Expect Nothing, Experience Everything

Islands off the coast of Southwest Thailand

Islands off the coast of Southwest Thailand

We live in a time where expectation runs high in almost all that we do. Whether it’s planning a tropical getaway, looking for a restaurant in the city, or searching for your next Netflix binge, we want the best! And usually this means looking to those who have experienced what we want, and getting their opinions. We read reviews on trip advisor. Browse photos on Instagram. Check lists online of top recommended shows. I understand the desire to make the most of how you use your time and money. But what we may not recognize is this; we have developed a pattern of grading experience based on expectation. Expectations that are often a result of living in a culture where experiences are curated and embellished, simply for the sake of story telling. And much like this article, this information is based on personal bias. I’ll admit, I check all these boxes. I read hostel reviews searching for red flags, I look up restaurants on Instagram to catch a glimpse of menu items and atmosphere, and I ask for TV recommendations because it takes longer to pick a show on Netflix than it does to watch one. But what I’ve realized throughout these past few months of travelling is that my expectations can make or break my perception of the overall experience. 

Dunes seen from Fairy Steam in Mui Ne, Vietnam

Dunes seen from Fairy Steam in Mui Ne, Vietnam

When I first set out to travel Southeast Asia I thought I had a somewhat accurate idea of what my trip would be like. I researched a general route, watched videos online, looked up photos of beaches, heard stories from friends who had travelled before me, and had even acknowledged potential culture shock coming from a small rural town. I was prepared. And honestly, I was! Three months and not one situation I wasn’t able to navigate. Not to say that I managed all of this on my own. But let me make one thing very clear; being prepared is not the same thing as knowing what to expect. And herein lies one of the many lessons learned while travelling.

Locals working in rice fields in the countryside of Hoi An, Vietnam

Locals working in rice fields in the countryside of Hoi An, Vietnam

Up until now, I have lived my life in a consistent state of anticipation. Anticipating feelings and actions of others. Anticipating the food I’m going to be served at a restaurant (my fellow vegans/readers with any dietary restrictions will empathize with this one). Even something as simple as anticipating where a road will take me based on my GPS. Much like yourself, I have been collecting clues my entire life, learning the subtle and not so subtle flux of cause and effect. I’m nowhere near playing God, but for arguments sake, I’ve navigated life with mostly minor bumps and bruises. But what happens when the game changes and the rules don’t apply anymore? This is what it felt like, immersing myself into the vastly different culture of Vietnam. One where trains and buses run on a loose schedule, and restaurant hours and menus don’t exactly mimic their online status. A world where a foreigner like myself, can no longer predict outcomes. 

Abandoned water park in Hue, Vietnam

Abandoned water park in Hue, Vietnam

At this point you may be thinking something along the lines of; what did you expect? And to be honest, I really did anticipate some confusion. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the anxiety that came along with my previously conditioned Western lifestyle. Like I said, I have become so accustomed to my expectations aligning with my experiences that I never realized just how detrimental this was.  

I’m speaking from my own experience, so tread this one lightly. But what if we have become so reliant on knowing the outcome of a situation, that we are jeopardizing the good that comes with the element of surprise? We’re so quick to Google information, that we’ve started Googling experiences. And rightfully so! We (Westerners) live in a culture where being late to work is grounds for dismissal, and arriving to daycare by 5:05pm means getting charged for those 5 extra minutes. It only makes sense that we count on the coffee shop opening at 6am and not a minute later. But is it possible that this dependence has driven us to attempt to control even the most joyful experiences. We want to get it right.

“We’re so quick to Google information, that we’ve started Googling experiences”

Son Con, Phong Nha, Vietnam

Son Con, Phong Nha, Vietnam

Ultimately, I am learning to let go. And I believe that there is a lesson in this for us all. Because the experience isn’t in knowing or getting what you want. It’s hidden in the tricks life plays when it turns you on your heels. The experience is sharing a sunset with a stranger, or driving a motorbike for the first time. It’s ordering from a menu you don’t understand, and loving it anyway. Experience is pooping in a hole in the ground in a run down restaurant bathroom while a rooster walks past. Experience makes for good stories. Experience is a hug goodbye, and a surprise hello when you run into each other in neighboring cities. It’s laughing at grim circumstances, because at least you’re laughing together. Experience is crying at the side of a mountain because you finally made the decision to truly be there for yourself. And this, you cannot predict. There is no preparation for moments that test you. And no telling how new friends will make you feel. And even though these things can fill you right up, letting go long enough to feel it takes courage. Courage we can't find in Trip Advisor reviews or on Top 10 lists. So do yourself a favour and next time you consider doing your ‘research,’ don’t. 

