On the Road to Reykjavik

After dipping down below the acceptable depression threshold a few too many times recently I did a little thinking. It started out primarily as a WTF attitude (as in why me? Why again?!) but perspective comes from the strangest places.

What are you doing to take care of yourself? people often ask. Do you get enough sleep/exercise/time to yourself? And the answer to all of those is, mostly, yes. I mean, yes and no (because does any parent of young children really get enough?) but I think I do okay in those areas.

The trouble is I haven’t been doing the right things. I’ve become really good at sitting on my bed after the boys are (finally) asleep and browsing through Facebook. I can read status updates and comment and click that like button with the best of them. It’s definitely a retreat, but it’s not exactly fulfilling.

That realization (as obvious as it might be) didn’t really become clear until I was talking to a friend recently. This guy — a firefighter, sort of a guy’s guy — asked a simple question: “What’s your outlet?”

What’s my outlet? Um, gee. That’s a good question. I like to write and I like to run, but have been doing neither on a consistent basis.

“You know that giant LEGO Death Star in my basement?” he continued. “Yeah, that was an outlet.”

I pictured him escaping his three kids or a long day at work by going to the basement and slowly, literally piece by piece, putting that together.

That’s what I need – not a LEGO Death Star, but a project.Team Diabetes

In my last race package was a brochure for Team Diabetes and, unlike most of the brochures I get in race packages, I had kept it. I’ve supported the Canadian Diabetes Foundation in various ways for a long time because I’ve had several family members affected by diabetes. Most personally for me was my Grandma, who was legally blind after losing much of her sight to the disease.

True to my largely impulsive nature, I had a look at the Diabetes Association’s website and found myself signing up for a Team Diabetes race in Reykjavik, Iceland next year. I registered without worrying too much about the slightly intimidating fundraising requirement, because I needed a project and this would be it. (Or one of them, anyway. I’m nothing if not ambitious when it comes to finding projects to distract myself with.)

Islandsbanki Marathon

Photo credit: Islandsbanki Marathon

I’ve already got some fundraising plans and some donations from supportive friends. And I’ve got a bit of a posse too. After I signed up, 6 friends (so far) did as well, and more are thinking about it.

Fundraising for this event will be a challenge and a bit outside my comfort zone (especially because I hate asking for money), but that’s sort of what I like about it. It’s something to focus on other than who has posted a new photo to Facebook. I’m excited about it, so that qualifies it as an outlet, don’t you think? I do, so here I go on something that is just for me – not me as a mom or anything else. Just me on the road to Reykjavik.

If you want to support me in my fundraising goal, you can donate here

Crazy Runs and Mountains

One lovely summer evening, my friend Tamara and I were running by the river. Tamara, you should know (because it’s relevant to this story), is a little bit crazy. She runs crazy races in crazy costumes and thinks nothing of getting up crazy early on a Saturday or Sunday morning to run 10k.

I should have kept this in mind when registering for a race she told me about.

Alas, I didn’t think about any of that (which might have been because she bought me ice cream after that run by the river). Instead all I heard was “Banff” and “night race” and “glow sticks.” I heard “five miles” and mentally translated that to 8k and decided all of those factors added up to a race that I should register for. I’d get to run in the mountains in one of my favourite towns, it would be my first night race, and the distance was just enough to push me to run a little bit more than I had been. So I registered, booked us into a hotel for the weekend, and considered myself quite adventurous.

Somewhere between registering and race weekend I started thinking of the race as 5k (instead of five miles), and it wasn’t until I was talking to a co-worker last week about our weekend plans that I remembered. “Um, isn’t that race five miles?” she asked. “Um, shit,” I thought. Yes. Yes, it is. Ah well. I’m sure it will be fine, I figured.

