Thursday, December 3, 2009

In Peace

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music he hears,
however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau

I’m in the half-marathon clinic now and pacing plays a big role.  I only vaguely understand what it is but I can tell you it’s important.  I now have a number.  Nobody knows my name but by golly, I have a number.  This number measures how fast I go at a speed that’s not a crawl nor an escape and I THINK measures how fast I can finish 10kms.  Or is it how fast I can run consistently through each kilometre?  Anyway, we’re all divided into groups based on this pace when we run together.

I sort of feel like I belong to this group.  I'm not sure why I don't fully.  Maybe because I'm generally not a group girl.  In school I usually floated between the cliques and these days, though I have lots of friends, I'm usually interacting one on one.  Except for my book club, but there's generally a fair bit of sugar and sometimes alcohol to help me along.

When we run, our footsteps can all be in unison the whole time; a very cool effect that propels me along quite nicely.  I actually feel like a real runner then, somehow.  I start to feel part of the group and it feels pretty good.  Sometimes, though, it's a real struggle for me to keep up and I start thinking something's wrong with me; my technique is off or my cellulite is just not aerodynamic. 

The whole experience makes me think of L'Arche, of the experience of people with developmental disabilities in our society.  I'm sure you can figure out the race metaphor in relation to our culture (god, I love a good metaphor).  The idea of keeping pace, having to keep pace, not falling behind, stepping up to the start line to being with.   In a race, you are either keeping pace or pushing ahead of the group.  They may tell you that you should run your own race, not compare yourself to others, but it's tough in a crowd.  And no one wants to be last.

For people with developmental disabilities in our culture, getting to the start line can be a lifelong challenge, let alone running alongside or finishing.  It makes me wonder where we're all running to, really.  What do we hope for at the other end?  If it's happiness and acceptance and belonging then why do some people get left behind or not allowed in the race at all?

 I read Thoreau's quote years ago and it's stayed with me.  I suppose we all march to the beat of our own drummer, but people with disabilities even more so.  In L'Arche this is a celebration, stemming from the belief that each of is of unique and sacred value and has gifts to offer the world.  People with developmental disabilities can't keep pace with the rest of us in the race that we're running.  Their journey is one of spontanaeity and presence and openness and heart, not competition.

What a gift that is, really.  I wish our society could do a better job of seeing this.  I wish more of us would choose that path and, instead, keep pace with people with disabilities rather than the reverse.  What would our lives and journies be like then?

By the way, Pace in latin means 'in peace'.  Nice.

Good websites:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too Cool for School

I am Very, Very Important.  Because not only am I Training For A Marathon, I also have an Injury.  And I am Participating In A Study about said Injury.  I think this actually might make me kind of cool. 

It's my pesky patella getting all inflamed about stuff.  I actually didn't injure it by running at all; it was due to moving, of course (why, oh why, do I not just stay in one place?  My mother would like to know the answer).  They tell you to lift with your legs and not with your back so I did and this is what happens.  It could also be because my shoes were worn out.  I think I intuitively knew that but I was too cheap to buy new ones (not cool).

Now it means a lot of icing (not buttercream, sadly) and days of rest.  Fortunately, I saw a poster on a bathroom wall and now I'm participating in a study at the university on Injury Prevention for Runners.  It's specifically for patella pain - can you believe my luck?  I actually signed up before the pain so now it's not so much about prevention as it is about some treatment.  My version of an Injury isn't that bad apparently.  My knee was groped by the cute professor and he declared it salvagable.  I'm not sure about my dignity, however.  I was wearing kneehighs and I hadn't shaved my legs in two weeks (not cool.).

The study theorizes that strong quads will keep your patella pain-free so I'm now on a regimen of exercises that I have to do every day.  It means that I can no longer say, pompously, that I don't watch TV because only reruns of "The Office" (cool) seem to make all these squats and leg lifts bearable.  My knee does feel better, I'm happy to report.  I've got three more weeks to go on the study; I'm hoping by the end of it that if my thighs are no smaller, at least some of the cellulite will be replaced by muscle.

I'm not used to my body betraying me like this.  I've never had an injury to speak of - likely because I didn't exercise.  My body was there to serve me so I never paid much attention to it.   Now it needs service and so it's one more thing to think about, another thing to fit into my days.  I suppose this is good preparation for aging, as one body part after another begins to fail.  I suppose with running the odds of those running parts - legs, hips, knees -  failing first are greater.  Another reason to exercise, then:  there's a greater cool factor in have a knee go than, say, your bladder.

I'm thinking I should get a brace or something; a visible sign of my coolness.  Limping alone isn't enough (that will only be cool at kilometre 40, unless I'm vomiting as well).  I should also learn how to pronounce the parts of me that are hurting.  I only remember one, 'miniscus', which I actually thought was a sport. 

