Sunday, 28 September 2014

Training, but different

Manquam Lake

I went for a run with my friend a couple evenings ago. It had rained all day, and the air was washed clean. We started in English Bay, blanketed by low clouds, the seawall a glistening grey. As we ran, it got darker, and the lights of the North Shore came on. Later, we would weave home through the west end, drink too much wine and stay up too late (for me - anything past 9pm is late). She looked at me: "This is perfect - I don't want any of it to change." I feel the same way.

Transrockies was one big, huge adventure, a 6-day high in the mountains. My life, now, is on a smaller scale. I still have adventures - but they take place in the quiet dark before work, during early sunsets, on weekend mornings with the fall chill in the air.

At the same time, training can be about doing the little things - core exercises here, 5km babyruns there - and having the deep trust that, one day, they will add up to the right big thing.

Also, alternatively, this post can be titled: "What I am doing for training", as my laptop continues to think Strava is a porn site, and as such, I haven't uploaded a workout for about a month.

False Creek mornings
For the last three years, Katie and I have met at the Triple O's near the bridge, at a time that pretty much guarantees we start in the dark, to run around False Creek. This run is what "same time, same place?" means. This run means I get a "good morning" text at an hour that makes me smile, strap on my watch, and run over Burrard with a moon overhead. The objective of the run is to talk: dating, running, yoga, family - as much as 12km can get us, and it gets us far.

When I was coming back from my stress fracture, the first 30min run involved me taking the bus over to Kits, and running along False Creek with Katie in the pale April sunlight, because this was one of the runs I missed the most.

Not going sub-40min on the Grouse Grind
Every Wednesday I get up too early (I think there is a trend here) and head over to the Grouse Grind. I used to drive over Lion's Gate to the early light over the mountains - lately, it's been with windshield wipers and headlights on. Every Wednesday, fellow West End-er and unofficial pacer Anthony continues with his misplaced optimism: "Today is a good day to go sub-40!" (at the start), "You can still make it, but you have to go very fast!" (at the half-way), "Go! Go! Go! (struggling at the last 3/4), and "Well, you were trying very hard." (at the end, where I am inevitably slower but triumphant to have finished the damn thing).

I have done the grind, already sweating in the early heat to warm July sunlight, in the dark, with a headlamp, through mist. I was surprised by my friends on my 30th birthday with a tiara just before the 1/4 mark, and prosecco and chocolate at the top (we tried to pop a screw top...this is what happens when you wake up at 5am). 

Not going to VFAC on Thursdays
I start every Thursday with the best of intentions: sleep in, eat well during the day, and actually go to VFAC in the evening - and not just the drinks part. Then my sleep in ends at 545am, and I am awake and far too energetic and I need to not text all of my friends who are still very much asleep. So I end up at hot yoga by 6:30am (lately, accompanied to Celine teacher seems to be going through a breakup). 

By the time it's 5pm, I am home and already contemplating changing into pajamas...not exactly running hard in the park to the early dusk. Instead, April and I meet up near Denman, and run around the seawall - talking about life and running and sometimes, not talking. By the Lighthouse, we stop: look out at the water, across to the mountains. Appreciate the sunset, when the sky turns neon next to the Lion's Gate. Appreciate the clouds, when sea matches sky and everything is washed in shiny grey. Then, like re-entering the city, head up to Denman, and the neon signs, as the streetlights start to turn on.

Hungover Saturdays
I always tell myself on Friday nights: go to yoga, go read, go to bed early. Somehow that always turns into going out for a drink or four and falling into bed somewhere close to midnight. Luckily, evening sober Alex makes hungover morning Alex coffee, and the morning somehow gets going. And 8:30am finds me at Lucy and my set run meeting spot: the bathrooms at Grouse Mountain (this is what happens when Friday night drinking precedes Saturday morning coffee). 

We start the climb towards Mosquito Creek - and we are always wearing one too many layers, or apologizing for being slow, or not even talking and just working, together, on the first long uphill. And then we reach St. George's bench, where the trail mellows, and we pick our way across roots and down mountain bike ladders and the previous week unfolds. Whatever was going on with work or family or life picks up where it left off. By the time we are at the Lynn Headwaters turnaround, and burning back up the stairs, anything can come up into the quiet of breath and sweat. Some stories, some things, take longer to tell, to really get at. The trail, the early sunlight through the trees, the wet boardwalks - there is time for backstory, there is time for reflection, and there is always time to listen.

Standing on higher ground / but when you hear the sounds / you realize it's just the wind
I turned 30 a couple weeks ago. I have friends who got married, just had a baby, bought a house. I am so lucky to celebrate these milestones with them. And, certain days, it feels like I am the one left at the bar, just when the lights go on. I work at a job I love - on a contract with an end date. I live in a beautiful old apartment in the West End - that I rent. I am single - and still figuring things out.

I used to have a plan, and have clear goals, with deadlines and timelines and milestones. These days, I'm not sure what my future looks like - but I am excited to find out.

I wake up some days and think about falling in love, again. The thing is, I'm not sure when - or even if - that big love will come along. So, instead, I fall in love with my life every day in so many small ways. I fall in love with living on the spine of a rainforest - running in the rain, through clouds, with the smell of wet leaves and the quiet hum of rain. I fall in love with dreamy weekends in Kelowna, waking up late to the chatter of my friends and brunch out on the balcony in the late summer sunshine. I fall in love with one drink too many and laughing, really laughing, with my friends out wearing heels and tank tops and staying out too late in our neighbourhood. I fall in love with morning seawalls - the changing light, the tree on Siwash rock, the sulfur piles on the North Shore. I fall in love with sitting outside on the front steps on Chris and Lucy's house as the sun sets red over Dundarave, listening to Chris play the guitar in the mellow evening cool. 

And, after so many months, so much patience and slow build and setbacks - I can run, really run, run long and run until my lungs feel scraped open - and it feels like a miracle.

So, on Sundays, I get up early - 5am early. I have coffee, and do core, and drive over Lion's Gate before sunrise as the mountains are still purple. And I start, with a full 2L heavy on my back, with pockets stuffed with gels. And my legs wake up as I jog uphill - slowly, because we have a long ways to go, but I'm moving and breathing and hurting just the right amount. 

I break it down: eat every 40 minutes, drink enough, be careful of my ankle, keep moving. And the light through the trees gets brighter, and suddenly we're up above the treeline, and it still hurts but it's so beautiful and my breath is steady and the trail is winding, higher and higher, in front of me. And when the downhill comes - my legs are steady and my body just knows where to go, and I can drop and keep on dropping. I go to bed Sunday and wake Monday, go to work with the memory of glaciers behind my eyes.

Black Tusk, seen from Panorama Ridge

Golden Ears

This late season running on dates where, other years, there would be snow, is a gift. The red leaves and orange grass remind me that, any day, the rains will start and not end until next Spring. It won't last - and because of that, it is all the more beautiful. 

And life can be like running: passing through beautiful places, not staying, but leaving with the memory of late sun on skin as the rain starts and days get shorter. Falling in love in little ways can still break a heart in little ways. To miss a place or a breath or a feeling as much as a person - and to keep going, without haste but without hesitation, to find the next place where the trail goes.