A Love Letter To My City

My one-and-only sibling is due to have a baby — today! This will be the first grandchild for my parents, so everyone is feeling slightly excited to meet our newest family member.

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Why am I telling you this? Last night I had to run with my phone in case I got the call to go to Babyville — also known as Kingston, Ontario.

I’ve been running technology free since I started running again in late May. No Garmin, no phone. It’s liberating!

I took advantage of having to carry my phone last night and was able to snap some photos of my beautiful city.

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I moved to Fredericton from Nova Scotia when I was 18 years old. I attended university here and ended up never leaving New Brunswick again, even during my summers in university. I met my husband at school, and we both fell in love with the small city and decided we would try to settle down here.

I can proudly say with complete honesty that I have never gone on a run in Fredericton and not thanked my lucky stars for our beautiful trail system. Part of it even gets plowed in the winter.

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A winter photo … pretty, but I do not miss the temperature.

I lived in Saint John for eight months — and loved it there! — but when I first arrived I asked a few people where I should run. Everyone pointed me to Harbour Passage, which turned out be 1.5K long. Whomp whomp. Fredericton has miles and miles of beautiful trails that makes mapping out routes, even for long marathon-training runs, an enjoyable experience with minimal stoplights and sidewalks.

I’ve lived in five apartments in vastly different areas of the city and the farthest one from the trail system was 1.3K away. Once you see the trail you just hop on and start rolling wherever your legs will take you.

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Fredericton has a north and south side, divided by the St. John River.

Fredericton comes alive in the summer especially. You can tell people want to make up time for the terrible winters we have.

Last night my run was fairly short but I still managed to see a team of bagpipers practising by the Lieutenant-Governor’s House, running clubs and Crossfit sprinters, bikers, rollerbladers, people of all ages and abilities, live music in the square … and a Shakespearean outdoors play.

If you run the Fredericton Marathon you can run over this beautiful old train bridge

If you run the Fredericton Marathon you can run over this beautiful old train bridge.

I also ran through Wilmot Park and along the river, where the breeze is greatly appreciated on a hot summer night.

If you ever come to Fredericton to visit, I’ll be sure to take you on our trail system. Don’t forget your running shoes — and maybe your bagpipes.

What Makes A Yogi?

A yogi is graceful. Powerful. Poised. Calm. Dynamic.

I didn’t think I was a yogi.

I am, however, someone who really loves yoga. I go to one organized class a week and then practise at home a few other days a week, but I’ve made a goal to up that to at least two organized classes a week. Other than my one introductory month at hot yoga back in November, I’ve never been a regular attendee to any class.

Yoga with Mom

Yoga with Mom

I think I’ve always held back because, despite dabbling in the practice for the past several years, I’ve convinced myself I’m just not very good at yoga.

I fall out of poses before I’m supposed to, warrior hurts so much I want to curse out loud, I sweat (in a non-hot yoga class) so much that I slip on the mat, my belly jiggles and falls out of my tights, I spend too much time comparing myself to others in the mirror.

Yoga in a hotel room

Yoga in a hotel room

But.

Even though I’m a weakling, I thrive on the mental practice.

It wasn’t always this way. My brain has strengthened since I first found yoga years ago. I love what it does for my mind. The more hippy-dippy the class, the better, in my opinion.

Be a blowing tree? Sure. I am that tree. I love meditation. I love savasana. Concentration, breathing, focusing on the sensations, finding rhythm — that I can do.

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Yoga outside in the sunshine

I recently stopped paying attention to others in the room as much. I’ve set the intention to only speak positively to myself during class.

Then there’s the balance part … I am not going to be posting any photos on Instagram any time soon doing crow pose on a mountain. But if I’m being kind to myself, as I’ve learned to do through yoga, I am OK at balance. I can see improvement in my tree pose, in my eagle. I can stand on one leg, even if I can’t put the other behind my head.

Come to think of it, I’ve also improved at the strength practice.

