Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Recovery from long runs (or the party-girl turns nap-champ)

Subtitle courtesy of my husband

On Saturday, I had mentioned that I would blog a bit, about how to recover after long runs. To start, I much prefer Saturday for my long runs over the more traditional Sundays. Granted, after a five-day work week, sleeping in a bit is nice and needed. However, the plus side of waking up early, one more day, is that you can really relax and enjoy Saturday evenings. Although, waking up early is not a necessary part of the Saturday equation, a late start means more traffic be it vehicular or pedestrian and a sense of the long run taking over most of the morning.

Today, Wednesday October 20th, Lake Ontario 7:00 a.m.

So, my routine is rather than sleeping in, waking early, and making up for this with the luxury of an afternoon nap. There is something about an afternoon nap, so deeply relaxing and restorative that far surpasses the joy of sleeping in an hour or more later than usual. I should mention that we have one almost-23-year-old son as for parents of young kids, the nap option is well, not an option. I recall the early days of parenthood when I would caution my husband that while I did not mind him taking off for his long run, there was to be absolutely no napping.

While I have been running for 30 years, I did take a break from marathon training from pregnancy to when my son was 8 years. Some of my runs at that time involved leading contingents of 8 year old boys on their bikes.

Another planning strategy for long run recovery is to make sure shopping chores are done on other days as recovery will not be enhanced by running around shopping and fighting Saturday traffic. This is the time to plan quiet chores around the house or computer-related tasks.

Also important is to ensure that you have some protein within 20 minutes of finishing your run, rehydrate thoroughly and have a hearty breakfast. So last Saturday I had a YOP right after the run, then a big breakfast followed by a hot bath and then the nap. The nap was particularly important as I had a dinner and theater date with a friend.

While I normally try and restrict my coffee intake to twice a day, morning and mid-afternoon, I find that a trip to the theater calls for an evening coffee. As someone who often goes to bed at 9:30 p.m. staying awake in a dark theatre can be challenging. I have to confess I was fairly pleased to discover that my evening play-watching endurance would not be taxed, as the play was only an hour. 

A powerful hour it was, and I would highly recommend an outing to see The List by Jennifer Tremblay, a production of Nightwood Theatre. Years ago when I worked at a place on Yonge street called Cafe New Orleans, Maureen White one of the founders was a waitress there. I remember her as having a fantastic sense of humour, and saw one of the first productions, perhaps the first, mounted by Nightwood Theatre. Coincidentally, a play that I saw in late-summer, Love, Loss and What I Wore featured another Cafe New Orleans alumni, as part of the cast.  This too, was highly enjoyed.

I guess my point is that careful planning and attention to detail, goes a long way in making finding time to do fun things (like napping) outside of marathon training.  Yes, I do consider marathon training to be fun!  Fun means many things to many people.

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More work, more miles, more together time

Work gets very busy for my husband at this time of year. Through the years, we have come to recognize the importance of making time together a top priority. Otherwise, it is easy for two people, both naturally independent, to live together as “married singles”.

We ran three miles together before work, just the right amount for my husband and his troubled knee but not quite far enough for me. He had to work late so I went to the Central YMCA after work and did my tempo run on the treadmill. As his workplace is just down the street from the YMCA, I met him there afterward, and we hopped on the streetcar, together.

January 2010 - Hiking in Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

This plan worked especially well because leftovers were waiting for us at home. Voila, more miles, more work and 1 hour together, that we would not otherwise have had on that type of day.

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19 miles & Moore Park Ravine

It was an effort, to leave my run mates, yesterday as they entered the home stretch of their run.  We parted company on the belt line and I ducked into Memorial park arena for a pit stop and bought a pinkish, Vitamin water.  I reversed direction on the belt line back to Mt. Pleasant cemetery, under Bayview, and then cut southeast to the exit opposite the northerly entrance to the Moore park ravine.  Wanting to save my knees, I walked down the first portion, a sharp downhill and then eased into running, as the next mile and a half are downhill.

Going down the big hill, in Moore Park ravine

This is one of my favourite running routes in Toronto.  It is an ideal route in the summer as it is very shaded and the terrain, gravelly dirt, is easy on the legs.  However I would not advise a lone female to run this route outside of the weekend, and even at that, only during the peak times for dog walkers, runners and walkers.

