I got tunnel vision

First. I implore you all to listen to this song as you read this entry:

I am seeing Yukon Blonde next Friday night in celebration of my 31st year living amongst all of you lovers and lunatics, and in preparation, I’ve had this tune on mega replay.

I hope you enjoy.

Onwards!

Today I was meaning to venture back to Buntzen Lake (land of lost toenails and forgotten sandwiches), and run 24 kilometers. However, when I awoke this morning my heart was feeling a little heavy, and the sky outside was hanging so terribly low. Knowing that this malaise would not bode well for an incredibly long and tough training session on unfamiliar terrain, I thought instead to keep to a route I have completed many times prior.

There would be nothing wrong with saving the trails for another day.

When I set out to run the 19 kilometer loop from my house (I run to Edmonds Skytrain, across the Queensborough Bridge, down the Quay and home), the temperature read 3 degrees, and it was raining.

Everything about this was manageable. I love long runs in the rain, and like I wrote previously, I am trying to acclimatize myself to running in colder temperatures.

This would be good practice, and thus, I forwent a toque and gloves.

The first indication that I might have misjudged my need for these accoutrements, was about two kilometers into the route when it really started to rain.

I kept imagining the raindrops to be infinitesimal water balloons exploding on my face the moment they made contact with my skin. There were even a few times when I questioned whether or not I was actually crying, because I could feel so many of them sliding down from the corner of my eyes, along my cheeks, and into the crooks of my ears.

(They were also really, really cold.)

The iciness of the rain was augmented by the strong, driving wind. Depending on the direction I was running, it would whip up against my long sleeve shirt and press the soaked fabric hard against my skin. I kept cramming my thumbs into my fists in an attempt to mute some of the frosty sting that had settled into both digits.

Yet despite all of this (or perhaps even because of this), I actually had a run that was absolutely out of this world.

It didn’t matter that I got sprayed by semi trucks whilst running over the bridge, or that I had “Tunnel Vision” by Tokyo Police Club stuck in my head for the entirety of the run.

I felt fantastic. I felt like I was flying.

(Quick aside and question for all runners reading this: Do you ever get to a place where you sing the same four bars of music over and over again for the entire length of a run? It is a constant in my training life.)

Truly, the only slightly unfortunate thing about the entire experience was when I arrived home and I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror.

Suffice to say that I looked FUCKING CRAZY.

Before I left, I had parted my hair down the middle and then braided it down the length of my back, and tucked my (now grown out) bangs behind my ears. However, between the wind, rain, and general propulsion of my body for 19 kilometers, they had matted and tangled themselves into some sort of insane halo-birds nest mashed atop the crown of my head.

And folks?

This. This is not a good look.

Marc told me that he hadn’t wanted to say anything due to my elation at the success of the run.

“But yeah,” he said. “You looked totally nuts.”

In the end, I ran 19.3 km in approximately 1:20. I’m chalking this up to my first week of two-a-days, my insatiable craving for Ms. Vickie’s salt-and-vinegar chips, and Yukon Blonde.

Because, after all, it is Saturday night.

Water, water, everywhere

Folks.

Tonight I am concerned.

Mainly, my concern is such, that at the still relatively young age of thirty, I have become obsessed with how I spend my time in the shower.

And it’s not just that.

I’ve become obsessed with writing about it, and having other people read about these exploits.

This is strange.

I mean, it was only a few weeks ago that I was chronicling my new found love of baths, and now here I am, about to regale you with my new fangled method of showering.

Please bare with me.

(No pun intended.)

This past September I began going to the gym before work. I was having terrible problems with my Achilles and calf muscle in my left leg, and I was sure that running every morning was exacerbating the problem.

Turns out I was only partially right. The majority of my problems were coming from the fact that my anxiety issues were ramped up to eleven, and my body reacts terribly to stress. Anytime my life is shrouded by worry and unease, my system rebels and the first things to go are either my right knee or my left calf.

WHO KNEW?

Anyway, despite the fact that I had previously railed so valiantly against the gym, I gave in and bought a membership to the new Dynamic Fitness at the New Westminster Skytrain station.

I figured that I would go most mornings around 6:30am, work it like a madwoman for thirty minutes, and then shower and head to work.

And I was right! This plan has definitely worked a treat.

Most mornings I arrive between 6:30-6:45am, sprint on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes, move through a resistance circuit (mostly push-ups, squats, lunges, ab work, and pull-ups) and then bike as hard as I can for ten minutes to finish-up.

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Gym bagging it on my way to work.

On the weekends I do my long distance runs around the Lower Mainland, and once the afternoons begin to stay lighter for longer, I plan on again running after work.

