Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Running up those stairs & more

Back from a three city jaunt to Kingston, Quebec City and Ottawa with good running in all three cities. After tackling the nearly 400 step Cap Blanc staircase going from sea level up to the Plains of Abraham, a bit of research revealed that there is a race called the Défi des escaliers de Québec or the Quebec City Staircase Challenge. This stair marathon involves running up and down nearly 30 staircases for a total of more of 3000 steps over 19K. Imagine that!

For regular runs, one can choose to run along the St. Lawrence for many miles on a gently rolling course or through the more challenging hilly terrain of the Plains of Abraham. My longest run in our five-day stay was nine miles along the river.

Rock the ramparts – The Citadel, Quebec City

Our hotel in Kingston overlooked Confederation Bay and the path in front of the place was part of  an 8K long (albeit a somewhat circuitous) network of various waterfront pathways with a view of many windmills. The highlight of my three Kingston runs was an eleven miler with tempo sections. It is the fourth consecutive August that we have been in Kingston at the end of August but the first time that I ventured so far out along this particular route, having previously run through the army base. The down-side of those runs were the many unleashed dogs on the residential properties.

View from Majors Hill Park path, Ottawa

The best runs of all were in Ottawa. I heard rumours that one of my favourite paths, behind the Parliament buildings had been closed down. I was thrilled to find out that it was open and ran this beautiful Ottawa river path, through Majors Hill park, over the Alexandra bridge to Hull, past the Museum of Civilization and then back to Lebreton Flats in Ottawa. We lived in Lebreton Flats for a couple of years during our five years living in Ottawa. Since then the War Museum has opened and with this have come many improvements to the path that runs by it along the Ottawa river. The weather was a wonderfully cool 6C when I started and around 15C by the time I finished my 12 miles with a tempo section. This route is one of my favourite urban routes in Canada.

View from hotel room with windmills and running path (right, middle)

A feature of my runs in all three cities was listening to the audio book, Your Brain at Work by David Rock. which explores the latest in neuroscience and busts many a myth about the capacity of our brain to multitask. Some of the research cited would support my sense that creative thoughts while running are easier to come by for the long-time distance runner, for whom running is a second-nature, auto-pilot activity. I also enjoyed not having to focus on finishing my run at a certain time which set the  the stage for dreamy, lost-in-my-thoughts and very relaxed running. Of course this reduced urgency is only possible if your traveling partner also happens to be your best cheerleader and favourite running companion.

Plains of Abraham with my cheerleader, my husband, my love

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
Henry David Thoreau

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A Bit of Cortisone for the Road

Today was a big day for my husband.  Finally, he had his appointment with a orthopeadic surgeon to get the scoop on his torn meniscus.  The doc seemed to favour continued physiotherapy for his 3 year-long battle with knee pain.  I think my husband was hoping he would suggest that a quick fix of arthoscopic surgery would do the trick and after a bit of healing up he’d be back at it.  Not so as ambiguity lingers on.

The doctor gave him a shot of cortisone to reduce inflammation to provide some temporary relief but what lies ahead?  More physiotherapy it seems but now the therapist will have the benefit of the MRI of his knee.  Can it be that my husband will never run another marathon?   Sad, very sad . . .

Too Much Information - Portrait of My Husband's Torn Meniscus

As for me, I ran three miles on the treadmill to take it easy in case I decide to go to the track tomorrow.  I met a former workmate for dinner at Carole’s Cheesecake in Yorkville and then we walked about 2.5 miles before she hopped on the subway and I walked a couple of blocks home.  That felt quite good as I indulged in half a piece of pistachio cheesecake, in addition to a large pecan square at a work meeting.   I have officially given up, giving up sweets for Lent and am ashamed of my feeble intent.  I have however done better with my resolve to limit alcohol consumption.

I had not seen this friend for almost seven months!  We discussed the possibility of taking a course together at OCAD.  I see a pattern emerging – to increase the odds of regular liaisons, work together, run together, take a course together or sit on the People4Kids gala committee.

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Forty Days of Moderation

This year, for Lent I am not going to give up anything completely.  In regard to temptation, I sometimes find it easier to give something up altogether, rather than practice moderation.  The last two years I have given up sweets and shopping and limited myself to two drinks, taken on one day of the week.

