Upgrading the trail

I began working on a connecting trail from our property to the linear park below almost three years ago. I hacked in a goat-path of sorts: narrow and full of switchbacks. It changed my life, in that it made one of my favourite running trails a mere 3-minute scrabble from my door.

Yeller McLeod, my birthday present to myself. He's a combination of tamper, rake and hoe.
Yeller McLeod, my birthday present to myself. He’s a combination of a tamper, rake and hoe.

But it wasn’t a great trail, technically speaking. Parts had a grade of more than 15%, it was narrow, there were a couple of places that were subject to erosion and the tight switchbacks meant that you couldn’t ride a mountain bike on it.

Last summer I did an IMBA trail-building workshop and learned more about how to lay out ride-able, sustainable trails. Armed with this knowledge and my new McLeod rake, I set out to improve my trail. I laid out a new route at the top, eliminating three of the most problematic tight turns. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks working on that portion, about 75 metres in length.

Now I’m dealing with one of the three remaining switchbacks that can’t be edited out. Ideally it should be a loopy turn with a loop diameter of about 25 feet. The problem, of course, is how one creates a relatively level 7-metre-wide platter of earth on the side of a mountain with a grade of 30-40 degrees, made of clay, roots and rock, with nothing more than a mattock and my trusty fire rake. I’m figuring high-speed flowy bike turns will have to be compromised in the name of preserving my sanity. I’m shooting for a 4-metre radius, something that will require  and even that is going to require a herculean effort. I thIMG_3082ink I’ll be able to snake my way through that at lower speed without falling over. I’m about a quarter of the way through my first such turn, and have spent probably 10 hours at it. So … yeah … this trail may end up being a lifetime’s work.

Still, I am having fun riding my bike up and down the piddly first 150 metres.

Distributed Learning: The Final Episode

We are now nearing the end of what will be our last year of home-based learning. And the last part of the ride has been a bit bumpy.

We started the year with Fiona (12 at the time, and officially “in Grade 9”) enrolled with SelfDesign, a DL program we’d had some experience with but hadn’t been part of for several years. We had left SelfDesign in 2010 to throw our enrolment weight behind the upstart local DL program, not out of any sense of dissatisfaction. In the intervening years they had created SelfDesign High, a Grades 10-12 program sufficiently aligned with the provincial high school graduation program to allow for the awarding of a government graduation diploma. Because they were now actively helping their pre-high-school students prepare for a structured high school expereince, we enrolled Fiona in their Grade 9 program, hoping that what they provided would be creative, flexible and proactive. Fiona was more than ready for high school type structure and we had always been pleased with SelfDesign’s willingness to look beyond grade levels and support learners over a range of levels.

Alas, there turned out to be a new and unexpectedly firm grade-level boundary between Grades 9 & 10 within the SelfDesign program, the result of complicated aspects of governmental funding. This hadn’t been the case in previous years, but within a couple of weeks of enrolling we received notice that Grade 9 learners could no longer be enrolled in Grade 10 SelfDesign courses. Fiona had already completed Grade 9 math and science curricula more than a year before, so we were forced to cross-enrol her in those subjects in our local school to allow her to move ahead to the next grade level.

While we loved the teacher we were working directly with at SelfDesign, the transitional “Gateways” program turned out to be a real disappointment. Not only was Fiona excluded from their real-life offerings due to her young-for-grade age, but the online workshops and get-togethers were far below her academic and maturity level and thus entirely unappealing. I tried hard to nudge some more enticing possibilities along and my voice was definitely welcomed by those in charge of Gateways, but two things became apparent: change was going to be too slow in coming to benefit my kid, and anything new was going to come on a software platform that she couldn’t access because of her age. (I’ll spare you the complicated explanation about user agreements, school liability insurance, international software platforms and integrated IDs.) Suffice it to say that there was nothing in the Gateways pipeline for an academically precocious 12-year-old wanting meaningful online interactive learning through a DL community.

When she finished her cross-enrolled Math 10 course by early winter, the grade-level boundary turned out to be even more problematic. SelfDesign would not allow her to pick up any additional Grade 10 courses to fill out her second semester. Again, it seemed it was mostly due to fear over how the government would react to the funding intricacies. She could take more Grade 9 courses with SelfDesign, but could only take two Grade 10 courses by going elsewhere, and now that she had finished those up in half the allotted time with high A’s, she couldn’t take more.

