Tag Archives: winter

Getting Into Hot Water

22 Jul

Just over two weeks ago, our water heater broke.

For reasons that I will not bore you with because it’s a long story, we are still living without hot water. A family of four plus a mother-in-law. The family of four includes two children who have a close one-on-one relationship with mud.

Bath time takes twice as long as it used to. Instead of simply running the bath for the kids, we have to dump buckets of cold water into the tub, and boil huge pots of water on the stovetop that then get added to the cold water so that the kids won’t go into shock when they get in.

What’s that you’re asking? Oh, why don’t we just run cold water from the tap? Because for whatever reason, the lack of water in the hot water tank has completely messed up the water pressure on the tap in the bathroom.

On the one hand, I am glad this did not happen in the middle of winter. Because then, heating the bath water to a bearable level would take three times as long. On the other hand, though, in winter you can get away with taking fewer baths. During the dog days of summer, however, when the temperatures are well over a hundred degrees, regular baths are kind of important.

The baths just take care of the kids. Gerard has a shower in his shop, and I have to traipse off the gym in order to avoid being one of The Unwashed. My mother-in-law goes to her sister’s house.

Once everyone is clean, we then have to deal with the dishes. Running the dishwasher is out of the question because it wouldn’t do the job very well, and because it’s not even connected to the cold water anyway. So dishes have to be washed by hand, and kettles full of boiling water keep having to be added to the water in the kitchen sink. Instead of taking ten minutes to clear the dishwasher and reload it, I am now having to spend up to an hour on this nonsense.

How on earth did people five hundred years ago get anything done?

Well. While the men were out conquering whatever they were conquering, the women were staying home and taking care of it all. It’s not like they had to spend two hours a day on the subway getting to and from a full-time job at the office. And besides, avoiding body odour wasn’t such an issue with them. They had annual baths every July, and the entire village shared a single tub of water for the occasion.

Apparently – apparently – our hot water will be reinstated within two or three days. I’ll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, I just have to make the most of what I have. And drink wine to stop myself from going completely round the bend.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dustpuppy/5371295/)

There Will Be Hills

1 Apr

My running has been very much on again/off again throughout this winter, and it’s been causing me some degree of stress. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to run, and I have still laced up the running shoes when I’ve been able to. It’s that life has just gotten in the way lately. We have had an interesting run of illnesses in my family over the last several weeks – hopefully the cold that I have had over the last week will represent the last of the winter ailments.

Add to that the fact that it’s been winter, and the weather has been – well, crappy. Toronto had a very cold winter, resulting in thick sheets of solid ice on the sidewalks that I have wanted to avoid. There’s no point in going running when there’s a good chance of breaking a leg. So much of the running I have done has been on the treadmill. Not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. The thing is that I can only stomach the treadmill for so long. So I have done very few distance runs lately.

Brecause of this cold, I have not done any runs at all for about a week and a half. Usually I would, since the cold has been only in my head and hasn’t affected my breathing or anything below the neck. But I have erred on the side of caution because I have a race coming up tomorrow. I would rather rest and increase my chances of being well enough to participate.

And the strategy seems to have worked. Apart from a few residual sniffles, my cold is gone, and I will be able to run the race tomorrow. I’m not expecting it to be a stellar performance. It’s 8km, which I always find to be an awkward distance. It’s just too long for me to just go hell-for-leather from start to finish, but it’s too short to justify the pacing strategies that I use for longer distances. In addition, there will be hills. Lots of hills.

But still, this is a significant race. It marks the start of my 2011 racing season, and it will kick off my training for the Toronto Women’s half-marathon at the end of May. The Toronto Women’s half-marathon is a stepping stone to my main event of the year, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon in October – my annual Run for Autism.

And that, as we all know, is the reason I run. It is my way of doing something for the autism community.

What better day to kick it all off than tomorrow: World Autism Awareness Day.

The karma of that brings a glow to my heart.

There will be hills. Every single one of them will be worth it.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek/5096924747)

On The Road Again

13 Mar

I have made no secret of the fact that lately, my running has not really been up to snuff. Due to a combination of factors – illness, hospitalization of the kid, atrocious winter weather, wedding planning chaos, and the fact that I turn into a pathetic crybaby every winter – it has been hard for me to get out for my runs. For a couple of months I was going great guns on the treadmill at the gym, but I reached the saturation point with that, after which I just couldn’t stomach the thought of the treadmill.

I have fallen a little bit out of shape – not drastically so, just enough for me to be aware of my hamstrings when I’m running up hills.

That in itself does not bother me. I have been running for long enough to know that from time to time, life just gets in the way and interrupts that training program. It’s not the end of the world. Sooner or later I always get back into it, and I find that my loss of fitness and speed are negligible.

