January 30, 2017

Following up on my post from a couple of days ago…..

This morning I went to see my physiotherapist, who is awesome. Except when he tells me what I don’t want to hear.

No running.

What the hell? I thought you understood me? I thought we were on the same page? I thought we were friends? How am I supposed to deal with that?

Find an alternative form of cardio. Try swimming.

Now I know he’s lost it. It’s like he doesn’t even know me.

The diagnosis is bursitis in my right hip joint. Painful, but not untreatable and way better than osteoarthritis. Rest, treatment, ice and specific exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip.

Piece of cake.

Now can we revisit the whole “no running” thing.

The Best Thing in Life is accepting an expert opinion even if it doesn’t make you happy. A lesson we could all learn.

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January 26, 2017

At the age of fifty two I by no means believe that I am invincible. I was, however, a bit shocked when I headed out for my regular run today and had to stop one mile in because I was in excruciating pain.

Never in my thirty years of running have I limped home from a run.

After my run two days ago my right hip started to give me some trouble. By trouble I mean stiffness, pain and general acheiness. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Nothing I hadn’t felt before. The next day was better and I thought I was in the clear.

How then, could today have gone so wrong?

Could it be that thirty years of pounding the pavement have finally caught up with me? No, I tell myself, that just can’t be true. I’ll stretch, roll on it, I’ll rest….I’ll hope.

The Best Thing in Life is hope…..because right now that’s all I got.

Two Crazy Ladies on a Mountain

rainy trail

What makes people run in the woods?  In the rain and wind.  Up and down the side of two mountains?  A screw loose perhaps.  Maybe.  But for my running partner and I it was what we chose to do last Saturday.  I documented the first half of the run in A Rainy Day Run on Monday.  I’ve also looked at what makes ultra trail runners tick in Run Lisa Run.

I guess the other question is, why am I writing about it?  Partly because it was fun and partly because I wanted to remember the experience.  Because I won’t be doing it again.  Ever.

When I signed off on Monday we had reached the ski lodge at Cypress Bowl after climbing to the top of Eagle Bluffs.  We stopped just long enough under the ski lift base to scarf down a Lara bar and chug some water.  We assumed we would need to find a port-a-potty or just pop a squat in the forest but as we started out again we realized that the lodge was just around the corner and open.  Hallelujah!  I have to admit the warm fire, grilled burgers and cold beer sign were tempting but it was time to use the facilities then get back on the trail.

The course description I had printed out said that from here on it was pretty much 7.5 miles of downhill.  Ya.  Not so much.  We got back into the forest and spent the next hour dodging mud holes and slippery roots all while going uphill.  Okay, so it was a gradual incline, but at this point up was still up.

At one point we heard the thumping of a wild grouse.  It’s an eerie sound that, if you didn’t know what it was, would be kind of scary.  Wildlife is everywhere.  We would find out later in the day that a cougar had been sighted on the same trail a few hours before we passed by.

Just when we thought we may have taken a wrong turn, we heard what we thought was singing.  Or maybe somebody camping?  We came to a trail junction and came upon a group of about twenty Asian hikers.  Covered head to toe in gortex rain gear, carrying hiking poles and at least half of them had……umbrellas?  Keep in mind that we were half way up Hollyburn Mountain by this point.  As we said excuse me, on your right, on your left and thank you over and over while passing them, we giggled a bit to ourselves.  We then realized that they were probably giggling at us too.  Two crazy women in runners, tight and t-shirts running in the rain and wind on the side of a mountain.

The trail opened up now and the rain and wind was relentless and cold.  We stopped briefly to pull on toques.  If my hands hadn’t been so cold I would have taken my camera out and taken a picture of us but that was not going to happen.

From that point it really was all down hill.  For the next hour we headed down.  And down.  And down.  While it was a nice change from the uphill it didn’t come without its torture.  After a while my quad muscles starts to cramp up pretty good.  Even though it was easier and faster to run this section we had to be careful.  We had been warned about “the chute”.  A steep rough section with intermittent drop offs.  Turned out to be a bit anti-climactic.  We kept waiting for it only to realize we had already done it.

trail in the trees

Back into the woods briefly and we ran into a guy coming up the trail.  We had a quick conversation with him about his Hoka runners and asked if we were on track to come out on Craigmohr Road.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  I’m sure he would eventually run into the Asian hiking group and would have a good laugh about the crazy ladies running on the mountain.

