New opportunities, old challenges

Remember this momentous occasion? I’m still using the bag load of Irish Spring samples they gave me last year. It’s time once again for Moore’s Suit Drive. It’s actually been on for a couple of weeks. Not having needed businesswear for the first half of this year, I hadn’t been by the store in months and only noticed when I walked by the store between meetings a couple of weeks ago. I brought in a couple of my transitional suits. They were size 42. I’m now a 38 or 40 depending on the cut. The local charity which benefits from the drive is the John Howard Society, somewhat appropriate given my new gig.

Yes, I’m back in the swing of things on the job front. I started a new job last week. I’m working as a research assistant at the Parole Board of Canada.  It’s a four month contract and I’m still in the hunt for a permanent post, but I’m enjoying the work.

Now that I’m working again, it’s back to my old fitness routine. The Running Room clinic night on Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice club are late enough that I don’t have to rush out the door to get out there on time.  There won’t be any change on that front. (I have to admit that it’s a little weird to have a predictable schedule for the first time in my adult life.)

I have had to change my Greco routine. I go to the 7 am Lean and Fit classes now. There’s enough time that I can hit the shower and make it to the office for 8:30 without too much rush. It’s a little closer to 9 if I stop for coffee along the way. Frequent readers can probably guess … I start my day at 9. I did try to keep the Tuesday and Thursday Extreme Lean class in my routine. Since it’s a shorter class and ends at 8:30, I can still get to the office on time if I rush. This time of year, I’d rather not. There’s nothing worse in the summer than arriving at your air conditioned office a damp, sweaty, mess. Next thing you know, you’re freezing in your office when it’s damn near 50 degrees outside.

Making it to the gym for 7 means waking up at 5:30. Yes, that’s 5:30 in the morning. Remember, when I started this journey a year and a half ago, I was getting up that early, sometimes earlier. That was in January when it was pitch black and -20 out. This time of year, the sun is shining and it’s +20 out.  It’s a little easier to settle into a routine in those conditions. I’m also modifying a routine, not starting fresh.

So it’s going to be the 7 am class four times a week for the foreseeable future. When I started the year off unemployed, I kept going to the 7 am class for a while. I probably started going to the later class around late February or March. As I realized that the job situation was not going to be resolved as quickly as I originally anticipated, I started going to the later class. After all, I didn’t have anywhere to I needed to be at 9 am.

You may also noticed the blog entries are getting shorter. Sorry. Since I don’t have as much free time on my hands, the 2000+ word entries may be a little less frequent for bit. It’s about quality, not quantity. Right?

Right?

Now that we’re in the middle of July, it’s pretty much the peak of the tourist season in Ottawa. With the all the visitors to the downtown, we urbanites, especially the denizens of the Byward Market and surroundings, can feel like the animals at a petting zoo. It certainly makes for crowded sidewalks when running in the evening.

On Tuesday, I actually got to lead the half-marathon clinic in a mini-talk on running drills. It was fun taking the group up to Parliament Hill to do drills on the front lawn.  Since they’ve been watering the lawn nearly continuously throughout our drought, the lawn at Parliament Hill is probably the only green grass in all of Ottawa. Maya, the instructor for my 5K/10K clinic last year, would do the same. I tried to incorporate them into the my own clinics, but I found it just made the participants impatient. Since many of them were doing a 5K race for the first time in their lives, the importance of drills (to improve flexibility and improve speed) was utterly lost on them.  My 2 hour pace group can be quite large, but leading the entire clinic gave me an appreciation of just how large the group is. I lined up the group parallel with West Block and they took up the full width of the lawn. The Hill is teaming with tourists. I’m sure we made a bunch of Facebook albums in Japan and whatever highly censored version they have in China.

Wednesday was another hill night. Five repeats this time. We split them between Fleet St. and the Rideau Locks, with a nice tempo run in between. I enjoyed this in the last clinic, but I can’t help but think this is a mistake this time of year. In addition to the usual competition for space with pedestrians and cyclists, the Locks hill is full of tourists watching the locks in action or hanging out at the Bytown Museum waiting for their boat tour to come in. We easily add another 90 people to that equation. On my first run up the hill, I go caught behind a man in an electric wheelchair that I had a little difficulty passing. Since the hill is too steep for the electric motor of the chair, he had to criss-cross the width of the path. For giving one of my instructors a thumbs up as we passed each other on the hill, I almost lost an arm to a douchebag cyclist that thought the downward slope of the locks hill was the finish line of the Tour de France. Same asshole dinged Kalin further down the hill.

If we meet again, you’ll have one thing in common with Lance Armstrong. One thing. It won’t be the number of titles.

The weather has much improved in Ottawa. We had a wicked afternoon and evening  of thunderstorms Monday that broke the back of the humidity. It’s still a littly muggy here, but the highest humidex it reached post-storm was 36 degrees. Even that night there was a breeze which pretty much cancelled it out.

For the first Sunday in a few weeks, I’m looking forward to Sunday’s long run, 14K. It’s a nice route that takes us through Old Ottawa South, through Carleton Univeristy and the experimental farm. It’s supposed to be a nice sunny day. Fingers crossed.

Allons-y!

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New Mistakes

Sometimes, I just can’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

This Sunday’s long run was a case in point. Remember how last time I ran this route, I missed a turn and added almost 2K to the run?

Well, I didn’t make that mistake again.

In fact, I didn’t get the chance to make that mistake again. I missed the turn before that one. There was roadwork on Mariposa and the street sign was down. My friend, Keith, alerted me to this fact. The GPS app on his cellphone was showing the unmarked road as Mariposa. For some reason, I thought it was further up, one the other side of the US Ambassador’s residence. Besides, those GPS apps on cellphones aren’t “true” GPS … right? One of my runners, who runs in the area agreed.

Now I could have checked my own phone. I had MapMyRun going and could have just as easily checked our location and corroborated or refuted Keith. I didn’t though. I just wanted to get the run back on track and didn’t think it through.

I realized how bad the situation was when we made it back to the Rockcliffe Parkway.

Oops.

Thankfully, we could turn back to the store early on Laurier and not continue all the way to Somerset to mitigate some of the extra distance. While they’ll have to run in excess of that distance anyway, unlike last time when we ran that route when it was foggy and cold this time it was in the forties with the humidex. The only thing that kept it bearable for the run was the cloud cover.

At least I didn’t miss Charlotte St. this time.

Right?

If any of my runners are reading this, not to worry. Karma duly punished me for my sins.

Guess who forgot to put some Body Glide on his floppy bits last Sunday?

This guy!

Guess who didn’t have his planned post-run swim in his salt water swimming pool?

This guy!

You’d think I would have learned from my lady friends that it’s a terrible idea to wear white without anything underneath while doing something athletic.

