Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Run for Life

I'm nearing the end of my first week of really focused training. So far, so good.

To keep myself motivated on my Tuesday run, I dug out the iPod and dusted off my old Vancouver Sun Run 2006 playlist.

About 7K in, I was flying along the eerily vacant and darkened Kits Beach trail. I was in the "zone" and running at a pretty good clip, with the lights of the city dancing on the water beside me - my breath forcing a frosty mist into the still night air. I could hear my feet pounding and my heart beating - sending steady vibrations through my chest.

I felt healthy and strong and powerful and invincible. If you're a runner then I know you know that feeling.

You feel so..... incredibly alive.

If you've lost someone who you loved, then I know you also know that gnawing, empty feeling that can sometimes grip your heart so hard that sometimes you feel like you can't even breathe.

When this song came on that night, the pain of losing my Mom was heightened so intensely for me that I thought I actually would stop breathing. But instead, I let it wash over me and I just let myself .... feel.

And I ran, and I ran, and I ran.

I ran until I felt I'd been hollowed out. Emptied.
... I ran until I felt emotionally drained of pain.

I hope that when you listen to this song, you can share in a small piece of that feeling. And I hope that someday, when you need it, you can feel its power and strength too...

I Run for Life - Melissa Etheridge
It's been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Everyday when she gets herself dressed

Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She'll tell you it makes her complete

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me, my friend
I run for life

It's a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken its toll
And they cut into my skin and they cut into my body
But they will never get a piece of my soul

And now I'm still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I'll tell you I run for us all

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

Monday, January 12, 2009

I hope the pool's heated...

Last week I had my first pool session - only 8 months to go until the Penticton Ironman ( and I was thinking the time is right to get my rear in gear. Probably the time was last August to have had my head checked when I signed up for the race in the first place, but its too late for that as they've already processed my Visa. Tis the New Year and the time for all things foolish to be packed into one's life.

So, the Pacific Triathlon Club - a certified group of insane people joined together with the ultimate goal of swimming 3.8K, biking 182K, and topping it off with a 42.2K marathon all in one day - has organized these swims. The schedule lists the location as the UBC (Outdoor) Pool, from 7 - 8 pm, every Monday evening and again first thing Saturday mornings.

Now the word (Outdoor) is a little intimidating. And I wonder about the (brackets). Perhaps the organizers thought if they put the word in (brackets) you might not notice that they were trying to whisper (Outdoor).

This might not be so daunting except that it's January and its Vancouver and we've experienced record snowfall and most of it is still piled up. And as I was to discover, most of it is still piled up around the UBC (Outdoor) Pool.

I packed my gear as per the instructions: "Bring parka and flip flops for walk on pool deck". Nice. Bad enough to be thinking about the actual swim, but they're thinking that the conditions are so awful that even accessing the activity requires its own protective gear.

I fleetingly wonder if I should bring my wetsuit. Two possibilities - I show up with a wetsuit in tow and am immediately scorned by the organizers wondering about my faith in them - did I really think that they would make us swim in an unheated pool? But if it is heated, I will be labelled immediately by my swim-mates as total wimp requiring a wetsuit. Or, I show up to an unheated pool without a wetsuit and be categorized as a rookie novice - obviously incapable of preparing properly for a training swim much less a whole race. I'm wishing now that the instructions read "UBC (Outdoor)(but heated)(don't worry about bringing a wetsuit) Pool".

I arrive on deck avec parka and flip flops. At least I presume I still have flip flops on as my feet are calf deep in snow and have lost their feeling many drifts ago. I join the huddle, 5 minutes late, during the part of the orientation session where they talk about the importance of being on time for the practices. I'm not sure if the instructor is looking directly at me as she mentions this - my eyes are partially averted to avoid the driving rain/snow.

There is steam rising from the pool. My Physics 11 background has taught me that this likely means the pool is heated. I am grateful of this and also to note that no one else is wearing a wetsuit. I am, however, ungrateful to note that many of the men are only wearing Speedos, but at least this is a somewhat elite group and most of the bodies have survived the Christmas season somewhat better than mine has.

Once the lecture on timlieness is finished and we are about to dive into the pool, the instructor throws out an offhand apology. Apparently the recent power outage has resulted in some heating problems and the water is 10 degrees colder than it should be. I would turn around and exit immediately but my hands have frozen to the metal handrails of the ladder.

The "steam" eventually thaws out my fingers, and we're off! Gasping and spluttering in the dark through the frigid waves, towards the light at the end of the 50m lane beckoning us like flies to a zapper. It crosses my mind that a zapper would be a welcome addition to the pool as at least it would provide some heat. I'm convinced by now that the instructor has played a mean trick - there's simply no way that an increase of only 10 degrees would make this water tolerable.

