Monday, March 28, 2016

Running lessons: Reflecting on the Ghomeshi trial and hoping for change

It was a pretty good week of training. I was too tired after my long run last weekend to tackle hills on Tuesday evening but I did them Wednesday instead. My long slow run on Saturday was a bit longer than planned - 26k - but felt easier than last week's 23k - partly because it was much less windy and I fueled properly before and during, and partly because I had plenty to think about for the three hours it took me to cover the distance.

I postponed yesterday's 8k until today on account of Easter and birthday celebrations for Husband (including a walk on Risser's Beach and several delicious meals), and it too went well, though my legs were still a bit tired from Saturday.

The one run I missed was the 6k tempo run I had planned for Thursday night or Friday. We got to the country too late to run on Thursday and I spent Friday recovering from a poor night's sleep and miserable headache that originated with the release of the decision in Jian Ghomeshi's first trial. The outcome was expected but it was still painful to witness such an obvious miscarriage of justice, and I spent many hours on-line on Friday discussing the case with friends and exchanging theories about what went wrong.

I plan to write a more in-depth post about the case at some point but I need to do more reading and thinking first. Until then, here are links to some of the articles and commentary I found helpful this weekend - either because they articulate the anger and frustration I'm feeling, or because they offer useful assessments of the legal tools we currently have for responding to sexual assault and suggest alternatives that might work better.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Running lessons: Sometimes you just have to get serious

It's been a good week of training. I completed all the runs I had planned and, for the most part, they felt good. Yesterday's long slow run was the exception. I managed to run all 23k but it was a slog and I felt so weary afterwards that I spent the rest of the day recovering. I know 23k isn't an insignificant distance but I've been working up to it for months so I was surprised it felt so tough. Granted, I ran into a cold hard wind for half the distance and the route included more hills than usual but I think there may have been more to it than that.

The underlying problem seems to be that I'm not taking the endeavour as seriously as I should. After training for dozens of races over the past 15+ years, some part of my pea-sized brain imagines I can tackle long training runs with little or no preparation (though nothing could be farther from the truth) with the result that I don't always do what I should to make my long runs as painless and productive as possible.

This week, for example, I drank too much wine and too little water Friday night, skipped breakfast Saturday morning and forgot to bring snacks for the road. What was I thinking? How did I not realize those choices would leave me hungry, dehydrated and miserable long before I finished all 23k? It's like there was a three year old inside me stamping her feet and yelling "I won't, I won't, I won't!"

The reality is there are times when you just have to get serious. Training for a marathon is one of those times. The only hope I have of finishing Calgary "upright and smiling" is if I train properly. Practically speaking, that means doing most of my planned workouts, reducing my intake of alcohol, getting enough rest, stretching regularly, and paying close attention to which combinations of food and drink work best. If I continue behaving as cavalierly as I have to this point, I'll be setting myself up for disaster.

Sure, I could probably finish the race without much more training. It wouldn't be pretty and there's a good chance I'd injure myself, but I'm stubborn enough to cover the distance no matter how much I hurt. (I proved that in New Glasgow a few years back.) But, really, what would be the point? The thing that makes running marathons worthwhile is all the preparation leading up to them. It's toeing the start line knowing I've spent months doing what I could to prepare - even when life interferes and things don't work out exactly as planned. It's figuring out what I'm capable of - mentally, physically and emotionally. It's taking time to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses and develop Plans A, B and C for race day - while accepting there's still a good chance unexpected things will happen. It's being present and grateful for each step along the way, and all the people who support me on the journey.

Well, look at that. Once again, running's an excellent metaphor for life. I can't always devote as much time to things as I'd like, and even the best preparation doesn't guarantee things will turn out as I want them to. But when something's important to me, I owe it to myself to get serious about trying to make it happen. As the saying goes, "There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going."

What about you? What motivates you to train for events?  Have you ever been too cavalier about preparing for a race?  How do you know when you've found the balance between training just enough and not too much?

Happy running and writing!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Let the training begin!

Well, the decision's made. I booked my ticket yesterday, then spent an hour or so writing up a training plan for the next 11 weeks.  Here's what it looks like:

Given my current level of fitness, it's relatively ambitious so I may not be able to follow it strictly. I'll have to pay close attention to how my body responds to ensure I don't overdo it and end up sick. However, provided I complete the long weekend runs, hill training, and at least one other run each week, I should be fit enough to go the distance. If I complete most of the planned tempo runs and do some LSRs on hilly routes as well, perhaps I'll even run something close to my personal best time of 4:36. Time will tell.

