Duppy Run in Leiden

It was a cold, dark morning sometime in my track running days.  I was a teacher and had to get to work by 7:30 am.  I usually ran during the afterschool hours but for some reason I decided to run before work on that day.  I probably had  big track meet coming up and had something do that evening.  Anyway, I put on my cotton running bra (Jogbra), a cotton-poly turtle neck that I got cheap from Models, thick cotton champion sweatshirt, royal blue running tights and cotton tube socks on my fists in the place of gloves.  This was before the “cotton kills” mantra and I don’t recall anyone I know dying from cotton.

I left the house before sunrise, and ran.  After about 3 or so miles, I returned home to find my mother at the top of the stairs, “where were you?”

“I was running.”

“At this ungodly hour of the morning?”

She proceeded to tell me that my grand Aunt Nell came to her in a dream and told her something to the effect of, “tell Jennifer that I will meet her at the bus stop.” She admonished me, “Aunt Nell came to warn me about you being outside!” And, as Jamaican mothers do, at about 6 am on that winter morning, she gave me a verbal beating for running with the duppies and summoning Aunt Nell’s spirit.

“Aunt Nell was with you that night.” To this day she still recounts this story when she cautions me when I travel, “Be careful.  I know you like to take risks.  I remember when…dark…running…Aunt Nell…”

Many years later I am in Leiden and decided to go for a morning run.  I was visiting for an academic workshop and I wanted to get a few miles (or minutes) in before breakfast and the start of the day.  At this time of year the sun rises at around 8:45.  It was around 6:30 when I headed out for my run.  It was dark.

The neat thing about the Netherlands is that it is a very bike-friendly place.  There are all of these “highways” paved specially for bicycles, many of them running alongside major streets and automobile highways.  They are paved in this reddish “asphalt,” that reminded me of running tracks, except they are not spongey.  Runners seem to use these “bikeways” too as a way of avoiding running in traffic.  In the dark I followed one of these bikeways towards Valkenburgse Meer. In my running in the daylight mind I thought running around a lake would be divine, but in the reality of darkness I could not see the lake and therefore abandoned that option and stayed on the bikeway.

Being the New Yorker that I am and always having my mother’s warnings echoing in my head, I was running with caution.  Every canal, bush and shadowy figure in the fog became a trigger for my fight or flight response.  I felt like the Kung-Fu fighting brothers back-in-the-day; the ones who always wore martial arts gees everywhere who were always ready to block a punch or do some flying kick punctuated by a karate kata.  I encountered a few other runners and bicycles, including scooters and electric bikes, all rather comfortable in the dark; relaxed as if it were a sun-up morning stroll.

As it was dark, I did not get to fully appreciate the canals, fields, hothouses and residential streets that I passed.  I just knew that my run went slightly below sea level at times and that the Dutch are geniuses at keeping the water under control, hence the windmills and carefully constructed canals.

IMG_4208Running below sea level

I went out for about a mile and a half and then turned around to return to the hotel; a nice out and back in the dark.  My colleagues (from the Netherlands) were not as incredulous as my mother would have been about my running in the dark.  “It is completely safe here,” they mentioned.  “There are no jails.”

I went out for dark running a couple more times during my week stay.  I did not go as long or as fast as usual since I was fighting a cold.  It was an adventure trying to figure out what kind of cough medicine to get.  I got the one that read “Alles Hoest” or all cough.  It seemed to work but tasted horrible, like the salted licorice that people in this part of the world love.

Obligatory windmill pictures:

IMG_4245IMG_4251The canals that I missed in the dark:

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Duck Rave

I thought this blog would be about surviving winter runs until this winter when my Brooklyn running club (PPTC) has numerous threads about cold-weather running.  It is colder in Brooklyn than it is now in Calgary. On this morning’s run I didn’t even wear my fave Target’s fleece top; I wore a long sleeve under a short sleeve (both race shirts) under my jacket.  Fleece hat, gloves, tights, wool socks and snowtrax on my sneakers (yup, I am from Brooklyn were we say sneakers).

Breaking from usual patterns, I brought my cell phone so that I could share pictures of the river, which makes for a beautiful winter morning run.

IMG_4153The river was frozen over a couple of days ago, but it seems like the swift part has melted (or eroded) through.

IMG_4155View of the downtown area with the Bow River, which apparently is world renowned for fishing.

