Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Two Medal Sunday, Part 1 – Ottawa Race Weekend

So it was a pretty crazy weekend. You’ve been following my training for the last few months and are probably dying to know how race day went.

Pretty

Fucking

Awesome.

bib attached to my water belt, pre-crumpled to avoid flapping, ready to go in the morning.

My morning routine on race day is pretty much the same as my Sunday morning run. I think the only difference is I’ll have my morning cup of coffee much earlier with breakfast instead of on the way to the race site and will have sorted out my gear the night before.

Yes, the night before ritual. It’s recommended if you’re going to “carb up” for Sunday morning, you do it Friday night. It gave Kalin and I an excuse to go to Fat Tuesdays to take advantage of their special carbing menu. I was originally going to cook our carbing dinner myself, but the meal I had planned was about as expensive as dining out and I wouldn’t have a mess to clean. For my laziness, we also got caught in a thunderstorm on the walk home. Dinner the night before the race was steak with sweet potatoes and veggies. The bag was packed with everything except the cold liquids. I filled my a water bottle with a mixture of honey, sea salt, grated ginger, a slice of lemon and let it sit overnight. I packed my energy gels in the front pouch and even opened the packages so I wouldn’t be frigging with them on the run. The gadgets get plugged into their chargers. The morning clothes get set in a pile. The ever-important race chip gets threaded into the shoe laces.

All this is to mitigate the possibility of running around like a chicken with its head cut off in the morning when I should be getting ready. Knowing everything is ready also helps me gets a good night sleep the night before too.

Kalin and I got to the race grounds around 8:30ish. Plenty of time for a quick trip to the bathroom in City Hall (you didn’t think I was going to get in line for the port-a-potties that was a couple hundred people long when the bathrooms in City Hall were available?) and get in my corral.

Ready to run.

When I registered for this race back in December, I registered as a 2:30 finisher. I hadn’t run a half-marathon before and had no idea what was in store for me compared to my 5K races. I wasn’t even a sub-25 minute 5K when I registered. Thankfully, you could change corrals when you picked up the race kits, hence the yellow sticker over the green corral marker. What the volunteers didn’t tell me when I did this was that I also moved up to Wave 1 and was starting half an hour earlier than I had anticipated. Another reason to make sure you get to the race site super early.

Running in the first wave helped on a couple of levels. My own thinking is that it’s better to be the ass end of the first wave than the front end of second. There would be 5000+ people ahead of me instead of 5000+ behind me. It gave you a thirty minute head start on the other half of the race. Starting half an hour also means finishing half an hour earlier. As you may guess from the title, the race wasn’t my only commitment on Sunday.

I hopped a fence to get into my corral. In the middle of those thousands of people, I immediately found a friend/distant relative, Ruth York.  Both she and her sister were running. As the gun went off and we idled up to the start line, I ran into my clinic instructor, Colin. I gave him a quick thanks for getting me this far. He thanked me for helping out with pace leading. Now it was up to our own efforts to get to the finish line.

Where’s Waldo … or Michael?

For those that want the quick version, here’s what the Garmin recorded.

I ran listening to my new half marathon playlist. Maybe I hit the wrong part of the screen or there’s a new default setting with the latest version of iOS, but my list shuffled when it should have played sequentially. In the end, it wasn’t a big distraction even if it made for unpredictable, yet fitting musical selections at some points. As designed, I would only hear the opening trumpets of the White Stripes cover of “Conquest” if I reached my goal. As it happened, the song came up third in the shuffle. It wasn’t something I was going to bother to fix while in the race.

It was a beautiful day for a run. It began slightly overcast in the low 20s. The clouds burned off about 30 minutes in and the temperature went up a few degrees. Between that and the increase in body temperature, it felt like the mid-30s.

I made good time in my early intervals, eventually catching up and passing the 2:10 and later the 2:05 pace bunnies. Since I crossed the start line a full five minutes after the gun went off, I knew so long as the 2:05 pace bunny was behind me I could finish around the 2 hour mark.

