Wednesday, September 22, 2010

hills? we eat them for breakfast

My sister was in Montreal over the weekend and with all that has been going on, it was really nice to have her here. She arrived Saturday evening and left on Sunday evening, so we got to hang out for a long time. After meeting her at the airport (she said it was nice to actually have someone waiting for her at the airport- it doesn't happen very often) and having a few drinks on Saturday night, we figured Sunday morning was a great time for a run. It was a beautiful morning and all three of us needed to get out and run. We had a route in mind and set off:
(as usual, I look a little goofy)
We knew that the first half of it was pretty much all uphill- so we climbed up, and up, and up (and lucky Jordan had to run the first part of the uphill at a tempo pace because he so kindly volunteered to get the camera when I realized I had forgotten it).
As you can see, Heather wasn't as excited about climbing the hill as I was:
But when we got to the top, it was definitely worth the huffing and puffing:
(it really was a beautiful day)

A strange thing happened up there though- when Heather offered to take a couple's picture (they were doing the one armed self-portrait), once the picture was taken, they said "Gee, everyone up here seems to be American". We were a little confused, and it took awhile before they realized that we were in fact Canadians. It was something I had never experienced before and we were all a little baffled by the interaction. The only thing I can think of is that they had just been in Quebec City and perhaps figured that Canadians who live in the province of Quebec are francophones. 

Regardless, the three of us ended up running almost 8 miles and until the very end (when my legs started to feel heavy from being hungry) they flew by. A great Sunday run with two of my favourite people. (and then we went out for breakfast...bacon tastes much better than hills)

Monday, September 20, 2010

cheap eats at patati patata

I never thought I'd say it- but I actually like poutine. Especially when it looks like this (and please excuse the low light- I didn't want to use my flash):
 (poutine from Patati Patata Friterie de Luxe)
Growing up out west, I thought that poutine meant Fries + gravy + random cheese, which in my mind, = gross. But then I moved a little further east and learned that poutine sauce and gravy are not in fact the same. Fries, gravy, and random cheese? Yuck. Fries, poutine sauce, and cheese curds? Delicious. (And sorry to my PEI friends- peas do not belong on fries, especially when they come from a can.)

Along with that delicious poutine (and yes, that's an olive on top...and yes, it works) we had tiny burgers (I had one, Jordan had two), salad, and a half pitcher of beer:
(mmm...mini burgers)
Our meal was barely $20. And it was great food. The burgers were juicy, it was real cheese instead of edible oil product on the burgers, and the choice of toppings was great. We sat at the counter- where we watched the two employees (the restaurant seats about 13) chop veggies, grill burgers, serve beer, cook fries, and tend to both the people eating in and taking out. They were nothing but friendly and despite the popularity, told us to take our time once we asked for the bill.

Patati Patata gets two thumbs up from our household- it is affordable, delicious, and has a fun atmosphere. 

(And don't be surprised if you see more references to poutine over the next little while. i might just be hooked)

Friday, September 17, 2010

the REAL race (in the mountains)

As I mentioned in my previous post- the day after the shower, we had a race to run. In our group, we had 10K runners and half-marathoners and it felt kind of strange to be "just" running the 10K, but with all that was going on in August and September (plus the injury this spring), I knew that the 10K was the better option for me.
(as usual the drive up was beautiful- that blog header of mine? taken between Calgary and Canmore)
We drove out the night before (my dad has a place not far from Canmore) and ended up having a late dinner of pasta (and delicious pasta to boot) before all collapsing into bed as early as we possibly could- I was exhausted from all the lying. I slept really well and felt pretty rested when I got my 6:20 wake-up call (from my sister). She made me some oatmeal and then it was off to the races.
First stop group picture:
(the half marathoners an me)
Second stop- picture with the giant head:
(yup, i'm mature)
Did I mention it was cold? Not yet? Well, it was cold. You'll notice I'm wearing a toque in that picture and I think the head would be too if he could find one. It was about 2 or 3 degrees when we got there. Brrrr.

The half-marathon started at 9:15 and the 10K at 9:45, so after bidding good luck to the halfers, I had half an hour to go to the bathroom, stay warm, and to decide which layers to keep and which to leave behind. That was a tougher decision than you'd think, but thanks to the fact that my mum was there as a sherpa for all of our stuff, I was able to take off the warmest layers at the last minute and keep only what I'd need.

