Eventually this blog will become a wonderful story, collaboration and reflection of our journey, education and commitment to how and why we've become vegan runners. At age 40, with two children (Jackson and Nathan), we've discovered something in ourselves that we didn't know existed and the result of this discovery has had an incredible impact on our life, our love, and our family.

This blog is intended to share our experiences as plant based runners. Come on in and join our story...

~ Zoe and Brad

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hamilton - Dundas Valley 30 Km Trail Loop

Looking for a long running route in the Hamilton, Ontario area? This route is about 80% trail, some paved and some dirt, but mostly all away from roads and traffic. 

The route can obviously start and end anywhere. We started at Bayfront Park (great for parking, although we live in the area so we walked down). We went for an early sunrise run to beat the heat on Sunday. We've done variations of this route before. It's a good one!

Starting at Pier 4 Park through to Bayfront park and following the waterfront trail into Westdale (lots of coffee shops and stores if you need a pit-stop) across Churchill Park and South on Dalewood Ave., and across Main Street, we made our way onto the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail where we would run for the next hour. There's a good washroom opportunity at the Fortinoes Supermarket at km 8, but not so great to fill up on WATER. Also, Fortinoes doesn't open until 8am. We were too early this time around! 

 The trail tracks straight through residential Dundas (we get a great view of the backyards that look onto the trail) into the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. It is common for us to see deer, fox, rabbits and other animals along the trail. Today, we spotted a mama deer with her two fawn.

 Drinking water tap at km 14 right where we left the Ham-Brant trail and entered the Main Loop Dundas Valley trail. Today, this was an amazing site. Already, by 8 am it was close to 30 degrees C. 

 This is a truly beautiful area, so we were sad to have to start curling back towards our starting point.
 "The Dundas Valley is one of southern Ontario's most spectacular natural treasures. Highlights of the 1,200-hectare conservation area include lush Carolinian forests, colourful meadows, cold-water streams, stunning geological formations and an array of rare plants, birds and wildlife."
 At the Sulphur Springs parking lot we left the forest and slithered our way into Ancaster by way of a very small shoulder on a mostly uphill Sulphur Springs Rd. At about 18.5 km we hooked up with the Radial Trail (a little tricky to find... behind the tennis club down the dirt hill). Following the bike route signs, this trail brought us down the escarpment to Chedoke Golf course and another water fountain. There are quite a few different options to get back from this point. We chose to continue on to Dundurn Street and zig zag through downtown and back to our starting point, close to Bayfront Park. 

 There you have it, 30 km total, about 20 km of which is off road multi-use recreational trail. That's a pretty good ratio for a very urban downtown start/finish.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Four Years and Ten Marathons and Plant Powered all the way!!

Life got busy and while this blog sat untouched for too long, we continued to live, run and eat with a Plant Based Diet.

This year marks FOUR years as vegan runners (and cyclists) where we continue to find ways to strengthen our bodies through good nutrition, regular exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep each night and a balanced work/life schedule.

I am a different person then I was four years ago, physically and mentally. I look at the world differently, people differently. In a more gentler way, more accepting. Balancing my health and my time has become a vital part of who I am. Modelling this lifestyle to my family, my social networks, my colleagues and my students is important. Health is most important.

 People often ask how we manage to eat plant based with a family. I should clarify. We have two boys. Our 15 year old, Jack, while I wish I could convince him otherwise, eats plenty of meat. He loves to cook and will cook his own chicken, fish or beef recipes. While he loves anything home cooked, he will never pass up a restaurant meal, so long as it isn't anything fast food. We respect his decisions and thankful that he doesn't drink high sugar drinks (pop) or eat fast food. Our younger boy, Nathan is a Pescetarian. This means that he eats fish, but no other meat. He also eats plenty of dairy (especially ice-cream). We eat dinner together, as a family almost every night. This can be a challenge at times, but we've grown accustomed to it. We try to have a dinner "theme" in mind and then make the necessary accommodations to fit everyone's needs. For example, Mexican night would be wraps and everyone can add their own ingredients. Pizza nights work well as well because everyone can build their own pizza.

Zuccini Spiraled Pasta 

Last night we had vegetarian pasta but the kids used enjoyed a little parmesan cheese on the side and tonight was 'burger night' with everyone enjoying their own kind of summer sandwich.

 We continue to run about 50-60 kms per week, but have added in cycling as well over the last year. Brad commutes from Lake Avenue up the Red Hill Valley Trail to Albion Falls and back down the Escarpment Trail to Corktown Park. About 30 kms, each way. Often, we meet up at Albion Falls. I work near Sanitorum Ave and Upper Paradise. I take Stone Church Road almost the entire way and love the bike lane (I'll share the map in another post). Integrating cycling as part of our work/home commute has been ideal. It is less time away from family. As for our health. Do we need to take supplements? The answer is Yes. We both take iron, B12 and Probiotics with everyday

Labour day is tomorrow. As school starts up and life gets busier for all of us, we vow to maintain good health and good life balance. Today, we signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon which means we have to work harder and train more. This was our first marathon, three years ago! This year, it will mark our TENTH marathon together. Eleventh for Brad, who ran the Boston Marathon last year!

