Run Stronger, Not Farther

running_shoesIt’s time for a new running challenge – the half marathon – 21 kilometres seems like a breeze compared to a full marathon. By running 8 marathons, I’ve also run 8 halves. Knowing that the first half is easier than the second – I shouldn’t have a problem. But I still need to train as if I’ve never run a marathon, and try not to be glib about the new distance.

Psyching Myself Up After Achieving a Big Goal

The first race after Boston – feeling burnt out having put all my energy into accomplishing that feat – I needed to set new goals. For the longest time I felt as if the half was a cop out – that I was too lazy to train for the full, but now I realize that it is a strength challenge – can I finish looking as if I had run a casual 5 k?

To find my pace is the key. Not to start too fast, but to build to a strong finish is always the best strategy. I have to set my mind to understanding the distance.

The goal: run with good form, less pressure and more fun.

A week to go before the Race…

In full training mode – no wine and more sleep. It is the training mindset that gets me out the door on the mornings that I really don’t feel like it.

If I had any glibness, it is gone. I am feeling the heaviness of the kilometres.

My mind is hindering me more than my body. It hasn’t been cooperating – it keeps asking me – “why do you need to keep pushing yourself?” And the answer is “because not pushing myself would be boring.”

Yes, I’d love a glass of red wine and an extra scoop of ice cream, but I can wait until next Sunday (I will appreciate it so much more after the run). Training for a race gives me a sense of strength and discipline that is necessary for my competitive nature to thrive.

I am growing more fond of the number 21 – it is doable without too much pain.

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Run Through Othello-Quintette Tunnels

othello_7The five dark forboding Othello Tunnels (named after Shakespeare’s character) in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, British Columbia wait upon me to pass through. Actually, run through.

It is a quiet Sunday in June. No one around. Hot sun on my head. Running along the winding trail through trees – I curve left and then right where the sound of a rushing river and birds calling are the only sounds. And just ahead is the tall, dark entrance to the first of the five railway tunnels. Having walked through the previous day with my partner and little girl, I know what to expect, but now that I am alone it feels more intimidating. I am not fond of dark tunnels or caves so this is a challenge.

othello_5I pause slightly checking if my flashlight works and then  – go for it. The light in the blackness adds nothing to my vision. Now I point the light at my shoes and I can see a few feet in front of me.

It’s cold. I keep moving watching my feet guided by the dim light. It seems longer than the day before. I can see the exit but I am in the middle of nowhere in the dark. I start to yell.

“Whoooo, whoooo, oh yeah, yeah, yeah!”

I am moving faster along the uneven graveled surface. I yell louder and breath faster. Time has slowed down, but I feel like I am running very fast and getting nowhere.

Finally, I am outside surrounded by canyon rock walls, othello_6with the rushing Coquihalla River gorge below me.

The hot sun feels comforting and I am relieved that I persevered. But should I continue? If I don’t, I will have to go back through – too soon. othello_2I continue through the next tunnel, which is shorter and I am slightly braver. Done. I can run easily along the wooden bridged othello_4trellis with ease until I reach tunnel 3. Exhausted (even though I haven’t run very far), I give myself a pep talk: “no one is around, don’t let your imagination get to you!”

I keep going. Focusing on my feet, I reach the end and another wooden walkway. Determined, I go through 4 and finally tunnel 5. Challenge completed, but I still have to go back the way I came. I could continue running to the town of Hope (5 kms), and take a taxi back to the campground (highly improbable).

I turn around and stare down the darkness from whence I came. Feeling less panicked I sprint back through the four tunnels until I reach the first – the longest.

othello_1Plunging into the abyss again, my light catches the dripping water, but in my mind the water is transformed into blood, and any minute a vampire will jump out at me.  I run faster. The dripping continues. My heart is pounding heavily in my chest and I start singing: “jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…” Louder and louder until I am out and in the sunshine.

The longest (short) run I have ever done.

Never again.

 

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A Novel Looking for a Purpose

growing_iris_on_shelf

Novel sits alone on a shelf

Did anyone hear that sigh?

That’s me – a novel frustrated by its lack of purpose in the world.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but the potential ridicule (for being unworthy amongst a myriad of superior books) makes me want to pull out my pages and start again!

