Saturday, August 31, 2013

So what's this blog really about?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why I write this blog. When I started, I had the vague notion that I wanted to explore what life was about. Over time, it's become largely a running blog - a place to write about my running adventures and what I learn from them. When I was going through a particularly dark period of my life, it was also the place I tried to sort out why people did the things they did and who I wanted to be. Last fall, it was the place I shared my struggle to draft a novel. Recently, I've begun sharing my motorcycling and photography adventures. At other times, there have been posts about travel, food, pets, family, friendship, favourite gadgets and a range of other topics. In short, it's a confused mess, thematically speaking.

And the irony is that, even though it seems as if I've written about pretty much everything, there are lots of topics I've avoided, though they hold great interest for me - work, politics, sex, books, and aging, for example. 

The other thing I've been noodling about is whether blogging is helping me to become the person I want to be or simply encouraging me to be more narcissistic. Put another way, do my musings contribute anything of real value to my life or anyone else's? 

All of which has me lead me to thinking about how I approach this blogging business and whether, in future, I should try to be more focused. Have I strayed too far from my original goal of figuring out what life's about? Should I create sub-blogs for posts that have nothing to do with running?  Should I give up blogging altogether and focus instead on doing the things I write about? 

Now, there's an interesting questions: Should I give up blogging altogether and focus instead on doing the things I write about? Well, yes. And no. 

Yes, I should spend more of my limited time and energy engaged in activities I think are useful, enjoyable, or meaningful in some way, rather than just writing about them. And no, because writing often helps me understand what I find useful, enjoyable or meaningful and is itself one of the things I enjoy most. In addition, I'm told my blogging has occasionally helped other people by, for example, encouraging them to run, see something in a new way or appreciate the world around them.

Perhaps, I'll start by trying to by trying to be more thoughtful about what I write and why. Ideally, I'd like all my posts to contain something useful, beautiful, and/or thought-provoking - to be less about expressing myself and more about sharing what I learn as travel through life.  

So, here are the questions for today:  What do you think makes blogging worthwhile? What do you like most about the blogs you follow?  If you blog yourself, have you ever considered giving it up? 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Running lessons: A last tough week of marathon training

Phew.  I did it.  Survived my longest week of training before Maritime Race Weekend in mid-September.  It mostly felt okay.  I did hill repeats on Wednesday night because I donated blood on Tuesday night. Thursday, I tackled a 8k tempo run - that turned into a 9k fartlek when I couldn't quite sustain the effort - but I comforted myself that at least I did some kind of speed training.

Saturday, I hit the road intending to run 32k south along the river. It was a beautiful day and I felt good when I set out but, perhaps because of the blood donation, I ran out of steam sooner than usual. Though I set a relaxed pace, I only managed 31k before calling it quits and the last 14k were really pretty pathetic. My legs felt painful and heavy and I had nothing left in the tank by the time I reached Petite Riviere.   

On the upside, it was a gorgeous day so there was plenty of pretty stuff to look at en route. 

The end point of my LSR - loved the exuberant optimism!

And Husband met me in Petite Riviere with a big hunk of hot, homemade veggie pizza which I ate sitting in the car at Green Bay enjoying this view. 

The pizza tasted amazingly good. When I finished it, I waded up to my waist in the cold North Atlantic water to cool and soothe my legs.

From there, it was up to the road to Rissers Beach campground, where I took a quick shower, hung out on the beach for a couple of hours, then ate supper and spent a wonderful evening with Husband and my folks by the campfire, talking and listening to the waves lapping the rocks just beyond our campsite.  Sweet.

Sunday morning, I tackled my last run of the week, a 10k "recovery" run. It was slow but I ran steadily, stopping only a couple of times to stretch and enjoy the scenery.

All in all then, a good week's effort - though I must say that I'm glad it's time to taper. I'll do one more hill training session tonight and a 23k run on the weekend, but the rest of my runs between now and race day will be relatively short and relaxed.  My goal at this point is to arrive at the start line as healthy and well-rested as possible. 