We eventually reached out destination.  A bit off course but close enough.

The Best Thing in Life is that as we stood there in the rain we both said “that was so fun”. Yup.  Two crazy ladies on the Mountain.

A Rainy Day Run

“So we’re really going to do this?”

“Yup.  Pick you Saturday at 8:00am.,

“Okay.”

And that’s how it started.

It was kind of drizzling a bit when we got dropped off just beside the highway at the Whyte Lake trail head.  (Elevation 390 ft) There were a couple of cars in the gravel lot but apart from that it was pretty much deserted.  We buckled up our Camelbacks and started off around the corner only to face the first hill.  For the next two and a half hours we would make our way up the front of Black Mountain to Eagle Bluff.  (Elevation 3550).  Ya, that’s right.  Just over 3000 feet.  Up.

eagle-bluffs
This is what we hopes to see……

We ran though the forest for about an hour or so catching up on the last few weeks.  Kids, school, work, stuff.  Okay, so maybe we didn’t run the whole time but we kept up a pretty good pace despite talking non-stop.  The Baden Powell trail is well marked with happy orange squares stapled to trees so finding our way was pretty easy.  Eventually though, through the trees, we could see a rock face and we both knew what was coming next.  If we had thought that we had been going up before we had a whole new kind of “up” ahead of us.

“Shit, don’t look down” was mentioned more than once.  The notes on this portion of the trail mentioned to be sure and “lean in” to the side of the mountain.  Believe it or not we were still having fun.

After the first steep climb through the trees we came out onto a boulder field.  Seriously.  A field of boulders.  Only not a flat field.  A field of boulders on a 75 degree angle.  There were no more friendly orange markers on the trees.  We were on our own.  Crawling over boulders.  We headed straight up but then realized that we didn’t know where the trail picked up again.  I spotted a tiny inukshuk at the top right and headed for that.  A few feet above it the trail started up again.  We looked back down at what we had just covered and considered  ourselves lucky to have made it.

Boulders

Once that was done it didn’t seem that much farther up to Eagle Bluff.  The final push was just trying to find a path up the bluff that had something to hold onto.  By the time we got to the bluff it was raining and the clouds had closed in.  Apparently there is a phenomenal view for the bluff but we will never saw it.  Grey.  Nothing but grey.  Awesome, we climbed 3000 feet for this?

Eagle Bluff
Grey and cloudy but we’re still smiling

Back into the trees we went but if we thought we were done with going up, we were wrong.  Maybe it wasn’t as steep, but it was definitely up.  I may have muttered a few swear words at this point.  The trail was muddy but we were back in the trees and a bit more sheltered.  At some point a guy whizzed (and I do mean whizzed) past us.  Wide wooden planks became the trail over marshy sections that ended our climb.  For now.  Our last half an hour was down a wide gravel path and ended at the Cypress Park Ski Lodge.  The cozy fire, smell of grilled burgers and cold beer sign almost had us calling it a day.  But no.

You see, The Best Thing in Life as that we were only half way done.  Seriously.  Stayed tuned for part two.

Found It

looking around cornere

I have spent the past two years searching for My Thing through this blog.  I think I may have found it.

In hindsight, it was pretty much staring me in the face the whole time.  Yup, I know.  I can be a bit thick sometimes.  So while I may never write the great Canadian novel, I think it’s safe to say that my creative outlet is putting pen to paper.  Or perhaps fingertips to iPad would be more appropriate.

There I said it.  I love to write.

Some of the most satisfying moments in the past months have been the ones just after hitting the publish button.  It’s an odd rush of “Yes, I’m done” and “Wow, I finished another one”.  It’s interesting to see how my writing style changed over the months.  My first couple of posts were pretty wordy and involved long descriptive paragraphs.  The later ones are a bit more choppy.  I’m not sure if it’s just how my thought process changed or if realized that it was just easier for people to read it that way.  Whatever the reason, I have enjoyed every minute.

