Knowing your boundaries – in running and life

Today I ran the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.

Today I won the Boundary Bay Half-Marathon.

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So that was a bit of a surprise!

I had originally signed-up for the marathon, but I quickly realized that giving myself two and a half months to train for 42.2 kilometers just wasn’t nearly enough time. I knew that if I was to attempt the full race, I would probably end up in a wheelchair for (at the very least) the first week post-event, what with my inability to not give it my all once the gun goes off.

So I emailed the race organizers and asked them if it was okay if I could switch.

And lucky for me, it was!

There’s something to be said for knowing your limits.

I had my last training run on Friday morning – just a simple, quick five kilometer pre-work zip about New Westminster’s boardwalk.

I have been having some difficulty with my right knee and left hip – gifts left over from a completely overzealous Thanksgiving weekend, where I ran forty kilometers over three days because everything in my brain was screaming at me that I was unstoppable – and this was giving me some trepidation.

Not to mention, that following this insane running weekend, I went to a concert where I danced my heart out in giant four inch heels.

While unbeknownst to me at the time, this one hundred per cent ensured that my legs were very, very overdone.

Luckily, I have a pretty good physiotherapist who, on Friday, stretched me out, and taped up my knee, so – whether psychosomatic or not – I didn’t have any problems on that front this morning.

On the hip front however – phew. That was a different story.

Everything was feeling so good, until approximately kilometer fifteen, and then I really started to feel the tightness.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning, and I will fill you in on all things hip-wise once we get to that point of the story.

Last night I had the best pre-race sleep of my life. I had a pretty full day, driving out to Tsawassen to pick up my race package, buying birthday gifts, and being bowled over with surprise presents from my ridiculous, handsome, brilliant and too-generous husband, so I was knackered by the time nine thirty rolled around.

After setting the coffee, and laying out my race gear, I crawled into bed and was asleep by ten.

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I woke to my alarm at six, and did all my superstitious morning-of puttering.

Washing my face.

Putting in my earrings.

Drinking my coffee.

Eating my banana.

It was all comforting and good.

I even had a chance to burn a CD for Marc and I to listen to as we drove out to Boundary Bay.

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My weather app had told me that the morning would be overcast and rainy, but the droplets were not to be found as we pulled into the provincial park’s parking lot.

The wind on the other hand – there was A LOT of that to be found.

I would soon learn, that the howling winds of the start line concourse were but a fraction of what we would encounter on the course.

While waiting in line at the port-o-potties, Marc ran into a work colleague, and we chatted a bit about racing and the day.

Then it was time to snap a few silly photos (including one with the Hamburglar and Grimace!) and take part in the group warm up. This is when all of the runners gather about and participate in aerobic exercises lead by exquisitely enthusiastic and warm volunteers.

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Before I knew it, I was taking one last photo with Marc’s dad and then lining up with all the other racers.

When the gun went off, I kept repeating to myself, “take it easy.”

I have a tendency to go out too fast, and I really didn’t want to burn myself out in the first ten kilometers.

Boundary Bay is a hauntingly beautiful stretch of beach and marshland. It is also an internationally recognized “Important Bird Area” as it is a critical rest stop for thousands of birds – including the Red Throated Loon and the Sooty Shearwater – using the Pacific Flyway migration route.

I saw three or four hard-core birders out today along the route, not to mention many, many groups of migrating birds and water fowl.

For the first ten kilometers I ran in the shadow of two older men, and one woman – all three of whom were running the full-marathon.

My legs were feeling so strong, that at kilometer nine I slowly started to make my move to overtake them.

When I got to the turn-around (all courses today were out and back) I was buoyed by all of the volunteers cheering me on, and shouting things like, “Yeah! First woman!”

I could immediately feel my strides lengthening and quickening.

Although I (mistakenly) thought this momentum would carry-on until the end of the race, it did last for at least the next six kilometers, seeing as though I ran past so many other runners who took a moment to cheer me on.

I even ran by my brilliant friend Katie who shouted, “VANESSA!?” which just left me with the biggest smile on my face.

The only thing tempering my joy was the brutal head winds we had to face all the way back to the finish line.

Being smack dab on the edge of the ocean leaves one incredibly vulnerable to the elements, and there were times that I felt as though I was running against a brick wall – especially as we climbed into the higher kilometers.

By eighteen clicks, I was feeling pretty tired and both of my hips were tight and sore.

All I kept telling myself was, “you love to do this. You love to do this.”

Because I do! I really, really love running. And as I repeated this mantra, my muscles would slightly unclench, and my legs would loosen.

As I rounded the last corner, with approximately five hundred meters left, I encountered my amazing parent’s in-law (my consummate cheerleaders!)

Eric eagerly let me know that I was the first woman, and Cheryl was just cheering her heart out.

As much as I wanted to show them how much their presence meant to me, I had no energy left to do anything but propel myself to the finish line.

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I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t break 1:30 but for a tremendously windy and cold course, I’ll take it. I mean, the first man finished in 1:18, which really speaks to the ferocity of the elements.

