Recap of Women in Media panel + just a regular Saturday morning as a reporter

Before I get into a brief recap of last weekend’s YWCA Women in Media panel, I wanted to share one (of the many!) reasons why I love my job as a reporter.

I’m working this weekend, so I was up bright and early to get to three different stories all before noon. First on my list was a movie screening of the new Disney flick Frozen for cancer patients, survivors and their families and caregivers. What an awesome event! It’s sponsored by George’s Night Out, a volunteer organization started by Sue Baldock after her husband George passed away ten years ago at the age of 30 from cancer. The Simcoe couple was living in Denver at the time with their infant son, far from extended family for support, and a foundation in Colorado helped send them to things like restaurants for meals out or the hockey arena for an Avalanche game. Nothing too big or overwhelming – just fun, lowkey and relaxed events – but we all know those are the moments we hold onto and remember, right? It’s the simplest memories that mean the most.

When Sue moved back to Simcoe, she was determined to bring that idea – just spending time with your loved ones while everyone is together – to Norfolk County. One of the many things George’s Night Out does is this annual movie screening. It was packed with people from around Norfolk! The kids were especially excited to have the chance to eat popcorn for breakfast!

After interviewing people there and taking some photos, I then headed to the Salvation Army for their Kids Only Christmas Store. This event lets kids from low-income families buy Christmas presents for their parents and caregivers for just a loonie. Again, what an awesome organization! I watched kids anxiously scour the aisles of donated items (either new, regifted, or gently used) for the perfect present for their mom, dad, or grandparent. Then the volunteers would wrap the gifts up while the kids eagerly waited, pride and anticipation written across their faces.

As one of the volunteers told me, “Kids want to get in on the giving spirit too.” Isn’t that true? A program like this allows them to do so, and takes what can be (and is) a very stressful time financially for many people and turns it into an opportunity for everyone to feel included. I loved this!

My third and final destination for the morning was a book signing with a local author from Long Point. Jan Everett wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Never Give Up” for her husband’s birthday, inspired by his dedication to helping save turtles crossing from the bay to the marsh on the causeway (this is a HUGE problem in Long Point). Jan and John were delightful, chatty, warm and welcoming, and their passion for the environment is so inspiring.

All in all, it was a Saturday morning that reminded me why I love my job. Like police officers, judges and various other professions, journalists are often called to bear witness to the worst of humanity, but we also get to experience the best of it. The stories about people working to improve our world little by little are the ones we need to focus on when it seems like the media can be full of so much bad news. I’m continually awed by this and I hope that never changes, that I never become jaded about all the good that is around me. Let’s keep getting these stories out!

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Now for the Women in Media panel: what a fantastic day! I was so impressed by the YWCA and the planning they did to pull off a terrific National Career Day. There were city councillors, midwives, a police officer, a hair stylist, a boxer, a NASA spacesuit designer, a biologist and more all there to speak with the girls and answer any questions they had. It was fascinating and I particularly enjoyed speaking with the police officer and the midwife. The inventor of the Diva Cup was also there, which was really cool. All fabulous, strong female role models for the girls in attendance.

The media panel I was on was really intimidating at first – I had to answer first so I was very nervous! The other two women on the panel with me was Sophie from 91.5 The Beat in Kitchener-Waterloo and Sasha, a recording artist and Canadian Idol competitor. Both women were funny, wise and frank about challenges they’ve faced in the media and advice they have for young girls wanting to work in the industry.

One question I received that I loved was “who are your female role models?” This is a question we should all ask ourselves regularly, I think. I told the girls it’s important to have role models who are real people you know in your life – that it’s fine to look up to famous people in the public eye (but seriously, let’s have more Malala Yousafzais than Miley Cyruses, please), but to also make sure that some of your heroes are girls and women you know, and to talk to them, ask them questions, be inspired by them. I added that your role models can be all ages and from all backgrounds – they don’t have to look like you, be like you, have the same interests or talents as you. What matters is that they represent qualities you strive for.

My female role models? My mom, first of all, for about a billion reasons but off the top of my head for her strength, vulnerability, selflessness, love of learning and devotion to her principles. My great-grandmothers for their grit, determination, faith and style. My former Russian professor Nazia who became a great friend for her humour, commitment to academics, passion for women’s rights and never-ending curiosity. My cousin Lindsay for her balanced approach to life and healthy self-perception. All traits I want to cultivate in myself – things I struggle with, to be frank, so looking up to these women as role models helps inspire me every day to try and be better.

Anyway, the rest of the panel was hopefully helpful for the girls and I’m excited to continue my involvement with the YWCA. The coordinator of the program and I have been chatting since the event about volunteering with their Media2Me program, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

Okay, I better head out for my next event for work – busy Saturday!

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Women in Media panel

Last July, I was lucky to meet a group of spirited, smart and savvy young girls taking part in a media camp run by the YWCA. I did a story on them for the paper, and I was so impressed with their questions, their critical thinking and their attitude towards media portrayals of women. We had a terrific, thought-provoking conversation on topics ranging from song of the summer Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to why female celebrities are always photographed with their mouths open on magazine covers and editorials. I left the girls that day feeling inspired to be both a more discerning and responsible member of the media and receptor of media too, because I’m just as vulnerable to buying into certain ideals and messages.

So when Kate, the leader of the camp and program coordinator of the YWCA’s Media2Me, contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I’d be interested in appearing on a media panel for the YWCA’s National Career Day, I jumped at the chance. Now the panel is just a few days away (this Saturday) and Kate sent me some more information about what to expect.

I’ll have 5-8 minutes to speak, and the YWCA is asking me to bring an item as a show and tell piece that speaks to the work I do in media. I’m going to have to think about this! Kate suggested something I use in my industry or something personal that inspires the work I do.

She’s also asking me and the other two women on the panel (so excited to meet Sophie from 91.5 and R&B/pop recording artist Trish!) to speak on the following questions:
 
– Why is it important to have women’s voices in media? (you can speak specifically to your industry, or in general)
– What are some of the challenges or barriers women uniquely face in your industry?
– What inspires you?
 
