Monday, March 26, 2018

The Perfect Run? It's All in your Head!

The Perfect Run?

Does it exist? Of course it does! When you're out the door, on a beautiful day, with nothing to do but spend the next couple of hours running. Your shoes are perfectly tied, your clothes fit. It's a lovely warmish dry day. You didn't eat too much or too little, you have nothing to worry about ... you're in heaven! You're gonna have a perfect run!


Then there are those other runs, the ones from the dark side.

Yesterday I headed out for a long run - 3 3/4 hours worth - and I knew it wouldn't be good. I couldn't find the right clothes; my hair was itchy down my back; I realized way too late in the day I hadn't eaten enough, so I gobbled down some crusty toast and cashew butter just before leaving, and  tried to make a protein shake but I forgot to put the lid on properly, at least I was near the sink so when I shook it most of the explosion landed .... you get the picture. Anyway, I headed out and started putting those feet one after the other.


You know when you're running, and you feel pretty good, tall and svelte, running across a beautiful meadow in your mind? Then you catch a glimpse of yourself in a store window? That's right. There she was, Mrs. Tiggywinkle, bouncing along, with her pink bobble hat bouncing on top of her head. And she was going so slowly! She checked her watch. Yip. Going slow.

More Reflections.

Then I started talking to myself. I started trying to pull myself away from the gloom that had descended upon me over the past few days. The best way to do this, I find, is just to concentrate on the body. What's happening with my breath? Is my chest open? How are my shoulders? Is my torso straight? Hands relaxed by my sides? Is my jaw clenched? Head upright? How's my gait? Are my hips working well? How are my feet landing? That little knee pain I had, what's happening with that? How many steps am I taking per minute? They say 180 is good. For a while I run ... two ... three ...all good.


I decided I would run this 225 minute run in three stages: the first stage would be hills, up to "the mountain" and around there on the trails for a bit. I got there and there was still lots of snow. Staying on the roads and sidewalks was easier, so I lengthened the next leg and ran far, far into the east end of the city. The third leg was easier in a way: I knew I was going home and I knew I would achieve my time goal. But harder because I'm learning that at around the three-hour mark I get kind of bored with my own company, and my legs start to get a little heavy.

I had some fancy sports jelly-beans with me that helped with my energy level, and a nice backpack with water, so physically I was set. But mentally? Not good! My mind wouldn't stop burrowing around with this and that thought, and any time I would catch one of those squirrelly things, it would run away and then sneak up on me a couple of kilometres down the road. Thoughts of my finances, the cafe finances; my kids and if they are happy; my husband and our life together; the refugees I didn't really help much in Greece last year; why refugees anyway; why is there evil in the world, and I would remember to concentrate on my breath, my gait, my steps ... and have a little peace and then it would all start again.

The Triumphant Return

Anyhow, I ran home, stretched, ate a burger, and all was well.

Yes, reader, you guessed it.

I had a great week! Really! Okay, the cafe was packed (yay!), I had lots to do at home to prepare for Passover (yay!), I got my two short runs in and my cross-training (yoga - yay!), and then BOOM!

Friday afternoon I'm clearing my flowers (spring -yay!). I did a nice deep squat and could hardly get up - my knee!! So, RICE for the weekend, and no stairs, and no running, and no long run especially (it was gonna be four hours) ... and a lot of time to think.

Yes, "we are made of dreams and bones". Bones, muscles, fascia, all that physical stuff ... super important, especially when you're training to run a marathon. Also when you're giving birth, making love, eating...But the "dream" part - without that, we're nothing! If you don't have that dream, rather, if you allow yourself to grumble instead of dream; if you bring your unhappinesses  "along inside your soul", and let them drag behind you, then your body will suffer.

Lesson Learned?

The lesson I learned from my knee? Just as I check my water, phone for music, watch, that I'm wearing the right clothes for the weather, that I've had my last-minute pee and that I've eaten enough ... I need to check my mental state and throw my emotional garbage out before my long run. Because if I don't, it will grind away at my joints, crumple up my fascia, brittle down my cartilage and generally make a mess of things - the longer the run, the bigger the mess.

In life, as in birth work, as in running - leave your ego at the door, lace up, and go have fun! You will get your perfect run.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My Personal Best: Training for A Marathon

The Hypothermic?

A couple of weeks ago I ran a race aptly titled the Hypothermic Half Marathon. I'm training for a marathon now, and I'm well past the half-way mark, and my long runs are long ... so I figured I would like some company for this one, so I registered and ran.

It was fun! I chopped nine minutes off my previous Half Marathon speed (2:24:21 from 2:33:31 if you're interested). I had a hoot! I started off right next to the 2:30 bunny but I realized I was able to go faster and steadier on my own, so I did! But a couple of other women in my category ran faster than me, so I ended up third. But as the oldest woman in the race (over 500 people) I did well.

