Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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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.

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Another Day, Another Run

February 2011 it turns out, will be a very social month for us, more so than the holiday season.  With an outing tonight and tomorrow, I decided to do a solo long run this morning to avoid a weekend long run.  For a moment, I considered doing my 14 miler on the treadmill, discouraged by the overcast sky but thought better of it.

Four miles into the run, I took part in an email exchange around a confusion about whether the racing, mentioned a few days ago, was happening today.  I suppose having a BlackBerry is a bit of consolation, a kind of companion when you are slogging it out in the winter with no company.  There are those days when it takes a lot of positive self-talk to get out there and train so if the promise of being able to check email every few miles makes it a bit easier, so be it.

I enjoyed the section in Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running where he describes his interview with Toshiko Seko one of Japan’s great marathon runners.  Murakami asks Seko if there are days when he doesn’t feel like running.  Seko looked at him with a you-must-be-joking expression and answers that of course, there are those days, every day in fact!  If one considers the difficulty of his training routine, it makes perfect sense.  As we say in the business, the man is a “machine”.

In truth, for those who run every day, however humble our goals, we rely on all manner of mental gymnastics to get out the door.  Discipline is a lot about becoming highly adept at finding the many reasons, why, why, why when so much of the mind and body says, no, no, no.  Anyhow, today was such a day but as usual I reminded myself of how great I feel after a long run and how much I like the results of being highly fit and running fast times.  Additionally, I remind myself of how much I dislike the results of less activity.  When I started running, I was very motivated by the benefit of stress release and used to visualize that I was leaving stress behind like a trail of soot on the road.

My route in a nutshell was west to High Park with a short loop there, then back east through the CNE grounds, past Ontario Place and over to Harbourfront, with a northwest beeline for home.

View From Ontario Place

There was a very pretty pink hue hovering on the horizon which made for a pleasant sight while running past Ontario Place. East of there is the Tip Top Tailor building.  I’ve run by the Tip Top Tailor building, now converted into lofts for decades, and often wondered about the interior. Today I’ll get the inside story, as that is where we are headed this evening.

I made a pit stop at Harbourfront Center and took a moment to enjoy a photography exhibit.  A photo by Jesse Boles which is part of an exhibit called Piles caught my eye.  The aesthetic is similar to art that I enjoyed in my younger days.  And then I hit the road again, face to face with a  very strong west wind.  This is the first year that I’ve had a vented face protector and it is a big improvement over the muffler style face warmers which can get iced up in super-cold temperatures.

Photograph by Jesse Boles

My final stop was the dry cleaners, from there jogging the final stretch home, cleaning in hand.  Finishing felt so good that I cheered out loud for myself!

As with the camping experience, food tastes better after a long run, so I eagerly dove right into breakfast by making my quickie version of Carrot Cake Oatmeal. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really must.  It is super-fine stuff.

Breakfast of Champions

Recipe: In large microwavable bowl combine 1 cup grated carrots, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup oats (not quick cooking oats), 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, a dash of cinnamon, raisins (optional), dried cranberries (optional) and cook on high for 5 minutes. Stir. Add chopped pecans, maple syrup and milk or cream. Make sure the bowl you cook the oatmeal in is at least twice the volume of the ingredients as it will boil and bubble vigorously.


There was some leftover whipping cream in the fridge so I indulged, and used that instead of milk.  This is my third post about Carrot Cake Oatmeal, and I urge you to give it a try.  It’s a real winner and will add excitement to your breakfast table this winter.  And how virtuous one feels starting the day with a cup of grated carrot in your cereal, especially after a hardy workout!

“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” Benjamin Franklin


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 Wonderland, Here We Come

This week has been busy, beginning with an early morning trip to Kitchener-Waterloo to pick up our ailing son at the Grand River Hospital Emergency room.  He was suffering from a severe flu-like, sore throat infection which was not strep throat.  So he has been home to recuperate.  Our roommate Alain has returned to school in an IT program and we enjoyed hearing about his first week of classes.

Blogging at Pearson Airport in My MEC Thermal Hoodie

And my husband and I arrived at Pearson Airport around 8 a.m. today, heading to Edmonton to visit his 95 year old father who is able to live independently.  Current temperatures in Edmonton are -23C so most of my running will be done indoors.  Happily, there is a absolutely fabulous recreation centre close by, the Servus Centre which resembles an indoor village with hockey rinks, basketball courts, pool with fabulous waterplay areas, a large indoor track and treadmills a-plenty.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

The treadmills have a built-in fan, a unique feature in my treadmilling experience.  Although they do not have the downhill option, that I once enjoyed at the downtown YMCA in Ottawa.  That would be helpful for those training for the Boston marathon.

After a Servus Centre work-out, we enjoy a post-workout treat, at the Booster Juice located in the grand foyer.  My favourite is the Canadian Colada.

In spite of our 7:30 a.m. departure, I did run this morning, 25 minutes on the treadmill, to loosen up before getting chained to a seat for a few hours.  Torontonians rejoice, -11C, you have nothing to fear.

One Man's Footwear Choice for Minus 23C

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The promise of winter

So today, on the heels of yesterday’s exhilarating run I woke to wet, cold rain. It is time to mulch the garden and pull out the cold weather running gear. I had some speedwork planned, and there is some risk involved in running fast in the cold and wet, so I ran to the YMCA and hopped on a treadmill.

There are positives to running on treadmills; shoes last longer; the rubber running surface is easier on the legs; you can readily monitor your effort and pace; among other things. One aspect of my running psyche that keeps me going is that I am very flexible in the ways I enjoy running be it; fast or slow, with or without company and indoors or outdoors.

Running on the treadmill means less stopping, no worries about pit stops and a chance to catch up on TV news. Sometimes I focus on devoting a chunk of treadmill time to work out practical issues and make chore lists while running, with pen and paper close at hand.  I ran 8 x 1 minute hard and the run totaled 8 miles.

On the nutrition side, I’ve had a couple of good weeks of healthy lunches. Last week, and so far this week, I’ve taken my lunches, bean salad and quinoa pilaf from Thanksgiving dinner (augmented with chick peas). It’s time to be more thoughtful about fueling up.

Here’s a recipe for quinoa patties from the Whole Foods website.  Click here for the RECIPE My husband has been a quinoa devotee for many years, having discovered a recipe in the New Basics Cookbook 15 or 16 years ago. The nifty thing about Whole Foods is that you can find the recipe for most items sampled in their cafe on their website.

We passed through Las Vegas earlier this year, while en route to Utah and he had a delicious quinoa burger at the Whole Foods. You can make a batch and freeze them as well for a thrifty and healthy meal.

Quinoa patties from Whole Foods