Tuesday, July 18, 2017

More vacation memories

I've had some pretty bad luck when it comes to vacation weather. Five years ago, Husband and I went to Belize in what we thought was the "dry season" and had six straight days of heavy rain. When we went to Tuscany a few years before that, we had a week of cold, rainy weather in June! So imagine how thrilled I was when we had 6 days of beautiful, sunny weather when I was on vacation the week before last! It was perfect for someone who likes going to the beach as much as I do.

In my last post, I shared photos from our time at Broad Cove and Cherry Hill Beach. This one features Risser's Beach (my favourite place in the world) and Hirtle's Beach.

I actually made it to Risser's Beach a few times. The first day, Husband, Jackie and I were there all day but I wasn't able to take photos because I'd forgotten the memory card for my camera. However, I headed back for a long walk on my own a couple of days later, which is when I took these pics.

No, she's not talking on the phone - just tucking her hair behind her ear. 

Low tide was super low. I've rarely seen so much of the foundation of the old wharf that used to occupy the far end of the beach.

It was a windy, coolish day - cool enough that the lifeguards were dressed in their long jackets.

Fortunately, the air temperature didn't bother the younger folks who wanted to swim.

We spent out last full beach day at Hirtle's. Though it was overcast, the air temperature was mild and we thoroughly enjoyed having the beach mostly to ourselves.

Most of the people who were on the beach had dogs with them so Jackie was completely in her element - begging to play with every pooch within barking distance. 

The old gal in the stroller was traveling in style. Her owners explained that she'd been hit by a car a few years before so wasn't able to walk much. Fortunately, they love her enough to push her up and down the beach.

We had the pleasure of watching these two play on the beach for a good part of the afternoon. The dog's a cross between a golden Lab and a Irish setter - and does he ever like to chase balls!

By the time we packed up and headed for home, I felt happier and more relaxed than I have in some time. There's nothing like being on a beach to take my mind off work.

On the Sunday before I headed back to the office, we made one more foray to Risser's Beach - this time settling in for a few hours on Little Risser's. It was too cold and windy to swim but there were marvelous waves that drew everyone to the water. I enjoyed watching the little guy in the red hat practice karate by the shoreline.

Years ago, a friend asked me why I like going to the beach so much. Of course, I enjoy the sun and the sand but, for me, the magic is in the sound of the waves - which is why I love south shore beaches so much. You can nearly always count on some significant wave action. For example, here's a video I recorded while we were sitting on Little Risser's last Sunday. 

On the home, Husband stopped the car so I could grab a few pics of sailboats on the LaHave River. It was at least 15C warmer here than on the beach just a few kms away. 

After supper the same evening, we took Jackie for a walk along the Centennial Trail. I'd spotted a family of Osprey on my run that morning and wanted to see if I could grab a few photos of them. Unfortunately, I didn't have my tripod and they were too far away to get a clear shot.

To top off the week, I was treated to wonderful views of a super moon as I drove back to the city that evening. Though I was anxious to get home and prep for work the next day, I couldn't resist stopping to grab a few photos.

In addition to all the great beach time, my week off was filled with fabulous food, mellow runs along the river, birdwatching from the back deck, jazz on the riverbank, and a heaps of reading and playing with Jackie so it was a most excellent vacation altogether.

Hope you're enjoying summer wherever you are! Happy running and writing!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

On vacation and in love

It's a bit embarrassing but the truth is both Husband and I are completely in love with Jackie, which means our days are a good deal less productive than they used to be. Training and caring for her eats up huge chunks of the time we used to spend reading, writing, doing chores, etc. On the upside, taking her for walks, playing with her, snuggling her, and laughing at her antics give us heaps of joy.

The proof is in the grin on my face in the photo at the top of this post, which Husband took when we visited Cherry Hill Beach a couple of days ago. Also in the fact that I don't mind being woken by her at 6:30 am - even when I'm on vacation, which I am this week. Her excitement and happiness upon rediscovering her people each morning makes it totally worth it.

Of course, it helps that she's stupidly photogenic.

It's been a good vacation so far - with plenty of glorious weather, running, time at the beach and delicious food. Since Monday, we've spent time at Broad Cove, Risser's Beach and Cherry Hill Beach. I'm headed back to Risser's on my own this afternoon because Jackie and Husband need a break from the sun but we plan to go walking at Hirtle's Beach tomorrow to round out the week.

Here are a few pics from our meanderings this week. I haven't gotten as many shots as I hoped - you know, because puppy - but hopefully they'll give you some sense of how beautiful it is in our little corner of the world.

