Hi, I'm Karen but I'm better known around the web as Sassymonkey. Most days you can find me on Twitter and at BlogHer.com where I am a Community Moderator. Find out more.

Recent Comments


2014 Army Run

As I stood in the corral waiting for the 2014 Army Run 5k run to begin, I wondered if it would be my last time at the Army Run. This year there were 13,000 people registered for the 5k and crowds make me anxious. As much as I like this race, I do not love being in large crowds.

2014 Army Run | Sassymonkey.ca

Then the cannons went off and six minutes later I got to cross the start line. Too fast, at first. Well, not just at first. I couldn't find my pace. I'd run, overheat, and then walk. Rinse and repeat. My pace times, including walks, show me I was really running too fast. Some of that was trying to find space. Thousands of people running means lots of people trying to find their pace and failing. People going from a run to a dead stop directly in front of you. People jumping off the sidewalk to directly in front of you. People bumping into you. So many people. Everywhere.

I mostly run alone. On my weekday runs I only meet a handful of people on the trail. It's busier on the weekend but except when my run overlapped with the Terry Fox Run, or the odd Sunday I'd bump into a Running Room group, there is always plenty of room on the trail. Lee ran with me a few times this past month, which was nice. But most of my runs are just me and the trail.

I run for the need to move my body. I run for the need to clear my head. I run because I can. I'm not athletic nor have I ever been. I struggle with Imposter Syndrome, feeling like I shouldn't call myself a runner. I don't run fast and I really have no desire at this point to train for a 1/2 marathon or full marathon. Race day compounds that feeling. The pressure to go faster than my usual pace. The pressure to personal best. The feeling that I'm "just" doing a 5k (and you all know how I feel about that word).

I was thinking all of this while I ran. I was feeling like all the people around me and the voices in my head were too much. Then as I ran beneath an overpass cheers started to reverberate off the concrete. At first I thought it was just people enjoying the sound, until I spotted the man in the wheelchair. We were on a slightly incline. He was working way harder than I was and there was still more than a kilometre to go.

In the last kilometre I took my final walking break. The humidity was hurting me and due to my faster than normal pace I was concerned about getting an asthma attack. Then off to my right I saw him -- a runner on two prosthetic limbs and he was down on his knees. I wondered if he was the same runner I saw a two years ago, the one that reminded me I had no excuses. I think of him often when I run. This runner had someone with him and was in the process of getting back up to finish.

He reminded me why the Army Run is my favourite run, despite all the people. There are no ordinary runners. The distance you run doesn't matter. Whether or not you personal best doesn't matter. Walking breaks don't matter. Your pace doesn't matter.

Showing up and doing the work? It's the only thing that matters.


Friday Links August 29

August ran away from me. I'm confused that September is next week. I'm confused about how it's still kind of dark when I get up in the morning when it should be bright and sunny. I'm confused by the coolness of the weather, causing locals to refer to this month as Augtober. I'm not ready for fall and what comes after. 

So let's ignore everything above and read all the things. 

Friday Links August 29 | Sassymonkey.ca




Sometimes it's easy to forget how far I've come.

I see people I know online who run all the miles. I see people progress. I see people go from not running at all to running twice as far as I do at half the pace in just a few weeks.

There are days when it's easy to wonder why I bother. Why spend money on the second pair of new running shoes this summer when I'm not good at it? Why sign up for races if I'm going to be at the back of the pack? Why keep doing it if I'm not very "good" at it and I have no desire to ever to run a marathon? When people find out I run, I quickly jump in and say I don't run very far or very fast. I get defensive before they can dismiss me as not being a "real runner".

All these thoughts were swirling through my head this morning when I went out for my run. I haven't run a lot in the last six weeks and I'm supposed to start 10k training next week. The plan was to continue to run between the Canada Day 5k and the beginning of 10k training. I was going to cross-train and keep up my general fitness. Between eye surgery, running shoe issues, two trips, and a personal meltdown, I didn't have it in me to run.

Today I stopped the train of negative thoughts, took a deep breath, and remembered that other people do not define my progress and successes. Only I can do that.