I have some work to do in the cool area.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Makin' Time

You can spend all your time, makin' money.
You can spend all your love, makin' time.
The Eagles

Hello?  Anyone still out there?

I'm here.  I'm alive.  I'm moved.  Work is crazy busy.  I'm trying to stay away from the flu of swine and any needles connected to same.  Got my old place rented out to My Boys.  Moving sucks but I'm in a good place with a good friend (I'd forgotten how fun it can be to have a roommate!).  She's not afraid  of the BBQ and I'm not afraid of the grocery store.  We're both anal retentive and like to eat.  It's a good match.

I'm still running, though.  Mostly like a chicken with its head cut off these past few weeks but I'm running all the same.  I just ditched the blogging!  How is a girl supposed to fit it all in????  When I took up the marathon a friend noted that I would have to plan my life around it.  No problem, I thought.  I'm great at making lists and schedules (see anal retentive comment above).  I LOVE being efficient with my time.  I get excited thinking about how to arrange the calendar - what errand I can run on my way home from this or how to piggyback something onto something else to take care of that.

Other than the week after Thanksgiving, when the packing and moving were in full swing, I have been able to get most of my runs in.  But I couldn't find the time to sit down and write.  I *gasp* was overcommitted.  A laughable thing for someone who inherited her mother's Type A-ness and makes a living off of making To-Do lists.  Also laughable for someone who's 38 and unmarried.

My time is maxed out.  It makes me nervous to think about what it will be like when I'm running really long distances.  Come marathon time, my entire Sunday will be spent in my running shoes.  When will I have time to do anything else?  I'm already trying to think of how I can fit in my runs while fitting in the other things I have to do.  I was going to run to my book club meeting last week but it was too far.  I'm thinking of running to the grocery store with a backpack and then walking back.

I'm worried that I'll start to resent all the running I have to do.  Right now I don't really WANT to do it.  It's an obligation.  And when it starts eating away at time for the things I DO want to do, it will make me cranky.  This is what discipline is all about, I suppose.

I think that this, really, will be less about time than energy.  I do have time but usually not enough energy to do it all.  So how do I make the energy?  When l start to love it,  guess.

Highlights from the past month:

* I ran my first race 10k race.  I made some time doing that - 2 minutes faster than my fastest 10k!  I felt pretty good.  My biggest fear was being last.  Someone always has to be and I laid awake nights worrying that it was going to be me.  But I finished respectably in the middle.
* I ran 4k straight through - first time ever - and it felt good.
* I have my first running injury: patellafermellanutellawhatever.  The under-the-kneecap pain.  Not fun but I'm hoping not too serious.  It's cramping my style a bit right now.
* I'm in a half-marathon clinic!  Our goal race is the Hypodermic Half in February...gawd...
* Still eating like a horse.

Want to learn more about the charity I work for and am running for?

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Want to read up on the Marathon du Medoc?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On Hiatus

Just letting you know that all is well.  I haven't broken a limb or succumbed to any trots, runners' or otherwise.  I've moved in the last two weeks, hence the silence on the blog.  But I have been running!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Step One, We Can Have Lots of Fun

I realized not too long ago that, at my advanced age, this marathon thing is my first real, live goal. 

Maybe my next goal should be to make more goals.

I've never been a person to map out her life: high school diploma by 17, degree by 22, married by 25, kids by 30, CEO by 35.  Sure, when I was young I had dreams and aspirations but singing into the mirror, hairbrush in hand, willing myself to be the next Olivia Newton-John doesn't really count as a goal, I don't think.  I certainly haven't rested on my laurels, though.  I've seen, done and achieved a few cool things in my life but that's mostly due to a spirit of carpe diem rather than get-a-big-PER-diem.  I've lived my life open to possibilities and listening to Serendipity and it's served me well thus far.

So why this goal and why now?  Beats me, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time.  The decision to run a marathon was a gut one.  I didn't think it through at all.  I'm still not thinking it through, really.  The implications of this particular goal are dawning on me slowly, which is a good thing.  If I really investigated what it would mean to my life to do this, I likely wouldn't have decided to do it.  Best to sally forth blindly until I'm so immersed it will be impossible to surface when reality hits.

Goal-setting is major stuff.  People make money off of telling you how to it.  You can buy software to help you set and achieve goals.  Google results for setting or achieving goals number in the millions.  So I shouldn't have any trouble, right?  The experts (on the websites I looked at) say I can achieve my goal in 10 steps:

1. Pick ONE Goal: Check!
2. Start Small and Easy: Oh oh....
3. Simplify: Oh dear...
4. Write It Down: Done and done!
5. Keep Track Every Day: What?  I can barely do it weekly!
6. You Have To Want It: I think I want it...
7. Schedule Time:
  • Prioritize: No problem; unless something else comes up
  • Say No: Well, this past week I was pretty good at saying no to running, but I don't think this is what they mean.
  • Make the Time: If I could truly make time I would be rich
8. Be Firm Yet Flexible: I'm hoping to be firm by the end of this whole thing and I save flexibility for the yoga studio
9. Be Positive: Hey, that's my blood type!
10. Pray About It: I start doing this at about kilometer 6.

