each). After hearing this, I was curious and measured my own quads. 51 cm around the right and 50 around the left.
  • Accidental Brian Williams saying "CBC" instead of "CTV" count stands at 1.
  • I'm loving that I can watch the Olympics on four five channels...(CTV, TSN, Rogers Sportsnet, and en francais on RDS oh yeah, and NBC too!)
  • And of course, Alexandre Bilodeau. I don't really know if I have the right words to say how exciting it was to watch the moguls final. Firstly, all of the Canadians in the field rocked it. Then watching the end was tense but really exciting. Watching Bilodeau's face first when he saw that he was in first place after his run and then when the last skier didn't beat him was awesome. I ran a victory lap around the living room and couldn't stop watching the replays. He is clearly a great skier and he seems like a really nice guy. While it is too bad that some of the other Canadians weren't able to do it, it seems like Canada's first gold medal of the games and in Canada couldn't have been awarded to a nicer guy. (And on the moguls final note- is Dale Begg-Smith made of stone? There wasn't a smile, a smirk or even a grimace that passed over his face.)
And now, I will return my attention to watching the Olympics :) Has anything at the Olympics caught your attention? Any favourite moments so far?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

au pied de cochon- a return

Some of you may remember my "memorable meal" back in July. Jordan and I headed to Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal and had a great meal with the bonus of a chef Martin Picard sighting.

Last weekend, we returned to the restaurant and had another great meal. We had a gift certificate to use (a lovely gift from people who know how much we love to eat) and we were passing through Montreal so it seemed like a perfect match.

We approached this visit a little differently than our last. Ever since seeing the foie gras poutine on the menu (and then seeing it on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain), Jordan has wanted to try it. I wasn't really into it last time, but decided to give it a try this time. Plus, it was Jordan's birthday week, so I figured he should get to give it a try. Knowing we needed to have the poutine, we decided to structure our meal a little differently than the last. We decided to share two appetizers and then finish off with the poutine.

Our "first course" was a variation on beef tartare. One of the interesting things about the menu at Au pied de Cochon is that there are no descriptions of what you are getting. All it says is the item and then the price. I think they do this so that they can change the menu to suit seasonal ingredients and the mood of the chef. So when we ordered the beef tartare, we had no idea that it would be served like a sushi hand roll:
(this is not my picture- i got it from here)
What you don't see under this paper (and I'm not sure if what is under this paper is actually the same as what we got) is the wooden disk that the hand rolls were served in. When we were there in July, Picard came into the restaurant with the wooden disks and instructed the kitchen staff on how to use them. Little did we know, we'd be eating out of them on this trip. It was pretty cool, and the tartare was delicious. So many textures and flavours. There were little fried bits, the softness of the beef, the chewiness of the nori...yum.

Our second course was one of the appetizer specials- salmon with maple glaze that was pan-fried until the skin was super crispy. It was served with creme fraiche and an herb salad. It was delicious. The salmon was perfectly cooked, the creme was perfect and the herbs added great freshness to it all, and it even just smelled really good.  We both loved it.

Then it was time for the star of the show- the foie gras poutine. I'm not usually a fan of poutine- I don't really like gravy and since that is an important element of poutine, it is kind of hard to get around. I had also never had foie gras before. So I really had no idea how I would feel about this dish. The fries are done in duck fat, the gravy is apparently pork-stock based, the cheese curds were huge, and the foie gras was seared. The verdict? Delightful. The sauce was rich and "full bodied", the fries were perfectly done, the cheese curds had an almost meaty texture, and the foie gras melted in you mouth. (for a picture of the poutine, check out this post) Sure, it probably took about 3 months off my life (as I imagine it had more grams of fat than I am years old), but I don't really need those three months anyway. Every bite was fantastic and I really enjoyed it.

So there you have it- a delightful return to Au Pied de Cochon.

Sorry for the lack of posting this week. I wasn't feeling all that inspired. But I'm back. And if you don't like the Olympics, this might not be the place for you for the next couple of weeks because I imagine I'll be talking about them a lot. I love pretty much everything about the Olympics and get really excited about them.  Oh and I'm really jealous that my sister got her picture taken holding the Olympic torch yesterday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

another health story

To continue with this week's health theme (I guess) I was reading about tanning this week. There has been ongoing pressure to prohibit the use of tanning beds for people under 18 years of age due to the link between tanning and skin cancer. Right now, if you live in New Brunswick and you are under 18, you can't use a tanning bed, but there aren't any rules in the rest of Canada (although I think some tanning places ask that your parents sign something if you are younger).

