Run#43 Mar 31: Mundy Park 10K & moving on

Perimeter Trail

Mundy Park – Perimeter Trail

It had been 4 days since my unscheduled mid-week 17K long run and I was still feeling a little mentally fatigued.

However, I knew that it was not physical fatigue, so I wasn’t too concerned.

The entire week has been incredibly busy. On Friday, our son became sick with pneumonia.

Thankfully, he is now on antibiotics and has bounced  back quickly.

I finally managed to find a 1-hour ‘window of opportunity’ for my 10K run around noon, between coming back from church and starting to prepare our family Easter dinner.

I quickly headed out from the house around noon, and headed towards Mundy Park.

The weather was still sunny and warm as it has been all week. The initial 1K on Laurentian Crescent is all uphill, which is always hard going.

Once I have reached the Earl Haig retirement residence at the corner of Laurentian and Austin, I have usually found my second wind.

As I turned the corner that morning, there was one of my favourite people, a gentleman who participated in the UVic chronic pain workshop that I had facilitated at Earl Haig.

Earl Haig

Earl Haig

“Still getting out to do your regular exercise I see. Well done!” I quipped and stopped to chat.

We exchanged a few warm words and then I was on my way down the Austin hill, gradually picking up some speed.

Today was Easter Sunday and the day had started well. The Easter bunny came to visit our house last night.

Our two children had great fun gathering chocolate eggs!

Around 10AM, we all headed off to St. Lawrence Anglican Church dressed up for the Easter Sunday service. It was excellent and the choir was in fine voice.

After we took communion, we lit a candle for my father-in-law Carl, who sadly passed away at the end of February. Although we all miss Carl’s ‘larger that life’ presence, we are gradually getting used to him not being with us physically any more. Life goes on.

Mundy Park - still stream

Mundy Park – a quiet stream

After the service, my wife Marjory and I had the opportunity to speak to several members of the Church choir.

I have been thinking of looking for a new choir for the fall. My father-in-law Carl was a member of my present choir before I joined. He was the main reason that I had joined this choir. Although I have enjoyed my time with my choir, I think that it’s now time to move on.

The church choir members that my Marjory and I spoke to on Sunday were warm, friendly and welcoming. What’s more, they seemed genuinely interested in having me join their choir, which was encouraging.

I have to admit that being ‘in demand’ with choirs is one of the great joys of being a tenor!

Mundy Park entrance

Mundy Park – entrance path

As I entered Mundy Park, I was now feeling quite strong.  So I increased the pace a little as I headed up the first slow and gradual Perimeter Trail hill.

With just five weeks of training left before the race, it was good to be feeling this way.

After I powered my way to the top of Heart Attack Hill, I headed down the long hill at a steady pace towards the park exit.

Once out of the park, I knew that it was jus a short 2K run to the house and almost all downhill.

However, I soon realized that the total distance of the run was only about 9K.  So I decided to take a minor detour to ensure that I racked up my planned 10K.

Rochester Elementary School

Rochester Elementary School

I made a right turn at Rochester and ran down the hill until I reached Decaire Street, where I stopped for a few moments.

There across the street from me was Rochester Elementary School, the sight of my accident and brain injury two years ago.

There was a time that I used to completely avoid this area. It was too disturbing for me and it actually brought on my concussion symptoms.

Now, being at the school again was totally different experience. My accident really was now in my past. I no longer felt anxious when around the accident site.

Thomas - ravine bridge

Thomas – ravine bridge

My progress in this area has been primarily due to the work that I did with the St. Paul’s Tinnitus Clinic and Dr. Marshall Wilensky, a psychologist specializing in  a psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

I was initially referred to Dr. Wilensky after being selected for a St. Paul’s Hospital Tinnitus Clinic research project. The ten EMDR sessions that I then had with Dr. Wilensky were all extremely challenging, emotionally draining, totally revealing and positively worthwhile.

As a result of our hard work together, I was finally able to put my past well and truly into the past.

My EMDR sessions with Dr. Wilensky changed my life forever, and for the better!

I will be forever grateful to the people at the St. Paul’s Tinnitus Clinic and Dr. Wilensky, for their caring, kindness, compassion, understanding and expertise.

After a few moments of contemplation, I turned away from the school and ran down the Decaire hill. I took a sharp left turn at Thomas and ran up and over the ravine bridge.

It was then just a short run, first down and then up the crescent hill. The cherry blossoms are so beautiful, I thought , as I rounded the last bend before heading uphill to my home.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

As I stretched out my leg muscles outside the house, I tried to calculate how long the two chickens we had brought for our Easter family dinner this evening would take to roast.

I anticipated that tonight’s family dinner might have its difficult moments, given that it would be our first family dinner since my father-in-law Carl’s passing.

There may be a sad moment or two, and maybe even a tear or two, but I knew that together we would be fine.

About two hours for the chickens, I decided, as I went into the house. How about a refreshing white wine spritzer while I am preparing dinner, I asked myself.

What a grand idea, I concluded!


Run#42 Mar 27: Trans-Canada Trail 17K & pushing the limits

Port Moody Inlet - industry

Port Moody Inlet – industry

Knowing your limits on a long training run enables you maximize your fitness and endurance without sustaining an injury.

During rehabilitation, it means that you maximize your recovery without major setbacks.