I remembered in the spring I had a hard time running a specific stretch of the trail without a break. And how it felt so amazing when I could run a full length of the trail. And then how it felt when I could run the full length and back. I remember how it felt to run farther on the next trail than I ever had before. I remembered how it felt to run my fastest kilometre, even if I couldn't really breath at the end of it (but I also didn't give myself an asthma attack doing it).

I reminded myself that I run because I can. Most of the time I enjoy it. (Bad runs happen. They just do.) I like the way it makes me feel. I am stronger when I run. My head is clearer. I can feel the tension in my shoulders slip away as I put one foot in front of the other. When I'm not comparing myself to others and diminishing myself running makes me feel good about me.

And that's enough.


We Road Tripped

The alarms on our iPhone went of early. We gathered the last of our stuff, distracted the cat (who was so not impressed by presence of suitcases) with treats and packed up the truck. We made a quick stop to grab some drive-thru coffee and we were on our way. 

We listened to music. We talked. We stopped for more coffee. We had the easiest drive ever through Montreal. We missed a turn off for a rest stop when one of us really had to go to the bathroom. We snacked on the food we packed in our cooler. We made each other laugh. We drove each other crazy. 

We made surprisingly good time and pulled into our stop for the night way ahead of schedule... even with kind of sort of getting lost but not really. We were on the right road but we hadn't seen the place we were stopping yet and when we pulled up map apps they told us we should be on the other side of town. Our iPhones LIED to us. But it's all good. We found the hotel five minutes later. 

We were all cramped up from being in the car all day and somewhat annoyed from kinda sorta but not really getting lost so we went for a short walk around the grounds. We found the river and this happened.

Lee on the dock | Sassymonkey.ca

After close to eleven hours in the car and just over 1000 kilometers we found the river and stillness. The resort was behind us. It was quiet. There wasn't another person in sight. The sky was large. The river lapped up against the floating dock. We stood in the silence and took it all in. 

Then we went back to our room, watched an episode of Pysch on our iPad. We went to the hotel restaurant and had fabulous french fries that were obviously made from just cut potatoes. I took one bite and informed Lee that fries like these are why we do not own a deep-fryer. We went back to our room and went to bed ridiculously early. The next morning we woke up early and we were back in the car. 

A stop for breakfast, a stop at Costco to buy as many things for my mother as she would tell us she needed (ie. not many) and then we were on the bridge. The bridge that is always so much longer than I remember. We sang along to the radio, pelting out Mary Jane's Last Dance, as we watched the Island grow nearer. Then we were here. The smell of salt was in the air and the dirt was red (the only correct colour for dirt -- all other dirt is wrong). We stopped at the farmers market for fresh vegetables and got lured in my locally made sausages. And mini-doughnuts. Mmm mini-doughnuts. A bit more driving and then finally, we were here. 

Prince Edward Island cottage | Sassymonkey.ca

Our home for the week. Our "cottage" with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms that feels ridiculously larger for two people. The only cottage we've come back to a second year. (There's another we would have repeated but you need to book a year out and we more book six months out people.) 

We haven't planned out our entire week beyond knowing we want to go the beach as much as possible. There will be some running (for me). Maybe some golf (for him). We will eat too much. We will relax. We will look up at the sky at night and be astounded at how many more stars we can see here than at home. We'll look at red cliffs. We'll get sand in our toes and other, less comfortable, spots. 

We arrived. 


Packing for a Road Trip and Cottage Vacation

Lee and I know how to do a good road trip. We've done many over the past six years. We're good at it. That's a good thing seeing at every year we make the 15-16 hour trek to Prince Edward Island. (It was every other year for awhile but we've bumped it up to every year.) One of the things we love the most about going to PEI -- besides seeing family and going to all the beaches -- is that we rent a cottage. And one of the things we love the most about having a cottage is we have a kitchen.

Greenwich beach, PEI

Packing for a cottage is different than packing when you are staying a hotel. Sure, we still have to pack all the clothes and the beach stuff. We also load a box or two with kitchen stuff. Yes, we are aware there are stores in Prince Edward Island. That's where we buy all our fresh produce! But we also have a really well stocked pantry and it just seems silly to use to pack things we have extra of at home. Why pay $5 for a teeny-tiny bottle of olive oil when I have a Costco-sized container in my pantry? That's just silly.