Incidentally, I took a few minutes to watch a video of the Cape to Cabot route this past week.  It was sobering to say the least. I'm not too concerned about the first 12k. They'll be tough but manageable so long as I resume serious hill training after the marathon. The really scary bit is the long, steep downhill from Shea Heights into St. John's.  (You can check it out starting at about the 6:00 minute mark of the video.)  I'm not at all sure how I'm going to get to the bottom with enough left in my legs to finish the last 6k of the race - including the mile long climb to Cabot Tower at the end - so any thoughts or suggestions would be welcome

Anyway, here are the stats for the week:

Total distance: 58kms
Total # runs: 4
Longest run: 31kms
Hill training: 1 x 7 hills
Speed work: 9k fartlek 

Happy running and writing, friends!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running lessons: Take it one day at a time

I took a vacation day on Monday so that I'd have a longer weekend to savour the last of the summer weather. I'm really glad I did. It was a little cool to swim but there was plenty of sunshine and Husband and I spent heaps of time outside. In addition, I spent several hours on my motorcycle (Patti) over a couple of days.

Sunday morning's weather was warm and clear so Patti and I took a quick trip to Blue Rocks, a picturesque fishing village about 20 miles up the road. I brought my camera along intending to spend some time wandering around the village taking pictures but instead got caught up in conversation with a CFA ("come from away) who summers there. And, unfortunately, of the few photos I took, only a couple seemed worth keeping - the one above and this one.

After Husband and I finished our chores on Monday, Patti and took another short trip - this time to Risser's Beach - to visit my Mum who was camping there.  It was a perfect beach day so I hung out on the beach with her for an hour or more, chatting and listening to the waves, before heading back to the house for supper.

A friend asked me once why I like Risser's Beach so much. I told him it is because it's the one place in the world I feel truly myself. It's also because there are nearly always waves and the sound of the surf breaking on the shoreline is good for my soul. Patti seems to like the beach too.

Patti, strutting her stuff at the beach
I tackled my 29k LSR first thing Saturday morning to get it out of the way. I was dreading it, to be honest. I'd completed a strong hill training session Wednesday morning but my tempo run Thursday night felt abysmal. In fact, it felt so bad that I gave up even trying to run tempo pace and jogged slowly back to the house after only 6k.

Given that Thursday's run was so bad, I wasn't sure what to expect when I left the house Saturday morning - especially since I'd slept so badly Friday night (more on that below). In order to ensure it wasn't too painful, I knew I'd need to run slowly and focus on keeping my neck, shoulders and legs relaxed. My route was the same one I did two weeks ago with 4k tacked on at the end but, for some reason, it felt much easier - so much easier, I opted to run up and down this steep 0.5k hill at the end.

I can't say the hill felt easy but at least I had enough gas in the tank to manage it. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty darned pleased with myself when Husband picked me up (fresh coffee and pasty in hand).

While I ran my long run, I thought a lot about an old friend who's just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma - a nasty form of blood cancer with some discouraging statistics. He has a couple of young kids and is the sweetest guy imaginable so it seems totally unfair that he's got such a tough fight ahead of him. Not that cancer's ever fair, of course.

Naturally, he's struggling to remain positive in the face of the diagnosis (who wouldn't?) and it's hard to know what to say or how to help. As I lay awake thinking about him and his family Friday night, I wondered how I'd cope in his shoes. What would sustain me through the testing and treatment, the waiting and worrying? It's impossible to know but it occurred to me that I might try to take a few lessons from marathon training. To begin with, I could focus on one day and one challenge at a time. I could also try to notice and appreciate the slivers of light that made their way through the darkness - the love and support of family and friends, the natural beauty of the world around me, and the laughter of children, for example. Finally, I could remind myself that, tough as any given day might be, there would almost certainly be better days ahead.

One thing's for sure, learning about my friend's diagnosis has made me more grateful than ever for my life, and for the fact that I'm able to train for races like the ones I plan to run this fall.

On that note, I suppose it's time I signed off and headed downstairs to eat supper. I'm just back from doing this week's hill training session. To be honest, I wasn't feeling up to it when I got home from work - in part because I made a blood donation last night - but then I thought about my friend and the challenge he faces and realized I had no choice but to get my butt out the door.

For the running geeks in the crowd, below is a summary of last week's training. Happily, there's only one more big week of training ahead before I start tapering for Maritime Race Weekend.

Total distance: 53kms
Total # runs: 4
Longest run: 29k
Hill training: 6 x hills
Tempo runs: 0 

Happy running and writing, friends!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Running lessons: Burning the candle at both ends

The Once performing on the Wharf Stage
(Yes, that is a sailboat in the background!)
Wow, what a busy couple of weeks. Between work and running and various social commitments, I've definitely been burning the candle at both ends.

Husband and I spent most of this past weekend at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival with my folks. It was another fabulous festival so we enjoyed it enormously but, after taking in something like 22 hours of music between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon, I was completely exhausted when we headed back to the city last night.