In other situations that we all face during our lives, knowing your limits may be the difference between life and death.

On our drive down to the Port Moody soccer pitch this morning, my wife Marjory had asked me how long my run would take this morning. I said that I was planning to run 10K and that I would probably be about an hour.

This worked perfectly for her, as she was taking our daughter straight to her piano lesson with her Grannie and they would be back at the soccer pitch in about an hour or so.

Shoreline Trail

Shoreline Trail

So after we dropped our son off at his soccer practice, Marjory and our daughter went off to see Grannie and I headed out across the railway tracks and down the trail to do my scheduled 10K run around the Port Moody Inlet.

The bright sunshine was sparkling on the calm water and I could feel the rising heat on my brow as I ran along the Shoreline Trail towards Rocky Point.

The weather had been gorgeous all week, and today was no exception.

Rocky Point pier

Rocky Point pier

This 10K will be no problem, I thought, as I was running with great ease. I was soon at the Rocky Point pier and decided to stop for a moment to take in the view. The snow-capped mountains across the still water were exquisite. This is such an amazing place to live and I am so thankful that it’s my home.

I knew that if I continued to follow the path along the water’s edge from Rocky Point that I would eventually come to a dead end at the lumber mill.

Port Moody Inlet - industry

Port Moody Inlet – industry

There are actually several waterside industries that block the way from Rocky Point to the Trans-Canada Trail over by the Barnet Highway.

I remembered from my long runs along the inlet trails many years ago, that I should first follow the main road that runs parallel to the water for a while, and then head back down through the industries to pick up the Trans-Canada Trail that runs between the inlet and the Barnet Highway.

The initial main road section was actually quite an interesting run. There are a few eclectic shops along the way including an old used bookstore and an intriguing bistro that especially caught my eye.

Finding the trail again amidst the waterside industries took some doing, but I eventually found it and continued up the inlet, now on the Trans-Canada Trail.

Trans-Canada Trail

Trans-Canada Trail

At this point, the trail became quite undulating with more than a few steep hills thrown in for good measure. It was a nice change of pace and almost restful for my legs, since I was constantly ‘changing gears’, while using different muscle groups for the ups and downs of the trail.

The time seemed to pass quickly at this point because of the constant change in terrain and waters edge scenery. First, there are many different industries, heavy equipment, huge ships, and freight trains with many diesel engines.

Then just beyond these industries, there’s the expanse of water across the inlet with those majestic North Shore Mountains serving as a backdrop.

These scenes were fascinating and often thought provoking considering the dramatic and often disturbing contrasts between these industries and the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Trans-Canada Trail

Trans-Canada Trail

As I left these scenes and thoughts behind me, my Strava Run app announced that I had now completed 5K, which was my intended turn-around point for my 10K run.

As it happens, I had been reconsidering my planned 10K run for a few kilometers. It was a warm and sunny spring day and I was feeling pretty good. So, why not just carry on and do my long run for the week today rather than on Friday, as planned.

I was out there right now, so why not just get it done!

So that’s what I decided to do. I would carry on running until my Strava Run app told me that I had done 8K and then I would turn-around and run back to the soccer field to complete my planned 16K long run for this week. As a bonus, I would only have to run a 10K on Friday, which sounded like an excellent idea at the time!

Trans-Canada Trail

Trans-Canada Trail

When I reached the Reed Point Marina, there was a really steep gravel hill section that ran up to the marina entrance and the Barnet Highway. I ran up it for a few moments but stopped myself and decided to walk it. There was simply no good reason in running and risking injuring myself at this time.

At the top of the slope was the Barnet Highway and I could not see any sign of a trail at all. I seemed to remember that there was a highway section on my previous long runs and that the trail continued up Burnaby Mountain from the other side of the highway.

There was a stop light on the highway for the marina traffic at that point. So I decided to cross and continue running up the Barnet Highway. I would continue along the long and winding road, so to speak.

Running on tarmac again was not too bad at all and it would be good training for my half marathon, which was after all a road race. I did feel quite vulnerable at times when I had to run right on the hard shoulder of the highway. It seemed quite dangerous as I was essentially putting my trust in every driver that passed me.

Barnet Highway

Barnet Highway

It’s an open highway and it’s all down hill to Port Moody. Most vehicles that passed me were travelling way beyond the speed limit.

As I looked up the highway, my mind flashed back a few years to a difficult time in our lives. One of Marjory’s brightest and most talented piano students, a young man of just 17 years, died tragically in a motorcycle accident on the Barnet Highway just up from where I was now running.

There’s a permanent memorial set up beside the road where his body was found after he had collided head-on with a lamp standard after coming off his motorcycle. His friend’s still tend the flowers that surround a sign that says ‘Elliott Street’.

I still miss Elliott. He was just beginning to explore Ravel on the piano around the time of his death. In one of his latter recitals, he played Ravel seemingly with such ease and an inner understanding and passion. Whenever I now hear the music of Ravel, my young friend Elliott always comes to mind.

So I decided to continue my long run up the highway with the idea of visiting with Elliott for a while. It was a long and steady uphill climb for the next few kilometers as the Barnet crept higher up the side of Burnaby Mountain. I thought that I could see the memorial sign at the next curve.

