100 Branches – Run #2 Recap

Sunday, July 10: For my second library run, I went out west to Etobicoke. It was a quiet, calm morning and I felt relaxed. I planned out a pretty simple route. My first run reminded me that running somewhere unfamiliar can be tough, as you spend a lot of time wayfinding. The scenic route is nice, but it can get annoying to check a map every 5 minutes.

This was a shorter mileage week, but my training plan called for the long run to be done at race pace. I hit my target for the first 5 miles, but slowed down a bit after that. I feel good about it though – still lots of time to work on pace.

My run began at the Alderwood branch, a newer branch that opened in its current location in 1999.
I went south on Brown’s Line and then east on Lake Shore Boulevard. The next stop was Long Branch, which opened in 1955. I was instantly drawn to the carving of the reader in the archway. And the sign typography? Swoon!

Long Branch
I also noticed this raised garden bed, which is part of the GARDENS Pod Project. Their goal is to create community gardens to supply food to people in need. I love that the Toronto Public Library connects with community groups – yet another way they help sustain Toronto!

The next stop was the New Toronto branch. The branch has been around since the 1920s, but this swanky, award-winning building opened in 1994.

New Toronto
I went north on Royal York Road, then east on Stanley Avenue to the Mimico Centennial branch.

The original Mimico building was one of the TPL’s Carnegie buildings, but was demolished and replaced by the new Mimico Centennial Library in 1966. (Ten libraries that are now part of the TPL opened in Toronto between 1907 and 1916 thanks to philanthropic grants from Andrew Carnegie. Seven of the ten original buildings are still standing. You’ll see one in my run #3 recap!)

I was happy to stop and take a moment to enjoy the Reading Garden. I loved the sculpture and the window display.

I couldn’t stay too long – two more branches to visit! I made my way back to Lake Shore Boulevard, then went north on Park Lawn Road to the Humber Bay branch. Again, some great typography on the building sign. This branch opened in 1951.


My last stop was Brentwood. I went north on Prince Edward Drive up to Bloor – the Kingsway. This branch originally opened in 1955, but had a big makeover in 2010.

This was a great run! Everything went smoothly, I enjoyed seeing this part of town, and I loved the variety of library branches in the area.

Library Run #2

Distance: 12.6 km
Branches visited: 6
Total branches visited: 12/100

As a reminder, I’m running to all 100 branches of the Toronto Public Library on training runs for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 16. Please check out my fundraising page for the Toronto Public Library Foundation!

100 Branches – Run #1 Recap

First, I want to thank everyone who shared my 100 Branches challenge and donated. It’s been extremely encouraging and motivating!

Before diving into my recap of my first library run, I wanted to reiterate the scale of the Toronto Public Library. The TPL is HUGE.

Map from Toronto Public Library website.

Map from Toronto Public Library website.

There are 39 kilometers/24 miles between the westernmost and easternmost branches. I had the idea for the challenge for at least a month before deciding to commit to it. (Which happened to be 100 days before the marathon!) Why did it take so long to commit? Honestly, I wasn’t and I’m still not sure I’ll be able to do it. But that’s why it’s called a challenge, right?

For planning, I made a Google map of the 100 branches, and tried to divide them into clusters that might make sense for individual runs.
My current strategy is to try to visit the branches furthest from the downtown core first, since they require a bit more effort to get to, and the branches are spread out more. They’ll likely take place on my long run days. The red cluster is not a single run route, but rather branches that I could run to from home or work without much planning, and could incorporate into shorter weekday runs.

For my first library run, I took the subway as far north as I could, then took a bus to visit 6 branches in North York: Hillcrest, Pleasant View, Fairview, Bayview, North York, and Centennial. It took me about an hour to arrive at Hillcrest. In that hour, I tried to calm my anxious mind. It’s just another long run! I took the same precautions I normally do for long runs by myself:

  • Make sure I have plenty of water, especially in the summer! I took my Gregory Pace 3, which has a 2L hydration pack and lots of pockets for storing energy chews, protein bars, sunscreen, etc.
  • Pack enough cash for an emergency cab ride if I need to bail
  • Bring my cell phone for wayfinding and staying in touch
  • I also try to tell someone when and where I’m going (usually this is Tim, and I just give a general gist – “I’m heading north on the trail” or “I’m going to the Leslie St. Spit”)

It makes me feel safer to be prepared (even if it might be overkill) and remind myself that I always have the option to stop and get home if needed.

When I got to Hillcrest, I felt a bit more relaxed. Here I am, this is happening!

Hillcrest is a cute little brick building that originally opened in 1975. I loved the bright colourful flowers surrounding the sign. (You can also see from the picture that Toronto’s been experiencing a drought.)

I headed south on Leslie, then east to Pleasant View. I passed the Pleasant View Community Centre and enviously watched people making their way to the pool. I had started sweating about 3 minutes into my run.

The Pleasant View branch is so cute! It also opened in 1975. The ivy covering the sign gives it a real secret garden vibe.

Next I backtracked west, then headed south through Don Valley Village to Fairview. Fairview’s permanent building was completed in 1976, and includes a community theatre space. It’s also one of the TPL branches with a Reading Garden.

