Category Archives: The Run Diaries

Apparently, I was on hiatus!

It’s been FAR too long since I have made a post. Well, I have several excuses for that. None of which are really any good, however they are valid.

The first is that there is a missing post! I wrote a follow-up to the last blog post about anger and my trail run that I found a surprise. I never got to reveal that surprise! I will be re-typing that post (since I have a draft in my written journal), however I will not be taking the time to edit and polish it, since time is just not something that I am in abundance of these days.

Next, I have been really sick– and until today I was unable to run. (With the exception of gym visits in January, but who wants to hear about a treadmill?!)

Around Christmas time, I caught a nasty flu bug that was going around that destroyed my lungs. Previous to this flu, I was already struggling with poor lung function and my running progress was dramatically reduced due to it. Once this flu hit, I could not recover. For two weeks, I was barking and coughing to an unbelievable degree. Eventually, I did begin to heal, but my lungs never felt restored to their previous condition. I tried the gym, 2-3 times a week and could barely run 18 minutes (and only about 2.3km) on the treadmill without having a coughing attack.

February came and by the middle of it, I had caught another nasty flu bug and wound up right where I was in December. And then it continued to get worse and worse. I ended up with bronchitis, two ear infections and a bruised rib from coughing so hard. Then, I reacted to the first bout of antibiotics and fainted in the kitchen, smashing my head on the counter and leaving me with a mild concussion. I was a wreck, and for almost three weeks was laid up in bed when I wasn’t at work (yes I still went to work– crazy me, I know).

Things are looking better now! I have been off the antibiotics for almost a week. I was on an inhaler for two weeks (without it, I am not sure how I would have survived!) and have been off it for just over a week now. There have been a few times since that I wished I still had the inhaler, as sometimes my breathing feels slow, laboured and just difficult.

I do have some good news, however!

I ran outside today! And it was hard, but I feel great.

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I am happy to say that despite some struggles (physically, as well as mentally) I am on track towards my goals. An extra bonus is that I am feeling more like myself previous to gaining 25lbs in the summer– something that I have admittedly been having a difficult time dealing with. I was always that thin person with the perfect flat stomach and I never had to work at it. I am happy to be feeling a lot more comfortable, both inside and out.

What’s next?

Another great thing has happened, I have started a new blog! This is an actual registered domain and will (soon) be the home for an assortment of topics. The Run Diaries will be moving there, as well as a collection of posts about climbing, mountaineering and general life. I plan to also start writing project reviews, feature articles and hopefully manage to get in contact with some prominent members in the outdoor scene to interview. My school semester has reached the tough part where all the big assignments are starting to become due, and so I will have to wait just a little bit longer before I can finish the website and have it launched. I will be sure to post a link once that happens!

Although I haven’t had the greatest few months, I still managed to do some amazing things!

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Stay tuned for The Summit Project– my adventures and more!

My climbing has much improved, now that my shoulder is healing up nicely. Once this bruised rib is completely healed, I should be able to climb at the same difficulty as before and continue my progress even further!

I am very excited for the rest of this winter, and cannot wait for spring and summer. I have been planning many different things and cannot wait to see and experience the true beauty that is Vancouver Island.

Next, my last post on this blog!

A Run

Today I woke up after a much needed 9 hour sleep to discover that the mild storm which had been causing dark clouds, rain and strong winds had lifted. The sky was a bright blue, marked with the occasional cloud and the sun was shining brightly through my window. The afternoon had already begun and I, despite the beautiful day outside, awoke with a foul mood.

There were many reasons why my mood got worse and worse throughout the period of the day, but none of those are appropriate for here and none of them are proper excuses anyways. After searching over half an hour for my earbuds (which I still could not find) I eventually got out to do my run. The solution? Putting my iPhone in my pocket and listening to the music through the speakers. Surprisingly it worked well and I actually enjoyed being able to hear the sounds around me in addition to the music, and I think I will be doing it more often. (And no earbud sweat! You runners know what I am talking about!)

As anger consumed my day, I detested the thought of going for a run. I wanted instead to join a kickboxing class, to work out extremely hard, sweat excessively and channel my frustrations into something else. But that run was exactly what I needed. I went into it with zero expectations, knowing that my foul mood could result in poor performance out in the bush. But I was wrong, so wrong. With the hard rocking sounds of The Offspring giving me both determination and fuelling my mood, I set off into the bush by my house for what would become one of my best runs yet.

This post is meant only to serve as a mere update to my progress as a runner. As usual, I pondered my life and thoughts and although I’ve been working on a piece about motivation, all I could think about was my anger and why I was letting myself feel that way for the dramatic shortcomings of my ridiculous life. The very fact that I was angry just made me even more mad at myself.

As my run continued on, I didn’t check my time consistently, I didn’t feel the need to slow my pace. I didn’t feel tired, overdone or short of breath. I didn’t focus on where I was going or how long I was going to be out there for. I simply just ran, and ran, and ran. I went down windy trails and followed the most difficult routes I have ever tried. Difficult not because it had many hills, (in fact there were virtually none) but difficult because it was a BMX trail full of logs, stumps, roots, mini bridges, mud puddles and the like.