So here's what is sitting on my dining room table ready to be packed:

  • Pancake syrup. In other words, not maple syrup. Something not generally allowed in my kitchen but everyone has their vacation thing, right? 
  • Pancake mix. I made my own last year. I'm lazy this year. 
  • 1 box of pasta. We have a gazillion in the pantry. Okay, may not a gazillion. But at least 10. 
  • Jasmine rice. See above. 
  • Coffee. Because coffee. 
  • Mustard. Last year showed us that we probably didn't have to pack condiments but we're packing these just in case. 
  • BBQ sauce. Because you always need it on vacation.
  • 1 mason jar filled with olive oil. 
  • 1 mason jar filled with balsamic vinegar. 
  • Hot sauce. 
  • A small mason jar filled with Worchestershire sauce. (Looking at this and going, "Hmm. Worchestershire sauce and hot sauce. I bet they are planning for Caesars." You are right. Give yourself a gold star.)
  • Homemade spice rub that's good for pork and chicken. 
  • Trader Joe's spice rub that's excellent for pork and steak. (It has coffee in it. We love it.) 
  • Lemon pepper. (It's excellent on corn. Try it.)

That's actually really light for us. We often pack more than that but last year we ate out a lot. Based on the list I have going we're probably not going to eat a whole besides breakfast and a few dinners at the cottage. 

When I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter what they packed, I got some interesting answers. A lot of people pack a good knife and I'm really tempted to pack one of mine. But as I said, we won't really be cooking all that much. I think the most taxing thing I had to chop last year was potatoes. Also, I was just reading Nigella's Kitchen and she doesn't pack knives. I feel like she gave me permission not to. Thanks! 

Some people pack immersion blenders and I'd be tempted to if we drank more smoothies. Someone else suggested special equipment like a crepe pan. I understand the thought behind it but we keep things simple. The most complicated breakfast will be bacon and eggs. 

It was also really interesting to hear from people who stay at family cottages rather than ones they've rented. They included suggestions like bottle water in case the drinking water wasn't awesome but when you rent out a cottage you have to have your water tested and prove it's safe. They were also more likely to include things like toilet paper, which are included with your standard cottage rental. 

We don't pack fresh produce because we are driving so very far. We'll only go part way to PEI on the first day, though we do the whole drive on the way back. Attempting to keep food cool for more than 24 hours is just a pain in the butt when we can buy it locally but we do have one caveat -- we pack fresh food for the frist day of our road trip. 

Road trip snack time!

A few years ago we did three big road trips in about four months. But the end of that last road trip we were so tired of fast food and rest stop food. Last year we tried a new plan and we loved it. It worked out so well we didn't stop for snacks or lunch the first day. It rocked. (We stop and grab breakfast to go. Because coffe.) So in our cooler we'll be packing:  

  • Carrot sticks. 
  • Cucumber sticks. 
  • Grape tomatoes. 
  • Cheese cubes. 
  • Crackers. (We're currently very fond of Nut Thins.) 
  • About half a leftover homemade pizza. (We're having it for dinner tonight.) 
  • Beef jerky. Because it's not a road trip without beef jerfy. 
  • Gobstoppers. (Our road trip candy of choice. Though we might toss in some Bottlecaps too, because we can.) 
  • M&Ms. 
  • A case of water. 
  • Gingerale. 

Because last year was our first time, we had a bit of a fail. We thought we could just use napkins to hold our food. We were so wrong. Things kind of tended to roll, especially the tomatoes. One the way home (we stop the cooler both ways) we used red solo cups. They work perfectly and are cheap. A real bonus of using cups is the driver can stick one filled with nibbles in their cup holder. 

We felt so much better when we arrived at our destination than we eat typical road trip fare.  Also, when you are only stopping for coffee and bathroom breaks (and to refuel) you'll get to your destination way earlier than you thought you would allowing you to have a lesuirely dinner out. Of course, we had a bit of an um issue when we went out for dinner last year. Maybe I'll tell that story later this week. (Hint: PATRIARCHY.)