Vancouver marathon 2010, here I come!

I did it! As I mentioned previously, this past week was my last chance to get my act together for the Ice dancers were inspiration for my own pursuit of physical excellenceVancouver marathon 2010. It was a rest week, with 3 short runs, culminating with today’s 3 hour and 51 minute trial! That’s right—almost 4 hours of non-stop running. I didn’t even have to make a pit stop or stop 10 times to take rocks out of my shoes like on my last long run! (The secret was to wear thicker socks so the little devils couldn’t get in.)

This run was roughly 33 KM (probably a little under, but it was trail running, so the actual time to run 33 KM on roads would be less than the time I ran today). So I am back on track with the training schedule, and I’m aiming to tackle my first ever marathon on Sunday, May 2.

Today’s run was 35 minutes longer than I have ever run before! For the last part of the run I kept saying to myself, every step I take is farther than I’ve ever run before. It was really exciting! My last long run was 3 hours and 16 minutes. Today I got to feeling really tired after about 2 hours and 20 minutes, which makes sense because that’s about what my previous limit was over the past 3 years. So it was a real slog for quite a while, and I was very conscious of the fact that trail shoes would be better than the street shoes I was wearing. Every rock under my feet became painful after a few hours. (I noted to myself several times that I must get some trail shoes, but that’s also what I noted to myself on my last long run…)

As I was running along, feeling like I was barely moving, constantly on the lookout for lumps in the lumpy gravel, it occurred to me that I’d probably used up all the energy that was readily accessible. So I wondered how long it would take for my body to figure out how to get at the more deeply stored energy (that is, the fat deposits in my thighs and belly)! Now I was getting to the nitty gritty! I sensed these areas, trying to discover whether I could feel the fat being sucked out to be used as energy, but I couldn’t. I did have flashes of euphoric energy running up my back and into my head now and then. But for a very long time I was slogging, and feeling the assault on my feet.

At about the 3 hour mark I gave myself a nice pep-talk. I had run up to the Seymour Dam, and now was back at the northern end of Fisherman’s Trail. From here it was easy-peasy. A softer trail, mostly downhill (until I hit the Homestead Trail), and best of all, it was MY trail. I’d been on this stretch of the river trail many, many times. So even though I was soon going to go past my limit, since I was on the home stretch of familiar trails it seemed like it would be easy. I KNEW I could make it back. And believe it or not, it seemed like the trees and river along this stretch knew me too, and were sending me friendly energy.

A little later, I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 3:16—the time of my previous longest run. Slog, slog. But it was a bit easier because the trail wasn’t as rocky as the Spur 4 gravel road. Then suddenly, at 3:20, I was infused with energy. Without trying to, I was back to my normal running speed. Aha! So this is how long it took for those fat deposits to give it up! (About an hour.) Or maybe this is just what happens when I boldly go where I’ve never gone before!

In any case, this re-energization lasted for the remainder of my run. My legs felt a bit strange, to be sure, like they were in shock, but the speed was there. Even on the Homestead Trail—1 KM of pure uphill, with very steep sections—I kept up the new pace. In fact, I ran it faster than I usually do! This was from 3:26 to 3:37. And from here it was totally smooth sailing. The little leg of trail over to Lynn Valley Road seemed to vanish under my feet much more quickly than ever before. Across Lynn Creek, and up the road to the cul-de-sac where I’d parked, with the last three minutes on the flat road inside the gate to Lynn Headwaters Park. And I was done!

I let out a whoohoo and a few yeahs with arm punches. But that didn’t truly express the wonder of the moment. Only a coyote howl would do! AAOOOOOOO!! That shut up the little yappy dog nearby!

So I am going to put in my registration for the full marathon. I just have two more runs that are longer than today’s, and I am feeling confident that I can do it. No serious pain in the run or after. I’ll adapt my training a bit to fit with my new work schedule, probably cutting out the 13 KM runs on Wednesdays. That’s the plan, and I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you want to be notified when I make a post on this blog, there is an RSS feed in the footer at the very bottom of this page. Click the blue link that says Entries (RSS).

BC Wilderness Visions – renewal and revisioning

With the possibility of selling Monkey Valley later this year, I have been Missezula Lake in the beautiful BC interiorrevisioning the way I will offer vision fasts retreats. I have a retreat planned for August 8 – 14, 2010. If Monkey Valley is no longer mine, the retreat will take place in the wilderness south of the property, near Missezula Lake, in a very sacred place I discovered on a medicine walk long ago.

Part of the revisioning process involves renaming this web site to BC Wilderness Visions. Currently I am running full content under www.bcwildernessvisions.com and www.bcwildernessvisions.com. But soon I will be switching to the new site exclusively, with a redirect from the old site. So please bookmark www.bcwildernessvisions.com and access the site through this new address.

One of the things I’d like to do now that I’m spending more time in Vancouver is to offer some workshops locally, probably in the North Shore mountains, to give people a chance to experience wilderness work closer to home. Stay tuned to this site for details, and please let me know if you have a particular area of ritual, self-generated ceremony, or other nature work that you’d like to explore in a workshop.

