Punky Wood

Immediately after my last blog a whirlwind of bad luck and illness derailed my training.

Cue ego protecting rant.

I competed in a snowshoe race that put a lot of strain on some muscles I don’t overly rely on for running, then followed that up with a week of doubles. With my immune system slightly compromised from the volume, I contracted the flu in my lungs. I was unable to breathe labor free for almost two weeks. I spent most of this time on the couch or in bed, and I think that made my quads and hip-flexors seize up. I wasn’t moving, and wasn’t able to recover from that hard week properly. All the coughing was taking its toll on my fatigued and compromised muscles. It was not fun.

Once the flu cleared up, I was left with very sore quads, and sharp pains in my hips when I moved in certain ways. I could feel the pulling in the chain of muscles in the front of my body from my quads all the way up to my abdomen. I still couldn’t run.

Looking back, a more cautious athlete would have taken a few easy days after the snowshoe race. Less volume, no quality. I was getting nervous about the lack of volume I was putting in, and felt unprepared for my opening 10,000m coming up in Michigan.


Now with little more than nothing by way of running in the last 5 weeks I’m worse off than I was before I gave in to my insecurities about my own progress. Michigan was obviously cancelled.

Well, I am where I am, and the only way forward is to focus on what I can and am able to do safely right now to get me where I want to be.

When I was younger, say, in elementary school, I wasn’t very helpful on the farm. Kids can only do so much. Most of my tasks involved holding things, watching, or fetching things. One job I could do by myself was piling wood.

I can’t remember how or when my dad showed me how to do it, I imagine I was around watching him do this before I could walk. Regardless, there are things you need to know about piling wood. At face value, its a simple task. Take pieces of wood from a big pile and set them parallel to each other, one on top of another with the bark up so water sheds off the wood. You also need to make sure the foundation of your pile is solid, so it doesn’t topple over, and that the pile is raised off the ground, so the wood doesn’t rot. The purpose of the pile is to dry the wood, and to be able to gauge the amount you have, in order to be ready for the winter.

I could go on, but these are the main pieces of knowledge one needs about piling wood, and I learned them quite young. Even though I knew these things, though, damn did I HATE it.

I hated piling would because I was overwhelmed. The piles seemed so big and endless. And just because I theoretically ‘knew’ how to pile wood didn’t mean I was good at it. I can’t say how many times I would be piling for an hour and finally make a visible ‘dent’ in a mound of un-piled wood to have my constructed pile or piles topple over because I was careless. If the wood was sitting un-piled for a summer and part of the fall, it wasn’t uncommon to run into mice, snakes or bees coming out of the disturbed wood. Always an adventure.

Thinking back to those times when I was frustrated about my dad asking me to pile wood, about how much I hated the task.

Now I enjoy it.

The image of a huge mound of un-piled wood is not overwhelming anymore, its actually a pleasure. I see honest hard work in those piles, therapy, I see a connection to the land, I see gratitude, and I get to look forward to a warm fire on a cold winter day.

What got me to this point isn’t age or maturity, it was practice, exposure, saturation and understanding.

Practice, because of the many times I’ve had to pile or even re-pile wood. Learning from your mistakes when no one is watching is a special moment. Exposure, because I was able to see first hand the steps along the way, from when the tree comes down, to when you have to empty out the ashes from the wood stove. Saturation, because of the thousands upon thousands of pieces of wood I’ve handled over the years. Understanding, because making the connection between the action and the ‘why’ is often when success and all those good feelings come from.

At this point in the piece I wanted to make a profound connection to relevant and current issues, such as Attawapiskat or Indigenous Affairs, rampant consumerism and our distancing from natural environments or my main man Bernie Sanders and his proposed revolution.

Practice, exposure, saturation and understanding.

It works for all kinds of wood piles.