Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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1st Year Blog Anniversary – My Favourite Posts

My blog made its debut a year ago today.  Born as a final project for a course on blogging at OCAD. To celebrate, I briefly looked over the 287 posts I made over my first year and chose my favourites.  My average rate of posting per week was just over 5 posts.  Over the first few months of the year, I had aspirations to post as much as I ran and joined the WordPress postaday club.  However my commitment to organize the People4Kids fundraising gala last May 3rd took priority and my rate of posting dwindled.

Hours after finishing the CIM - Feeling good!

Since the blogging course I’ve taken digital photography, InDesign and Adobe Illustrator courses and that too has consumed much time.  So I’ve reset my sights on posting 2-four times a week. So here are my favourites, in no particular order.

The Final Mile, a State of Grace

Running the final mile of the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento last December.


About an 8K race run prior to the CIM.

19 Miles & Moore Park Ravine

My longest run in preparation for the marathon run on one of my favourite Toronto routes.

Ready, Set . . . Bake

A day of baking for a good cause shared with a friend.

ACE-ing Portland at the NINES

Our highly enjoyable adventures in Portland, Oregon.

I Think My Bathroom Scale is Broken

The post that got me Freshly Pressed with 2061 hits in one day.

Blogging Jogger Gets Freshly Pressed

My feelings on getting Freshly Pressed.

Haines, Sweet Haines

A visit to a special place in Alaska.

Happy in Haines

More about this special place.

If My Husband Had a Tatoo

A bit about my husband’s running accomplishments.

Thank you to all my subscribers and those who tell me that they enjoy reading my blog.  Your readership makes blogging fun and keeps me motivated.

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Hello, Goodbye – Sixteen Miles on a Saturday

I was feeling quite apprehensive about pulling off this long run due to some incredibly humid weather earlier this week, mileage and quality increases and weight work yesterday.  I had missed the last three Saturdays with my regular group and hoped for their company however I wanted to optimize the conditions for making it through at least 15 miles.

Saturday runners

Those Saturday Guys

One member of the Saturday group is heading off to France for a year and has rented his home to a runner from Holland.  So the run today was both a farewell and a welcome.  In the flurry of emails to plan this run, I tried to suggest that the ideal plan would be to run down to the lake.  Admittedly, the plan was a bit complicated and involved car transport for three of the runners but my survival instincts begged for the following; 1) minimal exposure to vehicular traffic 2) the cooling breezes of Lake Ontario 3) a flat route. I geared up mentally to run to our rendezvous point, meet the new guy, say goodbye to “R” then head off on my lonesome down to the lake.

On arriving at our meeting spot I was reminded that the Caribana parade which takes place by the lakeshore is today. This is one of two weekends of the year when running by the lake is to be avoided, the other is the weekend of the Molson Indy.  Thankfully, the humidity had lifted this morning and running uptown was not too bad.

I ran with the group for about 9 miles and then reversed directions on the beltline to run solo in order to ensure I’d hit my mileage target.  I ran over 16 miles at a brisker- than-usual pace on a hillier than planned for route.  The pace was faster than our usual due to the presence of an ailing 2:35 marathoner.   With 4 miles to go I sent an email to my husband to order my post-long-run latte.

Glen Cedar Road

Bridge at Glen Cedar Road - Four miles to go, time to order that latte

Tomorrow, I’ll run 5 miles to get to my 55 mile target for this week.  I’m feeling pretty good about my training this past month and encouraged by the ease of the run today.  I feel fine!

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Training for NYC – The Plan

Here is the draft of my training plan for the NYC Marathon, committed to paper while flying to Edmonton the other week.  I’ve since transferred the plan to the Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been using as my training log for over a decade.

Marathon Training Plan 2011

Training Plan for NYC Marathon

For all the gadgets in the world, I’ve found that sometimes there is nothing that beats pen and paper for keeping organized.  I’m at my best at Getting Things Done GTD®  à la Dave Allen when I have notepads strategically located around the house, so as to easily download from my mind, all the things that need doing.  CLICK HERE for my earlier post about Dave Allen.