Barnet Highway

Barnet Highway

I was keen to get there. but I was feeling tired and I started to wonder whether I should turn back. Then I realized that it wasn’t the memorial sign after all. At that moment, my Strava Run app announced that I had now completed 8K. This means I will have done a 16K long run if I turn back now, which is probably more than enough for today.

But wait, I thought. I’m sure that’s the memorial at the next curve. It’s not far so I will just run up to there and then I will turn around and head for home.

As I continued my run, there were warning signals going off in my brain. I was now pushing the limits and would soon be risking injury and fatigue, not to mention dehydration, since Ijust remembered that I had no water with me.

Just as my Strava Run app announced that I had completed 9K, I reached the second curve in the road and realized that again this was not Elliott’s memorial.

This time, my mind was not trying to convince me to continue. I knew that I was already pushing the limits and an 18K long run was the absolute maximum that I could run today. I was just hoping that I could make it back injury free!

So I turned back and headed for home without regret. I knew that I would visit my friend Elliott at another time and that he was still with us all in our hearts.

Trans-Canada Trail

Trans-Canada Trail

My run back along the Barnet Highway and then down the Trans-Canada Trail was a long, hard slog but fairly straightforward down-to-business running.

When I eventually reached the road section again, at the end of the Trans-Canada Trail, I was feeling very hot, dehydrated and in desperate need of water.

Remembering my journey down here, I decided to stop in at the small bistro and ask for water. The lady there kindly offered me ice water. It was so good I had two glasses, and we had a nice chat too!

Now refreshed, but feeling a little stiff in the legs after my mini-break, I carried on down the road until I reached Rocky Point and the inlet trail. With just over 2 K to go, I picked up the pace and was soon back at the soccer pitch.

As I took my time to ensure that all of my tired muscles were fully stretched out, my mind reflected back over the past two years.

Wow, I have now been in rehabilitation for so long that I hardly remember life before my injury and concussion symptoms.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

My progress was often slow and regressions were common. ‘Two steps forward and one step back’, I used to say, when asked. There were a few times when I questioned the point in carrying on, thinking that it was time to give up and accept that my concussion symptoms were permanent.

I must admit that I thought I might have reached that time last December. However, that still small voice within me said I must continue onward down my rehabilitation path. It was not yet time to stop trying to find a solution and I must carry on trying.

It was soon after that I saw the promotion for the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in The Province newspaper. Maybe the race and the training for the race is an opportunity to continue my rehabilitation journey.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

Even then, I sensed that it’s would be the final chapter in my rehabilitation journey. Let’s hope that there’s a happy ending after all of this work!

My long stretch after my run felt very good; my leg muscles were tired but no longer tight. Meanwhile, my son had finished his 3-hour soccer practice and was looking forward to a long, relaxing soak in the tub.

I knew exactly how he felt!

Run#41 Mar 25: Port Moody 5K & hard work and quality training

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day!

This classic Oklahoma favourite just came to me in a wildly enthusiastic musical moment. I was thinking about the fantastic spring weather I had experienced on my 5K run this morning and just started singing it, as one does!

It was warm and sunny as I headed into Shoreline Park, just across the tracks from the Port Moody soccer field.

I was really looking forward to running by the water again, as always.

We’re now into the second week of school spring break for our two children and my 10 year old son is in a soccer camp all week in Port Moody. So while my boy is training his little heart out on the soccer field this week, I plan to be pounding out my training runs around the Port Moody inlet for at least three of the days.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

Although I will be running the trail by the Port Moody Inlet all week, rest assured, I will be seeking out a different route on the trail for the tree days that I run.

If you have read my blogs before, you know all about my need for different routes for my training runs!

I was scheduled to do a 5K short run this morning. Just to think, a few months ago a 5K run felt like quite a long run to me.

Now I have completed 40 training runs, a 5K run is now a short, manageable distance indeed. Amazing what one can achieve in just three months of training!

After watching my son train for a while, I headed out from the soccer field, ran across the railway tracks and then down through Shoreline Park towards the inlet trail.

The spot where I joined the trail was about half way between Rocky Point and Old Orchard Park. Today I decided to head down the inlet towards Rocky Point. I decided not to wear a jacket at all today, and that was a good decision. Within a few minutes, I had already built up a decent sweat and was very much enjoying my run.

Shoreline trail - boardwalk

Shoreline trail – boardwalk

After crossing the boardwalk at the end of the inlet, the wooded trail offered some shade that was welcomed at the time, for a while at least.

Soon enough, I was back into the sunshine and heading along the Rocky Point path towards the pier.

The views looked splendid from the pier, so I stopped for a minute to take them in.

The snow-capped peaks looked magnificent in the sunshine. Soon it was time to retrace my steps back to the soccer pitch.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

Wow – I’m over two-thirds through my BMO Marathon Training program now, I thought, and I am still feeling healthy and strong.

Just yesterday, my friend Jeff remarked to me that I only had 5 weeks of training left before the race. He asked me if I was looking forward to it and I said ‘yes, very much’ without any hesitation.

Although I am looking forward to the race, I am trying hard not to wish the time away. I am going to savour my training time.

After all, as John Stanton pointed out in his weekly column in the Sunday Province marathon section, the real pleasure is actually in the training and preparation for the race, rather than the race itself.

