Tag Archives: Toronto

Running With Purpose: A Photographic Record

21 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

I am currently reading a running book that has a lot of great advice in it. Since I will be posting a review of the book in the near future, I will not give away too much about it now, but one thing it says is that every run should have a a purpose. You shouldn’t just go out for a run for the sake of putting miles onto your running shoes. You should have a specific goal to improve endurance, train for hills, work on form, and so on.

It’s really too bad that I got this book so late in my training for next weekend’s half-marathon. I confess that my purpose on many of my long runs has been to simply get through the 18km or 20km without dying.

In general, though, my training has been a lot more focused than it was last season. I have incorporated hills and speed training. My long runs have included race pace segments, and in a couple of cases, actual races. I have done some strength training, although I have not been as consistent with it as I’d like to be. Since I started reading this book, I have been paying more attention to form, and in fact, one of my runs last week was entirely devoted to practicing my form.

Today was my last longish run before the half-marathon. At this point, my training is done. I’m either ready to race 21.1km or I’m not. Apart from keeping my limbs loose and relaxed, no running I do over the next seven days will improve my chances for a good race.

Therefore, my purpose for today’s run was simply to enjoy myself. And to take pictures.

A beautiful day is a welcome sight for a runner heading out of the front door

A perfect day for a run in the Rouge Valley

Beautiful reflections in the Rouge River

Lake Ontario in all of its springtime glory

A family of Canada geese enjoying the sunshine

Waving to my American friends on the other side of the lake

My favourite graffiti

Aerial view of the river I ran along earlier in the run

(Photo credit for all pictures: Kirsten Doyle)
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Things Are Getting Hairy

19 Apr

You know that your wedding planning is entering its final stages when you start using Flight Tracker to see where in their journeys your out-of-town guests are. As I type this, my Mom and my brother are en route from Johannesburg to New York (a brutal flight that keeps you cooped up in a plane for 18 hours – I do not envy them). I will see my Mom on Thursday; my brother will arrive in Toronto from New York next week.

Things are coming together. There is still a lot to be done – so much so that thinking about my to-do list puts a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach – but most of the little crises that have arisen have been resolved.

I have not had a nervous breakdown. I came close last week, though.

It was all about the hair. I had booked a hairdresser to come to my house and do hair for myself, my maid-of-honour, the bridesmaid and the flower girl. To be fair, the hairdresser had told me ahead of time that school commitments might get in the way and we might have to make other arrangements. That was a chance I took when I booked her. And sure enough, she called me a short time later and told me that she would not be able to help out.

I got in touch with another hairdresser, one whose rates seemed reasonable. The problem was that every time I spoke to the guy there, I was given a different quote. Each quote was progressively higher than the previous one. Eventually Gerard spoke to the guy, and he was given a much higher price than anything I had been told.

It was clear that we could not use this hairdresser. At this rate, we’d have to sell our house to pay him by the time the day of the wedding arrived. What this meant, though, was that with two weeks to go, I still had no hairdresser.

Any woman would agree that hair is kind of important on a wedding day.

I lost it. I started to have this weird little meltdown, ranting to anyone who would listen about how I was never going to find someone to do my hair, and how I would have to persuade my makeup artist to wing it and do it for me (this was before the makeup artist bailed on me with no warning).

Gerard was trying to calm me down but I was just so stressed. I was making these high-piched supersonic noises that only dogs can hear.

Gradually, the pitch of my voice lowered enough for my noises to loosely resemble speech. I was tearfully saying stuff like, “My hair is very important, you know.”

Gerard, in a kindly and patient tone, said, “Of course it is.”

I think he was doing that thing where you agree with everything a hysterical person is saying, no matter what. I could have said that mulberry trees were falling out of the sky, and he would have agreed with me.

In the end, Gerard told me not to worry about it. He said he had a plan to make it all better.

Sometimes, when Gerard tells me not to worry, I have the sense to trust him. This was one of those occasions. And true to his word, by the time I got home from work the following day, he had found and spoken to a hairdresser. The day was saved. Relative peace could reign once more.

Despite earlier threats to shave my head and put a tattoo of a butterfly on my scalp, I will be able to walk down the aisle with beautifully styled hair.

It’s a good thing. That tattoo would have hurt.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25559122@N06/3811393733/)

Being An Alien In A Strange Land

24 Jan

The date was August 14, 2000.  I have no idea what time it was, but it was already dark, I had had a long day, and my head was several time zones to the west.  Even though I was sick with exhaustion, I felt the exhiliration of having arrived.  After months of planning and finding my way through bureaucratic tape, after some last-minute logistical crises, I was here, ready to start my new life.

The man behind the counter came back from wherever he had been, handed me my freshly stamped passport, and with a smile said, “Welcome to Canada”.

Well.  This was a nice change from the way airport officials had treated me in the United States earlier in the day.  This was back in the time when South African nationals were allowed to be in transit through the United States without a visa (I’d bet my left arm that this is no longer the case).  I had been made to sit in a departure lounge with security guys watching me from the doorway, as if I was about to take off and make a run for it.  The fact that my friend Kane had come out to meet me helped me ignore their suspicious gaze.

