Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring has sprung. Now to find my get up and go.

Another long silence since my last post. What can I say? I mean to write more often. In fact, I do write...nearly every day...but only in my head unfortunately. Somehow, the time to transfer all those words from my brain to the blog never materializes. Hopefully, that will change once the Cabot Trail Relay is behind me.

The other reason I haven't written much lately is that I've been struggling with my running.  I'm not sure what the trouble is. The winter's being dragging on (we had yet another snowfall last week) and I've been busy with other things but I usually feel more enthusiastic about running once the weather starts to warm up. This year, I feel less and less motivated as race season approaches.

It may be that I know I haven't trained as much as I usually do over the winter so am anticipating a tough start to the season. Or maybe my age is catching up with me. Or maybe my doctor's right and I do need to start taking thyroid medication. I dunno. But it sucks to feel this way five weeks before the race. I hoped all the hill work I've been doing lately would make me feel strong and confident about tackling the "rolling hills" of Cape Breton but it doesn't seem to be have had that effect so far.

On the upside, I had a pretty good run today - a mellow 10k along the LaHave River and up the hill to the top of town - that almost made me think my running funk is over. Tomorrow will tell the tale when I head up the Conquerall Mills road for another long slow hilly 20k run. Fingers crossed it feels easier than the cold, windy run I did up there two weeks ago.

Today's run was good partly because, at 10 degrees C, it finally feels as if spring has arrived and I love seeing the new growth everywhere. For the first time since last fall, I took a spin around the duck pond in town (pictured above) and along the trail leading from the river to Wile Carding Mill. The trail follows an abandoned rail bed where I spotted this small pine tree growing out of a rock. Isn't nature amazing? How hopeful do you need to be to put down roots and reach for the sky in such an inhospitable spot?

Speaking of hopeful, despite already being so busy, I've decided it's time to learn to use the acrylic paints Husband gave me as a birthday gift a couple of years ago. I had my first class on Wednesday night and really enjoyed it so am looking forward to seeing what I can produce.  Here's a pic of my first painting "in progress" - a simple image my teacher said is designed to teach me the basics of applying the paint using different brush strokes.

I'll try to remember to post photos of whatever I complete in the next 10 weeks but don't expect much. Piccasso, I ain't.

In other creative news, I've almost finished the wool vest I'm knitting for Husband.

I spent a good part of yesterday picking up the 366 stitches needed to make the button band. Since I'm out of practice, it was frustrating and tedious, to say the least, but I got 'er done and I'm more or less happy with how it turned out. All that's left is to sew up the side seams and attach the buttons - which I plan to do l after my long run tomorrow.

Once again, I seem to have lost my way with this post. I'd planned to offer deep philosophical reflections on all the things I'm thankful for when I run - like that little pine tree and the couple who live in the yellow house by the river who wave cheerfully whenever I run by - but I guess I'm too pooped. So how about a few inspirational quotes instead?
The passing moment is all that we can be sure of; it is only common sense to extract its utmost value from it...  W. Somerset Maugham
Slow down and enjoy life.  It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast - you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.  Eddie Cantor
How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.  Anne Dillard
I run because if I didn’t, I’d be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that. Dean Karnazes
Happy running and writing, friends.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring may spring...eventually

House on a hill along my route last weekend

I know I've been delinquent. It wasn't deliberate. It's just that life has felt so damned overwhelming lately with work, volunteer commitments and training. At this point, what I want most to sleep for week.

Alas, that's not in the cards. There's far too much to do  over the next few months. Added to which, I've been trying to find time for some new things lately - painting and working on my novel.  How I wish I could retire - or had a rich spouse, at least. (No, I'm not serious. I'm very happy with the one I have, thank you very much.)

In addition to the frenetic activity levels, there's the little matter of the weather - which has been APPALLING.  Snow, rain, sleet, and hail for days on end. It could be worse. It's much colder in Alberta than it is here, and Newfoundland won't be dug out until August at least. But still...

I want to run on dry pavement, in shorts and a singlet. Two years ago, I did that on March 21st - which was surreal and kind of scary, but also pretty awesome. Here it is April 4th, and I fully expect to be wearing long tights for both my runs this weekend - not least because there's more rain in the forecast.

On the upside, I'm sure all this cold weather running is making me stronger. Strong enough to crush those Cabot Trail hills. Strong enough to run two legs of the relay if I have to. Strong enough to handle whatever else life throws at me over the next few months.

Which is a good thing because my spidey senses are tingling. There's stuff coming at me. I can feel it. And I want to be ready to face it is with as much strength, compassion and wisdom as possible.

Okay. That's enough for one night. I've blogged. It's not articulate but it's all I've got at the end of a crazy busy week.

For those who are curious about how my training's going, I've been running LOTS of hills.  Hill repeats during the week coupled with hilly runs on the weekend. Here's the elevation chart for my 18k LSR last weekend. Not bad for an old lady.

Oh, yeah, and I had another birthday. Fifty-friggin'-two. Lovely. On the upside, a kazillion people sent me birthday messages, which was wonderful and very much appreciated.

More posts soon. Promise.

Happy running and writing, friends. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The cat came back...

It was quite the week.