But I’m not going to lie.  I have wished, more than a few times, that more people read my posts.  That’s when my most trusted adviser gently reminded me, that wasn’t why I was writing.  I was writing to explore my life and express myself.  (Ya, I know, sometimes I expressed myself a little too much)  But it felt good.  It felt right.  So I kept doing it.

Oddly enough, since having this epiphany about writing being my thing, I’ve been stuck with no ideas and nothing flowing in my head.  I started numerous post but never got past the first sentence.  Panic started to set in.  What was happening?

Some would call it writers block.  I call it damned annoying.

And worst of all, I just couldn’t figure out why.  It was infuriating and caused hours, perhaps days, of gut wrenching soul searching.  (Okay, a bit of an exaggeration). I tried to work through it by spending some time drinking wine in Whistler and heading out for numerous runs. Trying to nudge the process along.  I was willing to do whatever it took.  I’m dedicated that way.

But then I remembered that this was something else that I’ve learnt these past two years.

Everything comes when it’s supposed to.  And it did.

I realized that the time I have spent with friends and acquaintances in the past two years learning about them, and in turn me, has been enlightening and rewarding.  Not to mention a lot of fun.  I’ve seen what it means to be passionate about something.  Truly passionate. I’ve been given advice and I’ve give some out myself.  I’ve rekindled friendships that had faded and realized that people I hardly knew were wicked interesting.  Despite already being middle aged I’ve grown up.

But here’s the kicker.  Now that I’ve come to this momentous conclusion, I’m  feeling like I need a change. Don’t worry, I’m still interested in exploring the Best Things in Life.  I just think that it may look a little different.

I’m not exactly sure how…..but that’s the Best Thing in Life.  You don’t always know what’s around the corner.

 

I Don’t Care If You Like Me

Whistler 50

I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me……now I look around and wonder if I like them.

Last weekend I spent three days with fifteen women.  It was a girls weekend in a local resort.  A few of us spent most of Friday relaxing in Whistler.  Shopping  and drinking beer at the pub. Or both.  A few more arrived in the early evening after work, more than ready to decompress after a long week.  A few more didn’t make it up until the next morning.

Mexican Corner

By Saturday evening sixteen of us were sitting around two tables at a great Mexican restaurant swapping stories about everything from work to kids to travel.  Collectively we had run 160 km (99.5 miles)that day.  Some of us were tired.  Some of us were exhilarated.  Some of us were just happy to be sitting up and awake.  The margaritas were flowing freely.

This was not the first time we had done something like this.  Over the past five years a core group of us, plus a few willing ( and not so willing) additions, have ventured out of our comfort zones to run (notice how I didn’t say compete) in a relay race each year.  Really it’s just an excuse to go away for the weekend without our spouses and kids.  It’s not really about the running any more.  Last year we spent 33 Hours in a Van.

Chick Peas

But here’s the thing.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would have fretted for days about doing this.  Not the running or being away from my family, but spending that much time in close quarters with women that, sometimes, I don’t really know very well.  I would have worried about whether or not I was interesting enough or whether I was accomplishing enough in my life.  I would worry that, perhaps , there would be somebody that would disagreed with my opinion and (heaven forbid) wouldn’t like me. I would worry that I wouldn’t “fit in”.

Now, to quote a wise running companion, I don’t give a rats ass.

Don’t get me wrong.   These women are incredible and I enjoy spending time with each of them for various different reasons.  But do I spend time worrying about whether they like me or not?  Nope.  And I hope that they feel the same way.  The more time you spend worrying about whether or not people like you, the less time you have to get to know them.

For example, I now accept that it’s okay to be away from the pack sometimes.  In fact I’ve found that it can be a saving grace.  It is not unacceptable for me to say “Hey! I’m just going to go for a walk and I’ll meet everybody back at the room”. Maybe you just need some space or maybe you want to hit up the bakery without letting anybody know that you are secretly craving a slice of coconut cake.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

I guess what I am trying to say (not very eloquently) is that it is one of The Best Thing in Life to be able to experience all that this type of weekend can bring by simply being yourself.

PS – that’s not me in the opening picture.

