The Final Food Box is…

Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of “Chopped” on the Food Network (jk not possible), but there is something about food in a box that excites me. Having it delivered, opening it, unpacking it, gazing in adoration at the recipe cards in anticipation of what’s to come…

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my blog about discovering the magic of food boxes to get up to speed on what I’m unpacking [click here].

As a competitive athlete, nutrition is an important part of my recovery and training plan. Plus I just love food and eating. Very much. I’ve spent the last few months dedicated to researching the different companies providing meal prep services and feel confident claiming expert status. Four services, over 100 meals, and countless hours wondering which box is the best and I have made my decision. (Or at least until I have a new service to try/more discount coupons 😉

Jack – before I go on I want to say thank you. You have shown an unwavering appetite for supporting me on this quest and have always been there to eat, provide feedback, and sign up for services. It’s not easy for me to share meals, but you bring so much to the table that I’m happy to give you my second serving.

Now it’s time to put the ATE in opinionated and break down these boxes.


First Place: Fresh Prep

The dark horse streaks to the lead in the final furlongs and nabs the triple crown of quality, sustainability, and service. A local company, Fresh Prep is based in Vancouver and is the only service that uses reusable cooler bags instead of the traditional cardboard box (which requires crushing and quickly fills your entire recycling bin).

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FP is also the only service offering drop off time frames on delivery day, and texts when the delivery is arriving – two customer-centric touches that make users’ lives easier. The quality and variety of their ingredients are top notch, but this wasn’t a difference maker as all of the services I tried had great quality, organic ingredients. What really pushed FP over the edge is that they’re focused on sustainability and reducing waste. They encourage customers to place cleaned plastic back in the cooler so they can pick it up and dispose of it in the most environmentally responsible method. FP is “proud to be working with Urban Impact, BC’s leading recycling program for soft plastics”.

Maybe it’s my start-up background and preference for local businesses shining through, but I am a sucker for a small team fighting for market share. Go Fresh Prep go!

Try Fresh Prep and get three plates free using my code


Runner up: Hello Fresh

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I didn’t see Hello Fresh losing this race. They were the first food box I tried and will always hold the special place in my heart that belongs to your “first.” However, as you get to know yourself better and appreciate what’s important to you, your priorities and what you need out of a relationship change. Maybe you realize that you care more about waste and supporting local businesses than you thought you did. Or that a two meal plan allows you more flexibility in your meal planning…

I have to admit, Hello Fresh has been quality all the way. I’ve never had an issue with a box, nor been disappointed by the finished product. I’m not dumping them because of something they did – it really is me not them (and my mom, I convinced her to switch to Fresh Prep too). If you’re looking for a food box to try and you don’t live in the Vancouver area, I recommend you give Hello Fresh a try! 

Use my discount code for $40 off your first box.


Third Place: chefs plate

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Cheap and cheerful, this service is the lowest cost option. Some of the best meals I had on my journey were from Chefs Plate, though I’ve heard mixed reviews about quality from other users. CP was the only service that made a mistake on one of my food boxes – I have beef with them for forgetting to put the beef in my beef chow mein. #Beef

They also messed up my BFF Janey’s delivery date and you know what they say, fool me once shame on you, mess with my BFF and you’ll come third in my food box competition.

Get 50% off your first box when you sign up using my code


Last Place: Good Food

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Too. Much. Plastic. Good food offers the best discounts and has delicious meals, but I can’t get past the amount of waste-per-box. I know that some plastic is unavoidable, and that even when you shop at a store with your own reusable bags there is a ton of waste behind the scenes. BUT this is the only service that doesn’t separate meals into paper bags – even those are plastic!

Additionally, their customer service is annoying as you have to contact them to cancel your plan instead of just clicking a button like the other three. The online chat often has a super long wait and everything is in English and French, which is very Canadian, but adds complexity to their website.

I also found that they sent too many emails – I love food and even I don’t want to read an entire newsletter about “Purple Brussels Sprouts: Good Looks AND Taste!”


Next Steps?

I’m off to San Diego for a couple weeks of warm weather training (and shopping at Trader Joe’s), so I’ll be laying off the food boxes for the next while. I’m looking forward to continuing my food box relationship when I return to Vancity, unless of course there are California-based boxes I should try…

Product Review: Food Boxes

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE FOOD. I also love scheduling and a great deal, so it was really only a matter of time before I stumbled upon the magical world of food boxes. The gateway drug was a coupon for a free box that one of my Airbnb guests left me. Four companies and over $1,600 worth of food later (which I’ve paid < 33% of ) I’m sharing my insights/obsession.

As if you needed proof I love food

WHAT

Companies offering meal plan services that eliminate the need for you to go to the grocery store and plan recipes/ingredients in advance, while still enabling you to have fun in the kitchen and cook delicious, healthy, and easy meals. Each company has a website that you log into and choose which plan is right for you. The plans are based on the number of meals per-person, per-week, with costs increasing the more food you order. (I typically went for the three meals with two servings option). You select the meals you want, choose a delivery day, and boom – you’re in business! On the delivery day the box (which has ice in it to keep everything fresh in case you’re not home to refrigerate it right away) arrives, you unpack, and you get cooking.

“what’s for dinner?”

