Running in the Rain

The plan for today was pretty simple. I had to go for a run, had a few hours of work to prepare for some meetings this week, and had to pack (I'm working for a few days in Vancouver starting Tuesday). It was pretty cold in the morning, so I thought I'd work first, and give it a chance to warm up before my run.

By mid-afternoon, I was ready to head out but not exactly willing. A torrential downpour, mixed with sleet, was waiting for me. Ugh. However, running on a treadmill at the gym or water jogging just doesn't excite me, so I knew I'd have to suck it up outside. I procrastinated for as long as I could. It's not like running in the rain really bothers me, I mean come on - I live on Vancouver Island so rain is a way of life here in the winter. But this rain was different; it was part solid and all cold.

I figured I'd run down through the estuary, hoping that by the ocean temperatures would be a bit milder. Trails would be way too muddy today. I asked Jason he'd pick me up so I could do a point-to-point run, and headed out the door. I turned my iPod up a bit louder than normal to distract me and started down the road.

Just keep running, just keep running...

It didn't seem to take me long to get to our pre-arranged pick up point, in fact I was running well. I knew as I was going along that I was running faster than usual, especially since I was on the edge of getting a side stitch the entire time. I ended up with a PR for that route. Funny how it only takes a simple distraction, like horrible weather, to take the act of running off my mind and stay in the moment.

Done - and it wasn't so bad after all!

RIP, Lil Howler

A strange thing happened the other day. Humu was doing her regular patrol route along the backyard fence line. Then, all of a sudden, she froze in place and started barking. Actually, that happens all the time, and she barks regularly at invisible beings, aliens, and other things I can't see. But this time was different; it really seemed like she was barking at something that did exist, and I was pretty sure I heard an odd growling sound coming from under the deck.

Jason went out to investigate, and came back to report a cat curled up in a corner, hissing and growling. I headed out myself to see, and sure enough there was a little siamese cat, seemingly sick or injured, and definitely scared. Having grown up with siamese cats, I went in to grab leather gloves and a sturdy jacket before I tried to pick it up. When I approached it, it did the crazy siamese thing of lashing out, hissing, growling, and generally acting all spazzy. But it would kind of flop over, and was pretty frightened.

I went back inside to grab some towels and a box. We couldn't leave it outside, as it was unseasonally cold - below freezing! I covered the cat in a towel, picked it up (sick or injured, but it still put up a good fight true to its siamese nature...), and placed it gently in the box Jason was holding. We took the cat inside to the laundry room while Humu stood guard outside the laundry room door, and went back out to find the owner.

Jason and I canvassed the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and stopping neighbours in the street. No one knew whose cat it was. We went to check on it, and even though it mustered a feeble growl, it was pretty lethargic and in the same position, curled up in the box, we'd left it in. I tried to see if there was a tattoo in the ear, but every time I got close, the cat would growl and lash out; clearly it wasn't going to let me touch its ear. We named it Lil Howler, and called our vet.

When we dropped the cat off at the vet, they said they'd try to find the owner. I called them the next day, thinking if they hadn't been able to reunite Lil Howler with its family, I'd make up some signs for the hood. But I got some sad news... Lil Howler had died. We felt pretty bad about it, and wondered how long it had been curled up under our deck. Where did it come from? Somewhere, there's a family missing their cat, as there was no tattoo in the ear and the vet was hoping someone would call them looking for it.

We did what we could, brought Lil Howler out of the cold and hopefully let it know that people cared about it. RIP, Lil Howler.

25 Albums

Last week (or so) was the Grammy Awards. I haven't paid attention to the Grammys since the early 80's, when Michael Jackson was cleaning up. Back in the days when he was accompanied by Brooke Shields, Emmanuel Lewis (that cute kid from "Webster") and a chimpanzee. Naturally, musical genius is of course paired with major eccentricities. Anyway... back to this year.

