Thursday, October 31, 2013

NaNoWriMo - Day #-1

Here it is. The last day of October - which means National Novel Writing Month (November) starts tomorrow. I've signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo again but have to admit my commitment isn't what it was last year.

The problem is I have no idea what I want to write about.


As of noon today, I have only the vaguest notion that I'd like to write a mystery novel and that my central character might be a former journalist or newly-minted Justice Minister. More than that I can't tell you. I don't have a plot, characters, or locale. I don't even have a victim, for goodness sake. Which isn't at all promising.

But here's what I learned from my NaNoWriMo experience last year: That making time to write every day and giving myself permission to put fingers to keyboard with no goal beyond producing 1667 words let all sorts of interesting stuff ooze from my deepest self-conscious. At its best, the process was exhilarating, joyous, and creative. At its worst, it was profoundly cathartic.

So plot or no plot, I'm going for it. Husband's hitting the road for a week so I'll have plenty of time to snuggle into my flannel jammies, brew endless cups of hot honey lemon (spiced up with the occasional shot of rum) and write my little heart out. With luck, I'll have figured out a story to tell in a day or two. Here's hoping anyway.

Wish me luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Race report: Cape to Cabot 20k


Yay! I did it. I finished "the toughest race in eastern North America" and, truthfully, it wasn't even all that hard. Okay, the last long climb up Signal Hill was hard and I nearly threw up after I crossed the line, but my knee held up well, the weather was excellent for running, and I met lots of warm, friendly people before and during the race so I had a fantastic time.

Backing up a little, Husband and I arrived in St. John's a week ago last Thursday and immediately headed for Cupids where we'd booked a night at the delightful Cupids Haven. I can't remember when we last stayed in such a comfortable and peaceful spot. We were the only guests that evening so had the whole place to ourselves. Before settling in front of the fire with a bottle of wine, we made our way to Bay Roberts for a late lunch at the Madrock Cafe - a tiny restaurant where we sampled Newfoundland specialties, including fish cakes, brown beans and toutons with butter and molasses - not exactly low-cal food but, since I was carbo-loading, I downed a huge plateful.

After a fabulous night's sleep and delicious breakfast served up by our host, Charmaine, we headed back to Bay Roberts to walk a 5 km portion of the Shoreline Heritage Walking Trail.


Despite a heavy mist, we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and historic sites along the trail. The autumn colours were more subdued than at home but I was determined to try to capture them all the same.

French's Cove, NL


Shoreline Heritage Walking Tour, Bay Roberts, NL

Though we had a full day of activities planned, it was hard to pull ourselves away from Madrock where huge waves roared against the shoreline.


Leaving Bay Roberts, we headed a further along the shore of Conception Bay and stopped briefly in Harbour Grace to admire the Church of the Immaculate Conception, currently undergoing restoration...


...and a monument commemorating Amelia Earhart's historic solo flight across the Atlantic.


Just up the highway, we stopped to savour the views at Bristol's Hope - a place I remembered visiting more than thirty years before. By then, the sun had come out and it was warm enough that we wished we'd brought a picnic.


Back in the car, we headed eastward again and drove from downtown St. John's to Cape Spear so that I could get familiar with the route before Sunday's run.

A view from Cape Spear, NL


Standing at Cape Spear was a sobering experience. Cabot Tower looked very far away and the steep hills we drove to get to the Cape (one of which was almost 3kms long) were daunting, to say the least.


Fortunately, we spent that evening with good friends in St. John's, who distracted me from worrying about the race for a few hours, and were busy enough the next day that I didn't think much about it again until bedtime. My friend took Husband and me "twacking" (browsing in stores) and we were both struck by how incredibly vibrant and interesting downtown St. John's had become since we last visited. Later that evening, we went for dinner at the fabulous Bacalao Restaurant, where we dined on nouvelle Newfoundland cuisine, before making our way to the Duke of Duckworth for a pint.

Because I was so terrified, I hardly slept Saturday night and was up the next morning in lots of time to catch the bus to Cape Spear at 6:45. As the bus trundled its way over the long hills to the start line, the sun made a brief cameo, then disappeared behind heavy clouds. Fortunately, the winds were light so temperatures were reasonably comfortable when we arrived at the Cape and, while we waited for the race to start, a number of my fellow runners offered reassurance and advice on how best to survive the course. Just before we got underway, we were lead in a rousing rendition of the "Ode to Newfoundland" by fabulous local musician, John Curran.