I continued west, including a brief jaunt on the Don River Trail.

In my planning, I knew Bayview was located within a mall. I figured it’d be a good opportunity to catch a little A/C and use a washroom. I had no idea that Bayview Mall was so fancy. All of the sliding doors had signs saying, “Hello, gorgeous!” Umm, hi? I’ll admit, I got totally lost and ended up walking all the way around the mall. “Excuse me, gorgeous, can you direct me to the library?” I did make use of the washroom, which was by far the fanciest mall bathroom I’ve ever used. Individual rooms with a sink and hands-free air dryer. It wasn’t your standard Dyson or XLERATOR. It had… multiple spots with air streams, instead of a single vent where you raise your hands up and down. I’m getting off-topic here, so basically – fancy. Fancy mall, gorgeous.

This is not my beautiful mall. This is not my beautiful bathroom. How did I get here?!

This is not my beautiful mall. This is not my beautiful bathroom. How did I get here?!

Finally, I found the library, which you can only access from the outside. Bayview found its home at the mall in 2003.

Bayview was approximately my halfway mark in the run, and I was starting to feel a bit worn out. I slowly made my way west to head to North York Central Library.

I had remembered that North York has Sunday hours, but I didn’t actually look at what those hours were. I arrived over an hour before opening time. Fail! I was especially bummed because North York is the busiest branch in the TPL with over 1.5 million visits last year, and has lots of great features. I had to settle for a few lobby shots.

I had 5km left in my planned route, and I was seriously considering quitting early. I texted Tim to whine a little.

I really like chicken nuggets, ok?

I really like chicken nuggets, ok?

I gave myself a little extra time, then continued west to Bathurst. On the map, it looked like there was a nice trail I could take to get north to Finch. When I arrived, it wasn’t very well marked, and the trail was fairly overgrown. After getting turned around and feeling doubtful, I decided to get back to the streets. Note to self: do some trail research beyond looking at a Google map!

I trudged north on Bathurst, and turned on Finch. I saw a Starbucks, and imagined the ice cold latte I would inhale shortly.

At last – Centennial! I really liked this branch’s architecture. It originally opened in 1966, and was renovated in 1997.
Time to check out of the run!

centennial checkout
I happily walked to the Starbucks, inhaled that ice cold latte, and then hopped on transit to make my way home. It was tough and I was exhausted, but I was proud of myself for sticking it out. I can do this, or at the very least, give this challenge my best shot!

Distance: 18.71 km
Branches visited: 6
Total branches visited: 6/100

100 Branches Challenge


A lot of people have been asking me what’s next in my running schedule. On October 16, I will be running my second full marathon – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

This year I’m staying motivating by taking the Charity Challenge and raising funds for the Toronto Public Library Foundation. As part of my training, I’m adding an extra challenge.

My goal:
Visit all 100 branches of the Toronto Public Library before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

To explore this great library system, to get out of my routine and see more of Toronto, and to challenge myself!

How will it work?
I will take a photo to check in. I usually do long runs on Sundays, so I won’t be able to go inside every library I visit. You can follow along on Instagram with the hashtag #100TPLbranches. I’ll also share more reflections about the runs here on the blog.

The 100 branches cover a lot of ground, so I’ll need more help than my two feet. If I bike to a branch, the run will include at least one other branch. If I take public transit to a branch, the run will include at least two other branches.

How can you support?

  • Learn more about the Toronto Public Library Foundation. See what they’re doing and how libraries enrich and sustain our community.
  • If you believe in my run and think this training challenge is cool or value the work of the TPL Foundation (or libraries in general!), donate to my fundraising efforts. I would be grateful for an upfront donation, or we can make it interesting – pledge a certain amount for every branch I visit. 🙂  Need some more reasons to give? There’s at least 100.
  • Share this challenge with your loved ones and your library-loving enemies.
  • Recommend a great book to read in the comments!


Wish me luck!

A SUP-posedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, or MEC Paddle-stress, or Maybe I’ll Stick to Kayaking

Sunshine stretching out into the evenings. Freckles, multiple tanlines, accidental patches of sunburn. The smell of barbecues and bonfires. Summer is here, and it’s delicious.

I was happy to discover I had no plans for the weekend of MEC Paddlefest in June. Get me in a body of water outdoors, and I’m happy. When I was younger, I canoed with my dad, and Tim and I went once in the Yukon. I also really enjoy solo kayaking, and try go every opportunity I have, which ends up being once a year or so.

I have friends who often take overnight canoe trips, and I have been a bit jealous. I wouldn’t feel confident doing that and it’s something I’d like to do with Tim, so I suggested we take an Intro to Tandem Canoeing workshop. I thought it would help us go over basics together and practice our communication. I’ve also been curious about stand up paddleboarding (SUP) for a few years, so I signed up for an Intro to SUP for Women workshop directly after.

It was long run day, and I knew I’d be at Paddlefest from 9:15am – 1:30pm or so, so naturally I thought it’d be wise to run the 13.5km down to Sunnyside Beach. Because of course. On the run, I was getting a sense of just how windy it was. Hmmm.

