Mindfulness: Week 3 – The Amazing Three-Minute Breathing Space

John among the Laurels

John among the Laurels

Week 3 has been a breakthrough week for me. When I started my eight-week mindfulness meditation course, I suspected that it would eventually help alleviate my chronic pain. However, I did not expect that help would come as soon as this, and in such a dramatic fashion.

First, a quick update on my ongoing struggle with scheduled daily meditation times. I have decided that it actually worked better for me to not have a schedule. This past week, I have been doing my daily meditations when the need arises and when time allows. It’s working fine so I will leave well alone.

This week’s meditations enabled me to take the enhanced awareness that I gained from my first two weeks and integrate it more closely into my daily life.

I completed three meditations daily – eight-minutes of Mindful Movement, eight-minutes of Breath and Body, and The Three-Minute Breathing Space meditation.

My Mindful Movement meditation consists of four interlinked stretching exercises. They are all beautiful in their simplicity. When put together, the total experience is soothing and profound.

Of particular note is a set of body stretches, where you reach upward with your arm outstretched as if you were picking fruit from the branch of a tree. As you return your arm back to your side, you are invited to mindfully observe your hands and fingers as they slowly move downwards.

Personally, I loved this experience. It gave me a heightened sense of body awareness and encouraged a child-like sense of curiosity. It was as if I had never seen my hands before. One has to experience it to fully understand.

Breath & Body meditation spot - Noons Creek

My Breath & Body meditation spot – Noons Creek

I usually did my Breath and Body meditation straight after Mindful Movement as recommended in the book. It worked really well given my already heightened sense of body awareness.

Sitting in a comfortable position on a chair, I initially spent a little time noticing the sensations of my whole body. Then I focused in on my breathing. Gently reminding myself that there is no right or wrong way to feel, I then simply observed my body and breath sensations that were there in the moment.

When my mind wandered away from the breath, as it does, to planning, remembering, worrying or daydreaming, I acknowledge where my mind had wandered to and then gently escorted it back to my breath and the moment.

If I felt any physical discomforts while sitting, I would either mindfully adjust my body position accordingly, or focus my breath towards the area of discomfort. Both of these techniques brought noticeable relief.

Near the end of my meditation, I sat in the silence, focusing on my breath, fully aware. It was as if my whole body was breathing. The experience was sublime.

As I finish this meditation, I am reminded that reminded that the deepest stillness and peace does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow our body, our mind, and the world around us to simply be just as they are – moment-by-moment and breath-by-breath.

As for The Three Minute Breathing Space, I have become especially fond of this meditation this past week. It’s designed to be used as needed and I have therefore used it quite frequently over the past week.

The Three-Minute Breathing Space spot - Noons Creek

The Three-Minute Breathing Space spot – Noons Creek

However, the first time I experienced it was totally unplanned and what happened will remain with me always. Let me share the story with you.

Last Sunday, I drove out to the nearby Pitt River Dyke for my usual weekend long run at around 6:30am. I felt the need to get out and run despite having a bad migraine headache, so I took an extra-strength Advil and hoped it would pass.

The Pitt River Dyke is one of my favourite runs, since it offers some stunning views of the mountains and the river from the trail. There’s also an abundance of wildlife to be seen along the way.

As I ran along the winding trail by the slough that leads to Pitt River dyke, my headache was now getting worse. I am quite familiar with migraine headaches since my 2010 concussion injury. However, this one was now severe and my peripheral vision was blurred. I was understandably concerned for my health.

I was considered turning back when I reached the Pitt River. However, the trail turned and I was presented me with a beautiful river and mountain vista that lifted my spirits and soothed my headache somewhat.

It was a gorgeous morning and the air was fresh and sweet. I scanned the vast blueberry fields that run all the way on the other side of the dyke from the river. I was hoping to see a black bear or two as they are commonly seen feasting on the berries. Alas, there were none to be seen.

“I’ll just do another kilometre or so, and then I will turn for home”, I thought, as I admired the river’s wide expanse flowing gracefully towards the mighty Fraser.

Mountains and river - Pitt River Dyke

Mountains and river – Pitt River Dyke

Then I turned my head, looked down the trail and saw before me the largest black bear I have ever seen just a few hundred feet ahead of me, slowly meandering in my direction.

Delight was my first reaction, although I do know that it’s unwise to get too close. After watching the bear stop and have some blackberries from the bushes along the trail, I decided that it would be prudent to turn around and head back.

However, I just had to take my ear buds out and get a quick photo with my iPhone for the kids. As I headed back along the trail, I must admit that I did a few shoulder checks. I know that bears can run a lot faster than I can. Fortunately, he seemed totally preoccupied with eating the blackberries.

As I continued back down the path, my head and vision were a little better for the vistas and my bear experience, but still very much there.