As Red Green says, “I’m a man. I can change. If I must. I guess.”

Remember, just because one is educated doesn’t meant they’re actually smart.

The rest of week was quite the doozy. The heat finally broke Tuesday night. We had a couple of thunderstorms and a cold front moved in so it’s now back to seasonal norms. We could feel the breeze moving in during the run, but between gusts the sun was still quite hot.

Despite a couple of heavy showers, we still haven’t had a substantial rainfall since June 8th and we’re in a level-2 drought here in the Ottawa area.

Just in time for another week of hills. My previous instructor came out for his first run since Race Weekend. It was also the 20 Minute Challenge, so the enticement of a free hat brought out some people I hadn’t seen since last summer.

The other challenge this week was adapting another big change. I have a job.

I’m working on a research project for the Parole Board of Canada. It’s a four month contract, so it will definitely keep me in Ottawa for the remainder of the year or until I find something permanent.

Having somewhere to be at 9 am has meant some modifications to my routine. I’ve been going to the 7 am Lean and Fit class at Greco instead of the 8. I did the shorter Extreme Lean class on Tuesday and still made it to the office for 9, but just on time. Regular readers know I like to lollygag at the gym. It’s actually important this time of year to take my time. I don’t want to show up at work a sweaty mess.

Looks like it’s waking up an hour early for the foreseeable future.

It’s a good problem to have because as I’ve learned these last few months, the only thing worse than being busy is being not busy.

Allons-y!

The hills are alive…

… with the sounds of runners.

What? You were expecting this:

While that might may be one of my mother’s favourite songs (seriously, she would break out into that song almost randomly growing up), it’s not on my iPod.

It’s been a crazy busy week.

Probably going to have some positive news on the job front soon. Don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m going to exercise custody of the tonque or, in this case, keyboard for now.

Whatever may come in the weeks ahead, I will be adapting my exercise routine to compensate for certain things … like the fact I’ll have somewhere to be at 9 o’clock, so no more lollygagging at Greco. Probably going to have to go to the earlier 7 am classes. I will probably still be able to go to the extreme lean and fit classes, but will play it by ear.

It’s always good to change up the routine, but the running routine will stay the same for now. We’re into week 7 of my half marathon clinic. That means hill training has begun and will continue for six weeks. We started with three repeats and will work up to 8.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this part of the training. On the one hand, it’s great strength training on the legs. There’s a few hills on the typical race course even here in Ottawa and it helps to be over prepared than under prepared. The intensity of the workout also gives you a bit more of a rush than the average tempo run.

On the other hand, it gets rather mind-numbing as the repeats increase. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down.

I also like to take my pace group for a 2 km cool down after the repeats are done. It helps to work out the lactic acid that can build it in the limbs during strength training.

We have the added challenge doing this doing a heatwave. It’s been so long without any rain in this city that a class 2 drought has been declared. The dirt and dust kicked up by the roadwork being done on Rideau St. Is not helping my lungs at all.

While we may have a target race and goal times in mind, training, in general, and running, in particular, is something we want to do for life after and between races. If you never run another race after our clinic, will you want to and be prepared to run on your own or even come to the Wednesday and Sunday practice clubs? Seems like the answer is yes. I’ve been running into quite a few of my previous clinic’s pace group in the last couple of weeks, as well as alumni of my 5K clinics, and some have come back to the Running Room and are taking other clinics (Andrew at the Slater St. Running Room is experimenting with an advanced 10K program if anyone is interested). Some are running on their own.

They’re all still running.

So am I.

Allons-y!

Beware the rabbit

No, I’m not talking about the killer rabbits from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. 

I’m writing about the person who runs ahead of your pace group, but isn’t the actual pace leader. They may want a slightly faster run, or just want to be in the front of the group because they don’t like running in crowds. The thing is, they’re first but they have no responsibility to the group. Some are good about this and check to make sure they’re  still on course. Others are just plain careless.

The reason I call them rabbits comes partly from why we call the pacers on race day “pace bunnies”. It goes back to dog races. The dogs follow a fake rabbit on a mechanical arm that moves around the track to the finish line. Runners in a group have a tendency to follow whoever is first. It can be a little tricky in the first couple of weeks as people move up and down pace groups looking for the right one from them. Between adrenaline and lack of blood to the brain, they may not recognize  they’ve started following someone other than their pace leader.

I’ve had to deal with this a few times as a pace leader. Each instance required a different strategy. In my last clinic, I had a married couple that wanted to do continuous pace for long runs on Sunday. I just let them go off and do their thing. As far as I was concerned, once the first walk break started and they kept running, they left the group. If they were within shouting distance and had missed a turn, I would let them know but keep the rest of the group from replicating the mistake. I had another short distance hero that thought we should run faster on our LSD runs. Despite her terrible form and awful breathing, she kept insisting she and therefore we should be faster. I remember the 7K run from hell last winter where she spent the last 2 kilometers talking about her 45 minute 10K finish from five years ago.

Earlier in this clinic, I knowingly let a rabbit make a wrong turn to make an example of him. He crossed Wellington St. when he didn’t have to and half a dozen members of the group went with him. It was the difference between having a run from MacKenzie to Bank St. uninterrupted by traffic lights and having to stop for lights three times and cross back to our side of Wellington because the stretch from O’Connor to Bank was closed.  That same run, I had already told one wannabe rabbit who said we should cross on don’t walk light that we don’t do that in my pace group. It was that long light by the National Art Gallery that’s fed by three different roads. Long and short of it is, I told her my group obeys traffic signals and makes it home alive.

Tuesday, I had a what could have been a Darwin Awards worthy moment on my hands. Several of my runners have this habit during tempo runs of running faster for the last 500 meters or so to the store (it happened last time early in the clinic, but waned as people moved to higher pace groups, distance increased, etc). Since this is usually on city streets with traffic lights, I think this is probably the stupidest thing a runner can do on any given night. I also don’t like the interruption of traffic lights, so when I run the group along the canal I always go far enough down before turning around we will get our distance in by the time we make it back to Elgin St and reserve those two blocks back to the store for a cool down walk. With this 5K route, it’s difficult. I would normally have my group just keep going to Bank to finish off the distance without having to stop for lights. Unfortunately, four of my group had already turned down O’Connor so I led the rest down that way, too. Given what would happen next, I’m glad I did. I witnessed two of my group running towards a crosswalk despite the orange hand of a don’t walk light. I shouted for them to stop. I could see three buses heading in their direction. They entered the intersection without hearing me.  Thankfully, they cleared the intersection before the traffic reached them. Neither of them even turned their heads to see what was coming their way or why they were being shouted at.