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An iPhone photo of part of the trail I found myself on. As you can see, many logs across the route that I had to jump and step onto. It tested my balance and strength, as well as my mind as I had to think quickly about where my next step would be.

The run itself was full of many ups and downs. At first I felt great, and then at times I began to get angry again as my thoughts continued in a different direction. There was a time where I was following a particularly difficult trail for quite a while and came to a dead end and had to turn around and go through it all over again. Another time, I ran along some intense mud, trying to dodge it as best I could but it covered a fair distance and I ended up being covered in mud. (And yes, I’m STILL wearing my Saucony INDOOR gym shoes for my runs. I can’t afford to buy proper outdoor footwear and well, I really love these runners. Or did. They might be ruined now).

I ended up running for a full 30 minutes, something that I haven’t been able to do for quite a while. The only break I took was a quick one to talk briefly with someone I saw on the trail in the midst of a huge patch of mud, (roughly 30 seconds) and another one near the end while I was waiting to cross a road (still walking down the side, again, only about 30-45 seconds). I begin my runs, as always, with a five minute brisk walk uphill and ended it with a 5 minute brisk walk back to my house. I didn’t feel too tired, and I would have kept going if there was more trail and I had had more time.

I came to some interesting revelations during my time outside today that I cannot wait to share. Unfortunately, there just isn’t the time tonight and I still need to ponder some of those thoughts a little bit further. For now, here is a reminder to stay motivated, don’t make excuses and do not be afraid to allow your emotions to guide you along your runs! You may be surprised at how useful a little bit of anger can be for a good work out!

Unfortunately the iPhone cannot properly capture the lighting I was hoping to show. The impending darkness of the day created some interesting shadows and contrasts between the trees.

Unfortunately the iPhone cannot properly capture the lighting I was hoping to show. The impending darkness of the day created some interesting shadows and contrasts between the trees.

 

Gratitude.

My run at the Colliery Dam that morning was indeed a strange one. The events leading up to it coupled with the chance break in both the rain and the clouds when I arrived both encouraged a feeling of surging gratitude that overwhelmed my body to its very core. It is not a simple emotion like praying for a plentiful bounty of food at the dinner table, nor the fleeting reception of thanks when we think we have gotten away with a near miss. Gratitude is something else completely different. It is felt with the entirety of the being. It shakes the very soul, spirit, and heart of the person who experiences true gratitude. Gratitude is itself an action. It is an active contemplation of something, if not all things, that may count as blessings in our lives.

Treating gratitude like an action and less of an emotion may be counter-intuitive to some. Without delving too far into the deep, inner recesses of past intense philosophical inquiry and discussion, I still stand by my statement. Too rarely do we sit back and contemplate the extreme fortunes of our North American lifestyles. Too often do we wait by, idly contingent upon a chance circumstance or event that will temporarily relieve any stress or discomfort in our near-perfect lives instead of actively searching for that moment, that precious instant, in which pure gratitude, radiant and true, can overwhelm our thoughts and emotions.

Have you ever stepped back to contemplate the ant? So complacent in its natural urges to source food and shelter, it is without any doubt that this ant has never felt gratitude, and especially has not deterred from its daily routine to contemplate it. Will you be the ant? Will you continue upon life’s daily activities, participating instinctually within the monotonous drone of an intentionless society, or will you break away, for even a moments sake, to recognize the beauty of your life and soul?

This is not intended to have a negative effect on you, my dear reader, for having the luck of being a fortunate being. Instead, it is meant to wake you up, uplift and carry you, onwards and upwards into the action of receiving a feeling of being fortunate and blessed.

I return again to the idea I’m proposing of gratitude being the splendid endowment of positive emotion resulting from the purposeful intent of action directed towards the uplifting of the soul.

Aristotle said in his book on Ethics, “contemplation is both the highest form of activity (since the intellect is the highest thing in us, and the objects that it apprehends are the highest thing that can be known), and also it is the most continuous, because we are more capable of continuous contemplation than we are of any practical activity.” Although primarily referring to his idea of eudaemonia (in simplest translation, the act or pursuit of happiness) and the higher virtues, we may still apply his rationale to gratitude. Belonging to the realm of the intellect, gratitude is included through its dependence upon the active contemplation of it. Contemplation is itself an action. It is not a physical action, but a mental process we undergo when looking to solve a problem, revel in a particular memory or make a difficult decision. Gratitude uses this very process. We must choose to seek it out, to look beyond the dark shadows cast by a consumerist society and into the dazzling light that the simple things in life emanate upon us. As I run, I contemplate the various shades of colours I see, I notice the moss creeping it’s way up and over a tree and appreciate the soft glow of the sunlight from beneath even the greyest of clouds. I look, I notice, and I actively comprehend that the stunning array of visuals the strength of my body has allowed me to consider are worthy of contemplation, and as a result, deserve a moment of gratitude.