To be clear, I'm not going from 0 to 60 here. I started training months ago, and have been slowly rebuilding endurance and consistency since. I wasn't sure I'd attempt marathon this spring but I wanted to be in good enough shape to go for it if the weather cooperated and life didn't otherwise conspire to prevent it. Now that tulips are poking out of the ground and I'm recovered from the flu, I'm optimistic I can get where I want to be by race day.

You'll notice I've broken up a string of 30+ km runs with a 16k in week 7. Depending on how my body responds, I might replace another of the 30+ km runs with a shorter one. What I've learned training for other marathons is that running really long distances every week gets exhausting - especially if I'm doing hill training and tempo runs as well. To avoid injury or illness brought on by over-training, it's often better to do them every second week and give my body time to recover more fully in between. (Jeff Galloway and other running coaches recommend that approach so I know I'm on solid ground.)

I haven't found a great deal of information on the marathon course in Calgary. I have the impression it's hillier than one might expect. The official site mentions there's a steady climb between the 10k and 20k marks and rolling hills for the second half so it's certainly not flat. In general, I prefer a route with some hills since changes in elevation mean using my legs in different ways. On the other hand, long slow climbs are tough. I'm convinced that's partly what caused issues for me in Fredericton three years ago. I'll need to watch my pace carefully to avoid a repeat in Calgary.

Whatever happens on race day, it's sure to be a fun weekend. I'm planning to stay with my sister and her family for much the time I'm there, and joining forces with my blogging/running buddy, Keith, to take in some sights. If time permits, I'll also visit family friends who operate Chinook Honey in Okotoks, just south of the city. When I fly out on Tuesday, I'll head west to Vancouver to spend a couple of days visiting a beloved cousin and a few friends before jumping on a flight home.  All in all, it promises to be a great trip.

But, first, I need to complete another 10.5 weeks of training. Wish me luck!

What about you? Do you do LSRs every week or break them up to give you body a break?  What's the longest distance you run when training for a marathon? Have you ever run Calgary? What did you think of the course?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wishing for a crystal ball

Our country house - March 2015
It's been a busy few weeks - with lots of changes at work and at home - added to which, I was sick with flu. I only went running a few times and even that felt like too much. I'm still recovering from an attempt to run 22k on Saturday. I covered the distance but walked most of the last 3k. I'd hoped to follow it up with a 8-10k recovery run on Sunday but felt too sore and tired to hit the road again. Instead, I did a little yoga, poured a glass of wine, and snuggled in by the fire to listen to the wind howling outside.

The big news is that we've decided not to sell the country house for the moment. We'd had quite a few showings since Christmas but, the more it seemed it might actually sell, the less we wanted to let it go. Things came to a head last weekend when we got a low-ball offer and I realized I had no interest in making a deal. After contemplating the offer for a couple of days, we rejected it and took the house off the market. Lots could change for me at work in the next while, so it seems best to keep our options open until things settle down a bit.

The fact is we both love the country house. It's not grand, by any means, but it's a comfy old place with high ceilings, lovely bright rooms, and plenty of privacy. It sits on about 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares) of forested land, complete with a brook and walking trail, and there are no neighbours close enough to bother us. One of the best things about it is its location - close to the river, our favourite beaches, and an assortment of walking trails. Whatever the season, there's never a shortage of beautiful places to run. And we enjoy being able to visit with family and friends who live in the area regularly.

Another big issue for me was giving up my current commute to work. The plan was to sell both houses and buy a new one in a rural community close enough to the city that I could commute by bus. In theory, that sounded like a great idea but the reality of trading my daily cruise across the harbour for an hour or more in traffic didn't excite me.

Of course, there are disadvantages to our current arrangement. For starters, there's the cost and effort of maintaining two houses. But, even with those, it didn't feel right to give up a home we like so much while my work situation is in flux. I don't expect to lose my job anytime soon but it could happen, in which case we'd likely move to the country and sell our wee city house instead.

We love these massive old trees but the middle one
leans towards the house and they're all quite decrepit
The interesting thing is how good both Husband and I feel about the decision now that it's made. Neither of us has had a moment of regret, which tells me it was the right one. Now that we know we're staying for awhile, our summer plans include starting a new veggie garden, shingling the barn roof, and dealing with the old white pines threatening to fall on the house. Of course, we'll try to spend plenty of time at the beach too.

