Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Batawa Fat Ass Trail Race Report


On Sunday I had a very fun time on the trails at the Batawa Fat Ass Trail Races. There were 539 people out running the various distances of races. The course was very unique, with a 7.5k loop that went up and over the steep ski hill a couple of times and had some gnarly, leaf-covered single-track; plus a 10k loop with one major hill and some fun, winding and muddy trails. I ran the 25k, which used the 7.5k, the 10k, and then repeated the 7.5k.
Heading up the ski hill
It's amazing the difference a six-week block of good training can make. Since October, I've been putting in higher mileage, did three tempo/progression runs and three interval workouts, as well as some strides and generally picking up the pace of my running more frequently. Even after such a short block of increased training so far, I felt a lot closer to where I want to be for this race, and I really enjoyed it.

We've had a very dry year, so the trails were mostly in great condition, though there were definitely a few wet and muddy sections to keep everyone on their toes. My La Sportiva Vertical K trail shoes were light and responsive on the trails, handled the muddy sections just fine, drained well after being soaked, and had surprisingly good cushioning for such an extremely light shoe. As well, my Greenlayer La Sportiva Team zipped longsleeve was perfect for the varying temps - I was totally comfortable all day, especially since I used the handy thumb holes to keep my hands warm in the chilly beginning.

Ahh, serenity in the blissful woods

The 25k had the smallest field, but there was some good competition with local marathoner Leslie Reade taking the women's win in 2:18 and Carley Kenwell of Kanata about 30 second back. I picked up third in 2:21. Full Results.

Sandy Musson and her Tri and Run Sports team put on a very welcoming and fun event. I'm already looking forward to enjoying the trails next year! In the meantime, there is the Frozen Ass Snowshoe Race on some of the same trails on February 17th.

Some fast photos (or a slow film):

video


Here's a slick video race report of the event from Get Out There magazine:




Friday, November 2, 2012

Looking back, looking forward


I was stumbling through some old files and found this blurb I wrote in 2001:

The limiting beliefs I have carried with me about running are being shattered right before my eyes and it is like walking into a whole new world of possibilities. It makes me giddy. With other things too, like writing, I can see that for years I have been telling myself that 'I can't'. That I’m scared I won’t be good enough. What is that but a self-fulfilling prophecy? I need to believe first, and I am getting better at this all the time because running is showing me how. I am growing more confident every day that in the fall I will run a marathon. This has been a vague goal of mine for almost 5 years now and I am beginning to let myself believe it and wrap my head around it. The idea of completing a marathon is so powerful and exciting for me.

It’s incredible to look back on that; I barely recognize that person. Recently I compiled a list of races, and I've run 66 (not including 7 DNFs), including seven marathons (6 road, 1 trail) and 13 ultras and multi-day events. The person I was in 2001 didn't even find those distances fathomable, and now most of the time I take it for granted. I remember how empowering it was when I realized I could step outside my door and run for hours and hours. For me it was honestly - and I'm not exaggerating - like being granted a superpower.

It's good to read those words I wrote and to pause and reflect on past hurdles that I worked hard to overcome. It helps me re-assess my goals going forward. Life is so incredibly, preciously finite, and I'm excited about my training and racing in the coming years to collect more memorable experiences to look back on. There's never any better time than now.

Other interesting tidbits from my race list:
- Most frequent race type - 5K road (15)
- I've done more 3-day fastpacks (2) than 10k road races (1)
- Ironically, second most frequent race - 10k on snowshoes (12)
- DNF Reasons - 2 injury, 1 heat, 1 sick, 1 lost, 1 burnt-out, 1 course conditions
- Number of DNFs that took more than a few hours to get over: 1
- Year with the most races: 2006 (14)
- Month with the most races: Julys (11)
- Number of races I was thrilled with at the time: 8
- Number of races I'm thrilled with now: 8 (5 of 8 from above, and 3 others)
- Biggest disappointment: Not finishing our full Rideau Trail fastpack
- Most painful race: Haliburton 50 Miler
- Coldest PB: 5K at -35C windchill
- Fav race course - Escarpment Trail



First Trail race, 2003





Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Update

October is winding down, and I have one more trail race to look forward to in a few weeks before snowshoe racing season begins. Training is really starting to click now, and I'm enjoying it more than I have in many years. I am healthy after feeling generally 'off' this summer, and it is such a good feeling to be back in a groove. That classic quote by George Sheehan, 'the more I run, the more I want to run' holds true as always.

