Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo, here I come!

I've done it! Signed up to participant in National Novel Writing Month - which means trying to write 50,000 words (the first draft of a novel) in just 30 days. My tentative title is "Murder in Camera" - and I even have the rough outline of a plot. Tonight, I'm hoping to download Scrivener software to help me keep my characters, plot and themes sorted out, and finish a basic story outline. Tomorrow - well, tomorrow, I start writing - a minimum of 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Yikes!! I'll post my daily totals here in hopes it will help keep my nose to the grindstone.

Given that I have a day job, it's going to be tough meeting that target every day but, fortunately, my friend Janet is participating too so hopefully we'll be able to inspire one another if/when enthusiasm wanes. If nothing else, we can drink wine together and commiserate.

To all who may be wondering how I'll have time to run in the next month, let alone write about it, let me assure you that I will be running - perhaps more than usual since running tends to get my creative juices flowing. And, since at least three of my central characters are runners themselves, I expect I'll be writing about running as well.  In any event, I'll be sure to post weekly running updates, together with excerpts from the novel as appropriate.

Sounds like fun, don't you think?  Wish me luck! Oh, and if any of you has ever participated in NaNoWriMo, feel free to share tips and tricks.  I'm going to need all the help I can get!!

PS As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of this evening's trick-or-treaters to visit our home. The excitement in their small faces reminds me of Hallowe'ens of my youth. It was magic running through the dark, damp streets of Summerside, leaves blowing wildly around us, unencumbered by adult supervision, thrilled by the sense of sheer possibility.  How fortunate my siblings and I were to experience such Hallowe'ens! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy 5th Anniversary! Blogging, running and preparing to write my first novel

I realized early this week that I've been blogging for 5 years now - well, five years and three days to be exact - which kind of amazes me. I started "Figuring it out" at the suggestion of a friend who wrote his own blog, but I had only a vague notion of what I wanted to write about and posted pretty erratically the first few years. In the past couple of years, it's become a running blog more than anything else, with a fair bit philosophizing and occasional poetry thrown in for good measure.

In the next year or two, I hope to post more about other topics that interest me - books, travel, writing, photography and motorcycling, to name a few - but my muse may have other ideas so we'll see how it goes. In any case, congratulations to me for sticking with it this long!!

In other news, it was a hectic week at work and at home so I didn't do as much running as I'd have liked, though I still managed to get out three times and had a spectacular 16km run today from our home in Conquerall Bank along Highway #331 to LaHave.  It's terrible having to run in such ugly surroundings.  :-)

My ultimate destination was LaHave Bakery where I was meeting husband for brunch and pastries.  The Bakery is a fun and interesting place and we enjoyed delicious eggs benedict and coffee, followed by a melt-in-your-mouth mincemeat tart. Hubbie was feeling pretty mellow after his own 9km run.

Here's me checking out the pastry selection.

I didn't stop to take a lot of pictures en route because I was too busy noodling about the plot of my first novel.  (No, I'm not kidding - see below.)  But I couldn't resist grabbing two shots.  The first was of a dilapidated VW Beatle parked by the edge of the road next to a body shop.  I loved how its colour popped against the blue water and sky, echoing the autumn foliage across the river in Dayspring.

The second was of a piece of folk art parked by the side of the road further on made me laugh out loud because it reminded me of my little red Rebel.  

See the resemblance?  The artists's name is Norman Veinott and he does some wickedly funny stuff with old car parts.  

Speaking of my little red Rebel, I went riding twice this weekend. In fact, in the few weeks I've owned it, I've already logged more than 125 kms - which is pretty impressive given that I haven't really gone anywhere.

