The step goal streak is now at 18 days with daily goals in the 15-16,000 step range now. Suffice to say, I’ve been doing a lot of extra walking lately.
On the running side of things, I’ve been sticking to a solid five runs a week schedule since May 1 and it’s been paying off. I feel stronger and I’m running better. I’m also down about four pounds too.
On deck for tomorrow is an 18km long run to finish the week strong with 44km run. I used to really like to run around 42km for the week and I’ll be around that for the next little while as the weekday runs stay the same with 18km, and then a pair of 20km runs on deck in early June.
You might see a pattern here with training leading up to something…like maybe a half marathon sometime near the end of June. In fact, I have a race on my schedule on June 23 – the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. More about that later.
After 14km today (bit of a step-back week), and another 5-run week, it’s safe to say that I’m in a bit of a groove here. It’s good to be back on the old and familiar schedule again.
I got out for runs on Tuesday (6km), Wednesday (6km) and Thursday (8km!) along with a Saturday morning run at Variety Village (6km). Today’s run was done solo and I ran some areas of the city I’ve never run before which made it a bit more interesting.
I’m also on a daily steps streak extending back to May 1. That’s the Garmin steps goal as well which is dynamic and has been gradually creeping up over the two weeks. It’s about 13,000 steps a day which is even a bit of a challenge on days I run 6km.
To get the steps in, I’ve been doing a lot of walking as part of my commute to and from work. I get off many stops early both ways and I’ve also added a lunchtime walk on non-run days to get the extra 5,000 steps in that I need those days.
It’s May 5, 2019 and that’s also the day of the 2019 BMO Vancouver Marathon this year. I have quite a bit of jealousy thinking about those who were able to head out to run what is easily my favourite race in my favourite city. Having run Vancouver five times since 2011, it’s safe to say that a May marathon out west had sort of become an almost annual thing for me.
But not this year.
I’m taking a break from the marathon and so that meant no Vancouver race on the first Sunday in May in 2019. That said, I did get out for a run today and I tried to take care of a bit of that feeling of sadness about not being in Vancouver today by running through some of the Toronto areas that remind me of Vancouver.
Union Station and CityPlace
I took the GO Train down to Union Station with Lindsey this morning. She’s coincidentally entertaining a group of YMCA exchange students from North Vancouver this week (after her trip out there a few weeks ago) and they were headed to the Toronto Islands today. Heading out of Union Station, I ran down to the CN Tower and up behind the Rogers Centre before heading along the tracks through the backside of CityPlace.
I could see the participants in the Toronto Marathon (the poorly organized spring marathon in Toronto) across the tracks on Front St. and after a couple of turns, I was at Fort York and Bathurst St. for a few minutes to see the runners making the turn west.
Toronto’s Waterfront Trail
I continued south down to the lake and hopped on the Martin Goodman Trail (MGT) through the Central Waterfront area of Toronto. This area of Toronto reminds me of the Seawall in Vancouver which runs along the waterfront all the way around the city.
I hit the Harbourfront Park area behind the Harbourfront Centre. In Vancouver you have these neat views of the Harbour Air de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter and DHC-2 Beaver seaplanes coming into and out of the harbour. In Toronto, it’s Bombardier Q-400s from Porter Airlines taking off and landing at Billy Bishop airport.
The area in behind Corus Quay in the new East Bayfront area of the city’s waterfront is the most “Vancouver-like” bit of Toronto to me so I made a point of running down along Sugar Beach and then along the water’s edge there.
Once off the MGT, I made my way up the Don River on the PanAm Path for a bit. The Paddle the Don event was on and it was neat to see the canoes coming down the river to Corktown.
Back to Toronto
The remainder of the run was all Toronto. I took Queen St. across from Riverside, through Leslieville, and eventually to Kingston Road. The long hill up Kingston Road to Main St. was a chore, but also reminded me of Main St. in Vancouver (a bit of a stretch…I know).
Ten minutes two kilometres later and I was back home in the Upper Beach with 16km done to close out a 37.5km week.
Meanwhile, I have nothing to push towards and that’s left me with a decreased fitness level, and about ten extra pounds on my body compared to this time last year. I need to fix that somehow.
The obvious solution is to sign up for a fall marathon, but I really don’t want to run 42.2km again anytime soon. I’ve tried running the training schedule for a bit and then easing off once the runs get over 25km on Sunday, but without the race, I just don’t have the discipline to force myself out the door five days a week.
Maybe now that the weather has improved I can get out the door more often. I really just need to re-establish those habits of running no matter what on specific days. That used to be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. But with Eastbound Run Crew runs on Monday, I think it’s going to be more like Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Consider this post the start of that new four runs per week habit. It starts now…
For our last dinner in Montreal we decided to hit the St-Hubert that was very close to the hotel. This gave me an opportunity to compare Quebec’s favourite rotisserie chicken restaurant to Swiss Chalet which is the favourite across the rest of Canada.
