Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Run, Reflect, Rejoice


My son, his girlfriend and my husband at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. MLK

We just got back from Washington D.C. where I enjoyed four memorable runs. Shown above is one of many Martin Luther King Jr. quotes chiseled into the wall surrounding the memorial statue. I was reminded of other memorable words worth reflecting on this New Year’s eve.

085A poem by Rumi, dedicated to my husband.

A moment of happiness,
you and I sitting on the verandah,
apparently two, but one in soul, you and I.
We feel the flowing water of life here,
you and I, with the garden’s beauty
and the birds singing.
The stars will be watching us,
and we will show them
what it is to be a thin crescent moon.
You and I unselfed, will be together,
indifferent to idle speculation, you and I.
The parrots of heaven will be cracking sugar
as we laugh together, you and I.
In one form upon this earth,
and in another form in a timeless sweet land.


Morning run, Friday, December 28, 2012

“When you race, you liberate your soul from the limits of your body. You push your body beyond its limit. In every race, you relive the innocence of childhood and the hope of youth, only to see them dashed in the pain of adulthood and the weakness of old age.”  Kamal Jabbour

Wishing you and your loved ones, a peaceful, joyful and healthy New Year!


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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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The long and short of running

Lynn Kobayashi, Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, Jeremy Lin jersey

Asian athletic pride

I’ve only blogged once in May due to ongoing busyness and a backlog of chores. A major highlight was Mother’s Day brunch at the InterContinental Yorkville where I received a Jeremy Lin jersey and consumed a dozen oysters among other things. Another high point was taking my parents to Auberge du Pommier for lunch as a late Mother’s Day and early Father’s day outing.

Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day

So I have been running long, or at least long enough for 5K training. After racing indoor track in February and March and then 5K and 10K in March and April, I felt I had reached a bit of a plateau so I took three easy weeks which coincided with my busy period. After that  I hit the track and was pleased that our track repeats were on the short side. The past three Saturdays I’ve done three decent longer runs at a faster-than-usual pace. I’ve been having trouble sleeping in the past year or so, so I’m not as eager to head out super-early on Saturdays despite the great feeling of finishing 10-18 miles by mid-morning. The body will not properly absorb training without a good supply of deep sleep.

I ran with a teammate a few weeks ago, who normally would be too fast for me but as he was recovering from the Boston marathon, sharing a run was doable. He told me that he remembered my name as the woman in the 50-54 category who was faster than him in one of his first half-marathons when he took up distance running six or seven years ago. He told me that as a young runner his benchmark had  been that he was always able to finish ahead of girls his age. So he was startled to discover that a woman ten years his senior beat him in the half-marathon.  He was also startled when I told him that his easy, recovery pace was putting me into the threshold heart rate zone as we ran.  Ah, I was so much faster then, I’m older than that now.

Another Saturday I ran with a teammate who is very new to running and has run excellent times for his category of 60-64. At our pub night a few weeks ago, I was astonished to discover that the farthest he had ever run in training was 12K. Following our conversation he ran 17K on his own and then ran 16K with me the week after.

Last Saturday a friend, who now lives in Regina dropped in to join the usual Saturday run crowd. What a treat to catch up on the run. The last time I saw him was last year when he lived in Ottawa. We had breakfast at the Chateau Laurier which is perhaps more of a treat than a hard 13. 5 miles run. I was having a hard time sleeping and woke that morning at 4:30 a.m. I left for the run at 7:00 a.m. It felt fairly hard and I was bagged when I got home, taking a cat nap shortly after. In the afternoon I napped from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. My recipe for a sound sleep – wake early, run hard, nap . . . hmm.  There must be a better drug-free way to deep sleep.

One reason why the run felt hard was that on Thursday I had a great track work out of 8 x 300 meters. I ran the final 300 in 56 seconds! Not bad for an aging racehorse. I’m gearing up to run a couple of 5K’s in June.  I think I’ve got the speed honed and will concentrate on speed-endurance for the next couple of weeks. I’ve started back to my weight lifting routine and as is always the case upon returning to this routine of a few decades, it feels great to flex those muscles. My goal for this training cycle is to go under 21 minutes. Weather will be a factor as I do not run well in the heat so cross your fingers for cool June mornings.

Due to lack of photos of the above, I leave you with photos of what fuels all this activity 🙂

Sea bass and best Brussels sprouts ever! 

Eggs Benny and oysters for Mother’s Day

Our twenty-something roommate cooks for us

Classic dessert mille-feuille, deconstructed à la Oliver & Bonacini

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Let the wild rumpus begin!

After three years of enjoying empty-nester style New Year’s Eve getaways, we decided on something completely different. Three years ago we spent a few days in Chicago. Two years ago we attended opera’s greatest hits at Roy Thomson Hall and stayed at the King Edward Hotel and last year we partied at a friends place in the Beach and stayed at a nearby B & B on Balsam avenue. This year we opted for an evening with two nephews and a niece ages nine, seven and five, which included an outing to see the Muppet movie.