Ko Lanta; Riding the Coast

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After making our way through Bangkok, Phuket, and Ko Phi Phi, we were ready for some real serene time by the beach. It seemed as though our destinations were becoming more and more peaceful, Ko Lanta being our quietest yet. If you’re looking for a place to truly relax, this is it. 

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Accomedations

As a now solo (and frugal) traveller, I’ll admit that our hostel in Ko Lanta was a bit of a splurge. The upside to travelling with 3 other people however, is that sometimes you can swing a private cabin for cheap! We stayed at Lanta Long Beach Hostel, a five minute walk to the beach, a swimming pool, free breakfast, and access to motorbike rentals. Considering we were right off the main strip, this place was very quiet and seemed fairly secluded. I would recommend it to a group/couple, but if you’re a solo traveller sticking to a budget or looking to meet other travellers, it might be in your best interest to venture to one of the more social hostels.  

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Our Coastal Adventure

Ko Lanta has many hidden gems that are easily accessible with a motorbike and an offline map. I used ‘Maps.me’ on this island and was so thrilled with all of the amazing sights we found! It’s definitely possible to venture to a beach or a beachfront bar by stepping out onto the main strip and hailing a Tuk Tuk (Thai Taxi), but if you want to see multiple attractions and are working with a budget, a motorbike is the way to go. This was our first time riding motorbikes in Thailand, which I would recommend if you're looking to ease your way into it. Ko Lanta has minimal traffic with no need for traffic lights. You’ll be sticking to one or two main roads, making it a great place to practice driving for the first time.  

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Hot Spots!

1. Lanta Long Beach Hostel

2. Khlong Khong Beach Lookout Point 

3. Same Same But Different Bar (A cool vibe right on the beach)

4. Bamboo Beach  (A quiet beach with stunning blue waters)

5. Mu Ko Lanta National Park (220 Baht gets you entry & parking; A nature hike and access to a spectacular viewpoint & Epic beach)

6. Epic Beach  (Perfect way to cool off after the hike)

7. Why Not Bar (Huge menu, right on the beach)

8. Sunset Viewpoint  

9. Happy Veggie Restaurant  (Amazing vegan food!)

Here’s an outline using Maps.me of our coastal adventure. I would recommend pinning these hot spots and creating a route from your hostel. This was by far one of my favourite days travelling! 

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Same Same But Different Bar

Same Same But Different Bar

Lookout point from Mu Ko Lanta National Park  & Epic Beach

Lookout point from Mu Ko Lanta National Park  & Epic Beach

National Park: 200 Baht Entrance Fee + 20 Baht Parking (~$9 CAD)

National Park: 200 Baht Entrance Fee + 20 Baht Parking (~$9 CAD)

Time Well Spent

We ended up spending 3 nights in Ko Lanta; a day on the bikes, a day by the pool, and a day exploring the beach in our own backyard. Between the various beaches and restaurants, you could definitely swing a longer visit in Ko Lanta. However, if you're squeezing all of Thailand into 1 month, 3 nights works no problem! Be sure to dine at the traditional Thai restaurants on the main strip (they have the tastiest/cheapest dining), hit up the beach at dusk for a $5 (CAD) massage, and stop in at Sanctuary Hostel on the water to participate in some yoga and arts & crafts. Be sure to enjoy a relaxing lunch here on the beach. Their food is fantastic; a wide range of healthy options and large portions. I ordered the Gado Gado salad (I believe this dish is Indonesian) with tofu and was so thankful for the giant plate of assorted veggies! Not to mention the curry sauce! 

Honeslty you can’t  go wrong in Ko Lanta. I could have stayed for much longer, enjoying the beautiful blue water beaches, laid back vibe, and delicious Thai food!

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Ko Phi Phi, Thailand; Vegan Friendly Island Oasis

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Phi Phi Island is commonly pinned on the Thailand backpacker route, known for its phenomenally blue-green waters and small island vibe. After reading some mixed reviews on whether or not Ko Phi Phi is worth the trek, I’ve come to realize that every individual will be looking for something a little different. My best advice, as someone who also depends on feedback while planning a trip, is to consider the pros and cons list being handed to you. What makes or breaks someone else’s stay, may not even be on your radar. Honestly, I had such a great time in Phi Phi - I was shocked to see anything less! 

