Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Running lessons: Everything old is new again

The weather wasn't great on the weekend so, to give myself some incentive to complete my long slow run, I suggested to Husband that I meet him at the Knot Pub in Lunenburg for lunch. It turned out to be a great idea. On a grey, dreary Sunday morning, the road between Conquerall Bank and Lunenburg, traffic was quiet and, as it took me past many familiar landmarks, the route stirred up lots of memories - the community centre in Dayspring where I attended dances in my teens and spent many long evenings rehearsing community theatre productions, the shipyard where a friend worked one summer, the road where a former boyfriend lived. I was struck again by how much more I notice when I'm running (as opposed to driving) down a road.

For instance, though I've driven by them hundreds of times over the years, I don't remember ever noticing the many small cemeteries along the way - some of which are quite old. One I noticed in particular was the Mulock Cemetery. Mulock isn't a family name that's familiar to me so I looked it up when I got home. Apparently, it's Irish in origin, though branches of the family emigrated to Scotland and England and, eventually, Nova Scotia. I found only 17 telephone listings in NS under that name - all in Lunenburg County. Given the age of the cemetery, it struck me as odd there weren't more but I suppose that explains why it wasn't familiar to me. 

Something that always makes me laugh when I travel the road is this sign:

I can't imagine why anyone would name a place "Centre" - let alone, "Back Centre". For the record, there's a "Front Centre" nearby as well.  

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get many photos on Sunday. The light was poor and, in any case, I was trying to conserve the battery in my smart phone. I discovered  as I was preparing to leave the house that I'd forgotten to recharge my garmin again so had to rely on my phone to measure time and distance instead. Fortunately, it lasted just long enough to let me reach Camp Norway on the outskirts of Lunenburg, from where I did a final loop through downtown and ended up at the pub where Husband, dry clothes, a cold beer and a yummy lunch awaited.   

It's too bad my phone died when it did. The sun broke through the clouds just as I reached town and I was looking forward to taking a few photos from across the harbour. Lunenburg is a very picturesque place - a UNESCO world heritage site that draws thousands of visitors a year - so, even on a sleepy Sunday afternoon in late March, it was a pleasure to visit.

One last thing, it was cool enough to snow on Sunday, which seemed amazing. During the same period last year, temperatures reached record highs. On March, 2012, I went for a run along the Dartmouth waterfront wearing nothing but a skimpy running top and shorts because it was so hot. Quite the contrast to this year when I wore full winter running gear on the first day of spring.  I remember the date well because, when I reached the waterfront, I ran into someone I knew and stopped to chat for a bit - amongst other things, about how oddly warm the weather was and my upcoming birthday.

Speaking of which, there are only four days remaining in my 50th birthday year. Overall, I have to say I'm pleased with how I've marked the occasion. I've checked a number of items off my bucket list, dreamed some new dreams, and refocused my life on the things that matter most to me. As I approach my 51st birthday, I can honestly say I'm looking forward to getting older, wiser, stronger, more creative and (I hope) gentler in the years ahead.

In closing, here's a summary of my week's training:

Total # runs: 3 
Total distance: 38 kms
Longest run: 23 kms (more or less)
Hill training: 1 x 6 hills
Tempo runs: 1 x 8 kms

Happy running and writing, friends.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Running lessons: Dial down the drama

Last weekend's weather wasn't at all spring-like. In fact, Friday evening brought wet snow and rain that froze over night, before being covered by a soft layer of white Saturday morning. It was pretty to look at (see above) but downright dangerous to run on - though, fortunately, the trails in Shubie Park (where I completed 11 of 20 kms) provided mostly good footing.

Given the icy conditions and the fact I was so tired from another busy week of work and marathon training, it was tempting to see the situation in a more dramatic light than conditions warranted - to tell myself that I was too tired, that the roads and sidewalks were dangerously slippery, that I shouldn't be running the trail by myself, etc. Fortunately, one of the things I've learned over the years is that dialing up the drama rarely helps. When things start to feel tough, the better option is usually to dial down the drama, stay positive, keep things in perspective, and treat others and myself with as much kindness and respect as I can muster.

The same is true in the rest of life too, of course. Which is why I don't understand people who seem to go out of their way to create more drama in difficult circumstances. You know the ones I mean - people who relentlessly characterize others' motives in the worst possible light, tell stories that seem designed only to upset, constantly paint themselves and/or others as victims, and take an unhealthy interest in the misfortunes of others. I've never understood it. In my experience, life is dramatic enough as it is, thank you very much.

A case in point:  My only brother was diagnosed with oral cancer six years ago and had to undergo major surgery to have a good chunk of his tongue removed and rebuilt. When our family learned the news, we immediately switched to crisis management mode. There were no histrionics, no endless talk about the things could go wrong, no using the situation as an excuse for emotional diarrhea. Instead, everyone just stepped up - calmly and quietly - to help in any way they could, putting their own needs and feelings on hold until the crisis had passed.

So what is it that compels some people to do things to dial up the drama in such challenging situations - even one in which they're not directly involved?  Does it feed their egos somehow? Is it an attempt to avoid dealing with challenges in their own lives? Or are they simply bored, selfish and in need of entertainment? Whatever the motivation, their behaviour seems remarkably insensitive and unhelpful to me. After all, when people are hurting, the last thing they need is to have salt rubbed in their wounds.