You’ll see in my plan that I’m hoping to do 80 & 85 miles weeks at the peak of my training.  Pulling that off will depend on whether I can both increase the quality of my runs and increase mileage concurrently.  I used to be able to do this easily but with a lapse of a few years from hard training and age, we will have to see.

The “E” stands for Easy Week and as a concession to the aforementioned, I will experiment with two weeks hard, one week easy.  Previously, I would usually do three weeks hard and one week easy. “R” stands for race, the first being the Scotiabank Half-Marathon and then of course NYC.

I hit my target of 50 miles last week and this week got off to a good start with a workout that will segue into a weekly tempo run.  I ran a 4 mile warm-up outdoors and then hit the treadmill for 2 X 10 minutes of marathon-pace and tempo-pace running for a total of 8 miles.

Not all the treadmills at my gym are equipped to read out heart rate data and while fidgeting with the controls of one treadmill, I had to input my age.  By mistake I entered 50 and then my target heart rate which was 145, my marathon-pace heart rate.

Immediately I received in three warnings in quick succession that this was 85% of my maximum heart rate and did I realize the risk involved.  These warnings reminded me of how off-the-mark heart rate zone charts can be.  Normal resting heart rates for the general population differ by up to 20 beats.  Age maximums vary even more depending on fitness level.  If I had entered 172, which would be my target were I planning to run intervals, along with my correct age of 55 perhaps the treadmill would have gone on red alert and shut down.

My best advice to those seeking to improve their marathon times is get a lactate threshold test done.  This will insure that you are doing those important tempo runs at the just the right effort level. Runner know thyself.


Consistency is Made of Runs Like This

While sipping my coffee just after 4 a.m. yesterday morning, I wondered if the only smart choice for a 15 mile run was on the treadmill.  Nonetheless, I decided to stick to my plan and left home at 5:47 a.m. just 2 minutes behind schedule. The temperature was 27C with 79% humidity, said to to feel like 38C on a day being billed as one of the hottest of the decades. As the day evolved the same-day temperature record was broken with a 37.5C and notably for me, with my early start, the all-time highest, minimum temperature record of 27C  was broken at 6 a.m.

Sunrise on Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario 6:00 a.m. July 21, 2011 - A record minimum temperature at 6:00 a.m.

How did it feel to run in these conditions? Thanks to a 20K breeze off the cooling waters of Lake Ontario it was not too bad. I ran at a very slow pace but since most of my run was along the lake shore, with sun on the horizon and not overhead, I survived quite nicely. For the first time since my December marathon I wore my most pared down running gear, the type of outfit that my son once referred to as my bathing suit.  This added to my comfort level.

Humber river park

Cooling breezes off the lake on Humber River spit at mile 9 of 15.

I’ve never seen so many shirtless men of all ages, walking, cycling and running. This was not a day to be self-conscious and I said to myself, “Good for you!” when spotting a senior man going topless.  On my part, I admit to being grateful that I resumed my planking routine given that I was exposing my belly for the first time in a while. A notable sighting was group of 25-30 twenty-something rowers with their bare backs to the lake, listening attentively to a coach.  I think we would be happy to have this group holding the fort.

I received a couple of comments commiserating about hot weather running, a blogger from Florida and one from Chicago.  This led me to check out temperatures at 6 a.m. in these cities.

Toronto 27C 38C 20K 79%
Miami 27C 39C 0 84%
Chicago 28C 39C 17K 74%

I think Miami were the worst off with not a breeze to be found. The two hottest races of my life have taken place in Chicago. The windy city, in my experience is even muggier than Toronto. I ran the Chicago Distance Classic 20K more than a decade ago and then a 5K. That 5K was brutally hot. I recall feeling as that the last kilometer was one of the longest ever, more grueling than the last kilometer of a marathon.

