100 Branches – Run #4 Recap

July 30, 2016 – My fourth library run took me east to Scarborough where I saw some of the newer branches, including the 100th branch – Scarborough Civic Centre!

A lot of branches became part of the Toronto Public Library system due to the municipal amalgamation in 1998. (Some of the building signage references their original municipality.) The Government of Ontario formed a megacity out of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York, and the City of Toronto. As a result, Toronto became the fourth most populous municipality in North America, following Mexico City, NYC, and LA. But when it comes to public library systems, the TPL is the largest in North America.

My first stop was Malvern, est. 1982. I wish I had stuck around to go inside – the photos on the TPL website look gorgeous! It’s also home to the Rita Cox Black & Caribbean Heritage collection.

Malvern
Next was Burrows Hall, established 1998.

Burrows Hall
Then I visited Scarborough Civic Centre, established 2015. The architecture of this branch is stunning. It’s spacious and light. This branch is home to one a Digital Innovation Hub, where users can user 3D printers, make a green screen film, and use digital design software.

Scarborough Civic Centre


Next was Agincourt, which moved to its current location in 1991. Talk about humble beginnings-  “1918: Agincourt Association Library established 19 November. A small book collection placed in a vacant room in the Agincourt Continuation School.”

Agincourt
Bridlewood moved to its current location in 2011.

Bridlewood
Steeles, established 1987.

Steeles
On the way to the next branch, I passed by Terry Fox Park. Fox was a Canadian hero who attempted to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research in 1980. His illness prevented him from making it all the way across Canada, but he ran for 143 days and raised 1.7 million dollars. His legacy is honoured with Terry Fox Runs all over the world to continue raising funds for cancer research.

Terry Fox Park
Goldhawk Park, established 1992.

Goldhawk Park
My last stop was Woodside Square, established in 1977, but moved to new site in the mall (doubling the size) in 2007. Woodside Square


Library Run #4
Distance: 24.83  km

Branches visited: 8
Total branches visited: 24/100

 

Playlist: Polaris Prize Short List

Today’s playlist brings together my work life and run training in celebration of tonight’s Polaris Prize Gala.

Polaris Prize Playlist

By day, I work in arts funding for the Canadian music industry. People always ask if that means I hear lots of new music and know what’s hip. Ehhhh, not really. I have been introduced to many great artists, but most of my days are spent in spreadsheets and databases, and my early mornings are spent running, so you won’t usually find me out at a show that starts at 10pm.

That’s why the Polaris Prize is helpful for people like me – it’s a great tool for music discovery.  The prize is awarded annually based on the artistic merit of an album made by a Canadian artist, without regard to genre or commercial popularity. If you want a primer on some of the best recent Canadian music, the long list will provide.

I’m pretty happy with the short list, and decided to spend some time with the albums by making a run playlist with songs from those ten albums.

Some notes on the playlist:

  • Andy Shauf made a great record, but it’s not my first pick for getting pumped up for a run. I selected his songs with the highest tempo (still so slow) and used them to bookend the playlist for a bit of warm up and cool down.
  • Albums that ARE great to run to, pretty much start to finish: Kaytranada’s 99.9%, Jessy Lanza’s Oh No, and Grimes’ Art Angels.
  • I love U.S. Girls’ album Half Free, and it is brilliant and heav-y. I tried to create a little jokey dialogue between songs: “Woman’s Work” with  CRJ’s “Boy Problems” (this sequence makes me LOL), and PUP’s “DVP” with “Damn That Valley.” Not my first time making that joke:

Damn That Valley

 

Oh, and my prediction for tonight? I think it’s prime time for Grimes. In my opinion, there are no duds on Art Angels, and I respect her scope as an artist. She plays with a lot of genres on the album and pulls them off well. As for the album I loved the most in my heart of hearts? It’s gotta be Carly Rae Jepsen. I’m really excited to see her perform at the gala tonight!

Happy running!

100 Branches – Run #3 Recap

I’ve gotten way behind on blogging, but the library runs have continued! I’m going to play catch up over the next few posts.

I did a short pre-work run on July 19 through Riverdale and GreekTown. My first stop was the Riverdale branch, which is one of the oldest TPL branches, and one of the Carnegie libraries.

In 1903, American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie granted $350,000 to the TPL for a new central library and three branch buildings. The TPL website describes the grant qualifications:

 

The conditions for receiving a Carnegie library grant were straightforward, and civic officials had to state their compliance in a formal letter.

First, the municipality would provide a suitable building site. Second, the municipal council would appropriate by taxation no less than 10 percent of the grant amount to annually support library operations. In addition, Carnegie grants were given only to public libraries that were open to citizens free of charge without membership fees. The standard award was calculated at approximately $2 per capita.

 

Here’s a photograph from 1910, the year the library opened:

 

And here it is in 2016!

