Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Treading winter on a treadmill

I’ve been running long enough to remember when treadmills were an exotic species of gadget, used almost exclusively for tests administered by exercise physiologists.  I”m not sure when they started to become part of your standard gym equipment but thank goodness for that.

Over the past month I’ve done two 18 milers and both were done on the treadmill at my local YMCA due to very messy weather with treacherous footing. I’m an old hand at treadmilling but over those runs I learned a new trick. I can READ and RUN at the same time! If I set the font size on my Kobo reader to large, I can read without any difficulty. This is quite a discovery for someone who is trying to make it through the 1200+ pages of Les Miserables. I’m now 48% of the way through.

A cautionary note here. I think I can easily manage this feat as not many people have logged as many treadmill miles as I have. My theory is, that since running is second-nature for me and requires very little concentration, the door is open to multi-tasking. I think some of the findings presented in Thinking Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman would support my view. Nonetheless, one should not get too cocky. Last fall I stumbled and fell on a treadmill and was hurled off. Thankfully I was not going very fast. I can’t imagine what would have happened otherwise. Wearing the safety catch while on a treadmill is a good idea.


A surprising development

For the latest 18 miler I did this. For the first hour, I listened to Thinking Fast and Slow, the audiobook. I own the hard copy of the book but had stalled at page 135 and knew that I needed the ease of the audiobook to get me back into it. I would like to have the “reader” option but three options for one book, seems excessive not to say, expensive. The book is a bit demanding so I knew that after the first hour, switching to Les Miserables would be in order. For the third hour, I listened to music. The week before I looked at all the “tags” I had collected on Shazaam, the music identifying app, and downloaded those from www.legalsounds.com for a pittance. It is always motivating to run with new music in hand.

No,it has not been easy getting geared up for winter marathon training, most of it on my own, but thank goodness for all these toys!


Running in the Seventies – Some Differences

Writing about my husband’s past running accomplishments in my last blog reminded me of some of the changes that have occurred over those years.

Looking smug at the start of Ottawa Marathon,1982

  1. Conventional advice for winter running was to wear woolen socks to keep hands warm. Who knew that you might dedicate a pair of regular mitts or gloves to exercise, let alone spend money to buy special ones to run in.
  2. Runners used string to measure routes on paper maps.  The really high-tech folk, of whom I knew only two, bought special map measuring wheels.  My upgrade was to use candle wicking which had wire inside and improved accuracy while measuring around a bend.
  3. Not all results were made public for the Boston Marathon.  Not only were the qualifying times more difficult (sub- 3hours for open men) but you only got your name in the official program if you were 3:15 or faster, whether male or female.
  4. There was no such thing as a personal music device.  I owned the first Sony Walkman, introduced in 1981.  The prototype was a behemoth and to run with it involved a complicated system of belts and strapping which felt like being wrapped in a very wide tensor bandage.
  5. There was no affordable stopwatch available until 1974 when Casio produced the first, priced at $150.  A bargain compared to the $2100 Pulsar by Hamilton a few years earlier.
  6. Instead of chip-timing, the popsicle-stick-timing system was commonly used and believe it or not, fairly effective.
  7. There was no Olympic marathon for women. The first Olympic marathon for women took place in 1984, three years after I had run my first marathon at age 26.  Joan Benoit stepped into the record books with her historic victory.

To hear Joan Benoit read the poem below CLICK HERE

Wanting to be able to
by: Piet Hein

“Impossibilities” are good
not to attach that label to;
since, correctly understood,
if we wanted to, we would
be able to.

26 miles later, Olivia Newton-John Wannabe feels the pain


Running in the Winter Rain

It wasn’t until I took a hot shower a couple of hours after my run this morning that I warmed up.  Brrr . . .  winter rain, nothing like it.  Rainy weather in the transition months of March and November can make for some miserable runs.

So what to wear on days like this?  There is a big difference between running more than an hour in this weather.  After an hour or so water repellency and even waterproof  Gore-Tex begins to break down.  The temperature upon leaving home at 7 a.m. was +3C with a 9K southerly wind.

Gore-Tex membrane under an electron microscope. Size of islands about 10µm.