I’m going to have to think about all these questions in greater detail, but off the top of my head my gut answers are:
 
– because we make up half the population! 🙂 And because women are funny, smart, engaged, passionate, caring. Specifically to my industry, women reporters can often get stories and go places where men cannot. I’m thinking of sharing stories about life in Afghanistan for women – a male journalist wouldn’t be allowed to speak to women there, yet these are valuable stories that need to be told. On a more trivial note, even yesterday my male colleague told me I’m able to get certain stories because I’m more approachable than men. I had complimented two older women on their hats and brooches, and that led to a conversation between the three of us that I used in a story I ended up writing yesterday. They confided in me because – as silly as it sounds – we had initially bonded over, yes, fashion. Something stereotypically “girly” or in that female domain, but it led to them opening up to me and maybe they wouldn’t have if J.P. had been the one to approach them. Who knows.
– Challenges/barriers women face in the media industry? Ha. APPEARANCE. SEXISM. That’s what it boils down to, I think. What you wear, how you look, whether you’re wearing makeup…media is all about appearances. Even my own grandfather – an educated, well-traveled, kind man with five daughters and a long, loving marriage – has said it’s time to replace a certain female news anchor because “she’s looking a little long in the tooth!” Would ANYONE say that about Peter Mansbridge??? I don’t think so. But maybe these specific barriers aren’t so unique to my industry, because I actually think they’re present in every workforce.
 
– What inspires me? Girls like the ones I met at the YWCA in the summer, for sure. They make me want to be a better example to them, to work on my own hang-ups about myself so I can truly be a role model. My parents inspire me. Other journalists. My dreams and goals. Certain teachers I’ve had, like Nazia who has become a dear friend of mine in addition to being the first person to teach me Russian. Injustices inspire me, and so do happy stories – yes, they’re out there! The thought that I have a valuable tool at my hands that can help create good always, always inspires me. When I get emails from people asking how they can donate to a cause I wrote about, or telling me that my article helped a situation get better, I’m motivated even more to seek out stories that can help bring positive change to communities.
 
What about you? What are your answers to these questions?
 
I’m really, really excited about this media panel. I’ll write all about it on the weekend!
 

Race Recap: Gettysburg North and South Marathon

When: April 28, 2013

Where: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Time: 3:18.04

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I couldn’t have asked for a better first marathon.

When I decided to sign up for the third annual Gettysburg North and South Marathon, I was sitting in the newsroom at The Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It was the day after I ran the Hypothermic Half-Marathon, and even though I had vehemently told my friend Carolyn before the race that “after this, I’m taking a break from running. I am done training for races in the winter”, the endorphins had kicked in and I was still riding that runner’s high. You forget the cold, the numbness that settles in around kilometer 18, the worry that you’ve literally ran your butt off. All you feel is, “this is the best thing EVER!” and “I can’t wait to do it AGAIN!”

It also happened to be my 25th birthday, so I was in one of those contemplative moods where I was writing down the goals I wanted to achieve this year. And one of the dreams I’ve had for years now is running the Great Wall marathon in China by the time I’m 30. When I initially chose “by 30”, I was 18 and that age seemed impossibly far off. But all of a sudden I realized if I wanted to run the Great Wall, I should maybe run a marathon before that.

So I decided right then that I would run 26.2 miles before I turned 26. I looked up races in North America and the first one that caught my eye was the Gettysburg North and South. It seemed too good to be true: running + history + Civil War battlefield + 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg?!? Pretty much all of my favourite things.

I quickly emailed my mom the link to the race with “thoughts???” written after it. Because my mom is amazing and supportive, she replied right away offering to drive down to Pennsylvania with me.

And that was that. I was registered to run my first marathon.

I plan to write future posts on my training and on Gettysburg itself, but this post will focus solely on the race itself.

I didn’t sleep more than an hour or two the night before, but oddly enough I felt very calm and relaxed about that. I have a looooong history of sleep…anxiety, we’ll call it, going back to when I was a little kid and would ask my parents every night when they tucked me in, “how many hours until midnight? How many hours until you go to sleep? Will you come and check on me before you go to sleep?” In my child’s mind, I clearly didn’t get the whole concept of time zones and was terrified that the entire world would be asleep while I would be the only one left awake. This thought filled me with overwhelming, paralyzing loneliness and I would lie quietly in bed, trying not to cry as I listened to my sister sleep in the bunk bed above me. I’ve gotten over this since (thank God!), but I still have nights of insomnia at least once or twice a week.

For some reason though, I didn’t freak out about getting a good night’s sleep before the marathon. I had read that it’s actually two nights before a race that counts the most for sleep, and that Friday I had had a solid ten hours. I wasn’t counting on really sleeping much Saturday night, so I didn’t stress about it. Instead, I lay quietly in bed and focused on feeling relaxed if not completely rested. I visualized the race and how I wanted it to play out, and when my alarm went off at 5 I slipped out of bed and thought, “Let’s do this.”

Pre-race nutrition

I’m an early morning runner to begin with and I find it easier to run on an empty stomach, so I didn’t eat anything before the race. I don’t recommend this – I’ve read plenty of articles on pre-race fueling and everyone seems to say the same thing: eat something. A bagel with peanut butter and a banana sounds like a great choice of carbs, healthy fats and protein (as well as potassium!), but for me “running on empty” is just what works although as I’m typing this I realize how unhealthy this sounds. I suggest playing around with food during your training runs and trying different combinations, because everyone’s bodies respond differently. I’ve found that my best bet is to eat plenty of carbs the night before, sleep, get everything, er, “going” the next morning and then hit the road with plenty of stored energy without feeling heavy.

The night before Gettysburg I ate a baked sweet potato and some homemade protein bars – oats, peanut butter, banana, Vega protein powder and hemp seeds. Super simple, but it’s the simple ingredients that I find work best for me. I also drank plenty of water and coconut water for the electrolytes.

The running outfit

Deciding what to wear for a race is not just a silly “how will this look in photos?” concern (although I completely admit that’s still on my mind!). You’ve got to pick clothes that will last through 26.2 miles of blood, sweat and tears (and chafing!). Weather is also a factor, obviously – most marathons have early start times when it’s significantly cooler out before the sun comes out and everything warms up. The weather for Gettysburg looked pretty perfect – sunny and between 10 – 18 degrees Celsius.

I went with an outfit I had worn for one of my 20-mile training runs, so I knew it could go the distance: long-sleeved technical fabric tee, running skirt and compression socks (my love for compression socks knows no bounds – seriously the best running investment ever!)

ImageFinish line in sight!

Yes, I was colour coordinated and wearing a skirt, and yep, that was totally intentional. What can I say? I love pink and running and skirts and pushing myself until I feel like I’m going to die and I don’t think any of those should be mutually exclusive. Running should be fun, and if wearing a skirt and hot pink socks is fun for you, go ahead! 🙂

(Plus, I also like the idea of people who look down on women running in skirts as not being “real runners”…and then I kick their butt). And a little girl who was cheering everyone on during the race told me she loved my outfit, which made me smile – something that was hard to do between Mile 20 and 25!