I mean, honestly. I was a smallish woman, bogged down with enough stuff to weigh down an elephant, and I had just travelled across seven time zones.  What damage did they think I was capable of?  I was barely capable of beating an egg.

But anyway.  Now I was in Canada – had been WELCOMED to Canada – and I was allowed beyond the confines of the airport.  I picked up my baggage, paid a visit to the foreign currency exchange desk, and caught a cab to where I would be staying for the first six weeks.  It was dark so I could not see much, but all the way to the rented furnished apartment I peered excitedly through the window like a little kid looking out for his first glimpse of the ocean.

By the time I got to the apartment and checked in, it was well past midnight.  I was tired, but the time change had played silly buggers with my mind, so sleep was out of the question.  I unpacked, called my parents to tell them I had arrived in one piece, and then spent the rest of the night poring over my travel guide.  I fell asleep at some point in the early hours of the morning.

I had a week to explore and find my way around before I was due to start my new job, and I got started right way, the day after I arrived.  My first venture into the City of Toronto is an experience I will never forget.  The apartment was located right in the city centre, so I reasoned that it would probably take a day for me to explore my immediate environs on foot.  I would tackle the subway system the following day.

Armed with my map, and with my camera hanging around my neck (face it, I may as well have had the word TOURIST stamped right on my head) I stepped out from the apartment building and started walking.  When I turned a corner not far from where I was staying, I saw a life-sized fibreglass moose, painted in bright colours.

I thought this was pretty cool.  I mean, a life-sized moose in the middle of Toronto. For someone who had just landed in Canada to see something so symbolic of – well, Canada – this was kind of neat.  I liked it.

It had the added bonus of being a handy landmark.  When I see the moose, I thought, I will be close to the apartment.

Four very confusing blocks later, I sat in a coffee shop reading an article about Toronto’s project to put brightly coloured moose sculptures on almost every street in the city.

So much for my landmark.

By the time I wanted to go back to the apartment, I was thoroughly lost.  Those damned moose!  I felt as if I should have sprinkled cookie crumbs in my trail so I could find my way back, like Hansel and Gretel (although look what happened to them – probably not the best example).

Eventually I found my way around.  I learned how to tell one moose from another, and I became proficient at travelling around on the subway.  It took a while for me to really get to know the place, and to build up a social support network, but as the saying goes, I got by with a little help from my friends.

It is strange to think that more than ten years have passed since then.  In that time, a lot has happened.  I have met my life partner and husband-to-be (and YES, it’s the same person!).  I have had two kids.  I have left one job and started another.  I have run races, made friends, weathered a financial crisis, travelled home to bury my father.  I have become a Canadian citizen and for the first time,exercised my right to vote in a Canadian election. A lifetime seems to have happened in the last decade.

It would be easy to reflect on the ways in which my life would be different if I had not packed my life into checked baggage and left South Africa. But that would be pointless.

It is enough for me to know that I have held onto cherished family relationships and friendships from my previous life, while forming some new ones here in Canada.  I feel like I have the best of both worlds, and I am exactly where I want to be.

Farewell To A Hero: RIP Sgt Ryan Russell

18 Jan

Today, in a departure from my usual selection of topics, I want to talk about the police.  Depending on who you are talking to, this can be a surprisingly heated topic.  People go on about police brutality, racial profiling, and all of that kind of bad stuff.  I am not denying that it happens.  Some police officers are total asshats (I saw that word in another blog and liked it, and I’ve been itching to use it in a sentence ever since).  There are the bad cops who will discriminate, abuse, and power-trip from here to the moon.

But for the most part, police officers are the good guys.  The cop who responded when George accidentally called 911 at the age of eleven months was very understanding.  He allowed us to take a picture of himself with George, and with the two firefighters who also came.  We didn’t get hit with a fine, our child was not incarcerated, and everyone went home happy.

Then there was the policeman named Larry who took time for James, who was two at the time and had squealed excitedly upon seeing a real police car.  Larry showed James the car and chatted with him, and by the end of it James was wide-eyed with the wonder of talking to a “real policecar man”.  It may have only been five minutes of Larry’s time, but I will never forget how his kindness made my child happy.

And today, as the city mourns, Toronto’s Finest are burying one of their own, Sgt. Ryan Russell, killed in the line of duty last week.

In a sequence of events that seems so pointless, a man stole a snowplow and for two hours he used it to go on a terrifying rampage through city streets.  He crashed into parked cars, drove into a storefront, and rammed into a taxi occupied by its driver.  As Sgt. Russell tried to intervene, the snowplow was driven right into him and crushed him.  He was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries.

One police officer taken from us while trying to serve and protect.

One woman thrust into widowhood far too young.

One two-year-old child who will grow up without his father.

An entire city grieving for the first Toronto police officer killed in the line of duty since 2002.

As I write this article, the funeral has just started.  More than 10,000 people are there – friends and family members of the man being honoured, members of the public, police officers from all across North America.  The show of respect is phenomenal.  And that’s the way it should be.  Police officers are heroes.  They deserve recognition and appreciation while they are alive, and they deserve a damned good send-off when they die.

R.I.P. Sgt Russell.  You are a hero and I am shedding a tear for you.