Monday, February 28, 2011

The Best 48 Years of My Life

What better time to sum up one's life than on a birthday?

I've had the opportunity to spend sizable chunks of time lying on beaches. There is no substitute for the intensity with which all senses are assaulted on a hot, sunny beach. My advice: spend as much time lying on beaches as you can.

I've run 15 marathons and a handful of other distance races. I haven't won any of them, but I've gained an enormous sense of accomplishment that has gradually become a sense of entitlement from this pastime. Training for these races has been at least as important as the actual races to my sense of wellbeing and health. You meet all kinds of people before, during, and after a marathon, and you see huge swathes of cities in a mere few hours.

I managed to complete my bachelor of arts degree at the university of my choice. That accomplishment was extremely important to me at the time, and what I took from that experience cannot be measured in mere dollars.

I travelled to Asia, got married, sobered up, and still remain with the same woman almost 25 years later. Our two kids are young adults now, independent, and well on their way to writing their own long life stories.

I've been successful in my career. This has allowed me to be financially stable, and has kept me occupied and constructive during the week for many years.

So yes, it's just begun. There are countless things I still intend to do, places I will visit, people I will meet. But I have another half century in which to do it, and time is passing quickly, so I better hurry off and get that cup of coffee that just finished brewing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cold Running

This has been an unseasonably cold winter. I look back at how many runs I had in minus 20 range weather and realize that my wind ravaged face has been well earned. Other runners from these hardy climes understand and go through the same seasonal temperature swings, but we can't forget the other folks who brave the cold for reasons other than running.

We all see them regularly, huddled shivering just beyond the ten metre mark from main entrances to public buildings, or in wind-protected back entrances. Rain, snow, sleet, fog... nothing keeps this group from their regular foray into the elements. These are the smokers, of course, that dying breed of determined adventurers, and one of the saddest of outdoor sights. But look objectively and you see that these people hate being outside in this weather and are driven by their addiction. It isn't choice.

Huddled on hot air vents or in doorways and alleys, beneath piles of dirty textiles if they're lucky, the homeless are another group of people seen outside in all types of weather. These are the ones your heart goes out to, the ones who need those emergency shelters and food lines, and the ones for whom I am most willing to help through the agencies that provide services for them.

Then there are workers. Parking lot attendants, construction workers, police... bundled up quite snugly in most cases, but you just know that the chill must inevitably work its way through to their marrow.

Compared to the above, runners have it pretty sweet. We generate heat as we run, and we're totally out there by choice. Even if you view running as an addiction, you can't argue that using a treadmill is not an option. I look at the snow blowing around outside the window right now, and I have to admit that it doesn't bother me. I love living here, and I guess the snow and the cold are part of the bargain.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If It Ain't Fun, You're Not Playing Fair

I keep getting faster. My regular 10km course takes me under 53 minutes consistently for a few months now, and recently it's far from unusual to do it in less than 52 minutes. Winter times last year used to be much closer to 60 minutes, consistently closer to 56 minutes. Why?

One reason is that I weigh less. Last winter I was between 165 and 170, and I'm now hovering around 160 all the time. That helps to increase speed, but so does the fact that I focus on increasing speed in pretty much every run. A tempo run is an average run for me.

This measurable improvement is infinitely motivating. It makes every morning exciting, an event to look forward to. It's all part of a game, a game that has infinitely variable rules that I can change whenever and however I like. Take a creative approach to it, never let it get stale.

There were quite a few runners out on the route when I ran in Ottawa a couple of weekends ago, and that is unusual for me since I always train alone at 4 am. I loved the challenge of trying to overtake the person in front of me. No I didn't stick my tongue out as I passed them or anything, just in case they turned out to be a tax auditor or something in that bureaucratic town.

So if I go out and don't break any records or come in a minute or two slower than usual, I don't sweat it in the slightest. As long as all systems are functioning ok, it's all good.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Crash is All Relative

Watching American Idol, almost ready to crash for the night. It was a long day of commuting through a blizzard that was definitely oversold on the weather reports but was fatiguing nonetheless. It was the first day in a long time that I almost didn't run or work out.

This morning I awoke 15 minutes later than usual, sorely tempted to take my first day off in months. It was a rough weekend; ten kilometres of ice skating every day, 10 and 20 kilometres of running through greasy snow on top of that, and twelve hour days of standing at the motorcycle show booth answering insurance questions which can be less than inspiring. It gets challenging to keep it fresh, to stay enthused.

So this morning I compromised, went to the gym even though it's only been two days since the last gym workout. Oh well. If that's the extent of my crash, I think I can live with it. Keep on giving it all you've got and you won't be disappointed, because someday you won't have as much to give.