what the f*** have i been up to?

well friends, family, acquaintances, random searchers on the web… to sum it up: a lot.

i have not posted in 4 months. At first, this was due to work & the stress related to work; work has since calmed down. However, in the last couple months it has actually been a hesitation to tell anyone how my training is going. I was worried training “wasn’t going”!

I have struggled off and on with training over the past few years – the gist is that my performance has become progressively worse over time. It felt like no matter what I tried, I could not run faster; in fact, I was running slower. My first 10k in 2009 was 00:60:46; my 10k time in 2012 was ~00:70:00.

My newest training adventure at Stenia Health and High Performance to help me get to Tough Mudder feels a little bit like my last ditch effort to see if I can ever be a stronger, faster runner. I am now ready to come out of my cave – “kinda” – and share my journey. So, here goes – the quickest update of 2013 ever!

During the winter, Jamie and I ventured out snowshoeing a few times.

Jen @ Rawson Lake

In March, we went to Disneyland.

Jen & Goofy

And all throughout last fall, winter, and now this spring – I have been training. I have been following a very strict, personalized program with my Coaches, Katherine and Kelsey. I have been lifting heavy weights, working on my chin-ups, and, of course, I have been running. The running was tough – at the beginning; I didn’t know why it was so tough – so I reported my symptoms (low energy, inability to perform a decent run for the week following my long run) to my coach. I learned that apparently it isn’t normal to be so exhausted after an easy 10k run; I also learned it isn’t normal to not be able to do a decent run for the rest of the week. I’ve been running for almost 4 years – I figured this was how everyone felt. That’s right – after every single one of those long runs during my Honolulu training I could not get off the couch for the rest of the day. Each Tuesday or Thursday run, I felt myself lag behind my fellow runners just a little more each week – there was just nothing left in my muscles for me to push any harder. I kept feeling more and more tired; I just thought it was normal.

Long story short – we took out the long run, and “ta-da!” – I feel like a friggin machine! I’ve been conquering pace runs, intervals, hill sprints, and hills. The suspicion is that I’m lacking some vitamin, mineral, or some other important thing in the body… So blood tests are out and I await their results. In the meantime, I just feel awesome.  I am enjoying every minute of training.

These next few weeks of training leading up to the big day (June 22) are going to be intense. I will be attempting longer runs and much more intense workouts (with my coach AND self-directed). I am exceptionally stoked.

Things are movin’ along quite nicely!

So, I’ve been training at Stenia since lat summer. We spent a few months fixing all my imbalances and breaking all my bad habits. Now we’re into the exciting stuff – all the heavy weights, challenging exercises, and intense runs. This is the stuff I love. Progress is incredibly exciting, and I’ve seen some pretty sweet improvements.

I’m working my butt off to conquer chin-ups. My goal: to be able to do 1 chin-up by June.

This is a very hard challenge for me. chinupsDuring this phase of my program, I am doing 4×6 reps of band-assisted chin-ups. Band-assisted chin-ups use a super strong resistance band looped onto the chin-up bar, and you put 1 or both knees into the band to support your chin-up. Last night, my very last rep on the 4th set was pretty sad – my trainer counts down to 4 to guide me to slowly lower myself… I don’t know if anyone has counted 4-3-2-1 so fast in their entire life as I essentially just dropped – haha – no control whatsoever. I will claim that I worked my ass off, and I was tired.

I’m enjoying and hating the running, too. The weekend is a recovery run – 10k @ 136-146 bpm, monitoring my heart rate (for reals this time – reporting back to my trainer actually makes me follow her instructions) makes for the slowest run ever in my entire life… which, in turn, makes it the easiest run of my entire life! Note: To survive 10k at extremely slow pace, bring on the Audiobook or bring the husband. During the week, I have a 5k run @ 171-181bpm, with the winter cold and my asthma, this has been a killer – pretty sure I sound like an accordion with all my wheezing; and then an interval run of 10 sets – 30 sec sprint & 30 second walk, this one is tough but it’s over in 10min – what a treat!


Tough Mudder is in my grasp. Holy shit, I’m going to do this.

The joy of winter continues…

Hubby and I enjoyed 2 more showshoe trips – one in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and another in Sheep River Provincial Park. Too bad when we arrived at Sheep River P.P., the snow was too shallow/packed down to wear snowshoes… so it ended up being a hike.

Little Jen in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Little Jen in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Jamie in Sheep River Provincial Park

Jamie in Sheep River Provincial Park

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“Long time, no talk. Where ya been?”

Around. You know – doin’ stuff. I have not posted since Costa Rica, so I figured it’s about time!

Shortly after we got home from Costa Rica, I ran the Banff Ekiden Relay with Miyuki, Kathy, Mamiko, and Marinela. It was a blast – just like last year!

Kathy, Miyuki, Mamiko, and me!

Kathy, Miyuki, Mamiko, and me!

In November, Jamie and I ran the Last Chance Half Marathon. That was not a blast. I did not fuel properly, and suffered calf-cramps for at least the last 5km. Afterwards, all the runners were treated to a free breakfast at The Garage in Eau Claire – it was horrendously revolting.

Me, hubby, and Kathy

Me, hubby, and Kathy

In the second half of November we installed laminate flooring! My little sister (the magician) helped us out. It took us 3 weekends in total to finish up every last bit… First, we didn’t buy enough flooring. Second, we didn’t buy enough flooring. And thirdly, Jamie and I were left with the task of the trim around the fireplace. Did I tell you that Jamie and I are both horrific procrastinators? Anyway, a lengthy time later, and our floor looks absolutely fantastic! Goodbye scrubbing carpet for 2hours only to have little-to-no visible difference!! TAKE THAT PIXIE!

