Wednesday, January 22, 2014

European Adventures 2013: Paris!

We're having our second blizzard in as many weeks and I'm stuck inside so it seems a good time to write the last in a series of posts about our trip to Europe last summer. After a week in Malta, a week in Provence, and several days in Normandy, Husband and I boarded a train to meet up with our good friend, Kirsi, for a few days in Paris before flying home.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Blue January days

My apology for the long silences between posts. Life's just so damned busy these days, plus I guess I'm feeling a little fragile at the moment - or maybe "raw" is a better word. We learned a couple of weeks ago that my beautiful mother-in-law, "Ma", is once again fighting cancer and we're are very worried about her. Husband immediately flew to Ottawa to be with his family so I've spent the last 9 days or so trying to keep all the balls in the air here while praying for good news. 

Work has been challenging too - lots of changes and new projects with which to contend - most of which are positive but still demanding.

And then there's the weather that can't seem to make up its mind. Two weeks ago, I ran in temperatures approaching -30 degrees C. On Thursday evening, it was +8 degrees C. In fact, it felt amazingly like spring all week - which will make the return of more normal winter temperatures next week kind of tough. It's a good thing we Nova Scotians are used to crazy shifts in weather. We have a saying here, "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes", which pretty much sums it up.

Predictably, dealing with everything has sapped my energy to the point that my running hasn't felt great lately. I've found it hard to get into a good rhythm and my runs have left me feeling tired instead of energized as they usually do. Thursday evening's run around the lake and along the harbourfront was the exception. It was a cool, still, rainy evening and my body felt reasonably good for a change, so I thoroughly enjoyed running 7k and arrived home feeling much happier and more relaxed. 

Yesterday's long, slow 15k was less successful - though I ran to and through Shubie Park, one of my favourite places. A large part of the park is designated an "off-leash dog park" and, if there's a happier place, I don't know what it is. The joy exhibited by dogs and their human companions is positively infectious. 

The mild day enticed many families to visit the park as well and it made me smile to see so many children savouring the experience of being outside, visiting with the birds and chipmunks. 

On the way out of the park, there were lovely vistas that soothed my ruffled spirits and reminded me again of how blessed I am to live in such a beautiful, peaceful part of the world.

By the time I arrived home, my spirits were much improved - though my body still felt out-of-sorts.

It looks as if the week ahead will be another challenging one - but hopefully Husband will be home at some point. In the meantime, I'll try to use my time alone productively so that things are in good shape when he arrives. Speaking of which, I guess it's time to get on with my day.

Happy running and writing friends! I'll try to be back with more regular, thoughtful posts soon. In the meantime, please keep Ma in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

To have or not to have...running goals for 2014

We now return to regular programming.

After all the angst last week, all the passionate determination to run less in order to leave more time for other things, I find myself sorely tempted to register for another series of tough races in 2014.

In fact, I've already committed to running one of the toughest - the Cabot Trail Relay - and, just to make it interesting, I've signed up to co-captain and run a relatively long, difficult leg. It also looks as if I may run another race in Newfoundland in July - the Tely 10 (miler). It's reputed to be a fast course so of course I'll have to try running it in a personal best time.

And then there's the always challenging Hypothermic Half in March and a new half marathon in Brooklyn (NS) in early May. How could I not run them when they're so close to home?

There are loads of other fun runs too - the 25k Moose Run and the Back to Basics 8 miler, for instance. Maybe I should sign up for a couple of those with a plan to run them at a nice, slow training pace. Right.

Or maybe I should cool my jets, limit myself to participating in no more than three or four races this season, and volunteer for a few in order to support the sport that's brought me such joy. "No!" I hear my inner, goal hungry, type A demon yell. "You're nearly 52 years old. This may be your last chance. You don't want to miss out."

Miss out? On what, for goodness sake?

The truth is I don't want to do the tough training it would require to prepare for all those events. The weather's cold, icy and miserable these days. Last week, temperatures dipped to -30C with the windchill. It's warmed up a bit but sidewalks are still treacherous and the winds high.

We had one lovely, mild day on Sunday (when I snapped the photo above) but the running was still tough. Several inches of packed snow, softened by warm temperatures, made it feel as if I was running in soft beach sand. By the time I'd done 12k, my quads burned and my ankles ached. In fact, it was so tough I threw in the towel and asked Husband to pick me up so I wouldn't have to run the final 2k home.