Accommodations

We spent 4 days at Freedom Hostel, roughly a five minute walk from the pier. Keep in mind, there are no bikes or cars on the island, so everything is merely a stones throw to both beach fronts. One being a little more prone to the party scene, the other a little more tame (this is where we posted up). Our hosts were very warm and kind, and kept the space clean and smelling of incense. We even made friends with the hostel pet, Miss Karen! Did you really go to Phi Phi if you didn’t see island cats? The answer is no my friends, Thai people LOVE their cats! 

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The Sights

It was obvious upon arrriving that the best part of Ko Phi Phi is the amazing views. Even after an afternoon sun shower, the skies brightened the water to a deep green. Aside from the stunning beach front views, there are a few elevated hikes throughout this cozy island that offer some beautiful scenic landscapes. If you’re looking for a way to get your legs moving after some relaxing time spent on the beach, the 3 Viewpoint Hike will definitely do the trick. There’s a small entrance fee of 30 Baht, but the view is well worth it. From the second viewpoint (only 15-20 minutes), you're able to see both beaches. I use the ‘Maps.me’ app to search for various sights and restaurants when I don’t have wifi, which proved especially useful on this little island. It’s not big, but it’s very easy to get turned around until you spend a few days exploring, as the streets are small and tend to move in every direction. 

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PG Island Fun

Noticably so, Ko Phi Phi is gaining a bit of a reputation for party goers and resort style vacationers, rather than travellers who are looking for a more authentic cultural experience. Even though the island caters to tourists (as I’m sure it’s economic structure is primarily reliant on tourism), there is still lots to enjoy without diving too far into the party scene. While the beach is stunning enough to relax and enjoy a good book, there are options for some exploration as well! Kayaks are available for rent (roughly $8/person for a few hours) with a few hot spots to check out just off the main beach area. 

If you’re looking for a shorter trek, Monkey Beach is about a 15 minute paddle, just along the shoreline. My advice to you; don’t leave anything of value in arms reach when approaching the monkeys. Within seconds of pulling our kayak onto the sand, a baby monkey jumped into our boat, snatching my water bottle! Of course my initial reaction was to reach for the bottle, in an effort to save my water for the day, but this only led to a larger monkey chasing me down the beach through crowds of people. My second piece of advice; monkeys have sharp teeth - if they take something, it’s probably best to let it go. And no, I didn’t get bitten, but a friend I travelled with did! 

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Another thing to keep in mind while observing these playful little creatures; monkeys are not made for energy drinks, sugary candy, or the road beer you decided to bring out on the boat with you that day. As fascinating as it was to see these little creatures frolicking around on the sand, I was so disappointed in the tourists who thought it would be entertaining to feed wildlife anything that would be harmful to their bodies. It’s so important to remember that we are exploring these places as visitors,  and that our behaviour effects the natural order of these beautiful environments and the species that inhabit them. 

If a monkey wants to try on your shades then so be it. But let’s not encourage the consumption of toxic chemicals into their tiny fury bodies. No one wants to get the little rascals hooked on refined sugar and alcohol. 

Next stop, Nui Beach! This little lagoon is the perfect kayak ride if you’re looking to get some exercise. In order to venture to this little nook from Monkey beach, you’re forced to cross a fairly large body of water - from one shoreline to another. The waters do seem calm closer to the beach, but once you paddle outwards a few hundred feet, the wind and waves can make for a tricky ride! A few kayakers even waited at Nui Beach for the wind to die down in order to get back to the main beach area. But hey, if you’re up for the challenge, it is a stunningly intimate place to cool off for the afternoon. The surrounding rocks offer a cozy lagoon with calm shores, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. 

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Vegan Refueling

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The island offers countless food options; trust a fellow vegan - you won’t be disappointed! Most restaurants offer a breakfast of fresh cut tropical fruit with granola and yogurt - simply ask for coconut milk instead! As far as savoury dishes go, Thai curries became a staple for me! A flavourful mix of veggies and tofu and you’re set! I even got my hands on some Chana masala to change up my protein intake. 

One of our favourite restaurants/food stalls on the island was a newer addition; OhanaCafe. Primarily vegan, Ohana offers up burgers, cauliflower wings, various smoothies bowls, and more! And because the owner is linked to the Treehouse Bar across the street, they encouraged us to take full advantage of their fun jungle atmosphere! This place is definitely worth a visit. The hospitality was over the top, and the food was delicious! 