The purpose of this web site is to provide information and resources to help you decide whether a vision fast is right for you. Here are some links to great topics on this subject:

BC Wilderness VisionsI also blog about stuff that interests me, for my own amusement, hopefully to entertain you(!), and as an opportunity to share my learning with you as life unfolds. This also allows you to get a sense of who I am to decide if you will want to do a vision fast or other wilderness work with me. For the next while, I will be writing a lot about running as I prepare for the Vancouver 2010 marathon. I will also continue to write about the vision fast ceremony, sharing stories of some of the vision fasts I have gone on. Please feel free to comment on the stories or to contact me if you have questions about doing a vision fast.

Going for the gold – the gold of inner truth!

Olympic goldThe good news is I started a new technical writing contract! The bad news is I have totally bombed on my Vancouver marathon training schedule. During the past few weeks, with preparing for the interviews, interviewing, preparing for the job, and working, I have missed 26K one week, 33K the next week, and 43K this past week, including one long run of 29K. Luckily, I am taking to heart the advice of never trying to make up a missed run.

So this week I get a fresh start. It is a “resting” week, with only 4 runs totalling 32K. I know I can keep on track with that! Then the following week I will see if I can do the long run and keep on track with the rest of the mileage.

If I can’t do it, then it will be time to face reality. This is the gold of inner truth. I am in my 40s. I have limited time and energy. I can’t do everything I want to do! In my earlier years, I still believed I could, and I usually managed to pull it off. But I am facing limitations differently now that I am over 40. I want to be kinder and gentler to myself, as well as to those around me.

There is a freedom in seeing the truth of what my limits really are. And with the accompanying tenderness towards myself, this can feel like a golden warmth in my heart.

With the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics going on in the city, it is easy to get swept up in gold fever! I’m going for the inner gold these days.

Dreaming the cougar

Donald in box like a cougar in a canIt is time now to finish the story of the medicine walk and apprenticing on the CA Fall Fast last October. The night before the fasters were due to return, I had a powerful dream. The dream showed me that something had shifted in my psyche as a result of the healing work I did on the medicine walk.

I dreamt I was in a forest, in a ravine with a wood log overhead that bridged the lower place. Suddenly a stream of animals started running by overhead—wild animals, like mountain goat, rabbit, maybe fox or coyote, deer… I didn’t see them all clearly, but felt it was a gift to see them so close. I wanted them to stay with me longer. (Remember the video I described in the post entitled Mixed media and more sex for the New Year? It had a very similar stream of animals, running from a forest fire. Amazing!)

Then I realized the animals must all be running from something, and the only thing it could be was a mountain lion. Then I saw the mountain lion. It was walking around coolly and calmly, and it was stalking me!

Now the mountain lion and I were in a more open space, by the ocean, near where the forest was. It was still forested, with some trees on a peninsula. The mountain lion was after me, but suddenly I was the mountain lion and it had changed into a man and I was taking huge bites out of his legs and chest. I sank my teeth in and the flesh bled—deep and big bites, but I didn’t bite all the way through or tear the flesh. It felt really good to sink my teeth in and bite like this. Wow!

When I woke and reflected on the dream, I remembered a dream I had back in 2007 when I first started working specifically with anger with a naturopath (after a short relationship ended because my anger scared the man I was involved with). In the earlier dream, I had gone to a doctor in a hospital for some healing, and she pulled a limp cougar out of a garbage can. She was going to use some of its life energy to heal me, but I knew it was a crime to keep the cougar half-dead and use its energy this way. (For more about this dream, see the blog entry Cougars: Spirit Guides on the Vision Fast.)

Now the mountain lion of my psyche is very robust, alive, and powerful. All are afraid of it, and it is me. I wonder if this is connected to the balls I claimed on the medicine walk, stepping into my masculine energy, power, and ability to look after myself. I am no longer stalked—I am the stalker. Bear in mind that this is not literal! But what I take from the dream is that like the cougar, I have stepped into my true nature more fully. It is in the cougar’s nature to bite its prey. And in the dream it was in its full power—no longer vampirized as a source of life energy.

I do feel the currents of this shift in my daily life. I feel a more consistent sense of having all the resources I need within me, accessible to me, available when needed. Together with this is a sense of completeness, so there are more elements of my nature available than just the strength or power—there is also love, compassion, contactfulness. The challenge, as always, is how to bring these gifts to my people. How to embody the qualities of my true nature as I act in the world.

In addition, my current task is still to keep working with the anger that arises from time to time. To know that it is not the deepest truth about who I am. To know that acting from an angry place will scare others and make them want to run from me, like the animals fleeing from the cougar in the dream. To temper the power and strength with compassion for others. I have finally come to see, somewhat reluctantly, that speaking or acting from the angry place is just not constructive. There are more skillful means available to me. I will keep you posted about how well I learn to wield them! I am still learning the difference between assertive and aggressive.

I start a new technical writing contract on Monday, and I pray that I handle any opportunities for learning that may arise with skill and grace.