You can see the route of roughly 2.25 miles on this map, although unless you know the route, you won’t get a sense of the seclusion created by the hills, ridges, forest and bush.  There are two ways to exit this ravine; the really steep route, up to Milkman’s lane or the one outlined below that is a more gradual uphill parallel to a creek, and up to Mt. Pleasant road.

The photo of the path going up to Chorley park does not do justice to the slope of the hill.  Our group jokes about the one time we ran up this hill, with a new recruit in tow.  Not sure how that happened, but it has been suggested that it was some sort of initiation rite, as a run up this section of the trail was unprecedented.

Chorley Park to the west

Brickworks to the east

Final downhill turn before fork in the road

So after this section, I end up in at Roxborough drive and Mt. Pleasant, run over to Yonge street, and gaze longingly at Patachou, however I’m feeling far to disheveled and sweaty to venture in and buy a pain au chocolat. I have to settle for the gas station, kitty corner from there, where I buy a dark chocolate Mounds and use the washroom. After 25 years of trying to sneak or slip unobtrusively into washrooms here and there as a non-customer, it finally dawned on me that it is far more pleasant to buy a small item and feel entitled to a pit stop.



Three miles to go and I’m home. My next post will cover how to recover from long runs, and have enough energy to enjoy the evening.

Happy fall!

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Nicole Stevenson, coach

A few weeks back while running through Mt.Pleasant cemetery I was greeted cheerfully from afar by Nicole Stevenson. Assembled before her was a group of 10-12 very fit looking young women. This was the same run on which we saw a deer and once again I had cause to regret having left my camera behind. To see this previous post, This is what happens when you leave the camera behind, just click on it.  Yes, we really did see a young buck in the cemetery!  And then, this group of fleet-footed young women.

Today we ran past Nicole and two charges.  I stopped and asked if they had time for a photo to which she said yes.  Then she mentioned that they had 50 seconds as they were in the rest portion of their speed session.  Off they went but we caught up to them once again, on their rest portion.  I made a hasty introduction of my running buddy and she suggested that we get a photo of her and I.

Nicole Stevenson and U of T track mentees

The topic of why there is such a dearth of female coaches is a library section in itself but suffice to say, I’m thrilled to see that an athlete of Nicole’s calibre, good heartedness and grace is leading the way as a distance running coach.  Bravo!  She is now associated with the University of Toronto Track Club.  However, one cannot talk about coaching and Nicole and not mention Hugh Cameron, her former coach who also coached Sylvia Ruegger who still holds the Canadian marathon record for women. Nicole’s personal best for the marathon is a world-class 2:32 and one of the all-time top times for women.

Her website www.nicolestevenson.ca


Friends reconnected in the cemetery


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My favourite food

When pressed for an answer to this, I usually say that my favourite food is ice cream. When I was pregnant, I had been a vegetarian for 5 years. In spite of carefully calculated meals of complementary proteins as laid out by the old vegetarian classic, Diet for a Small Planet and a first-year Nutritional Food Science course at U of T, I found that I seemed to be lacking certain nutrients and got sick more often.

I feel that what constitutes a healthy diet is quite individual and also depends on activity level.  I had a hard time gaining weight when I was pregnant and at around the 5 month period, began to crave meat.   To boost my calorie intake I would eat tubs of Haagen Daz ice cream although I found it less pleasurable because of the prescriptive nature of the endeavour.  Who would have thought that eating Haagen Daz would seem something of a chore.  My favourite ice cream flavours are coffee and Ben and Jerry’s, Chunky Monkey.  Chunky Monkey is banana flavoured with walnuts and chocolate chunks.

Tonight I had dinner  at the Pickle Barrel.  One of my favourite indulgences is a super-size smoked meat sandwich.  At the Pickle Barrel you get the choice of lean, medium or fatty.  I love a fatty smoked meat sandwich.  To offset the fat factor, I chose a garden salad instead of the fries.  The waitress forgot my order and the sandwich arrived with the fries.  It took great willpower to resist the fries, left on my plate, once the salad arrived.