Rocky Point

Rocky Point

There’s nothing more comforting than the knowledge that you have prepared well, no matter what you are preparing for. You could be training for a piano exam, or perhaps a choral recital, maybe a try-out for a soccer team, or like myself, running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

No matter what you are training for, there will come a time when you will realize that all of the effort, energy and the constant repetition that you put into your training were invaluable.

Once you have experienced this realization, then you begin to love and fully appreciate the value of hard work and quality training.

So I plan to continue with my training and enjoy every minute of it. Given my accident and injury, I genuinely appreciate just being able to do it!

Noons Creek Bridge and boardwalk

Noons Creek Bridge and boardwalk

As I approached the trail that would take me back to the soccer field, I realized that if I simply ran back that way I would be quite a bit short on my 5K run.

So I continued running on the inlet trail until I reached the boardwalk and the Noons Creek Bridge.

After crossing the bridge, I then left the inlet trail and followed the Noons Creek trail past the Salmon hatchery and up to the end of the trail, by the side of the Port Moody Recreation Centre. Then I ran around the building and back down to the soccer pitch.

Noons Creek - salmon hatchery

Noons Creek – salmon hatchery

As I stretched against the soccer field fence, I watched my son’s practice sessions. They are being run by an international organization called Coever Coaching.

This was a new venture for our family. We had never tried soccer training from Coever before.

So far I have to say that we are very impressed indeed.

Coever’s practices focus heavily on teaching children the basic soccer skills, offering lots of touches on the ball, and with practice that stress hard work and many, many repetitions. Watching our son working hard and doing those repetitions was music to my ears!

My wife Marjory and I took the kids out for sushi dinner that evening to celebrate the day. We were all saying how happy we were with the spring soccer training camp and also how impressed we were with Coever.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

We also discussed the importance of hard work and quality training in soccer practices.

Marjory then drew the parallel between practicing for soccer and practicing for piano. Marjory, by the way, is their piano teacher.

This week promises to be a great one. While my son is working hard and having fun at his soccer camp, I will be either watching him with great pride, or I will be out on the trails, running and working hard myself.

Hopefully, the weather will be nice and sunny all week!

Run#40 Mar 22: Port Moody 11K & managing change

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

They say that the only thing that’s guaranteed in life is change. Death and taxes are inevitable too, I realize that, but tax time comes but once a year and death comes just the once.

Change, however, is a constant in our lives and the most drastic and complex changes seem to happen suddenly and often at the most inopportune times.

I have to admit that I am finding it hard right now to find the time to run and then write my blogs given that our two kids are off school for two weeks for spring break.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

Sitting here in the comfort of my red Ikea armchair, it’s already 12:30am on Sunday morning. My dear wife Marjory and the children are fast asleep and I am typing up my blog.

I have Chet Baker playing softly and singing sweetly for me as I try to find the right words to describe my long run experience on Friday.

I have taken my time writing this blog since I was not yet sure what I had gleaned from my Friday run other than the 11K run.

I have been patient knowing that it would come to me eventually, and it did, of course. I was getting clues through out the entire day and then the weather on my run made it quite obvious, when I think back. Let me tell you all about it.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

It’s spring break so it’s been busy and different all week. I have had to be flexible and willing to change my normal running times. Some days it’s been tough to find a time to run, and Friday was no exception.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 10:30am and Marjory was starting work early at 1:15pm and I would have the children for the rest of the day.

My son had a piano lesson with his Grannie at 3:15pm so my only chance to run was right after my doctor’s appointment.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

My well-laid plans all changed on Friday morning when Marjory went shopping with our son and our 7-year old daughter was adamant that she wanted to come with me, which meant that I would not be running after my appointment.

Despite the change in plans and the diminishing odds, I decided to stay optimistic and open to finding another time to run that day.

When I arrived back home after my doctor’s appointment, my wife had just arrived with a huge number of grocery bags.

As we were putting them away, she reminded me that our son’s piano lesson with his Grannie was at 2pm at her Port Moody apartment rather than at 3:15pm in Coquitlam where she usually had his lesson.

Old Orchard Park - Shoreline trail

Old Orchard Park – Shoreline trail

Thank you, I said, when the opportunity to run presented itself, at last. I would drop our son for his lesson and my sister-in-law, who is currently staying with Grannie and had expressed n interest in going for a walk with our daughter, could take her for an hour and I could get out for a run. A quick phone call confirmed the arrangements. We even agreed to meet up at the local Starbucks if I was running late. Now I was really in business!

My mother-in-law’s apartment is situated quite close to the Shoreline Trail that goes around the Port Moody Inlet, so I headed down that way for my long run. It’s a beautiful trail and I always enjoy running there.

I ran past City Hall and the Port Moody Recreation Centre, past the soccer field and then over the railway tracks and on to the trail, where I took a left turn and headed towards Old Orchard Park.

Old Orchard Park - beach

Old Orchard Park – beach

The sun shone brightly on the water as I ran down the rail at a good pace. Phew – I was really hot and felt way overdressed already, in my fleece-lined MEC vest.

I knew that I would have to run a fair way beyond the park if I wanted to get in the long run that I had planned.

I was soon running through the park and headed out along Alderside Road by the water’s edge.

Alderside Road

Alderside Road

It was around that time that I first noticed a bank of dark black clouds over the North Shore Mountains ahead of me that seemed to be coming my way. They looked spectacular in contrast to the blue sky and puffy white clouds over the opposite shore.

