Friday, September 25, 2009

Nervousness, Rescue Remedy, and New Kicks

Today was one of those golden fall days here in the PacNW. Brilliant sun reflecting off the golden leaves. Not quite warm and not quite cool either, with just enough edge in the air to remind me that winter is on its way. I love this time of year, for the light mostly. It seems so magical. 

Anyway, today started out pretty badly. 

Jessica and I went for a walk and she actually told me enough was enough. She stood there trembling while the cats were eating and I was preparing her breakfast. Maybe she was scared that she wasn't going to get fed? She ate mostly salmon with some potatoes but just shoved the rest of the potatoes around and onto the floor and ate her hot dogs with pills without any difficulty. She seemed to want more food so I gave her a couple of small pieces of cheese pizza, which she ate but slowly (not gobbling). She was not right all through this. Her breathing was labored and the occasional groan would escape. Once finished eating, she lay on the floor looking at me with eyes barely staying open. She was alert though, alert enough to keep me within her field of vision. I gave her some Rescue Remedy and just hung out with her. Was this because of a full stomach? Steroids? The solvent fumes from the concrete work next door? I was doing my best not to appear nervous but, she is a dog (a sensitive one at that) and she could tell. Perhaps I should have taken the Rescue Remedy as well? :-P

I was going to go run this morning but was thinking I should just bag it given how distressed Jessica seemed. Thanks to PT, who reminded me that going running would be a "normal" thing and might even be in some way comforting for Jessica. It certainly would be comforting for ME so  I kitted up and headed out the door. My Garmin quickly told me how nervous I actually was, HR was up to 105, but that soon changed as I walked out to my starting spot. Just an easy-ish (OK moderate) 3.5 mile jaunt around the neighborhood. It felt really good. Really good. My chest was also a little tight and breathing a bit harsh but otherwise everything felt great. 

New kicks today. Inov8 Roclite 295's suggested to me by BM (Sempre a Correr) over at SRC. BM is a Ultra who is sponsored by Inov8 and who knows quite a bit about these shoes. In August I talked with him about finding a new trail shoe that was a lighter and more responsive than the Mizuno Wave Ascends I have been wearing for the past 3 or 4 years. The Ascends were just feeling so heavy and clunky and, frankly, every pair I have had over the past two years has started delaminating—the toe cap starts to go and it is not like I stub my toes (much). They are feeling over-controlling to me too. 

Enter the Roclite 295's

I wore them on this morning's run.

Flexible, light, responsive, and comfortable. Added bonus, my neighbor thinks they look really nice. :-P

In running I noticed that I naturally shifted more forward on my foot rather than a heal strike. Not quite on my toes but certainly forward on my foot such that my fore and mid-foot was coming down just before my heal. My ankles and calves were fine. No tiredness or soreness at all. I look forward to running in the dirt. :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Week On . . .

You wouldn't know that anything was wrong by looking at Jessica. She remains alert, interested in food (for the most part), and won't generally turn down a walk. Quite a change from earlier in the week and something I put down to the steroids we have her on to ease the inflammation in her lungs. It did take a bit to find a good balance with the meds.

We've been spoiling her rotten. Cheese pizza, chicken and dumplings, and cat food. I wonder if she'll settle for dog food any more.

There is an air of unreality about all this. The prognosis is what it is and yet she seems so strong still that it is easy to forget that anything is wrong. There are signs, more sleeping, wanting to be alone, getting blown by exertion, and some steroid-related incontinence, but if feels like this could all just go away. I know it won't, but . . .

In the meantime, we've been learning about the pet hospice approach, looking for advice about nutrition, etc. See www, for details.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some bad news

. . .  on the dog front.

We took her to the vet yesterday and, again, her vitals and color were fine but she was breathing heavily and definitely winded. The vet carefully listened to her heart and heard an arrhythmia (something new I think) and said "I need to take X-Rays." Off they took Jessica and a few minutes she was returned, relieved to see us. About 10-minutes later the vet came in and said, softly, "This is not good news" while putting up the films.

This is what we saw:


Late Stage Lung Cancer.

The words charged through the room like thunder, heavy and stunning. And then a series of thick voiced questions accompanied by barely contained tears:

  • How did she get this? Who knows the source, could be a metastasized from a growth somewhere else
  • Is there anything we can do? No, not at this stage. Just keep her happy
  • How long? Two or three weeks at the most
Two or three weeks? Two or three weeks!?

The receptionist asked, conversationally, what the vet said and I could barely whisper "Lung Cancer". "I am so sorry" she replied before I signed my credit card slip and barely made it out of the office. 

