Tuesday 15 November 2011

I'm not dead!

Hey friends...

I'm still around! Sorry for the long delay between posts - I'm not dead, but I figured I'd give you a quick update before a longer one.

Basically, I broke my ankle back in May and it's only now starting to heal enough to run long distances.
That, coupled with my family finally moving to Manitoba, and my runs happening every morning at 6 am, is making it tough for me to do the right thing, and keep this blog updated.

Stick with me - I swear... some bigger updates are on their way.
I did my first 90 minute run since my ankle healed this last weekend... so yup, time for an update.

Take care, and I'm still Peglegged!

Sunday 29 May 2011

May 28 - Wellington Crescent, Assiniboine Park & Academy Road

I'm going to run in the Manitoba Marathon on June 17 - or at least, I hope I can. My idea with this May 28th run was to amp up my distance and speed, and get a few long distance runs in before the 21K half marathon in 3 weeks.
After this run, I'm hoping to just be able to walk by the end of this week.

May 28 - River Valley Run

I have to thank Jared McKetiak (of the mighty UMFM) for the suggestion of this run. On one of the previous blog posts, he recommended I run onto the Wellington Crescent's run path, a running path between two one way streets that take you all the way to the Zoo in Assiniboine park.
So, off I went on an overcast Saturday morning.

I have to say, the run felt great. With my wife in town house hunting the previous weekend, I wanted to dedicate all my time to a nine-month pregnant lady, instead of my running. Yeah I know - I've grown soft. I had done a couple treadmill sessions in the week leading up to the run, as weather in the Peg had become pretty rainy.
Off I went on a pretty good clip through Wolseley, over the bridge and right onto Wellington Crescent. Speaking of house hunting, this area of town is a neighbourhood my wife and I can't afford - that's for sure.
Mansions. Like, HUGE Mansions all the way along this trail, until the river eventually turns south, and into North River Heights.

Westminster Crescent path

If anything, this area made me miss Edmonton's river valley. While definitely not as close to the water, or hilly as Edmonton's trails - this run was just as littered with joggers out to enjoy a run by the river.

Assiniboine River bend

The trail then continues under the tracks, where I spotted another of Winnipeg's favourite things - murals. This zoo mural is a bizarre gibbon about to attack a cricket player. Umm - ok.


Also, a great little subtle art piece by the bridge was a dozen or so shoes thrown up on a line - but painted yellow, white or red.

Art Shoes.

Past the bridge and into more trails, I couldn't help but think the break from running really helped me. I felt super confident that even though I was almost 8Km in, I had plenty of juice left in the tank. Best not to super overdo it, so I hit the gates, and turned around.

Gateway to the Park

I headed back, this time over to Academy road, past the Jewish Community College on Tuxedo. It's little things like this that endear me to Winnipeg - huge Jewish population, French, Metis, Phillipino, and on and on. This city feels very culturally diverse, regardless of it's population being less than a million.

Academy Road

Down Academy Road, through River Heights was a nice Saturday jaunt - with tons of families, seniors and regular folks out shopping for flowers, produce or coffee along the way. Winnipeg has really done it right - neighborhoods and small businesses living respectfully in close proximity. Edmonton always felt like it had to have shops in one part of town, and homes in another. Maybe it's Winnipeg's relative age - but the way the residential and commercial real estate seem to co-exist is really refreshing.
I headed back up the bridge into Wolseley, switched over from the end of the Sklarboro Country podcast (HENDERSON!) to some music to quicken my pace. I was at an hour and 15 minutes by 15K - easily my best time ever, and I had plenty left in the tank. I felt great.
If this was an indication, I was going to slay at the half marathon in 3 weeks.

Then it happened.
I fell.

I fell bad.

If some of you out there don't know, I only have one eye. I'll save you the gruesome story of the hockey accident that blinded me for another time, but safe to say - my depth perception isn't very good. I'm no good swinging a hammer straight, hitting a baseball anymore, and in this case, judging the edge of the sidewalk coming around a corner.

