Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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Exactly three years ago . . .

I neglected to celebrate my third blog-o-versary earlier this month. It all started when I took a blogging course at OCAD with a great instructor Greg Smith. I went on to complete the OCAD Digital Media Certificate which has helped me on-the-job with website content management  and communications.  Hundreds of blog posts later, here I am, albeit struggling to get in a minimum of two posts a month. I feel that if I don’t keep that up, I’ll stop entirely. Which begs the question, why not stop . . . hmmm, the topic of my next post? Actually my problem is not lack of content but too many ideas and too much to say, which makes it hard to get started.

Anyhow, the following is post from August 31, 2010 and it was interesting (to me at least) to see that I was then contemplating joining the UTTC Masters. It took me awhile to finally sign up but ta da, I’ve been a card-carrying member for over 1 1/2 years and loving it.

First Stop Sacramento  (August 31, 2010)

For someone who is used to running high-mileage in marathon training.  Running 50 miles a week hardly takes a thought.  I run about an hour a day with a 2 hour plus run on the weekend – this is the default.   However, with 15 weeks until my pre-Boston, marathon outing in Sacramento, the moment has come to either train seriously, forget about it or suffer in the final miles of the race.

2007, Sacramento 30K

So, I’m formulating my plan and the mileage build will go like this 57 miles this week, 61 miles next week and 57 miles the following week (including a rare day off for travel).  I like to do 2-3 solid weeks of building miles and then take an easier week.  Fortunately, this easy week will coincide with a trip to Germany.  My long run will increase from 12-15 miles to 17, 18 and up to 22 miles.

In addition to the increased mileage I have to start speedwork.  I’ve committed to hitting the track with a group.  For the past two years I’ve been taking evening courses, this year I will go to track school.  I’m excited about running on the new Varsity stadium track.  The very scene of my first marathon finish.  The coach, Paul Osland is a former Olympian who is now whipping a group of motivated masters into tip top shape.  I’m apprehensive about the return to the intensity of speed work.  My fast running for the past two years has gone something like this . . . run fast when I feel like it for 30 – 120 seconds.  Take as much rest as I need.

From what I can tell, the plan for Thursday is to run 150 meters at a very fast pace, 18 times and the do it again for a total of 36 fast repeats.  Then we are to bound up stairs, 2 steps at a time, 5 times and then repeat.  I’ve never done circuit training, of which we are to do 4 laps.  Hmm . . .

This could be painful.  Given that most of these runners will be peaking in the early fall, and my timing of a December marathon is unusual, I hope to get some sort of just-starting-out dispensation. I’m reminded of how once, when in top form I remarked to another runner as we readied ourselves for a grueling session à la Zeba Crook that his workouts were effective because they helped us to increase our pain threshold.  The runner turned to me and said, “but that is not what I signed up for”. No doubt . . . I’ll soon have a tale to tell.

Gulp . . .


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The habit of blogging (about running)

Kingston-team-01

University of Toronto Masters Track Club in Kingston

Must write something, anything . . . even if it is the writer’s equivalent of running an easy twenty minutes. Over the two years plus that I have been blogging, I’ve been fairly regular, even blogging every day for a few months, back in early 2011. It is an exercise I enjoy and want to maintain but somehow, I didn’t get there in November with zero posts and am in danger of doing the same for December.

I’m never at a loss for ideas and sometimes it is when I have  much to say, that it seems harder to say it. For example I wanted to write something along the lines of “Five Things I Learned from My Marathon Disappointment” but the breadth of the topic stopped me in my tracks. I’m going to have to remember to keep it simple and just do it.

Another reason – In early fall my job found me managing our Facebook site, creating email campaigns on MailChimp and assuming the role of webmaster for our new website. I also installed Google Analytics on our website and found myself somewhat mesmerized by the interactions between social media, e-blasts and website visits. I think this left little energy to attend to my personal on-line presence.

Feeling okay after the marathon

Feeling okay after the marathon

But I do want to continue and in spite of the stack of unwritten Christmas cards beside me and many tasks that need doing in the next four days, I am committed to regaining some momentum. I enjoy blogging and while my posts are not deep in analysis, I feel the simple act of recording some aspects of my life is good for my mental fitness and ability to write fast.

The highlight of running in November was taking part in the Ontario Masters Cross-Country championships in Kingston. It was exactly four weeks after my marathon. To recover from the marathon and prepare for the race in tandem, I ran less than I would normally, post-marathon. Instead, I ran a few quality workouts with minimal content including; tempo workouts of 20 minutes broken up into sections and once a full twenty minutes and intervals of 45 to 90 seconds in duration.

Dylan Wykes with 1st place team, F50-59

Dylan Wykes with 1st place team, F50-59

On race day I felt “sharp-enough” and was happy with my relative age-graded score which was one of the five scores that “counted” for our team placing. I also placed first in my age-category and our team of Women 50-59 placed first.  A nice touch was that Dylan Wykes, Canadian Olympian in the marathon gave out the medals. The drive to and from Kingston with fellow teammates was much enjoyed.