Riverdale entrance

I often bike by this intersection, and I’ve always loved this branch. It sits so stately and proudly on the corner, which apparently is a pretty rare placement for library branches. Looks pretty nice in the morning light, eh?

I went south on Broadview, then east on Queen to the Queen/Saulter branch. The branch has only been located in the current site since 1980, but the building itself dates back to 1913. The lovely Neo-Classical-style building was originally a post office, but now it’s a community and cultural centre.

Queen/Saulter Plaque
Next, I headed east on Queen, then north up Jones to the Jones branch, which opened in 1962. This branch was built especially for children, and given the name of the branch and the fact that I often act like a child, I feel a special kinship with this branch.

Jones

The last library stop was Pape/Danforth, which opened in 1929. I’ve visited this branch before, and it’s just as gorgeous inside as it looks on the outside. It’s the kind of place you want to live in!

I made my way back to Broadview for my final stop: iced coffee and a scone at the Rooster Coffee House, then looking out onto the city over the Don Valley from Riverdale Park East. Fun fact*: this is the spot that inspired the title for Drake’s album Views.

This was a nice morning run with some great views throughout!

Library Run #3

 

Distance: 8.17  km
Branches visited: 4
Total branches visited: 16/100

 

*Speculated by me, but unsubstantiated.

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.
Alderwood
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.
mylibrarymap
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.)
Hillcrest

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.
pleasantview

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

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.
centennial
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!
route

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

100 Branches Challenge

100branche

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.

Why?
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!

toronto-library

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
363px-Parts_of_Canoe.svg

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.

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

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.

Changing Flats… I’m on a roll

In early May, I was dreading changing my bike tire over from the trainer tire back to a regular road tire. I had never changed a tire fully on my own before, and the fact that it was the rear wheel was intimidating since it’s marginally more complicated than the front wheel.

Prior to that point, I had gotten exactly two flat tires in my past few of years of cycling. Both times were somehow mercifully within walking distance of an open bike shop. That was a mixed blessing, because this also meant that I’ve never had to learn to change a tire.

But I really wanted to get out and take advantage of being away from the big city this summer. I knew that meant some solo riding and I also knew that I’d need to be more self-sufficient if I got a flat out on my own. So, armed with some YouTube videos (linked at the end of this post), I sat down at an unhurried time and got to work.

In the end, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t that difficult! I used a tire lever to pry the trainer tire away from the rim, but when putting the old road tire on, I found I didn’t need tire levers at all. In fact, it was so much less intimidating than I expected that at first I thought I had done something terribly wrong! But I took the bike out for a quick spin and nothing exploded or fell apart so I gave myself a nice pat on the back and told myself this must mean I was Good At Changing Tires.

2016-05-24 21.33.18

Look at that tire, all tucked nicely in!

Of course, having decided that, the universe promptly decided to test my skills. The following week, I got a flat on my commuter bike in Toronto as I was heading to my soccer game. I didn’t have anything on me to repair it, but I was very lucky because I was about 20m away from a bike shop that still happened to be open!

The next week, as I was grabbing my bike from my friends’ balcony, I told them about how lucky I was to have had a flat so close to the bike shop. I gestured to my front wheel, and lo and behold… it was flat! I had ridden over some glass on the way in and must have had a slow bleed. Thankfully my friends are cyclists, and they had a patch kit handy. So I sat down in their living room and patched my tube and was all ready to show them how Good I Am At Changing Tires. Until I couldn’t get the tire back on. Oops. Needed tire levers and a bit of help for that one!

Finally, earlier this month, I was riding home at night from an outdoor shindig and I got a 3 inch long nail skewered right through my rear tire. Thankfully I didn’t crash, but I was so annoyed that I ripped the nail out and threw it in the trash, completely forgetting that I have a blog now and definitely should have saved it for a photo op. Alas. I’m learning. I had to TTC home the rest of the way (again – thankfully this happened right in front of a subway stop!). The next day I popped in a new tube and this time I was able to get the tire on with relative ease.

The upside to all of these flats is that I’m no longer intimidated by changing a tire! I still hope I don’t have to keep doing it quite so often, however…

And if anyone is wondering, here are a couple of the video resources I used to step me through the process:

A comprehensive step-by-step guide:

For just removing and replacing the rear wheel:

For putting on a tire without levers:

Supporting and loving

emotionality

Shared with me by Meaghan / words by Lora Mathis

 

I’ve been quiet here on the blog because I have been extremely saddened by the massacre in Orlando. I have new things I want to write about – my first extended ride on my road bike since my accident last year, trying out canoeing and stand up paddleboarding – but I’m not feeling up to it yet.

