Sunday, July 24, 2016

It was too hot to run, and yet...

I got no running in during the work week on account of a nasty summer cold that knocked me off my feet Wednesday and Thursday. It was a strangle little bug that started with a dry throat and slight cough, then moved directly to my lungs, causing deeper coughs that kept me from sleeping soundly for a few nights. By Friday, I felt well enough to return to the office but wasn't at all sure I'd be running this weekend.

Friday night, I headed to bed early and slept like the dead until nearly 9:00, which meant it was already hot by the time Husband and I headed out the door for a quick 5k into town and back. I didn't check the thermometer before we left but it was in around 25C by the time we got back, with the humidex making it feel closer to 30C.

The run was great, all things considered, but by suppertime my throat felt scratchy and I wondered whether it had been wise to run so soon. When I toddled off to bed last night - after spending a very pleasant evening hanging out in the gazebo with Husband eating a delicious supper (rotisseried lamb, lemon roasted potatoes and salad, in case you're wondering), sipping wine and playing guitars, I reckoned I'd have to lay low again today.

Fortunately, I slept soundly and awoke feeling ready to tackle a long run after all - though  not the 20k I'd originally planned. Given the high temperatures again today, I figured 16-17k would be more than enough - particularly since I hadn't got an early start and it was hot as hades. I set a moderate pace, stayed in the shade as much as possible, and drank gatorade at regular intervals but it still felt like a bit of a slog. The thermometer was reading over 30C when I got back to the house around noon and it felt warmer than that with the humidity so sweat poured off of me for at least an hour after I got home - even after I'd stretched, taken a cool shower, and gulped down a massive glass of cold water. 

Despite the heat, I have to say I enjoyed the run. I love being on the road Sunday mornings because it's so quiet compared to the rest of the weekend, when it seems the whole county comes to town to shop and run errands. And today's route took me to one of my favourite places, Miller's Head Peace Park (pictured above and below), which I had almost entirely to myself.  I always enjoy the park but especially appreciated it after chatting with our friend Ruth last week about how few parks there are in the city she calls home (Portsmouth, UK), and how nervous she felt walking in them. Our conversation reminded me of how fortunate we are to have access to so many beautiful, safe trails nearby. Here's a photo from my first turnaround point today, looking down the LaHave River from the park.

The high point of my visit to the park was spotting what I think were a couple of juvenile eagles high in a pine tree. I'm no bird expert so can't be positive that's what they were but they certainly looked like small eagles and made sounds similar to those I associate with the full size birds that visit our country property. One of them was putting on quite a show, squawking loudly and puffing up the feathers on its chest to make it clear my presence wasn't appreciated. They were so entertaining, I stopped for several minutes to enjoy the show, hoping mama or papa might put in an appearance. I spotted another juvenile higher up in a nearby tree but saw no sign of an adult before I turned and headed for home. 

After a quick shower and a bowl of strawberries, we were out the door on our way to another of our favourite places, Risser's Beach. The main part of the beach was crowded but we set our sunbuster up in the usual spot away from the hordes and spent a couple of blissful hours sipping cold beer, munching sandwiches, reading and listening to the waves. To my mind, it's the waves that make Risser's so special. The sound of them crashing along 1.5kms of beach soothes my soul like little else. Here's a brief video to give you some sense of what it's like.

Unfortunately, thunder clouds rolled in later in the afternoon so we didn't get to spend quite as much time at the beach as we hoped but the time we had was lovely. You can tell by the contented smile on my face in this pic.

Just two more weeks until I start my vacation and I can hardly wait! The plan is to spend the time in the country - reading, writing, running, hiking, beaching, and spending time with family and friends. Fingers crossed nothing happens to prevent me from being off for 3 weeks.  I'm hoping to use the time to kick my marathon training up a notch. I'll need to do some serious hill work to be ready for the Valley Harvest Marathon in October. I finally sat down and drew up a rough training schedule this week but I still need to tweak it to take into account some work travel scheduled for September. I'll post it here once it's in final form.

Hope everyone's having a good summer so far. Are you training for a fall marathon? How do you deal with running in the heat? Where are your favourite beaches?

Happy running and writing, friends!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lots of sightseeing...with a little running now and again

It's been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. The daughter of one of my oldest friends, Ruth, came for a visit from the UK, as did a couple of old friends from Calgary, Carolyn and George. We had a great time hanging out and sightseeing with them but there wasn't much time for running amidst all the other activities. 

Ruth arrived late on a Tuesday night and Carolyn and George arrived on the Thursday. Since Thursday was cool and rainy, we ate supper indoors and built a small fire to take the dampness out of the air, then spent the evening talking and making music by the fire.  

Friday, we headed to Risser's beach for a walk...

...then took the ferry to the east side of the LaHave and made our way to Lunenburg for lunch. If you look carefully, you can pick out the iconic Bluenose. She was pulling away from the dock just as we arrived. 