So we switched back to our local DL program. They were not bound by the supposed impenetrability of the Grade 9/10 boundary. They were perfectly willing to allow her to sign up for additional Grade 10 courses to round out the latter half of her year. So in December we settled on a DL subject roster that looked like this:

  • Social Studies 9
  • English 9
  • Music 9
  • Foods 9
  • PE 9 (completed)
  • PE 10 (online)
  • Planning 10 (online)

In addition, in the classroom at the local school she was taking

  • Math 10 (completed)
  • Science 10 (nearly completed)

The Grade 9 level stuff was to be unschooled, and reported on anecdotally, for which we set up a blog where Fiona would write occasional entries. Grade 10 was organized through structured courses, whether online or in the classroom. This all fit with Fiona’s goal for the year, which was to document her current learning level on her school record so that next year, when she enrols in a high school in a district that doesn’t know her at all, there is no argument about placing her in appropriate classes. It all looked good.

Hoop-jumping entries on her blog
Hoop-jumping entries on her blog

The wrinkle was that Grade 9 DL students in our local program were expected to work with a liaison teacher in another community on a day of the week when we couldn’t get there. We had assumed Fiona would be able to stay with the same local teacher she’d worked with for years, who was already supervising her STEM classroom and administering her math course at the local school, but for various administrative reasons that was not possible. So the principal of the DL program (who is also the principal of the local school) offered to step in and be Fiona’s liaison teacher. It was an accommodation we really appreciated.

But there are cracks as wide as floorboards in this arrangement. We are getting nothing other than a paper trail from it. We’ve had almost no contact with the principal. Fiona is a tiny post-script to a job that is already kind of an afterthought for this person. The online courses have been abysmal and full of busy-work. They’re plagued by broken links, meaningless assignments, missing forums and inappropriate (corporate-sponsored) content. Fiona has met briefly once in the past five months with the principal (and that was at my request) to touch base about her course submissions which had not been acknowledged or graded. It’s now a month later: three out of 30+ assignments have been graded and there has been no other feedback. We’ve received no newsletters, no invitations to DL parent meetings, no notification of school-based events that we’re supposed to be welcome at and had specifically requested we be informed of, no communication whatsoever except occasional replies when Fiona emails about a course-related problem. There has been no learning resource funding, no provision of materials, no support at all, other than access keys to two ancient online courses. A report card turned up in the mail a couple of weeks ago saying things like “Fiona has begun working through the Planning 10 course.”  Grade: A.

Here in BC we have the option to enrol through a DL program or to register as legal homeschoolers. Registering is simple, hands-off and provides complete educational freedom. The DL option necessitates a certain amount of reporting, and comes with the expectation that the student’s learning will be measured against the prescribed provincial curriculum (even though it really doesn’t matter, at least prior to Grade 10, whether that measurement is favourable or accurate).

We’ve been with DL programs for a lot of our homeschooling years, and we have got two really worthwhile things from our enrolment: financial and resource support, and positive meaningful relationships between the kids and their liaison teachers. Last year with staffing changes necessitated by a teacher’s sabbatical year we didn’t get the second part. This year we’re getting not getting the first part either.

So why are we still there? Sometimes I wonder! Basically we’re being left alone, which isn’t necessarily a problem for us since as a family we have a lot of experience and confidence not only with home-based learning but with kids entering public high school. Yet Fiona is still having to play by the rules of DL reporting and to toe the busywork line for the online Grade 10 courses she’s taking. The only reason we continue is because this is the simplest way to ensure she gets what she wants for next year: course placement in appropriately challenging Grade 10 and 11 courses at a new school. And so we grin and bear the hoop-jumping and lack of meaningful contact with the program. One month to go.

Brahms Concerto

IMG_2987Fiona and I made a whirlwind trip to Vancouver. For me it was the second in as many weekends.

Erin had pulled up her roots in Montreal, and was making a stop in the Vancouver area before heading home to the Kootenays. She had a date to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Richmond Symphony.

