Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jan.29: Off the Fence

For the last 2 months I have been sitting on the fence as to what kind of marathon I want Prague to be. By that I mean I have been debating in my mind whether or not I want "to go for it" and try to PR again, or if I want treat it as a destination marathon and just be "happy for the experience" in a new city. I have finally decided NOT to pursue a PR at Prague, opting instead to devote some of my would-be training time back to my first love - cycling. Now running has certainly been a home-wrecker the last 3 years but perhaps now I can have all my fantasies come true with a menage a!

I have booked off 1.5 weeks to cycle in the Alps and watch the Tour de France in July. I am a huge fan of the tour and I am so excited to get the opportunity to see it as a cyclist, up close and in person! Also, we are quite keen to take a lot of little weekend getaways when the spring rolls around that would really interfer with the heavy and intense training schedule that a goal marathon demands. These getaways will still be very active, but they will be no match for the intensity level of a solid Jack Daniel's track-long-track workout that is for sure! I plan to keep running, but I will be incorporating more cross-training, spinning, and actual cycling in the weeks ahead.

That being said, I ran 5.5 miles tonight at a 7:31 min/mile pace. I am quite sure that Jennie inserted 10 pound lead inserts into my running shoes as it felt like my feet were just dragging.

After my last post, my main man The Koz sent me the following link. I completely forgot about it until he sent it. Hilarious!! Thanks man!

Tomorrow we are off to London to see Les Miserables and for a Super Bowl party! "Super bowl," you ask, "in London?" Why yes, my sister and brother-in-law got a feed for the game - I believe kick-off is 11pm on Sunday night! I am not really a football fan and, infact, I just had to google who was actually playing in the game (Steelers vs. the Cardinals (but aren't they a baseball team?!)), but the novelty of having a Superbowl party in London at midnight is just too good to pass up!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jan.27: Coffee Breath

I have decided not to join the Frenchies for their standard espresso after lunch anymore. Lately I have found the espresso's taste so bitter and just leave a nasty taste in my mouth. It tastes like a gang of oompa loompas have crawled into my mouth and took a big dump. On the bright side, they sing a catchy little tune about morals while they are down there...


Monday, January 26, 2009

The Rest of Houston...

So, basically I spend the rest of my week in Houston visiting family and friends, shopping (arrived with 1.5 bags and left with 5 full bags), and managed just a few 6-8 mile runs around my ol' stomping grounds of the Buffalo Bayou. It is funny - when I was driving around Houston it seemed like YEARS ago since I lived there. It felt like I must have lived there in another life - it was almost like it never happened - everything seemed quite distant and unfamiliar. But as soon as my feet hit that familiar pavement of the Bayou it seemed like only yesterday that I was running this path in the heat and humidity of Houston.

What was NOT distant and unfamiliar were the friends and family that we had the pleasure of seeing. We (regrettably) never took our new camera around with us so we only managed a few pictures outside of the marathon.

Mom, Jennie, and Dad (making sure that his head is not exploding!!)

Jennie and "newly" weds Alex and Jaws

Me and my main man - at our traditional Panera Bread after a cold Saturday morning run. Although it was cold, it is never too cold for the short-shorts!

How lame - despite having the chance to catch up with a lot of our friends, those are the only pictures we have :(
Since returning to Paris (last night) I have managed to do nothing. Tomorrow I will head out to the Bois to get some more Paris miles under my belt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jan.19: Ultimate Frisbee

The day after the marathon we decided to have a breakfast feast at Empire Cafe,

meet my brother at work for lunch (note how I am wearing the "Finisher" shirt the next day after the marathon! I am just like a tacky groupie the day after the rock concert...I know, I admit it!),

then play same ultimate Frisbee with a great group of friends that we especially miss every second week as they hit the fields for a little disc.

This is me explaining to "Green Pants" that short-shorts are not only appropriate for running, but pretty much for any outdoor activity where you will be seen in public!

Surprisingly we all remain friends after some of these games and head out for beers afterwards!

Jan.18: Shock 'n Awe

Sometime this past year, when exactly I cannot really remember but perhaps early summer (?), I was talking to my brother on the phone when he mentioned to me that he along with two of his work buddies (James and Cory) had signed up for the Houston marathon! The line went silent. "Are you still there?" he asked.

