Saturday, June 16, 2007

A little bit about turning 40 and being an athlete.

I wrote this entry shortly after turning 40 on a weekend in April. In some ways it's a dedication to the community in which I live. It is also a celebration of running and being able to do something I love. And the photo above was taken by my friend Geoff.

The Race season has officially begun. I know because yesterday afternoon I was standing in the ocean icing my legs in the frigid 8 degree waters of the Straight of Georgia. There is a set of stairs at the end of our lane, 66 worn and well used concrete steps that leads straight into the ocean at high tide. After hard racing and training days, I throw on my puffy down jacket and shorts, take my recovery drink down there and stand amongts the scuttling little crabs and flotsam and floating shreds of seaweeed.

I wade in up to the top of my thighs and the first 3 minutes are the most excrutiating and uncomforable minutes of all my training. The cold actually hurts and makes my insides constrict with tension. I tell myself to be tough and I stare fiercely at the designs the branchs of the Garry Oak makes against the sky, I watch the diving ducks, I search for eagles, I drink my drink, I drink in the amazing surface of the ocean view you get when standing in the ocean. I grit my teeth against the numbing cold against my legs and tell myself how good this is for recovery, and suddenly the horrendous shock of the cold water dissipates somewhat. I am not so uncomfortable as my legs feel sort of warm and numb and I am able to just relax for the remaining 7 minutes of ocean recovery.

Sometimes walkers come wandering down the steps and see me there in the ocean, standing there with the shorts and big coat. I give them a friendly smile and look back out to the ducks. They usually go back up the stairs then, as if venturing any farther towards this crazy peson standing in the ocaen might be dangerous to their health. I stay there, pacing back and forth, watching the way the rocks look underneath the clear sea, trying not to trip and fall in (oh, that would be so cold) and then my ten mintues is up and I stiffly pull my body back up the 66 steps to higher ground.

Later in the evening, as I sat watching the play off game between the Canucks and the Ducks with my husband Lance and our two children Maia and Ross, I helped myself to a piece of my leftover birthday cake, and I celebrated the end of a great weekend.

The weekend started on Friday night with a celebration for my 40th birthday and ended with my 6th Garden City 10k victory. As one TV reported said after the race, there were three significant numbers to the weekend: 40, 6 and 1. There was something else significant to the weekend: and that is the gratitude I feel for being surrounded by friends and joy in this beautfiful city of ours.

Sunday morning dawned clear and sunny, if a little chilly. I walked from my car to the start line, feeling calm and happy as I passed teams of runners doing warm up stretches and families with baby joggers and vendors setting up for the street festival post race. I passed the ever impressive ivy colured Empress Hotel on the inner harbour and the legislature buildings that face it on the other side of the harbour. I did my warm up routine on my own, jogging easily through the flowers and blossoms of Beacon Hill park.

As the race started, there was quite a crowd lining the streets and I was certainly pumped up. I started quite fast, hitting the first corner tucked right into the lead pack of men. As far as races go, this race was quite uneventful competitively, as I was well ahead of the other women from the first kilometre and had found my group of male runners to race with. I ran hard and found the windy stretches quite a challenge. I stayed relaxed and efficient through the last ten minutes of the race.

What makes this race such a fun one for me, is the energy and familiarity of the crowd. Victoria is a small city and after living here for 7 years I now have a big circle of friends: there are the close ones…the 40+ people who dropped into my birthday party on Friday…and then there are the thousands of athlete and runners who are a vital part of my community. Over the past few years I have spoken to hundreds of runners and walkers in clinics and many many come up to me in the street, at the store or before races and say hello. I have heard people’s stories and listened to their athletic questions and dreams. I have felt inspired by their enthusiasm, as they are inspired by my love of running.

When I turn around at the 5 km mark out at Ross Bay and start racing back towards town, I notice the sea of runners snaking along Dallas Road. While I am running on my own in the whole left lane, the other side of the road is one mass of athletes, a crowd of humans out celebrating life and health.