In 2006 I ran Chicago on a nice cool day and placed first in my age category of 50-54 with a 3:13. My participation was strategic in that it was the only time in recent memory that the race was held in the third week of October, a couple of weeks later than usual. Early October in Chicago  involves the risk of running a marathon in what for me are less than ideal conditions.  The famous scorching conditions of the following year bore out my fears with headlines like 2007 Chicago Marathon: One Dead, Hundreds Treated, What Went Wrong?

At the end of the hottest July 21st ever, I felt great for sticking to my program of running 15 miles as I head towards a 50 mile week. Yes, consistency may seem like a mundane concept but for the marathoner, achieving it involves a few battles with the elements.

Battle Number One on the road to NYC – WIN!


Running in the Heat – Plan A & Plan B

For various reasons, tomorrow is the day that I must do my long run. A day that is forecast to be one of the hottest days of the decade. The predicted high is 38C and it will feel like 48C.  The sun will rise around 5:55 a.m. and I plan to be out the door earlier than that timing my run so I can see the sunrise on Lake Ontario. I had hoped to do 15 miles but I think I will have to see how it goes and moderate my ambitions. That is Plan A. Plan B is to head to the gym and jump on a treadmill if the heat is hideous although today, there was about 15 degrees difference between the high and the low temperature. I’m hopeful . . . sigh.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario, March 14, 2011

I’m working a half-day tomorrow due to some evening and weekend work and I plan to take a nap before heading to work. Running in heat is most exhausting and I also have to stay awake for a fairly demanding evening, three hours of non-stop Adobe Illustrator instruction.

Hot as it is, I maintain that it is not quite as bad as some of those high humidity days with lower temperatures. I had considered running at the U of T Athletic Centre but discovered that it is closed for renovations.

My mileage goal for the week which starts on Mondays is 50. So far I’ve run, 8, 4 and 6. Even though I’m about 16 weeks out from the NYC marathon, this will be one of the more challenging training weeks.

I shouldn’t have trouble waking up early as I woke today at 2:45 a.m. Can’t figure that one out having come home from Alberta but it works well with my running plan.  I’ll be heading to bed shortly i.e. 7:30’ish and aiming to rise around 4 a.m. so I have a bit of time to relax before my run.  I guess my training tip for hot weather running is get out the door as early as possible.

Sweet dreams!

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For those who run every day, this is moderation

As planned, I got in 45 miles this week.  I was also more conscious of eating moderately as opposed to eating as much and whatever I want.  One example is a variation on the usual breakfast I order when my father-in-law takes us out to his favourite breakfast spot. Normally, I relish one of Ricky’s famous big breakfasts, the Perogy and Egg Platter which includes; 3 eggs, 7 perogies with grilled onions, your choice of bavarian, chorizo or calabrese sausage and toast.

To moderate this indulgence I convinced my husband to share this big breakfast with me along with a waffle breakfast.  I call it the breakfast buffet. In case you were wondering, we split the 7th perogy in half.

Big breakfast

Big breakfast, split two ways

Waffles, breakfast dessert

Waffles, breakfast dessert for two

Today I’m baking a pie for my father-in-law.  I love the way he hints that it would be nice if I baked a pie. Actually, the beauty of it is that he says, “Are you going to bake a pie?” and then laughs and says he is just kidding me.  I can’t really tell if he is teasing me or hinting but I always commit  to baking a pie, in this case a lemon meringue pie.  I am quite vain about my pie making prowess so it doesn’t take much to get me going.  This is the third pie I’ve baked in the past month.

I have an internal rating system for each effort.  I baked a blueberry pie for a BBQ for workmates which was a disappointing *C*, about the lowest score I have given myself. Of course, I don’t mention the rating system to the eaters as I know any home baking is usually appreciated and most often better than anything store bought. I’m trying to get over making excuses and being too hard on myself for what I cook or bake for others.  As for the moderation, I never say no to my own baking, after all the joy of running is connected to the joy of baking but I will stick to one serving.

I baked a lemon meringue pie for a departing work colleague which turned out very well, an *A* effort.  What made it fall short of an A+?  That would be the aesthetics.  It looked fine and the crust was nicely browned but the edging was very basic with no fancy leaf patterns or other embellishments I sometimes create.

