Tag Archives: uae

I am back with calluses and a breakfast veggie hash!

Jeez, do you know how hard it is to live without a laptop in our world? Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy! Phones don’t work – I like having a big screen to creep on facebook and reply to mails. That is probably because my eyesight is not getting any better with age and I am very old-fashioned.

Anyhow, after almost 2 weeks of being laptop-less I have finally got myself a shiny new toy and back into the 21st century with a boom! The boom was delayed by several days though because I could not figure out how to install MS office. Their new office 365 is weird and me and him did not really go too well.

Anyhow, enough about technology. Lets talk calluses.

Calluses

 Never in my life have I thought I will be shaving my calluses off when having an evening bath. How awesome is that? Apart from usual legs and stuff I now get to shave the palms of my hands! This is twice a week routine now – shave them off and moisturize, shave off and moisturize. I think my hands will soon look as ugly as my runner’s feet are. Talk about being a true lady…

I am really sorry for posting my post-workout hands before the recipe, but I just could not resist. Wondering if anyone has any secrets to keeping hands in good condition.

And now that I have spoiled your appetite for the rest of the week – shall we have some breakfast?

I love myself a nice hearty breakfast. Steak with salad as you first meal of the day? – Sounds good to me! This morning I had a veggie hash with poached egg – not quite a steak, but still does the job! Very tasty, filling and does not take 3 hours of your precious morning time to cook. You can throw it together with almost any veggies you have in the fridge, really. This morning I had sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms.

Veggie hash with poached eggIngredients (Serve 2):

Prep time – 10 min. Cooking time – 20 min.

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of dry parsley (or chop fresh if you have it handy)
  • 1/2 tsp smoky paprika
  • 2 eggs for poaching
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Finely chop the garlic and cut  your sweet potato into small cubes and fry in olive for 7-10 min till half-cooked
  2. Meanwhile finely chop zucchini and mushrooms and add them to sweet potatoes.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley and paprika. Fry on low-medium heat for another 10 min, stirring occasionally to avoid burning.
  4. While hash is being cooked – poach the eggs.
  5. Put you hash on a plate, top it with the poached egg and … eat up!
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Gear review – Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ Vest

Since starting my training for a 100 km ultra in June I’ve been having a pleasure of spending ridiculous amount of time … no, not running, though I do that occasionally too…  researching all the awesome trail running gear! Apart from the obvious shoes, clothes and head torches, the next most important thing is of course your backpack!

I find that women have been really deprived in the backpack department, it is a sort of trail running discrimination going on here. Every backpack that I have tried and tested just does not fit. Yes, you guessed it right, it does not fit because of boobs. You see, unlike all the awesomely fast and lean female ultra-runners that do 100 milers for breakfast, I am not that lean and pretty gifted in the boob department which becomes a problem when choosing a backpack. Gosh, I think I am talking too much about boobs now and I will surely get some requests to prove my words with photos.

Anyhow, after some research and loads of deliberation I had a choice between Salomon SLab 5 and Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ vest. My dearest BF has got himself a Salomon and absolutely swears by it, but being a rebel that I am I decided to be different and get SJ vest. It has absolutely nothing to do with me thinking that Scott Jurek is awesome (despite being vegan) and is my ultra-running hero. So very well-calculated and informed decision was made here.

I was finally able to order it online on Amazon and it arrived a couple of weeks back.  I took it out on quite a few road and trail runs of up to 4-5 hours as well as a 36 km race I ran last weekend.

Fresh out of the box!

Fresh out of the box!

Now you must be telling me, Tania, STFU and finally get down to the actual review. Ok ok, here is goes.

Positives:

  1. It FITS AMAZING! I got a small size as this is the one according to measurements on Ultimate Direction site and it is just like a glove! I didn’t even have to adjust anything. No bouncing, no chafing – you basically do not notice the damn thing when running. It has stretchy straps on the front that you can slide up or down to adjust the fit so should not be a problem for anyone.
  2.  Separate word on front bottles. My initial fear was that mounting water bottles on the front over my boobs will make me look like Pamela Anderson impersonator, however surprisingly enough the bottles feel comfortable and do not annoy me at all.
  3. The Vest comes with 2 bottles and I absolutely love them, especially their kicker valve, and it also comes with a whistle that is normally a mandatory requirement for the majority of trail races.
  4. The vest is extremely light and well-made – craftsmanship and materials are pretty impressive. Cuben fiber that they are using for the vest is extremely strong and light as well as moisture resistant – simply perfect. The vest dries very quickly and is super-breathable. Side and back compartments are made of stretchy material and can accommodate a tonne of stuff! It is actually surprising how much fits into the back pocket and how expandable it is – according to the site the total capacity of the back-pack is 9.2 liters. I didn’t measure it, so I believe them.
  5. The vest design is well thought through. It has so many pockets and compartment for everything – ipod, phone, money, gels, bars, valuables – you name it.  One of the back compartments can accommodate a bladder as well. It also has holders for trekking poles and Ice Axe – which is an absolute necessity for me as I use an ice axe on my runs in a desert in 30+ degree heat like.. all the time!
  6. I read in some reviews that people find it difficult to access mesh side-pockets because they are positioned somewhat towards the back. It was not a problem for me, but could probably be related to how flexible you are.
  7. Last but not least is the price. 125 $ for a vest of this quality, including 2 bottles – not too shabby!
Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Negatives (yeah, there are some):