To be published, or not to be published – that is the question. If I wait too long, my words will fade and my spine may break. No, I am strong and I am woman – I am Iris, Growing Iris that is. (If Bridget Jones had a  daughter with Buster Keaton, she could be me, Iris.)

Now that I have released my angst, I am ready to throw myself off the shelf and on to the site of Amazon to see what unfolds. With my fonts held high, I’m convinced that I can entertain and possibly, enlighten.

Stay tuned for the next installment of: where will I (Growing Iris) end up – stuck in digital purgatory or pondering life on the author’s bookshelf?

 

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First Novel – Completed… Finally

papers_notes_floor

Revisions and More Revisions

Iris has been uploaded to CreateSpace – my first novel will be a solid entity in a few weeks. A relief and a letdown. Saying good-bye to my characters is sad. Every morning for the past two years, my phone went off with text message: “Write 3 pages of Iris.” Most days the reminder encouraged me, but some days I’d cringe thinking about having to rewrite the same paragraph for the sixth time or trying to figure out how to make Iris a three-dimensional person (she’s a solid 2 1/2 dimensions).

Revisions and More Revisions

The pages and pages of revisions sit beside me in a pile and my 3 notebooks where I jotted down revisions, and formatting issues along with three printed versions of my cover and a partridge in a pear tree. No partridge, but an inch of dust. The next step is to put the pile (without the dust) in a folder – for safekeeping – on a shelf in my closet. I clear the floor of a stack of books that I read for inspiration and reference. Once my writing space is purged, I will be ready to rid my mind of the world of Iris and move on to my next project.

stack_books

Books for Inspiration and Reference

I have learned so much about the process of writing – in the initial stage – it is all about the idea. The real writing skill comes in the rewriting phase, which can be arduous – or more like it is arduous. But I have persevered and haven’t been struck by lightning after completing my 264 page book – a good sign.

The Process Begins Again

The notebook for my next novel sits beside me – from NaNoWrimo 2013 – waiting for me to open it as well as the computer file folder that sits on my desktop.

All systems in place to continue the process of delving into a world of my creation where anything is possible.

I have ordered two copies of my book for proofing which should arrive by March 20th. Once I have a hard copy to hold in my hands, I will see the culmination of my effort. And if I can get a few people to read it, I will have done my seemingly impossible life goal – carried out an original idea to the end and produced a book to read.

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Writing with Effort Makes Reading A Pleasure

My third NaNoWriMo (30 days to write 50,000 words) is over and I did it – a new novel is born. The 2014 National Novel Writing Month  has been my least painful writing challenge (since I still have all my hair).

Winner-2014-Square-ButtonNow I must return to completing my first novel, which was the product of the 2012 challenge. On the verge of self-publishing, I’ve re-worked that first draft for the past two years, and I’m nearly done.

  • Editing (97.8%)
  • Formatting (97.2%)
  • Front cover image (one more colour adjustment) (99.6%)
  • Back cover blurb (98.77%)
  • Ready to give it to the world? (67.3%)

Almost. Not quite. The moment of doubt rears its gnarly head. What if no one reads it? What if someone reads it and hates it? What if someone reads it and likes it? Those are the ‘what ifs’ that haunt me.

I have to put it out there or else I can’t move on.

NanoWriMo has helped me prove to myself that I am capable of completing a strange creative process that scares, thrills, bores and like a vacuum sucks every word, past experience and idea that I have ever had and blasts it onto a page. A purge of creativity that is exhausting, arduous and stimulating.

But after the initial thrill of getting the words out, the hard work of making them readable begins.

Scribbled on a file card, tucked beside my computer, is a quote by Samuel Johnson:

What is written without effort is usually read without pleasure.

I look at that quote and continue honing my final draft. I know I haven’t expended enough effort because the sentences don’t quite flow. Almost lost in my own story – a few rough edges, but I hope to have them as smooth as a shot of Don Julio Tequila.

When someone invests a significant amount of time and concentrated energy to read a book, it should be worth reading. If not, it’ll never be finished and the characters will forever be stuck on the pages, never to be heard from again.

I like my characters too much to let that happen.

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B7 Chord on the Guitar

guitar

My guitar with pink pick

My goal is to casually take my guitar off its hook, when friends are over, and start playing a song as if it were the most natural thing to do.