More recently, younger people are being urged not to tan. Apparently, the use of tanning beds (and other tanning "devices") before the age of 30 is associated with a 75% increase in the occurrence of skin cancer. 75%! That's a lot... Obviously, tanning at any age is associated with skin damage such as spots, wrinkles and cancer, but I think it is important for younger people to realize that they aren't invincible and that their actions can have huge consequences in the future.

I've been tanning just a few times. I can't remember when I went for the first time, but I went with my sister and I went to get a little colour. I don't even really know why. I remember really liking the warmth of the tanning bed, being a little skeeved at what might be on the surfaces, and kind of weirded out by the skin colour of the employees.  The second stint I had tanning was right before my wedding. We got married in February and I wanted my skin colour to be a little less translucent than it usually is in the cold Canadian winter.

I was tanning because I thought I "looked better with a tan". And you know what- I still kind of think that. A little sun damage evens out my skin tone, makes me glow a little (although that is probably just because I'm happier when I get to be outside in the sun), and I like the way colours look on me more. Even though I think that, I really do try to protect myself as much as possible from the sun and I have vowed never to set foot (or skin) in a tanning bed again. Even though the president of Fabutan insists that the correlation between tanning and skin cancer does not imply causation (and he's right, statistically a correlation and a causation are very different) it is a risk I'm just not willing to take. Just to get cheeky with his example- he says that drowning is correlated with swimming, but obviously swimming doesn't cause drowning. In the case of tanning- I figure if I don't get in the water, I won't drown.

What do you think? Do you use tanning beds? Do you think look better with a tan? Do you take measures to try to protect your skin?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

point for science!

As we know, I'm a bit of a science dork but have used that to my advantage and have translated it into a job. So it may not surprise you that I found the following story somewhat satisfying (link to full story).

Back in 1998 the Lancet (the British medical journal) published a study by Wakefield that linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism spectrum disorder. This study was conducted in TWELVE (yes, twelve...not 12 000, 1 200 or even 120!) kids with colitis and implied that the vaccine caused colitis and that the complications related to that, caused autism spectrum disorder.

What happened? People panicked. Parents stopped vaccinating their children and guess what? Their kids got the measles. Since the study was published, there have been absolutely NO studies that could confirm the link. In fact pretty much all of the evidence published before AND after that study found that no, the MMR vaccine cannot be linked to autism.  In fact, some of Wakefield's colleagues disassociated themselves from both Wakefield and the study.

Did we hear much about all of the "no, this does not cause autism" side? No. No we didn't. Instead, we heard from Jenny McCarthy and then even MORE people stopped vaccinating their kids.

So today, news breaks that the Lancet has retracted the original article by Wakefield saying that he pretty much lied about too many things. The way he said the children were referred was false and the study was not in fact approved by a local ethics committee. Ethics approval- that's a pretty big one to lie about. Speaking of ethics though- the guy clearly had none- he took blood samples for study from the kids at his son's BIRTHDAY PARTY.  Seriously dude...not cool

Most people who have read the study, questioned the methodology in the first place, but of course that isn't nearly as sensational as "MMR vaccine causes autism!". So it is nice that not only has the publication of this study been retracted, but that the media is actually paying attention to it.

While I'm not sure it will undo all the damage the original study and publicity has done, I say POINT- science.

In other news, I was out running today and had stopped at a light. It was a fairly fast paced run, so I was breathing a little heavily but nothing crazy. Just as I was about to cross the street, a guy walks up to me and says "you shouldn't be running in this cold will damage your lungs". I thanked him for his concern and then kept on running. But it kind of got me thinking "gee, I'm pretty sure that the exhaust from the bus that just drove by is worse for my lungs than this cold air is". While I know that he's just one of those guys who just needs to tell you that what you're doing is wrong and I really don't care, I kind of wonder what he expected me to do- turn around and walk home?