Fortunately, I have managed to do a fair bit of running this week - not to mention heaps of walking with Jackie. On Sunday, I ran an easy 12k up the river and back, which felt mostly fine, despite warm temperatures and plenty of humidity. Tuesday and today, I ran a shorter 8.5k route to the pedestrian bridge and back, stopping occasionally to take phone pics and chat with folks I met en route. Both outings felt comfy, despite the warm weather - which should mean my fitness level's improving.

My current plan is to increase the length of my weekend runs by no more than a km or two a week and gradually add hills to my Thursday runs in preparation for tackling a half marathon at the end of August. However, much depends on how busy things are at work and at home as the summer progresses, and whether training feels like a chore rather than something I want to do. If all goes well, perhaps I'll go for the gusto and register for a full marathon later in the fall as well.

This week, a couple of things made me feel more positive about training. The first was this article about four things neuroscience suggests have a tendency to make us happy. It was a great reminder of the importance of gratitude and the ability to make choices.

The second was news that an old friend is to undergo a bone marrow transplant next week to treat the blood cancer he's been fighting for several years. He wouldn't like me saying he's "fighting" cancer. You see, he's a scientist and, in his view, it's the treatments that fight the cancer, not him, but I can't say I agree. Yes, the treatments are necessary to deal with the cancer - courage and determination on their aren't enough - but without his ongoing efforts to remain positive and persevere, the treatments wouldn't possible. Though he rarely complains, it's clear the many rounds of chemo he's had since his diagnosis have taken a heavy physical and emotional toll, and next week's treatments will be just as tough.  I admire him tremendously for dealing with it all as he has and, knowing what he's up against, makes me even more grateful I can run.

With that, it's time to get moving. I want to squeeze in a little time by the ocean this afternoon before we head out for dinner and jazz by the river this evening. Happy running! I'll try to be back with further running updates and more beach and puppy photos soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Life with Jackie Blue: So far, so good

There are lots of things didn't know about living with a puppy. For instance, I had no idea they could sleep in positions like these:

I also didn't know they produced so much poop. Seriously. How does one small body produce so much poop every day? I might be exaggerating somewhat but Jackie's poop production is truly impressive.

Mostly, I didn't know that hanging out with a puppy could be so relaxing. A few weeks ago, Jackie and I spent several hours on the back deck together - me reading, her chewing on this and that, and the two of us playing occasional games together. When we finally got tired of being outside, we wandered into the house, flopped on the couch, and settled in for a long nap. Talk about restful.

Don't get me wrong. Jackie's a Jack Russell Terrier so she's smart as a whip with heaps of energy, but most days it seems a good walk, a few training exercises, yummy treats and regular interaction with her humans is enough to keep her contented. Since Husband and I enjoy those same things, it works out well for all of us. She gets what she needs, and we spend a lot more time relaxing.

Of course, it helps that Jackie's so cute. Who wouldn't want to spend time with this wee face?

I was going to go on about all the other great things about having a dog until I found this article in the Huffington Post, which covers the topic far better than I could. You might want to check it out if you're wondering why people are so smitten with their fur-babies.

In running news...well, truthfully, there isn't much. In May, I ran a local 4-miler in a mediocre time. Since then, life's been too full of other stuff to do much training. My folks' house finally sold after being on the market for three years so Husband and I spent a good chunk of the last 5 or 6 weeks helping them move. In addition, work's been busy and I attended a conference in Toronto the week before last. Added to which, of course, there's Jackie. As much as I enjoy having a puppy, hanging out with her chews up a lot of free time.

Despite everything, I'm still running 3 times a week (more or less) - including a longish run on weekends - but, since I haven't got a particular race in mind, my training's been lackadaisical to say the least. Now that summer's here and the folks are moved into new digs, I'm hoping to set a new goal for fall and get more serious about training. Ideally, I'd like to complete a half in late summer and a full marathon later in late October or November but much will depend on how my body reacts when I start ramping things up again. I certainly don't want to end up where I was a few months ago when I overdid it preparing for Cabot Trail Relay.

Though it's been frustrating to be sidelined this long, I have to admit the break's been good for me. By the time I gave up on training for CTR, my back, hips and legs had been uncomfortably tight and sore for months. Running less and putting my body to work in other ways (packing, moving, gardening) have reminded me that they don't have to feel that way. When I stretch regularly, train properly, and eat and sleep well, my body wants to run and feels awesome when it does. When I push myself too far too fast, running just feels like hard work.

Whatever races I decide to run, my real goal will be to run joyfully - comfortable in my skin, attentive to the journey, grateful for the beauty surrounding me. In a few months, Jackie will be old enough to join me for short runs, which should ramp up the joy factor considerably. In the meantime, I'll do my best to savour the freedom of running solo with no agenda other than enjoying myself.

Happy running! And happy summer!