So, on my run that cool, Autumn morning through the dam, I contemplated exactly what it was that I had to be grateful for. I felt gratitude for my body, for its strength and abilities that consistently surprise me. I contemplated nature for the beauty it offers so willingly into my life. In that action of contemplation, deep and meaningful gratitude took root, and much like the trees which surrounded me, reached toward the sky. Desiring the world, but not expecting it, one foot pounds in front of the other and gratitude radiates from my heart.

 

This tree, swallowed up by moss, still stands tall and alive. Reaching deep into the ground, its roots harness the strength and desire to keep on growing.

This tree, being swallowed up by moss, still stands tall and strong. Reaching deep into the ground, its roots harness the strength and desire to keep on growing.

Art.

Sometimes when I run, I am so overwhelmed with inspiration it is difficult not to stop. I slow my pace down, tap a few notes into my iphone and hope I can recover my thoughts again later. Usually, I cannot. This is why I choose to run in the trails. Sometimes it is cold, sometimes it is muddy, damp and humid. But is is also so much more; it is exhilarating, stimulating and ultimately undefinably refreshing.

Have you ever felt the desire to get lost in the woods? Felt the excitement of trees older than time itself soar above your head?

As I run, my mind becomes free. I chase no thoughts, no sense of time and no measurable distance. I weave through trees, jump over fallen logs and dance over roots tangled in the surface of the earth. For me, running has become an art. A way to express myself as a pure being in nature. Each run I take, each route I endeavour is different from the one previous. Physically, each step differs and any sense of a pattern on the ground is shattered even with the rhythmic breathing of my lungs. I follow a tangled web of trails, choosing at the last moment to change course and dart in a new direction. Sometimes, when a particular expanse of forest calls to me, I respond with the pounding of my footsteps in the middle of it.

Mentally, no run is ever the same either. The complicated baggage we all carry follows me into the trails. But instead of fighting it, I choose instead to dance. To frolic, hug and kiss each wayward thought in my brain as if it had the individual ability to lift me up and settle me upon Heaven’s gates itself.

It is here amongst the trees, dirt and caress of the wind that inspiration roots and creativity grows. Amid vibrant greens, varying shades of brown and glimpses of a bright, blue sky spread above the complex diversity of branches, an art is born. A physical dance, a mental devotion births another thought, whose genesis resides in the intimate embrace of a loving soul at peace with herself in nature.

The colours of the forest, the light through the trees makes me smile each time.

The colours of the forest, the light through the trees makes me smile each time.

Triumph

There always comes a point that crosses my mind, even so briefly, which asks, “why did I think to do this?” An insecurity, a doubt, a fear and an anxiety too worthless for a name, yet unbearably crucial to the very definition of my self instructs me, without fail, that I cannot continue. It tells me to turn back, whispering tauntingly in my ear that this is too difficult to accomplish. With a wicked smile peering cruelly into my thoughts it senses the difficulty in which my lungs labour to breathe and my muscles strain to lift, bend and push off again.

Feet trudging, quads burning and my mind thoroughly exhausted, I question the reason I started this trek up the mountain or run down this trail. These questions always seem to find their way into my head, for however brief a period, interrogating my soul, questioning my desires and imploring my thoughts with why and how I got here in the first place.

The undulating repetitiveness of the thoughts which permeate the very core of my being seem to creep their way in regardless of which activity I choose. Once the initial excitement wears off, once the fissures in my optimism begin to crack deeper, those insecurities wrestle for their place amongst my thoughts. “What am I doing?”

Through the strength of my will, the determination in my heart and with the steady pumping of blood through my veins, my legs carry me through not only any resurgence of anxiety, fear and scrutinizing self-doubt, but up the mountain that looms before me, through the trail whose roots and dirt beg for the pounding rhythm of the souls of my feet and onwards into the opulence of triumph.

As the climb gets higher or the run seems longer, through switchbacks and valleys, hills both up and down, these doubts will always be a part of me. My heart pleads for nature’s fresh air, my eyes crave the visually stimulating array of greens and blues of the luscious rainforest I am so blessed to call home, and my legs themselves itch for the familiar burn of a day spent outdoors. I will continue to be tested, my soul tempted, the very core of my being tormented. Recognizing these fears, that anxiety, and firmly setting my pace, synchronizing my breath with the beating of my heart, and relishing in the masochist burning of my muscles, those doubts shrink backwards with every beat. An episode which lasts only a moment or two seems to press on for a lifetime. And as the bridges form over those fissures in my optimism, the wayward will finding its place amongst the trees, a smile takes over my lips and my spirit is raised. Vanquishing their strain gets easier each time, and it is through the doubts and the fear that I find the strength to carry on.

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When doubt, fear and insecurity threaten to trip you, triumph is attainable with the next step.

(c) Copyright 2016 - Searching for Sanuk, Michelle Leech, mexxlee.