Tag Archives: Ottawa Race Weekend

New Adventure …. but first

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.

20x30-OTDA4025

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 …

Allons-y!

Refuse to live in fear

The unthinkable has happened. I’m rooting for Boston.

I’ve always loved the city. It’s the sports teams I can’t stand. The Bruins were my sister’s team growing up, so they were caught in the middle of our sibling rivalry. The Red Sox and Patriots were the perennial losers of my youth. I could legally buy a beer in America well before either of those teams gave me a reason to support them. I just don’t care about professional basketball enough to root for any team, more or less the Celtics.

For much of my grad school days, Boston was my point of entry into the USA. Fredericton had a twice daily Delta flight to Logan airport and, between the early departure and the time zone difference, the morning flight would get me there early enough I was often the first person to go through US customs and immigration. My international student friends will understand how much easier it is to go through customs when there’s only a couple of people behind you and not two dozen plane loads.

The connection flight to Washington would be a few hours later, so I was rarely in a rush and could actually enjoy the airport. The staff was always amongst the friendliest airport staff I have ever encountered. Returning from a semester in the District, the Boston accent was the surest sign that home was near. Logan’s only flaw: the flights to Atlantic Canada flew out of the domestic terminal, and not the international terminal, so no duty free booze and stogies for me.

I’m from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick so the connection to Boston runs deep. The first major influx of Anglophone settlers the Maritimes were Loyalists from New England. Following the Halifax Explosion in 1917, workers from Boston came to the city of my birth to help with relief efforts. To this day, almost a century later, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to Boston as a gesture of gratitude. Before “going down the road” meant traveling to Ontario and Alberta looking for work, it meant going to the “Boston States”.

Watching the news break live with what happened at the Boston Marathon reminded me of how I felt when I would hear that a soldier had died during our Afghanistan mission. I have many friends in the Canadian Army, and it seemed at least one would be deployed at any particular point. My guts would wrench for hours, even days, until I found out they were safe. Relief was momentary. While my friend was safe, someone else’s friend, maybe one of my neighbours, was gone.

That’s pretty much what it was like on Monday. As one friend after another checked in via Facebook and Twitter to tell us they were okay, the thoughts turned to those who were not okay. One hundred seventy-five injured. Three dead.  One of them was an eight year old. That’s a year younger than my nephew.

Hey, Mr. Badass mass murderer, what the fuck did an eight year old ever do to you?

As you can tell, sometimes when the sadness passes, it’s replaced by anger and outrage.

Shadows and darkness only exist because of light. A shadow tried to cast itself over Boston, but the lights drove it back. The lights were the runners that crossed the finish line and kept running to the hospital to donate blood or the ones in the recovery area that helped. The lights were the first responders and volunteers on the scene. The lights were the bystanders and spectators there to watch who stayed to help the injured around them. The light was Boston Cowboy. The lights were people who saw the danger and ran toward it. Random people sucked back their fear and summoned the courage to help.

I used to be one of those people. In what seems like a lifetime ago, I volunteered to cover many a sporting event in Fredericton with St. John Ambulance. I understand how much time volunteers sacrifice to get the training required to keep us safe on race day. Many days and nights were spent in hockey rinks, in school gyms, and along roadsides treating sports related injuries. When you’re in those courses, you think you’ll never be able to remember “all that stuff”. You practice and practice and when you’re called to the scene, the training takes over and you do what is needed.

It’s often a thankless task. There’s no money in it. I’ve worked on events where organizers publicly thanked the wrong organization. You sit back and take it because you believe in service for its own sake.

Now, as the person participating in the event, I’ve seen the volunteers at work for us. Thankfully, I haven’t required their medical services on race day … yet. I have seen them form a phalanx around an injured runner so the first aiders could safely treat them and remove them from the course.  The water and cheer stations? All volunteers.

Marathons can only exist because communities support them. There are a lot of road races in Ottawa. Many of these require road closures. In the case of Ottawa Race Weekend, a 42.2 km course that runs through two cities in two separate provinces requires a lot of road closures. I learned this hard way after Christian’s first half marathon. The plan was to gather at the Greek Souvlaki House (since closed) on the corner of Prince of Wales and Riverside. From my apartment on Slater St, the drive would normally take 15 minutes. That day it took 90.

If our communities didn’t have patience and tolerance, we wouldn’t be able to have races. If the community stayed home on race day and didn’t come out to cheer on perfect strangers, it would be a pretty lonely, miserable race. The race itself can be a lonely experience. Any runner will tell you, if not for the strangers who show up to shout words of encouragement to random runners, they might have quit. It just wouldn’t be the same without seeing signs like “Chuck Norris Never Ran a Marathon”, “My Mascara Runs Faster Than You”, and “Worst. Parade. Ever”.

I’ll be keeping up my training for this year’s Ottawa Marathon. I’m not going to resort to clichés like, “If I don’t run, the terrorist wins.” I just refuse to live in fear of the unknown. I have lived and worked in two national capitals. When I decided to take up grad studies in Washington, DC, it still had the highest homicide rate in the United States. I still went. Not going to lie. There were a few close calls. I was working on Parliament Hill when the Toronto 18 were arrested. Their plan was to storm the Hill, behead the PM, and hold the House of Commons hostage until we left Afghanistan, gave Israel back to the Palestinians, and made Yahoo the default search browser on Internet Explorer.