No, this year needs to be about finding a more balanced approach to running that involves training consistently at a reasonable intensity, cutting myself some slack and using my time for other things when the worst of the winter weather descends.

I practiced that tonight actually. I'd planned to run home from work but, when I stepped out of my building, discovered the wind was much stronger than I'd realized. At my most running-obsessed, such a discovery wouldn't have deterred me for a moment Hell, I would have reveled in the challenge of running into the wind all the way home. But tonight I took one quick spin around the block to consider my options, returned to my office, collected my warm coat and boots and grabbed the ferry home.

The truth is it would have been foolhardy to run over the bridge to Dartmouth tonight so taking the ferry was unquestionably the right thing to do. Of course, I could have gone for a run when I got home, but Her Majesty needed to go to the vet for some blood work and Husband wanted to watch episode 2 of "The Best Laid Plans" so I opted to skip it. Tomorrow's another day, after all, and it looks as if the weather will improve a little overnight.

All of which leads back to what, if any, running goals I should set for 2014?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Plunging into the New Year

“Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.”
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I wear a necklace bearing the first phrase of this quote nearly every day. I purchased it a few years ago when I was feeling sad and dispirited. It reminds me to pay closer attention to my life, to taste the sweet and sour of it, to appreciate all of its aspects - even those that cause me discomfort from time to time.

I stumbled on the quote again when I went searching for reflections on exploration a couple of days ago. As I mentioned in my last post, I thought about choosing "explore" as my word of the year for 2014.  However, with a few more days of reflection, I concluded "plunge" is the better choice. The type of exploration I have in mind - spiritual, physical, emotional, and creative - involves immersing myself in things that matter to me - not tentatively, but with abandon - so that I may follow where my heart and soul lead. 

I hasten to add that I took seriously the suggestions of those who responded to that post by encouraging me to consider making self-care a greater priority in 2014. I assure you I will do my best to make my plunges into life are as joyful, healthy and balanced as possible. 

As part of this quest, I borrowed the idea of starting a photographic gratitude journal from and launched a new blog entitled "Janice's Gratitude Journal". (Daily photos will appear on the sidebar of this blog as well.) I hope the exercise of documenting a gift from each day will deepen and expand my appreciation of the many good things in my life while providing insights into what truly motivates, moves and inspires me. For the sake of simplicity, the photos will mostly be taken with my phone camera but I am optimistic the journal will encourage me to pick up my Nikon 5100 more often as well. 

As I plunge into 2014, here are a few more quotes to inspire: 

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt"

“The camera basically is a license to explore.”
― Jerry Uelsmann

“Writing is all at once an exploration of what is, and what is not. Of the known, and the unknown. A journey into the depths of self, and all of humankind.”
― Madelaine Standing, Heaven In The Meat Packing District

“The depth of a man is a limit only he can know, should he have the courage to explore into the dark.”
― Kyle Schmalenberg

“Adventure is allowing the unexpected to happen to you. Exploration is experiencing what you have not experienced before.”
― Richard Aldington, Death of a Hero

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
 - T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding

“We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don't have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
― André Gide

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain

“Always do what you are afraid to do.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it.”
- Rosalia de Castro

“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”
- Wildred Peterson

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
- JRR Tolkien

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
- Confucius

Best wishes to each and everyone of you for the year ahead. Namaste.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day: Looking forward and back

Somehow another year has gone and I find myself sitting by the fire reviewing the past year and looking to the year ahead.  As some of you may remember, my word for 2013 was "create" and my resolutions for the year focused on "creating a more creative life" - one filled with new experiences, new challenges and new people.

Looking back, I'm reasonably pleased with what I managed to accomplish - though a bit dismayed by how little progress I made in some areas.

The year had many high points, including a long weekend in Prince Edward Island in March, three weeks in Malta and France in June, lots of company through the summer months, and a long weekend in Newfoundland in October. Running achievements included:
I didn't manage a PB in any of these races but that wasn't the point. Given that I participated in so many, my goal was simply to finish them "upright and smiling", as they say.

One of the things I set as a goal this year was to become more fearless by doing things that scared me. To that end, I spent as much time as possible riding my motorcycle, tackled Cape to Cabot, and generated two new projects at work that forced me outside my comfort zone. I can't say that I always enjoyed the experience but it certainly made me less fearful.

