Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Winter Stuff

It’s warmer this week. In fact, it’s raining right now so most of the snow that landed over the weekend is disintegrating. I’m pretty happy about that. The guys at work are talking about building an outdoor rink for the kids. It’ll have to get quite a bit colder for that to work – likely after Christmas.

As a kid, I spent hours on the ice. I learned to skate and play hockey on an outdoor rink. Every community had one and I was lucky enough to have one in our backyard. Nothing beats shinny on the pond, a bonfire, and hot drinks to share. These pics are from a couple of years ago: A few of you have suggested that shoveling is a good bit of cross-training. I guess, maybe, it is. I’ve never thought of it as such (more of a necessary evil) but it does offer a thorough full body blast. I said to my wife on Sunday, “I feel a little stiff today. Not sure why”. She reminded me that I’d shoveled the driveway.  

RunnerMom questioned how any person could train for a marathon in the snow and cold. It’s not a big deal really. I don’t think any half-sensible Canadian will run in a blinding snowstorm or in the extreme bitter cold (I’ve done both but have yet to declare myself half-sensible). I actually like running in the winter.

What do I wear? Probably the same stuff you do. I hate being too hot and I dread weight of any kind. I may drag my iPod Shuffle but no water, phone, keys, Kleenex – nothing. How do I stay warm? It’s always cold at first but I quickly warm up. Say the outside temp is 25 F – I’ll dress for 45 F. I add 20 F degrees to the current temp so that I don’t overheat. Often, during winter runs, I’ll not bother with a jacket at all. I will don a breathable toque and thin gloves if the air temp is at the freezing point or if there is any kind of NW wind. There is plenty of good cold weather gear on the market. I think I like UA Cold Gear the best. Some runners wear YakTrax. I’ve never tried them but they are a cheap and safe accessory. I tend to throw on a reflective vest too because all of my running is in the dark. No sense getting run over by the snowplow or salt shaker.

I hear it’s Thanksgiving in the USA. Be thankful and happy. Take care of each other.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reasons...not Excuses

No excuses – only good reasons for not getting out on the road this morning. You see, a warm woodstove casts a certain warm and lovely hypnosis. Add a delightful cup of coffee and a footstool and soon all thoughts of running a few snowy kilometres at -10 seem futile. I did, at least, wear my running gear.

We got dumped on over the weekend. About 40 centimetres of snow (about 16”) fell Friday night and into Saturday morning. It was quite a surprise. At home, we had a tough time to dry the kids’ snow pants and mitts fast enough! There is rain and warmer weather in the forecast this week so hopefully we’ll see the bare ground yet again this month. And, maybe I’ll get out running tomorrow morning. Maybe.

And the goofy poll about washing your running gear. Yeah, that was an experiment of sorts but interestingly, there is a tie between the 'once-a-day-washers' group and the 'when I can't stand the smell' camp. Personally, I have to throw in with the 'when I can't stand the smell' people'. Thanks for your consideration.

And, I bought a new strap for the Timex Ironman. That's the third strap to match a third fresh battery. Guess I'll keep it for awhile.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fiddles & Dancing Girls

Caught these guys last night in Halifax. So, completely maritime cool. Have a great weekend. Ashley MacIssac, Marc Boudreau, JP Cormier, Allan Dewar and the dancing girls.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Thanks for your input on the last post - I want a Garmin 405 but might not be able to justify the "investment" right now.  I'll probably get a new strap for the old Timex.  I appreciate all of your comments and email!


Marathon training begins on November 30th.  I plan to run the The Blue Nose Marathon  again in May of '09.  I ran it in 2007.  It was my first and only marathon.   18 months ago, I was hoping for a 3:30 finish until the wheels fell off in the late going.  Certainly, there is no shame in a 3:53 finish, especially for a rookie.  I have no regrets whatsoever.

I learned some things:  

  • Miles are just miles without friends.  Next May, I will be less about business and more about fun.  I know a few more people now that I hope to connect with before, during and after the race.  
  • I cannot will my body to do more than it can do.  Mind over matter does not always matter. There's not much a person can do when a foot cramps up - except walk or stop or both.  Who cares.  Whatever happens...happens.  
  • Smile more.  I appeared way too serious in the '07 race photos.   I believe there is no harm in a goofy grin.  I will high-five more kids.  
So you see, there's a bit of unfinished business.  Despite the fact that I have not run much during the last 5 months every new step feels like new territory - again.   As much as I struggle with form, stride, suffer heavy legs and burning lungs I realize that I've never been this mentally prepared to run the distance.   

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Than Just Time

My old Timex Ironman Chrono is about done.  I’ve changed the battery 3 times.  I’m ready to buy another new strap.  The ‘Indiglo’ feature died a couple of years ago.  It’s just old and tired.   I would love to collect a bit more info about my runs.  I see the value.

So, I’m considering a couple of options.  I thought the Nike+ Sport Band might be fun.  I'm not so interested in the iPod Nano+ thing but could live with the shoe pod.  I've read the odd review of how inaccurate they can be.  The deeper I dig the more I fix on a Garmin Forerunner.  The 405 is so sweet and versatile.  It’s looking pretty sexy here in green – heck, the darn thing even tells time!  For a dude who likes tech it may be too complicated.  I'm not so sure. I would like to hear from you if you use the Nike+ system, Garmin, Polar or whatever.  Post a comment or email robbcusack (at)

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Real Guitar Heroes

Kids are full of surprises aren't they? If you haven't heard, my two oldest boys play a lot of music together. They continue to perform as an acoustic folk duo (fiddle, guitar, whistles, mandolin, drums, etc) but have recently been stretching their wings a bit. Chris is 13. He plays in the high school jazz band. Jon, at age 11, is a fiddle prodigy but he will play any instrument you set before him. I mean...anything. The boys pooled their loot and bought a burly black electric bass. It's a new Ibanez 5 String BTB305FM with Bartolini pickups. Big fat sound. Yup, you guessed right. They both play it well.