Pre-race

My parents were going to meet up with me later, so I left them still sleeping in our hotel room (we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott at 95 Presidential Circle, which was fabulous) and headed down to the lobby. There were shuttle buses running from the hotel to the start line, and the lobby was filled with nervous, excited runners. There was a group of girlfriends all decked out in Southern belle-inspired costumes! As a huge Gone with the Wind fan, I loved this. So much fun! (although I wondered how itchy that pinafore would get after a few miles…)

One of the unique things about the Gettysburg North and South Marathon is that when you sign up, you have to decide what “side” to run for, the North or the South. At the end, the side with the fastest times wins, I suppose, the “battle”. Most runners choose North or South based on where they’re living or where their ancestors came from. As a Canadian, I didn’t really have a dog in the fight so I went with the South because of my aforementioned love of Gone with the Wind and because who doesn’t love an underdog? The North had won every year prior to this year’s race, and in reality, had won the actual battle that took place between July 1 and 3, 1863.

This aspect of the race has sparked some criticism – you can read a Runner’s World article about it here (I was actually interviewed for it!). I can understand where critics are coming from regarding the race issue, although as a white Canadian I’m uncomfortably aware of my own ingrained cultural and racial biases. The American Civil War for me is history. I love learning about it and it is one of my favourite historical periods, but I don’t have that personal, visceral connection to it that many Americans rightly do. I’m not really sure what else to write about this matter, except to say that I do see the critics’ point of view. But I also see the race as a fun, creative way to acknowledge, “Yes, some pretty horrific things happened in our past. But look how far we’ve come – let’s celebrate that.”

I personally thought the race sends such a wonderful message of honouring the past while not letting old animosities linger. There’s such a spirit of friendship and support that I think exists between all runners, but it seemed particularly so at the Gettysburg North and South. I thought the race really proves that it doesn’t matter where we come from or what our backgrounds are, we can all come together, have fun, and run our hearts out.

On the bus ride over to the start line I chatted with various other runners who were all seasoned marathoners. They were so kind and friendly and did their best to put me at ease. I had one last quick washroom stop and then before I knew it, I was lining up at the start with my new friends.

We stood and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” which was just heartachingly beautiful. This was a week after the Boston Marathon bombings and there was so much emotion. Tears ran down runners’ cheeks and many runners wore Boston singlets, race bibs and other paraphernalia to honour the spirit of the sport and the race. It was impossible not to think about what had happened just a week before. Singing the National Anthem – and especially the last, triumphant line “the land of the free and the home of the brave” – remains one of my most stirring, poignant memories.

The Race

The first seven kilometers were pretty unremarkable in terms of running. I settled into a good pace (around 4″35 kilometers) and enjoyed looking around at the gorgeous scenery. The first part of the race takes you through the town itself which at this time of year is in full bloom with cherry blossoms. Then it quickly takes you to the rolling hills surrounding the town, where the battle took place and 7,863 soldiers drew their last breaths. Running alongside so much history and bloodshed is incredibly sobering and thought-provoking. As I ran, I tried to wrap my mind around how these same hills – peaceful and somnolent in 2013 – could have been home to so much carnage and senseless destruction 150 years earlier. I also thought about the soldiers themselves, so many of them young and far from home. Or maybe fighting on their home. Young men my brother’s age. I couldn’t fathom it.

It was around kilometer 7 that I heard someone coming up behind me. I’m not going to lie, I hate being passed – wouldn’t everyone much rather be the passer than the passee? The woman drew up alongside me and the first thing out of her mouth was, “You goin’ for a BQ?”

BQ. Two little letters that carried a hell of a lot of weight. You see, this was my secret goal, the letters that had kept nudging me along all winter during my training. BQ – Boston Qualifier. I knew what time I would need – a seemingly impossible-sounding 3:35. When I was younger, I didn’t know you had to qualify to run Boston. I had just blithely assumed that one day I would run the Boston Marathon. Then, when I did discover what a BQ was, I kind of shrugged and thought, “Oh well.”

But as my training continued and I became more and more serious, my goal for this marathon changed too. I had initially latched upon running a sub-4, and that was the goal I had told my parents. Then, when I read that George W. Bush had run a 3:44.52 (Houston Marathon, 1993), I decided it would be pretty awesome if I could beat Dubya’s time too…

It was during my last long training run over Easter weekend when I ran 32.5 kilometers in 2:34.03 that I dared to admit to myself that a BQ could actually happen. I still didn’t tell anyone about my dream though. I was too scared to verbalize it, I wanted it so badly. Then, after the Boston bombings happened, it became even more important for me. I wanted to be at the start line in Boston in 2014 with thousands of other runners, helping show that terrorism would never, ever win.

So when this stranger ran up beside me and asked, “You goin’ for a BQ?” like it was the most natural thing ever, I paused before answering. My immediate reaction was to brush it off and say modestly, “Oh, you know, I’d just be happy to finish!” and kind of laugh. Like a lot of people I think, I hate tooting my own horn (although I realize this post is entirely self-indulgent and full of personal horn-tooting). I also hate admitting I really, really want something. Because after all, if no one knows you want something, then when you don’t get it you don’t have to deal with their pity and disappointment on top of yours, right? I am a perfectionist and the thought of living up to my own expectations can be crippling enough. Living up to others’ expectations of me? That’s even scarier.

But this time, I answered with total honesty. “Yeah, I am,” I said.

She looked down at her Garmin. “Well, you’re right on track.”

And with that – this unknown runner who would go on to become my inspiration – gave me unspoken permission to verbalize what I want. To speak my dreams. To say, “I want this” and to hell with worrying over whether or not I’ll get it or deserve it. Nope. With Laurie Dymond, it was just a simple question, nothing existential about it. Are you going for a BQ? Yes? Okay, well, get on with it then. Let’s run.

We ran the next 32-odd kilometers together, talking about everything and anything. Laurie was a 47-year-old seven time Boston marathoner with three daughters and a husband and she lived in Pennsylvania. She’s so dedicated to running that she’ll wake up at 3:30 a.m. to get in her long runs before the rest of her family wakes up. For her first marathon back in the 80s, she wore a down-filled parka with the hood pulled all the way up and grey sweatpants, and she ate Fig Newtons throughout. Those were the days before tech fabric this and dri-fit that and Clif shot bloks and Powerbar gels! Laurie was fascinating to talk to and was such a wealth of knowledge on running. I loved picking her brain!