I do a modified flow, but at least I am using proper form, something I wasn’t doing as recently as one year ago. I distinctly remember being in a class at the YMCA about four years ago and not being able to stay in downward dog because my overweight body hurt my shoulders.

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Yoga on the beach

All of these improvements have happened over time. Small changes, thanks to practice. Positive lessons that stay with me no matter where I go, that make me feel graceful. Powerful. Poised. Calm. Dynamic.

Maybe I’m a yogi after all.

Keepin’ it real in June

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As you may have noticed, I like to keep it real here on this blog. I’ve had many ups and downs when it comes to healthy living over the years and have often thought about stopping my writing all together, but in the end I always choose to come back.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading blogs about talented runners who knock out 10 mile runs every day and have no problem finding the motivation to run six times a week. But I also enjoy lending my own perspective to those people out there, like myself, who don’t have raw talent and sometimes lack that get-up-and-go attitude.

After my two-month long running hiatus, I’ve really been enjoying easing back into things over these past few weeks. My plan for June is simply to develop the discipline needed to possibly start following a half-marathon training plan by the end of the month. I am experimenting with what works best for me and having fun with it.

A few weeks ago I started my experiment by running 1.5K straight out a trail, walking at the turn-around point, and then running back for a total of 3K. Within a week I pushed it up to 5K of running with a couple of walk breaks. At this point I am running 5K straight with no walking, and the other day I even managed 6K.

My cardio fitness didn’t take as long to come back as I thought I would, but I am noticing a lot of soreness in my legs. Apparently those muscles are something I took for granted before.

Last night I joined up with Running Room’s free Wednesday night run club for four hill repeats. My legs burned and it was hard to keep my stride length. I’ve never noticed that on hills before — I usually get out of breath before feeling any pain in my muscles.

That’s what June will be for — getting stronger — but also for falling back in love with this sport. I’m already well on my way.

My First Marathon-iversary

Monday marked one year since I ran the Ottawa Marathon. You can read the recap here. Other than getting married and getting engaged, it was the best day of my life. After months of blood, sweat and tears, I was finally rewarded with a wonderful first marathon experience.

I marked my marathon-iversary (if that’s not a thing, I’m officially make it one!) with a 5K run on the trails by my house.

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I am loving this shorts and tank top weather. It was quite warm out, but I remembered how it was 27 degrees Celsius in Ottawa on the same day last year. As my running fitness has faded throughout the past year – I only recently started running again after a few months off – my marathon accomplishment only felt more special. Sometimes when you’re in peak shape you forget big your accomplishments are can take them for granted. The past year has definitely granted me some perspective.

I’m sure I will run a marathon again someday.

“Are You Still Running?”

In the past couple of months, I’ve been asked that question quite a bit. My blog has gone dark, I’m no longer posting sweaty selfies, and I’ve just generally been pretty quiet.

The truth is, a few days after that happy-go-lucky 10K run in March as part of my half-marathon training, I decided I didn’t want to do anymore.

Nothing dramatic pushed me to that point. I am blessed. I really don’t have much to complain about in my personal life. That being said, I had started feeling pretty blah about my routine. I can’t pretend it wasn’t my hardest winter in years.

So I took a hard look at the circumstances within my control, and decided to make a few changes to be happier as soon as possible.

First, I cancelled my plans to run a half-marathon in Ottawa in May. My heart just wasn’t it.

With my past two half-marathons and one full marathon, I had no problem feeling motivated about actually finishing the training and the race. All I had to do was picture the finish line, the medal and the cheering crowd. But that tactic wasn’t really working for me this time around.

That’s when I decided to cancel my trip to Ottawa. Next, I repurposed the money I would have spent travelling to Ontario … and booked a trip to Jamaica!

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My husband and I went to Ochos Rios for a week in early April and attended our friends’ wedding while there. It was such an amazing experience. Every cliché you could ever think about a soul-balm-heart-healing tropical vacation – I felt them all.

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I know not everyone can pick up and fly south, but if it’s at all possible for you, I suggest grabbing life by the horns and just doing it.

During my time off from running I really listened to my body and it was fairly clear that it could only handle gentle exercise.

