Isolation

Inspiration coupled with motivation are the foundation blocks to the long distance game. If you are not inspired you are likely not motivated either.

Of course, there is something to be said for putting your head down and grinding through tough weeks of training, but somewhere down the line you are going to ask yourself, why?

Here in the isolated north there is little to find by way of typical comforts. No shopping malls, or chain restaurants. Sometimes I get a craving, for something fried, or something specific, like sushi. I have to turn those cravings down. Every time. No family, or close friends. My family has gone through some big changes in the past two years, and I have not been there for any of it. Some friends are going through special moments in their lives; kids, marriages, and I am not there to witness these things. My best friend moved away from Montreal recently, so seeing him will be difficult now. I don’t have internet at home, a choice I made based on bad service, the signal in town often drops in the evenings, blackouts happen every night. The winter is much colder than in Montreal, and longer. Temperatures dropped to -40 for about 15 days this year, and hovered around -30 for the rest of the time. The perimeter of town is only 4 km, so loops can be monotonous, and the roads do not get salted or completely cleared so I don’t see pavement until warmer temperatures creep in at the end of March.

The real issue I struggle with during the winter months is the lack of light. Getting out and on a run is daunting when you know its going to be in the dark. The low temperatures aren’t that big of an issue until you have to cool down, which can be down-right dangerous if you are wet from sweat.

Being a Teacher brings in its own challenges, but teaching classrooms full of ‘at risk’ youth on a daily basis is a very unique experience, and is a challenge everyday.

A small community of 700 people doesn’t allow for many meaningful new types of interactions, so socializing can be repetitive, and can become toxic if you are not self-aware of your isolating situation.

So,

why the fuck do I enjoy being here? Why?

I’ve recently discovered something very important about myself. I’ve discovered that I enjoy being alone. Not hermit-in-the-woods-eating-squirrels-alone, but close. I like having the opportunity to focus on what it is that I want out of myself, and out of the choices and decisions that I make day-to-day and year-to-year. Living here in the north grants me the time and space to really think about these things, things like why I choose to run and train, hard. As an extension of that thought, the north grants me the time and space to think about what I really enjoy doing, and what I really want.

Maybe I’m a late bloomer and am just way behind everyone else who already knows what they really enjoy doing. Up until these last two years, I haven’t had time alone like I have had here. I spent a lot of time following the schedules of a lot of different people. There’s nothing overtly wrong with that, I just wasn’t able to focus on myself.

Either way, the processes that I’m going through; what I see and feel as a monumental shift in thinking about my own life, is happening here. It is tied to the geography of where I am. It is the isolation.

The truth is, here, I have no outside support for my running. I do not have a team or fellow competitive runners to bond with. I do not have a coach watching me carefully for fatigue, telling me to go harder because I’m wussing out, or hold back because I don’t need to be a workout hero. I do not have access to a physio or athletic therapist. And goal races are so far off, in time and distance, they aren’t really tangible. All this to say, the motivation to run, the motivation to prepare to compete has begun to come from deep inside me. My inspiration comes from the most irrelevant romantic things, being 14km out on the access road alone hammering a long run and knowing my legs will get me back just fine. Finding absolute joy from the process, from being able to pursue this crazy ideal in this crazy place, loving every step. Running has me engaged in the betterment of myself, and thanks to the isolation, I am acutely aware of it.

Disjointed, maybe, this blog was one of the most difficult for me to write and post, it has been a long time since my last, but also facing and describing my life here can be alarming. I write than ask myself, really, is that really what its like? Yup. Anyways, there you go folks.

Quick shout out to David and Amy for keeping me entertained on some of the darkest days. Heartfelt high-five to my coach John Lofranco, for being flexible, understanding and a good friend.

Don’t be afraid to stop, take stock and go for a walk.