I spoke to them individually when I got back to the store. One was very apologetic. She didn’t realize it. She was following the one in front of her. Rabbit syndrome. The other was defiant, denying the don’t walk light was even lit. She got a lecture on how the “bon homme” (I’ve only learned recently that this is what francophones call a walk light) isn’t a force field. Neither of them could hear me because they were both listening to music. Noticing that both of them were listening to music in both ears, I suggested that they only use one earbud. The apologetic one agreed. The defiant one then told me something earth-shatteringly stupid:

“I can’t run with one ear phone because only one ear works.”

Huh? Say again.

“I’m deaf in one ear. I have to use my good for my iPod.”

So you’re using your good ear for music instead of paying attention to your surroundings on city streets?

“It’s okay, I won’t sue.”

I’ll believe that when I see it … in writing … witnessed … and notarized.

I’ve been around lawyers most of my life. When I said to one of my lawyer friends that I new many of his ilk, he joked back, “Yes, but do you know any good ones.”

My attitude towards music and running has evolved over the year and a half I’ve been at this. I’ve been doing my training runs and short races without it, but I did do my half-marathon with it. Since I was planning to run too fast to keep up a conversation, I figured a playlist would be in order to keep my mind focused. Everyone I’ve met since starting at the Running Room has told me one thing about long runs; they can be boring to the point of distraction to do alone. In fact, when I run alone I typically just do this almost 6K loop.

I just could’t believe how cavalier Defiant One’s attitude was. I honestly hope she never runs alone at night…or, for that matter, daytime. Even in nice cities like Ottawa, summer seems to bring out the pervs.

Thankfully, she wasn’t my problem on Wednesday. It was only 3k, so she tried the 1:50 group. When our groups passed each other after the turnaround, she was keeping up. Hopefully, she will find that pace more to her liking. With her attitude, she’s an accident waiting to happen at my pace level.

In some ways, the rabbits remind me of people who didn’t show up to class in university.     In most courses it was no bother. After all, life happens.  We all had that course, though, where, despite being fully enrolled, only about half the students show up to an average class. They enroll in the course/program for the credit of doing so, but really aren’t interested in doing much than getting credit for showing up on exam days. This frustrated me royally as both student and professor. On separate occasions, I was both a student in and instructor for university classes that were prerequisites for the program I was in. Everyone in the program wanted into these courses so they were required for their major. I remember during my brief stint as a political science/criminology double major and having to sit through the required class on deviance. Attendance for this class was about 55-60%. There were only two sections that year and it was a prerequisite to enter the third year courses in criminology, which was incredibly popular at St. Thomas. There was a huge wait list. We could all drop the course and it could be filled by the morning.

The professor’s frustration was obvious. She would use it as a teaching moment, “Let’s talk about the general versus specific deterrent effects of an attendance requirement on class.” It felt like she was punishing those who showed up for those that didn’t. We weren’t the ones who taking a space in the course away from someone who wanted to be there. I had many issues with the course and the material, but when that teachable moment became an essay question on her mid-term, the one time the classroom was full, I realized I didn’t want to be there. While it was too late in the term to vacate my spot for a student who would have liked to have been in the course (or to pick up an additional course to replace the one I was about to drop), I could at least be an example to my fellow students. I handed in my half-completed mid-term, which probably scared the shit out of the no-shows, and headed to the registrar’s office to drop the course mere minutes before the deadline to do so without penalty expired. I trudged through the snow, hoping the forecasted storm had not made the office close early. It was a move that solidified a decision made earlier in the week, to honor in political science.

When I returned to St. Thomas to work with then Senator Kinsella and teach in their human rights program, I used the experience of that deviance course to shape my own policies as an instructor. By the time I had returned, we had online registration and the wait lists were done away with. We also had requests from the registrar’s office to inform them of anyone who did not attend the first couple of classes so they could be dropped to make room for students wanting to get in. I had an Intro class of 75 and clearly articulated in the syllabus that anyone who missed three out of the first four classes without contacting me would be dropped. This would help make room for those that wanted to be there. I would also drop anyone who missed the majority of classes by the drop without penalty date. In my mind, this would be an act of mercy. Since it was a relatively new program, only the second full-time program in Canada, we were not sure what the text should be for the Intro course. I used human rights documents and supplemented them with my lectures, along with some journal articles. If you didn’t attend the lectures, you wouldn’t pass the exam. I figured seeing these items in print would scare off a few to make room for someone who wanted to be there. I had over 90% attendance. That didn’t prevent the real awkward conversation with one student who showed up for the exam having never attended a class other than the first.

I know it’s a rather limited comparison. For one thing, no one is taking space from someone who would like to be there but can’t because we’re oversubscribed. Running Room clinics don’t work that way.

Where the comparison is apt is these rabbits have enrolled in a program, but for whatever reason want to do something other than the program they paid for. Most of my rabbits just want a faster run. The simple solution for them is they should probably attempt to run with a faster pace group. My friend Christian found this to be the case when he ran with me one Sunday and ran with the 1:50 group subsequent weeks. I’m a big fan of training conservatively, but now is the time in our schedule to experiment with your abilities and try the faster pace. There’s nothing personal and I’m not offended if you want to run with a faster group. You can always come back to the slower pace group.

If you want to run at faster pace but can’t keep up with faster group, take responsibility and volunteer to lead a group between the already established groups. For example, start a 1:55 group. It may be a good way to work yourself up to the faster group. Just as an example, Joanne created a 2:10 pace group in the last clinic and within weeks they were all part of my 2h group.

The moral of this story is if you want to do your own thing, do your own thing. Don’t drag others with you.

Be a leader, not a rabbit.

Allons-y!

This place reeks … of awesome!

After weeks, nay months, of anticipation, it was finally time for the Perth World Record Kilt Run. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun in my short life as a runner as I had last weekend.

The three of us, Kalin, our friend Signi, and myself, headed down to Perth early Saturday afternoon, which put us there around 2-ish. We immediately went to registration to get our race kits and kilts. This year’s kilt was in the Wallace tartan. Registration, chip activation kept us busy until about 3. We milled about the downtown for a bit before grabbing some ice cream and heading to the park to hang out in the shade.

While we were enjoying our time in the shade, we came upon a wedding in the park. My mind immediately went to 2004 my cousin’s wedding in Kananaskis, Alberta. It was a glorious outdoor ceremony on an lookout over the golf course with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. It was so beautiful that a group of Japanese tourists crashed it. I would later learn from the New York Times that western-style weddings were the new fad in Japan. They were a rather aggressive bunch and my uncle quietly deputized me to coral the additional guests behind the wedding photographer.

This wedding, too, would be crashed. Not by us or the seniors that moved to a park bench precariously close to the ceremony, but by a dog that came off its leash and tore through the ceremony. Seemed like everyone got a laugh out of it and the ceremony continued. Apparently, the part of the ceremony where someone can object to a marriage only applies to humans. We would actually see the bride and groom at the end of our run as they walked along the canal with the ring bearer and flower girl in the evening.