In this smudgy little clip, their buddy Jake takes the new bass for a spin. Jake is a decent player - he has his own bass. Jon fills out the rhythm on drums while chewing a halloween sucker. Chris is playing lead. Remember the Scorpions?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My iPod Shuffle was on the fritz this morning so I was forced to listen to my own gasps. It wasn't so bad. I chose to leave the watch home so I have no idea how fast I ran. Honestly, the distance doesn't matter much either right now. I'm learning to run all over again and want to simply love it for what it is. The real journey has yet to begin. For now, the trip and destination are immaterial.

I will start a formal marathon training plan in a week or so. For the moment, I'm having spontaneity for breakfast and washing it all down with a glass of enjoyment.

See that full moon this morning?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lest We Forget

Terry Kelly is a local visually impaired singer-songwriter. "Pittance of Time" is another way for us to honour all Canadian veterans. Thank you. Lest we forget.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Smells Along The Way

Lunenburg County, where I live, is considered the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.  There’s a big sign on the highway to prove it.  Honest.  Apparently, the cool and moist climate here in Nova Scotia is ideal for growing balsam fir trees.  Take a drive anywhere in the region and you’ll run into a Christmas Tree Farm.  Annual exports exceed 3.5 million trees.  That’s a pretty big industry.   

Nova Scotia Balsam Fir trees have become the Christmas tree of choice throughout North America for a few good reasons:  They are lush, fragrant and hold their needles for a long time – even in warmer climates.  Nova Scotia Balsam Fir has become the smell of Christmas.  I smelled it today. 

While out for an easy 5K this morning, I was nearly overcome with the smell of Christmas.  There is a huge Christmas Tree Transfer Station just across the river from my house.  Growers truck their crop to this huge area.  Trees are piled onto 18 wheelers or into shipping containers.  It’s a pretty cool operation.  It sort of caught me by surprise. 

Smell triggers so many things for me and a million memories of Christmas flashed before me on this day.   I was suddenly an adventurous 10 year old boy building a winter woods fort - burrowing into snow beneath the skirt of a huge Balsam Fir.  Wow.  Where did that come from?

Christmas in Nova Scotia is really quite beautiful.   Since 1971, a special tree is chosen each winter to send to the people of Boston to express appreciation for their help during the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. The explosion on December 9, 1917, was caused by the collision of two ships in Halifax Harbour.  Nearly 2,000 died.  Thousands more were injured. Boston was the first to send relief, offering the services of doctors and nurses, and sending supplies.  So, with great pride we send a huge Christmas tree each year to our friends in Boston, whose outpouring of kindness in 1917 will never be forgotten.

Keep running.  Keep smelling.

Wish my running shoes smelled better.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Webbed Toe Photos (a real ratings booster)

Here are a couple pictures of my left foot.  I didn't shave my toes for you.  I won't bother to link to the specific post but a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had partially webbed feet. Well, you begged and emailed and insisted that I supply a couple of photos.

This first one shows you the cool web part - see?  It's the same for both feet - the 2nd & 3rd toes are partially webbed.  As a kid I was pretty self-conscious about it.  I distinctly remember my grandmother teasing me about 'cutting' them apart - that caused me a whole lot of stress. Little kids hear and feel your words.  Watch what you say.
This next picture reveals my entire left foot.  It is a glorious site to behold.  See the nasty black spot on my big toenail?  Nope, that's not from running hard miles.  A couple of weeks ago my boss dropped a hard drive on my foot.  His first words were, "I hope you're not training for anything right now".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Little Light

Ben was born November 6, 2002. My little light is 6 years old today. My wife is not a big woman but she's the most determined woman I know. Ben weighed in at 11 lbs 4 oz. I can hear you gasping from here. V agrees that running marathons is easier than delivering XL babies.
He's booked for a hair cut tomorrow.  Happy Birthday Benjo!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Measuring Up

I don’t sleep much. I know, I know. That explains why I comment on your blog in the middle of the night.

Seriously, I don’t think I ever recovered from early morning radio. To make my 5:30 am gig I’d be up at 3…and at the office no later than 4:00 am. I’ve been off-air for nearly 10 years and I still wake up early. Who do I sue?

Unless it’s a really long run, I normally do not venture out until sometime after 4:30 am. Hey, head out too early and somebody is sure to think you’re a quack. I don’t want that label. I live in a small town.

“Oakhill” is a challenging route that I used to run a fair bit. It is a measuring stick for me and today I measured up. A tough climb in about 1 hour.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Former Glory

I know better than to want to be the runner that I used to be. I can’t go back there as the road lies ahead and not behind. The old miles offer fresh hope and so I begin again.

I remember the easy miles. And, vivid pre-dawn encounters with skunks, racoons, rabbits, deer, porcupines, coyotes, snowplows and log trucks. I can smell the rain coming. I feel the unrelenting sting of a nor’easter. I recognize the collective weight of wet March flakes, slush, and blisters and chaffing and cramps and squirts.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
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