Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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A Canadian reviews America’s 10 Best Cities for Runners

Running in Washington D.C.

It’s all about the sights on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

While visiting Austin, Texas in January I happened upon a Forbes Magazine article listing the top ten cities for running in the U.S.  I was surprised to see that I had run in 9 of the cities on the list. As the ten cities were not ranked, I’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

  1. Atlanta
  2. Austin
  3. Boston
  4. Boulder*
  5. Chicago
  6. Minneapolis
  7. New York
  8. Portland
  9. San Francisco
  10. Washington

*Boulder, Colorado is the only city I have not run in (or visited). However, having run in Santa Fe which is 7,199 feet above sea level, when I had a slight cold, which exploded into a very painful chest cold after a lung-searing run at that altitude I have little desire to run in Boulder which has a slightly lower altitude. I’m taking the liberty of substituting Sacramento, California for Boulder on my re-ordered ranked list below.

Austin-Running

Running through the center of Austin, Texas on a Ladybird Lake trail.

  1. Austin
  2. Portland
  3. Washington
  4. Boston **1998, 2000. 2007, 2008, 2013, 2014
  5. Chicago *2006
  6. San Francisco
  7. Sacramento *2007
  8. New York *2009
  9. Minneapolis
  10. Atlanta

* *Years that I have run a marathon in a city

Austin, Texas

It was tough to decide between Austin and Portland but Austin won out because of its dirt trails with overhanging trees which line Ladybird Lake. Portland’s prized bike-running path, the Springwater Corridor is mostly paved and does not have much shade.

Portland, Oregon

One feature of running in Portland is the ease of bike rental on the river trail. This is a great way to have a non-running friend or spouse join you for your run.

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Portland Rail Trail, The Springwater Corridor

Washington D.C.

Running is the best way to see some of the sights like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial. Another bonus is the number of clean public restrooms around the public parks and monuments.

Boston

Boston is well, Boston, but apart from the marathon, a run along the banks of the Charles river on the Cambridge side while rowers pass by makes for a storybook setting.

Sacramento

Love the slightly downhill course of the California International Marathon in Sacramento. There is also a long-standing distance race in November which serves as a tune-up for the marathon. The Clarksburg County Run used to be 30K but is now a 20 miler with a 5K, 10K and half-marathon option. Proximity to San Francisco, a 2 hour drive, is another plus.

San Francisco

Running along the waterfront route from Market street over the Fisherman’s Wharf is one way to avoid hills in San Francisco. Love the idea of their women’s only marathon but not on the hills of San Francisco.

Chicago

Runs along the lake are pleasant but summer races in Chicago can be stinking hot. The Chicago marathon course is my favourite. I ran it once when it took place on the third, rather than the traditional 1st weekend in October.

New York

New York is near the bottom of my list as I’m personally inclined towards the urban outdoor experience of west coast cities like Portland and Seattle. But I do love the shorter races in Central park organized by the New York City Road Runners.

Minneapolis

I’ve been to Minneapolis twice. Once for a convention and the last time a quick overnight stay to visit the World’s Biggest Mall a.k.a. “hell on earth” according to my husband. Nothing memorable to report other than feeling safer than I did in Atlanta and I’m sure summer runs in Minnesota are cooler than Atlanta as well.

Atlanta

I ran in Atlanta nearly 25 years ago while attending a convention. I think I was the only runner in the group of 2000 attendees. It was one of the muggiest runs of my life. My friends worried for my safety and I have to confess, I did not feel particularly safe there even though I stuck to the tourist zones.

I was going to say this post was part one of a series, with subsequent posts providing more detail on running in these cities. However given my poor record of following up with promised part twos, I’ll leave it at this and invite your comments or recommendations.

Happy vacation running!

Lynn

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The 100 mile week, redefined

Until a few years ago I could run up to 170K or 105 miles at the peak of marathon training no problem. As I approach my 57th birthday the realities of training in the second half of my sixth decade (other than slower times) have begun to appear. Pounding the pavement takes more out of me and I just can’t train like I used to. What to do?!  While I have been a lifelong commuter cyclist, I’m not too keen on training rides that take three times as long to get the same cardio effect as a run. Training takes enough time as it is.

