Sunday, May 20, 2018

Race Report: Bluenose Marathon Weekend - Boyne Clarke 15k

I'm snuggled in by a fire tonight recovering from my first race since last fall - the Bluenose 15k, which I ran this morning in just over 1:38. I haven't downloaded my Garmin data yet so I can't tell you precisely how much elevation was involved but, judging by the way my legs feel, it wasn't insignificant. (Not surprisingly, organizers avoid highlighting elevation info on the event website. Halifax is no place to come for a Boston qualifying time.)

The day started early because we hoped to be on the road by 6:15 to make it to the city in time for my 8:15 start. I woke up at 4:00 to pee, then laid awake listening to rain pound on the roof until the alarm went off at 5:30. By then, the rain had let up some and temperatures were mild enough that I resisted the temptation to bail and scurried to get ready, while Husband made coffee and fed the critters. We scarfed down over-sized pieces of mum's delicious blueberrry pie before finally hitting the road at 6:25.

The drive to the city was largely uneventful - though the rain got worse as we headed downtown. After a quick stop for a pee at a gas station on Quinpool Road, we lucked out and snagged a parking spot a kilometre or so from the start line. Amazingly, I stopped twice more to pee before lining up! Apparently, nervousness is a diuretic. Who knew?!

As we waited for the gun to go off, it was still pouring rain so I kept my jacket on, figuring I could take it off and tie it around my waist if the rain let up and I got too warm - which is exactly what happened just a few kilometres in. Next time, I'll take the risk of being a bit cold and leave my jacket with Husband.

Once the race was underway, I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt. I had tapered thoroughly over the past week, running only a few kilometres in all, and made a conscious effort to run an easy pace for the first few kilometres so that I'd have plenty of gas in the tank for the long hills ahead. I also resisted the temptation to check my Garmin since my only goal was to finish "upright and smiling". Instead, I ran "by feel" -  running "easy" up hills, and as fast I felt like running down them.

The route took us around Citadel Hill and along Agricola Street to North Street, where we made a right turn and headed downhill for a couple of blocks before starting the first climb up and over the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge. I hadn't run across the bridge since it reopened to pedestrian traffic a few months ago so it was fun checking it out, and of course I enjoyed the long descent to Wyse Road on the Dartmouth side. Unfortunately, after Wyse, there was a series of longass climbs up Nantucket, across Slayter, and up Woodland before we turned to run down a steep hill past Mic Mac Mall to Lake Banook. My legs were tired and tight by the time I reached the relatively flat path that took us around the lake, but I got a wee break when I stopped for one last pee just past the 9k mark. (I know! I've no idea where it all came from!)

As we circled Lake Banook and headed back towards the harbour, I was in familiar territory since I run there regularly, and the long descent to the water gave my legs a chance to recover a bit before it was time to tackle four last hills en route to the finish line. The first took us up Alderney Drive to Wyse Road, where local race organizer and photographer, Tim Chesnutt, took this shot. I look much happier than I actually felt at that moment.

The second hill took us up and over the bridge, the third up a steep block from the base of the bridge to Gottingen Street, and the last up Brunswick Street to the finish line. I had to walk for a minute at the top of the bridge, which gave me the chance to grab this quick photo.

Fortunately, having previously run 4 other Bluenose events (the 5k, 10k, half and full marathons), I knew better than to sprint to the finish line. The last time I did that, I came perilously close to losing my breakfast. This time out, I focused on covering the last 300 metres as quickly as I could without inducing vomiting, and crossed the line in a chip time of 1:38:12 - not bad at all, given all the hills and my minimalist approach to training. Here's a pic of me with race mascot, Myles, after the race.

My takeaways from this experience? First, running "by feel" really seems to work for me - especially on hilly routes. I'm a decent downhill runner so can make up a lot of time on descents as long as I don't push too hard on the climbs. Second, Husband's help was invaluable in getting me to the start line - and I don't mean just today. With one thing and another, it's been tough to train this spring, and there's no way I'd have managed it without his unwavering love, support and encouragement. (Thanks, honey!!) Third, race volunteers are awesome. Hundreds of them braved miserably wet and windy conditions and gave up huge chunks of their long weekend so that a few thousand runners could do what they love, raising hundreds of thousands for charity in the process. It's wonderful that so many people are willing to help year after year. Hats off and sincere thanks to all of them!

It's too soon to say what my next race will be. Husband and I are heading "across the pond" to Ireland on vacation soon and I don't expect to run much while we're there - though we hope to do plenty of hiking. Added to which, I may soon have exciting news to share - news that will have major implications for all aspects of my life, including my training. More on that when/if things come together.

Until then, happy running and writing, friends!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Happy birthday to me!