Part of the over-shopping seems to stem from being too busy.  I would just buy stuff because I’d say to myself, if I don’t get it now, when I do need it I’ll have to spend more time looking for this.  In the end, short-of-time-panic shopping seems to override taking inventory of what you do have, and “making do”.  And during Lent it really hit home how much time one spends wandering in and out of stores, lured by the almighty ON SALE sign.  A lot of time is saved when you cut shopping out of your life!

So here is my plan of moderation.  Sweets, once a week.  Alcohol, once a week.  As for the shopping, I feel confident that I am now well grounded in a “making do” mentality that I don’t need to give up or moderate shopping as I’m definitely in a frugal state of mind.

My husband is giving up alcohol with an exception or two.  Did you know that at times a dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day has been issued by the church for those who are abstaining from alcohol?  So over the following weeks, life will be fairly simple although very busy up until May 3rd, the day of the People4Kids Gala.

I woke at 4:30 a.m. today, really excited about my new job and a bit anxious about all the work I have to do for my volunteer job, the Gala.  For the past few days I have been suffering from a bit of dizziness and slight nausea, vertigo perhaps?  So feeling a bit queasy after being up for awhile, I made my way back to bed.  Fortunately, this was a day off from work and another hour or so of sleep seemed to improve the situation.  I considered skipping my run but by mid-afternoon I felt well enough for a bit of a jog and I really needed the mental break from Gala work.  As soon as I hit the sidewalk it was apparent that my legs were still feeling very heavy from Monday’s workout.  There was some consolation in knowing that I could not have run more than three miles, even if I were feeling better.  Well, tomorrow is another day.

As for the alcohol, our wonderful roommate Alain knows how to choose wine and is a chef,who leaves us notes telling us to “help ourselves” to wine and food.  Lately these notes have been appearing more frequently, and very close to my laptop from which I blog, example below.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
– 1 Corinthians 9:25a NKJV

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Rats ‘R’ Us – Running for Research

Yesterday was my first day off from running in 2011, which is a step towards getting faster.  Today, I ran just over two miles and this short run confirmed that taking yesterday off was a wise move.  My ligaments and muscles are definitely feeling the after-effects of the much-harder-than-usual workout with the U of T Masters group.  The day of rest, and the very easy day will ensure that my body will come back stronger, rather than accumulate stress and break down.

So the blogging versus running count for 2011 now stands at:

Blogging = 64 days (65 posts) Running = 67 days (67 runs)

And this day off came just in time to avoid (ever so slightly) comparisons with the overworked rats with heart troubles mentioned in an article in today’s New York Times called . . .

When Exercise is Too Much of a Good Thing.

Recently, researchers in Britain set out to study the heart health of a group of dauntingly fit older athletes. Uninterested in sluggards, the scientists recruited only men who had been part of a British national or Olympic team in distance running or rowing, as well as members of the extremely selective 100 Marathon club, which admits runners who, as you might have guessed, have completed at least a hundred marathons.

All of the men had trained and competed throughout their adult lives and continued to work out strenuously. Twelve were age 50 or older, with the oldest age 67; another 17 were relative striplings, ages 26 to 40. The scientists also gathered a group of 20 healthy men over 50, none of them endurance athletes, for comparison. The different groups underwent a new type of magnetic resonance imaging of their hearts that identifies very early signs of fibrosis, or scarring, within the heart muscle. Fibrosis, if it becomes severe, can lead to stiffening or thickening of portions of the heart, which can contribute to irregular heart function and, eventually, heart failure.


The study was supposed to mimic marathon training as  “. . .  scientists prodded young, healthy male rats to run at an intense pace, day after day, for three months, which is the equivalent of about 10 years in human terms.”  I have questions, serious questions.  Were the rats given easy days?  Did they wear heart rate monitors and were they able to vary their pace from very easy to very hard with interval breaks between the hardest run sections?  Did they have sedentary time in front of computers, at work and at play?  Were they encouraged to stretch?  To me the training sounds more like a ten year tempo run.  The study is published in the journal, Circulation.

My husband had questions as well.  The one-hundred-marathon group is self-selected.  How many of the rats were truly talented distance-running rats?  Did they hold rat time trials to select their subjects?  If you are naturally a sprinter will it be damaging to your heart to try distance running?

Due to the short supply of female marathoners available for an equivalent longitudinal study, I’m waiting for science to call.