I crossed the 10K split clock as it turned 1:00:00. I knew this would be approximately a 55 min split (it was actually 55:55) and keeping with the pace I wanted.

I could feel my legs stiffening around the 12K mark. I pushed through anyway. It was there one of the race photographers caught me on a walk interval.

I’m not going to screw up my race timing for the sake of a photo. Hills are another matter. A hill caught me as I would have started a walk break, but I charged up it and took my break when I crested the hill. It messed up the intervals on my Garmin … actually I goofed them up. Had I pressed “reset” at the top of the hill it would have started with my walk break. Instead I did it after a minute had passed thinking it would start with a run interval (which actually makes sense).

Lesson learned: RTFM: read the fucking manual.

Now I was doing the 10 and 1 timing in my head. As I crossed the Booth St. Bridge into Gatineau the 2 hr pace bunnies came into view. With that, my secondary goal of a sub 2-hour finish was also in sight. I laid up on my pace a bit and crept up to the bunnies. As I crept up, I could see members of my clinic’s pace group. I would wave and shout some words of encouragement as I passed them, but most of them were listening to their music or otherwise in their zone. Hopefully, they caught a glimpse of their pace leader passing them and used it as encouragement to power on.

On thing I had not anticipated was using the water stations. I had trained to use my own water sparingly so I could take the middle of the road and zip through the water stations and not lose time. The problem with this strategy was that since so many people slow down for the station, your pace is going to slow anyway. I even had one runner ahead of me in the middle of the road dart to the left, grab a water cup, return to the centre and proceed to start walking. Since they were going to serve as a choke point anyway, I might as well grab a cup of water … or two.

As a an interval runner, I try to run to the sides of the road so I can take the edge while on the walk break and only move towards the centre when I want to run through things like water stations. You wouldn’t come to a dead stop on a major highway in traffic to change lanes and make it to an off-ramp, would you?

Okay, maybe if you lived in Montreal. Those of us that don’t live in no-fault insurance provinces and face financial consequences for reckless driving would not. The same logic applies when you’re on a race course with 10,000 other people.

As I passed the last km marker, I ramped the pace up. In the last 100m, I passed the 2hr continuous bunny and caught up to the  2 hr run/walk bunny. As the finish line came into sight, I raised my arms in triumph.

1:57:39

I collected my bling and as many snacks as I could carry and worked my through the recovery area to get out of Confederation Park to find Kalin. As soon as I made it through the maze of humanity to get to Laurier St., I immediately spotted Kalin across the street.

Unlike a certain Quebecois cab driver, I can spot a 5’9″ ginger in broad daylight.

Bling!

Kalin greated me with hugs, kisses, and most importantly … a protein shake from Booster Juice.

Mmmmm

Best

Girlfriend

Ever

The shake was super useful. With medal #1 collected,  we had to scoot back to the apartment lickety split to get cleaned up to collect medal #2 of the day. I had no time for a proper post-race meal. We walked back to my apartment. I hit the shower and got changed for the next medal.

More on that in the next post.

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I’m definitely in my zone

This will probably be a short post.

I know, I’ve said that before at the beginning of some posts and then proceeded to chug out 2000+ words.

I could go on about some subject, but I’m getting in the zone for Sunday. I’ll probably be deluging cyberspace with post-run writing next to make up for my complete lack of verbosity this week.

The final week of training is when we taper our activities. We cut down on the distances for running. We also cut back on cross training, so I’ve been abstaining from going to Greco Lean and Fit this week. Miss the gang there and they certainly helped me build the strength to augment my running.

Sunday’s LSD run was a mere 6K. Longtime readers will now what a statement it is for me to call 6K “mere”. It’s been a year since my first 5K race. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday, how the cool dampness suddenly became hot and muggy minutes before gun time. Having to dodge the droppers and pukers as I charged to the finish line.