While attending a conference in Montreal earlier this week, I had the chance to run at Mt Royal Park a couple of times. Lucky me, my hotel was three blocks from one of the park entrances. The mountain is actually a big hill, but it's enough of a hill to get a good sustained uphill-yet-runnable workout in.

Congrats to everyone who raced at the Sydenham Fall Trail race this year. It was a bit of a soggy day which slowed things down out there, but I think everyone had fun anyway, and the races were very impressive.  

Happy birthday to my Dad, who turns 70 years young today.

My parents

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Run for the Toad 50K: Back to Basics

For many years I've wanted to Run for the Toad, and I finally got my chance last weekend. Derrick was setting up a booth at their expo this year, so I thought I would go up to Cambridge too and run the 50K. It was a very fun race, I had a blast. My running the last few months hasn't gone very well due to some fueling issues disrupting both my racing and training, and then poor pacing at Haliburton which further shook my confidence. So I needed to get back to basics and get this 50k under my belt with nothing going wrong. I know, no pressure! Actually, there was no pressure, as I put zero, zip, nadda competitive pressure on myself. This was my run, just for me, and I was determined to enjoy it and get my confidence back. 

And that's what happened. I was really happy to feel good pretty much the whole way. (I mean 'good' in a running-50k, all-relative kind of way of course.) I most definitely did not go out too hard, in fact not even letting myself breathe hard until 25k (2nd loop of 4) was past. This wasn't tough to do because my legs felt really sluggish anyway. Going into the third loop I spent a bit longer at my drop bag, grabbed my iPod and a bunch more gels, and regrouped for a few helpful minutes. I loved the third loop, my legs woke up a bit, and the trails were practically deserted with the 25k race now over. At around 33 km I started feeling the best of the race, and the knowledge that I was going to finish was a big relief. The fourth loop got tougher again as my legs were back to being sluggish, this time from fatigue, but knowing it was the last loop helped. 

Structurally I felt really good, my feet were exceptional with zero hot spots or blisters which shocked me (I know now that DryMax socks really do work), and interestingly after my fueling nightmares this summer, fueling for this race was the best it's ever been (30 minutes for gels, 1 hour S-caps, with a few additional ones of each thrown in when I felt the need). My stomach felt rock solid all day. My UltrAspire waist belt with larger bottle was perfect, I was running out right at the end of each loop.

I loved the course, it was sectioned up with a ton of variety, and it was nice having the K's marked. I prefer more technical trails, but it was a good thing for me to have to run a steady pace the whole way, especially since it was quite hilly. I can see that's been lacking in my training this year.

The entire race was so well organized by Peggy and George Sarson - a wonderful couple who work so hard to create this special Toad experience for everyone - and their incredible team of volunteers. A very special event to be a part of. 



Proof I was having fun! (photo by Derrick)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Haliburton 26K

My race plan for the Haliburton 26k last weekend was to go out a bit aggressively and see how long I could hold on. That didn't work as well as I had hoped! It was a good reminder to race smarter than that in the future. I was in third position among the women for maybe an hour, and then I started getting passed a ton as I slowed down a lot. The day-long rain left the trails very muddy, and the hills felt a lot longer and more difficult in those conditions. I was also delusional in only wearing a singlet and getting chilled, and I only brought two gels and no water with me even though it was obviously going to take a lot longer (my time was 3:42) to run the course in the conditions. When you don't race for awhile you can make lots of rookie mistakes!

Anyway, I got through it, muddy, cold, hungry, humbled, and hopefully a bit wiser for next time.


Muddy! Derrick's left, mine right.

At 2k, entering the muddy trails from here to turnaround.

Where's the finish?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Balance


I turn off my headlamp and stumble, hands-on-knees, away from the trail and lie down in a ball. I don’t care about the wet ground or the leaves smeared against my face, and I certainly don’t care about my race anymore. I am vaguely concerned that someone will shine their own beam on me and come over to help. The only help I want is to lie here until the fire inside my gut settles down. I comfort myself with a resolute, this time I really mean it: Never Again.

I know I don’t really mean never. But for now anyway, I’m sticking to shorter races. I went into this race, the Dirty Girls 12 hour, with my stomach already bothering me for several weeks, and adding a few hours of sugar fueling did me in. Later I felt embarrassed that I didn’t even last until midnight (the race started at 8pm), but that was overridden by the reality that obviously there was more going on with me than a bad race. The irony is that I’d have lasted longer if I hadn't fueled at all.

