Putting off the Inevitable and Falling in Love with Fall

Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I'm a nerd.

Ahhhhh. It is good to be back in the city. I love the Village, but I also missed good coffee, the hum of the city, and the joy of classes (even if I ride on a bus for approximately twice the time as the actual class to go to said class).

True to who I am put off the long drive home (Ottawa home) as long as possible. I didn’t mean to though. My mom and I were supposed to drive back together Friday but then my dad had to come back early meaning my mom had no ride home. So I changed plans to “ok I’ll leave Saturday afternoon.” Then Saturday morning came and my mom wanted to “quickly” go to the mall, because such things can actually be done quickly. Then I thought, well I can still take the highway and leave after an early dinner. As a headache and exhaustion crept up on me I realized I didn’t want to drive back after all. Next thing you know it Saturday night, my wifey is over and we’re making cookies instead of driving. Only problem with this is that I now would miss Run Club for a third week.

Not happening.

I had to make photographic proof this time that I didn't skip run club.

I had to make photographic proof this time that I didn’t skip run club.

So I dragged my family down with me to the local Running Room. Apparently a lot of the members were at one of the approximately too many events, so there was a much smaller group than I am used to running with/in. Main issue with this was that there was only one group running the 12K route, their pace? “Slow.”I tried to go “slow” at first, but my muscles were begging to be pushed after taking most of the week off, so off I went. It was a beautiful run. Just like in Ottawa, I was able to see so much of the city/village, from the waterfront of Kempenfelt Bay to the century old homes, and the newly expanded hospital. I also had a lot of time to think, which is where this post was born. There and on the excessively long solo drive with noisy cat. The cool but not cold temperature, warm sun, and bright leaves made me fall in love with the season (is that too cheesy a pun?).

Really I have always loved fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love the heat of summer, the beauty of growth in the spring, and I love Christmas and the first snowfall, but fall is by far my favourite.

Why?

  1. After a long hot summer, running in cooler temperatures is wonderful. Yes I have to wear my longer bottoms and usually a long-sleeved top, but at least I’m not internally boiling and I can run in the middle of the afternoon without dying.
  2. It’s not so cold that I have to wear every layer of dry-fit I own to stay warm running. I enjoy my runs because it is cool enough to not boil, and warm enough to not freeze – because thank God it’s not winter yet.

    Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I'm a nerd.

    Get it? Pumpkin pi! haha I know, I’m a nerd.

  3. It is pumpkin season. Oh my God guys! #PSL! Not. Personally I don’t actually like eating or drinking anything pumpkin, but I love pumpkin carving. Even if I’m not particularly good at it, and I hate the feeling of the guts.
  4. It’s apple season – this means trips to the apple orchard, apple cider, apple baked goods, need I say more?
  5. Trips to the farm. With a bounty of seasonal produce and activities there is always an excuse to find a local farm and make an afternoon of it.
  6. The colours! My favourite drive home is always the Thanksgiving, the colour of the leaves makes for a beautiful drive, even if it is still a painfully long drive.
  7. It’s almost Halloween. I love Halloween for two reasons: I love the kids in their costumes, especially the little kids who are just old enough to have figured out the drill but not so old they look annoyed at me because they’re too cool to say trick or treat enthusiastically; and I love the one-for-me-one-for-the-kids candy rule.

    See munchkins like this! These are the cute kids that I like coming to my door!

    See munchkins like this! These are the cute kids that I like coming to my door!

  8. November 1=College Student Candy Day. Candy tastes better when it’s cheaper. It’s a fact.
  9. It’s premiere season. I am sick of re-runs at this point and the return of my favourite shows is like Christmas come early.
  10. Back to school. I am a nerd. I enjoy being back in the classroom, learning new things, thinking about old things in a new way, and being back on campus in the heart of the city.
  11. Back to school shopping. My closet becomes like a mall for a few short weeks.
  12. It’s squash season. Which means I can go back to enjoying Apple Bacon Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash Chicken Parmesan.
  13. It’s soup and stew season. Blackbean soup, loaded baked potato soup, hearty beef stews, chili, all with fresh bread – need I say more?
  14. It is cool enough to be socially acceptable to drink hot chocolate. And caramel apple spice.
  15. Black Friday is coming. Due to the high proportion of US owned companies and the competition with US for holiday sales, Canadian retailers have started following suit and putting up some pretty great sales.
  16. Cozy sweaters are mandatory but mittens still optional.
  17. Weeds stop growing.
  18. It’s cool enough to bake comfortably again. The oven and I can be friends again.
  19. Unlike in spring, when you are equally grateful it is not winter, you don’t have to look at the ugly snow.
  20. You can see your breath walking. Sounds funny but I love it.