What are the odds of a second pet dying from cancer? I keep on asking myself if there is something we could have done differently. What if we had spotted the changes sooner? We did, but simply put them down to aging. Damn It! 

And now it is too late. Nothing to do now but wait and try to make her last days as comfortable as possible. This means she'll be spoiled rotten with whatever she wants to eat and do. At least, as PT helpfully pointed out, she doesn't know what is coming. Only that she wants to stay close to home. M and I, on the other hand, are painfully aware that many of the things we are doing with her are "last things" as in "last walk on the beach" and "last bath". This thought makes it hard to take. 

I know, I know, Jessica is a dog and this is what happens. I know. But when we put her down there will be a huge hole in my life, our lives. For nine years she has given us her unreserved and unquestioned devotion. Her twice daily walks were therapeutic, easing tough days at work. She was such an enthusiastic running partner. Happily yipping and barking as we went until the trail or course got too tough. 

I wasn't all roses though. She was a tough dog to train. A rescue dog with her own ideas about what needed to be done (like chasing squirrels, going berserk at the sight of pigeons, the appropriate way to walk, and how to be around other dogs), a real nervousness about separation, trust issues, and (probably) abuse. We had to fight hard to calm her and get her to trust. It was worth it though for all the companionship and pleasure. The bonds were forged that much stronger for the shared struggle and I regret none of it.  

The next few weeks are going to be hard. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hanging Around

Looks ominous doesn't it?

This is what is coming our way for the next couple of days.

M has been battling a cold and so I've been hanging around with R and D or simply doing my own thing. I have decided that sun rooms are very nice things, even on rainy days. I love the light.

Today turned out to be a wonderfully sunny (and warm) afternoon. Yesterday was an inside day as the rains were pretty heavy. I did an embarrassingly short run in the afternoon, 45 minutes after high tide and I simply ran out of beach but spent most of the day inside reading Nike Wagner's book and doing some course prep for an online class with a new text and approach. Today was a rest day for me too as, once again, I woke at O'Dark-Thirty and couldn't get back to sleep. That it was windy and rainy when I did get out of bed sussed it. Besides, I had a massage scheduled at Sacred Stone for 4:45 today and so it seemed a good idea to sit and read, go walk on the beach, and otherwise lay a bit low. The massage was wonderful and much overdue—No PT I did not get the organic lemongrass bamboo scrub. I did get to see what happens with someone realizes that they lost a diamond off their rather expensive necklace (it is not especially pretty).  My left knee is feeling better and better for all the rolling and massaging I have been doing. Walked barefoot on the beach and got to play with some dogs too (always a delight . . . I am missing my own) and then wore shoes as I walked around down town Tofino and watched seaplanes landing.

Dinner at Tacofino, a little taco truck, where I had two chicken tacos and a pork gringas. Delish! I have been craving Mexican or Mexican style food for quite some time and this struck just the right note.

Portland is getting closer and closer—all my travel and lodging arrangements have been made and it is simply down to running prep.

Surf lesson on Wednesday (I hope). Tomorrow I'll run what I run whatever the weather and otherwise enjoy reading and do some more course prep.

This is turning out to be a rather cozy time.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 3: Finally Relaxing

As I write this the rain is pelting the roof of the sun room. It is coming down in wind-driven sheets. I looked at the radar a little while ago and the line-up of systems coming our way is impressive.

I awoke at 4:00 AM this morning to a room so dark I could not see my hand. We were having quite a storm, high winds and driving rains, and all this noise, coupled with the darkness, was a little freaky. For a while there I thought I'd gone blind and had to go in search of light to reassure myself (there have been a fair number of night-light jokes at my expense around here today).

Slept in until 10:00, a rare feat for me, and went out for a run. The skies had cleared and it was turning out to be a very sunny and pleasant day, albeit a windy one. The surf was up and there were a great many surfers out. The surf schools were out as well and I could see what they do as I ran past (the "this is how the surf works" talk, how do you get up on the board, etc..).