We left Friday evening after Fiona’s last dance class of the week. We drove about halfway before grabbing a cheap motel room. The next day we finished the trip by noon, had lunch, spent some time downtown at the waterfront, met up with Noah, took him out to dinner and then all headed to Erin’s concert.

She was fantastic. So confident and charismatic as a performer, and solid as anything with such maturity. My sister still tells the story of asking her teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Music when she was in college if she could learn the Brahms, and being told not yet, because she “hadn’t suffered enough” to do it justice. So perhaps it’s a testament to the awfulness of Erin’s life growing up that at 22 she can dig deep and come up with the passion and emotion that the Brahms needs. Whatever. We’ll take it. It was a great concert.

So now we’re back in the Kootenays. Erin is going to try her hand at finding work in Nelson. Fiona is in the thick of dress rehearsals for the Dance Showcase performances. Sophie is finishing school, as well as travelling and performing with Corazón and fitting in a trip to UBC. Noah is staying put on the coast, doing a summer semester. It’s crazy summer-like outside, and time to get busy organizing the Suzuki Institute.


Hurting @ mile 25

The stars aligned, and I had a really good race. In my last post I said “I would be happy, now four years older and well on the far side of 50, if I could better my 4:24 time from 2012. I think that’s definitely possible, and if all goes well I could cut quite a bit off.” I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t knocked ten minutes off. So 4:14 was my primary goal.

My secret goal was sub-4:00, partly because it’s a round number just begging to be cracked, but partly because for my gender and age-group, it’s the Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard (BQ). When I slotted myself into the Hansons Marathon Method, I picked the training paces that targeted a 4:00 marathon. I completed all the training according to plan, so if the Hanson brothers were right, I knew I had what I needed to beat four hours. If things went well on the day.

And they did. I’d been sick with a sinus cold for almost a week beforehand but I woke up Sunday feeling better. The weather was forecast hot but the breeze off the ocean kept the heat from being too much. I hydrated adequately but not too much; I didn’t have to use the porta-potties along the way. I wore the right clothes. My new shoes didn’t give me blisters. The double-salted licorice Fiona had given me for my birthday replaced the salt that began caking my cheekbones and shoulders as I sweated.

Screenshot 2016-05-03 19.59.43
So I ended up with a net time of 3:51:13, cutting 33 minutes off my previous time, and qualifying handily for Boston. When people started asking me if I would be going to Boston, I said no, having never even considered it. I had really just wanted the accomplishment of knowing I had reached that standard.

img_796608_1001_0024But then I remembered that Erin had qualified for Boston on violin and would therefore be living there, potentially saving me a $400/night hotel room. And Fiona and I had already been talking about how we really wanted to go and visit her in order to see the city. So … maybe…

Ready to Taper

T minus ten days to the marathon. Because the training schedule I’m using has a short taper, and I further offset it by two days to fit my weekly schedule, I still technically have one more tempo run to do. But I’m going to scale back the intensity on it. Basically the hard work is done, and I mostly did the program as prescribed.

I re-installed Rubitrack on my MacBook to get some pretty graphs. The bars below show my weekly mileage (I’m only half done this week, so the right-hand bar will be bigger by Sunday). You can see my calf-strain break in the second week of March. The biggest week was 94 km, with most of my recent weeks ending up somewhere around 75 km. That’s not a huge amount of mileage for a marathon, partly because this plan included only four runs longer than 20 km. But what you can see very clearly from the colours is how much of my running is being done at higher intensities: yellow, orange, tomato and red. Those colours are all faster than my target race pace. The greens and blues are slower than my target race pace. Once you factor in that my warm-ups and cool-downs all lie in the blue/green range, it’s clear that there isn’t that much easy mileage in the meat of this training program.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 19.24.16

That’s the flip-side of not doing a ton of long runs: mid-length runs are often higher intensity runs, and they aren’t flanked by rest days. Here’s a typical three-day stretch: a 12k set of strength intervals, followed by a slower (bluer) 9k, and then right onto a 16k tempo run the next day.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 19.32.03

The logic here is that while I’m not doing long runs very often, the mid-length higher-intensity runs stack right up against each other without recovery time. This means that from a training standpoint my 16k on the third day works very much like a the second half of a long run. The principle is that cumulative fatigue thing that I mentioned before. It means you go out running, and hard, when your legs are still grumbling about what you did to them yesterday and the day before.