 

Why fall may not be the best:

  1. The leaves. I love them when they’re on the trees, but once they’re on the ground I am responsible for raking them.
  2. The chill in the air reminds me that winter IS coming. I am only going to get colder.

What do you think? Is fall the best? Have I convinced you entirely? If not, tell me what season is better and why in the comments down below!

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Running, Eating, and Dog Tags

Me and my running newbie congratulate ourselves. Omar finished about 30 minutes faster than me, but stuck around in true Running Room fashion

This was a very, very exciting weekend for me. It all started Friday when I went to pick up my race kit for the 2013 Canada Army Run here in Ottawa. All day I saw people carrying the kits, it was incredible to see how many people in Ottawa were doing this great race. Especially since the race has more than tripled in size since its inaugural run in 2008, from 7000 to 22000 split between the 5K and half-marathon events. What’s better is what this event represents – honouring the currently and past serving soldiers. Everything about this run is army – at the sports expo/kit pick-up there were military tanks and trucks; the start was signaled by a canon; the shirts have camo on them; the medals, which are handed out by soldiers, are dog tags; and along the way cadets cheered the runners and walkers. Fifteen minutes before the regular start there was a special start – wheelchair and para-athletes lead the charge so to speak. It was truly an honour to be a part of this event.

Tanks

The trucks and tanks at kit pick-up/the expo

The trucks and tanks at kit pick-up/the expo

So Friday meant two things – race kit pick-up, where I got to meet John Stanton; and carb-loading, which came in the delicious form of penne alla vodka (don’t worry I tell you how to do it here). Saturday, it was rainy and miserable. And I was praying to every God out there that it stopped raining before 8AM the next day. But the rainy miserable weather, and you know, fall in general, gave me a great excuse to break out the slow-cooker and use up the rest of the apples from last weekend. This meant pork tenderloin with apples and smashed potatoes, and apple crumble pie. Let me tell you – it was fantastic. A totally food-gasmic start to the most exciting day of my year.

What better use of the newly painted chalk wall than to let everyone know I was excited?!

What better use of the newly painted chalk wall than to let everyone know I was excited?!

You know there's a half-marathon in town when suddenly there's 40 Port-a-Potties outside city hall...

You know there’s a half-marathon in town when suddenly there’s 40 Port-a-Potties outside city hall…

Everything about race weekend gets me excited. I even got a small joy out of the long lines of port-a-potties that were already set up Friday morning. Saturday afternoon, I was like a kid in the Build-a-Bear Workshop, where we went to get Hightop some army fatigues in honour of race day (Hightop is a race day tradition my mom and I started at the Niagara Falls Women’s Half). Sunday morning I was wiggling with excitement. Even as I attempted to make my smoothie with a food processor since I discovered Friday night my blender was broken, I was excited. Bouncing even. Remember that Porky Pig comparison? Yeah that’s exactly what my morning was like. After a few shameless selfies en route, I made my way into the corrals.

Runners Back

See - nothing but runners as far as I could see. A beautiful sight.

See – nothing but runners as far as I could see. A beautiful sight.

Fortunately within the corral it was A LOT warmer, since it was freezing this morning. There are few feelings that compare to the feeling of waiting in the starting corrals on race day. The awe that comes from seeing nothing but runners as far as you can see. And the fact that despite variations in lifestyle, fitness level, career, age, whatever have you, this massive group of people forms a community, we are all in it together, even if we don’t know each other. Out for a run a few weeks ago, I kid you not, a runner on the other side of a 4 lane road waved to me.

Yes that’s a runner thing.

So is going out in the pouring rain/sleet/snow/cold because “It’s distance day. I can’t skip distance day.” Also on the crazy list? The fact that Wednesdays I run up and down the same hill multiple times. What can I say. You can’t skip hills day.