This was my cold rain gear of choice:  ball cap, long-sleeve wicking top, Gore-Tex jacket, 3/4 capri tights under single-layer warm-pants, ankle socks and Gore-Tex mittens.  This was comfortable enough for the first rainy hour but eventually my mitts were soaked and I had to head back into the south wind and my hands got so cold that I could barely manage to unzip my pocket to find my key.

As I write this my husband reminds me that I rushed into the bedroom this morning, waking him with the news, that “It’s a mess out there!” He says I’m losing my nerve for facing the elements.  And, he’s probably right.  I think my diminishing resolve is due in part to the absence of a solid spring running goal but I’m working on that. I sent an email to my Saturday run pals warning them that I may only run half of what I had planned.  In the end, I ran 10 miles, four miles short of the pre-rain plan.

My reward for 10 miles in the rain was a bowl of Canadian Colada Oatmeal a tribute to my favourite Booster Juice smoothie, The Canadian Colada.  I wonder if anyone has ever made oatmeal with coconut milk, pineapple bits and shredded coconut, topped with maple syrup, pecans and cow’s milk?  It wasn’t bad but I think I have some work to do on the proportion of ingredients.

As for Booster Juice, three cheers and hip, hip, hooray and a carrot juice toast.  Booster Juice has agreed to be one of the People4Kids gala sponsors!

Canadian Colada Oatmeal

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Winter Runs in Ottawa, The Real Thing

Canal, river & parliament buildings converge for this fabulous view from my hotel room.

I’ve returned from my slightly-less-than-two-day-getaway in Ottawa, having missed a second day of posting for 2011. My from-the-airport post was pretty meagre, so I decided against a second thin offering yesterday.

Breakfast With a View

I started my mini-holiday with a 7 a.m. breakfast with a friend, in the hotel cafe. This friend has recently moved here from Toronto and it turns out that he is living in the Lebreton Flats neighbourhood, about one block from where we lived for some of of the five years we called Ottawa home.  We became friends while part of a running club at the University of Toronto, a group that was spearheaded by incomparable coach,  Zeba Crook, then grad-student, now professor in the Religion and Philosophy department at Ottawa’s Carelton University. Unfortunately, a get together with Zeb was not to be, as he is in that very busy phase, family life with two working parents and two young kids.

Our First Ottawa Home, a Heritage House on James Street in Centretown

After having a look at the basement fitness facility in the hotel, I resolved to run outdoors as the day was especially bright and I planned a route which encompassed our two Ottawa homes, two favourite parks and the YMCA-YWCA where I used to leave my son with the babysitting service while working out, until he graduated to the nursery school.

Our second home on Elm Street was our first home purchase.

I’ve written about my winter runs in Toronto but I had forgotten how much a slog winter running in Ottawa is because of the rarely-bare sidewalks. I’ve heard a lot about Yak Trax a unique coil system that clips onto shoes and gives you traction on ice and packed now and I’ll be buying a pair of these, the next time I visit Ottawa in the winter. I was slipping and sliding all over the place. Over my abbreviated run of 5 miles, there was one measly block of clear sidewalk. I had planned to do some speedwork but had no choice but to abandon this plan.

Ran into my old friend Oscar Peterson.

During my Ottawa days there was no such thing as a treadmill at the YMCA and there was no indoor track so it was very tough to run through the winter. I remember running along the canal in -40C weather, when I was stopped by a television camera crew, waiting to interview runners brave enough (or foolish enough) to run in the cold. So there you have it, my 15 seconds of Ottawa television fame.

Dundonald Park in Centretown. Many happy times spent playing here.

As I returned to the center of town I checked out some of the Winterlude displays awaiting the weekend action. I think Winterlude now takes place over three weekends, rather than the former ten day stretch. I once took part in a Winterlude tradition, a Skate, Ski and Run Triathlon. In spite of the bad footing I enjoyed my little trip down memory lane and returned refreshed and eager to play tourist in the afternoon.

Winterlude Weekend around the corner.


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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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


Treadmills, Vertical Challenges & Caffeine

In spite of having all the gear to run comfortably outdoors, I have run indoors for the past three days.  The usual Saturday run suspects were not available so I was left to my own devices.  In anticipation of sloppy and slippery conditions on sidewalks, I was committed to getting out early in order to run on (hopefully) cleared roads as much as possible.