  1.  Hydration pack does not come with the vest and is not easy to find one that fits into the very short back pocket. I am using some cheap Quechua bladder that seems to be fitting well, but most of the bladders that I see around, something like Camelbak or North Face, seem to be too long.
  2.  If you keep your full bottles on the front and do not carry anything equally heavy in the back compartment (like a hydration bladder) the vest tends to pull forward. Not a big problem for me as I drink like a camel and always have a bladder at the back, but it could be for someone who wants to run with only 2 bottles.

Verdict: I’d give it 9 out of 10 – super comfortable, practical, lightweight and very reasonably priced (stingy 9 only because the vest does not include a hydration bladder). Definitely my choice for an upcoming ultra!

Pumpkin and Berry Breakfast Smoothie

I am a total breakfast person – I need to eat in the morning. And I need to eat something substantial, meat being the best option. Give me a juicy steak for breakfast and you made me happy till the end of the day! I’ll eat steak for lunch and dinner too, thank you!

A lot of people hate eating in the morning and an idea of stuffing their face with meat will just make them sick. Well, then smoothies are the best option for you! Here is the one I had this morning – pumpkin and berry smoothie. I was in a rush after my morning run and was too lazy to make breakfast the night before, so smoothie it was.

I am having a pumpkin obsession period right now – everything needs to have pumpkin in it! You can add protein powder as well, but I haven’t yet found one that won’t make me bloat. Any suggestions will be most welcome!

Pumpkin and berry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1 cup almond milk ( or more if you want your smoothie more liquid)
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flax powder

Race review – Urban Ultra Big Stinker 2013

The last 2 days all I was doing is sitting on the couch, foam rolling, eating ridiculous amounts of fish oil and then foam rolling again. Why such a meaningless existence, will you ask? Well, my friends, I am sore, Very very sore. Painful-to-sit-on-the-toilet kinda sore. And all of this thanks to a little race here in UAE, called BIG Stinker, organized by Urban Ultra. Stinker Indeed. Or I would rather call it Puker, because that is what many of us did during that race, Including moi. But lets keep all the juicy details for later.

The race was a 12 km loop, 6 uphill and 6 down, and you had a choice to run 1, 2 or 3 loops. Me and my BF have obviously chosen 3 loops and thought it would be a great preparation for an ultra in June. Easy peasy, you will say, just 36 km! Wait till you see this:

Stinker profile

This is the elevation profile. Now all those of you who live in some places like Boulder or French Alps with gorgeous mountains and hilly trails can stop reading right now. Here, in Dubai, we live on a pancake. We run on a pancake as well. What does this mean? Exactly – speed bump on the road is considered a serious hilly obstacle and 600 m climb over 6 km IS a problem for us, sissy UAE runners. Occasional weekend runs in Hajar mountains do not count as serious hill training. Add 38 degree heat to that and you get what you call a real “Stinker”.

We checked part of the course once with Al couple of weeks coming to the race and knew that it is going to be a tough cookie.

The race started at 7:30, which is fairly late for this time of the year in the desert, it was close to 25 degrees and temperature was slowly creeping up. We came to the start point at 6:30, checked in, got our numbers, had a quick banana breakfast and met some friends. Looking around I saw some super-fit people in awesome gear that looked like they meant business, like this one girl with the most amazing quads I have ever seen in my life (i’m not gay, she really had great quads! She actually won the women’s 36 km race with some amazing time for the course!)

Anyhow, enough about legs. It was 7:30 and off we went. The first 2 km of the course go through some little farm and are pretty flat, so everyone went out fast. And then – BOOOM! Comes the first incline. Most tried to run up it. I knew what was coming further, so I jogged a little and then  mostly power-walked. The next 1.5 km are small rolling hills going up, pretty runnable, and then came the second big incline going up to the 6 km check-point. I was trying to power-walk and get up there as fast as possible. After the check-point, that was basically a car with some water, isotonic and oranges in the boot, the course is looping back to the start line with 6 km of downhill. Running downhill kills your legs, if you didn’t know. But I flew down that road like there is no tomorrow, overtook a bunch of people and was kinda trying to make up for the time lost on the first 6 km uphill. 1 loop done, 2 more to go!

One of the inclines. Thanks to Alex for the picture.

One of the inclines. Thanks to Alex for the picture.