In closing, a few quotes that seem appropriate:

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.
- Dolly Parton

To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness. - Confucius

Taking on too much of other people's drama is just a poor excuse for not taking ownership and control over your own life. - José N. Harris

Some people create their own storms and get mad when it rains. - Unknown

And a  brief update on last week's training:

Total # of runs: 4
Total distance: 41 kms
Longest run: 20 kms
Hill training: 1 x 5 hills
Tempo runs: 1 x 8 kms
Other training: yoga (1.5 hours)

Happy running and writing!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Running Lessons: Take everything into account

My running didn't go well the early part of last week and it took a few days to figure out why. Sure, it was cold and rainy but I've run in much worse. And, yes, things were busy at work but - again - I've been much busier without it affecting my training. It only dawned on me what the trouble was when I went to see my massage therapist Wednesday evening. Somehow, without my noticing, the muscles in my legs, back, arms and neck had contorted themselves into a series of hard knots that took all of Karen's considerable skill and a good deal of effort to untangle. By the time I dragged myself home that evening, I ached all over but at least I was moving more or less normally again.

After a hot epsom salts bath and a long sleep, I felt well enough Thursday to tackle my hill training session with enthusiasm but then was completely exhausted again on Friday. Even with another good night's sleep that night, my energy levels were low when I headed out for my long slow run Saturday and they didn't improve as they usually do when I run - though the weather was glorious and I was running in some of my favourite places, including this path through the pines and Peace Park (pictured above).

At about the half way point, I found myself feeling quite discouraged. After all, I'd run regularly all winter and had only just started serious marathon training. How could I feel so tired already?

Of course, what I was forgetting was how important it is to take everything into account when assessing my running performance. The reality is I've been frantically busy at work over the past few weeks, and Husband and I are in the midst of dealing with an assortment of "big ticket" items - including a kitchen renovation, plans for our next trip to Europe, and the removal of a mountain bike obstacle course that someone (as yet unidentified) built on our property without our knowledge or consent. (No, I'm not kidding. Here's a picture to prove it. There are four or five structures like this one which will all have to be dismantled before the local bikers discover them. )

Needless to say, it's been mentally and physically exhausting dealing with everything and, like most people, I hold tension in my body, so it really shouldn't have come as a surprise when it balked at the notion of running 18kms on Saturday. It was simply telling me it was tired and stressed and that I needed to take everything into account.

The same holds true in the rest of life, of course. We often expect other people to behave perfectly, ignoring the fact that they are all too human and life is rarely simple. It would be far easier on everyone if we tempered our expectations with a more realistic assessment of others' capacities.  Perhaps, they really are as stupid, selfish, naive, or inconsiderate as we think they are but it's far more likely they're simply flawed human beings doing the best they can in the circumstances. And we should show similar compassion in evaluating our own actions. We may have good reason to regret things we've done or said but, taking everything into account, chances are we did the best we could at the time. As George Eliot puts it in Adam Bede:
“A man carries within him the germ of his most exceptional action; and if we wise people make eminent fools of ourselves on any particular occasion, we must endure the legitimate conclusion that we carry a few grains of folly to our ounce of wisdom.” 
In closing, here's a quick rundown on my training last week:

Total # of runs: 3
Total distance: 32 kms
Longest run: 18 kms
Hill training: 1 x 4 hills
Tempo runs: 1 x 8 kms
Other training: yoga (1 hour)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Running lessons: Attitude and intention matter

This morning, one of my Facebook friends posted that she was going for a run and was going to love it.  Apparently, she had a tough run on Saturday so woke up dreading today's run. Instead of giving into the dread and skipping the run, she focused on generating positive energy, got her butt out the door and (it seems) had a much better run than yesterday. Her post reminded me of how important attitude is.

I had to work a little harder than usual to be positive about my runs this weekend too when I discovered I'd left my good running shoes in the city and would have to wear a pair of worn out old Sauconys instead. Once upon a time, I'd almost certainly have used the lack of good shoes as an excuse to skip the two runs I had planned. Instead I opted to run slower and to take walk breaks as and when needed. I can't say either run felt great but at least I got them done and taking it easy meant I had plenty of time to take pictures along the way. Here are a few of my favourites from today's run.

The mouth of Petite Riviere
The road to Green Bay
Green Bay

Risser's Beach boardwalk
My last turnaround point - Crescent Beach
My favourite place in the world - Risser's Beach
Attitude matters in other areas of life too. Lately, my meditation teacher has been talking about the importance of intention. As she explains it, it isn't enough that we do good things, we have to have good intention as well. To illustrate, she invited us to consider the difference between thoughtfully and lovingly offering a gift to someone and throwing it at them with the intention of injuring them. Obviously, the first would result in good karma, the second in bad.

In real life, our choices are often much less stark. For example, suppose I learn that someone I know has been cheating on their taxes. I could certainly argue that the "right" thing to do is to report them. But what if, in doing so, my real goal is to exact revenge for something they've done to offend me?  Does my negative intention obviate the good I do by ensuring they are punished for breaking the law? Karmically speaking, the answer seems to be yes. When we do the right thing for the wrong reasons, we create bad karma that eventually finds its way back to us.

On the other hand, even when we do a right thing with the right intention, the outcome won't always be positive. A few years ago, Husband gave a copy of "Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much" to a colleague he liked and respected as a birthday gift. His intention was to recognize how hardworking she was and to encourage her to take more time for herself. Unfortunately she took his gift as veiled criticism and became quite angry with him. In the end, they talked it out and all was forgiven but it goes to show that, even when your heart's in the right place, others may not perceive it that way. Very often the way people react to the things you do has much more to do with their intentions than with your own.

Which brings me back to running.  Having a positive attitude doesn't guarantee that every run is a good run. However, it does make it a whole lot easier to deal with the bad ones and to appreciate the good ones when they happen.

In closing, a brief summary of my training over the past week:

Total # runs: 4
Total distance: 36k
Longest run: 16k
Tempo run: 1 x 6k 
Hill training: 3 x 200 metres
Other training: 90 min. yoga

Happy running and writing, friends!