Tag Archives: Vancouver

Running at Shawnigan Lake Triathlon

This one weird trick will change the way you run

…and you’ll never guess what it is!

Just tear your ACL, get knee surgery, and be forced to teach yourself to run all over again. Easy-peasy!

No really, if there was a blessing in disguise for being off running for a couple of years, it was that I had to learn to run again.

Recovery was slow but steady, but running and triathlon training have been a different kettle of fish.

The fact that I am now regularly running 10k – and have signed up for a fall half marathon, is a miracle of modern medicine. And, to be honest, a testament to my following my physiotherapist’s instructions.

I began by “running” only the straightaways on a track, walking the curves, but it was clear from the very first foray that I would have to run differently.

I would have to run more efficiently, on my forefoot, the way Victoria runner Marilyn Arsenault tried to teach me years ago while I was training for my second or third marathon.

I had signed up for one of her clinics, then got impatient and left the group because I felt re-learning my running gait was interfering with my training. So I remained a heel-striker through my journey into triathlon some years later.

Then the knee injury and the surgery and the recovery.

So there I was, on the track, ready to run for the first time in two and a half years. I started out tentatively and immediately felt pain shoot up through the newly-reconstructed knee.

Discouraged wasn’t nearly a strong enough word. My tears said it all, and Ken could only commiserate.

Then I remembered the two or three Mindful Strides sessions I did manage to get through years ago in Victoria.

Then and there, I switched my running gait to land more on my forefoot, with my bodyweight firmly under me.

Quite frankly, it was the only way I could run without pain. I was astounded that by switching up my gait, there was no pain at all.

I was running again!

I was slow as molasses. It was deliberate and exhausting, but exhilarating. It was a total of about 2 kilometres. But I was running, and it was pain-free.

I’ve been slowly building up fitness ever since. I’ve been incorporating strength training into my routine as well.

I haven’t been working on speed in the last year I’ve been running – just putting in some mileage, getting used to the idea of running and doing triathlons again. I’ve done a few hills now and then (they’re hard to avoid, living in Vancouver).

I’m still slower than I was pre-injury, but I’m hoping that’s because I haven’t deliberately trained for much of anything except completing a couple of 10k events last year.

Training starts in earnest mid-July for the Victoria Half. Then next year? Bring on the 2018 triathlon season!

Photo credit: Connie Walters Dunwoody

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Making Merry

As a divorced parent, away from my family of origin, many of my Christmases have been spent mostly alone. That’s not as pathetic as it sounds: I’ve had my children for at least part of the holidays, I’ve never felt deprived. I’ve always managed to have friends over, or be invited for a holiday dinner in return, or just spend Christmas with my dog and Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata. For many years I sang in a church choir, so my primary celebration was to stay up very late Christmas Eve singing at the midnight mass.

I am no longer religious, and although I had a couple of “bah humbug” years, I love the holidays again. Who can’t get behind peace on earth and good will to all? Not to mention presents, rum-based beverages, delicious pastries, and turkey gravy?

Whether alone or with friends and family, I always find time for a Christmas Day walk. I love taking a walk on a day when most businesses are closed. Everything is quiet and peaceful. When I lived in a less populous place with real winter, crunching on some new fallen snow made the day even more special, and the few people I encountered were quick to acknowledge me (and I in return) with a cheery “Merry Christmas!”

Tori and Ken at False Creek

Getting our friendly on during our Christmas Day stroll.

Christmas walks in Vancouver have proved to be a different experience. Last year, my first with Ken, we lived in Marpole, and took our dog out for a walk by the river and didn’t encounter anyone (must have been early in the morning). This year, we live near False Creek, and the seawall was its usual busy place with walkers, runners, cyclists, baby strollers, and dogs. For the first half of our walk, I kept expecting lots of “Merry Christmases,” a shared acknowledgement of this special, quiet, low-key holiday. I smiled at people, ready with my greeting, but nope. No one wanted to meet my gaze. Everyone was in the same urban bubble they always are.

Halfway through our walk, I took it upon myself to break the bubble. I told Ken I was going to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone we encountered.

So I did. I wasn’t really expecting anyone to say it in return – just offering my Christmas cheer. I felt a little embarrassed to be transgressing the urban social etiquette, but I did it anyway.

Some people ignored me, some clearly heard but didn’t acknowledge me, but most people seemed pleased at being startled out of their bubble. It was great to see faces light up with a smile and, sometimes, a “Merry Christmas to you!” Especially the people walking alone.

What I have found living in a city (unlike a smaller place, like Regina or Nanaimo) is that social niceties like greeting strangers is exhausting because of the sheer number of people out and about. Dense population makes for further isolation in the same way that too many choices in a grocery store can paralyse a shopper with indecision. It’s too overwhelming, so we put in our headphones and escape.

On the other hand, making the effort to connect on a human level, giving someone a greeting and possibly making their day brighter, makes the urban experience much less overwhelming. I was energized by our Christmas Day walk, and it felt good to spread some cheer.

I don’t have the energy to greet every single stranger in Vancouver each day, but I bet I can give three-to-five “hellos” most days I’m here, and raise the “merry” quotient a little bit higher.

