Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Journey to ... Boston!

Rome Marathon Update

Updates are still pending. Perhaps I'm just waiting for the perfect time to write an epic post about an epic trip. Nevertheless, the entire experience from Rome remains burned in my mind and heart. In the meantime, for those of you who have me on facebook, I have photos uploaded. I even took the camera along the race, snapping photos along my run! Here's a photo from a friend's album snapped of me (above).

Qualifying for Boston

As I crossed the finish line in Rome (at 4:24), I was in excruciating pain, muttering to myself, "never again!" After 3 ice baths and the runner's high kicking in, I lay on my bed the next day craving more. In fact, I could not sleep from all the excitement.

Upon my arrival in Toronto, I immediately looked for opportunities to run. An opportunity opened up to be a Pace Rabbit for the Toronto GoodLife Marathon (I'll be the 4:30 Pace Rabbit). I have paced a Half Marathon (2:30 Rabbit), but I was just getting into the Full! Yet I felt fairly confident that I could do this, given the downhill course (Toronto) and the smooth course, quite unlike Rome's cobblestones. I will also need to continue training hard so that I will run the Marathon (May 15) comfortably.

One of the goals I have is to qualify for the Boston Marathon (cut-off, 3:10). I have a long way to go to qualify, but coming back from Rome, I was filled with a renewed desire to reach this seemingly unattainable goal.

Vegetarian Diet

One of the keys to training is diet. Eating the proper diet will help give you the right energy and help you recover faster. Faster recovery means more training :) In light of all this, I am working to a more plant-based diet. Apparently, meat takes more energy to digest, energy that can be used to run. The transition will be gradual, much like my transition away from coffee. But I will be taking more care into how I eat, looking for foods that give me a lot of "positive energy".

Matt Frazier, aka the No Meat Athlete, qualified for the Boston Marathon. Incorporating a plant-based diet was a key element to his preparation. This is the tail-end of my Journey to Rome (the journey has been complete, and the last month of fundraising is coming to a close). A new journey has begun. The Journey to the Boston Marathon!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quick Update :)

Hey friends!

I'm back from Rome and had a great experience! I will be updating my blog in the next few days with some post-marathon reflections. At present, I'm catching up with some school work.

Stay tuned!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Opening Speech from Saturday's Inspiration Dinner

Hey everyone! I just finished running my first marathon and I'm incredibly grateful to all for your support and encouragement. I'd like to share with you the opening speech from the President of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. It reminded me of the importance of what I do and gives you the bigger picture of how your money is helping change lives. I took the time to type it up, so I hope you read it! :)

Hello, I am Nancy Allen with Team in Training and President of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. I would like to say Welcome marathons to your Team in Training Inspiration Dinner in ROME, ITALY!!!

We are here to acknowledge and thank you all for your efforts and to further motivate and inspire you for your event tomorrow as you prepare to celebrate the culmination of your training and fundraising efforts. Let’s start by making a little noise to show we are here – on the count of three let’s get a big GO TEAM from y’all.

LLS has become the leading North American organization in the fight against blood cancers. No longer are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma considered almost fatal diseases as they once were in 1949.

Through innovative efforts LLS has helped to significantly increase survival rates of these blood cancers, and we remain committed to stay on the forefront in:

Research, Patient Services, Advocacy, and Fundraising: with Team in Training leading the way of our fundraising charge. Team in Training® (TNT) has trained over 440,000 “athletes” and has reached a remarkable milestone of raising over $1 billion to support blood cancer research and patient services. Team in Training continues to be a strong fundraising force with the active support of participants like you – so thank you.

The money you have raised truly inspires the Society. TNT fundraising efforts have had a positive impact on the research and services we fund. Since our inception in 1949, LLS has invested more than $750 million in research aimed at helping all blood cancer patients live longer, healthy lives. We will continue to support research through our innovative and integrated funding programs, until every patient has a safe and effective therapy. In fiscal year 2010, LLS supported research in the U.S., Canada, and 9 other countries with a total budget of approximately $72 million, which almost $6 illion was focused on paediatric cancer research. Research funding was dispersed across all blood cancer categories, including:

  • Leukemia research: approximately $36 million
  • Lymphoma research: approximately $29 million
  • Myeloma research: approximately $7 million
In these committed research funds, LLS has a special research initiative that focuses on the Quality of Life so important to our patients and their families.

The cure rates for many cancers have improved dramatically over the past decades, but the harsh reality is that too many cancer survivors suffer serious side-effects of their curative treatments. Toxic side-effects can occur months or years after the treatments are finished, sometimes as chronic conditions, sometimes life-threatening, but always unacceptably reducing a patient’s quality of life.