We never agreed to run the race together; it just happened that way. We settled into a nice rhythm and just enjoyed getting to know each other as we ran. Spectators lined up along the country roads cheered us on and we smiled and waved for the cameras and said thank you to the kids handing out water, Gatorade and gels. Quite a few of Laurie’s friends had come to watch her race and she introduced me to all of them as we passed them on the route.

Eventually, we stopped talking and just kept on running. There was nothing awkward in our silence at all – it was actually the most comforting thing ever. Occasionally Laurie would look down at her watch and I’d ask, “how are we?” and she’d answer, “Good” or “let’s pick it up a bit”. As a seasoned Boston marathoner, I trusted her judgement completely, not even bothering to look at my own watch. But I kept telling myself, “I’ve got this. I’m BQing.”

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Laurie and I coming up to where my parents were cheering us on at Mile 14

I hit the proverbial wall a little after Mile 20, maybe Mile 21 or 22. I saw my parents at Mile 14, when I zipped by them with a big smile feeling awesome and strong. But by 22, I was struggling. The one thing I would have changed about the race set-up was to add a shuttle for spectators out between Mile 20-24 because that’s when it became the most mentally challenging. Laurie had pulled ahead of me a bit and even though I could see her and was only a few seconds behind, I felt very alone.

I can’t really remember what was going on in my head at this point. I think I boiled it down to a mantra of “just keep going”. My whole body hurt. Every turn in the road I would think, “we have to be almost in the town” and then I’d see another endless stretch of countryside. Finally, the town emerged and I could tell I was almost there, so I picked up my pace.

Seeing the finish line is up there as one of the best sights of my life. I started to sprint – well, my version of sprinting at this point – and crossed the line at 3:18.04. I promptly burst into tears.

When my parents rushed up to me, they didn’t understand why I was crying. But as corny as it sounds, they were tears of complete, baffled, hysterical joy. And pain. Because I had naively assumed that as soon as I stopped running, the pain would go away. Oh no. No, no, no. The pain actually gets WORSE once you stop running. Just a heads up! It was the most crippling pain I have ever been through, and I once spent almost an entire year in various casts after breaking my wrist and then my foot, after running with said broken foot for two weeks.

But in that moment, the pain didn’t register. The only thing that did was the fact that I had qualified for Boston, one of the biggest dreams of my life.

And then the pain hit me again like a brick wall. I collapsed to the ground (so dramatic sounding!) and just curled up in a ball. My mom massaged my legs for a few minutes which helped a lot, and then I plunked my butt down in a bath tub of ice water. Ooh.

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Feeling the burn

Laurie came running up to me to hug me and yell, “You’re going to Boston!” and I introduced her to my parents. Honestly, I really wonder if I would have BQed without her. Not only did she get me to finally speak out loud what my dream was, but she also kept me motivated and inspired throughout the race. I will never forget her and am so grateful to her. Who knows? Maybe we’ll run into each other at Boston next spring!

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We had to get in the car and drive back to Ontario soon after that (note to self: a long drive after running 42.2 kilometers is NOT a good idea but what can you sometimes, right!?) but I was there to watch more people come in and to find out that the South had lost (again) but I had won the first female in my age category. It was a pretty awesome moment.

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Final thoughts on my first marathon

First of all, I couldn’t have done this without my parents. Their support overwhelms me when I think about it. Driving to Gettysburg and back, cheering me on, asking me about my training over the winter, just being incredible, incredible people. And my mom? All through this she was dealing with a debilitating back injury and was in severe, constant pain. We drove down to Gettysburg with her lying down in the back seat because that was the only position she could stand the pain in. And yet she still came. I get teary-eyed when I think of that sacrifice and I just hope she knows how much I loved having her there.

In terms of the actual marathon, I thought it was really well-organized. It’s a smaller race (624 people finished) so it has an intimate, very supportive vibe to it without losing any of the energy of the bigger races. There’s also enough people running it that you can really choose whether you want to run with people, another person or entirely by yourself – whatever works for you! Water stations were frequent and there were plenty of spectators through most of the course cheering everyone on, which helped SO MUCH. They were fantastic.

The race director, Lowell Ladd, was completely on top of things and sent out frequent and helpful emails. He also responded promptly to an email I wrote prior to the race with some questions, which was really appreciated. Shuttle buses from the hotel to the start line was a great touch, and there were TONS of porta-potties throughout the course! Nice to see!

The t-shirts and medals were distinctive and unique, and the race bibs were personalized with your name and the colour of either the North (blue) or South (grey). Definitely keepsakes!

It really couldn’t have been a more unforgettable first marathon experience for me. There are plenty of “soul-searching” moments throughout the run, especially once you’re out near the battlefield running along the rolling hills and underneath that big blue sky. And isn’t that why you run a marathon? To dig deep down within yourself and find that part of you that won’t give up, that part of you that’s bigger than the blisters or the cramps.

Marathons are inherently selfish things, even though they can feel selfless when you’re giving up nights out with friends for early morning weekend runs in blizzards. But they demand a ton of time and complete and utter focus on YOU. Other things – hobbies, friends, family – get shoved to the backburner when you’ve “got to train”. It’s very all-encompassing. And it seems silly to invest so much worth and meaning into a physical feat. Okay, so I ran a marathon. So what? I still can only do, like, ten “real” push-ups before I collapse to the ground, so it’s not like I’ve been suddenly imbued with this physical prowess.

What does running a marathon really mean, at the end of the day? Why did I do it? To prove that I could (to myself and to others, although who these “others” are, I’m not really sure!). To say that I could (yep, bragging rights do play a role in this). To give myself something to do. To test myself, my discipline, my drive, my endurance, my…character, yes. Because that’s been the biggest lesson for me from this. When I’ve felt discouraged in the months since my marathon, for whatever reasons (primarily career ones for me), I’ve really drawn upon my marathon as inspiration. If I could do that, I can do this, the thinking goes. I know I’ve got the kind of single-minded focus to train and qualify for Boston, so I can apply that same focus to my other life goals, some of which frankly seem insurmountable most days! And maybe they are, but still being able to tell myself, “I ran a marathon, I can do this” really helps.

The feeling of accomplishment my marathon gave me has probably been the most valuable takeaway from the whole experience for me. That, and the feeling of community with the runners and supporters. I loved feeling like I was running alongside 623 friends who all loved the same thing I did and who were all mutually crazy.

Whew! Okay, I doubt anyone out there has made it through this entirely self-indulgent post. But it felt good to finally write down my memories of what was an unforgettable experience. If you’re looking for a fun, spirited and unique marathon, whether it’s your first or your fiftieth, definitely consider the Gettysburg North and South!