It had so far been an eclectic morning from a musical perspective. I had set my iPhone songs on ‘random choice’. I had never done this before and it had been interesting to say the least.

The music ended and I was wondering what was next. Then, to my absolute surprise, I was suddenly listening to The Three Minute Breathing Space meditation through my ear buds while I was running!

I was caught totally off guard but immediately went along with what was now happening in the moment. Why not, I thought.

Led by my trusted meditation guide, I continued my run down the trail for the first minute, mindfully observing the river and the blueberry fields while becoming increasingly aware of my innermost thoughts, feelings and body sensations.

For the second minute, I gathered and focused my attention on the breath and the body sensations felt while breathing. During the third minute, I expanded my attention and my field of awareness to the entire body.

“Wow”, I thought. “In just three euphoric minutes, I am fully aware, mindful and grounded in the present moment, and accepting of my life as it is right now.”

By the still waters - Port Moody Inlet

By the still waters – Port Moody Inlet

Even more amazing to me was realizing that my vision was now clear and my migraine headache had totally disappeared!

I was “running on air without a care, in the moment”, all the way home.

Looking back, I have found that a well-managed running program works well for self-managing chronic pain associated with my ongoing concussion symptoms. Now I have discovered a new and significant addition to my chronic pain self-management tool kit – Mindfulness Mediation.

What’s also exciting is that Mindfulness Meditation will likely improve many other aspects of my health and well-being; indeed, all aspects of my life  – moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath.

As for the future, the positive impacts of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain are evidence-based and well documented. Therefore, I envision that it will soon become universally recognized as an essential part of everyone’s chronic pain self-management tool kit.

Thank you again to Professor Mark Williams and Dr. Danny Penman for writing the book that inspired me to start on my exciting eight-week Mindfulness journey.

You can find out more about their book “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” at http://www.franticworld.com.

Of special interest to me right now is that Dr. Penman has written an exciting new book, along with co-author Vidyamala Burch, that’s entitled “Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing”.

Their new book will be available on September 5th, in the UK at least. I am looking forward to reading it with great enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, I will be starting Week 4 of my eight-week Mindfulness course on Sunday and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you in my next blog.

Namaste,

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis and Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Week 7 – Chronic pain self-management: Pulling it all together!

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

Just finished my Port Moody Inlet 6K

As this is the final blog in my weekly chronic pain self-management series, I would first like to say ‘thank you’ for visiting my blogs.

It is always a pleasure and, indeed, an honour for me to serve others living with chronic pain.

My hope is that by sharing my chronic pain self-management story along with my knowledge and workshop facilitator experiences, I will further increase chronic pain knowledge and awareness across BC and globally.

Additionally, I hope that my blogs will provide people living with chronic pain some additional information, support and a real opportunity to improve their ‘quality of life’ by taking a UVic workshop.

Let me quickly recap what you will learn when you attend a free of charge, 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) from the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging:

Action planning and goal setting
Acute versus chronic pain
Pain and symptom cycle:
– Pain
– Tense muscles
– Ineffective breathing
– Stress & anxiety
– Restricted movement
– Difficult emotions
– Depression
– Fatigue
– Pain etc.
Self-management tools:
– Problem-solving
– Pacing and planning
– Managing fatigue
– Physical activity & exercise
– Relaxing & better breathing
– Understanding medications
– Working with health professionals
– Using your mind
– Communications
– Understanding emotions
– Finding resources

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Pitt River dyke trail 9K

Following the completion of our workshop, our participants soon discover that chronic pain self-management for the long term is difficult. It requires a great deal of discipline, determination and hard work.

Most of all, I know from experience that we all want and need to be inspired and to inspire others.

Some incredible sources of inspiration for me are to be found while performing my volunteer work facilitating chronic pain self-management workshops with UVic.

I am constantly inspired by the courage, honesty, strength of character, openness and generosity shown by my workshop participants as they work together in becoming strong, capable self-managers.

Then there’s my amazing UVic coordinator Carol Sicoli, who continually inspires me with her dedication, hard work and commitment to helping people in need. Thank you so much Carol for your leadership, expertise, kindness, encouragement and friendship.

Port Moody Inlet 9K

Port Moody Inlet 9K

I have often been told by my UVic colleagues and our workshop participants that I inspire them and others, which is heartwarming, gratifying and much appreciated.

In addition to feeling valued and fulfilled, my UVic volunteering is having a positive impact on my own rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management programs.

Consequently, if you are living with chronic pain, I thoroughly recommend you consider volunteering as a part of your rehabilitation and chronic pain self-management program.

As mentioned in my first blog, there are an incredibly large number of people out there living with chronic pain. Many have exhausted the traditional sources for help and are resigned to quietly living a life of suffering, often feeling helpless and desperately alone.

