Monday, February 25, 2013

Running lessons: Carpe diem!

It was a full weekend of noodling - about the races I hope to run this year, our upcoming kitchen renovation, our travel plans for March and June and (last but not least) my novel. By Sunday night, my brain was exhausted from all the activity. I didn't make much progress on the novel, but I'm happy to report that kitchen and travel plans seem to be coming together, and I finally sat down and wrote up a marathon training schedule that I hope will prepare me to run the Fredericton Marathon on May 12th.

Marathon Training Schedule  2013
Week #
Weekly Total
Feb 18 - 24

6k easy

8k easy
Feb 25 - Mar 3

6k tempo

(3 hills)

8k easy
Mar 4 - 10

6k tempo

(4 hills)

8k easy
Mar 11 - 17

6k tempo

(5 hills)

Mar 18 -24

8k tempo

(6 hills)

Mar 25 - 31

8k tempo

(7 hills)

10k easy
Apr 1 -7

8k tempo

(8 hills)

10k easy
Apr 8 - 14

8k tempo

(9 hills)

10k easy
Apr 16 - 21

8k tempo

(10 hills)

10k easy
Apr 23 - 28

8k tempo

8k easy

Apr 29 - May 5

8k tempo

8k easy

May 6 - 12

6k easy

6k easy

42.2 RACE
Total distance

500.2 k

I've been talking about running another marathon for awhile but couldn't seem to commit. Then on Friday I realized it was time to "piss or get off the pot", as we say in NS. With just over 11 weeks until race day, I had to make a plan or my 7th marathon wasn't going to happen this year.  

Having run regularly all winter, I'm starting with a good base so am optimistic I have time enough to prepare - maybe even to improve on my personal best time - so long as I stick to the schedule.  I've put a big emphasis on hill training because, as the saying goes, "hill training is speed training in disguise." In addition, it should help me get ready for the second big race I hope to run in May - the Cabot Trail Relay.  

At some level, I think I was trying to talk myself out of another marathon over the past few weeks. After all, with work, renovations, trip planning and other volunteer and family commitments, I've more than enough to keep me busy in the coming months.  But the truth is - whatever common sense tells me - in my heart of hearts I know I want to run another marathon this year. After all, who knows what next year will bring. Carpe diem and all that.    

So, now that it's official, it's time to get busy thinking about how I'm going to juggle all that training with the rest of my life. Although Husband is being as incredibly supportive as always, I'm determined not to leave all the chores to him. In particular, I'd like to get back to doing more cooking. I whipped up an awesome pasta (with fresh scallops, sweet peppers and arugula in a pesto cream sauce) on the weekend and it felt great spending time in the kitchen.  

For the running geeks out there, I only managed to squeeze in three runs over the past week (as shown in Week 1 of the Chart), but they all went well so I feel ready to begin training in earnest. Speaking of which, here's a pic from Saturday. It was a glorious day so I thoroughly enjoyed running an easy 8k along the river.  

Sunday, the weather much less inviting but my 14k LSR still felt great because I ran it with my friend David along one of our favourite routes. As usual, it was great fun chatting with him and the time flew by. Afterwards, I stopped for a short visit with his wife Julite and their little guy, Graham, before heading with half a loaf of cream cheese pound cake tucked under my arm. Delicious! Thanks again, Julite!

In closing, a quote to inspire:

When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.- Nancy Coey

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm not a runner. I'm a soul who runs.

I think, therefore I am. - R. Descartes

You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body. - C S Lewis

One thing I haven't written much about in this blog is my meditation practice. Partly because it's still quite new. And partly because I don't yet know enough to write coherently about it. But mostly because this is supposed to be a running blog and I seem to be cluttering it with far too much other stuff these days - travel, novel writing, motorcycling, photography - you name it.

However, last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about why I run. What does it mean to be a runner? What if I couldn't run anymore? What if I didn't want to?

And that got me thinking about what I've been learning in my raj yoga meditation course - in particular, that who we are isn't, as Descartes suggested, what we think (or feel), what we do, what others thinks of us, or the labels we apply to ourselves. Who we are in essence are the "souls" inhabiting our bodies - in the raj yoga tradition, loving, peaceful, happy, pure (honest) and powerful (determined and focused) souls.

How does that relate to running? Well, one of the things I've learned in meditation class is how important it is not to become too attached to the labels we and others apply to us from time to time - in my case, wife, sister, friend, runner, writer, lawyer, professional, intelligent, etc. While they may make me feel good for awhile, they have a dark side too.