And for this BLOG. We are going to start sharing our routes and perhaps some of the stories along the way. Today was a 30 km loop, almost all trail. That is for another post.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


For anyone who has run the "Around The Bay" road race in Hamilton, Ontario the last few years, I think you know who Lucky is. He sits in front of the cemetary on Valley Inn Road just before "Heartbreak Hill" between km 25-26 of the 30km race. It is a common superstition to shake his hand or give him a high five for good luck before the challenging hill ahead. He is at that exact spot every year. Rain or shine.

This is far from unusual in running races except "Lucky", and I'm not sure the acceptable way to say this... has no legs! Other than the obvious irony of his nickname, I have not given him too much thought, during the race or otherwise. 

Two summers ago, however, I had to deal with a few training related injuries while preparing for my first marathon. Nothing serious. Knee tendinitis and hip flexor issues. But enough that I had to take a break from running for the first time in my life. I was starting to let frustration get the better of me. Why me...? It's not fair... I deserve better...
Then I thought of "Lucky"... 

I realized how "lucky" I was. Lucky to able to participate in one of the oldest and purest of sports. What a gift it is to be able to run. Run fast. Run far. Run whenever I had the chance. From then on I enjoyed every single breath of fresh air. Every quirky or mundane site along the route. As well as the physical and mental benefits running provides. 

So, thank you Lucky. You remind me every spring how fortunate I am to be on the open road. With nothing but my own two feet and miles to cover. I won't take it for granted again. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Road 2 Hope Hamilton Marathon

Road 2 Hope- Hamilton Marathon

A funny thing happened during the race today as I was reunited with a runner I first met at last spring's Around the Bay road race. He kept me going that day at a painful but successful pace. I was hurting and he knew it. His encouragement helped me get to the finish with my best time ever at that race. After the race, I happened to meet him in the stands. I shook his hand and thanked him for his help which he brushed off as no big deal.

It was around km 18-19 of today's race when a figure not unlike most of the others strode up beside me with a big smile on his face. There he was, my compadre from the spring! We finished this race together and chatted quite a bit along the way. I learned that his name is Seybou and our recent running experiences are very similar. He was aiming for 3:15 and convinced me we could make it there together. This was a truly awesome way to share the achievement and give it a much deeper meaning. Cheers to my friend Seybou. You have helped me more than you know!
Two happy runners! Seybou and I after the race

I had some doubts going into the race today with the sudden onset of freezing temperatures, second guessing my training and the usual pre-race nervousness. But the planets aligned for me today.

I ran a personal record AND Boston qualifying time of 3:13:26. 3:15 was my target time, but I realistically thought 3:20 was more likely. I was able to stick with the 3:15 pace bunny (who was awesome!) to the end and give a little kick at the finish (at the pace bunnys' urging). This was a first for me as I usually fall apart in the last 10k.

For the last couple of months I altered my training a bit (after running consecutive 3:25 marathons), running LESS mileage with more focus on intense intervals, hills and overall body fitness. I replaced some mid-distance leisurely runs (10-15k), with cycling (3-4 times a week to work), stair workouts (weekly) and swimming (twice a week). It appears that this cross training approach paid dividends with a little more energy in the final stages of the race.

It also provides further proof that plant based nutrition can be utilized to achieve great(er) athletic accomplishment.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Why do I Run

I ran the Toronto Marathon. Why a miracle? I had already accepted that I had to back out of the race. Two weeks ago, during one of my long training runs, I suffered a pulled calf muscle. Three days ago, I woke up with a fever, sinus cold and cough. Regardless, I knew I had to try. I wanted to cross the line that said “Start”.

Finishing didn’t matter. I woke to thunder and lightning and pouring rain. As I sipped my coffee and ate my oatmeal, the rain slammed onto the course (which I could easily see from the hotel window). I wondered how wet my shoes and socks would get…how far I could go before the blisters started? My throat hurt, my spirits were down and I wasn’t’ sure at that point if I could do it. Minutes before the gun went off, I received a text from a friend, “You don’t have to finish. It is everything you did to get to the starting line that is the accomplishment”. That was all I needed. I felt so proud of the dedicated hard work, and perseverance, over the last six months of training. My eyes teared as I crossed the starting line. I turned my iPod off and listened to the sounds of the crowd as they cheered the runners. I didn’t have anyone particular cheering me and yet, I found solace in those who made eye contact with me and gave me that encouraging glance. As I ran those first few kilometers, my mind drifted to a quote, recently shared with me by a friend (also a principal) , James Cowper, from his blog post called, “Why do I run? Because its hard.”
Long distance running is personal and political, but even more, it’s transcendental. You transcend “normal” behavior as well as your own expectations. Over time, this serial transcendence plateaus at a different idea of “normal.” Through this beautiful, empowering process, you locate and relocate your identity. You constantly create new conceptions of what’s possible and those new concepts become part of you. The key here is this: You then become more involved with the world as an agent of change. You rage a bit. And this entire process is modeled. Others witness it; many are moved by it—they change for the better. In this ongoing empowerment and transcendence, you are a public model, whether or not you think so. When you start running seventy miles a week, the people around you will eventually take notice and become curious. It’s an exceptional thing. (James McWilliams — historian, activist — published on the blog, Myths About The Vegetarian Myth.)
This quote reminds me of what we discuss in learning and teaching. When we engage in anything – a project, a written work, a song, an art, a book, and we speak our thoughts and share our ideals- we empower others. When we write and share stories and interact with one another, we risk causing ripples of our ideals and maybe, just maybe, we might cause people to question, to ask, to wonder and to seek more – of themselves and of others. Maybe, our actions, whether it be the hours of training for a marathon or the hours of learning in schools make us catalysts for change, inspiring others to join our endeavor or create their own (whatever it may be).