I had just left Alderside Road and was headed down Ioco Road when my Strava Run app announced that I had now completed 5K.

I picked up the pace a little and I was feeling quite good given that gravity was now giving me a helping hand down the hill.

Ioco United Church

Ioco United Church

As I passed the old United Church at the edge of the now-abandoned Ioco worker’s town, a quick glance up confirmed that the sun had gone behind the ever-increasing black clouds that now dominated the once blue sky.

I then headed up the hill towards the barbed-wired fences and an unmanned security gate at the terminal entrance.

As I went up the slight incline towards the terminal gate, I was mysteriously drawn to a boarded-up grocery store and the streets of abandoned houses to my right.

Ioco ghost town - grocery store

Ioco ghost town – grocery store

I would later discover that this abandoned town site is known to the locals as the Ioco ghost town.

The buildings were desperately trying to tell me their dark and ominous story from the past.

As I turned around at the terminal gate and headed back down the hill, the sky was now black and  inclement weather was imminent.

Wow – quite a change from when I first started my run 35 minutes ago!

Ioco Road - hailstorm

Ioco Road – hail storm

As I headed back down Ioco Road and then up the hill towards Alderside Road, I thought that the darkness ahead was a rainstorm.

Within minutes , I found myself running headlong through a heavy downpour of hail.

I was now rather glad that I had put on that sleeveless MEC vest!

Fortunately, the hailstones were not of the ‘rock hard’ variety, so I was not too ‘peppered’ by them and was not forced to seek shelter.

Port Moody Inlet - oil tanker

Port Moody Inlet – oil tanker

Once back on Alderside Road, I was able to admire a huge oil tanker across the water at the Petro-Canada terminal.

Although I am opposed to having oil tankers going up and down our beautiful west coast waters, this tanker did look impressive in an ‘industrial art’ kind of way.

Majestically sitting high in the water, the tanker had not yet been loaded up with oil.

Old Orchard Park - Shoreline trail

Old Orchard Park – Shoreline trail

By the time I reached Old Orchard Park again, the hail had stopped completely but the sky was still black with clouds overt the water.

I reached the 9K mark and was feeling very good, but I had some groin pain. So I decided to run slower with caution for the rest of my run back.

As I approached my mother-in-law’s apartment, I thought about how much change Margaret has had to deal with since Carl, her husband of 55 years, passed away a few weeks ago.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

I am sure that there will also be many other changes that she will have to face in the next few months, as she decides where and how she will spend her time. What an incredibly difficult and challenging time this must be for her, I thought.

Although I am still dealing with major changes in my life following my accident and injury 2 years ago, they seem smaller now, when compared to Margaret’s.

Of course, Margaret and I are not alone in having to deal with change. We are all having to deal with constant change throughout our lives. As mentioned, it’s the only thing that we can truly guarantee in life!

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

When I was leaving Grannie’s apartment for my run earlier this afternoon, my son casually suggested that I listen to my George Michael album on my run, which I did.

In his song “Older’ there is a topical line that goes like this – ‘change is a stranger you have yet to know’.

It’s a matter of perspective, I personally would prefer to think that ‘change is a friend I have yet to know’, although this perspective does take constant work.

In the past, when I have been unwilling to manage and work with change and I have resisted and been in conflict with change, my life often became more stressful and chaotic. As a result, I was less able to take good care of myself, and those that depended on me.

Once I was able to accept that change is an ongoing part of life, I was more able to manage and work with change, and then I was able to take better care of myself, and those that I love and cherish.

Shoreline trail

Shoreline trail

As I ran past my mother-in-law Margaret’s apartment, I thought it best to go straight to Starbucks, given the time.

Sure enough, there was my daughter, sitting at the window sipping on a drink, with a big smile on her face!

I made my way up to the counter where my sister-in-law and son were waiting for their drinks. My son told me excitedly that the barista had accidentally made an Americano for him instead of the decaffeinated iced mocha that he had ordered.

Port Moody Inlet

Port Moody Inlet

‘Goodness knows how he could have mixed up those two names’ he said with glee. My sister-in-law offered me the Americano, explaining that it would otherwise be thrown out.

I looked over at the barista, and he nodded and smiled. I smiled warmly in return, and then took a small sip of my coffee. It was quite delicious!

Run#39 Mar 20: Brunette to Piper 9K & music therapy

Burnaby Lake - piper spit boardwalk

Burnaby Lake – piper spit boardwalk

They say that music soothes the soul; I know that to be true. I also know that music heals the body and the mind too. I felt it happening today as I listened to heavenly harmonies while I ran by the river and lake under a sunny blue sky.

I had to visit my optometrists in New Westminster this morning to be fitted with a new brand of multi-focal contact lenses.

Once my eye appointment was finished, I then started thinking of where I could go for a nice 9K run that was not too off the beaten track from my drive home to Coquitlam.

In a flash, it came to me. Before I knew it, I was headed down North Road from Sapperton towards Lougheed Highway and then parking the car at Hume Park on the New West/Coquitlam border.

Brunette River trail

Brunette River trail

My plan was run up the Brunette River to Burnaby Lake. Then I would continue running up the north side of the lake towards Piper Spit until my Strava Run app told me that I had done half of my scheduled 8K.