(Note to Kalin for Saturday: don’t follow anyone too closely. They may become a human hurdle as you’re gunning it for the finish)

It’s times like this that I think of how far I’ve come and how I wouldn’t be here without the help of my friends. I’ve made a few friends along the way, too. Taking this blog public last summer helped me take my story public and introduced me to a whole new readership. I even wrote an article for the Running Room magazine.

Tuesday and Wednesday we did race pace! A lot of the runners in my pace group were scared shitless at the prospect of this on Tuesday when we did 10K, almost half the race!. I calmed a few nerves when I reminded them that race pace was slower than the speed drills we did the previous week. It felt good to get the distance in at that pace. We were actually faster than race pace most of the run and came in 55:33. It made Wednesday’s 6K at race pace a relative breeze.

Despite the relative breeze it was not an uneventful run. We had a good lesson in the reason why a) we call out when bikers are passing us and b) why listening to your music player while on a training run is a bad idea. Since we were doing 10 minute running intervals, I decided to save turning around until we finished the second interval. As I turned around to start the walk break, a bicycle was zooming towards me. I distinctively jumped to the side and hugged the railing separating the trail from the Rideau Canal. Forward momentum swung my body forward. It took every ounce of core and upper body strength to fight inertia and not end up in the drink. I guess I have the Greco Sparks St. gang to thank for that.

When I got my feet back on the ground, I turned to my group and shouted, “Now that’s why I keep yelling ‘biker back/bicker up’!”

“He didn’t use a bell,” they protested.

As I looked over my pace group, I saw the wires dangling from their ears with more headsets than the victims of the Cybermen. “Would you have heard him if he did?”

Sheepish looks. Fuck it. Let’s run.

It’s going to be a pretty full couple of days leading up to this race. Kalin and I went with our running friends to get our race kits last night. The expo seemed smaller than last year. Some of the bug bears of last year’s race weekend . I have to say the “just a 5K” attitude from volunteers and vendors was palpable and utterly unwelcome. It starts with the cotton shirt that is included with registration when everyone else is getting technical shirts and trickles down from there.

This is completely unlike the Army Run in the fall which is weird because both events are organized by the same people, Run Ottawa, and the events have grown to the same size as Race Weekend. The only difference between the 5K and half marathon shirts is colour. Maybe since there’s no Boston-qualifier marathon, more people are focused on the purpose of the event, raising money for charities that support Canada’s veterans, and having fun.

Tonight we carb up. Tomorrow, Kalin runs her 5K, which she’s going to rock despite her setbacks. She’s going to make me proud.

Sunday morning is my day with destiny. I

I’ve trained all I can. I’ve done everything I’ve been told. Now it’s time to run the race and see what happens.

Now the fun begins.

Allons-y!

In Praise of Food Porn (Reader Discretion Advised)

Soft focus.

Sensuous music.

Camera slowly pans along a woman’s toned arm as it strokes up and down. Flesh meets tempered German steel as it rhythmically slices a long … firm … carrot.

Did you think I was moonlighting as a Harlequin Romance novelist?

No, I haven’t gone all Fifty Shades of Grey and started writing suburban mommy porn. I am, however, writing about another form of pornography: food porn or, as the smart people who read Harper’s may know it as, gastroporn.

The main purveyor of food porn is, of course, the Food Network and it’s contemporaries. I first discovered pornography for fatties, as I called it when I was in the early stages of my weight loss last year, when I was living in Washington while at grad school.

More specifically, I discovered Giada:

When I came back to Canada and watched the Canadian version, I also discovered Laura, who happens to be from my home province of New Brunswick:

Besides the dishiness of the show hosts (NB: Kalin crushes on Mike Smith and Chuck Hughes), the real objects of desire in these programmes are the dishes they serve.

I love to cook. Robert Rodriguez likes to say, “Cooking is like fucking. You’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life, so you better be good at it.” My relationship with food was not always so … intimate.

In my previous (read: failed) attempts to lose weight, I saw food as the enemy to be conquered. My most successful attempt was the Slim Fast plan. I was never a sit down for breakfast type and the time zone differences between my office and my employer’s meant last minute stuff would often come up during my lunchtime. Replacing a couple of meals a day with pre-made shakes made sense (along with walking to work, 60-90 min in the gym, walk home, 60 min swim per day, 5 days a week).