Both Swiss Chalet and St-Hubert are primarily rotisserie chicken restaurants, with each chain offering a fairly diverse menu with ribs and roast beef as well as more standard chain options like burgers, soups and salads.
St-Hubert’s first location was opened in Montreal in 1951 while Swiss Chalet began in Toronto in 1954. Since 2016, both chains are owned by Recipe Unlimited (formerly known as Cara Operations Limited). Despite the common ownership, they seem to have left the two businesses alone to continue to operate as rivals with their own unique traits.
Historically the St-Hubert vs. Swiss Chalet rivalry is very much a regional/cultural thing with St-Hubert dominating the French-speaking areas of Canada in Quebec and New Brunswick and Swiss Chalet being a fixture in the rest of the country.
Breaking it down
Here’s the pros and cons as I saw it last night. Suffice to say, it was a close competition and I suspect that those who grew up on Swiss Chalet will see it the same way I did, while those who are used to St-Hubert will disagree. Welcome to Canada.
Where it’s a tie:
The chicken. It’s basically the same, although the skin at Swiss Chalet is maybe a bit crispier and has more seasoning on it making for a deliciously salty experience. It also looks a little nicer in my opinion. That said, the chicken meat is basically identical tasting although I could argue that Swiss Chalet has a slight edge here.
Where Swiss Chalet wins over St-Hubert:
Chalet Sauce is far better than St-Hubert sauce. The St-Hubert sauce is more of a thin chicken gravy. There’s a real chicken gravy flavour to it and it lacks the thickness to properly coat either the fries or the chicken when dipped. Chalet Sauce has more spice and flavour overall and from a dipping perspective, it’s clearly superior.
The fries at Swiss Chalet are generally better. I see the fries as a sauce delivery system, and Chalet fries deliver in this regard. They can be mushy if you get takeout or delivery, but they are a bit thicker cut than the St-Hubert fries and more potato-y overall. That said, this was a close battle and St-Hubert fries are quite good.
The roll at Swiss Chalet beats the bun at St-Hubert. This isn’t even a close competition. The Swiss roll is a proper little roll that delivers a great dipping experience. The bun at St-Hubert is basically a toasted cheap hamburger bun bottom.
Where St-Hubert wins over Swiss Chalet:
The coleslaw is included and excellent. You can pick between traditional (vinegar) and creamy (with mayo). Both were good and you get the coleslaw with the meal along with your choice of side. I had the opportunity to try both varieties and while I preferred the traditionaly (nicely vinegary and tasty), the creamy type was also good. If you’ve had the creamy coleslaw at Swiss Chalet, they are very similar, but St-Hubert wins here because you get the coleslaw with your meal as a bonus side.
Sandwich options are better at St-Hubert. Swiss Chalet offers a tasty Chicken on a Kaiser sandwich or a hot chicken sandwich with gravy. St-Hubert ups the sandwich game with a really good club sandwich on toasted bread with generous amounts of rotisserie chicken (dark or white meat).
The ambience/style of the restaurant is better at St-Hubert. Neither are a fine dining experience, but Swiss Chalet feels more like a fast-food place than St-Hubert which advertises itself as a resto-bar.
The delivery cars at St-Hubert are fun. They have a fleet of yellow and red Toyota Yaris hatchbacks with red chicken combs on the roof. Swiss Chalet generally shows up in a rusted out ten-year-old winter beater with mismatched tires.
The final judgement
The chicken is pretty similar although I give the edge to Swiss Chalet for flavour. The fries are close, but again, Swiss Chalet wins by a small margin. The “free” coleslaw is a nice touch at St-Hubert, but in the end it’s just coleslaw and if you really want that, you can get some for a reasonable cost at Swiss Chalet.
The real difference maker is the sauce and while St-Hubert sauce is decent, Swiss Chalet sauce is a national treasure and for that reason Swiss Chalet wins.
Better weather and lots to see and do on day two in Montréal.
We started early with breakfast at Starbucks before hopping the Métro to Pie-IX station for a visit to the Jardin botanique. There is a special exhibit going on with thousands of butterflies released in one of the buildings. It was very cool to go through the various buildings, learning about the different regions of the world and also things like spices and different fruits.
The Papillons en libérte exhibit was the highlight, to be sure. There were many kinds of butterflies fluttering about and landing here there and everywhere. The best of my photos are here.
After we left there, we walked down to the Parc Olympique area and marvelled at the Big O, built for the 1976 Olympic Games. It was Lindsey’s second Olympic Stadium visit in four days. The stadium area feels a bit neglected and tired, but I guess that’s what you get with these giant nearly single-purposed buildings.