It would then just be a matter of turning around and retracing my steps back to Hume Park.

The perfect run, I thought!

The weather had been rainy most of the morning, but miraculously, the rain stopped just before I reached Hume Park. The sky was a brilliant blue with fluffy white clouds as I set my music and Strava Run on my iPhone, and headed off down the Brunette River trail.

Brunette River

Brunette River

The first thing that I noticed was that the river water was dark and murky, and it was running very high and fast.

It must be due to all of the rain that we have been having lately. The Caribou Dam regulates the river water that flows from Burnaby Lake into the Brunette River.

They open it up when they have lots of rain and the lake level gets high.

An old friend once told me long ago that there’s good trout to be caught in this river. I know that there’s lots of huge salmon come up the river to spawn in late October every year.

I used to bring my son and daughter up here to see them when they were young. It was a thrill for them to see the salmon thrashing upstream in the shallows headed steadfastly towards their spawning grounds. Such fond memories!

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

I soon found myself running beyond the river path and heading up the north side of Burnaby Lake trail towards Piper Spit.

The sun was quite warm as I ran through an area with no shade. I was beginning to wonder why I had put on my North Face rain jacket.

My Strava Run was soon telling me that I had done 4K.

I could have turned around and headed back to complete my scheduled 8K run, but I was feeling so good that I thought that I would continue running until I reached to Piper Spit, which to me seemed like the right place to turn-around. Besides, it was so beautiful outside and it felt incredibly good to be running again, and with such relative ease.

Burnaby Lake - view from piper spit

Burnaby Lake – view from piper spit

Piper Spit was alive with people and waterfowl. It’s a popular spot with children for feeding the birds. I stopped briefly to take a breath and enjoy the lake view from the end of the boardwalk.

As I headed back along the Burnaby Lake trail it dawned on me that I was feeling almost ‘normal’ for most of this run.

At the time, I happened to be listening to the heavenly choral harmonies of musica intima as they sang Le Port Mirabeau, a track from their Into Light album.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

As I listened closer to the music, I became more and more aware that my head was actually free of pain and there was no headache or ringing in my ears.

Perhaps it was the run and the beautiful spring weather. That surely was the reason why I was feeling so relaxed and pain-free.

It couldn’t possibly be that my brain was healing. Surely not!

I know that music soothes the soul. I saw it first-hand during my brief time as a palliative care volunteer worker, just before our son was born. Also, from the time I spent with a close spiritual friend when he passed away.

Most recently, during the final hours of my father-in-law Carl’s life, my wife Marjory decided to quickly download two pieces of classical music.They were Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

Marjory played this music on her iPhone placed on her father’s pillow. As they listened together, they were able to share a few precious moment of peace and tranquility for one last time while they listened to music they both loved. It was a moment they will treasure forever.

Through these and other similar experiences, I know that music often brings a great sense of peace and calm to those who are close to death and passing on.

Suddenly, I had an amazing revelation. All of the music that had been intuitively drawn to and was now listening to on my runs was helping me heal!

Music has always soothed my soul, and now it’s helping me heal my body and mind!

The sensations that I felt at that moment of realization took me back to my first ‘runners high’. It happened decades ago as I ran alone on a windswept road just west of Calgary.

Ironically, throughout my 30 years of running, I have been a bit of a minimalist and purist. I have always shunned the idea of listening to music while running. It just seemed inappropriate and unnecessary and an intrusion to me. I much preferred to listen to the sounds that were around me as I ran.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

Despite my past minimalist and purist leanings, I decided to listen to music for my half marathon training runs.

It was an intuitive decision. The still small voice inside of me was gently letting me know that music was the additional therapy that I needed to help me heal my body and mind.

So what music should one listen to for music therapy? Well, it’s arguably an individual choice, but here are my thoughts on the matter.

I would say that I am eclectic when it comes to my musical taste, and the music I love comes from many different genres. Accordingly, my choices of music for my runs varied quite a bit.

There were days when the only sound that I wanted to hear was the cool trumpet of Miles Davis together with the rich saxophone of John Coltrane on the Kind of Blue album. At other times, I needed the sweet chords and harmonies from musica intima or Arvo Part.

There were other moments when only the soulful sound of George Michael or the deep warm voice of Johnny Hartman would fulfill my mind’s desire. Of course, there was always the classics from Bach and Mozart that were readily available when needed.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

As I approached the end of my run, it occurred to me that there was a reason that I am drawn to the music that I have listened to when I run.

First, the music is a collaborative effort from two or more artists. That collaborate effort generates an immense amount of collective energy that I sense in their music.

Additionally, the music reflects each artist’s desire to seek truth in their lives, which generates a huge amount of positive energy that I can feel and harness through their music.

Brunette River - blue heron

Brunette River – blue heron

Collective energy and truth; working together through music to help my body and mind heal, while soothing my soul. It’s a beautiful thing!

As I stretched out against my little red car at the end of my run, I reflected on my healing experience that morning.

Then I gave thanks for that still small voice inside of me that keeps me strong and always open to new ideas while looking for ways to heal and grow.


Run#38 Mar 18: Mundy Park 5K & knowing your limitations

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

What a beautiful sunny day it was today; the perfect day for getting outside, whether it was for a run in the woods, a family walk by the lake, or simply a fun game of soccer with the kids in the back yard.