As of today, I'm officially in my late 50s. It's better than the alternative, I know, but I can't say I'm thrilled about it. Of course, it doesn't help that it's a dreary grey day, and my back is aching. (Long story short, I had a minor altercation with a bus this week from which I'm still recovering. On the upside, it's a four day weekend, my Facebook feed and inbox are flooded with birthday wishes, and I'm fortunate that I landed beside, and not in front of, the bus.)
It hasn't been a particularly productive day. I slept in this morning to recover from a busy work week, then headed to Mahone Bay with Husband for coffee and treats at The Barn. We enjoyed our stop there immensely. It's an awesome little place with a terrific vibe so we were in no hurry to head home when the time came - except that this little guy was waiting for us.  

While Husband took Jackie for a long walk in the drizzle, I noodled over the menu for our official birthday supper. Husband's birthday is just a few days before mine so we agreed we'd celebrate them together tomorrow night. He requested duck so I've settled on duck breast with a port and cherry sauce, rissotto with artichokes and oka, and a tossed salad. The rissotto will be a bit of an experiment - my attempt to recreate a dish we had at Picnic a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed it works out.

So - back to the subject of aging. It ain't for sissies, that's the sure. Lately, it feels as if it's one thing after another. Husband's has had three trips to the dentist to deal with broken teeth and failed fillings, along with visits to the audiologist and optometrist to be fitted for hearing aids and glasses. I've just ordered my first set of progressive lenses, am still recovering from plastic surgery on my cheek, and am creeping out of bed like an old lady on account of my aching back. If we weren't otherwise so fit and healthy, it would be downright depressing.

Of course, the really hard thing about aging is coming to grips with the reality that there are some dreams it's just too late to pursue. At some point, it doesn't  matter how much you want something or how hard you're prepared to work, it's simply out of reach. The answer, I suppose, is to dream new dreams, and/or get busy pursuing those that are still possible, but it's hard not to be discouraged by all the closed doors.

What say you, dear reader? Do you still dream new dreams?  When is it too late to pursue them, and how do you know?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Lots of reading and a little running

It's taking awhile to get back to training regularly but, now that my face is healing nicely, I'm determined keep at it. Last week, I only ran twice but both runs were a reasonable length (7k and 8.5k) and felt good throughout so I seem to be making some progress at least.

This week, I'd been hoping to run at least 3 times but Mother Nature had other ideas. We had another nor'easter mid-week that kept me from running on Thursday as planned. I may still manage three runs if I take puppy for a short run this afternoon before my longish 9k run tomorrow.

I didn't used to be such a wimp about running in bad weather but these days I struggle to head out in less-than-ideal conditions - and there seem to have been a lot of them lately. We haven't had as much snow as we usually do this winter but the winds have been fierce and bitter.  The massive tree limbs littering the yard at our country place are testament to how nasty it's been.

On a more positive note, now that the time has changed, evenings are longer so I should be able to make a habit of taking Jackie for short runs at Shubie Park after work. We've made it out a couple of times recently, and have used the time to practice things we're learning in trail training classes at Oceanmark K9 Resort. It's amazing to see how quickly Jackie picks stuff up when her people to a better job of communicating what they want. And, so far as we can tell, she loves the chance to show us what she can do.

Of course, the best thing about trail training is how tired Jackie is afterwards. There's not much cuter than a tired puppy and I get lots more snuggles after we've spent an hour or two on the trails together.

In addition to working, running and hanging out with the critters last week, I managed to do a fair bit of reading. On the weekend, I finished Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, which was by turns hilarious and moving, along with Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

I'm not sure what to make of Manson's book. Clearly, he's no intellectually heavyweight and, at just 34 years old, he's not old enough to be credited with much wisdom. On the other hand, he does a reasonably good job of repackaging insights and wisdom from other sources and the book's an easy and entertaining read.

In particular, I liked his critique of self-help approaches that insist people should try to be positive all the time. To his mind (and mine), that's just dumb. Bad stuff happens and it's completely normal and healthy to feel crappy about it. The important thing is to be thoughtful about how you respond and to do so in ways that are consistent with your values.

Speaking of values, I like that Manson talks about them. It's not something a lot of people do these days but he encourages readers to identify their values, and consider whether they will lead to "a good life" in the long run. By his definition, a good life isn't a life without struggles but rather a life with struggles of your own choosing - a notion that certainly resonates with me.

Okay, okay. Enough about the book. It really isn't that good - though it did offer some interesting questions to noodle over while I work out when and how I want to move on from my current day job.

My other big accomplishment over the past couple of weeks was capturing a few more decent photos of Nemmie. She such a beautiful kitty, it's a shame it's so hard to get good photos of her.

I plan to spend much of this weekend following what's happening at the Barkley Marathon. There are at least two Canadians running - one of whom is an accomplished distance runner, well known in the local trail running community.  Of course, the whole world is cheering for Gary Robbins after his heartbreaking finish at last year's Barkley - me included. But I'll be cheering just as loudly for Jodi Isenor, who completed the 3 loop "Fun Run" at Barkley in 2014 in 36:36 - an incredible accomplishment for a first timer. Here's his account of that run.

Speaking of which, it's time to sign off and get on with my day. Hope the weather's cooperating with whatever you have planned this weekend. Are you following Barkley too? What's your take on adventure races and the people who attempt them?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring is here...we hope

The weather's been weird lately - far too warm  for February and early March. Mind you, I'm not complaining. It's tough enough to get back to regular training without the frigid temperatures we usually have at this time of year.

