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!

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?