Saturday, March 31, 2012

Birthday reflections: a very special birthday in a very special place

I'm celebrating the big 5-oh this weekend so I find myself thinking back over my half century of life to other memorable birthdays - where I was, who I was with, and what I imagined for myself at that point in my life.  There is one that come vividly to mind.

It was 1973 and I was turning 11 years old. I had a pen pal, the daughter of close friends of my parents, who lived in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.  Pat and I had known one another since we were babies - literally. Born just two days apart, we'd played together whenever our parents could manage visits. In our first photo together - I think we're about two and a half - she looks like a sweet little girl while I look like a boy - still almost entirely bald, which is ironic given all the hair I have now.

Anyway, in 1973, as a special treat Mom and Dad decided to take me to Newfoundland to spend my birthday with Pat. Keep in mind that this was 39 years ago when flying was still something of a luxury - every flight an adventure. To that point in my life, I'd never been on an airplane so it was with considerable trepidation and excitement that I boarded my first Eastern Provincial Airways flight to Deer Lake, Newfoundland.

I don't remember what time our flight left but it was late by the time we were in the air over Deer Lake and a fierce winter storm was raging. We could feel the plane descending but saw nothing but darkness beyond the swirling snow - no lights and certainly no runway. I didn't know enough to worry but could feel the tension in the air as the plane continued its approach. Looking back, it's a testament to the pilot's skills that we arrived safely that night. I suppose he must have had something to guide him as he brought the plane down, but we passengers saw nothing until we were on the ground and taxiing towards the terminal.

Pat and her family met us inside and loaded us into the family car for the 30 mile drive to their home in Corner Brook through the storm that continued to rage.

I don't remember a great deal about our visit after that. I know we laughed a lot and that Pat's mom cooked homemade macaroni and cheese which I'd never tasted. (We ate Kraft dinner at our house - which was not at all the same thing.)

The highlight of the visit for me came the night of our birthday supper. After we cut the beautiful pink frosted cake, Pat's mother presented us with matching silver charm bracelets. Each bracelet held a dainty "happy birthday" charm engraved with "1973" to mark the occasion.  Mine also held the small figure of a Newfoundland dog. I cherished that bracelet and wore it often until it was stolen from my apartment more than twenty years later.

That trip to Newfoundland was the beginning of my life-long love of adventure and travel, as well as my fascination with the beautiful island of Newfoundland.  In the 39 years since, I've literally travelled "around the world" visiting places I couldn't have imagined existed when I was 11 - the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the massive Salar de Uyuni of Bolivia, the peaceful temples of Ubud.  I've also come to know the people and culture of Newfoundland well  - through its literature, music, theatre and my many friends who come from there.

Thanks Mom and Dad for making my 11th birthday such a special occasion. It's wonderful having great memories of my first big adventure to take with me into the second half of my life. :-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Running lessons: Reality check

The Wascally Wabbit Ultra is just 7 weeks away so I thought I'd check out the course on my long run today. It was - to put it mildly - a rather sobering experience.

To be fair, 62% of the course is on logging roads and, though they're steep and deeply rutted in places, I'm likely strong and nimble enough to handle them. The problem is the 38% of the course that's on ATV trails. The trails were too icy and wet to attempt running the full length of them today. With no one else in sight (aside from one mountain biker out taking pictures), I wasn't anxious to risk falling and injuring myself, maybe getting soaked in the process. (See above.)
I did however venture down two of the trails far enough to realize that running 19kms on them - especially as part of a 50k race - is going to be tough. I enjoyed running the short stretches I did but running their full length may take more strength and focus than I'm likely to have during the second half of a 50k race. 

So, now what?

To begin with, I contacted the organizers to see if I could run the 30k race instead. I think I can finish that distance safely though I may have to walk some of the trickier sections. The problem is, if I switch down to the 30k race, I won't reach my goal of completing a 50k race to mark my 50th birthday. 

I could always run the 50k race in Niagara, I suppose. Husband is ready and willing to make the trip to support me and it would be nice to spend a few days in wine country afterwards - but it would be expensive and chances are I'll be too tired and sore to enjoy wine touring.  Another option is to run another marathon instead - but I won't be satisfied with that unless I run a PB and that's not likely given that I haven't done much speed or strength training in recent months.  A final option - and the one I'm leaning towards at the moment - is to pick a date and route and run 50k. There'd be no finishers' medal, no chip timing, and no cheering crowds but at least I'd know I'd done it.