My run went really well. This was the first time I wore my Nike Frees on the beach and, as usual, they felt wonderful. I am finding that my legs and knees feel better after I have worn them than with my other shoes. I just ran, stopping every once in a while to look at something. Managed to get out and on to Frank Island and to see the other side for a bit before heading up the beach. Looked down at my watch at one point and saw that I was running an 8:20. This was not effortless but the pace was a lot easier than it has been lately. Finished off rather refreshed, took my shoes off, and waded out into the surf for an impromptu ice bath, a nice finisher. A quick shower and an inhaled brunch (pancakes)

As I was running this morning I was thinking about where I was this time last year. I could barely run up this beach having beaten myself up (or was it down) so badly during the course of the summer. Quite a difference this year. I am still tired and have a rather challenging rest of the month ahead in preparation for the Portland Marathon but I am so much stronger this year and relatively uninjured.  This trip I am simply going to take my runs as they come and not try to push to go long. Tomorrow, I'll run a little longer on the beach I think. There are some other places to go to run but many of the trails have boardwalks on them which are very slippery. The thought of taking a spill and falling some distance is not appealing. We'll see what happens. Looks like we'll have sun on Monday and Tuesday and then back to rain. Might go for a longer run then. But my body is certainly craving rest at this point.

If anything it became sunnier and warmer  as the morning went on and we decided to take advantage of this break in the weather to go out and hike on Sunset Point from the Cox Bay side (can't get there from Chesterman's very easily I gather). Even more surfers at the beach here and the break was much stronger and more challenging. Lots of long boards out.

Getting up to Sunset Point was a pretty easy scramble up some rooted trails and a boardwalk followed by some more soft and rooted trails and then some steep-ish climbing to the end. My legs were not so happy with me at this point, nor were they so willing to jump from rock to rock. Massage time.

Pretty spectacular views of the surf and the surrounding area. R and I struck up a conversation with a couple from Ucluelet who had a six month old puppy named Stella. She was a hoot and, as quick as lightning, had untied my shoes. The guy is a waiter at Black Rock Resort down in Ucluelet.

We must have hung out there for about an hour. Watched a surfer get a little too much out of his safety zone as he tried to surf the big break just underneath us only to wipe out and get carried towards the rocks. He was not happy and we could hear him swearing as he tried to avoid the rocks. He made it, to everyone's relief. The best part, besides the view and Stella, was the bride and groom who had just gotten hitched clambering over the rocks to have their wedding pictures taken. I can't imagine trying to do that in a wedding dress with a train but she did. Hope the pictures came out.

We started on our way down as the wind was coming up and it was clear that a change in the weather was rolling in.

Back to the B&B for a snack and some reading. I picked up Nike Wagner's The Wagners: The Dramas of a Musical Dynasty and am enjoying it so far although I will admit that I don't know enough about the controversies surrounding these operas to make a whole lot of sense of Wagner's analysis. Not yet at any rate.

Dinner at Sobo tonight but not before a little adventure (this time it did not involve me). R discovered that he had lost his cell phone on the hike and so he and D went back out to Sunset Point to see if they could find it.  M and I went to Sobo and got a table. The baked Brie with pear confit was a great start to a tasty meal. We got the last table and then it was reservation only. And we waited. Believe it or not, they found it. Amazing. And just before it started pouring down rain. I had a wonderful chicken pizza and some tomato-corn bisque. M had a salmon filet with risotto. Also wonderful. Desert? A piece of blueberry white-peach pie. It was so light and tasty. We left at 8:00 after being there for about 2 hours and they were telling people to come back at 9. This meal exhausted me.

Tomorrow just might be an inside work day with a little bit of a run. I am hoping that it is stormy as I would love to run in the rain and wind, especially if it is "warm". We'll see.

Pictures from the day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 2: Some bumps on the way to Tofino

I am not feeling particularly free today, or at least I was not, for reasons I'll elaborate below but we have now reached our destination and are beginning to indulge in Tofino Time.

We slept in which was nice and much needed. At about 8:30 I headed out the door for a run down to Stanley Park. My goal was to run around the park along the sea wall but with all the sleeping in and the other things we would like to have done (like have breakfast) I decided to cut things short. Besides, I got to add two things to my "I forgot what?" list: Body Glide and my Garmin wrist band (this in addition to tooth brushes). Bah! :-P

Off I went, following the lovely path that runs along the sea front. Vancouver is a very pretty city, not to idealize it too much, resulting from a series of good decisions about development. We were in the West End and really enjoyed the walkable nature of the area. Of course the problem of urban homelessness is not absent. I saw one man sitting very much like the sculptures we saw last night, all tucked up in his jacket. Nothing was showing. Another had made a makeshift tent from golf umbrellas and was camped out underneath them. It was rather quiet and only a few people were out.

The Sea Wall path is pretty interesting or, rather, I should say that the views of the city from the path were neat. It was sunny and in that grey area between being warm and cool. Past the "9:00 Gun" which can be fired by remote control and has warning lights indicating that fact. Could only see the HMCS Discovery from afar as it is guarded. Rounding Brockton Point I could begin to see the Lions Gate Bridge (the route we would be taking later in the day to get to Horseshoe Bay). Vancouver even has its own "Little Mermaid" or should I say "Girl in a Wetsuit".

