So remember how I was going to keep you posted on those new adventures in Fredericton?
Kind of failed miserably on that one.
In a nutshell:
I trained solo for the Army Run Half Marathon. Did well with another sub-2 hour finish, but not as well as I wanted. Made the rookie mistake of starting too fast and running out of gas.
I learned a few lessons from solo training this summer:
1. I can do it.
2 Running alone sucks.
3. Never eat corn the Saturday night before a long run.
I think those are self-explanatory.
Started training for the Bluenose Marathon. Went old school and did the Running Room clinic here in Fredericton. Whether it was those tumbles last year in the Hypothermic Half catching up to me or just plain wear and tear, I ended up with a Baker’s cyst under my patella and doctor’s orders to lay off the training. Oh well, next year.
Still keeping active, but laying off the high impact cardio. I’ve been hitting the swimming pool at the YMCA most mornings before work.
On the professional side, work is going very well. I spent the summer studying for my life licence exams. Passed those and then waited months for the province to approve my application. Now approved, I’ve been going gangbusters on expanding my firms employee benefits division as well as working with individual clients.
I’ve also been teaching some political science courses at my alma mater, St. Thomas University. The teaching was an unexpected opportunity, but a welcome one. Given the academic job market, I’m pretty lucky to be in a position to even use my PhD. Since both courses I taught were as a replacement for a previously hired professor, the timetable was not of my choosing (like most part-time instructors) and finding the balance between the primary and secondary employers was difficult. With training for a marathon on top of two jobs, it’s a good thing Kalin and I were long distance as we would have seen each other just as much.
That’s right, I wrote “were” long distance. Our long distance relationship is no more. It’s now a no distance relationship. We’re engaged to be married and will be tying the knot next year.
We have many adventures ahead, one of which is a new blog we’ll be co-writing, In Omnia Paratus: An Adventure in Literature, and Life.
As for this blog, it’s time to put it to bed. I’ve enjoyed sharing my story. Sharing it helped keep me accountable and contributed to my success. As fitness has become my routine, however, I’ve found I’ve had less new experiences to write about. Two jobs involving a lot of after-hours work hasn’t helped, either.
It’s time to start a new adventure.
I’ve been a rather negligent blogger. My excuse for the first couple weeks of the year is pretty simple:
I was lazy.
For those that actually remember my post about the odyssey that was mine and Kalin’s return to Ottawa, I was coming back to a rather uncertain future. I started 2013 like I started 2012, without a job and no irons in the fire, either. Out of nowhere, though, my old job called and asked me to come back. After some negotiation, I returned to the Office of the Speaker of the Senate on February 4th. At the same time, I began training for the next big challenge: the Ottawa Marathon.
Between Parliament Hill hours and the time suck that is marathon training, the blogging fell to the back burner.
Training for the marathon was gruelling. For those outside the Ottawa area, it was a really long winter this year. We didn’t get consistent spring weather until the beginning of May. There would be a Sunday here or there where I could break out the shorts, but most runs involved three layers into late April and some of those that didn’t were only because I was an idiot when I packed my bag in the morning.
Many of the evening runs were in inclement weather. Snow, freezing rain, normal rain, high winds. Everything but calm. Some runs had us jumping over snow drifts and puddles. We’d call these runs “character builders”. By the end, I was hoping the character I was building was Destro so I could build a weather machine. Needless to say, I’m cured of any desire of doing a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder. Getting to the start line of this year’s marathon had enough physical obstacles to scratch that itch.
For 16 weeks, I managed to stay mostly healthy (had a bout of the flu which sidelined me for a weekend when we started to taper down) and injury free. I paced the 4:15 finish group. Most nights it was just a half dozen, much smaller group than my 2 hr half marathon groups. Some nights it was so small, I’d run with the 4 hr group.