I went for walks and did yoga. These sessions were so much more fulfilling than I ever expected. I never felt guilty about not being out there with the other runners outside, plodding down my street. That’s how I knew I had made the right decision.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening and waiting patiently to get that itch back. After all, completing a marathon a year ago was one of the happiest days of my life. I knew I wasn’t done with running forever.

Spring is here now. The snow is gone. I turned our heater off. I put my boots away. I purged the clutter in my house. I am dreaming of summer adventures. And yes, the itch to get back into running has finally shown up.

Even though I’ve been dealing with a stubborn bout of bronchitis, I’ve already been out for a few run/walks.

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My first sweaty selfie in a very long time – after my 3K run this morning before work.

The excitement about potential races is starting to swirl around in my brain again. I won’t be wearing a Garmin anytime soon. I will be taking walk breaks. But I know I’ll be doing it because I really want to, because it feels good, and not for any other reason.

A Long Run

As much as I love to complain about running, some of my favourite parts of this hobby involve the routines. Last May was the last time I trained for a long-distance event, and I’ve really missed the ritual of the Sunday long slow run.

Saturday night prep, an early bedtime, the nervous stomach in the morning, toughing it out on the run, and the exhausted feeling of accomplishment after.

As I try to make a comeback after taking some time away from running due to burnout, and then surgery, my paces have been slow and my legs have been sore. But I am feeling proud every day because I haven’t given up, even though some days it feels like it might be easier to.

I’m still moving forward and progress is happening, albeit in inches instead of miles.

Yesterday I woke up excited for an outside run. Nervous, too: 10K once seemed like an easy short run to me, but now it feels daunting.

At 8:30 AM it was a little cold out for my taste. My lungs have not accustomed to the winter air because I’ve been stuck inside most of the season. I decided to wait a few hours and then drove out to my parents’ subdivision. There’s hardly any traffic out there and the roads are smooth — and even bare in some parts!

It wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of walking and huffing and puffing. I didn’t wear a Garmin and ran by feel. But the sun shone, and I covered 10.2K, and I crossed the first long run off my training schedule.

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Most of all, I can now say I am more prepared today to run a half-marathon than I was the day before.

Happy running, everyone.

It’s Officially Week One

As always, this journey to getting back in shape and training for a half-marathon can be best described so far as a “rollercoaster.”

(Don’t ever let it be said that I’m not a drama queen when it comes to running. It would be so boring otherwise!)

The winter has not been kind to my mental state and as my workouts increase, so does the amount of effort I have to put in to get my butt out the door. Some of you who are training for marathons outside may fight me for this title,  but I truly feel that no one will be happier to see spring than me.

This was my view one year ago ...

This was my view one year ago on our honeymoon …

A few “post-surgery” firsts also took place in the past week. I returned to Master’s swimming. It was tough. I forgot how much swimming before work can tire me out and put my in danger of falling asleep at my desk later.

And then yesterday, after checking the weather and noticing the mercury was safely above zero, I dug about my winter running clothes and actually ran outside.

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Not only that, but I did it with my long-lost crew from Running Room. We did four hill repeats for a total of about 6K. I did better than expected … meaning I did not die! It was was actually kind of fun and I remembered how much I love running with a group from time to time.

Last week, closing in on 12 weeks to go before Ottawa Race Weekend, I decided it was time to choose a training plan. My choices were:

  • Running Room (5 runs a week and no prescribed cross-training)
  • Run Less, Run Faster (3 runs a week and 2 cross-training sessions with a focus on speed)
  • Hal Higdon Novice 2 (4 runs a week and 1 cross-training session)

Like Goldilocks says, I decided Hal Higdon’s plan was just right for my current training style. It’s a 12-week plan, which makes this Week One of half-marathon training.

I go back and forth every day on whether this half-marathon will be doable for me or whether I want to give up completely. But looking at this plan makes me feel like I can get to that start line if I put the work in. The goal will be simply to finish and later on I can look at a race with an eye for getting a personal best. 79 days to go!