Chi running

Before I finish the story of my trip to California and the medicine walk I Running on my favourite road at Monkey Valley at sunset timetook, I want to tell you about the chi running workshop I went to last weekend. Angela James taught the workshop. She is the only certified chi running trainer in Vancouver. Danny and Katherine Dryer developed this method and wrote about it in ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. Danny is an ultra-marathoner (running distances of up to 100 miles!!!), and also does T’ai Chi, an ancient martial art that works with our chi, or life force.

If you’ve never felt your chi and wonder what it is, try this simple exercise. Rub your hands together in a circular motion until you feel a lot of heat in your palms from the friction. Then hold your hands about an inch apart and sense the space between them. (You might want to close your eyes to allow your other senses to become more sensitive.) You might notice a “cushion” of air, which feels like a slight resistance if you bring your hands slightly closer to each other. Then gradually bring your hands further apart, feeling the energy between them, until they are so far apart that you no longer feel the energy. Then slowly bring your hands together and see what happens as they get closer. It might feel like the space between your hands gets denser as the energy concentrates when your hands come closer together. The energy between your hands is your chi, or life energy. Chi is also all around us, available for us to gather from the air, ground, and living plants.

Roadrunner doesn't need tips on how to run--but watch out for coyote!With chi running, we can gather this chi while running to help energize us on long runs. I noticed I could do this while running through Stanley Park in the Vancouver half marathon—the trees definitely gave me energy in a way that concrete buildings on other parts of the route did not. And we can also replenish ourselves with chi at any time during the day (not just when running). T’ai Chi and another practice called Qigong teach ways for gathering and working with the energy, and opening the channels in our body to help it flow more freely. It is subtle energy, and you might not believe it even exists if you’ve never felt it, but hopefully the simple exercise I showed you will help you to feel it.

I first read the ChiRunning book about four years ago, and practicing the method helped me increase my capacity from the 10K distance to the half-marathon. The techniques show us how to run using the body mechanics most efficiently and effortlessly, allowing us to run long distances injury-free. Previously, pain where the IT band attaches to my left knee prevented me from running long distances. But using the chi running technique, in combination with my yoga practice, I was able to gradually and gently increase my distance from 10K to 21.2K!

So as you can imagine, I was very excited about going to the workshop and learning about the technique from an expert. The workshop was terrific, and I highly recommend it. Angela is a very supportive, skilled teacher. A few students she has coached were also there, offering their insights from the perspective of people who are still learning the techniques. We learned some of the “focuses”—specific techniques—indoors, and then went out on a track to practice them. I was amazed at how using these simple techniques really increased my speed. It was almost scary!

But afterwards, something funny happened. I didn’t want to go running. Hmm, what was going on? The next day was supposed to be my Sunday long run, but I didn’t go. I planned to do it Monday instead, but Monday came and went without a run. In the training program I am following to prepare for the Vancouver marathon this May (which will be my first full marathon!), it says never try to make up a missed run. So Tuesday I did a shorter run, just 56 minutes. And I realized I didn’t want to use what I had learned at the workshop. I didn’t want to mess with my comfortable, slow, plodding running style. I like to just go out and not think about running. I don’t want to go faster! I don’t want to change! Don’t harsh my mellow!

I had my worst running week ever, totally blowing off the training schedule. I only ran three times, though I did do a long run of 2 hours and 40 minutes on Wednesday. But I still didn’t want to try the new techniques.

This experience taught me something about learning, and about the ego. The ego does not want to change, not really, even though we might think we want to change. There are calcified structures within us that keep us going in a familiar groove, doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings. It takes a huge amount of effort to carve new neural pathways in the brain, which is part of the process of learning a new behaviour. We have to have a lot of motivation and focus in order to persist with this. It is hard to go out of our comfort zones and into new unknown territory. Why, even getting up early on a Saturday and going to the workshop was hard to do, and created an irritable resistance within me that I had to overcome!

So I’m going to give myself a break with the running. I intend to practice what I’ve learned for short periods during a run now and then, but most of the time I will just let myself be. And I think that when things start to get hard in the marathon, that occasional practice of new techniques will pay off. I’ll have some new things to try, to keep myself interested during the 4+ hours of the run. But more importantly, running with the new methods will use my muscles slightly differently, giving me a rest and allowing me to go beyond the limits that my comfortable old style has.

#1 tip from the workshop

Chi running uses the principle of “cotton and steel.” Imagine a needle in a ball of cotton wool. This is what our body can be like when we’re running. The needle is the spine and the core abdominal muscles of our body. The cotton is everything else: our legs, butt, lower back, arms, hands, feet.

Steel: To embody this while running, draw your spine up really long, lifting your head up off your neck (keeping the back of your neck long and tall). Draw your belly in ever so slightly. This engages the core muscles. The long spine and resilient, engaged core muscles provide the steel—the support the body needs to glide effortlessly along, hour after hour.

Cotton: Now let the rest of your body totally relax. I love the feeling of letting go and noticing the muscles in my back loosen and let go like a liquid, from the waist and butt down all the way through my legs to my feet. It feels amazing to let all these muscles totally relax, and to trust that they know what to do in response to the changes of the terrain—I don’t have to do anything. Try this the first time when going downhill, and you will be amazed at the feeling of lightness and freedom!