My husband reminded me of one route I’ve used on days like this, a run to High Park with multiple loops around the 1.1 mile road circling Grenadier Restaurant.  He pointed out that he could drive to High Park and join me for a few loops.

As the day dawned and time constraints were considered, I decided that the most efficient way to get my 13 miler in was to run to the nearest treadmill.  The time it takes to go from my front door to a treadmill is under 2 minutes.  For longer runs, much time is saved on the treadmill as there are fewer stops and washrooms and water are always near-at-hand.

I left the house shortly after 7 a.m. and incidentally, I was not the first occupant of our home to be leaving for a workout.  Our roommate Alain was out the door, headed to play basketball, shortly before me.

Leaving to play basketball at 7:00 a.m.

I ran for over two hours and happily fell into a nice groove almost immediately.  I broke down the running time into 30 minute chunks with a little perk, when each segment was completed.  My rewards were chugs of Gatorade and checking my Blackberry.

While running, I spent time thinking about a National Geographic show I watched last night about climbers on the highest mountain in North America, Denali.  While watching this I emailed a nephew in Arizona who has climbed Denali to wish him Happy New Year.  A few years ago, I had blithely remarked, that climbing Denali was something I thought I might like to do one day.  His response was that it was a “very technical” climb.  After becoming more informed about the dangers of the trek and the number of people who have died attempting to do this, he probably should have told me that I have no idea what I am talking about.  He is a very diplomatic individual who obviously has great respect for his elders.

This led me to thinking about the Klondike Road Relay which I took part in a few years ago.  This relay goes from Skagway to Whitehorse and I was assigned the toughest leg which was a very hilly (Yukon size hills) 25K.  One third of my run was done in the dark of early morning and I was running into the sunrise, definitely one of my “rave runs”.

Pan American Highway

With this on my mind, I was surprised to see a map of the Pan American Highway appear before me on the BBC channel.  The show called Racing Green Endurance was documenting the journey of a race car driver along this network of highways stretching between Alaska and the southernmost tip of South America.

Treadmill TV, northern scenes on BBC channel

Another memory triggered of being on the Top of the World highway traveling in a RV with 3 siblings, their spouses and my son.  We were passed on this lonely dirt highway, close to Chicken, Alaska (population 3) by a caravan of colourful rally cars with checkered markings, the stuff of surrealism.  Perhaps these coincidences point the way to a return to the Klondike Road Relay.

Top of the World Highway

So between the television, the IPod, the Blackberry, the constant readout of my heartrate and these musings the time flew by and I returned home in good time.  I made it to my goal of 50 miles for the week, without expending too much stress in battling the elements and surviving the absence of my regular run pals.  It felt good!

Caffeine Corner

Treats at The Dark Horse Espresso Bar

Later in the day my husband and I stopped by the  Dark Horse Espresso Bar on Spadina two blocks north of Queen street.  As we drove along Queen street towards Spadina we noticed that another Dark Horse Cafe has opened west of Bathurst.

Dark Horse Cafe

I first visited the Dark Horse a couple of summers ago with one of my four brothers, the brother who lives in the Yukon (Did you see that one coming?)  took me there.  As sometimes happens, it is the adventurous tourist who finds new places for the locals.  This brother is well-traveled and I blogged about our (sort of) chance meeting in Frankfurt, this fall.  He is an architect by trade but is also co-owner of a thriving Whitehorse coffee bar, the BAKED CAFE & BAKERY.

Finally . . . snippets from the Dr. Suess classic, “The Places You’ll Go” are verging on the ubiquitous but it is has been a favourite of mine since I bought it for my son when it was first published in 1990, the last Dr. Suess published before his death in 1991.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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Winter Running Gear – Base, Middle & Outer Layers

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
Henry David Thoreau

HTO The Urban Beach - Thursday, January 6, 2011

A tip to get better prepared to run in the cold is to don your running gear ten minutes or so before you head out so that warm air pockets develop between the layers of your running gear.  Those air pockets are one of the reasons why dressing in layers is the warmer way to go.  Unless you overdress, a bit of chilliness for the first 4-5 minutes is inevitable when the temperature falls below -5C.