Plus I came first.

First!

How crazy is that?

For my efforts, I received a gold medal, a hug from Grimace, and a free pair of Sketchers.

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Which is totally worth some tight hips.

I mean, I’ll just dance the soreness away.

A tale to haunt your days and nights

Tomorrow is Halloween, and I am going to be dressed as Tinkerbell.

Seeing as though last year I was the girl from The Ring (demon-spawn Samara herself), I figured this year it would be nice to bring a touch of levity to the holiday.

My decision was also supported by the fact that I must fulfill both an obligation to dress up at the office, as well as attend a number of business meetings throughout the day (in an appropriate, non-Tinkerbell specific outfit.)

My costume lends itself to these disparate requirements tremendously well. You see, I get to wear one of my favourite work dresses (please see below), and with just the simple addition of some wings and a wand I will be fairy dust ready!

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Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

This year Marc and I aren’t doing anything specific to celebrate this spooky day.

October has been such a gongshow of a month (I recently calculated that there hasn’t been one post-work evening in which I haven’t had either a work or social function to attend), and I am running the Boundary Bay half-marathon on Sunday, so we both just want to stay inside and hand out candy to all the little masked munchkins running about the neighbourhood.

Yesterday night we carved our pumpkins, and sticking to true Marc and Vanessa fashion, here are the results:

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I don’t think I will ever be able to carve a non-happy pumpkin, and each year Marc’s just keep getting scarier and scarier.

Speaking of all things frightening, and to remain firmly entrenched in the spirit of Halloween, I would like to share with you a story that Marc made up this summer.

We were camping with a bunch of friends and we decided to all share spooky stories.

He came up with this doozy:

Once upon a time, there lived a poor farming family that lived in a small isolated hamlet. Their land fell within the boundaries of a large, and very rich duchy, but they rarely met with anyone in their day to day lives.

The wife bore a set of twins – a boy and a girl. The boy was born blue eyed and fair haired, while the girl had olive skin and hair as black as a raven’s wings.

They came together into the world, one right after the next. He first, and she right behind him, clutching his ankle tightly in her newborn fist.

They named him Day, and her Night.

Each day following, the two were inseparable. Time spent roaming the vast expanse of the farm, and the nearby forest was filled with laughter and mirth.

But when the sun settled, and a deep darkness spread over the land, Night would bid goodbye to her brother, and climb out of their bedroom window, into the black.

Every time she’d leave, she’d remind him to keep the window open and unlocked, so that she could return.

Every night, Day would watch her slink out beyond the frame, ensure the latch remained undone, and then crawl back into his bed.

He would wake to the sound of a soft tap at the window, and he would get up and open the window and help her back into the room.

One day, the two were out in the orchard picking apples, when they heard the heavy clomps from the hooves of a fast approaching horse.

Night ran out from the shade of the tree to see who it was, while Day scrambled to keep up.

It was the Duke, riding one of his hunting steeds, with a party of other noblemen.

Startled by the small child, his horse reared, and struck Night in the head.

“Dirty peasants!” shouted the Duke, as he continued on his way.

Day ran to his sister, who lay so still and pale on the ground. Besides a small trickle of blood that ran from her temple to her eye, it looked just as though she was asleep.

He and her parents buried her the following afternoon.

That night, as Day struggled to fall asleep, he heard a soft taping at the window.

Convinced he was hearing things, he ignored the sound and eventually fell asleep.

The next night he once again heard the noise, only this time it was louder. Still convinced he was making it up, he put his pillow over his head and tried again to fall asleep. Eventually, he fell into a restless slumber.

On the third night the sound was no longer a tap, but an urgent knock.

Day could no longer pretend it was inside of his head.

He slowly got out of bed and walked towards the window. The pane rattled slightly with each thump.

He quickly reached out and undid the latch. The window swung open, and the cool night air rushed into the bedroom.

Cool night air, and nothing else.

Day paused a moment, before making his way back to his bed.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

As he did, he felt a small hand wrap its fingers around his ankle.

And in the morning, when his parents came to wake him, he was gone.

THE END!

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tale.

Happy Halloween you boils and ghouls.

Lock up those windows tight.

A little ditty, sitting pretty

I am beginning to think that we will henceforth refer to time as “BTR” and “ATR” (Before the Rain/After the Rain), what with how hard it has been storming for the past few days.

There really is something to be said for a warm, dry autumn season.

I am looking at retiring to Portugal ASAP.

In the interim, here is a story:

There once was a girl who absolutely adored her to-do lists.

She made them each and every day.

At her job and at her home; for her work and for her play.

There wasn’t anything that she did – be it cleaning, writing, running, or shopping –  that she didn’t enjoy ten-times more when it was written down in pen, and then crossed out with that same pen after it was complete.

Sometimes on a Friday night, her and her Swiss-Indian life-mate would sit down and think of all the magical and mayhem-inspired things they wanted to achieve over the next few days.