General Thoughts:

  • My biggest concern was that these boxes wouldn’t make enough food for two hungry runners and I was happily proven wrong! Jack and I never had leftovers, but we also never went hungry.
  • I’ve been super impressed with the quality of the ingredient –  especially the meats. The companies source from local producers and enable a more sustainable food chain that eliminates middle men and reduces the need for artificial preservatives.
  • There is packaging and while I recycled everything that I could there is still some plastic waste. Personally, it’s not enough to bother me as when you buy groceries a certain amount of packaging is also unavoidable and it’s significantly less plastic than take out.

WHEN/WHERE

Your own home! You can modify regularity and on which days you want the boxes to arrive. When I was in Mexico I “skipped” my delivery, and you can skip weeks into the future. I needed to create a spreadsheet (#nerd) to keep track of all the different deliveries I had coming… But if you’re not as greedy as me/don’t want to try four different plans at once then you certainly wouldn’t need to do this.

WHO

The companies I’ve tried are: HelloFresh, Goodfood, Chefs Plate and Fresh Prep. Truth be told, without the discounts I’ve earned from coupons and referring friends I wouldn’t have budget for these boxes. Full pop they range from $60-$80 for three meals for two people, which works out to around $10-$13 per-meal per-person. I have the time to plan and shop for lower cost options, but if you’re someone who loves to cook and likes to try a variety of foods without the needing to plan or spend time going to the store – it could be well worth the money. They also have family plans which have more servings and could be great options for parents, or for people who want leftovers.

WHY

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My planning template

Coming up with creative meals and keeping the spice alive in the kitchen can be tricky. I LOVE food and planning, and even I struggle to with motivation to think up my meals for the week – or even that night. Choosing meals in advance allows me to look forward to them, and thanks to all the nutritional guidance these companies have access to, all the meals are exceptionally well-balanced and healthy. There is always a carb/veggie/protein included – which is very important to my athletic goals.

A benefit I didn’t expect was the cost savings of not having to go to the store as much. While I still shop for produce, and food for snacks/breakfast/lunch, I found myself spending way less time a the store and not buying all the other things you inevitably find yourself “needing” once you get there (ex. whatever is on super sale).

HOW

Everything is managed through online accounts. The websites are all simple to use and you can mange how frequently you want deliveries, what meals you want, refer friends and pause or cancel subscriptions.

One thing to be aware of is that all of these companies are subscription based services, so if you sign up for one week they will automatically keep charging you and sending you food unless you update you settings. This takes under 30 seconds to manage, so it shouldn’t deter you from trying the service! You just need to be aware.

Across all companies the directions were very clear and the meals all take around 30 minutes to make.

The box arrives at your doorstep and includes recipe cards and meals grouped into paper bags. You follow the steps in the included recipe card and voila! Bon appetite!


Key Players:

I’ve sampled boxes from four companies and I’m impressed across the board. All of the boxes offer quality, organic, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. Additionally, I often balk at the prices for humanly-raised organic meats at the grocery store, so to have them included in the boxes is a huge bonus.

The most common complaint I’ve heard about food box services is the amount of waste. Three out of the four companies bagged meals in paper bags, and I can tell they’re making an effort to reduce plastic. I also think that the amount of plastic is significantly less than ordering takeout, and even when you shop with reusable bags it’s difficult to shop completely plastic free. Plus, think of the plastics used to transport and store food at grocery stores. Maybe I’m justifying, but I think there is more to the waste argument than meets the eye.

 1) HelloFresh

  • Delicious! This was the first company I tried and was love at first sight and commitment after first bite.
  • One annoyance: they claim they have an icepack recycling program but it’s actually not set up in Vancouver yet, so I hoarded ice packs for no reason. The icepacks are a saline solution so you can drain the fluid and recycle the plastic on your own (this is the same for most of the services).
  • $79.99 for a three meal two serving box ($13.33 per meal)
  • Choose this one if: you value high quality and proven dependability.
  • Click here to get $40 off your first box!

2) GoodFood

  • Really great recipe selection – the most meal options of any service.
  • They use some very unique ingredients – I cooked up a few things I’d never heard of!
  • Frequently offer discounts and send you freebies to share with friends.
  • Negatives: the most plastic wrap of any of the services and you have to contact them to cancel which is annoying (all the others you can just press a button).
  • $74 for a three meal two serving box ($12.33 per serving)
  • Choose this one if: you love variety and having a ton of meal choices.
  • Click to get $40 off your first box!

3) Chefs Plate

  • Some of my favourite meals I made were from Chefs Plate.
  • Great referral system that’s easy to use and track when people have accepted and used credits.
  • Least expensive option. Also the first (and only) company to make a mistake! I have beef with them for forgetting to pack the beef in my beef chow mein recipe.
  • I’ve heard negative feedback from other people about chefs plate, but it’s the company I think I’m most likely to continue using.
  • $59.99 for a three meal two person box ($9.99 per serving)
  • Choose this one if: you want a cheaper option.
  • Click to get your first 3 meal box for $29!

4) Fresh Prep

  • Vancouver based!
  • The meals came in a reusable cooler which they pick up when you order your next meal AND you can pack left over plastics in it which they’ll recycle for you! This one has the least amount of waste for sure.
  • Looks like this one has some gluten free options. Not a deal breaker for me (at all), but I have friends who would be into this.
  • They have a two meal for two people plan option. Most other companies don’t offer this small amount, so this could be enticing for people who want smaller amounts of meals.
  • The recipe cards are super small and didn’t include the amount of each ingredient that you need. Not a big deal and has no impact on cooking because everything is already portioned out. But I like to keep the recipe cards so that I can remake the recipes and shop for the ingredients myself so this is a minor inconvenience for me.
  • Cost: $44 for a two meal two person box ($11 per serving)
  • Choose this one if: you want a local option and the ability to order two meals for two people and recycle all plastics.
  • Click to get your first 2 meal box for $11!

