Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .



I was off work today and from waking spent most of the morning and early-afternoon working on the gala and found it hard to tear myself away.  I had gala related meetings at 11 a.m. and then 6 p.m. and ended up leaving my run to the mid-afternoon.  Due to the 6 p.m. meeting I was unable to attend the U of T track workout.  So I did short, very fast sections on the treadmill at up to the 10.1 setting.  After that I did some of the circuit training including the hopping upstairs from same leg to same leg.  That got my heart beating faster than the short sprints.

The committee member I met with in the evening works 7 evenings a week, 5 days a week, has been taking courses and had started a business as an event planner.   She has offered to help with the decor for our event.  Wow!

A busy woman

We met at C-5 to discuss the floor plan and add a bit of colour to the black and ivory colour scheme.  I enjoyed finding out more about my friend and her ambitions and amazing work ethic.  She came to Canada via France and has only been here a couple of years.  We enjoyed exotic non-alcoholic beverages, fries with blueberry ketchup and mango and coconut ice cream, coffee and tea.  It was a quiet night, ideal for getting to know someone better.

Fries with Blueberry Ketchup

At my earlier meeting I also found out more about another committee member who has just finished writing a first draft of a novel which chronicles the political upheaval and turmoil that began in Ethiopia in the late 70’s.   This woman, I discovered spent over eight years in an Ethiopian prison.

The more I find out about the orphan sponsorship program the gala is supporting and the country itself, the more I’m beginning to feel that a trip to Africa may occur in the next couple of year.  I have already mentioned the Great Ethiopian Run which is a 10K, I did however forget to mention that it is at an altitude of 2500 feet.  That could be really challenging.  I think Chung-Yee and I are serious about this.

One of the things I love about being a volunteer is that you meet great people who like to get involved.  Hat’s off to the committee!  This fundraising adventure is raising friends too.


“The Sugar Blues”

According to some mental health experts, Monday, January 17th was the most depressing day of the year. Mainly due to the arrival of bills in the mailbox and gloomy weather. In addition, by this time, many will have abandoned New Years resolutions, short of the 21 days that it supposedly takes for good habits to take hold.

I don’t usually make New Years resolutions as I find that September is the month when I feel most upbeat about tackling new projects.  It must be all those years of mom-hood that have me stuck in the school-year cycle. Today however I feel the need to resolve to reduce my sugar intake for the rest of the year.

The reason for this belated resolution is that I have not quite recovered from the holiday season sugar overload and I’m hooked, with the energy lapses and subtle mood swings to show for it.  Some have called refined sugar consumption, “Death by installments.”  I read and was influenced by the book Sugar Blues in the late-seventies and this coincided with my return to regular exercise after a five year lapse. The results of these two important lifestyle changes were that my energy level became very consistent and stable through the day. Mid-afternoon sleepiness and drowsiness after meals can be avoided by reducing the refined sugar in our diet, and foods ranking high on the glycemic index.

Here is an enthusiastic review of the Sugar Blues by a more recent reader:

A true health classic! February 3, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from New York City
I’m sugar-free ever since reading “Sugar Blues.” I was sluggish, moody, hungry, etc. I remembered that John Lennon mentioned Dufty’s book in an interview once. So I bought it at the local health food store. He starts off with his own sugar hell and redemption and then delves into the whole history of the cane. Very interesting, health-wise and also politically. . . When I tell people I’m sugar-free they usually scoff, saying sugar’s not that bad for you, why give it up completely. Well, now I wake up clear and I get through the afternoon w/o any flagging of energy. At various times of the day I’ll feel some energy racing through my body. (A great feeling; keeps me motivated.) Now I need less food on my plate, and my hypoglycemia has all but disappeared. (Think about THAT one, folks.) Never eat “refined sucrose” again! It can be done! Sky’s the limit! Thank you, William Dufty!

Sugar Blues by William Duffy

Apparently, John Lennon used to regularly give away copies of Sugar Blues. Well I’m a believer in “baby steps” so here is what I did today to lessen my sugar intake, I had a non-sweet latte, at LIT, foregoing the usual triple-venti-whole-milk-vanilla latte and I skipped a sweet treat. Once I’m back to minimal sugar consumption, a sweet treat can be enjoyed every now and then without ill effect and it will be truly a treat rather than the satisfaction of an unhealthy craving.