Their excited and over-confident scribbling often took the shape of something like this:

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Nothing was ever left off of the list. Even if they thought the task too daunting – it was added along with the rest of the items, and treated with the same respect as any old regular, mundane activity.

One weekend, it just so happened to be that both the girl and her Swiss-Indian life-mate managed to accomplish the majority of things on their to-do list, despite the fact that it was very long, and very involved.

They did crazy things like jack up the floor joists under the extension of their one hundred and seven year old house, and bake two dozen pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and four dozen Halloween sugar cookies.

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(The girl did concede, however, that she desperately needed to purchase some new cookie cutters, as dogs and hands – HANDS! – don’t make for the best scary pastry cut-outs.)

She ran 14 kilometers on Saturday and 7.5 kilometers on Sunday, and he mowed the lawn (front and back!) and together they cleaned out their fridge and tidied the house (which included four loads of laundry, folded and put away.)

It was an incredibly productive time – and one that also included an inordinate amount of laughter and friendly ribbing.

Because according to both of these characters, there really is nothing like spending a couple of hours scuttling about the underside of a house to bring a couple together.

The girl felt so happy to have been able to spend this time with her Swiss-Indian life-mate.

Especially on a late-afternoon Sunday walk, in the beautiful soul-warming sun.

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(ATR, as it were.)

You want fries with that?

Sometimes when I am riding skytrain into work, and I am feeling particularly Dostoevskian, I am apt to conclude that life is just one ceaseless and ever-growing French fry craving.

This is grim.

(And McDostoevskian.)

But it is also completely symptomatic of what it’s like to be navigating the throes of my personal, and very inconsistent existential life crisis.

One day I’m just fine.

And the next, I’m expecting Inspector Porfiry Petrovich to board the train at Joyce-Collingwood and arrest me in front of all the other semi-dazed travellers, proclaiming me to be a student and murderer in equal succession.

(I think some people just call this melodramatic malaise “being in their late twenties.”)

Plus my arrest would probably be for fare evasion.

Or maybe, anti-social behaviour.

I’m no ax-murderer.

To combat this insanity (inanity?) I have been listening to a lot of ridiculously fantastic music.

I know I just wrote a post about movies that highlighted a few of the different films that have impacted my life, but I’ve really been thinking quite a bit of late about all the things that up until this point, have made me, well, “me.”

During the summer between first and second year of my undergrad, I lived in Halifax and hung out quite a bit with a fabulous lass named Kathleen.

Kathleen had a touch of the nihilism in her (as are wont all twenty year-old self-styled academics), but she was also greatly distressed by the thought of all of the books she would never read, all of the movies she would never watch, and all of the songs that she would forget about and never hear again.

So in an effort to ensure she would remember as many of these things as possible, she would carry about a small notebook and write the names of anything and everything artistic that she would encounter throughout her daily meanderings.

Her scribblings were to her, a sort of literary, musical, and cinematic catch-all.

Of late, I too have begun to employ this system.

For the past few months, I haven’t been able to leave the house without the small pink notebook that is now chock-a-block of semi-flushed out blog post ideas, daily to-do lists, and half-cocked philosophical musings.

I just hope that nobody murders me and this is the first thing that CTV finds on my rapidly cooling body.

Nobody wants to be remembered by their inability to remember to purchase both dish detergent AND QTips.

(Why can’t I remember QTips!?)

But it’s also been super helpful.

Because sometimes inspiration strikes, or you hear a tune so brilliant that it’s everything you can do not to bust a move right then and there in front of Save-on-Food’s overpriced and under-stocked egg selection, or you see a character so desperate and strange that you can only assume that they fell out of a wormhole connecting our universe with whatever bizarro world exists out past the recesses of our equally wacky solar system.

You know.

The usual.

But to get back to the music of which I earlier wrote – there is so much stuff that I wish to share with you all.

The first being my latest obsession: Jungle.

A modern soul collective based out of London, UK, they are so absolutely groovetastic it boggles the mind.

I’ve been listening to their songs on continuous repeat for the past two days.

Check them out:

They are coming to Vancouver on October 14th and I cannot wait to get my epic dance on. For this night (and never this night only) I will be the dancing queen.

Young and sweet.

Next, another British band of whom I am completely enamoured: Bastille.

Every so often I like a band so much that I will break my “no music EVER whilst training” oath, and stick in ye olde earbuds as I tie up my running shoes.

I have broken this pledge many times over the past month because of this band.

Every song of their feels as though they are speaking directly to me, and by speak, I mean mailing an emotionally resonant and personally impactful treatise express-post straight into my soul.

They are SO GOOD.

Finally, new Spoon.

(For those neophytes out there, the band is just called “Spoon” not “new Spoon.” They just have released their latest EP.)

And for lack of a more poetic descriptor, it is bloody fantastic.

I don’t think this band is even capable of releasing a crap album, because everything they release is delicious.

And inspired.

So there you are.

For all of you who are also currently conquering your own existential demons (or at least riding out the “what does it all mean!?” wave), I suggest you put on your dancing shoes and break it down.

One French fry craving at a time.