Basically, my left foot missed the edge of the sidewalk and rolled off into the grass. The rest of my body tumbled, with my right hand and right knee taking the full force of all six foot, five inches, 240 pounds of me being thrown down by mass, acceleration and gravity, onto the hard concrete.

My first thought was, "SHIT! I'M NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO RACE IN A FEW WEEKS!" But when I rolled myself over, I saw it might be a bit more than a race I'll need to worry about.
I got up and tried to walk it off but my left ankle felt like it had ballooned inside my shoe. My right knee was also bashed and bruised, and my hands were both bleeding from road rash trying to absorb my fall. The final ten block walk back was probably the hardest of my life, as the adrenaline of the run wore off, the pain set in. I arrived back at the lobby of my apartment to have a couple of painters take a look at me and say "Dude. You ok? You're bleeding."

That's my ankle.
That's my hand.
That's my knee.

Anyways, I hope I heal from this, but likely my running for the next week or so, is on the shelf. I'll make sure to update everyone to say if I'm in or out of the Manitoba half.
I sure hope I'm in.

May 28
Ipod: Sklarboro Country Podcast with Nate Corddry

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Temperature: +15C
Distance 16.1Km
Time: 1 hr 35 mins (last 1 km was walked/ hobbled)

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Mini-video blog #1 - A walk up Furby

Here's a little mini-video blog.

The walk from Portage, up Furby street to Ellice Ave, and into the West End Cultural Centre.
Thanks to Dom & Jared for some of the info on this walk through Winnipeg.

Monday 16 May 2011

Saturday, May 14 - Old St. Vital/ South Osbourne

I'm still looking for a place to live. Have I mentioned that in these blogs?
Well - I probably should. I still am homeless in Winnipeg. Homeless not in the sense that I have don't anywhere to sleep (I'm staying with a friend of my mom's), but homeless in the sense that I don't have a place to put my stuff, and my family by my side.

I'm now into my 5th month living in Winnipeg without my wife and kids. This running blog has always subconsciously been about me exploring and getting a feel for specific neighborhoods. I'm madly in love with Wolseley, love parts of the West End, Crescentwood, and South Osbourne.
I ran into a friend on Friday night who begged me to take a run through Old St. Vital.
So, I laced up my shoes on Saturday morning and hit the road.

May 14

The run, weather wise, was perfect. Slight breeze, 18 degrees, and a ton of families and kids outside to inspire being a bit more fleet of foot. If you haven't already guessed, I miss my kids. A lot.

Heading south on the Main street bridge passes me over Winnipeg's two rivers, which are at a crazy level right now. Regardless of what you've heard about flooding on the news on southern Manitoba, there are areas of Winnipeg that are currently underwater. Even in my short time living here, I've seen the river take over the banks and park areas next to the Red and Assiniboine. I really feel for the people of southern Manitoba that have it way worse than us. Hope the high temperatures on the next week help the situation.

Sandbags just off Main St.

Off the main street bridge I headed south through Norwood and onto Old St. Vital. St. Vital is another one of Winnipeg's absorbed cities. Read about it's history, here. It's another predominantly french speaking area, like St. Boniface (as touched on in an earlier blog).

World War I monument

While not the same cultural french connection as I felt in St. Boniface, Old St. Vital stretched along the banks of the Red and contains some very pretty houses, parks and neighborhoods.

Soccer at St. Vital Park

Taking a right on Fermor, I found more and more sand bags near the banks of the Red after passing a huge soccer tournament at St. Vital Memorial Park. Manitobans are resilient people when it comes to all this flooding. These games were going on literally 300 feet from the sandbags below the St. Vital bridge.

Crossing that bridge took me up the south end, of South Osbourne.