I nearly choked when I heard that Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for The Suburbs. A phenomenal album for sure, but I can't believe it won an American prize in a country that worships pop music like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. Arcade Fire! Whoo hoo! It got me thinking about music that has been important to me in the past, and the 25 albums that made a profound difference to my life.

Many of these albums evoke a particular time, memory, or person to me when I think of them now. I've included albums all the way from childhood to adulthood. Looking over this list, it's obvious that music played a much bigger role in shaping my life in the '70s, '80s and '90s than today. I wonder if that's because now my life is already shaped; do I listen to less music, am I stuck listening to things of the past, or does a lot of today's music just suck?

They are not ranked in any particular order, nor are they listed chronologically. I grouped some for ease of explanation only. These are 25 albums that helped shape me.

1. Michael Jackson - Thriller. This one is a no-brainer. I was 12 when it was released, and can remember each single, each video, each magical moment as if it was yesterday (ok, sorry for the cliche). I remember watching Motown's 25th Anniversary, where Michael debuted the moonwalk - my friend Andrea was having a sleepover party and we all screamed and danced and sang and laughed.

2. The Pixies - Doolittle. I LOVE the Pixies. This album came out over 20 years ago, and I still listen to tracks almost daily.

3. Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking
4. Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead
5. Billy Bragg - Worker's Playtime
6. Bob's Your Uncle - Tail of 2 Legs
7. Crash Vegas - Red Earth
These albums were played so much I think I wore grooves in the vinyl. Luckily now I have them all on CD and digital files on my computer, but I still have the records tucked away. They were late 80's/early 90's favourites, and bring to mind people and places like no other.

8. The Beach Boys - Endless Summer. I grew up listening to the Beach Boys in the 8-track, and later cassette, player in my Dad's car. Drives out to the sailboat were always done listening to the Beach Boys. I think I knew the lyrics to almost every song before I was 3 years old.

9. Weezer (self-titled/blue album). Not only is it a great album, but every time I hear "My Name is Jonas" I think of Ken, who every time he walked in the door would select that track and play it at full volume.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication. Another album I've played to death. Love it. Loves me some Chili Peppers.

11. U2 - The Joshua Tree
12. REM - Life's Rich Pageant
13. The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
14. Midnight Oil - Beds Are Burning
15. New Order - Low-Life
16. The Cure - The Head on the Door
17. Paul Simon - Graceland.
I grouped these together because these all scream "high school" to me. I still listen to tracks from these albums on a pretty frequent basis. How I long for The Smiths to get back together and do a reunion tour; too bad they all hate Morrissey. Bury the hatchet, gentlemen, do it for your fans.

18. Duran Duran - Rio. I lapsed into Duran Duran-fanhood at about 13 years old. Still love their music, actually, but back then it may have been more about how cute they all (most) were.

Other albums I listened to waaaay too much as a kid:
19. The Beatles - Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
20. Abba - Voulez Vous
21. Music from the Broadway Musical Hair

These final albums are special for many reasons: the music, the time, the people, and generally the memories they evoke. But mostly the music.
22. Violent Femmes (self titled)
23. Spirit of the West - Labour Day
24. David Bowie - Let's Dance
25. Bruce Cockburn - Stealing Fire

Every now and then, Jason and I have "music and wine night" where we pull out old classics and pair them with a smooth bottle of wine. Come share your music with us sometime!

One Year Ago

Last night, Jason and I were reminiscing about exactly a year ago. The Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympics. We were fans from the start; in fact, I remember the day the announcement that Vancouver was chosen as the host city. We were driving down SW Marine towards UBC, and honked in excitement when we heard the announcement live on the radio. Since that day, we were looking forward to the Olympics, but never in our wildest imaginations would have predicted just how awesome those two weeks were.

