Sunday, January 27, 2013

Running Lessons: Sometimes you just gotta have faith

I spent a good part of my weekend embroiled in an on-line discussion with a group of old friends about the meaning and purpose of "faith" in today's world. It was an animated discussion that I suspect left many of us thinking a little harder about the values and beliefs that have shaped our lives.  

As I pondered this post, it occurred to me that faith has played as big part in my running career too - faith in my body's capacity to get stronger, faith in my ability to overcome fear and insecurity and do things I never thought I could do, and faith in the wisdom and good intention of the many fellow runners and coaches who've offered support, encouragement and advice.  

Whenever I take on a new running challenge, I remind myself that I can't know for sure that I'll be successful. Lots could happen to prevent me from attaining my goal. All I can do is work hard, pay attention to what my body's telling me, take whatever good advice I'm offered, trust that my friends and family will be there to support me, enjoy the process as much as I can and have faith that things will work out. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't but, whatever happens, holding onto to that faith helps keep my spirits up and my nose to the grindstone.  

I suspect there's a good metaphor for life in there somewhere but I'm too pooped to try articulating it tonight so guess I'm going to have to leave it to you to figure out.  ;-)

I'm pooped because we had a relatively busy weekend in the country. In addition to two runs (a mellow 8k along the river on Saturday and a challenging 10k trail run through the snow today), Husband and I went snowshoeing, did some renovation planning and toured the South Shore.  

We didn't venture far on our snowshoes - just spent a pleasant hour wandering the four wooded acres we own behind our house. I intended to take a bunch of photos but got distracted by discussions of where we should build the gazebo and whether any of the big old pine trees needs to come down.  They're gorgeous, majestic white pines that reach 80 or 90 feet into the air so I'd prefer to leave them where they are forever. Unfortunately, they're also very old and several are showing signs of rot so eventually I'm afraid we'll have no choice but to fell them. However, I'm pleased to report that we concluded it needn't be this year - which is good thing since I spotted a pair of eagles soaring overhead Saturday afternoon. They'd be very disappointed if their favourite perches disappeared.

When we'd had enough snowshoeing, we grabbed a snack and headed for Mahone Bay to do some shopping. Husband has begun work on his next project - the addition of a half bathroom - so we needed to select a toilet and sink.  While he's at it, he'll replace the shallow old-fashioned tub in the main bathroom with a nice deep soaker - perfect for warming up after a wintry LSR.

Shopping out of the way, we meandered along the Mahone Bay waterfront for a bit while I grabbed a few shots with my shiny new Nikon. The sky and ice really looked this blue!

Mahone bay is one heck of a picturesque little place. I love how people paint their houses different colours. 

Husband borrowed my camera for a minute to take this photo of me. 

Speaking of the camera, I've really been enjoying my photography course. This week's assignment was to get more comfortable with the zoom lens so I went on a photo walk on my way home from work one evening to see what images I could get. Here are the two I liked best from that walk. I've got lots to learn but I love the way the camera captures so much colour and light!

It's time I signed off now and tucked into bed. I've a busy week ahead - though I won't be training much. I hope to run the Falmouth Freezer Half Marathon next weekend so plan to rest my legs as much as possible between now and then. Stay tuned for a race report next weekend.  I hear it's a terrific little local event and the forecast is good so I'm looking forward to it.

Before I sign off,  here's a quick summary of my training over the past couple of weeks for the running geeks in the crowd:

Week of January 14-20:
Total # of runs: 3
Total distance: 32 kms
Longest run: 18 kms  (half of it up some freakin' big hills!)

Week of January 21-27:
Total # of runs: 3
Total distance: 24 kms
Longest run: 10 kms
Other training: 2 yoga classes

Have a great week everyone!  If you feel like leaving a comment, I'd love to hear your thoughts on where "faith" fits in your life,  and when and how you express your creativity.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Running lessons: Winter running is great - even on the coldest days in January!

It's been a pretty cold week in HRM.  For a few days, temperatures dipped to -25 degrees C with the wind chill. See the photo above? That smoke is the result of the air being so much colder than the water. The city looked pretty floating on the sea smoke but it was difficult to leave my hands uncovered long enough to take the picture.

Despite the cold temperatures, I ran outside a couple of times this week and genuinely enjoyed it. Would I rather it had been warmer?  Of course. But, since I always prefer to run outside rather than inside, I long ago learned to dress so that I can safely and comfortably run even when temperatures fall to the -30s (which they often did when I lived in Ottawa). The key is to dress in layers - including a windproof outer shell - and to keep exposed skin to a minimum. However cold it is, I find I generally warm up quickly and feel downright toasty after only a few kilometres.