Taking the house off the market also means I can focus on training for my next marathon without worrying I'll be side-tracked by a move. My preferred goal race - the Calgary Marathon - is a little less than 11 weeks away, which means I only have 8 or 9 weeks left to train intensively. A strong finish is still within reach so long as I avoid getting sick or injured again, but I don't have much wiggle room.

Truthfully, I'm not sure how much I want to run another marathon. I certainly wasn't feeling like it last Saturday. On the other hand, I've made good progress since the new year. The extra weight I put on last fall has mostly turned to muscle and running hills feels easier than it has in some time. With another 9 weeks of training, I should have no trouble going the distance, even if I can't manage a PB. The question is: Will that be enough? Do I want to put myself through another two months of hard training to run another relatively slow 42.2k?

Of course, just finishing a marathon is an accomplishment and I always enjoy the training even more than the race itself. Long slow runs are a perfect opportunity to meditate on life, the universe and everything. In addition, it would be nice to visit Calgary again. I haven't been in 15+ years and my sister and her family live there, as do several good friends, so I'm sure I'd enjoy it.

Unfortunately, given all the uncertainty and our decision to take the country house off the market, I doubt Husband will join me for the trip. We want to be cautious about spending too much on travel until we know what's happening with my work - hence my desire for a crystal ball. It would much easier to splurge a little if we knew what the future holds. Unfortunately, as we learned when Husband's sister died unexpectedly last year, there's no way to predict. (A reality underscored by the book I read last weekend, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Highly recommended.)

When all is said and done, all you can do is examine the options, then do what feels right and trust that things will work out for the best. If I train for the marathon and something goes awry, at least I'll have a nice visit with my sister and a few friends. And maybe I can run the half marathon instead.

There, I've just talked myself into booking a ticket - though I think I'll wait until after my long run this weekend to register for the race.

How about you, friends? How do you decide which races to run? Do you plan your events around your vacations or vice versa? How do you make decisions when common sense and your heart's desire are at odds?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Painfully Personal Post #2 - I get why Lucy did what she did

It was painful watching the Jian Ghomeshi trial unfold.  As a lawyer and feminist, I've long been concerned about the way victims of sexual assault are treated in court - as if they're the ones on trial, the ones who must prove their "innocence", the ones who bear responsibility for the violence. But the Ghomeshi trial took that cruel absurdity to a whole new level.

Let's be honest. No one believes for a minute that Ghomeshi's innocent. Dozens of people - male and female - have now spoken out frankly about who he is - a deeply misogynistic, violent, manipulative narcissist. The only question is whether the women "consented" to his attacks. As proof they did, Ghomeshi (conveniently) offered up email messages and letters providing evidence that the women were nice to him after the attacks - even continued to pursue him.

Of course, what they did or didn't do after the attacks doesn't prove anything. Where are the messages from before the incidents confirming that Lucy and the others consented to "rough sex", wanted to be hit and choked? There aren't any, of course.  But there don't need to be. Because we're so sure we know what we'd do if we were assaulted that we're quick to judge his accusers and discount their evidence.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Running lessons: No place like home

I've dreamt of traveling my whole life, and I've done a lot of it.  Husband and I have been fortunate to live and work in several countries, and to travel to many more. But the older I get, the more I realize there really is no place like home. Not just because it's where I grew up, but because it is - objectively speaking - a pretty wonderful place. It may not have as many grand landscapes or as much high culture as other spots on the globe, but Nova Scotia's combination of geographic beauty, warm caring people, temperate weather and non-pretentious lifestyle suits me perfectly. 

The subject's been on my mind lately as Husband and I make plans for my retirement in a few years. What are we likely to want to do then? Will we be disappointed if we can't afford to go gallivanting to exotic locales as many of our friends do? Or will be content to stay home and savour our own little corner of the planet? 

Much as we both enjoy seeing new places and meeting new people, I expect we'll be happy to stay home when the time comes. The internet offers endless opportunities to satisfy our curiosities, we both tire of traveling more quickly than we used to, and our consciences will be clearer if we're not generating thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases for no useful purpose.

If I'd needed to be reminded that we live in a gorgeous part of the world, this past weekend would have done it. The weather was exceptionally mild for late February. On Saturday, I tackled a 20k long run along the river and trails in the sunshine and felt strong throughout, which I hope means all the training is beginning to pay off.