Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trail running is STILL fun!

Okay, so maybe whacking my knee on a big rock was less than ideal - and I won't pretend it didn't hurt. But my whole body (aside from from my knee) feels amazingly loose, relaxed, soft and balanced after a challenging 5km run along a fairly technical trail tonight.  A bloody, scraped knee seems a small price to pay to feel this good.

To be clear, I am completely. Totally. Absolutely. Smitten with trail running. Everyone should try it.  Seriously.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Running lessons: To inspire and be inspired

It was another tough long run yesterday. I'm not sure why. I ate well last week, avoided drinking too much wine the night before, and ran at a relaxed pace. Still, my calves were tight and sore throughout, my right foot cramped up, and my left shoulder felt as if it was fastened to my ear by a bungie cord. I did my best to manage the discomfort by focusing on my form, taking regular walk breaks and stopping to stretch now and then, but I never got into a really good groove.

On the upside, the weather was perfect for running - cool and misty with just a hint of breeze - and the damp weather we've been having lately made everything gloriously lush and green. Even in the subdued light, the foliage seemed to glow.

As I ran, I mulled over a message I received from a friend on Friday. In passing, he mentioned that my Facebook posts about running sometimes inspire him to get moving himself. Yesterday, in particular, it was helpful to remember that I don't run only for myself - that occasionally my running benefits others as well.

I vividly remember the first time a former colleague and and I chatted about running and she told me (in no uncertain terms) that she'd never run a marathon - that she didn't think she could and wasn't particularly interested in trying. Since she was young and fit and had been running for years, I knew she could run a marathon if she wanted to and I thought she might enjoy the challenge, so I encouraged her to consider running a half marathon to see how it felt. In the months that followed we discussed my own marathon training often and, before I knew it, she'd registered for her first half.

After that, we lost touch for awhile so I was thrilled when a few weeks ago - a little more than two years after that first conversation - I received this message:
You're going to be so proud....I finished my first marathon! I'm super happy with my time...I was hoping to do it in 4 hours, and ended up finishing at 3:43. I couldn't be more thrilled. 
Going into the race I thought it was going to be really difficult and thought that perhaps this might be the one and only marathon I'll run....HOWEVER, I am now totally hooked. I can't wait to do another. 
She was right. I was very proud of her - not to mention pleased that I'd played some small part in her success.

Reading her message also made me feel grateful - for all the people who encouraged me when I first started running a decade ago, for the friends and family who've supported my running adventures since, and for all those runners and non-runners alike who inspire me every day - but especially the days when running feels hard.

So, fellow runners, who or what first inspired you to run?  What gets you out the door on days you don't feel like running?  Have you ever been responsible for infecting someone else with the running bug?

Friday, June 22, 2012

A summer solstice trail run

Husband and I celebrated summer solstice by joining the Halifax Trail Runners Club for a short run along the Cole Harbour Heritage Park trails Wednesday evening. I'd never been on most of the trails we explored so it was a thrill to discover another great place to run so close to our new house. Husband enjoyed it too, though he found the pace a bit quick. Kudos to him for keeping up with so many runners half his age on a warm, muggy night!

Some of the trails we ran were as wide and well-groomed as the one pictured left, but most were single track paths through woods and grassy fields with enough hills and berms to make them moderately challenging for newbie trail runners like us. Fortunately, none was was as challenging as the Spider Lake trails I ran two weeks ago, so we were able to chat with fellow runners and take our eyes over the trails long enough to enjoy the lush spring foliage and distant ocean views.

(A quick word about the photos. I didn't have a camera with me so searched on-line today and found these which were taken by Scott Baltjes. When I contacted him, he kindly agreed to let me use them in this post. Go to this link to see his original images as well as others of the same park.)

If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit to the park. It's the kind of place you can imagine you're miles from civilization when in fact you're just a few minutes' drive from downtown.