Thinking back over the weekend, my favourite performances were by David Myles, The Once,  Cheryl Wheeler, Ten Strings and a Goatskin and - an old favourite - Lennie Gallant. Myles and Gallant are accomplished singer-songwriters I've admired for some time . (Pop over to David's site to check out the video of the first single off his new album,"How'd I ever think I loved you?" It's hilarious, and makes me think of an old boyfriend or two.) Ten Strings and Goatskin are a wildly talented group of young musicians from PEI (including two of Lennie's nephews) who stole hearts wherever they played, and I could listen to Geraldine Hollett, lead singer for The Once, all day long.

I took my camera along for part of the festival and managed to get a few pictures. Here are some from the gospel show Sunday morning.

David Myles performing in the big tent
A banjo played by a Spinney Brother
The "Gallant" members of Ten Strings and a Goatskin

And here are three I took later that afternoon on the wharf.  I'd be interested to know which you like best. Personally, I prefer the last one but Husband likes the first. 

Despite spending so much time at the festival, I managed to complete two runs on the weekend - a 26k long slow run on Friday afternoon, followed by a 10k tempo run on Saturday morning. The LSR felt okay but I hit a wall at around 20k so the last 6k were tough. I think the trouble was it was a hot, humid day and I hadn't fuelled properly. The tempo run on Saturday felt much better - which was good for my confidence since I was still tired from the day before. 

Speaking of tired, it's time I signed off and went to sleep but, before I go, here are the details of my training last week:

Total # runs: 3
Total distance: 43k
Longest run: 36k
Hill training: 1 x 5 hills
Tempo run: 1 x 10k

Have a great week everyone! Oh, and by the way, here's a shot from Blockhouse Hill where evening concerts were held during the festival. Not a bad venue, eh?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Running lessons: Jump first, train later!

So, I did it. I took the leap and registered for Cape to Cabot in St. Johns's in October - which means I've got some pretty serious training to do over the next couple of months. To prepare, I've promised myself no more long runs on my usual routes along abandoned rail beds. Instead, for the next 9 weeks, I'll slog my way up and down as many hills as possible.

Yesterday's 24 km run was from our house in Conquerall Bank to Crescent Beach. Here's the elevation chart.

None of the hills was as high as those I'll run in Newfoundland but I'm hoping my quads will get stronger through sheer repetition.

My run felt tougher yesterday because I didn't start it until mid-afternoon after driving my motorcycle from Halifax to Bridgewater in the morning (approx. 120 kms). I'd never done such a long trip before so was anxious about it. Would I be able to drive fast enough to avoid being a hazard to other drivers? Would the weather cooperate? As it turned out, I had a great ride though my lower back and arms were pretty tired by the time I reached our country place. I was on the road shortly after 7:00 a.m. so there wasn't much traffic and the route was much easier to drive than those on which I've been practicing in recent weeks. The only really scary bit was when I had to drive on Highway #103 for a few kilometres because the secondary highway was closed.  Here's a pic of Patti at Queensland Beach. I think maybe she's a beach girl like me.

And here are a few pics from yesterday's long run. Yes, I was dawdled - but I meant to. When I discussed my race plans with my chiro last week, he reminded me that "long slow runs" are supposed to be just that - long and slow - so I did my best to heed his advice and run 20-30 seconds per kilometre more slowly than I have been. I wasn't altogether successful so took more walk breaks than usual, which gave me lots of time to take pictures.

It was sunny and warm for the first 13 kms or so.

But I ran into a fog bank just outside LaHave.

From then on, there weren't many waterviews but the foggy landscape was pretty in its own way and I appreciated the cooler temperatures.

I also enjoyed the flowers and brightly painted houses along the way.

And encountered a rather irate mama osprey who took exception to me running by her nest and let me know it by swooping overhead, calling out in full voice that I should move along, move along.

When I finally arrived at the beach just after 5:00, Husband was waiting to drive me the last few kilometres to Risser's Beach, where I threw myself into the water for a refreshing swim before joining family at the campground for a BBQ supper.

Walking to the car later, I noticed the fog had cleared and the sky, though moonless, was bright with stars - so I thanked those lucky stars for the good fortune to live and run in such a beautiful place.

Happy running and writing, friends.

For the running geeks in the crowd, here's a summary of last week's training:
Total # runs: 4
Total distance: 45.5 kms
Longest run: 24.34 kms
Hill training: 1 x 4 hills
Tempo runs: 1 x 6 kms