I am playing the guitar – slowly. Not that I’m playing slowly – I’m learning to play at a slow pace (plucking at the guitar for six years), which at this rate will take me another 20 years to master.

If I think about it as a slow, incremental process, then I can continue – otherwise I feel overwhelmed.

I’ve mastered the major chords on the Ionian scale (just learned the name of the scale) and I know a few minor chords as well.

My goal is to make guitar playing an integral part of life.

The Slow Process of Guitar Playing

I  grab (try to) my guitar from the wall everyday and start plucking with my pink pick: E, B, G, D, A, E (Every Boy Gets Drugs And Enemas) – my acronym for remembering the strings. The more I touch the guitar, the more comfortable I feel holding it.

But after finding an old Simon and Garfunkel song book (an Easy-Play Speed Music book), I realized the B7 chord was essential to learning 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. It took all four fingers and I had to slide from an Em to the B7 practically on every word – my arm and fingers were throbbing.

There is a logic to learning to play, yet I’ve been trying to play everything at once instead of breaking songs into small playable pieces.

What does B7 Mean?

There is a complicated world of chords that I needed to figure out – specifically the seventh. I had been memorizing finger positions, but not understanding how chords were constructed.

A chord – is made up of three notes with the name coming from the lowest (base) note. Three fingers on three strings: doable.

I Googled “what makes a seventh chord?”

An excellent answer came my way: to form a seventh – you go up seven steps from the root note which in this case is a B (seven fingers not needed).

And I discovered that the space between each note is a step – a full step between whole notes and a half step between sharps or flats. For the guitar, two frets represent a step in music.

I’m getting this.

That actually makes sense and not as mind-boggling as I thought. And as I have tried to do with other skills I’m trying to master – like running and writing – small increments – one step at a time – to run a marathon, write a novel or learn the guitar.

 

 

 

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Crow vs Robin

Battle of the Birds

I’ve always thought birds were more enlightened than humans – as in, they got along with each other. But coming upon a crow pecking a small bird in the middle of the street, I was upset to see such viciousness. What was even more upsetting was seeing a robin, furiously squawking at the crow, expressing anger. I slapped together the pink running shoes in my hands while yelling “eeeyah!” The crow didn’t flinch.

Just as I was about to lunge for the crow and shake its scrawny neck, my daughter (who was walking with me) asked me why the crow was pecking the small bird. I didn’t have an answer. I hadn’t realized until later (when I checked Wikipedia) that crows ate other birds. I knew birds ate worms and mussels, but I thought that was the extent of their meat-eating menu.

Turning Point of Anger                                     

I had never seen an angry robin. In my mind, a robin was the first sign of spring and possessed a calm, peaceful energy.

Can every creature be pushed to a point of aggression? What is the breaking point?

Is it obnoxious people talking and partying on a balcony at 2am? Is it the guy who wears a grey hoodie (partially covering his face) and rides slowly past me looking shifty? Or is it being almost sideswiped by a cyclist? What pushes anyone to anger? Rage?

Bullying. I empathized with the robin. It defended itself against predators as I defended myself against unaware, inconsiderate people. I, like the robin – yelled (or squawked) to get noticed. It would be nice to be able to fly away.

Back on the street, we continued to yell and wave when the crow flew to a tree branch as if to say “I’ll take a break, but I’m not leaving.”

The black figure sat in the tree staring at us like a scene in “The Birds” (the Hitchcock movie), where birds sat on telephone wires and stared at people as if they were prey. There was a moment where I thought the crow was about to dive for my head.

The injured bird hopped/flew across the street towards a bush. The crow came back for another attack. This time I was able to scare it away. The injured bird hobbled into a shrub where it stayed. We left with the crow on a tree branch and the robin sitting across from it, watching. It was a standoff.

Peck or Be Pecked?

Survival of the fittest (or more like the biggest and the loudest) – did it always have to be that way? The robin defended the weaker bird at its peril. Maybe the crow was just hungry and we interfered with its survival. Who should survive? I wanted to believe that we made a difference. Did it matter if the small bird lived?

We walked away with the small bird in the bush. Later that afternoon, we checked for the bird, but it was gone.

Hopefully it is surviving and thriving in the wild. Like the rest of us.

 

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