Lululemon – we are never, ever, ever getting back together

I’m officially breaking up with Lululemon.

Our torrid relationship started in the winter of 2008 when I could no longer resist the siren call of the store’s distinctive loopy entrance. I ducked inside; I emerged 15 minutes later and $80 poorer with a buttery-soft metallic yoga bag that was on clearance (so I could justify the purchase).

When my boyfriend at the time saw it, he scrutinized the logo suspiciously. “Wait…isn’t that the brand that all those girls are obsessed with on campus?” The boyfriend – an English major, and a pretentious one at that – started referring to the bag as Grendel, one of the monsters in Beowulf.

Grendel was my gateway drug to the world of Lululemon, and I was hooked.

It started off innocently enough – I bought a pair of shorts and one of their tank tops. But what I’m ashamed to admit is how quickly the clothing became a status symbol for me. Working out at the gym in my lulu made me feel prettier. It didn’t make me faster or stronger, but I felt like I finally belonged. I walked around the gym with confidence now that I looked like…well, 99% of the other girls there, just less tan and blonde.

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Fully decked out in my first Lululemon outfit (left)

I was aware at the time how awful it was to have my self-worth completely tied up in a $100 work-out outfit, but it made me so happy I didn’t care.

I also told myself it was the quality of the clothes that made them worth it for me. As a runner, I needed sweat-wicking fabrics and supportive sports bras, right? Well, yes, but Lululemon isn’t the only company to make those things. Let’s be honest: it was the little double-L symbol that did it for me. I bought into the Lululemon lifestyle promise and started thinking I couldn’t possibly go to a hot yoga class without my No Limits Tank or run in the winter without my special running jacket. I watched myself do these activities through the gaze of the consumer and I liked how I looked, like some Perfect Commercial Girl.

But again – looking like a Perfect Commercial Girl didn’t make my life perfect. Lululemon isn’t what got me my qualifying time for Boston. It didn’t even get me that much male attention at the gym because let’s face it, EVERY girl is wearing Lulu there.

All of this is to remind myself that Lululemon isn’t the be all and end all. It’s not magical. Its quality has been steadily declining over the years while its prices are still obscene.

And what’s more? According to Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon and the 10th richest man in Canada, it’s our fault the quality of the clothes isn’t there anymore. Remember Sheer-gate, when pants had to be yanked from Lulu stores across North America because the fabric was too see-through?

Well, Chip Wilson recently told Bloomberg TV that “quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [Lululemon’s pants].”

He went on to bury himself into a deeper hole: “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it,” Wilson said.

So it’s not enough that Lululemon only carries pants up to a size 12, when the average North American woman wears between a 12 and a 14. No, now their sheer pants are our problem because of our pesky thighs rubbing together! Well, of course! Silly us. It’s not, say, the fact that they use crap material (but there’s seaweed in it! Magical luon healing properties!). Please. No wonder “thigh gap” has become a thing now.

It was the exclusivity of Lululemon that got me hooked in the first place, but it’s that very exclusivity that’s turning me off now. Women’s bodies shouldn’t have to “work” for a company. The company should work for them.

Also, I would like to see Chip Wilson’s thighs (actually, no I wouldn’t). But why are women’s bodies always the topic of conversation, always presented in opposition to something, while men’s bodies rarely are?

Watching this interview disgusted me, but it also made me feel ashamed. Because…I still love my Lululemon clothes. They’re pretty and they still make me feel pretty, no matter how much I want to deny that. And I’m still going to wear the ones I already own.

But I’m no longer going to shop there. They’ve gotten my money (more than I care to add up!) but they won’t get any more.

Is it hypocritical of me to continue wearing Lulu, even if its their older stuff I bought a couple years ago? I don’t think so, but I’m still wrestling with it. Maybe it’s like holding onto an ex-boyfriend’s old shirt – it’s time to give it up?

What do you think? Should there be a boycott of Lululemon because of Chip Wilson’s remarks? Do most mainstream retailers who try to market a certain exclusivity think this way (ie. Abercrombie and Fitch), so if we were to boycott one, we should be boycotting all? And does anyone else feel prettier in certain work-out clothes, and how can we (or should we?) change that perception?

Covering council: how to survive with only minimal loss of feeling in your butt

Every Tuesday, I spend anywhere between four (on a good night) to six hours covering county council meetings. I’ve only been doing this for a month or so, which means I’m certainly no expert, but I thought I’d share my tips to other young reporters about to cover council for the first time. In j-school, I took a political reporting elective where we were assigned to go to city council and find a story to write about and file before noon the next day (ahh, what a beautiful, unrealistic deadline!).

Aside from that one time, I had no experience covering council before I started working at the paper here. Of course, I didn’t advertise that fact – fake it till you make it, right? And I’ve been doing a lot of faking it this past month, so I’ve picked up on some useful tips for reporters new to covering council:

1) Council meetings are marathons, not sprints

You would be amazed at just how long councillors can debate the mundane minutiae of, say, rooftop solar projects or road repairs. So go in prepared with the right attitude. Get plenty of rest the night before (yes, I’m serious…council meetings are late nights for everyone there, but keep in mind you’ve also got to head back to the newsroom to type out at least a couple of briefs before your paper goes to print).

Eat a solid meal about an hour before, and don’t be afraid to bring snacks – just make sure they aren’t loud, distracting, smelly or awkward to eat, so nix the wrappers, chips, curry, hardboiled eggs or tuna, carrot sticks, full-out turkey dinners…you get the idea. At first I was too afraid to eat during council and would end up with horrible stomach cramps by the end of the night. But then I started noticing other people taking surreptitious snack breaks, and I realized it was okay to show your human side and admit you’re hungry. Just be respectful about it. Occasionally there will be a 10-minute recess if the meeting is really stretching into the late hours of the night, and I find that the perfect time to bring out a snack. My favourites? Almonds, homemade granola bars (chewy, not crunchy, and wrapped in noise-proof cling wrap), small pot of yogurt, pre-peeled clementines or dried fruit. Aim for some protein and complex carbs for lasting energy – you’ll need it!

2) Show up early and dress the part

Maybe this is a “well, duh” piece of advice. But don’t underestimate it. Get to council 20 minutes early and pick out a good seat. There’s usually a media section that gives you a clear view of the action, so to speak, but keep in mind you could still have hearing and visual problems. Wear glasses if you need them. Sometimes there is only a limited number of seats for the media too, so you want to get there before everyone else shows up and you’re left having to awkwardly balance your laptop or notepad in your lap while crouching behind them.