I lined up with some friends at first, but when I saw how many people where ahead of me, I moved up a little- but probably not enough because it took me almost 2 minutes to cross the start line (I'm still really confused as to how that happened- there weren't THAT many people in the race).

I had almost no expectations for this race. I knew I was in decent shape but I didn't feel prepared to "race" and I had NO idea what the altitude would do to me (Canmore is at about 1,300 meters above sea level whereas Montreal is at about 5). So, I decided that I would accept that it was going to suck, accept that I would have a hard time breathing (which is why I wanted music- I didn't want to hear myself gasping for air), do my best, and try to enjoy running in one of my favourite places in the world. Oh- and my other goal was to run a negative split. I'm trying to learn how to do that, and figured this was a great time to try.
(that doesn't look like great form- but it DOES look like I might be having fun!)
As I was running, I figured if there was a "9" as the start of my minutes per mile I would speed up and if I was feeling really bad and saw that I was running faster than an 8:30 mile, I'd allow myself to slow down to take a bit of a breather. I walked the water stations (even though I was carrying a small bottle- I found that breathing was really hard while drinking), enjoyed my music, really enjoyed the scenery, and every so often I chatted with someone near me. I also loved hearing my mum cheer for me twice- I think this is the first time she's been able to cheer me on and I loved it.

As the kilometers ticked by, I noticed that I kept leapfrogging a couple of girls in teal and I kept seeing a lady in her Boston gear up ahead. I made mental notes to beat the girls in teal and to try to catch and pass the Boston lady if I could see her near the end. I hit the 5K mark in just under 27 minutes, made note of that, and figured it was time to get slightly faster.

With every kilometer mark after 5K I tried to take note of how I felt and to decide if I could work just a tiny bit harder. Just before the 9K mark, we went over a bridge that swung a bit under the movement of just a few runners. At first, I thought the dizziness of running in the mountains was finally getting the best of me, but when I said "woah" out loud and the girl just ahead of me (who happened to be one of the teal girls) agreed that the world was moving, I felt a bit better and decided to pick it up even more. As I passed her coming off the bridge, I looked behind me and said "come on- let's go" but she looked at me with a "I'm trying but can't" kind of face and didn't come with me.

So I ran hard. I turned a corner and saw the finish line up ahead- but it was one of those long stretches that feels even longer than it is. I reminded myself that the pain would be over soon, but was having a tough time- until I saw my "rabbits." I took down the second teal girl in no time and then saw the Boston lady up ahead. I was working really hard to catch her and was reeling her in...then when I was about a foot behind her she decided to speed up. For a split second, I thought "screw it, I can't speed up" but then I looked at her, looked at my watch (and saw I was approaching a "minute mark" and therefore had get to the finish line before the minute was up) shook it off and ran it in to the finish.
(yeah- that's what I look like when I kind of want to die)
The verdict? Well, first off, that bright blue shirt in the background is the lady in her Boston gear :) Secondly, I pulled off the negative split. Hooray! And thirdly, I have a new 10K personal best! As I walked through the finish chute, I looked at my watch and saw a 52: and said "that is f#% ridiculous". I managed to pull off a best time at altitude and without feeling "race ready". Yaaay!  I think part of it was the cold weather- the cold treats me well :)

Oh- and how did I pull off registering for a race that my sister was running and that had a published list of entrants without her catching on? I registered under a pseudonym of course- so way to go Kristen Johnson, glad you had a great race ;-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

a triathlon of sorts

For the last couple of months, I have been a dirty, dirty liar...to my sister. You see, little H-mo is getting married next month and we had a surprise to pull off.  Months ago, I asked her if she'd be game for a surprise bridal shower, knowing it would be pretty tough to pull off, but figuring that we were all up for the challenge. When she said yes, we sprung into action (well, we slowly figured things out and made plans).


Challenge number 1 was finding a weekend that this could happen. This is NOT easy when you're trying to pull off a surprise for a flight attendant. Luckily for us, this flight attendant is also a runner and a triathlete- so she HAS to be home for race weekends. That left us 2 options: half-ironman weekend (the first weekend in August) or the weekend of the Canmore half-marathon. We figured a shower and a half-ironman was a little much for a weekend, so we chose the weekend in September.


The plan was to have the shower on Saturday, then a group of us would head to the race in Canmore on Sunday. Unfortunately, she was getting a little suspicious (due to some accidental mentions of me running the race- which she and I had talked about earlier in the year, but that as soon as we started to think that the weekend was an option for the shower, I said I couldn't come) so we needed to figure out what to do. The solution seemed perfect- I should "sign up" for a race here so that there would be no way I could be there.