A Different Approach – “Tales of the Momside”

Roche Trail

It was the fourth time that night that she had woken up.  Sweating and burning like a furnace had just been switched on inside her.  She threw the covers off and waited until it was over.  Waited until she could feel the chill creep back into her.  Once it did, she pulled the covers back over her and tried to get back to sleep. God damn hot flushes.  One good nights sleep.  Was that too much to ask for?  Of course, the second glass of wine she had at dinner last night wasn’t helping.

A few hours later, standing in the cold at the trail head, she hoped her bad nights sleep wouldn’t affect her run.  She could just get back into the truck and text her friend and running partner a lame excuse.

I feel sick.

The school called.

The cat is sick.

Really? The cat is sick?  That is the lamest excuse ever for not going for a run.  Too late.  Her friend pulled her truck into the spot beside hers and jumped out.

“Ready?.”

As ready as she could be to run up the side of a mountain.

They chatted for the first ten minutes or so but then the trail got steep and breathing became the priority.  One day, she hoped, this would get easier.

At some point the trail leveled off a bit and their conversation started up again.  As it did on most days, the topic turned to seven-year old girls and schools yard disagreements.  Raising spirited girls was a tough job and they both needed all the help they could get.

“Why are girls so mean?”  I asked.

“I don’t know if they’re mean or if they just don’t understand how their words can hurt people?”  Her friend countered.

She told her how she had taken her daughter her lunch yesterday and seen her daughter’s friend Katy crying on the playground.

“I asked her what was wrong and she told me that Liv and Gail had told her she couldn’t play with them.”

Her friend smirked because she had heard this all many times.

“I know right.  So this is how my conversation with her went.”

“What?”

“Why can’t Katy play with you ?”

“It’s not my fault?”

“I didn’t say it was your fault I just asked why she can’t play with you and Gail?”

“We want to make fairy houses and she didn’t want to.”

“Yes I do”. Katy adds wiping her drippy nose.

She had told her daughter that a good friend needs to remember two things.  Be kind and treat your friends like you would want them to treat you.

“How would you feel if Katy and Gail said that you couldn’t play with them?”

“Bad.”

Her friend nodded in agreement and sympathy.

“But you know what?  I bet you anything you have the same conversation next week too.” She said.

“Ya, I know.  But I had to try.”

It’s a conversation they have had many times.  Different names.  Different scenarios.  But the same general idea.  All of this seemed much easier eleven years ago when she had been raising a boy.

Just as she thought her legs might give out the trail dipped briefly.  But then they rounded a corner and faced another uphill stretch.  No wonder they called this trail Old Buck.

“Is Don away this week?”

“Yup. And next week too.  James?”

“Leaving tomorrow until Friday.”

Another shared challenge in their lives.  Husbands who travelled for work.  They joked about finally getting the bed to themselves again when they went away but the reality was that they couldn’t wait for the days when they came home.  Having another adult in the house evened up the numbers.

“Ugh thank god.”

They had reached the top of the climb.  She pulled up and let out a huge breath as they approached the junction for the next trail.

Now came her favorite part. Running down.  If her friend had an advantage on the uphill, this was her time to lead.  Maybe it was her low centre of gravity.  She could fly down the trail with a huge smile on her face.  It made the slog up the hill almost worth it.

Sometimes the mountain trails are like life.  The familiar ones are often easy to navigate and even welcoming.  The unknown ones can be difficult and may even seem intimidating.

“So what’s up for the rest of the day?”

“Hot lunch volunteering.  Liv’s got dance after school.  Hey can you email me the recipe for that apple salad dressing?”

The rest of the run was spent alternating between quiet periods punctuated with laboured breathing on the uphills and catching their breath on the downhills. All the time catching up on neighborhood gossip and laughing at parenting fails.

An hour and a half later they were back at the parking lot and both admitted to feeling better.  Both women knew the power of not only a good workout but the power of good company.  The past couple of years had been stressful for both of them and they had come to rely on physical exertion to solve the problems of the world.  Okay, maybe not the whole world, but their world for sure.

To be continued.

snowy trail

Running. Cheaper Than Therapy.

runners

I can’t remember when I started running. I think I was in my late twenties. Some other ladies I worked with downtown were running at lunch time and I thought it might be fun. Wasn’t everything fun in your twenties?