While research continues to seek new safe and effective drugs, what patients need now is for current therapies to be made less harmful without sacrificing their effectiveness.

We have invested in this research designed to discover the biological mechanisms that cause late effects, and to develop and test measures to prevent or at least significantly reduce toxicities.

The paediatric cancer story has shown us that the goal is achievable. Years of research and clinical trials enabled survival rates to reach nearly 90% for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia. But then the medical and research community recognized that the serious late effects were impacting quality of life. High-dose radiation treatments, once thought critical to cures, have been eliminated for most children, significantly reducing cognitive deficits and other once common side-effects.

Now LLS has a goal of doing for ALL cancer patients, regardless of age, what has been achieved for many children – survival with good quality of life. Because of you and the money you raise, we remain in the forefront of cancer research and we get one step closer to a cure every day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Veni, vidi, vici"

I came, I saw, I conquered!

Those were the words that ended our Inspirational Dinner tonight. After the talk, we had our pasta dinner, which was our opportunity to carb load for our race tomorrow.

But let me back up a bit :) This morning, I was supposed to meet some other people at 9am to go for a run. I arrived at 9:10am, later finding out they left at 9:05am :P I ended up grabbing some water and fuel and went for an adventure.

This morning's adventure lasted a couple hours and involved wandering around Rome, seeing the Colosseum, the ancient ruins, and the National Museum. As I mentioned, I'll upload the photos when I have better access to Wi-Fi (currently limited on downloads and time). However, here are two photos that I picked up: The first one (top) is of the Colosseum, with the Arch in the background, and the second one (bottom) is a shot of the ruins.

I feel fairly ready for tomorrow. Adequate energy levels, injuries under management, and excited for the big day!

I'll be taking along:
- Fuel belt, with water, fuel (gels, blocks, and diluted Gatorade)
- Camera!

I'll be starting at a comfortable pace for the first half, and if I'm feeling good, I'll pick up the pace for the latter half. I'll be running in memory of my Uncle, of Gabby (an honored hero of a fellow team member who recently passed away), and of the other blood cancer fighters and survivors.

When negative thoughts (and feelings) plague my mind and body, I'll remember others have it worse. Those battling cancer are the real heroes and are fighting a fight of an intensity I can't even begin to grasp. So cheers to you all! I'll be running for hope.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Day in Rome!

** Note: Apparently Internet at this hotel either costs $$ or has limited / sporadic service in the lobby. So while I'll try to keep this updated, content will be limited based on time. I'll upload photos on facebook when I have access to more reliable Internet.

The flight from Amsterdam to Rome was 2 hours. Most of us barely had any sleep - perhaps an hour at most on our 8 hour flight from Toronto. However, en route to Rome, we passed over the Swiss Alps. This was an absolutely breathtaking sight. Unfortunately, the picture does not do it justice.

Upon arriving in Rome, we dragged our tired bodies to the hotel, desperately hoping for some sleep - even a quick nap. My tired body definitely needed it. But we were in Rome! In Italy! Our minds were deceiving our tired bodies.

So we decided to see the Expo. While we already had our race packets delivered to us at the hotel, we made the trip via the Metro to visit the expo. And wow ... I'll let facebook do the talking, since each photo upload is taking a long time. What was unique about this expo was the stuff. There was a lot of stuff. Lots of shoes. Lots of cool stuff. Neat gear and running ... stuff. And ... samples :) Sample bread w/ olive oil ... sample red / white wine :) ... free shaker bottle! And lots of crazy stuff.

On our way back to the hotel, we saw a beautiful rainbow, which continued to grow in intensity as we entered the Metro. My camera failed to capture the intensity of the rainbow, but you get the picture :) Breathtaking.

Tomorrow's plan:
- Early morning light jog around 9am
- Spend some time working on my thesis
- Enjoy the beauty of Italy
- Pasta dinner tomorrow night!

The day after tomorrow: The Rome Marathon!

Amsterdam ... en Route to Rome!

I just arrived in Amsterdam after a most amazing flight on KLM! Despite being in a squishy area, I had an aisle seat and had ample opportunity to walk around. The food was delicious - the best airplane food I've had! The pasta, salad, ...., they even served complimentary wine (I had the merlot).

The picture above is with one of our mentors, Kathy. We just arrived at our gate in Amsterdam, having tried to get some sleep, but managing to get almost an hour of sleep?

