Boston or Bust

Like a hitchhiker holding a sign, “Boston or Bust,” I’m focused on my destination. Twenty-two days to go until I’m standing in coral 6 of wave 3, at the start of the Boston Marathon. Training’s on schedule (after a slight hip glitch), but my stamina waffles from superhero: able to outrun a sub-3-hour marathoner, to an old lady: running gingerly hoping not to hurt myself.

Today’s run is solid. I finish a strong 32.5 kms. Drenched and stiff, I walk the last .5 km and make it home with enough energy to do another 10.2 kms.

I am at the point where my mind and body are syncing into a state of strength and invincibility, which is the best part of marathon training. But I had to go through the 3 stages of training.

The 3 Stages of Marathon Training

First Stage: full of excitement and possibility. Second Stage: distances longer but doable, and still feel cocky. Third Stage: I hate running and I swear I will never train for a marathon again (this is the 8th time I’ve said that).

The hate comes during the first long run of 29 kms that drains my body energy to the point that post-run my mind is fuzzy and when I sit on the couch, I feel as if I may never get up. But this strange activity of running (for a ridiculously long distance) is a life focusing experience. Time changes in the middle of a long run. If time could stop, I would say it’s when I know I’m moving but I seem to forget for how long – I only know that my legs are carrying me forward. That’s all that exists.

After today’s 32.5 km run, I get home, and make oatmeal topped with blueberries, cranberries and brown sugar. Suddenly desperate for nourishment, I shovel oatmeal into my mouth like a fiend. It tastes like the best food I have ever eaten.

Maybe that’s why I keep running – for the oatmeal.

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Running In a Fog, I found My Glutes


It’s quiet.

I’m alone except for all that lurks in the fog.

A blue heron stands on a rock staring into the fog.

A murder of crows sits along the seawall waiting to pounce on the black mussels on the beach below.

For a moment, I feel sorry for myself (no crying allowed), but then I remember what I’m doing – training for the Boston Marathon. I shake my wrists, turn up Jack Johnson’s, “Shot Reverse Shot”, and keep moving.

A horn sounds.

The outline of a freighter makes its way under the Lions Gate Bridge. Its ghostly form sends out another moan to tell me that it exists. I stop for a moment and watch it float by… when through the fog comes doubt – about my ability, stamina, and perseverance. The nothingness surrounding me is making me think too much. A group of water droplets suspended in air won’t stop me.

Pain in the Hip

Now the day is clear, and I’m rejuvenated (after my fog pep talk) to tackle my 19 km training run. With an effortless cockiness, I pick up my pace, and feel as if I could run forever. Then I feel a pain in my left hip.

I barely finish at 18.34 km and try not to limp home. Upset and depressed, I search “outer hip pain” and find the iliac crest. “Ow.”

I go to my Runners’ World magazine and yoga book. Cause of pain: overuse of and weak gluteus maximus muscles. I look for every stretch and strength exercise I can find.

Obsessed with my glutes, I begin:

  • pigeon pose
  • tailor pose
  • hip hike
  • the clam
  • toy soldier
  • hip lift

I am getting my butt into shape.

Thinking About Glutes

After taking a few days off, I’m out for a short run and not only is the fog back, but there is black ice. Aaaah! I take small, mincing steps and go slowly. Since again, no one is around, I start reciting my mantra: “glutes, glutes, glutes.”

My new best friends, the glutes, are taking me to Boston.

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Jamaica: Bare Feet and Butterflies

Falling TableTilting tables on a field of crab grass dot the landscape. Orange and yellow butterflies flap around our ankles. A walking path lined with palms shades us from the blazing sun. Six buildings make up the condo complex with deteriorating roofs and rusting balcony railings.

Blog 2A blue staircase leads down to the half kilometre stretch of beach. Black sea grass frames the shoreline. But before reaching the beach, one must cross what used to be the main highway along the coast of the Jamaica. Today, the road is deserted, not a car in sight.

Fifteen minutes east of Montego Bay – home for the last three weeks.

Traveling to a new place means…

interesting people.

