Blah, BLah, BLOG
It was an early start Sunday, laying awake before the alarm sets off for 4:30am, I really did not want to get out of bed till the alarm goes off, but I could not sleep. By 5:30, I was ready for our 2 1/2 hour journey towards south of the island. It was so dark and quiet for most of the ride to Cowichan Lake. Chris downloaded a map from Google Map, lesson #1 never take their distances literally, as we missed our turnoff and also expecting to find our last turn off sooner rather than later. Chris and I were pretty excited to do the Kinsol Trestle 1/2 a 1/2. It was an event we both had never done, and frankly was a little nervous about it being mostly a trail run. I have troubles with darkness in the trails due to night blindness and depth perception as well as peripheral vision. The colorful fallen leaves scattered all over the trail makes me dizzy and have to watch Chris's feet to avoid any accidents, and because of that, it makes it challenging for me to stay focused. We arrived in plenty of time to pick our race packages and do the usual last minute preparing for the run. We met our friend Annie in the parking lot and started walking towards the start line (15 minute walk) and enjoyed catching up with her during the walk. Suddenly we were off, we didn't even hear the start, so off we go tethered from waist to waist and running at a relaxed pace. Weather was perfect, cool and dry. I had heard that this was a hilly run, I don't mind hills, in fact, I'm pretty used to it as we live in a hilly area. But man, just about the whole run was hills! The first 3 KM was road and the rest was trails, I was surprised how groomed the trails were, not the kind of trails we usually run in at home. It felt good on the feet, no rocks jabbing under your feet or ankles rolling off a rock or two, just smooth cruising. By this time the crowds thinned out, we detached ourselves from the tether and I started to run behind Chris and followed his feet. There was a few tricky spots, leaves and some piles of rocks in the middle of a path before you hit the trestle. Fear suddenly entered my brain, we were about to run onto the trestle (rail bed is replaced with a boardwalk and wide side railings) Chris was telling me the view was incredible, but I could not take my eyes off his feet. We decided to stop on the way back to view the canyon. It was a good decision, I felt more relaxed knowing what i was running on and feeling secured. We hit the turnaround point returning to the trestle, about midway, we stopped to view the canyon and the river. It was absolutely breathtaking, I had to stick my head out between the rails (was too short to see over the rails) so I could actually see the rushing river in the deep canyon laced with trees of autumn golds. I was thinking to myself, will I ever see this view again? Will it be the same in 10 years time? or will it be a memory. Time will tell. This is what I hate about Retinitis Pigmentosa, I just don't know how much vision I will lose, if it stays stable or if I go completely blind. But I am thankful I got to see it, even if it will end up being a memory photo album. The last 3 kilometers is home stretch on the roads and my body was ready to run comfortably hard. So I pushed myself to pass as many people as I can, being ever so careful not to run too far out onto the road (normal traffic with no road closures) and some runners would yell out "CAR!" which is quite helpful. Oh, the hills, pushing up those hills was a challenge but I did not stop to walk, I pushed my way up and down all those hills and could hear some cheering in the not too far distance. Yeah, I am getting close to finishing this! Up that last hill and a couple turns the finish line was in sight! I raised my hands in triumph as I crossed the finish line. Saw Annie as I walked towards the finish line to watch Chris come in. Annie saw him first and we cheered him on to the finish. What a great run. As a result, Chris came in 5th in his age group, Annie 9th and myself 10th. Pleased? Hell ya!
I have ran the Goodlife Victoria Marathon (and 1/2 marathon) since 2004 except for 2011. It was 2009 when the changes all came into play - the Visually Impaired category and the 5 minute early start. Previous races it was a struggle to run on my own, tripping over cones, constantly bumping into people, signposts and rolling in my ankles from potholes. It was extremely frustrating and stressful. Since the changes in 2009, it is like running a new event. Apart from the usual race jitters, the early race start and special bibs provided, eleviated the stress and anxieties for both the runner and guide. Saturday night, we had a nice pre-race dinner with a group of VI runners and guides. We were relaxed and ready for the morning race. It was 6:55 am, cool crisp morning and the sun was rising promising brilliance for the run. Chris and I waited in the parking lot to meet with George. For the first time I will be guided by someone else at the Goodlife Victoria 1/2 marathon. It felt strange, but i knew it was going to be okay. I had the pleasure of meeting George a couple of times while I was in Ottawa. I was lucky to find out that George was coming to Victoria to visit family on the weekend of the event and I asked him if he could guide me just in case (always good to have a back up plan). Chris, George and I walked up to the front of the start line, our bibs in place and wearing our bright singlets displaying who we are (VI runner and GUIDE). We wished each other good luck and he walked off into the crowd, I felt sadness and realised to myself, that, Chris hadn't run his own race since 2009. I was wondering how he was feeling, I am sure he had realised this too. George and I was going over some details of the tethering, stretching, smiling at the photographer. We are tethered and ready to go. Seconds to go, feeling butterflies in my stomach and thought to myself, this is going to be a good run. The horn sounded and off we went. We started off strong and had the road to ourselves, hearing the crowds cheering behind us as we start our 13.1 mile journey. We chatted pretty much the whole run, we talked about the route, early start, guiding, Running for Change, triathlons, and continuously wondering how Chris is making on. I know the hills are daunting on this route, not sure how George was liking the hills, might be hillier to what he is used to. I warned him about Dallas Road, it was going to be a long haul to the finish, up, up and up. We encouraged one another through it, and still running strong right from the start. It was about 10 mile mark when I told George that I usually detach the tether about 500 meter from the finish, and kick it in high gear. When getting near the finish, the crowds are much more manageable to run through. It was about 1KM left to the finish, and I detached myself from George. There was a group of 3 running ahead of me and I yelled "c'mon people, you don't want a blind runner passing you!" I heard George chuckle behind me and knew he will be right there if should any warnings need to be said. As I turned around the corner, nearing the finish, I can hear the crowds cheering on the runners, and George giving me a warning about the bumps in the road ahead and continued to race to the end. I love the last part of the race, I felt free and strong. George was just a step behind me, we both finished strong and energised. We walked through the finished line, received our finishing medals and grabbed some food. Standing aside away from the other incoming runners we waited for Chris to come in. It was nearly 30 minutes of waiting when George and I decided if we don't see him in 15 minutes, we were going to check the race authorities on the whereabouts of Chris, just minutes after our discussion we saw Chris coming towards us. I was so relieved to see him, he looked so relaxed and happy! We exchanged our congratulations and found out Chris had finished a 1/2 an hour earlier, and he had such a good run. It was a great event for all of us! Now we celebrate! Beer and Fish n' chips! Thank you everyone for a great event, run and company, it was a great weekend.
