Forgetting to Run with my Brain in My Feet


Brain-Feet Connection

I thought I had said all I could about running – not quite.

My ninth marathon training session – you would think I’d be prepared. But it’s stunning how I can forget the simplest things.

You need your brain in your feet.

I mean that you need a clear vision of running a long distance in your head, so your feet can follow. My vision had blurred.

Last Sunday I thought I would barf and die after I finished a torturous 30 kilometres, which seemed endless.

I ran to get it over with.

Remember: envision the distance in three x 10 kms increments.

I forgot that. And …

A lousy training session makes for a great race. My theory: the more you suffer in training, the easier the race will be. (here’s hoping it still holds true)

But this week…

‘You’re so fast.’ One of the Three-Sunday-Guys says to me. He boosts my spirits. I am trying to go slow after running way too fast last week.

‘Which way do you go?’ asks a woman runner, who I pass twice.

‘Around Lost Lagoon and back.’

‘Oh, right. I saw you come around again and I hadn’t even finished one loop. I’ll never catch you.’

I didn’t think we were racing, but, again she thinks I’m running fast? It’s so subjective. I was deliberately going slower than last week – trying to take in the surroundings, less in a hurry to finish, but going faster?

Whoa – my perception of time and distance is skewed.

After this 22-kilometre run, I have found my pace (thanks partly to my fellow runners), and my mind is focused on the remaining 29 and 32-kilometre training runs before heading to the Kelowna Marathon.

But more importantly, I have finally connected my brain to my feet.

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A Discreet Pollinator: The Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Spellbound, that’s the word. I can’t stop staring, it’s so perfect.

I watch the butterfly perch on the pink phlox on a beautiful Friday in July. On the phlox that I had planted and nurtured for the past year. I set the stage for her. How does she survive in the harsh world, appearing so fragile? The yellow and black wings look as if a breeze would tear them apart.

I tiptoe closer. She poses, like a model, when I take her photo. I always meet them as they are flying away – never holding still long enough to get the pollen. It’s hard to tell if she is doing anything. I never think of butterflies as pollinators, but after researching I learn: yes, they are.

Unlike bees, who always look like they’re working hard, and in a hurry, butterflies are slow and methodical. Bees are temperamental, they may sting if you get too close! I don’t think a butterfly would poke you in the eye or arm if you bothered it. But the butterfly is not as efficient a pollinator as bees are (see, not disparaging bees).

Swooping from one phlox bud to another, she sucks nectar with her tongue. I never considered the tongue of a butterfly – how tiny would that be? She also carries pollen (on her feet and body) from the male part of the flower (the anther) – and dumps it down the female part (the stigma) where an egg sits, waiting. That egg forms a zygote, which produces a fruit and a seed develops within it.

And that’s where I come in. I take the seed (or seedling) and grow a flower like, let’s say… phlox.

If we both do our jobs properly, another generation of beauty will blossom.


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Milling About at the Richmond Night Market

Richmond Night Market Crowd

I imagine this market is in a bustling Asian city, like Bangkok, where a cacophony of sights and sounds greet me. But instead, I find myself in a venue for food and fun in the middle of a parking lot – a good use of space on the way to the Vancouver airport. The Skytrain runs high in the distance and half-built developments fill-in the periphery.

Pooh Bear waits to be won as a prize.

A dozen games and one ride – the Octopus – gives the market a carnival atmosphere. A stage with a group of drummers sets the beat for the evening – steady and energized.

I scan the row of stalls. I’m greeted with a cornucopia of food choices. The nice man offers a Korean takoyaki – a wheat dumpling filled with barbeque duck and topped with mayonnaise. He seems nice, so I try it. A bit gooey, but tasty. My partner samples a Japanese take on poutine. Or a bowl of ramen if you’re in a traditional mood.

Not a t-shirt for the timid

I scrutinize things I don’t need but might want to buy just for the novelty of it. Pens, markers, pencils and notebooks – featuring Japanese pop icons – Pokemon, Pousheen the Cat – stare out from racks and tables. Hankering for a pair of socks with the Eiffel Tower? It’s here. Or a cringeworthy t-shirt …

It won’t be long till the market, full of entrepreneurial spirit, becomes a condominium complex.

But for now, a Canadianized version of a lively Asian market suits my ‘milling about’ mood.

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Growing Tulips

Growing Tulips

Life happens before my eyes.

The colour, smell, shape – a flourishing flower, carries an elegance and beauty, which turns me into a magician instead of just a gardener.

A cold, damp spring delays your appearance. I watch you grow, tulips.

You wait for the warmth to let you break free from your outer skin.

You tease me with a small reveal of colour.

The warming weather makes you happy (and me too!)

Wake up and bring a brilliance to the day!

There you are, in perfect form.

Welcome to the world!

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 The (wo)man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
– Confucius

I don’t want to bore myself or you with another life-changing realization, but… –

I finally understand the idea that doing small actions adds up to a big goal. I mean, I’ve known it, intellectually, yet I needed to be reminded by a quote or a ‘mental’ slap in the face.