I am new to this “runner” thing. Before this weekend I had done three half marathons. Toronto Goodlife, Ottawa Race Weekend, and most recently, the Niagara Falls Women’s Half-Marathon. Each had its ups and downs. Mostly ups. Pun intended. But I walked them. Key word there? BUT.

21.1 Kilometers is a long way to go. Unless you’re driving. Then you have no real reason to brag unless you’re 16 and learning to drive (I once balked at my dad telling me to go faster than 10km/h in an EMPTY parking lot). And I constantly downplay it. Fact is that I walk as fast as some people run. And I do it for almost 3 hours. And I love it.

When I finished Ottawa Race Weekend, I finished next to last in my age/gender category. This was a wake-up call of sorts for me. I started telling myself I should be a runner. How was I so slow for my age?

I let that take away from the fact that I had just done something incredible.

The concept of RUNNING a half-marathon seemed beyond my reach. I put runners on a pedestal and watched them in awe.

What finally triggered me to get out and run? Last September I went and cheered my brother while he ran the Army Run. Afterwards, I saw his dog-tag medal and decided I needed one. So yeah I chose my first running goal based on the medal. I generally do them for the swag bag anyways so this wasn’t a stretch.

All winter I struggled. It was too cold for a run (I got a gym membership and cancelled it after a week). The roads were too slippery (I bought traction grips for my shoes and ended up returning them). I had class (I brought my running gear so I could go between classes but then reasoned that my boyfriend wouldn’t watch my stuff or I didn’t want to go to class sweaty). In my defense it was a horrible winter.

Translation: I let life get in the way.

After the Niagara Falls Women’s I had to kick it into high gear to train for the Army Run, technically I was already a week behind the schedule. My first distance run sucked. It was pouring rain. I literally came back dripping with water pooling in my sleeves. The second Sunday run was better, but I struggled to push myself to the 9 kilometer mark. Third week, I decided to take my brother’s advice, and you know, actually follow through on a plan (albeit this plan was hatched 10 months earlier), and I went to the Running Room.

I fretted, what if they were rude? Or cliquey? What if it turned out I wasn’t able to keep up with them? What if? Just kept repeating over and over and over again in my head. Always followed by some disappointing or self-depreciating assumption.

But I ignored those thoughts – reassured myself that if they turned out to be mean, rude, or whatever other problem arose, I could always never go again.

What happened? I went with a slower group, unsure of myself, and they turned out to be great! They were all several years older than me, and thus we were at different life stages but that didn’t matter – we were joined by the love of running. The group was slower than I really wanted to go, so the next week I decided to go with the faster group. And I never looked back.

Every Sunday I faithfully woke at 6:15AM, made a smoothie and a breakfast pita. And while there was usually this tiny part of me that begged to just sleep in. Or at least begged for the coffee I always skipped Sundays in the interest of staying properly hydrated pre-run. I don’t regret a thing. I met some of the most amazing people I have ever known in my life. The most supportive people you could hope for, none perhaps more supportive than Doug. Race day, I was struggling, and despite the fact that I told him I was going to have to walk a lot, and repeatedly begging him to go on without me, he stuck by my side. That is, everything that the Running Room represents for me – people who truly care about one another, and want to help encourage each other. They NEVER leave anyone behind. EVER. It’s the golden rule of Run Club. And they never make you feel bad about it either.

This is a small segment of my Running Family before the start of the run. They're kind of awesome.

This is a small segment of my Running Family before the start of the run. They’re kind of awesome.

On Race Day I had a lot of time on my hands to think, a very small part of me thought of all the things I had to do afterwards, but mostly I thought of the experience of becoming a runner and what that meant to me and why I did it and will continue to do it.

It really is incredible to me how far I’ve come since the few scattered and slow runs in May. In four months I went from barely able to run between street lights, to able to run 5K comfortably, to running a half-marathon. I did what I thought was impossible.

The first few runs I really wondered what screw came loose in my head that made me WANT to do this, and think I COULD do it. “This” being run a half marathon/run 5 days, and “it” being not dying in the process. Now, I am addicted. Running is a part of who I am. I came to hate rest days because I wanted to run.