How can something that helps us so much can give us so much grief to use? Well, at least in the beginning. Acceptance will come in due time. Recently, I had a few spills and got me to rethink about the cane. I never really used it a lot, mostly when traveling alone or in places that are new to me or hanging on to someone's arm and often, I forget it at home. It really hit home with me when i took my last fall. It was his wise and simple words, "its time" that got through me. I know, I know, I heard it many times before, people tell me all the time that I should be using the cane, but I guess I just wasn't ready. Now, I am ready to use it full time. I have to learn not to worry about what other people think, maybe it is just me about how I think? Society label us to identify us of WHAT we are: cane/blind, wheelchair/crippled, hearing aids/deaf, etc. not WHO we are. It is black and white, no grey areas, because it is just easier for society to understand. But it is mostly GRAY! Most of us do have some sight, so few are completely blind. Is it a wonder how society cannot grasp on how we are so capable of doing so many things? We are not heroes, or amazing, we are people who do things just like everyone else, just differently. Be not afraid and ask us questions, if society is not accepting of what we are, then how are we to grow as who we are?
Now, I have to practice this, every day, with my cane. Acceptance, time will tell. Day 3...with my cane.
Ever thought about being a guide? This past weekend, Chris and I went to run the Goodlife Victoria 1/2 Marathon (13.1mi) and at the expo, we wore bright pink shirts with a message on it, it read: Guide's Blind Runner (mine) and Blind Runner's Guide (Chris) ASK ME. We put this idea together in hopes of gaining some interests from other runners to ask us about guiding. There is a surprising amount of Blind/Visually Impaired runners out there and needing support in their training and racing. Some have even given up on doing the sports they love to do because there is the lack of resources and support. I can't speak for guides about their experiences other than all being positive, but I can speak for the Blind/VI runners. It is more than just ditching potholes and avoiding poles, it is bringing confidence in us, keeping us active, building friendships, and breaking barriers. It is a powerful and selfless act. If you think it is a difficult to do, its not. It is as simple as communication and adaption. I have been so fortunate to have Chris as my guide for several years and to be guided by Diane, Robyn and George in Ottawa and Victoria. It was networking with other organizations that helped me get the support. (Won with One and Achilles Canada). The groups all have a common goal, to break barriers and misconceptions of Blind/VI athletes, share the passion of sports and to show people we are able. Think about it, talk to others about it, get involved. As for references and resources, contact me via email and I can give you links to great resources and contacts. Guides and Blind/VI athletes, please post your comments of what guiding means to you. If you are on Facebook, check out these links (copy and paste link onto browser):
http://www.facebook.com/groups/running.eyes/ (Running Eyes: Bringing Guides and Visually Impaired Runners together)
http://www.facebook.com/groups/224380477574453/ (Visually Impaired Runners and Guides)
I was approaching 40 and tired of being overweight. Sound familiar? I couldn't tie my shoelaces without huffing and puffing, my back was always sore and generally feeling tired all the time. Finally, I decided to do something about it. Weeks of researching on the internet about diet and exercise. I came to the conclusion that 'dieting' is not how to go about losing weight, it was about choices and portions and to start exercising. Walking was my first choice of exercise at the time, bought a pedometer and started a journal. After months of walking, I started to lose a little weight and gained more energy. By this time, walking was not so much as a challenge anymore. I saw a runner running down our main street in town, noticed how fit she looked and thought, 'that is how I want to look'. I bought myself a pair of runners the following week and walked to the local walking path and started to run. HA! little did I know how difficult it was, so I started with realistic goals, I used telephone poles and park benches as my marker for run/walk and counting in my head for how many seconds it would take me to run from one pole to the next. After awhile I gave up counting because I would lose count when distracted, so I invested in a cheap running watch. In spring of 2004, I joined our newly formed running club, here I was sitting amongst all these runners at the first AGM, they all look so fit and strong, I have to admit, I felt self conscious and intimidated. But I kept reminding myself that I will soon be fit and strong if I keep this up. As I was filling out the membership form, there was a question about health issues/conditions. Oh boy...I really toyed with that one, should I write it down? Retinitis Pigmentosa? Hearing impaired? Ushers' Syndrome? What will the people say about this? Am I a liability to the club? Will they tell me I couldn't join? It had never occurred to me about blindness and running on how this would affect me, losing weight has been my only focus. I decided to write it down and hope I could still run with the club. This was the first time in my adult years that I had to tell someone about my condition. It almost seemed like I was ashamed of it. Looking back now as I am writing this, I realized how I have come a long way with changing my attitude, confidence, accepting my condition and talking about it. I have learned so much from running, it has shaped me to who I am today. Having said all that, I LOST 46lbs! and to this day, I still keep a journal. That is why I started running 9 years ago.
Would love to hear comments about why or who motivated you to get moving ~