I was shocked.
"Yeah, I am still here. Are you serious?!!"
"Yep," Jon replied, "but we are not really sure what we got ourselves into..."

Now, the story as to how 3 non-runners one day, or shall I say one night at the bar, suddenly decided to run a marathon has yet to be clearly explained to me by either one of them. So, I have concluded that they just, simply, cannot remember that fateful night of bravado and trash-talk. Needless to say the following Monday at work they were all comitted less they hear the wrath from the other two...

Still shocked and not knowing if I should take him seriously or not I replied to Jon, "Do you want a pacer?" I thought that if he was just joking that he would not allow me to make travel arrangements to travel half-way around the world to come run with him, if he was not running.

"Sure man! That would be great!"
The line fell silent again - I was still shocked.
"Are you still there?!"

Since that night and that phone call the boys started to train. I would hear updates and was continually impressed with the level of dedication that they all had. I even had the pleasure of joining Jon on his longest long run in England on Christmas Day. It was then that I saw first-hand his dedication, which got me excited about welcoming him to the club in just 3 short weeks.

The time past quickly and soon it was the eve of the marathon. We had a pasta lunch at Jon's place to talk strategy and to give last minute tips. I could tell that they were all a little nervous but was, again, impressed with their resourcefulness to get to this point. For example, on the subject of nipple chaffing, Cory mentioned that he would just use duct-tape! James was quick to suggest that he use 2 strips per nipple and put them on in an 'X'!!

Here is James, Jon, Cory, and myself the day before (everyone is still smiling!)

After the pasta load we headed to the Marathon Expo to pick up our goodies. Below is Jennie, Jon, and my mom. As an aside, it turns out that my parents were as equally shocked about Jon's marathon running news and felt that this was a "see it to believe it" moment and also made the trip to cheer him on.

Leaving the expo. Myself, Jon, mom, and dad.

As most marathoners know, other pre-marathon activities are pretty boring. You sit, you eat, you hydrate, you pee, you hydrate, you pee, you eat, and repeat...

Finally, marathon day arrived and the weather was perfect (for the first 2 1/2 hours!) The 4 of us all decided that we would start running together. The longer all of us could stay together, the easier it would be. After running with Jon on Christmas I knew that 8:45-9:00 min/mile pace would be achievable - so that was the goal.

Cory (black), Jon (red/blue), and me (orange) at mile 6-7.

Up to this point I could tell that the boys had a lot of zip in their legs and I felt like I was yanking on the reigns of thoroughbreds as hard as I could to keep them back with me. I stood fast in my conviction that the difference between an experienced marathoner and a rookie is the manner in which the first 15 miles is run. Since I flew all this way to help them "run like a pro" and to avoid many of the common marathoning mistakes (which I still make myself all the time, but I digress) I was a little nervous about screwing this up for them!

Cory (black), James (black/red), Jon (red/blue), and me (orange) at mile 6-7. As you can tell, the mind and body were still in a very happy place!

I think the reason why the mind was in a happy place was that Cory soon mentioned to the rest of us that he was "in his spirit world". Keeping with the native tradition my mom later asked what animal he connected with and subsequently chose as his spirit guide while he was in his spirit world. My brother responded on his behalf by saying that he connected with whatever animal gets repeatidly kicked in the groin!

Luckly I did not visit this world during this marathon but I have been there plenty! It is where you can see yourself running the marathon from a 3rd person perspective (just like many role-playing computer games).

The 4 of us were still together, running as a cohesive unit through Rice. It was to everyone's benefit to keep the group together as long as possible as it made time pass quite quickly and, dare I say, painlessly. I recall Jon even mentioning that "this is sure an interesting way to see Houston. It is a completely different perspective." This sums up exactly why I continue to run marathons and continue to find new cities to experience them in. It was really neat to see these "rookies" discover over the course of 4 hours many of the thrills of marathoning in which I have fallen in love with over the past years.

At mile 17.5 the group finally cracked. After regrouping after the water station we could not find Cory. We had a fallen soldier but we had to march onwards. We were all quite disappointed not to have him with us during the final surge but were confident that he would fight strong and get back over enemy lines shortly after us.