Friends and family often ask whether it hurts my lungs when I run outside in winter. Nope. In my experience, breathing in cold air feels pretty much the same as breathing in warm air. I suppose it might be an issue if I was asthmatic but, fortunately, that's not the case.

The other thing they ask is whether it's difficult to run on ice and snow. Nope again. Typically, running shoes have deep treads that make running in fresh snow a breeze and grip quite well on ice too.  In fact (knock on wood), I've never fallen while winter running though I've face-planted a couple of times while running on dry pavement in summer. Go figure.

Whatever the risks or discomfort, winter running offers some tremendous benefits. Here are my top 10 favourite things about winter running:
  1. It gets me outside and moving at a time of year when I might otherwise be tempted to hibernate until spring. 
  2. I feel safer running after dark since I figure the bad guys are a bunch of wusses who stay indoors when it gets too cold.
  3. I don't have to run on a treadmill - which always makes me feel a little like a hamster in a cage.
  4. I love the sound of snow crunching underfoot and how clean and clear the air smells. 
  5. I enjoy the peace and quiet of running outside when other people opt to stay indoors, and experience my favourite running routes in whole new ways.
  6. Navigating around and over snowbanks and icy patches is a great core workout.
  7. It helps me feel mentally and physically tougher going into the spring racing season.
  8. It impresses the heck out of people when I tell them I ran 30+ kilometres in frigid temperatures. 
  9. I have freckles on my nose all year long!
  10. Nothing feels better than sinking into a hot bath, mug of caffe latte in hand, after a long, cold run.
All of which is to say, if you haven't tried winter running yet, do. I promise it will be worth it! It will give you a whole new appreciation of the season and the incredible things your body is capable of doing. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lucky Seven Sunday Snippet

Risser's Beach Boardwalk on a balmy afternoon in January

Tonight I opened the my draft novel, Murder in Camera, for the first time since November and reread parts of it hoping I'd feel inspired to start rewriting. I didn't. I'm just far too tired after a busy weekend of running, socializing and taking pictures.

Instead, I've decided to play along with a little game started by B.E. Sanderson over on her blog Tabula Rasa. The rules are simple. Post a snippet of your manuscript from a page ending in "7" and leave B.E. a comment so she knows you've done it. Below is a scene that starts on page 137. Hope you (and B.E.!) enjoy it.

* * * * *

"You don't remember being found, the ride in the ambulance, nothing?"
"No, I guess I must have been out cold. Judging by how my face looks, I'm guessing the guys who did this must have come on to me pretty hard. Maybe my subconscious is blocking it out."  Not likely, thinks MacIntyre.
"So, there was more than one guy?" Dana asks looking down at her notebook nonchalantly.
"Yeah - I mean, I guess. I don't really remember that either."
"Amy, are you sure about that?" Dana asks gently. "Whoever did this to you is a pretty nasty character. If he - they - told you not to talk to police or threatened you in some way, you should tell us. We can protect you and we need to find whoever it was so we can stop them from doing this to someone else."
Amy listens carefully rubbing her thumbs back and forth across the top of her phone nervously.
"I'd help if I could, officer, but I really don't remember", she finally says. "Sorry but I really can't help you."
"Amy," MacIntyre interjects finally, "Did the nurses or police officers who were here earlier speak to you about being examined for evidence that you'd been sexually assaulted." Her cheeks flamed again.
"Yes, they did - and I told them it wasn't necessary," she replies, defiant now.
"May I ask why? As I understand it, the examination wouldn't be painful. I understand there are specially trained nurses who could do the examination and take samples of whatever they find."
"They wouldn't find anything, Inspector. I wasn't raped."
"How do you know, Amy?" Dana asks softly. Amy's eyes widen and begin to well up with tears. "I would know if I was raped," she says again more forcefully. "I'm a virgin so I would definitely know if some guy had had sex with me when I was out of it - so I know for sure I wasn't raped."
"Okay, Amy. If you're sure, that's fine. I just wanted to make sure someone had discussed it with you." MacIntyre voice is reassuring. "One last thing, Amy. By any chance, have you ever registered with a website called 'Working It'? I understand it's a site where aspiring models post photographs and information about themselves so that photographers in hopes of being offered modeling jobs."
Her face which had been flush moments ago was suddenly pale again. "No," she said faintly, her voice barely audible, "why do you ask?" 
"It's just that several local women who've been attacked in recent months claim they met they were attacked by men who approached them via Working It. I wondered if the same might have happened to you, that's all."
"God, no, Inspector. My dad would kill me if I did something like that. He and my mom are devout Muslims. They let me live like pretty much any other Canadian girl but there are limits. And there's no way he'd approve of me modeling - especially if it meant wearing skimpy clothes."
"I see. Okay, then, Amy. Well, I just wanted to check. Constable, why don't you get Ms. Haddad's personal information for the file? I'm just going to step up the hall to the waiting area to make a phone call. Thanks very much for speaking with us, Amy. I hope you feel better soon."
When Dana joins him a few minutes later, MacIntyre is just ending his phone call.
"Thanks, Toby." Then, to Dana, "So what do you think? Did you believe her?"
"No. You?"
"No. That's why I excused myself when I did. I wanted to get Toby to check to see if she had a Working It profile before she has a chance to delete it."
"And does she?"
"He thinks so. He found one for a Amy H in Halifax and the description matches. He's sending me a link now so we can take a look. Here it is."  MacIntyre fiddles with his phone for a minute, then hands it to Dana.
"So why did she lie to us?" asks Dana.
"Presumably, because she doesn't want her parents to know what she'd been up to while they've been out of the country."
"And, of course, she wouldn't want them to know she'd been raped either."
"She likely figures what she doesn't remember - or chooses not to remember - won't hurt them."
"You think she does remember?"
"Yes. From her injuries, I'd say she fought back - meaning she was with it enough to realize what was happening - unlike most of the other cases we know about."
"So we finally have victim who could testify about what happened to her but won't because she doesn't want her parents to know."
"Seems like."
"Well, that really sucks."
"Yeah, Constable, it does."
"So what's next?"
"Let's see what Toby's got for us and go from there."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It went just fine... Thanks for asking.