IMG_4158Ice on the river

IMG_4160Patterns in the ice on the river

I continued on my run until I reached Eau Claire and took in the remnants of a holiday that went by too fast…

IMG_4161IMG_4163IMG_4162He has been there since summer (or at least since I’ve been in Calgary).

I crossed the bridge and saw a bunch of waterfowl (Anseriformes) awakening from their slumber.  IMG_4166See the frost on their backs

IMG_4167See the spots where they spent the night; two are obviously not morning geese.

IMG_4170Awakening

IMG_4175Breakfast buffet (I am amazed at how wild animals find food in the dead of winter). As I was admiring the birds and hearing their calls, I kept thinking that it sounded like a lot more than what I was seeing.  I kept along the path and was getting chilled so headed towards the bridge towards home.  However a little trail to right caught my attention:

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I turned the corner and lo and behold, this was the party that I was missing.  This is where the nightly duck rave happens and I am now seeing the ones who are leaving (or attempting to leave) The Club.  This is when the DJ plays odd tunes and the overhead lights come on and you are compelled to leave the safety of the dance floor to enter the harsh reality of work/home/school/whatever.  This. Is. The. Duck. Club.  (tune deep house music).

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IMG_4181IMG_4180This is the best of urban wildlife; a microcosm of our lives–we gather, share experiences, go on our individual adventures (sometimes with others) only to reconvene again.  This was the meeting place.  This was the Prospect Park lake for Calgary waterfowl on an off-the-chain scale.

The frost was settling on my back and in order to avoid becoming like one of the frosty ducks, I finished up my three mile loop and headed home.

 

Bald Eagle Run

The moment when your 2018 Calgary run is warmer than your 2018 Brooklyn run two days earlier.

January 1st (Brooklyn); January 3rd (Calgary)

I am back in Calgary after spending my holiday season in Brooklyn.  Landing in YYC is a very different visual aesthetic.  It is very flat, and at this time of year, very white.

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I was sitting on the side of the plane with an eastern view so all I saw was an expanse of flat lands.  Orderly, unlike the chaos and geographic textures one experiences when landing in large urban space.  Even the geology, was not until the plane did the southern approach did I finally see the Rockies. These are the prairies, baby!

Those are the Rockies at the horizon

So, after resettling into my Calgary apartment and a decent nights sleep (I am dealing with upper respiratory stuff so I had a dream of buying tissues in bulk from a big box store) I got up and went for my morning run.

Although the temperature read 24F, it felt warm upon leaving the apartment; relative heatwave in comparison to the frigid Northeast.  I donned my snowtrax because of ice and snow (I was lucky to miss the minus double digits and snow during the romjul week).  I decided to go slow because of the snow and because of my cold, easy 3 mile loop.

The sky was clear above, the river full of ice, it was a peaceful winter morning run.  I ran down to the 14th street bridge, went over and continued on the south side of the river.  After I passed the 10th street bridge I noticed a raptor in the sky.  Outstretched wings, owning the space like only a raptor can.  As it soared closer overhead, I gasped, it was a BALD EAGLE!!!! I have never seen one in the wild before and this one did not disappoint.  A beautiful bird, clean white head that matched the snow, striking yellow beak, even the piercing eyes could be seen from my place on the ground below.  I stopped and unconsciously positioned my hands in gratitude for this gift of nature on my first 2018 run in Calgary.

PJ Run

It’s been a few days since I have been back in YYC before I update on my latest river runs I wanted to share my last PPTC run in Brooklyn.

IMG_3754House sparrow in Prospect Park, morning of PJ Run 

The winter chill and the holidays makes one feel all Gemütlichkeit—the need to get cozy with soft, fluffy things (kittens included) and warm drinks. Migrating birds are almost all gone, and the local house sparrows have the bushes almost all to themselves. However, only a bunch of narly runners would think this is the time to go running through the streets of Brooklyn in pajamas. But not before first passing the dog run, none of whom were wearing PJs.

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The PPTC pajama run is a social run, a group run that is not so much focused on pace or distance but more on fun and conversation. The group met at Grand Army Plaza, the usual starting point of group runs.  We were all in some level of pajamas attire ranging from just PJ bottoms (with a running top, of course as this wasn’t the naked run) to an adult onesie. I wore some flannel bottoms that I picked up from Phat Albert’s for $1.99. The same ones that they have been trying to sell off since the summer.