My hope is that my chronic pain self-management blogs reaches as many of these people as possible.

If you are an adult living in BC with chronic pain, you should seriously consider taking our free of charge self-management workshop.

It may result in a new beginning for you and your loved ones. It certainly was for me!

My two 'pace bunnies' - Pitt River dyke trail 9K

My two ‘pace bunnies’ – Pitt River dyke trail 9K

As for me, I am going to take a short break, We leave for our annual family camping trip for two weeks after school finishes on Thursday.

Camping under canvas while being surrounded by nature enables us to regroup and reconnect as a family. Rain or shine, we always have a great time!

While I am away camping, I will find some quiet time to contemplate life. Then when I return with fresh energy, I will continue with my chronic pain work and blog some more too.

As for my blogging, I am not sure exactly what’s next, but I suspect that I will be inspired while I  am away.

In closing, I will remind you as always, that if you or someone close to you is living with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I would encourage you follow the link below and sign up for a chronic pain self-management workshop soon.

Namaste.

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Week 6 – Chronic pain self-management: Communications skills are vital!

Off for a run

Ready to go for a run – always!

I know from personal experience that the ‘body & mind’ tools that we offer in our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, such as physical exercise and mental relaxation, are essential for ongoing, long-term chronic pain self-management.

However, we also offer several other ‘communications’ related tools that are vital for maintaining solid, healthy relationships with the many people that are supporting us while we are living with chronic pain.

As a facilitator of the University of Victoria’s Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge to adults across BC, I have been involved in many brainstorming sessions with people living with chronic pain.

Brainstorming affords our participants an opportunity to share their chronic pain experiences. Although challenging, many participants feel that managing the chronic pain itself is not always the most difficult thing they face in their daily lives.

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

Many say that there are times when maintaining an open, honest and respectful relationship with their partner, family members, friends, and health care professionals is the most challenging thing for them.

When these relationships break down, they often feel misunderstood by people that are trying to help them. In some cases, some participants are not always sure that they are fully believed when they talk about their chronic pain.

Personally I have had incredible support from my wife Marjory and my entire support group. However, there have been times when I have felt misunderstood and quite alone living with my chronic pain.

The good news is that, in our workshop, we have 4 specific tools within our Self-Management Tool Kit that will help us self-manage our relationships while living with chronic pain.

Waterfall - Coquitlam River 9K

Waterfall – Coquitlam River 9K

Here’s a brief description of each:

1. How to communicate effectively

Communications skills are vital for people who are self-managing a condition like chronic pain, so that they can let others know how they are feeling and what they need.

In our workshops, we discuss a variety of different communications skills with our participants, and then we use role-playing to practice them.

Some examples of these skills are:

• Using ‘I’ messages rather than ‘’you’ messages

• How to be clear to others when we are stating our wants and needs

• When and how to say ‘yes please’ and ‘no thank you’ when people offer help

Learning through role-playing is very effective and lots of fun!

Perimeter trail - Mundy Park 4K

Perimeter trail – Mundy Park 4K

2. Dealing with difficult emotions

It’s important to understand that emotional ‘ups and downs’ and feelings of anger, fear, worry and frustration are normal for people living with chronic pain.

Additionally, finding a supportive, non-judgmental group where they can talk about their emotions and feelings and feel they have been heard and understood can be an empowering experience.

Our workshop participants often feel that they are among a supportive group and are comfortable enough to discuss their personal emotions and feelings and then do some brainstorming and problem-solving with the group.

As the facilitator, these discussions are always fulfilling and heartwarming.

Foxgloves - Coquitlam River 9K

Foxgloves – Coquitlam River 9K

3. Making informed treatment decisions

Reports about new treatments, new drugs, nutritional supplements, and other complementary or alternative treatments claiming to be the answer to chronic pain are plentiful.

This is especially true for people who desperately looking for something or someone to take the pain away.

Unfortunately, there is rarely a ‘complete solution’ to be found for chronic pain. However, there are medications, rehabilitation programs and therapies that can help.

So it’s important to know how to evaluate these prospective treatments in order to make an informed decision about whether to try them or not. This applies to both mainstream and alternative treatment options.

During the workshop, we give our participants a list of questions and criteria to be used when evaluating and considering a new treatment option for chronic pain.

We especially advise them about information offered on the Internet and how to recognize more reliable web sites.

Last but not least, we emphasize the need to inform our health care professional when we are contemplating any new treatment and then keeping those health care professionals up to date with our progress.

Meditation Grove - Mundy Park 4K

Meditation Grove – Mundy Park 4K

4. Working with the healthcare system and health care professionals

Most people have experienced difficulties in getting the health care they need. There are really two types of problems.

Problems associated with the health care system itself, like getting a timely appointment. Then there are problems that arise when working directly with our health care professionals.