The setup for Paddlefest was really impressive. There were lots of vendor tents, workshops, and helpful volunteers. They even hooked us up with a free Nalgene bottle.

MEC Paddlefest 2016

The two canoeing instructors were really knowledgeable and cheerful. We covered some basics on land, including:

  • proper fit for lifejackets – unsurprising answer: tight! If you lift up from the tops of the shoulders, the lifejacket shouldn’t be able to move above your chin
  • the parts of a canoe

1 bow (front), 2 stern (back), 3 hull, 4 seat, 5 thwart, 6 gunwale, 7 deck, and 8 yoke (used for portaging)


  • paddle sizing – hold the paddle with your non-dominant hand on the grip, and your dominant hand on the shaft. Lift your arms and place at a 90-degree angle, triceps parallel with the ground. You should have at least 9 inches between your dominant hand and the start of the blade.
  • how to safely enter and exit a canoe – tip – slide your paddle across the gunwales for balance and support!
  • and basic strokes. – forward, backward, j-stroke, pry, draw, and sweep.

So much to learn! For whatever reason, I asked to be in the stern, meaning I was responsible for steering. Tim was in the bow, providing the power. Note to future self: this is the complete opposite of how it should be. Tim rowed in high school. When he’s curling, he skips. His brain gets it. Me, on the other hand? I have no technique, no finesse. I like brute strength. I’m the one at the office who says, “please, allow me to carry that case of paper for you,” or “I’ll move that couch!” In the words of Drake, know yourself.

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The rodeo show.

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To be kind and generous to myself, it was a windy day. Really windy. It’s hard enough to get your canoe to go straight on a calm day. I also kept reversing my draws and pries.

I’m a curious person. I like to learn and try new things. Tim describes me as “coachable.” But lately I’ve found that I’ve been getting overwhelmed in new learning situations, especially if I feel some sense of pressure from the instructor. In hindsight, I’m confident that instructors are absolutely not pressuring me, but in the moment, it’s hard to recognize that fact. I have such a strong desire to please others.

Towards the end of the workshop, I was feeling tired (maybe from running 13.5km beforehand?) and was getting frustrated by my mixups and inability to steer. An instructor paddled up offering suggestions and instructions, and I finally had to blurt out, “I just need to a take a break!” It’s really embarrassing to get so flustered, but I know the alternative of not stopping would have led to a bigger meltdown.

It feels ridiculous to get worked up when you have trouble learning something that you’re doing for fun. Is it because I’m a perfectionist? Do I set expectations for myself too high? People are hardwired to be failure adverse. Not being good at something sucks. I think we all (not-so) secretly want to be innately good at everything we try.

I took some deep breaths and decided not to stress about having perfect technique or efficient strokes. I just paddled. We got back to shore. Before the end of the workshop, we practiced portaging as a duo or solo, which was really fun.

Bowman and sternwoman

Bowman and sternwoman

Next up was my SUP workshop. There were only three of us in the workshop, which meant lots of close instruction. Again, we started on land, covering:

  • paddle sizing – much longer! You want to be able to hold the grip while keeping the blade on the ground and your arm straight above your head),
  • strokes – mostly the same as the canoe strokes, though you use and rotate your core a lot more in the sweep stroke
  • how to transport the board – hold it like a suitcase against your body using the hole in the middle of the board,
  • and how to get on and off without hurting yourself or the board – be mindful of the fin on the bottom and use that paddle across the board for stability!

The wind was much more of a challenge – laughably so. We spent most of the time paddling on our knees, practicing strokes. In between gusts of wind, we practiced standing up by going from a tabletop position to a squat position one foot at a time. I will say that standing on the board is a pretty cool feeling. You know what’s cooler than cool? Falling into ice cold water because you’re standing up on the board and then the board bumps into a wall because the wind takes over. Whoops. It wasn’t that bad, and in a way, falling in took the fear out of falling in, though my classmates in sweatshirts looked really apprehensive.

Again, I couldn’t steer the thing. Our instructor stressed that ideally you only ever need to paddle on one side – you should be able to do the necessary corrective strokes to stay on course. I don’t know about all that, I thought to myself as I fell in the water for a second time. By this point, I accepted that I was pretty much done for the day. I was tired, it was windy, and I don’t think I was born to SUP.

Last weekend, I attended a wedding that was hosted at a resort in Muskoka. The resort allowed access to all sorts of equipment for water sports.

Yeah, this was real life.

Yeah, this was real life.

They had a SUP board, so I decided to take it for a spin in the much calmer water. I had an easier time steering, and slowly paddling around was fine but… I just don’t think it’s my jam.

I returned the board to the resort’s boathouse, and grabbed a kayak instead. I hit the water and I was off. I had control. I felt strong. There’s a reason I go kayaking every chance I get – it’s my jam!

So who knows? Maybe I won’t go on overnight canoe trips. I’m probably not going to do more SUP classes. But I tried, and I only panicked a little. It’s good to try new things, but maybe not all new things are good for me. If I really want to do something and I’m not good at it the first few times I try, I’ll practice. Otherwise, I will remind myself that I can’t be good at everything, and it’s good enough to give it a shot and be less afraid of failing.