Fast forward several years, to February 2010. Opening Ceremonies. Could we really pull off such an auspicious event? We watched, flipping back and forth between Canadian and US coverage. What a show - the emotion, the artistry, the beauty... a triumph (despite an unfortunate technical glitch with the lighting of the flame)! Jason asked me the other day what I wanted to watch during a trainer ride - I asked for the opening ceremonies. Too bad we don't have a DVD of it - I'm on the hunt for that.

Not only was the televised coverage of the games our fun spare time activity for two entire weeks, we had tickets to a couple of biathlon races in Whistler. That weekend in Whistler felt like we'd jetted off to the Alps - the crowds, the languages, the feel... didn't seem like familiar-ole-local-Whistler! We took in as many sights and sounds as we could.

This past weekend, CTV showed a highlights show from the games a year ago. Memories came flooding back, and we got out the pics of our time their last year. I thought I'd share some of them with you, in case you're jonesing for reminders of a couple of the best weeks in Canadian history...

Whistler transformed into a village in the Alps.

Picking up our biathlon tickets.

Perfect bluebird day!

We watched two races from right in front of the stadium.

Gold medalist from Germany finishing the women's race.

Me hanging with the mascots.


We are in the throws of deep winter here. However, despite all the forecasters proclaiming it will be one of the worst ever, with snow, cold, freezing temperatures, etc... it really hasn't been all that bad. We did have a couple of days of snow, and we had a stretch of about a week where it dipped below freezing overnight, but overall, a pretty typical winter. Grey, cool, and rainy. I haven't even had to break out my thick Pearl Izumi winter riding gloves at all, and I've only worn my insulated riding jacket once.

But - that bring me to the topic of this post. Even though our winter has been fairly mild (perhaps not as mild as last year, with people walking around the "Winter" Olympics in shorts), I am already tired of it. I'm tired of suiting up every time I go for a ride. Long-sleeve base layer, rain jacket, tights, booties, thermal socks (I like my feet to be toasty), clear lenses instead of tinted ones. Oh, the hardships I face, I know. I just can't wait to pull shorts and a jersey on to go for my ride. Southern California in March can't come soon enough, and then by the time we get home, spring will be making an appearance and at least I'll be down to knee warmers.

Jason says I always go wiggy around this time of year, and start looking at job postings in Hawaii and California. He claims winter's going fast, and I really only have to survive another month. I did live for a year in the Cayman Islands once, and really missed the change of seasons. And considering much of the continent is under a serious deep-freeze, I can't really complain that I had to put on booties instead of toe warmers for this morning's ride. He reminded me that I ran in short sleeves yesterday (but I did wear gloves, I also like my hands to be toasty). Come on summer, I miss you!

Humu enjoying a run in our typical winter wonderland.

Deposits and Withdrawals

I feel like I make a lot of deposits. Not into a bank account mind you, but into myself. You see, training is a deposit - hard work becomes a deposit of fitness into a body. But (much like my bank account) I am sometimes surprised as to how little is actually in there, despite all the deposits I've made.

After the last couple of months only doing what I would call recreational activity (swimming 1x week, running 2-3x week, cycling 1-2x week, weights 3x week, yoga 1x week...), it seems that my fitness account is pretty depleted. It had a huge balance back in November. Granted, I made quite a sizeable withdrawal on the 21st of that month, but I guess service charges and other hidden fees have slowly been chipping away at the amount of fitness I had remaining.

The fact that my balance is pretty low became evident on a mountain bike ride this past weekend. It seemed like it took more effort to get to the top of the mountain than I was expecting. But at least that effort becomes another deposit for the future. I'm hoping now to maintain the level I'm at right now, until the spring when daylight savings and warmer days bring more substantial training again.

Funny thing is though, over the holidays I made lots of a different kind of deposit: cookies, treats and drinks. And those are definitely still there; that kind of deposit doesn't disappear from the body over time, but seems to accrue compounding interest.

A huge deposit in the fitness account to make it up the hill,
and a large withdrawal from the fun account for the way down!