So? Why do I do this? Why do I run and train and sweat, and then write about it?

Reasons Why I Am Training For A Marathon

One main reason: because I CAN. And don't get me wrong, I'm not ignoring those who CAN'T. In fact, I think about them every day. I think about my cousin Becky, whose every day must be a marathon. I think about the Syrians I met last year, who spend their time figuring out how to rebuild their lives. I think about women everywhere who are too scared, too sick, too busy, too sad to go outside and play, and I've decided, after a lifetime of dedication to caring for and helping those less privileged than I, that I am gonna run to my heart's content, and hope that my happiness fills the world and makes it a better place. (Check this out if you really want to make a difference!)

Other reasons too:

because, weirdly, running teaches me about life. Training for a marathon actually shows me how better to live my life. How does that work? I have a goal these days, and that it to run 26 miles FAST. To get there, to succeed, I have to plan. I have to be determined, and dedicated, and disciplined. I have to sleep, eat, and drink right. I have to do my short runs and my long run every week, without fail, unless I'm injured or sick.

And how on earth do I do that?

With a cafe to run, a family to care for, a house to keep clean, and an online business to grow (so that I can start my nomad life in a few years, but more on that in a bit). Oh, and did I mention I'm hosting a Retreat this summer? So, yes, training for a marathon has allowed me to understand that there's one thing that makes the difference, given that the physical playing field remains the same (I am not sick, injured, or living in a dangerous place, or without food), and that is my attitude. The way I look at my life, or my training, or my family, husband, my cafe, my running buddies, even my dog, or my bank account ... the way I look at everything colours how I can perform. Not just at a race, but behind the counter at my cafe, on the phone with a student, hanging out on the couch with my husband.

Zen of Running?

What is this magical way, then, Yoda? It is the way of the run: to take one step after the first, and then the next and the next. To be fully conscious of the steps, of the way your body moves, how it fits into the space around it. Is my body tall and light? Am I crouching down? What is hurting? How can I fix it? Where is my breath? I need to breath slowly and surely ... in ... out ... in ... step ... step ... step ...

This weird and frivolous hobby has taught me that to be in the moment and to love what you are doing when you're in it, is the key to happiness.

Other reasons why I am Training for a Marathon: I love how my legs are getting bigger and bigger.

Secret Club

Also, I have discovered a secret club that I am now a member of. It's the club of other people like me who love to run. We love to play, and speed our bodies around town or country. It's a club where, even though I'm 61, and I don't wear Lululemon, and I don't go that fast ... when I pass a runner in Montreal, Toronto, Lisbon, Italy .... Greece ... we give each other the secret nod and let each other know we know. It's a club where I can chat about long run nutrition for at least a half hour to someone I've never met.

And don't forget the bling! When I'm running a race, people I don't know high-five me. "You got this! Oui, Madame!" At the end, I get my lovely medal, and feel great, and that sense of accomplishment fills my heart. I know I've done something. Nothing too controversial, or too demanding, like getting involved with refugee politics, or being a midwife, or trying to change the world. Just a race, one step at a time, one breath at a time, one smile at a time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Week In Italy: Summer Retreat 2018

Here are the details of our upcoming Summer Retreat 2018!

[caption id="attachment_668" align="alignleft" width="269"]Summer Retreat 2018: Cymbalist House in Tuscany Our Mountain Hideaway[/caption]


The venue is in Tuscany, Italy, far up a mountain road, where the Cymbalists bought a piece of land and a ruined shepherd’s house 15 years ago and created a haven. Sleeping accommodation is rustic, either sharing a room or sleeping in a tent. Food is abundant and vegetarian. Our dog Stella will be there to welcome you!


[caption id="attachment_675" align="alignright" width="225"]Summer Retreat 2018: Our Dog in Tuscany Stella, Hollyhocks, house[/caption]


What Do We Do?

Each day we will have a theme to explore and deepen our understanding. We will walk, meditate, rest, discuss, be silent, play, and be together or be alone. Here are our daily themes:

Tuesday's theme is “Meeting and Discovering”.

Wednesday: One word: what would you like to do when you’re here? Our theme today is “Words and Silence”.

Thursday: Today’s theme is “Playtime”. 

Friday’s theme: “The Process”.

Saturday: Sleep late. Free day. Today’s theme: “Joy”. Saturday evening, party!

The theme for Sunday is “Peace”.

Monday’s theme: “Memory”.

[caption id="attachment_667" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Summer Retreat 2018 ; Abandoned Village Let the light in![/caption]

Come away with us this summer to our magical mountain hideaway, and get energized for the year to come. I promise you won't look back!