Like many of my ideas, it was a good one at the time.

In the end, it was an awful one.

Unlike most dieters, I knew that a return to pre-diet form of eating would mean a return of my body’s pre-diet form. The adversarial mentality I had towards food would not necessarily wane, but complacency certainly set in during my grad school years. My sins have been detailed in previous posts and you can feel free to read those confessionals. Like the Romans of the ancient world, I let the barbarian hordes of bad-for-you food batter the gates of the city until they crashed in.

When it was time to get my life back under control, I was given a meal plan that was basically “3/7oz chicken/pork/fish/beef and veggies/salad” with minimal direction as to how to prepare these meals.

So right away I’m going to be eating more often and I have to figure out how I’m going to do this without getting bored. Boredom leads to complacency. Complacency leads to failure.

Enter food porn.

Bow chicka wow wow.

I would watch these temptresses prepare meals for their imaginary guests and wonder how I could stick my square peg in their round holes.

Umm

I meant to write: how I could make their dishes comply to my meal plan.

Yeah. That’s it.

Could I switch the white rice for brown? Sweet potato instead of white? Can I replace whole milk with skim? It stimulated the part of the brain that goes wild when faced with a complex scenario that I knew I, and only I, could figure out.

There were a few devils in the harem of angels. Paula Deen’s high calorie, fat-laden food is so beyond redemption, it gave her diabetes. In a perverse twist, she’s now being paid a mint to hawk her diabetes meds.

Brief aside: I grew up in the era of competing basketball shoes endorsed by pro-basketball players. I can understand people wanting to be like Mike. Who wouldn’t want to be like me? Competing endorsements of diabetes medication? Are diabetics going to start one upping each other as to whose brand of insulin is better: Paula Deen’s or Wilfrid Brimley’s? It’s like hockey players talking about erectile dysfunction drugs.

Oh wait. That happened.

I learned quite a bit through these experiments and have detailed some of the lessons learned in previous posts. Vicky and Kalin have been my unwitting test subjects. Since they’re still talking to me, I’m guessing I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed.

There’s a couple extra lessons learned I can share. You can make a dairy-based sauce with skim, 1%, or 2% milk instead of whole milk. I did this with a carbonara using whole wheat pasta, but it’s not going to hold up well as leftovers. The pasta will soak up the reduced dairy fat liquid overnight. Since my I started dating Kalin, the almond-crusted chicken has been taken out of the rotation. She’s allergic to nuts. Instead of going back to panko bread crumbs, we discovered whole wheat cracker crumbs made a better substitute. We got that from the Eat, Shrink and be Merry show.

As I get ready for my half marathon just a little over a week from now, nutrition will be the fuel that powers me along the route. I’ve trained hard to refine the machine that is my body, but without gas in the tank it will be all for naught.

I know I can do this. Last Sunday’s run was 20K LSD. At this point in the clinic, all the Running Room half marathon clinics run with the Slater St. clinic. There were a couple hundred people running from Slater St. on Sunday morning and it was, frankly, a bit of a gong show.  There were signs set up for the pace groups to line up in order, but there was no organization within the pace groups. Larger clinics had pace groups within pace groups, like a sizeable 2:07 pace group that managed to get to the front of the pack . There was also competition among pace leaders as to who was on first. This got complicated when walk breaks were being called early because the guy with the loudest voice and was upfront didn’t pause his Garmin while at traffic signals and others did. When the largest group stops running and starts walking everyone behind them starts walking too. This was a two and a half minute difference between the first walk breaks of the non-pausers and pausers.

This got old fast. I figured since most were running with their pace leaders, my group should have the option to run with theirs. I worked the line, pulling out members of my clinic, got us to the front and started running our run not someone else’s. Picked up a few gazelles from other clinics, too. We were a little fast for LSD pace, but were amongst the first 2 hour pacers to get back to the store. We’re going to have to run faster  on race day, but my group all still had fuel in their tanks to get that extra kilometre.