Or, I suppose I could just accept that running 50k won't be part of my milestone celebrations. 

Which would be fine. 


Except that it wouldn't. Because I've had my heart set on running 50k for awhile now. And because I never like to give up on a goal I've set for myself.

So - running friends - what would you do in my shoes? Resign your fate to the running gods and attempt the Wascally Wabbit despite your fear and misgivings, register for some other race, or breathe a sigh of relief and put your feet up for a few weeks?

PS  I was feeling pretty tired and discouraged as I finished my run today. Fortunately, I noticed these two towers as I was packing up to head back to the city.  Thirty years ago, my baby brother dubbed them "cat spaceships" - so seeing them always make me think of him and smile.  

And when I arrived home, Her Majesty, was happy to comfort me as I lay stretched out on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. 

Thank goodness for small children and feline companions to remind me of what's important. And for Husband who patiently and lovingly commiserated when I called him to report on my run. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Running lessons: Sometimes you just have to keep moving

It was an "interesting" long run this weekend. To begin with, I was late leaving home. The combination of a busy work week, too little sleep several nights in a row, and a damp dreary morning meant I just couldn't get myself going. I only managed to get my butt out the door at all by promising myself I would cut the run short if I felt too awful. Of course, once I'd started, there was no way I was going to do that - I'm too darned stubborn - but somehow the ploy worked.

Even after I started my run, I couldn't seem to get into a groove. My body felt achy and stiff, the skies were grey and I found myself slogging through three or four inches of wet slush on the trails along the river. To make matters worse, I got lost taking a "short cut" through an unfamiliar park and ended up hiking through the snow-covered field pictured above to make my way back to familiar ground. I was cold, wet and embarrassed by the time I slipped through the gate beside the farmhouse.

The worst thing was the pain in my neck and shoulders. After a particularly demanding week at work, my shoulders felt as if they were fastened to my ears with bungee cords.  No matter how often I relaxed them, the muscles in my neck, shoulders and upper back got taut again almost immediately - wasting energy and causing me some pretty serious discomfort.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thank goodness, the strike is over!

After six weeks, the transit strike is over so I was finally able to take the ferry to work again today. It felt wonderful being back on the water after so long.

The down side is that I won't be visiting the Dartmouth Commons - from where I took this photo - quite so often. I'm certainly going to miss the views.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chi Running, Part 5: Forget the time, focus on form

It was another good running week. I managed 56kms in total, including a long slow run of 29k on Saturday morning and a mellow 8.5k recovery run along two of my favourite beaches on Sunday. (The photo above is of Risser's Beach which I had entirely to myself for a change!)

I confess I dreaded the Saturday run. It was the first of a series of long runs I plan to run in preparation for the Wascally Wabbit 50k Ultra in May so I wanted it to feel okay.  To that end, I was especially careful about what I ate and drank last week, tried to get extra sleep, and double-checked my gear the night before. Which is why it came as such a nasty shock to discover the battery in my Garmin was dead as I was heading out the door Saturday morning!  To make matters worse, the battery in my watch was dead as well!!

As some of you know, I'm just a teensy bit "type A", so the idea of running a long slow run without tracking pace, distance and elevation and being reminded to take walk breaks at regular intervals was completely unacceptable to my inner control freak. In fact, she was so unsettled by the idea that I very nearly postponed the run to give myself time to recharge my Garmin.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Still running... but too darn tired to write about it

It's been a few weeks since I last wrote about running. It's not that I haven't been running. In fact, I've been running a lot - 42kms last week, 55kms the week before, and 53kms the week before that. The trouble is I've been too tired and busy to write about it.

The transit strike in HRM continues into it's 6th week so I'm spending more time commuting than I'm used to - much of it on foot. And work has been more frantic than usual. And I've gotten involved in planning a reunion for my college classmates next summer. And Husband and I are embroiled in selling one house and buying another. So, as I say, busy.

What I find interesting is how tough I'm finding it to run back and forth to work - even just a few days a week. I'm a marathoner, after all. Ten kilometres round trip should feel like a walk in the park - but, for some reason, it doesn't.