Kingston-Lynn08

Almost two years ago to that day, I ran the same marathon as Dylan Wykes, the California International Marathon in Sacramento. Here my posts from that more prolific blogging period:

Dylan Wykes upset winner of the California International Marathon

The Final Mile, a State of Grace

Marathon morning

I’m astonished to see that I posted 30 times in November 2010. But for now, I’ll take it one-blog-at-a-time and set my blogging goal for 2013 at two posts a month. Ciao and thank you for reading!

Lynn


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Happy legs are here again

Not quite a balmy beach run

I accomplished a lot in March but one goal I missed was to blog at least four times. Two activities that are “fun” for me are blogging and running but while blogging may have some mental fitness benefits, the physical and mental benefits of blowing out your lungs while running aerobically and anaerobically just can’t be beat. Running with my track club in the evening is an amazing way to be transported away from the worries of the world of work. There’s no room to squeeze in any stressful thoughts while focusing on running 6 X 1000 meters really hard with a 2 minute rest in between.

I ran the Beaches Spring Sprint on Saturday and ran very close to my spring-summer goal of going under 21 minutes for 5K. I had hoped to run about 21:40 but ran 21:04 a time over 2 minutes faster than the 5K I ran last fall. I had really begun to think that I would never see the other side of 20 minutes at age 56 but sub-20 minute 5k, here I come.

This 5K is packed with high school track stars who run 5K’s for strength. Normally, young runners go out too hard and fade in the second half but there were a ton of great times run by the youngsters in this race including the male winner (13-17 year old category) who nearly set a course record in a time of 14:53 and a junior girl who ran under 18 minutes.

A cautious start

I concentrated on holding back in the first half and had a very strong finish, passing one young woman whose coach helpfully shouted out that she was on 21:30 pace with about 600 meters to go. I knew I would get my time and put on a final burst in the last 20 meters to pass a couple more runners right at the finish line. My confidence has come back in droves. After years of marathon training, my weary legs are remembering what it is like to run fast.

Happy, happy and more happy.


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On blogging, baking and running around

Yikes! My goal is to post at least once a week and I am behind. I am seriously busy these days but my running is going very well. It just leaves little time to blog. And I do miss blogging and both my husband and son read my blog. I think they miss the blogging me 🙂  I also miss having the time to bake but was able to squeeze in a lemon-poppyseed pound cake for my boss’s  birthday and some wild pig shaped gingerbread cookies which I mailed to my nephew in Phoenix.

Havelina (wild pig) gingerbread

I’ve been taking a course which takes about 15 hours a week of my time. I’m in the throes of organizing a gala which my husband and I Co-Chair and work is fairly intense these days. I hope to run under 21 minutes later this year for 5K and have been joining my track team 1-2 times a week for speed sessions.

I ran 6.5 miles yesterday in the most broken up fashion ever in trying to fit everything in. I’m planning to run a 5K in the beaches area and the race is a throwback to the days of small community driven races. There is no on-line entry and no mail-in entry. The registration takes place over the course of six evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. way out on the other side of town. A real dilemma for the time-crunched. I considered finding another race but I’ve run this one a couple of times and I like the low-key atmosphere and the course is a fairly fast, out and back route along the eastern beach.

Lemon poppyseed pound cake

There are a couple of friends who live way east of me who I’ve not seen for awhile. I sent an email in the morning to see if they might be able to meet me for coffee during my rare appearance in that neck of the woods. Bingo! One friend had a date nearby that meshed with my timing.

Here is how my run went:

  • 5:00 p.m. Run half mile to subway
  • 5:05 – 5:20 p.m. Read course material on subway
  • 5:20 – 5:50 p.m. Run from Coxwell subway to friend-meeting point at Book City on Queen street.
  • 5:50 -7:00 p.m. Catch up with Dolores and enjoy bowl of seafood chowder with slice of bread
  • 7:00-7:05 p.m. Run to community centre to register for run
  • 7:05-7:20 p.m. Register for run
  • 7:20-7:55 p.m. Run to Coxwell subway station
  • 7:55-8:10 p.m. Finish reading course material on subway
  • 8:10 – 8:15 p.m. Run home

Total distance run over 3 hours and 15 minutes was 6 1/2 miles. Perhaps the lowest quality run ever. However, I’ve been having really great workouts since February including the night before. It was magical to be able to run on the Varsity stadium track at the very end of winter. WooHoo! I ran 6 x 1000 meters at a steady pace.

The week before I was really pleased with my result at the Canadian Masters Indoor Track Championships. I ran the 3000m in 12:32 which was a very solid national class age-graded score equivalent to running 9:52 in the open category. My confidence has really been boosted by racing on the track.

That's me on the left in the outside lane

As for the course, I just finished an assignment that is due Saturday. I’m frantically trying to get ahead of the game as the date the big project is due coincides with the gala. Enough, is enough and I’m now allowing myself the luxury of a blog post.

