Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for winter sports

Ghosts of Gray Rocks and Britten’s Music

One of the many benefits for an aging runner is to return to locations you love and see them afresh on foot, explore the new path and revisit the old. There are times when revisiting the old escalates to a sad good-bye. So it was with the Gray Rocks Inn.

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Summer view of Gray Rocks Inn on Lac Quimet. credit: businesstravelnews.com

Located in the Laurentian region of Quebec, the inn closed in 2009 and the property deteriorated for several years. In its time, Gray Rocks was a forerunner of the active lifestyle – golf, tennis, swimming in beautiful Lac Quimet, horseback riding on mountain trails, paths that took a hiker away from any sounds but those of the forest, and of course, skiing, the first ski resort in the Laurentians. After a day outdoors, guests enjoyed a formal but leisurely dinner of regional and French cuisine.

A few days ago, the aging buildings of a shuttered inn burned to the ground. Everyone locally had memories of staying or working at Gray Rocks and my memories of several summer visits decades back came flooding in.

Of the many commentaries and memories posted online, I was most captivated by a CBC post. I learned that composer Benjamin Britten had stayed in one of the Gray Rocks cabins, preceding my family’s visit by some 40 or 50 years.

Included in the CBC post is some wonderful historical information on Britten’s Gray Rocks Stay. Reading through Britten’s letters, his description of this beautiful region remains true. Amid the additional traffic, newer resorts, Ironman events, and endless condos, the underlying beauty and atmosphere of this Laurentian hideaway is unchanged.images-1

I found the perfect antidote to sadness over the passing of a time and loss of a gem in listening to Britten’s composition, a Ceremony of Carols, appropriate for this time of year or anytime. Give a listen through the link at the bottom of the CBC article (Video: A Ceremony of Carols). Simply, it is uplifting. When I hear Britten compositions in the future, wherever I may be, my mind will be traveling to the wonderful Laurentians and the Gray Rocks Inn as he would have seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Coping through the Cold

Where I live, we have raised the art of parking lot running to a high art. There was progress through this week.  We are now moving deep snow previously covered in a frozen ice coating compliments of an ice storm preceded by a snowstorm. 1891084_10151970828057945_1734138868_nWhere I live, temperatures finally rose above freezing, sending rivulets of water across the roads and trails only to refreeze, leaving drivers and runners in for unpleasant early morning slippery surprises.

Where I live, long runs have included sidewalks, crusted over roadways and any moderately well-cleared side street that can be found. My reroutes bring me upon some interesting and sometimes quirky sites. IMG_1545The weekend after Valentines Day, I laughed seeing these heart-shaped wrought-iron backed patio chairs, a cut above the usually plastic chairs set out as placeholders in the “I shoveled it out – it’s mine” parking space wars.

Where I live, our brief respite from the frigid temperatures gave residents and municipal services an opportunity to, well, rearrange the snow. As I did a 10-mile MP run, homeowners were out with shovels claiming the pieces of sidewalk and driveway previously sitting under ice sheets several inches thick. I dodged municipal trucks as they cleared out more spaces by moving truckloads of snow to who-knows-where.

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Where I live, a sense of humor about the long tough winter is important.

Where I live, many of my boomer buddies have vacated until Spring, taking the opportunity when airports are open to escape to Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii. I’m sticking it out. The beauty of winter is worth the inconvenience. And this is where I live.IMG_1534

Local, Global – or Both? Holiday Shopping for the Senior Athlete

While writing a follow-up to last year’s walk through the athletic wear closet, I picked up on a NPR Radio series from the program Planet Money.  It shed new light on my process of identifying where my clothing, particularly my athletic wear, is made.

globe, world GlobeIn this series, Planet Money follows the making of a men’s Jockey T-shirt from cotton fields in the U.S. around the world in Asia, with finishing in Columbia, South America.

A quote from one of the interviews went right to the heart of the matter:

“There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.”

The least percentage of cost in the t-shirt followed around the world was the labor. The Restrepo quote gives a bit of bite to my holiday shopping joy.

How this consumer (and gift recipient) fits into the picture is puzzling on two fronts.  First, am I helping or hindering by not purchasing or suggesting items made by workers earning wages that barely provide food and shelter? I struggle with that.  Second,  I’m not a numbers cruncher, but if we must go around the world to make a cheaper t-shirt, or high-end sportswear, how is it that I can buy excellent quality running apparel from companies that manufacture in the USA at a comparable price?

