Saturday, June 27, 2009

9 Benefits of Green Tea

My love of Green Tea came shortly after becoming vegan but not because of it. I've always had issues with caffeine to the point of having palpitations and panic attacks but, I also love the wakening jolt that caffeine gives.
It's been several years since I've had any soft drinks containing caffeine and a few years since my coffee addiction ended. I was having a meal at what is now my favourite Thai restaurant, 7 Stars in Orangeville, and with each meal comes a pot of green tea. When told that it contained much less caffeine than coffee, half as much actually, and that it was good for you in many ways, I decided to give it a try. From that point forward, I haven't been able to put it down.
Here's a list of 9 reasons why drinking green tea is awesome for you:
  1. It lowers cholesterol levels.
  2. It improves HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio (this is good!).
  3. Inhibits growth of cancer cells.
  4. Is rich in polyphenols, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which are powerful anti-oxidants.
  5. Prevents tooth decay by killing bacteria (same principle prevents food poisoning by killing bacteria in the stomach).
  6. Helps burn calories.
  7. Just enough caffeine for the caffeine-intolerant (like me) to get 'high'! (40mg in a cup of GT compared to 85mg in a cup of coffee)
  8. Excess is good! This is not something that should be consumed in moderation. The more you drink, the more you benefit.
  9. Helps in balancing blood sugar levels.

If you haven't tried the stuff, pour yourself a mug today. You'll soon get past the bitterish taste and fall in love with this magic potion. Afterall, the stuff's been used for 4000 years in China and they are still the most populous people on the face of the earth!

Free Provincial Park Passes / Challenge Updates

I have, at my disposal, several free day passes for Ontario Provincial Parks that are valid until September 7, 2009. Although, I will use several this summer, I will have many left over. The passes are valid at any Ontario Provincial Park location (including Wasaga Beach!) and are sponsored by Honda Canada.

E-mail me or comment on the post and I'll mail out a pass (or 2) to you absolutely free!

Challenge updates: I'm at 104.5km on my virtual run to Montreal which puts me just past Port Perry, Ontario. It was a bit of a low mileage week because of a combination of reasons: back to playing hockey 3 nights a week, double header of ultimate frisbee on Wednesday night on the hottest night of the year so far, catching a cold from my youngest son...

My weight loss challenge is going quite well. I've already had a morning where my weight has touched to goal of 175 but I want to sustain that (or less) from now until the July 7 deadline. The above reasons for not putting much mileage on most likely helped to accelerate this challenge! Mostly, though, my success is through portion control, not eating after dinner and regular exercise.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Trail Etiquette - My 6 Guidelines

On Saturday, I had an excellent double workout - 18km running and 45km on the bike. The workout took place on the Cataract - Elora rail trail just south of Orangeville. The 18km was an out and back from my starting point at Mississauga road, looping around the town of Erin and looping around the town of Cataract at the end. My bike ride was from the same starting point, through Erin, Hillsburgh and Orton, turning back at the Orangeville-Fergus highway. It rained most of the time and the trail was soft because of it but I didn't mind because that and the early start meant that I would have the trail to myself. Well, almost...
Inside the townsite of Erin, while on my run portion, I approached a group of 4 women who were walking (waddling - yes, mean but true) with 4 unleashed dogs. I was running toward them and they had a good 400-500 metres to take notice that I was coming up to them. At no point did they attempt to leash their dogs. As I drew closer, I could tell that two of the dogs were still in their undisciplined youth.
When I was within 20-30 metres, one of the dogs charged at me - playfully, of course, but still... As I passed the group, not one even acknowledged my presence. Not one even apologized or gave the typical "Oh, he's just playing - he loves people - he doesn't bite".
After looping around Erin and heading back on the trail (20 minutes, give or take), I found the same group no more than 100 metres up the trail. As I approached this time, I was really not shocked to find fresh dog shit in the middle of the trail and I nice fresh hole about a foot wide also smack dab in the middle of the trail.
Luckily, as I came closer, they decided that it was time to leave the trail, cut across the school field and go back to their homes.
This event is becoming less and less uncommon and it made me think of how people should behave on these multi-use trails that are for everyone to enjoy. These are the common sense guidelines I came up with:
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Yes, you have left the rat race, but you are still on a highway of sorts - a pedestrian highway. If you simply want to escape body and mind, head to an open field and escape all you want. Simply keep your ears and eyes open and respect others around you.
  • Please, please, please keep your dogs on a leash when others are approaching. I know your dog is friendly because they all are. I love dogs and do not fear them, however, there are people out there that are petrified of them and you are causing them undue stress by letting your pooch intimidate them. Besides, a sudden radical move by your dog can cause a runner to pull a muscle or a cyclist to leave the trail.
  • It is not necessary to walk with others with what seems to be a desire to cover the whole width of the trail. Pretend that you are indeed on a pedestrian highway and keep to the right. Why do you want to be so far away from your friend or spouse or family member anyway?
  • Be kind to those you are approaching from behind and give them some kind of warning. A simple "On your right" or "On your left" will go a long way toward not scaring the living shit out of someone and/or causing a collision.
  • I don't believe you have to stoop and scoop on a trail. However, if your dog shits in the middle of the trail, take a stick or rock and flick the do-do to the side. Mother nature will take care of the rest. And, for god sakes, you are not doing anything for the environment by scooping up the crap in a plastic bag and hanging it from a tree branch at the side of the trail! (Yes, I do see this all the time!)
  • Don't litter. Duh! That includes all you smokers who for some reason believe that a cigarette filter is the one exception to all the littering rules.