About three weeks ago I damaged the Soleus muscle (calf) and had to take a full week off, and while I started running again the day before, I had to skip the last distance day before Race Day. This was the run I had most been looking forward to – it was a race route replicate. But having a still tender ankle and having taken off 5 days I figured if I wanted to be able to run on Race Day, I had to skip it. And sleeping in felt weird. I was grouchy beyond grouchy the whole week, and despite spending the week limping around, I wanted to run.

A lot of people don’t get why runners run if it ends in injury. Why I want to run even if I can barely walk. Why do I run though?

Because I am tired without my runs. And grouchy.

Because I love the feeling of pushing my body to the limits

Because I love being so in tune with every muscle, every beat of my heart, every breath I take.

Because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel strong and proud.

Because I want to be around for a long time – I want a long and happy life.

Because when I run I come alive.

Because running gives me time to think and break away from whatever stresses are waiting for me back at home.

Because running has taught me the difference between CAN’T and DON’T WANT TO – I know I can do anything, I just have to push.

And most importantly – Because I am addicted to dry fit.

Ok, that last one I was only sort of kidding. But seriously, I spend more on dry fit than I ever would on normal clothing. I think nothing of a $200 pair of running shoes, and a $30 dry fit top feels like a steal. Take me to the mall though and I will pretty much refuse to buy any pair of shoes more expensive than $40 and if a t-shirt costs more than $15 I deem it overpriced. I can’t help it.

The run did not go as planned. Not by a long shot. By kilometer 9 I had encountered “The Blerch” (check out The Oatmeal’s comic for an explanation of The Blerch). So kilometers 9 to 13 I struggled with my inner wimp’s desire to give up. For those of you wondering – no at kilometer 13 I did not suddenly conquer the Blerch, instead I hit a pot hole, twisting my knee, so the last 8 kilometers really were a head game. A battle royale between my will to continue and the desire to give up and wave down a medic. But I pushed on because I knew my family was waiting for me at the finish line. I didn’t drag them all the way downtown just so I could wheel up on a golf cart with a DNC (Did not complete). So I pushed on. Even if it meant running half a kilometer, walking half a kilometer.

My parents met me at the finish with Hightop, everyone thought I ran with a stuffed rabbit the whole way. Which is way less impressive than the guys that ran with a flag and tire respectively.

My parents met me at the finish with Hightop, everyone thought I ran with a stuffed rabbit the whole way. Which is way less impressive than the guys that ran with a flag and tire respectively.

I finished about 10 minutes slower than my goal time, and came out of the finishers area excited, but complaining about how I didn’t finish in goal time. My brother, the only other runner in my family, laughed and said “See! You get it now! You finish a race and are instantly thinking of what you are going to do better in the next one! You can’t even just be happy you finished this one!” And he’s tragically right. Which is doubly sad because when I was a walker I idolized the runners, and thought that I SHOULD be running, then I ran, and said I SHOULD have run faster. So basically, I appear to be some sort of self-depreciating nut bar who can’t just be proud of her accomplishments. I swear I was overjoyed at the finish line though. It really was a surreal feeling crossing the finish line and I am still proud of all my past achievements. I just can’t wait for the next one. I don’t look down on myself, I look forward to the me I could me. The me I know I can be.

Me and my running newbie congratulate ourselves. Omar finished about 30 minutes faster than me, but stuck around in true Running Room fashion

Me and my running newbie congratulate ourselves. Omar finished about 30 minutes faster than me, but stuck around in true Running Room fashion

This year really seems to have become about breaking down the I-could-never’s and the I-did’s. I never thought I could write a blog, and here we are. I never thought I could run a half-marathon and here I am, with an IT band injury and a dog tag medal. I should probably remember these things when I start my grad school applications and think “I can’t” or “I won’t make it” fact is – I’ve conquered some pretty crazy stuff in my life, I have accomplished so much that I never thought I would. And thus with dog tag in hand, it’s time to find a new crazy goal.

The medal I wanted so bad in all its glory.

The medal I wanted so bad in all its glory.

Maybe I should aim higher? Like climbing Mount Everest?

