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.


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.


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.



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