My favourite?

Give your shoes a new finish line

As a competitive track athlete I go through a decent number of shoes in a year. I’m not running marathon mileage, but running six days a week adds up and every time you wear your shoes they lose a little of that magical oompf that you bought them for. Wearing cushioned, comfortable shoes is an essential part of my training regime that helps keep me injury-free (*knock on wood*) and I tend to replace my beloved Brooks Ghosts on a fairly regular basis. I must admit I’m a bit of a junkie for that new shoe feeling and I’ll jump at any chance to wear new kicks. So the question becomes: what should I do with my old shoes?

A few #shoefies of my 2018 training partners.

My sister Emma is quick to lecture me on environmental initiatives and wastefulness, so my awareness was heightened when I was tossing shoes that didn’t really have anything wrong with them. Sure, they’re no longer fit for elite training, but they look fine and could easily be worn for kicking around town. In fact, most shoes that have served a useful running life can be repurposed. I’m spoilt and I already have other shoes I’d prefer to wear when I’m not running, so that leaves my Ghosts a bit short changed on their life cycle. I know many people use old shoes to walk the dog, buy groceries, garden, etc., and that’s awesome. But if you don’t have a need for them… maybe someone else does? This is where Rackets & Runners and the Shoe Renu program swoop in and help me, my shoes, and – most importantly – those in need. shoe-renu-hor-logo-600x330.jpgThe Shoe Renu program was founded by the Vancouver Rotary Club and is made possible by the help of many partners including but not limited to: Rackets & Runners, Canadian Linen, and The Salvation Army. The program collects, cleans, and distributes used shoes to the less fortunate in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) twice a year at “Shoe Renu Clinics”. I first heard about the program through Rackets & Runners as they’ve been collecting used shoes for years in-store. It’s a quiet program that hasn’t received much publicity, but those who know about it are impassioned and proud to support this great initiative.

Steps in the program:

  1. Shoes are collected at participating retailers (Rackets & Runners, Peninsula Runners ,and The Right Shoe are the main ones). All used shoes in decent condition with intact soles and no gaping holes are accepted. While running shoes are the most popular donations received, the program also accepts boots and walking shoes.
  2. The shoes are generously cleaned, and washed be Canadian Linen
  3. In preparation for clinic day the shoes are sorted by gender and size by volunteers so they can be easily accessed and fitted
  4. Clinics are hosted twice a year at the Harbour Light Shelter in the DTES. Volunteers set up, help people choose shoes, and hand out socks and lunches.

I don’t often hang out in underground parking lots, but when I do it’s to untangle old shoe laces.

When I asked volunteers why they were motivated to help out with the program many people sung a similar tune about giving back to the community. As I sat on the cold cement of the underground parking lot where the shoes are stored and untangling laces that had knotted during laundry, I felt a powerful sense of purpose. The shoes I was holding were someone’s trash, but they were bound to be treasure for someone spending the wet Vancouver winter without shoes. One of the volunteers spoke about gaining perspective and I had to agree. I’ve certainly been guilty of complaining that there are too many shoes in my house and I’ve purged closets with joy, de-stressing by reducing unwanted clutter. To think that many of us are commuting to IKEA to purchase hanging shelfs to accommodate excess while some people have nothing is heartbreaking. It’s not my intention to induce guilt, rather the perspective that if you don’t need something – chances are someone else does.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my participation at the Shoe Renu Clinic was the reminder that while it’s easy to get caught up in the performance aspect of running, there is so much more that the sport can offer. The same shoes that helped me train for personal bests and championship races can provide comfort to someone living on the street, waiting in line for meals at a shelter, or walking to find a dry place to sleep.

Brooks slogan “Run Happy” is about so much more than just running. It’s about giving back to your community, spreading joy, and enabling others. 

The sense of community I feel in sport is a subculture of many larger communities and I’m very proud to work with a company like Rackets & Runners which has taken the lead on organizing this program. I was especially impressed when I spoke with Vanda, the owner of Rackets & Runners, who has made the program a personal focus. She radiated excitement when she told me how the program had grown over the past few years and how the participation of podiatrists was enabling access to health care in addition to repurposing shoes. It’s in this spirit of community that we hope the program will continue to grow and offer hope and support to those in need.

How can you help?

  • Donate your old shoes and encourage others to do the same by collecting running and walking shoes at your place of work, recreational club, sports league, etc.
  • Come out and volunteer! You can call Rackets & Runners (604) 733-9211 to find out more about the program or message me on this blog or using my twitter handle @devanwiebe

Product review: Trekz Titanium

With daylight savings time kicking in and a geographically-scattered training group, I wasn’t looking forward to a lonely week of solo workouts. While I enjoy (and need) some easy runs on my own, when it comes to pushing myself and #PuttingInWork I really need my squad. I enjoy the social aspect of training and I was feeling glum for workouts to come – until I was given the opportunity to test out a pair of wireless, bone-conduction headphones from Rackets & Runners.

