Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Report: Rum Runners Relay 2014

It's Monday evening and I'm still dragging my sorry butt around after another terrific but exhausting Rum Runners Relay. The weather was glorious, though a little too hot, and my teammates were friendly, supportive and fun so we had a great time together.   

I ran leg #1, which got underway at 6:30.  It wasn't my best run ever - in part because it was mostly uphill. (In fact, the first 7 kms were one long unremitting climb. No wonder I was in pain by the midpoint.) Added to which, I went out too fast - a rookie mistake I shouldn't have made but my adrenaline was up and I didn't realize how fast I was going until two kms into the race - by which time the damage was done.  

In any case, I didn't entirely embarrass myself. Despite the mistake, I managed to "make the mat", running an average of 5:54/km - not what I was hoping for but it could have been worse. 

At the beginning of leg 3, we managed to get the team together in one place long enough for a team photo. My buddy Dave is missing, unfortunately, because he came down with a nasty cold last week and sensibly decided to stay home and join us just prior to his leg (#10). We missed his company throughout the day but were grateful he found the energy to run well when he finally arrived. 

The relay route, along a secondary highway that hugs the coastline, is spectacular for much of the way,

...which took some of the pain out of running in temperatures approaching 30 degrees C, though it was still darn tough.

Several teammates took the opportunity to cool off with a swim when they finished their legs. Here's Delia getting ready to take a well-served dip at Queensland Beach after running the longest toughest leg (#4).

Despite the heat, everyone ran well and enjoyed the day, which was the most important thing, as far as I was concerned.

Before signing off, a huge thank you to race organizers. Once again, they did a fantastic job which was much appreciated by all the participants. Thanks too to my wonderful teammates who did an amazing job supporting and encouraging one another (and me)! Hopefully, I'll see many of my devilish friends on the Cabot Trail in May 2015.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ready to Rum Run

I'm finally organized for tomorrow's Rum Runners Relay. The team is lined up, food is ready to go, my race outfit is laid out, my Garmin is recharged, the team gear is loaded in the car, and my alarm is set for 4:45 am. The plan now is to take a warm bath, drink a single glass of wine, chat with Husband for a few minutes and fall into bed in hopes I actually sleep for a few hours. Yes, friends, this is what I do for fun.  :-)

Race report to follow soon.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Preparing to Rum Run

It's less than a week until my next big event - the Rum Runners Relay. I haven't done RRR in a few years but I remember it being a really fun event and it looks as if the weather will be perfect. The majority of my team members are folks who were with me on the Cabot Trail in May, with the balance being "friends of friends", so it should be a congenial group.

Much as I'm looking forward to the social aspects of the race, I dread the run itself. I signed up for leg #1 so I could get it out of the way early and focus on my duties as Captain for the remainder of the race. Unfortunately, that means running at 6:30 am - not exactly my best time of day. On the upside, I'll likely be too sleepy to notice when things start to hurt, which they no doubt will.

My training last week wasn't exactly stellar. Tuesday night's felt hard because I was still tired from the weekend. I completed a scheduled hill workout on Thursday but, again, didn't feel particularly good. Friday and Saturday mornings, my resting heart rate was significantly elevated so I opted not to run. I hoped to feel well enough to tackle a final long run of 16k on Sunday but, still feeling weary, elected to do a relatively easy 10k instead - a good choice given that it was as hot and humid as a mid-summer day. You can almost see the heat in this photo, which I took as a ran along the Centennial Trail.

The fact my heart rate was elevated is interesting. I suppose it's because I ramped up my training too quickly. After 3 or 4 years of racing regularly, I've gotten a bit too casual about prepping for events. I forget sometimes that my 52 year old body isn't capable of transforming itself from sloth to svelte athlete in a matter of weeks. More lead time is needed. 

Which means, of course, that Saturday's run is likely to feel tough. I'm more or less used to the distance (13+ kms) but haven't done enough speed training to make my goal pace of 5:45 feel easy. All I can hope is that excitement and adrenaline kick in and help me "make the mat" (the timing mat which gets picked up and moved to the end of leg #2 at around 7:50 am). 

Despite my worries about the race, I'm enjoying the perfect running weather this week. Yesterday, I did an easy (because I'm tapering) 5k on my usual route, stopping to stretch at the far end of Lake Banook. It was a beautiful evening with light bouncing off the water and a clear star-filled sky above.