Since then I've started eating more protein (tempeh is my new staple) to put carbs in a better balance, cut way back on the loads of fruit I was consuming, and eliminated practically all other sugar (bye bye Snickers). The difference in just a couple of days was phenomenal, with the bloating, abdominal pain and lethargy gone. 

As far as running, I still need to figure out how much gel I can handle versus other foods, and what the best approach is for me. If the rest of my diet is in good balance, then I can definitely get away with more of the quick, easy fuel in races, but based on past experiences I still think I will do better with less sugar. Obviously I don't need to get all of this figured out to perfection (who ever does?) but somewhere more effective than 'lying beside the trail' is definitely required.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to heading up to Haliburton in a couple of days. I had hoped to try to improve my time in the 50 miler, but that will have to wait. I’m going to run the 26k, and am really excited about it. I’ve also signed up for Run for the Toad 25k later in the month. There may even be room for one more race between these (maybe Whiteface?). Then who knows after that.

View from beautiful little Mt. Jo, NY. I had the summit all to myself on our recent camping trip.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Remembering Willy


I don’t often stray too far from running-related things on my blog, but our dogs and running go hand-in-hand in my mind. Probably because they are such joyful runners. On Sunday we said goodbye to our friend Willy. We’ll miss his big, goofy, friendly, cuddly and talkative self, and will smile when remembering his many lovable qualities. He was quite a character, who loved being around his ladies and his buddy Cody. Before having to retire early from Duane’s racing team due to a stubborn leg infection (which eventually healed after many years), he was able to enjoy being part of teams in some big, exciting races. Duane also took him to outings like school talks and interviews; he could always count on him to be the most laid back and charming. Later, we were lucky to have him as part of our recreational team. Nobody worked harder than Willy in wheel; sometimes it seemed like he pulled the sled all on his own.

Every dog has their own unique personality, and Willy’s was definitely quirky at times. We didn’t always think he was the sharpest beak in the birdcage, but then he’d go and do something spectacular like perform an intricate archaeological dig on our property, neatly laying out the treasures he found on top of his house. He never put a rock or stick up there, it had to be a worthy artifact. Yesterday I placed in Willy's tree a neat old iron fitting he had dug up from some long-buried farm equipment. An odd memorial, but it felt right.

Willy's was a good life. Fourteen is pretty old for a big guy like him, and right up until his last day he was his smiling, carefree self. We'll miss you, Wilfred.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mid-Summer Update



It’s been a good spring and summer of training, the first time in a few years that I’m not working within the limits of any injuries. It feels good to be able to gradually build up my long runs and overall mileage to where I want. Having lots of fun with that, and running has never felt better.

Some other training notes:
  
- Just finished Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run and highly recommend it. A very entertaining and inspiring story. One of the best running books I’ve read.

- In June I was involved in organizing a local initiative called Active Commute to Work Week, where we encouraged people to use active transportation to get to and from work. We piggybacked our local efforts onto the Commuter Challenge website to record our data and participate in the nationwide challenge. It was fun, and we built some good momentum to launch from next year. It also helped motivate me to do chunks of my own commute by bike, which I’ve wanted to do for a few years. I’m lucky to able to ride on rail trail for most of the way now that two new bridges have been installed on the K&P Trail. Without these bridges I would never do this ride, which shows me how important infrastructure is.

- Derrick and I had the opportunity to be part of an episode of Canadian Made (which runs on History Television Canada). The episode is called Snow Crossing and can be viewed online. (The snowshoe segment, where we appear, is up first.) Our footage was shot in late winter of 2011 at Batawa Ski Hill north of Trenton. They took a lot of footage over an entire day, so it’s funny to see how little they end up actually using (trust me, this isn't a complaint). They do a good job editing the stories together in a fun way (except the cow hide bit is really gross). As far as our ‘acting’, well, I think we’ll stick to running!

Vertical K. Yummy.
- My new favourite shoe is the Vertical K. Awesome on the trails, and I even did a track workout in them. (I brought road flats in case they didn't work out, but they were amazing.) They feel like a slipper and are light as air, but are durable and cushioned. The 4 mm heel-drop had me easing into them for longer stuff, but now I wear them a ton. They are great for sockless runs too; no seams, very comfy.

