Accidental Personal Record

I didn’t want to do another half marathon but I promised. My partner signed me up for the Army Run in Ottawa. It was a marginally consensual sign up. But he was excited and I figured it would all be okay. 

The summer was busy and hot at the wrong times. I hate running in the heat. I didn’t train much. Neither did he frankly but he has that particular combination of base fitness and stubbornness that he can do just about anything he puts his mind to. So as the date approached, I knew that 21.1k was not going to happen for me. 

The event gave me the option of dropping down to the 10k and I took that instead. I thought I’d just take it easy and walk as much as I needed. It was going to be an obscenely hot day for September anyway. I had zero expectation. 

The event itself was huge. And you know what? It was super fun. It’s not just a Canadian Forces thing. It’s in support of wounded soldiers and they had a place of honour in the run. The city really owns that run. The Prime Minister ran the 5k (in 23 minutes !!! ). The Minister of Defence ran the Commander’s Challenge, the same run my partner did. It was the 5k and then the half. There were a couple of other Ministers running other distances too. There were kids and moms carrying kids and strollers and basically every combo you can imagine running 5 different events storming the streets of downtown. 

Doing politics on the run. The PM and the Minister of Defence

I just set out to do my best. Not a record, just survive really. And then, there it was, 10k in 1:13.20. A personal best by accident. 

I told my partner I’d do the half next year. It always seems so possible from this perspective. 

Who else has tripped over a personal best?

Sweaty white middle age woman in a green tank top looking pleased with herself.

Do I look smug? I was smug. And sweaty

Horse Magic in Iceland

I’ve been home for almost 2 weeks and I still don’t have words. I think about what I want to say and my heart clenches with so much stuff I can’t think. Where do I start? What can I tell  you? Perhaps I’ll tell it as a story.

Once upon a time, a woman got a link from a friend to a site on the internet. She was curious and opened the page. “Golden Circle Horseback Riding Adventure“, it promised.


This is a picture of me with a smile that is so big it is dwarfed only by the horse nose in the foreground. Horse selfies FTW.

Bah! This isn’t working. I’m not good with Disney-esque things. But actually? This was the most perfect trip of my life so far and I’m going to tell you why.

First of all, Iceland. I know I know, it’s super trendy right now and super expensive unless you do it cleverly. Let me tell you, let me say, let me convey the absolute breath taking beauty. Let me assure of you the magnificence both in the grandeur of the landscape and the subtly of each flower and bit of moss. Let me tell you about the sky and the clouds, the ever changing mosaic of sun and wind and rain.

Let me tell you about the living earth that bubbles up and overtakes in cycle after cycle of volcanic activity. This place is literally on the cusp of the world, where two plates meet and slowly move away from each other. It has spilled to the surface and offered itself to us. It is harsh and glorious.

The people that live there are hardy and funny. They are serious and ridiculous. They are all related, descendants of  Danish and Norse men who sailed out to find something, grabbed some Briton women along the way and scratched out an existence for the last thousand years. All the time they have been there, the horses have been with them. Icelandic horses are a distinct breed. In 982AD the island was closed to new horses to preserve them. They are prized for their hardiness, their compact strength and their gates, which include the Tolt and the Flying Pace.

What struck me most about them was their universal good nature. They are so much like the place they live. They are elegant and subtle. They are expansive and magnificent. Each is unique but together, they create a consistent predictable herd, each knowing it’s place in the inevitable cycle of life.


My incredible daughter looking so cool in her sunglasses and riding the most stylin’ blondie named Gladur. He was also known as Billy Idol. That hair tho.

I could not have seen this place in a better way or in better company. From the moment I opened that link four years ago, I knew I was taking my daughter for her 16th birthday. That is, if, she was still talking to me at 16 and if, if could still ride. I was blessed with everything I wished for.

We rode for 7 days. Some were gentler than others but most were exhausting. Some were downright punishing as they were exhilarating. We changed horses 2-3 times per day. Each time we had to get used to a new mount. If we didn’t figure out how to engage the Tolt (a smooth fast pace) we were doomed to sit trotting at an uncomfortable speed for a lot of the trip. The canter is hard on the horse over long distances so it’s discouraged unless we have permission. We spent some time in the back country in simple huts with basic amenities.  We spent some time in luxurious hot springs in the open air.

We were 17 women and three guides taking in magic with every breath. My daughter was the youngest at 16. The oldest woman was 71. I had no idea until the last day. Most of us hovered between 40 and 60 and it was a connection to horses that brought us all there.