In the four years since I moved home to Nova Scotia, I've run around the lake hundreds of times so it's as familiar to me as the back of my hand, and the transition from summer to autumn is one of my favourite times of year. On sunny mornings, reflected colours on the surface of the lake take my breath away. More often, it's dark by the time I run so I can't see the colours but the sharp, cool air, rich smells and gentle swish of fallen leaves remind me winter is just around the corner, which in turn reminds me to be grateful for however many lovely autumn days remain.

On another topic entirely, I've enjoyed watching the flag counter on this blog lately. My most recent readers appear to have been in the United Kingdom, Serbia, Malta and Norway, amongst other places. I can't help wondering who those readers are and what they found interesting so, if you're one of them, please leave a comment below and tell me a bit about yourself.

Happy running and writing, friends. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Running lessons: You never can tell

One of the things I've learned in my 12+ years of running is that you never can tell. You never can tell when your body will feel totally awesome or incredibly awful. You never can tell when you'll have a fantastic run or a terrible one. You never can tell if you're actually ready to race on a given day.

The fact is that, no matter how well you prepare, stuff happens. The race that should have been your best ever is a complete disappointment (Fredericton last spring). Another that you expect to be a total pain-fest is a joy-filled personal best (San Francisco in 2011).

Some things simply aren't predictable. Sure, you can pore over details afterwards and, if you're lucky, identify what went right and wrong, then try to replicate or avoid it in future. But the truth is that a great deal of what happens during a run is simply beyond your control.

Life's like that too, of course. The places, people, experiences we expect to bring us happiness often leave us cold, and vice versa. Usually, it's our expectations that are the problem. They aren't realistic. People don't (or can't) live up to them. We focus on what's missing rather than appreciating what is.

Of course, it doesn't help that we live in a culture that encourages us to expect a lot, then feel dissatisfied when we don't get it. It's why marketers earn the big bucks. The more we want, the more unhappy we are when we don't get it, the more likely we are to  consume stuff in hopes it will make us feel better. And, when it doesn't, the cycle begins again.

So what should we do? Well, for starters, we should be aware of our expectations and examine them critically to figure out whether they're realistic, helpful, etc. I'm not suggesting all expectations are bad. It often makes sense to set goals and work towards achieving them. But, when the goals aren't attainable or when we expect other people to do certain things or behave in certain ways, we're only setting ourselves up for disappointment.

And what does any of this have to do with the photo at the top of this post, you ask? I took it Sunday afternoon while I was preparing to head back to the city. Patterns danced across the floor and up the walls as late afternoon sunlight streamed through tree branches swaying in the wind. Fascinated, Nemmie (the cat) sat in the hallway, staring at the wall, occasionally stretching out a paw in a vain attempt to catch the light.

I stood watching for several moments, then remembered that last week's theme for my photo group was "hallways and corridors". Fortunately, my camera was nearby so I was able to grab it and snap the photo before Nemmie got distracted by something else and wandered off. When I uploaded it to my Facebook page later that evening, a number of friends responded immediately, saying how much they enjoyed it. Something about the image resonated, which surprised me a little because, although I liked it, I didn't really expect others to. Which just goes to show you never can tell. Sometimes, when you least expect it, good things happen.

BTW, for the running geeks in the crowd, here's a summary of my training last week:

Total # runs: 4
Hill training:  6 hills
Tempo runs: 1 - 10k
Longest run: 17k
Total distance run: 40k

Happy running and writing, friends!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Blogging buddies

Janet, Keith and me
One of the best things about blogging is meeting new people who share your interests. And one of the people I've most enjoyed getting to know in the past year is Keith Cartmell. (See his blog here.) Keith's posts often make me smile so I was excited to learn he and his wife would be visiting Nova Scotia this month. I got to know Keith through my friend Janet, who I also met through blogging. (Her blog is here.) It turns out we all like to like to write, cook, drink wine and stay active (running, cycling, whatever) so we have tonnes to talk about.

We three along with our spouses met up for supper last night at Janet's house. What a terrific evening! Janet and her husband prepared a fabulous dinner of scallops (to start) and salmon on the BBQ. Husband and I contributed an arugula salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese and a decadent rum-soaked cake with whipped cream. Needless to say, we ate very well indeed. And talk - my goodness, did we talk - like long lost friends - about running, writing, food, politics - essentially, all the things we blog about. It was great fun.

We got together again this morning at Crescent Beach for a mellow 5k run/walk. I forgot to take my phone with me so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say it was lovely, despite being cool and misty. Here's an picture of Crescent Beach from a couple of years ago to give you the idea. It's a truly spectacular place to run.