After lunch, it was on to Hirtle's Beach, where most of us completed a brisk 6k hike along the beach and around Gaff Point. Though the weather was cool and breezy, we older folks enjoyed the chance to get moving - not to mention the gorgeous views - while Ruth stayed in the car, which was parked next to the beach, to nap for a bit.  

After another great evening of good food and music, Carolyn and George hit the road Saturday morning, and Ruth, Husband and I headed back to the city, where we were hosting a neighbourhood BBQ. We managed to cook the meal and eat outdoors but the cool temperatures eventually forced the party inside, where we stayed up laughing and talking until nearly midnight. 

Ruth's dad is Scottish and we wanted to make sure she got a taste of Nova Scotia's celtic culture while she was with us so on Sunday we made a beeline for Antigonish to take in the last of this year's Highland Games. The Antigonish games are the oldest outside Scotland, having begun as a fund raiser for the local parish in 1863. We arrived in time to catch the challenge round of the Caber Toss, the men's and women's tug-of-war finals, and the last of the pipe and drum competition. Fortunately, the rain held off until the outdoor events were mostly finished and we were tucked inside the big tent enjoying some local music. 

Monday was low key since we were all tired from our busy weekend but I squeezed in a short run before supper and then we all wandered up the lake to grab icecream and watch the sun set.

Tuesday was Ruth's last day with us and the weather was spectacular so we jumped in the car after dinner (a fantastic Indian feast cooked by Husband) and drove the 45 minutes to Peggy's Cove. Husband and I hadn't been there in decades and, to be honest, we'd almost forgotten how special it is - particularly in ideal weather - so we all enjoyed spending an hour and a half or so clambering over the rocks, savouring the sultry air and spectacular views. 

Ruth and I both brought our cameras and spent much of our time snapping photos. The light was perfect! Unfortunately, I forgot to check my camera settings when we arrived so took mostly lousy pictures. Once I realized what I'd done, I adjusted the settings and managed to get a few images I like okay - but I'm itching to get back to Peggy's Cove soon so I can take another crack at it with my big lense. 

These two are my favourites from the outing. Though they're by  no means technically perfect, I like the mood they capture.

Ruth headed on to Montreal Wednesday morning and I spent the rest of the week getting back into my routines. Thursday evening, Husband and I did a quick 5k around the lake, then got cleaned up and headed out to a wonderful gallery and restaurant nearby to have supper and attend the opening of a new exhibit.

This weekend, I've managed two runs - a brisk 5k yesterday morning before we headed to the beach for the day, and a slow 17k this morning. Neither felt especially easy on account of the heat and humidity but I was glad to get them done. If I'm serious about running the Valley Harvest Marathon in mid-October, I need to start training a lot more consistently than I have been. From what I hear, VHM is a hilly course so my plan is to do my weekend runs on hilly routes whenever possible. Fortunately, the road to Risser's is perfect for that!

Speaking of Risser's, here are a couple of photos from yesterday. It was stinky hot in town so the beach was far more crowded than usual. Nevertheless, Husband and I spent a very pleasant few hours camped out at the far end of the beach reading and napping before making our way home for supper in the gazebo.

So, friends, that's the news from here. Sometime this week, I'll draw up a detailed marathon training plan and post it here to help keep me honest in the weeks and months ahead.

Until then, happy running and writing!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

If I had more time...

Blogging has moved a long way down priority list lately. Not because I don’t want to write, or don’t have things to say, but simply because I have too many commitments in the "real" world and no time for it. I doubt anyone's missed my musings, but I certainly miss documenting them. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts in a way little else does.

For instance, if I had more time, I’d write about Brexit and why I've found the news coverage of it so frustrating. It seems most commentators are determined to oversimplify some issues and ignore others so that they can draw conclusions supporting their own political views. I'd rather they presented a fair and balanced picture of the circumstances that led to the majority of UK citizens voting to leave the EU. I'm not at all convinced it was the right decision but I can certainly understand why so many were tempted to vote for change. 

If I had more time, I’d write about climate change and my fear that humankind has much less time to make drastic changes in order to survive than most of us understand. I hope I’m wrong, of course. It breaks my heart to think my beautiful nieces and nephews may face such a grim future but my gut is telling me I’m not wrong. In fact, my gut is telling me to forget about planning for old age because none of us are going to live long enough to see it.

If I had more time, I’d write about why everyone should learn to do mountain pose. Doing it properly helps me tune into my body so I'm more likely to notice what aligned and what isn’t, what’s strong and what’s weak, whether I'm breathing deeply enough, and what my mind's doing. Seriously, everyone should do a mountain pose at least once a day, preferably with their eyes closed.

If I had more time, I’d write more about my family relationships and how, though I sometimes wish they were more open and positive, I’ve reached the age where I’m no longer willing to sacrifice who I am and what I believe to win approval and acceptance. I love my family a lot but life is simply too short.