I probably stayed in my Brooks Pure Cadence shoes too long before I replaced them with the latest version. My ankles were killing me the morning after my runs. Luckily, Adidas Boost had a launch event at the Slater St. Running Room. I got to take a pair on a full run, it was hills night and we were doing 8 that evening. The next morning, for the first time in two months, I felt relatively well. I tried them again that evening on an 8K steady run. Friday morning, felt great. Friday afternoon, bought a pair. The last pair of men’s 10.5s of the promotional inventory, meaning the last of the size until the shoes officially launched in June.
Race day came and you couldn’t have asked for better weather for a first time race. It was overcast and in the high teens for most of the morning. It was so cool, many of the runners who had done the previous year’s Army Run wore the thin white jackets they gave the finishers instead of solar blankets. They were pretty handy as throw away starter jackets on a cool morning. Wish I had thought of that. I didn’t bother bringing anything that I couldn’t bring on the course. The post race plan was to meet Kalin, who at the last minute decided to run the half marathon (and did a personal best … my girlfriend is awesome), at the aboriginal veterans statue and get back to my place. Downtown on race day is a bonkers sea of humanity with a combined 16,000 runners in along with all the volunteers and the people there to cheer us on.
Any worries I had a about Boston scaring off spectators were quickly abated. If anything, there were more. Even the desolate stretch of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway where there was literally no one cheering during my last two half marathons had people cheering us on.
Like my last race, I had my playlist ready. This time, I intentionally put it on shuffle. The race was going to take as long as it was going to take and there was no point in using songs as benchmarks. I hadn’t actually run a full 42.2 k before. The furthest the Running Room’s training program takes you is 32k. You do it once, taper a bit, and then go back up to 32k before tapering down for race day. Since it was my first run that long, I just filled up my playlist with 4 hours, 20 mins of music and hoped I wouldn’t hear a song twice.
As if by fate, the song that shuffled on as the 32K marker came into sight …. a Shooter Jennings cover of Hank Williams Sr.’s “I’m so lonely I could die”. I have no clue how that even got on my iPhone, more or less my marathon playlist. Most. Depressing. Song. Ever. It’s also probably the worst possible song as you start to cross the distance threshold of your longest distance ever.
Needless to say, it took me out of my race mindset for a minute while I fiddled to skip it. I tripped to use Siri to skip it with a voice command, but this genius decided it might be a good idea to run with the iPhone in airplane mode and Siri is useless if she isn’t connected to the Internet. With a couple of button pushes and swipes, Shooter was shot and replaced by Eminem’s “Won’t back down”.
With that crisis solved, it was time to finish the race. Having passed the 32K mark, my brain reorientated itself to see the distance markers as a de facto countdown. 32K wasn’t 32K. It was 10K left.
As the last ten kilometres snaked through Rockcliffer, Beechwood, and New Edinburgh back to the downtown, the crowds got thicker. As we crossed Rideau St. onto Colonel By for the home stretch to the finish line, the cheers grew louder. The entrance to Colonel By reminded me of the the entrance to a stadium. It was time time to kick it into high gear.
After my last walk break, I gradually increased my pace. It was around 4min/k for the last couple hundred metres. I looked up at the finish line as I crossed. The clock read 4:14, already below my goal. My chip time: 4:11.
A friend would later ask me what I thought as I crossed the finish line. Given the long journey from obesity to Marathon Man, was it emotional? Did I think back on all that I had accomplished? Did I feel triumphant? Nostalgic?
My response: Thank God, it’s over.
I made it through the recovery area gauntlet, grabbing whatever freebies were on offer. Just after getting my finisher’s medal, I ran into Marina, Slater St. Running Room’s unofficial den mother, who was volunteering handing out medals. She gave me a huge, and well needed hug. I made my way to the aboriginal veterans statue to wait for Kalin. Since the half marathon is a much, much larger event, they have a staggered start and send the runners out in waves. This year it was three waves. I have to admit to being a worried boyfriend. Kalin only decided to do this race a few days earlier. My worry soon turned to relief as she emerged from the recovery area with one of the biggest smile’s on her face that I had ever seen. As we held each other, I asked how she felt. “Great,” she replied. “I PB’d.” Despite not race training, she did, however, go to Greco as often as she could and had greatly improved her strength and endurance. It paid off. She would tell me that as she was hitting the 20K mark, she broke out in tears. The good ones, though. A year earlier, she ran her first post-cancer 5K. Now she was finishing a half marathon and feeling great. She realized this is what healthy felt like and was overcome with joy.