I spent the rest of the weekend doing a 16k long run, cooking, shopping for shoes (I got some fun little booties for walking to work), riding my motorcycle, and taking a few photos. The theme for my photo group this week was black & white photography. Here are some of the shots I took over the past couple of days:

In short, it was a mellow weekend - which is a good thing because life has been just a tad stressful lately. Once again, I find myself puzzling over what I want to be when I grow up. (Will I ever figure it out? I'm 52, after all!) And Husband and I have been struggling with whether or not to put the country house on the market this fall. We love the house, but it seems downright silly to spend so much of our income maintaining two properties. On the other hand, neither one of us wants to give up the country life. Hopefully, things will become clearer over the winter. In the meantime, I plan to nestle in and savour whatever time we have left here.

Speaking of savouring, I had a pretty decent long run yesterday. My legs felt a bit tight from hill training Wednesday evening so I opted for an easy route along the river to Peace Park, then upriver to the footbridge and back. It felt great visiting the Park since it's one of my favourite places and I hadn't been there in months. As I was leaving, I ran into a couple of friends from community theatre days - almost 30 years ago!! (Yikes! Where has the time gone?) Seeing them reminded me of all the fun we had together. Community theatre is something I'd like to do again one day.

It's time now to sign off and get ready for the long week ahead. There's a fire in the fireplace to ward off the autumn chill in the air tonight. I'm disappointed summer is over so soon but the cooler temperatures should make it easier to tackle projects. For starters, I have to get my Rum Runners Relay team organized since the race is only three weeks away. After that, there's the little matter of prepping for a fall half marathon (What?!?!) More on that next time... :-)

Happy running and writing friends!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Savouring the last gasps of summer

The weather hasn't been awfully reliable the past few weeks but we did get some warm temperatures over the Labour Day weekend. On Saturday, Husband and I took advantage of them by spending time at Broad Cove (pictured above). I drove my motorcycle there while Husband followed me in the car with all our gear. It was windy and cool on the beach but still quite wonderful. We pitched our sunbuster and read happily for a couple of hours before heading over to Best Coast Coffee for coffee and cake.

Lemon poppyseed cake with lemon curd and whipped cream, to be exact. Delicious! After our snack, I broke out my camera and we went for a walk around the cove so I could snap a few photos.

There's an old graveyard in Broad Cove with many stones dating from the 1800s.  It was sad to see how young some of the people buried there were they died.

The children's graves made me especially sad.

On Sunday, I tackled a long run of 16k from our house in Conquerall Bank to LaHave. I didn't stop to take many pictures but couldn't resist grabbing a snap of these sunflowers. Aren't they glorious?

Husband met me in LaHave because we planned to have lunch there. Unfortunately, LaHave Bakery was packed on account of a folk festival taking place just up the road later that day so we drove back to Broad Cove and had a delicious lunch at the cafe instead. (The cafe's now closed for the season, but I'd highly recommend a stop there if you happen to find yourself in Broad Cove next summer. Both the food and ambiance are terrific.)

On Sunday evening we entertained good friends who were up from the Valley and, on Monday morning,  I arranged to meet my buddy Dave for a mellow 8k recovery run along the river. By the time I was home and cleaned up, the sun was peaking through the clouds so Husband and I opted to abandon our chores and drive to Risser's Beach (my favourite place in the world) for a walk. Fortunately, we brought our gear with us (sunbuster, beach chairs, snacks, books) because, when we arrived, we discovered it was a perfect beach day.

Though quite muggy and hot, there were big waves to play in and enough wind and cloud cover to make the sun bearable. We swam twice and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and talking before finally heading home at suppertime.

En route, I asked Husband pull over so I could grab this shot.We're incredibly fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

All and all, my runs last week went pretty well. I managed four in total, including a longish 16k on a hilly route and two runs at a tempo-ish pace (for a total of 35k). Last night, after a long tiring day, I got myself out the door for my first hill training session, which felt remarkably good. Slowly but surely, my body seems to be adapting to this increased level of activity. I've even started to enjoy running again!

I've focused a lot on on my form lately, which seems to be helping. By the time I did my fourth hill last night, I was making better use of chi running techniques so it felt noticeably easier than the first three. In particular, my shoulders, calves and hamstrings were much looser and more relaxed. It was great to feel the difference good form can make.

The other thing I'm working on is my diet. It's time to get a better balance of calories in and out - particularly calories from wine and beer. With three weeks left to Rum Runners Relay, I'm hoping to drop a pound or two and ensure my body is properly fueled to tackle a fast (for me!) 13+ kms. I'll let you know how it goes.

There's not much else to report, so let me leave you with a video I saw this week.  Is it any wonder I love living where I do?

Happy running and writing, friends!