I'm in the Netherlands! I'm incredibly excited to be here and the airport is so cool! I didn't have my camera handy, so the webcam photos will have to suffice for now. The photo below is Nasim with her cup of coffee. While it smelled delicious, that medium-sized cup cost $5 USD ... and I'm off coffee for the next while :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tonight, Amsterdam. Tomorrow, Rome!

Sitting in Terminal 3, excited for my flight to Amsterdam. I'll be arriving around 8am (i.e. 2am in Toronto) and will arrive in Rome around 11am (5am Toronto).

Some captions that come to mind when I see that picture:
  • "Rome! SWEEET!"
  • "Amsterdam! Europe! Rome! :D :D :D"
  • "Gahh! Thesis!" ... yes, my wonderful "friend" will be joining me along for the trip.
Thank you all once again for your incredible support, encouragement, prayers, and smiles =)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crazy morning today!

"Crazy" as in Crazy Awesome!

Men's breakfast: Good as always. Tasty poached eggs on rye bread. Kelvin, Bang, Elliott -- good times.

Light Run: Last run before my trip to Rome. 10k around Hart House track with Kelvin. The run was definitely invigorating!

The New Korean Restaurant: Yes, I would have to say their Pork Bone soup is better than Seor Ak San. Additionally, they have purple rice served in a hot stone bowl and the best Kimchi I've tasted! Thanks for the introduction, Kelvin!

James Bond Shower: Zap! I'm awake! FYI: James Bond Shower involves a hot shower and ends with a cold shower =)

Coffee-free: Last week I decided to get off coffee so that I would have real energy for my first marathon. I've been getting caffeine from more natural sources, such as the amazing Green Tea I had at the Korean Restaurant!

Evening run

Out for a run I went
A bit past midnight
In well-worn runners
My footsteps faded into the dark

A marvelous complement
Of night mist and mild weather
The aura ethereal
The run serene

The scatter of my thoughts
Coming to a standstill
Heart mind body and soul
To Rome ready to roll

Recovering health
One slow step at a time
Finding renewed energy
In this break from coffee

Allowing my body to sense
Sickness and pain
To naturally find real energy
Real smiles and real joy

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Copy of my update e-mail for Rome :)

Hey friends

Thank you so much for your support so far, be it through your encouragements and/or donations. To-date, I've raised $3,789 and have received donations from 80 sponsors! With your help, I've reached 63% of my big fundraising goal of $6,000! If you were planning on donating, it's still not too late! You can donate online here and follow my blog here.

Here are some updates:

1. I leave for Rome this Thursday, March 17! My flight departs at 6:45pm from Terminal 3. I am incredibly excited!

2. My first marathon will be this Sunday, March 20. The marathon starts and finishes at the Coliseum! I feel like a Gladiator! I've never run 42.2 km before. While the distance is a bit daunting, I've done my best to prepare.

3. I have a bit of time for sight-seeing and photos. If you've donated or supported my cause in any way, I would love to send you a postcard as a small token of appreciation. Please send me your address by this Wednesday, 5pm, if you would like a postcard from Rome! I'll do my best to send you a postcard =)

4. Training updates: My injuries, current health, and recently rediscovered exercised-induced asthma have made marathon training difficult. While I have decreased the mileage the past few weeks, I have continued to train hard to prepare for my first marathon. In the process of finding alternative forms of training, I recently discovered pool running. It's low impact and a great workout! I was delightfully surprised. My dad is a physiotherapist and I'm going to see him to make sure I'm all set for Rome!

5. Running for a cause: At times when training isn't always fun, I think about my uncle who lost the fight to cancer, and I think about my friends who know others that have fought or survived the fight against leukemia / lymphoma. While the pain I experience during those forty-two kilometers will be grueling, it will pale in comparison to the pain endured by those fighting cancer. I train my body and run in their honor, in hopes of creating a better future for those who fight leukemia and lymphoma.

Cheers to a better future!


Monday, March 7, 2011

A Trip to Shoppers

I went to Shoppers Drug Mart and picked up the following:

Puffer (Ventolin) - for exercised induced asthma
Protein Powder (bodylogix) - for quicker recovery after workouts
Super Echinacea - for respiratory health
Daily-One Multivitamin (Life Brand), formulated for men! haha - for energy and health

So after I talked to my doctor today, she said I likely have exercise-induced asthma (I thought I grew out of it). Haha, just what I need before my first marathon! =)

I'm also not drinking coffee from now until I've run 42.2 km in Rome. I want to derive my energy naturally and not take shortcuts. It's definitely going to be hard, as those who know me will know. Nevertheless, I will do it. And that's that =)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One of the Secrets to Happiness

How do you be happy? Where does a lack of happiness come from? I've been reading books of people I admire to learn from them. One of my "virtual mentors" is Billy Graham. I admire how he pursued his vision with laser-like tenacity. He is one of the men I aspire to be like and one of the men who inspire me to be more like Jesus.