As it got closer to race time, we found a spot to change into our gear. I also picked up a tam from the merchandise table. One of the signs that this was going to be largely a fun run was the sight of many fellow runners noshing on hotdogs, hamburgers, even pizza. Not exactly pre-race nutrition. We saw one kid make a beeline for the canal just before race time to woof his cookies. As previous entries of this blog have shown, it’s not the first time I’ve seen pukers on race day, though they usually make it to the start line first. We met up with Signi’s friends from Gannanoque and waited for the pipers to call us to the start line.

Ready to run

Have kilt. Will run.

Yes, we were piped to the start line in parade.  All 1900+ of us.

The start/finish line was shaped like a castle. It made think of the Culloden episode of Battlefield Britain and the Scottish war strategy of the Highland Charge. It’s exactly what it sounds like and looked like in Braveheart. Taunt the enemy and then charge at them like madmen. Yes, it lost its effectiveness when the musket became standard issue in the British army. The castle shape of the start/finish made it easy to get into character for that final charge toward the finish line. I just had to imagine a garrison of red coats on the other side who an urgent need to meet my broadsword.

No castle should go unsacked.

The cannon went off and we ran (skip to 1:26 for Kalin and I, 1:52 for Signi and the Gannanoque crew). Here’s the tale of the tape. It’s a great course that snaked through the downtown and about half of it was along the cart paths of the golf course. Perth’s golf course is apparently the oldest in Canada. It’s very nice, but that trail through the woods would have been nicer (sorry, Perth, a beautiful golf course is still a walk in the woods ruined). Nice rolling hills provided a great challenge on a relatively short course.

I really loved how the whole town came out for this event. Although, I’m not sure they had much of a choice. With large swaths of the downtown and the roads to and from the golf course closed for the race, the town pretty much shut down for the event. While a surbanite in Ottawa might not notice race weekend if they were staying put in Orleans or Kanata, Perth doesn’t seem large enough that one could get away with not being jammed up by the event.

Regardless of whether they were there by choice or simply consigned to their fate for the evening, they came out in droves and cheered us with enthusiasm. Probably the only exceptions were large portions of the golf course between water stations. Like the stretch of race weekend’s half marathon along the parkway, the crowd was only thin where no one actually lived. Although I’m sure there’s a few country club rats who object to the notion no one lives at the course 😉

As per the theme, most of the official cheer stations were highland dancers of one sort or another. Every mile maker had a bagpiper. If you ran fast enough, by the time you lost the sound of the pipes at the last mile marker, you could begin to make out the sound at the next marker. There were plenty of water stations and several sprinklers to cool us off. The fire department set their hoses upon us from atop the ladder trucks, giving us a welcome soaking around the 2k mark. I even got a splash under the kilt when running through one coming off the golf course.

Kalin and I managed to run together for the first couple of kilometres. The heat and dust would cause her to fall back a bit and take more walk breaks, but she soldiered on like the champ she is and finished with a 54:07 chip time.

As I made the final turn and headed on that final charge to the finish line, I could hear a familiar voice shout words of encouragement. Laurence, the assistant manager of the Slater St. Running Room, was cheering from the sidelines. Having already finished his race, 32nd overall, he made it though the post-race gauntlet to cheer on his friends.

A class act who makes it look easy

As I came closer to the finish line on my final charge, another voice boomed through, this time through the PA system, “Keep that kilt down, Michael!” (skip to 41:31). I guess I was kicking up a storm on that last charge. Blame Redcoats in need of meeting my sword. You be the judge:

Thanks to Theresa from my 5K clinic for taking this.

Charging for the finish!

As I crossed the finish line, I looked up at the LCD clock to see the gun time only to instead see my name and chip time: 48:07.

I made it through the post-finish line gauntlet to collect my finisher’s bling:

Kilt pin as finisher’s bling!

And as important, finisher’s beer!

Thanks to the fine folks at Beau’s for sponsoring the finish beer.

What a fun event. My immediate impression of the organization behind this event is that this a group that their event seriously, but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. I imagine there’s quite a few hoops they have to go through to get everything certified for the Guinness Book of World Records (btw, did you know that Guinness, the brewery, created the book as a catalogue of records to settle arguments in pubs). At the same time, fun was the order of the day. With the need for longer registration time to make sure everyone signed in, there was plenty of entertainment to keep people occupied. There was a haggis toss, canoe tours, and live music to keep waiting runners occupied. The race announcer wore a shirt that read “Lord of the Idiots”. Since everyone is running the same distance, there was no hierarchy of runners between the shorter and longer distances. There was a warrior class, but their numbers were rather limited. This review shows what they had to go through. I might do that next year, if only to have my photos with a wooden claymore and shield.

Unfortunately, Signi was off to Panama in the morning, so staying any later than we did was really a non-option. It meant dinner that night was a quick sausage from one of the vendors and then we hit the road. We were so tired getting back that Kalin and I indulged in some shwarma from a restaurant near my place. Well, you may be saying to yourself, the Avengers did it. I may be awesome, but I’m not a superhero. It was a welcome, but entirely preventable, late night indulgence.

Lesson #1 – plan accordingly. If we day trip it again, we should bring more food. We brought some snacks for the drive down, which we managed to stretch into drive home snacks, but I think the consensus was we should have brought ourselves something more substantial for pre-race goodies that would have been closer to a proper meal, sandwiches, salad, etc.

Lesson #2 – Carry cash. Living in downtown Ottawa, I rarely carry more cash than I can buy a cup of coffee with. That may make sense when every store you may enter has a debit machine (even some of the chip trucks have mobile debit). When you’re at a community event in a park, that might not be the case. I’m sure there was an ATM around, but I really didn’t have time to look. I knew, worst case, there was an RBC I could have gone to up on the main road nearby, but if you want to succumb to that temptation purchase of the tam at the merch table (or just want some beer tickets), you better have your money with you.

Lesson #3 – Make a weekend out of it, or at least stay the night. Since the run doesn’t start until 6:30 pm, the likely earliest you’re hitting the road for home is probably 8-8:30. Since it’s usually held near the longest day of the year, there’s plenty of daylight left of the drive. That written, do you really want to drive for a little over an hour after running 5 miles? Perth is lovely and there are a lot of great places to hang out on a Saturday night. There were actually some Groupons and Dealfinds for some local inns we could have taken advantage of if we thought this through.

Big thanks to Signi for offering to drive. We’ll get you back when you get home from your business trip.

Bigger thanks to Perth’s Running Goats club for organizing such a fun event. The bottom-line verdict on this event is:  see you next year 🙂

‘Nuff said.

Allons-y!

Are you feeling hot, hot, hot?

