Tag Archives: Hamilton

Tips For An Icy Dicey Winter Walk

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The weather this winter has not been friendly for athletic training here in southern Ontario. In January we had very cold weather with negative double digits (Celsius) temperature and windchill.  In February, we have had a few days with snow followed by a couple of warmer days to melt some of it, and the ground re-freezes again. This has made the roads icy and slippery. However, this does not deter those of us who prefer to exercise outdoors. There is nothing that can match the fresh air when you exercise in the open. It is only when it is absolutely necessary that I would get onto my treadmill or elliptical machine and plod away watching the Food Network, which is my only incentive to exercise at home.

As my coach has said, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” How to equip oneself for a training walk on an icy dicey day is an important lesson to learn.

1.  When it is icy, the prerogative is safety, and this means making sure that you don’t slip and fall. A walking buddy who fell earlier this year and sustained multiple fracture on her humerus was too sad a reminder that we must not take safety for granted. The essential equipment: Tracks.

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For me, walking with tracks is analogous to driving with snow tires. They give me better traction and holding to reduce the risk of slipping or skidding. I have two pairs of tracks. I just put one on each of my shoes for this photo illustration. The one on the left has wires and it provides very firm footing. However, the downside is that it is also harder on the feet especially on asphalt or cement when there is not enough snow on the surface. I use this pair only on the day after a snow storm and before the plows are out. The one of the right has spikes and they are kinder to the feet on landing. I have been wearing them for many winter walks.

A word about my shoes too. They are trail shoes that have deeper grooves. I find them good for winter walking even when I am not on the trails. They are slightly heavier than my other all season training shoes and racing shoes and higher on the heels, yet for long winter walks, they provide me  with safety.

2. I need to protect my face when I walk outdoors. The biting wind and wind chills can take a lot of pleasure away even when I  have dressed appropriately. First I put some Vaseline or Shea butter (any cream as long as it is not water-based) on my face. Then my hat and my face mask. The is how I look when I go out—looking like a Ninja or a bank robber. I do not put my sun glasses on to remain incognito. The glasses or goggles are good to shield the glare of the winter sun or the wind that makes the eyes watery.

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Besides my balaclava, I also have two other pieces of face covering.

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The neck scarf is like a tube that I can pull up or down as desired to cover my mouth and nose and it is versatile for the slightly warmer days. However, the down side with any face covering that goes over the nose is that my glasses will fog up easily. The solution is the face mask with a nose beak and perforations around the mouth area.

3. When it comes to clothing, layering is the key. Technical fabrics air better and when I am out for a work out walk, I do not want to overheat and trap the heat inside my clothing. I can survive the cold without a down jacket when I train.

4. In the summer, I freeze my drinks before taking them out. In winter, I make it warm or hot. Don’t be surprised to find your water or sports drinks turn into slush. It has happened to me when the walk is longer than three hours. Even though it seems unnecessary to replenish water in winter training, the body may exert more without our knowing, because it has to work hard to balance the body such that it does not fall.

5.  Always aim for safety rather than speed when training on an icy, snowy day. You cannot tell what lies under the snow. Adjust your speed according to the condition of the road surface and footing. Although you are walking slower, the amount of energy output during winter training does not alter much from normal training, because the body is working harder. This is good to know if you are counting energy output or calories.

6. Taking smaller or shorter steps also helps to reduce the risk of slipping, and still keep to good walking form. You may need to look down more, but do not bend your head down, because it tilts your balance.

7. The muscles become stiff easily in winter training. Make sure you do a good stretch afterwards.

8. You are one brave soul and should be very pride of yourself for completing your outdoor training in winter. Do not forget to reward yourself. I become hungry faster on an icy walking day. What’s waiting for me and my walking buddies after the distance walk (usually 14 to 18 Km) is breakfast at our favourite haunt near the university in Hamilton. The Pancake House serves decent breakfasts and it is frequented by the local athletic community on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

1-IMG_0524 I rewarded myself the other day with a ham and eggs breakfast. I ordered sunny side up (normally I ask for poached eggs) and home fries (my rare treat, for otherwise I only have tomatoes). The extra dessert was a chocolate coffee rice crispy brought in by a friend. Well, I exercised on an icy, dicey morning; therefore I could indulge.

