Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ya gotta love the taper!

I finished up the last of my pre-CTR training sessions this past Thursday, then settled in to taper for the relay, which gets underway Saturday morning. I have to say, I felt ready for the rest. Though I hadn't been training very long, my body was already feeling the worse for wear. Too many tough workouts back to back, I guess.

Husband and I planned to kick off our 25th wedding anniversary celebrations with a weekend trip to explore the coastline between Shelburne and Parrsboro but, when it became clear Sunday would be grey and rainy, we opted for a day trip instead.

First thing Saturday morning, we headed out and, after a leisurely stroll along the Shelburne waterfront, drove to Cape Sable Island and stopped for a short walk on The Hawk Beach. We were fortunate to arrive at low tide when the "drowned forest" is visible. A woman working at the visitor's centre in Shelburne mentioned it but we had no idea what we were looking at until after we got home and googled it. Apparently, the tree trunks sticking out of the sand are petrified and around 1500 years old. Very cool. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

The sun shining brightly and the white sand reaching out into shallow waters made it nearly impossible to discern sea from sky.

I didn't mention it to Husband at the time but I had an ulterior motive for wanting to drive to the tip of the Island and back. The roads we took make up the route for the Nova Scotia Marathon, which takes place in late July. I haven't decided yet whether I want to do a half or a full marathon but the route is so beautiful I'll be tempted to do the latter.  

Just as we were leaving the Island, we stopped to savour more views of the white sandy beaches that circle the island and were amazed to see kids in swimming and playing in the water. Brave little souls. 

Our next stop was in West Pubnico, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Red Cap Restaurant (a slice of rappie pie to share, followed by haddock with lobster sauce for me, and pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce for Husband) before driving to the end of the road to get a closer look at the massive Pubnico Point Wind Farm, which we'd been admiring as we drove down the coast. 

I was impressed by how quiet these massive windmills were - even when we stood directly under them!

From Pubnico, we headed straight up the highway to Church Point, to get a quick look at St. Mary's Church (the largest wooden church in North America) and its impressive 185 ft spire, before we meandered our way back to Yarmouth. Our last major stop was at Mavillette Beach just before suppertime. It was too cold and windy to linger but we definitely want to get back for a visit soon.

At Yarmouth, it was time for another celebratory meal - this time at Rudder's Brew Pub and Seafood Restaurant. We weren't expecting much from the food (we mostly went there for the beer) but the it was actually quite good. Husband had beer-battered haddock, which was flavourful and perfectly cooked. I went for deep-friend bar clams, which were also beautifully tender and delicious.

By the time we made it home late Saturday after more than 13 hours on the road, we were pooped, so the rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Sunday, we hung out by the fire, mostly reading though we managed an 8k run late afternoon when the rain let up. Monday, Husband headed off first thing in the morning to help our friends with a roofing job, while I went for a motorcycle ride, wrote a little, read and made a delicious supper (if I do say so myself).

I also spent some time with my camera, trying to figure out how best to use different kinds of light - for example, morning light pouring in a window...

...evening light peeking over rooftops...

...and midday light shining brightly from above.

Obviously, I enjoyed the spring flowers as well. I love it when our perennials flower.

That's it for this post. It's time I headed home to welcome my sister-in-law from Ottawa and finish packing for our Cabot Trail adventures this weekend. Look for a full race report early next week. And send positive thoughts our way please. The forecast's not great and I feel woefully under-trained so I expect my run's going to feel a bit tough. Here's hoping the fun outweighs whatever suffer-fest may lie ahead.

Happy running and writing!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Running lessons: Be grateful for what you've got!

I've been stressed about running lately. I feel so slow and out of shape, I can't imagine running Leg 14 of the Cabot Trail Relay at anything like 6:00/km pace, which is what I'll need to do to "make the mat" before the timing chip sensors are picked up and moved to the end of Leg 15. I suppose it doesn't matter really. It'll be the middle of the night so there won't be a lot of witnesses if I finish at the back of the pack and the truth is, though I've been training hard for the last month, that's not nearly enough time to get back into race form after a winter of slow slogging on icy streets and sidewalks.

Today's Osprey 5k in Riverport didn't help. It was a perfect morning and I felt quite good as we waited at the start (see photo above) but I went out too fast and spent the last two kilometres feeling nauseous and miserable. In fact, it got so bad, I had to stop and sit for more than a minute to pull myself together just half a kilometre from the finish. As a result, my time for the second half was nearly 2 minutes slower than for the first.

