Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Happy new trails: Bridgewater to Lunenburg

Adventure is worthwhile in itself. - Amelia Earhart

This quotation from Amelia nicely sums up my motive for exploring two new trails on my long run this past weekend. After many months of training on the same routes, I was itching to explore a new one so I set out to run from Bridgewater to Mahone Bay along the Adventure Trail, and from there to Lunenburg along the Bay to Bay Trail - a total distance of just over 29kms which I covered in 3:03 (smokin' for me!).

I didn't start the run until a little after 3:00 PM because I was busy earlier in the day reorganizing furniture and boxes which had been haphazardly piled in the house when Husband arrived from central Canada last week. However, that worked out well because it meant I reached Lunenburg just in time to meet Husband for a delicious supper at the Knot Pub.

As I began the run, cloudy skies and a light breeze made conditions perfect for running. I was delighted to discover the trails took me past several beautiful lakes and across a series of marshes thick with wildlife.

My favourite part of the route was the Bay to Bay Trail which took me deep into the quiet old pine forest and reminded me of a poem I read recently.

   I go to the woods

   I go to the woods
   to drink stillness
   to breathe
   the fragrance of healing

   moss underfoot
   muffles the noise
   in my head

   deep in a maple
   there is an eye
   that sees my hurt

   teaches me
   to weave seasons
   of severings
   into circles of growth

   - Phyllis McKinley

This run was my last really long one before the 50k event on May 12th so I'm grateful it went well. (In fact, I felt so good when I reached Lunenburg that I was tempted to run another 13kms just to see if I could beat my personal best marathon time. Fortunately, the pub beckoned and common sense prevailed.)

I hope to run the route again soon. In the meantime, I plan to cycle to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg as often as possible this summer - to visit their galleries, grab a meal in one of their terrific pubs or restaurants and admire their stately old homes.  I highly recommend you do the same!

One of the lovely older homes in Lunenburg

Monday, April 23, 2012

Resting and recovering in one of my favourite places: Herring Cove

After my long run through Shubie Park last weekend, my legs were tired and sore so I gave them a workout on Sunday and went for a long hike in one of my favourite places - Herring Cove Provincial Park Reserve just outside Halifax.  The trail is a bit hard to find if you've never been but it's soooo worth the effort.

I spent a very mellow couple of hours walking the trail and scrambling over rocks, as I watched fishing boats come and go and savoured the sounds of surf, birdsong and buoy bells far in the distance. The view there makes me feel I can see forever.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another long run through Shubie Park: To run or not to run the ultra

I overslept this morning so didn't manage to get out the door until nearly 11:00 and wasn't sure I was up to running 32k but, since it was a glorious spring day, I decided to start and see how it felt.  It was to be my last really long run before the ultra on May 12th so I opted for a relatively challenging route through and around Shubie Park. Most of Shubie's trails are far smoother than the trails I'll be running for the ultra but at least they're hilly.

To add to the challenge, I took several detours off the main trails to run rougher trails, including Vivien's Way, which I looped three times.

Vivien's Way is named for Vivian Srivastava (1931-2004), an avid walker, naturalist and paddler who helped design the Lake Charles and Portobello portion of the Trans Canada Trail along the Shubenacadie Canal. The trail - though a short loop of less than a kilometre - is a beautiful, peaceful tribute to a remarkably accomplished woman.

Back at my apartment after the run, I showered, ate lunch and settled in with a beer to savour the view from my balcony and soak up a little sun. I'll be moving to a new house in a few weeks and, though I'm looking forward to it, I have to say I'm going to miss this view.  Being able to gaze at Sullivan's Pond and the ocean beyond while sipping coffee in the morning is one of the great things about living where I do.

The thing I kept thinking about on my run today is whether I really feel ready to run 50k in a month's time. I can't honestly say that I do. It's hard to imagine running another 17k on top of the 33k I did today - let alone on rough trails and logging roads.  For the moment, however, I remain committed to trying. I figure the worst that can happen is that I don't finish and - really - how bad is that?  Sure, I'll be disappointed but it's not like I've properly trained to run such a tough course.  If I manage to complete it - great. I'm in better shape than I thought. If I don't - well, better luck next time.