This time, though, something different happened. I started losing my enthusiasm for running, and that was absolutely alarming. To not want to run, to not need to run, is so foreign to who I am. Losing my love of running would be like losing a piece of myself, and I was determined not to let that happen.

And so, this morning – despite the time change that cost me an hour of sleep and created its usual confusion, I got up and prepared to join my running club for the Sunday run. I last ran with them about three weeks ago. Truth be told, I last ran at all about three weeks ago. I was feeling a little bit daunted at the prospect of running with people who were no doubt going to be in better shape than me.

Here’s the thing that got me going though: I actually felt excited. I was looking forward to getting out there and going for a run in the open air with friends.

There were three of us running today – all women (Where were the guys? It was such a lovely day for running.) We decided on a 10km jaunt through a park that none of us had been in since before the snow started.

Yikes. I haven’t run 10km for weeks. I have done some insanely fast 5km and 6km runs, but not 10km.

There were hills. I haven’t run hills for weeks.

As runs go, it was not my most stellar performance. I didn’t pace myself properly, and in the last 3km or so I could feel a blister starting to blossom on my right foot.

But I finished the run. My butt muscles were hurting and I was exhausted, but I finished. That completely trumped the fact that the run was a tough one.

I feel like I am back on the road, and even though I’m hurting this evening, I feel great.

Weight a Minute

1 Mar

This morning I realized that after a long, bitter winter, I am done with the treadmill. I actually dragged my feet into the gym and sighed wearily as I punched the buttons on the machine to get the damned thing going.

They’re great machines, treadmills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m definitely an open road kind of girl. I like the freedom, and the sunshine (assuming there is any), and the feel of a light wind on my face. Road running makes me feel invigorated and carefree.

Treadmill running makes me feel like a lab rat doing an experiment. I can picture the men in white coats standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, observing my every move and deciding what mind-altering drugs to inject into my brain next.

I have a history of using the treadmill only in extreme circumstances. Last winter I didn’t use the treadmill at all because it was so mild, and there was very little snow. Even though it was dark, I could go running at five in the morning and not worry about ice.

I did have to worry about a chiropractic injury that had me crying like a baby for three months, but that’s another story.

This winter I’ve been making extensive use of the treadmill because the weather has been so messed up. We have spent some time in a deep, deep freeze, with temperatures going down to -30 degrees Celsius (or -22 degrees Fahrenheit). When it’s that cold out, I cannot even breathe, and despite layer upon layer of clothing, my entire body goes numb within about five minutes.

Along with the cold, there has been snow and ice. When the cold has abated, the snow and ice have remained. It has been treacherous out there, and so I have only been willing to run outside at times when I can actually see where I’m going. Without the ability to see where I’m planting my foot, I run the risk of landing on my ass while anyone who happens to be nearby points and laughs. Since I only have time to run before work when it’s still dark, this has meant a long sentence of treadmill running.

This morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got onto the treadmill and decided on a hill training workout. Just fifteen minutes in, though, I’d had enough and I had to stop. It wasn’t that I was tired (I wasn’t). It wasn’t that my legs were sore (they weren’t). I was just out-and-out fed up with running on the treadmill.

Despite cutting my run short – something that did not sit well with my consciousness – I managed to make a decent workout out of the whole thing. I headed over to the weights section and pumped iron for a while.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has been months since I did a decent weights workout, and this morning convinced me that I should reinstate it in my regular routine. I liked feeling the burn in my muscles, that sensation that allows you to visualize the cells in your muscles knitting together and getting stronger.

Regular weight training will make me a better runner.

It won’t hurt when I want to look pretty on my wedding day, either!

Winter Trail Running

20 Feb

This morning, for the first time in weeks, I went running with my running club (it’s not my club in the sense that I own it, it’s my club in the sense that I’m a member). I have been kept away since early January by a combination of illness, kids’ hospital visits, and temperatures that would make Hell freeze over. I had been looking forward to this morning all week. I’ve missed my running buddies, and the support and companionship that comes with running in a group.

I woke up and turned on the TV to check the weather. -10 Celsius (about 14 Fahrenheit). OK, that’s cold, but it’s certainly a temperature that the runner in me can live with. According to the TV, there was a hefty wind chill, so I put on my windbreaker running pants and took along gloves, hat and lightweight running jacket that doesn’t add to warmth but is superb at blocking out the wind. I grabbed my water bottle and my post-run coffee money, and headed to the community centre.

There were three of us running today. There was Alan, a veteran marathoner who hadn’t run since November due to a nasty knee injury. There was me, who has only run intermittently for the last three months and has definitely fallen a bit out of shape. And there was Penny, who has religiously shown up for the runs every week, no matter what the weather was doing, and gone for the runs even on days when she was the only one to show up.