I worked at a finance/tech company for a couple years but I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a tech-y person. With the exception of my GPS watch, I’m not usually into gadgets – but I’ve been curious about the “Trekz Titanium” for awhile now. When asked if I would like to test them out I jumped at the chance and I’m very excited to share my thoughts with you. The pairs we’ve sold at the store have received rave reviews (one woman described them as one of the top three things she has ever purchased), but as they’re relatively new-to-market my hope is that this post will serve as a helpful tool for people considering investing in a pair. As always, let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to get back to you ASAP.

In the coming months I will be doing more product reviews because:

  1. I love trying new things
  2. I love learning about new products/business models
  3. I love talking about products/services that I think could enhance others’ lives

So without further ado…

WHAT:


If you value safety, these headphones are for you. They have awesome sound, are light-weight (36g), comfortable, free of pesky-cords, and pair with any blue-tooth compatible device. The BIG difference between these and any other headphone is the open ear technology that allows you to hear sounds around you in addition to your music/podcast/phone call. Traffic, other people, animals – you can hear them all! This is a game changer for cyclists, runners, and pedestrians. When you can hear you can get out of the way, be more respectful of other peoples’ space, and better enjoy your own time – regardless of the activity you’re enjoying.IMG_3525In the past I’ve found that normal headphones make my ears hurt after a couple hours (providing they’ve stayed in that long and aren’t always falling out), or strangle me with easily-tangled cords. In contrast, the Trekz hook over the top of your ears and wrap around the back of your neck for a very comfortable fit. While they really are one size fits all, I opted for the “mini” version as my ears are deceptively small.

WHO:


I am going to make a sweeping claim here – but I really think this product is ideal for anyone. Whatever your use for headphones; whether you take a lot of calls, love listening to music, or are an audio book/podcast enthusiast – you can benefit from a pair of these. Two of my closest friends have hearing impairments and they were pretty excited about this initiative as it will enable them to listen to music in a way they’ve truly never experienced before.White_Logo_a9013250-bdef-48f5-8a49-85efc9406753In particular, I think these are an invaluable product for female runners. I wish we could all run without a care in the world, but sadly that just isn’t the case. Being alert is an important step in reducing your risk when you’re on a run, especially if you run alone. In the past I’ve paused my music when I’m running through an area that seems particularly isolated, and these headphones have allowed me to have the peace of mind that I’m more alert, without disrupting my music. I’m not going to sacrifice the joy I gain from running on my own, but I can take responsibility for increasing my safety.

WHERE/WHEN:


Whenever/wherever you want!

Predictably, I used these the most when I was running. I LOVED being able to listen to audiobooks/podcasts/music without being completely oblivious to the sounds around me. On my runs I often pause my music when I run past other people to say hi or chat with someone, which increases the wonderful community vibe of running in Vancouver – and isn’t as easy to do when you’re ears are plugged. I also received several compliments when I was working out, which I wouldn’t have been able to hear had I been wearing my usual earphones.

“Wow, you’re moving!”

“Zoom!”

“You have a beautiful stride”

Side note: I think random strangers complimenting me on my running might be my biggest validator that I am good at this sport LOL. So if you haven’t been having this positive reinforcement it’s 100% just because you can’t hear them ;)*

*Aftershock does not make this claim, but I DO

I found myself surprised at how much I enjoyed using the headphones when I was commuting on my bike as I’m a nervous cyclist living in constant fear of being hit by a car. I would NEVER use normal headphones on my bike, so I really liked using these when I was doing errands and zipping around town. My Trekz fit under my helmet with no problem, and I would definitely use them again for easy listening – or Google Maps if I was headed off my familiar routes.

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I also found these super helpful in the gym, as I could make sure I wasn’t in the way, and could hear if someone asked to work-in with equipment or share weights. As I’m sure you can imagine, they’re also great for just walking around town.

The only time I don’t recommend wearing them would be when you’re somewhere that you actually want to block out noise – such as on the bus, or anywhere where people are having loud conversations (that you have no desire to hear). The headphones do come with ear plugs – which really make the sound incredible – and while I’m keen to use them on the plane, I’m unlikely to put them in while I’m commuting or trying to listen to a podcast while my boyfriend games or cheers enthusiastically for the Canucks.

WHY:


Safety. Enjoyment. Enrichment.

I’ve been startled by bikes countless times (which means I was probably in their way #whoops), and I’ve found myself pausing music when I’m running in areas where I know I should be more alert.

HOW:


IMG_3358You sync the headphones with your phone (or other device) by connecting bluetooth, then pop ’em on, and away you go! I experimented with ponytail placement and didn’t detect any real difference between a high, mid, and low ponytail – all worked fine.

Battery life is 6 hours. This is more than enough for me as I charge my phone every night so charging it every couple days isn’t a big deal – but if you’re someone who is likely to forget to charge that could be annoying.

