Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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The Bend at Boylston

Yesterday was the 3rd day of 2011 that I did not post.  And no, it was not because I was watching the Oscars.  Although I’ll jump on that theme and mention that  movies were something of a topic on the Saturday run.  The DVD of my favourite movie Ugetsu Monogatari by Kenji Mizoguchi is now making the rounds of our group  albeit slowly.  And next week, I’ll hand off another favourite, Johnny Guitar a Nicholas Ray film, beloved by Truffaut and Almodavor to name a few.  If you love film, you owe it to yourself to click on my links to information about these two classics.

Mainly the absence of a post was due to a thematic vacuum.  Jumping off from a point I made in my last post about how lovely those long straightaway marathon finishes are I’m going to assign a 5 star rating system to final mile of some of the marathons I’ve run.

Boston Marathon *****
Detroit Marathon ****1/2
California International Marathon (Sacramento) ****
Columbus Marathon ***1/2
National Capital Marathon (Ottawa) ***1/2
Chicago Marathon ***1/2
Mississauga Marathon **1/2
Toronto International Marathon **1/2

I like the finish on Ford Field of the Detroit Marathon and the separate finish for men and women and the California International Marathon but nothing beats the final mile of Boston with the final turn onto Boylston Street, a slight downhill grade and the stupendous crowd support with the finish line in sight. Check out the this footage of the turn on to Boylston.

And this exciting footage of Dire Tune and Alevtina Biktimirova battling it out in the 2008 Boston Marathon. I’ll be there in 14 months and counting!


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Mississauga Marathon, Head to Head with Toronto

A blogger in eastern Canada was wondering whether the downhills at the Mississauga Marathon are of the quad-pounding variety. I’ve run Mississauga twice, in 2004 (3:14) and 2005 (3:12) and found that the downhills are very evenly spread over the first half of the course. So no, this course does not beat up your quads.

I feel a time run on this course gives you a 2-3 minute advantage over a flat course even with the section of  rolling hills which comes in the last 10K, along with a somewhat winding lakefront path. In 2004 & 2005,  the path was crowded with back-of-the-pack finishers in the half-marathon although that may only affect runners finishing under 3 hours and 30 minutes.   In 2003, the inaugural year I ran the 10K in 39:39 a time which I am very proud of as the 10K is run on the slowest section of the marathon course.  In its entirety, the route is not especially scenic but it is fast and is a great community event  infused with a positive spirit.

Two noteworthy individuals associated with the event are Mayor Hazel McCallion and Olympic marathon runners, Peter Fonseca now MPP for Mississauga-East, Cooksville.

The Goodlife Toronto Marathon which will be on the same day as Mississauga this year, is also a net downhill course, but some of the downhills, like the Rosedale Valley Road section, are steep enough to beat you up, and after that downhill you face a stretch on one of the bleakest roads in Toronto, the southern section of the Bayview extension. A drawback of the finish, is that it is a very long and gradual uphill going north on University Avenue, with intersections often punctuated by by angry motorists.  I’ve often joked that the racers should wear t-shirts that read, Saving You Health Tax dollars! to appease these impatient citizens.

To finish you must run three-quarters of the way around Queen’s Park Circle, which means you only see the finish line when you are about 150 meters away.  Nothing beats a long straightaway to the finish line of a marathon, such as turning the corner onto Boylston Street with 800 meters to go in the Boston marathon.  I can feel myself getting a little teary as I remember and write about the sensation of seeing the finish line banner of the Boston Marathon.

In the battle of the Toronto fall marathons, Mississauga was most certainly the loser. Said Mississauga Mayor, now 90 year old, Hazel McCallion “That’s what you call co-operation.” in reference to the Goodlife Toronto Marathon being moved from the fall to the same day as the Mississauga Marathon, and as an indicator of the general process of coordination and cooperation between Toronto and Mississauga.

As a runner looking to run a spring marathon, I have not yet ruled out Mississauga.  However The Goodlife Toronto Marathon does not appear on my long list as the distribution of the downhills, makes it difficult to capitalize, time wise on the net downhill factor.  I ran the fall version of this marathon in 1996 when the course had fewer uphills and path running than it does now, so it is unlikely that I would give this newer version a try.  I do like the Toronto Marathon, 5K course run the same day as the marathon as it has only one turn.