Anyhow, on a generally healthier note, here is a photo of one of my favourite recipes in Diet for a Small Planet (Frances Moore Lappe), Spanish Bulgur.  I have eaten a whole lot of this over the past 3 decades.  I sometimes return to it when I am in tapering mode for a marathon.  My special tabouli recipe is an adaptation from this cookbook, merged with an Anne Lindsay recipe.  And, it is something that I tend to make in the weeks preceding a marathon.  I’ll publish my secret recipe when I get to that phase of my training.  It is another of my all-time favourite foods, and my very favourite healthy food.

Incidentally the book pictured here is my husband’s copy.  I finally had to get rid of mine.  There was a time when many of our generation owned this book, referred to at times as a “hippie” classic, for whatever that’s worth.

Bon appetit!

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The promise of winter

So today, on the heels of yesterday’s exhilarating run I woke to wet, cold rain. It is time to mulch the garden and pull out the cold weather running gear. I had some speedwork planned, and there is some risk involved in running fast in the cold and wet, so I ran to the YMCA and hopped on a treadmill.

There are positives to running on treadmills; shoes last longer; the rubber running surface is easier on the legs; you can readily monitor your effort and pace; among other things. One aspect of my running psyche that keeps me going is that I am very flexible in the ways I enjoy running be it; fast or slow, with or without company and indoors or outdoors.

Running on the treadmill means less stopping, no worries about pit stops and a chance to catch up on TV news. Sometimes I focus on devoting a chunk of treadmill time to work out practical issues and make chore lists while running, with pen and paper close at hand.  I ran 8 x 1 minute hard and the run totaled 8 miles.

On the nutrition side, I’ve had a couple of good weeks of healthy lunches. Last week, and so far this week, I’ve taken my lunches, bean salad and quinoa pilaf from Thanksgiving dinner (augmented with chick peas). It’s time to be more thoughtful about fueling up.

Here’s a recipe for quinoa patties from the Whole Foods website.  Click here for the RECIPE My husband has been a quinoa devotee for many years, having discovered a recipe in the New Basics Cookbook 15 or 16 years ago. The nifty thing about Whole Foods is that you can find the recipe for most items sampled in their cafe on their website.

We passed through Las Vegas earlier this year, while en route to Utah and he had a delicious quinoa burger at the Whole Foods. You can make a batch and freeze them as well for a thrifty and healthy meal.

Quinoa patties from Whole Foods

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I sing the body electric

Lake Ontario, October 13, dawn

Only poetry can describe how good I felt on my run this morning.  I started out earlier than usual and enjoyed the full spectrum of skyscape, from night to dawn and sunrise.  Conjoined with a beautiful dawn, the reverential music of Arvo Part ,and sense that my body has gotten stronger over the past couple of weeks, Walt Whitman’s, I Sing the Body Electric and Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in possibility” had resonance.

To be able to enjoy a morning run on a crisp, autumn day – what could be finer!

For Occupation–This–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise-

Emily Dickinson

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Thanksgiving, race day

I decided to run a 5K race because I knew that an Oakville friend, was considering running it.  She is a very busy person, who works full-time and has two boys age-6 and under (I hope I got the ages right!).  I was apprehensive because of the proximity of the race to my Saturday long run but eased my nervousness by approaching the race as a tempo run.  The weather that day was a dream.  While waiting for the start gun to go off, the memory of the exquisite feeling of having every muscle in your body prepared for top-performance was awakened.

Pre-race, time to warm up

However I felt happy enough having a lot of my muscles prepared for the race and look forward to my return to top form.  My dream goal for the day was to run under 23 minutes although, I knew this would be a challenge to do this while keeping in the tempo run zone of my heartrate.  The last 5K’s I ran were over 2 1/2 years ago.  I was running these consistently under 20 minutes.  A favourite flat and fast course used to be the  Subaru 5K in Jordan.

The gun went off and I eased into a steady tempo pace, checking my heartrate watch constantly to ensure I was in the 150-153 beats per minute zone.  I experienced quite a shock at the 1K mark to find that I was on pace to run OVER 25 minutes.  Each KM marker told the same story.  Finally, at the 4K mark I decided to run closer to 160-165.  I was pleased to see 23-something when I crossed the finish line.

It was obvious that the KM markings were wrong.  What a relief!  I think my husband was relieved that I was so happy to run 23 minutes.  He has seen his share of despondency over dissappointing race times.  Uncharacteristically, he has been urging me to train harder.  When I commented that this is unusual for him to be so hands-on in his support he commented, “I don’t want to have to bring you home in a wheelchair when you run your marathon!”  As dramatic as this sounds, the bottom line is, the less you train, the more you will hurt.  Ugh!