My first run was, of course, pathetic. I wore heavy tennis shoes, as that was all I had, and made it about a mile before thinking I might throw up. “This is a lot harder than it looks” I thought. I had, of course, had images of myself bounding along the seawall going for miles and miles without a care in the world. Returning to the office glowing from the experience. Refreshed and ready to do it again the next day. Not so much.

Oh right, and the next day I couldn’t move. Or walk downstairs for a week.

My first “race” was the Vancouver Sun Run. This was back in the 1993 when only about 18,000 people ran it instead of the 60,000 that do it now. I had never done a race and had no idea what to expect. I had to pee every 5 minutes for the two hours before the race. What’s that all about anyway? Nerves? Anxiety that I may have to go during the race so just to make sure my bladder is completely empty? Needless to say I did not win or set any records. I did finish it though. And I didn’t have to pee once.

I find running cathartic. There are times when I just put my head down and watch the pavement pass under my feet. It’s my time to think. And not think. So many times I have had something on my mind and running has resolved it. Or I’ve had nothing on my mind and running has brought me inspiration. This blog has relied heavily on my running schedule.

There have been times when I have hated running. Wondered why I ever started. It’s hard, there’s no denying that. And sometime your head just isn’t in it. I’ve gone through times when I have gone running (begrudgingly) and cursed every step of the way. “This sucks” being the very least profane of them. I have been known to scream “just shoot me now” as I push up a hill. But if I leave it too long between runs my husband gives me that look. That “go for a run before you rip somebody’s head off” look.

So why do I do it? Running can be a lot of different things to different people. It can be painful, invigorating, boring, sadistic……the list go on. Some hate it, some love it and some tolerate it. I personally have a few reasons.

I love to eat good food…..and wine
I tend to get to far into my own head
It’s cheap (after your pay for the $200 runners twice a year)
I can do it anywhere

What will I do when I can no longer run? It has happened a few times for short periods of time. A few weeks. But I’ve known there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A time out there when I will get to run again and I’ve found reassurance in that. But to never ever run again? That’s a scary thought for me and my family.

I still don’t consider myself a “runner”. I’ve always thought that runners were people who trained and actually come close to placing in the top ten of races. People who wear those cute little shorts and use glide to avoid chafing. Chafing? Pretty sure I’m not going fast enough to chafe anything. Why can’t I be a runner. I run. Don’t I? So that makes me a runner right? I should go for a run and think about this some more.

The Best Thing in Life is that I can, just like that, go for a run.

Run Lisa Run

ultra running 3

More and more I am finding that road running is hurting my aging body. The repetitive pounding on pavement is tough on my muscles and, despite some fabulous new runners, my hips and knees are often crying by the end of a 10km run. So I’ve been turning to trail running lately and I have really been enjoying it. Why am I surprised? I think it has something to do with my dislike of running up steep hills. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I ran a 20km trail run with about 1200 ft of elevation gain. It felt great and I patted myself on the back many times. Could I run that again? Could I run that five times over? Not likely. My friend Lisa can and does. She runs ultra marathons.

An ultra marathon race is defined as anything longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distance are 50km and 100km but people do 50 and 100 mile races as well. The races that Lisa participates in are trail ultra marathons. Run on paths and trails in the mountains. Factors to consider are elevation, inclement weather and, I would imagine, wildlife. You may even start or finish in the dark (or both) depending on the time of year and your speed. Trail running is a different beast altogether from road running. Your pace is way slower (and you just need to accept that) and with roots, rock and creeks to get over you need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet. And it’s dirty. Muddy dirt usually. Or hot and dusty. Sounds like fun. Right?

Ultra Running 1

I would think it takes a certain type of person to run an ultra race. In general, ultra runners are a well-educated group of people. Focused, organized and definitely type A. And yes, in my eyes, just a little bit crazy. So much of this type of running is mental. Lisa was having a particularly hard time on a recent race and was almost ready to drop out. Her running partner asked her if she was okay. She said yes. “Then get your head out of your ass”. She did just that and finished the race. The community that supports these runners is also incredibly genuine and inclusive. One of the men that Lisa often competes with finished this particular race two hours ahead of her. Yet, there he was as she crossed the finish line cheering her on and congratulating her on a great race.