Next week, it's off to the Bluff Trail. I'm told it's the toughest trail on the group's schedule so stay tuned to hear how it goes. I suspect Husband may decide to give it a miss and elect to join the group for a short run through Point Pleasant Park and a Garrison Brewery tour the following week instead.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Running lessons: Overcoming my summer running funk

I've been in something of a running funk lately. After months of training for various races, I suppose I'm just a little tired. I keep telling myself it's okay to feel this way for awhile. After all, I'm not planning to run another race any time soon and there's lots to keep me busy as Husband and I settle into our new home.

My long run last weekend was a relatively short 13k jaunt from our country house to Peace Park and back.  The weather was perfect for running - sunny with a light cool breeze up river. Peace Park was breathtakingly green and lush after all the rain we've had and the air was heavy with the scent of salt water roses.

I love salt water roses. They remind me of my girlhood in Prince Edward Island. I went to Canoe Cove Christian Camp every summer and smelled my first salt water roses there when a friend braided some into my hair. Ever since, their scent reminds me of how much I loved summer camp, what a gift it was to grow up in Prince Edward Island, and how fortunate I am to live in another idyllically beautiful place now.

On Sunday, as I trundled the last few kilometres home, I passed a favourite landmark, a large osprey's nest perched high atop a wooden pole. I spotted mama peering down at me but there was no sign of daddy or any any babies yet.

When I finally arrived back at the house, I stopped for a few minutes to savour our garden. Once upon a time, it was probably quite beautiful - well-tended and orderly. Sadly, years of neglect have left it weedy and overgrown. Nevertheless, white and purple irises bloom in abundance and healthy clumps of mint and day lilies grow amongst the blackberry bushes. There's no chance I'll get the garden cleaned up this summer - we have too many other projects on the go - but I'm looking forward to weeding the plants I love best and making plans for a major garden renovation next year. After all, planning is the best part!

That's true when it comes to running as well. Choosing races to run, developing a training schedule, making logistical arrangements, fund raising and coordinating with running friends are all things that inspire me to hit the roads and trails when I'm feeling low energy. Which is why I got busy this week researching options for a fall race or two. 

My first choice is the Cape to Cabot  20k Road Race in St. John's, Newfoundland - but, realistically, I don't think our summer travel schedule will permit me to train properly for "the Toughest Race in Eastern North America". A more realistic option is the Cuddly Coyote 21k Trail Race which is happening closer to home and would require much less hard training - though I'd have to do lots more trail running of course. In addition, Husband and I are hoping to the run the Bacchus Wine 10k Fun Run at Muir Murray Winery in November.

What races are you planning to run this summer and fall? Are there any you'd especially recommend that aren't too far from Canada's east coast?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Here's the set up:  Last Friday evening, Husband and I drove to the country for the weekend. Upon arriving, we noticed we had left behind a cooler full of food for ourselves and the two cats so we emailed, then telephoned, our friend Thomas to ask if he could help. A few hours later we received this message. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard I cried...

OK, here's the story... 

I had a fairly pleasant walk to your house. Nice spot. On the way down your street I met a large black dog who ran towards me, and thankfully seemed friendly. He was with a man and a little girl. We said hi. I got to your place, or what I thought I remembered hearing L say was your house number, but saw no cooler on the porch. There was some mail sticking out of your box, which I quickly looked at and saw your name on the front, so I knew that at least it was indeed the correct house. With no luck on the front porch, I walked around back being unsure if perhaps it was on a back porch. No luck there either. On my way back out to the front, the guy (with little girl and dog) was walking back toward me checking me out. I quickly informed him that I was there at your request looking for the cooler, and asked if he might have seen it and perhaps stored it himself on your behalf. He looked a bit more at ease realizing that I might not be an evil doer, and let me know that I looked suspicious looking at the mail and immediately going around to the backyard. I thanked him for his watchful eye over his neighbour's house. We chatted, he told me that he had put the mail in your box, as it was delivered to his house, and that his name was Troy. Seems like a good neighbour to have around. I left empty handed and headed back home.