Showing up early also gives you the perfect opportunity to say hello to the mayor, councillors and city/county staff. I wouldn’t use this time to fire questions at them, but just a smile and a “how are you?” can go a long way in building up relationships and rapport.

And dressing the part? That should be “well, duh”. You’re a professional. Look like one.

3) Do your research

Print off the council agenda (they’re typically posted online the day before the meeting) and read through it to get a sense of what potential hot-button issues could come up. Read the attached PDFs of staff reports for a further understanding of what people will be discussing. I only started doing this a few weeks into covering council and – at the risk of sounding hyperbolic – this changed my life. All of a sudden I was no longer sitting there blind, wondering what everyone was talking about. I’m not going to pretend like I always understand, but at least I have a general sense. Plus, it’s reassuring to know you have all the numbers and statistics right there with you, so you don’t have to furiously try and catch all the numbers people throw out during their presentations.

4) Flex your typing fingers

Unless you know shorthand – my political reporting prof did, which is a skill I’d love to have! – typing is probably your best bet when covering council. A lot is said, and often very fast and mumble-y, so typing is the easiest way to get as much information down as I can. I wouldn’t suggest relying on a recorder, because then you have to go back and listen to it all over again (and believe me, sitting through one council meeting is rough. Sitting through the same one again would be worse than being forced to watch an all-day marathon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians).

That being said, bring back-up. Have your laptop battery and cell phone charger with you, but also always throw in your notepad and a pen and pencil (pencil in case the pen runs out of ink!). Not only do you never know if your laptop will die, but if you have to slip out of council and chase someone before they get to the elevator, you’ll want your notepad to jot down their quote. Plus, no matter how slim and light laptops and iPads get, nothing beats an old-school coil-ring steno pad. You just feel more like a reporter with one.

5) Don’t be afraid to admit you know nothing

Look, maybe your hobby is reading up on rated capacity water systems versus firm capacity. That’s cool. But mine isn’t. So when this came up in council the other week, I really struggled with it. Council talks about some pretty dull and difficult things that the average person – ie. me, with my extremely limited science, math and business background – grapples with. Not to mention all the bureaucratic jargon and gobbledygook council and county/city staff like to use!

It’s our job as reporters to listen to all of this, try and make sense of it, then translate and interpret the information back into regular English for everyone else. This isn’t easy, but no one expects it to be (whew!), so don’t feel bad about saying, “I don’t understand such-and-such. Is there a way you could explain this to me that would make it more clear to readers?”

It’s humbling and frustrating and there have been moments over the past month where I’ve wanted to simultaneously tear out my hair and berate myself for being an idiot. But be patient, ask various people lots of questions and remind yourself you are not stupid. It’s easy to feel in over your head especially when this is your first job and everything is new, but have confidence in your abilities as a reporter to ask questions. That’s what we’re here for, right? People are expecting us to have questions, so don’t feel intimidated.

6) Take cues from other reporters, but trust your instincts too

If all the other reporters are hastily writing away during a deputation from a member of the public, or a presentation by county/city staff, that’s probably a really good hint that there’s a story here and you should be writing too. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with them, though. Different publications have different deadlines, space constraints and audiences. For example, one reporter who sits next to me at council writes for the paper in Port Dover. His readers aren’t typically going to be interested in a story that’s all about Simcoe, so he doesn’t write anything down during that discussion.

Also don’t be afraid about going with your gut. Reporter’s instinct is a powerful thing, so if something’s telling you to stay at council long after other media have left, stay. What will you lose (besides precious sleep)? You’ve already come to terms that you’re never going to be home in time to catch your favourite show anyway. Who knows? You just might scoop everyone else.

That leads to…

7) Don’t ever be the first reporter to leave

This applies not just to covering council, but any story. You don’t always have to be the last one standing, but it never hurts and could pay off. Tenacity and patience, my friends, are two of the biggest skills reporters can cultivate!

8) Make friends with other media

Okay, I know I just touted the joy of scooping other news organizations, but I’m not totally blood-thirsty. We’re all in this together, after all, and although healthy competition is a good thing I’m not an advocate of anything nefarious – we’ll leave that to the politicians we’re reporting on!

Seriously, make friends with each other. This will make boring council nights at least marginally more enjoyable, right? When you can turn to the guy on your right and double check a figure with him, or when you can both snort with suppressed laughter at something (yes, there are occasionally moments of mirth when covering council). Or when one reporter comes back after sneakily slipping out, with a tray of Tim Hortons coffee and tea for everyone (this happened last night and was a absolute lifesaver – thanks again, Aaron!).

Friends make everything better, and this goes double for council meetings.

 

Experienced council reporters out there, do you have any other tips to add? I’d love to hear them!

New fitness plan

A few days ago, I wrote about how I was feeling burned out from running. My original plan after running my first marathon last April was to take the summer and fall easy, and be rested up and ready to start training for Boston in January.

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But now it’s already November, and the thought of beginning marathon training – even for Boston, something I’ve dreamed of running for years – is filling me with more dread rather than excitement. I guess it’s because I know exactly what lies ahead: the early morning runs in pitch black and -20 C temperatures, the ice, snow, wind and rain, the unshovelled sidewalks, the fear of slipping and falling, eyelashes freezing to my cheeks and my breath catching in my chest. Nope, marathon training in winter is NOT fun! (reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw during the Philly Rock n’ Roll half: “13.1 means I’m only half-crazy!” So I guess running 26.2 – and deciding to do it again – makes me certifiably insane!)

I’ve decided on a new fitness plan for November and December that I’m going to do my best to stick with. I think it helps to have a workout plan in place because otherwise I’ll just revert to running. Of course, this will be flexible based on whatever might crop up, but I think it’s totally manageable and will hopefully inject some excitement into my fitness routine and keep things fresh! Plus, I’m always reading that your body gets used to doing the same workout all the time and thus won’t improve, get faster, stronger, etc. I know I’ve noticed improvements to my running in the past when I cross-train, so I hope this new plan will eventually see me clocking faster miles!

Here’s how it’s looking:

Monday: Run (not planning on any specific distance; depends on how I’m feeling that day and how much time I have before work)

Tuesday: Strength train (at-home workout)*

Wednesday: Swim

Thursday: Run

Friday: Strength train (work out opposing muscle groups from Tuesday; also at-home workout)

Saturday: Swim

Sunday: OFF (walk, maybe some yoga at night although my attention span will maybe get me through 10 minutes max of mainly savasana!)