It was a pretty hot week here in Ottawa. We had a heat wave set in on Tuesday and it’s been in the mid-40s, post-humidex, most of the week.  I started writing this on Thursday. When I woke up at 6:30 am to go to the gym, the Weather Network was reporting that it was already feeling like 30 degrees. I didn’t feel like working up a sweat before I worked up a sweat, so I went down to the pool instead. I’ve actually made a few trips to the pool this week… a few trips a day.

We did find a great new place to cool off in the Market. Spoon Yogurt Lounge. It’s a pay-by-weight (55 cents/oz) self-serve frozen yogurt place on Clarence St. It just opened last week. They have about a eight flavours available at any one time, but have 25 flavours they cycle through daily. I got their cappuccino flavour and topped it with some berries. It was delicious. They have some really funky decor and great,  friendly staff. If you’re interested in trying it, they’re having 15% off this weekend. We’ll be back. Often.

The weather made for some interesting running.  Since there was a bit of a storefront moving in on Tuesday night, there was a bit of a breeze along the canal for our 3K. We had no such breeze on Wednesday for our 4K, or should I write 4K with 1K walk because I forgot to stop my Garmin. With the high heat and humidity, I talked Kalin out of running that night. Between her lungs and nagging injuries from the accident, I was worried running Wednesday but conk her out for running in the Perth Kilt Run on Saturday. Thankfully, there was no fight and she agreed.  She could feel her ankle flare up during Tuesday’s run and figured she would be in for more of the same or even worse. The humidity also wreaks havoc on her lungs. Better to save up the energy for race day Saturday.

I still went to lead my pace group. Since I don’t have a back-up pacer, the only way I could ensure there would be someone in the group that would be able to help if someone had to drop out due to heat exhaustion was to show up myself. I know from my St. John Ambulance days in New Brunswick heat exhaustion can set in fairly rapidly. If you aren’t hydrated properly, your body can’t regulate temperature properly and you’ll your body will burn more energy getting it back to normal. You’ll also sweat more from this additional expenditure and potentially dehydrate. A runner, even an elite runner, can go from pooped, to puke, to passed out in nothing flat. I learned this the hard way during my first 5k race a year ago. Thankfully, it didn’t affect me. I did, however, have to dodge people doubling over and puking as I was racing to my first finish. I departed from the usual practice of leaving my phone behind and even packed it into my water belt in case I needed to call an ambulance for an exhausted runner.

I did have a couple runners drop out and start walking on me. They problem is, no one told me until we were almost done. When we reached 4k, I sent my runners back to the store and I went back for my drop outs. It turned out that most of them were repeating the clinic from the previous one. I knew them and when they started walking, I was comfortable they knew what they were doing. I just wish someone told me that.

Still working on communication issues with the new group. My Sunday 2 hour pace group is huge. I have a couple of runners who like to run ahead of me. It’s not that they want a faster run, they just want to be up front. They’re experienced and also friends, so I’m not insulted, but it does create a problem. There’s a “follow the rabbit” mentality of runners that they’ll just keep up with whoever is in front. This wouldn’t be a problem if they knew the route. If the person in the lead takes a wrong turn and takes a third of the pace group with them, that’s a problem. Since it’s my group, it’s my problem. At the same time, letting them make a mistake to show them who’s the alpha dog can be helpful, too.

One thing the heat couldn’t keep me from on Wednesday was the first night of Ribfest. It’s one of the few destination events on the Sparks St. pedestrian mall. For five days, there will be a half dozen grillers competing for best ribs, chicken and sauce. Some also serve pulled pork, brisket and beef ribs. The festival has evolved quite a bit over the years. It used to be sandwiched in the two blocks between Elgin and Bank. It now goes the full length of the mall. The restaurants on Sparks St. will let you use their patios to eat your ribs if you buy a drink. This is a big change from a few years ago. When it started, most of the restaurants and pubs weren’t even allowed to have patios (something to do with a provincial or city ordinance at the time which has either been eliminated or interpreted more generously). As people just used any available space to sit and the garbage cans were quickly overwhelmed, the BIA established a beer garden so people could buy a drink, sit down, and more importantly have people to take away the mountains of cartons generated by the customers.

It was at the beer garden stage that I first visited the festival of carnivorosity. It was my second summer back from grad school when Christian suggested we go. It was the end of a week of similar humidity to this one and I was looking for an excuse to get out of my temporary quarters at the University of Ottawa.

2007 – You think that large gut had more capacity.

One thing I learned the hard way that afternoon, eating lots of food fast, drinking too little, combined with humidity (I had been having seeming weather-related digestive problems earlier in the week) meant that I didn’t keep it down long. We made it to the other side of the War Memorial when I found a garbage can to unload into. Coincidentally, it was next to a hot dog vendor. The sight of me may have driven some customers away from the processed junk to Ribfest.

I mention this less than awesome moment of my gloriously ignorant fat days because if I don’t Christian probably will. It’s not the kind of story you can let a best friend get away with. I know if the situation was reversed, I would.

No such problems this year.  My weight loss solved almost all my digestive problems. I also ate less. Sure we got this from folks at Camp 31:

Tree Hugger Special – Ribs, Pulled Pork, Chicken with beans and coleslaw.

This year, though, the emphasis is on we. Kalin and I shared it. There is enough meat in that carton for two. We did supplement the meal with some fries, also split, to fill us up. I had a couple of beers, but was still well hydrated despite having just had my hottest run ever due to the several litres of water consumed the afternoon prior.

The only thing missing was the activists from PETA to repeat my 2010 encounter. You know PETA. They’re the people that have propaganda campaigns that liken chicken processors to Nazi Holocaust death camps. They trivialized sexual assault earlier this year when they launched an advertisement promoting veganism. They do some good, like providing us with posters of naked supermodels who attest to their desire to be naked than wear fur. Of course, those campaigns only work so long as it’s Olivia Munn or Joanna Krupa saying they’d rather be naked. If it was me, you be throwing animal pelts at me and telling me to get dressed. These guys have mastered the activist pander so masterfully I’m surprised they’re not trying to convince creationists that dinosaurs are extinct because of cavemen over-hunting. If the Flintstones taught us anything it’s that dinosaurs are good eating.

Shit. I just gave them an idea, didn’t I?

Anyhow, I’ve been saving zingers for two years now since one of their number shoved a poster of a pig’s head dangling on a meat hook and asked if my meal had a face.

My response: “Yes, and it was delicious!”

I then started my Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal Lecter impression: “Do you hear their screams?”

At first he thought I was talking about our friend, Piglet. Before he could answer, I continued, “Do you them, activist? Do you hear the screams of the broccoli as you cut it at its ankles? Do you hear the cries of the carrots as you pull them from the ground … by their hair? ”

I then led the patio of the Cock and Lion in a rousing chorus of this Arrogant Worms classic:

Well just the chorus. That’s all I could remember. Insults were being generated in my head faster than my mouth could utter them.

