Reflections on My 9th or 10th Marathon?


The sun shines on the stack of medals sitting on my filing cabinet. I add the Kelowna Marathon medal to the pile and start counting – 10. Strange, thought it was my 9th. I reached my goal without even knowing it! That’s weird. I calculate, figure and plan – how could I have not known that I was running my 10th?! I would have trained harder.

I had approached this as a ‘filler,’ a less important run. That was the mistake. I didn’t give it the respect it deserved since I had hoped #10 would be Chicago or …

My brain wasn’t fully in the run. That’s the difference between feeling eager and feeling indifferent. I had a thought of ‘giving up’ – I wasn’t going for a qualifier, so the apathy seeped into my psyche.

As I was beginning my last 10 kilometres, along the path by City Park (for the third time), I heard the announcer call the time of 3:06 – and a muffled name – it was the first woman to finish. I so envied her.

I felt hopeful – there were cheers and people holding signs and a couple of runners going at my pace. But suddenly, as if the plague had struck Kelowna, no one was around. I was alone in a deserted industrial area. Noooo! I have run alone for my training runs – I needed people around me and inspiring scenery too. Where’s the Lake?

I almost didn’t have the will to continue. And I shamefully admit that I walked twice – which I never do. A disappointing reality.

Well, I take that back. I did meet the 4:30 pace bunny.

‘Are you a solid 4:30?’ I asked the bunny.

‘No, I’m a bit faster.’

I took a breath. I wasn’t that slow after all. A hint of hope hung over me and the bunny. I stuck with him for the last 4 kilometres. Then another pacer came by and joined us. I was with a group again – it made all the difference. Once I felt the energy of runners beside me, and I knew the finish line was within reach, I became a runner again. I could see the red timer ahead, so I pushed past the 4:30 bunny, apologized and surged across the finish line, leaving the bunny in the dust!

Now that I relive the race, it wasn’t so bad. And not to make excuses, but – it was cold, the route was complicated – the fast runners kept passing by intimidatingly close AND I didn’t have a spinach salad with my chicken dinner the night before the race. So there!

Ok, enough self-pity. I still reached my goal and so, on to the next! Number 11!

Thinking back to the start line, a woman mentioned she had just completed the Berlin marathon – hmmm, sounds like a good new race destination to aim for.

Auf Wiedersehen.

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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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