Complaints about the weather have become louder and more incessant in recent weeks - which is ironic given that the winter in Nova Scotia hasn't been all that bad this year. My own theory is Nova Scotians think they should complain because people in other places are complaining but, let's face it, those people have good reason to complain. Over the weekend, it was reported that temperatures fell to -50C in Alberta and many parts of Europe haven't had a clear, sunny day in months. I'd find either of those weather scenarios much more difficult than our own. Yes, there's been lots of snow, but at least we've had plenty of sunshine and, for the most part, temperatures have stayed above -15C.
That said, I have to admit I'm jealous of those who've spent time in warmer places these past few months. As I write this, friends are soaking up the sun in Cuba, Florida and Turks and Caicos. I'm genuinely glad they're getting some well-deserved rest but sometimes I can't help wishing that they'd keep it to themselves.
Of course, it's some comfort that not taking a winter holiday means that (a) I'll have money for other trips and (b) I'll have more time to enjoy the fabulous summer weather in Nova Scotia - when it finally gets here in June or July. In the meantime, running on bitter, windy days makes me a stronger runner and there aren't many things better than snuggling by the fireplace with a good book, a glass of wine, the cats and Husband on a cold winter's night.
Ahhh...there it is. Running. I haven't written much about it lately, though I've been training regularly all winter. The week before last was particularly good. I managed 4 runs in all for a total of 36k, including a tough 14k on Saturday. The high point was a 3k section through Peace Park. The footing was abysmal because the trails were covered in three or four inches of snow that had the consistency of damp sugar, but the park was as beautiful as ever and I was thrilled to spot a brightly-coloured pileated woodpecker as I ran along the river. If you've never seen one, imagine Woody Woodpecker and you've got it more or less right. Seeing one of these little guys always makes me grin.
En route to the park, I was also treated to the sight of a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead. I often see eagles during my runs but I never fail to appreciate them. They're such strong, majestic creatures. This past Sunday, I got a much closer view of one as it sailed through the trees just 20 or 30 feet above my head.
I didn't do quite as well with my running last week. Work and other demands consumed most of my energy so I only got out twice and yesterday's 16k felt like a slog. Perhaps it was the weather that made it feel so tough - sunny with a cold, sharp wind that made temperatures feel closer to -15C - but I suspect it had more to do with my frame of mind.
You see, though I've not been training hard in recent months, at some level I still expect my body to be able to do all it could do last fall when I'd been training diligently for months. It's irrational I know but it's how I feel. And because I feel that way, I get frustrated and angry when my body doesn't respond the way I expect it to. "16k is nothing", the little voice in my head says, "you should be able to run that easily - at tempo pace no less. What's the matter with you?"
What, indeed? Well, clearly the little voice in my head needs a reality check. 16k felt hard because it's the longest distance I've run in more than three months, and I haven't done any serious hill training since Cape to Cabot last November. Furthermore, I've put on a few pounds this winter, which means it takes more effort to move my body down the road, and work and other commitments are consuming more energy than usual. Added to which, there's my age. Realistically, it's going to be more challenging to maintain the same level of fitness in the coming years so I might just as well stop beating up on myself when my body reminds me I'm not a kid anymore.
Fortunately, its March - which means that warm spring days aren't far off - and, provided I stick to a regular training routine and avoid catching some nasty bug, I should be in good form by the time race season arrives. At least, I hope so. As I've mentioned before, I'm captain of a team headed to the Cabot Trail Relay in May so I'd really like to be in shape to run well by then. In fact, my goal is to be in good enough shape that I am able to run two legs if a member of our team has to bow out at the last minute and we can't find a substitute in time.
Of course, the antidote to all this angst is to get busy training so that's what I intend to do. I can hold fast to my new year's resolution to "run less" and train only three times a week so long as I make the most of each workout - tempo run on Tuesday, hills on Thursday and a long slow hilly run on the weekend. It's not rocket science. I've got a good base so I just need to prepare a sensible training schedule and stick to it for the next 12 weeks - which will be a whole lot easier as the weather improves.
The other thing that would help I'm sure is regular yoga. I've fallen off the yoga wagon in the past year. When I hurt my shoulder last winter, I took a break to let it heal, and then my regular lunchtime class moved to a new location further from my office and it just wasn't as convenient anymore. Tonight I spent 45 minutes doing a few rounds of sun salutations followed by the star, warrior, seated twist and pigeon poses and realized just how tight my hips and hamstrings are. Hopefully, if I make a concerted effort to improve my flexibility over the next few months, running will feel easier.
A quick word for those who've been asking about Husband. I'm happy to report that he's doing much better. His meds are working well so he's back to normal activity levels and hard at work on the new downstairs bathroom. He's still on a waiting list for a procedure we hope will fix the problem once and for all but, in the meantime, he's feeling fine. So thank you all for your positive thoughts and good wishes.
In closing, a couple of hopeful quotations about spring:
Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. - Robert H. Schuller
Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. - Virgil A. Kraft
Happy running and writing, friends.