I’m overwhelmed by the layers of hatred and injustice surrounding this tragedy. The failure to address intersectionality – that the victims were primarily Latinx and LGBTQIA. The media shifting the narrative into Islamaphobia. The racism. How we aren’t talking about how toxic masculinity leads to violence. Wondering how survivors will access the care and support they need. The desperate need for gun control.

So what can I do?

First, listen, and check in with loved ones who are hurting. Remind them that I am here, and that I care. Understand that people need different things.

Love. I can love. Fight as hard as I can against the hopelessness. Believe in the good, in the power of love, in the potential for change.

And then, speak up. Demonstrate support. Engage. Discuss. Learn. My friends, particularly my friend Meaghan, have guided me in invaluable ways. Honour the emotional labour of those who educate you.

Finally, I decided to do some volunteer work. I’m getting involved in Pride events in my community. I’ll be volunteering at one of the performance spaces, and I have asked to volunteer at the Pride and Remembrance Run.

[On the subject of Pride, I thought this article about straight ally interaction and involvement with Pride events was very important.]

Many cities have Pride run/walk events to benefit community LGBTQIA groups. It is an easy way for runners to show support visibly through showing up, and financially through race registrations and donation fundraising.

You can support my friend Mandy’s fundraising efforts for Toronto’s Pride and Remembrance Run.

The 2016 Pride and Remembrance Run beneficiaries are:

ACT ’s Positive Youth Outreach Program (PYO )
ACT’s Positive Youth Outreach Program supports young people between the ages 16–29 who are living with or at increased risk for HIV. PYO supports participants in obtaining a happier, healthier life where they are engaged and active in their communities.

The 519’s “Not Alone…” Program
The 519’s “Not Alone – A Collective Response to Sexual Violence Within LGBTQ Communities” program will build trauma-informed services through a series of targeted support interventions for LGBTQ survivors of sexual violence.

Rainbow Railroad

Rainbow Railroad’s ongoing efforts provide financial assistance, information and other resources to enable at risk LGBT individuals to travel to safer countries where they can seek asylum. Proceeds from the year’s Run will directly help five asylum seekers find freedom from persecution.

Pride and Remembrance Foundation
The Pride and Remembrance Foundation is the charitable foundation responsible for the distribution of funds raised by the annual Pride and Remembrance Run. The Foundation’s mandate is to provide financial support to registered charities that benefit the LGBT community. The Foundation accepts applications for financial assistance from registered charities throughout the year.

 

Sending love and strength to you all.

Race Report: Toronto Women’s Half Marathon 2016

I’ve delayed writing this race report because I still feel unsettled. This was my return to racing after a year and a half. When I decided I was ready to run races again, I knew I wanted to do the Toronto Women’s Half. It was my first running race in 2014, and in 2015 I cheered for Steph. The race environment is friendly and positive, it’s well organized, there are free photos and a necklace finisher medal, and the course is mainly on the Don River Trail, which is my go-to running route.

Though my training wasn’t perfect, I felt prepared enough. I had essentially done the distance in training, so I was confident I could finish. My training goal had never been to get faster or run a PB – I wanted to finish and have fun.

When I picked up my race kit on Saturday, it was hot – unlike the weather we’d had in recent weeks. (For reference, it hailed 2 weeks prior.) The organizers sent an advisory email with recommendations for participants, and a warning that they may shorten the distance due to the weather.

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Like I said, very well organized. I liked that they emphasized that it would not be a day for a PB. Even though I knew that was not going to happen for me, it was a good mindset for setting expectations for myself and the race.

In the evening, the nerves hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t worried about anything specific, but rather had this general (and painful) sense of dread in my stomach and chest. I frantically gathered my race gear and post-race comforts to distract myself.

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I wrote out my race plan to stay focused.

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I texted with my sister, who lives in Virginia and was a bit dumfounded as to how temperatures in the low 80s qualified as “too hot.” I think I convinced her with the argument that nobody had been training in this weather, and the body needs time to acclimate.

I slept fairly well, had my normal breakfast, and re-read my race plan. Tim and I hopped in a cab and headed up to the park. Within a few minutes of arriving, I heard the announcement: the race would be shortened to a 12km.

My immediate reaction was frustration. Yes, it was going to be a hot and slow race, but I had trained for 21km, and I wanted to do 21km, damnit. Also, the shortest race I’ve ever done was a 15km. I’ve always been interested in going further rather than faster. I messaged Steph to tell her she didn’t need to come out, but was immediately shut down.

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Mandy sent me a text and proved the race organizers wrong – it would be a day for a PB!

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I tried to stay positive and focus on the fun. I really truly did. I did the goofy crowd warm up to “Uptown Funk.” I went over my race plan as I queued up in my corral. At 8:03am, it was run time!

Kilometers 1 – 2: Great! But I completely failed at my goal of taking it nice and slow at the beginning – 6:30/km turned into 5:49/kms. I rationalized with myself that it was okay to go faster, since it was a 12km. I mean, yes, but… 45 seconds faster? At the start of a hot race? Buddy.