Like I said before, my girlfriend is awesome.
With that challenge done, it’s onto the new adventure. With my contract with the Speaker’s Office completed on June 28th, I’ve moved back to Fredericton to join my father’s firm. It’s the end of my first week here. In the coming weeks, I’ll have to find a new gym and get my half marathon training for the Army Run going in earnest. Going to miss the gang at Greco and Slater St., but seven months of no employment and living off savings and credit cards takes a while to recover from. It was time for a change from contract to contract living.
Don’t worry, Kalin and I are still together. I count myself lucky to have found a girl from my hometown, even if we met in Ottawa. We both want to eventually settle here, so we see my move as serving as the advance guard. We already have the visits planned up to the end of the end of the year.
I’ll keep you posted on how things are going from Freddy Beach, but in the meantime …
It’s been an interesting journey for my story. It started as a private journal to my friends and family and a way to keep myself accountable as I went on my journey. Now it’s a public tale on this blog that has been highlighted in the Running Room Magazine and now the Globe and Mail. It’s enough to give one a swelled head.
Nature keeps me humble, though. More accurately, nature keeps humbling me. It’s winter in Ottawa where most days just leaving my apartment seems like an act of defiance to spite the ancient gods. Even a mild day will make for a slippery morning as the thaw refreezes overnight. If I get a swelled head, it’s probably a concussion from slipping on that ice. In fact, after somehow managing to go fall free on a nice 6K run Wednesday night, I did a pretty epic assplant (or, as I like to call it, a “reverse burpee”) on Sparks St. on my walk to Greco the following morning. Not only did I not bang my head, miraculously, I somehow managed to not spill my coffee.
Nature was particularly humbling the last few weeks. While I was home for Christmas, we had three snowstorms averaging 30-40 cm a dumping. I managed to get out with the Fredericton Running Room for a 14k LSD. It was supposed to be 16K that week, but windchill brought the perceived temperature down past -20 so the run leader planned a slightly shorter route. Despite having warm clothes to change into afterwards, plenty of hot liquids, and a bite to eat, I don’t think I got warm again until I wrapped myself up in bed that night.
Mother Nature also threw our New Year’s Eve plans in the scrap heap. The original plan was to fly back to Ottawa on the 30th so we could make it back in time for the Resolution Run on New Year’s Eve and attend the Hogmanay at City Hall after the run.
Neither was to be. We woke up that Sunday to a snowstorm. Our flight out of Fredericton was delayed and eventually cancelled. Since the delay already meant I would miss my Montreal connection, I attempted to rebook. As you can guess, Air Canada’s toll free number was busy. I selected the call back option and tried to do it online. The rebooking tools on the website were seemingly turned off when Kalin tried to use the website. Since my father bought my ticket using AMEX points, I had to go through them to make any changes. That was fine by me. They could stay on hold with Air Canada.
After a couple of hours, we managed to get re-booked on the same flights to Montreal and on to Ottawa the next day. Unfortunately, it meant we would not be on the ground in Ottawa until 11:30 … pm. Yep, no Resolution Run. No Hogmanay. I called the Bank St. store to let them know and get them to set aside our kits so we could pick them up when we got home. Even if we couldn’t run the race, we’d collect the swag (in this case, jackets).
On the plus side, an extra day in Fredericton meant I got to spend more time with my nephews and play their favourite game: beat the crap out of Uncle Michael.
They usually lose, but this Christmas was more challenging. My sister enrolled her kids in Tae Kwon Do. When they got super excited, they had to be reminded to keep the kicks and punches stay in the dojo or Santa would repossess their gifts. Some day they may actually land a hit, until then we’ll just keep playing.
Kalin and I made it to Montreal to have a New Year’s Eve dinner at Moe’s, home of the most expensive Creemore beer ever, $11.