When I got here, I checked my facebook messages and saw your note re the possibility that is might be in the entry way and your info regarding the location of the key. So I hopped in the van with security code in hand and tried operation grocery rescue part B. I was a bit self conscious now that I figured the neighbours might be watching me and my search for the secret key. I had a story ready for them if they came calling me on it though, you had contacted me to ask this time to check if the propane was left on, thus not revealing your secret hiding place, which was damn good by the way. It took me about four or five minutes looking and feeling about for it. I finally found it just as I was about to give up and think you guys were just nuts. I let myself in an deactivated the alarm without any problem, but no cooler here either. I had a quick look around and in the end was able to locate it sitting snugly inside the refrigerator. 

You are boneheads. But that's ok, because we're all boneheads in our own way and it gave me something to do this evening and while I was out I got to pick up some beer at the liquor store (and not steal the ones from your fridge). I didn't put the key back where I found it in case I was being watched. It is currently thumbtacked to the back of the post of my front porch that has the house number 16 on it. It's hiding behind a leaf - attached to the same thumbtack. You can pick it up whenever you'd like. 

Please don't worry about putting me out, I'm cool, and glad to be able to help my boneheaded friends out. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Does this seem right to you?

Warning: This post is not about running. This post is about something that's been bothering for awhile - what we teach young girls about their bodies, their place in society and their relationships with the opposite sex.

This morning, a woman I follow on Twitter retweeted a link to an article in which the author argued there was nothing wrong with allowing - even encouraging - teenage girls to get their legs and pubic areas waxed so they'd feel more comfortable participating in summer activities like going to the beach and swimming. The crux of the argument seemed to be that it was important to ensure young women were able to satisfy societal expectations so they wouldn't be negatively affected by other's criticism of their bodies.

Really? That's how we should respond to societal expectations? By teaching young women to conform to them?

How about if we teach them that they are beautiful just the way they are?

How about if we teach them that many societal expectations are ridiculous? That much of what's expected is oppressive, painful and downright dangerous?  Yanking hair out by its roots, for example. Or starving themselves to stay too thin? Or wearing shoes that permanently damage their feet and backs? Or dousing themselves with carcinogenic chemicals so that their faces and hair look a particular way. Or going to tanning salons?

How about if we encourage them think about why those expectations exist and what they say about our culture, and in particular the relationship between men and women?

Why, for instance, don't men wear ridiculously high-heeled shoes that shorten their calf muscles, encourage deformations of their feet, and make it impossible to run from danger?

And why do some men (and women) find hairless female genitals so attractive?  Is it something to do with knowing significant pain was inflicted to create them? (Tiny bound broken feet spring to mind.)

And why don't we teach our daughters and sons that sex isn't about emulating the unrealistic (often pornographic) images they see around them in music videos and advertising, on television and the internet? That they have a right to be treated with love and respect. That how they feel and what they enjoy matters. That girls and women aren't just playthings for boys and men.

The reality is that, however much waxing, dyeing, tanning, and starving young women do to conform to societal expectations, they won't feel better about themselves. They'll just learn that what's important is how they look and how well they conform - and not what they think, what they feel, or how they treat other people and themselves.

If you think I'm over-reacting, please take the time to watch "Sext up kids", a documentary aired by CBC's Doc Zone in February 2012.  I saw it a few months ago and haven't been able to shake it since.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Race Report: Lunenburg World Heritage Site 5k Road Race (a.k.a. the "Muffin Run")

I'll keep this short and sweet.

Good things:
- hanging out with my friend, Janet
- cool, dry weather
- scenery 
- 400+ happy runners
- fabulous volunteers
- 5000 muffins!!
- impressive runners of all ages (including one who was 81!!)
- a handsome souvenir tee-shirt
- big greasy post-race breakfast

Not so good things:
- running in old shoes because my new ones were still too wet to wear
- nausea throughout
- stopping 300 metres from the finish line to retch (nothing came up fortunately)
- my finish time (1 minute slower than this time last year!)
- an awards ceremony that went on a little too long

Overall, a great local race organized by terrific folks. Highly recommended. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hail the runner!