P.S. The pics above were all take in late April when Jackie weighed just 8.5 pounds. She's more like 14 pounds now. Here's a photo I took while we lounged in the sun together last weekend. She looks like a runner, doesn't she? I can hardly wait until she's old enough to hit the trails with me!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring has sprung...but I still ain't feeling it

Old white pines in Miller's Head Peace Park
It's been six weeks since my last running-related post. There's a reason for that. My preparation for this year's Cabot Trail Relay hasn't gone well. I trained consistently through March despite lousy weather and a hectic schedule but it didn't have the desired effect. Maybe I wasn't getting enough rests between workouts, or maybe menopause was having a bigger impact than I realized, or maybe I just don't want to run the race badly enough. Whatever...last weekend I finally decided to give it a pass and let someone else tackle the damned mountain this year.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't be running a race or two this spring/summer. I've no intention of letting all that hard work go to waste. I ran 17k on Monday, for goodness sake! Husband and I had already been chatting about a half marathon in Quebec City in August, but it would be fun to do another one or two before then. And of course I'm still pondering a last full marathon (my 10th) sometime this fall. Stay tuned!

In other news, work hasn't been going especially well lately either. The short version is I'm a "silly servant" and an election call is expected to come any minute. 'Nuff said. I'll just be glad when it's over so my colleagues and I can get back to accomplishing something once and awhile.

On the upside, we're getting a kick out of Jackie Blue, our new puppy, who's coming along nicely. I confess I was worried I would quickly lose patience with her, but it's hard to be annoyed with such an adorable critter. Even Nemmie the cat's being slowly won over. The amazing thing is how quickly Jackie's grown. Seriously, compare these two pictures taken just three weeks apart!

The weather on the weekend was warmer than expected so we spent much of it outside - walking at Peace Park and Risser's Beach, hanging out on our back deck, and wandering around our the yard making plans for this year's garden.

There aren't many flowers in our yard yet - but it won't be long until the shrubs are doing their thing. In the meantime, I have to be content with the odd crocus bravely fighting its way through fallen leaves.

So that's the news from our wee corner of the world. Hope spring has sprung where you are!

Happy running and writing!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Theatre review: Eating Peanuts in an Elephant's Graveyard

Last night we had the good fortune to attend a special performance of Dartmouth Players’ latest production, Elephant’s Graveyard, written by George Brant. Based on our sneak preview, I highly recommend you buy tickets asap so you don’t miss out. The play runs from March 30th to April 15th with evening performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday and matinees on Sunday.

I admit to feeling some trepidation as we walked to the theatre last evening. I knew the play was based on the true story of a circus elephant’s death in a small Tennessee town in 1916, and that events leading to her death reflected the darker aspects of human nature. But I needn’t have worried. Though the story is terribly sad, this Dartmouth Players production is as emotionally and psychologically compelling as it is visually beautiful.

To begin, let me congratulate the team responsible for creating a near perfect setting for the play. Set design (Ray Lefresne), costume design (Pam Wood), and lighting design (Richard Bonner) worked together brilliantly, contrasting brightly costumed circus performers against drably attired townspeople, and highlighting key action and dialogue. More congratulations must go to music advisor, Greg Simm, and musicians, Evan Toth-Martinez (drums) and Jacques Robear (guitar and vocals) for their contributions, which did much to support the dramatic arch of the production.

Not including Mary the elephant (who never appears on stage though she is palpably present throughout), the cast comprises fourteen performers, many of whom remained on stage for almost the entire play (which runs to 90 minutes with no intermission). Under the superb direction of Tamara Smith, they delivered a series of interrelated monologues – interspersed with short choral pieces – that could, in less capable hands, have left the audience dazed and confused. But that never happened, no matter how crowded the scene.

Given the size of the cast, there isn’t space to comment on each actor individually, but, without exception, they delivered powerful, engaging performances that fostered understanding and sympathy for even the most despicable characters. From the disappointed New Testament preacher (Matthew Myers) to the sad and avaricious ringmaster (Roy Ellis), their performances will remain with me for a long time.

Though all the cast did well, I must make special mention of Sharleen Kalayil, whose depiction of Mary’s trainer was gripping and sensitive throughout, Christine Gerogiannis, whose portrayal of an exuberant youngster struck all the right notes, Sean Mott, whose impassioned soliloquy on American greatness sent familiar shivers through the audience, Des Adams, whose weary and laconic observations on Mary’s death and the recent lynching of a black man in the same town shone a light on the grim values that underpin much of American (and, some would argue, Canadian) society to this day, and Brad Morrisson, whose regret-filled closing lines provided some small measure of redemption.

Of course, no production can succeed without a lot of hard work and experience behind the scenes. Elephant’s Graveyard was ably produced by Holly Irving, a long-time member of Dartmouth Players, and stage managed by Nikki Beaulieu-Belliveau (Stage Manager) and Tippy Scott (Assistant Stage Manager.)