And then the cheers begin and while I can’t acknowledge every face in the crowd I hear them all. All the way from Ross Bay back to Mile 0 and the Terry Fox Statue I hear, Go LUCY! Way to go Girl! Lucy! LUCY! GO GO Lucy!

No wonder I smile. I feel like the luckiest runner in the universe. Not only do I get to do what I love doing most of all, which is running fast, I get to do it on my 40th birthday, in the sun, along a scenic and gorgeous ocean front race course, surrounded by thousands of friends and an abundance of joy. I feel honoured to race in front of such a crowd of enthusastic people.

I had a wonderful day at the race today....I felt honoured to be able to do something I love so much, again surrounded by friends and joy!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Pictures from early season road races.

Below, finding a groove at the Nordion 10k, Ottawa, May 25th.
1st Canadian, 1st master, 6th overall. 34:45

Moving it up a gear for the 5k, at Freihofers Run for Women, Albany, NY. June 2
1st Masters, 11th overall. 16:32

I've had my eye on the Freihofers race for a few years. I love all-women's events, I love being on the east coast (must be my Bluenoser roots) and I love the feel of the big US road races. Last year was too close to Ross being born, and I didn't feel in shape for a trip all the way across the continent, but this year, things lined up. First, I was feeling strong again after racing a triathlon season in '06, and I just turned 40 which has opened up the whole masters competition for me.
And I have always wanted to take Maia to New York so this seemed like a really neat opportunity for the two of us to take a trip together and for me to share with Maia just what my professional life looks like when I am on the road.
For the first two days of our trip, Maia and I stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Albany, New York, and we met all sorts of great people connected with the race. The morning after we got in, I was scheduled to talk to a bunch of kids at an elementary school. When we arrvied at East Lebanon school all the kids from grades 1-5 were seated in the gym and I spent a lively half hour talking about being a professional athlete and explaining how much satisfaction I get from doing something I love so much. Maia was a great help, choosing students to ask questions. Being around kids is such a rush!
The volunteers in the elite athlete hospitality suite took good care of us and later on looked after Maia while I went for a run with my new friend, Jonh, a local runner. When I came back from the run, Maia had made me a thank you card:
thang you
To Mum
you for bringing
me to Nu ork
if you wor
not a aflyt
we wod not be in Nu ork
You are good to Be a aflyt
Love Maia

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's now almost the middle of June, the days are long and bright and every morning for the last week, the sand and beach have been beckoning us as Maia finishes grade one.

I have raced in Victoria, Ottawa, Spokane, WA and Albany, New York since turning 40 in April, going 4 for 4 with Masters wins. It's been fun, and going to the Freihofer's 5k in Albany was really superb. (see the news story posted on Freihofer's is a run for women, with a world class elite field, and 3000 more women, running solo or on sister-sister, mother-daughter and other teams. I spoke to a whole elementary school the first morning I was there, about being active and having a professional career. I had to demonstrate my skills by running as fast as I could around the gym.

Race morning was sunny, humid and exciting. With an uphill start and a flying downhill finish, I had to pull out all the stops to beat the Russian and American women also in the masters field. I was happy with my 16:32 and 11th finish overall in a race won in 15:23.

Maia came with me to New York and after the race in Albany, together we rode trains, took yellow taxi cabs in the rain from Grand Central station, and walked 5th Avenue. We browsed Tiffanies, where we had to ask the price of the diamonds as they are not displayed($1500-150 000), and looked in the glitzy foyer of the Donald Trump tower. Maia played on the expansive floor piano at FAO Schwartz. What I will remember from the trip, more than the images of NYC, is the banana bread we bought each day in the food hall of Grand Central, before the train ride on the Hartford line to our friends in Connecticut, and endless word and drawing games we played while taking the planes, taxis and sitting in waiting lounges.

2 days after coming back to Victoria, Maia turned 7 years old. The birthday party on a rainy day concluded with a fun bout of shaving cream foam in the back yard.