For fast times, the Missisauga Marathon & half-marathon are my picks for running in the Greater Toronto Area the weekend of May 15, 2011.


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The Urban Landscape

Normally, I try to run through parks as much as possible.  Not just because of the extra oxygen emitted in these green spaces but for the softer footing on dirt trails. Winter of course limits this option so one of my regular routes takes me through the West-Queen-West and Ossington area between Dundas and Queen.  This strip of Ossington is described by Toronto Life as having gone from no-go to bo-ho in a matter of years.  For those living in the vicinity it seemed even faster than that.  I think the redevelopment started when a huge car wash-auto body business was replaced by townhouses.

Today, I enjoyed a leisurely 5 mile run on the treadmill.  I was discouraged from running outside by the lightest sprinkling of snow, and the possibility of very icy sidewalks, which comes with this hovering-around-zero weather.  And for a change of pace, instead of running up Ossington, I had a chance to hang out as a pedestrian and browse the galleries and shops.

The main focus of my trip to Queen and Ossington was World Sewing Machine on the northeast corner.  This business is old-school Ossington with the most low cost signage going, although I think it may have been a Buddhist temple not long ago.  They are open Monday to Friday 10-6 p.m. and carry an outstanding selection of sewing machines in all price ranges.  I bought a Singer that does the basic stitches and buttonholes for $119.  It was light enough to carry on the bus ride home.

Crafted Coffee Bar

I speculate that a 3/4 mile radius, with Dundas and Ossington as the centrepoint may have the highest density of coffee bars in the city.  To name a few that I have tried; 2 LIT Espresso bars, the Dark Horse, Ezra Pound, the Communal Mule, 5 Starbucks and Crafted on Ossington which I visited for the first time today.

Heard on Ossington, Here

While enjoying my latte and the very intricate latte art design, I overhead a conversation about the film, Small Town Murder Songs which I blogged about earlier this week.  The man and woman involved seemed very in-the-know, about the film and theatre scene in Toronto.  They were talking quite loudly, in that way that suggests they want to be heard, however they were not obnoxious.  Having a personal interest in this film, I actually took notes of their conversation.

Latte Art on Ossington

The man said he had gone to high school with the director.  The woman said she had worked twice with the director and remarked that Ed Gass-Donnelly knows how to create an environment that is conducive to creativity and getting the best out of yourself.  She also said he is great at casting and the cinematography was strong.  Both commended the actors although felt that had the male lead (I think he was in Fargo) given a stronger performance the film might have come together more strongly.  I’ll call this the “Heard on Ossington” review.

Propeller, Black & White Show

I had a look in a couple of  galleries, Propeller and The Stephen Bulgur Gallery and enjoyed this drawing, coated in resin by Frank Caracciolo.  I looked at the title card wondering what the artist was asking for the piece but the price was covered by the traditional red dot, indicating the piece is sold.

Frank Caracciolo

A final photograph, taken of a storefront.  Is that cat real or painted?  Only the photographer knows for sure.

The Painted Cat?


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All About the Food

Today was busy.  To get my run and weights done prior to work, I had to get up at 4:45 a.m. as the workday started early and I wanted to allow myself an hour to get to an off-site location north of Mel Lastman Square.

I hit the YMCA at 5:45 a.m.  At times I lose perspective on my habits and recall excitedly reporting to dinner guests who live in our neighbourhood that our local YMCA was now opening 15 minutes earlier than the previous 6 a.m. opening.  Not one found this to be exciting news.