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8. Finally, the pleasure of walking outdoor is to enjoy the scenery around us. The same route can look different with the variation of the weather and the seasons. Hamilton Harbour welcomed me on this icy wintry walking day.

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Cemeteries As My Walking Theme

The moment I set foot on my Saturday walk, which is on the same route for the third consecutive week but with an increase of two kilometres per week for race training,  I  get an idea what to write about. My personal walking theme this week is Cemeteries.

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Our walks in Hamilton and Dundas Ontario have often taken us near or through cemeteries. Depending on the weather and our moods, we sometime do not pay much attention to them and yet sometimes, we slow down our pace and peruse the engravings on the tombstones, and have picked out something interesting about the history of the place. Invariably we sense the serenity inside the cemetery grounds and we instinctively lower our voices if we are chatting so as not to  disturb the peace.

The first cemetery we walk pass this morning is the Hamilton Cemetery on York Boulevard, opposite to Dundurn Castle. The tombstone in the shape of a cube balancing on its corner always draws my attention. This morning it stands out even more with the carpet of white snow on the ground. My minds takes me back to several years ago when I power-walked the Around The Bay Road Race (30 Km). When I reached this location, I was being greeted by the legendary grim reaper who towered over me urging me to get on with it in a voice that I cannot forget. This cemetery is near the end of the race and the finishing landmark, the Copps Coliseum, is only a couple of  kilometres away. This morning we start out by retracing the route backwards. Instead of feeling close to exhaustion during my race, my body feels ready to embark on my walk today.

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Down Valley Inn Trail and we are walking uphill along Spring Garden Road with the Woodland Cemetery on our right. The winter sun is beckoning to us, and the mist which still lingers around casts an ethereal touch over the cemetery grounds.

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The cemetery is also a landmark for athletes taking part in Around The Bay Road Race, because it is the 25 Km point. I remember the year when I did the race, a person was dressed up sitting there to offer hugs and handshakes to the athletes before they tackle the final hill on the course.

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We walk by the Bayview Cemetery, and the next cemetery to come in sight is the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery with its expansive grounds. Although it is not part of the route of the Road Race, it is often used by athletes during their training to avoid the busy traffic on Plains Road West.

As I walk along the footpath with the graves only few feet from me, I cannot but feel the proximity between the living and the dead. There is nothing eerie or ghoulish about my surrounding. It is just the sense that we are all living through the passage of time, and at some point, the living phase draws to a close and our bodies will rest in the grounds. Rather than mourning the ephemeral nature of life, I feel comforted by the infinity of our existence in forms yet unknown to me. The wreathes and the flowers lying by the graves brightens the grey tombstones. There is a section for the burial of children. There are colourful toys and ribbons and garlands placed by the graves. The wall for the urns facing the sun signals a new day to both the living and the dead. The celebration of life and the mourning of the past co-exist with each other. I am lost in thought, or perhaps in unity with the universe.

I am awakened to the fact that life is going on, because in front of me is the infamous “heartbreak hill” of the training route. We have already turned around at the cemetery and are now heading back. I have written before about walking as a metaphor of life. Walking uphill and downhill is part of the a walker’s trials and tribulations.  My friend MW must have noticed those moments when I am wrapped in thoughts and she has taken a picture of me climbing the hill…

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and reminiscing about life when I have reached the top.

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Walking On A Spring Day In Mid-Winter

I enjoy walking outdoors in most weather, but deep down I am not a winter person. With the weather forecast predicting record-breaking double-digit (Centigrade) temperature, I made sure I woke up early to join my walking group this morning. What a difference it was from our winter training walk last week.

The road was clear of snow and there were but few icy patches. The training route was aimed to prepare for the Around the Bay (Hamilton Bay, Ontario) Road Race and we headed along York Boulevard, crossing the T. B. McQuesten Bridge to walk down Valley Inn Road. The foot bridge that was covered in snow only a week ago had a totally different look!

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The ice of the harbour had melted.

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I took a photo of the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens last week, and that was how it looked this morning. January thaw did its job.

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More people came out for training, and some runners were wearing shorts. Who would want to waste this beautiful spring-like day hibernating at home?

When we looped back, the tide had ebbed further exposing the muddy bottom of the bay.