As if they knew I'd need the perfect cover story, the Montreal Esprit Triathlon was scheduled for Saturday. So, I put it out there on twitter that I was thinking of signing up. She took the bait- and from then on, I was doing my first tri that day. Perfect.

The email trails between the other bridesmaids and I were insane, the getting our stories straight with my parents was kind of funny, but everything went pretty smoothly. I arrived in Calgary late on Thursday night and Friday was a full day of making lists, shopping, and avoiding areas where Heather might be. (I went for a short run on Friday morning and had to do a few laps of some streets because I worried that if I ran in the other direction, I might see her)


Things were going great until I got a text from my sister on Friday night saying "are you awake?" (it would have been close to 10 pm in my time zone, and I had a race the next day). I should have ignored it...but wrote back "I'm in bed...not sure how well I'll sleep." Then my phone rang and it was her. Unfortunately, I was in a loud and crowded restaurant and I wasn't sure what to do. I ran to the hall with the bathroom, was going to go into the "regular" bathroom but thought "eek. what if there is noise???" so I noticed a single bathroom reserved for wheelchairs. I started yanking on the handle (in a bit of a panic" but it was locked. Two waitresses saw me struggling and directed me toward the regular bathroom. I'm sure I sounded like a crazy woman as I said things like "phone...quiet...sister can't know I'm in here...help...PLEASE let me in." Rather than deal with the crazy person, they let me in and I had a 10 minute conversation with my sister about my non-existent triathlon the next day. We hung up with me promising to call her when it was over and with me feeling terrible about lying.


In another stroke of luck, the race I was "signed up for" didn't start until 1:30 pm EST and my age group didn't start until half an hour later. The shower was scheduled for 2 pm MST, Heather was due to arrive between 2:15 and 2:30 so although I should have been finished my race before she was to arrive, I could probably be excused for not calling her quite yet. Of course, she called about 30 mins before she was supposed to arrive (a call that I ignored). We waited, I hoped she wouldn't call again, and I sent instructions to Jordan not to answer his phone if she called.


Finally, we got the message we had been waiting for: she was on her way. Again, we waited and waited (apparently she was on the phone and waiting until she was finished her conversation...also lucky) and finally, she arrived. She opened the door thinking she was coming to my dad's place to pick up a key...so it is no wonder she had such a stellar "surprised look" when she came in:


That look definitely made it all worth it for those of us involved in our weekend triathlon of deception, planning, and partying.

To those of you who were my partners in crime (I didn't want to put your pictures up without your permission)- thank you for such a fun weekend! I was a little sad I couldn't hang out with my sister before the party- but the fun I had with you guys practically made up for it.

Oh- and the race in Canmore? We still did it...but that is for the next post :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

hello montreal

And when you have goodbyes, you must also have hellos...

Dear Montreal,
I don't know you all that well- yet. I've visited a few times and had a memorable meal (or two) but other than that, I don't know you well. I know you as the place my mother grew up, the place where French and English Canadians clashed long before I was born, and the sort of setting of a book I had to read in school (any French immersion kids out there? did you read Surreal 3000 as well??). I know you as a city with lots of shopping, delicious food, and a hockey team with very passionate fans.
As I said, I don't know you well, but I can't wait to find out more. (and to take lots of pictures)
Please be kind!
Love,
~Kristen

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

goodbye ottawa

This seems a little late, but I feel like I still need to bid the city a proper goodbye...

Dear Ottawa,

Thank you. I have experienced a LOT with you. Until I moved to Ottawa, I had only lived in Calgary. Sure, just days after moving, I realized that there were rats in Ontario, but I managed to avoid them (except for a second-hand sighting by Jordan that managed to scare the crap out of me). I rediscovered milk in bags, learned what it was like to live downtown, started the "ghetto tree" tradition, and experienced freezing rain (for the first time and many more times).  I got married (ok, not IN Ottawa, but while living in Ottawa), I learned to laugh at myself more often, and learned that the heat and I do NOT get along well.

I learned how to run, I learned how to be injured, and learned how to get back up and try again. I also finally got my picture taken with Jack Layton :)
I grew up a lot, I met some great people, and had some great times.  I really liked living in Ottawa (I said a lot of it in my "four years" post). I will miss it, but will mostly miss the people who helped make it such a fun place to live.

Love,
~Kristen