Jon, James and I continued onwards. Never ceasing in our resolve. Never being distracted from our goal despite the many distractions of the surging cramps, the belly dancing ladies, the pain striking the achilles tendon like a lightening bolt with each foot strike, the budweiser beer, the dizzyness, and did I mention the pain?

Running like veterans James and Jon ran a negative split for the marathon (by 4 seconds) and were NOT passed beyond mile 20. All the road kill belonged to them - they were in the kill box.

Jon (in sun) and I (orange) at mile 26.

Jon (red/blue) and I (orange) - mile 26.
Here is a video of Jon and I at mile 26.

With a cheering squad like this, how can we not be motivated?! (D and D cheering on their sweaty heroes!)

Finally we made it! Here is the proof! First you will see James (red and raising his arms), then Jon, and finally myself (arms raised and quick to hit my lap button on my watch!) cross the finish line. Keep with the video until the end because you will see my final lesson as a pacer. Each good run ends with a solid pound dawg!
Shortly after regrouping ourselves we found our parents so that they could officially congratulate Jon on his debut!

Usually I really do not like the "official" photos taken along the course as I usually find that these pictures usually capture me in compromising positions, which historically have only provided blackmail material for friends and coworkers who get their hands on them. Normally I have an eye half-shut, dried-spit across my cheek that did not quite clear my face from 5 miles ago, crusty salt somewhere, and a look of complete dismay and/or pain painted across my face. But they managed to capture a few decent ones this time around...the links are here:

The best way to celebrate is, of course, barbequed carcus and a Shiner!

I have learned that there are 3 separate levels of appreciation for what a marathoner does. The first level is that from a non-runner. They really respect the fact that you can run (and they "could never do what you do"). The second level is from a fellow runner/marathoner who really understands what you put your body through and has an easier time relating to your tale. The third level is from your fellow runner who shares every footstep, every breath, and every struggle with you. The one who is shares the foxhole with you and knows in intimate detail how the battle was fought.
I am so honored that I could experience this last level with Jon. I think I have yet to mention that he did not complain once, or walk, or even break pace during the marathon. I was in complete awe in the manner in which he and the boys prepared for the race and the class in which it was run. He not only completed the marathon, but he ran his first in a way that took me 4-5 marathons to figure out how to do. I am in awe.

Shock 'n awe baby!

Jan.17: A Few Wrong Turns...

Yesterday, after my morning glory, I made a few "wrong" (or different) turns on what would otherwise be a normal commute to work and 11 hours later I found myself in Houston, Texas. I have only been gone for a little less than a year and although I have returned a few times since I left I find that there a little, everyday things that I never noticed before that now just make me giggle.

For starters, upon arrival I went to the car rental agency to pick up my economy sized car. For the same price I was offered a compact. I figured that since we are in Texas now, where everything is bigger (pahdun), perhaps having a little extra metal around me may not be such a bad idea. I would still be no match in a bumper car derby with the standard fare you see on the Houston roads (i.e. Hummer, F350's, Navigators, etc). However, none of their compacts would start so I was told just to take a "mid-size" ve-hi-cle (I love how they say that here!). So, this is what I got:
And this is mid-sized?!! Are you kidding me? I soon as I saw this beauty anchored at the dock I just broke out laughing! Put a tank gun on this thing, paint it brown, and I am ready for desert storm. So, before we pulled out of the lot I, of course, did a survey of the ve-hic-le to make sure that there were no iceberg chunks caught in the grill from a previous accident and we were off.
I was able to contain my giddiness until we reached the newly improved I-10 where I was greeted with 10 lanes of traffic for EACH direction, which made me giggle even more! I am happy to be back!
Saturday morning I had a relaxing 6 mile run with my main man JD (avg. pace ~ 7:35 min/mile). I sure do miss running with him and this run just reminded me of that fact. I plan on running some more with him throughout the week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jan.16: Morning Glory

You know, I don't do morning glory all that often but when I do I am always reminded that it has got be one of the best ways to start your day. But normally I opt just to keep hitting snooze, preferring to have more sleep than to get my heart rate elevated. Well today, due to a very hectic schedule, if I was going to do it, I would have to do it in the morning. But I did not have much time - so I knew that I could not do too much fooling around. I would have to get straight to business and make it a quickie.