Back in the day, younger at age 52

So this is where I am at now, with eight weeks before my target race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14th. I’m cautiously boosting my mileage. I should hit 102K for this week after logging 18 miles or 29K this morning. After my 5 mile run tomorrow the past week will look like this:

  • 13 miles ( with 2 x 10 minutes at threshold pace)
  • 6 miles easy
  • 7 miles easy
  • 8 miles with a ladder workout of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (minute) sections of near interval pace running
  • 6 easy
  • 18* steady
  • 5 very easy (tomorrow)
  • Total = 63 miles or 102.5 K

The * asterisk is to note that having devised a new and complicated route to merge my run with a friend’s 10 mile run.  I got home, measured my route and saw that I was short 1.5 miles. You’ll know by this comment that I’m an old-school runner who does not own a GPS watch. Thankfully, I had not cooled down much so I immediately headed out the door and did the missing mileage. I gave myself a little pat on the back for that. Had my husband greeted me with a latte, as he often does post-long run, I might not have been able to gather myself up to get the job done.

Looking ahead, the peak training weeks will be from August 27th to September 24th. From there I will begin a three-week taper. I am curious to see how much mileage I will be able to manage at the summit of my training – the 100 mile week redefined.

As for my goal time, I’m will race a 10K next Sunday, on slightly rested legs, which will help me gauge my fitness level. Naturally, I’m hoping to improve on my 2nd slowest time ever of 3:50 run at NYC last year, the slowest being the 4:10 I ran in my first marathon in 1981.

My results since age 50 are:

3:10:02 Detroit (2005) 1st in age-group

3:13 Chicago (2006) 1st in age-group

3:17 Boston (2007) 3rd in age-group

3:23 Boston (2008) 7th in age-group

3:42 California International Marathon (2010) 1st in age group CLICK HERE for full story

3:50 NYC (2011) Waahhh! This one really hurt bad and I was 29th in age-group. CLICK HERE for full story

I’m hoping I can improve on my 3:42 of two years ago and my most optimistic hope is to run close to 3:30. According to the McMillan running calculator the 21:04 5K I ran in the spring extrapolates to a 3:25 marathon but we all know that for the vast majority of us, it is really difficult to match our shorter distance race performances at  the marathon because of the mileage base required. Surviving marathon training, is a lot of what running a marathon is about.

One bright spot on the topic of aging is that I was able to match past performance levels (age-graded score) at 5K on fewer training miles, with the help of intense  speedwork and an indoor track season build-up to the 5K. But – as a 56 year old marathon runner, accustomed to running the longer path, I’m hoping that a shorter path might still do the trick.

To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.
Amby Burfoot


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Running in February, down by the boardwalk

Marilyn Bell Park on February 2, 2012

Never in the my personal history of thirty years of running in Toronto has there been such an astonishing weather. WooHoo! The photo above is from a run I did the day after returning from our trip to Arizona and New Mexico. Today my eight miler down by the lake was about as good as it gets in the winter. The wind gained force through the day but it was nicely in check in the morning.

Boardwalk near Sunnyside Pool, February 27, 2012

Yesterday I ran 1500 meters at a masters provincial track championship. With many years of racing under my belt, there are rarely surprises when it comes to racing times. However, the injection of speed work over the past month set the stage for a time 10 seconds faster than my stretch goal and a vast improvement on my mile time run a couple of weeks ago. Something akin to going from a 4:10 mile to a 3:58 mile in a couple of weeks.

According to the AGE-GRADED-CALCULATOR the bible of the masters runner my time was equivalent to an open time of 4:41.3. Very encouraging. One of my goals is to get fast enough so to avoid being lapped by my very speedy and younger teammates, one of whom won her age-category this year in the Fifth Avenue Mile. That is world-class running!