I previously posted this elevation chart for the race...

...but I think these photos give a better sense of just how tough the hills were. This was the first and smallest of the three major hills we tackled en route to St. John's.


As I neared the top of it, I turned and snapped another picture. You can just pick out the lighthouse beyond the trees.


Coming out of the hills, I stopped briefly in Shea Heights to capture a photo of the city far below.


Only a small portion of the course (4kms along the waterfront) was flat. As I neared the end of that section, I caught a glimpse of the finish line between two ships moored nearby. Signal Hill seemed a long way up from where I stood...


...and indeed it was. I managed to run the first steep section up Temperance Street but, like many of my fellow runners, slowed to a walk for most of the last mile. Truthfully, I could walk almost as quickly as I could run the steepest parts of the hill. I briefly considered hitching a ride...


...but decided to complete the race under my own steam and somehow found enough energy to sprint the last hundred metres to the finish line. This was the view back to the start line at Cape Spear from just beyond the finish.

A view from just beyond the finish line.

Needless to say I was very happy to take my turn kissing the Tower when I finally reached it.


My official finish time was 2:22 but that included a few stops to take photos and stretch. According to my Garmin, my unofficial "run time" was a little under 2:18 - not fast, by any means, but I'll take it. Heading into the race, I was worried my right knee would seize up as it did during my last marathon in September so paced myself carefully, especially during the downhill portions. In retrospect, I might have been able to run the course more quickly but it made sense to take a conservative approach to make sure I finished.

With the race done, Husband and I headed out to the fabulous Gracie Joe's for brunch before spending a bit more time with our friends, making brief visits to Signal Hill and the Battery and heading to the airport for our flight home.

Looking back to where I started from the finish line of Cape to Cabot.
A view of Cape Spear from Signal Hill
In summary, we had an awesome time in Newfoundland, and I was very happy with my performance at Cape to Cabot. I don't think it's a race I'll ever feel the need to run again but I'd certainly recommend it to anyone interested in tackling a fun new challenge.

For more photos from our trip and the race, follow this link to a set on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Five days and counting...

Life's been so busy lately, there's been no time to blog. No time to think really. Which may be just as well, all things considered. Cape to Cabot is less than 5 days away now and, when I let myself think about it too much, I get an awful sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know I can finish the race - however painful it may be - but still there's a small voice inside that keeps repeating "Are you sure?"

Thankfully, it's not much longer until I find out. Husband and I are scheduled to be on a plane Thursday and, before I know it, I'll be on a bus headed to Cape Spear in time to watch the sunrise and join in singing the Ode to Newfoundland as the race gets underway.

(BTW, The photo above was taken by Newfoundland runner, Kurtis Billard, who's also registered to run and kindly agreed to let me use it. The start line is at the far left of the image, the finish line directly ahead near Cabot Tower at the top of Signal Hill in St. John's.)

A few words about my training over the past couple of weeks. Did I mention life's been busy? It's been hard to find the time and energy to run but  I've still managed to squeeze in a few here and there - including a long, tough hilly run the weekend before last.

Last weekend (Canadian Thanksgiving) found me in Cape Breton visiting friends so I kept my "longish" run short (12k) and took my time, stopping often to drink in the beautiful autumn scenery along the way.

My run included a pause to take the Little Narrows ferry
Some days I envy where others get to run, but not on Sunday. The colours along the route were gorgeous.

After the run, I soaked in the hot tub overlooking this spectacular view....

....then joined Husband and friends to climb to the top of Salt Mountain so I was feeling nicely loose and relaxed by the time we sat down to supper.

A view from Salt Mountain, Whycocomagh, NS

Another view from Salt Mountain
A campfire on the beach, a game of poker and more time in the hot tub followed supper, so (needless to say) I slept pretty well that night. :-)

My plan for the next few days is to take it very very easy. I'll run a relaxed 6k tonight, and perhaps another 3-4k run on Friday, but otherwise my focus will be on resting and storing up as much energy as possible for Sunday morning's race.

I've done a lot of running and racing this years so I'm really looking forward to getting this last big challenge behind me. Look for a full race report when I get home from Newfoundland next week.

Until then, happy running and writing, friends.