So I crawled out of bed and went for and (uncharacteristic) morning run. I ran 6.5 miles at an average pace of 7:20 min/mile (ranging from 7:35 for the first mile to 7:08 for the last mile).

ps - Of course this post was going to be about running...what else?!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jan.15: Yeah I do speed...

...but I am just a recreational user. And I have not done it in months. So, just doing a little bit every once in a while shouldn't hurt, should it? Besides, sometimes I just need a good little pick-me-up. You know, a little something to get me through the week. Sometimes the week can be struessful enough as it is that one should be allowed to take a little escape from

I finally got out to the track tonight for some long awaited speed workout tonight (my first since September...yikes!) I was undecided between 2 different workouts. I could do 5x1000m at "Hard" pace with 600m recoveries or 3 miles at Threshold pace. I decided to do the Threshold pace workout because it worked out to be 2 miles shorter in the long run. The run was a complete success! Arguably I went a little harder than Threshold pace and ended up doing more of a "Hard" run, but whatever - I am not going to split hairs over it (because split ends are just nasty)!

Warmup - 2 miles at 7:45 min/mile pace
3 miles at Threshold Pace as follows:
1. 5:53 min/mile
2. 5:52 min/mile
3. 5:47 min/mile
Cooldown - 2 miles at 7:41 min/mile pace

Total Workout - 7 miles (or 28 laps - if you prefer the "hamster calculation")

My HR is shown below in red and my pace is in blue.
Simon - note the low frequency trend of my HR as the interval progresses. If I start too quick, this trend will find very high HR's quicker, which ultimately causes me to crash and burn (typically around 175 for extended intervals). Thankfully this did not happen tonight, but that is what I refer to when I say I will "run out of HR".

So, as my sister and brother-in-law would say, I bagged it! Since hearing them use this term I have started using it a lot because I think that it is classic. However, I prefer putting a french spin on it - In france a bag is called a "sac". So instead of saying "I bagged it, " I say "I sacked it"!! That just sounds wrong (and painful!)

I hope you kids sack whatever you have planned for the rest of the day!


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jan.14: No, I am not gay...

...but I did enjoy my 1:1 pilates session with my male pilates instructor today!

This has been my 15th session and I think I am, finally, beginning to understand a few of the moves. When I first started pilates my body was like it had rigor mortis because I was constantly tense, not really knowing what muscle I had to "flex", or "squeeze", or "scoop". And when I did focus on the proper area that was supposed to be worked, I would unconsciously tense up in many other areas. Today I felt like I was finally getting the hang of a few of the moves.

Don't get me wrong - I still suck. But pilates is slowly turning from something that I dread to something I quite enjoy. Maybe someday I can be like this...? (yeah right!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jan.13: The Snow Has Melted..., tonight was (naturally) the best time to break in a new pair of shoes in all of the newly formed puddles and on the muddy trails.

It took me 8 miles as follows:
7:25, 7:23, 7:20, 7:15, 7:06, 7:15, 7:11, 6:33 min/mile

to look like this:

Oh yes, of course 3 degrees C is (absolutely) short-short weather!

Maybe, just to make this day complete, I might get sucked into doing mud-masks with the Mrs. again


Monday, January 12, 2009

Jan.12: Opps

Ever have one of those days where you get so caught up in work (because you are really enjoying it) that "suddenly" you recieve a phone call from the wife telling you that dinner is getting cold? "Huh?! What time is it?...Oh, 8:30...hmmm, I guess I am not running tonight!"

So there you have it - first day of the running week and I am already behind. No biggie. Although no running tonight I know I have a lot to be thankful for - having a job I love is, evidentally, one of these things!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jan.11: Went for mileage instead...

My usual running trails continue to be uncooperative with my quest to do a little speed this week. Instead I just opted to get some more miles under my belt. I figured that this would be the safest option given the trail conditions as well as the fact that Christmas week disrupted my mileage ramp-up, so taking an extra week to push into the high 40's should be prudent and wise.

While running, this song came graced my Ipod. This basically sums up the relationship between me and the trails this week. I quite enjoyed the video with it as well...

I ran 8 miles as follows:
7:14, 7:10, 7:05, 7:03, 7:10, 7:00, 6:57, 7:04

Weekly Mileage: 46 miles (Goal: 48)


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jan.10: Bored Yet?