That's it! That's all we need to do in order to make trail use an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kensington Market - The Vegan Mecca

I grew up 200km away from Toronto, in the city of London. My first trip to Toronto didn't happen until I was 19. It took 21 more years until I discovered Kensington Market.
Until this spring, whenever I heard the word Kensington, I thought of a cheesy 1970's Canadian television show called 'King of Kensington' starring Al Waxman. Until this spring, I'd been close enough to touch this lovely little neighbourhood many, many times without the slightest idea it was even there.
This little neigbourhood in the heart of the city is bounded by Dundas, Spadina, Bathurst and College with the lively section being from Augusta Ave. east to Spadina where it merges with Chinatown.
The area is packed full of shops selling retro clothing, artistic wares, hemp products, hawaiian shirts (!!! - the best selection I've ever seen - !!!), and of course, vegan food products. The restaurants form a little United Nations with cuisine from around the world. Some restaurants serve only vegan food - the rest have vegan food on the menu.
The area, of course, is more than a group of buildings housing shops, grocers and restaurants. Kensington is an atmosphere not found anywhere else. Everyone is marching to a different drummer yet they are all in harmony. It is an atmosphere that has to truly be experienced to be understood.
My suggestion is to start on Spadina and don't rush through the frantic market area of Chinatown. The selection of exotic and unheard of fruits and vegetables here is amazing. Do your best to ignore the murdered pigs and chickens that hang from numerous windows and make your way to St. Andrew St. and meander westward into the market area. At this point, let your senses guide you through the amazing place called Kensington.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Race Report: Toronto Pearson Runway Run 5km

Well, my goal for the race, as set out in my last post, was beaten easily. I wanted to break 25 minutes and I finished with a chip time of 24:12. No, not Olympic class, but it's the fastest I've run a race in this millenium. Last year's time for the same race was 27:27. I did a lot of reading on 5km strategy leading up to the race and it became pretty apparent that a 5km is nothing more than a sustained sprint. I didn't let up from the opening and, despite not having a massive kick at the end, was able to maintain my pace throughout the race.

As for the event, good and bad. I want to clarify that I'm well aware that these events are charity driven and are mostly run by volunteers. Now that I've got that out of the way, I do have some criticism of the event, but not much. Here are my good and bad points:

  1. The staging area before and after the race was moved from last year's location, from an outdoor parking lot to an indoor warehouse (probably due to last year's threatening thunder storms). This was not a bad thing and the spectator area was closer to the runway and not hindered by a fence.

  2. The walk from the parking area to the staging area was very congested. I know - cry me a river...

  3. Lack of washroom facilities!!! There seemed to be at least twice the number of participants this year but the number of port-a-poddies was cut in half. There were a number of nervous runners, including myself, that thought they were going to miss the start of the race, while standing in line. This might seem petty to those who don't run, but for those who do, you will understand that the worst feeling in the world is running with anywhere close to full bladder. Unfortunately, there was not an abundance of trees or concealed alleys to use, like in most other races. Besides, it's the airport - god knows how many cameras are watching you at any given time.

  4. Very few sponsors with booths set up this year. Some people would like that. I actually enjoy browsing around stuff I'll never buy...

  5. The A18 fly-by at the start of the race was awesome! I was kind of worried that we'd all miss the start because we were too busy watching the low-flying fighter jet, but no, we were able to soak in the awe of this rediculously fast jet.

  6. The width of the runway means you never, ever, never will be boxed in - this is awesome when there are teams competing because they sometimes tend to run side by side, blocking the whole route.

