I’ve always run races in the spring and fall. The weather is cooler and there’s no concern about conflicts with your summer vacation. But this year, after running Around the Bay in March, and with the Niagara International Marathon still on our calendar, it seemed like a good time to try something entirely new. And, not only would Midsummer Night’s Run be our first ever summertime race, but it would also be our first time racing at night! Plus, our first time running on the Toronto Islands, which, much to our surprise, has a boardwalk we had somehow missed on previous visits!
Race day was toasty and our race prep was, perhaps, less than ideal. By which I mean we ate a bunch of cake at afternoon tea, then found our way to the ferry. After locating change rooms, we discovered our outfits were a little more matchy-matchy then we would have liked – to the point that, while running our loops, volunteers in three separate instances yelled some variation of “twinsies!” Oops.
We finished the 30K race together in a joint-personal best time of 2:38 – so I guess the cake didn’t slow us down too much! – and much to my surprise, I cracked the top 10 in my age group, scoring eighth! As a fairly new runner, that felt like a big win.
While waiting for the ferry back to the mainland was one first that I’m OK not repeating – it was a long one – when we finally did get home we were thrilled to feast on some Thai food and celebrate finishing what is quickly becoming our favourite distance to run.
When A. and I met, I lived in a downtown condo overlooking the Fairmont Royal York and much of the financial district. We would look out the window, or stand on the balcony, and marvel at the view. And as my friends visited the space, one of the factoids that kept coming up was that the Royal York kept bees on its rooftop. As if that wasn’t cool enough on its own, eventually I learned that you could venture up to said rooftop to see the bees after enjoying Afternoon Tea. Rooftop garden, sweets and tea? I was sold!
So, in belated celebration of a friend’s birthday, we made our reservation and ate scones with cream, pastries, finger sandwiches and a seriously rich chocolate cake. And, of course, tea. The menu that day was Royal Family inspired, to celebrate the birth of Prince George.
Once we had our fill of tea and sweets, we joined the chef for a walk up to the rooftop, where he explained the different plants they grow in their garden for use in the kitchen. We even got to sample some fresh out of the garden goods, including a ridiculously spicy arugula. Then he took us around to the other side of the roof for a closer look at the bees. Plus, we got to enjoy a little afternoon sunshine and a pretty good view of downtown, even if it was still sadly under construction.
A. and I are suckers for animals. Whether it’s puppy-sitting for a friend, squeeing over someone’s adorable pet, or visiting our “friends” at the High Park Zoo, we just can’t resist them. It’s really a miracle we haven’t adopted any number of pets by now. So, when the Giant Pandas arrived in Toronto, we were totally determined to make our way out to the zoo to spend a few hours watching them munch on bamboo.
Off we went to the Toronto Zoo to meet Er Shun and Da Mao. Neither of us had even seen a panda before, and that day we got to see two! We somehow managed to avoid the bulk of the crowds and were able to breeze through the lineup, learn all about the panda’s natural habitat, watch one of them snooze and then score some unimpeded viewing time of one hungry panda. While they still kind of look like oversized stuffed animals, watching him eat was a good reminder that pandas aren’t all that cuddly and really are still bears. The teeth! He plowed through a massive stack of bamboo in no time. It was pretty impressive, and a little bit intimidating.
After our fun with the pandas, we still had time to visit a few other sections of the zoo. We were able to chill out with the penguins, grab some beaver tails for snacks, catch some rays with the hippos and say farewell to the elephants.
Both A. and I have always enjoyed visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario. We even hit it up first thing last January for First Thursdays! It’s also where I saw The Group of Seven’s work for the first time, and where I first got close to the Picasso pieces that I’d always admired from afar. So, really, in terms of my experience with art, the AGO has been a significant player.
This year, the AGO had two major exhibits that we couldn’t wait to see – the first of which was Ai Wei Wei, an amazing glimpse into Chinese politics and sculpture. The pieces about the earthquake really resonated with me, from the names of the victims listed on the wall and the straightened rebar (shown) to the snake made out of schoolchildren’s backpacks, it was definitely something I’m very happy to have seen. It was the first time either of us had even seen any of Ai Wei Wei’s work in person, and I don’t think either of us will ever forget it.
The second exhibit of note, for us, was of course David Bowie – the costumes, the history, the sounds! It was obviously a very different vibe from Ai Wei Wei, but still informative and entertaining.
We enjoyed both exhibits – plus the gorgeous cafe and the awesome restaurant – so much that we decided it was time to take the plunge and become members, so we could take our time getting to know the regular features better as well.
Spending Christmas Day together for the first time seemed like a pretty fabulous “first” to end 2013. As I always fly home to Nova Scotia for Christmas, it seemed like a great chance for A. to get away for a mini-vacation after the holiday rush at the shop and to spend some time with my family. Plus, Christmas is a pretty big deal in my world. So, on Christmas Eve, he set out for the airport! And, after a cancelled flight and more delays than we want to count, he made it to Halifax just in time for a quick meal with my family before our annual Christmas Eve party.
It was such a treat to share our family traditions and watch him taste test all the sweets my mom and I baked. We hung out with the neighbours, walked in the woods, ate everything, relaxed, and, of course, opened presents. We spent time with people who have know me through every grade, challenge and bad haircut. And we can’t forget playing with my brother’s adorable dog, who was sporting a bowtie to mark the holiday. I got to spend Christmas and Boxing Day with A. and all of my family – how amazing is that?
2013 was a pretty incredible year. When we decided to do the New 52 challenge, we had no idea how many adventures it would bring! Some of the skills could be helpful in the future – like making croissants or boxing – while others were more of a challenge than expected, like, say running 42.2K. We didn’t cross everything off our list – we still need to hit up that curling bonspiel – but we still had no shortage of new experiences to replace those gaps and round out our year!
So, while some of our challenges are still yet to be blogged – I’ll be rolling those out over the next month – I’m proud to say our list is complete (check out the video here.) And we just might be already getting started on another adventure-filled year.