- Another huge new fav is my UltrAspire Surge pack. My trusty old UD Wink pack was on another planet from any other I'd previously used, but this one is in an entirely different universe. It makes wearing a hydration pack go from cumbersome necessity to non-issue.


- Enjoyed Don Kardong's Letter to US Olympic Marathoners. Throw no bottles.

- Getting excited to do a few races again soon. I never expected it to be this long, but all of my winter and spring plans fell through for various reasons. I couldn't be accused of over-racing lately, that is for sure. I don’t know if I’ll ever race as much as I did in the mid-2000’s but definitely want to do a lot more than the past few years. And of course the stuff from back then doesn't even count because I didn’t blog about it. ;)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Trail Running Camp: Adirondacks

Day One. Not much drainage into Marcy Dam Pond.

Rocky ascent on Lake Arnold Trail to get closer to the high peaks

Old ties on Lake Arnold Trail, with moss grown up to their tops.

Rugged beauty

Lake Tear of the Cloud with Marcy hovering over

View south from Mt. Skylight

Skylight garden

Mt Haystack from Skylight

Marcy's hulking mass from Skylight. She's a lot more impressive from this side.

Me and Marcy. Brisk wind.

Down Skylight....

...and up Marcy

Almost there

Enjoying a rest on Marcy. Happy to be done with the big climbs. The guy who took our photo was only the second person we had seen for several hours.

Going down the other side.

A long, rocky descent back to camp.

Day Two, heading up to Big Slide Mountain

Lots of cool scrambles up over the Three Brothers

Views were worth the tired legs

This old forest was almost creepy at times. In a good way.

Out to a big slide (!) below Big Slide summit. 

Following a rock creek bed down to Johns Brook Lodge. Nice to be leveling off after another steep, boulder-filled down.

Friends at camp welcomed us back. (So yeah, camp was just us and the chipmunks.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flashback Race Report: The 2011 Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker 100K


2011 was a transitional year for me, not only because I turned 40, but also because it marked a return to racing after a long, nagging injury. I wanted to tackle some races that brought me out of my comfort zone, provided unique challenges, and could teach me some things. I wanted to make up for lost time.

As a warm-up, I started the year with a snowshoe race and a muddy 25k. Then I upped the ante with the 6-day Transrockies Run in Colorado, followed two weeks later by my first 50 Miler. TransRockies was a study in red-line, uphill pain, and the Haliburton 50 was where I learned I could hurt for a very long time. Just as I was recovering from these two long races, I was getting set to travel to Hong Kong for something different yet again.

By this time, I had few toenails left to lose.

*******

The Oxfam Trailwalker 100K takes place each November in Hong Kong. Teams of four hike and run the MacLehose Trail through the mountains of the New Territories to raise money for Oxfam’s poverty alleviation programs. The Hong Kong race celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, but there are now Oxfam Trailwalker races worldwide: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and two in Canada (Ontario’s Ganaraska Trail and Quebec’s Eastern Townships).

The participants don’t run the race as a relay, they have to move together. Our team, “Little Debbie and the Snack Cakes” is comprised of Deb Lawless and Kristina Kurcinka, both living in Taichung, Taiwan); Kim Ames who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam; and me. Back in the spring, Deb had asked me to do the event in celebration of her birthday – she was also turning 40 this year. She and Dan are from Portland, Oregon, but have been living in Taiwan for the last eight years, so I was long overdue for a visit. Before the race I spent four days with them exploring a bit of Taiwan, a beautiful country with incredibly friendly people.

We had decided to mostly hike this race, with some running on the flatter sections – the approach the majority of teams here take given the steepness of the terrain. The amount of hiking set me outside of my comfort zone; the distance didn’t faze me as much as the anticipated time on the feet and unknowns of how my body would structurally hold up to the differences between hiking and running. My plan was to ignore my watch, stay in the moment, and enjoy the experience. Going through the night was something I had been looking forward to, and with our start time of 2 pm, we would hit nightfall early in the race.

*******

Not the regular tourist attractions. The scenery along the MacLehose Trail is spectacular, with the first section traversing several beautiful beaches and ocean views. Herds of cattle hoofed along with us on the road sections, which I loved. As we entered the more mountainous sections, the trail was very rugged, and stairs were often built into the hillside. As darkness fell, we could look back along the exposed ridges and see long lines of headlamps meandering behind us as far as we could see. Below, the lights of the city occasionally came into view. As dawn broke we were crossing a section where monkeys roamed around with us (and where I drove my teammates crazy insisting how cool that was). Later in the morning, Needle Hill and Tai-Mo Shan were dominant peaks with wild trails up to the highest points on the trail. On a clear day the views would be eye-popping from this section, but today I was happy enough that the cloud cover kept things cooler.