Kilometer 3 – 5: I distinctly remember thinking that I was now so grateful that it would only be 12km. I think I could have run a very slow, unpleasant 21km, but it would have been ugly. My body was radiating heat and I was already dripping sweat. I took my first walk break (I like doing 20/1) and really had to convince myself to get moving again.

From a distance, I saw Steph in the banana costume, cheering people on. Oh how I love you, Steph. She didn’t see me until I was right next to her. I told her it was going okay, and that I was glad it wasn’t a half. She said she’d catch me after the turnaround.

Kilometer 6: Pottery Road turnaround. Was this the first water station? I think so. Things were foggy. For the first time, I took an extra cup of water to dump over my head. Turns out it’s pretty great, and not really cold when you’re a mobile furnace.

Kilometers 7 – 8: My math is getting pretty bad here as I am trying to figure out how to run a 12km. This is where tough feelings come into play. On the one hand, before the race started, the race director kept announcing that this would be a “fun run,” not a race. On the surface, I am on board. My goal is to have fun right? Fun run! But deep down, I’m stuck in the race mentality. So I’m trying to gauge my energy, which is super hard because I haven’t run in heat like this and I am definitely feeling it, and I’ve never done a race with a shorter distance. Initially I told myself to get the first 2km done, then think 10km for the rest, since I know what 10km feels like. Then somewhere along the line I switched to “finish half, then think about turning up the speed.” Okay, so was the halfway point at 6 or 7? And then there’s the other voice, the reasonable voice, telling me to not make a bad decision. Don’t push myself too hard, don’t worry about speeding up. This isn’t my half anymore. (But… but… but… racing!)

Kilometers 9-10: I’m slowing down. I’m feeling like crap. I’m getting random shivers. I take another walk break. Steph was biking along with me, being so encouraging and funny and wonderful. She asked if I wanted her to lay off, and I told her no, but I didn’t have the energy to talk back much. It’s like I was an iPhone that needed to go into airplane mode.

Kilometers 11-12: Who needs to think when your feet just go? I can do 2 kilometers. That’s less than 15 minutes. I can do this. Halfway up the hill out of the ravine, I walked. No shame in that game. From there, it was just imagining the finish line. In addition to water stations, this race boasts a station where they give out chocolate. I couldn’t even. I’m successful at picking my pace back up.

Kilometer 12.0 – 12.3: I was told this would be a 12km. LIES. I see the finish line. Oh, sweet finish line. I see Steph, Tim, Mandy, and Knox. I go as fast as I can, which still feels like I’m running through a wall of sand, or something equally uncomfortable.

I crossed the line, and a volunteer wrung out a wet cloth over the back of my neck. (Sidebar: Huge shout out to the volunteers. I tried to thank them all.) I’m feeling out of it as I walk over to meet everyone. The first thing I said to Tim was, “SHADE.” My brain was screaming at me to get out of the sun. My back was a gross sweaty mess from my hydration pack. I was getting the shivers again, and generally feeling inhuman. Tim had a nice cold Swell bottle of water. Delicious. I took off my shoes and slipped into flip flops (delicious), plopped down in the grass, and felt so grateful for my friends’ support, and became the heart eyes emoji looking at Knox.

 

Once I got home, it didn’t take long for the weird vibes and doubt to creep in. I had been telling Tim that I wanted a post-race pizza celebration. Did I even deserve it? I only ran 12k, not a half. Did I actually try my best? I certainly felt gassed, but how can you know? My goal was to have fun, but I don’t think I achieved that. I had also had an emotional build-up to running my first race after a year of injury, and the reality didn’t match up with my vision at all. And now it was over. I wanted to feel happy and grateful, and instead I felt frustrated and self-conscious. Did I do all of the things in my control to make it the best possible experience?

I’m doing a 10km race in a couple weeks with some girlfriends as a fun race. I don’t have a lot of emotional investment in it, so maybe this is another opportunity to try doing a race for fun. (You’d think I wouldn’t need to practice doing something for fun, but it seems like I do!) After the 10km, I have no concrete race plans until the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. I think a lot of what I’m still feeling is a transition period into the start of marathon training, which will be the next 4+ months. It is exciting, but also daunting. I have a loose training plan worked out, but I still want to do some thinking about my goals for training and the race.

I’m feeling better after writing this. I’m reminded that no matter what happens on race day, it doesn’t take away from all the training you put in. It’s difficult to not have a racing mentality in a race, and that’s something I want to work on. And I know I need to be kinder to myself. I worked hard in tough conditions that were out of my control. I don’t know if I gave it everything I possibly had, but I know I was pretty close to 100%. That’s totally something worth celebrating.

Distance: 12.3km – Official Time: 01:15:19.7 – Average pace: 6:07/km