Racers in the dark near the start line

Racers in the dark near the start line

And then race day came and we headed out of town. My mom (who always manages to catch these things) saw on Twitter that the race course had been changed because there was a Grizzly on the original course (and I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want to be eaten by a large, hungry, male Grizzly who’s stocking up before hibernating for the winter). And I looked at the description of the race and realized the course had us running straight up a mountain road. The original course, which I hadn’t bothered to check because adventurous people don’t worry about these things, also had us running straight up a mountain road, but there was also, I think, more of an over-and-around element to the original course. The revised course was pretty much exactly straight up the mountain and then straight back down again.

Did I mention it was snowing?

It had snowed all day and I’d been up that mountain road many times before (by car, thank you very much) so I knew how long and steep it was (and how icy it would be coming back down) and I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

I couldn’t do much but ignore the butterflies in my stomach and put on my Yaktrax and see what happened.

Glow sticks going byRunners with glow sticks

What happened—the details—doesn’t really matter. It was part painful and part exhilarating, part dark and slippery and part beautiful. It went from a ridiculous-sounding idea to actually quite fun.

Mostly, it was a reminder that every once in a while we all need to do something just a little bit crazy.

 

I’m joining Greta from Gfunkified as co-host of #iPPP (or iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week. Link up below!

GFunkified

Lacing Up

I’ve had lots of excuses for not running in the last 18 months. At first it was because we had just moved and there was a lot of snow on the ground and I didn’t really feel like breaking my neck. And then I got pregnant. And then I had just had a baby. And then there was snow on the ground again.

Then my husband got me some Yaktrax, which removed my fear that I might break my neck. The first time I wore them it was -18C (about 0F) and I managed to stay warm enough and figured I was good to go. But then in January I twisted my ankle and I stopped running, and I didn’t really start again.

I started to think maybe I wasn’t a runner anymore. I was feeling too old and achey. My knees weren’t cooperating. I was sucking wind and generally feeling like all my running mojo had veered off the path and run away without me.

I did other things. Boot camps and Jillian Michaels workouts and yoga. Long walks with big hills. Pilates. All of which were fine, but I didn’t find myself in any of them. There was a piece of me missing.

So I took to the trails again.

I’ve walked a lot in our area in the short time we’ve been here, but when I started running I didn’t yet have my go-to running routes the way I used to. And we live on a ridge, so no matter what direction I go I end up coming home on a hill. But still, I ran. I looped out and back, and followed paths. I found some trails and ran them to see where they went. I still sucked wind, but I was running. I had no particular thoughts about it; it just seemed good enough.

This morning when I got up I re-evaluated my planned run. My knees were complaining and I was sore after a challenging yoga practice last Wednesday and a stroller fit class on Friday. I was feeling like I’d been working hard and maybe skipping a run wouldn’t be a bad thing.

And then I got inspired and figured I’d do a short one. It was my day to walk the dog anyway.

If you follow my Facebook page you know how it turned out. I got to the end of the “out” part of my planned out-and-back and saw the entry to a path I hadn’t seen before. So I went down it. To make an hour-long story short, I got lost. After following a series of paths I ended up way, way down at the bottom of a glen and, just as I was starting to wonder where the trail came out, it ended.

end of paved path

Apparently this is where the sidewalk ends.

I have no idea why the trail ends there. At some point, someone must have decided that was all they were going to do. Or maybe they ran out of asphalt.

In any case, I found my mojo. It was down at the bottom of a glen, waiting for me on a rainy Sunday morning.

I’m a runner again.

Wrap-Up: 30 Days of Exercise

It’s done. I did it. I managed to get some form of exercise for 30 days straight, thus knocking off another item on my life list. Final evaluation? It’s not so hard.

Let me explain.

When I put that item on my list I had no intention of trying to do hard core exercise for 30 days in a row. I just wanted to push myself to move. Admittedly, I have a fairly specific idea of what constitutes exercise and my goal was to exercise every day and not just say, “Meh, that counted.” Well, my friends, I think I had three days where I determined at the end of the day that what I had done that day was just gonna count. That’s the way life works sometimes, and I’m okay with it. (Mostly.)