 Running 42 Kilometers was a feat for me. Something that, while thousands of people do, I never imagined I could. I learned, that like anything we want to accomplish: with endurance, with practice, with an open mind, with drive and most importantly with support from others, we can overcome just about anything we want – even with our differences and deficits. More importantly, maybe our actions might inspire others. I thank my many friends, and colleagues for cheering me on virtually. My twitter stream was filled with comments of encouragement, support and inspiration from educators and learners across our Globe. Proudly, I crossed that finish line with my husband (@pipe72) waiting and cheering proudly. Maybe it wasn’t really a miracle after all.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Plant Based?

Why plant based??

My journey to becoming vegetarian and eventually vegan goes something like this...

I first gave up eating meat because I had lost my appetite for it. It just wasn't tasting as good as I thought it should. One too many over cooked, flavorless chicken breasts and fatty steaks, I guess. My wife had been cleaning up her diet and my youngest son (he was 10yrs old at the time) had also been pressuring me to stop eating "dead animals"! So, on a bit of a whim, I decided to give it a try. 
It just so happened that I was training for my first marathon at this time. It occurred to me, after declaring my intention to become vegetarian, that maybe this was not the best time to give up meat. I decided to do some research. What I learned changed how I look at fitness and nutrition completely!
Not only could I train and successfully complete a marathon, I could exceed my expectations through faster recovery and stronger lean muscle mass. Gone were the days of sore, inflamed muscles and overall body fatigue after long workouts. I felt amazing! I had more energy and mental clarity of purpose than I could remember ever having before. These feelings were further enhanced when I stopped eating dairy products going entirely vegan. 
As if that wasn't enough reason to truly believe in this lifestyle, and it is a lifestyle, not just a "diet" or temporary "cleanse", it became the catalyst for a nearly wholesale change in my outlook towards almost everything in life! As my palate shifted and matured, so too did my attitude towards my marriage, family, work, knowledge and community. I am much more open to new ideas and to operating outside my comfort zone in order to learn and live a fuller more satisfying life. 
I can't attribute all of these changes directly to a plant based diet, but it was definitely the catalyst for change in me. Allowing myself to NOT accept the "status quo" and to change some of my bad habits was not that difficult. All I had to do was make the decision. Draw a line in the sand and stick to it. 
I'm so glad I did!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Potato Burrito with Kale Salad and Fresh Salsa

It can be hard when a family that live together all have different dietary needs.

I'm fairly certain that I am not alone here. I've been making different foods for my children since they were born. I am a touch surprised that still, after 13 years, I struggle to find something we all like.  

The following meal is one of the TWO family favourites and is easily adapted for the non-vegan/vegetarian eater. The other, all inclusive family favourite is Mexican Bean burritos.

Vegan - Sweet Potato Burrito
* I often bring this to potlucks with a side of guacamole and salsa. So delicious.
Shred and peel sweet potatoes ( 5-6)
In Olive Oil, fry up onions and garlic and then add shredded sweet potatoes
Add Cinnamon (tsp)
Add Cumin (tbsp)
Add Chilli Powder (tbsp)
Add Curry Powder (tbsp)

Add sweet potato mixture, salsa (fresh) and hot sauce if desired.
Roll it up, ensuring both ends are tucked in
Fry on both sides OR use Panini/Sandwich Maker (works nicely)
Non-Vegan’s ----> Add Mexican Cheese

Vegan - Kale Super Sweet Salad
One large bunch of Kale into bite size pieces
One large mango chopped into small bits
One sweet onion chopped
4 to 6 dates in small pieces
Roasted cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette
15 cherry tomatoes cut in half
Quarter cup of sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons of Red wine vinegar
Quarter cup of cranberries
Quarter cup of chopped walnuts
Quarter cup of pumpkin seeds

Fresh Salsa - Vitamix
6 vine tomatoes
3 jalapeƱo peppers
1 sweet onion
Handful cilantro
1 Mango
2 garlic gloves

Green Ginger Goodness - Vitamix
Half Liter of pineapple coconut water
Half a fresh mango
Dozen fresh green grapes
Handful of frozen sliced peaches
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger
Handful of spinach
One scoop Vega protein powder
Four ice cubes