Lately, when I envision the whole picture of my goals, I yawn with the thought of how many small steps are needed – giving up seems like the only choice.

Of course, Confucius was right. An increment – a beginning – a barely perceptible growth. Each increment adds up like ‘compound interest.’ Who put that money in my account? Each cent adds up to millions!

‘Focus on the word, then a sentence, then a paragraph,’ I say to myself, ‘keep going, you have more to write, don’t quit.’

I look at the word count at the bottom left of my screen, it’s climbing!

By noon, I have words on a page – not the whole blog, just a paragraph. Not the whole book, just a chapter.

‘Ow.’ I rub my shoulder.

A pain in my right shoulder – I google exercises for shoulder pain. They seem lame – I try. Shoulder still hurts. After a week, hmmm, better. I keep lifting that weight ‘out to the side and turn wrist,’ like pouring a beer.

Okay, so I stop focusing on the pain (the big goal) and concentrate on the small movements of my arm. Once again, before I can say: ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ – the new muscle strength takes over the pain.

If I don’t think of the end goal, but focus on the exact moment of doing, the outcome seems miraculous.

I want to run a marathon – not to think of the 42.2 km distance, but to keep an eye on the next step of 4 – 10-kilometre increments, the distance flies by and the medal hangs around my neck.

I want to grow a tulip. Plant the bulb before the flower appears! The increment of planting the bulb makes for a beautiful outcome.

I want to play the song: ‘Hurdy Gurdy’ on the violin.  Too many torturously difficult notes. Play one bar at a time! The song comes together, as if by magic.

Now what am I trying to say?

It is all about increments, stupid.

Right, I got it.


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Cuba is…(cont’d)

Cienfuegos is…

Magda, Nestor, Nestor Jr., Anna, Asniel (taxi driver), Alexis (horse & carriage driver) along with the waiter (at Te Quedaras) who gave me the blue linen napkins because I said I liked them.

View of Cienfuegos from the Pallacio de Azul

Travel opens you up to new places/perspectives, but it can close you off from friendly people (the cynic in me sees a scam). It is hard to be aloof to Cubans, their good nature is infectious – they even have patience for my struggling Spanish.

Pallacio de Valle

The place…

elaborate French-influenced architecture and music of a rich past.

Benny More – Band Leader and Songwriter

The music of Benny Moré hovers in the air. Who, you may ask? A musician – a big band leader of the 1940’s and ’50s – setting the beat of samba music. A time when elegantly dressed couples went to nightclubs to hear live music and dance till dawn.

Trinidad is…

a cozy colonial town, cobblestoned streets, colourful buildings – luring tourists with a refurbished past

Cafe Conspiradores

I come upon a strange scene – on the steps beside a cafe, at least 40 tourists stare at phones – a wifi hub – no one notices the scenery around them.

I walk past and see the yellow cafe with the pink bougainvillea and wander in looking for coffee. Instead I find life-size coffeemakers.

Cafetera (a metal espresso maker)

How to convey the art of Yomi Martinez? An artist who uses the sculpted image of the coffeemaker as a metaphor for the status of women. The hourglass figure of the cafetera mimics the clichèd shape of a woman.

Her work translated…

Bending at the waist, forward – a subservient woman who caters to her husband and children, but neglects herself

Bending at the waist, backward – an independent and strong woman who wants to change the world

No bend, upright – a normal woman who is balanced fends for herself – caring but strong

The thought-provoking images help me understand the issues Cubans are grappling with.

Cuba reveals what it is, was and might be in the future – an interesting time to visit.

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Cuba is…

south of the Tropic of Cancer, hugging the Straits of Florida, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea… an island pulsing with potential. An era of entrepreneurism is in the air – like Airbnb, which connected us with accommodations throughout the trip. Is there a possibility for a ‘new revolution’ (communism 2.0?) allowing more economic freedom?

In Veradero, Matanzas and Boca de Camarioca …


1955 Chevy in Veradero

Sun shines, palms sway, roosters call, dogs wheeze, horses clop – dominoes clatter…

Beer pours, flan soaks, fish grills, lobster bursts from its tail.


Beach in Boca de Camarioca

Eat, drink, snorkel – taste the pace of life – bongos beat, guitar strums – men sing Chan Chan– give a tip, buy a CD.

A country full of contrasts.





In Havana…

Cars honk, people chatter down clogged stinky streets – whistles pierce, music wafts… trucks deliver, pedal taxis swerve…

the ghosts of Fidel Castro and Che Guevera who stare out from t-shirts and billboards convey toughness and integrity. Now, I learn about José Marti who reigns as the most beloved philosopher of revolution for Cubans. A poet, intellectual and activist – who sowed the seeds of freedom – self-determination – who guided Castro and Guevera towards independence.


Gallery Lolo in Matanzas

The daily hassle of buying bread, eggs or fresh vegetable would frustrate most people, but older Cubans take it in stride, while millennials expect more from ‘the new revolution.’


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