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IMG_3730Pajama squad gathered, Lisa one of our fearlessly flanneled leaders 

 With an almost 6 mile route planned out by the event organizers, we headed off down 9th street, across Court St., down Union St. over to Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was an easy glide down the terminal moraine towards the waterfront.

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The faster runners kept pace ahead while the sexier runners held up the end. I ran with two teammates, one in wearing a super hero pajama set with cape, and the other in multiple flannels and a goofy hat. I was fun getting curious glances and trivial stares from other runners and pedestrians, “Here comes more people running in pajamas!” To which Murray responded, “the only way to run!”

IMG_3740My 11:00 pace squad 🙂 (Murray in the orange hat and Superman aka Eric)

We continued at an easy pace along the waterfront and through the Brooklyn Bridge park.  Along the way we encountered several teammates who were doing their not-a-pajama-run run.  We turned towards downtown Brooklyn and stopped to walk up the small hill.  Since this was a fun run, no need to burn rubber.  After passing the post office, we spotted Adams St.  A street that although associated with my name, I never had any strong attachments do.  However, Murray being as astute as he is, “you must have a photo by your name!” So here it is.  My street, my borough, my photo.

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We made it to City Point Brooklyn, a “new” Brooklyn establishment with a hipster food court on the lower level.  It is on the former Albee Mall site where I used to hang out in high school at the Wendy’s in the basement. Not feeling coffee I went into Trader Joes and got some water and a smoothie.

I was amongst the tail-end runners and once the whole group arrived we occupied two tables.  I did not stay long as I was leaving for YYC the next morning and had some last minute shopping to do.  You know, anything at Targets.  It was an awesome run, with an awesome group of people and I will look forward to more back-to-BKYN runs soon enough!

 

 

 

 

Zoo Run

One of the motivating things about a Garmin watch is the documentation of my runs. I love scrolling through and seeing the list of my common running route punctuated by different cities I’ve visited since I got the watch.

I was in Washington D.C. for a professional conference and heard rumours about running in the zoo. While I love animals, I am conflicted about zoos. I know that they play a critical role in conservation however seeing the animals pacing back and forth and looking so–bored, makes me feel bad about their captivity and display. But I still visit zoos when I get the chance, especially ones that I know are working  towards conservation and animal wellness.

Apparently running in the National Zoo is very popular. So much so that they had to reduce the visiting hours of the zoo in order to curtail collisions between runners and zoo carts during the dark, early morning hours. Instead of 6am, the zoo now opens at 8, which is a little late for those who need to get to work by 9. But not for people who are at conferences and too brain-fatigued to go to an early morning session.

So, I got my stuff together and left the hotel a little before 8 in order to reach the zoo close to the opening.  The zoo was about .5 mile uphill from the hotel.  I jogged there dodging morning commuters and an ample amount of autumn leaves on the ground.  I reached the entrance and was ready to explore the “wild” trails of the zoos.  However, I did not find said trail so just followed the main path through the center of the zoo and meandered off several paths that led me to different animal exhibits.

Along the main path I spied  a couple of American bison doing early morning bison stuff.

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I continued along the path to my first meander that led me to the giant pandas.  I encountered a couple of early morning photographers there along with two of the pandas–one walking around and the other chomping down on some bamboo.  It was a damp, chilly morning which seemed like good panda weather since they are from mountains with dense forests.  I watched them for a little bit before I continued on.

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IMG_3634IMG_3633Panda walking

IMG_3637Panda eating 

I found my way back to the main path. It continued down hill (which means that I have to go uphill on the way back…). It was interesting to see a lot of pre-zoo crowd activity–lots of small carts going back and forth, some with large, green branches of stuff that look like it was somebody’s breakfast.  There was also a lot of leaf blowing, sweeping, sidewalk repairing and washing of stuff.  With the amount of “traffic” I could understand how there would be collisions with runners, especially in the morning darkness coupled by those who might be lost in headphone music or podcasts.

I saw signs pointing to the American Trail, so I headed that way hoping for a little more animal action.  Uphill from the trail I saw a wolf and coyote (in separate enclosures) pacing back and forth.  Again, feeling conflicted because I, not in captivity, could run in any direction for as long and as far as I wanted. If this animal had the desire to do so, her enclosed space would not allow for this extended run. I stood with this thought for a moment before moving on.  I passed by the harbor seals, they were all swimming to and fro underwater except for one who was peaking around, maybe looking for food, maybe not as feeding wasn’t until around 11.

