Sunday, March 23, 2014

The cat came back...

It was quite the week.

My boss was away so I was up to my eyeballs in work. By Monday night, I was already exhausted  but managed to drag my butt out the door to do a hill workout. It went well but, on my way home, this little guy jumped on to the sidewalk in front of me, forcing me to pause. I made the mistake of petting him before running on and, when I looked back a few minutes later, he was galloping after me. In fact, he proceeded to follow me for nearly two kilometres though I tried several times to shoo him back to where I thought he lived. He wasn't having any of it and it was a bitterly cold night so, in the end, I scooped him up and brought him to our house instead.

When I dropped him on the floor of the kitchen, Husband took one look at him and asked me if I was out of my mind. "What could I do? I couldn't leave him out there. It's freezing tonight and he's too young to be wandering the streets like that." Husband wasn't having any of it and insisted we take him back to where I'd first spotted him. I agreed reluctantly. The kitten was very cute and seemed to have been well-loved so I thought there were likely people looking for him.

We drove the two kilometres back to Crichton Park and I got out of the car and put the little guy down on the sidewalk. He took one look around, looked up at me quizzically, then jumped back in the car. Husband gave in and said we could give him a place to sleep for the night.

The rest of the week was spent posting notices at local shelters and vets' offices and on Facebook and Kijiji in hopes we could reunite "Gus" (as we opted to call him) with his people. No luck. By Friday, it had begun to dawn on me that someone had likely dumped Gus in our neighbourhood hoping a soft-hearted schmuck would take him in. We were sorely tempted to keep him but our two old dears were having none of it. They didn't like him. Would never like him. And, just by the way, we could forget about feline affection or snuggling of any kind until Gus was gone.

With a heavy heart, I contacted Bide Awhile Animal Shelter Friday afternoon and they agreed to find him a new home. He's a lovely little guy - handsome, well-behaved (especially for a male kitten) and very sweet and cuddly so I'm sure he'll be adopted quickly.

Anyway, between work and cat dramas, it was a big week. I managed a second run on Thursday morning before work. I should have done it at tempo pace but I was simply too tired. In fact, I was so tired I might have been tempted to skip my run this weekend but, fortunately, my friend David was in the city and invited me to join him on his long run so we met at 7:00 yesterday and did a terrific 16k run through Point Pleasant Park and along the waterfront. I wish I'd had a camera with me. The early morning sunshine breaking through the clouds was stunning.

The run reminded me of how helpful it is to have company for challenging workouts. David and I were deep in conversation as we ran up a series of tough hills in the park. When we hit the top of the last one, David remarked that he was impressed I'd run up them talking the whole way and I realized I'd barely noticed how hard I was working. I'm sure if I'd been running on my own I would have been tempted to walk at some point but, with my mind distracted, my body just did what it had to do. Go figure. It's nice to realize I'm stronger than I think sometimes.

Time to sign off and do some work on my novel. I finally reread the draft I wrote in November 2012 and realized it's not quite as bad as I remember - though I've lots to do to finish it. I still like the central characters and think the main plot moves along at a decent pace. The big challenge will be figuring out which sub-plots to cut so that I can pull the story together in 100k words or less. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

In the meantime, happy running and writing, friends.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

At last...a room of my own

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” 
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

I first read A Room of One's Own more than thirty years ago. I thought it was brilliant then and still do - particularly because I so rarely have time to sit and think these days. It seems as if life is simply too full of electronic devices and responsibilities that necessarily take priority over creative activities.

I'm trying to change that - to spend less time on-line and more time with my thoughts. Instinctively, I know I need time for quiet reflection in order to recharge - which is one of the reasons I like running so much. However hard it feels physically, it provides opportunities to let my mind wander, to think about things that matter to me, and to explore creative ideas.  

I read an interesting article lately that talked about why compassion may be in such short supply today. One of the theories is that, when people don't have time to daydream, they don't learn to empathize with other people. And, since they can't empathize, they can't feel compassion either. Of course, in a world of 24/7 connectivity - with more things to entertain and distract - fewer people take time to daydream, which may in turn mean the world will be less compassionate in future - a pretty depressing possibility if you ask me. 

In any case, from a personal perspective, the lack of time on my own has been getting to me lately. Don't get me wrong. I love hanging out with Husband. It's just that I spend all day every day interacting with people at the office and need a little solitude now and again to recharge and work on writing and other projects without interruption. 

With that in mind, Husband and I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon turning an unused bedroom into "a room of my own". As I write this, I'm sitting at the table we brought up from the basement to use as a desk. Though small, the room's got plenty of natural light and two windows that offer views of the majestic pines that surround our house, which I can stop to admire whenever I need a break. I must say it feels remarkably good to have this little space of my own. 

My friend Rob (a terrific illustrator and musician) recently reminded me that I don't need the perfect space, the best tools or unlimited time to be creative. I need only to give myself permission to create wherever, whenever and in whatever way I can. By taking a few minutes to capture writing ideas in a notebook. Or by grabbing a quick photo with my smart phone. Or by doodling an image on the corner of a memo. Or by writing a short blog post...even when I don't feel I have much to say. 