I won’t delve into the more serious issues related to blood sugar levels such as Diabetes for which my knowledge is limited to first-year Biology and Nutritional Food Science but one starting point might be this link to The Canadian Diabetes Association.

LIT Latte Art

Here is a great quote from Jack Lalanne, the Godfather of Fitness who passed away recently at the age of 96.

Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen put them together and you have a kingdom.

Just say NO, to sugar!


Another Week of Winter Running

The wickedly cold Edmonton temperature during our visit last Sunday of -26C has been displaced by +5C.  What is going on?  And here in Toronto, the capital of not-so-cold-but-damp-cold it is -17C.  Wrong place at the wrong time.

Total mileage this week was 50 miles, with four indoor and three outdoor runs.  Five or six years ago during a particularly cold January, I ran 31 days with only three outdoor runs.  So it could be worse.  Thinking of worse I’m reminded of the power failure two winters ago.  Funnily enough, our gas furnace was so old (since replaced) that it was able to continue to produce heat and with gas stove and oven, the hardship was not severe.  I’m also remembering that a few years ago, I ran the Robbie Burns 8K in Burlington in a time of 34:58 in -20C temperatures on packed ice and snow.  Needless to say, I felt that were conditions better, I might have run faster.

The Communal Mule

We have stayed close to home these past chilly days.  Once again, we considered a movie outing and once again, we chose to hunker down on the homestead our only outing, to shop with a coffee break enroute.  We tried a new coffee bar The Communal Mule on Dundas west and enjoyed as my husband calls it, “Being tourists in the land of youth.” as inevitably we seem to be the oldest people about in our travels to nouveau espresso bars.  I had an excellent shortbread with white chocolate chip cookie and my husband enjoyed his latte.

As for me, I’ve become a bit stuck on Stumptown coffee.  Give me Stumptown coffee, Stumptown I say!  I’m a believer.  There is only one place in Toronto (2 in Canada total) where Stumptown coffee is available, LIT Espresso Bar. We have only been to the College street locations.

Stumptown Coffee at LIT Espresso Bar

Quiet days mean more time to read and I finished The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble. The “elegiac” writing and pace of the first 250 pages led to a disappointing finale, complete with a surprise ending, where everything came together, not with elegance but more like a season-ending episode of Desperate Housewives.  My very humble opinion for what it is worth, although still recommended as a pretty good read.

The final pages of The Sea Lady contain these words from Scotland’s favourite son, whose birthday is celebrated on January 25th.  And — to my husband, I’ll dedicate these lines from Robbie Burns and repeat that NO, the final quote of yesterdays post was in no way related to your plan to watch six hours of football this weekend.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will love thee still, my Dear,

While the sand o’ life shall run.


Mecca for Snow Weary Runners

High on Denali, with Peaks of Mt. Hunter (I think) in Sight

Some deal with extreme weather better than others.  Here is a photo of my nephew while on a spectacular snowy adventure, climbing Denali, the highest mountain in North America.  As mentioned a couple of days ago, I did not fully appreciate the enormity of the feat until seeing a documentary on the topic.  Kudos!

My son suggested that his cousin did not want to “crush my dreams” when I made my naive inquiries about trying this myself to which he politely replied, “It is a very technical climb”.

As for two Toronto runners, visiting Edmonton during a time which has the locals saying they can’t remember having this much snow, we escaped the chill with a third trip to Servus Place to run indoors.   The drive there bore some similarities to a bobsled event, as we made our way through snow-packed, icy roads that seemed more like snowy channels with snow piled high, all round and well past car height.

I choose to run on the 250 meter indoor track rather than the treadmill.  I had run on this track once before, a couple of summers back, barefoot.  The track was deserted, making it easy to give barefoot running a try.  Today, I realized upon setting foot on the track, that while too busy to run barefoot, it was to be a far better indoor running experience than the treadmill.

The track is larger, by 50 meters, than any of the indoor tracks in Toronto such as York University and the University of Toronto.  Running around the fourth, outside lane. six laps will get you just over a mile at Servus Place.  Apart from the Louis Riel indoor track in Ottawa, this is as good as it gets for indoor tracks.


Legs come alive on Servus Place 250 meter track.

And thanks to the synergy of all the runners and walkers about, I did my six miles at a brisker than-planned-for pace.  Fun!