What I love


  • You really can hear! Not only can you hear people around you: saying hello, cheering for you and/or complimenting your stride – you can hear yourself. Keeping in touch with the rhythm of your stride and your breathing are important training indicators. Sometimes I’ll pause my music to listen to this – now I don’t have to!
  • Excellent quality. The vibration/bone conduction action is really cool. You feel like the music is all around you.
  • One of my favourite things about being part of the running community is saying hello and just being included in the run dialogue. When you’re plugged in you’re isolated, with open-ears you have the option to be included.
  • The fit. Light, comfortable, and since they don’t go in your ears they can’t be falling out of your ears all the time! Maybe I just have tiny ears… but this has been really annoying for me in the past. I really have to jam headphones in, which makes them sweaty and can make my ears sore by the end of a run/workout
  • The wireless aspect was a first for me. No more getting tangled up in cords!! This was an especially big game changer in the gym.
  • Side button makes it super easy to pause/play songs and juggle phone calls #Popular
  • They have a good range – I put my phone down when I was doing stair intervals and as long as I stayed relatively close by there was no impact on the sound

What I didn’t love


  • The headphones need a bluetooth connection which means I needed to have my phone with me on my run. I don’t like this because I enjoy a “break” from the constant connectivity of everyday life. I like being unavailable for an hour, and I find my phone heavy and annoying to run with. However, having my phone means I can stop and take great pictures, and I know it also means that I’m safer. (But since this is something I won’t always want to do I just ordered a $35 bluetooth MP3 player #ProblemSolved)
  • The headphones do not give you much warning before they run out of battery. They say they need to be charged and then they’re dead in under 20 minutes.
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Photos brought to you because I had my phone on my run

If you’re not convinced come on down to Rackets & Runners (3880 Oak Street, Vancouver BC) and you can try them out and have your mind blown.

Let me know if you have any questions/comments. Stay safe,

Devan

I just made $705

I did it sitting at my kitchen table. And no, it wasn’t through some weird online marketing scam, or Facebook ad claiming “stay-at-home moms make $5,000 a day!” I was also wearing all of my clothes – just to be clear.

So what did I do? I signed up for insurance. Yup, super sexy.

While building a 2019 budget for myself (please keep reading I promise this gets more interesting), I realized that I spend around $2,000 a year for physiotherapy and massage. And that’s not going very frequently – it’s around once a month. While everyone has different needs and cost of treatment, I think this is a pretty standard cost for someone trying to reach an elite level of performance.

_JNP8916Since I haven’t had a stellar performance in the last two track seasons (wa wa waaaah), I am understandably not being supported by provincial or national funding. I wish this wasn’t the case – especially when I pay my physio and massage therapy bills. When it comes to funding there really isn’t a clear cut way to determine development potential. If I were sitting on the other side of the table, I can’t see a reason to justify choosing to give money to me over someone who is performing better. Business wise, I 100% respect that doesn’t make sense.

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Physiotherapy was required in the making of this photo

I digress. The point is, the Canadian Athlete Insurance Plan (CAIP) is available to any athlete regardless of your performance level. If you’re a member in good standing with your governing sport body (for track that’s Athletics Canada), all you have to do is enrol, pay, and provide proof of your injury (unfortunately easy for most injury-prone track/field athletes) and you’re in business. I’m pretty jazzed because this seems like a total no-brainer. By spending $795 (*grunt*) now to sign up, I’m able to claim $1,500 for physiotherapy/massage over the year.  And unlike most track-related things which are performance-dependant and difficult to plan for (ex. which races you’ll get in to), needing physiotherapy/massage is pretty much a guaranteed spend for any athlete.

The Math

Basic equation is:

Step 1) Figure out your projected annual cost of treatment by taking the cost of one appointment, times the number of times you go a year. Do this for physiotherapy and massage and add them together.

EX = [10 appointments x $100] + [10 appointments x $100] = $2,000

Step 2) Look at the different service levels CAIP offers.

EX. The “Gold’ level of the program costs $795 annually, and allows you to claim up to $1500 of therapy. $1500 – $795 = $705 in savings! Since I know I’m likely to spend over the $1,500 amount, I should go for the Gold plan instead of a lesser/cheaper option.

To any numerically inclined readers: I’m not factoring in the cost of capital/opportunity costs #SorryNotSorry

So if you’re in the market for some insurance, check it out! And feel free to ask me any questions, I think this is something that should be way more publicized. This is a direct way for athletes who haven’t shown they deserve funding (yet) to invest in themselves, and save money.

Athletes need to be smart about their budgets and this experience is making me wonder what else I should look into…

Bye for now! Going to look for savings,

Devan

European Travel Tips

After spending a month away from home I compiled this mini travel guide in hopes it could be useful to someone/it is guaranteed to be useful to at least one person as I plan on reading it next year (you’re welcome future self).

Traveling is awesome. You get to see new places, meet new people, and most exciting of all…try new foods! For me, the key to feeling comfortable in a new place is feeling prepared.

 

While I was all over trying suppli (deep fried risotto balls), in Italy during my time off track, they’re not something I would want to eat before a race. When I’m competing abroad I tend to stick to what I know in terms of pre-race meals (aka. pasta).

My basic groceries were all available in Belgium although some things proved difficult to find. Example: at one grocery store we went to there were at least six different kinds of speculaus (cookie butter) and not a single peanut butter (I wasn’t that upset TBH). While I managed to find peanut butter elsewhere, I was VERY happy that I had brought about 20 SoLo bars with me as energy bars don’t seem to be “a thing” in Europe and I couldn’t find any! The closest I came was a box of four granola bars which were TINY and cost about three times as much as they would have back in Canada. (What is this, a granola bar for ants?!).