Reinstalling Rubitrack has let me look back on my training from 2012, when I ran the same marathon. It was a more conventional approach: it had weekly high-mileage runs, most over 26k, and only occasional faster workouts. So you see very little orange in these bars. And look at how long the taper was! It was only supposed to be two weeks, but I got bored and tired of the training and I gave up 3 weeks before race day.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 19.52.22

Who knows whether this will translate to results on race day. Anything could happen: I could get sick, or I could under- or over-hydrate, or have digestive issues, or the weather could be way too hot, or I could cramp up or get nasty blisters. But I would be happy, now four years older and well on the far side of 50, if I could better my 4:24 time from 2012. I think that’s definitely possible, and if all goes well I could cut quite a bit off. But I’m in it for the experience more than anything.


Over the past few years the focus of my blog (well, it’s arguable whether it has any focus at all) has moved away from the specifics of what my children are up to. That’s been the natural result of them growing up and becoming their own people, and my feeling that I want to honour their independence and autonomy by not broadcasting details of their daily lives.

But this week I feel like I need to post an update, if only for the extended family. My kids … they’re just doing so well! So many awesome things are happening!

Screenshot 2016-04-15 16.17.04 Fiona played beautifully at the music festival. She’s shown such incredible growth this year on the violin. She loves what her new teacher has helped her learn. She’s practicing much more regularly and her musicianship is really beginning to blossom. She will be performing ‘Aus der Heimat’ by Smetana tomorrow on the big stage at the Highlights Concert and has been selected for the Provincial Festival.

She also rocked her way through her first couple of Grade 10 academic courses. She finished Math 10 (Foundations and PreCalculus) half a year early with a nice solid A grade. She’s poised to finish Science 10 soon with similar grades and has another couple of online courses that she aims to complete before June. So she’ll enter a split Grade 10/11 program in the fall. We’re waiting on acceptance of her transfer into the big-ish high school in Nelson and course selection, hopefully within the next few days. She has grown into a young person with so much confidence and maturity that I think she’ll easily fit in with classes containing students 2-3 years older; I’ll be surprised if any of them will suspect she’s only 13.

U8Coyl9PSophie has already got her graduation diploma but is knocking off a extra few courses and exams to round out her high school career. She got accepted into her Engineering program of choice, complete with a glowing hand-written letter of welcome. I’m not sure if they do that with all offers, but this letter was very specific in referring to her unique background and exceptional personal strengths, and she was, after all, invited to the “future leaders in engineering” reception with the Dean and Other People Who Matter when she attended the open house there last November. So she’ll be in Vancouver in the fall, will have plenty of friends (and a sibling) nearby and is already connecting with people in the program. And the icing on the cake is that she has already had a couple of years of experience with many of the less tangible challenges of transitioning to university life. Having lived in Nelson largely unsupervised during the past two years, she already knows how to manage her own travel, cooking, social life, study schedule, shopping, relationship boundaries, self-advocacy with teachers, paperwork and so on without support or structure from her parents.

footer-siat-1 Noah is in his 2nd year at Simon Fraser University and has won his way through the tough slog of the monster second-year Design course and the nasty computer-oriented math course. He is now enjoying digging deeper into the more specialized computer-oriented learning and electronic design. This semester he designed an electronic glove that could be used to translate American Sign Language into written or spoken language and earned 100% on the project. He is looking at co-op education opportunities, has a healthy social life and an ongoing obsessive love for his chosen field, so he’s in a really good place I think.

75989_300Erin spent the latter half of February on an audition tour for grad school programs. She then returned to Montreal to finish out her last semester and wait for offers. She was accepted at a few great schools. It came right down to the wire for her with rumours on Decision Day of a possible last-minute offer from Yale. New England Conservatory was her first choice and she had received a nice big scholarship offer as well as an assured spot with a teacher she liked, but Yale, where she was wait-listed, was a close second and would be much more affordable. But the deadline loomed and in the end NEC won out. So, hey… Boston! Not too shabby!


IMG_2925 (1)Both Fiona and Sophie are doing aerial silks at the new circus arts school in Nelson. They’re in different classes and I haven’t had a chance to see Sophie in action yet. She’s been at it for just over three months; the instructor moved her up from beginner to Level 1 after the first session and she’s really enjoying it.