To add insult to injury, when prizes were handed out, I realized there were a number of women older than me - some by 15 or more years - who'd run much faster than I had. It was all totally depressing.

(I should mention in passing that Husband ran a much better race this morning - setting and keeping a wonderfully steady pace that let him finish in a personal best time. I'm so proud of him!)

But here's the thing. While I was busy beating up on myself for being chubby and slow, I was totally forgetting to appreciate what my body can do. For instance, in the past week, it's completed a hilly 20k run to Halifax and back - which involved crossing the bridge pictured below twice! - a tough 7.5k tempo run, and a challenging hill training session, as well as today's 5k race.

Seriously. At 53 years old, I should be damned happy my body's able to handle that much training. Sure, a little over 40 kms in a week isn't much compared to the distances more serious athletes run, but it's not too shabby for a middle-aged recreational runner.

The trouble, of course, is that I too often compare myself to stronger runners - the ones who've been running for years, are more naturally athletic, or are inclined to work harder - rather than those who run slower or don't run at all.

Correction, the real trouble is that I compare myself to anyone - including my younger, fitter self - and lose sight of the astonishing fact that I'm able to run the distances I do and that, in just two weeks, I'll be participating in another Cabot Trail Relay. If you'd asked me when I was 40 if I'd ever participate in such a demanding event, I'd have told you in no uncertain terms you were crazy. Yet, here I am preparing to do it for the fourth time. When I stop to think about it, it's actually kind of miraculous.

So, there it is. This week's lesson. Be grateful for what you've got. Even when you wish things were different, don't forget to notice all the good things that come your way - loving relationships, interesting work, good health, sunny days and unexpected adventures. Life's far too short to spend much of it wishing things were different.

Incidentally, lest I've given the impression I didn't enjoy my long run last weekend, here's proof that in fact I enjoyed it very much - especially meeting Bluenose Myles in Point Pleasant Park at the midway point.

I also enjoyed the massive dim sum brunch Husband and I shared afterwards. :-)

Happy running and writing, friends!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Running lessons: April showers bring May flowers (I hope)

Another long silence. This is becoming a habit. Sorry about that. I have a good excuse though. You see, we got more bad news a few weeks ago when Husband's father passed away.  "Pa", as everyone knew him, had been living with Alzheimer's for years so his passing was a blessing in some ways - though it was still desperately sad because he was so greatly loved by all who knew him.

Pa was larger than life. At well over six feet tall, he had a booming laugh and terrific sense of humour, and was unfailingly kind and generous towards others. He and Ma (pictured above on our wedding day almost 25 years ago) raised 9 children (including two they adopted) and provided guidance and encouragement to dozens of others. They genuinely savoured life - developing each property they owned, hosting friends and family for meals and parties, supporting church and community, and traveling as much as they could. They knew the value of hard work and the importance of rest and relaxation.

Husband was tasked with giving the eulogy at Pa's funeral last week. It was a wonderful tribute but my favourite passage was this one:

Pa was serious about his Christianity, not so much the rituals but the lessons for leading a caring and just life. [C.S.] told me that one time when they were talking about what was a fair amount to contribute to the poor, Pa said “it's not how much you give, but how much you keep”. 
To me that’s a challenging lesson to not just step up for those in need but also to face our greed. Ma and Pa shared for their whole lives, even in lean times, with their church and many charitable causes. 
I believe Pa will live on in the things he taught us: kindness, patience, acceptance of others, compassion and love.

I couldn't agree more. Having Pa as my father-in-law was a great gift. He offered the rarest kind of love - the unconditional kind. Even in recent months when he no longer remembered everyone who came to see him, Pa opened his arms and his heart to all he sensed were friends - expressing sincere gratitude for every bit of love and caring he received. It was a beautiful and extraordinary thing to see,

Needless to say, it's been another tough month as we come to grips with his passing and do our best to get back to our normal routines.

Fortunately, winter has moved on so we're (finally!) able to train more seriously. While we were in Ottawa for Pa's funeral, I invited my sister-in-law to join the Smokey Mountain Daredevils for the Cabot Trail Relay - an invitation she enthusiastically accepted - so the two of us are now officially signed up. I'm looking forward to spending the weekend with her in beautiful Cape Breton at the end of May. It feels good to have another training goal.