Power Packed Protein for Parents, Kids & Athletes

In the past couple of months I scoured the internet for the recipe for a high-protein drink that was a daily fixture of my pregnancy diet.  My weight just before pregnancy was 102 pounds.  I was vegetarian at the time, and I had a very difficult time gaining weight on my diet of tempeh, tofu and bean diet verging at times on veganism.  At my early check-ups my doctor, worried about my vegetarianism, once said that I was taking a risk that my baby would be in the lowest weight percentile.

Häagen-Dazs ice cream was part of my prescription for weight gain and I ate it often.  So much so that I remember telling people that I never thought that I would consider eating ice cream (one of my favourite foods) a chore.  Just goes to show you what a MUST will do to make something normally pleasurable, seem less so.  Funnily enough, my son just loves Häagen-Dazs ice cream and stocks up on it when it goes on sale at Sobey’s, which seems to happen fairly regularly.

Last Saturday at a 50th birthday party for a friend, I noticed a copy of Laurel’s Kitchen, the very book from whence the recipe for the high-protein drink came. My copy had disappeared in my years of living in co-op houses.  The birthday girl agreed to lend me the book.  I don’t think the newer version has this recipe. So,  ta-da . . . straight from a very yellowed copy of Laurel’s Kitchen, A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery and Nutrition is my memory lane recipe.

High-Protein Blender Drink

  • 3 tbsp. whole soy powder
  • 3 tbsp. non-instant skim milk powder
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 cup fresh skim milk
  • 1 tbsp. toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon torula (I use brewer’s yeast)
  • 1/2 teaspoon carob powder

Authors, Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey

Before I knew I was pregnant, I developed an aversion to coffee.  I view this as an example of the laws of the body taking hold.  Near the end of the second trimester I began craving meat.  It was quite a shock to my meat-eating husband when I nibbled on some Italian sausage he was frying.  From there, I never looked back and to be honest, I get sick far less than when I was a vegetarian.  To each his own, I’m convinced, is the way with diet.  For me, blood sugar stability seems to work better on a high protein meat diet.

I gained about 23 pounds, my son was 7 pounds 10 ounces and it took three months to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Due to the heavy demands of breastfeeding, I went under my pre-pregnancy weight by 4 pounds to a very skinny 98 pounds in year one of motherhood.

My son was never keen on bananas except when served in a quickie-kid version of the high-protein drink.  I used to make this for him when he insisted that he did not want breakfast.

Power Drink

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate milk powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

When he was a teen he wanted to weigh more than could reasonably be expected of the son of two very lean parents.  I used to supplement his drink with skim milk powder.  I can’t remember why, but I did not tell him this, and he never noticed.

Proving my doctor’s fears were unfounded, my one-and-only has grown to be over 6 feet tall, nearly a foot taller than his mom and a couple of inches taller than his dad.

Voila! I give you the mostly-vegetarian baby at 23 years.

Product of High-Protein Power Drink


Runner’s World Rookie Marathon Training Plan

A young American woman, 22 years old is training for her first marathon in Italy.  She is using a plan which is very similar to what both my husband and I used to run our first marathons.  You can find the 16 week plan at Rookie Marathon Training Plan

My husband started running in his early twenties and ran his first marathon a few years later, using a Runner’s World, Three-Months to a Marathon plan.  I was in my mid-twenties and had been running a few weeks, when I decided to train for a marathon using the same plan which Runner’s World recycles yearly.  So I feel some nostalgia in reading about this woman’s ambition to run a marathon when she returns to the U.S.  She is calling it the SkinnyItaly Project. Go, go, young one, you CAN do it.  YES, you can.

I enjoyed reading about her reasons for running and her determination as shown below:

  • It’s FREE
  • Relieves Stress
  • Pushes your mental and physical strength
  • You can do it ANYWHERE
  • Again, it’s FREE
  • Achieve a lean, mean, STRONG physique

I’m going to be MADE. Into a Marathoner.  My coach will be my own stubbornness and muscle tension from my daily lifestyle in Italy.  Running a marathon has been on my BUCKET LIST (aka life goals), along with building orphanages in Uganda.

You can check out the full story of the SkinnyItaly project HERE.