We also checked out Le Centre sportif which was home to the diving and swimming events in 1976.
After that, we hit the Métro again and went over to the Marche Jean-Talon to grab a bit to eat and check out the market there. The lunch options were a bit disappointing, but it was nice to check out the market and see what Montréalers do for their fruits and vegatables. It was like a smaller version of Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.
Then it was over to Mont-Royal stop on the Métro again and a bit of a long walk over to the Tam Tams and then up the trails and steps to the Parc-du-Mont-Royal and the lookout. The views were great with sunny skies having pushed the drizzle and clouds away.
We walked back down the hill, stopped for some Ben and Jerry’s and then back to the hotel to rest our early legs and watch game 6 of the Leafs vs. Boston playoff series.
It’s our first full day in Montréal today, and it’s cold and rainy. But that isn’t getting in our way at all.
We walked over to Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral which is just around the corner from the hotel. It’s no Notre-Dame Basilica, but it was still interesting to look around and see the inside of this church.
After that, we walked down to the Lachine Canal locks and discovered two things. First, there was almost no water in the canal. Second, it was windy and cold down there. We continued our journey on foot over to the Old Port of Montréal where we planned to visit the Pointe-à-Callière museum. We were a touch early so rather than wait around, we walked up to see the Notre-Dame Basilica.
Being that it’s Easter Weekend, and likely also because of what happened in Paris this week, the lineup was about an hour to get in to see. So we opted to hop on the Metro and we took that out to see La Biosphère de Montréal.
Once back, we did visit the museum! It was really, really interesting with all sorts of ruins of the old city to see. The museum is set atop some of the foundations and original parts of the city dating back hundreds of years. You can trace the history of Montréal from the 1600’s all the way to the present day.
After a bite to eat, we walked through the Old Port area and made our way back to the Metro. I was stupid and threw away my weekend transit pass, but I figured I might be able to retrieve it as I knew exactly where I had tossed it and it didn’t actually make it into the garbage can proper. It was my lucky day as the pass was lying under the can and I was able to grab it. $13.75 saved!
Our tired feet were looking for a break, so we’re back at the hotel now resting up and planning for dinner and maybe a walk along rue Sainte-Catherine or something tonight.
If there’s one thing we want to instill in our kids, it’s that travel is something to be excited about and not something to be feared.
There are a ton of neat places in this world and getting to visit them is one of the privileges that we have as fairly well-to-do Canadians.
Lindsey just got back from Vancouver today after spending a week there on a YMCA cultural exchange. They visited and hung out with a group of kids from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver. In a month, the same group of kids will come here, to Toronto, to see our part of the country.
Mackenzie hopped on a plane today with my mom and they flew over to New York City for the weekend. They’ll visit the landmarks like Central Park, the Highline Trail, Times Square and the Brooklyn Bridge. I didn’t visit New York until I was in my 30’s so for Mac to get to go there at age 16 is a real treat.
We’re not immune to the travel bug either. With the kids getting to go away, Ginny and I started getting jealous. So we booked a last minute weekend in Montreal. We’ll take the train tomorrow (Friday) and stay a few days before returning on Monday.
We should probably tell Lindsey that she’s only getting one night in her own bed tonight before she’s hopping the train with us to Quebec. I think she’ll be okay with it.
My second half marathon outside of Canada was a warm one…as expected. We drove down to Hilton Head over two days on Friday and Saturday with a stop in Charlotte. In hindsight, the half marathon in Charlotte on Saturday morning might have been a better idea.
Race morning featured sunny skies and 18ºC temperatures which for this Canadian runner was not ideal. I was hoping for something more like 12ºC at the start, but beggars can’t be choosers.
The little town was picturesque and the start line was the prettiest I’ve been a part of. The race started about 7 minutes late while they waited for a late shuttle to arrive. It was a mass-start with 10km, half marathon and full marathoners all hitting the line together.
The 10km runners peeled off around the first mile marker and it was just the half and full marathoners from there out along a fairly flat and straight road. I ran well for the first 5km with splits of 4:59/km for all five. Yeah…consistent.
After that I started to slow a bit as the shade disappeared and the heat started to build in. My heart rate was up a bit from what I would expect at that pace which I assumed was from the warm weather.
The back side of the course was free from shade and it was pretty hot. I was struggling to hold any sort of pace without spiking my heart rate up to 170bpm. I started doing run/walk after the one hour mark and used the water stations to cool off with cups over the head and in my hat.
Around 17km things got better with a bit of a sea breeze and some shade. I picked up the running (over walking) and set about to run it in as best I could. In the end, it was a 1:57:10 which was good for 101st overall and 14th in my category. Not my best, but given the weather I was happy.