If Wednesday’s speed drills are any indication, my group will have no problem. They did their 1 mile repeats well faster than the prescribed 5:15 pace. Thankfully the weather for Wednesday was much better than last week. We’ll find out if they can keep it up as we move on to training at race pace on Tuesday.

With the training and nutrition balance seemingly struck, I’m sure I’ll reach my goals on Sunday. I wouldn’t have gotten here without the support of a lot of friends … and the occasional indulgence.

Allons-y!

In whatever nature throws at us

Wednesday was a crazy practice run.

That shit cray?

Yes, Kanye, that shit cray.

Now don’t interrupt me again. This ain’t Taylor Swift you’re pestering. Storm my stage and interrupt me and I will knock you on your arse.

We had gotten through two days of rain when I set out for the Running Room. Since I don’t do Greco in the morning on Wednesdays, I get a little stir crazy and usually head out early and grab tea at Bridgehead before the run. It also gives me a chance to hang out with Kalin for a bit before we split up into our separate clinics.

It was Kalin’s first run since the accident. She was looking forward to it. She was only able to complete one 10 minute interval before her ankle flared up, but that’s 10 more minutes than she would have done otherwise. Her history in sports has helped speed her recovery greatly. I have no doubt she will do well Ottawa Race Weekend. It might not be as well as she wanted to do before she was hit, but considering she’ll be racing just a little over a month after she was hit by a car just making it to the start line is an accomplishment.

Since her accident, we’ve been both extremely cautious pedestrians. She actually chased down a driver who almost clipped her again outside of Loblaws this week. I accosted a cyclist yesterday who seemed to think traffic signals didn’t apply to him.

By the way, as bad as the drivers are in this town, what the fuck is with the cyclists? It’s a pretty common occurrence in my neighbourhood to watch cyclists run red lights or stop signs. I had a physical altercation with such a cyclist last summer. He ran a red and almost collided with me on the crosswalk. I was on my feet in the end. He was on his ass. Then there’s the Lance Armstrong wannabes along the pathways. One was so rude to my runners one Sunday morning, Easter Sunday actually, I offered to make his bicycle seat a permanent part of his anatomy.

A month ago, I watched a cyclist almost get hit by a car just a block from my apartment building. The cyclist failed to even slow down, more or less stop at the stop sign. Luckily the car stopped and, for the driver’s trouble, he was accosted by the cyclist for not potentially killing them. I had to interject and shout, “Hey, you’re the asshole who didn’t stop at a stop sign!”

The cyclists in this town don’t think the traffic laws apply to them. Not only do they apply, so do the laws of physics. In car vs. bicycle collision, the operator of the car walks away every time.

Back to Thursday, Kalin and I were crossing Wellington St. in front of the Chateau Laurier when a cyclist, a true devotee to the religion with his spandex and helmet, failed to stop at the line for the red light. He did stop mere inches from me. “See that?” I asked pointing to the red light above me that was facing him.

“Oui”

“Obey it!” Maybe it was the Christian vibes from the right-to-lifers still lingering around the parliamentary precinct following the annual March for Life or the mere fact there were a couple of hundred potential witnesses who could testify at my trial, I resisted the natural temptation to demonstrate what happens when cyclist meets fist.

Pedestrians aren’t saints, either. We’re not surrounded with I’ve seen some use the segregated bike lane on Laurier as their personal sidewalk overflow. The bottom line is: obey the rules and we all get along in the shared space that is our city.

Back to the chaos of Wednesday, my half marathon clinic was doing speed drills again. We were barely done the first mile-long interval when the rain started again. It was a pounding rain, too. As we were proceeded through our drills, distant thunder grew closer. Lightning soon followed.

Once we finished the final lap of our third mile, the storm was fully upon us. Not since I ran in an F-0 tornado last year had I run in such terrible weather.  Ironically, one of the participants from the clinic that ran in that tornado was running with me Wednesday night. She’s a nice girl, but she might be a bit of a jinx.