* I really DON’T believe gym memberships are necessary. I loathe treadmills, so I really prefer to get my cardio outside on a run, bike, or walk. And as long as you’ve got some free weights at home and maybe a jump rope, kettle bell, exercise ball and a Jillian Michaels DVD or two, you’re good to go. There are also plenty of free workouts to try online. The biggest challenge is getting the motivation to change out of my pyjamas though haha…

A settling in kind of Sunday

After having one of the most peaceful sleeps of my life last night thanks to no longer having to make 2 a.m. 911 calls (yep, that was one of the things I had blocked out about the drug house when I was writing yesterday), I woke up recharged and ready to settle in at my new apartment. I haven’t really taken a lot of time off work since starting, mostly because we’re a new paper so there’s a lot to do, and also simply because of the nature of the job. It’s called the news, not the olds, right? Gotta stay on top of things.

But after yesterday’s big move, I wanted to spend today settling in and looking ahead to the upcoming week. Doing the kinds of things I haven’t had a lot of time or mental energy to do in the last month. I prepped healthy lunches and snacks for the week, all while listening to one of my favourite podcasts – Q with Jian Ghomeshi – and reveling in the fact that I can play music, podcasts, etc. now without worrying about my neighbour downstairs waking up during the day and overhearing everything! It’s wonderful!

I finished up my laundry and made up my bed, and I’m lamely super excited to go to sleep tonight. Climbing into fresh sheets has to be one of the best feelings ever, right?

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My new bedroom!

I went swimming at the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre, named in honour of the aforementioned Miss Carr who swam 52 kilometers from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto (the same route 16-year-old Marilyn Bell took) in August 2012, becoming the youngest person ever to swim that distance, at the age of 13. She seems like a sweet kid from the posters of her hanging up in the pool, and it’s cool how she’s such a hometown hero here. That being said, it’s a little disheartening to pull yourself out of the pool after swimming 2.5 kilometers and feeling pretty good about it, and then being greeted with a huge sign over the changerooms letting you know that a 13-year-old outswam you by 50 kilometers – and in open water too, which is a whole new ball game. 50!!!! How did she do it?!? 2.5 is my absolute max and I only attempt it when I’ve got something really interesting to think about to keep me going, or otherwise I’d die. Anyway, I’m hoping to swim twice a week at the centre, and I really hope to run into the famous Annaleise at some point. I’d love to watch her stroke technique and just gape in awe at her endurance.

Now I’m going to enjoy my first smoothie made in my new Ninja blender (no photo here, because it’s one of those smoothies that make swamp water look more appetizing – ingredients are frozen banana, kale, Vega protein powder, hemp seeds, grated ginger, pureed pumpkin, and a bit of almond milk to get everything going – I swear it’s delicious and very autumnal and pumpkin-spicey for those PSL addicts out there!) and I’m going to FINALLY paint my toenails. I picked up a new colour – For the Twill of It – and can’t wait to finally have pretty toenails again. Although pretty may be an optimistic word choice. Any other runners out there who know what I’m talking about?

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Have a great, relaxing Sunday!

Home, sweet crackhouse

I’ve lived in some sketchy places in the past.

– Moscow, for one. In an apartment owned by a Czech named Genghis who kept a gun on the premises, and then later on in an apartment with a chain-smoking Brit and his Russian girlfriend, who had a very, shall we say, tempestuous relationship.

– The Russian wilderness, when I taught at a former Soviet pioneer camp for a month.

– A stereotypical university house with five other girls (the drama!), that was broken into twice and had raging parties complete with people falling out of windows.

So I kinda felt I had paid my dues, so to speak. I’m 25 now, with two degrees and some life experience under my belt, and I own useful adult things like a matching plate set and a kitchen island. I have a job that isn’t an internship, and it even comes with health benefits (“with health benefits” is probably the most beautiful phrase in the English language to 20somethings who have gone a few years without any dental work).

I’m starting to get settled, I suppose, so you have to forgive me for thinking my days of living in squalor were over.

And then I tried to find somewhere to live in Simcoe.

There was nothing. I couldn’t understand it. Why wasn’t there a demand for nice, airy, affordable one-bedroom apartments with plenty of charm and within walking distance of my newsroom? Well, maybe because it’s Simcoe, and young professionals aren’t exactly rushing in from the city to move here. But surely there had to be something.

And then a place came up for rent on Kijiji. It sounded promising – prime location (downtown, roughly 300 meters from work), in an old building with plenty of character, decent price, two bedrooms, big windows and lots of light…

I made an appointment with the landlord (let’s call him…Melvin) and my mom and I drove down there on a brilliantly sunny day. I’m blaming the sun for our lack of judgement in what follows, because we were dazzled by how gorgeous everything seemed in that blinding light. Melvin was industriously scrubbing away at the apartment, the smell of cleaning products was in the air, the big windows were wide open and letting in the warm sun and it all just seemed too good to be true.

It was.

Flash forward to move-in day. There were a few things that had seemed a little off on that first viewing, and Melvin had promised to have everything fixed by the time I moved in.

But wait…where was the security code to get into the building? Actually, while we’re at it, where was the DOOR KNOB?!? There was none. Just a cheap door with a hole where the door knob should have been, hanging open like an invitation to any ne’er-do-well to come into the building and wait for, say, a reporter new to town to walk up the stairs to accost.

Then there were the windows in the actual apartment. Upon closer inspection, my parents and I realized that pieces of animal hide would have been more effective at keeping the warmth in and the flies out (oh, the flies! It was like The Amityville Horror). There was a good two-inch gap between the bottom of the window and the sill. Great, I thought. I’ll be able to make snowballs from my living room once winter arrives.

Melvin shrugged off our concerns with more promises. “Yeah, I’ll get new windows installed before it gets cold,” he said. “And I’m fixing the door downstairs tomorrow, so it will have a door knob and a security code to get in.”

By “tomorrow”, he meant “never”.

He also assured me that the oil radiator that looked like it had been last used in 1936 would have no problem keeping the apartment toasty. The possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning was just a fun bonus!

Things weren’t exactly looking great. But who wants to act like a spoiled princess on their first day in a new place? I decided to stay positive.

And then my parents left, and the sun sank behind the trees, and the drunks came out, and the bar brawls started, and then the sirens and the “F you!”s added to the cacophony that was occurring directly underneath my window.