A couple of weeks ago, we had snow but it was so warm it didn't hang around long - though it sure was pretty while it lasted. It was so wet it clung to everything, creating a gorgeous winter wonderland. Husband and I took Jackie to Peace Park early enough to savour the effect before it melted off the trees.

It's a good thing Jackie's got brown ears and a pink tongue, or we'd have lost her in all that white stuff.

It was easier to keep track of her when we headed out for a short run up river the following weekend when the snow was mostly gone.

I finally signed up for the Bluenose 15k a few weeks ago, so it's time to get busy training. I'm hoping Jackie will accompany me on shorter runs and she's done pretty well the few times I've taken her - trotting along steadily, with only occasional stops for pees, water, and stick-chewing. Last week, we started a trail training class, which should help. She loved running and playing with the other dogs but we were all pretty tired by the time we got home. It turns out paying attention is almost as tiring for Husband and me as it is for her.

It will be interesting to see how my Bluenose training goes now that I've dropped a few pounds and had a long break. I've lost a lot of fitness and flexibility in recent months so it'll take a fair bit of patience I expect.  Most years, I maintain a solid enough base throughout the year that it's relatively easy to transition to longer distances when spring arrives but, after running so little these past few months, my base has eroded to the point that even 5k feels like a workout.

I'd be lying if I said I was okay with that, but I refuse to let myself be discouraged. After all, when I started running regularly at 40, I was 20 pounds overweight, desperately out of shape, with very little running experience, and I still managed to do things I never thought I would - like complete 9 marathons, a 50k ultra, and a slew other shorter races.  I may be older now (56 in a few weeks) but I've succeeded in keeping my weight down and still enjoy running enough to want to do it regularly, so there's every reason to believe I can find my way back to a comfy training groove soon. Here's hoping anyway.

Speaking of weight, Husband and I are continuing to track what we eat and avoid foods that don't agree with us and it seems to be paying off. We're no longer losing weight - which is fine since we're  happy where we are - but we're eating heaps more veggies, feeling better and no longer gaining, which is terrific. We're also expanding our repertoire in the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago, I cooked five spice duck breast with balsamic jus for the first time and it was pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.

In other news, I've been busy making my way through a few more books on photography. I find them inspiring - but only theoretically, since I don't have a lot of time or energy for taking photos at the moment. I'm hoping that will change when the weather warms up and there's more daylight. In the meantime, I try to spend time each day "seeing photographically" and capturing images like these with my iPhone.

Finally, just because I so seldom mention her, here are two photos of Her Highness. She really is a beautiful girl - especially for an old lady of 15.

I hope spring has arrived where you are! Are you training for a spring race? How's it going so far? What tricks to you have for getting back to regular training after an extended break? When and how do you feel inspired to take photographs?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Currently...the February 2018 edition

Time and place...
A lazy Saturday afternoon in the country.

A Mexican-inspired rice and bean salad to take to dinner at Janet and Ron's this evening.

4:00 pm, when we will head out to pick up Jackie, who's spending her very first day at puppy daycare today. And, yes, I am a nervous puppy-mama - desperately hoping she enjoys the adventure and makes some new puppy friends.

Working on...
This post, at the moment, but I've been noodling a lot about work lately - how to get the pieces to fall into place on a major new project, while keeping all my other balls in the air. I'm also knitting a new wool vest for Husband and slowly getting back to running after nearly two months off. 

Lots of books intended to inspire creativity - including several books on writing, and street and travel photography. I'm hoping they'll motivate me to spend more time with my camera and notebook in the coming months. It would be nice to return from our next trip with some reasonably good images and stories to share. 

Listening to...
Husband vacuuming the house. Bless his heart. I guess that means I'll have to dust later.

A vacation. It's been far too long since I had a proper break. Fortunately, we've just booked two weeks in Ireland, with a quick stopover in St. John's en route, so I've got one to look forward to in a few months.

Donald Trump and his mini-mes.

These two. How could I not? Also Snapseed, a fun photo app I've just started using - mostly to tweak photos I post on my Instagram account.  

Did I mention we're going back to Ireland later this year? Also, dinner tonight. Its always lovely spending time with good friends.

Selected Olympic events. I loved watching the curling mixed doubles and team figure skating - and not just because Canada won golds. Both teams exhibited so much determination and class, they made me proud to be Canadian. The same goes for Patrick Chan. He may not have earned a medal in the singles event yesterday but he did us proud all the same!

The Plan. Both Husband and I have lost weight and are feeling better since we began following it a couple of months ago. My new favourite breakfast is this chia seed and blueberry compote. It may look a bit odd but it's high in protein, low in calories, and downright delicious!

Mirrors. My incision is looking much better three and a half weeks post-surgery but it's hard not to feel anxious about how the scar will "mature". I've been trying to think of it as "interesting" but am still hoping my right and left cheek will more or less match again one day.

What about you, dear reader. What are you up to...currently?