Sunday, 22 June 2014

You have to laugh sometimes...

Today the Nerd and I went for a 6 mile walk along the Belt Line trail in Toronto.  I have to say that this is my favourite walk to date. 

The Belt Line trail is a part of what used to be the Toronto Belt Line commuter railway built in the 1890s. The railway was originally constructed as a line to service and promote new suburban neighbourhoods north of the old city limits. The railway ran in a loop to Union Station in the south through the areas that eventually became Rosedale, Moore Park, Forest Hill, and Swansea.  Nowadays those neighbourhoods are best known for the old money that lives there, so promoting the areas doesn't seem to be much of a problem today.

The Belt Line railway was never profitable, and it only ran for two years.  Parts of the old Belt Line were converted to the Belt Line trail, which now exists in 3 sections totaling 9 km.  The section the Nerd and I walked this morning was the Kay Gardner Beltline Park from Mount Pleasant Road to the Allen Expressway.

Yes, I know that the City has used both the spelling "Belt Line" and "Beltline" in describing the same trail (and on the same sign, no less!), and yes, it drives me crazy, but what can you do.

To get to the Belt Line Trail we walked north on Jarvis to Mount Pleasant Road all the way up to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery where this part of the trail begins.  There are lots of hills up and down on Mount Pleasant, which is a lovely walk all on its own.  The trail proper is beautiful and shaded by a canopy of trees.  It was a thoroughly wonderful walk through dappled woods on cinder paths or beaten mulch paths for the most part, and mainly level and easy to walk on.  There were lots of joggers, walkers and cyclists (which is to be expected), but there were no real traffic jams to speak of and the Nerd and I were able to keep up a nice pace throughout.  We will do that walk again, for sure. 

Now for the funny part.  Funny "D'oh!" rather than "wow, that's a belly laugh" kind of funny, but you just have to laugh at life sometimes.

So you know I am doing all this walking to train for the big charity walk on September 6, yes?  To help keep people from collapsing in blisters, tears and recriminations on the walk the organizers have put together a 24-week training schedule with periodic walks of varying distances.  I started the program a couple of weeks ago and was surprised at how quickly the plan called for long distance walks (I'm looking at you, 12.5 mile walks!), however it has been no real problem to do the walks.  I am not completely comfortable at the distance yet, but each week is a bit better.  I assumed that the intent was to get our bodies used to the distance, and then intermittently add or decrease mileage to challenge us or give us a break, accordingly. 

The Nerd asked for a copy of the schedule today so that he could plan his workouts.  And that's when he noticed something funny.  Although most plans start at week #1 and count up, this one appears to start at week #24 and count down.  That's right...I have been doing my training plan backwards.  Yep.  I have started at the most difficult part of the plan, and have been working on gradually easier walks each week.  <facepalm>

Sooooo....we now have reverse engineered the plan so that it's going to build up again to those 12.5 mile walks in a couple of weeks.  Yay  (said with a complete and utter lack of enthusiasm). 

And I was so looking forward to the easier walks, too!  Sigh.  Although to be fair, this does explain the strange pattern of long walks followed by gradually decreasing distances.  I was really puzzled how that was going to help me to be physically prepared to walk 32 km in one day. 

Clearly, I was hired for my looks. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Another week of walking training in the books...almost

Well, it's week 3 of our walking training for the big Weekend to End Women's Cancers walk in September, and so far we have walked 23.7 miles this week, with another 6 miles to add to the count scheduled for tomorrow.
Toronto, from the Leslie Street Spit (Tommy Thompson Park)

We tried to fit today's walk into the schedule before my usual shopping/coffee/gossip-fest with my mom, so the Nerd and I left around 5:15 this morning in our attempt to walk 12.5 miles before shopping.  We made it - just! - but my legs were completely aching and sore while I was shopping (although a brief nap and some time in a haircutter's chair completely put me back to rights by the afternoon).

For today's grim death march - er - pleasant stroll, we walked out to the Waterfront Trail to Leslie Street and the Leslie Street Spit and Tommy Thompson Park.  The route was an almost perfect 12.5 miles, and it was such a lovely time of day to go out.  I will say this about Toronto, joggers and cyclists get out early, but there were hardly any of them out there for the first half of our walk.

What was extremely cool about today's walk (other than finishing, of course), was the diversity of wildlife we saw at the Park.  There were the usual seagulls, loons, Canada Geese and ducks, naturally.  But we also saw a male Oriole in all his orange splendour, as well as a variety of terns, swallows, egrets, swans, sandpipers, and a multiplicity of bunny rabbits.