I also managed to spend more time on creative activities in 2013. I spent hundreds of hours taking and editing photographs, drafted a second novel in November, and completed a Christmas quilting project.

Finally, I put lots of time and energy into engaging with other people - former classmates, family, colleagues, neighbours, fellow runners and photographers - which, though often challenging (given my introverted nature), was definitely worth the effort.

In terms of disappointments, the three things that stand out are that I didn't reduce my consumption of alcohol much or read many more books, and haven't done as much as I'd like to take my day job in new directions. Hopefully, I'll make some progress on the first item in the coming year given that Husband and I are "on the wagon" for January. (I should add that in fact I don't drink all that much compared to most people - just a little more than is good for me.) My reading habits improved toward the end of 2013 so I'll try to continue that trend into 2014. On the work front, change may be forced upon me by an organizational review now underway so I'll have to wait and assess the situation oncefinal decisions are made. In the meantime, I'm determined to be positive and open-minded about whatever happens.

All in all, then, not a bad year but I find myself at the starting line for 2014 feeling a bit lost and confused. Where should I go from here? What would help me get out of bed feeling happy and excited about the day ahead ahead?  I've been saying I'm going to run less in 2014 in order to make time for other activities but what do I mean by that?

I realized over the past few weeks that running less than 3 or 4 times a week isn't really an option. I can shorten long runs on weekends and perhaps reschedule work day runs but I can't run less frequently and still be happy. Running is my refuge and inspiration. I need to run - in the same way, I need to sleep and eat. It's non-negotiable.

How then to make time for other things? Better planning might help. Husband suggested I schedule creative time so it doesn't get squeezed out by more mundane activities. I may also need to create a separate work space for myself with better lighting. It's hard to focus on reading or creative activities when I'm constantly interrupted by Husband and the cats, and my eyes are almost useless in low light. Most importantly, I'll need to spend less time on the internet. Much as I enjoy Facebook and other social media, I waste an extraordinary amount of time on them every day and that has to change if I'm going to have time for everything else I want to do.

None of which gets me any closer to picking a word for 2014. I thought it might be "consistency" but that doesn't have much of a ring to it. I also thought about "service" since I'd like to spend more time contributing to the well-being of others in 2014. Maybe "explore" is the way to go. I'd certainly like to do more exploration of my creative side, as well as new professional and volunteer opportunities. And I'd be interested in knowing what my true limits are in terms of time and energy. My sense is I could accomplish more if only I shifted the balance so I was doing more of the things that energize and inspire me.

Given that I feel so unsure of where I want to go from here, perhaps "explore" is the right word for me this year but, at the risk of jinxing it, I think I'll take another night to mull it over. The words I chose the last two years played a powerful role in keeping me on track and I'd like whatever word I choose for 2014 to do the same.

Until tomorrow, here are a few pictures from my walks and runs over the past couple of weeks. Husband and I spent Christmas in Ottawa this year. However, the day before we left, I managed to squeeze in a terrific long run that started at the Halifax Farmer's Market and took me through Point Pleasant Park en route back to Dartmouth. It was mild and foggy which made for treacherous footing at times but also provided some lovely scenes to photograph.

A deserted walkway in the Public Gardens
The old MacDonald Bridge to Dartmouth
We arrived in Ottawa to much colder weather and were caretakers of a lovely English sheep dog for a couple of days. Willow was an extraordinarily good companion - easy going, obedient, energetic and fun. The best part was that she loved the snowy, cold weather. Here are a few pics of our walks along the river.

Once Willow had gone to her grandmother's for Christmas, I had more freedom to run and take photos. Though the weather was quite cold for much of the time we were in Ottawa, I loved being able to run through the New Edinburgh neighbourhood where we stayed - particularly on those days when we had lots of fresh snow and sunshine.

Entrance to Rideau Hall
The gates at 24 Sussex Drive
A view of Parliament Hill from the grounds of Rideau Hall

Old City Hall, Ottawa
Oops. 10:30. It's time I headed off to sleep. Husband and I are planning an early morning run tomorrow so I need to tuck in early.

If you have any thoughts on what my word should be for 2014, I'd love to hear them. I'll try to post an update re what I decide sometime in the next couple of days.

Happy running and writing, friends. And Happy New Year!!