Actually, maybe that's what's worrying me - knowing, if I don't finish the Wascally Wabbit ultra, my pride won't let me rest until I do another - though I promised myself and Husband I'll take a break from long distance running in order to focus on other things for awhile.

Hmmm. I guess I'm going to have to ponder it for a bit.  It may be silly - not to mention dangerous - to run an ultra for which I'm not really ready. On the other hand, my chiro thinks I can do it and, if I taper properly, I should be a bit stronger in a month's time. With the excitement of race day, Husband's loving support, and a good dollop of stubborn determination, I might just be able to "get 'er done" (as we say in Nova Scotia) and it sure would feel good to cross "run an ultra" off my bucket list.

Any experienced ultramarathoners out there who'd like to wade in on my internal dialogue?  How well-trained does one have to be to finish an ultra?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Running lessons: Never forget where you started

It was a good week of running. I felt a bit discouraged after my long run two weeks ago but, with some rest and a couple of good runs under my belt, I'm feeling much more optimistic that I can finish the Wascally Wabbit 50k. Physically, I'm strong enough. The question is: Will I have the psychological and emotional fortitude to keep going when it starts to feel tough. Only time will tell. Over the next five weeks, I just have to keep training and visualizing and hope that by race day I have the "tricks" needed to carry me through.

This past weekend was a long one. I decided to do my 35k long slow run on Friday so I'd be free to enjoy a belated birthday lunch with my friend Janet on Saturday. And enjoy it, we did. While Janet opted for traditional fish and chips, I went for the gusto ordering deep friend clams, haddock and french fries accompanied by a huge vanilla milkshake. Delicious and just what the doctor ordered after a long run the day before.

I intended to tackle a 10k "recovery" run Easter Sunday morning but awoke to this view outside my window.

Since it wasn't very spring-like and I was still feeling quite tired, I postponed my run until today and did it on the trails in Shubie Park instead. I'm glad I did. It was early evening by the time I headed out but the sun was still bright and the park was serenely beautiful as I ran a 12.5k loop savouring the sweet smell of wet pine and the cheerful birdsong overhead.

A high point of the run was crossing paths with a "learn to run" group from Heart & Soul running club. What an inspiration!  Though some were clearly struggling to find their inner athletes, the members of the group were cheerful, determined and very proud of how far they'd come. And so they should be. 

I remember only too well how hard my first runs felt ten years ago. I'd joined a "learn to run" course at a friend's suggestion because I wanted to lose weight and feel good in my skin again. I was forty years old, 25-30 pounds overweight, with a bad back and no inkling I would consider myself a runner one day. At the time, I thought I'd be happy if I ever managed to run 5kms without stopping. I vividly recall being ecstatic when finally - finally - I ran all the way around Lake Banook (about 4.5kms) - something I do routinely now as part of my regular routes.  In fact, I took the photo at the top of this post as I ran home along the shores of the lake tonight.

Ten years later, I'm more grateful than I can say to be a runner, a marathoner and - soon, I hope - an ultramarathoner.  I just hope I never forget where I started, or stop being grateful to the younger version of myself who did all that hard work to get me here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sky Paintings 7: Let the weekend begin!

I caught this image on my cell phone as I drove across the Old MacDonald Bridge Thursday night.

I love the sunsets in my little city. They help me to relax and breathe deeply at the end of a long day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Running lessons: sometimes all you need is a little rest

Something wonderful happened last night. I felt like running - really felt like running - for the first time in awhile. For the past two weeks, every run has felt like a slog and I've been struggling to get myself out the door, but last night - last night! - felt amazing.

I had a friend for supper so it was 9:30 before I even thought about running. Common sense told me to skip it and go to bed early but the mild weather and city lights shining on the harbour enticed me outside.

I'm so glad I went. I loved the solitude that comes with running under cover of darkness, loved the soft not-quite-rain on my face, and loved that my body felt so ready to run.

What a relief. I was beginning to wonder if my love affair with running had come to a precipitous end. I now think I was simply tired. The last few months have been unusually busy at work and at home, and I suppose my body just needed a rest.

Here's hoping it bodes well for my long run this weekend. I have only a few more weeks to prepare for my first (and likely last!) ultra on May 12th.

Happy Easter, everyone!