a blog.

5 days 13 hours ago

It's never easy to change how you eat, but I think the easiest time for me is in that short window following New Years.

I mean, in the last couple years something has always derailed a good effort. To really make a shift, to change your health and the habits around how and when and what you eat, it takes months of rejigging everything. Cutting out snacks and sweets and seconds is something that is easy for a few days or a week, but a stretch of holiday treats, summer barbecues, birthday parties, or a global pandemic... any of it can throw off a plan.

It's that short window following New Years and two weeks back from a Disney vacation where we ate and walked and ate and rode and ate and ran and ate and sat by the pool in the Florida sun, where I bought an infinitely refillable soda cup and drank more Cherry Coke than I have in the past two years, and where dessert was a mandatory part of every, no every, meal, I think it is time to rejig.

As of yesterday I'm doing that thing where I follow that eating ruleset I always try to do. No seconds, no sweets, no sugar except on certain days, like weekends and special days. It worked for me once back about ten years ago now and I'm hoping if I can get in a groove I can get my health back in check for a summer of running.

It's not that I'm on a runaway eating train or anything, but a dozen bad habits spanned across over two years of working from home have accumulated in the wrong direction. I called it the COVID-15 once, and that might be more true now that back then.

No snacks while I'm sitting working.

No desserts every night.

Cutting out the seconds.

And putting all that holiday chocolate out of sight so it isn't so tempting.

I'm going to track this new eating habit switcheroo meticulously here for three months, ending at Easter in mid-April, and we'll see what the results are.

Here we go.

3 weeks ago

Sunday runday and on my solo five klick shakeout I paused beside path to watch a turtle the size of a football basking in Florida sunshine.

Also, it was nearly fifty degrees celsius warmer than the last time I ran oudoors a little more than a week ago. I haven’t been that sweaty from running five kilometers since the heat of last summer. I could have taken a dip beside that turtle and …

The runaway train of vacation planning never actually found a means of slamming on the brakes and the next thing I knew I was boarding an international flight to Orlando with my face wrapped tightly in a N95 surgical respirator and wondering, sometimes aloud, at the bounds of my own sanity.

Back in the summer, when all things virus had seemed to be packing its bags and getting ready to move out of the basement like all uninvited houseguest should eventually do, we registered in a series of Disney World Marathon run events.

Then we eagerly booked a vacation around that … and waited.

It all went great from there, right? Well … no. We watched anxiously as a viral variant named Omicron washed a new wave of panic all across the world. Triple-vaccinated and packing a smuggler’s haul worth of PPE, we warily tracked the news and tripped over ourselves justifying taking the trip versus the stupidly high costs of cancelling it and just wallowing in pity at ourselves from the safety of our frozen house. A dozen times we came a turtle’s breath away from calling the whole thing off, swallowing the thousands of dollars of lost travel spends, and buying a big bottle of bubbly for new years eve to forget the whole thing and …

And.

And yet, here we are.

And here I am on a Sunday morning, looking out at a resort swimming pool after a five klick shakeout run, sipping a six dollar cup of takeway coffee, having spent the last four days wandering through the densely packed, pandemic-oblivious theme parks of Disney World and giving myself blisters and aches and pains and overwhelming anxiety and exhaustion in the process.

There are a number of smooth and flat walking trails just out the front door of our hotel, winding around lagoons and restaurants and wire-suspended gondolas, leading into and around and between Epcot and a make-believe Star Wars lands. As thousands of racers congregate here over the next few days for races starting later this week, I saw dozens of fellow runners out on the boardwalks and asphalts. I even saw some of the race crew flagging locations for aid stations and mile markers and marshalling points.

We have a couple days to cool off. A few more days of park-hopping and pool lounging. We pick up our race packages mid-week and run before the weekend starts in earnest. I’m wondering how I’m going to tackle a half marathon I didn’t really train for, on which I’m banking on residual fitness and sheer determination, plodding along at a turtle’s pace to finish the thing on pure willpower.

This morning on my tour of the hotel trails, weaving around families walking towards the park gates, and as I trotted by wearing my 2014 Disney Half Marathon running shirt, one of the race setup workers looked up, pointed and snapped a photo of me from his phone. I smiled. It was probably the only time I’ve been out in public this week without a mask so it took a moment to remember how. I guess if you see a sweaty forty-something guy smirking akwardly on the runDisney socials this week … maybe it’s me?

Or maybe I should have posed with my new friend the turtle. I’d bet we have more in common these days than we realize.

1 month ago

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.

1 month 1 week ago

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.

2 months ago

Having run for well over a decade in the ever changing seasons of the Canadian prairies I have fought many battles with the hardened warrior otherwise known as winter trail conditions.

Ankle-deep fresh snow. Ice-slickened asphalt. Road slop like oatmeal or worse, dirty slush.

It is only November yet already the paths have become an assortment of challenging terrain …

… except that back in the late summer I bought a pair of trail shoes.

They haven’t been a perfect winter shoe, but they have made tackling the traction obstacles a formidable challenge rather than an impassible barrier. Unlike my summer sneakers or even previous winter runners I’ve owned, there is a remarkable surefooted stability to be found even in deep snow and icy patches on the sidewalks that I’ve struggled to find elsewhere. I’m sold, and even pullover spikes or other traction offerings that I’ve used over the years don’t seem to fall into a comparable classification as having tested my trail shoes through the abrupt arrival of winter weather this past week.

So I ordered a second pair yesterday.

Kinda. Sorta. Almost.

The summer version, which I own, is a light and responsive shoe meant for muddy paths and navigating narrow gravel trails.

The winter version, that second-ish pair now en route to my house, is a waterproof, insulated version of the same shoe but with grippier soles designed to take on those cold and epic winter conditions and a warmer approach to footwear.

Ice and snow will become far less of an excuse this winter.

I mean, I say that now… ask me again when it’s dark, icy, and minus forty degrees outside this January.