St. Vital Bridge to South Osbourne

One of the first times I came to South Osbourne was running a couple shows in 2008 at the newly reopened Park Theatre. Sidenote: I'm in the music industry. That's what brought me to Winnipeg. Yup. Canada's Music Industry runs through Winnipeg. For real. Anyways, Erick & the Park have done their part in aiding in the facelift to this area of town. Even a short few years ago this felt like a much rougher neighborhood than it does now. The Park is one, if not my favourite venue in Winnipeg and suits the neighborhood to a tee. At one point, this theatre, bowling lanes and soda shops were the rage. Time and progress pushed Winnipeg's people to other areas and the suburbs, leaving the businesses and housing behind.

But now, the people have returned. My friend Dom lives in this area, plus a few other people have recommended it as a good place to raise kids. I can't say I'd argue with them, as this Saturday afternoon run was littered with parents with strollers, kids eating ice cream and a vibrancy that feels very inviting.

The Park Theatre

Park Alleys Bowling, next to the Park Theatre
Banana Splits from the Banana Boat!

I work at a big building in the Village and just love the shops, houses and people that pack the streets. As an Edmonton comparison, it feels like Whyte Ave did in the mid-90s. The drunked-jockocracy hasn't yet taken over the area, and it's still (for the time being) a place for families to come out a Saturday afternoon for a walk around. Another huge plus is some days in the summer they shut down the street and make it solely pedestrian traffic. Now that it's warmed up here, I'm really seeing this city's true beauty. Its people. Its streets. Its neighborhoods.

Winnipeg is really starting to shine.
Really wish the wife and kids were here to see it.

Speaking of which, Jill (my amazing, beautiful and VERY pregnant wife) will be in the Peg this long weekend, so I may be a week behind in blogs. Trying to be diligent about posting every Sunday or Monday.

You'll forgive me if I have some catching up to do.

May 14
Ipod: Sklarboro Country Podcast with Demetri Martin

The Wolf Den with Paul F. Thompkins
Metallica - Kill 'Em All
Temperature: +18C
Distance 12Km
Time: 1 hr 12 mins

Sunday 8 May 2011

St. James, May 7 - The Mother's Day run

If you didn't know, my mom was born in Winnipeg.
She lived here until grade 3 and told me a few stories about her time here as I grew up in Edmonton. Stories like taking the street car to meet my grandfather at the corner of Portage & Main. He was the branch manager at the Scotiabank at Portage & Main. Other stories of Winnipeg from her, and my aunts included playing at the Amherst playground, and sharing a room with her two other sisters in their St. James home.
I figured as a far away mother's day present from me to her, I'd run to the house she grew up in - 315 Amherst street.

May 7 - Run to St. James

Before I get into the run, I should say, my time & speed was crap. I had played hockey the night before, and done weights the day before that and was extra sore. On top of all this, it was the longest run I'd done in weeks - 14km. But, as my wife and kids continue to wait in Edmonton for our house to sell, much like this impetus of this blog - I didn't have anything better to do.

I started west down, appropriately, West Broadway. If I hadn't mentioned before, the West Broadway area has some beautiful old houses and feels like it's going through a renaissance with new families and couples moving in. Like many neighborhoods in Winnipeg, some streets are full of beautiful character homes with playgrounds and life, where others are a touch on the scuzzy side.

Polo Grounds mural on Portage

Broadway then curls north and hooks up with Portage, the central nervous system of the Peg. While Portage isn't the prettiest of streets, it serves it's purpose - a six lane main street that never seems to be at a loss for traffic.

PETA's favorite joint in Winnipeg

Passing Rae & Jerry's - Winnipeg's steak institution - I head under a train bridge and come up on the monstrosity known as Polo Park mall. While I'm not against huge malls (food courts are actually one of my favorite quick places to eat as a vegetarian), this one seems to pop out of nowhere at stick out like a sore thumb. If you know Winnipeg's history, this land used to be home to the Winnipeg Arena (home of the Jets) and the Velodrome. You can read about Polo Park, here.
(I'll save a rant about the Jets needing to come back to this city for another time.)