The rain was coming down in sheets. The thunder was rumbling like a truck barrelling down the highway. Chain lightning arched a crossed the sky.

It was time to JFDI and GTFO.

I didn’t bother leading them on a walk lap after the fast mile was done.  Instead, we collected our gear and went right into our steady run back to the store. With it so miserable out, the steady run was closer to a tempo run. As you can tell from the map (click the link above), we also took a shorter route back to the store. As we ran up O’Connor, we encountered the odd pedestrian or cyclist braving the weather. One pack of hipsters took one look at us and said, “Whoa, these guys are hardcore.”

Yes, we were hardcore, but I was the only guy. Other than myself, there were only two men in my group Wednesday night and both finished early due to injuries flaring up.

Once at the store, I didn’t see much point in getting changed into dry clothes. It was raining so hard the running shell I brought as a jacket would be quickly soaked through, along with whatever I wore under it. I was already soaked to the bone. There wasn’t a single square inch of dry left on me. At that point, I figured it was best to just get home and get under a hot shower. Changing would have only delayed the inevitable.

I made a brief stop at Bridgehead for some tea to warm up the insides for the walk home. I should have just run home, but truth be told, I hadn’t had dinner yet so my tank was pretty empty. I walked as fast as my cold, wet, and tired legs could take me.

On the walk home, I ran into Vicky’s boss, the Honourable Rose-May Poirier. She looked at me and said, “Michael, you’re going to get soaked!”

I looked myself up and down, including my raisin-like finger tips, chuckled and replied, “With all due respect, Senator, I think I’m already there.”

By the time I got back to my apartment, my hands were so numb that I was having trouble typing text messages on my iPhone. The pruned finger tips didn’t help. I showered and ordered some dinner.

I’d like to say that I got up the next morning and, like a boss, went to my usual Extreme Lean class at Greco. I would like to say that, but I can’t. I forgot to set my alarm and woke up too late to get there. My late dinner also meant that I didn’t sleep very well. I’ve been there pretty religiously this year, so I think I can take a day.

We started off with such great weather this week. Sunday’s 18K LSD was gorgeous. The sun was out, the heat was in the low teens. Perfect running weather. The route was a nice mix concrete sidewalks, asphalt roads, and trails, both gravelled and ungravelled. We ran through the conservation area in Rockcliffe park and it’s very narrow wooded trails along Lake MacKay.

I even got my first sunburn of the year. It’s evolved into nice farmer’s tan that is dark brown until the mid-bicep where it reverts back to white. Thankfully, the same is not true for my lower half. You can imagine what my predilection for running in shorts and knee-high compression socks could generate in tan lines.

It was pretty humid Tuesday for our 6K tempo run.  It seemed to take forever for my Garmin to get a signal so I let the 2:15 and 2:30 groups go ahead. It gave my runners some early confidence boosting to pass them. I didn’t dress properly for the weather and wore a top that was too loose for the weather. Longtime readers will know what that’s a recipe for: nipple chafing.

Yep, I did it again. It was just some slight chafing and has already healed.

We pretty much ran the gamut of weather this week.  We’re ending the week as we began it, with a gloriously sunny day.

As I’ve said before and will say again, I will train in whatever nature throws at us so I can race in whatever nature throws at us.

Even if it includes cars and cyclists.

Allons-y!

Mediocrity is for another town, like Toronto

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind wishes for Kalin and her recovery. Frankly, it’s been frustrating for her. It seems like whenever she makes progress at getting back towards her pre-cancer level of fitness, the fickle hand of fate seems to come by and knocks her down again.

Sometimes figuratively. Sometimes literally.

Like the Chumbawumba song, though, when she gets knocked down, she gets back up again. You’re never going to keep her down.

She’s still going to do the Ottawa Race Weekend 5K, even if it means walking.

She’s already looking forward to training for the Army Run Half Marathon.

No idiot cabbie is going to keep my Kalin down.