Fiona did an introductory combined class in acro-yoga and aerial silks for homeschoolers first. Because of the size and maturity range of the class, she was more interested in and challenged by the silks. So she has re-enrolled specifically in that. And her teacher sent this photo! So cool!

Fitting the miles in (Week 15/18)

IMG_2950This week is proving very difficult to fit my training in. I’ve had to give up cross-training on the bike because I’m out of town. But a combination of meetings, symphony rehearsals, performances, driving across the province and the impending onslaught of Music Festival is making it impossible to fit in everything I had scheduled.

IMG_2951Maybe it’s not a big deal. I’m breaking in some new [road] shoes, and I’ve got a niggle in my knee that I don’t want to annoy. If after I get through this week I can get in a solid 10 days of training before I start tapering for the marathon, I’ll be fine.

Yesterday and today I ran the asphalt rail trail in Cranbrook. I’m a trail runner at heart, but heading into a road race. This paved trail is a great compromise: flat, scenic, and still suitable for my shoes and good preparation for the race.

I’ve managed to fit 67km into this week which isn’t bad: it’s within 10k of what I had planned. I have no idea how I’ll fit next week’s Long Run in, but we’ll see what happens. And I am still setting PRs on my tempo runs. This week:

Screenshot 2016-04-09 18.11.15 Screenshot 2016-04-09 18.09.33Clearly I’m running too fast for these training runs. I need more practice running at 5:30-5:35/km effort, which is what I’ll be shooting for on race day. But it’s hard to do that, since all the terrain I run is so rolling.

My trail runners from last winter have almost 1000k on them, and have a far more aggressive tread than I need for a road run. The new shoes are by a company called On. I had never heard of them, the but the model I got, the Cloud, is an ultra-light road shoe with a “transitional” (i.e. somewhat minimalist but not quite) amount of cushioning, which is what I was looking for for this longer race. They’re white: I look like I just arrived from a tennis match. Not what I would have chosen if I’d had any choice, but hey, they’ll be dirty soon enough.


Screenshot 2016-03-19 17.05.34 Ah, I was right. I’m getting faster! My weekend run was a 14.5k tempo run. It was sunny and I was feeling good, running at a moderate exertion level. About 5k into it I checked my Garmin and noticed that my average pace was putting me on track for a 10k Personal Record. So I kept the heat on enough to do that. What I didn’t realize was that I’d already broken my 5k record, and had enough juice to also PR at 15k and 10 mile distances. Yay me!

Marathon Training Week 12

Oh boy this past couple of weeks has been tough. First I pulled part of the soleus muscle in my right calf. And then within hours I got sick. It’s all good now, but it’s been a heck of a couple of weeks.

When I strained my calf, I babied it for a few days. I ran only short distances at an easy pace on the treadmill and put in the rest of the time on my bike trainer. Dang, the thing did not get any better! So I took three days off completely. Blew my streak of more than two months of daily workouts. Skipped a tempo workout that I normally would have considered crucial. Missed my weekly mileage goal by a lot. I iced my calf, rolled it, stretched it, rested it. I was sick too. Coughing through the night. Coughing all day. So tired. I guess it was good that this happened during the week I had to take time off anyway.

And miraculously the strain healed. My simple injuries never seem to behave simply, but this one did. I went back to the treadmill & bike combination and everything felt normal. Hit the pavement again the next day and seemed to be free and clear.

Two thirds of the way to the summit. Just beginning to snow.
Two thirds of the way to the summit. Just beginning to snow.

While still coughing all night I managed to pull off a 26k long run. Twenty-six kilometres is as long as the Long Runs get in the Hansons program, and there are just three of them, so I didn’t want to shortchange this one. I put on my winter tights and a light jacket and went up the pass, which made for almost 700 metres of climbing. Met winter up there. Hello, blizzard. Wished I’d brought gloves.

Came home, feeling like I still had gas in the tank, putting in a couple of 5:20-pace kilometres on the flat section at the bottom, so it felt like a pretty successful run. Part of that might be that I took water and food with me. I’ve been pretty lazy about this; when the weather is cool I don’t really need to hydrate for runs of under 10-12k. But now a lot of my workouts are 16k+ and I really should be carrying water and SportBeans or something. I ate and drank a bit along my 26k run, and it made a big difference in how I felt during the last 5-10k.