As for my friend, her time was thrown off by the mis-marked course as she had given up on her goal and cruised in, only to find out that she was a few seconds away from going under 21 minutes, which was her goal.

Good posture while running

I did a 10 minute cool-down, checked the results and was surprised to see that I was 1st in the 50+ category.  Let the comeback begin 🙂

Bad posture while getting medal

The best thing is that I was able to run semi-hard, so soon after my long run and that I felt okay this morning.  I ran a very easy 5K and then walked for an hour at lunch.  My total running for the week was 50 miles.  This week I must do close to 60 miles.  No time to waste a single day of training.

Happy camper

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Thanksgiving – The Dinner

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand Shall brush my wing.
William Blake

Our family celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, Sunday with a small dinner. Normally, immediate-GTA-familygatherings are 12 adults and 11 kids but this weekend, my siblings were spending time with the other side of their family so we invited my parents to join us for a cozy 5 person dinner.

Grandma & Grandson

Our feast

My dad loves prime rib so that became the order of the day along with maple flavoured sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, sauteed brussell sprouts with red onions and a quinoa pilaf with pumpkin seeds and cranberries. For appetizers we had baked brie with maple syrup and pecans and a store-bought salmon and spinach mousse.

The finale was a belated birthday cake for my husband, a chocolate roll. After serving the cake my son took a bite and said to me. “”Mom, did you want to have a taste of your cake?”” Suddenly it dawned on me why the consistency of the batter had seemed different. I had forgotten the sugar. Everyone gamely, sprinkled sugar on the cake and remarked that it wasn’t too bad but . . .

Chocolate roll, a missing ingredient

Quinoa pilaf, prepared by Mr. Meat & Potatoes

Ready for cozy fivesome

In preparing for the meal, I violated one of my main rules of stress avoidance, which is “never shop on the same day that you entertain”, except for flowers and fresh bread.  And have enough done in advance that you can easily fit in a run”. Happily, in spite of cleaning, cooking and shopping on the day-of, preparations were relaxed.  As for the run, I have to confess that it was touch and go however I had put it on the optional list for the day because I had decided to race.  At 4:30 p.m. I ran 20 minutes, to stay loose but with the long run the previous day and a 5K on Thanksgiving Monday, backing off was in order.

The race was a fundraiser for Kerr Street Ministries whose mission includes feeding the hungry in Oakville.  Stay tuned for race details and photos later today or tomorrow.

Over the weekend our thoughts and prayers go to those who do not experience abundance, as we give thanks for our good fortune and seek ways to contribute to the greater good.

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all!

O God, to those who have hunger give bread; and to those who have bread give the hunger for justice.

— Latin American prayer

May God bless you with the discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you will live deep in your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people and the earth so that you will work for justice, equity and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer so you will reach out your hands to comfort them and change their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so you will do the things which others say cannot be done.

–Franciscan prayer

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Queen for half a day

Saturday long run day

My husband has been able to join us for a small portion of the run for the past few weeks and this week stayed with us for 25 minutes.  He is hopeful that his new orthotics will speed up his recovery along with a routine of weights, stretching and strengthening exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist.  He no longer jokes about knee surgery, so this is good news.

I ran about 16 miles and shortly after returning home, took a hot bath, had a couple of bowls of mini-wheats and then a latte, courtesy of my husband.  Hot baths post-long-run are tricky as I sometimes fall asleep in the bathtub and it is difficult to gear up for the day.  I confessed to my husband that I felt the need for a nap and in spite of the whack of Thanksgiving related chores on our list, he graciously acquiesced to a nap.  So I napped to the drone of the vacuum as my husband took care of this previously assigned chore.

A couple of hours later I woke, and feeling very drowsy, announced my hunger.  “Would milady like some scrambled eggs?”  She sure would.  Sympathy abounded in the next few hours but ended abruptly with the start of the football game.  Ah well but I do give thanks for those hours of coddling.  Thanks to my honey.

p.s.  The Riders lost but he is getting over it.


Kitten rescue squad, St. Joseph's Island, ON - August