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Stanley Park Seawall

Five reasons to love Vancouver

Since this post from three years ago continues to gather readers, I think it’s about time I cook myself up some crow pie, grab a fork in each hand, and double-fist a big ol’ mea culpa.

I’m back in Vancouver. I’ve been back here for seven months, and I love it. I love this city with all its problems, because the great things about Vancouver outweigh her faults, and besides, I have always had a soft spot for this city. You’ll note, in that post from three years ago, I said “I quite like it and, given other circumstances, I’m sure I could happily live there.” Here’s why:

1. I get so much done on my commute to work

Haha just kidding. I’m working from home most days as an independent communications professional. But when I do commute (and when I’m at the gym), I listen to podcasts and audiobooks – all my favourites: Radiolab, This American Life, Reply All, Criminal, and now Where There’s Smoke. I recently listened to all 14 hours of Neal Stephenson’s latest novel: Seveneves (highly recommended!). Honestly, when I look back at the namby-pamby 35 minute commute to downtown I was complaining about three years ago, I laugh at my formerly whiny self. If I worked downtown again I would probably take my commuter bike at least some of the time. Speaking of which …

2. Have you seen all these gorgeous bike lanes?

The City just completed new road surface for the bike route I would take to downtown from here. A nice, slightly hilly 10K to downtown, where there are separated lanes throughout. Before we moved into my Marpole condo, we lived in a small apartment on Main Street, where it was a barely sweaty, absolutely, stunningly beautiful 5 km jaunt around False Creek to downtown. Vancouver, like Victoria, is cyclist heaven.

I hope, when they build the new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel, they also have plans for a separated bike track all the way from Tsawwassen into Vancouver. That would be amazing, because I do still love to get back to Victoria once a month or so.

I also can’t believe I was complaining about no running routes three years ago, when I routinely ran False Creek/Stanley Park, and look at those North Shore mountains for trail running! Also, just over the bridge into Richmond are some really nice stretches by the airport.

people doing yoga on paddleboards  just off Kits Beach in Vancouver

Why yes indeed, those are Vancouverites doing yoga on paddleboards.

3. The weather is really nice. Even when it rains.

No really, it is. I’m writing this at the start of a heat wave, and we’ve barely had rain for a month now, but that’s not clouding my judgment (see what I did there?). This past winter was not bad at all, weather-wise.

Shut up about climate change* for now, I’m trying to enjoy this.

4. Proximity to new friends

I make friends easily. I admit, the first six months of my return I felt like a bit of a recluse, but I’m putting that down to the knee surgery I had in April, and before that, an incredibly stressful job. As I get further away from both (I found a wonderful physiotherapist and I’ll be running again soon – RUNNING!) my circle is expanding. I threw myself into my professional association (IABC/BC), I have volunteered for the next Interesting Vancouver, I went to a LikeMind meetup that stoked my creative side (I’ve been writing like crazy since then), we’ve invited friends over for dinner. Who says it’s hard to meet people in Vancouver?

5. Family

My son and my youngest daughter are still in Victoria, but as my youngest turned 21 last year, I realized she’s really, truly OK and ready to launch. I was so glad to have the past three years with her though! She now has a plan and she’s going for it (she got into a nursing program, I’m so proud of her). My son got his B.A. and is going overseas soon.

I was at the Open Textbook Summit a few weeks ago, talking with Clint (a colleague from BCcampus), and someone else; explaining that I’d moved back here.

“Why did you move back?” my friend said.

I started to go through reasons 1 through 4 above, when Clint interrupted me with a smile: “She moved here for LUUUUUV,” he said. And he was right.

Just over a year ago I met my partner, Ken, and my life has been so much better since then. Within months I knew without a doubt he is the one I want to be with. He’s my family, my support, my collaborator and co-conspirator, my anchor. He’s been on the lower mainland all his life and he loves teaching at BCIT and Emily Carr, so it was a no-brainer that, with my career mobility, and with my already owning a home here, that I would be the one to move.

6. Bonus – it’s all about the one per cent, the things you can control: yourself.

Last week we attended a talk by Brett Gajda, who, with Nick Jaworsky, does the Where There’s Smoke podcast. Something he said smart-bombed straight into my soul and exploded with comprehension. It’s one of those things you hear for years, and you think “yeah, yeah, that’s right, I agree,” but you don’t really comprehend how it affects your life until suddenly one day it burrows into the space inside where you need it most. I’m paraphrasing, but here it is:

“Things outside of your control are so big you sometimes can’t help focusing on them. After all, 99% of the problems you have in the world are outside your control. The only thing you can really control is – yourself. Your actions, your attitudes, your values, your choices. But the moment you focus on the 1% right in front of you, everything is different. EVERYTHING.”

So yes, there were reasons to leave Vancouver, and there were reasons to come back to Vancouver. But more than that, there are reasons to be comfortable and happy with the person inside, so you’re content wherever in the world you find yourself next. And that’s the most wonderful place to be.

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*Seriously though, I am worried about climate change. That’s why I take transit and ride my bike.

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