I woke up with an inflamed Achilles tendon the morning after the long run to the summit. Crap. Having just taken a week to heal the soleus muscle I was darned if I was going to take a week to rest the gastroc/Achilles. But I think it must have just been the punishing downhill from the summit the day before … it got better as I continued to do normal daily runs.

Today was strength workout #2. Having got 6 uninterrupted hours of sleep last night I felt almost human, and my legs are entirely back to normal. I had a great run. It was supposed to be 2.4km at 5:30/km pace, with an 800 metre recovery jog, repeated four times. I did the 2.4 km at 5:02/km, nice and consistently. Felt strong. Sun was out.

Something I realized. My best recorded 5k pace is 5:05, but today I ran a Grade-Adjusted Pace of about 4:50 for two 2.4km segments, (and around 4:57 for the other two) and I felt like I didn’t need the 800 metre recovery interval. So I’m pretty sure I could set a new 5k Personal Best if I wanted, likely breaking the 25-minute barrier. I’m definitely wired for endurance more than speed, so a sub-25-minute 5k isn’t that impressive in comparison with most other runners, but it would represent a significant milestone for me. I might try for that in a couple of weeks if I’m still feeling good.

Marathon Training: Week 10

This week:

First truly long run (23k) done.
Fifth and final set of speed intervals done.
These were big mental hurdles for me, especially the speed intervals.

The speed interval training I’m doing reminds me of the Couch-to-5k program I used six years ago to get started running. Back then it was “jog a short time, then walk a short time” which progressed gradually to “jog a longer time, then walk a short time.” In other words, the easy slow intervals became gradually less frequent over the course of training. In the case of the C25k program, they eventually disappeared altogether, so that you were able to run the entire 5k.

This time around the slow intervals are a jog, and the fast intervals are run at a pace just barely below the anaerobic threshold. For me right now that’s about 4:55 per kilometre (7:55 per mile, 12.2 km/h). The total distance run at this faster speed is about 5 km every week, but the first time that was split up into 12 separate short sections. Week by week the fast chunks got larger. Because I love graphs, here’s what the progression looked like:







Because the fast intervals are done so close to threshold, one isn’t aiming to get rid of the recovery intervals entirely. That would be a good approach if training for a 5k race, but for marathon training the idea here is simply to nudge that threshold upwards a tiny bit while improving the form and efficiency of the running muscles.

If you had told me after Speed Week 1 that I’d soon be able to run 1.2 km (rather than a measly 400 metres) at that fast pace I would have been very skeptical. As I recall I tried to explain that to myself and I was, in fact, deeply skeptical. I am impressed that the training seems to be working: I was able to complete Speed Week 5, and it actually felt easier than Week 1.

The next phase involves weekly strength workouts, which are longer and still faster than marathon pace, but only by a bit. These should be easier for me.

Getting ready for school

2016-02-23 15.37.50We’ve started the paperwork, the “Request for Transfer” into the bricks-and-mortar high school that Fiona wants to attend next year. Actually, she has started the paperwork; for whatever reason this kid loves filling out forms and isn’t afraid of a pen, so she has done it herself.

Really, though, this whole year has really been about getting ready to start school. We’re making an effort to formally document where she’s at so that no one can argue with requests for appropriate academic placement next year. Three years ago we laid the groundwork by accepting the offer of a double-grade-skip. This means that she is considered by the school system to be “in Grade 9” rather than Grade 7. We have kept her enrolled in Distributed Learning to preserve that placement, to ensure that she has an ongoing school record that confirms her accelerated grade level and that there’s no room for quibbling. We want her to be able to enter Grade 10 next year in a school that doesn’t know her from Adam without leaving any room for argument.

She has areas where she needs additional acceleration. For example, she completed the Grade 9 math school curriculum two years ago. She hadn’t done any official math curriculum work since then, but we knew that Grade 10 math next fall would be entirely review and lacking in challenge. So she decided to document her mastery of Grade 10 math this year by taking it as a self-paced course, writing tests and exams and getting the high school credit entered on her transcript. She did the same with Grade 10 Science. Now the only place the school can put her in those subjects is into Grade 11 courses.