Hansel2We meet Hansel on the beach cleaning the sea grass and raking the sand. He offers us some bread fruit. He makes a fire and roasts the round hard shelled fruit until it is black. After peeling it, he gives it to the cook in the restaurant to fry it. We bite the golden brown crispy crust with the soft centre.

The next day he gives us a bread fruit. We try to grill it on the stove, but end up steaming it until soft and then frying it. Learning about bread fruit – preparing and eating – that’s what makes travel inspiring. It satisfies my need to learn new things about the world.

Traveling motivates me…

UrchinsI take an early morning run along the beach. Hard sand makes a perfect running surface. The Caribbean Sea swishes beside me – I look for sea urchin shells, and notice tiny white crabs skittering towards sand holes.

Blog 4What is it about being in a different setting? New people, new food, new thoughts. Looking at the world through a new light. A light that changes the colour of my skin.  A tropical hue of light that glues images onto my brain to be recalled on rainy, grey days in Vancouver. I see and feel the colours – the sky and sea seem bluer, the palm trees greener, the bougainvilleas pinker – colours make me smile.

And I see my bare feet for weeks. Bare feet equal a simple life. Maybe that’s what draws me to hot climates – the simplicity that takes over my way of thinking, of living. Walking barefoot through the grass, trying not to step on the friendly butterflies, I am connected to nature,


to the fact that I really should paint my toe nails.

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Haphazard Yoga

As the organized bohemian, I try to balance my structured side with nonchalance. But my approach to learning yoga has skewed my philosophy.

My organized self says: “take a class” while the bohemian in me says: “read a book and DIY.” Since I had done a form of stretching for years, I wanted it to morph naturally into yoga. I thought if I read a book on the subject, I’d become a ‘yogi’ by the time I finished the first page.

But when I’d open a book, I was bombarded with historical information on the Indian roots of yoga and images of instructors doing poses, plus an explanation of the pose (including the breathing techniques). I was easily confused. I’d try a pose – feeling awkward and feeble (the pictures made it look easy) – I’d quickly move on to the next pose. The books never said that patience was a key ingredient to practicing yoga!

I was discouraged and bored. I needed a class. Seeing myself wearing Lululemon pants (hopefully not the see-through kind) with a green yoga mat slung over my shoulder, I was hip. Yet the thought of a crowded class made me claustrophobic, intimidated and competitive. I knew I would start comparing myself to others in the class. I tended to agree with Sartre, “Hell is Other People.” I’d do better on my own.

Pondering Yoga in Pondicherry, India

In 2006, while in Pondicherry, India, I found a book called “Yoga, A Step-by-Step Guide” by Annie Jones. I scanned through its pages and came to the ‘sun sequence’ (Surya Namaskar). The postures looked doable and the sun was shining – it seemed like a good time to try.


View of Bay of Bengal from Park Guest House

Staying at the Park Guest House, I went out to the grass in front of our room, overlooking the Bay of Bengal, and began an awkward, self-conscious attempt at Surya Namaskar.

Without much finesse, I completed the sequence. Looking around me, I imagined Lord Shiva (originator of yoga) appearing before me, saying: “Leave India, you fake!”

Since Shiva never appeared, I watched the woman beside me.

She seemed to be lost in a trance, standing on one leg with the other leg bent behind her head and held by her hands – she was balanced in a precarious position, but in complete control. Her face looked serene. She understood the secret that yoga held.

I was in awe of her. I wanted to be her.

Seven Years Later

I still haven’t taken a class, but for the last year I have been doing my own personal yoga routine every morning before I start my day. I stopped putting pressure on myself to know everything about yoga. Instead, I now combine it with running stretches to create a sequence that works for me.

And when I get too serious about yoga, I recite my short saying:

The half moon watched over the monkey and cobra sitting by a swaying palm tree, when a warrior, riding on a camel, came along carrying a magical star fish.

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Don’t be a “Lance”

bicycle_racerA bicycle: an elegant vehicle – thin, sleek, and fast, but not meant to have an arm or leg stuck in a spoke – especially mine.