Our head guide was German and told us the story of how she came to be guiding in Iceland on a ranch. She had a professional career and a home in Germany and she came on a trip not too many years ago. Then she came back on another a year later. Then, when she went home, it didn’t feel like home any more. She fell in love with the country or the horses, or maybe it’s the same thing. She was no longer comfortable in her skin in her “homeland” so she ditched her life and moved to Iceland. She was the first person who told me a story like that but then she wasn’t the last. A colleague, a client’s son and even my own daughter feel the pull. The place seduces you somehow. I could feel it too but I’m too entrenched at home.

It was a physically hard trip but I didn’t care. I could have stayed for two weeks or three. I could have stayed in the back country travelling with the rhythm of the horse. I would have slept in a tent or under a rock on soft moss. Maybe it’s the Icelandic Elves that call to us.

They offer another trip with the same company that involves more back country and riding with the herd, just like in the days of the Althing. I’m seriously thinking about it and I know my daughter wants to go. I might lose her to the Elves or a beautiful descendant of Danes and Britons. But it’s calling me.

black sand

The black sand beach in the foreground. The ocean gleaming in sunlight in the back ground. 13 women on horseback begin a gallop into the wind, as it should be.


Two Years Without a Scale

It’s been about two years, maybe a little more, since I literally threw out my scale. It was old. I think it was my mother’s scale in the house I grew up in. It migrated to my bathroom in my teens somehow and I just kept lugging it around with me.

I can’t say that my scale and I had a horrible relationship. In fact, until I joined this community and started to pay attention to assumptions about health, fitness, weight and acceptance, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I dutifully weighed myself nearly every day for most of my life mostly, I thought, out of curiosity.

Now it is true, if I am completely honest with you, that there were a few years where the scale gave some useful reflective information. It was a time in my life that I lost a lot of weight. Why did I lose this weight? Divorce, a super messy one at that. I lost so much weight that my hair started to fall out (it never really recovered). I could not get the weight to come back to my body as my anxiety and stress ate my guts out and made me nauseous with every swallow. I’d get on that scale and hope there was more to me almost every day. For the longest time there was not.

Eventually, the divorce chaos calmed down and I was able to get hold of myself. When I say “get hold of myself” I’m not talking about my ability or inability to eat. I talking about actually finding myself and who I was. This is not a cliche. That is seriously what happened. It was the confidence that I was me and me was okay and I was going to be just fine that allowed me to start eating normally again and not to have each bit of nutrition go up in a flare of despair induced combustion.

My scale returned to a neutral item.

But I have a daughter.

And I found all these people who think gloriously and critically about the assumptions I swallowed about what the scale says and why we should or perhaps should not listen.

My scale didn’t vanish from my life immediately but I did start to wonder why it was there. I went up a pound. I went down a pound. Not much changed for me because of those things. Things changed because I started a therapy practice and I ran 5k and I biked all over the place and I rode horses and did pilates and and. . .that stuff. Life stuff. I loved my kids and they grew and I loved my partner and friends and all those things grew and changed. None of it had any relationship to the scale any more and the scale had nothing to say to me about the quality of my life.

I started to hear it’s actual voice, or maybe my voice, some part of my voice, when I stepped on the thing. I went up a pound (aw. . .sadface). I went down a pound (yay. . .happyface). I was already writing for this blog ad hoc. I was deep into a new understanding of what exercise means in my life and in the lives of other people around me and nothing was about pounds. I had worked to stop seeing health and food in moral terms for my clients. I stopped accepting “I want you to help me lose weight” as a goal in therapy. But there I was on the scale a little “yay” and a little “boo” depending on what it told me.

So I threw it out.

Nothing changed.

Except it is quieter in my head in the bathroom in the morning.


A white and grey coloured bathroom scale commonly found in places you buy these things. You stand on it with your feet and get judged by your own precious self.

Car Camping or Canoe Camping?

I’m blogging to you live from my blow up couch at the Miles Roches Campground on the Long Sault Parkway. For a myriad of complicated reasons, we did not go Canoe tripping this year and to assuage my Camping bug, I planned a short trip to an area I’d biked through twice with the Bike Rally. 

It’s a stunning little piece of the St. Lawrence River shoreline. It consists of a series of islands connected by causeways and the whole thing is basically one big camp ground/recreation area. We are currently looking out at a northern channel of the river toward the mainland. The site is simple and a little muddy but there is adequate shade and lots of birds to look at out over the water. 

