Running into Spring

Sunday Runday, the first day of spring, and yet when we stepped out into the last few hours of winter air this morning it was blowing and cold as if winter was reminding us that we all lived on the Canadian prairies and we don’t get to simply up and decide that the chill has left for another year.

It had been nice all week.

Well… nice enough that warm hats became optional and the concrete of the sidewalks made a strong appearance as the layers of ice finally melted into chilly, slushy puddles that slowly drained into the storm sewers.

We’d gone for an eight klick run through a local ravine on Tuesday evening and returned with wet, blistered feet from sloshing through sloppy, water-logged melt still covering the aspalt trails.

This morning, avoiding the wind, we tucked into some suburban walking paths that wend their way along the back fences of a couple neighbourhoods that back onto the thawing creek. Where we’d been snowshoeing just a weekend ago was now a briskly flowing waterway the colour of milk chocolate twisting between the naked trees.

As we burst from the cover of the shelter paths and out onto the streets the wind was just starting to pick up speed and carried with it the hint of more snow.

And as we rounded the last corner towards the parking lot the hint of snow had turned into a very real peppering of icy sleet blasting our bare cheeks for the final push towards our coffee social.

It didn’t go unremarked that annually April is when our training proper usually begins. Longer distances. Hill repeats. Tempo runs. These start to populate our calendars as the snow melts and the sidewalks clear and the evenings offer a bit more daylight.

It didn’t go unremarked that April is only just about a week and a few days away.

I signed up for a short race in April in a nearby bedroom community after a friend suggested she’d like some company for a ten-miler and the first in-person she’ll have run in about three years. It wont be my first even this year, but somehow it feels like starting to be back to normal.

Back to the office in April. Back to local racing in April. Back to hill repeats in April.

Let’s just hope spring cooperates.

Interesting Places

Depending on how the rest of my holiday-countdown week shapes up, how the holiday break happens (or not), and a couple of pandemic-related decisions that have yet to be made get sorted, going out on the winter trails last night for a six klick run in the falling snow may have marked my last run with the crew of this year.

Describe your 2021 in terms of fitness, health, mind and body.

In fact just about a week ago a new bridge opened up crossing the mighty North Saskatchewan river.

About five years ago the old and well-loved foot bridge at the same location was closed (amidst protest) as construction of a new leg of our rapid rail transit system was officially started. The Tawatinâ Bridge which opened last week now stands in its place and is an LRT rail bridge with a wide pedestrian foot bridge suspended below it. The view from that footbridge is of the city, the river, and a huge collection of indigenous art embedded into the concrete.

We parked near that bridge last night even as the snow started to fall and then we ran a loop through the river valley trails near downtown, a run that concluded with crossing the bridge (on foot) for the first time.

It was dark, snowy, and the bridge was spectacularly lit and illuminated brilliantly even by the frozen precipitation all around and in the air.

If it was my last crew run of 2021, it was a fitting one.

We call it another year of lockdowns and uncertainty, but to be sure for much of the world it marks the first full calendar year, January through December, of what is turned out to be the embodiment of that famous curse “may you live in interesting times.”

Who knew interesting times would be so repetitive and boring.

Admittedly in the last two years I’ve lost a measurable amount of my fitness.

I entered 2020 with the plan of training for and running the Chicago marathon, while two years later (not having ever stepped a single foot in Chicago after all) I plod out ten klick runs on the regular, but can’t barely conceive of training for a full marathon distance lately.

Running has kept me healthy though… mentally, physically and soulfully.

That likely has as much to do with a core group of six or seven people as anything involving sneakers or trails.

That said, a run like the one we did last night would have been an unusual adventure two years ago. Meeting somewhere other than the running store. Meeting at a time off the regular schedule. Running a course that was as much exploration and discovery as it was an exercise in fitness and training.

The pandemic, in blocking off the regular pattern of things, has disrupted so much in negative ways, but in adapting to those disruptions it has created interesting changes.

May you run in interesting places isn’t so much a curse as it is a cure for the mind and body.

And we certainly spent 2021 running through interesting places.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Pathfinding & Found Paths

Sunday Runday and we should have known better than to go onto the icy trails after an overnight snowfall less than a week after an ice storm.

But the sun was peeking over the eastern horizon and lighting up the December sky in all sorts of pretty colours, so the ice seemed like a temporary problem which could easily enough be solved by four guys in winter running shoes.

Compared to this time
last year are you
more lost or found?

It wasn’t a temporary problem, of course.