Well, I happened to do all three of these things today. Although it was a super day for us all, by the end of this fun, filled day, I was given yet another firm reminder that I need to know and respect my physical and mental limitations as I continue my ongoing concussion rehabilitation and self-managing my chronic concussion symptoms.

The day started well. It’s spring break at school so my entire family was able to sleep in and relax a little after what has been a tough few months.

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

I managed to sneak out quietly for my scheduled 5K run around 11:30am, while my wife Marjory helped the kids finish up their piano practices.

I decided to keep it simple and go to Mundy Park. It’s always a pleasure to run the Perimeter Trail in Mundy, rain or shine, but it’s especially enjoyable when the sun is shining like it was this morning.

I was wondering whether I needed my fleece-lined MEC sleeveless jacket over my long-sleeved running shirt as I headed out the door. Although it was sunny, there was cool and there was a breeze.

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

For most of my run, I enjoyed the sun streaming through the trees, which was gorgeous. However, there were sufficient times when I was in the share and felt the coolness of the breeze and was thankful that I had decided to wear my jacket!

When I got back from my run, my wife Marjory was desperate to get out for a walk with the kids as soon as possible.

So I quickly put together a scrumptious green salad, and soon after polishing that off, we drove out to Sasamat Lake for a family walk.

It’s only about 3.2K around the lake, so I thought that we should take in an extra loop.

We ended up doing about 5K, much to Marjory’s chagrin. She was expecting we would do the lake loop only. Marjory said that she thought that I might be ‘overdoing it’ again.

I would later find out that she was right.

Sasamat Lake

Sasamat Lake

The kids loved their hike. They could probably have gone around the lake twice, they were having so much fun.

They ran almost all of the way round, going back and forth, and up and down the trail.

It was like taking a couple of labradors out for a walk.

The kids especially loved to venture down from the trail to the water’s edge to look for fish and other lake creatures. ‘We’re marine biologists’ they both exclaimed at the tops of their voices.

It was delightful for Marjory and I to watch our children happily running, playing and enjoying the wonders of nature together.

As we pulled into the parking pad over the back yard, Marjory said that she would put together a vegetable noodle dish and we all cheered. I had it in mind to sit back in the red chair and blog a little, but that was not to be. The kids wanted to play soccer in the back yard. They begged me to play. How could I possibly say no!

After just 10 minutes of running back and forth, some dribbling, tackling and shooting of the ball together with lots of laughter and fun, I had say sorry to the kids and go into the house. I already had a headache, my ears were ringing, and I felt a little ‘foggy’ in the head and quite nauseous.

I knew from my past experiences that if I did not stop playing immediately, my symptom would get a lot worse. Arguably, I should have said no to playing soccer but it’s hard to say no.

It’s difficult and emotional for me to explain to the kids that I cannot play soccer with them any more or help coach their soccer teams as I did before my accident and injury. The body movements involved in soccer causes my injured brain to be shaken around and that brings on medium to severe concussion symptoms.

For the first year after my accident, my restrictions were simple to understand. Essentially, I could not do anything physically or mentally demanding at all.

1983 Toronto Marathon

1983 Toronto Marathon

Over the next year, after working for six months with my neuropsychologist and physiotherapist at the Coquitlam Concussion Centre and by strictly following a running rehabilitation program developed by the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic, I discovered that I could run again without major increase in symptoms!

I cannot begin to express what a relief that was for me as a life long runner. Unlike most other forms of physical exercise such as soccer, well-managed running allows me to keep my head relatively straight and my brain relatively stable, which is why my symptoms do not dramatically increase as they do with almost all other sports.

Additionally, I find running to be meditative and relaxing, which is highly beneficial in counter-acting increases in symptoms brought on by day-to-day stresses of life.

Regarding work, as a volunteer Program Leader facilitating the University of Victoria’s Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshops, I have found meaningful work that I am able to do that does not cause increased symptoms.

As my doctor predicted when she suggested I look for some volunteer work, I have found my volunteering to be therapeutic. It’s fulfilling to be expending my time and energy towards helping others who are going through many of the challenges and issues that I have addressed or am still addressing myself.

2013 Vancouver half marathon - first training run

2013 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon – my first training run

I have learned a lot about self-managed concussion rehabilitation over the past two years. Something I know that that is critical to success for an effective self-managed rehabilitation is to know and respect your physical and mental restrictions and limitations.

However, identifying the specific physical and mental activities that you can and cannot do and then your limitations around the activities that you can do is almost always a matter of experiential learning. It certainly was for me. Sometimes I was fortunate enough to have professional guidance. Other times, my intuition alone was my guide.

Over time, I learned to trust that still small voice inside of me. You can too!

Run#37 Mar 15: Burnaby Lake 12K & chronic pain management

Burnaby Lake

Burnaby Lake

I really did not feel like running my scheduled 12K at all this morning.

I felt groggy and quite tired and I have been experiencing arm pain, but I needed to get it done today.

I knew that I would be busy all weekend at my daughter’s soccer tournament, so there would be no time for me to do my run.

After some thought, I decided to run around Burnaby Lake this morning. It’s easy to get to grips with mentally and it’s also a nice connection with nature. Perhaps that would help sooth my arm pain.