Last week’s post had me thinking about how much mediocrity we accept here in Ottawa. Whether it’s the state of the cabs, public transit, or the street food scene, there’s a lot of aspects of this city where it seems content to be a second class city.

Bullshit.

There’s no reason why this can’t be a world class city. Sure, Ottawa has the disadvantage of being just a couple of hours from Montreal in one direction and Toronto in the other. Nowhere is this more apparent when one of their NHL comes to town to play the Sens and the visiting team’s fans outnumber the home team’s. This is despite the fact, that our team is more likely to playing hockey in late April than theirs.

Quick aside, thinking of writing a satire of all the atheist tracts out by replacing the replacing the word “God” with “Leafs”.

The Leafs Delusion

The Leafs are Not Great

You get the picture.

If anything, Toronto is the city settling for mediocrity. It’s been almost a decade since a Leafs fan cheered for their team in the playoffs. For all the fervour their team generates, the league knows that if they moved a winning team to the suburbs, like Jim Basillie tried to do twice, the Air Canada Centre would be empty. It’s been twenty years since the Jays won the World Series and they haven’t made a post-season since.   The Argos ownership is praying the NFL doesn’t expand north and take their fans away. The Raptors haven’t been a contender since Vince Carter left.  I discovered Toronto had an MLS team when I moved to Washington.

Montreal has a lot going for it, but three words: the Big O. Even if there was a reason to go there, you need a hard hat to make it out alive.

In the end, Toronto and Montreal are Toronto and Montreal. They each have their own virtues and vices.

In Montreal’s case, it’s vices are its virtues.

I lived in Washington, DC, for three of the last five years from doing my PhD. Within a four hour drive, you can be in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or the Big Apple itself, New York City. Do the people in Washington spend their evenings whining about how DC isn’t NYC? No. Neither should we.

We here in Ottawa have a special responsibility to demand our city be better. It’s our city, but it’s Canada’s capital. We need to speak up for the millions of Canadians who want their capital to be welcoming place for its citizens and the world.

What do we give them? A capital where to sit on a patio is be harassed by panhandlers?  A street food scene dominated by poutine trucks and hot dog vendors that sell the same frigging sausage? Cabs that smell like ashtrays?

Public transit here is a prime example how we continue to accept half-measures. Twenty-five years ago, they built the Transitway, a series of express bus routes. Bus routes. They could have put a train in a quarter century ago and didn’t. They added the O-Train, largely Bob Chiarelli’s sop to the commuting students at Carleton, but didn’t run it all the way to the airport. Even if they did, the end of the line is a station in the middle of the Transitway, not downtown. They had a plan for a train that council had approved that would have seen trains sharing surface streets along Slater and Albert Sts. where the Transitway buses now run through the downtown. Thankfully, Larry O’Brien became Mayor and scrapped that plan. Probably cost us millions in cancellation fees, but having seen cities where trains share traffic with cars, bicycles, etc., I’m convinced that plan was a disaster waiting to happen. The current council has a new plan and keeps frigging around to keep the costs down. The current debate is the location of the eastern most downtown station. It was supposed to be under the canal with exits in the Rideau Centre and the NAC/Confederation Park area. Now it’s going to be under the Byward Market. I’m sure by the time all is said and done, the exit will be in the middle of the Market and visitors to our capital will greeted by the sea of panhandlers we wade through every time we walk down Rideau St.

We can do better, Ottawa.

It seems like all my friends can’t wait to move out to the suburbs, to get away from the dreck of downtown. Cul-du-sacs. Big box stores. Brand name homes. Claridge. Tamarack.

That doesn’t interest me. I grew up in the burbs. Having a yard was nice. Having to hop into the car whenever I needed something, not so much. Pretty sure the reason why Dad bought me my first used car, a K-Car we bought from a cab company, was so my folks could stop playing taxi and get their freedom back. I may leave Rideau and Chapel someday (very soon if I don’t have a job in the next couple of weeks), but it’ll probably be for the Glebe or Westboro. I’m just not interested in commuting on the Queensway. My first apartment in Ottawa, on Loretta Ave, had a bird’s eye view of that scene every day. No thank you.