This is not a sustainable pace and I look forward to life post-gala. But the effort is worth the result and sometimes, there is no other way to get things done than get into fifth gear for awhile. If I get this post done tonight I still have ten days to get two more done by the end of the month.

I have no one to blame but myself for this state of affairs. But I do feel quite fulfilled and it won’t be long before I can take my sweet time and hopefully run a 5K under 21 minutes at age 56 with enough time to smell those roses afterward. According to the age-graded calculator my new motto should be:

20:59 is the new 16:59 . . . sigh


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Christmas Greetings

Best wishes and blessings to all! My last post about our trip to Stratford, Ontario was written from Edmonton while visiting my husband’s dad for a few days. The difficulty when you are busy, busy, and fall behind with blogging is that it is hard to know where to start. Over the next while, I’ll have to forgo the immediacy of a linear narrative in order to catch up.

While I may not be blogging much, I’m always be aiming to run every day with the odd exception. In the past, one exception has been days of early morning travel (leaving house at 7:30 a.m. or earlier) as I give myself a “pass” upon reaching the destination. On our trip to Edmonton I surprised myself by bounding out the door an hour or so after arrival for an easy, shake-off-the-jet-lag two miler. I enjoyed four memorable runs while in Edmonton which I will blog about shortly.

In the past 12 days I have cooked for four parties, two here and two in Edmonton. I crowned myself Queen of my father-in-law’s kitchen due to the three meals and batch of cookies I baked while there. On returning to Toronto I cooked dinner for 16 on Thursday, a farewell gathering for a workmate and then hosted our family dinner for 11 adults and 10 kids on Christmas day. I cooked the turkey, stuffing and provided cookies and an appetizers while three siblings (I have five) and my parents provided all else. There is a at least one very good cook in every family so this works very well for our clan.

Candy cane cookies, a favourite

Once a year, we splurge on eating out to celebrate our son’s birthday. We were all well-pleased with our Asian fusion meal at Lee’s on King street last week. We were especially impressed with the grilled tofu.

Birthday dinner at Lee's Restaurant

As for the weekly mileage tally, I hit the 40 mile mark two weeks ago but last week I had to cut back as I have been fighting a scritchy throat. It was disappointing to cut back my planned 12 miler to 6 miles last Saturday but perhaps today is the day, that things turn around. I usually wake between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. but slept in past 8:30 a.m. this morning and I’m hoping that “sleep, the wonder drug” will have worked its magic. We normally attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve but opted for 9 a.m. mass this year in order to maximize the benefits of regular sleep routines. I have to confess that I enjoyed not having to fight off drowsiness at Midnight Mass. Wishing you all peace, joy and good health!

What child is this?

Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let Him-whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend-be our companion”               

Henri Nouwen


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Song for a Winter’s Night

December has been a month of catching up with friends, preparing for the holiday season and somehow blogging has fallen by the wayside. I’ve been enjoying gradually increasing my mileage to 40 miles a week over seven days of running.

At a party the other week a friend mentioned that he had found out about my blog through another friend who told him that I blogged very regularly.  He was happy to hear that you can sign up for an email subscription rather than visiting my blog to check for new posts. My posting has slowed to 2-5 times a month lately while earlier in the year I was posting nearly every day.

Photo by Shaylan Spurway

We enjoyed a memorable evening last weekend in Stratford, Ontario at a performance by  iconic singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. While visiting Stratford in early October for the Festival City 10K we were learned that the last two shows of his latest Canadian tour would take place in the cozy setting of the Stratford Festival Theatre. Adding to the appeal of this weekend getaway was that our B & B of choice, The Judges Quarters is a five minute walk from the venue.

The Judges Quarters

Breakfast at The Judges Quarters

Having heard from others that Lightfoot’s voice has been much diminished due to an illness that involved a tracheotomy our expectations were not high but we were still very keen. Press coverage describes Lightfoot as frail but I would choose the word slight and I thought in fact, that his physical movements suggested a regular fitness regime. And indeed, post-concert research uncovered an article where Lightfoot reveals, “I did 81 shows last year. . . none of that would be possible if I didn’t stay on top of things and do the workouts.”  Like a good marathoner, Gordon Lightfoot is very much in tune with what he is capable of physically and portions out his energy over the course of his extensive performance tours very carefully.

Still there were times when his voice faltered but the absence of youthful vigour was replaced by the powerful emotional resonance of his voice and lyrics. Lightfoot prefaced the high point of the evening with a brief, “this is a good one”. And so it was as the dedicated singer-songwriter doing what he must do, imbued Song for a Winter’s Night with both innocence and experience. It was a starry, snow-dusted, teary-eyed and very memorable evening in Stratford. Thank you Gordon Lightfoot.

Song for a Winter’s Night

The lamp is burnin’ low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my window pane
Where webs of snow are drifting

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
And to be once again with you

Balzac's coffee, Stratford

Flagship location of Balzac's coffee, Stratford


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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.