Apparently I spent too much time wondering whether or not I should bring a wetsuit - distracting me from the much more important items such as a bathing cap and goggles. Usually a bathing cap helps to keep my hair back and off of my face, however my hair has frozen, just like a cap, to the top of my scalp. I didn't think this was much of a problem until one of the instructors notices this and tosses me an extra cap from the edge of the pool. I'm thinking a life jacket with a tow line back to the ladder would be more helpful, but I'm not in a position to negotiate. As I raise my hand to catch the cap, I feel like Jack from the movie Titanic as he slides down into the dark, icy ocean...

It's a little known fact, but bathing caps are made from the same manufacturers that process Saran Wrap. The plastic sticks to itself and is nearly impossible to open, especially when wet. With the cap finally on and my hair nearly pulled from it's roots, at least I now look 10 years younger as it suctions the skin on my cheeks towards its shriveled peak.

Surprisingly, this thin film of plastic makes me feel a few degrees warmer! I remind myself to bring actual Saran Wrap to the pool next time to see how that might help the rest of me.

One of the first drills has us swimming using only one arm. The purpose of this is not immediately apparent and means that I keep veering to the left and skinning my tightly strung cheek on the tiles. I make the most of the opportunity, however, by clutching my limp arm to my abdomen to try and retain more heat for some of my favoured organs. I figure the instructors must be trying to prepare us for all sorts of possibilities including the offchance that I have an arm amputated between now and August, in which case I will still be able to compete in the race. You can never be too prepared.

Now, I usually never swim with goggles. It might have something to do with learning to swim in a lake as a kid rather than in a pool. In a lake you don't have to worry about chlorine stinging your eyes and thus don't need to wear goggles. You do have to worry about water snakes, but with googles on you have a better chance of seeing them, so you're still better with your eyes blurry like nature intended.

Not so in the UBC (Outdoor) Pool. Notwithstanding that I'm sure I don't really want the Speedo water snakes to come into focus, my eyes start stinging like I'm sitting downwind of a bonfire. A few more laps and I'm convinced that the reason the pool's so cold is so that your eyelids feel anaesthetized before they melt off completely in the chemical cocktail. Now, my Biology 11 background has taught me that the reason you chlorinate a pool is to kill the bacteria. There are no bacteria in this pool. There are no life forms in this pool. Anyway none that should survive Darwin's evolutionary theory if survival instinct is part of the criteria.

60 grueling minutes later, the swim is finally over. It's amazing how "time flies when you're halfway numb." We slowly creak, blue-lipped and frosty, over to our towels. Which are now frozen into folded rectangles like stale fig newtons. As I flip and flop over the pool deck and enter the Aquatic Centre a thought crosses my mind.

Why on earth aren't we booked into the UBC (Indoor) Pool?

Former Austrialian Prime Minister John Howard coming to Vancouver

I'm pretty excited to be hosting former Australian Prime Minister John Howard here on February 2 at the Four Seasons.

As always, hosting someone requires the right balance of protocol with enough humour to make things interesting. I'm thinking of using this opening line:

A friend of mine recently moved to Australia for work and had an interesting experience trying to enter the country. At the customs desk she was asked for all of the usual paperwork, including passport, visa, and travel documents. The clerk then asked her about her criminal record.

"Criminal record?" she asked. "I didn't think you still needed one to get in here!"

Hardy har har : )

I'm leading, where are my followers?!?

So I've been blogging for 10 minutes now and so far no one is "following" me. I take no personal offence to that... : )

Bailouts Gone Wild: Porn Chiefs Seek $5 Billion

I've been following the public clamour for bailouts with quite a bit of interest. I would prefer that the market (all of us as individuals) choose which companies succeed and don't by our willingness to buy products from the businesses that provide us the products and services that we want, instead of government bureacracies taking our tax money and divvying it out the way they see fit.

The line up of people with their hands out is becoming more and more bizarre. Now it's the porn industry! I don't have a particular problem with legal pornography (note: this is not an endorsement or a criticism), but I can tell you for sure that I don't think governments should subsidize it! Check it out:

Bailouts Gone Wild: Porn Chiefs Seek $5 Billion

Book of the Week Club - Me, Karl Rove, & George W. Bush

One of my New Year's "intentions" is to read a book a week.

You might be surprised where I got the inspiration from - I recently read an article by Karl Rove who said that he and George W. Bush have had a longstanding, friendly competition about who could read more books in a year. Initially they set a target to read one a week - both apparently surpassing this easily and in some years each finishing over a hundred.

Now I'm not anti Bush (nor am I heavily pro, she says, thinking it unusual there are even categories for a person - aren't pros and cons usually reserved for causes?) - but this little factoid surprised even me! Karl apparently is a more prolific reader, but acknowledged that Bush might have been busy what with running the country and all.
....or was he? Arguable some might say : )

Anyway - It's January 12th and I'm almost finished my first one - have to pick up the pace. Less Food Network and more reading time...
Okay, this is pretty funny. I've decided to get "with it" and create a blog. So I go into to create one and leahcostello already exists. Turns out it's me and I set this up nearly 7 years ago. I am such a slow adopter of technology!