Apparently, they don’t teach about the dangers of keeping fat people from their ribs in activist school. The trolls were stunned that someone was not cowed by their antics (pun intended). They I just finished with “This is the part where you fuck off, go home, and question what your life choices.”

They sauntered off, crestfallen. What in their mind should have been a quick, self-congratulatory trolling of a patio in the dying throes of a genocidal orgy, became a moment of ritual humiliation by solitary fat man, who then was the size of the average animal they were trying to save. He all of people should understand.

Unfortunately for them, he was me and I’m kind of an asshole when I want to be.

Some friends probably read that and thought “There’s times he’s not one?”

My little show did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. A few fellow patrons laughed at my display. One couple came over and told me it was the third time they had swung by the patio since they had arrived an hour earlier. When I asked my waitress for my bill for the two pints of Beau’s that I drank, she simply waved me off and said, “Spillage.” I left the equivalent of my first drink as a tip.

I’m looking forward to a repeat visit to Ribfest before it closes on Sunday. See ya there, jackasses.

Allons-y!

On to the next one

I’m sure by now, you’re tired of me writing about Ottawa Race Weekend (here and here) and that other medal.

Okay, it’s on to the next one.

Just mere days after my first half marathon, I began training for my second, the Canada Army Run. Since, like Race Weekend, I ran their 5K last year, I guess this is another graduation of sorts. Kalin is training for it, too, which makes this half marathon extra special as it will be the first half marathon we run together, but it won’t be our first race together.

First up, is next weekend’s Perth Kilt Run. My friend, Signi, and I signed up for it a while ago and now we’ve found a runner who can’t make it so Kalin is going to buy their kit. Now we just need to find them kilts (I paid the $30 for one of the race organization’s kilts).

Yes, I wrote kilts. The Perth Kilt Run is an annual attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people running in kilts. This year, it’s namesake city, Perth, Scotland, expected to break the Perth, Ontario, record.

They failed.

They put up a good fight, but were 60 finishers short. That’s pretty close. Too close in my books. Now it’s up to us colonials to break our own record and move the bar further out of reach for the motherland. There’s over 1900 registered, so good luck next year, Scotland.

I might actually see you there. I’ve been seeing the photos the organizers have posted on Facebook of their own trip to Scotland to that Perth’s Kilt Run and I have to say, I’m a touch jealous. Being half Scottish, I would like to go someday. I think I’ll add this to my destination run wish list.

Actually, I’m adding it onto my “I need to sample the local booze” wish list.

Looking forward to this run for a whole host of reasons. First, it’s with friends. That alone is reason enough.

Second, it’s a run outside of Ottawa proper. I haven’t left the city since I came back from Christmas holidays. People that don’t have jobs don’t get to travel for fun. As it turns out, the couple trips I’ve made out to Ashton this year were actually within the limits of the City of Ottawa. It didn’t matter if the roads weren’t paved, the city’s logo was still on the street signs. The City of Ottawa is indeed one of the largest cities in North America … by geography. Even mayor and council have tried to curb the growth, by slowing the amalgamation of unincorporated lands, only to be overruled by the provincial municipal board.

Third, while it’s chip-timed, it’s going to be fun. It’s 5 miles, slightly over 8 km. There’s a little under 2,000 people registered, making it a much smaller event than race weekend. There’s beer at the finish line. How can it not be a fun race?

Speaking of Ashton, Kalin and I finally got to meet Odie. Odie is Chris and Brittany’s horse.

Odie and the proud parents

We had a great time. Kalin grew up partly in rural New Brunswick so she loved to help feed and clean the Odie, whose show name is Odiessy (Chris wanted Odie-Wan Kenobi but was overruled), especially when she got to give Odie his post-shower squeegee.

With summer weather upon us, again comes barbecue season. Specifically, it’s hamburger and hot dog barbecue season. We actually went to two last weekend. We did pretty good and concentrated on salads and veggie snacks.  I think Kalin did better than I did at avoiding carbs. I couldn’t help having a bun with my second, third, etc. burgers/hotdog where she passed on them on for any subsequent burgs and dogs.

I need to re-learn the discipline that got me through last summer’s weight loss journey. I relaxed on the starchy white carbs leading up to the half-marathon to get some extra quick hits of energy during my training. Now it’s time to be a good boy again. To paraphrase my favourite war bonds cartoon, I did it before and I’ll do it again. It’s much easier to break a bad habit when it’s only been around a couple of weeks, but at the same time it serves as a constant reminder that in any weight loss, any real progress is fragile and reversible. The teeth are in the jugular and I intend to keep them there.

The run training got interesting on Sunday. I hate this route. All the problems with it I mentioned about it on the previous post were once again manifest. Too many traffic lights which are seemingly longer on the Gatineau side. The pace groups bunch up on each other on the left at the end of the Portage Bridge, which you have to cross the intersection twice to be on the right side of the street to be on course to make the next turn, and the route isn’t long enough for the groups to spread out again. I have to run the group a little faster after the lights to separate them from the pace group that catches up. It always seems like the happy folks are in the minority at the end of this route. On the one hand, I have the people who thought I ran the group too fast. They actually have a justifiable complaint. On the other hand, you have some people complaining the group is too slow. These are the “7K heroes”. My limited experience shows that as the distance increases, they will be cowed into compliance.

Gripes aside, there was a big adventure involving some ducklings. On the Gatineau side of the Alexandra St. bridge, we came upon some baby ducklings crossing the sidewalk to the road to find their mother.  Some of the runners in the back of my 2 hour group dropped back to help them along, going to the extent of stopping traffic at one of the busiest intersections in the national capital region.

As the little duckies crossed the road, the unthinkable happened.  One of the ducklings fell into a sewer grate. By this time, the 2:15 group had come to assist. One of the runners is pretty strong and lifted that grate so another could scoop out the duckling and send it on the way to its mother.

Another animal rescue brought to you by the Running Room.

Allons-y!

Meditations in a storm

With all the craziness of telling the story of my two medals (Part 1, Part 2), I didn’t have much time to write anything in the way of my usual post-race reflections.

Ottawa Race Weekend continues to grow in popularity. That’s both a positive and a negative. It seems like every year they add more spaces and the event sells out faster and faster. When I ran the 5K last year, I think I spent as much time weaving from side to side as I did moving forward. I noticed it was pretty much the same this year for Kalin’s 5K.

The longer distance of the half marathon was helpful in thinning out the crowd, but not by much. Pretty much each wave had as many as the 5K or 10K race did the evening before. Kalin took this shot on her walk from the Booster Juice at the Rideau Centre to where we met.

I’m somewhere around the bend, off in the horizon. We think.