Lost in the Maybe, Caught up in the Should Have

I learned last week that the human brain is capable of processing 70 000 thoughts a day. This means that at the time I am writing this, I have had over 576 975 000 thoughts. More than 1/2 a TRILLION thoughts. Most of which were probably unconscious, and the definition of a thought and how the distinction between thoughts is unclear. Still, when you stop and think about the number of thoughts you have in a day and the immense capacity of the human mind, you cannot help but be awestruck. And slightly philosophical. Thinking about thinking really is a strange thing. Really gives a whole new meaning to “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

Yesterday morning started like any other – I got up, had breakfast, drank my coffee and groggily began polishing my post for Defining the Undefined. About 9:40AM Facebook pinged at me, it was a wall post from my semi-frantic Aunt:

Facebook screenshot smaller

I clearly was bewildered, but a quick Google search cleared things up for me real fast. And the thought struck me – I have thought about going to campus for an early run before class. If I had gone, I likely would have left around 8:30. Likely catching the last express bus to campus to save me the hassle of a transfer. As the day unfolded, I realized that the bus I would have taken was THE bus. And since I’m usually at the front of the upper level, it could have been me.

At the moment of hearing the news my mind went completely silent. And then a million and one thoughts began racing through my mind. I am fairly certain that I went over my daily thought quotient today.

While thinking about what I was going to write about today I had been playing with the fact that started this post – the sheer number of thoughts I had in a day. And then news of OC Transpo v. VIA rail broke. I couldn’t help but become absorbed with the media coverage, lost in thoughts about the crash. What the passengers were thinking? What were the last thoughts of the deceased were? Thinking about the poor people who didn’t know where their loved ones were? How could this happen? I could go on but I think you get the gist.

I mourned for people I didn’t even know. My heart broke for the people who had lost someone, who were left, on a random Wednesday with a gaping hole in their hearts. It’s a tendency of mine, and I think of people in general. Consumed by this need to understand I read. I searched for any article I could find. I read of a son who dropped his mother off at 8:45, 5 minutes before the crash and hadn’t heard from her since. Of a woman who was running late and caught the bus behind the one that crashed, and when she was taken back to Fallowfield, couldn’t bring herself to get on a bus again. Of people who watched the crash from Woodroffe Avenue. I have heard bits a pieces in the last 24 hours, including a passenger who’s sister was standing BESIDE the driver and survived, and a girl who survived, but all around her people had died. Everyone on the bus home last night seemed to know someone who had been affected.

It all really hit me though when I pulled up to Fallowfield station. Driving up to the station, we passed the parking lot and it hit me – some of those cars would not be picked up tonight, some would never be driven by the person that left them there again. There was a police officer walking among the cars, I imagine to search for the cars of the deceased and injured. Waiting for the bus, I saw the news trucks with their massive wireless towers, and it made me realize just how close to the station the crash had been. I walked over to the end of the platform, drawn to it. What I saw shocked me. It was like something out of a movie; a phrase that seems common on people’s lips today. I find it hard to believe how this could have happened in the suburbs. The train twisted off its tracks, the sight of the bus in the distance, the police lights. There are hundreds of pictures out now depicting the horror, I had seen some of them before going, but honestly it doesn’t compare to seeing it for yourself. Until that moment they had just been pictures, horrifying pictures, but still separated from reality.

It is hard to think about even now. It dominated conversation in my house all day. My mom had a point though – YES it COULD have been me, but that is a fact of life. I could be walking down the street and a random car could hit me. I could be driving to work and there be a 10 car pile-up. It could have been any bus. Every time I leave my house – heck even when I don’t leave my house – there is a chance of tragedy. I live in a flight path, a plane could crash into my house while I am eating breakfast. Anything COULD happen. And drawing the attention to the fact that you COULD have died, just because a sudden freak accident has reminded you of your mortality and the precarious nature of life, detracts attention from those who DID die or who WERE injured. Someone else is suffering a lot more than you in your experience of the terror of mortality. And my heart goes out to the people who were affected by yesterday’s tragedy. This has hit particularly close to home for me. Literally. The crash was less than 5km from my house. It has reminded me to really appreciate the people around me. To appreciate my life and try to stop putting things off until tomorrow. To never stay angry, because as today’s tragic events showed – every day could be your last, you might not get the chance to say good bye. Do you really want to have left angry because someone put an empty milk jug in the fridge?