Yesterday, I drove down the east side of the river 10 kms or so, stopping en route in Peace Park, where I sat at a picnic table in warm sunshine for an hour or so sketching out the first few scenes of my first novel.  That's right. My novel. Crazy as it sounds, I've decided to try to write a novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I've wanted to sign up for NaNoWriMo since I first heard about it a couple of years ago but life always seemed too busy. It still seems too busy but, since that's not going to change anytime soon, I've decided to just go for it as part of my 50th birthday year celebrations. Whatever comes out the other end will be crap but first novels are always crap and - as the old saying goes - "you gotta start somewhere". I figure if nothing else it will keep me out of trouble when Husband's away in a few weeks.

Anyway, it's time I signed off and went to bed. I've another busy week ahead - which will include tackling the piles of work on my desk and dealing with whatever Hurricane Sandy decides to send our way.  At the moment, it looks as if she may pass us by but I expect we'll get heavy rains and wind at least.  Thoughts and prayers are with folks in the US and elsewhere who have been or will be more seriously affected.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn colours and reflections on why I want to ride

There's not a lot of time to blog today so I'll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves. Yesterday was an awesome day for running - mild and a bit foggy to start, with autumn colours making the route even prettier than usual. Husband joined me for the first half so I took advantage of the opportunity to get a photo of myself on the foot bridge.

And here's one of him.  Looking pretty darned great for a recently retired gentleman!

Though I was feeling good, I didn't make especially good time. The scenery was so lovely, I had to stop frequently to take photos.  There wasn't as much red as I like to see this time of year but the more subdued golds, oranges and yellows were lovely in the mist.  

And there were a few more intense bits of colour along the way.

Especially when the sun began breaking through the clouds.

I caught this image while waiting at an intersection for a light to change. Think it might be my Christmas card!  The red is holly and burning bush.

All in all, the run felt great and my left knee - which has been cranky since its encounter with a rock in June - feels fine this morning, so I hope I can get back to more serious training soon. I'd like to start thinking about next year's running goals. Another marathon? Another fund raiser? Another exotic locale?  Something to get my running juices flowing so I'm motivated to tackle hills a bit more often. :-)

On another topic entirely, I managed to ride my new motorcycle twice this weekend. It was a bit scary at times (who knew 70km/hr could feel so fast?!) but still lots of fun. I'm hoping the mild weather holds for a few more weeks. It would be nice to get in some longer rides before the cold weather arrives.

On the second half of my long run yesterday, I found myself pondering why I want to ride a motorcycle. I don't think it's because I'm having a mid-life crisis. I did that already. :-)  It's really just that I want to try something new - something that scares me a little, makes me laugh out loud and forces me to be more fully "present" in my life.

As Pirsig puts it in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. 
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.
Have a great week! And happy running and/or riding, friends! 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Riding lessons: The importance of patience and re-framing

After another frantic week at work, I'd hoped to spend a chunk of time this weekend running and riding my new motorcycle. The running went fine. I did a mellow 8k with Husband on Saturday and 16.5k on my own today. The leaves are finally turning colour so there were some lovely views along the river and through Peace Park.  I covered the distance a little more slowly than usual but felt strong throughout - which was encouraging after several weeks of running "blahs".

Riding was another matter. When I hopped on my pretty red Honda Rebel late yesterday morning and attempted to start it, it wouldn't go. After checking switches, fuel, battery, and spark plugs, I finally gave up and spent the evening reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".  I knew the book wouldn't offer a specific solution to my motorcycle woes, but I hoped it would put me in the right frame of mind to tackle them.  It did.  By 6:00 this morning, I'd boned up on motorcycle carburetors and chokes, emailed the woman from whom I'd purchased the bike with a short list of questions and developed a detailed plan for conducting further investigations and getting the bike trailered to the shop for necessary repairs.

Fortunately, all the research and planning was for nought. With the battery juiced up (thanks to my sis' partner, Paul, who had the gear to test and charge it), the bike fired up relatively easily this afternoon and I was able go for an inaugural ride around town.

Me and my bike, just back from our first little jaunt
The experience reminded me of the importance of patience and re-framing when things don't go as planned.