Ttust me, this is a bunny

The sounds of all the different species were very distinct, as well - - from forest sounding birds to waterfront birds to the absolute cacophany from a nesting colony of seagulls.  Neat.

Last week when we did our 12.5 mile march, I was in definite agony and struggling for the last 4.5 miles.  This week I was relatively comfortable for the first 10 miles, and uncomfortable for 2, and only seriously in discomfort for about half a mile or so.  The last couple of miles today were not fun, let's not kid ourselves, but I can definitely see an improvement in my comfort level for walking at distance.

Tomorrow's walk is "only" 6 miles, which feels like an easy stroll to me now.  The Nerd teased me when I told him we only had to walk 6 miles tomorrow, and reminded me that  2 years ago, 6 blocks were an impossible walk.  Last year, 6 miles was an endurance test that would have led to aching legs for the entire next day.  This year, it's a break from the half marathon distance walking we can do.  And although I definitely feel like I have walked a long distance today, my legs are mostly fine now, hours after the walk.  If last week is anything to go by, I will sleep very well tonight, and I will feel perfectly normal for our walk tomorrow morning.

I have significantly reduced my elliptical time over the course of the week because I do not ellipticalize (yes, that's a word) on walk days, so as to avoid burn out.  I can still do weights on walk days, because my weight program is largely a core and upper body workout. 

I have also maintained a good focus on what I have been eating this week, and have really controlled my snacking.  For me it's all about what I put into my mouth, because there is literally no amount of exercise that I can do that can make up for a serious binge.  Trial and error over the last couple of weeks has shown me that my calorie sweet spot is between 1600 - 1800 calories, regardless of my activity level.  Eating back my calories entirely doesn't seem to work for me, so I am now trying to stay within this range whilst avoiding snacking on peanut butter or M&Ms. 

We'll see where we walk tomorrow!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

... and I did it again!

Walked a long distance, that is.

Today's objective was to walk 8.5 miles, and the Nerd and I walked just over 9 miles in 2 and 3/4 hours.  Today's training walk took us straight up Yonge Street from King subway station up to Lawrence subway station, then across Lawrence Avenue to Lawrence West subway station.  From there we took the subway back downtown to King station, then walked down to Front and Market streets to wrap up the walk.

I know that yesterday I felt pretty good until around 8 miles and today's walk likely wouldn't be too uncomfortable, but I was still surprised how good I felt today.  I had some aches and pains in both hip flexors, and a little bit in my feet, but overall I am not aching too badly at all today, and I felt relatively comfortable during the entire walk. 

I was even more surprised by this because today's walk was almost entirely uphill, thanks to a fact of Toronto's geography - - the farther you get from the lake, the higher you go.  I still felt pretty good, though, even with the hills. 

Of course, I feel pretty good ending my walk, too, and I was not at all tempted to keep walking.  21 miles in a weekend is more than enough for me, thanks!

Last night the local bar was much rowdier than usual, and caused a big disturbance.  The Nerd and I slept right through the whole thing - - apparently walking 12.7 miles makes you sleep soundly.  I predict similar results tonight. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I never thought I could do it ... but I did!

I walked 12.7 miles in a single sitting today, over almost 4 hours. 

The Nerd and I walked from our downtown apartment along the waterfront past the boardwalk all the way to the Humber River, and then came back along King Street through the theatre district and the financial centre back home. 

As you know I am training for this charity walk in the beginning of September.  The walk will require that I walk between 30 and 32 km in a single day.  There is no time limit, of course, but the laws of physics apply, so the faster one walks, the faster one finishes. 

I went from not being able to walk half a block without having to stop (before I began working out) to my current fitness level where a three mile walk (about an hour's walking) is no problem at all.  Last weekend the Nerd and I did two training walks, one 6.5 miles, and one 7 miles, and I could handle each with little difficulty.  I got a little tired near the end of each walk, but overall I felt pretty good. 

But today's training plan called for a 12.5 mile walk.  That's more than double my longest planned walk from last weekend, and easily the longest that I had ever walked in my entire life.  Not cumulatively, of course (although it certainly felt like it).
Mile 1
The day was a perfect one for walking, 20 degrees with a light breeze off the lake to keep us moving.  When we turned for home along King Street we lost the breeze, but gained some nice sunshine.