A favourite running jacket is the Cannondale Morphis jacket I’m wearing in this photo from my morning run to the lake.  It is made of waterproof Gore-Tex and because of its limited breathability is a warmer choice than most running jackets, in the dead of winter.  It is in fact a cycling jacket.  I bought this jacket in Boston prior to the 2008 Boston marathon.  Boston was hit by a severe nor’easter in the days leading up to the marathon and there was serious and unprecedented talk of canceling the marathon.  Thus the marathon chatter was devoted exclusively to what to wear.

I was a very happy camper when I found the perfect solution to the threat of torrential rains in the form of this jacket with its removable sleeves, secured by easy-to-detach zippers and magnetic closures.  And the only size left was my my hard-to-find XS.

Cannondale Morphis Gore-Tex Cycling Jacket

On race day, the sun peeped through the clouds not long after the race start and we experienced the tiniest sprinkling of rain.  Conditions could be described as “not bad”.  I wasn’t long into the race before I removed the sleeves and tied them around my waist and felt comfortable the rest of the way.

Boston Marathon 2008, jacket sleeves tied around my waist & NB lightweight trainers

Before buying this jacket, I had never owned a running vest.  Since I already owned a few very serviceable and good looking New Balance jackets, I was relieved to get a lot of wear out of this emergency purchase afterward, the vest in particular.  The jacket features a two-way zipper, two side pockets, a back pocket and a small breast pocket.  The only drawback is the Gore-Tex material is not very flesh-friendly so it is best worn as a vest, or when the weather is cold enough for a long sleeve-shirt underneath.   I think it was $129 at the Harvard Square location of  Eastern Mountain Sports.

The other outer-layer piece is the New Balance yoga-style pants which at $59 cost much less than most yoga-specific warm-up pants.  I also find the fit more flattering than the upscale brands I’ve tried on

As for the base layer, my favourite sports bra is also by far, the cheapest sports bra I’ve seen, priced at $16.99.  It is a Champion brand item available at Target.  I also purchased mid-weight Champion tights at Target a few years ago for $17.99.

Kombi Merino Wool and Polyester Blend Base Layer

My long-sleeve base layer is a Kombi merino wool and polyester blend top of double thickness.  I think it is regularly $35 but I bought it on sale for $19.99 at a Sportchek type store.  I recently purchased a similar top for my husband at Target for $17.99 and it has become his preferred top for really cold days.

Finally, an additional upper, mid-layer piece for the coldest of days is a thermal hoodie from MEC.  The hood on this jacket is a highly functional, multi-tasking piece.  It looks good enough (without the hood on) to wear about town.  I wore this on New Years Eve with a mauve silk-like top underneath and festive scarf.   I usually wear this on plane trips as it is as comfortable as a pajama top.

Thermal Hoodie from MEC with Seriously Constructed Hood

The one thing I have not discussed is the most important of all, my shoes, the New Balance 759’s which I wore for my marathon. I love my New Balance lightweight trainers! But, that and my running shoe endorsement tale is a story for another day.

Stay warm!

New Balance 759's


Winter Running Gear – Accessories

Fundamentally, I find  running in the winter far more comfortable than through the very humid and hot days that we often get in July and August.  The most challenging part of the winter is poor footing, particularly when attempting to run faster workouts.  As far as cold temperatures, wind speed makes all the difference.  When the temperatures drop below -5C with windchill, it makes good sense to figure out a route that minimizes exposure to strong headwinds.  If you do have to run into strong winds wearing suitable accessories can make a big difference.

Here are the accessories I have to face temperatures up to minus 20C.  In addition to the headgear shown, I would most likely don my thermal hoodie from MEC.  The key design feature of this piece is the well-constructed hood which comfortably wraps around the face and forehead.

I find that wool with its natural wicking properties works best.  I got my favourite wool hat free, at a swap meet in the Yukon more than 10 years ago.

Wool hat

I bought this fleece neck warmer at MEC for $4.99

Fleece neck warmer

This vented-bandana-style face protector made by Seirus was bought at Dick’s in the U.S.  you may find one of these at a store specializing in snowboarding gear.

I bought this Buff multi-functional headgear in the Yukon prior to taking part in the Klondike Road Relay in 2007.  It can double as a head band, neck warmer or face protector.

These double-lined fleece mittens have been my favourite for years.  They were bought for $7.99 at Chocky’s.

Again, wool seems to work best for warmth and wicking.  I like these Wigwam hiking socks with merino wool content, bought at MEC for $7.50

“I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson