Some of the toughest training I’ve done has been in the country. Thus I find that intense training while on a cottage vacation is to be avoided. I organize my mileage to peak just before such holidays in anticipation of unfavourable conditions such as ornery, ill-trained country dogs, trekking through bear country and narrow sloping shoulders on the highways and byways, elements which help do justice to the term a “country mile”.
I once saw Dick Beardsley speak at the Ottawa Marathon Race Expo. He is famous for his Duel in the Sun with Alberto Salazar at the Boston Marathon in 1982 where they ran together for the full 26.2 miles and finished 2 seconds apart, Salazar the victor. At the Expo Dick Beardsley told us that whenever he had to train in the country he would visit the farms nearby and introduce himself to the neighbourhood dogs. Good advice if you want to experience less tension when running in the country. Though I admit that my fears have a tinge of irony in that the only time I have been bitten by a dog was while running on Queen Street West when a leashed dog leapt up and and set some faint tooth-marks into my thigh.
My weekly mileage tally ending last Sunday was 56. This put me a little ahead of my NYC Marathon training plan, especially since I ran an unplanned-for 17 miles very early on the Saturday before we left for the Haliburton Highlands. I had planned to do 17 miles two weeks later but capped a successful four-week training bloc by doing more than planned. WooHoo!
My easy 6 miler last Sunday was run from a cottage on Boshkung Lake just north of Carnarvon off of Highway 35 in Ontario. Thankfully, after a one-mile busy stretch on the narrow shoulder of the highway, I was able to run on North Shore Road, a meandering road with varied terrain, which curves pleasantly along Beech Lake and is dotted with cottage homes and farms. This is the best cottage running I have ever enjoyed and for the first time, country miles felt shorter than city miles.
While it was an easy week for the legs, my arms were called into action. The first morning, I was invited to be the fourth in a game of tennis. I like tennis but since playing a bit as a girl, have averaged a game a decade. The day was cool, the company congenial and the approach relaxed so I very much enjoyed this uncommon departure from my usual athletic routine.
The tennis game sparked my desire to one day learn to play a bit better and my friend suggested that we might play now and again at Glendon College. After tennis, I had allowed myself the option to skip a run, but thanks to the initiative of my husband got out for a six miler although my legs were none too perky after 90 minutes of running around the court. In addition to tennis we kayaked , played ping pong and then had a nine-hole, par three game of golf; my score, an astonishing 24 over par at 51! My husband did much better and scored his first birdie ever.
Yesterday, was our last day in the country and I ran earlier than the rest of the week. My reward was seeing three deer in two separate sightings. I also spotted from afar a very large black dog prowling in front of a home and decided to do some double loops closer to home. It struck me then that part of the ease of my previous runs was due to having my husband leading the way on his bike. This was the first run I did solo.
So after being buoyed by my earlier runs, I returned home like a dog with its tail between its legs in reporting that I chose the comfort of cars whizzing by on the main road to the perils of country dogs. My overactive imagination created the faint thought that perhaps that large black dog with white around the neck, seen from afar was a wolf. My husband will be distressed to read that I even mention this outrageous imagining. Perhaps I was influenced by thoughts of an outing planned for later that day, a trek to the Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre. To be honest, learning more about wolves made me well . . . more wary of dogs perhaps not the best outing for this easily startled runner. Awoooooooo . . .