My father-in-law has good reason to remember me for my pies.  For my in-laws 50th Anniversary I baked nine pies in one day.  We had a very big crowd at a brother-in-law’s cottage which was one part of an all-weekend celebration.  I was very touched by my father-in-law’s public appreciation of my efforts which was really the least I could do.  I baked apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie and rhubarb-raspberry pie.  Other pies in my repertoire include my famous sweet potato pie flavoured with maple syrup and pecan pie drizzled with chocolate.  Pies I aspire to make are banana cream pie, coconut cream pie and cherry pie.

Lemon meringue pie

Today's lemon meringue pie gets a B+

With increased mileage, I find myself looking forward to baking a little more.  Bring on the pies . . . I mean miles.

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New York City Marathon, A Shot of Adrenalin

Yesterday I enjoyed a longish, leisurely 14.5 mile run on a favourite route. I don’t often run it however as the group I usually connect are oriented to a different part of the city. All the photos from my run were taken with my Blackberry.

Palace Pier bridge

Humber river bridge near Palace Pier

Running west along the lakeshore, past the Boulevard Club, Marilyn Bell Park, the Argonaut Rowing Club and along the Sunnyside beach boardwalk over the Palace Pier bridge and through what I refer to as the Humber river spit.

My favourite view of Lake Ontario

Favourite view of Lake Ontario

When I get to this spit, I go clockwise once and then counter clockwise for a scenic two-mile section.  On the southern shore there comes a point at which you cannot see a single building.  I love that!

Favourite view of Toronto skyline

Favourite view of Toronto skyline

Regular enjoyment of the most scenic parts of urban Toronto is one of the pleasures of running.  All the better when done in the early morning. The final five miles loop back through the Humber River butterfly garden and through the southeast corner of High Park.  It always feels much easier than any route that goes north as it is fairly flat.

Humber river

View at my Humber spit turnaround point

While crossing the Humber River bridge at Palace Pier the image of marathoners crossing the Verrazano bridge during the NYC marathon flashed through my mind.  I felt a surge of adrenalin.  Yes, I am training for the NYC marathon.

Later in the day I received an email from the NYC marathon telling me that the deadline for choosing transportation to the start line is July31st.  Yikes . . . such is the way when you run the mother of mega-city-marathons and I’m already too late for the bus option which loads a block away from my hotel.  So I chose to travel to the start on the 6:15 a.m. Staten Island ferry, followed by a bus to the start. Marathon morning anxiety begins to kick in and I ask myself, though I feel confident I know the answer, is this marathon worth the logistical hassles?

For past marathons and Around the Bay 30K I have printed out tiled route maps as part of my visualization process.  I think its time to print out the large map of the NYC course to be hung in a prominent location. Yesterday I jotted down a 17 week training plan.  The peak training weeks will be the last week of September and the first week of October.  If all goes well, I hope to hit 80 miles or more for those weeks.

A few years ago I would have aspired to place in the top three for my age category of 55-59 however, I’ve had a hard time keeping focused on intensifying my training lately and I think my goal will be to better my 3:42 time at the Sacramento Marathon.  This time was run on a net downhill course and New York is not a fast course so, that in itself will be a challenge.

But I’m feeling fitter with consistent mileage since our vacation and last week I started weight training again, and it feels fantastic.  I’ve done upper body weights for most of the past 30 years and lower body weights for the past decade. My recent lapse of a couple of months from this routine was unusual.  Partly to blame was a vague plan of replacing some of the weight work with plyometrics and circuit training, a plan which never took shape.

I’ve done four sessions of the anatomical adaptation phase for weight training as described in my post:  Weight Training, Love It or Lose It and I’m looking forward to the maximum strength phase when I get to bulk up a bit.  The goal of the lower body weight training is to maximize the the musculoskeletal system in preparation for the heavy mileage that will come later on.  While I won’t be trying to log the 100 mile weeks I once did, the time has come come to run, run, run as much as I can!