When the bike first failed to start, I couldn't help but feel frustrated and spent a few hours compulsively attempting to fix the problem - forgetting to eat lunch and becoming darned cranky as a result.  Fortunately, Husband recognized the signs and encouraged me to eat something and go for a run. With a bit of fuel and fresh air, I was better able to practice patience and re-frame the situation.

Yes, it was frustrating the bike wouldn't go, but it didn't really matter that it might take another week or two to get it on the road. After all, I'd already been waiting more than three decades, and with luck I'll have many years of riding ahead.

In addition, the delay was an opportunity to learn something about how motorcycles operate, become more familiar with my owner's manual and practice basic maintenance protocols.  As "Zen" points out, bike ownership isn't just about riding. It's about staying in the moment, being attentive and learning new skills as well.

The delay also gave me an excuse to head up to my sister's place when Paul offered to check and charge the battery. While there, I visited with my darling nieces, met their new kittens (Boots and Whiskers), and swapped stories with my sister - a pleasant interlude that lifted my spirits enormously.

Last but not least, my disappointment on Saturday made my first ride this afternoon that much sweeter. With my little machine rumbling beneath me, I was gleeful as a kid at Christmas and could hardly wait to play with my new toy - despite the cool, damp weather.

Of course, since this is primarily a running blog, I have to mention that patience and re-framing come in pretty handy when you're dealing with running issues as well. Too often, we runners are so impatient to run faster or farther that we don't take time to do the problem-solving required to address chronic injuries or limitations. Re-framing can generate the patience we need to step back, figure out what's really happening, and formulate a sound plan for recovery/improvement.

Hmmm.  Sounds like a pretty good approach to life generally, come to think of it.
“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.” ― Robert M. PirsigZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Running lessons: Letting go

Peace Park in the rain
I realized this week that I haven't blogged about running much lately. It's not that I haven't been running. In fact, I've been running lots - 3 or 4 times a week for a total of 30 to 40 kms most weeks. It's just that, for the first time in a while, running has taken a back seat to other activities - moving, traveling, and motorcycling, in particular. Added to which, I don't have any big races on the calendar this fall so my training has been far less rigorous than usual.

My inner control freak isn't entirely happy with taking such a relaxed approach to running but common sense tells me a few months of less intense workouts is exactly what my body needs right now - especially while I'm working on my chi running form. I've made good progress in recent months but still find some elements of the technique challenging. For example, I struggle with letting my arms and hips relax so that my body can rotate more naturally - which was the thing I decided to focus on during my 14k long run this past weekend.

It shouldn't be difficult to relax tight shoulder, neck and arm muscles. After all, they hurt when I hold them too tightly. But, for whatever reason, it is hard. Really hard some days. And Saturday was definitely one of those days.

Hiding from the rain

Of course, it didn't help that I was slogging through heavy rain for much of the run or that work has been more stressful than usual in recent weeks, but I genuinely thought I could release the tension within a few kilometres if I simply focussed on my form and "let go".


It turns out letting go of the tension in my shoulders is a lot like letting go of negative stuff  in the rest of my life. It doesn't happen just because I want it to. It takes practice, patience and commitment, and if  I haven't dealt with the underlying issues that caused the problem in the first place, it takes a lot longer than I expected.

It's odd that it can be so hard to let go of the negative stuff sometimes. After all, hanging on to it doesn't do much besides make me unhappy and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, far too often I find my thoughts consumed with resentment, disappointment, anger and fear.

My meditation instructor tells me it's my ego at work - that it fills my head with whatever it needs to in order to keep me from listening to the peaceful and profoundly secure soul at the centre of my being.  Meditation, she says, is one of the best ways to reconnect with that essential part of myself and let it guide me to a more joyful, creative, productive, peaceful and loving life.

I'd like to believe that's possible so - just as I do when I am trying to improve my running technique - I practice letting go, notice what's happening in my head and heart, strive to learn new ways of being in world, and focus on positive things - like love, gratitude, forgiveness, and the beauty around me.

Over the next few months, I'll keep you posted on how things go - with my running and with my quest to "let go".