 

Packing Essentials:

  1. Adaptor for wall outlets
  2. Cash: cute market places usually only accept cash. Same goes for the races that actually make you pay (50% of the races I ran were free!)
  3. Food storage containers. I brought three different sizes of tupperware and they have been heroic. No one likes to be hangry on the train at 10pm after a meet. Cook at home and bring left overs.
  4. Running shoes nearing the end of useful life so they can be ditched in Europe creating space for shopping purchases/chocolate
  5. SoLo bars!!! I was really surprised by the lack of energy/protein bars in stores – if they’re part of your diet, bring ’em. I brought about 20… I might have a problem/I’m nice and share
  6. An unlocked phone – data plans in Europe are crazy cheap and having access to maps, email, and #Instagram is a nice bonus when you’re in transit

 

Travel Tips

  1. Allow yourself to take a break. This is probably the main reason Jack and I have such an awesome time traveling together. We aren’t afraid to make a dinner in, have a couple hours in our Airbnb, or just stop being tourists for awhile. At first I felt guilty for not being out exploring ALL THE TIME, but I realized I enjoy traveling way more then I’m not hangry and in need of some decompression time.
  2. Grocery shop. Our go to items are: fruit, veggies, eggs, cheese, salami, coffee, milk, yogurt, cookies (Jack has an addiction which cannot be denied), bread, peanut butter, and oatmeal.
  3. Research your dining out options. My biggest travel pet peeve is paying to have a food experience that isn’t AMAZING – especially when you’re somewhere that’s known for cuisine. With a little online research you might be amazed by how much you can learn. Yes, sometimes it’s more fun to just stumble into the perfect restaurant after a long day on your feet – but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of mediocre when you can find (and deserve) great! (Side note: sometimes Google does not accurately update restaurants hours and you’re just gonna have to wing it anyways #BestLaidPlans)
  4. If you like games, buy and bring Codenames. I put all the pieces in a giant plastic bag which fits in any backpack and it provided hours of entertainment on the train, at the beach, before races, when you have to wait an hour for a shuttle bus to show up… etc.
  5. *Free* walking tours are an awesome way to learn about places, gain the lay of the land, and get the inside scoop on places to go and food to eat. Guides work for tips so you’re basically guaranteed an engaging and fun couple hours!

 

Overall, it was an incredible trip made possible by the two of us balancing my passion for planning with Jack’s ability to go with the flow. We got lost in Venice, spent a somewhat unplanned yet fantastic day in Bolonga, hiked the Cinque Terre, marvelled at Roman history, and capped the adventure off with a night in Paris.

I’m already looking forward to planning our trip back…

Ciao & grazie for reading!

Why Strava Isn’t For Me

It was 10pm, negative three degrees and raining.  I was debating if I should wear my runners (Brooks Ghost) or flats (Brooks Hyperion) to sprint across the Burrard Street Bridge.

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Doesn’t look thaaaaaaat far.

Let’s back up for a second.

I thought Strava was just for people who wanted to brag about their workouts and mileage (nothing wrong with that, bragging can be great), but it’s so much more. An online community that inspires people to be active, Strava offers a window into the training of athletes of all levels of ability. Elites, fit managers who bike to work, walk/run groups – Strava is designed for everyone. Well, it’s really made for hyper-competitive, OCD tracking, record-everything types – so I figured Strava and I should be a match made in heaven.

Jump back to me contemplating my shoe choice on that rainy night: Option one, the Ghost (the one on the left). It’s comfy and good on pavement, but not a racer. The Ghost is my go-to easy running shoe. The Hyperion on the other hand, is more of an attacker. Light and quick, it’s my winning choice.

 

I’ve finished a solid week of training and I’m pretty tired, but the Strava segment record looks attainable, and it’s only a couple minutes jog from my apartment. I scroll down my newly acquired newsfeed, excitement growing as I spot another segment within my 800m wheelhouse. This time it’s a 220m segment by Kits pool. The record is 43s owned by a woman named Karen, which I figure I can crush in no time (or a time under 43s to be precise). “YOU ARE GOING DOWN KAREN!” I cackle mercilessly as I picture snatching the course record away from a stranger’s unsuspecting feet.

I pause for a second to wonder if I will look like a jerk to the online community when my total run mileage is only the 220m segment and Karen likely went for a 30-minute run that included it. Do I care? No! Victory will be mine.

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Wow. What just happened?

I, Devan of the notoriously low mileage, was about to voluntarily add on a run against my coach’s wishes (in the dark rainy night I might add). Secondly, I was motivated by stealing a record from a woman who likely takes great pride in her 43s 200m. Finally – and I’m no injury prevention expert – but sprinting on cement after a hard week of training doesn’t seem like a very good idea… Yikes. That is some flawed logic. Laptop closed, shoes off, “Segment Sniper Devan” is going to sleep on this plan.


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It’s the next day and I’m feeling a bit more… rational. I head out for my run and am instantly agitated. My GPS isn’t syncing. While this is always annoying, it now seems catastrophic. OH MY GOD, people are going to think I am running SO SLOW. This is horrible. Then I realize, I am the one being horrible! Here I am, out doing what I love and I’m obsessed with looking good to other people.

I actually enjoy running really slow. I think it’s great for my recovery. I aim to run based off “feel” – which is hard to do when you’re obsessively checking your pace and comparing yourself to past runs, or worse – other people.

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I don’t mean to dump on Strava. I love the idea of an online running community, and the fact that it’s inspiring so many people to be active is freaking awesome. Lets be honest – running needs all the help it can get to make it a more popular and relatable sport. In a way, I think it’s a bit like social media… it’s all fun and games until you start taking it too seriously.