Overall, this is a great, unique event and the volunteers did a great job as usual. My wish is that there would be a little more air traffic on Saturday mornings, especially the bigger planes.

So, with what I stated in my last post, I guess I'll start looking around for some more 5k's and 10k's since I broke 25. Also, I'm going to make interval workouts a little more regular to work on speed and leg strength.

Challenge update: Weight is at 181 after weekend festivities still way ahead of plan. After an additional 15.25km on sunday, I'm up to 63km which puts me past Newmarket at the intersection of Davis Drive and Kennedy Road.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pearson Runway Run Prediction

It's Thursday night, 2 nights before the Toronto Pearson Airport 5km Runway Run. As I've mentioned in a previous post, this is an awesome, unique race as you run 5km on one of the busiest airport runways in the world (the do divert flights to other runways for the morning!). I am a plane fanatic (mostly because I always want to be on one traveling somewhere new and exciting), so it's a little tough to focus since the runway right next to the one the race is one is quite busy with take-offs and landings.

This is, however, a great course to put in a real decent time. The course is obviously flat. It is basically an out and back of the runway. The final leg is from west to east, normally with the prevailing winds at your back. I have not aspirations of a real PR - those days are 20 years gone now. However, I would really like to crack the 25 minute mark (a modern day PR...).

If I do crack the 25 minute mark, I will reconsider my refusal to enter anymore 5 or 10's this year. I've decided to take tonight off and had already planned to take off Friday night. My hamstrings were a little crabby after last night's full sched of ultimate frisbee, hockey and a 6.2km run. I did get a good weights workout in tonight and I would like to get one in tomorrow night, as well.

Regardless, Saturday should prove to be a fulfilling day with the 5km, a Toronto Bluejays game at 1pm with family, and a visit to Wooffest at St.Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.

Challenge updates: No new mileage to report but I weighed in at 180 this morning - half way to my goal after only 4 days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ultimate Frisbee / Challenge Update

Tonight marked the last regular season game for my first season ever playing ultimate frisbee. I would recommend this sport to any runner looking to spice up his or her speedwork.

The version we played here in Orangeville, through Active Diversions, is played on a grass field which I estimate at the size of an olympic size hockey surface (since I play Wednesday nights on an olympic size rink, I think my estimate is pretty accurate). There are 6 players per side and we played that there must be at least 2 women per side on the field at all times. The game is pretty simple - each team lines up on their respective goal lines and one team throws the frisbee down field for the other team to pick up.

You work your way down the field, passing from player to player. Once you've received a pass, you are frozen on the field until you've passed off the frisbee. If the frisbee hits the ground or is knocked down or caught by the other team, it is turned over and the other team has a chance to score. If the frisbee is caught in the endzone, it is worth one point and the whole lining up on the goal line thing happens all over again.

The game consists of a 15 minute warmup and 45 minutes of straight playtime. The game is absolutely non-contact, making it a great workout without risk of serious injury. Basically, it is a 45 minute interval workout. I have markedly noticed an improvement in my speed and endurance since starting 2 months ago.

Challenge Updates:

I am at kilometre 43 of 615 on the virtual journey to the start line in Montreal. According to, that puts me right at hwy. 9 and hwy. 400. I put in a junk 6.2 tonight after hockey to help the cause. Go to original post.

On day 3 of my lose 10 lbs in 1 month challenge, I weighed in at 181 - just 6 lbs to go... My main focus has been on not eating after dinner and pumping up my workouts by adding weight and new exercises. Go to original post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Swam The Amazon

Martin Strel is by no means a vegan. For the most part he seems to be a total carnivore. However, he has consistently pushed his body to the limits and beyond and for that, I admire him.

The book, The Man Who Swam The Amazon, is a narration of Martin's journey from the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru to its gaping mouth 3274 miles later at the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. The narrator is Matthew Mohlke, himself a world class long-distance paddler, who joins Strel's support team for the 3rd time (the 2 others being his swim of the ParanĂ¡ and the Mississippi).

Mohlke presents the journey in a day to day diary format. It's not just about the swimming, though. Mohlke offers raw insight into life pressed together with dozens of strangers in a boat for two months in the lawless, wild, hot, sticky, strange and disease ridden area of the world called the Amazon. From Strel's gruff, no bullshit attitude to raging cases of diarrhea to a lawless world ruled by pirates, Mohlke leaves all of Strel's record breaking swim on the 208 pages.

If you've ever craved adventure and have dreamed of pushing your body to it's limits, just to see if you can, this is a must-read book. You can find more information at the official website or get the book at the usual suspects (Amazon, Chapters, etc...).

