Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Nostalgia and getting faster as time runs out.

Just after my first Ironman in 2008 with the mentor who got me through it.
I'm feeling a little sad and somewhat nostalgic. It took me a little time to figure out why. Ironman Canada is on August 28th in Penticton, British Columbia. For the first time in four years, I won't be making the trek (some have called it a pilgrimage) out to watch or to race or to register.

I  won't be making the trip, not because I'm injured. I was fine when I finished IM #3 last year. I didn't re-register because it was time for a change. I wanted to try something else for a while (I guess I got what I wished for!).

Of course it didn't help that the World Triathlon Corporation's strategies and initiatives made the whole event more about extracting increasing sums of money from the amateurs and promoting the professional athletes (in 2009, WTC purchased a number of Ironman franchises from North American Sports - the owner of Ironman Canada. WTC is owned by Providence Equity Securities). The idea of waiting in line, in the sun, before race day, to pay more than $600 US more than a year in advance to race (let's call it an interest-free loan, perhaps?) just rubbed me the wrong way. But I digress.

I am still feeling a little bit of a loss for not being there to soak up the energy of, in my opinion,  the best sports experience anywhere. It is the setting, the volunteers, the racers...I've found myself being a little listless over the past couple of weeks. I've not ridden my tri bike and have all but given up on swimming. I suppose this is how I'm dealing with the sense of loss...or passage.

I have a number of friends taking part in this race at the end of August. I will be racing vicariously through them (you know who you are!)  and watching the event online...if the feed works this year. This is still a great race and my best wishes to you!

But as I decided on that sunny day in August 2010, in the athlete village in Penticton when I saw the 2011 race sign-up line snake around the entire length of the grounds...it was time for a change.

So I got what I asked for. A change. A totally unexpected turn of events where the very foundation of everything I wanted to do was pulled out from under me, as it were. And I was forced to cool my heels...

But along with this unwelcome surprise came a number of unexpected blessings.  I spent more time with my family and learned to do the things they liked to do, as they learned what I liked and much coffee was enjoyed.

I had the absolute privilege and pleasure to introduce my partner to a wonderful man, his partner and his family and to spend a week in their company doing everything and doing nothing. Ironically the sign above is from one of the sojourns we took where they introduced us to a part of the world I had never before seen.

I took the time to really enjoy mornings. I used to be so focused on running out the door and getting a few KMs or more in...not this summer. Instead, I lounged on the verandah and learned how to loaf, hang out with the squirrel and how to appreciate the little things, such as a good cup of coffee or a tasty walnut.

But what really made an impression on me was a chalk board sign that I encountered at a local folk festival. My partner and I usually like to walk downtown and soak in Patchouli infused Birkenstock wearing ambiance of the festival during the day, before the headliners show up. It really is a good experience.

As we walked through Victoria Park,  there it was, a huge chalkboard sign made up of a number of classroom-sized chalk boards. On each of the boards were the words: "BEFORE I DIE I WANT TO ..." and then a blank line to fill in one's wish.

The boards were full. They had everything from the earnest to the nonsensical. Things like "see my grandma again" to "beat cancer". This was like a wishing well where there are no secrets. It really got me thinking about what I would would to do, before I die.

So I thought, and I thought. I stole some surreptitious glances at my partner, who's hand I held increasingly tighter. I thought about my kids, I thought about some of my good friends, both new and old.

I thought about my foot and the injury that isn't going away, but is lingering, seemingly just to make a point. I thought about the recuperation and physical therapy that is demonstrating how fast I can run, and also how little a should run. It is an injury that seems to be urging me, as I get older, to hurry up and slow down so I can meander on the path less taken.

That's when I realized that I was doing exactly what I want to be doing before I die. Everything else is details.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The forest and the trees.

I thought that I should probably post some words since my last few entries were real downers. More of an update than anything else. It has been some time now since I parked my running shoes and took up an number of therapies that were supposed to help my Plantar Fasciitis. All but one have done very little to relieve the pain...I'm keeping the last one under wraps so as not to jinx it.

But I can see the forest and the trees. I have been running, first around the block, then around two blocks and now for just over 1.5kms. I've noticed something very interesting. I'm not pain-free by any stretch (no pun intended, but that reminds me that I have to stretch again). What's interesting is that I'm a running better, stronger, faster. Where I used to have a so-so six minute/km pace, I'm now regularly doing fives. And my run is smooth. I credit all the work I've done in physio. My personal torturer has begun to correct sloppy and mal-practiced form that took me years to perfect. Of course, I have no run endurance, and it is questionable if I'll be able to sustain such a pace over 5, 10 or 42.2kms - or even if I will get back to those distances. But I'm running. I'm feeling good about running. And I'm now only a bit jealous when I see others running much longer distances in the park.

I'm also back to doing bricks. I've rekindled my relationship with my 21year old, 12-speed,  steel road bike. My tri bike sits lonely in the basement.  I'm out doing some short (less than 60k), fast rides and then jumping into my Vibram 5 Fingers and running 1K or so. These bricks (bike-run intervals) feel like I'm back to training, but without the stress of an impending race. It feels good,  pain notwithstanding. And contrary to the advice of some, I have been spending more and more time barefoot.

A few weeks ago, I spent an incredible week with The One I Love and some great friends in Bruce County and Waterloo County, Ontario. While there, thanks to my favourite airline, we were stuck for four days without luggage. We did an easy trek through Lion's Head Provincial Park with me in Birkenstocks (as my trail shoes were in my absent baggage). The Birkenstocks quickly came off and I did a large part of the walk truly barefoot. It felt like I was floating on air, so liberating the feeling was!

So...looking ahead there are some positives. The PF has certainly not resolved, but I'm doing stuff that may or may not help. I've kinda sorta committed to a running thing a year from now that I'll write about later.

Sure, I DNS'd two triathlons and will not be participating in a marathon next month. But I had a rejuvenating week with new(ish) friends who will become old friends long before we get old. I also am having a great summer with family and I'm spending some time with my self, which is something that I must remember to do more often.  I'm gradually getting back into what I'm into.

I'm enjoying the beauty of the forest and the trees and I know, one day, sooner or later, I will easily run through that forest...just like Forrest.