Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Winding down and warming up for the holidays

Season of hope

The past week has been a transition from hyper-busy to a bit of calm before the holidays. We will be away a for two long weekends in December so I’m working hard at getting a lot done now, to make up for the away time. Take note Steven and Alain in case you were thinking of hosting a party 🙂 I ran 35 miles this week with a long run of 7 miles. I’ve been doing upper body weight work and doing walking lunges and hope to start lower body weights next week. My only speedwork since the marathon has been to pick up the pace for about five blocks when my husband passed me on his bicycle on College Street.

To prepare for hosting three festive events, I’ve been cleaning and organizing like crazy. My mantra: Out with the old and then MAKE DO! I have been accused of having some Luddite-like views in certain areas. Such as the refusal to own a dishwasher and the belief that if I cannot keep my own home clean and tidy I have too much space and too much stuff. I have too much stuff and consequently my home is far from being as clean and tidy as I would like it to be 🙂 I am having a farewell party for a co-worker who is returning to Hungary on December 27th, hosting our family Christmas dinner for 21 guests and then a farewell party for a friend who is going to cycle from Cairo to Capetown as a fundraiser for the Ethiopian orphan sponsorship program that we support by organizing a gala. My friend Bev is 61 years old, has two kids and two grand kids. I’m going to blog about Bev’s trip soon.

Cairo to Capetown

Bev (centre) introduced at Ethiopian Community Dinner by Board Chair (right)

We attended Advent Vespers at St. Basil’s church which always makes for a special evening but I was a bit disappointed that for the second year in a row, Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel was not sung. Here is a good version by Sufjan Stevens.

After Vespers we dropped the church hall for a snack and coffee and then went for a drink atop the Hyatt Regency at the famous rooftop bar that dates back to the time when this hotel was the Park Plaza. It was my first visit to this famous Toronto lounge.

I’ve already sent one Christmas card and began playing Christmas carols last week. I cleared our dining room table of my work-work and volunteer work paraphernalia and my husband and I enjoyed a nice sit down dinner. I guess things must be settling down if I have time to arrange flowers. Dickens is a favourite author, with David Copperfield my favourite of the four Dicken’s novels I’ve read the others, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Dombey and Son. I think I’ll read The Christmas Carol over the holidays. Yes, I am feeling very happy to have the time to thoroughly enjoy, appreciate and contribute to the best of the coming season of hope and joyful expectation.

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself.

Charles Dickens

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Getting back to it!

I wanna get back to it, yes I do. And I don’t mean running, I mean blogging. It has been two weeks since my last blog post.

I took a full week off after running the NYC marathon on November 6th. The first week back to running went something like this;  3 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles, 1 mile (to Walmart and back on a busy day), 4 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles for a 17 mile week.

So far this week (starting Monday); I’ve run 5 miles, 4 miles, 6 miles and 4 miles and am aiming for about 35 miles. This light running has been enjoyable and strangely, my weight has dipped to lower than my ideal marathon running weight.  This made me wonder for a moment if I might have a tapeworm. A reversal of when I returned from a holiday unaware that I had gained six pounds and wondered if my bathroom scale was broken.

One of the nice things about my shorter runs is that I’ve been able to enjoy quite a few runs with my husband. He is limited to runs of about 3 miles with the osteoarthritis in his knee. Well, actually he is not supposed to run at all but you know how it is for someone like him who has been running for about four decades.

My sister, mother of a 3, 5, 7 & 9 year old making a quick getaway via Porter Air

I should mention a little about what I did in New York with my sister when I was not running the marathon. We ate well, our first meal was at a small trattoria called Il Violino in the Upper West Side. I had a meatball appetizer, ravioli and pannacotta and I can’t think of any Italian meal I’ve had in Toronto’s Little Italy area where we live to rival it. My sister’s linguine primavera was exquisite.

I'm always ready for pannacotta

On Saturday we lunched at Nobu47 an upscale Japanese restaurant. I’ve decided that upscale Japanese is the way to go when in NYC as the serene decor helps offset the busy pace of the city. On a scale of 1-5 I would give the food a 3.5 although the rock cod with miso that my sister ordered was a 4.5. Last December when I was in San Francisco after running the Sacramento marathon my husband and I enjoyed a spectacular Japanese meal at Yoshi’s.

Rock cod with miso is a winner

My favourite part of the meal was dessert, chocolate fondant cake combined with green tea ice cream. I first came to know green tea ice cream when I worked at a Japanese restaurant the summer of 1976 when the Olympics were in Montreal. I used to sneak down to the basement freezer and serve myself a scoop now and again.

All's well that ends with dessert

The pre-marathon lunch

It was a bit frustrating not to be able to throw myself totally into visiting with my sister. Because of this I am planning to take a day off next week to spend with her in downtown Toronto, visiting the AGO, lunching at LUMA and doing a bit of Christmas shopping.