If you would like the book for free -be the first to comment on this post and I will ship you my one and only copy absolutely free! I don't believe in throwing away books and the 10 cents it would fetch at a yard sale just isn't worth my while.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Personal Challenge: Lose 10 Pound in 1 Month

Since becoming Vegan, my weight dropped significantly in the first few weeks, from 195 to 185, then like clockwork has stayed at exactly 185 since. I would be happy staying at 185 but would be even happier at 175. It is an arbitrary number, I know, but back in the days when I last weighed around 175, my athletic performance was much, much better.

So here's the challenge: Today is Sunday, June 7, 2009. I weighed in this morning at 183 but I was fairly dehydrated due to weekend celebrating so we'll call it 185. By July 7, 2009, I will tip the scales at 175. The weight I will go by, and have always gone by, is the measurement first thing in the morning, after my bathroom break but before any fluids or food intake (I've always called it the GMW or gross morning weight - not really sure why, but it's catchy...). This is the most consistent time of day to take the measurement.

I've given the when, now I will get into the why and how of my challenge.

  • to help achieve lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • to look good and feel more self-confident (face it, that's one of the big reasons we all do it!)
  • to run faster and longer
  • to skate faster with less effort
  • to reduce stress on my knees, hamstrings, calf muscles, etc. (aka. injury reduction)
  • to live longer
  • to prove to others that it can be done
  • to be a positive influence on those around me


  • No sugar drinks
  • No junk (chocolate bars, chips, fast food - not that I partake in that poison much anyway)
  • Drink more than the recommended 64 ounces of water per day. I use a 26 ounce water bottle which means I only need to drink 2.5 of those. I drink a full one and some at breakfast, one full one while I work out and close to a full one before bed. Added to that are about 5-8 mugs of green tea per day.
  • NO SNACKING BETWEEN DINNER AND BEDTIME! This is my nemesis and always has been. I believe, somewhere deep in my brain, there is this very small voice that says I will not survive the night unless I eat before bed. Whenever I've been successful at weight loss in the past, not eating after dinner has been the single biggest key to my success.
  • Eat breakfast. I most always have my seeds, nuts, fruit and veggies that I constantly snack on from the word 'go' while at work - I call this breakfast!
  • Daily exercise (duh!). Weights and running every day sure helps to keep the metabolism fired up.
  • Deep-breathing - Tony Robbins style! For the full scoop on this, read Tony's book, Unlimited Power (you don't need to buy it - I'm not getting paid to advertise for Tony! - this book is available in all libraries to borrow for free).
  • Portion control!!! One of my other issues - I believe the same little voice controls this one. I'm certain that I'll run out of fuel or have low blood sugar problems, so I often reach for the second plate of stir-fried curried veggies. It doesn't help that I'm such a damn good cook!
  • Keep busy. Idle time is hungry time. We eat out of boredom. I'm sure we've all experienced those days where there's nothing going on at work and by 9am your stomach and brain are already wishing it was noon. This makes for the most excruciating 3 hours and often leads to a 11am lunch! We've also all experienced the days when your lineup is full and when you finally get a break around 2pm, you're not ravaged by hunger at all.
  • Share your challenge! By posting this challenge on this blog, I have fortified my commitment.

I'll keep you updated on my progress. Of course, I could be making all this up for all you know! You will have to trust my honesty and sincerity. Either way, whether the challenge is a success or just a partial success, the results I post will be the honest truth (give or take a pound!).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Virtual Run to Montreal

I'm a little disappointed with the mileage I've put in this year, so far. I've decided to challenge myself with a goal of 614.84km before September 13, 2009. This is the distance from my front door to the starting line of the Oasis de Montreal half-marathon which, of course, takes place on September 13.

I've used RunningAHEAD's online software to arrive at the route. I've used RunningAHEAD for over a year now, and I find it to be a great on-line exercise log and route planner. The site now uses GPS so that all I needed to do was click on the map at my house in Orangeville, then move on over to Montreal and click on the start line on the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec aren't very exciting when it comes to route options, unfortunately. You can either take highway 7 or highway 401 - that's it. The software basically chooses the hwy. 7 route with some minor tweaks. It's the shorter distance compared to the 401 and, in reality, pedestrians aren't allowed on the 401 'super highway' anyway.

I'm starting my challenge as of June 1, 2009. I've already put in 10.8km, which puts me a whole 10.8km outside of Orangeville, somewhere on highway 9...

With hockey down to 1 night per week for the summer and the weather continuing to be unseasonable cool, I should be able to achieve this with no problems. I will update my progress at the end of each post.