Having my own room won't automatically mean I spend more time daydeaming or working on creative projects. That will happen only if I turn off my devices and start making time for those things. But it is at least a symbol of my intention to spend more time feeding my soul so that I'm better equipped to live my life as I'd like to - with much more empathy, compassion and creativity. 

Happy running and writing, friends. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

March...thank goodness!

Complaints about the weather have become louder and more incessant in recent weeks - which is ironic given that the winter in Nova Scotia hasn't been all that bad this year. My own theory is Nova Scotians think they should complain because people in other places are complaining but, let's face it, those people have good reason to complain. Over the weekend, it was reported that temperatures fell to -50C in Alberta and many parts of Europe haven't had a clear, sunny day in months. I'd find either of those weather scenarios much more difficult than our own. Yes, there's been lots of snow, but at least we've had plenty of sunshine and, for the most part, temperatures have stayed above -15C.

That said, I have to admit I'm jealous of those who've spent time in warmer places these past few months. As I write this, friends are soaking up the sun in Cuba, Florida and Turks and Caicos. I'm genuinely glad they're getting some well-deserved rest but sometimes I can't help wishing that they'd keep it to themselves.

Of course, it's some comfort that not taking a winter holiday means that (a) I'll have money for other trips and (b) I'll have more time to enjoy the fabulous summer weather in Nova Scotia - when it finally gets here in June or July. In the meantime, running on bitter, windy days makes me a stronger runner and there aren't many things better than snuggling by the fireplace with a good book, a glass of wine, the cats and Husband on a cold winter's night.

Ahhh...there it is. Running. I haven't written much about it lately, though I've been training regularly all winter. The week before last was particularly good. I managed 4 runs in all for a total of 36k, including a tough 14k on Saturday. The high point was a 3k section through Peace Park. The footing was abysmal because the trails were covered in three or four inches of snow that had the consistency of damp sugar, but the park was as beautiful as ever and I was thrilled to spot a brightly-coloured pileated woodpecker as I ran along the river. If you've never seen one, imagine Woody Woodpecker and you've got it more or less right. Seeing one of these little guys always makes me grin.

En route to the park, I was also treated to the sight of a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead. I often see eagles during my runs but I never fail to appreciate them. They're such strong, majestic creatures. This past Sunday, I got a much closer view of one as it sailed through the trees just 20 or 30 feet above my head.

I didn't do quite as well with my running last week. Work and other demands consumed most of my energy so I only got out twice and yesterday's 16k felt like a slog. Perhaps it was the weather that made it feel so tough - sunny with a cold, sharp wind that made temperatures feel closer to -15C - but I suspect it had more to do with my frame of mind.

You see, though I've not been training hard in recent months, at some level I still expect my body to be able to do all it could do last fall when I'd been training diligently for months. It's irrational I know but it's how I feel. And because I feel that way, I get frustrated and angry when my body doesn't respond the way I expect it to. "16k is nothing", the little voice in my head says, "you should be able to run that easily - at tempo pace no less. What's the matter with you?"

What, indeed? Well, clearly the little voice in my head needs a reality check. 16k felt hard because it's the longest distance I've run in more than three months, and I haven't done any serious hill training since Cape to Cabot last November. Furthermore, I've put on a few pounds this winter, which means it takes more effort to move my body down the road, and work and other commitments are consuming more energy than usual. Added to which, there's my age. Realistically, it's going to be more challenging to maintain the same level of fitness in the coming years so I might just as well stop beating up on myself when my body reminds me I'm not a kid anymore.

Fortunately, its March - which means that warm spring days aren't far off - and, provided I stick to a regular training routine and avoid catching some nasty bug, I should be in good form by the time race season arrives. At least, I hope so. As I've mentioned before, I'm captain of a team headed to the Cabot Trail Relay in May so I'd really like to be in shape to run well by then. In fact, my goal is to be in good enough shape that I am able to run two legs if a member of our team has to bow out at the last minute and we can't find a substitute in time.

Of course, the antidote to all this angst is to get busy training so that's what I intend to do. I can hold fast to my new year's resolution to "run less" and train only three times a week so long as I make the most of each workout - tempo run on Tuesday, hills on Thursday and a long slow hilly run on the weekend. It's not rocket science. I've got a good base so I just need to prepare a sensible training schedule and stick to it for the next 12 weeks - which will be a whole lot easier as the weather improves.

The other thing that would help I'm sure is regular yoga. I've fallen off the yoga wagon in the past year. When I hurt my shoulder last winter, I took a break to let it heal, and then my regular lunchtime class moved to a new location further from my office and it just wasn't as convenient anymore. Tonight I spent 45 minutes doing a few rounds of sun salutations followed by the star, warrior, seated twist and pigeon poses and realized just how tight my hips and hamstrings are. Hopefully, if I make a concerted effort to improve my flexibility over the next few months, running will feel easier.

A quick word for those who've been asking about Husband. I'm happy to report that he's doing much better. His meds are working well so he's back to normal activity levels and hard at work on the new downstairs bathroom. He's still on a waiting list for a procedure we hope will fix the problem once and for all but, in the meantime, he's feeling fine. So thank you all for your positive thoughts and good wishes.

In closing, a couple of hopeful quotations about spring:
Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. -  Robert H. Schuller

Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. - Virgil A. Kraft

Happy running and writing, friends.