Frugal vegan traveller hack: You can purchase things like fresh fruit and peanuts from the small stands set up by the locals for much cheaper. You can find them on the quieter streets, further away from the party hotels. Fresh cut mango and pineapple on the beach was a breakfast favourite of mine. 

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Ko Phi Phi was by far one of my favourite stops in Thailand. It’s small and cozy, and a perfect island getaway. The island offers both a quiet and intimate laid back feel, as well as a party scene for those so inclined. If you’re travelling the Southeast, this little gem is worth the stop! It’s also surrounded by many more beautiful islands, which are easily accessible by ferry!

 

Vegan Chocolate Coffee Coconut Ice Cream

When it comes to that pesky little sweet tooth, ice cream has ALWAYS been my downfall. Luckily I've found my favourite vegan products to satisfy the cravings. BUT I really wanted to try my hand at creating my own flavours! The best part about this recipe is that it doesn't require a fancy shmancy ice cream maker, just a food processor! One of my go to snacks is dark chocolate covered coffee beans (you can find them at the bulk barn), so yes, that is the inspiration for this tasty little treat!

In the past I've used bananas as the base for (n)ice cream, but I've found that it tends to solidify too much in the freezer - to the point where you have to let it thaw out a while before digging in (and really, who can wait that long!). I recently read that adding dates to your base helps keep your ice cream "creamy" rather than "icy," plus - it adds that natural sweetness! This recipe also involves mixing the ice cream a few times throughout the freezing process to help aerate the mixture; avoiding that rock hard - soak my ice cream scooper in hot water - ice cream!  

Prep Time: 10 min  Freeze Time: 2 hrs  Total Time:  2 hrs 10 min Servings: 1 pan

Ingredients

  • 2 Cans Coconut Milk (Refrigerate overnight to let set; use only the thicker top portion)
  • 2 Cups Dates
  • 1/2 Cup Almond Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Fine Coffee Grounds
  • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla 
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans 

Directions

Step 1: Scoop top portion of thickened coconut milk into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip for 5 minutes until you reach the consistency of whipped cream. Place in fridge until needed. 

Step 2: Place dates in a food processor and blend. Slowly combine almond milk, and blend until smooth. 

Step 3: Add coffee grounds, cocoa powder, and vanilla to food processor and blend until fully mixed. Add whipped coconut milk and blend until fully combined. 

Step 4: Line an ice cream tray with parchment paper, and fill with ice cream mixture. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. 

Step 5: Crush chocolate covered coffee beans in food processor until broken down into small bits. Remove ice cream tray from freezer, and mix in chocolate covered coffee bean bits. Place back into freezer for 2 hours, mixing every 30 minutes. Place plastic wrap onto ice cream to keep from freezer burn while storing in cold temps! 

Taling Chan Floating Market; A Bangkok Must See

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Our one month backpacking trip through Thailand began in Bangkok; a common central starting point for travellers alike. Eager to explore and stretch our legs after a combined 30 some odd hours of travel, we dropped our packs and hit the city streets. Bangkok is (quite literally) littered with street vendors and food stalls; you won’t have any trouble coming across souvenirs and traditional eats. Personally, I was a big fan of the Pad Thai vendors who would whip up a plate of noodles for you for a couple of dollars (a backpacker’s treasure). But if I’m being honest, the city streets did not even compare to the atmosphere of the Floating Market! 

Transportation

Coming from the heart of the city, you’ll need to venture out a little ways to the floating market. If memory serves me correctly, we hailed a meter taxi and drove roughly 10 minutes to the pier, where we would then hop into a Long Boat which took us to the actual market. Keep in mind, there’s more than one floating market to see. We chose the Taling Chan Market because it was the closest to our location, and given that we were only spending a few days in Bangkok, it freed up our afternoon for other attractions on our list. 

A piece of advice; you can haggle just about any price in Thailand. After negotiating a group rate at the pier, we spent the next little while speeding along the Chao Phraya River towards the market. This was definitely a part of the experience, so be sure to catch a long boat if you can swing it!

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Fresh Up!

It is an absolute wonder what the Thai people can cook up, let alone on a boat! I was so impressed by the preparation that must go into being a vendor at a floating market. Fresh produce filling ceramic bowls, portable heating surfaces, and prep spaces all confined to a boat not much larger than your front door! Not to mention having to row your boat of goodies to your stall in the morning and back again in the evening! To say that I was fascinated, would be an incredible understatement. 