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I continued to the end of the path and then turned around to head back uphill to the beginning. I continued to look at the behind-the-scenes work happening along the main path along with outlines of the holiday lights and imagining what they looked like after dark.

Near the entrance I noticed zebra and cheetah in the enclosure next to the zebra, an odd juxtaposition of predator and prey.  The cheetah paced along the fence with the zebra watching but not looking fearful. They were too far back in the enclosure to get a proper iPhoto. I rounded the corner to see a Red River hog doing a morning forage.

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My run through the zoo was more for the novelty of running through the zoo; not a typical visit that entails extended time viewing animals and reading related copy.  Although a quick jog through, I was happy to see the animals that I encountered and would do it again, hopefully in warmer weather with more animal activity.

Race Volunteer Recap: PPTC Turkey Trot

There are some races that you have just as much fun volunteering for as running.  For me, these races include the NYC Marathon and the PPTC Turkey Trot.

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Post peak foliage

The Turkey Trot offers people the opportunity to burn of their Thanksgiving meal before eating it.  Five miles through post-peak fall foliage in Prospect Park, this annual race draws close to 2500 runners from all over the city, including a number of their out-of-town visitors.  As a member of the PPTC, this is the time to reconnect with old members and meet new ones.  It is the club’s largest race of the year so it is an all-hands-on-deck kind of event for many club members.  In addition, it is a nice way to celebrate another good year of running–people are coming of the high of marathon training, running and/or spectating and making mental goals for the new running year.  Also, you receive the cool runner’s hat/toque (Canadian for hat) for your community service.

Back (the cat who is the Prince of All Things wanted his feet in the photo)/Front of the coveted race hat.

This year I signed up for medals.  It was a 6 am call so after a night of clubbing and minimal sleep (even though that kind of schedule is supposed to be way behind me) I rolled into Prospect Park Lakeside before sunrise.  There were already a number of volunteers gathered, most donned in the club’s signature colo(u)rs of red and white.  I joined the line to sign in and encountered a number of familiar faces.

“Hey, this weather (approx. 34 degreed F) must be really warm for you!” Or some similar comment I would hear from my teammates.

I try to seem robust, puff up my chest and respond, “yeah, I’ve been running in weather colder than this” although my Caribbean-blooded a$$ has on four layers on top, jeans, really thick wools bed socks I bought in a New Zealand flea market (love them, the socks and flea markets) and heavy gloves.  It did feel warm when I left my Brooklyn apartment (one block away from Prospect Park), but I knew I would be standing around outside for quite a while and moving temperature/still temperature feel vastly different.

As the volunteers were gathering, I reflected that there more volunteers here than there are runners in an average Calgary race.  But then there are twice as many people in just the borough of Brooklyn (approx. 1.3 million vs. 2.7 million) alone. It is a numbers game.

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I gathered around the cart with boxes of medals with other volunteers and started to unpack the medals–larger plastic bags sealed with ten medals which were ensconced in their own smaller individual ziplock bags.  So much plastic…ugh!

So we plugged away at unwrapping and sorting medals.  While we were doing this, we discussed a recent posting on the club Facebook page that went something like,”I was wearing my PPTC gear and approached by a man that informed me that he was planning on banditing the race. I told him that he shouldn’t be telling me that to which he responded with some self-entitled crap about it being a free park so he could do what ever he wanted.”  Basically, a bandit is a person who participates in a race, including trying to take advantage of race amenities like water, food and even medals, without paying for the race and getting a number.  We hate bandits. It is a large enough park where one could run 5 miles without “participating” in the race at the same time.

Anyway, once we moved the medals to the finish line we were given strict instructions to mark each person’s number with a Sharpie upon giving them a medal.  We role played runners coming through the finished line in slo-mo so we could commit the process to neurological memory. While this was going on with our crew, other crews were preparing the start and finish line while a roving santa greeted runners.

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Lone santa headed to the start, sun slowly rising

Finish line set-up

Late package pick-up

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Cold and waiting for the start 

With our orders given, we listened for the start of the race and waited for the runners to first loop past the finish line (the bottom 2 mile loop) before completing one full loop (3 miles) of the park to the finish the 5 miles.