In a Q&A, Mr. Graham mentions one of the secrets to happiness by referencing King Solomon from the Christian Bible. In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 9, verse 10, it starts by saying,
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..."
This, Mr. Graham notes, is one of the secrets to happiness. What better way to learn about life's secrets than to learn from older and wiser individuals, people who have weathered the storm. It's the difference between hearing about the war from a young scholar and a veteran with battle scars.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon towards the end of his life. Those familiar with this book will recall how he speaks of the meaningless of life, or rather, how many of life's pursuits (money, women, fame, ...) are meaningless. These sayings were written looking back on his life. Some have said that our vision of the past is 20/20.

Why is this one of the secrets to happiness?

Many of us are unsatisfied, desiring something better. Comparing our current state of affairs with those of others. Our view of ourselves are often connected with this comparison. If we "do better" or "have more" than others, we feel better; likewise, the converse is true.

What King Solomon is saying is to take whatever you have been given and to work at it with all your entire being. There is something to be said about the man (or woman) who takes what they have been given and cultivates excellence. What matters more is how you live the role rather than the role itself.

The takeaway is not that comparing is bad, but to be careful what you compare. Instead of comparing roles or gifts (i.e. doctor vs nurse, engineer vs businessman, janitor vs CEO, teaching vs leadership, etc...), you should look at your roles and gifts and examine how you live out your roles (be it a father, businessman, sister, student, etc..) and how you cultivate your gifts.

This does not mean you do not search out these roles (i.e. give no regard to your calling). In each stage of life, we continue to discover more about who we are and where we are destined. However, at each of these stages of life, there are also things to work on (including pursuing your calling) and these are the things you should pursue with all your might.

Workout Log: Feb 28 - Mar 6

The purpose of this post is
1. To record the past week's workouts
2. To develop a consistent regimen to reach my fitness goals
3. To note areas for improvement for the upcoming week

Monday (Feb 28): Lower Body @ AC
- Warm-up run
- Squats: warm-up + 3 x 10 reps (135 lbs)
- GHD: 3x10 (develop back, hamstrings, core)

Tuesday (Mar 1): Circuit Training @ HH
- Hart House Circuit, Bronze, 34:22

Wednesday (Mar 2): Speed training @ AC
- 4 x 100m sprints
- Training partner: Arnold

Thursday (Mar 3): Swimming @ AC

Friday (Mar 4): Biceps / Back @ HH
- Pull-ups, 3 x 10 (only 1st set was completed without rest)
- 1 km tempo run
- Bicep barbell curls, 4 sets (2 inside grip, 2 outside grip), 10 reps (~80 lbs total)
- Dumbbell curls, 3 x 10 (25 lbs)
- Training Partner: Kelvin

Saturday (Mar 5):
- Hart House Circuit, Bronze, 31:20
- Training Partners: Kelvin (32:45), Bang (33:40)

Sunday (Mar 6):
- Rest

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Today's Groceries -- Vegetarian?!

I just came back from shopping at Lucky Moose for some groceries. I am not sharing this just because I have an obsession for grocery shopping. Rather, I find it is important to be mindful of what we eat. The things we consume (food, media, friends, ...) have a strong influence on who we are.

It just so happens that my groceries have no meat (I just went around the store and picked out foods that I thought would make me feel happy). For those considering vegetarian diets, Matt Frazier's blog, No Meat Athlete, and Brendan Brazier's book, Thrive Fitness, are both excellent resources.

Now ... for today's shopping list:

5 California Seedless Oranges (these are pretty big and look juicy!)
6 bananas (2.63 lbs)
5 Gala apples
1 bag (2.43 lbs) of sweet clementines
250g package of figs (great source of quick energy)

2 bags of dry roasted almonds
3 avocados

Other Carbs
3 big yams (total: 2.53 lbs)
1 loaf of bread (Country Harvest, Ancient Grains)

1 Jar of Nutella

Okay! That's it for me :) What do you like eating? I'd love to see posts of your grocery lists and what you think about when you shop for groceries.