Though many vendors do sell their stock from boats, the Taling Chan Market does extend to the streets, leaving it accessible for travellers who prefer to drive in. The walking streets also offer up the opportunity for souvenir shopping and dining outside of the seafood realm. As a vegan, I found more than enough options! 

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Considering the pure humidity and heat of our first few days in Bangkok, I couldn’t say no to some coconut ice cream on the river! Traditionally served with peanuts or soy beans, it was the perfect afternoon pick me up. Not to mention the Thai man who served this to me had the biggest Thai smile. I'll admit, I felt a sense of kindred to the man with his ice cream stall. Not many things make me happier than handing over healthy vegan treats to customers on a hot market morning. I’d like to think I knew his happiness in that moment. 

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The Half Marathon: A Beginner's Experience

Mikaela (Left); Myself (Right)

Mikaela (Left); Myself (Right)

I should begin this post by fully disclosing that I in no means classify myself as a ‘runner.’ An athlete - yes, a runner - no. Though my interpretation of the term has shifted slightly given the last few months spent training and competing, I’m not sure that long distance running is my ‘calling.’ So then why enrol myself in a half marathon to begin with?

I’ve been competing in and training for sports ever since I was a kid. Running was always somehow incorporated into the regime, but aside from grade school cross country, my experience was limited. It wasn’t until reading The Year Of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, that I started entertaining the idea of expanding my goals list - a bucket list if you will. Now don’t be fooled, this experience was and still is about much more than a 21.5km run. It’s about identifying that which frightens or intimidates you, and proving to yourself that you are capable, both mentally and physically, of overcoming those obstacles. So then why a half marathon? Well that one kind of found me!

Running Buddy

Mikaela: “Want to run a half marathon with me?”

Cue the butterflies in the stomach. What Mikaela didn’t realize when she asked me to join her on this crusade, was that I was on a roll of ‘saying yes.’ So naturally as soon as the words left her mouth, I already knew that I was going to have to find a way to get across that finish line. Yes me, someone who had probably only ever run about a maximum of 10km in one go.

On the plus side, I now had a friend to go through this with me! Someone with race experience to give me piece of mind on the big day AND someone to eat a big pasta dinner with me and shoot the shit the night before.

Laura aka Iron Mom

Laura aka Iron Mom

Find Yourself A Coach

So you’ve just registered for your first half marathon, and guess what? You don’t know the first thing about long distance training! Well… you have a kinesiology degree and you’ve been an athlete for years, so you have SOME understanding. But in my opinion - finding a coach is a SMART decision! There is always something to learn, some way to be motivated, some reassurance to receive when you have doubts. The list goes on! I may have found mine by chance, but I’m beyond grateful to have worked with this seriously inspirational woman.

Laura aka Iron Mom, is beyond experienced in the realm of long distance racing. While putting together the finishing touches on her training programs for 10km, half marathon, and full marathon races, as well as strength training programs, she was on the hunt for some test bunnies. And of course, the ‘Year Of Yes’ in me said “HELL YA!”

Without going into too much detail, Iron Mom taught me the ins and outs of learning my paces, balancing strength training with cardio, setting race goals, giving my muscles proper recovery, and most importantly, helping me persevere when training got tough. If you’re at all interested in training methods/competing, I strongly encourage you to check out Iron Mom via her website as well as on Instagram! Finding a coach means finding a mentor/trainer/teacher etc. Don’t sell yourself short by skipping this step.

Listening To Your Body

I started training with a bang! I was excited, motivated, and ready for the challenge ahead. I was tackling my training program with some serious heart and soul, going above and beyond. The only thing I wasn’t taking into account, was how my body was feeeeeeeling! Gosh darn it, why didn’t I listen. I had increased my running substantially, and was practicing every active muscle recovery regime I could think of. Every one except for REST. Oops.

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After weeks of training, I began experiencing ankle pain, and it wasn’t going away. Looking back, I believe I took a 2 week hiatus from running, but even still there were no signs of improvement. Needless to say, I was beyond discouraged.

“I’m not a runner,” I explained to Laura. “My body isn’t made for this.” Since I’d always believed this, it was easy to make this my go to excuse. And this my friends, is why we have coaches! It was Laura who explained to me that we all have bodies for running. These types of overuse injuries happen to everyone! She even had her own experience with painful shinsplints during her own training. And THAT was what I needed to hear. I found a second wind, and decided that if I wasn’t going to show up on race day, I needed to adjust my plan.

