Monday, 11 March 2013

Smiles and Tears

Things over the past few weeks couldn’t have been better – running and racing has gone well, the weather has started to warm up a little despite a couple of heavy dumps of snow, and of course, things have been moving along swiftly with our new house with things due to complete on 29th March. I’ve been feeling really happy and positive about things, and having read today that male grizzlies are likely to start coming out of their dens over the coming weeks, it already feels like spring is on the horizon. Better still, on April 4th, I will be celebrating my 366th day living in Calgary – a full year since I left the UK to start my new life.

However, despite my obvious happiness, there are a couple of things to overcome this month.

March 13th marks the first anniversary of losing our 17 year old dog, Sammy. He was too old to move overseas with us and prior to our move last year, under vet advice, he went to live with his nana and grandad Smith who he’d spent many happy days with over the years.  Unfortunately, Sammy was taken ill and I’m thankful that I was in the UK to be with him in his final hours. I loved that little dog with all my heart and so wanted him to experience the wilds of Canada, but it was never to be and his spirit now runs free over the Roaches in the Staffordshire Moorlands, along with our other faithful old boy, Leo.

Leo (Left) and Sam on Seven Sisters, Dovedale, Derbyshire
A week or so after we lost Sammy, our little rabbit Bunny crossed Rainbow Bridge to join him. Bunny did make it to Canada and had settled well into his new home in Chaparral – but complications when in quarantine means that he too is now running wild and free somewhere in Bunny Heaven. It was a very sad time having lost both of them so close together and we still miss them immensely, but they will certainly never be forgotten and we frequently talk and laugh about their quirky habits and loving natures.

Bunny (Front) enjoying a play in the snow with his bud Spud - Stoke-on-Trent
The other thing causing a little sadness is that had things gone well last year, I would have been giving birth to our first child this month. Whilst I have now got over that loss both physically and mentally, it is still strange thinking how different things could have been as I head into my second year over here.

Thankfully the happy times far outweigh the sad, and whilst I will certainly never forget, I have moved on and can look to our future with optimism. I’ve said many times that my running is a great healer - it gives some “me time” where I can be alone with my thoughts and think things through, and I always feel better once I’ve been out for a run.

Last weekend, I headed out on the trails with friends and had a wonderful if tiring time plodding up and down the hills. The spring like day that we were expecting didn’t quite materialize, but thankfully the heavy dump of snow didn’t arrive until Sunday morning meaning the trails weren’t covered in snow, although there were some treacherous icy sections and once again, I hit the ground like a ton of bricks at one point.

The next day, I was extremely achy in the quads from all the hills and slightly bruised from my fall. I’d wanted to get a decent run in again, but with blizzard conditions and snow drifts of 2-3 feet deep, I figured I wasn’t going to achieve a great deal and so headed out with Wilson instead. We covered approximately 12km in about an hour, but Wilson loved it and was bounding through the deepest snow he could find.

A snowy run with Wilson - Calgary 3rd March

We had another 10cm dumped on us again midweek followed by rising temperatures and beautiful sunny days later in the week, but  the snow wasn’t going anywhere quickly for the final cross country race of the season which was at Fish Creek Park on Saturday.

It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day with clear blue skies – so bright in fact, I even came away with a sunburnt/snow burnt face and freckles – and with the course being just shy of 10km, it was going to be a long one.

As things stood, there was a clear overall ladies winner, but 2nd and 3rd were up for grabs and with 3 of us competing for the remaining prizes, it really was a case of running all out. The longer course would probably suit me and having done a lot of running in snow over the winter months, that didn’t particularly bother me. However, the race would finish on quite a steep hill and I was convinced that it would come to a sprint finish on that hill and I would lose out.  A quick look around on the startline helped to ease some of the pressure when I noticed that one of the other ladies hadn't turned up, so it was now a race between me and new friend Anne Marie Landry to see who got 2nd and 3rd.

The start was quite fast along a narrow trail as everybody tried to get ahead of the field on the pathway. I managed to get quite near the front but was well aware that Anne wasn’t too far behind and that I needed to open up a gap to give me a cushion when hitting the hills. I managed to use my strength as a downhill runner where I could and relied on my speed on the flatter sections, but one minute I would be flying along, and the next I’d be stumbling in calf-deep snow and losing momentum. I try not to look behind me in a race, but as we made our ascent up the first of 3 hills, I took a sneaky peek  and relaxed a little as I noticed that there were only 3 men close behind and no visible sign of Anne. However, Anne has a good strong finish and I knew I couldn’t be caught slacking so I pushed on, running on adrenalin, and overtaking a few chaps in the process.

Taking advantage of downhill running - Fish Creek XC 9th March
The race did feel long and it took 55 minutes to cover the 9.75km course, but on approaching the finish, I knew I had secured 2nd place and so took it easy going up the hill. I was so pleased and felt assured that at last, things are starting to come together again with my running :o)

Being a local race, we decided to go to the post race gathering at Lake Chaparral, the idea being that volunteers made soup for the runners, and the runners donate a dessert. I’m pleased to say that my home made trifle seemed to get the thumbs up, and it was really nice to finally sit down and have a proper chat with the people I had been competing with over the past 6 months.

The Calgary Road Runners XC Grand Prix has been a brilliant experience, and I’m so pleased to have completed all 10 races throughout the winter. It’s been so different when compared to XC in the UK where we’d run a maximum of 6km and generally encounter rain, wind and mud – here we’ve had deep snow, lethal icy conditions, freezing cold temperatures, and courses of 8km or more for both men and women.

At the post race gathering, I was chatting to a chap from Glasgow who’s lived in Canada since the early 1970’s. This was his 101st consecutive Calgary Road Runners XC race and I’m hoping that this is something I can aspire to - after a couple of ultras in the summer months, I’ll be back to support the CRR cross country races again in October and I’m already looking forward to it. In the meantime though, I’ve got the Awards Evening to look forward to and I need to face my biggest challenge yet - cooking a main course as well as a desert to share with those attending. I don’t do cooking or baking, and I have to say that it frightens the living daylights out of me. It's such a shame they don’t have Staffordshire Oatcakes over here – I’m sure cheesy ones would go down extremely well and it’s something I’m actually capable of “cooking” !!

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