Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Oscar!

This morning, my friend, Janet, a wonderful writer and all around great gal, sent a note telling me she'd selected me as a recipient of the coveted Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. It goes without saying that I felt deeply honoured. As well as being a talented writer and blogger, Janet is a terrific reader - something of a blog connoisseur in fact - so an award from her means a lot.

I'm advised that an acceptance speech for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award normally takes the form of seven random facts about the recipient - so here goes:

1. My favourite after-work-before-I-go-running snack is three whole grain crackers, three slices of marble cheddar and a glass of orange/grapefruit juice.

2. Except for Christmas carols, I enjoy singing the old hymns I sang growing up more than anything else. "The Old Rugged Cross" is a particular favourite and makes me weep uncontrollably at funerals.

3. The best thing about my high school boyfriend was that he wore a beige leather jacket that smelled wonderful. I've never for a minute regretted our breakup - but I still think of him whenever I catch a whiff of a leather jacket.

4. Hands down, my favourite thing to do is to snuggle my nieces and nephews. Don't tell Husband, but it's even better than snuggling him. ;-)

5. In high school and university, I was crazy about acting (yes, Janet, me too!)  For awhile, I even dreamed of becoming an actress.  The high points of my all-too-brief life in the theatre were supporting roles in "Fiddler on the Roof" (Tzeitel), "Crimes of the Heart" (Chick), and "The Imaginary Invalid" (Toinette). One of my greatest regrets is that I left high school a year early and missed out on the opportunity to play Anne in "Anne of Green Gables". I think it might have changed my life.

6. I didn't watch the Oscars last night because I don't have television. I mean I do have a television. It's just not hooked up to anything except a DVD player. In any case, I'm glad I didn't watch. I'm told Billy Crystal got to kiss George Clooney - and that just doesn't seem fair.

7. I'm a pretty good dancer. At least I think so. And, if others disagree, I don't care. Not one little bit.

Once again, my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Academy for this most prestigious award.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Belizean Celebrations

As I wrote in January, my word for 2012 is “Celebration” – of life, self and, most importantly, family and friends. Recently, Husband and I returned from a short trip to Belize which was a celebration of all those things.

We travelled with 11 others – 7 old friends (four of my college roommates and their significant others) and 4 new friends from Finland (who accompanied one of the roomies). It was a good thing the company was terrific because, as it turned, the weather wasn’t. We had only six full days in Belize and it rained mercilessly for the better part of five of them. Fortunately, everyone  in the group kept their sense of humour so we still managed to have a good time.

Our base for the trip was the small village of Hopkins (population: 1200) located on the coast several hours’ drive south of Belize City. We made the trip aboard small Cessna “hoppers” operated by Tropic Air.  (A quick aside here to note that we were very impressed with this small local carrier which offers reliable, friendly, flexible service. We’d certainly recommend Tropic Air to anyone visiting the country.)

Here’s my favourite shot from our flight to Dangriga, from where we travelled to Hopkins by taxi.  

Sky painting 6: Dartmouth Commons

I caught this image as I ran home from work through the Dartmouth Commons last evening. The two crows sitting quietly in the tree seemed to be enjoying the view as much as I was.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mourning and Celebrating Marie Colvin

Today, I'm mourning the death of Marie Colvin, Britain's foremost war correspondent, who was killed by mortar attack in Syria yesterday.

Last night I heard a radio interview she gave the day before she died. Surrounded by violence and death, she described the things she was witnessing in a calm, lucid, passionate report. I can't begin to express my admiration for her fearlessness and compassion. She was a woman whose story we should tell over and over - especially to our daughters.

I admire not only Marie's physical courage - which was extraordinary - but her moral courage as well. She wasn't afraid to speak the truth to power, to tell the stories no one wanted to hear, or to give voice to the most vulnerable - in particular, women and children.

For her, it wasn't just a matter of pursuing her art or her career by writing moving or titillating stories of people in crisis. It was a matter of exposing the horrific realities of war and calling those responsible to account.  As her mother put it: “Her legacy is: Be passionate and be involved in what you believe in. And do it as thoroughly and honestly and fearlessly as you can.”

Rest in peace, Marie. You will be greatly missed. But never forgotten.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Running my commute

It was a great running week. I ran 53 kms in total over four days. I didn't have much choice. There's a transit strike in progress so I've been running back and forth to work (5k each way) most days.

I love running. And, as I've written before, I love my commute. But I have to admit that commuting on foot for most of the past two week has been a bit of a grind. Hopefully, it will start to feel easier if the strike drags on. At the moment, there's no end in sight so I'm doing my best to relax into my new routine for as long as it lasts.

I took the photo above a few days ago as I started the run home at dusk. I love how futuristic it looks.  I must have been an abstract frame of mind because I captured these two images on the same run.

Another evening this week, I travelled home while it was still light and grabbed this shot from the top of the MacDonald Bridge. It's hard to believe the water and sky really looked that blue - but they did!

I stayed in the city this weekend so did my long slow run (23kms) in Dartmouth and Halifax today. The weather was spectacular - sunny and warm, more like an early spring day than February - so I used the opportunity to revisit a favourite route over the old bridge, along the Halifax waterfront and around Point Pleasant Park

Focused as I was on improving my chi running technique, I didn't take many pictures. However, my cell phone rang as I reached the boardwalk in front of Casino Nova Scotia. Stopping to answer it, I noticed this image which I captured when I completed the call. 

That's my reflection in the glass, of course, with a view of the harbour and Dartmouth shoreline behind me.  

For a few more shots from my long run today, you can visit a small photo album here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Getting my head in the game

Here it is the middle of February and my next big race (a 50k ultra) is only 3 months away. I guess it's time to get a little more serious about my training.