I woke up about 5:30 this morning and the headache was still there so I figured I'd be calling David to cancel our run together. No such luck. When my alarm went off at 7:00, the headache was gone so I dragged my sorry butt out of bed, put on warm running gear and headed for David's house near Mahone Bay.

And was I ever glad I did!  Though grey and overcast, it was a beautiful, still morning on the South Shore and I thoroughly enjoyed running the 17 kms to Bachman's Beach and back talking companionably with David the whole way.

He enjoyed it too, I think - particularly since he's scheduled to run a half marathon next month and was pleasantly surprised to discover he could run 17kms with relative ease.

Of course, I only had by BB camera with me so wasn't able to get any really good pictures - though I was still quite happy with the images I managed to capture before heading home.

Incidentally, since this is supposed to be a running blog, I plan to more diligent about reporting the details of my training in the future - not least because it will help keep me accountable as I prepare for the races I hope to run in the coming year - including, the Moncton Hypothermic Half Marathon in February, a full marathon in Halifax or Fredericton in May, and the Cape to Cabot 20km race in St. John's in October.

Total runs this week - 4
Total distance - 40 kms
Longest run - 17.1 kms

Happy running, friends!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Running lessons: Pain nearly always goes away - eventually

Peace Park late in the afternoon
Today's run was an 8km "steady" run up the river and back. Just the usual. Nothing special. Except that the day was spectacular - blue sky, bright snow, little wind and relatively balmy temperatures that hovered around 0 degrees C.

It was a pretty good run, all things considered. I've been fighting a bug all week and woke up this morning with a nasty sinus headache that I never quite managed to shake. I'm hoping the run today coupled with a good night's sleep will fix what ails me so I feel well enough to running 17 kms with my buddy David tomorrow morning. It's always fun running with him and the route we plan to take is one of my favourites.

Anyway, back to the lesson from today's run. As I arrived at my turnaround point, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the LaHave River about 4 kms from our home, I was reminded that I had some trouble climbing the metal stairs up to the bridge earlier this fall.  As some of you may recall, I whacked my knee on a rock during a trail run back in June causing a minor sprain that left me in quite a bit of discomfort for awhile. It didn't bother me much when I was running - except when I was climbing stairs or running down steep hills - but it hurt like heck when I rolled over in bed, or stood up too quickly after sitting for awhile.

By November, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever heal. Fortunately, I have an excellent chiropractor who assured me it would - eventually. All I needed, he said, was to be patient, ice it frequently, and avoid re-injuring it. Sure enough, it got better and now gives me no trouble at all. In fact, it's hard believe it ever hurt as much as it did.

When you stop to think about it, it's miraculous that the human body is able to heal itself that way. There are limits, of course, but our bodies are capable of recovering from extraordinary injuries and illnesses and, with enough time, physical pain nearly always goes away.

The same is true of emotional and psychological pain - though that can be hard to remember when things seem darkest. Overwhelmed by sadness, fear, anger, or rejection, it's difficult to believe that, just around the bend, the painful thing that for weeks or months - perhaps even years - kept us from appreciating the good things in our lives, will be little more than an echo of a bad dream and we'll barely recall what it felt like to struggle with it.