It would have been easy to look at the month ahead, now unable to run without pain, and throw the whole program out the window. But what good was that going to do me? Instead, I took insight from Laura’s multifaceted training regime and hopped on a bike. I spent my weeks rotating through virtual spinning classes, hot yoga, and core and strength training workouts. Given that I was off running for about a month, it was the ultimate cross training Hail Marry.

Race Day

Give or take 7-10km into the race - In beautiful Prince Edward County

Give or take 7-10km into the race - In beautiful Prince Edward County

I’ll be honest, race day was good to me. As someone who deals with stomach irregularities quite often, I was pretty nervous about what kind of state my gut would be in. But as the fates would have it, I walked up to the starting line feeling cool as a cucumber. My podcast was preset and ready to make me laugh throughout that first hour, the weather offered some crisp late September air, and the vibe I got from other runners was ‘hey let’s go have some fun.’

Well I’ll tell you, the whole ‘fun’ thing got real old real fast. In retrospect, a half marathon is a mental race. Which in my mind, is the best kind of race. Because mentally, you can get through ANYTHING.

2km: Sweet this is going great, I’m sticking in front of the 2hr pace bunny. Ankle feels good, breathing is good, feeling loose. A-Okay.

6km: F*ck what did I do to myself? Why did I sign up for this?

Myself (Left); My Girlfriend Abigayle (Right) at Lake on the Mountain after the race

Myself (Left); My Girlfriend Abigayle (Right) at Lake on the Mountain after the race

7km: *Walks for 20 seconds

8km: Ok, you can walk for 25 seconds every time you hit a km marker

11km: What if I just hitch a ride? Can I do that?

15km: Did my quad muscles just turn into bricks? I think my quad muscles just turned into bricks…

16km: Oh no, ankle pain is reaaaally setting in. Don’t be a hero, you ran a good race. Maybe your race ends at 16km and you just walk the rest of the way. *Chokes back a tear out of shear disappointment. Walks a full km uphill.

17km: Ok the road is beginning a slight downhill, now is your chance to pick up the pace. A slow jog and you’ll be fine.

18km: Mikaela said the last 3km would be no problem, make them no problem! *Braces core and starts jogging on the gravel at the side of the road so I barely have to lift my feet.

20km: Is that a bright orange coat at the horizon? My sister always wears that colour! That must be her! That means I’m there! *Pushes to the end with all the love and support from my sister and my girlfriend, and my sister’s boyfriend who yells “you’re suppose to sprint till the end!” And that’s exactly what I did… mind you at that point I’m sure my sprint was slower than a baby taking it’s first steps.

Results & Reflection

With any goal we aim for in life, I think it’s important to reflect on your experience. Hence why I’ve decided to write this post. But reflecting goes far beyond a race time on a score card. How did you feel while doing it? What were the mental and physical low points? Where did you struggle and where did you thrive? What allowed you to pick yourself up and power through? Essentially, what worked and what didn’t? I could write a list of answers to these questions. And though my race is over, I know that next time I face an obstacle, I now have SO MANY more tools to overcome it, whatever it may be. One of my favourite mantras during my race was “be a yes; just show up.” I’m not a long distance runner. I don’t run marathons regularly, I’m not in a running club, and I don’t have a long lean body. I’m not a long distance runner by trade… but I can run long distance.

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Post-Run Recovery

I’m not entirely sure if the majority of my muscle soreness was due to the lack of actual running I did in the month leading up to my race, but I could not even climb stairs post run. It took me 4 days to get my legs back. The first of which, I spent a majority of the day in bed resting with an added sea salt & seaweed bath, and a ‘refeed’ of macros and micros (calorie surplus). Because I could, and because I finally felt like I earned it (oh the lies we tell ourselves… aka you don’t need to run a half marathon in order to give yourself rest). My second day of R&R was a trip to the gym, but only for the sauna, stretching, and light massage. By day 3 I was into deep stretches and an upper body workout. And finally, day 4, back on the bike to ring in some (mostly) fresh legs.

Take Home

I’ve learned so much throughout my half marathon experience, rest and recovery being a HUGE one. I’m learning to give myself grace, to listen to my body’s needs, and most importantly, to dive into challenges with a little less fear and a little more YES! I also imagine that I walk a little taller these days. Coming home from Prince Edward County, I stood in my kitchen describing the race to my parents, and once I was finished, I uttered the phrase “I’m really proud of myself.” Sadly, I think that’s a little rare, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. And that night as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I saw my body for the strong and powerful entity that it is. My confidence meter climbed because I chose to challenge myself. If it were easy, it just wouldn’t have meant the same.