In our workshops, we identify situations, problems and potential solutions using our newly acquired brainstorming and problem solving skills.

It’s important to mention that at no time do we bring up the names of any specific organization or health care professionals. We ask that participants keep this information strictly confidential in our first workshop.

We also advise our participants how to communicate effectively with their healthcare professionals, including how to prepare a pain profile, how to best describe pain, and how to express pain intensity.

Ferns - Coquitlam River 9K

Ferns – Coquitlam River 9K

In conclusion, learning and using these ‘relationship’ tools and other ‘physical and mental’ tools from our Self-Management Tool Kit will enable us, indeed empower us, in becoming a highly informed, capable and confident self-manager of our chronic pain.

Given my personal experience over the past 2½ years while self-managing my own chronic pain and rehabilitation following my accident and injury in 2010, I have found that sustained self-management requires some additional qualities and skills.

From my experience, successful chronic pain self-management over the long-term specifically requires a great deal of self-discipline, determination and hard work. Additionally, I have found that ongoing planning and goal-setting has been critical for my ongoing self-management. Additionally, I remain an eternal optimist with a good sense of humour, which helps.

Ritt River Dyke trail

Pitt River dyke trail

While on the subject of goal-setting, as promised in last weeks blog, I have set myself another running rehabilitation goal for the fall. I will run a local half-marathon called the Trail River Run along Hyde Creek and the Pitt River dyke in Port Coquitlam, BC.

It follows a beautiful trail run that I first discovered during my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon training this past spring. The Trail River Run is scheduled for September 22nd and it’s on a Sunday. I am now looking forward to signing up, creating a training plan and getting started!

Next week, I will write my final blog in this Chronic Pain Self-Management series. I am planning to summarize what we have discussed over the past 5 weeks and what our UVic workshops offer for chronic pain self-management along with my own personal perspectives.

Additionally, I will talk to you about the qualities and skills that I have needed for successful long-term chronic pain self-management.

In closing, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:

– Arthritis Fibromyalgia

– Chronic Disease

– Diabetes

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Week 5 – Chronic pain self-management: The incredible power of the mind

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

Just finished my Brunette River 5K

My late father, Alex Murphy, who was practitioner of yoga and meditation long before it became fashionable, often told me about the incredible power of the mind.

Upon reflection, my Dad was ahead of his time in so many ways. Although I did not have the maturity and life experience required to appreciate his guidance at the time, I did intuitively know that his intentions were good and that I should retain his words of wisdom for a future time. My intuition was good!

As a facilitator of Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops, offered free of charge through the University of Victoria, one of my key objectives is to fully equip the participants with proven and effective chronic pain self-management tools.

Learning to use the ‘cognitive’ self-management tools, such as better breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery for relaxation, and visualization for positive thinking, is initially quite challenging for most workshop groups.

Participants are generally less familiar with these types of tools compared with the more ‘physical’ tools like healthy eating and physical activity and exercise.

Piper Spit trail 5K

Piper Spit trail 5K

Consequently, we take great care to introduce our cognitive tools slowly and respectfully, paying close attention to our participant’s comfort level. Here are some examples:

– During our 2nd week workshop, we learn our deep breathing exercise and a modified version of the Jacobson’s muscle
relaxation technique.

– In the 3rd week session, we take a calm and relaxing ‘walk in the country’ together, using guided imagery.

– Our 5th week session includes taking a journey forward in time for a positive look at our future, using visualization.

Typically, once a group has experienced the first ‘cognitive’ tool together, they are quite keen to try the others.

Later in the workshop, when participants begin to realize the potential self-management benefits from using a combination of cognitive and physical tools together, they really get excited!

I have personally had many moments of realization over the last 18 months when following the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic’s running rehabilitation program, and while training for and running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

Brunette River

Brunette River

I now know that it’s critical for me to have at least one major near term goal and a corresponding action plan in place that will enable me to reach that goal.

Setting a running race goal and then following a detailed training Action Plan works well for me. It involves many of the physical and cognitive self-management tools that I most enjoy, such as well-managed running, controlled breathing, music therapy, positive thinking, visualization and time in nature.

I have learned incredible lessons both from my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon experience, and from my blogging about those experiences.

Consequently, I am looking for a fall race to run. I will tell you what I find out in next week’s blog.

In my role as a facilitator, I see many profound moments of realization by my participant groups on a regular basis. They are powerful, moving and fulfilling moments for everyone. It’s always an honour and a privilege for me to be there.

Butterfly garden - Piper Slit 5K

Butterfly garden – Piper Spit 5K

As I bid you all farewell for this week, I would first like to give thanks for all that is good in my life right now.

Additionally, I wish to remind you all that, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop.

Please use the link below to find out more information.

 

Have a great week!

John

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

SMBC LOGO BIGGER

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!