Since Christmas, I've been running regularly and gradually lengthening my Saturday long runs. However, I put training on hold for a couple of weeks to travel to Belize with hubbie and friends (I'll post an account of that adventure soon), then recover from a nasty chest cold. To complicate matters, we're in the midst of a bus strike at the moment and I've decided to run or walk to work, rather than spending hours stuck in traffic every day. In theory, it's a good way to kick start (or restart) my ultra training - but I, though I'm running lots, I can't pretend it's good quality training.

At any rate, now that I'm back from vacation and reasonably healthy, it's time to figure out what I can realistically accomplish before race day. I ran a heck of a lot in 2011 (nearly 1750 kms in all) and have managed to maintain a reasonable level of fitness since my last marathon in October 2011 so hopefully a 50km run is still within reach - though, of necessity, I'll be taking a "less is more" approach. :-)

It makes me nervous to think about training to run "50 at 50" so it was nice to stumble on this photo today. It's from a 5km race I ran in June 2011 in a personal best time of 26:36. Not fast, objectively speaking, but smokin' for me. I was especially happy with my performance because the course was a tough one - with a number of long, steep hills - and I finished first out of 18 women in my age group.  As it turns out, my age group was a relatively slow one (there were four women older than me who whooped my butt!) but still...  It might be the one and only time I ever finish a race in first place.

Looking at the picture reminds me of how good I felt that day. The weather was perfect, the race well-organized, and the course truly delightful with breathtaking views of the ocean at every turn. I think I started a little too fast which made the last kilometre feel tougher than it should have but it was still exciting and exhilarating to run a PB on such a tough course.

I plan to run the same race (the Chester Cut 'n Run) this year and it would be nice to shave a few seconds off my time. Since I'll be 50 years old come race day, I'll likely be running head to head with some of the women who beat me last time out and it would feel good to give one or two a run for their money. In the meantime, here's hoping memories of last year's race get my head in the game so that I'm properly trained and ready to run 50k by May 12th!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A very public Valentine

According to Chief Webber on Grey's Anatomy (could there be a more reliable source?), Valentine's Day is about celebrating the person you love. 

This year, the person I love is in a different city a thousand miles away and I completely forgot to send him a card or gift to mark the occasion.  So, instead, I've created this very public Valentine to celebrate his extreme wonderfulness. (Private celebrations will be held during his next visit home in a few weeks. ;-) )

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bright spots on a grey and gloomy day: A long slow run in honour of Sherry Arnold

On Saturday, I ran my first long slow run in a couple of weeks. (I'd missed two previous weekend runs because I was travelling in Belize then recovering from a nasty chest cold I picked up while I was away.)  The day was relatively mild for February but it had already started raining by the time I headed out the door and forecasters were calling for worsening weather (heavy rains and high winds) as the day went on. The weather was nasty enough and I was feeling sick enough that I might have opted to stay inside - except that I was determined to participate in a virtual run taking place in hundreds of locations around the world in honour of Sherry Arnold. 

Sherry, was a 43 years old married mother of two and stepmother of three. She disappeared on January 7th around 6:30 a.m. while running near her home in Sidney, Montana. Though her body has yet to be found, two men have been arrested in connection with her disappearance and one has confessed to killing her.

Sherry's cousin, Beth, another runner who writes a wonderful blog called Shut Up + Run, has written a lot about Sherry and her disappearance over the past month.  By all accounts, Sherry was a warm, talented, strong and compassionate woman who won't soon be forgotten. (Please visit Beth's blog to learn more about Sherry and consider making a donation in support of the two children she left behind.)

During my run for Sherry, I was determined to celebrate her life rather than focusing on the grim details of her death, but it was hard not to feel angry and sad as I headed into Miller's Head Peace Park at the midpoint of my 18k run.  Another woman lost to the senseless violence that pervades out culture. Would it never stop?  Though I did my best to savour the solitude and sweet smell of pine needles crunching beneath my feet, despair and cold drizzle made it difficult to enjoy the park as much as I usually do. In desperation, I began searching around me for bright spots to lighten my mood.

The first one I noticed was this brilliant green moss clinging to some rocks lying beside the trail.

I love moss like this - soft and glistening, it reminds me of the mosses that blanket tree trunks on Vancouver Island where I studied at a small international college many years ago. Though the trees that fill Peace Park are much less majestic than those in BC's old growth forests, the moss growing on and around them often makes me think of the college and the happy years I spent there.  

The second bright spot came in the form of two umbrellas carried by a couple who were entering the park as I was leaving.

Crayon yellow and pink, they made me think of the tulips that will spring from the ground in a few months. And I loved that these folks braved the bad weather to walk hand in hand through the park. It seems that, like me, they know that Peace Park is a very special place.

As I exited the park and turned to run towards home, I focused once again on Sherry and how her life had affected so many other in such positive ways. She was a well-loved teacher and friend whose legacy of courage, strength and grace was the brightest spot on a grey and gloomy day - a bright spot I will carry in my heart and mind as I train for my first (and likely last!) 50k race in May.

From what I've read, Sherry and I shared a love of running but I think we also shared a deep and abiding belief in its transformative power - so thinking about Sherry will remind me that the most important thing about my running is not that it keeps me slim and relatively fit (though those things are good too) or that it satisfies my type A craving for ever greater challenges. The most important thing about running is that it offers opportunities to breathe deeply, contemplate how I want to live my life, and practice caring and compassion for myself and others. Through running, I've learned a lot about myself, made wonderful friends, raised money for worthwhile causes, and honoured inspiring people like Sherry, Jon and Kirsi. In short, running has helped (and is helping) me to be more fully the person I want to be.  

So, thank you Sherry. I hope you rest a bit more peacefully knowing you've inspired so many of us to try to live with as much compassion, courage and integrity as you did.