I had not car camped in about 5 years and we had all the gear, kitchen, two burner Coleman, tiki torches, the whole shebang. “Why not glamp for once?” I wondered. So here we are. 

An image of an Ash tree in the water's edge.

An Ash tree!!! We don’t have those anymore in Milton.

Now I will relate my observations about this whole experiment in doing it the so called easy way. 

First of all, car camping makes me lazy because I just think, “It’s car camping, whatever I’ll take it.” Of course this means the over packing was epic. Back country tripping narrows the focus and it is actually EASIER to plan because you only take what you need and then you try to do with even less because you have to carry it! Setting up camp was hard precisely because we had so much stuff. 

Looking towards the back seat of a car with grey interior. A smiling panting yellow lab is centered and surrounded by camping gear in blue plastic boxes.

Too much stuff and one super cute dog

Second, it is such a gift to trust the water. In Algonquin, as long as I boil it or filter it, no problem. Here? Germs are the least of my worries. You can’t boil out all the toxic waste in this river so water becomes a chore. Getting water from a bathroom sink while camping is depressing to me.

Third, oh for my privacy. While back country camping if I want to take my shirt off or skinny dip, in I go. If someone canoes by and I’m feeling modest, I stay under water. Simple. Here? Nope. I joked with my partner that there will be no camping sex because it would be like doing it in the kitchen while the kids are watching TV in the living room. Nope. 

Fourth, what do we do all day? We slept in then we ate and then we went for a run (no bikes because of the dog). That was great. I know there is this thing where you “relax” but it somehow doesn’t feel earned if I haven’t canoed or hiked for 3 hours to get there. That’s just me. The run did help even thought it was a bit melty on the pretty road. 

Fifth, drinking, it all leads back to drinking and as people who are really trying not to do that any more, it’s weird to notice the cup holders and insulated pockets on all the things that just scream “PUT A COLD BEER IN HERE!!” We looked after some dude’s dog while he biked to the liquor store this morning and ended up with a Radler because he insisted on reciprocating with beer. I drank it. And wrote this blog. But I will regret that when I try to cook dinner because doing that sucks the life out of me. This would never happen in the back country.  Beer is heavy. 

My conclusion is that while it is lovely here and I do not regret coming, I prefer to canoe in rather than drive to my camp sites. This sort of adventure has lots to recommend it but it’s like all the hastle of camping with a lot less of the pluses. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy the summer!

A frame of a woman's face at sunset. In the background is the multicolor sky over a large river.

Beautiful river.

First Half Marathon

As I sit here to write the words, “I ran a half-marathon on Sunday”, I’m still pretty much not processing the reality of that. I feel like my life now has a stark marker of Before Half Marathon and After Half Marathon.

Those of you who haven’t done it yet or never will or never think you will know exactly what I mean when I say that it seems impossible. Running is hard an horrible and makes everything hurt. Maybe you can run 3k, maybe you can run 5, maybe you walk or hike. The one thing you know for sure is running over 21k is just not possible really. At least, it isn’t possible without breaking something or nearly dying. Am I right? Yes of course I am.

But then there is this other thing. This After Half Marathon existence that knows about Before but clearly understands that it got done. I started a race. I finished a race. It took me 2 hours 41 minutes and 4 seconds. I ran for 10 minutes and then walked for 1 minute the whole way until I was finished. I have a medal. I’m not dead.

The conditions were really ideal. The Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon is a very flat course and it was about 15 degrees with a light rain. There was no issue of over heating which is a huge problem I have because I don’t sweat enough. It is a lovely event that is open to everyone. Men can run but they don’t have any men’s jerseys and there is eye-liner in the swag bag (I’m wearing it right now. It has sparkles). People ran it fast (the winner came in at just over 1 hour and 30 minutes). People walked. Lots of people did a combo of both. There were two friends who were running at basically the same pace as me in 2 minute run and 1 minute walk intervals the entire way. They were hillarious but it worked for them.

My lungs were good the whole way but after 10k things started to hurt from depletion. This makes sense because of my age and my under training. But I was determined and would not give up. I sucked back Maple Syrup Shots and kept on going until the end. . .apparently. . . because there is a medal in my bedroom so I must have.

In the days after I have remained mobile and uninjured. It’s a miracle. A Half Marathon Miracle.