Just before 4 kilometers I decided to head up into the woods on Ravine Trail and found myself running on a nicely groomed path in the forest. Quite pleasant. Decision time at Beaver Lake, the "disappearing lake" and, consulting my increasingly sweat-soaked map, I decided to head left along South Creek all the way back down to Lost Lagoon. Actually, this was a lot less deliberate as it sounds as the map I was using showed but few of the trails. There are so many there that you would easily put together a rather neat and long trail run. There were a few people out walking and only a couple of other runners. One guy was pushing a bike up the hill, I said "Morning" as I ran past. :-P I did see a couple all decked out (or is it geeked out) in IronMan Canada gear having what I can only describe as a slow recovery run. I congratulated them as I went past and found myself out of the woods and into the Rose Garden. Things were still in bloom and the place looked and smelled pretty.

Lost Lagoon serves as a natural waste water filter (street runoff?) and is a generally flat trail all around. I was running past some bushes when I heard a rather interesting call. It sounded a bit like a moan and I stopped to listen. A couple of women walking towards me heard it too and we tried to figure out what it was. Still haven't a clue. Came to a bridge where a man was taming sparrows. He would stand with an outstretched arm and put some food in his palm and wait. A sparrow would fly out of the bush, land on his hand, pick up the food, and flit back into the bush. I watched this scene for a bit with a smile on my face. So innocent. He was drawing quite a crowd too, of people and birds. There were four large white swans floating majestically around. Actually, all the birds seemed used to being around humans and did not scatter as I came upon them. Ran through a gaggle of geese, who only barely moved to let me pass, and a flock of sleeping ducks, who did not even wake up as I went through them. Wow!

Headed back to the hotel after that having run a good 5.48 miles:

And now is when things started to go off the rails a bit.

In the interests of time we decided to eat breakfast at Capers, a subsidiary of Whole Foods. I was really needing food and was beginning to feel a bit ill because of this. Sausage and egg breakfast sandwich, a banana, and OJ for me. A breakfast spanakopita and peach for M. As I was waiting to get the food my phone rang, it was M, our house sitter, with a J update. Hmm. Things are only OK. Was she hyperventilating? Appetite? I felt like getting in the car and going home, for a moment.

Breakfast done and energy restored we decided to go for a walk making a stop at a running store and then to an ATM to get some Canadian currency. Stopped at The Running Room to pick up some Body Glide and ended up getting more gels as well, including some eLoad gels which are supposed to be very good at helping the body deal with heat (got that Beloved Rooster?). Nice chat with the clerk wherein we found that while being from Seattle might not be so exotic the fact is that we share more in common culturally with Vancouverites than do, say, Californians (a name said with something of a humorous snarkiness).

The walk along the Sea Wall was nice. We went past the red figures again and, well, I just had to get into the act . . .

Obviously, I have much work to do before I can sit in this fashion. :-P

As we were leaving this site M remarked that "This is an example of successful public art." I asked how she knew and she replied that it gets people to interact and to ask questions about the art. Such a whimsical piece. Pity I cannot find anything about it.

Passing a doggie-accessory place, Bark and Fitz, we saw the cutest brindled French Bulldog who was crouching possessively with his rope toy and just had to say hello. I love the look of their bat ears but cannot imagine running with one.

Soon after this I began to feel very unfree. Gone are the days when you can just pick up and go. No, you actually have to tell your bank and your credit card companies where you are going and when otherwise they put a block on your accounts. I neglected to inform my bank and, well, Uh Oh, you can fill in the details. I know, I know, this is supposed to be for my own safety but, frankly, I'd rather Gandy's Panoptic Sort be a little less nanny-ish and more convenient. It took a while to solve but it was done, after much punching of single digits in a phone tree. International roaming is, well, so nice. I won't be making this make omission again.