She said the 2:15 pace bunny passed underneath after she took this. This is the arse end of wave 1, with another 6500+ people to come .

You can put more people on the course, but the streets are not getting wider. In fact, they’re getting narrower. Compare Kalin’s photo to this one Vicky took of my 5K last year.

While they’re from different bridges (Kalin was at Laurier St., Vicky was at the MacKenzie King Bridge), it’s pretty clear last year we had the full width of Colonel By Dr. from corner with Wellington onward whereas this year we only had half the width between Wellington to the end of the median. I don’t know whether this was by design or by accident it. Either way, it should be corrected for next year. If you’re going to grow the event, don’t shrink the width of the course. It’s even more important for the shorter races as they have less opportunity to to get past the slower runners and make up for a slow start.

My fellow runners have a lot to learn about race day etiquette, as well. When you’re running in a race with 11,000 people, a little communication goes a long way. I learned from previous instructors that it’s proper form for interval runners to signal that they are slowing down by raising their arm, like one would if they are cycling.  Remember, there are thousands of people behind you. Don’t just stop in the middle of the road and start walking, unless getting trampled is your sort of thing. I would try to do one better by getting to the side and placing myself just ahead of someone already in their walk break before signalling.

That consideration didn’t stop some woman from putting her hand on me and saying, “You people are supposed to be off the road.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being touched from behind by strangers under normal circumstances, more or less in the middle of the race. In fact, I’ve taken a few lessons over the years to deal with people who do that sort of thing for nefarious purposes. I fought back that training to offer the most polite response I could muster:

“Get your f—–g hand off me.”

I may have also added something about her future being a runner in the disabled category or something like that. About thirty seconds into my next run interval I waved to her as I passed, never to see her again.

Maybe it’s the Boston qualifier status or even the time of year for Ottawa Race Weekend, but the race seems to attract more self-important douchebags than any other race in the city. Here’s what I tell my students when I instruct a clinic: unless you’re so fast that Run Ottawa puts your name on your bib instead of giving you a number, you’re probably not winning a prize. The only opponent you have to worry about is your last finish, if you have one. If you don’t and this is your first race, have fun because whatever result you get is by definition your personal best. If you don’t have fun, running becomes a chore. Just like the chores your parents gave you as a kid, you won’t want to do it. Have fun on race day or don’t race.

I think a one-sheet on etiquette in the race kits may be helpful. I try to drill it into my runners. There is a safety element, as well. We train on routes shared with walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and even cars. Your provincial motor vehicles act may give a pedestrian the right of way, but it doesn’t obviate the laws of physics. The law isn’t a forcefield against impact with a heavier solid object. Not everyone trains like we do, in groups on shared spaces, and it shows. Something pitched like, “Welcome to Ottawa. Heres a few tips …” would go a long way. They could even toss it in the envelopes with our race bibs, since that’s the one of the few items we’ll all get and use.

What saves Race Weekend from drowning in jackassery though are the volunteers and the people who line the course to cheer. Some may be there cheering a relative or friend, but many are there cheering everyone. There’s also the various community groups that come out  to the official neighbourhood cheer stations. From the samba band in Westboro to the pipe and drum band at the War Museum, the community really comes out to rally the runners.

My favourite was, of course, the family that had the sign “Go, Mike, go!” How did they know I was running?

Yes, I know I used the joke last week.

The people on the sides are what make the event a success, not us on the road. Thanks from a grateful runner.

With my first half marathon done, I’m back at training for my second, the Army run in September. I’m pace leading the 2 hour group again. I half thought of leading the 1:50 group, but didn’t want to push it. Let’s get a few finishes closer to 1:50 before you start to put me in charge of a group. Leading the 2 hour group last time was a big challenge last time because it was my first time training for a half marathon. Whenever we increased distances, I was doing that distance for the first time in my life. On top of that, I was responsible for getting a group of people through their runs. Thankfully, most of my pace group were really good and cooperative. There were a few challengers, but instead of letting myself get worked up about it, I just fed them rope to hang themselves. I really saw myself more of a resource available to them than an instructor. Besides, that was Colin’s title. 😉

Kalin is training for the Army Run, too. This Wednesday, she came with my pace group for our 3K temp run. We had a little extra fun with this one because practice run night overlapped an event Running Room held in conjunction with Tim Horton’s Camp Day. Our run ended at the Tim Horton’s on Spark St. where there was free Timbits, yogurt and water. A nice post-run treat.

I’m also easing back into my workout routine with Greco Lean and Fit. Since I took two weeks off for pre-race tapering and post-race recovery, I thought it best to start slow. By slow, I mean three of the regular Lean and Fit classes instead of my usual four (two regular and two Extreme Lean and Fits). I’m pretty glad I did. The workouts were great, but I definitely needed the in between days to recover.

Kalin and I had a nice little adventure in social media this week, too. We attended our first tweet-up at the Ottawa Mill St. Pub Tweet Up. For those who don’t know what a tweet up is, it’s simply a meet up for twitterers, or twits, or whatever people on Twitter are supposed to call themselves. We had a great time. It was really nice to meet some people I follow, like Tanya (@Sobbee) and to meet knew people, like Ross Brownfoot and Bethany Harpur. It also gave us a chance to finally go to the Mill St. Pub, which despite being open a few months now, is still quite difficult to get into without a reservation. The manager, Peter, treated the group like VIP guests, chatting with us and comping some nachos and their signature tacos. When the waitress brought me my sample flight of their seasonal ales, I noticed a chip in my glass and Peter promptly apologized and brought me a fresh one. I had their beef deep and it was fantastic. Service was great and prices were reasonable for the level of quality. The only downside was they were out of their seasonal stout. I love stout and pretty much want to try everyone’s. Make more. We’ll be back.

Danica

Finally, a heartfelt congratulations to two of my best friends, Christian and Ramona, who this week became the proud parents of little Danica Hope Maillet. Also a late breaking congratulations to my cousin Glenn and his wife Cathy, who this morning became the proud parents of baby June Alexandra MacEachern.

They were among the people I would have invited them to my Diamond Jubilee Medal ceremony, they’ve certainly helped me on this journey from the beginning, but that was the weekend Ramona was due and just a week shy of Cathy’s date. With the all the traffic issues Race Weekend creates, I wouldn’t  want them caught downtown without easy access to their hospital should the little one have decided to make her debut  appearance.

June

Knowing their parents like I do, I bet they both skip walking altogether and go straight to running. We’ll be cheering them at a finish line someday very soon.

Allons-y!

Two Medal Sunday, Part 2 – Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Where last left our intrepid hero

How does one follow-up a sub-2 hour finish in their first half-marathon?

Most people would go home, crack open a beer, and chill out. Let the body recover while you revel in your well-earned sense of accomplishment.