And then finally we made a couple of strategic moves in the name of efficiency. She’s taking a couple of the required-but-(in-her-case)-annoying Grade 10 courses online this year. These are the Physical Education and Career & Personal Planning courses. For some students these might be really worth doing at school, but we couldn’t see the case for that with Fiona. For example, she is a kid who really dislikes team sports, yet takes part in a fantastic array of physical activities well in excess of what is expected for a PE10 credit. She has a terrific appreciation of principles of training, healthy living and so on. Rather than subjecting her to a single semester of co-ed team sports she dislikes which would likely reduce the time and energy she had for the sports she loves (this year dance, gymnastics, indoor climbing, aerial silks), we chose to leverage the things she loves. So she’s using the things she enjoys doing, and some additional project work, to get those credits out of the way.

All of this means that she should be able to enter a combination of meaningful and appropriately challenging Grade 10 & 11 courses next year without (we hope!) any questions or arguments from the school. We are hoping that they will allow her a spare block or two so that she has the time and energy to keep up her music and dance interests while adjusting to the very different lifestyle that school will demand she keep. Like Sophie was at this stage, Fiona is theoretically far enough ahead that she could compress her Grade 10/11/12 years into two. But also like Sophie she decided that would compromise the benefits of attending this larger fuller-featured school: being able to explore learning more broadly and deeply through electives and advanced / honours options. Graduating at 16 will be plenty soon enough!

Marathon Training: Week 8

Shoes on the drying rack, perpetually
Shoes on the drying rack, almost perpetually

Eight weeks down, ten to go. Nearing the half-way point my training. That would feel like a big accomplishment, except that training is always back-heavy. The second half contains most of the hard work. Deep breath.

The weather has been crazy warm and spring-like for February. The lower-level trails are already clear of snow, which is amazing. Normally this doesn’t happen until mid-March. There’s been a fair bit of rain. My shoes are almost always sopping wet when I get home. Up on the drying rack they go.

When I ran my marathon in 2012 I remember how momentous the Sunday long runs felt. They increased relentlessly by 2k per week from 10k all the way up to 32k. The final phase, when every Sunday meant a run of more than 20k, wore me down. By the last month I started cheating. I was burnt out. I completely skipped one long run and starting cutting corners all over the place. My taper started 4 weeks out, instead of 10 days. Gah. I was just so ready to be done.

So it was interesting today to look back at where my mileage was at this stage when I ran my first marathon. In 2012 I had run 481 kilometres by February 24. Really? That seems nuts. This time around I’ll have done a measly 360 kilometres. I wouldn’t have guessed it was so much less. It feels to me like I am running lots. Like really lots. I haven’t taken a day off in more than 6 weeks. Most of my runs take about an hour now and that “cumulative fatigue” thing is real; I feel it in my leaden legs the day after an SOS workout. I wonder if I’ll feel as burnt out by the beginning of April as I did in 2012.

I hope that because the long runs aren’t as long this program won’t leave me feeling as burnt out. My longest runs this spring will peak at 26k; there will be just three of them, and they’ll be spaced two weeks apart. I think I can do this.

I’m surviving the speed workouts. They’re still the hardest, but there are only two more to do. They’re progressive, so on paper they’re getting more challenging, but they’re not feeling any tougher, so I must be improving. With these I notice what a huge difference tension makes. Efficiency of form is so important when running fast. After the speed workouts are done I switch to intermediate-paced longer-interval strength runs. For me I think these will be easier.

Avalanche run

As soon as I left home I could hear them: shells exploding, dropped by a helicopter as part of avalanche control efforts along the highway. So I wasn’t surprised to see a line of cars waiting to be given the all-clear to head up the pass. I had to turn back and do a couple of back-and-forth kilometres, killing time until the road opened.IMG_2886

Fortunately it didn’t take too long before we got waved through. It was a lovely sunny day, so I didn’t mind the delay anyway.

IMG_2888There was a little avalanche that had come down the chute at Nature Boy. I actually smelled it before I saw it … the scent of mud and fresh spruce and pine. This is where we had a big avalanche about seven years ago that closed the road for several days. Today’s was just a tiny thing that didn’t even reach the road.