Robin installing floor  Jamie at the Mitre Saw

Work has been very busy. Both hubby and I seem to work late at least a few days a week, every week. Thankfully, I can work from home 2-3 days a week… I don’t know how we could possibly keep up if we both had to commute downtown everyday!

I’ve also been training with my new trainer at Stenia Health & High Performance. We’re working on my running and my upper body strength! I’m very happy to report that I can run a 7km tempo run without any breaks, and apparently (per my trainer), my quads are getting nicely defined. Woop woop. I don’t remember if I’ve “announced” this, but I’m dragging hubby to Tough Mudder in Whistler this June… WOOHOO, bring on the pain!

We also got ourselves some snowshoes, and have been thoroughly enjoying them!

Jamie & I - Kananaskis in the background

Jamie & I – Kananaskis in the background

Heading out for a snowshoe with the gang... Jamie is himself

Heading out for a snowshoe with the gang… Jamie is himself

Yare the Sloth – my BFF

Yare (pronounced YAR-eh) was by far my favorite sloth. He is about 1 yr old. Sloths stay with their mom until they are about 1.5 years, so Yare still needs to be taken care of. At first, Yare did not like me. It was quite the challenge to get him from his enclosure to the sloth garden for the day. But I kept talking to him and visiting him, and by my 3rd week, when I came for him he would reach out to me and climb right onto my front 🙂 At one point when it was pouring rain, I had the horrible job of having to cuddle him to keep him warm until the rain subsided 🙂


Workin’ with the Monkeys

Jamie worked with the monkeys almost exclusively his entire time at Jaguar Rescue Center. It was a lot of hard work, but also quite a rewarding and interactive experience!

A normal day…

  • Started at 7:30am with cleaning the horse area… which involved shoveling poop and then raking
  • By 9am, Jamie escorted the monkeys to the jungle… And spent the morning there
  • Someone would relieve him for lunch around 1pm
  • He would often return back to the jungle around 2pm to continue watching them in the jungle
  • All the while, the monkey cage would be cleaned twice and have 2 tours go through it!
  • Around 3pm, Jamie would bring the monkeys back from the jungle
  • Then, around 3:30, he would often help bottle feed the monkeys again before we headed home for the day

I took a lot of photos – but mainly of feeding time in the afternoon. Jamie and I never worked together, so it was tough to get pics of him! He couldn’t bring a camera with him most times because the monkeys would try to steal it and break it… so here we have photos taken by me, from outside the monkey enclosure – through the glass.

I tried working with the monkeys for 1 shift… and I really disliked it. The monkeys were just too much in my personal space… so I asked to not be on monkeys 🙂


Working at the Center in General – It’s not just Sloths & Monkeys ;)

My photos have been misleading. There are not just sloths & monkeys at the center. There are a myriad of animals and tasks – enough that I didn’t get photos of everything.

Working at Jaguar Center was actually pretty hard. Very rewarding, but really hard. Jamie and I both lost weight and were too exhausted to exercise… Actually, I started losing too many electrolytes – the first week, I had leg cramps every day. Then I started a steady diet of potato chips. Problem solved.

A standard day for us went something like this:

  • 5:30 am: Wake up. Have coffee and breakfast leisurely. Make lunch.
  • 6:45 am: Begin the uphill 5k bike ride to work on our single gear bicycle. Not gonna lie, that bike ride really started to suck. By the time we got to work, I was already drenched in sweat (+25 to 30*, uphill, no gears to change – you’d be in the same boat!)
  • 7:15 am: Arrive at work, get settled in
  • 7:30 am: Start our shift! This usualy comprised of 1-2 hours of some form of manual labor (raking, sweeping, washing, shoveling); disinfect/sanitize ALL animal enclosures; feed & water the animals
  • 9:00 am: Some monkeys (mostly females) go to the jungle to be separated from female tourists due to aggression. Jamie was almost ALWAYS responsible to do this. Imagine walking 1km through jungle farm fields with 2-5 monkeys wrapped around your upper body, and the monkeys body temperature is 2 degrees above ours???
  • 9:30 am: Tours begin. I think we had time for a coffee break during 2 of our shifts. Normally no break. People split off into their mid-day duties to help with the tours: monkeys, sloths, or laundry
  • 1:30 pm: Tours wrap up. Put all the animals away, or swap with the person in the jungle with the monkeys. Have lunch.
  • 2:00/2:30 pm: Clean monkeys cage again; put away the Sloth Garden; afternoon feeding time for animals; and dishes.
  • 3:00 pm: Bring all the monkeys back from the jungle. Again, normally Jamie helped!
  • 3:15 pm: Bottle feed monkeys. Assist with random remaining tasks.
  • 3:30 / 3:45 pm: Home time!

We had no idea we were going to have that much hands-on time with the animals. We also didn’t expect there to be SO MUCH work. I will say that it is very obvious how badly they need volunteers. The Center only has about 6 people on staff – and if you don’t know about maintenance in the Caribbean, it is never ending tune-ups, keep-ups, and repairs. The maintenance crew is always welding, hammering, sawing, replacing, fixing… the gardener is always raking, shoveling, wheelbarrowing… The kitchen lady is forever chopping fruit & veggies and doing dishes… the other staff are always cleaning, scrubbing, sweeping. Notice not one of them has time for the animals??? Only the volunteers take care of the animals! There is 1 manager, and then the 2 owners, but otherwise the animals and their enclosures are taken care of by US!

Anyway, we are on our last 2 days before we start heading home – 1 day to get to San Jose, and then up bright & early the next morning for our flight home.

Here are photos of other animals at the center! I didn’t get pics of everyone because, quite frankly, we were too busy!