*******

Be careful what you wish for. Coming from Canada, the climate in Hong Kong was a lot hotter than I was used to, and extremely humid. I had tried to hold onto summer by adding layers while training in the fall weather at home, which helped bridge the gap a little. Early in the race the heat felt okay until we started steeply climbing and the breeze subsided. I felt it was much harder than it should be as my body was dealing with the heat as well as the exertion. At one point I removed my visor and sweat started pouring into my eyes. It was crazy how much water I drank during this race, and even crazier how much I sweat.

Given the heat, as night fell I was thrilled when a cooling rain started to fall. However, this left the trails a slick mess, which made the footing very treacherous, especially on the steep downhills. Everyone had to be very careful as we were on the hardest part of the course, and large bottlenecks were forming. I was relieved I had borrowed Dan’s hiking poles.

After having some plantar fascia issues this summer, I had been worried about sore feet, but structurally they made out very well. However the long time in the wet conditions gave my usually fairly trail-toughened feet a whole lot of discomfort in the last quarter of the race. I felt like the bottoms of my feet were completely raw, but when I finally took a look, they were simply water-logged and wrinkled which left them with an itchy, tingling pain and easily blistered. Wanting the security of my trusty Quantums, I hadn’t wanted to change into another shoe, and by the time I finally did the dryness was too late to be of much help.

********

There’s no ‘I’ in Team. With our late start time, the increasingly tough, wet footing hit us in the gnarliest sections of trail. This probably played a part in Kim having a rough time. She hung in until the half-way point, where she dropped; a tough situation for everyone. The remaining three of us continued on and the trail eased a bit so we could run more sections. Soon the sky was getting light and we started to feel closer to the finish with each step.

As the day wore on, Deb and I found our rhythm climbing alongside each other. It felt like in high school where we played basketball and volleyball together every year, working away and comfortable being teammates. Kristina led the charge up the hills, and I marvelled how specifically and well these two had trained through a brutally hot Taiwanese summer. During the race Deb barely needed to eat, Kristina needed no rest, and neither of them had significant low points. Very impressive.

As for me, well, with 6.5 km to go I fully realized how lucky I got with the weather, despite its leading to sore feet. As the day was heating up, the sun came out on an exposed section of trail and I started to wither rapidly. I drank frantically, trying to ward off the effects of the sun and heat, but I could feel my skin start to tingle with the first signs of trouble. Deb talked me down from my dread that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I couldn’t get out of the sun. Thankfully, just around the next corner we were safely under trees, and some haze started to fill the sky. Foot pain didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore after that scare.

I followed Kristina and Deb across the finish line after being out there for 25 hours and 45 minutes. We were all thrilled to be done, and happy that despite Kim’s disappointment, she rallied to meet us enthusiastically. It was great for all four of us to celebrate with our amazing crew of Dan and Mons Johnson and John Mucha who looked after us the entire race. They were most definitely happy to be done as well.

*******

"Snack Cake down."  We'd been saying it all week, in good fun whenever a teammate had any kind of minor mishap. This time it wasn't funny: Kristina plastered to the floor of the hotel lobby, white as a ghost, unconscious. Thankfully she revived quickly, sipping orange juice that was brought to her. Beside me, Dan whispered, "This is the first sign of being human she has shown all weekend." It’s true; Kristina was rock solid the entire race even while fighting a lingering cold. Still going strong after the race, she shuffled luggage around the hotel for her teammates. Now her body empathically declared, "Enough” and it was our turn to look after our Energizer Rabbit. We all felt like we had been through a time warp out on the trail, and clearly we all needed some rest.