I stopped accepting mediocrity in myself and changed my life. Now is the time to encourage my city to do the same.

No, I’m not running for something.

Yet.

Unless you count my half-marathon. More on that in a bit.

Kalin and I engaged in some retail therapy Saturday, except I was the one doing the buying. The Indochino Travelling Tailor was in Ottawa. It might seem irresponsible to be buying a suit when you don’t have a job, but I’ll be working again very soon either here in Ottawa or somewhere else. I had nothing but good experience with the suit I bought from Holt Renfrew, but it was pretty expensive. These are half the price. In fact, they’re cheaper than regular priced (and before alteration charges) off the rack suits at Moore’s and even the Bay.

Remember, accept no mediocrity.

It was a pretty interesting set-up. It happened to be on the opposite corner from the Running Room so I could see the set up when I did my runs last week. Kalin and I went to my Saturday morning appointment. With her retail experience, she was curious about the whole pop-up store concept. I was directed to one of the eight tailors on hand to have some measurements taken. Once the measurements were taken, the tailor had me try on a sample coat #6. Too big. Next, #5. Too small.

No problem. The tailor went and got some help, the company’s co-founder and creative director, Heikal Gani. He took some additional measurements. Like my maternal grandfather, I’m barrel-chested. It wasn’t a problem when I was fat because my waist was wider than my chest. Now my waist is smaller and disproportionately so. Heikal even took some photos of me for reference.

Yeah, I’m unique.

Once the measurements were done, we were handed off to a stylist who helped me pick the fabric, style and the various customization options. I won’t tell you what I chose. I’ll save that for when it arrives. Since I booked an appointment online, I was eligible for a free tailored shirt as well. There was also a gift set that included a tie, tie clip, cuff links, pocket square, and a measuring tape. The suit, shirt, and items in the gift set might go for $1500 at Holt’s. I paid a third of that. My measurements are also stored in my online account, so I can order a suit online now without having to be measured again.

I just have to stay the same size. 😉

Training is continuing apace. It was a beautiful morning for a run on Sunday for an 18K LSD. We used a good portion of last year’s half-marathon route. Think I would have liked to do it in reverse, though, as just a little 5K in, the sight of the Dow’s Lake Pavillion lead a couple of my group to want to stop to use the bathroom. Since it was the only spot on the route I knew of that would have been suitable for a group of our size to make a short stop. I obliged.

Tuesday’s clinic was a presentation from a local Powerbar rep. She had lots of samples, so I was happy with it. The run was 6K tempo. It was the longest run we’ve done thus far at tempo pace. It made for a good warm-up for speed work the next night.

That’s right, we’re done with hill training and have moved on to speed work. In last week’s post, I was so busy venting about Kalin and the cabbie situation, I didn’t bother writing about my running. The truth is Kalin wasn’t the only injured runner I ended up caring for last week. The Fleet St. Hill claimed one of my runners, who had a some knots in her calves flare up, and another who ran on some old shoes for a few weeks too many. Luckily, I had Joanne, who is a trained sport therapist, to help out so I could make sure I could get the rest of the group through their repeats.

On Wednesday, we used the track at Immaculata High School. It’s far enough away that we can get a good warm-up run there and a cool-down back. If I wasn’t a pace leader, I’d probably go there directly from my apartment. We did two 1 mile intervals, each of which consisted of 4.5 laps at a pace of 5:15 min/km and a 1 lap walk break in-between. My group ran more like 5 min/km throughout. Some broke off from the pack on the last half lap, but unlike the long runs I don’t mind. We’re on a track. It’s not like they can get lost. We’ll see they’re so speedy when it the intervals increase.

With the race three weeks away from this Sunday, I’m starting to get into that mental zone. I will only accept awesome.

I am in the business of excellence.

Mediocrity? That’s the other guy’s product.

Allons-y!