Saturday, June 22, 2019

Retirement Lessons: Harder than it looks

Nearly 5 months in, I'm just starting to get my head around what it means to be retired.  It's harder than it looked before I took the plunge - mostly because the days aren't anywhere near long enough to do all I want to do, but also because things haven't unfolded exactly as I expected.

To begin with, I spend much more time doing household chores than I imagined - which is only fair, given that Husband did the bulk of them during my last few years of work. Still, I didn't anticipate how much time chores and puppy care would consume each week.

Then there were the all the long-postponed projects to contend with - clearing out the attic, disposing of unwanted items, planning renovations, organizing photos and memorabilia, researching my grandmother's life, etc. Each of them has taken far more time that I thought it would. I've made a good amount of progress on most things but I'm still a long way from finished.

Then there were the psychological and emotional challenges of my new status - glad to be retired but anxious to make positive contributions to family, friends and community and struggling to nurture good mental health in the face of seemingly insurmountable environmental, political and economic injustices.

And finally there were a number of physical issues to contend with. I'd presumed the aches and pains that had plagued me for years would disappear immediately once work was behind me, but of course that hasn't happened. In fact, some issues became more troublesome when I returned to regular exercise. As a result, I'm nowhere near as fit as I hoped to be at this stage - though I managed to run a 5 mile race in a respectable time this morning - and the arthritis in my hands, feet and knees is making everything more difficult.

Don't get me wrong. I wholeheartedly recommend retirement, and am deeply grateful I'm able to do this. It's just that I don't feel completely comfortable with it yet. Retirement feels a bit like early adulthood, in as much as the possibilities feel endless, but that there's a greater sense of urgency too - urgency that stems from realizing I have only a few years left and wanting to be selective about what I do with them.

Whatever the future holds, I hope I continue to appreciate the beauty, love and kindness that remains in this world. After all, it's the stuff that makes life worth living.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Five Questions for New Year's

Another new year and this one promises to be more interesting and fun than the last few given that, as of January 31st, I'll be embarking on new adventures as a retired person. I haven't quite figured out what I mean by "retired" but, with a bit of luck, I'll have plenty of time to do that.

On New Year's Eve, my friend Janet sent an email with five questions to reflect on as the year drew to a close, and I thought it would be fun to answer them here, then ask you to do the same.

1. Best moment of 2018?
There were plenty of great moments - seeing Mamma Mia at Neptune Theatre with my mom, sisters, nieces and friends, sleepovers with my sister's daughters, touring Ireland, hiking with another sister and her daughter in Canmore, visiting with good friends, enjoying beach suppers with my folks, and attending the King's Chapel Choir Christmas concert, to name just a few. But the moment that stands out is the moment when, driving down the highway just outside St. John's, Newfoundland, we received a text from our realtor telling us we had a firm deal to sell the city house.We were totally over-the-moon! It changed everything because it was the first step towards restructuring our lives so I could give up my day job and we could live in the country full-time.

2. Best book?
I had a hard time with this question because I haven't read much outside of work the past few months. However, looking back, I realized there were two books that really affected me - Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother and Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad about My Neck. Jann's book is a moving account of her efforts to care for her mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, interspersed with recipes and photographs. I found it especially moving because I witnessed my father-in-law's struggle with the same disease. Nora's book was recommended by a friend. It too is an intimate little book,  though much more light-hearted, filled with laugh-out-loud observations on what it means to be a woman of a certain age - of any age really. It especially affected me I only realized after I read it that Ephron had passed away 2012, which was hard to fathom. How could a person with so many advantages, and such humour, insight, and zest for life be gone so soon?

3. Best lesson?
This year was chock-a-clock with lessons -  many of which weren't particularly pleasant. For example, I realized how vain I was when I got bizarrely stressed about having surgery to remove a small skin cancer from my cheek. And that age was winning when I suddenly developed arthritis in my hands and feet. Fortunately, there were happier lessons too - like how much fun it is to play theatre games, and how good Guinness tastes when it's properly stored, served in a fancy glass and enjoyed with friends in a small Irish pub. Overall, though, I'd have to say the best lesson this year was that the time has come to free up more time in my life for the people and things that matter most.

4. Best buy?
The truth is I bought very little stuff this year - not even running gear. Ever since we sold the city house, our focus has been on disposing of stuff rather than accumulating more. Given that, I'd have to say my best buy was our air tickets to Ireland. Those tickets provided months of joyful anticipation and heaps of happy memories that will last a lifetime.

5. Wish for 2019?
I have two. The first is that I'm able to create the new life I'm dreaming of - one that enables me to be more active, engaged, creative, and compassionate. The second is that, in the face of the environmental crisis, people around the world come together to take action before it's too late. Yes, I know the second seems a bit unrealistic. But - hey - we have to be able to imagine a better future in order to build it.

And what about you, gentle reader? How would answer these five questions? What books should I put on my reading list? What lessons did you learn? What are your wishes for 2019?

Monday, August 6, 2018

A long, hot weekend

The boardwalk at Risser's Beach
It's been an especially hot long weekend on the south shore (30+ degrees with high humidity making it feel even warmer), which made it hard to accomplish much. I did manage a short run into town and back early yesterday when it was cloudy but I was dripping with sweat by the time I got home so didn't attempt the same feat today in full sun. We also got some sorting and unpacking done yesterday while it rained. We've spent the rest of the weekend resting at the beach or on the back deck, cooking, reading, watching Netflix and playing with Jackie Blue.