 

So my closing thought: if you can see the fun in Strava and use it as an inspirational training tool I would strongly recommend it. But, if you’re a hyper-competitive analytical enthusiast, maybe take it with a grain of salt or just stay away.

PS You’re welcome Karen, your segment is safe… for now.

New Zealand, Same Me

When my mom asked me in the summer if I wanted to attend our friend’s wedding in New Zealand and road trip around the South Island for a week before dropping my sister Emma in Dunedin for her exchange term, I told her that of course I wanted to, but I couldn’t. My work had already been so accommodating of my athletic schedule, allowing me to leave the office early for practice, work from home, and take time off for meets at a moment’s notice – it really didn’t seem fair to ask for more.

Then I left my job [read more about that here].

When my mom reiterated the offer to tag along in December, I started thinking seriously about it. But I had a new reason to hold back. I left my job to focus on running. Could I really justify a 10-day “vacation” with a 21-hour time difference and two 18-hour travel days? Well according to my new coach Lynn, yes, I could!

Best decision ever.


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Out tramping! [Kiwi speak for hiking]

Not only have I dodged the Vancouver rain and snuck in some warm weather training, I was also able to attend Jenna and Nathan’s beautiful wedding and travel the South Island with my family. I’ve heard that “life is what happens when you’re making plans” and while anyone who has met me knows I love making plans, I also love jumping at awesome opportunities and experiencing what happens when you’re flexible while chasing your goals.


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Totally candid

Part of the reason this trip was so special to my family is that Emma’s exchange marks the longest time the three of us have been apart, and my mom did an exchange in NZ when she was the same age. I also wanted to do a semester abroad in NZ during my undergrad, but ended up choosing co-op and running instead. I’ve never regretted that choice, but my desire to visit the land of the Kiwi hadn’t faded, and this trip has only made me want to go back again.

I can now say that I know my way around Hagley Park, have worked out in a vineyard, and accidentally found myself running on some of the most scenic mountain bike trails in the world. I can also tell you that Kiwis live up to their chill stereotype, venison tastes “gamy” and LOTR was filmed here for a reason. Also sheep are cuter than I ever realized, and flat whites rock. There’s some heated debate about how my family feels about “Weet-bix” but I won’t get into “Wheat-gate” right now.


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Post workout in the POURING Rain. Shoutouts to Mama J + Emma for joining me!

In a lot of ways, this trip exemplified what the Brooks slogan “Run Happy” means to me. It doesn’t mean you’re grinning the entire time, feeling amazing and loving every step of the run (although that sounds pretty great). It means your exploring with every stride. Exploring how fast, how far, and how hard you can push yourself. Exploring a new city, a favourite training route, and new friendships/training groups. For me, the mindset of exploring is running happy – and it’s even better when you’re with your friends/family!

That said, as I did my last run in the pouring rain at Hagley Park I reached my limit for running/training by myself – good timing as I’m on the flight home as I write this post! I miss my group, and I miss my home. I love traveling, but I also love how when I reflect on what I’ve seen and experienced, my home still holds the same place in my heart – where I want to be right now.

Highlights/unforgettable moments:

New Zeleand is a phenomenal place. It’s natural beauty rivals BC’s claim to “the most beautiful place on earth” and everywhere we went I felt so welcomed. To generalize: the people here are chill, kind, and fit (we only made the mistake of taking an hour off the approximated hiking trail time once). Being surrounded by the incredible mountains made me feel very humbled by the power of nature. Emma pointed out so many cool geographical features in the different landscapes (#NerdAlert), and even the view out a car window truly leaves you in awe. Seeing the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes was also a powerful reminder of the power of nature, and the power of a community when it pulls together.

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Downtown Christchurch, where street art eases emptiness 


Jenna & Nathan’s Wedding. “Auntie Teri” (Mother of the bride) has been close friends with my Mom for almost 40 years and is like a sister to her. Her children Joel and Jenna each lived with us at separate times in Vancouver for a few months in their early 20s. It was an honour to attend Jenna’s special day as her “Canadian Family,”and it was even more of a privilege to meet their growing families!

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I don’t know which was more beautiful: the bride, or the open bar of NZ wines 


Milford Sound. W-O-W. My mom thought this was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and she shouldn’t have been wrong. The mountains rise from the ocean and it’s breathtaking to view from the water –  even more so from the sky. We flew out of the sound back to Te Aneu [where we were staying] and the incredible views were worth the motion sickness.

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What’s that sound? MILFORD


Food/Drinks. Ah the Flat White – Sauvignon Blanc’s only competition for the drink of the trip. Food here is crazy expensive. The standard option on any brunch menu is “toast and a spread” (legit just PB/jam on toast) for $10!!! I did eat the best salad of my life here… if you can call it a salad… it was chorizo, calamari, and roasted potatoes – but it came on lettuce so it still counts.

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Elevenses


Driving in NZ. Aside from a few minutes in a residential area when Emma took the wheel, mom was our MVP and drove the entire trip. There were some supremely sketchy moments driving down two way streets that looked like back road bike lanes, leaving the car unlocked and running while we desperately wandered around looking for a brunch spot, and turning the windshield wipers on when she tried to signal…. But we made it out alive!

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I especially enjoyed when the road signs just said “!”