I was feeling fine up until around mile 8 (which, to be clear, is still to that point the longest that I had ever walked in a single stretch in my life).  Then my hip flexor started to ache on the right side, my feet started to hurt, and my back started to tighten up - - it was as if my entire lower body decided that it had had enough walking, all at once.  Two and a half years ago I would have felt like this just crossing the street, and now it takes 8 miles for it to happen - - things are definitely looking up!

So I have to say that I wanted to stop walking pretty much the entire last 4 and a half miles.  Every step hurt, and I must have looked like a zombie lurching down the street at some points.  I took a  couple of short breaks just to try and ease up on the legs a bit, but I did not stop.  I walked and I walked and I walked and then I finished.  12.7 miles all in all, in 3:54:53. 

I did not stop and I did achieve my training objective for today of walking 12.5 miles.  And although my legs are on fire and my feet are sore and it will take a bloody act of will to get out of bed to do it all over again tomorrow, I am very proud of myself for pushing through and doing the full distance.

I know that it will get easier over time, and pretty soon 10 miles will feel like nothing (at least I fervently hope so).  I walk 4 times a week, and week by week I will get stronger and stronger.  This is literally the worst that I should feel during my training, because this is the toughest fitness:distance ratio in the entire training plan. 

So I have taken a few Advil, and the Nerd and I are going to have a drink on the roof and look at the lake and relax and congratulate ourselves on our walk.  I think a little self-congratulations are in order here. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A death in the family and a walk in my future

At the beginning of the month a much beloved family member passed away quietly.  Yes, at long last, my long suffering Fitbit finally synced its last step and went to that great pedometer garden in the sky. 
I knew something was wrong when I couldn't get the little guy to sync.  The Fitbit kept counting my steps, but the steps weren't being recorded anywhere.  I tried all the fixes - - resetting the unit, re-installing the Fitbit connect, syncing through Linux...nothing worked.  Finally I broke down and reached out to Fitbit support, who were characteristically amazing.  Within 48 hours a new Fitbit was on its way to me, and the Nerd now has my old, non-syncing Fitbit for experimental purposes (this brings his total number of Fitbits to 5 - - 1 Zip, 2 Ultras and 2 Ones...not that he has a problem or anything). 

Anyhoo, all of my tracking numbers for June are off because it looks like I have been barely walking at all because I have no steps recorded at all for the entire first week and a half of June, when in fact I was walking a lot more than usual.  Grrrr....!

Which brings me to the walking more than usual.  I am training for the 32 km walk this September as part of the Weekend to End Women's Cancers.  Yes, I was somewhat peer-pressured into it by my new boss in that he invited all of our department to join him in the walk and I wanted to be part of the team.  But it's also a great opportunity to force myself to do some different things, especially since I haven't really incorporated long distance walking into my usual routine. 

I started training last week and walked 3 miles on Tuesday, 2 miles on Thursday, 6 miles on Saturday and 7 miles on Sunday.  Sadly, none of these workouts was captured on my Fitbit, so it looks like I was one giant couch potato last week from a step-counting point of view. 

This week I did another 3 mile walk on Tuesday and the Nerd and I just got back from a 3.5 mile walk tonight.  This weekend may kill me, however - - my training plan calls for a horrifying 12.5 mile walk on Saturday and an 8.5 mile walk on Sunday.  Next week will be easier, but I will be walking for 4 hours straight on Saturday, something I have seldom done (and by seldom, I mean that I have walked that distance precisely once).  I have to confess that I am not looking forward to it, but I am looking forward to the results and to seeing how my fitness increases over time.  It's that thought alone that keeps me pushing to do the training walks.  Well, the thought of my increasing fitness plus the desire not to look like a complete fool in front of 100 people from my new office.  See kids, peer pressure can be a good thing!

Tonight I voted in our provincial election, and I am somewhat distracted by my iPad flashing up to the minute results.  I won't tell you who I voted for, but this particular election was literally too close to call as late as yesterday, and the vote differential now, just after polls have closed, is still a statistical dead heat.  I much prefer a blowout in these kinds of situations, and watching the results trickling in when the numbers are so close is causing me anxiety.  Might be a good time to simply crawl into bed and wait for the election to be over.  I voted though, which is critical, because: i) it's important to exercise your right to vote; and ii) you can't complain if you don't vote. 

So, all in all it was a good week.  I am settling into my new job (which I lovelovelove).  I am two weeks into the new "suck it up and get back on the program" routine, which is gradually paying dividends.  I am two weeks into walking training for the September mega-walk.  And I have a brand new Fitbit, which is not a bad thing.  The little fella keeps me honest, anyways.