I did two of those three. Chill out and recovery would have to wait for the evening. I had another medal to collect:

the Queen’s Diamond Jublilee Medal

I have to admit I was rather stunned to hear that my old boss, the Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, had nominated me for the medal.  Until I started writing this blog, I wasn’t exactly boastful of my own accomplishments in large part because they were in the service of someone else. In fact, I started writing this blog not to promote what I was doing but to give myself a weekly dose of humility.

Well, that and I have some family members on Facebook that notorious gossip hounds and wanted to prevent the inevitable phone calls to my parents wondering if I had “caught the diabetes”. One of the things I’ve learned in politics over the years is to get ahead of the story and set the narrative, even if it is a good news one. Especially if it is a good news one.

In addition to my twelve years of parliamentary service with the Speaker, I’ve done a lot of pro-bono work for some struggling non-profits who have been languishing and need revitalizing. A lot of these have been Catholic charities, the leadership of these has been getting older (like collecting pensions older) and a certain amount of lethargy has set in. While I could charge for these services, a dollar collected is a dollar not going to their programmes which would be counterproductive to my aims with these groups. I’ve also acted as an unofficial advisor to a few non-Catholic organizations over the years. They know who they are.

The Speaker also wanted to recognize my new-found passion for physical fitness. He was also particularly moved by the fact that I took the story public with this blog and, later, the Running Room magazine article.

So after I emerged from the recovery area and waded through the throngs of people in Confederation Park , Kalin and I rushed back to the apartment. By the time we got back, I was pretty spent. Since the race grounds were pure crowds and chaos, I held off on doing some post-run stretches until we got back. Someone got a little snap happy with the camera.

I was really thankful to be bumped into the first wave. The medal ceremony was to be held in the Senate Chamber at 1:30 pm, little more than two hours after finishing the race. The early start gave us a little breathing room. Frankly, I’m not sure if I would have made it on time otherwise. It even gave me the chance to have a quick beer afterward. I had a can of Michelob Ultra. They were doing a promotion at the race and were giving them away four at a time. Between Kalin and myself, I had eight cold ones in the fridge. It’s the best beer I ever drank after running a half-marathon.

I know, it’s the only beer I ever drank after running a half-marathon.

As I sat for a minute to soak in what I had just accomplished, another sign of that accomplishment began to set in: tense muscles. Relaxation would have to wait, I told myself. If I don’t get up now, I’m down for the day.

I lifted myself up and headed to the shower. I washed and shaved as quickly as I could and then threw on the suit. The new suit. The one I ordered from Indochino. Fit like a charm.

As we left my building, one thing was abundantly clear: me and steps were not going to get along this afternoon.

With just a brief stop to meet up with Vicky, we made it to Centre Block on time. We had to fight some crowded sidewalks and jammed up intersections to do it, but we made. After being scanned in by security, something new now that I’m not an employee, I slowly made my way up the marble steps to the Senate foyer. With every step I thought to myself…

I should have taken the elevator.

Ow.

Ow.

Ow.

While we made it on time, the ceremony was delayed because someone did not. Take a guess who that was. Someone learned the hard way that Race Weekend traffic is a bitch. I learned it the hard way a few years ago when Christian ran his first half and it took me 90 minutes to get the Greek Souvlaki House on the corner of Riverside and Prince Wales from Slater St.

The ceremony itself was quite lovely and I was honoured to hear my name called among the many that were honoured that day. I was very thankful that Kalin and Vicky could attend with me. There were a few others I would have invited, but knew they had other commitments that weekend.

That I was getting it from Speaker Kinsella was all the more fitting. He was more than an employer for the last 12 years. He was also a mentor and huge supporter of my academic pursuits. He even trusted me with his students and to occasionally fill in for him at a conference when he was double booked.

After the ceremony had concluded, there was a group photo of the recipients. At this point, the effects of the race were taking its toll on my body. I had to hold back making old man noises as I got out of my chair. As I lined up with my fellow recipients, Peter Quail, the former head of the Canadian branch of the Knights of Malta, looked at me and said in his heavy British accent, “My, you’re looking solemn today, Dr. Read.”

I explained what I had done earlier in the day. He was rather shocked I was even able to stand.

We stayed for the reception for a bit so I could some get some liquids into me. Instead of the usual white wine I would drink at our receptions when I worked there, I was sucking back Perrier mineral water like it was  …. umm … regular water. For those that don’t know, the mineral in mineral water is mostly sodium, a very valuable electrolyte after physical activity.

I also got to show off my race bling to the my former coworkers. Everyone had fun with the fact that the maple leaf in the medal spins. I really enjoyed the chance to show off the Speaker’s quarters to Kalin, which is not on the public tour. She really digs history and architecture, so she was like a kid in a candy shop. When I showed her the Speaker’s mace and the constitution table, I had to talk her into having her picture taken with the table. She had such reverence for what these artifacts represented she thought it was inappropriate.

The reception was a nice opportunity to catch up with the Speaker and my old colleagues. It was a great afternoon. We stayed as long as I could literally remain standing and then headed back to the apartment. I could feel the energy from my post-race nutrition leave my body. We would have liked to have been able to swing by the Highlander and shown off the race bling and medal, but a) it looked as if it was going to rain and neither of us had an umbrella and b)there’s no such thing as a quick visit to the Highlander for us. It’s not that we’re alcoholics. They go to meetings. We have a lot of friends that work there.

We made it back to the apartment and changed into comfy clothes, but not before a few more pictures.

The recipient.

And then a self portrait of Kalin and I.

 This photo ended up scaring the bejeesus out of her mother. When Kalin sent it to her, she thought it was a professional photo … and an engagement photo. Kalin calmed her down when she explained how it was just a selfie on my iPhone.

Changing into the comfy clothes for me meant finally wearing the race shirt. Some of my running friends subscribe to the theory that you never wear the race shirt until after the race. The belief is it’s bad luck because you haven’t earned it until after the race. I didn’t subscribe to that during my 5K days, mostly because with my declining weight the race shirt was often the only one I had that fit adequately. I decided not to mock the running Gods for the half.

After dinner, the sun came back out so we went down to the terrace with some drinks.  I smoked my first cigar since beginning my training. We ended up having a delightful conversation with one of my older neighbours, a delightful gentleman who is a retired Lt. Colonel from the Van Doos. He actually ran one of the first Ottawa Marathons before there was even a race weekend.

So that’s the story about Two Medal Sunday. Now that I’ve given my legs a bit of rest, I’m already getting ready for my next half-marathon, the Army Run in September, and am again pace leading the 2 hour group for the clinic.  I’ll be back at Greco on Monday for a workout. As much as I enjoyed picking up two medals in a day, one is more than enough.

The weekend’s accomplishments were great, but no excuse to rest on my laurels. The journey continues.

Allons-y!

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.