If I had more time, I’d write about how wasteful and stupid I think it is that we spend so much time and money on things we don’t actually need to live beautiful, meaningful lives. In fact, much of what we consume makes us sick, dissatisfied, overweight and unhappy – things like cosmetics, cheap clothes, disposable everything, bad food, pharmaceuticals, pornography, mainstream “entertainment” and professional sports.

Finally, if I had more time, I’d write about what I think it takes to live a “good life”. To my mind, it’s not about how much I have, or where I travel, or who my friends are. It’s about how authentically and compassionately I deal with others, whether I’m grateful for what I have or believe I’m entitled to it, how often I do the “right” rather than the easy thing, and whether my good intentions are reflected in my actions. Love is a verb. Acting with integrity, though sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, is essential. Respecting others means respecting their good and bad choices and resisting the urge to ridicule. It's usually possible to find beauty even in the darkest times. Walking lightly on the planet means curbing my appetites and working for change.

What would you write about if you had more time?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Post-marathon reflections

Its three weeks since I ran the Calgary Marathon and I'm still processing the experience. There's nothing unusual about that. The weeks following a marathon are always challenging since I'm physically tired and busier than usual catching up on the chores left undone while I trained. This time around, I'm contending with disappointment as well. I really thought I was ready to run the race in something like 4:40 so it was frustrating and discouraging to take more than 5 hours to get to the finish line.

Another thing that's different this time is that I'm not sure I'll ever attempt another marathon.

The weekend before last, I tackled my first longish run post-marathon - a 10k that felt okay all in all. The other runs I did last week (on Wednesday and Friday mornings) felt good too - though my hamstrings and hips were much tighter than usual. This past Saturday is when it finally hit me that I really might not have another marathon in me.

Two or three minutes after I left the house, I sensed my body had no interest in running. I'd had a good long sleep the night before and woke up refreshed (or so I thought) but, once on the road, it was clear my body was fully engaged in repair work and had no energy left for running. Within a kilometre and a half, I knew for sure the run was going to be a bust, so gave up and headed home.

In the 14 years I've been running, I've only given up on a run like that a few times - almost always due to bad weather or injury - so my decision to quit seemed ominous, like it might mean my marathoning days were really behind me.

Fortunately, yesterday's 14k run went much better.  As I left the house, I promised myself I'd listen to my body and cut the run short if need be, and started more slowly than usual to give my body a good chance to wake up. Four kilometres in, I stopped to stretch my hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors throughly before continuing upriver to my turnaround point at the Cookville Bridge. I was able to run in shade for much of the time, which was nice, and arrived back at the house feeling good - as if I could have run another 5k if I'd needed to.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon stretched out on a lounge on the back deck - writing, reading and stalking the bird feeder in an effort to capture pics of these little guys, amongst others. (Other birds at the feeder yesterday included a dove, a blue jay and a downy woodpecker but, unfortunately, they didn't stay long enough for me to get photos.)

In addition, I spent time examining various marathon options and trying to figure out whether I really want to run another marathon and, if so, how much. On the one hand, for a type A person like me, there's nothing more motivating than an failed attempt to achieve a goal, and I still think I could run a 4:30 if I were properly trained and had a good day. On the hand, jumping back into training right away isn't especially appealing, and, given how sore and tired I've felt these past few weeks, it might not be smart either.

By suppertime last night, I realized I needed more information in order to make a final decision. Partly, it will depend on how well my recovery goes over the next few weeks and whether I'm able to resolve the stubborn tightness in my hips and hamstrings. I also want to take a hard look at my summer schedule to figure out whether it's realistic to think I can train properly with everything else on my plate. Finally, I want to spend time thinking about my true motivations for pursuing another marathon finish. Sure, it would be nice to hit 10 before my 55th birthday next year but at what cost? I could almost certainly achieve my fitness goals by training for a half instead of a full marathon so why am I so reluctant to do so? Good question. I'll let you know when/if I come up with an answer.

In the meantime, my current plan is to run four times a week, and increase my long slow runs by 2-3kms per week. That way, if I decide to go for it, I'll have a solid base upon which to build.

What about you? How do you decide when/whether to run a goal race? Do you find it as satisfying to train for shorter distances as for longer ones?  What is it about longer distances that appeals to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, happy writing and running!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Two days in Vancouver

Since I traveled to Calgary "on points", I was able to make one stopover and decided to fly west to Vancouver for a couple of days before returning home. My main purpose was to spend time with family and friends who live there, but I took the opportunity to do a little sightseeing as well.

Cousin Dorothy generously offered to host me at her home while I was in town. The morning after I arrived, we hopped the Skytrain downtown, then took the Seabus to North Vancouver.

It was warm and sunny when we arrived so we had a lovely wander along the waterfront before catching the Seabus back. I was glad I'd brought my big lense and was able to grab a few shots of downtown.