Having said that, some observations:

  • A loose definition of exercise worked better for this than a strict one. If I had forced myself to bust my butt for 30 days in a row I probably would have psyched myself out by day four. And I didn’t push myself to do 30 minutes every day. Sometimes 20 minutes of yoga is enough. 20 minutes of Jillian Michaels’s 30 Day Shred is definitely enough.
  • My determination in the beginning to focus on the goal of getting outside more — to get fresh air and just be in that moment — was one of the best parts about this. I breathed it in, and it felt damn good.
  • It helps to sweat. The three days that I decided I could count, but just barely, involved walking. I did some intentional walking on a few of the 30 days and really walked - I went long and far and hard. I did hills. I walked until it made me sweat. On the days I just strolled, I sort of felt like it wasn’t really enough.
  • I need to incorporate more yoga into my life. I knew this already and that was one of the reasons I was excited about this challenge. In the end I did more yoga than I had originally intended (which was partly due to rolling my ankle halfway through the month) but it left me in a much more calm and centred place. My flexibility is better for it too.
  • Variety is good. Variety is very good.
  • I really like a good, push-yourself, kick-your-own-ass workout. I need to do that more often. Jillian Michaels and I will continue to be friends.
  • I like running. I miss running. I’m incredibly annoyed that I hurt my ankle because it put me off running for a good part of the 30 days.

So there you have it. Not so hard and, in the end, really kind of beautiful.

snowy path

30 Days Straight

Today is January 2nd (for a little while yet, anyway), which means yesterday was January 1st and therefore the 2nd anniversary of this blog. I didn’t have a post about that yesterday because, frankly, I always feel that if I write something on the first of the year it should be profound. And yesterday I wasn’t feeling very profound. So instead I’ll now say the usual things, like I can’t believe it’s been two years. And I‘m grateful to have this space and the people I have encountered through it. Truly – I thank all of you who read and comment and share. My life is undoubtedly richer because of you.

How’s that for a cursory celebration? I do like to acknowledge these things, but right now I’d rather just get on with living life instead of writing about how I write about living life.

The living I’m doing right now relates to my post about taking on a challenge to exercise for 30 days straight. When my friend Melissa first challenged me to tackle that item on my life list I started to regret having put that silly idea on there. But as Christmas crept past and the food kept coming and the couch kept calling I decided it was a good thing someone was willing to push me. So I began to psych myself up for it and figure out what variety of things I wanted to do over the 30 days, both so I could manage it after being less than active for the last while and so I wouldn’t get bored after a week.

And then the day came.

And I started!

I started the 30 days by going for a run yesterday. It was beautiful – I went later in the day than I had intended (entirely due to small people’s needs and not at all because of lack of motivation) but in doing so I caught the sunset. And I looked out over the roofs of the houses in our community and was treated to a gorgeous glimpse of the Rockies, which fill up my soul every day.

mountain-sunset

I ran alone, with no agenda other than completing 30 minutes. I zigged through our neighbourhood and zagged down trails just to see where they went. I passed people sledding as the sun went down and the lights in the houses behind them came on. I encountered two other solo runners with whom I exchanged The Look. The one that says, “We’re alive and we’re out here and isn’t it beautiful?

sledding

I kept running, knowing I was taking myself father than a 30-minute out-and-back required. I turned onto one street because I hadn’t been down it before and chose another because it had pretty Christmas lights. And when my 30 minutes was up I stopped.

I ended up a little way from home, which was ultimately sort of deliberate because I figured I could use the cool down, but I so enjoyed the alone time. It was cold enough that I could feel every breath deep in my lungs, and early enough in the lateness of the day that the sky glowed.

mountain-sunset2

And that’s why I put this item on my life list in the first place. Because when I get out there it’s good for me and I notice things and I feel happy.

That’s why I wanted to do it, so I’ll keep doing it. For 28 more days. And probably more.

 

I’m using the hash tag #30daysstraight on Twitter and Instagram if you want to follow along. As well, another friend has joined in starting today, and if you want to try this too I would love to hear about it.