Winter Running Festival recap!

On Saturday, I did a 5 kilometre race at the University of Guelph Arboretum. It has been more than a year since my last race – which was the Niagara Falls Marathon… and now I am racing 5 kms??!!? Ah well, I guess I have to get back into it sometime! During this race, I was thinking about how I have forgotten what it feels like to race. Regardless of my fitness (which is obviously less than amazing at the moment), there is something about racing that makes it always hurt. Not consitently, nor relentlessly, but there is a certain type of pain that reminds you of your limitations and capabilities. It is humbling, really. I like it.


I finished 5th in my category, women 20-29, which is less meaningful to me than the fact that I maintained a sub 5-min-kilometre. My time was 24.45, which isn’t amazing, but is fast enough considering I haven’t raced in some time. AND – it was hardly a WINTER running festival. Tons of people were wearing shorts and tanks, as it was a gorgeous day!


Introduction to minimalist running

I am so glad I finally got up this morning and put on my running shoes. Because not an hour after I got home, it began raining and proceeded to pour for the rest of the day! I felt super happy when I got home this morning – partly because of the perfect weather, and partly because of the double shot americano in my coffee mug.

It strangely warmed up here for the past two days. I went outside and then returned inside to change into shorts! Can you believe it – mid November and shorts. It reminds me of the Postal Service song, Sleeping In:

concerns about the world getting warmer
people thought that they were just being rewarded
for treating others as they’d like to be treated
for obeying stop signs and curing diseases
for mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November

Anyway, the wind was glorious and warm. I love watching the leaves fly across the road.

Last October I had a stress fracture in my second metatarsal. Much to my dismay, this injury had me off running for many months. A number of different people and bits of information I acquired along the way lead me to be interested in minimalist, or sometimes called, barefoot running.

I actually started off doing just that. Running barefoot. The first day I barefoot ran was in the spring living in Cornwall, ON. It had just started to snow so the ground was pretty cold – it was exhilarating anyway. I ran to the end of the street and back… maybe 400 m. I gradually started to increase the distances, and once I was really running again, I would take off my shoes at the end of a run and carry them for the last 500 m. That is what my summer runs looked like.

I finally bought minimalist shoes at the start of October, right before I came back to Ontario.   I did have a gift card that I needed to use, so I thought it was a good time. And they are orange. And…if you didn’t know, orange is the new black! Well… at least it was last year!

The technique is quite different when running barefoot. The most notable differences are landing mid to forefoot (instead of heel striking), a faster turnover and a lighter landing. As you may imagine, this is hard work for the calf – particularly the stress on the Achilles tendon. It is crucial to start slow. My plan is to run with this technique 2-3 days per week for my faster, shorter runs. I have been building my time over the past 6 weeks, adding 1-3 minutes per run.

Today was a milestone. I ran 25 minutes!

Why is this a milestone? A 5-minute kilometre is a pretty comfortable pace for me to maintain for short distances, which means I can likely do a 5 km run in my minimalist shoe!

However, my calves are still sore. The soreness IS less the day after than the first time I ran “on my toes” for any length of time, but still ever present. I think I am going to aim to run 25 min 2-3 days/week until my calves no longer get sore. That’s possible, right?


Raw Vegan Mint Nanaimo Rounds

Last week, Pauline made these amazing triple chocolate delicies. As I was devouring their velvety texture, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favourite desserts – Mint Nanaimo Bars! I have been known to eat half of a 9″ x 9″ pan in one day.

I decided it wouldn’t be too difficult to modify the first recipe into a new and improved, and perhaps healthier Mint Nanaimo Bar! Here is the original recipe from I changed things only slightly and added in my own mint layer.

Are they healthier? Better ingredients, but definitely calorie-dense. In one of these mini rounds, there are close on 230 calories! They are super tasty, but I don’t find them addictive like processed sugar. I think that’s a good thing.



Bottom layer –

  • 2/3 C walnuts
  • 8-10 dates
  • 1/4 C Fair Trade cocoa
  • 1/4 C unsweetened coconut
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mint filling –

  • 2/3 C cashews, soaked
  • 1/4 C coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp agave
  • 4 dates
  • 1/4 C spinach leaves (remove stems)
  • 1 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate top –

  • 1 C cashews, soaked
  • 1/4 C coconut oil
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 C + tbsp Fair Trade cocoa


This recipe is pretty simple. It just requires a few steps as you have to make each layer individually.

You can do layers in any order, but if you want to not dirty another container, start with the bottom.

1. Throw everything into a food processor and blend until slightly crumbly. Press into a greased (I used coconut oil) mini muffin tin, or really any pan you like. Technically this would make about 16 rounds if you had two small muffin tins.


2. Repeat with the next two layers, but process until very smooth. Add to the previous layer.

3. Place into the freezer for a few hours to set! Serve cold.

You may have noticed that I wrote Fair Trade cocoa. I normally hate it when recipes I find online include the brand name of a particular product, especially when you know it won’t change the taste. However, I will shamelessly promote Fair Trade (which isn’t actually a brand, but a certification process) products because I really believe that Fair Trade is making a difference to peoples’ lives around the world. I hate the thought that my indulgences of coffee, bananas and chocolate (three of the worst industries in terms of human rights) are exploiting people, so I try whenever I can to pay the extra money to ensure farmers are being paid fair prices. If you want more information, check out FairTrade Canada.

Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 16-18 muffins

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 10-20 minutes


  • 1 Cup chopped apples (skin on)
  • 1 Tbsp. buckwheat flour (or any other GF flour should be fine!)
  • 1/4 Cup mashed banana (or unsweetened applesauce)
  • ½ Cup liquid sweetener – I used ¼ C agave, and ¼ C maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup GF flour mix + 1 tsp xanthan gum*
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup oats
  • 3/4 Cup Light or fat-free sour cream/ plain yogurt/ or soft tofu with 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

* I sometimes whip up my own with the flours I have on hand. The last time I used: 1/4 C white rice flour, 1/4 arrowroot flour, 1/2 C sorghum flour, 1 large tsp xanthan gum, and they turned out great!

Separate mixing bowls


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grease muffin tin(s) – I fill the cups ¾ full and it made 12 regular and 9 mini muffins.

1. In small bowl, toss apples with 1 Tbsp of buckwheat flour. Set aside.
2. In a larger bowl, combine applesauce or mashed banana and sweeteners. Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. Mix well and add to the liquids in the larger bowl. Add sour cream & oats, stirring after each addition. Fold in apples – be careful not to overmix!
4. Spoon into prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Fill any remaining cups 1/2 full of water. Bake in preheated oven for about 8 minutes for mini muffins and 15 minutes for regular muffins! Depending on your oven, you may want to go 2-3 minutes more.

For gluten free muffins, these are pretty darn good!

Since Pauline is pretty much doing a sugar and dairy free diet (except greek yogurt), I had to modify my previous recipe to sugar alternatives. I forgot until I had cooked my muffins for 20 minutes (as I had previously with my recipe including sugar) that maple syrup makes baked goods brown FAST.

Yes, my first batch of regular sized muffins were a bit burnt. However, with a little butter… the flavour is reminiscent of cinnamon raisin toast on the fire – a favourite of mine while camping!

I greatly reduced the time for the minis as indicated in the recipe and they worked out perfectly!

The mini muffins!