With those questions unanswered but worth considering,  I again provide a brief list of brands that are primarily manufactured domestically and sometimes locally and offer quality products. They are durable and nearly everything on my list is still in my closet and wearing well.  Keep your running apparel away from the fabric softener and a hot dryer and it wears a long time.

I’ve added only a few items to my closet:

Keen Footwear is located in New Hampshire and manufactures a variety of footwear items.  photoThe socks I recently purchased are made of imported merino wool and manufactured in New Hampshire. Affordable, lightweight and warm for winter running. They keep my feet warm in my running shoes and my toes stayed cozy while snowshoeing earlier this month.

Handful Bra, a company that manufactures sports bras for fitness enthusiasts, is moving operations from overseas to the United States with a base in Oregon. Their move was financed in part through crowdsourcing. Their sense of humor is apparent on their home web page.

And, a rerun of my suggestions from last year’s holiday shopping list:

Darn Tough, another sock company I love is located in Vermont.

Nuu-muu makes my list again. I wear my Nuu-muu for running, but more frequently for biking. This year Nuu-muu has expanded the line to include shirts.  They are based in Washington State. They run some very nice specials on their website.  As a senior runner, the percentage off when you turn over a decade becomes increasingly enticing

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I shopped early and took mine into the snow and crisp winter air.

That’s my list for this year. Enjoy your gifts and the gifts of the season on your runs, walks or rides in the great outdoors.

Frugal Friday – Race Fees Paid for Naught

We interrupt the litany of Boston tales to explore the costs of races we don’t run – either because we don’t make it to the start line or the race is cancelled.

"MONEY"

“MONEY” (Photo credit: Englishpointers

English: Symbolized moneyAs with any type of travel, participating in road races sometimes requires transportation and lodging costs in addition to registration fees.   So, for those of us who want the max from our running budget, how do we minimize costs when the race is a no-go?

There are online registration services that provide insurance coverage for fees in some circumstances, such as injuries, but those I’ve seen don’t address cancellation of a race.

So, why don’t we get to the race start line?  We’re already invested and it’s understood that race registration fees are nonrefundable.  In my personal case, the most costly recent races I have missed and may miss, both in travel costs and entry fees cover both the scenario of the cancelled race (NYC Marathon) and potentially this year’s Boston Marathon; the first a race cancellation, the second an injury.  (Note to self:  Downhill skiing was not the wisest choice of cross-training.)

Injuries and unexpected family events are the primary reasons I have been a no show after registering for a race and I hear those reasons most frequently from running friends when they bail on a race and the registration fee and travel expenses go down the drain.

English: Dripping faucet Deutsch: Tropfender W...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And what are the reasons that races actually cancel? In my experience, weather-related cancellations are most frequent and they make sense.  I’ve been registered for races where portions of the course were under water.  Adventure races aside, do you really want to be out there anyway?
The most notable weather-related cancellation,  the 2012 New York City Marathon found runners from around the world either settling in for New York City shopping and shows, or more likely scurrying to find another marathon, preferably along the Eastern seaboard.

Then, there is the March 17 Rome Marathon.  No, not cancelled, but Runner’s World reports the start time may be delayed from 9 a.m.  to late afternoon depending on the date a papal decision is made.  So, registered runners may have a little more time to lounge on the piazza sipping cappuccino before they begin their journey past the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

TREVI FOUNTAIN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, there is the previously scheduled April 10 Gaza Marathon which in fact was cancelled after authorities in Gaza determined women would not be allowed to participate.  The United Nations Relief Agency then promptly canceled the marathon.
While I was looking forward to New York, I’m not enroute to Rome this year and I’m not one of the 370 women who had registered for the 26.2 mile Gaza run.  But, who knows what wiles of the world will occur between the time I commit to my next race entry and the time the start whistle blows.

If someone has the answer for this frugal senior runner, please let me know.  I’m daydreaming of an easy cost/benefit formula that would intuitively tell me when it’s time to hedge my bets with insurance coverage or some other method of cutting my losses.  You may be saying it already exists – it’s called common sense.  True, but common sense is sometimes in short supply when the lure of  intriguing travel and race destinations call.