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Sun Warrior Vegan Protein: Product Review

As someone who has learned to navigate a plant based diet for nearly 4 years, I’ve done my fair share of experimenting with certified vegan products. In doing so, I’ve begun to set a standard. And in a time when the vegan food industry is booming, why not!

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Nutrition

The obvious focus of nutrition when looking for a great protein powder, is in fact protein content. However, it is important to take in to account the source of protein, as well as additional macros per calorie count and serving. 

Per Serving (25g)
Calories: 90cals
Protein: 17g
Carbohydrates: 5g
Sugar: 3g
Fiber: 1g
Fat: 0g

Your recommended protein intake will vary depending on your body composition and your fitness regime, so it’s usually best to focus on the nutrition facts as a collective group. If your personal protein intake is higher or lower than the serving size, you can easily modify this. I aim for 20-25g of protein first thing in the morning, so I use about a scoop and a half of the given serving size. 

Sun Warrior offers 17g of protein per 90 calories. Our bodies require a balanced combination of 9 essential amino acids. Aside from a few exceptions, plant based food sources on their own, don’t include all 9. By eating a variety of foods, we ensure that the body gets these 9 amino acids. When scoping out a protein rich protein powder, it is important to find a product that does include these essential nutrients.  

It is also important to pay close attention to additional macros. There lies the difference between meal supplements and protein powders! Sun Warrior contains an additional 3g of sugar, a product of organic stevia. Yes this product is certified organic! No synthetic or artificial ingredients!

Flavour & Consistency

Personally, I will try just about any flavour of protein powder. Most brands carry a standard Vanilla and Chocolate. However, Sun Warrior also offers a Natural (no flavour added) as well as a Berry flavour (from organic goji berries). As someone who consistently adds protein to smoothies, having a variety of flavour options is key to a diversified diet. With a Vanilla protein powder I’d be inclined to mix a green smoothie loaded with kale, pineapple, basil, mint, and banana. With a Berry protein, I’d combine berries, banana, and chia seeds for example. 

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Aside from the variety of flavours, Sun Warrior delivers a clean finish that some lower grade proteins just can’t compete with. A well produced protein powder shouldn’t leave you with a chalky manufactured taste. And trust me, you will recognize the difference. Lately I’ve been using the Sun Warrior Berry Blend and it is by far one of the best proteins I’ve tried (and I’ve dabbled with many brands over the years of being plant based). My go to breakfast is a smoothie bowl with blended frozen bananas, almond milk, and Sun Warrior Berry protein. Top that off with some granola and a spoonful of nut butter and you’re off to a great start. Click here for a smoothie bowl recipe - try this recipe and be sure to add Sun Warrior protein!

Another benefit to Sun Warrior is the fine consistency for blending into a silky smooth beverage. If you’ve ever purchased a low grade protein, you’ll notice a huge difference in the texture. Some of those chalky proteins can go down way too thick, and no one wants that. Especially when you only mix nut milk or water for that quick protein fix. 

Storage

Sun Warrior’s convenient container includes both a twist lid, as well as a pop top and retractable scoop for easy use. This recyclable packaging is BPA free, which is a harmful chemical that can, in small amounts, dissolve into foods and drinks.

Available for Purchase

Sun Warrior Plant Based Protein Blend is available for purchase at GT Supplements right here in Georgetown, Ontario. As someone who chooses a plant based diet, it’s great to see a local business offering not only vegan certified options, but - the best of the best. Personally, I base my diet on a myriad of factors including; nutrition, price, quality, flavour, and company culture. Knowing that Sun Warrior holds itself to such a high product standard, allows me to trust that I’m making the right choice for my body and my health. 

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Post Workout Methods to Recovery

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Whether you're a seasoned vet, or looking to invest in your first gym membership, the following practices can (and probably should) be applied to anyone following a consistent workout regime. Given the extensive research surrounding physical activity and recovery, we are constantly flooded with new information regarding that of which we should and shouldn't do in order to maximize performance. Throughout my years as an athlete experimenting with a wide range of sports and training practices, I've had the opportunity to try various recovery techniques, ranging from muscle manipulation to nutrient supplementation to temperature therapy and more. What I've learned, at the ripe old age of 24, is that best practices for recovery can vary based on a multitude of factors. But when it comes down to it, your body is YOUR body. Recovery is highly individualized, and should be treated as such. The following are a few practices that have worked for myself, and I encourage you to try them on for yourself! 