A few weeks ago my sister ran the Scotiabank Toronto Watefront Half-Marathon her first in over 10 years, about 40 minutes faster she ever had. I’m hoping to convince her to try the Around the Bay 30K – my next goal!  I registered for this race a few days after returning from NYC. I’m eager to get back on the horse and ride!

p.s. Thank you to all those who sent encouraging emails after reading about the TKO.


Me versus the Marathon – a TKO

New York City marathon, you knocked me down but I’m not knocked out. Five years ago I entertained hopes of placing in the top three for my age group at NYC but this year I moderated my ambitions and I quietly hoped for a top ten finish.  Sigh, my age-group place was 29th in a time of 3:50:21, a full 40 minutes slower than I ran the Detroit marathon 6 years ago. Now I know what it means to feel like a shadow of my former self. My confidence has taken a beating.

NYC Marathon Bib

The event was a marvel of logistics from the race-kit pick-up, busing to the race start and athlete’s village, not a glitch to be had. Granted, like everything else in NYC the entry was an expensive $273. The day was absolutely perfect, I can only imagine how much slower I might have plodded were there rain and wind. One insight gained was that over the course of my 21 marathons, this is really the only marathon were I did not achieve my minimum goal. So I should count my big picture blessings.

An hour or so after finishing, thoughts that it was time to retire from marathon running floated freely. But, never trust anything a disappointed marathon runner says during the week after the race. My plan had been to run Boston in 2012 and having surpassed the qualifying time by 30 minutes last year in Sacramento, I was guaranteed a spot. However just before New York I realized that I forgot to enter and 2012 is sold out. Now, I see it as a good thing as I want to feel close to top form and confident when I run Boston next.

Over the last miles of the marathon I had to harness my thoughts as I found myself quite distracted from the task-at-hand as I mulled over what might be the cause of this lackluster run. The last mile was a marathon in itself, the longest mile ever. Boy was I happy to hit the finish line.

I never hit the wall hence a TKO versus a KO but from the start my legs never had any pep and the rolling course with a lot of downhill running on concrete took its toll. My thoughts as to the cause are. . .

1) Racing a half-marathon three weeks before the marathon

2) Poor sleep during period of high-stress at work and peak training

3) Age

4) Slacking off with my lower body weight routine

My legs never did recover from my 1:41 half-marathon that suggested a 3:33 time was possible and sleep the wonder drug was not in supplies plentiful enough to ensure that my training was being positively absorbed by my body. As for age, I’m thinking that I have to shorten my training cycle and expect one peak and limit the length of lead-up races to the marathon. I find it hard to accept but I cannot train close to the way I used to. Sometimes one fully realizes that value of an activity when you stop doing it. Such is the case with my lower body weight training. At age 56, everything that makes the lower body tougher is a boost to top performance.

After the marathon I found myself humming Chumbawamba’s famous song.

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never going to keep me down

Stay tuned for my spring racing goal!

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Gotta go, go, go . . .

I’m scurrying and hurrying to get ready to leave for NYC tomorrow. I’m traveling with my sister and we are really excited about this weekend away and oh, yes, there is a marathon to run.

I just reminded my son that I’m off to New York and he said, “Oh ya . . . you don’t blog anymore.” Like my husband it seems he has been relying on my blog to keep track of what I’m doing even though he has returned home for his final year and a bit of school.

I finally felt perky today on my 4 mile run to and from the Salvation Army to buy my “throw-away-gear”. This is the warm up outfit that I will wear until the race start which will be tossed to the side and collected to be donated to a perhaps the NYC Sally Ann. I bought a boys soccer wind jacket from an Oakville league, boys nylon rain pants and a girls hoodie for a total of $12.

I’ve printed out splits to run a 3:36 marathon. I bought a pace calculator that is terrain adjusted for the rolling NYC course.  Apparently one’s time will be three minutes slower than on a flat course.  My half-marathon time gets me about a 3:33 on a flat course.  I went for a Shiatsu massage today and my bag is almost packed. In my bag is another set of warm-up clothing which is the stuff I might not pick up if the line-up is too long after finishing the marathon. If there is a long line up I will be tempted to hop in a cab asap.

My son and his girlfriend just after finishing 5K

Conditions are looking ideal with a low of 1C and a high of 11C.  In my book the ideal temperature for a marathon is between 2C and 12C and there is nary a rain cloud in sight. I’m in the range of my ideal marathon weight of 102-105. Joan Benoit is 1/2 an inch taller than me at 5 foot 2 inches and races in this weight range. People consider this on the heavy side for a serious marathoner. I’ve stayed away from sweets and alcohol for the past week but tomorrow at noon – let the carbo loading begin. I’m wondering if I have the energy to bake my carbo-loading oatmeal cookies.  I usually travel to marathons with smoked salmon-cream cheese bagel sandwiches which I’ll make tomorrow morning. Two-thirds of my suitcase is running apparel for every possible variant of weather for this time of year.

I miss blogging and I guess my family misses it too. Wish I had more time to say more but I hope to be less busy by the end of November. Life is good, I’m as ready as I can be. I feel blessed. Gotta bake . . .