Pretty much everything in the airport closed early because of New Year’s Eve. The worst was that both Starbucks and Tim’s closed at 8:30. We even watched them pour perfectly sellable coffee out as they informed us they wouldn’t sell us said product. The Air Canada-run cafe by our gate was open until 9, and I managed to get a cup of coffee for $3. That’s $3 for regular drip coffee, not some fancy drink ending with the syllable “-cinno”. Regular coffee. We hunkered down by our gate and watched some Netflix over the airport WiFi.
Our plane to Ottawa arrived and everyone was overjoyed to hear our pilot say to the gate agent, “I want to be ready to board in three minutes!” as he went for a quick trip to the men’s room.
We made it back to town around 11:30. We rang in the new year in the back of our cab on our way to the downtown. We even saw a lone firework as we drove down Greenfields Dr. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. So long as I with Kalin, that evening would be special.
The next morning, I finally unpacked to make sure the spoils of a trip to New Brunswick arrived intact.
Lest you think all that was for me, the Sussex was for a friend of ours, Liesa, the waitress at Mello’s who is also from Fredericton; and half the beer was for Christian. He came to pick it up the following Sunday and joined us for the run club that morning, which for the half marathon clinic was supposed to be an 18K LSD run.
It had snowed overnight and was still snowing that morning. With the usual pace leaders not available that morning, I was asked to co-lead the 2 hr pace group. Oh, I led them. I led them barely cleared trails and roads. I led them up slippery hills. It was a herculean effort to keep at slower end of the pace range for a 2 hr pace group, but we made it. It pretty much wiped me out for the day, though.
Winter here is a no-win situation. If it’s mild, it’s either snowing or thawing during the day only to freeze again at night. If there’s wind, a little cold becomes freeze your face off cold.
Yet, somehow, we endure. Nature may humble us, but it doesn’t destroy us. Winter comes every year and we endure its three months of ritual humiliation. Such is life. We train in whatever life throws at us so we can race in whatever life throws at us. The year starts off trying to conquer us, but, in the end, we conquer it.
Thanks for all the thoughts and well wishes over the last week. It has been a little trying, but I know I will get over this slump. Not in the best spot, but nowhere near crisis yet. The important thing is to not use the current stress as an excuse to backslide. That would just add tragedy to the end of a year that has been one triumph after another. I’m already making plans on the employment front, so hopefully something will come up soon.
In the meantime, it’s Christmas with my family and friends in New Brunswick. More so than my previous trips back east, I need this one. The last few weeks of the Senate sitting can be a little nutty. We’re often sitting late, sometimes just to receive bills passed by the House of Commons. Last week we sat late every night. I didn’t have to stay late at the office on Wednesday because of my responsibilities to my running clinic, but every other night 11 pm was probably the earliest I saw my apartment.
This can be pretty dangerous on the weight loss front. I’ve always made my stupid food choices after late sittings. Dinner was sometimes well after midnight, twelve hours after my last substantial meal. This year, I was prepared. The first time I was asked to stay at the office late, I asked for a 30 minute warning when my co-worker was going to leave so I could run out to the Freshii on Sparks St. to get a health dinner. Even though they agreed, when the time came, she left without the agreed upon warning. Thankfully, we only sat until a little past 8 pm and office fridge was loaded with some healthier hors d’ouvres from the previous night’s reception. Strange how it’s the healthy hors d’ouvres that were left over, isn’t it?
The takeaway, pardon the pun, was I can only rely on myself to keep responsible food choices. Knowing what was in store for me for the last week, I prepared for the storm. Even though I had enough meals from the Red Apron to get me though lunches until I left, I made an extra trip to stock up so I could have enough to bring an extra one for dinner and still have a few leftover when I get back. Remember, one of the issues that arose from my summer travels was the need to have food in the apartment for after I get back from my trips. Since I cleaned the apartment of the fresh veggies before I left, it will be great to have some decent meals waiting for me when I return.