Today I guess I was overly optimistic thinking that perhaps (at least) the inside lane of the track should be clear of ice and snow. I headed to the track hoping that I would be able to take a bite into my first "speed" workout of the season only to find worse ice and snow than my usual trails through the Bois. Seeing that I was already committed to a run at the track but that it was clearly unsuitable for any kind of speed I started off on my first of 48 laps at Easy pace. (For those of you who try to avoid math, that works out to be 12 miles of sweet, sweet, mind-numbing running/skating).

I wanted my long run to be 25% of my total weekly mileage - mission accomplished. To be honest though, I think I would have preferred running it on the dreadmill - at least I would not be slipping all over the place and I could pass the miles away by watching French TV...hmmm, when I put it that way the track does not seem too bad anymore! The run passed dreadfully slow as follows:

7:19, 7:19, 7:17, 7:16, 7:14, 7:15, 7:14, 7:12, 7:11, 7:14, 7:11, 7:15 min/mile

Tomorrow I may make another attempt at doing some speed, but like all my other runs this week, that will be strictly dictated by trail conditions. Also, I find that my legs get just a little extra tenderized by running on this ice so I may forego speed altogether...


Friday, January 9, 2009

Jan.9: Still Slippery

Everyday I think that the trails will be improved from the day before and everyday I am wrong. I left work a little after 7 tonight, which delayed the start of my run a little, but thankfully I was bound and determined to get out there (as opposed to staying warm inside). Since I started getting bored with yesterday's run at about the 8 mile mark I decided to only run 8 tonight (seems logical doesn't it?!) in an effort to keep it all enjoyable - and it worked! I tempted fate again on the icey pathways as follows:

7:26, 7:26, 7:28, 7:18, 7:21, 7:16, 7:14, 7:11 min/mile

I just love running under a clear sky, in the woods, under a bright moon. We are 2 days infront of a full moon and running under a clear sky at night on an isolated trail is hard to beat. Runs like tonight make you forget that you live in a metropolitan area of nearly 12 million and make you believe, if only for an hour, that you are the sole inhabitant. Hmmm...this must be one of the reasons I love running.

To respond to some comments:
Steeeeeve: I agree. In fact your comment is best illustrated in Jack Daniel's book on figure 1.5. That being said I will argue that although the time difference may be marginal (implying that the improvments resulting from your training are only marginal), the difference in emotion/satisfication/accomplishment/bragging rights/etc between running a 3:00:05 marathon and a 2:59:55 marathon is exponential... :-)

Bert: It looks like I may have a good chance of staying here for another year! Considering that I was only supposed to be here for less than a year, you might say I have been really excited and fortunate to capitilize on a slow moving project!

Simon: I appreciate your optimism on what the trails will sound and look like when the weather improves. Unfortunately, this particular park is known for its transvestites and prostitutes (but it is the only one big enough to seriously run in on this side of Paris). So, when the weather improves so does their activity and sightings of things I wish I would never see on a run...


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jan. 8: Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility

I remember back in college learning about The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility in Economics. Basically, if I remember correctly, it attempts to describe the relationship between one's satisfaction, or enjoyment, with something and how it changes with repeated consumption of that same thing. Let me use Thanksgiving Dinner as an example.

Thanksgiving dinner is one of those special dinners where there is just a little extra sauce, a little extra dessert, and basically a little extra of everything. This is a dinner you have been anticipating for the last month. So your first bite of whatever is on top of that food mound that that looks like a mini volcano with gravy instead of lava is delicious. It is so good that you are already stuffing in your second bite before your first mouthful has even had a chance to travel back to your molars. But this bite is even better, because now you dipped your turkey in some sweet potato, gravy, and you even managed to get a little stuffing on that fork as well. So with remnants of your first bite, and with your second bite still clearly visble in your mouth to Aunt Martha across the table, you bulldoze that third, even tastier bite, on into that black hole that once resembled your mouth. On this goes for awhile, each bite just a little tastier and sweeter than the one before...