What's challenging me about this goal of training for and running a marathon is you can't do it halfway (I was going to say "half-a***d" but I'm not that fortunate).  I got through school with mostly mediocre effort.  Sometimes I can get away with that at work.  But with marathons, well, that's just dumb.  I might as well splint my shins and fasciitis my plantars now instead of wasting time. 

This goal takes work and planning and commitment and sacrifice.  I would imagine most real goals are like that.  Right now I'm still feeding off the novelty of it all and the mildly admiring looks I get when I announce to people, "Well, actually, I'm training for a marathon" as I subtly flex my calves.  In January, running 25km in minus 30, I will need much more than braggadocio to sustain me.

I know when I get to France and get over that finish line next year it will feel like nothing I've experienced yet and that is motivating.  And I'll be able to loop right back to novelty and insufferable bombast, which will be fun.  But I think it's getting through the in-between that will be the most rewarding.  The journey to get to the journey.  Knowing that I stuck through the muck in the middle. 

That might be the real goal in the end.

# of km this week = 0      *sob*
# of hours sleep I caught up on = 10   yippee!
# of bowls of buttercream still in fridge = 1

Want to learn more about L'Arche, the organization I work for and am running for? Go to

Want to support my efforts?  Go to

Want to learn more about the Marathon du Medoc?  Check out

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'm two days late on my blog. I haven't run since Friday. Tonight doesn't look good for a run either. I'm such a slacker.

Or I may have overdone it last week. Last week, I imagine, was how a typical training week should look.; Long run on the Sunday, training run on the Tuesday, yoga class on the Thursday, hill training on the Friday, another yoga class on the Saturday. I got my cross-training in, I ran by myself, it was all good (well, except my diet, but that was last week's blog).

And then this Sunday I crashed. Felt really tired and headachy, bit of a scratchy throat. There are murmurs of something going around - or maybe it was having to sit through two hours of the "Fame" remake that day - but I fear my body might just be saying, "Whoa, hold up! This ain't you." And it's kind of right. I've never done that much exercise in one week in my entire life.

I'm a big believer that if you aren't feeling well, then LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It's telling you to slow down and take a step back. I usually listen (especially if I have a lot of things to do at work) but I need to keep moving forward to stick with this running thing. I can't lose momentum! People tell me not to push myself too hard with my training but I thought that just meant not to run fast. I'm SUPPOSED to be actively training, sticking to the schedule. I'm SUPPOSED to be cross-training. If doing what I'm supposed to results in getting sick, then I'm hooped.

Or maybe I'm just mimicking the economy, tapping into the collective consciousness. Last week I was definitely in a boom, I was a raging bull, but this week I'm most certainly in a bust and wanting to go into hibernation a la bear. I've entered a recession, I don't know how long it's going to last, and I can't see any stimulus packages in the near future. Anyone wanna bail me out?

# of km = 20
# of hills = 5
# of pieces of leftover cake = 2
# of bowls of buttercream in the fridge = 1
# of naps = 2

Want to learn more about L'Arche, the organization I work for and am fundraising for?  Go to

Want to support my efforts?  Go to

Want to read about the marathon I'm running?  Go to

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fill 'er up!

This week I learned something disturbing.  During a marathon some people have, um, accidents.


It can all be traced back to food, of course.  My BFF may very well betray me.

In any machine that needs to move, the fuel is the thing.  How the machine functions and performs is directly proportional to what is put in the tank.  In running, carbohydrates = good.  They give you energy.  However, sometimes complex, high-fibre carbohydrates = bad, particularly right before a marathon.  Apparently, speeding up your legs for that great of a distance speeds up other functions as well.  This is known as the "Runner's Trots".

As if I don't have enough to be nervous about.

I have a love-love relationship with food.  I think about it pretty much all the time.  I love to eat it and read about it and grow it and cook it and watch people scream obscenities at other people while THEY'RE trying to cook it.  Being part Ukrainian instilled this in me.  This culture is all about the food (and the food is all about starch and fat, which would apparently serve me well for a marathon).  It's also all about the celebration of food.  Probably because back in the Ukraine there was so little of it that they made a production of whatever bits came their way.

There seems to be a lot of planning involved when eating for running.  This seems like a lot of work.  Most of my life I haven't had to worry too much about what I ate.  My genes graced me with a reasonably fast metabolism.  In recent years, I've had to pay closer attention because of some health issues and because, since hitting 35, the metabolism has slowed and the view FROM THE BACK has grown more panoramic.

