Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tour de Canada


 (Landing in Toronto - CN tower visible in the background)

Sunday, January 11:
Flew to Toronto, got a ride to London, Ontario.  Hit the gym after dinner and got 5.0 in 40:55, 8:11 pace, at 2 degrees of incline.   It was after a big dinner (almond butter & chocolate & cinnamon wrap, plus salmon, beer, and pretty much a head's worth of broccoli), but I felt surprisingly ready to run at 10pm.  I probably didn't go as long as I could have because my body was using energy to digest all of that food, but at least it wasn't an uncomfortable run.

Monday, January 12:  My birthday!  Didn't run.  Just had a celebratory dinner.

Tuesday, January 13:
Got in a quick run before work – 4.0 in 34:17, 8:34 average, 3 degrees of incline, breathing through my nose for cardio stimulation.  My legs had felt asleep and without proper blood flow, and my nerves weren’t activated, but I still got the run in.

Had a froyo the size of my head... CAD$15 worth of Menchies.


Wednesday, January 14:
60 minute hotel room strength session in the morning.  Hit some records in rep counts for some of the exercises.  There's no particular reason why, that I can think of.  Drove to Toronto, then flew to Montreal that night.

Thursday, January 15:
Got in a morning run, since we'd probably be going out for dinner that night... we do it every night, but Montreal would be special, because of all the French influence on the cuisine, and the prospects of seeing a bit of the city.  I don't recall how French food tasted when I visited in 2000, but based on this trip's experience, if Quebec's food is any indication, it is all that they say it is.  I tried veal for the first time - very tender, and a hazelnut layer cake which was great.  I normally don't have real desserts, so you know it was special.  Oh yeah, I had also had a dessert on my birthday - incredible mocha ice cream pie with almonds... worth it.

Friday, January 16: Walked around the downtown area a bit.  Went to a museum about the history of Montreal.  The politics there are pretty intense, regarding Quebec’s status.  It’s always interesting to me how cities originally form and grow.  Amsterdam was cool for that, too, although it was even cooler there because the structure of the canal system in Amsterdam is a lasting artifact of how the city grew in stages.  For lunch, we went to a quaint café on the waterfront, connected to a general store, which had a rustic feeling with the wooden beams and exposed brick.


I kept walking until it was dark, hitting various spots that were highlighted by my Frommer’s Day-by-Day guidebook.  At around sunset, I feared that I had minor frostbite in my toes.  I was wearing trail running shoes meant to provide ventilation.  When I went inside a store, all of the nerves in my toes were in extreme pain for about 20 minutes, even after they had fully warmed up. 



Fortunately, it ended up being ok.  I also walked quite a bit through the maze of “the underground city”, which is a neat solution for the brutal cold.  It’s really a tunnel that connects various malls and subway stops.  It took me a while to figure out how to navigate through it.  That reminds me… real life can be like a computer game or video game, where you have to explore, pick up skills, etc.  Pretty cool.  I considered biking or something at the gym at night, but I wanted to save my energy for cross-country skiing the next day.



Saturday, January 17: Went to Mont Royal, a park on a mountain, similar to Central Park, originally designed by Olmstead, who designed Central Park, too.  It’s right in the middle of downtown, and they have lots of things to do and see there.  I’ve always wanted to try cross-country skiing (I did actually try it informally once, at Princeton, on the golf course) on real tracks.  It ended up being harder and slower than I imagined.  I felt like I was somewhat just walking but by sliding a little bit at a time, most of the time.  I came across some cool sites, like the Steel Cross, and an overlook that had amazing views of the city and the St. Lawrence river below.  Towards the end of the 3-hr rental period, I feel like I started doing better, when I remembered back on a ski trip from long ago, and hearing someone on cross-country skis do a lunging move.  I tried to replicate it, and it seemed to help me slide a lot further with each stride.  Well… my verdict… as cool as it looks on TV, and as similar it is to running, it’s probably not something I’ll get into any time soon. 



That night, I signed up for a snow-shoe tour of the park.  The English ones were offered on the previous day, and this night was a French night.  I went for it anyway.  I had some time to kill before then, so I did a driving tour of the cemetery (too big and too cold to walk it) and hung out in a beautiful chalet.  I wanted to watch the city skyline as it night fell.  I’d alternate between warming up by the radiators, and going out into the cold to take pictures. 
 



When the tour time rolled around, I probably understood about 40% of what was said.  The guide was really nice about translating again into English for me, for the other 60%.  Immersion is the best way to learn.  And doing it during a fun sports-related tour is even more awesome.  Snow-shoeing is definitely more my thing.  The teeth on the shoes give awesome grip that helps tremendously on uphills as well as downhills, and deep snow is less of an issue.  Even going at a walking pace, I was able to generate enough heat to stay warm.  It was a lot of fun.  We heard some stories along the way, saw the Steel Cross again at night, and had a hot chocolate pit stop.  It was only about an hour long, but it was perfect. 

 
The park didn’t close until midnight, so I decided to take advantage of being there and do my third sport of the day – running.  I re-visited the cross, which was a cool spot to say some prayers, and the overlook of the city.  The run wasn’t too long… I estimate 1.5 miles or something, but it was fun to see the park in a few different ways, and different times of day, on different trails.


Sunday, January 18: Flew home.  I was supposed to do 14 miles today… but I was too hungry immediately after landing, so I only managed to get in 6.8 in 1:02:08, 9:08 at the park before it got too dark.  Oh well… next week is supposed to be a rest week with just 3x6 milers, so maybe I can just swap weeks and do the 14 next week, although that means a 16+18+20 progression right after the 14, in successive weeks, instead of getting a little break first. 

My re-introduction to Canada (since some time in the 1990s) has been awesome, though.  This may be the only time I visit Montreal, but I feel like I soaked in as much as I could during the time that I had.  It must be a very different city in the summer, though, with other kinds of activities available, and much warmer weather.  What was striking to me was that I never once heard anyone even comment about how cold it was… to them, it’s just another weekend.  Canadians are tough!  I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold before. 

(The container of water that I had kept in my car during the day had frozen.)

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