It was great to cheer on the runners as they passed, many donned turkey costumes and the becoming ubiquitous running tutus. As the pack started to slow, we anticipated the first runners.  While this is a fun run, the first three women and men receive a gourmet, nope, artisanal, hand-crafted  Sriracha infused pie because this is the new hipster Brooklyn. Joking, they chose from traditional pies (thankfully)–pumpkin, apple, blueberry, etc.  Each pie-winner was given a white cup with their gender place which they then redeemed for their choice of pie.  Of course the choice narrowed with each recipient, with the third woman receiving the last pie of the six.

As the eventual throng came through, we got busy with the medals and sharpies.  Most people were pleasant, some even refusing medals.  We also encouraged them to return to Lakeside for bagels and hot chocolate. And there were the shameless bandits.  Rather than maybe thinking about not running through the finish line (it’s a wide road, with plenty of space on either side) they not only ran through the line, but attempted to claim a medal! We “caught” many of them but there was one in particular who became belligerent all while NOT producing a number. For our sanity and safety we felt that the medal was not worth the confrontation.  He was an assbandit, the worse kind.

As the running crowd thinned, we moved closer to the finish line so that we could give the back-of-the-pack runners their medals just as they crossed the line.  It is always nice to cheer on these runners and makes us middle of the pack and faster runners appreciate the gift of running and fitness.  Watching these runners and walkers, I could tell by the relief and elation upon crossing the finish line that the 5 miles was a significant accomplishment for a number of them.  I applaud them and hope that they have been infected with the running bug and will keep at it!

With the flow trickling to a single runner every 30 seconds or so,  we started to dismantle the finish area, pack up most of the supplies (including extra medals, the metal Turkey part is timeless and will be recycled with a new ribbon for next year) and high-five each other for another Turkey Trot well done!  I went home with a bounty of bagels, some of which I will freeze for later.

To remind me of Calgary, montage of curling apparatus and hockey practice in Brooklyn:

24 hours in Brooklyn

After my morning run, it was time to prepare for my Thanksgiving contributions, but first means shopping.  Headed downtown Brooklyn to the newish Trader Joes, despite the often ridiculously long and winding lines, I love that place.  I always go with a mental note of what to buy and leave with much more.  “I’d like to try this” or “this looks interesting” along with the chocolate peanut butter cups leads to many impulse purchases.  Most get used but some, unfortunately, end up in the freezer cemetery for no other reason than either forgotten or never got around to eating which leads to being forgotten.

After Trader Joes, I went to DSW in a panic over having warm shoes.  I bought some duck shoes of a famous name brand (I try to reserve name brand-dropping for running stuff ;), however if this shoes somehow end up being magical, you will hear about them). Then I went to Flatbush to catch a dolla van and head home to start my cooking marathon (sprint).  Crossing the street (with the sign flashing “don’t walk” as New Yorkers do–in Calgary they actually wait for the walk sign. Even with neither cars nor bikes nor squirrels in sight. Bothers the impatient New Yorker in me to no end–I saw a sign in the sky that connected Brooklyn to Calgary–a reverse Chinook:

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Seriously, look:

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Calgary is on the left in case you are left guessing.

Let the cooking begin however, not before catching a club night with some colleague-besties.

Headed to the city to get some house music all night long (until midnight) I got off at 14th to transfer to the L.  Descending the platform I heard the sweet sound of salsa music echoing from below.  It is a sound that for me has defined my life as a New Yorker. It is a rhythm that says, “These my peeps, yo,” it is a comforting sound of what was and is rapidly disappearing Nueva York.  In NY it seems we all end up being both Puerto Rican and Jewish by default, intersected with your own ethnic identity and/or the identity of the community in which you grew up. Because you are a New Yorker, you know how and where to schlepp in order to get some arepas (and know that it is not pronounced ah-ray-pas).

El Salsero on the platform was one of those old-school tios, the ones you heard on the streets near Calle 116 in Spanish Harlem and still see on the boardwalk at Coney Island. The ones who’s partner always had some arroz con pollo, pasteles y coquito (no matter what time of year) for sale in a cooler.  He had his maracas y guiro painted in the colors of the bandera and I could not help myself but join in the dance. See my man:

Beautiful. Even more so when thinking about the destruction and current hardship that has befallen La Isla de Encanta and the strength of Caribbean people.  However, even strong people have their limits and we need to always remember those who have suffered this hurricane season. Although the headlines have faded, people are still struggling to rebuild.