Amherst st.

Finally I came upon Amherst street, and headed north. Regardless of my exhaustion, I was pretty excited to see the spot that my mom and Aunt's Marilyn and Cheryl grew up before they moved to Calgary as young girls. Row upon row of classic 1920's bungalows, counting up from 200 - I got more and more excited to see some history and perspective on my family's history.
I then arrived at 315.

315 Amherst st

This is not my mother's house.
While architecturally, it fits in the neighborhood, there is no way this house was built in the 1920s. The foundation, yard and everything else sticks out as an infill on this street, perhaps built in the last 10 years.
I suddenly got very, very sad.
Maybe it was the feeling of letting down my mom, or missing out on seeing some family history. Maybe I was hoping to deliver a long distance mother's day gift, & I felt like I failed. Mostly, it felt like Winnipeg, at 315 Amherst, was like Alberta. It tore down a house in favour of something new.

I've said to a lot of people that one of the things I love about this city compared to Edmonton is that Manitoba never went through the multiple financial booms, and felt the need to tear down old buildings and houses. Winnipeg's downtown core as very much like it has been for years, from the Exchange district, to the parliament & monuments, to the classic housing. This infill felt so disingenuous beside the other original housing there, and I couldn't picture my family growing up here in the 50s. This felt more like Alberta, than Manitoba.

I looked across the street to the Amherst playground, also renovated and updated and tried to picture my aunts playing there as school girls. No swings, no monkey bars, only the latest in ultra safe molded plastic playground gear.
I tried, but after all this, I couldn't feel any connection to this street.

Amherst playground

Unhappy, I took a right on Ness Ave and came upon the Red Boot drive-in, a classic 50s milkshake and burger joint. If I wasn't facing a 7km return run, I may have grabbed a milkshake. Or poutine. Or both.

Like I mentioned, it was a tough run back. Like, really, really hard. I had to switch over from my Sklarboro Country podcast to some music to give me a bit of giddy up.
Oh 70's Rush, you still get me movin'.

I arrived back to the apartment where I was so exhausted from this run, and the cumulative exercise from the last few days I ended up crashing for 2 hours. As I slept, I thought about writing this blog, sending it to my mom, but feeling sad that I couldn't accomplish her request to see her childhood home.

From this Albertan, to Manitboans out there, my advice is this: Don't tear down the history in this city. As a new Winnipeger, this city charms me with it's culture, history and respect for its aged neighborhoods.
Never lose that. It's what makes this one great city.

May 7
Ipod: Sklarboro Country, Episode 42 with Rhett Miller
Temperature: +18C
Distance 14.1Km
Time: 1 hour, 31 mins

UPDATE - 2 hours later
My mom just called me. She grew up at 215 Amherst.

Sunday 1 May 2011

The Reality Tour - North on Balmoral & North on Main

Winnipeg Main street, 1879.

Contrary to this blog's ever longing love of the great city of Winnipeg, there is a dark side. It's called Winnipeg's north end.

People I've met here have defended Winnipeg's north end as getting a bad rap as one of the Queen City's scuzziest areas, and I haven't found reason to agree with them yet. I truly want to find the best little corners of Winnipeg, and maybe I just need to run a little further. These two runs were not that endearing to it's reputation. As my co-worker Jen said after these runs: "Wow. I don't even drive my car down there." Enough Said.

April 20 - The Slaw Rebchuk Bridge

I started this run with every intention to just get lost. Winnipeg has a way of turning you inside out, and a run into the exchange district (which I'll cover another day) doesn't help for gathering your bearings. I figured that I was maybe running north when I hit Notre Dame Ave, a main tributary through the Peg. I was wrong. I'm wrong alot.

The end of the exchange district, just off Notre Dame

After getting my legs underneath me (this is a common runners' thing, when my legs feel just perfect after about 15 minutes into the run), I decided to turn north up Balmoral. What could possibly go wrong right? I should mention for those of you that don't know me, I'm 6'5", 240 pounds, so running through some potentially dodgy neighbourhoods has never really bothered me.