(My dream is to start a regimen of two-a-days, where I work out in the morning and then run after work. I going to have to really channel my inner Sarah Connor to ever make that a reality.)

Anyways, back to mornings at the gym.

The thing that people fail to tell you about showering and changing at these spaces, is, when you’re operating on a similar schedule to mine, and giving yourself zero time to cool down post-bike, the very last thing you’ll ever want to do is step into a hot shower.

Because it will at best be uncomfortable, and at worst, leave you feeling as though you’re going to die in the excruciating depths of a fiery inferno.

And that really sucks.

So, what is an enterprising girl left to do?

The answer is, as I’ve now discovered, to take blindingly cold showers.

And this is awesome.

So much so that I have pretty much become addicted to them, and cannot even imagine taking a hot shower ever again (workout or no.)

There is something equal parts magical and terror-inducing stepping into the stall, anticipating that first hit of water, just knowing what is coming the second you place your head under the stream.

It’s like all of the air is simultaneously driven from your body and you’re left a sputtering and gasping mess, just trying to force breath in and out of your lungs.

For a person who spent a lot of time growing up imagining whether or not she would have survived the Russian Gulag, these showers give me some kind of weird assurance that maybe, just maybe, I could have hacked it in the Taiga. (Seriously though, this was a huge source of worry to me as both an adolescent and early adult. I mean, for one, I wear glasses. That surely would have signed my death warrant, would it have not? Second, I have never taken the time to properly memorize long poems penned by Pushkin and Gogel and every political prisoner memoire I ever read always detailed at length how important these works were to prisoner survival. How could I ever have made it through long periods of isolation? Obviously I would be hooped.)

Erm.

What was I talking about?

Oh yes.

Beginning my day with both a high-intensity workout and then a blisteringly cold shower has completely changed my outlook on mornings.

For the most part I have more energy, I eat better breakfasts, and I am more alert (especially when it comes to first-thing meetings.)

And I’m not just making this stuff up!

Cold showers are great for circulation, muscle and injury recovery, they (supposedly) aid in weight loss, and they definitely ease stress.

Plus, they make you feel like an epic badass!

This past Saturday I ran 30 kilometers, and despite this insane feat that did a crazy number on my body, I felt great enough to run both yesterday and today.

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Post 30km. FEELING IT.

And while I’m sure that my cold showers aren’t the sole reason behind my quick heal, I do have to give them some credit.

Because if I don’t, I know I’ll just keep writing about them.

And I don’t want this to be the material that you are forced to fall back on when you are shipped off to Baffin Island for forty years of hard labour.

You deserve a Pushkin poem for that.

And one that isn’t about baths.

Mine or otherwise.

Best Kept Secret Running Trails

While Vancouver is a city defined by its spectacular outdoor amenities, it’s often fun to seek out the beautiful spaces outside of the city’s limits.  Here are five of my favourite trails, perfect for a Saturday morning run.

Central Valley Greenway

My favourite section of the Greenway enters off of East Columbia Street in New Westminster. Framed by the beautiful Brunette River and a thick, lush forest, you would never guess that the trail neighbours Highway 1.

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Photo Credit: http://www.letsgobiking.net

The gravel path is easy on your knees, and the greenery is always astounding, no matter what the weather.

Green Timbers

Similar to Pacific Spirit Park, Green Timbers offers an amazing array of trails, many of which are nestled under the impressive expanse of a second growth, West Coast rain forest.

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Photo Credit: surrey.ca

From the entrance at 100 Avenue and 144 Street in Surrey, you’ll be dazzled by the park’s diversity of habitats, including marshland, lakes, and grassland meadows. The best part is you’re free to decide how far you want to run, whether 2 or 22 kilometers.

Delta Watershed

The Watershed is the perfect place for a solo trail run. Entrances are located off of 64 Avenue and Highway 10 and the intricate trail network, complete with hills and stairs, allows you to make your run as challenging as you’d like.

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Photo Credit: The Life of KND
Byrne Creek Trail

Enter the Byrne Creek Watershed at the Edmonds Street Skytrain and follow the trail all the way to Marine Way. It parallels the gentle wind of Byrne Creek and is canopied by forest and ferns.

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Photo Credit: The Life of KND

Part dirt, part gravel, the trail also includes stairs and bridges, giving it a uniquely rural feel.

Crescent Beach Trail

Lesser known than its White Rock counterpart, Crescent Beach offers amazing mountain and water views. Enter off Beecher Street, and follow the gravel path along the beach to Blackie Spit.

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Photo Credit: Author

See if you can spot any of the 200 species of bird who use this area as a yearly migration spot.

Have a secret trail you love to run? Share in the comments below!