1500 meter race - a real high

On the heels of my NYC Marathon disappointment I registered for the Around the Bay 30K however I’m so enjoying the prospect of more track and doing a fast 5K that I’m going to pass on the 30K. As for my training, I’m going to err on the side of speed. Holding back on mileage in favour of good quality speedwork. Although for me, holding back on mileage means not going over 70 miles or 114K. Why do I run so many miles? I’ve always felt that I have more speed than endurance but I think I went over the top on that count and I’m really excited to change my focus.

I’m hoping to be running like a lion in March!


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The Way I Feel – Running 800 meters

I’ve been busy with an intensive course, on-line for the most part but this is the one week of in-class instruction. It takes place in Mississauga so I’ll have to leave home just before 7 a.m. to get there for 8:45 a.m. Additionally, planning for the gala my husband and I Chair is in full gear so getting my runs in this week will be a challenge, particularly since I’m hoping to boost my mileage after focusing on quality last week.

Last week I had some intense work outs and in fact – surprise, surprise – one of those was to race on the track for the first time since 2002 or was it 2003. So how does it feel to run 800 meters after nearly a decade of focusing on the marathon? Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Waaaahhhh!

 

I had hoped to go under 3 minutes and missed by .04 of a second. Boo! I had trouble during the warm-up while jogging with my spikes, as my low-to-the-ground marathoner’s stride sent me sprawling to the ground with my heel toe motion catching the 5mm pins at the wrong time. I was a bundle of nerves, the only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that I would feel a sense of satisfaction afterward and that my leg speed will benefit from my efforts. To help our team garner more points, I also ran the mile which took place an hour later.

Prior to the race I was wishing for the anonymity of running with 45,000 others in the NYC marathon. Track is an intense affair as spectators can watch you every step of the way so you really feel under the microscope. If you go out too hard and finish miserably in a road race, your splits may tell the story but no one actually sees you slow down at each 200 meter split. I ran the first lap in about 42 seconds which for an evenly run race would mean a time of 2:48 but alas, that was not to be but I did manage a decent last lap.

The rarely run mile

I wore regular lightweight racing flats for the mile as I was worried that I would not be able to stride strongly on the heels of the 800 meter race and that I would  again be hurled to the ground.

I was disappointed in my time of 6:48 although it was relatively a better time than my 800 meters. I have good base endurance, a modicum of strength and little speed at this point but I’m looking forward to speedier times in the late spring and early summer with consistent interval and speed work.

I’m very happy to have finally joined the masters group at U of T. Were it not for the team scoring component, I may never gotten back on track. It’s time to kick up those heels!


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The Moose & Marc Chagall

Wondering what a moose has in common with Marc Chagall? In the past month or so these were a couple of highlights in my little world, that never made it to the blog-o-sphere due to the now intermittent pace of my posts. In January of 2011 at this time I had not missed a day of blogging for a total of 21 posts while this will be my second post of the year.

St. Albert, grain elevator

St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, enjoyed a spell of warmish winter weather during my four day visit in December. The path along the Sturgeon river was runnable and in many ways much more pleasant than my summer runs (see Running with the Mosquitoes) where at times one must concentrate on keeping  your mouth closed to avoid getting a mouthful of insects. I did a stretch of the Sturgeon river path, hitherto unexplored and was rewarded by the sight of an icon of the prairie landscape, a grain elevator, something I’ve grown to to love.

Click here for Big Lake webcam photos

A short stretch through an older section of St. Albert led me to a winding road flanked by parkland. About 150 feet ahead, I noticed a large creature, with an awkward loping stride crossing the road. Was it a horse? NO, it was a moose. I grabbed my BlackBerry and whilst fumbling with cold hands, missed capturing  the moment. My dismay at missing this photo opportunity changed to concern that the moose might decide to trot my way. I reversed direction and found myself looking over my shoulder regularly, just in case.