But for the most part, I've eaten what I wanted, when I wanted, and now it appears this is no longer possible.  I have to PLAN what I eat.  I have to think about it ahead of time, not just dream about it.  I have to be conscious of every morsel of fuel that goes into the tank.  I have to measure and strategize.  Now where is the celebration in that?  Can I be mindful and still enjoy it?  What happens if I cheat?

It will make a difference, though.  I know that.  I'm already feeling it.  I ask everyone I run with what they eat, especially before a run, because I can't seem to get it right.  The morning runs are the worst.  Even a small bowl of cereal congeals into a lump in my belly and subsequently gets tossed around - a deep tissue massage and not in a good way.  I tried running with an empty stomach and that was a big mistake.  I not only saw stars, I saw planets.  And then there's the nausea.  Tell me again why I pursue something that makes me want to throw up?

There is also the challenge of eating between runs.  Running naturally increases your appetite.  Before running I was pretty much ravenous all the time.  Now?  Well, look out.  Like right now all I can think about is the leftover cabbage rolls sitting in my fridge - and I just ate breakfast.  I also have this quirk where anytime I do anything that's good for me, be it a run or a yoga class, afterward all I want is a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips.  A big bag.  Don't try and placate me with suggestions of rice cakes or crackers.  You know it's not the same.

All of this could be a problem going forward.  Any tips and tricks you can send me would be most helpful.....can I get wireless access inside the fridge?

# of km this week = 15
# of hills = 1/2
# of cabbage rolls = 8

Want to learn more about L'Arche, the organization I work for and am running and fundraising for?  Check out

Want to support L'Arche and my efforts?  Go to

Want to see what the Marathon du Medoc is all about?  Click on

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Robyn - The Reluctant Runner

One year from today I will run a marathon.  God help me.

I hated running.  Didn't understand it.  Wasn't remotely interested in it.  Certainly had no inclination to do any kind of race and definitely not for any kind of distance.  I was in the camp that said, "I only run if I'm being chased."  Or if there was something particularly good at the end of it like a garage sale or my Babche's beet leaf cabbage rolls with cream and fresh dill, or Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in a top hat and breeches.

But in January I went for my annual check-up and my doctor did that evil Body Mass Index test and she noted, kindly, that mine was on the higher end.  I read between the lines: I was getting fat.  I went home right after, looked at myself in the mirror FROM THE BACK, and I knew that she was right.

So I bought all the gear (including a pair of running pants that looked good FROM THE BACK) and I joined a running clinic.  Even then I had no desire to do any kind of race.  I just wanted to put one foot in front of the other at a pace marginally faster than walking.  I was hoping I might even like it or at least tolerate it enough that I could make a habit of it.

And then in April I had a conversation.  The employee running club at Rogers Insurance is going to train for and run a marathon together and raise money for the organization I work for at the same time - L'Arche Calgary (

(Pause for a HUGE shout out to Rogers!!!!!)

They are going to run the Marathon du Medoc ( in Bordeaux, France in September 2010.  At this marathon you run in costume, you run by castles, and they feed you wine along the way.  Plus, the founder of L'Arche, Jean Vanier, and the original L'Arche community are an hour north of Paris and a visit can be arranged.

I had one of those moments where the hamster on the wheel in your brain steps off for a second to talk to you.  My hamster's name is Serendipity and sounds like Morgan Freeman and on that day he said, "Well, Robyn, I guess you'd better run, too."

And so here I am, training for a marathon and fundraising for L'Arche as well.  I decided to add the fundraising component to echo Rogers' efforts but also because I'm inherently lazy and I need lots of motivators to make this happen.  And I need other people to hold me accountable. And I need a space to process the experience (and likely vent).  And I need you to share it with me.  And because I hope you might reward my efforts by supporting the gift of L'Arche to the world.  Please note that I plan to cover all my costs associated with this endeavour (hurray for air miles and family birthday presents) so any contribution you make will go directly to L'Arche Calgary.

So I'm doing this blog and I plan to report weekly on my progress to tell you my thoughts and feelings on it all.  And of course tell you all about the marathon when I get to it and tell you about L'Arche.  I encourage comments and tips and thoughts of your own.  I just ask that you keep it clean and reasonably polite and maybe refrain from talking about how I look FROM THE BACK for now.

I've set up a Giving Page through  If you want to make a contribution to L'Arche Calgary (via credit card) you would do so here.  Tax receipts will be issued by CanadaHelps but the donation comes straight to L'Arche.  Please note that you can remain anonymous.  You are also welcome to wait until there is tangible, legal proof that I completed the darned thing.  And also please note that I will not judge you or berate you or publicly mock you for choosing not to donate to this.  I will do that for other reasons ;-)