I didn’t sleep at all that first night between whatever was going on across the street at the bar/strip club and the events happening in my own building (question: what would you say is worse – listening to your neighbours downstairs have a domestic disturbance where every other word starts with the letter F, or listening to your neighbours downstairs very loudly, very graphically, making up – euphemism – after their fight? I vote for the latter, but I did have several hours lying in bed to debate this issue while holding a pillow over my ears and trying not to weep).

I didn’t think it could get worse after that first night. But the next day one of my downstairs neighbours came to say hello, ask me prying questions about my finances and then warn me about the shadiness of Melvin. Oh, and she also shared her own life story with me, from the fact that she and her boyfriend like to smoke a lot of pot (“it helps with my mental illness”) to how Children’s Aid took her kids away from her and put them up for adoption. She told me she and her boyfriend sleep during the day and are awake at night, because Melvin keeps the building so cold (I told my sister this and she said, “Katie. They sleep during the day and are awake at night because they are crackheads“) and that they can hear every single thing I do upstairs. She knew exactly what music I was listening to and what YouTube video I had watched. She then wanted to know which room I was sleeping in, who bought my kitchen island (she had gone through the garbage outside and saw my cardboard boxes, she said, and Melvin better not have been the one to buy it for me!) She asked me about my car and hinted that she’d love a ride because she has to walk everywhere. Then she ended her monologue (the whole time I was just standing there, thinking ohgodohgodohgodwhathaveigottenmyselfinto?) by reiterating the fact that Melvin was the worst landlord of all time and that she wanted to buy bagels but she only had $2 until her government cheque came the next day so she’d have to do without.

I didn’t know what to do. Do I take this woman at her word? Was she a reliable witness? Hell no. The whole time she was talking to me she was physically shaking and looking around shiftily, her feet and hands jittery. I am perhaps the least drug-savvy person in the world, so I have no idea if she was on something but I was fairly certain she was doing something stronger than pot.

I met another one of my neighbours last weekend, when I walked into my building and up the stairs (still no doorknob on the door) and stumbled onto three police officers standing in the hallway while my neighbour vehemently shouted, “I would NEVER hit a woman!” He saw me and gave me one of those “boy nods” (you know the type, when a man – well, usually a high school-age boy – sees you and is too cool to say hello, but will give you that head tilt upwards, like, ‘sup?’) and said, “hey, what’s up?”

Umm, not much? What’s up with you – getting arrested? Okay, where else is this conversation going to go beyond that?

I squeezed past the officers, ran up the last flight of stairs to my apartment and barricaded myself in there. When I ventured out again because I had to cover a story, there was a random strange man sitting on the stairwell reading a newspaper in the dark.

There are many, many other things about this apartment that I could horrify you with, but I think I’ve mentally blocked out as much as possible. The neighbours. The clientele across the street. The methadone clinic that’s going up just around the corner. Melvin, the man of many promises but no follow-through. The paper-thin insulation and the freezing, biting cold until I finally asked Melvin to fire up the radiator, carbon monoxide poisoning be damned.

I lasted a month. Today, I moved to my new apartment and I’m writing this now in warmth, silence and safety. When the movers came this morning to help my parents and I pack up, they threw horrified looks around the building. “We call this the drug house,” they informed us.

Lovely. Why couldn’t someone have told me this before I gave Melvin first and last month’s rent? (thankfully he didn’t have me sign a lease, something I’m eternally grateful for).

So that is my story of how I came to live in a crackhouse for a month.

Lesson learned: don’t be in a rush to move in somewhere before your job starts. Use the extra time to put your investigative journalism skills to use and find out if your future abode does, in fact, have a reputation as “the drug house”.

Also: Russia is way, way less scary than Simcoe.

Doe, a deer

Today I dragged myself out for a run before work. I haven’t been feeling into the running lately, to be honest.

It’s a combination of the weather getting colder, moving to a new place and having to figure out good routes but not really having the time or the knowledge yet of where the best places to run are, and just general malaise. After my marathon last spring I told myself I’d take it easy on the running front for a few months, but I didn’t follow up on my plan. “Take it easy” isn’t really a phrase that exists in Katie-land, no matter how much my brain says: this is important!!! Rest. Recover. Recharge.

Nope, one of my worst traits – that all-or-nothing attitude that can also be a GOOD trait, occasionally – kicked in and I signed up for a 34 km trail race with big plans of long, long weekend runs throughout the summer. Well, I just couldn’t do it. I did a few 21 km runs in July, and then I just…burned out. Juggling running with my internship at The Record was too stressful, both mentally and physically, and by the time my internship ended in August I was burned out from running. I knew running the trail race wasn’t going to be smart, so I dropped out – something that I thought would be tough but was surprisingly easy to do. It just felt like the right thing to do. I needed time off from running.

And I did take time off…for awhile. But I did the same thing I always do – just exchanged one passion for another all-consuming one. I went swimming almost every day until I moved to Simcoe, and then I took up running again, albeit shorter distances (nothing longer than 12 km).

Yet I’m still not jumping out of bed in the mornings all ready and pumped to run, and that’s how I know I still need to step back a bit. Once Boston training starts (I’m thinking of beginning my training plan in January), I know I’ll need the mental and physical focus it demands. I’ll need to be excited to run, and right now, that excitement just isn’t there. So do I keep plugging along anyway, or do I take more of a concerted break from running until January? I’m still on the fence here, wondering what the best approach is. I’m really scared that if I stopped running entirely, or even just cut back too much, I’d lose my “base” (ugh, that sounds obnoxious) and have to start from scratch come January.

But today – I decided to run, sleepily laced up my shoes and headed up a long, sloping hill that leads to farmers’ fields. That’s one thing about Simcoe – the countryside is always just five minutes away. And it truly is beautiful in a perfect-postcard way: to my right was a small creek that was literally sparkling in the sunlight, and the autumn leaves were the perfect shade of gold and the early morning sky was just lightening up to blue and then…

A deer – actually, to be technical, a buck, rendering my clever title moot – bounded out of a ditch and leapt gracefully across the road just meters from me. My breath caught in my throat, my thoughts – on the latest in the Rob Ford Crackgate scandal – disappeared, and all I could do was watch him disappear into the field on the other side of the road.

It was such an unexpected, startling surprise to me that I broke out into one of those goofy smiles. I was just ridiculously happy to see a deer on my morning run. I’ve come across a host of critters in the miles I’ve logged, from dogs and cats to foxes, snakes, turtles and rabbits. Even packs of stray dogs in Russia, which I hope never to stumble across again. But a deer? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one while running.

And coincidentally when I got to the newsroom later, J.P. sent me a brief to write from the police warning motorists not to “veer for deer”.

I wonder if the same rule applies to runners who come across deer too?