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At a distance, the towers of McQuesten Bridge rose from the horizon. One uphill and we were back into the historical part of Hamilton—Dundurn Castle and its East Tower with bird houses on the roof.

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In this pleasant weather, we walked the same distance as the previous week but we took ten minutes off our time and this meant we headed out earlier to reward ourselves with a breakfast in town.

Winter Training: Bring It On!

I went for my first weekend walk this year with my walking group. The walk also marked the beginning of the winter training season in preparation for races upcoming in the spring. We chose to train on part of the route of the Around the Bay, a 30 Km race around the Hamilton Bay. (This race has a long history, which is older than Boston.) Our walk included walking up and down two most challenging hills and also the most scenic sections in the grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens.

In spite of the cold outdoor temperature, the sun had come out. Many runners and walkers were out training too, and it was always nice to meet some familiar faces.

Another familiar sight of winter training was the snow. The paved roads were normally salted or plowed, as in the section near the Royal Botanical Garden car park. However, by the time we came to the foot bridge, which was closed to traffic, a good 150 metres was snow-covered and icy underneath.

It was beautiful nonetheless. On one side was the frozen Hamilton Bay.

On the opposite side was the trail of the Garden.

We made our way up the “killer” hill as it was generally known to the athletes and we looked back down at the CN rail beneath.

It was an invigorating 12 Km walk and a great way to comply with my 2013 walking resolution. This year, I have committed to the 2013 Walking Challenge recommended by my walking coach and this is to walk 2013  minutes each month.

Cheer Leading At The Boxing Day 10-Miler, Hamilton

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Who would like to participate in a race on Boxing Day?  There were over 800 runners and walkers out there in Hamilton, Ontario to take part in the Boxing Day 10-Miler, organized by the Harriers. Races in Hamilton had a long history, and this race was in its 92nd year. Three Olympic runners also signed up for this race.  I had chosen to  support my running and walking friends, including my husband by cheering in the race, and I could enjoy the race from a different perspective.

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It had snowed the night before, and the temperature was minus 1 degree Centigrade when the race started. There was a head wind giving a wind chill of minus 10 degrees Centigrade. The Start Line was on Hunter Street, next to the GO Station. The organizers were supportive of a walking division and gave the walkers a half-hour early start.

After seeing my husband and other power walkers off, I walked down to Bay Street in the city centre, bought myself a coffee and waited for the runners to come by. The police cruiser led the way for the front pack who took off way ahead of the others.

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The route was familiar to me since my walking buddies and I often trained on this route. At the end of Bay Street, the race course turned into the trail along the Lake to Princess Point. The racers would go up a hill of 500 metres (Longwood Drive), went through Westdale and turned up another hill at the Chedoke Golf Course to walk along the Niagara Escarpment  (I took this photo during our training walk last week.)

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After cheering the runners past, I walked back towards the Finish Line. What a change of weather we had, and this morning, the streets were wet and slippery. I took a picture from the bottom of the hill–up there in the background was the trail on the Escarpment and the racers would come down this hill, knowing that they were close to the finish, because literally, it’s all downhill from here.

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The route passed the back of the Hamilton City Hall.

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Further downhill and the GO station came into sight.

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Around the corner was the Finish Line, and there I was fortunate enough to get this candid shot of the snow plow clearing a path to lead to the Finish.

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I was well in time to see the first runner come in and it was a strong finish of 51:42, given the not so favourable climate and route today. Look at the awesome form the athlete maintained at the end of the race:

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I waited for my husband and my friends to come in, and we all enjoyed the generous treat of hot soup, fruits and cup cakes inside the YMCA building.

The finishers were awarded a snowman medal (so cute!), and there were really nice souvenirs available for the race this year. All the people I cheered on enjoyed the race in spite of the weather. Maybe I should contemplate walking it next year.

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Walking on Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice arrived in Canada on Friday, December 21 at 6:10 a.m EST this year. Snow was in the forecast, but when I woke up this morning, the ground was only slightly wet from last night’s rain. I had planned for a walk before the poor weather set in.  It was a cool morning and still dark when I headed out.  When I arrived at Princess Point of Cootes Paradise in Hamilton, the first winter sun was beginning to rise.