2nd loop was less crowded and I would say pretty lonely, with just a couple of runners in my sight. It was obviously slower and harder than the first, my legs were getting tired but it was manageable and I was trying not to die completely before the 3rd final loop. I passed several guys who were walking and complaining of muscle cramps and was really happy that my little legs are still working the way they should. It was getting really hot by that point and my back was burning under the backpack. I quickly refilled my bottles at the checkpoint, stuffed my running bra with ice, which made people laugh (seriously – its an awesome way to cool yourself down. For women obviously. Men don’t wear running bras I think. I might be wrong though) and took off for the last loop. A friend of mine, Alex, was there at the checkpoint and told me that BF had passed through around 15-20 minutes ago. Fast bastard, I thought, no way I am catching up with him on the third loop.

Me filling up before heading for the 3rd loop. Thank to Alex for capturing this glorious moment

Me filling up before heading for the 3rd loop. Thank to Alex for capturing this glorious moment

3rd loop was a real torture. It was hot, my legs were very tired and refused to run, I had a blister forming and both the inclines seemed like a vertical wall. Then I saw some poor guy puking his guts out. And it made me feel better, No, I am not a total heartless bitch as you might have just thought – I asked him how he was, offered him my water and electrolytes, but I also told myself at that point “hey, you see, you are just tired, you are not that bad! Keep moving and stop wining!” The last 6 km down were actually the hardest. Legs were aching and I had to slowly trot down the major inclines. No more flying at that point. My stomach also started playing up, I was beginning to feel nauseous and was afraid that the first thing I do crossing the finish line is puke. Luckily it didn’t happen then, it happened later in the evening. Not joking. Heat exhaustion I guess.

Crossing the finish line was really awesome! There were not many people left, but those who stayed back were cheering up like I have broken a world record. What I later found out is that more than half the runners who started the 36km race bailed out and finished only 1 or 2 loops! So it somehow happened that I managed to finish 3rd woman, my first ever podium finish (insert drum roll here).

BF did great as well, finishing 4th despite feeling like shit for the second part of the race! That is true determination.

Great race overall, rarely you can get an opportunity to race on trails in Dubai and I think the organizers did an awesome job! It is also one of the last races in the running season here, so definitely a must-try for anyone in and around UAE.

Things that could have been better:

  • Start a little earlier – 7 or 6:30 AM will be perfect
  • Race has no medals. I mean, come on, you need a medal! Its just weird to race and not get a medal. Nuff said.
  • The second check-point on top of the mountain was running out of water towards the end. Its hot and as a rule people under-estimate how much they drink on such a challenging course and need to refuel.

How often should I work out?

This is an ultimate questions of anyone who gets into fitness and wants to see results. How often should train? – Every day? 5-6 days a week? Or may be 3 or 4? Twice a day probably? More is better? A little more? No matter if you are exercising for weight loss, for fun or for better performance – this will still be a question in your mind. At least it is in my mind all the time. I either think I am not doing enough, or my body is telling me I am doing too much, and it is hard to find a perfect balance.

Sometimes you see all these top-class athletes that are working out several times a day, or having only 1 day off in a month, and start thinking if you should be doing the same, I’ve gone though this – running in the morning, strength in the evening – every day, 1 day off a week, 1 day off in 2 weeks…

So here are some of the findings that worked for me:

  1. The most important thing in achieving results is consistency. And once again – consistency. Lifting a barbell once a week and forgetting about it till next month is not gonna get you anywhere. Make it regular, baby!
  2. Frequency of your workouts is directly proportional to your experience. If you are a newbie or picking up a new routine – start slow, probably 3-4 times a week. Once you get used to it and it seems easy  – add up sessions and/or intensity.
  3. Frequency and duration also depend on intensity of the session. Your 20 minute butt-blasting tabata session or interval run will be pretty much equal to 45 min – hour of low or moderate intensity workout. And you know you should not make every workout high-intensity or burn-out is guaranteed!
  4. Recovery is as important as working out itself. We are getting stronger when we are resting, so getting proper recovery between your sessions is absolutely paramount to achieving your goals. This concept was so hard to grasp for me! Every time I took a complete day off I felt like a total loser, I felt guilty and frustrated. I am slowly starting to appreciate the importance of recovery and rest (probably because I’m getting older hehehe), and for now I have found a balance that works for my body: 1 full rest day a week with 2 hard weeks followed by an easy “recovery” week. And no more than 2 days a week are double session days (normally strength/ crossfit in the morning and run in the evening or vice versa).
  5. Don’t try to copy schedules of professional athletes. They exercise for a living. They don’t have 9 to 5 jobs and all they do is exercise and rest, that is why they can afford 3 sessions a day, 6 or even 7 days a week. They train, eat, rest – all day, every day. Well, almost… I am sure they also watch TV, go shopping and poop, but that is absolutely irrelevant to the subject of this post.