So when she runs a 100km Lisa is out on the trail for approximately 15-16 hours. I was curious to find out how she fueled for one of these adventures. She said that the races typically provide aid stations that supply, among other things, electrolyte drinks, cola and potato chips. What? These are elite athletes and they are scarfing down junk food every 15km. Yup. Think about it. What are you losing when you sweat that much? Salt and lots of it. And the cola? Well a little sugar and caffeine never hurts, but it can also provide a welcome change from water and electrolyte drinks. Lisa carries Vega gels, stinger waffles and Cliff packs but readily admits to not always eating enough during a race. Sometimes she doesn’t feel she needs it, sometimes her stomach is upset and sometimes she just forgets. I was tempted to ask the inevitable question of how do you relieve yourself, but really, does anybody need to now that?

But really what I did need to know from Lisa was this. You have a full-time job, a husband and young daughter and you spend roughly twelve hours a week running plus cross training sessions. Where do you find the time? I feel that perhaps this is the downside of what she does. She admits that the lifestyle is not always conducive to a balanced relationship with her husband and daughter. They support her and are incredibly proud of her accomplishments, but something has to give when you are spending that amount of time dedicated to a hobby. If you are going to do this you need to do it 100% or it just isn’t worth doing. Also, her social life revolves around running. “If you’re not into running and craft beer there’s a pretty good chance that we won’t be friends.” She does have a dog. Spencer. But apparently he is the worst trail dog ever. Why? “He’s so slow”.

Lisa has run twenty three 50km races.  Last Spring she ran the Miwok 100 and next month she will run the Zion 100. She tries to pick races that are held in places that would be cool to visit and that have activities for the whole family. For her, trail running is about adventure and exploration by foot.  While I am super proud of my 20km trail running achievement, The Best Thing in Life is having something to work toward. Oh who am I kidding. Never. Going. To. Happen.

ultra skeleton

A Year in Review

Today marks exactly twelve months since my first post.  That post is now my touch stone for when I question myself or need some focus.  Finding My Thing has made for an interesting year and when I went back and looked at all of my posts, I am astonished at just how much I have written.  I actually had forgotten a few of them.  So I have decided to remind myself, and you, of a few of them.  It’s really just shameless self promotion but I’m trying to make it sound deep and introspective.  Is it working?  So take a look, click on the links and let me know your favorites.

yoga drawing

My First Yoga class was my second ever post and it still cracks me up to think about that class.  My friend Randi continues to help me understand yoga and I am so grateful for that.   The drawback is that I now don’t need to go and see my friend Wendy quite so much for massage.  A big part of finding my thing has been reconnecting with friends like Rob and finding out about their passions.  I hope in some small way I have given back to them what they have given to me.  Aimee’s cakes are continuing to amaze me and Sarina’s commitment to soccer for women is going strong.  Jane’s struggle with Brain Injury continues but Making Pastry with her was good for both of us.

vans

My family has been the subject of a few blogs and my son actually wrote one of the most read pieces I have ever posted.  Surviving Seventeen and In Response to Surviving Seventeen started a great dialogue and now months later I have realized that I am indeed very similar to my now Eighteen Year Old son.  My seven year old is still full of Piss and Vinegar and we often bond over our Addiction to Organization.  My husband (bless his heart) supports me and regularly acts as my editor.  In Finally Learning What Love Is you can find out how our love started and has lasted fourteen years through ups and downs.  Oh, and don’t forget to call Call Your Mom.

fifty cake

Really though, it has been all about me.  LOL.  Okay not in that way, but in a good way.  In the year that I turned Fifty I have put my Darkest Times behind me and have learnt to relax.  I’ve looked at my relationships with Friends.  I’ve talked about my Regrets.  I’ve made Marathon Decisions and ended up Happy?  I’m still running but rethinking spending 33 Hours in a Van again.  I am now Sugar Free (well, only if you don’t count wine) and have never felt better.  I have questioned my motives and direction but then a friend made me realize that I will Find My Way. 

Thank you for reading and commenting.  Here to another year of adventure.

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