But suddenly you realize that everything is just starting to taste the same on your plate. Your tastebuds are no longer dazzled by the sweet ham and they are starting to have trouble distinguishing the wine from the gravy. On any normal day, you would stop here and be completely satisfied. But this is not a normal day and plates of new, undiscovered food are still being passed infront of you. So, not wanting to offend your new found long lost cousin, you are compelled to try a little of his Road Kill BBQ or whatever it is that he is begging people to eat. And on this goes, each bite becoming more challenging and daunting than the rest. You might even spend a few moments of self reflective time, staring off in a distant trance with your eyes half shut hoping you can disguise a few silent burps and farts as "grandma's brand" in an effort to vacate just a little extra room for dessert. But alas, you soon find yourself holding your belly, lying on the living room floor infront of the TV sleeping with a sweet, sweet tryctophan buzz promising yourself that you will never do that again.

Now, just as we measure weight in pounds, and speed in miles/hour, the economists measure our degree of satisfaction in a utiles. So given the above example, we experience a period where our satisfaction (or our total utile count) increases, followed by a period where it marginally decreases from the time previous (or decreased marginal utiles (utility)...hence the name of the law).

All that just to describe that is how my run felt tonight! The first couple of miles I felt great. I felt alive; the cold air cleansing my lungs with each breath. By mile 6-8 I was starting to get a little bored of slipping on patches of ice and the novelty of running within the tight wooded paths of the Bois, dancing between the eerie shadows cast by the pale moonlight was starting to wear off. Miles 8-10 were just a bored utile count was definitely low! The run went as follows (you can tell where the icey bits and the dry bits were by the pace!):

7:18, 7:07, 7:25, 7:18, 7:21, 7:14, 7:17, 7:16, 7:11, 7:05 min/mile


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jan. 7: Slippery Roads

This is exactly the reason I have not run in the last two days...

...the sidewalks in Paris have gotten progressively icier since Monday night. Last night I was planning on heading out while walking home from the Metro station and nearly wiped out, so I decided against in. Back in Calgary, where I grew up, we had a sensible by-law that would fine any person who did not shovel or salt their sidewalks within 24 hours of snowfall...apparently Paris does not have the same!

On an aside...if you listen to the commentary on the above video you will hear some of the dumbest live tv coverage ever.
1. Clearly those two ass-clowns have never run a marathon...all they are good at doing is running off at the mouth.
2. Don't you love how they talk you through the replay over and over again? "And here you see him, raising his hands (to signal his victory), then he slips on the mat..." If people get paid for this "quality" of work, then I should change professions.
3. But my favorite bit is, "but did he cross the line?"

Now on to the race director.."he probably only has a mild concussion...he is fine". Seriously?

Oops, my bad...I made the mistake of looking around for some more dumb running commentary I came across this...

...those 10 seconds of silence even made me feel uncomfortable...I had to break eye contact with my computer and silently humm something to myself whilst looking down at my shoes to confirm that they were still tied...

Tonight I had my usual 1 hour of Pilates...for those actually interested in a workout update!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Jan.5: Back to Work

Last night going to bed I lied there, staring at the ceiling contemplating what today might bring. It would be, afterall, my first day back at work in nearly 2.5 weeks. I felt like a kid again, forcing myself to go to bed early the night before school started again after summer break, wondering what the new year might bring. I lied there trying vainly to remember what it was I was actually working on. After 5 minutes of hopeless thought I resigned myself to the fact that today would probably be a loooooooooong one!

Remarkably my fears were without substance. I managed to crank out a sweet, sweet day at work. I even walked home with a little swagger thinking to myself, "Yep, 2009 is looking like a good year!" But this thought ended abruptly when I nearly got to my door and I realized that I forgot my keys 30 minutes ago, back in my office. Yep, it looks like the world and I were once again even for the day! But I am confident that there are still a few days left in this year for me to still get the upper hand!

This delay, nor the icy paths resulting from a full day of snow flurries, did not deter me from getting out to enjoy 8 miles completely to myself. I had to be extra careful and run slowly so I would not fall ass-over-tea kettle. As it turns out, I was right on my easy pace anyhow, so it worked out quite well. The run went as follows:

7:24, 7:29, 7:27, 7:24, 7:26, 7:23, 7:23, 7:15 min/mile

For what it is worth, I flirted with an acclerated run yesterday as well. I "accelerated" for 6 miles then pulled it back for the final 2. That run was on dry streets and looked a little different:

