Monday, September 4, 2017

Why ain’t it always summer?

It’s been a good few weeks at our house. I took several long weekends and we did our best to make the most of them – heading for the beach whenever the weather cooperated. Unfortunately, it seems fall has decided to arrive early so we had to dress warmly whenever we ventured out this weekend. I’m still hoping for one last warm day on the beach but I’m not counting on it. The upside is that the cooler temperatures are better for running, walking and hiking – and we’ve done lots of all three in the past two weeks.

There were our usual outings to Risser’s Beach to take Jackie for walks and swims...

...but we also spent a very pleasant afternoon hiking along Hirtle's Beach and around Gaff Point...

...and another at the Kejimkujik Seaside Park.

Kejimkujik was particularly lovely because we took a yummy picnic lunch and had the whole beach to ourselves for a couple of hours. I could have stayed there forever.

My running’s been going reasonably well too – well enough that I've signed up for a second race this fall – a half marathon at 9RunRun in Stittsville, Ontario, near Ottawa. It should be a fun event, and I’m looking forward to the trip since it will be a chance to spend quality time with close friends who live nearby. Between now and then, I'll tackle a 15k event at Maritime Race Weekend along with my usual training runs. I don’t have firm time goals for either event – though I'd like to run the half marathon in 2:15 or less. To this point, I've completed a couple of 17k training runs, as well as a strong 8k at race pace, so 2:15 should be do-able if my training continues to go well.

As summer draws to a close, I’m reading the Anne of Green Gables series again – which is why I'm humming “Why Ain’t it Always Summer” (from the musical) as I write this. I loved the books the first time I read them as a child in PEI and am enjoying them even more the second time around. In challenging and uncertain times - which these most certainly are - Anne’s joyful optimism is good for the soul.

Assuming Trump doesn’t get us all blown up, I’ll write again soon. Until then, happy running and writing!

P.S. I've resisted the urge to include umpteen photos of Jackie in this post, but you can see plenty of recent photos of her on my Instagram account if you're interested.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vacation again!

I haven't posted much lately because life's simply been too busy. However, I recently got an iPhone and, not only does it take great pictures, but it enables me to dictate messages and comments - so, I thought, why not dictate a post as well?

I'm nearing the end of a week's vacation. It's been good to have a few days to hang out on local beaches (including Cherry Hill pictured above) and read a fair bit. I'm just over halfway through Annie Proulx's "Barkskins" -- an awesome read. However, it would have been nice to have another week off since I'm not sure I'll make it through all 700 pages before I head back to the office on Monday.

As I dictate this, I'm admiring the beautiful day lilies overhanging our back deck. Nature really is extraordinary.

It's a shame she did such a poor job creating human beings. The news coming out of the US at the moment makes me to despair for our species. What on earth are we doing leaving men like Trump in charge?

Actually, given the grim news, maybe "Barkskins" is the perfect book to be reading since it brilliantly chronicles the way humans have misused the forests of North America and elsewhere -- not to mention one another. It's a sobering reflection on our history and it doesn't bode especially well for our future.

On a more positive note, husband and I ate fabulously well this week -- lots of barbecue, fresh greens from our garden, and homemade breads and pastries. There's been some running too, which is a good thing since I've signed up to run a 15k race in September. I'm still hoping to tackle a half marathon in the fall as well, but haven't settled on which yet.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I've been rather discouraged about my running lately. However, when I was out for 5k around the lake last week, I was hailed by a woman who told me that she follow my blog and wanted to say hello. Apparently, she's enjoyed reading about my running exploits over the years - in part because she's just a few years younger than me. Suzanne, thanks so much for taking the time to say hi. Knowing there are people like you reading has inspired me to try a little harder to recover my running mojo. Yesterday, I had my first really good run in a long time and it was largely because of your kind and encouraging words. Hope to see you on the road again one day soon!

The other thing I'm hoping will inspire me to train more regularly is our puppy, Jackie. I've started taking her for short runs. She too young to go far but she's already catching on and seems to enjoy our outings. This week Husband and I have taken her for plenty of long walks on the beach, and naturally I've taken dozens of pictures of her. My friends and family are getting tired of seeing her face pop up so often in their newsfeeds but, seriously, how can I resist this face?

Fortunately, she seems to love the beach as much as her mama does.

As I mentioned, I'm headed back to work on Monday and I have to confess I'm not looking forward to it. I've had a fantastic week off, but I still feel quite tired and the autumn promises to be busy. However, I remind myself that I have much to be grateful for -- including my health and a good job -- so there's no reason to complain. I just have to pull up my big girl pants and get at it.

I hope summer's going well wherever you are. With luck, I'll have more runs to write about in the coming months, as well as more photos from my adventures. Until then, happy running and writing!

PS Here are a few more snapshots of Jackie on the beach, taken with a better camera.

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 includes photos of 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. I headed back on my own a few 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 wearing their long jackets.

Fortunately, the air temperature didn't bother the young folk who wanted to swim.

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

Many of the people who were on the beach had dogs with them so Jackie was 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 last 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 them for 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 take 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!