As for the peanuts – well, you’ll just have to go see the play to understand what that’s all about. I strongly recommend you do!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Introducing Jackie!

So...this happened last week.

Husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for ages, so he goes to Cape Breton, meets an 8 week old Jack Russell terrier and decides she'd be a good birthday present for both of us. Next thing I know, life is all about when the puppy pees, how much she sleeps and whether she's had enough exercise to behave herself and sleep through the night. It's insane. But also pretty darn fun. Too bad the rest of life is busy as well. There's not much energy left for writing these days. Or for running, as it turns out. Hoping the weather improves this week so I feel more motivated to train. On the other hand, once she's big enough, little Jackie's gonna be a fantastic running companion! We just need to survive puppyhood somehow!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Running lessons: Tough times make us stronger

Another week of training gone and, with just 12 weeks until Cabot Trail Relay, I'm beginning to feel a tad nervous.  So far, I've managed to complete all the long weekend runs on my schedule but I've been much less consistent about midweek runs. 

Last week, for instance, I only ran 3k on Tuesday evening before slowing to a walk because I was feeling woozy. I'm not sure what the problem was - maybe tired from all the running the week before (37k in total) or maybe fighting a bug of some kind. Thank goodness my energy returned to normal this weekend - especially given the challenges posed by the weather. 

Let me back up. The weekend before last was fantastic for running - spring-like with mild temperatures, little wind, and fog no less! I had to strip down to my running bra at the midpoint of my 8k on Saturday morning fun.  Seriously!

Since the weather was so mild, Husband and I headed down river for a walk on Risser's Beach in the afternoon. There wasn't much to see but it was mellow wandering along listening to the waves and shaking out my legs in preparation for my long run the next day.

Sunday morning, I crawled out of bed earlier than usual and headed to Prince's Inlet to join my buddy David's for a favourite run out to Second Peninsula and back. This is Dave at our turnaround point at Bachman's Beach. I didn't bother to try to take other photos since it was still so foggy.

The run was "easier" than some I've done lately because the weather was so lovely and there were many fewer hills involved but, at 17k, it still felt challenging - maybe because we ran early enough that I didn't have time to stretch properly first. In any case, it was - as always - great fun running with David and catching up on his news.

By contrast, this past weekend's runs were much tougher. Husband and I set out after breakfast Saturday morning, intending to do 8k up river and back, but the wind was so strong and cold we turned back after about a kilometre and finished our run in Peace Park, where we could be out of the the wind for the most part. By the time we'd finished two circuits of the park, Husband had had enough so we headed back to town, where he dropped me so I could run a last few kilometres back to the house before calling it a day.

The forecast was for calmer weather yesterday but, unfortunately, the forecast was wrong. We woke up to only marginally warmer temperatures (-7C) and even stronger wind. I couldn't imagine tackling my planned workout, which would have involved fighting heavy headwinds for six 500-metre climbs up Logan Street hill. Instead, I opted to do my hill repeats on a 500 metre stretch of Aberdeen Rd., which was mostly out of the wind.

Even with little wind, those six hills felt hard. After completing just two, the gremlins in my head were having a field day - loudly insisting I was too damned old to run North Mountain and might as well throw in the towel now, walk home and plop myself down by the fire for the afternoon. Fortunately, after training for nearly 30 long distance races, I've learned a few tricks for dealing with the little blighters. "First off," I growled under my breath, "I am not too old!  Second, every one of these climbs will only last 3 and 4 minutes - which is no time at all. Third, plenty of people have way worse things to deal with than this - illness, depression, addiction, breakups. If they can deal with their stuff for weeks and months at a time, I can most certainly run uphill for half an hour! So bugger off and leave me alone!" Which they did.

Of course, it helped that I could feel the training starting to pay off. The hills felt easier than they have in a few of years. If I stick to my training plan, there's every reason to hope I'll be strong enough to run leg 9 in a reasonable time. I just need to be patient and keep working.

Ahhhh...there's another of those wonderful lessons that resonate in the rest of my life. The reality is that many of the best thing in life only become possible through concerted and consistent effort - fulfilling relationships, satisfying work, and good health - to name just a few. Of course, you might be lucky enough to have some of those things drop in your lap but mostly you have to work for them.

Another lesson is that it's often the tough times that make you stronger and happier in the long run. Sure, I might have preferred mild, calm conditions for this weekend's runs but the cold and wind made for more intense workouts overall and forced me to confront my gremlin so, as training runs go, they were actually pretty awesome.  In life it's the same. Shit happens and you can't imagine  you'll ever get through it, but you do. And usually you end up wiser, stronger and more confident because of it - which is also pretty awesome.

And, with that, friends, it's time to curl up by the fire to read a bit before bed.  Hope spring is in the air wherever you are. Happy running and writing.