This was the second moose sighting of my life, the first a couple of years ago, sighted just off the highway while driving near Parry Sound. I wonder how many Canadians have actually seen a moose in the wild? I learned that this is fairly common in Alberta although my 95 year old father-in-law a resident of St. Albert for over 45 years has never seen one. I discovered that I my sighting took place about three miles from Big Lake where many a moose and other creatures are to be found.

Second trip to the Chagall exhibit

As for Chagall, due to the disappointment of missing a trip to an art gallery while  in NYC to run the marathon with my sister as support crew, we did a tourist day in Toronto. Our first stop was the AGO for the Chagall exhibit. Featured alongside Chagall were his Russian avant-garde contemporaries. The most striking contribution from this group was the film, Man With a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov a film which as a film aficionado in the early-eighties, I viewed in a tiny room of the U of T film library housed in the basement of Sigmund Samuels library. The film released in 1929 is notable for it’s unabashed experimentation with this new art form and was projected onto a very large screen in a prominent area of the exhibition. Bravo AGO, you are doing a great job of making our gallery a world-class venue.

In 1981 during a three month solo tour of Europe I visited the Chagall Museum in Nice, France and more than half a lifetime ago, made this entry in my travel journal.

Saturday, February 21, 1981

. . . the Chagall Museum and there was a small chapel in which a girl was practicing on a harpsichord painted by Chagall, if there was one moment which I might say was THE moment I was looking for here in Europe I would probably choose that one.

Chagall Harpsichord painting – Meeting of Isaac & Rebecca

While the number of Chagall paintings and drawings in the AGO exhibit was limited, the selection of 32 works was quite satisfying to this Chagall lover. I signed up for an AGO membership and I returned in late-December with my husband for another visit.

Paintings done by Chagall of his hometown Vitebsk (Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire) are testimony to the power of art to elevate the ordinary into the extraordinary. In December I had an invitation to experience an extraordinary marathon in Russia. To begin with my friend was looking for some who would help provide the appropriate reading glasses to the Buryat people. The training for this is very simple and is done by Agape.  At the end of the mission I was invited to participate in the 8th Annual International Baikal Ice Running Marathon. This marathon is run on a frozen lake with the route mapped out by satellite in order to insure safe ice running. Due to my volunteer commitments this year I declined but for my friend this will be his very first marathon attempt. Imagine that!


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To the Bakery and Back

Christmas tree, Distillery style

With no companions for this run and so-so weather, I knew I would have to gear up mentally for my 12 miler, my longest run since the NYC marathon. Yesterday, I did my first treadmill workout due to the slushy, messy road conditions and icy sidewalks that come with precipitation when the temperature hovers around 0C.

I decided to run an unusual route in that normally I run routes with minimal pedestrian traffic but with the threat of slippery sidewalks, sticking to well-trodden routes is a necessity. My route incorporated a run along Church Street, King Street East and the Distillery District, three areas which are off our beaten path.

Art in the City

I ran east on Davenport and then down Bay street, over to Yonge, east on Wellesley and down Church Street. I was able to get a glimpse of the new Loblaws housed in Maple Leaf Gardens. I never did see a Leafs game although went to quite a few Canadiens games while growing up in Montreal. I think I’ve seen three concerts at the Gardens, Neil Young, Rush (free tickets) and Hall & Oates. I think the bulk of my mega-concert days took place in Montreal at the Forum.

Brick Street Bakery

North of Queen and Church was a striking mural and close by a large Metro grocery store. There seems to be big-time inner-city grocery wars happening. I guess that is a sign of a very liveable downtown core. As I got closer to my planned turnaround point at Trinity near Front, it dawned on me that one of my favourite pastry treats was very close-at-hand. At Trinity and Mill street in the Distillery District is the Brick Bakery. WooHoo! While I woke up this morning with the mantra “no more chocolate” reverberating in my head, I said a big YES to an eccles cake pit stop.