I spent a lot of the day lost in a sea of “what ifs?” Which is fairly common for me in general. That and the “should haves.” These are two very dangerous lines of thought for anyone to get into. I get lost in a world of hypotheticals. Today they consumed me, I could barely even focus on my assignments and classes. I kept thinking about what it must have been like for the passengers, what it would be/was like for the families, what it would have been like for my family if it had been me. Here’s the problem though – “What ifs” make you worry for nothing, and “should haves” make you feel guilty for things you cannot change – both chain you to the past. It effectively becomes crying over spilled milk. You are assuming that if you had behaved differently, the environment would have responded. Or that it would change the end result.

This has always been one of my favourite Disney moments - something I remind myself of when I get on the what-if train.

This has always been one of my favourite Disney moments – something I remind myself of when I get on the what-if train.

I feel like this would be a significantly more valid reason to cry, though right now I'm laughing.

I feel like this would be a significantly more valid reason to cry, though right now I’m laughing.

It is easy to get lost in thought, we each come equipped with our own mini world where we can work and move around without interference. And while I won’t tell you to NOT think, in fact I encourage thinking, it means you’re not letting someone else do it for you. What I am telling you though is to sometimes thinking on the positive side and being nice to yourself is in order, and sometimes you need to stop trying to get into someone else’s mind. Can’t be done. Give up now. The closest thing is to ask them.

Now before I start to sound all preachy – know that I haven’t mastered this skill myself. I too am prone to beating myself up over what I should have done yesterday, what I should have said, what if I had done x instead of y? I am not always nice to myself either. I will admit to complaining about my body, hating it because it didn’t come in the right shape or size. I have beat myself up because I didn’t get a high enough grade or I made a bad decision. But the conclusion I have come to on the first – is that my body is awesome. Maybe it doesn’t look the way I want it to, but it keeps me going, it allows me to run, to play with my nephews, to go to sleep and trust that I will wake up, it has stood by me through some very grave mistreatment, so size aside, it’s doing alright. As to the second – shit happens. If you think you’re the only one on the planet who has made whatever mistake you just made, or faced whatever disappointment you are feeling right now, think again.

Thoughts are a big part of our society, we label behaviours as thoughtful or thoughtless and when a teenager gets into trouble what is the parent’s classic response? “What were you thinking?” Like that’s going to yield a lot in the adolescent department – their brains aren’t developed all the way, give em some slack. Then there’s the classic – You can do anything you put your mind to. Which is a rosy sentiment, but really convincing myself I can lift an elephant doesn’t mean I CAN. But there are also a lot of things that you might not necessarily THINK you can do, but in reality if you work at it you can. I never thought I could run 5 kilometers, let alone run a half-marathon, but I am about to do just that. We also, unfortunately, are prone to thinking that if we can just understand why someone did something, that we will feel better. We try to put ourselves inside their mind, imagine their thoughts, and come to a conclusion from there. But we can’t know their thoughts. Sometimes you never even get the chance to ask them. And the answer might not always be the one you were looking for, it might even make you feel worse.

The mind is a powerful thing, but it does have its limits. Telekinesis and telepathy are still not things. The closest science has gotten is harnessing the power of our thoughts in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). A therapy grounded in the idea that your thoughts become your actions and your actions influence your thoughts. Something Lao Tse and Ghandi knew a long time ago.

There is no doubt that thoughts are powerful and in a potentially endless supply, even if at times they seem weak and in short supply. Today my thoughts and my heart goes out to all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy. And I leave you with one thought for the day – stop and appreciate the power of your mind. Be nice to yourself, and try to live in the present. The past is the past. Appreciate what you have and who you are while you have it and are this person. Things change, people change, whether we have a horrific bus crash to remind us of our mortality or not – at any moment someone you care about could be gone. So don’t waste it, love them while they are here. Oh God that just sounds so depressing. Shall I sum it up as YOLO? Or would that be too blasé and you know…unintelligent

Another Disney gem. The crazy baboon has a point.

Another Disney gem. The crazy baboon has a point.

Oh and one last think – go tell someone you love them. Right now.