The Balmoral

Remembering my run to the Arlington Bridge, I could see another bridge over the CN rail yards, and figured I should go exploring. I ended up finding it - The Slaw Rebchuk Bridge. Supposedly, Slaw Rebchuk (which incidentally would have made a great minor league baseball name) was nicknamed "Mayor of the North End". How fitting to run accross his bridge on my exploring of the north side of this city. You can read more about this bridge, and Slaw here.

The view from the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge, facing West

The Winnipeg Cold Storage building

Another fantastic site from the bridge, besides the rail yards, is the Winnipeg Cold Storage facility. A huge structure, with chiseled lettering on the side of the building. The kind of small details on building that this city seems to love, and preserve. Frankly, it looks a bit like Yankee Stadium.

Heading back to the downtown core at about 7pm (I did this run after work) was bit of an eye opener. At one point, I got a big cheer by a hooker holding a John's hand, clapping and sarcastically screaming "You run there, honey! You're so fast!!" Hilarious, if not an apt depiction of this kind of neighbourhood. At the time of this run, I was staying with a friend in the West Broadway area (another area with a tarnished reputation), and it felt a lot safer than a few people I saw on this run. Like I said, I'm not judging or casting any aspersions - I'd love to find some of the north end's hidden gems. They just weren't on this run.

April 29 - North on Main

Kid waiting at a stop sign with me at the top end of Main: "Are you exercising?"
Me: "Yup. And I like to explore some neighbourhoods."
Kid: "Why?"
Me: "I dunno. It's fun?"
Kid: "Really? Whatever. See ya!"

Main Street is the "other" famous street in Winnipeg. Running north to south (sort-of... no street is ever straight here), it's home to a couple great live theatres, the Via Rail station, the entrance to the Forks, the Manitoba Museum and countless other amazing buildings.
Besides that, it's where alot of Winnipeg's transient people hang out in "no knife" bars, shelters and on the streets.

The run started along the Assiniboine, up and across Portage & Main. Advice for runners out there, try and find an alternate route. P&M is a mess to cross on foot.

Portage & Main

Heading north on the east side of Portage, I skimmed along the edge of the Exchange district and didn't realize that the Manitoba museum is right here.

Statue south of the Manitoba Museum

Heading through the Disraeli Freeway underpass, feels like the portal to the other side of the Peg. The underpass hasn't really been maintained, and you come out the other side to be greated by a gaggle of Winnipeg's less fortunate. On the run, I had to dodge a couple violently fighting outside a bar, a couple drunks passed out on the pavement and a few other people that seemed surprised to see a runner in this area. I looked around - I was the only one.

Disraeli underpass. Note the murals on the west side.
Mural on the East side wall of the underpass

That aside, north Main street does have a few nuggets for sights along the way.

Bird Shop!

The seemingly abandoned, and aptly named - Yellow Warehouse

Also, I highly recommend checking out the mural on the side of the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral on Main. You can read about this beautiful building here.

The run back was a lot like the run there, uneventful, except for the phone call from my wife that I took mid run, hoping she was calling to say our house had sold in Edmonton (it hasn't...).

I would really like to hear from Winnipegers out there about which areas in the north end I should explore. I had the plan to go today and yesterday, but Manitoba rain and snow decided for me otherwise.

I have plans on the books for a trip to the Zoo (thanks Jared), and a pilgrimage to my mom's first house (she was born here) in St. James. Pretty excited the weather's turned a bit warmer. Makes my running and blogging a bit easier.

April 20
Ipod: ESPN Fantasy Focus daily podcast
Temperature: +5C (and windy) 
Distance 7.0Km 
Time: 42 mins

April 29 
Ipod: WTF with Marc Maron with guest Andy Dick 
Temperature: +19C 
Distance 9.3Km 
Time: 55 mins