I am hoping that this was the last thing that is going to go wrong on this trip. :-)

The rest of the day is pretty anti-climatic. We made our sailing (make a reservation) on the ferry out of Horse Shoe Bay to Nanaimo, decamped to deck 5 and vegged for the sailing. We sat next to some sort of industrial band, the members of which were surrounded by their guitars and other impedimenta of musicianship whilst busying themselves playing hand-held games. Wonder where they were going to play? Lunch on the ferry was nice too, Chicken Teriyaki noodles that was not half bad for ship-board food. Boy what a lunch rush. The checker who checked us out was obviously relieved to be going off shift. It was a nice sunny day when we started but it was obvious that some weather was coming in judging from the clouds we were beginning to see. Here are some pictures from the sun deck:

Horse Shoe Bay

Georgia Strait coming towards Nanaimo

The drive from on Highway 4 from Nanaimo to Port Alberni and then on to Tofino was long but uneventful (190-odd kilometers). Stopped in Port Alberni, about 120K out of Tofino, for gas and snacks. The clerk was giggling about how many people were in town for the fishing derby and we had a nice chat. Then back on the road to Tofino. The further we got the harder it began to rain until it was solid downpour (real rain, not a mist or drizzle). The route is amazing and also quite twisty. M asked me if I thought it was pretty. I do, but it would have been even more so had the sun been out. I am not one of those who find the misty damp forest particularly uplifting aesthetically or spiritually. On the contrary, such things chill and depress me and I much prefer dry and warmth. Still, there is much to see that we didn't see because of the hurry. The Mars Fire Bombers would be kind of cool to see (very high fire danger in these parts despite the rain).

It was nice to arrive, a little early, and to sit down for dinner with our friends R and D.

Tomorrow we'll relax. I'll run on the beach and I don't know what. Three days until we'll see the sun and so there will be plenty of time to read.

I have decided to do two things while here: take a surf lesson and get a massage. Other than that, everything is up for grabs (aside from the obvious course prep that must be done).

Now I am feeling free. :-)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 1: Getting Here

We almost didn't.

Set to leave for Vancouver at about Noon. At about 10:00 AM I noticed that J, the dog, had labored breathing and was quite listless. This on top of a cough and vomiting her breakfast right back into her dish (ewww, but also convenient to clean up). Quick call to the Vet. Can you see her? No?! OK, off to the emergency vet we go. Fours hours later she is alright and we've been sent home with instructions to care for her, an anti-nausea shot, and a much lightened wallet. Better safe than sorry, IMHO, but what a way to start a vacation. Poor girl.

Quick lunch and we hit the road at about 3:30. Made very good time up to the border where, surprise surprise, the Canadian Border Officer was quite nice (all the while wearing body armor). If past experiences serve as a guide, we'll have a surly guard on the US side coming back. These folks obviously go to different schools.

Pulled into the hotel, Robson's Suites, just before 7 after getting only a little bit lost (but not really) coming off the 99. Getting into the place is interesting. We have a key remote that operates two security doors for the garage (yep, we got "free" parking) and we have to use our room keys to make the elevator work. I don't think we are in Kansas anymore Toto. Wait, have I ever been to Kansas? Ah, yes, once. We spent a night in Topeka, went to a movie and a mall, and bought music from a bargain bin before continuing West to the Rockies. But I digress.

The room is really nice, a small efficiency apartment really. Dropped the bags off, and went to purchase much needed toothbrushes and to stop at a local ATM. After which we explored a bit along the waterfront walkway and started planning out a run. Came across a sculpture of squatting red figures that was pretty interesting. A very tiny dog was barking at them (or was it me?)

This was all very intriguing and I'll have to see if I can find a sign describing what this is all about.

It was time to eat.

So many Korean, Chinese, Japanese places around here and they all had lines. Actually, it was neat to see so many people out and about on the streets. After walking a bit we chose a pub, The Dover Arms on Denman. This, over an African fusion place that looked very interesting. But after the day I had had I just need the comfort of a nice beer (a smooth, creamy, and rich Black and Tan to be precise). Lots of sports going on (US Open, baseball, and some NFL game) and even more drinking. I am so rarely in these sorts of places that it all seems novel to me. M had the fish and chips (she appears to have enjoyed the meal) and I had a burger which was very tasty, and I mean that sincerely, as sincerely as one can be about a burger.

I was huge too and I'll need to lay off the beef for a while this week.

Desert? Of course. Gelato at Mum's Ice Cream on Denman. An ample scoop of Chocolate Gran Marnier cheerfully served hit the spot (and rubbed it out). The woman ahead of us was raving about another flavor and had that wonderful "yummy face" that one gets with a tasty treat. What is it they say "nom nom nom!"

Time for sleep now. It is a pity that we do not have more time in the city. Every time we have planned a visit in the past something (illness mostly) has gotten in the way (and almost did today).

Up early tomorrow to go for a run along the Seawall out to Stanley Park. A fairly short run I think as I'd like to explore more of the neighborhood before we catch the ferry out to Vancouver Island and make our way to Tofino. I'll discover how a building can actually be a ship along the way.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with yet another "We are not in Kansas anymore" moment (or is it a "You're going to need a bigger boat" moment):