*******

In the end I had a lot of fun, soaked up the experience of touring a diverse and beautiful trail through Hong Kong, and learned some valuable things. I thought it would be harder to not run more, but it was a very fun experience. I learned that I absolutely love hiking poles. I learned I may be ready for a 100 miler sooner than I thought, as the long time on my feet allowed me to wrap my head around the idea in a way I’d never been able to before. As expected but now confirmed, I loved being on the trail through the night. I (re-)learned that it is easy to stay in the moment when things are going well, but once something starts to really hurt, time slows down to a crawl. I learned that wet feet aren't a big deal... until they are. I learned that moving as a team adds an interesting twist to racing – one that is fun but sometimes challenging. And finally, that a team race is a great way to get to know new people, and a memorable way to spend time with a lifelong friend.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Strength and Flexibility


I have found that to be able to run higher mileage, I need to supplement my running with quite a bit of strengthening and stretching in order to avoid getting injured. I've learned this the hard and frustrating way. For the past few years I have learned a lot and worked hard to turn things around. Aside from avoiding injury, I think it is helping my running directly too, as I feel stronger and more efficient.

I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without finding a therapist that understood how the body works in a connected way, and was able to diagnose me properly and then gradually put me back together again. Her knowledge was combined with a lot of very effective hands-on therapy. She happens to be a physiotherapist, but good healers come with many different labels. The important thing is to find someone who is effective for you, and don't be afraid to move on if it isn't working. I wasted an entire year by not following this advice. It gave me a good (and perhaps needed) rest, but that was it.

I feel that absolute strength and flexibility aren't as important as relative strength and flexibility. Everything in our body is inter-connected, so if imbalances occur it can cause problems, and these problems become exacerbated the more we run. Imbalances can occur along the links of a chain of muscles, a weakness on one side of the body, or even more generally a change in what is normal for you.

For example, the origin of my problems was that my glutes were not doing their share of the work. This led to my lower back, hamstrings and hips having to compensate, and they eventually became unbearably overloaded and injured. (Then later, when my injured hamstring became inflexible from not being able to stretch it, along with tight calves, it led to my plantar fascia being pulled too hard while running, and it became injured.)

Here are some key things that seem to be keeping me healthy.

Clams (progression: with resistance band)

Planks, front and side (progressions: adding leg raises; using bosu. I can't stand just holding static planks, so boring). Also, pushups.

Lunges (progressions: back/side lunges, walking lunges, split lunges, split lunges with bosu) (for excellent form, see Reid/Eric video below)

Bridges and hip thrusts (progressions: Here is a site with info and videos showing everything you need to know.)

Plyometrics - once glute strength increased, I gradually added explosive jumping elements (sometimes with  a bosu). Some examples of this are shown in this amazing video by Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis. With the squats-to-jump, another variety is to add quarter-turns, and to do all variations on a bosu. There are endless variations and progressions of this stuff, and it is very fun to keep increasing the challenges.

Wall Sits - Helps inoculate the quads against long and/or steep downhills.

Barefoot/Five-Finger running on grass/dirt - Working up to just 20 minutes, 2x/week keeps my feet happy. Start with super easy jogs and walking, progress to continuous easy running, then add strides or steady running when feet are strong enough. Do it somewhere like a field where, if your feet ever start to hurt, you can stop immediately.

Stretching - Everything/anything that is tight. For variety a few times a week I'll do 5-10 minutes of yoga post-run to cover it.

Long runs aren't as painful now

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Little White Clouds


I’m here to find a sign, because I’m sure she’ll send me one. Just like when Cody died and he sent me a beautiful northern sundog to let me know everything was okay, that his energy had joined something greater.

The snow-covered lake is blinding from the sunshine, under a perfect, blue February sky. It is unseasonably warm, but my grief numbs me anyway. Neeka was my most special dog, and I’m grieving the massive void in my life, and in my heart. I’m grieving too for that part of me that was capable of forming such a bond.  

Neeks, Neeka Plum, Neekanuba, on and on. I had whispered in her ears all my silly names for her one last time. I didn’t think to say Little White Dog, I only remember now as I gaze at the treetops on the far side of the lake and see my sign. Soft little white clouds are lined up in a perfect row in the otherwise clear sky. They are subtle against the pale horizon, and could almost go unnoticed. I count them, but I already know there will be five, one for each of our remaining dogs. Her energy has joined something greater now too, and she wants me to know I can find a little part of her in each one of the others. That I can find her anywhere I look for her.

Two days before Neeka died, we saw a sundog in the sky. We hardly ever see them; they are rare down here like the northern lights. I didn’t know it at the time, but now it’s clear. Cody, ever the lead dog, was waiting for her, and assuring me that everything would be okay. 






Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Run

Icy entrance.
Siku on the lookout...
...while I tie...
...my shoe.

I'm a happy dawg!
Frozen deer tracks.




Fist star on a perfect winter's night.