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!