This is my statement to cyclists everywhere – don’t be a “Lance” – an arrogant, dismissive d-bag who believes he/she has the right of way in every situation.

The “Lance” era is dead. The Great Lance no longer races his mighty bike. His true self has been exposed to the world – win by any means necessary. But he created a loyal following who believed in his philosophy and reinterpreted it as ride as if you own the road (or sidewalk), don’t communicate with pedestrians or vehicles, and when challenged by anyone, ‘give attitude’ or ‘the finger’.

The “Lance” Followers: Gentlemen in Tight Racing Outfits

The tragedy of baby boomers – skintight racing shorts and shirts.

To the older gentleman speeding along Park Drive in Stanley Park – you are not in the Tour de France and you will never ride in it. And fix your brakes or just use them for once.

“Don’t even think about it,” he says as he zooms past me.

“Oh, I wouldn’t even think of stepping on the road, because I know it’s against your nature to slow down or stop, which would mean someone, besides yourself, exists in the world. Yes sir, I know you see yourself about to win that ‘yellow jersey‘ but just ring a bell, or communicate without the attitude, ok?”

Running home, I formulate that speech in my mind.

But the next time I am disregarded while trying to cross a street, or trying to walk casually on a sidewalk, I will yell out:

“Don’t be a Lance!”

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When will the Novel be Finished?

Missing the deadline to complete the second draft of my novel, I am disappointed in myself. But by exposing my failure to the world (or to the readers of this blog), I am hoping to shame myself into finishing.

It’s not working.

The first draft was decent, but editing reveals its flaws. Now I hate the premise and I’m feeling nauseous about the possibility of not finishing.

I take a break and go for a walk. As I make my way along Helmcken Street, I see these words etched on a clay tile:

“delete, reset, defrag, the mind recoils”

I jot the words down in my notebook and make my way back home to my computer.

My brain is reset, and yes, I will finish it.

But a new issue arises: will the novel be worth reading? Will anyone invest the time to read it?

I distract myself again.

Enjoying the process of writing without torturing myself is another goal that I am trying to achieve. I come back to the running analogy. As running can be painful, boring and relentless, so can writing (but with less sweat dripping in my eyes). Wishing it would end, but so happy to have done it.

And yet, it becomes the best kind of challenge imaginable. Overcoming a challenge is rewarding, but a book in my hand is even better.

I am motivated.

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A Cat Sitting on a Tiled Roof

cat-on-roofI find an old postcard (dated 2-11-82) in my box of writing notebooks, and I am on a ferry ride from Naples to the Island of Ischia, Italy. It is a sunny day and the Tyrrhenian Sea is calm.

Ischia, Italy

Black sand. Small tent. Dark clouds. Rain.

Cathy and I pitched our tent on the beach, clouds formed and it poured trapping us in our tent for the night. We drank wine and played cards.

That’s all I remember of Ischia.

This piece of card stock has become an anchor point for my past. Most days are lost – no record remains, but these few days are forever embedded in my mind.

I guess that is why I keep the postcard.

Adding a New Perspective to Life with Travel

The cat seems satisfied sitting on the roof. Looking at the same view, forever. If I could be satisfied with one view of life, then my quest for adventure would be over. Traveling gives me a new perspective on my life and the rest of the world.

Is it a sad image or thoughtful? It makes me think about travel and loneliness. The loneliness of travel when you are away from family for the first time, as this trip was.

The postcard was from Robin, a guy I met on the ferry. I’ve never seen or heard from him since – he was searching for a place to call ‘home’. After leaving Iran, he was constantly on the road. I think of him when I don’t feel settled.

Traveling Encounters

Traveling is a lonely endeavour at times. Meeting people for a brief encounter and then never seeing them again, but they leave an impression on your life forever, and they may send you a postcard.

Coming Home and Appreciating It

Home is a comforting concept. Feeling like you belong somewhere. Wandering too long without a home base can make you tough, and calloused. But knowing you have a home to go to makes you feel free.

I love traveling, but I need to know that I belong somewhere.

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