Party of Four

All was going well until I began to experience some ominous tummy rumblings and subsequent symptoms of food poisoning. My husband did not seem entirely sympathetic when I announced during our pizza dinner while viewing “Where the Wild Things Are” that I just had to go to bed. It was then that the wild rumpus really began, for my husband at least. I slept for several hours and gathered the energy to rise just before 1 a.m. just as the Pirates of the Caribbean was ending, to wish the still-awake 9 year old and my husband Happy New Year and then crawled back to sleep.

I woke in the morning after a long but very shallow and disrupted period of sleep with just enough energy to cook pancakes for breakfast and spend a bit of time with our lively crew of youngsters. After their departure we attended mass but I had trouble staying awake and spent most of what remained of the day sleeping. It is the one day of the year that I make a point of running and I think this may be the first New Year’s day in 31 years that I have missed a run.

Thus in the first two days of 2012 I have spent more hours asleep than awake, I’ve not yet run and my diet has been confined to ginger ale, apple juice, plain chips, a few pancakes and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup.

This gave rise to thoughts of how lucky I am to be nornally blessed with such good health and resolutions to remember that each and every day and remember those who are ill. One of the reasons I run is that like Emerson, I do feel that on this earth our “first wealth IS health”!

Wishing you health and wellness in 2012!

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

(3 John 2)

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A Carrot a Day

In my effort to be more focused on healthy eating, I’ll be blogging a bit about what I’m eating.  Actually, I’ve probably exaggerated the state of affairs as 1) Both my husband and I have given alcohol up for Lent (with a couple of exceptions) over the last four weeks and 2) My breakfasts have been consistently healthy.

Ever since I discovered the recipe for Carrot Cake Oatmeal on my friend’s blog in December, I’ve been having this for breakfast six out of seven mornings a week.  For the 4th or 5th time I encourage you to try give this a try!  CLICK HERE for the original recipe and more photos of this breakfast superfood.

Ingredients for a Healthy Breakfast

It has now become a morning ritual to grate carrots to add to my oatmeal.  Quickie recipe for 1 person: 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cups grated carrot, 1 cup milk or almond milk or soy milk, a dash of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla.  Then cook at high in the microwave for 6 minutes in a very large bowl.  Add an extra minute for every every portion cooked.  Check out my previous blogs on Carrot Cake Oatmeal to see all the fancy stuff you can do with the recipe.

My lunch was a wrap with chicken, cheese, cucumber, lettuce and tomato and a glass of diet ginger ale.  The ubiquitous staff birthday cake appeared and I had a piece of somewhat synthetic chocolate cake.  I confess, that I had a piece larger than the one initially offered since I was asked if I wanted a larger one and I said yes.  I had a latte from The Communal Mule and then picked up a Tim Horton’s carrot muffin (free due to husband’s roll-up-the-rim prize earnings) on the way home. For dinner I had a bowl of instant miso soup and three slices of cold pizza (artisanal style, cheese & tomato sauce)  left over from Monday’s lunch at Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington.  As I review my day I see that I’m a little short on fruit but all in all, it could be worse but still lots of room for improvement.

I ran 5 miles this morning and felt quite comfortable.  I’m on the mend.  And, breaking news . . . apparently, many people got sick at the event I attended on Friday and there has been talk that it might be the Norwalk Virus.  Something airborne is suspected and authorities are investigating.  I’ve already had the Norwalk Virus and I’m told you can only have it once so perhaps I should be letting someone know this?  My husband, my son and I all caught it one year when we visited my mother-in-law in her nursing home.  My father-in-law got it as well and our holiday visit to Edmonton was rather a dismal one.   The Norwalk Virus was 20 times as bad as what I had over the weekend.

I’m so happy to be healthy again.  A toast to health, yours and mine.

“The first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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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.


Weight training questions? Talk to the Blog

My husband and I were discussing what stages of weight training each of us is in.  I am in the Maximum Transition (MT) phase and he is in the Maximum Strength (MS) phase.  He asked a few questions about how many repetitions he should be doing and how many weeks.  My answer; um, you could check my blog.  Said he, “So now you won’t talk to me, I have to talk to the blog?”.  I chortled but I think he was hoping for some sympathy.

There is a certain convenience in having some of my thoughts about training collected and recorded.  With 30 years of running experience, I get asked the same questions with some regularity.

A recent question in response to my post on weight training was a recommendation for a current book on the subject that is easily available.  I asked my weight training consultant, champion triathlete Beverley Coburn of Active Age Fitness for her thoughts.

Here they are:

“Really like the book, Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength by Jim Stoppani (Human Kinetics). This book has everything in it for building programs for beginners up to bodybuilders. I especially like the details. Stoppani describes the muscles and exercises for each muscle group i.e. shoulders with isolation and compound exercises for the front, rear and medial deltoids – great for developing muscle balance. Another book that has great pics is Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier.

I’ve seen Strength Training Anatomy in bookstores for around $25. Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength, I purchased on-line through Human Kinetics – possibly in bookstores too (somewhere around $25-$35).”

Would someone you love, like to receive this as a Valentine’s gift?

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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