And no amount of winter grip can make up for ten kilometers of hidden ice under two centimeters of fresh, light snow.

No amount of dodging into the neighbourhood streets and hoping for better traction on the suburban car-packed roads made much of difference.

No amount of pathfinding through the crunchy, fresh snow counteracted the frustration of pulled muscles and near falls and aching hip flexors.

Like so much this year, running has become something of a microcosm of my life and an analogy for everything else. A determined effort to engage with the world that has been met with all manner of resistance no matter my level of persistence. This week it happened to be icy sidewalks, but two weeks ago it was heel pain. A few months ago we were battling wasps. Over the summer I tripped and hurt my shoulder as I collided full force with the trunk of a fir tree.

Yet, we keep going and trying to make it fun.

Likewise, this whole year has been something of an exercise in navigating.

The pandemic. Probably enough said about that, but then again…

Work changes have taxed my frustated mind.

Friends and family seem complicated by twisted politics and nearly fully electronic relationships.

Weather. Supply chains. Misinformation.

Rules. Regulations.

Waves and lockdowns and everything else.

It’s hard to even recall that two years ago I was feeling quite solidly purposeful in my own way. Things felt found. Things were on course and on track.

At the start of this year, though, I think that like so many others I was feeling not just a little lost, but caught in a maze of a world gone mad. We cheered the end of 2020 as if it somehow marked the end of the worst of it. Yet, here we approach 2021 and I’m not clear on if I’m still lost, somewhat found, or just resigned to the newish reality in which we exist now.

The last year has been a little like running on ice. Uncertain underfoot and apt to cause a slip unless one watches every step carefully. At the end one feels a bit accomplished, a bit sore, but a bit foolish for venturing out looking for a running path where none should rightly exist.

On the other hand, the only other option is to stay home and wallow in the lack of action.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing to go pathfinding after all, through snow and ice… or through a crazy, slippery year.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

We Interrupt this Training Plan for …

Sunday Runday, and I woke up to a skiff of fresh overnight snow and a minus twenty world out my front door.

Yeah, you read that right: -20C. (Not even mentioning the “feels like” -33C wind chill estimate that accompanied the forecast on my weather app.)

As I was eating my breakfast, one of my running partners (who is a government meteorologist) texted me at 7am with the (I assume) professional advice of “stay warm, I will not be out this morning…”

And then I did the thing I’ve done too often this past year and a half…

What do you wish you’d done
less of this past year?

… I tried to get out of my run.

Sure, it was the coldest day of the season to-date, and sure, I’ve been feeling a little lazy since slowly nursing a sore heel back to health.

But the last twenty-one months has been full of countless excuses to curl up in a ball on the couch and ignore the realities of life, the universe and everything. Who hasn’t wanted to do exactly that? Sometimes multiple times per day.

This morning as I looked at the outside temperature, as stuck my barefoot out the back door, as I let the dog out at quarter past six in the biting cold, I immediately started thinking of additional excuses to stay home in my pajamas and curl up on the couch with a coffee and Netflix … y’know, instead of doing a training run.

I didn’t stay home.

I wanted to bail.

But the text message thread the followed left me feeling guilty that one of my other partners had already left his house and was en route to our meeting place. I complied. I layered up in my warmest gear, dug a fuzzy buff and an extra pair of wooly mittens from the cupboard, and made my way in my truck (switching on the 4×4 for the treacherous roads) over to the nearby parking lot from where we usually leave. Nine klicks later of slogging through the cold and snow and wind. The sun was barely cracking the horizon and as it lifted over the frosty treeline just to the side of the path a beautiful winter sunrise cracked a bit of the cold and offered a hint of apricity against the brutal, biting freeze. A cold run. A run at the limit of my cold threshold. Weather that literally hurts. We ran for nearly an hour with frost clinging to our lashes and ice crusting on the brims of our toques.

I wanted to bail, bail like I’ve done a few too many times this past span of time, but this time I did not. I ran. I froze. I kept running. And ultimately I returned to the warmth of a hot cup of coffee and some good conversation. But I wanted to bail nonetheless.

In 2021 I wish I’d done a little less of that wanting to skip the things that used to be the highlights of my everydays, runs, and adventuring, and getting out and about. I know there have been great excuses, often even mandates and strict rules enforcing those same reasons, but I wish I’d had less opportunity to slip into whatever pattern it has created for me and left me thinking first of a reason not to do something than the former excitement that launched me off that couch and into the world.

I don’t know for sure how to do that less, but I think it’s worth aspiring to.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.