From this emotional moment, I moved on to the Meatpacking District to meet up with some friends/colleagues to head to Club Cielo for a night of house music.  It must have been old-skool-post-disco-pre-deep-house night because for the first hour or so it felt like we went back in time to the legendary Paradise Garage.  And I am sure some of the dancers were the original patrons.  Check out this brother:

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Scroll through for the full effect, light up shirt and laces and all.  After the hour plus of discoish house, the beat pumped up and it was time to close our eyes and get lost in the music.  After sweating for another hour and half, my colleague/friend and I remembered the Thanksgiving dinner that we had to cook later that day.  We shared a taxi, headed through the tunnel back to our borough.

But before cooking, I had to be in Prospect Park at 6am for my volunteer gig with PPTC.  Next entry!

 

Back in My Yard

I am back in Brooklyn.  Landing into JFK last night and seeing distinct shorelines from air–Jones Beach, Long Beach, where the Rockaways connect to Brooklyn, and Coney Island–always makes me appreciate the proximity to the ocean.

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I also look forward to walking the streets of my city and, for better or worse, riding the MTA and most importantly, running in my park, Prospect Park.

This morning I went for my loop plus.  It was a damp morning as it rained during the pre-dawn hours.  Although the trees are past peak, I was able to catch some glimpses of what they looked like a couple of weeks ago with their fading oranges and yellows and with many fallen brown leaves on the wet ground.  The muted colors were heightened by the grey sky and wet, dark branches of the trees.  It was  nice, easy loop and I think that running consistently at altitude makes sea level feel easier, at least that is what I try to tell myself as I huff up the hill.

I finished up my 5 miles with a couple of strides-two on a slight hill and two on a flat.  I will now head out into the shopping throngs to buy my supplies for my Thanksgiving meal contributions because I run to eat to run some more.

 

Chinook Run

Tonight was the Mocha and Marshmallow night run.  It started at 4:44 pm and ended with hot cocoa in glass mugs at the Sunalta Community Center.

I walked from my home to the package pick-up, about a 30 minute 2.2k walk.  While walking I noticed striking cloud formations in the sky.  “Is this the famous Chinook arc that I have been hearing about?” I thought to myself.  I stopped to take  a couple of photos as the arc across the river was beautiful. I also noted that the arc was favoring the NW, the direction (North Pacific) from whence the winds originate.  Since I’ve been in Calgary, every discussion about winter weather includes, “…and then we have this thing called ‘Chinooks’ that can change the temperature by as much as 20 degrees (Celsius).” I mean every conversation mentions these Chinooks.  So, at this point I think I am experiencing the Chinook.

IMG_3321Panorama shot of the Chinook Arc

I get to  Tri-It, pick up my number and then head to the community center to wait in the warmth for the start of the race.  At about 4:20, one of the organizers said that she was walking to the start and strongly encouraged us to join her, so the center emptied out.  It was a 1K walk to the start but seemed like we were walking the race.  The temperature was 33 degrees F, I planned on wearing just my Targets fleece over a short-sleeved top, hat, gloves and tights, but at the last minute decided to wear my jacket.  Glad I did because when we left the center I immediately felt a chill.

We finally get to the start and were joined by other runners who parked closer to that spot (rather than the community center).  We were given our directions, which included being as visible as possible in the dark (they encouraged people to bring headlamps and gave out those little glow in the dark necklace thingies).  After a countdown that felt like New Years Eve we were off.

I felt pretty light and breezy and surprised myself at how fast I was going.  I thought I would just go with it and when I felt tired I would slow down.  However, I was clipping by! Ran across the 10th street pedestrian bridge, along the N side of the river, over the Prince’s Island pedestrian bridge and then it hit me.  The effing Chinook wind, that apparently had my back headed east now was a full-on headwind going back west.  I tried to push through, but the wind was unexpectedly strong.  I mean really strong. Runners I passed now passed me as I had to stop to catch my breath a couple of times. However, the odd thing about the wind was that it was definitely a warmer wind than the winter temperatures of the past couple of weeks.  Although the wind was straight in my face, my nose and cheeks did not sting and my fingers did not (immediately) become numb with cold.  Nevertheless the wind was brutal.  I finally made it to the finish line and was eager to get back to the community center for my hot chocolate.