Smile =)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hart House Circuit: Journey to Silver

Intro I
Intro II
Bronze - Current Level (Cutoff Time, 28:00)

Bronze Times:
34:22, Tue Mar 1 2011, 4:30pm
31:20, Sat Mar 5 2011, 7:45am
29:35, Sat Mar 12 2011, 10:00am
27:45, Sat Mar 26 2011, 8:15am
27:34, Sun Apr 3 2011, 7:45am

33:40, Sat Mar 5 2011, 7:45am
32:00, Sat Mar 12 2011, 10:00am
30:58, Sun Apr 3 2011, 7:45am

32:45, Sat Mar 5 2011, 7:45am
30:35, Sat Mar 12 2011, 10:00am
27:50, Sat Mar 26 2011, 8:15am
27:42, Fri Apr 1 2011, 11am
27:15, Sun Apr 3 2011, 7:45am


=== Sun Apr 3, 2011, 5pm ===
This morning was incredibly refreshing! We moved our Circuit to today because I was volunteering yesterday with the Harry Rosen Run-Off, which was superfuN!
Kelvin and I officially beat Bronze, and Bang has made tremendous progress, with his incredibly explosions of power. His deadly attack comes at the second set :)
Anyways, we all worked incredibly hard today and were very tired. After, we went home, took a James Bond shower, did devotions together, had a solid breakfast, then went to service at TCBC (Toronto Chinese Baptist Church)
During the service, we were all surprisingly more awake and aware than usual. It felt great! I remember the choir singing this song that reminded me of what Jesus did for us on the cross. The vision of the Cross is an image of intensity and brings to mind what Jesus did for me and what He endured. My efforts in the Hart House Circuit pale in comparison to the staying power Jesus Christ displayed on the Cross.

=== Sat Mar 26, 2011, 4pm ===
What a day! We beat bronze! The word going through my mind was "tenacity". It was definitely tough, but we have to beat it at least twice just to make sure it wasn't a fluke!

=== Sat Mar 12, 2011, 1pm ===
I woke up this morning sick. Stressed with the the growing amount of work and diminishing supply of time, I was definitely not looking forward to this morning's Hart House Circuit. I was greeted by the friendly faces of Kelvin and Bang. Off we went, marching to our doom, my negative energy rubbing off on them by the time we arrived at Hart House.

When we got inside, they were not looking forward to it, but I was looking forward to it. I was sporting my new Team In Training jersey for the Rome Marathon (next week!). And while I was feeling sick, had a splitting headache, and had difficulty breathing (though I brought my puffer), I thought about who I was running for in Rome. Surprisingly, that changed everything.

As we left the change rooms, all three of us were ready to do some damage to the Hart House track. After some light stretches, I started the circuit at a fairly fast pace, to which Kelvin and Bang followed suit. The newfound energy we had was quickly lost as the reality of a poor nutrition and other [insert excuses] stuff hit us. Nevertheless, we fought on.

The second set, I started a bit ahead of Bang (around a lap ahead ...) so I thought I would run with him. But no! He went off with a Bang! I couldn't catch him, with the distance between us increasing with each stride.

The last set, and throughout the entire workout, Kelvin was right behind me, giving me no opportunity for rest. When it came for chin-ups, he just cranked out the 9 chin-ups without hesitation, with an appearance of a struggle on the last rep to make us mortals feel better.

After the Circuit, we were all fairly spent. Bang's energy in the second set caught up to him as he fought to walk. Mansauce was flowing through Kelvin as he felt a surprising combination of exhaustion and vitality. And as for me, I'm glad I went, now sitting in front of my computer with a laser focus I wouldn't have had without this morning's solid workout.

We concluded our time together, and started our Saturday, with a breakfast / brunch at Carine's at the Grange. A solid breakfast to start out a solid day. As a closing note, I quickly learned after the workout that salsa containers do not recycle well as protein shaker bottle!

=== Tue Mar 1 2011, 7:00pm ===
Today was the first day doing the Hart House Circuit in a while. I was tempted to quit after the first set, telling myself 1 set was a decent first try. I kept contemplating this during my second set, and by that time, I decided to just finish it. I finished feeling a mix of feeling good and not being able to move. I was almost at the "about-to-puke" state. While I like talking about working hard, lately I've been slack. In the process of my renewal, I realized that my fitness is mine. I'm not fit because others are less fit (or vice versa). I need to compete against myself, and allow my friends to inspire me to be better, but never to be sluggish or to settle with anything less than my best. Many of you are aware that I'm training for the Rome Marathon, which is coming up soon (March 20th). For those who read my previous post, you'll know that I've been suffering from an ailing back and have been looking at alternative ways to build my fitness and minimize injury. I find circuit training quite effective and plan to do it again on Thursday. In the meantime, I'll focus on today: eating healthy so far, will rest early tonight (Men's breakfast tomorrow), and will rest (and enrich) my mind during tonight's orchestra practice.