I’m inspired by the marvelous energy and enthusiasm of the young.  It is easy as one ages to view youth as a phase we passed through and thought better of it.   I like to think that we can distill the essence of youth and reinvent ourselves as youth-full in spirit as we age, or at the very least, appreciate it vicariously.   Although, like George Sheehan I’ve often thought that running has been, and still is my fountain of youth.  Vigour is definitely a good foundation for optimism.

Dostoevsky said that “The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.”   However sobering this gloomy outlook  may be, know truly that it is never too late to start exercising regularly, or too early.


No Stranger to Snow

Having been born and raised in Montreal, childhood memories involve what seemed like mini-mountain ranges lining the streets providing great climbing opportunities for the agile and fleet of foot.  I recall going to a school in a neighbouring suburb almost two miles away however, there was a short cut through the woods that was just a mile and I would sometimes hike home, even when I had to trudge through thigh-high snow.  I had a propensity then to push myself physically, a little further, a little faster.

From the age of 12 to 16 I played Ringette, mainly on outdoor rinks and it did get cold.  I don’t remember any game cancellations due to cold, rather the opposite, when the temperature was too high to produce a reasonable ice surface.  After a couple of years, neighbouring municipalities started Ringette leagues on indoor rinks and my best ringette buddy and I joined another league.  The fun came when we ended up on the all-star teams for both towns.  We chose to play for the weaker team although I had a ball because I got to play forward, rather than my usual defence position.

In those days there was no such thing as a girls hockey league, Ringette was the adapted ice sport, suitable for girls.  The only girls who wore hockey skates then were a couple of girls who had serious hockey playing dads, the daughter of professional hockey player, Fleming McKell for instance.  The rest of us wore figure skates and we filed the toe picks off.

I started out as a goalie but did not particularly shine or enjoy the position.  My brothers used to chant this, “Lynn, Lynn she’s so thin, she always lets the ring go in”.  I was quite a fast skater and because of this my coaches always put me on defence because I had a knack for being in the right place, and could usually put on a burst of speed to get in the way of an opponent.  In ringette at that time there was a weird rule that defence players could not go into the offensive zone.  Very dull, to say the least.  I hope they’ve changed that rule.  Did you know that Canada has the highest number of ringette players, over 50,000!

Look ma, no gloves!

I enjoyed today’s marvelous sun.  I left the house in full winter gear, and ended up feeling quite overdressed.  At least one can exercise some temperature control by removing a layer on a day like this.  Which reminds me of when my son was in grade school and I would run by the school yard to make sure he was dressed properly on the really cold days, finding him at times playing in the schoolyard, having ditched his jacket.

I dread those stifling hot, muggy days of summer.  Down by the lake, sun shining, winter white seems . . . quite alright.


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S’no Excuse

Snow, snow, snow . . . will this storm materialize as predicted?  I thought this might be a good time to list the different indoor venues where I have done long runs when poor conditions prevailed.  In days of yore, treadmills were not available at fitness facilities, so most runners slogged it out on the roads.  I’ve always been finicky about poor footing due to chronic ankle troubles stemming from having severely sprained my ankle at age 13 on a trampoline.  Consequently, I’m usually the first to head indoors to find relief from slipping and sliding outdoors.


Emil Zapotek

The Old Central YMCA on College Street

This track was 26.5 laps to the mile.

I once ran 18 miles on this track, a total of 4955.5 laps in the early-eighties.  David Suzuki used to be a regular on this teeny track.

Former Central YMCA on College Street

The West End YMCA

15.5 laps to the mile.

I ran a full marathon, 26.2 miles here in the mid-eighties, a total of 380 laps.

Hart House Track at the University of Toronto

About 11.3 laps to the mile

I’ve run 12 miles on this track.  Although it is bigger than the old Central YMCA track the banking is horrible and I would not recommend doing a long run here.

The Athletic Centre at the University of Toronto

8 laps to the mile

About 6-7 years ago I ran 23 miles on the outside track and ran by time rather than counting laps.  Who says we don’t get smarter with age.

The York University Track

8 laps to the mile

I’ve run a number of track races on the indoor track, which has excellent banking and run on the outer warm-up track before and after workouts or races.  I’ve never done a long run there but I imagine it would be fairly entertaining with all the high-performance activity on the inside track.  My husband and I used to see the infamous Ben Johnson work out on the sprint lanes.