For example, one of the labels I've used to describe myself for most of the past decade is "runner" - a pathetically slow runner - but nonetheless a runner, and it's a label that has served a useful purpose. It's reinforced my perceptions of myself as strong, fit, goal-oriented, etc. But what if I could no longer run? Or I could no longer run as far or as fast as I wanted to?  Or I decided I wanted to spend less time running and more time doing other things. Thinking of myself as a "disappointed runner" or "failed runner" or a "former runner" would almost certainly have a negative impact on my sense of well-being.

Which is why I've recently begun looking at my running differently. Instead of thinking of myself as a runner, I try to think of myself as a soul who runs. It may seem like a small shift, but I've noticed it's already having some profound effects.

To begin with, I feel more motivated to run for the sake of it, rather than to achieve particular goals in terms of time or distance. I also find it easier to be compassionate with myself when I fail to measure up to my preconceived notions of what a runner should be. Finally, it reminds me that the essence of who I am is not what I think or feel, or the labels that are applied to me. It's something infinitely more positive and reliable that can provide strength, wisdom, patience and compassion in even the toughest circumstances - if only I quiet my thoughts and emotions long enough to hear what it's telling me.

None of which, I hasten to add, means that I plant to stop running or racing anytime soon - only that I'll try harder to listen to my inner voice when I'm setting goals and drawing up training plans. I expect it will have some very interesting and useful things to tell me in the years ahead.

Happy running and writing, friends.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Excuses, goodbyes and the beauty in everything

I've been a bit of a slacker on both the running and writing fronts the past couple of weeks but at least I have some good excuses.

To begin with, I've been sick as a dog with a nasty head cold. It kept me in bed most of last weekend and forced me to skip running the Falmouth Freezer half marathon on Sunday. I stayed home from work on Monday too which wasn't good because - and this is my second excuse - work is frantically busy at the moment. I'm up to my eyeballs with too many projects, including organizing a meeting of local mucky mucks.

Next, the weather posed more challenges than usual. It snowed for much of last weekend (when I took this photo of the pine trees behind our house) and a major winter storm named "Nemo" came calling this weekend. By the time I'd spent two and half hours shoveling today, I didn't have any energy left to run - which was probably just as well given the condition of the sidewalks.

Nemo dumped somewhere between 40 and 50 cms of snow in this part of the world with high winds creating drifts significantly higher. A massive storm surge wreaked havoc along the coastline as well. It was pretty intense at times but, fortunately, I was able to stay inside snug by the fire until the worst passed.  In fact, it was perfect weather in one way. My mom and I had planned to spend a weekend together shopping, getting pedicures, eating out, etc. but the storm prevented us from doing much besides hanging out by the fire, talking, eating and sleeping.  Given that our family is so large, that kind of relaxed one-on-one time with Mum is rare so it was a real luxury to have her undivided attention for nearly two full days.

The talk was especially important because - and this is my last reason for slacking off - it's been a very sad few weeks.  Husband's family lost three close relatives in the space of a week - including one of his cousins who was only 50 and died in her sleep without warning. Then, while we were coming to grips with those losses, we received word that my first cousin had committed suicide.

It still seems surreal. My cousin was a man of strong religious faith, a leader in his community and the last person I'd have expected take his own life - but he'd been suffering from depression for some time and apparently despair finally won out. Needless to say, his death has left his family reeling. All week, my mind flashed to the images of him and his grandkids displayed at the funeral. In them, he looked so happy and engaged with life, I can only assume he must have been in very great pain to do what he did.

Despite everything, I managed to get out for a couple of beautiful evening runs around the lake last week so it wasn't a complete write-off in training terms. I won't have time to run the first part of the coming week but hopefully I can slip back into my regular routine by the weekend. The forecast is for much warmer weather that will feel positively tropical after the -20 degree C temperatures we've had lately.

Finally, a quick update re how I'm doing with my new year's resolution to create a more creative life.  In some ways, it's going well. I'm enjoying my new camera and slowly figuring out how to use it. And last weekend I broke out my knitting needles for the first time this year and made a funky little hat. But I haven't been writing much (except at work) so have made next to no progress on my novel. I've recently realized the plot needs a major overhaul so, to avoid wasting time writing or rewriting unnecessary scenes, I first need to set aside time to prepare a detailed outline. I'd hoped to tackle that today but had to spend time catching up on office work instead.  I'll try to make it a priority next weekend.

In closing, a quotation I read this week and really liked:
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” (Confucius.) 
I was thinking about how true that is when I snapped this photo while waiting to catch the bus home after work. I thought something about the light was beautiful though the streetscape left so much to be desired. I wonder who else noticed.

Have a great week, everybody. And happy running and writing!