Mt Isthmus Peak. Hiking is hard! I don’t feel bad that I didn’t get to the gym on this day – 16km feels FAR when you’re walking (and for the record, is further than I would run on a single day). I gained new appreciation for the fellowship’s quest (#LOTR) as we wound around an endless mountain, stepped over heaps of cow shit, and battled winds that grew in strength the higher we climbed. Thank god for protein bars and packable snacks!

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“What a nice place for a hike with your sister” – Mom 


The “Cottages.” For the most part we stayed in the cutest Airbnbs you ever did see. But one dark night…. We stayed in the middle of nowhere with no wifi/cell reception. Maybe it’s because I binge watched True Detective on the plane… but it was TERRIFYING. There were three tiny cottages/bedrooms that locked from the OUTSIDE, and it honestly felt like you were at the home of a serial murderer who attracts prey by luring tourists in desperate need of accommodation under the guise of “Charlotte the friendly Airbnb host.” As Emma would say: “no bueno.”

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Not pictured: the “Kids” room (bunk beds that locked from the outside)


Kia Ora Dunedin! Mom and I head back to Vancouver, ditching Emma at the domestic section of the Auckland airport. I am so excited to hear about the adventures she’ll have over the next five months. If she can love camping in the jungle in Belize for six weeks, I think she can handle whatever comes her way. xoxo

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“Do you think I brought too much!!??” – Emma

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Track Mind

Why I left a dream opportunity to focus on my dream

My 2017 track season didn’t go the way I wanted. My times weren’t great, but the worst part was that I didn’t feel like myself. I went into races with what would become my least favourite feeling: knowing that the best I could give on that day wasn’t even close to my true ability.

It’s the feeling of being unprepared. The frustration of knowing you that could have done really well if you had only studied harder, practiced more, stopped procrastinating – the list is endless. There will always be excuses – and there will always be valid ones – but at the end of the day it sucks to suck.

What matters is what you do about it. (Or so I’ve heard).

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Photo credit: Athletes of Canada 


I’m 24 years old and I don’t consider myself “good enough” to be a professional runner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very good runner. I run a quick 800m and have the potential for a quicker one, but I’m not an Olympian, and I haven’t been on a National team since 2012.

Backtrack…

In 2016 I had a great year. I graduated from university, landed a full-time job at a snazzy fintech start-up, and raced better than I ever have. I ran in the semi-finals at Canadian Olympic trials, and on the day I ran my personal best I won the race with closing speed and confidence I haven’t seen since.

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Photo credit: Will Cliff, Portland Oregon 2:03.21 (1.7s off Olympic standard)


In the fall of 2016 things started heating up at work. Canalyst landed venture capital and grew like crazy, and I was beyond thrilled to be along for the ride. We more than tripled in size and moved first into a bigger office, then an even bigger one. With these changes my roles and responsibilities grew and adapted as quickly as the team. It was epic. It was also exhausting, stressful, and impacted my performance on the track.

Then I got a stress fracture. (Dun dun dun).

Anyone who knows my running knows that I run conservative mileage and I’m the first person to shut down a workout when I feel pain, so the fact that I was walk/jogging in the first months of 2017 to rehab a tibia fracture came as a shock to everyone. I joked that my stress from work caused my stress fracture, or that I caught it from my boyfriend Jack (who’s had more than his share of bone related injuries), but the truth is that I’ll never know. Maybe I was on the track in spikes too soon after cross-country. It could have been nutrition related. I might have run too many long runs on cement… or maybe ten years of running without a serious injury finally caught up to me. Regardless of the reason, I never gained my 2016 momentum back (#sad).

Jump forward to fall 2017.  I’m fresh off a European racing circuit and back to training at full force. I’ve had some tricky conversations at work with my awesome bosses, and transitioned into a new part-time marketing role. I hoped that leaving the pressure of a sales role and the time constraints of a product one would allow me to focus on running while still maintaining connection to the company I helped build. Alas, like many of the best-laid plans, it went awry. I felt isolated at work, and lacked direction and focus both in the office and on the track.

I realized I could be good at running and good at my job. But I couldn’t achieve the level of excellence that I wanted at either while doing both. So I chose track.

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Credit: Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation” – words to live by 


Ending any relationship is hard. It’s harder to end relationships with people you truly admire, respect and wish to please. Luckily for me my bosses are people of exceptional integrity. Every time they told me that they supported and believed in my Olympic dream they meant it. They put their money where their mouths were by investing in me and now it’s my turn to do the same. I may not be a “good enough” runner to be professional yet, but I will be, and the way I’ll get there is by committing.

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Shoes: Brooks Levitate (being photobombed by the Brooks Ghost)


PS The number of people who’ve supported my decision to step away from my “real” career and focus on track has been phenomenal. I truly appreciate single every one of you who has taken a moment to ask me about my running, or wish me well. When I envision competing for Canada on the world stage I think of representing all of you, and that motivates me everyday.

 

 

Devan Wiebe – The Dream Chaser

If you want to hear more about my story and motivation, check out this interview put together by my super-talented friend Diana:

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SoundCloud link: Devan Wiebe – the dream chaser 

This was recorded at the end of last year, and I stand behind everything that was said. While my 2017 track season challenged my confidence and priorities, I’m looking forward to closing the gap to my goals in 2018!

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Thats me on the far right in the neon yellow top, racing in Belgium (July, 2017)