The Eaton Centre

One New Years Day in the eighties I ran a few miles here, having started outside during a snowstorm, I ducked inside and logged some miles in the mall.


The most miles I’ve run on a treadmill is 18 miles which I did a few years back.

If you think this sounds crazy consider this, legendary marathoner Emil Zapotek’s solution to training in harsh weather.  Zapotek would fill his bathtub with water and then his laundry and run in place for hours.  Zapotek is remembered for winning triple gold in the 5K, 10K and marathon at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

So really, IS snow an excuse for not running?

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Winter Running by the Lake

My total miles run for last week was 60 and about 48-50 of those miles were run outside.  While there were some cold days, the wind has been relatively tame making runs by Lake Ontario quite pleasant.

I was pleased to find the Empire Sandy, a tall ship landmark at Spadina Quay in spring, summer and fall, docked nearby at Queen’s Quay.  I also enjoyed the outdoor art near the pond, now skating rink,  just outside Queen’s Quay.

The Empire Sandy, Docked for the Winter


Today I was drawn to run outside because of the wonderful blue sky.  It was however necessary to get into full winter gear to stay warm, a key item is the facewarmer.  These items are described in two previous posts, Winter Running Gear Accessories and Winter Running Gear: Base, Middle & Outer Layers.  It’s hard to pick out in the photo below but I am wearing a  vented-bandana-style face protector made by Seirus which was bought at Dick’s in the U.S.  You may find one of this particular style at a store specializing in snowboarding gear but specialty running stores like New Balance Toronto and Mountain Equipment Co-op usually have the plain black styles in stock.

Cold, but too blue to stay inside.


Just East of Ontario Place

Here are photos from the outdoor art display near the Power Plant by Harbourfront Centre east of Queen’s Quay.

Harbourfront Outdoor Photo Exhibit

More Outdoor Art

Now that I am taking a photography course, I’ve become acutely aware of the limitations of my mini-camera.  However, I just can’t see myself running with the Nikon SLR camera lent to me by my son.  Even if I did not mind the weight, I’m sure the movement would not be good for the camera.  The instructor will be showing us how to take shots of fast moving objects.  I asked her whether that would apply to the opposite situation, when the photographer is the fast moving object.  She said we will cover that later.  Here is a photo I took for my course with a few painterly touches courtesy of PhotoShop, which I am learning to use.  I think I’ll call it Alley Series: #1 🙂



Saturday Run Configured

Planning our Saturday route and its timing took a fair bit of communicating with emails flying between four parties well into Friday evening.  “R” wanted to run 8-9 miles and had to be home by 8:15 a.m. while “D” was to be out late Friday and requested a not-too-early start time.   I questioned a plan that had the four of us running separately along routes which in an ideal world would see us converge.  Four moving objects running along icy sidewalks in -9C seemed to me a formula for confusion and missed rendezvous points.  Been there, done that and it is far too cold to risk the possibility of standing on a street corner, wondering if so and so is late or has already gone by and should we wait.  I asserted that I would only go along with this plan if we were all running with cell phones.

With the help of  Google’s Pedometer I drew up a new plan and thanks to a couple of Blackberries  and an IPhone, consensus was achieved for this new route.  “R” ran by my place, we ran to “D”s and then we ran to “J”s.  From there we went to “R”‘s arriving at 8:15 a.m. on the dot, our most important mission accomplished, and so on, all done with all the waiting done, in the warmth our homes.  One day, there will be an APP to figure out how to organize a group run minimizing time spent running alone, coming from disparate points and all with different mileage targets.  Here is what each of us got out of this group run.

Lynn = 14 miles, 2 miles solo

R = 8.75 miles, 1.5 miles solo

D = 7 miles, company all the way

J = 6.75 miles, 0.9 miles solo

Recently, I was showing our roommate how to use Google Maps Pedometer and he immediately noticed a function that I had never used.  Once you have calculated a route, you can turn on the calorie counter, input your weight and voila,1165 calories burned for 14 miles.  Time to eat!

Gmaps Pedometer

Total Distance: 14.0102 miles
Last Leg: miles
Draw route: automatically (for runners)
automatically (for cyclists)
manually (straight lines)
Turn off mile markers
Turn off calorie counter
Weight: 110 lb
Calories Burned: 1165.8345148371207110
Elevation: off small large