I'd hoped to spend a few hours playing with my camera this weekend but ended up taking just a few shots when we took Jackie to the beach for a long walk Saturday morning. The rest of the time, it's been either too hot and sunny to be outside for long, or I was busy doing other things. The great thing about our walk on Saturday morning was that we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. Apparently, other people don't like the fog as much as we do.

The old wharf at the end of the beach is a favourite spot for stalking snails
The remnants of the wharf
Petite Riviere from the back beach at Risser's
I had a really hard time taking good photos of Jackie in the foggy conditions. She moves so quickly, most were out of focus, and she looked far too serious in many others. It made me realize just how difficult it is to capture her joy when she's doing something she loves. Here are few that almost do it. In the last two, she's waiting for Husband to throw her favourite toy (a rubber ring) so she can chase it down the beach.

After our walk, we popped up the road for a bite of lunch at the Ploughman's Lunch, before returning to the beach for a couple of hours of reading (Husband and me) and snoozing (Jackie Blue). The fog never lifted entirely but that was okay because it helped moderate the air temperature.

We spent most of yesterday at home but did a quick run to Mahone Bay for a bit of shopping in the afternoon. En route back, we popped in for a pint of excellent micro-brew and some live Celtic music (including a bagpipe) on the patio at Saltbox Brewery. It's a puppy-friendly place, so we took Jackie along and, as you can tell, she loved it!

Today, we headed back to the beach in an effort to escape the stifling temperatures at the house. Unfortunately, it was nearly as warm there and the beach was packed so we didn't enjoy it as much as we hoped to. On the upside, Jackie got some exercise, we squeezed in a short visit with my folks (who were camping nearby), and I got to take Patti for a spin. I have to admit it felt good to be back on my motorcycle - so long as I didn't think about too hard. I'm far too aware of my mortality to enjoy riding as much as I once did - especially in the heat!

I mentioned we watched Netflix this weekend. That's new for us. We're not big TV watchers and gave up cable years ago so have had limited options since. Very occasionally, we'd rent a movie on iTunes, break out an old DVD, or watch a TV show online, but mostly we just read books instead. Now that we have a Netflix account, that may change. There are heaps of movies and TV programs I've been wanting to see, and, as part of our big move, we've just set up a cozy den that will make watching them a lot more comfortable.

Speaking of our move, I have to say I've been a bit horrified to realize just how much stuff we've accumulated over the past decade. For much of that time, we had two or more "homes" and our belongings were spread out amongst them so we didn't really notice how much stuff we had. Consolidating everything to one house has been eye-opening, to say the least. We'll be months disposing of things we no longer need, and it will be challenging to find good homes for some of it, but we're determined to be ruthless so we can return to living in a relatively uncluttered space.

And that was our long weekend. It's back to the coalface for me tomorrow. Hope your long weekend was good, wherever you are! 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Still here and blogging... my head, at least. Unfortunately, I rarely have time to write these days and, when I do, I usually spend it catching up on email. 

What’s got me so busy? A good question. I wonder sometimes why life feels so hectic when I don’t seem to do much besides work and hang out with Husband and the critters. I never watch TV, rarely go out, and train only sporadically. The trouble is I’m so tired that, even when I do have a little time, I’m not inclined to spend on my laptop. I’m more likely to pour a glass of wine and play tug with Jackie Blue. 

Life is especially tiring at the moment because we sold our city house a few weeks ago and I’m commuting 200k a day to work and back. I only drive about 150k of that since I catch a bus at Tantallon but the round trip eats up 3 hours of each day. I’ve been using the time on the bus to read novels, which makes it feel a little less like work, but all that travel still makes for a longass work day. Fortunately, I’ll only be commuting for a few more weeks. I've lined up an apartment to rent in the city starting the beginning of September.

The decision to sell the house was a bit spur of the moment. At the time, I thought I might be giving up my job and the housing market was hot so we decided to take the plunge and sell the house while we could get a good price for it. However, things at work have improved to the point that it now makes sense to stay in my job awhile longer and see how it goes. It would be nice to end my government career on a high note instead of leaving earlier than planned out of frustration. 

Moving's not the only thing that's been consuming time and energy. Husband and I went on a wonderful trip to Newfoundland and Ireland in late May/early June, which I hope to blog about in detail eventually. In the meantime, here are a few photos to wet your appetite.

In addition, we've had a regular stream of visitors since early July. Most booked their time with us before we decided to sell the house so we didn't feel we could postpone, and anyway we've enjoyed having them. It just made July that much more hectic.

The other issue for me has been the heatwave we've had over the past few weeks. Normally, I enjoy hot weather but not this year. Coupled with regular hot flashes, the very warm temperatures have kept me from getting enough sleep.

Fortunately, I've booked two more weeks of vacation in late August so it won't be long until I get some proper rest. In the meantime, I'm doing my best to pace myself, eat right, drink plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids, and cut myself a bit of slack on the training front. 

At the moment, the most I can manage is a couple of short runs per week and I often end up having to walk parts of them on account of the (internal and external) heat. It's frustrating but I remind myself that it's better to do some training than none at all. Once I've moved into an apartment in the city, I should have more time for running (and blogging) since Husband plans to stay in the country with the critters most weeks.

So that's the news from here. Hope you're having a good summer, wherever you are. If you're a female runner of a certain age, I'd love to hear how you manage hot flashes when you run (and the rest of the time, for that matter). If you're a long distance commuter, how do you spend so much time on the road without feeling totally exhausted at the end of the day? Love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!

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!