The other miraculous thing is how much of the healing happens unnoticed. One day something hurts like hell - to the point we can't breathe or think or imagine feeling whole again - and a few months later it doesn't, though we can't quite recall the moment when the pain went away or what made it go. Somehow, when we weren't paying attention, our body, mind or heart simply sat up, brushed itself off, and got on with it.

Thank goodness for that. And thank goodness for all the people in our lives who love and support us until the healing happens and the pain goes away.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Running lessons: Rest days are training days too

I didn't go running at all this weekend. Not once. And I didn't even have a good excuse. I wasn't sick or anything. I just didn't feel like running yesterday and all I wanted to do today was sleep. So that's what I did. Yesterday, I filled the day reading and doing chores with Husband and today I slept in until 10:00, went out for brunch, did a bit of shopping, and then napped until supper time. Since supper, I've been hunkered down by the fireplace reading and writing a little and - though it's only 10:30 - I'll be ready to sleep again soon.

Naturally, there's a little voice in my head berating me for my sloth, telling me I'll never run another marathon, that one weekend of missed runs signals the end of my running career - which is utterly ridiculous, of course. As any good coach will tell you, your body needs rest days to repair itself and build muscle, and listening to your body is the best way to avoid over-training and injury. Clearly, what my body needed most this weekend was to rest so, in a very real way, I was "training" and I look forward to feeling the benefits of that training the next time I go running.

Though I only ran a few times last week, I made good progress in terms of pursuing my New Year's resolution to create a more creative life. On Wednesday night, I finally bought the new camera I've been wanting and have already spent considerable time getting familiar with it. I've signed up for a photography course that starts next week and, weather permitting, I plan to go for photo walks a couple of times a week to practice what I learn. I did my first walk along the Halifax waterfront at lunchtime on Friday and really enjoyed trying to see familiar landmarks in new ways. In the end, I didn't take any pictures worth sharing but I was pleased with how well the camera performed - even in my inexperienced hands.  Hopefully, I'll have something to share soon.

I also made good progress on creating some new habits. After weeks of rich holiday foods and too much wine, Husband and I opted for lots of healthy (and delicious !) low-fat vegetarian food in the past week and swore off alcohol for the month of January. We fell off the wagon yesterday and had a couple of glasses of red wine with dinner but we've otherwise abstained since New Year's day and I must say I feel better for it.

The one unhappy thing this weekend was that I put my motorcycle away for the season. I continued to ride her occasionally right up until the weekend before Christmas, but we've had lots of snow lately so there didn't seem to be much point leaving her outside any longer. Husband - bless him - built a ramp so I could store her in the basement until spring. It was a bit of an adventure getting her through the narrow doorway but we managed it. Now I just have to clean and polish her so she's ready to go when the weather warms up again.

Before signing off for the night, a quick word about the image at the top of this post. I caught it with my smartphone from the passenger seat of our car yesterday. Husband and I were both struck by the colour of the building against a sky made grey by an oncoming snow squall. I wish I'd had my pretty new Nikon with me to get a better pic but hopefully the one I got gives at least some sense of how remarkable it was.

So, dear readers, how are you doing with your New Year's resolutions?  Are you missing rich holiday foods?  What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Resolutions: Creating a Creative Life

It's that time of year again - time to think about the year just gone and the one ahead, and to select a Word of the Year to guide me.  Last year, my word was "celebration" and -  judging by all the fun stuff Husband and I did to mark our milestone birthdays, his retirement and other important occasions, it served me well - focusing my attention on the things I most wanted to do in 2012.

For those new to my blog, celebratory activities over the past year have included:
Needless to say, it's going to be pretty hard to top a year like the last one - but I certainly intend to try.

In thinking about the coming year, I realized that most of what I aspired to do and become could be summarized in one word - creative.  So - ta da! - my word for 2013 is
CREATE intriguing stories, beautiful photographs, and memorable meals
CREATE wonderful memories by traveling to new places, tackling new running challenges, and spending more time with loved ones
CREATE new habits that include eating less meat, drinking less alcohol, running smarter, and reading more
CREATE new connections and opportunities to take both my day job and other activities in new and interesting directions
CREATE a more fearless version of myself by doing things that take me outside my comfort zone (think motorcycling and skydiving!)
As I reread the list, it seems just a tad ambitious but, since this time last year I could never have imagined how far my commitment to celebration would take me, I'm hoping my resolution to create a creative life holds the same magic.

So, dear readers, what are your New Year's Resolutions? Were you able to keep last year's? What do you hope your life will look like when 2014 rolls around?

In closing, a few snapshots from my last long run of 2012 which I completed yesterday afternoon - as inspiration for those who still aren't sure they like running outside in winter. Yes, Janet, I mean you!  :-)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Lake Banook on a cold and blustery but still beautiful afternoon

Something about the light made me take this one

The harbour as the sun began to set

Looking towards the harbour mouth