For the third day, I stopped by Booster Juice for my post-run treat. Today I ordered my favourite smoothie, the Canadian Colada, a blend of pineapple, coconut, bananas, peaches and vanilla frozen yogurt.

All said and done, I agree with Rachel Carson who said,  “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” to which my mountaineering nephew can attest, I’m sure.  However I’ll add that the marvels of an outstanding indoor recreational facility in -26C weather has inspired this snow-weary runner to think of Servus Place, as the 8th man-made wonder of the world.

Post-run Reward, a Canadian Colada

To your health! A carrot juice toast.

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Life at Minus 26 Celsius

Our flight to Edmonton was comfortable and passed quickly with a bit of napping and inroads made into The Sea Lady, the sixth or seventh Margaret Drabble book I’ve read which after 120 pages, seems well worthy of the praises sung on its covers.  The  long drive from the airport to the suburb of St. Albert was another story.

The Edmonton area has been hit with record snowfalls lately, along with very low temperatures making for treacherous road conditions.  Shortly after leaving the airport we saw several vehicles in ditches, including an overturned jeep.  Along the way, we spotted numerous abandoned vehicles.   Later we were told the likelihood of securing tow truck services during this spell of bad weather is very low.  Tough going but an evening peppered with my father-in-law’s stories of prairie life on the farm, pre-depression certainly gave us an it-could-be-worse perspective.

View From an Edmonton Parking Lot


As is our habit while here, we had our coffee and then drove to the Servus Centre for a morning work-out.  Upon arrival we noticed that it was the busiest we have seen it and discovered that it was the second day of  The Continental Cup, a world-class curling tournament featuring competition between the best teams from North America and the best in the world.

Curlcast coverage included this news item.  “Andrea Schoepp doesn’t have the use of a bicycle during the Continental Cup at the Servus Credit Union Place this week.  If she did, the current world women’s curling champion skip claims she’s be riding from the hotel to the arena and back every day, and never mind the minus-20 temperatures or the ice-bound streets.  “Oh yes,” she was saying this week, “you don’t have it cold here. This is great weather. Definitely not too cold for biking.”

Um, well, I beg to differ.  Sounds foolhardy and life threatening.  Is this bravado the equivalent of curler’s “trash talk”?

As my husband was about to hand over our entrance fee, I interjected excitedly, “Hey look, YOU are a senior!”.  As the attendant reworked the total, he joked that he was disappointed that she did not ask him to show his I.D.  Said I, “I don’t think that is the first time she’s heard that joke”.  At this juncture my observation may not have been wholly appreciated.

I ran six miles on the treadmill, did upper and lower body weights and was pleased to see that they had the sled style leg press machine. You should definitely have a trainer in your gym show you how to use this machine and if a novice, should start out with no weights. The lock and unlock feature on this machine varies a great deal so be careful if you are using a new machine. The demonstration below is a good one.

I also do ankle raises on this machine by positioning the balls of my feet at the bottom of the machine and flexing the ankles up and down. You don’t unlock the machine for this as the range of movement does not require unlocking and to do so would put you in a vulnerable and dangerous position.

View of My Feet in Position for Ankle Raises on Leg Press at Servus Centre

Workout done, I stopped by Booster Juice for a Ginger Hammer, a mix of apple, carrot and ginger juice as an appetizer to a regular outing during our Edmonton visits, a trip to Ricky’s restaurant. My usual choice is one of my indulgences, like my love of poutine, one of four Big Breakfast choices called the Perogy & Egg Platter which includes; 3 eggs, 7 perogies and Bavarian or Chorizo sausage and toast.

Perogy & Egg Big Breakfast

With the 1 p.m. timing of our breakfast, I devoured this treat with gusto, save for two perogys and 1/2 an egg.  Certainly, not the basis of a healthy lifestyle but a reasonable twice-a-year meal for an omnivorous runner with no family history of heart disease.  And there is something to be said for insulating layers of fat when living at minus 26 Celsius.

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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


Carrots, the breakfast of champions

If you started your day with a chocolate, raise your hand please.  And carrots?