I intended my long slow run today to be a relaxed 10-12kms at a leisurely pace - just long enough to burn off some energy and get the blood moving in legs that were still sore from trail running Wednesday evening. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans.

The run started well enough. I loped through my old Dartmouth neighbourhood and across the Dartmouth Commons, pausing several times to snap pictures before cruising across the bridge to Halifax. Once there, I ran south to the Armoury, then north to the Hydrostone Market, stopping now and again to window shop, before turning to run south towards the bridge.

As I approached, I noticed the sky had turned ominous but the sun was still shining beneath the clouds so I was optimistic I'd make it home ahead of the storm.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. As I crested the bridge, hard fat raindrops began to fall. By the time I'd reached the Common, it had begun to hail as well. Half way across the park, the storm worsened so I took shelter under an oak tree and considered my options - wait and hope it let up before I got hypothermic, take cover at a friend's house nearby or keep going and resign myself to getting soaked.  I opted for the last.

It was only a little over a kilometre home, but it felt much longer. The rain and hail hit with so much force they made my skin ache. Several times, I found myself wading through fast flowing, ankle deep water. By the time I reached the house, I was soaked through and breathing heavily, my calf muscles taut from sprinting the last kilometre in such miserable conditions.

So much for an easy run. And so much for running a personal best tomorrow. I can't imagine there'll be enough juice in my legs to run 5k in anything like the time I ran the Chester Cut 'n Run 5k this time last year.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Woohoo! Trail running is fun!!

Spider Lake Trail
This past week there was a lull in my running and blogging while I recovered from two major running adventures and a nasty cold I picked up in Cape Breton. I managed to go for a couple of easy runs but neither got the creative juices flowing. However, last night I went for my first ever trail run with the Halifax Trail Runners Club on Spider Lake Trails and - wow! - was it ever fun!!

Despite steady grey drizzle, approximately 30 people turned out to run, splitting into three groups before hitting the trails: Fast, slow, and "just happy to be here" (a.k.a. "the slow group"). Since my shiny new trail shoes marked me as a newbie, I opted for the slow group.

We started the run on a rough logging road but quickly veered off on to rocky trail through a recent clear cut.  The pace felt far too quick - though I somehow managed to keep up - and my heart was in my throat for most of the first kilometre. I couldn't take my eyes off the trail for a moment as I struggled to negotiate roots and rocks with rain obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the next few sections of trail took us into the forest where trees provided protection from the rain and the path was covered in deep blankets of pine needles which made running easier.

As I got accustomed to the slippery conditions and more confident my new shoes would do their job, my heart relaxed into a more normal rhythm and I began to enjoy myself. Hopping around rocks, running through puddles, and climbing over steep berms made me feel like a kid again. With my body loosened up, I felt stronger and steadier on my feet. Throwing caution to the wind, I careened down hills with abandon, yelping with joy (and, yes, relief) with every successful landing. It felt amazing - like being on some crazy carnival ride. Addictive stuff!!

On the way home, I realized there were two other reasons I enjoyed the run so much.

First,  because the roughness of the trails meant I had no choice but to be totally present and attentive to what I was doing.  There aren't many activities that force a pause in my incessant inner dialogue but trail running seems to be one of them.

Second, I enjoyed the camaraderie and support of running with a group - something I haven't done much of in the past couple of years.

Truth be told, I was really nervous driving to Spider Lake last night. What if only young, fast runners turned out and I couldn't keep up? What if I fell and hurt myself?  As it happened, many in the group were younger and faster than me, but they immediately made me feel welcome all the same, and the leaders were so conscientious and well-organized I knew I'd make it back okay if I fell and landed head first in mud and rocks. In addition, running with other people encouraged me to run more quickly than I might otherwise so I finished the evening with a terrific sense of accomplishment.

Needless to say, I'll be joining the Club for a lot more runs this summer. 10 years into my running career, it's encouraging to know there are such new running adventures to be had, new running friends to meet!