I've agreed to run leg 14 which is relatively flat and 19 kms long. It's been awhile since I've run that distance so I've got my work cut out for me. After months of slogging through snow and ice, my pace isn't where it needs to be to "make the mat" so I'll be doing plenty of hills and speed workouts in the coming month. Here's hoping experience and enthusiasm count for something come race day.

If all goes well at Cabot Trail, my next race will be the Nova Scotia Marathon in July, which means I'll be doing some lovely long runs along South Shore roads through May and June. I won't set a time goal for NSN. I'll just run it "to finish" in hopes I can complete another marathon at a faster pace in the fall.

In other news, I'm still reading a fair bit, though I haven't managed to add another title to the list posted on this blog lately. The trouble is I haven't finished anything, though I'm half way or more through reading each of the following:
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  • The Beat Goes On by Ian Rankin
  • The Virgin Cure by Ami MacKay
  • Island: The Complete Stories by Alistair MacLeod
  • What I Learned About Politics: Inside the Rise - and Collapse - of Nova Scotia’s NDP Government by Graham Steele
In addition, I've read the first hundred pages of James Robertson's And the Land Lay Still. What I need is two weeks on a beach without distractions to get through them all but, alas, there's no such holiday in my immediate future.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to pursue other hobbies lately. I managed to paint for a couple of hours one day a few weeks ago and occasionally pick up my camera, but mostly I've been too busy with other stuff. I went on a short photo walk last week during which I took this shot, which I thought was kind of fun.

Husband and I decided to put our country house on the market this spring so there's been heaps to do to get it ready, including finishing the half bath he built in under the stairway. What a clever fellow!

That's it for now. I'll do my best to post more regularly on running topics now that I'm back in serious training mode. Until then, happy running and writing, friends!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

About that half marathon training...

So, it hasn't been a great week of marathon training. If you saw my last post, you'll understand why. Snow. Ice. More snow. More ice. Freezing winds. I'm soooo tired of running in crappy weather.

I know, I know. "Winter runs make summer bodies." And it's true. I am getting back into shape - in the sense that I'm building muscle and shedding fat - but I'm tired of wet shoes, treacherous footing and too tight muscles.

Normally, even when I don't run much during the week, I manage a longer run on the weekend, but that wasn't an option yesterday. With rain in the forecast last night, Husband and I figured we'd better deal with the snow piled on the roof and cut new trenches through the ice dams to prevent water backing up into the house again - not a small operation.

First, there was the small matter of digging out the ladder, buried under 30-40 cms of snow.

Then, Husband shoveled enough snow to let us position the ladder. (Husband's been doing a LOT of shoveling this month. That snow bank to the right is almost entirely his creation.)

While I steadied the ladder, he climbed to the edge of the roof and used a shovel and hatchet to cut trenches through the dams to let water run more freely off the roof.

Oh, and did I mention we both spent an hour or so shoveling snow and ice from the lower roofs? Husband's pile was a good metre high while mine was only half that.

When we finally finished the roof clearing operation, I donned my running gear and headed up the road for a short run. My goal was to work out the kinks caused by all that shoveling but I can't say it worked awfully well.

Needless to say, we both slept long and soundly last night.

This morning, Husband hustled us out the door while it was still relatively warm and sunny in hopes we'd manage 8k, but we gave up after 6k. We were both too tired to do more - especially, given the lousy footing.

We decided to make up for the shorter-than-planned run by heading out to Rissers' Beach for a snowshoe, stopping at Lahave Bakery en route for a low cal brunch (not!). (BTW, that's eggs benny with locally smoked salmon, wonderful local sausage and fried potatoes with homemade catsup. Delish!)

By the time we reached the beach, the wind was howling, more snow was falling and temperatures had plummeted but we still managed to snowshoe along the trail behind the dunes for about a kilometre, before heading down to the beach for the return journey. The waves were spectacular so I stopped to take a few shots with my Nikon. Unfortunately, I had the settings on the camera all wrong so didn't manage to get any photos I really liked. However, I hope these give some sense of what it was like.

All in all, we got heaps of exercise this weekend - though not much that will help us run a half marathon in May. Here's hoping Winter moves on soon so that we can get some serious training done.

Happy running and writing, friends.