7:16, 7:08, 7:07, 6:58, 6:50, 6:13, 7:04, 7:01 min/mile

This is also the first week of Phase II for training. Up until now I really have not been too motivated. I generally find that once I start banging out some hard workouts that my motivation is soon to pick up. I am sure that will be the case again and am looking forward to the journey...again! This journey may be a little different as I want to get back into cycling, which was my first love long before this running nonsense got in the way!!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008: Christmas Holidays

I have spent the last 2 weeks with my family between England and Paris for the Holidays. This was the first time my entire family has been together in over 5 years, so needless to say it was a very special time indeed. I had limited access to internet over Christmas since we were staying in a little cottage on the Leeds Castle grounds. The other times I actually did have access, I preferred to be spending my time playing games, visiting, and enjoying everyone's company. Below is a little photo storybook of my holidays.

It all started when we arrived at Leeds Castle on December 19,

to join the rest of my family for the holidays. There were 10 of us, including myself, Jennie, my brother's new fiancee, my brother, my sister, her husband, my grandma (all the way from Saskatchewan), my mom, dad, and my other sister.

We stayed on the idealic Leeds Castle grounds in the Keeper's House for the rest of the week. Other than us, there were just a few sheep,

and black swans, which are the symbol of the castle. They were first imported to the UK from Australia by Lady Baillie, who was a former inhabitant of the castle and spent much of her time beautifying it.

During the first half of the week it was unseasonably warm, which was enjoyed by all. Sometimes even the nicer weather could not tear us away from a scrappy game of Settlers of Catan,

Monopoly (the reason I am smiling is because I was just on the verge of my victory!),

or foozeball. I definitely have to give victory credit to my brother-in-law who was clearly the champion when it came to individual play. However, I do believe that my mother and I were the team champions! As it turns out, my brother-in-law had access to a foozeball table at his old place of I know why he had to work so many late nights!

Inbetween the games and the trash talking we did find a nice little watering hole (The George Inn), where we even managed to wet our whistle's during Christmas afternoon. The atmosphere was cozy, the food was good, and it was stumbling distance from the cottage...what more could you ask for in a pub?!

It did not matter if we went out for a bite to eat and a pint, or if we stayed in, it was always a fun time! Christmas dinner was especially giddy, and to be honest, I cannot recall if grandma was actually sitting on my lap for that photo!

I guess you could say, I felt like a king over the holidays!

But it was not all fun and games - I did even manage to get in a little exercise while I was there. There were times where it was difficult to fit in a regular workout routine. I even found myself doing crossbody leg swings while waiting for a train to attend a Christmas Carol recital at the Canterburry Cathedral.

I wanted to be limber for my 20 miler I ran with my brother on Christmas Day around the Castle grounds. While we were running he told me that he was going to blow off this long run but after reading one of my earlier blog posts, he said that he would feel too guilty if he did not! I have discovered another training motivation technique - Guilt!

But we both concluded that running in the shadows of the castle, undistrubed by people, was a pretty special way to spend Christmas morning!

After our time in England, the gang moved across the English Channel to Paris, where my brother and I still found time to do a little exercise, but in the form of the Wii Fit. Skiing was especially popular...people even held the imaginary poles!
I kept my workout regiment up by showing grandma many of the sites and sounds of Paris. I had to push her along the cobble stone streets of Paris, which provided good strength training! I would not trade the time spent with her for her chair provided a good place for me to lean when we were both taking a break!

It was special to take her to see my favorite view of the Notre Dame,

to look up high

to see the Eiffle Tower,

to share her very first cotton candy with her,
and to take her to see the masterpieces in the Louvre. She found that this one reminded her a lot of home!

The Louvre was very special - grandma told me that she remembered learning about The Mona Lisa in school and she was looking forward to seeing it. When we got into the room where it is on display it was a complete zoo. We patiently got "in line" and were waiting to get upfront when an off-duty tour guide approached us and told us to follow him. He proceeded to take us around the side, through the security, and sat us no more than 10 feet directly infront of The Mona Lisa. He talked to us about the Mona Lisa then told us to stay as long as we wanted. The mobs of people AND the security were all behind us - just grandma, me, and Mona. We sat there for 3-5 minutes and enjoyed a view seldom enjoyed of the painting before we moved on. That was a special moment made possible by a complete stranger.

We continued exploring Paris everyday

and reflecting back on the holidays now,

they were without a doubt the best ever - not because of the location, but because of who was there.