Alan and I both needed to take it slow as a result of being out of practice. Penny suggested a route that went along the lake and through the Rouge Valley park. It was about 7km and included a long hill – something that both Penny and I need, since we are registered for a very hilly race in early April. Alan and I agreed to the route, and off we went.

We started off well enough. The weather was perfect for running: crisp and cold, but no wind to speak of. We had a big thaw at the end of last week, so the ice on the sidewalks was almost all gone. Running along the lake, I marvelled at the scenic beauty. Not for the first time, I lamented the fact that I did not have my BlackBerry with me – I would really love to take some pictures of what I get to look at when I’m running on that trail. It is so beautiful along there that it almost makes me believe in God again.

While we were running along the lake, Alan decided to cut his run short. It was his first run after hurting his knee, and he didn’t want to push it. He took the next cutoff to the road that would take him back to the community centre, and Penny and I continued on our way.

It was lovely. The wind stayed down and the path was completely clear of ice, although we did have to dodge a couple of large trees that had blown down across the path during this weekend’s wind storm. I was running better than I had expected to. I was maintaining about 6:17 minutes per kilometre and I was feeling good.

Somewhere around the 4km mark, we left the lakeshore trail and cut into the park. And that’s where the fun really started.

Clearly the big thaw that we had on Thursday and Friday did not extend to the park. We crossed from the nice clear ice-free waterfront trail onto an uneven surface of solid ice, at least two inches thick. We gamely continued running, albeit at a slower pace, crisscrossing from one side of the path to the other in an attempt to find some traction. At one point, we had to slow all the way to a walk just to avoid landing on our asses.

We were heartened to see a lone runner bravely passing us, going the other way. At least we weren’t the only ones crazy enough to be running on a sheet of solid ice.

Finally we made it to the long, icy hill leading back up to the road. We ran up the slippery hill, with Penny several paces ahead of me. Somehow I maintained a run all the way to the top, and then the two of us paused for a moment to catch our breath. From this point it was only about a kilometre back to the community centre.

That last kilometre was all on the sidewalk. It was heavenly. Running on a clear flat surface made us appreciate just how hard our legs had had to work in order to get through 2 km of ice.

Back at the community centre, we agreed that it had been a good run. Tough, but good.

We totally deserved that post-run cup of coffee.

Tomorrow my legs and my core muscles will tell me what they think of all this.

From Lab Rat To Sunrises

11 Jan

I went for a run on the treadmill this morning.  This meant getting up at five when I hadn’t had enough sleep, and schlepping off to the gym down the road.  Yes, I do have my own treadmill at home, but I never use it.  Not since the day my son James, then three years old, put his hand on the belt while it was moving and chalked up a very painful visit to the ER.  The thing is pretty much used as a coat hanger these days.

Anyway, when I got to the gym, I was momentarily stymied by the sight of someone using the treadmill I always like to use, the one right by the window.  What was this?  Twenty treadmills free, just begging to be used, and he has to pick my one?  The fact that I don’t actually own the treadmill and that he has just as much right to use it as I do did not matter to me in the least.

I couldn’t exactly push him off, though, so I reluctantly chose another treadmill, entered the settings for a hill workout, and started running.  In the beginning, I thought I was in trouble.  My muscles felt way too tight to be running hills, and I tired quickly.  It only took a couple of minutes for me to find my groove, though, and I completed the workout (4.7km in about 26 minutes).

I enjoyed the run as much as I could under the circumstances.  I am not fond of treadmill running.  It always makes me feel a bit like a hamster, or a lab rat. But sometimes, especially in the dead of winter, I don’t have a choice.  I don’t mind running in the cold or the snow, and I have the attire for it.  But when there is actual ice on the sidewalks, that is another matter entirely.  I will run in icy conditions during the day, when I can scope out every step before I take it.  Not at five in the morning, when it is far too dark for me to see the sidewalk ahead of me.

I am really looking forward to the Spring.  I look forward to the weather getting warmer, and I look forward to the sun rising a little earlier each day.  I don’t look forward to the downpours of rain that are always a part of Spring, but they too are there to usher in the warmer, lighter days.

I love the middle of summer.  When everyone else is swooning and whining about the heat, I am thriving.  Of course, everyone else can get back at me in the winter, when I turn into a pathetic crybaby about the cold.  What can I say?  Even though I am now a Canadian and proud of it, I am from Africa.  I am a child of the sun.

In the summer, it is too hot to run during the middle of the day, but the beauty is that it gets light shortly after five in the morning.  If I can get out at just the right time, I can go out in perfect weather, and run while I watch the sunrise.  Most of the world is asleep at that time; I feel as if Mother Nature is putting on a show just for me.

The treadmill is OK.  I can live with it – in fact, I may even benefit from it – once a week.  But there is no feeling in the world like running on the open road.

Be sure to check out my post today on World Mom’s Blog, where I talk about how I coped with George’s autism diagnosis.