I drove down the Trans-Canada and exited at Gaglardi and made my way down Caribou. Parking my car close to the park entrance, I got out, set my Strava Run app and some music and quickly headed up the tarmac pathway, into the park and on to the gravel trail.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

Let me tell you more about the arm pain, if I may. First of all, I have never had it before, it’s new to me.

I have had this sharp, radiating pain in and around my right shoulder for a couple of day now.

It was so bad close to bed time that I had to take some pretty strong pain medication before I retired.

Unfortunately, the medication was not particularly effective for the pain and consequently I had a terrible night’s sleep.

The pain came on quite suddenly and unexpectedly a few days ago out of nowhere and I am not sure what caused it. The pain itself radiates from the top of my right shoulder, then in and around my muscle and then down my arm. I can barely lift my arm sometimes and have to lift my wrist with my left hand to pick things up.

Burnaby Lake boardwalk

Burnaby Lake boardwalk

If this is an injury, I do not remember how or when I got it. There are a few heavy things that I have picked up lately that could possibly have caused a muscle strain.

One of those ‘things’ was my 7 year-old daughter, who thinks that I can still carry her around like I did when she was 3 years old!

Surprisingly, the arm pain did not seem bad during the first few kilometers of my run, on the long gravel pathway. Perhaps the anticipation of the beauty of the trail eased my pain.

By the time I had reached the end of the initial long gravel section of trail, I was feeling better and my arm was moving more freely.

Then, as I left the gravel trail and ran into the forest, the sights and sounds and the beauty of nature took over my entire mind and body. The pain was no longer apparent as the forest, marshland, lake and the wildlife became my entire focus.

Burnaby Lake - bird boxes

Burnaby Lake – bird boxes

I am no stranger to chronic pain. As you may know, I have been living with chronic headaches and tinnitus for over two years following my ‘slip and fall’ accident and brain injury.

Additionally, for the past 8 months, I have been a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, where I co-facilitate their 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshops.

While facilitating the CPSMP workshops, I have met some amazing people that have been dealing with chronic pain for many years. Many of them deal with their pain quietly and with great dignity. For some, their pain rarely comes up in conversation unless you ask. Their courage and strength is inspirational.

Burnaby Lake trail - poplars

Burnaby Lake trail – poplars

During our free of charge 6-week workshops, we introduce our pain management ‘toolbox’ to give them ways to ‘break the pain cycle’ and manage their pain.

It is amazing the progress most people make during the workshops. I have such great admiration for our participants. I consider a few of them my mentors and role models as I continue my own rehabilitation journey.

As I left the lakeside trail at the far end of the parkland and then followed the trail around the rugby fields by the tall trees,  I caught something move just slightly in the small slough that ran by the trail.

Wow, it was an exquisite Blue Heron quietly fishing for his lunch. I slowly stopped, hoping to get a photo. With the least amount of motion I could manage, I took out my iPhone and set up.

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

The heron looked at me; I looked at the heron. He then slowly moved his head to the side. I am sure that he was offering me a better profile shot.

I took the shot and it was done. It was a magical moment.

My new friend, the Blue Heron then resumed his fishing. I quietly put my iPhone back in my pocket and continued with my run.

Still Creek

Still Creek

Soon I was going over the Still Creek Bridge and then along the top of the lake, down the long, straight gravel path and back into the forest for the final 3K run to the park entrance.

Just after I passed the bird watching tower near Piper Spit, I heard the familiar sound of runners approaching from behind me on the trail. It was two women, probably in their early 30’s and they were running well, at a good pace, as they passed me.

Piper Spit  birdwatching tower

Piper Spit birdwatching tower

There was a time, not that long ago, when I would have taken up the challenge with the ladies and increased my pace to stay with them. I may even have tried to pass them, if I could.

I know that I used to be extremely competitive on the running trails. However, it was always about the personal challenge rather than ‘beating’ other runners.

As the ladies passed me, my old competitive way did return briefly and I did increase my pace to try and stay with them.

Just as quickly, my new-found wisdom kicked in and advised me to slow down and return to the pace that I was running when the ladies passed me.

Burnaby Lake trail

Burnaby Lake trail

‘You are simply not in that competitive space nor can you run that fast anymore. Do not let your ego take control. You have nothing to prove. Be satisfied and thankful for what you can do now rather than yearn for what you used to do.’ said the still, small voice of calm within.

‘You are still learning to let go of what used to be. That was then and this is now.You are doing well’.

Wow, I am making progress!

Burnaby Lake

Burnaby Lake

The two women that passed me then gradually pulled away, the trail turned to the right into the trees, and they were gone.

I was once again alone, content and at peace on the trail.

Moments before I reached my little red car and stopped running, my Strava Run app announced that I had completed my 12K. Perfect timing, I thought.

I stretched out using the fence next to my car, and noticed that the pain in my arm was back. It was actually quite sore again.

Then, by the time I got home, the pain was severe and I could barely lift my arm. Thankfully,  I am taking the complete weekend off running to rest.

Sun breaking through

Sun breaking through cloud

If the pain is due to a muscle strain and I take good care of it over the weekend, it should improve.

Should it not improve, then I will need to visit my doctor on Monday. Although I am naturally a little concerned, I will stay positive.

Time will tell, and time often heals.