Will I do it again? Apparently. I am doing the social opposite (?) of the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon, that being the Army Run in Ottawa in September. I’m hoping to improve my time a little and again, not die. In the After Half Marathon existence, this seems possible and I suppose expanding possibility is the only viable reason I can come up with for having done this in the first place.


White woman in a teal short sleeve shirt and a white hat with a big smile and a half-marathon medal.

Pre-race Report

It sorta sucks that my regular day has come up two days too early for what is obvious to write about. I am doing the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon on Sunday and for someone pretty marginally prepared, I’m feeling strangely calm.

I registered on impulse after Tracy posted about it last year. I was looking for a new and different challenge after two years in a row of the Friends For Life Bike Rally.

I have thoughts about this choice of trial and training and now is as good a time as any to reflect on them.

First of all, running has been lonely. I don’t have great connections for running in Milton where I live. There are running clubs of course but they meet when I am working so that was out. My partner who I live with loves to run but he developed Plantar Fasciitis in September so running with him was off the table for months and months. He is able to run again but not longer distances. Not many people want to hang out with me for over two hours running 15 kilometers. It isn’t fun for me either.

Biking is a super social thing and I have lots of friends and opportunities to bike. However, I am not a person who likes to do two big things in a weekend so long runs interfered with those chances to bike. I’m feeling very disconnected from my biking community right now so that is also a little sad. Honestly I’ve looked at the bike and thought about going out myself but all the fibers in my being have screamed “NO!”. So I listened.

I have also been struggling (as I seem to mention in almost every post I make these days) with the lingering effects of what was actually a pretty major RA flare up in September. The fact that I trained for this thing at all, given how I’ve been feeling is pretty spectacular. I recently got cortisone shots in the remaining troublesome joints. Don’t ask me why I waited so long. I seem to be very stupid when it comes to my own self care some times. It has made a world of difference in my attitude toward everything from running to walking the dog to getting up in the morning. Self! Take care of yourself! *headdesk*.

There have been some good things about this troublesome task of training for the Half. I am amazed at what I can do. I have finally entered the zone of running where I can basically keep going, as long as I keep a steady slow pace and walk for one minute every 10 minutes. I have not had any running related injuries except for my toe nails. But I feel like toe nails are part of our blood sacrifice to the goddesses and gods of longer distance running.

I am going to go and do this thing and if I have to walk the last five kilometers because 15 kilometers of running is all I have in me, so be it. I won’t feel bad about that.

The dog and the dude will be waiting at the finish to cheer me no matter what and I am going to stuff my face so full of food I can’t even.

I am also signed up for the Army Run in September. Stay tuned if runner’s amnesia makes that an actual thing.


The Race between Hippomenes and Atalanta by Noël Hallé (1762-1765) at Louvre Museum, Paris. Atalanta is distracted by enchanted golden apples along the route so that Hippomenes can win and escape death. Otherwise, she would have smoked him. (This is also a story on the Free To Be You and Me Album ) Hail Atalanta, Priestess of Artemis. I dedicate my toenail sacrifices to you.

A Small Victory

I ran today. I did just over 4km at a clip of about 6:10 per kilometer. It doesn’t seem like much but basically today was the difference between the version of me that is still training for the Niagra Falls Women’s Half Marathon and the version that has given up because her body is not cooperating.

I had not run in a week and a half even though the last time was a magnificent 13.3km in which I did not collapse or otherwise injure myself. So yay.

However, I’m struggling with a low level flare of my RA and people, it is sucking the life out of me. Right now, it’s my hands and my right wrist but anyone who has an auto-immune thing knows that active-ish disease isn’t just about the affected part. It’s a system malfunction and my system is very prone to crashing lately, I’m exhausted, distracted and rather grumpy. I’m trying not to be disheartened but in this past week, I’ve stared right in the face the specter of  the cycle of inactivity that I am prone to.

It starts as giving myself permission to rest but then it becomes something else, a lethargy I have trouble escaping. I fear my gains have already vanished. I start to ache from not moving. I don’t want to do anything at all, I give up for a while.

Except I didn’t. I ran today and I made it a Tempo run (yes 6:10 kms are a tempo run for me, don’t laugh). I ran in the cold rain, the perfect pathetic fallacy for my mood and the ache in my hands. But darn it, I ran.

I will do a 15k long run on Sunday. I’m not giving up.

That’s what I have to say about that.

motivational penguin

An adorable little cartoon penguin. His name is “Motivational Penguin” and the caption reads, “You can do it!” Thanks Motivational Penguin. I think so too.