Stretching

Stretching should be a part of your pre and post workout routine if you're looking to optimize performance and recovery, as well as minimize chance of injury. Even though stretching is performed before and after physical activity, these two methods are distinctively different. Dynamic (with movement) stretching is optimal before exercise, and static (stagnant) stretching is more beneficial following exercise. Read more here! Personally, I like to incorporate hot yoga into my fitness routine to allow for deeper stretches and more flexible and fluid movements. 

Foam Rolling & Massage

Muscle & tissue manipulation following physical exertion can help to loosen connective tissue, increase flexibility, increase blood flow to muscle groups in need, and allow muscles to relax. This can all be accomplished post workout by "rolling out" the body with a hard cylinder or lacrosse ball. Click here for a step by step full body foam rolling guide. I aim to use a foam roller following each training session. 

Similarly to rolling, deep tissue massage has proven to act as a healing agent for muscle and joint pain. By applying a deeper more concentrated pressure to trouble areas, massage therapy aims to loosen connective tissue in order to again - reap the benefits of muscle and tissue manipulation. Given that massage therapy is a more costly option, try applying this strategy to your routine as a once-a-month maintenance tool. I'm a fan of Massage Addict, which has multiple locations, and offers a first time discounted rate, as well a membership rate! 

BCAA Consumption

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Navigating nutrient supplement options can be intimidating to say the least. I've found that attempting to decipher false claims from products that really work comes down to doing your research, and experimenting. Personally, the only supplement I consume consistently in an effort to improve recovery, is a BCAA formula. BCAA's are Branch Chain Amino Acids, which aid specifically in muscle recovery. I use AMRAP BCAA Endurance Formula from GT Supplements . This specific product not only decreases muscle soreness and promotes lean muscle growth, but it also increases fat loss and muscle energy. I choose to consume this post workout, but given the energetic properties, consuming during a workout can be highly beneficial as well. And a bonus for you; this product is verified as vegan, has no added sugar, AND it tastes great. So why the heck not! 

Rest

This may sound obvious but if you're the type to be GO GO GO, then this one's for you (and me)! There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to not only rest, but proper rest. After any workout, you'll want to give your muscles adequate rest in order to allow the muscles to repair themselves. Whether that means taking an entire rest day, an active rest day, or exercising different muscle groups, you'll want to ensure that the muscles you've just exhausted aren't being overworked to the point of injury. Another major key to muscle recovery is sleep! A proper nights sleep allows for the balance of hormones, improved mental health, and of course, muscle recovery. Click here for insight on improved sleep techniques. 

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Proper Diet

When it comes to diet and nutrition, there are an overwhelming number of fad diets circling the media. My best advice is to get intimate with your body's needs. You have the option to calculate your daily recommended caloric intake to ensure that your body is getting enough calories for recovery. You can even choose to eat intuitively, by listening to your body, and eating when your body craves nutrients. It's easy to get caught up in restrictive diets, as they offer a challenge as well as structure. Personally, I choose moderation within a vegan diet, allowing treats here and there. More specifically regarding recovery, protein intake is crucial post workout. So if you are someone who follows a structured diet, be sure that this is something you're able to incorporate. 

Essential Oil Treatment

As natural remedies become fashionable in the health and wellness community, more and more athletes are choosing to explore the healing properties of essential oils. My favourite method for soothing stressed muscles, is applying a mixture of peppermint oil (cooling & anti-inflammatory agent), magnesium (I use a mineral spray), and castor oil (to mix and absorb into the skin). 

Listen to your body

I can give you recovery methods until I'm blue in the face (or in this case, until my fingers type a hole through my laptop) but when it comes down to it, you have to listen to what your body needs. Research may tell us that optimal time for muscle recovery is 48 hours, but if your body is still aching on day 3, maybe you need to look at some additional recovery practices. The key is to understand how to best allow your body to thrive. So be mindful, and focus on your needs as an athlete! 

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Commitment to Recovery

As much as fostering a consistent workout routine takes commitment and focus, following through on a recovery routine is equally as important! Physical activity is a stressor that gets placed on the body, and must be counteracted with recovery practices in order to become beneficial. If you're considering picking up a new workout regime, or you intend on increasing your training intensity, I strongly encourage you to first create a recovery plan that works specifically for your body. Injuries caused by lack of recovery can bring your fitness goals to a stand still, which can ultimately become frustrating and defeating. See the bigger picture and treat your body right by making a commitment to recovery. 

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