My boss was away so I was up to my eyeballs in work. By Monday night, I was already exhausted  but managed to drag my butt out the door to do a hill workout. It went well but, on my way home, this little guy jumped on to the sidewalk in front of me, forcing me to pause. I made the mistake of petting him before running on and, when I looked back a few minutes later, he was galloping after me. In fact, he proceeded to follow me for nearly two kilometres though I tried several times to shoo him back to where I thought he lived. He wasn't having any of it and it was a bitterly cold night so, in the end, I scooped him up and brought him to our house instead.

When I dropped him on the floor of the kitchen, Husband took one look at him and asked me if I was out of my mind. "What could I do? I couldn't leave him out there. It's freezing tonight and he's too young to be wandering the streets like that." Husband wasn't having any of it and insisted we take him back to where I'd first spotted him. I agreed reluctantly. The kitten was very cute and seemed to have been well-loved so I thought there were likely people looking for him.

We drove the two kilometres back to Crichton Park and I got out of the car and put the little guy down on the sidewalk. He took one look around, looked up at me quizzically, then jumped back in the car. Husband gave in and said we could give him a place to sleep for the night.

The rest of the week was spent posting notices at local shelters and vets' offices and on Facebook and Kijiji in hopes we could reunite "Gus" (as we opted to call him) with his people. No luck. By Friday, it had begun to dawn on me that someone had likely dumped Gus in our neighbourhood hoping a soft-hearted schmuck would take him in. We were sorely tempted to keep him but our two old dears were having none of it. They didn't like him. Would never like him. And, just by the way, we could forget about feline affection or snuggling of any kind until Gus was gone.

With a heavy heart, I contacted Bide Awhile Animal Shelter Friday afternoon and they agreed to find him a new home. He's a lovely little guy - handsome, well-behaved (especially for a male kitten) and very sweet and cuddly so I'm sure he'll be adopted quickly.

Anyway, between work and cat dramas, it was a big week. I managed a second run on Thursday morning before work. I should have done it at tempo pace but I was simply too tired. In fact, I was so tired I might have been tempted to skip my run this weekend but, fortunately, my friend David was in the city and invited me to join him on his long run so we met at 7:00 yesterday and did a terrific 16k run through Point Pleasant Park and along the waterfront. I wish I'd had a camera with me. The early morning sunshine breaking through the clouds was stunning.

The run reminded me of how helpful it is to have company for challenging workouts. David and I were deep in conversation as we ran up a series of tough hills in the park. When we hit the top of the last one, David remarked that he was impressed I'd run up them talking the whole way and I realized I'd barely noticed how hard I was working. I'm sure if I'd been running on my own I would have been tempted to walk at some point but, with my mind distracted, my body just did what it had to do. Go figure. It's nice to realize I'm stronger than I think sometimes.

Time to sign off and do some work on my novel. I finally reread the draft I wrote in November 2012 and realized it's not quite as bad as I remember - though I've lots to do to finish it. I still like the central characters and think the main plot moves along at a decent pace. The big challenge will be figuring out which sub-plots to cut so that I can pull the story together in 100k words or less. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

In the meantime, happy running and writing, friends.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

At last...a room of my own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” 
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

I first read A Room of One's Own more than thirty years ago. I thought it was brilliant then and still do - particularly because I so rarely have time to sit and think these days. It seems as if life is simply too full of electronic devices and responsibilities that necessarily take priority over creative activities.

I'm trying to change that - to spend less time on-line and more time with my thoughts. Instinctively, I know I need time for quiet reflection in order to recharge - which is one of the reasons I like running so much. However hard it feels physically, it provides opportunities to let my mind wander, to think about things that matter to me, and to explore creative ideas.  

I read an interesting article lately that talked about why compassion may be in such short supply today. One of the theories is that, when people don't have time to daydream, they don't learn to empathize with other people. And, since they can't empathize, they can't feel compassion either. Of course, in a world of 24/7 connectivity - with more things to entertain and distract - fewer people take time to daydream, which may in turn mean the world will be less compassionate in future - a pretty depressing possibility if you ask me. 

In any case, from a personal perspective, the lack of time on my own has been getting to me lately. Don't get me wrong. I love hanging out with Husband. It's just that I spend all day every day interacting with people at the office and need a little solitude now and again to recharge and work on writing and other projects without interruption. 

With that in mind, Husband and I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon turning an unused bedroom into "a room of my own". As I write this, I'm sitting at the table we brought up from the basement to use as a desk. Though small, the room's got plenty of natural light and two windows that offer views of the majestic pines that surround our house, which I can stop to admire whenever I need a break. I must say it feels remarkably good to have this little space of my own. 

My friend Rob (a terrific illustrator and musician) recently reminded me that I don't need the perfect space, the best tools or unlimited time to be creative. I need only to give myself permission to create wherever, whenever and in whatever way I can. By taking a few minutes to capture writing ideas in a notebook. Or by grabbing a quick photo with my smart phone. Or by doodling an image on the corner of a memo. Or by writing a short blog post...even when I don't feel I have much to say. 

Having my own room won't automatically mean I spend more time daydeaming or working on creative projects. That will happen only if I turn off my devices and start making time for those things. But it is at least a symbol of my intention to spend more time feeding my soul so that I'm better equipped to live my life as I'd like to - with much more empathy, compassion and creativity. 

Happy running and writing, friends.