By virtue of the fact I work in the same building as the Prime Minister, there’s an element of risk involved in my job. I accept that. Parliament belongs to the people, not the politicians. They just work here. To maintain access to the Hill for our citizens, we have to trade off a bit of our security. Everyone here accepts that. We are not ignorant of the danger. We just don’t let it keep us from doing our jobs.

I know from this experience what race organizers around the world are now going through. How do you adequately secure a 42.2 course through a city? Unfortunately, the answer is not much. There are probably improvements that can be made to any race course, but these are public streets we run on. We need the public to come out to cheer us on. We need them to feel safe to come out, but at the same time not scare them away with the very measures that were put in place to make them feel safe.

Security can’t be everywhere at once. Even in a police state, crime happens.  Citizens need to be vigilant. Don’t be afraid to report that mysterious backpack by the garbage can to the authorities.

Any place where the public gather is a potential target. We can live in fear or we can just live.  I know what those who have been taken from us would want us to do.

Allons-y!

Motivation Redux

Crazy couple of weeks. I got a little busy and didn’t find the time to write a blog post. Thought this week I would turn to a an old topic: motivation.

This past Monday, I was asked to speak to the Slater Running Room’s For Women Only clinic on the topic of motivation. I normally start by telling the story of my weight loss. You can get the Cliff Notes versions in a series I wrote at the beginning of the year. So You Say You Want a Resolution: Part 1, Part 2,Part 3. For the more visually inclined, check out the Journey in Photos.

I’ve written a lot about the various friends that have inspired and motivated me over this journey. One person who inspired me immensely is Randy Pausch of the Last Lecture fame. Here is the most famous university lecture ever:

My favourite part is when he talks about brick walls. Brick walls are there to give us the opportunity to prove to ourselves how badly we want things.

Whether it’s weight loss, running, work or whatever, life is going to throw a few brick walls between us and our goals. It’s how we deal with them that will determine if we’re going to succeed. While I’d like to offer the stereotypical alpha-male response and tell you to just power through it, it’s rather stupid advice. Some of the brick walls that life throws up may be injuries which will require you seek professional advice and modulate your goals. Remember, delaying a goal is not denying a goal.

Since it’s November, there is a proverbial elephant in the room: winter is coming. Even if it ends up being a mild one, the days will be short. We’ll soon be going to from work in darkness. This is the time of year one needs motivation in spades. While the end of daylight savings time means that we’re still leaving for the day in daylight for a couple more days, pretty soon my morning workout and evening run will be in darkness.

This Thursday was a good example of needing an extra dose motivation. I got to bed Wednesday night at a reasonable hour, but for some reason I woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for two hours. I was pretty zonked when 6 am came and I had to decide to go to my Greco Lean and Fit class, sleep an hour and go the 8 o’clock Extreme Lean class. I decided to drag my sorry ass to the 7 am class. Why 7? I have more friends at that class now than the 8 am class.

Tip #1 – keep it social. The reason I was and remain successful on this journey is because it became part of my social life. I see my Greco and Running Room friends more than I do my family. That’s not to say they’re as close as my family, they have a long way to go to reach that status, but I miss them when I’m not there or one of them isn’t there.

Tip #2 – put your money down. My previous job had a workout room in one of its buildings. My apartment building has a very nice workout room, too. Frankly, if it wasn’t attached to the laundry room, I would probably never grace its presence (the swimming is another matter. Love swimming). Paying for a trainer, paying for a Running Room clinic helped motivate me by making me want to make the maximum return on investment. My father is a financial planner, so it helped me to think of how to achieve my goals in terms of strategic investments. By investing what little extra money I had in a trainer then in running clinics, I forced myself to get through those blocks and plateaus so I could get the ROI I wanted.

Tip #3 – be ready. I pack my gym/running gear the night before. At the simplest, it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning. The less I have to worry about, the better I sleep. The better I sleep, the more I get out of a workout. At a higher level, it readies the mind for the next day’s workout and you wake up conditioned to start your day with exercise.

You know who else always has their gear ready? Superheroes. Peter Parker is always a quick change away from being Spiderman. Clark Kent is an even quicker change away from being Superman. Even Tony Stark has a set of armour that collapses into a briefcase so he can become Iron Man at a moment’s notice.

Just as a superhero can never not be a superhero, a runner can never not be a runner. A runner should be as ready to run as a superhero is ready to save the world. Our tights are more colourful, too.

I’m going to need to stay motivated in the next year. I’ve decided I’m not running the half-marathon on Ottawa Race Weekend. Kalin and I are going to run the full marathon.

Allons-y!

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!

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 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.

I’m definitely in my zone

This will probably be a short post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sheepish looks. Fuck it. Let’s run.

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

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

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

Sunday morning is my day with destiny. I

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

Now the fun begins.

Allons-y!

In Praise of Food Porn (Reader Discretion Advised)

Soft focus.

Sensuous music.

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

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

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

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

More specifically, I discovered Giada:

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

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

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

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

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

In the end, it was an awful one.

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

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

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

Enter food porn.

Bow chicka wow wow.

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

Umm

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

Yeah. That’s it.

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

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

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

Oh wait. That happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allons-y!

In whatever nature throws at us

Wednesday was a crazy practice run.

That shit cray?

Yes, Kanye, that shit cray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oui”

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

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

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

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

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

It was time to JFDI and GTFO.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if it includes cars and cyclists.

Allons-y!