Eccles cake

Brick Bakery offerings

Eating eccles cake

Fueled up I began the return leg westward via the lakeshore. The stretch of the lakeshore east of Yonge street is quite dismal but it is usually quiet enough to run on the road and one of the first roads to be plowed after a snowfall. I made another pit stop at Harbourfront Centre where I was able to check out an art show featuring portraits. A portrait by Louie Palu of a 22 year old marine serving in Afghanistan was particularly compelling and I found myself saying a prayer for our troops.

The rest of the run was part of my usual six miler which always makes the time seem to go by faster. I felt comfortable and steady all the way, with energy to spare when I returned home. Energy which will be put to good use this evening as we have as guests our 5, 7 & 9 year old nephews and niece. Muppet Movie, here we come.

I am almost 100% committed to a spring goal of running a fast 5K. I’ve never really trained specifically for 5K but I think I need to do this to get some speed back. This will involve joining  a hard-training track club. Yes, you’ve heard it before, the false starts I’ve made in signing up but I think 2012 is the year that I will finally do it.

What is it that you might finally do in 2012?

Happy New Years all!

p.s. Ever since tasting my first eccles cake a few years ago, I have been meaning to bake them hence another finally-do for 2012. I got the contact info I need from the clerk to get the Brick Bakery recipe.


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Getting back to it!

I wanna get back to it, yes I do. And I don’t mean running, I mean blogging. It has been two weeks since my last blog post.

I took a full week off after running the NYC marathon on November 6th. The first week back to running went something like this;  3 miles, 3 miles, 3 miles, 1 mile (to Walmart and back on a busy day), 4 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles for a 17 mile week.

So far this week (starting Monday); I’ve run 5 miles, 4 miles, 6 miles and 4 miles and am aiming for about 35 miles. This light running has been enjoyable and strangely, my weight has dipped to lower than my ideal marathon running weight.  This made me wonder for a moment if I might have a tapeworm. A reversal of when I returned from a holiday unaware that I had gained six pounds and wondered if my bathroom scale was broken.

One of the nice things about my shorter runs is that I’ve been able to enjoy quite a few runs with my husband. He is limited to runs of about 3 miles with the osteoarthritis in his knee. Well, actually he is not supposed to run at all but you know how it is for someone like him who has been running for about four decades.

My sister, mother of a 3, 5, 7 & 9 year old making a quick getaway via Porter Air

I should mention a little about what I did in New York with my sister when I was not running the marathon. We ate well, our first meal was at a small trattoria called Il Violino in the Upper West Side. I had a meatball appetizer, ravioli and pannacotta and I can’t think of any Italian meal I’ve had in Toronto’s Little Italy area where we live to rival it. My sister’s linguine primavera was exquisite.

I'm always ready for pannacotta

On Saturday we lunched at Nobu47 an upscale Japanese restaurant. I’ve decided that upscale Japanese is the way to go when in NYC as the serene decor helps offset the busy pace of the city. On a scale of 1-5 I would give the food a 3.5 although the rock cod with miso that my sister ordered was a 4.5. Last December when I was in San Francisco after running the Sacramento marathon my husband and I enjoyed a spectacular Japanese meal at Yoshi’s.

Rock cod with miso is a winner

My favourite part of the meal was dessert, chocolate fondant cake combined with green tea ice cream. I first came to know green tea ice cream when I worked at a Japanese restaurant the summer of 1976 when the Olympics were in Montreal. I used to sneak down to the basement freezer and serve myself a scoop now and again.

All's well that ends with dessert

The pre-marathon lunch

It was a bit frustrating not to be able to throw myself totally into visiting with my sister. Because of this I am planning to take a day off next week to spend with her in downtown Toronto, visiting the AGO, lunching at LUMA and doing a bit of Christmas shopping.

A few weeks ago my sister ran the Scotiabank Toronto Watefront Half-Marathon her first in over 10 years, about 40 minutes faster she ever had. I’m hoping to convince her to try the Around the Bay 30K – my next goal!  I registered for this race a few days after returning from NYC. I’m eager to get back on the horse and ride!

p.s. Thank you to all those who sent encouraging emails after reading about the TKO.