Today is the day that I try and remember how bad it feels to overeat with the inevitable sluggishness, torpor and lethargy that follows. I did well in the early part of yesterday with a mandarin orange, banana, YOP yogurt drink, grapefruit juice but after my late-morning run I had a large turkey dinner and finished off with more than half of a fair sized chocolate bar. The fatigue of overeating ensued and I had to take a little nap. Bonking on a blood sugar high is not the way I really want to spend my time.

Heading out for a run in High Park


For the third time in the past seven days I ran with my Saturday pals. This may be a record for us. I appreciated their availability as I find it far more difficult to get out the door when I have all day to run.  Too much choice seems to  lead to much procrastination. I resisted a momentary urge to have chocolate before my run and returned from my 7 miles with thoughts of a healthy breakfast.

Carrots for breakfast, yum!

Earlier this month I learned of a Carrot Cake Oatmeal recipe from a friend’s blog Frugal ‘n’ Fit, who learned of it from another food blog called Oh She Glows. I have always been an oatmeal lover and my early days of marathoning involved double bowls of oatmeal for breakfast. Here is my adapted version of the recipe with a holiday twist.

Holiday Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Holiday Carrot Cake Oatmeal (adapted from Carrot Cake Oatmeal)

* 1 cup regular oats
* 2 cup almond milk (or any other type of milk)
* 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
* 2 large carrot, finely grated (1 heaping cup)
* 2 tbsp whipping cream or coffee cream
* 1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon, to taste
* 1/4 tsp ground ginger
* 1/8th tsp ground nutmeg
* Pinch of kosher salt
* 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
* 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
* 2 tbsp crushed walnuts, divided
* 1/4 C. coffee cream or whipped cream + 2 tablespoons maple syrup (to drizzle on top)
* Shredded coconut, for garnish
* Cinnamon, for garnish
* Raisins and coarsely chopped pecans, for garnish

Lynn’s Cranberry Sauce
Add one bag cranberries, zest of one orange and juice of two oranges to a microwavable dish. Microwave at high for 10 minutes and then at medium for 5 minutes. Add sugar to taste (1 cup or more).

Directions: Finely grate the large carrot to yield 1 heaping cup of grated carrots, using the fine grate, so carrot shreds are very small.

In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add almond milk, lemon juice, and cream. Stir well. Add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger) and salt. Stir until mixed.

Stir in grated carrots and oats. Adjust heat if necessary or reduce heat to low if mixture boils. Cook about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. When mixture has thickened, stir in vanilla extract and 2 tbsp of maple syrup. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

Top with pecans, raisins, coconut and a dollop of cranberry sauce. Mix cream + maple syrup mixture and drizzle over top. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon to garnish.  3 servings

Homemade cranberry sauce goes with everything

The original version of this recipe calls for coconut cream instead of cream but we only had coconut milk in the house.  When my friend posted the recipe I commented that the original recipe is quite high in calories.  A whopping 1200 calories for one large serving.  I’ve doubled the recipe and consider it enough for 3 medium servings.  I would estimate that each serving has 700-800 calories which is still quite high but at least you get your carrots and ingredients that will metabolize more slowly than chocolate.

Happy breakfast!

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A marathoner’s holiday season diet

I stepped on the scale today and was pleased to see that my weight is in the right zone to ensure that my clothes fit comfortably. As someone who suffers from eczema, tight waistbands can trigger a round-the-waist rash. I have the good fortune to suffer the most minor of bodily insults due to running such as eczema triggered by my heartrate monitor strap and very dry and cracked skin on the heels. Others like my husband are not so lucky.

Crescent cookies, a favourite of family and friends

I ran 7 miles today with Saturday Run regulars. Thanks to holiday excess I woke late and felt fairly sluggish upon rising and throughout the morning. A sluggishness caused in part, no doubt by a diet that seems to be at least 50% percent sweets and chocolates. My breakfast was a few pieces of my mother’s stained glass torte, which is bits of green and red jello set in creamy mousse atop a crust of graham crackers. I indulged in several of the three types of cookies I’ve baked, a selection of chocolates from Chocolate Arts and a slice of chocolate ice cream cake. We have been living off the remains of the family Christmas dinner we hosted. I had turkey for lunch but thanks to all the sweet treats and much pate, I did not feel the need to have dinner.

My famous candy cane cookies

I hope to eat more healthily tomorrow, or at least for half of the day. Good luck to all in the quest for a balanced diet through the holidays. It is never too early or too late to become more active.