For the first time in years it was an uneventful trip home for Christmas. Last year, I made the mistake of not taking the direct flight to Fredericton. While it saved my parents a couple hundred dollars, the combined delays out of Ottawa and Montreal added three hours to my travel time. At least half of the extra time was spent trapped in a Dash 8 on the runway of the Montreal airport waiting for them to load the luggage as four regional flights were departing the same gate area at the same time. All the while, the baby in the row ahead of me wouldn’t stop crying.
Parents, do the traveling public a favour and have the grandparents visit you for the holidays. I understand Jr. is the most precious thing in the history of precious things. I felt the same way about my nephews at that age. The thing is, we understand crying is the only way for Jr. to communicate at that age. It’s still the most annoying, grating noise in the history of annoying, grating noises. It’s supposed to be. Evolution has hardwired us to be annoyed so we respond to our offspring’s problem and ensure the survival of the species. We get it. Think of Jr.s well being, as well, and the germs you subjecting him or her too. Air travel is kind of like what McCoy said of space in the recent Star Trek reboot: disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.
Forgive yet another aside. As you may guess, crying babies and small airplanes are not my cup of tea.
It wasn’t the worst trip home for the holidays. That was a 22 hour drive from Hell with a seven hour delay in a Canadian Tire in Donnaconna, Quebec. It ranks up there, though. The return last year was actually worse. This time I flew to Moncton via Porter Airlines. Dad has an office there, so he could plan a work day there and pick me up when my flight arrived around supper time. Since they had a 50% off sale back in November, I could book the round trip for two-thirds of what Air Canada wanted for a one-way direct flight to Fredericton.
I’m a late convert to Porter, but a convert nonetheless. They had me at “hello”. The “hello” was at the Porter Lounge. Free coffee. Free almonds. Free wifi. Sold. What can I say? Everyone has a price and I’m incredibly cheap. On the flight itself were complimentary wine and beer as well as sandwiches. Real sandwiches with real whole grain bread and real chicken breast. The sandwiches were snack size, but more substantial than anything Air Canada offered on a domestic flight to the New Brunswick in this century.
Since for reasons mentioned in last week’s post I didn’t do my Christmas shopping prior to my return, my first stop on Tuesday was the mall. Regent Mall. The first stop, however, was not for presents. It was GNC for supplements and protein bars to get me through the two weeks I’ll be home. Since the chain has essentially abandoned downtown Ottawa, it was my first trip. Even after signing up for their Gold Card discount, I racked up $150 bill.
The next stops that day shall remain classified, lest my nephews finally read this blog and start guessing what will be under the tree for them. Apparently, they have become quite the snoops. Must get it from their mother. She was the little devil in our family who would scour every nook and cranny of our home in Cape Breton and later New Maryland looking for yet-to-be-wrapped presents. I was never like that. Never.
Okay, maybe I tagged along.
Okay, maybe I once woke everyone up at 4 am to open our presents. Santa and those reindeer woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep.
BTW, Yes, there is a Santa Claus. He smoked my cigars and drank my scotch. Here’s the proof:
Of course, I am running into many friends and acquaintances while I’m home. It’s great to see them. Some of them are passing through on the holidays, themselves. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on the weight loss and the blog. It still hasn’t gotten old.
I’m keeping up with my running while I’m home. I went to Fredericton’s Running Room Wednesday night. Ran in some freezing rain. Pretty much my sloppiest run, weather-wise. Since no one from their 5K clinic showed up, I ran with the 10K clinic. They were supposed to do 8K that night, but cut it back to 6K which was two laps around the Sunshine Gardens neighbourhood.
As you can see, I’m still enjoying the Garmin and it’s functionality vs. the Nike+. I forgot the heart rate monitor for this run, but I was pretty chatty with my running partners so I know I was around my optimum heart rate.
Since the next two Sundays fall on holidays and I don’t have clinic duties, I’m going to have a few runs on my own to get ready for the Resolution Run. My parents are looking forward to watching me run for the first time. The running is something we’ve talked about, but they’ve never had the chance to see it. Of course, Dad’s caveat is if it’s -20, I’m on my own.
Well, Dad, the long term forecast says sunny and -1. Guess you’re coming to the Exhibition Grounds with me.