Once I was inside, it was then I felt that my hands were a little numb, making grasping the mug a little challenging, until the cocoa warmed them and me up.

Despite the wind, it was a fun night race.  The small field of runners and hot cocoa gave the race a more community feel and I am starting to recognize faces from other running events. I am becoming more integrated in Calgary life.

Loving my hot cocoa

The Club

While this blog is mainly about running in Calgary, I also mentioned that I would include some of my more interesting experiences of adjusting to life in Calgary.  This includes efforts to meet new people (which becomes increasingly harder each year after college–and I have been out of college for many years) and navigating a new place.  This is more of a challenge without a car in a city designed for cars.  There is public transportation, but it is not as connected as I am used to in New York City (I will never again take the MTA for granted, but that doesn’t mean that I will not cuss it).

To these ends, I have been volunteering for interesting events.  Last month I volunteered for the Calgary International Burlesque Festival.  I took a burlesque workshop in the summer–Broad Squad Brown Girls Burlesque–and have been more jazzed about the art ever since. My initial connections to the burlesque community led me to Naked Girls Reading.  I saw that there was an upcoming event that needed volunteers, so I volunteered.  However, before I committed, I should have payed more attention to the map.

I get off the long bus ride in what seems like the middle of an industrial park.  As I walk north, expecting to see normal streets with businesses and homes, I saw more industrial stuff along with airport-looking hotels.  Since the clocks changed during the prior weekend, it was dark (and cold, as Calgary is).  I was hoping that the ancestors did not see me and tell my poor mother back in Brooklyn where I was walking during “that time of night.” As I approached  the address, I did not see anything that looked like it would be a venue for the reading.  In a slight panic, I called the organizer, “I am in a very industrial area, I think I am lost!” “No, you are in the right place…” I heard as the phone went dead.  She then texted me (her phone was broken) with the address and with some additional information.

I rounded the corner and there was the number I sought.  I opened the door to the reception area where I was greeted by an older gentleman, “are you one of the readers tonight?” “No, I am a volunteer.  I am looking for K.” When I entered the club, it was decorated in black and red and I immediately saw a pole.  Being a hobby aerialist, I know a dancing pole when I see one.  “So, this is a strip club,” I thought.  I was greeted by the organizer and she directed me to the upstairs to put down my coat and bag.  There I saw a series of beds, an odd chair and shelves full of towels, sheets and lube.  “So, I guess the dancers also have clients,” I thought again, feeling a kind of way by this point.

I returned downstairs and assumed my position as the concessions person.  Chips, “pop” (soda), candy and bottled water for two bucks a piece.  The crowd started to gather, a creative-looking alternative arts bunch, all there in support of the night’s readers.  The theme was “stories from my childhood” and women read from their childhood diaries, class assignments and other mementos that provided insight into the mind/angst of a preteen/teen/postteen girl/young woman.

Each reader, there were about six, was introduced and disrobed before the crowd and started to read.  Diverse in body shape and size, the fact of nudity was a nonissue when listening to their words.  It was not lost on many of the women in the crowd that most of the angst in their childhood writings was around boys and appearance. Unacknowledged crushes, unwanted attention and assault from boys that leaves a girl wondering both wondering what did she do to deserve it and questioning if she should be happy that she received attention from a boy, concerns about weight, wearing make up or not, size of earrings in relation to being a THOT, all kinds of mixed and damaging messages from boys, men, other girls/women, and especially mothers…

Many of the experiences read resonated with those of my own.  The feelings were heightened by the concurrent #metoo campaign that compelled many women to open up about the ongoing sexual harassment and assault that women experience on a regular basis.  It also reminded me of a friend’s FB posting during this hashtag to the effect of not considering (boys/mens unwanted attention) harassment at the time because the messages were that if a boy bothers you that means that he likes you and that you should be happy to get any attention from men because it means that you are attractive to them…etc.  Bah.

Anyway, I don’t know what I expected, but did not expect to have revelations and resonances with my own lived experiences as a woman.  The readings ended and the small crowd dispersed.  I schlepped back to the bus stop where I had to climb over a snow bank to reach the waiting area.  Took the bus back to where I started (at the university) in order to connect with the train that would bring me closest to home.

Being in Calgary, a part of my ongoing adventures seems to be the journey as well as the destination.

I later emailed the organizer and mentioned that I would consider reading in the future, if at a more convenient location or once I make friends who would become my “ride and die”.