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I had not walked on this trail for a while and one thing that I distinctly noticed was a much bigger beaver dam. This was a feature I noticed earlier in the year on the Desjardins Recreation Trail. It was evident that the beaver and its family were not only around, but were making their home bigger with the unfortunate result of damaging the vegetation on the trail.

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As I continued on, I was surprised to see the ducks still out. Like me, they were probably taking advantage of the weather to have another workout before winter set in. I guess on my next walk, the water will be frozen.

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My walk this morning took me to Hamilton Yacht Club, and this was where I turned around.

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I have felt refreshed after my walk and both body and mind are ready to enjoy Christmas with its festivities and socialization. I often feel hopeful on the day of Winter Solstice. Tonight will be the longest night. After tonight, the day will begin to get shorter and this is certainly worth looking forward to.

The Amazing Trail “Loop”

The subtitle of this post is “The Interconnections of Hamilton’s Trails “. I walked about 13K with my group this recent weekend, and we went through the most varied of terrain and scenery, and above all, we remained relatively close to the city without feeling its presence; well, for the most part.

The last time I walked on the Chedoke Radial Trail, I turned towards Hillcrest Avenue. This time I walked on the escarpment towards Scenic Dirve.

This section of the trail passed through a wooded section, which then opened up to the view of the city of Hamilton. On the other side, the trail offered the rugged rock face of the escarpment.

We walked on the new Bailey Bridge at Chekode Fall, now  longer, wider and stronger to withstand the eroding of the escarpment and the instability of the water course it crossed. This bridge was opened in January, 2012.

The Chedoke Radial Trail also belonged to the main Bruce Trail. We had a choice of staying on the main trail all the way to the Scenic Drive Side Trail or take the Iroquoia Height Side Trail to get to the same point. We continued on the main trail and crossed another bridge over Hwy 403.

This probably was the least attractive part of the trail which paralleled the highway alongside its noise barrier.

The main Bruce Trail then led to the Filman Side Trail, which offered a more hllly and rugged terrain until it came out onto Wilson Street.

We walked along Wilson Street (which joined Main Street) and took a flight of stairs to the the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail.

From here, we headed towards Hamilton using the Ewen Road entrance.  We continued on the new extension of the Rail Trail. This was a 2.25 K  paved trail which passed the rail yard and ending at the residential area bordering the Chekdoke Golf Course. It was opened in 2011 and formed part of the Canadian Pacific Link.

We rejoined the road where we walked uphill to the golf course earlier and headed back to Westdale, our usual starting point. When I downloaded my walking data from my Garmin, I realized that we had completed an amazing loop by connecting several trails that ran through the city!

Two Trails in a Day

I had not done so much walking in a day for a while–20K combined– and it was wonderful to be walking on two different trails with very different scenery around me.

My regular Saturday walk group decided to go up the Chedoke Golf Course from Aberdeen Avenue and we walked on part of the Chedoke Radial Trail. The grass of the golf course looked like it desperately needed more rain to make it green.

The golf carts were waiting for the golfers who were as early as we were on the beautiful Saturday morning.

At the base of the stairs which could lead up to Scenic Drive, we followed the direction towards the Hillcrest entrance, and continued on passing the stairs at the top of Dundurn Road.

Essentially we were following the course of the popular local race, the Boxing Day 10-miler. The only difference was that we started at the Golf Course, walked to the Hamilton Waterfront Park and finished at Longwood Road in Westdale. On a beautiful day like this, it is hard to imagine the trail covered in snow in December with runners and walkers racing up the hill, across the trail and down the mountain to the finish line at James Street.

My mileage clock did not stop there. Later in the afternoon, my husband and I were invited by our friend to walk the David J. Culham Trail in Mississauga. We entered the trail near Credit Pointe. The trail was paved and shaded. We soon found ourselves following the Credit River and we caught sight of a group learning to kayak.

Oops, there was one getting into trouble there!

As we continued, we came to a flour mill. Reading the signs, we realized that this is an area in Mississauga rich in the city’s history.

According to this sign, this trail could be dated really way back.

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our friends showed us the spot where salmons would swim upstream in the Fall to lay their eggs. I want to come back later in the year for the amazing spectacle.

We only covered a little over 3K of this trail in our short walk. Given that the entire trail is over 27K, I am sure I’ll be back for more.