Dolmeh Felfel

Here are the food and beverage highlights of the day:

  • A big bowl of carrot cake oatmeal.
  • I made it to Mel Lastman Square 25 minutes ahead of schedule due to perfect transit connections so was able to grab a quick latte at Starbuck’s.
  • At my workplace, between noon and half past, a dinner bell rings to call everyone to share a meal, cooked by either staff or a volunteer.  Today the meal was a very authentic and tasty Iranian dish called Dolmeh-Felfel.
  • I tried a new location of Ezra’s Pound coffee shop on Dundas and had a fairly good latte.
  • I met a friend for dinner at a fairly new restaurant called Caffe Mercatto in the MaRs complex at College and University.  The highlight was coconut ice gelato that followed the lobster fettucine.  I found it a bit hard to choose my meal as there were several things on the smallish menu that I’m not fond of; goat cheese, calamari, lamb and rabbit.  The glass of prosseco they served was the smallest serving ever and was quite flat.  I should have taken a photo as proof.  The atmosphere is very nice and the service friendly.

Ezra's Pound on Dundas



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Who has felt the wind?

With the rise in temperature, I guessed that a modest southeasterly head wind would not prove overly challenging.  So off, I went down for a 9 mile run with 3 miles along the lake.  I forgot how bitterly cold the wind coming off the frigid lake and ice can be.  My fingers were never colder this winter, than after taking my mitts off to take photos.

Can you see the wind?

My 1 minute sprints were taxing and midway, while waiting for a green light the thought of quitting trying to run fast times went off like a tiny bell rung by a more sensible me.  Aargh, ugh, egads . . . that was hard.  I don’t mind feeling spent if I’ve run pushed my body to the max, but fighting the elements is just frustrating.  I suppose it is about mental training but it is just darn hard to run fast in the cold.  I staggered into the locker room at the Y, decided to skip the planned weight work out and headed home.  WINTER, I’m officially fed up with you!

This swan was hoping I had food.

Later in the day my spirits improved as I made my way to my last photography class at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD).  The evening sun, boding spring and then a quick pre-class trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario where things were really hopping.  I checked out the sales at the gift shop and noticed a cordoned line-up to see artist-writer Shary Boyle.  The foyer of the gallery was quite full of visitors taking advantage of free Wednesday night admission.  Ah, Toronto, the 4th best city in the world to live.   Although, still lots of room to improve, as noted in the United Way newsletter we received today, highlighting the impact of the recession, Vertical Poverty (poverty by postal code).

Shary Boyle at the AGO

So an outing to arts central Toronto cheers me up and I spot this poster at OCAD that gives me pause to consider options other than that of winter running into headwinds.

What is your idea of fun?


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Rave Runs

Well folks I’m having a bit of writer’s block today so this is more of an outline or list than a fleshed out post.

Hiking in Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

I really miss the fact that my husband cannot do longer runs with me when we travel. He has had a wonky knee for the past 3 years and last week got the results of his MRI, a torn meniscus. I told someone recently that I’ve found it hard to recover from my husband’s knee injury. It was a lot easier to bound out of bed for the long run when he was doing the same.

All kidding aside, it is very difficult for someone who has run nearly every day for nearly four decades to be barely running at all. He is waiting for his appointment with a knee surgeon. Sigh . . .


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Running at the YMCA on Family Day

In Ontario, the 3rd Monday in February is now a statutory holiday called Family Day.  My treadmill view at my local YMCA was the perfect vantage point to see the many families in our neighbourhood, taking advantage of a Family Day Activity event in the gym.  Staff and participants looked like they were having a ball.

February has been great for outdoor running however this morning was not.  Uncleared sidewalks and slush forced me to hit the treadmill for my 10 miler.  Once I settled in, it wasn’t SO  bad and I recognized that the quality of my run was the best of runs done over that past couple of weeks.  I did 45 minutes at marathon pace and tempo pace, which was fairly taxing but, hey, Boston 2012 beckons. Afterward, I did my weight routine and ab-tightening planks, and vowed to increase my twice a week planking to 5 times a week.

We celebrated Family Day by driving our son back to Kitchener-Waterloo and we enjoyed a dinner of leftovers while watching a BBC DVD of the Life Collection, narrated by David Attenborough.  Much of this show was about life and death races between hunter and prey.  Our son is nearly half way through his one-year internship at Research in Motion and has adjusted to his new life remarkably well.  We feel blessed to have him as our son.  Life is good.

Happy Family Day to all, in whatever shape, form or meaning that may have for you.

The future which we hold in trust for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to other people’s children. ~Marian Wright Edelman