Tag Archives: Picaroons

Hello 2013. Prepare to be conquered.

So this happened on Thursday.

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

Globe and Mail, January 10, 2013, P. L6

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.

Winning.

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.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

This is what we woke up to in the Fredericton area on the 30th. When I went to bed the night before, the pile of snow on the table was half that size.

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).

The evening after ... digging out.

The evening after … digging out.

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.

Don't let the cuteness fool you.  They're ruthless little animals.

Don’t let the cuteness fool you. They’re ruthless little animals.

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.

See, I told you so.

See, I told you so.

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.

$11 for friggin' Creemore? And I thought Labatt's selling Keith's as "premium" beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

$11 for friggin’ Creemore? And I thought Labatt’s selling Keith’s as “premium” beer west of New Brunswick was a joke.

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.

Maritimes, you'll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

Maritimes, you’ll never be far from my heart, or my liver.

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.

Allons-y!

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Taking Advice

Is it better to give than receive?

If you’re asking about advice, the question very quickly becomes a false dichotomy.

Receiving advice gives you the opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of those that have come before. They’ve learned from their mistakes so you don’t have to.

Giving advice means you can provide others with the benefit of your wisdom and genius (assuming you have either). You’ve made a few mistakes, learned from them, now you can spare your friends the pain and humiliation of repeating the mistakes you’ve made.

Of course, it doesn’t actually matter if you don’t actually take your own advice or the advice that has been freely given to you and actually use it.

Case in point: a tale of two Sundays.

My 14K run two Sundays ago was an example of what not to do.  I came prepared. I had my gel blocks. I just didn’t use them.

D’oh!

Or to quote Jack Layton, “hashtag fail!” (See, I’m not a total right wing jerk. Just a partial one)

As I was finishing the second to last interval, I could feel my energy reserves dropping like a stone. I was running on the proverbial fumes. I would now like to apologize to every car I’ve ever owned for routinely driving you for days after the needle hit “E”.

As I wrote last week, I was pretty hangry by the end. Discovering I neglected to pack a few items to change out of my wet clothes on a cold, rainy Sunday did not help either.

What a difference a week made. Easter Sunday we did 16K. It was great run along the pathways on both sides of the Ottawa River. The weather was fantastic. The Gatineau side was nice and hilly, making up for missing the usual Wednesday night hill training. I started taking my gel blocks around kilometre eight. I also added some honey and salt to my water bottle to give me some more sugar. Even if I repeated last week’s mistake and didn’t eat the chews, I would still get some extra energy from the water.

Both worked like a charm. I felt fantastic at the end of the 16k. Desperately in need of a quick boost, but nothing a cup coffee and a date square from Bridgehead couldn’t fix.

I didn’t bring a shake with me for post-run nutrition. It being Easter Sunday, a statutory holiday, the Running Room was officially closed as a store. It was physically open for the run club but the cash registers were closed and the store would be locked up at 11 am sharp. If I got my group back after that, the shake would nicely locked away until Monday. Since the weekly e-mail with the run route didn’t get to my inbox in time and given my track record of detours, this was a very real possibility. As such, I only brought what I needed for the run. No change of clothes. Even winged it on the shorts and didn’t wear my track pants for the walk to the store.

In the end, the route was so simple even I couldn’t get us lost. We were back by about 10:30. As I wrote earlier, felt great, just a little tired and need of a caffeine boost. No time to sit and chat with my running friends, though. I had to scoot home, get cleaned, and get cleaned up for the noon Easter service at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Made it a few minutes late, but found a seat in the choir loft. Fantastic service, but when I got out of mass I was ravenously hungry. I stopped at the first Sunday brunch I came across, Chez Lucien.

Tuesday we had a great session on body mechanics and running. Following the clinic, we ran a nice 5K tempo using the two bridges route. A little chilly with a few sprinkles of rain, but, as we say here in Canada, at least I don’t have to shovel it. I actually like it cool on these short, fast runs for obvious reasons. That said, race day is typically hot and muggy. The more training in the proximate conditions of race day, the better.

Wednesday’s hill training was fun. After missing last week’s hills, I took the less experienced runners in my group back to tho the Fleet St. hill to get our 7 repeats in. If you click the link, the GPS data looks like the kind of scribblings my nephews would do if I left them unattended with crayons and my road atlas. Another nice cool night. I made sure to have the stronger runners who finished first cheer on the ones who were finishing last.

I’ve gone from keeping things pretty steady on hills to charging them like I was an extra in Braveheart.  You can thank the cross training for that. The workouts at Greco have a tendency to slightly favour the lower body. No complaints here. For a couple of weeks, I was rather stiff for the Thursday morning Extreme Lean exercises. Despite increasing the number of hills, that didn’t seem to be the case this week at all. I got right into the circuit, starting with the burpees with the upside down bosu ball.

Looking forward to my first half marathon. RunOttawa released a 3D model of the route.

Looks fun. We’ve been cannibalizing the route for weeks into smaller routes to give the groups an idea of what they’re in for.

Food wise, been eating a lot of leftovers this week. Last week’s prime rib was transformed on the weekend into a huge stir fry that I could portion out for the rest of the week.

With Kalin away visiting her familyfor Easter weekend, it was just Vicky and I for Sunday dinner. For a change of scenery, we did it at her place. We made this lamb with fennel substituting caraway, sweet potatoes roasted with basil, eggplant, asparagus and sautéd kale. We split the leftovers and I will be having the last of my portion for lunch today.

Monday was pretty much a cheat day. Vicky and I caught a movie, Hunger Games, and I had popcorn (which apparently is loaded with antioxidants and is considered a great snack until you put butter on it. Whoops.) Kalin came back from New Brunswick with a bounty of the best New Brunswick and the Maritimes have to offer. Dinner was the other Greco, donairs, chased down with a growler of Best Bitter from Picaroons. She also brought me back a four pack of their Timber Hog Stout and some hot lamb and hot beef samosas from Samosa Delight at the Boyce Farmer’s Market.  I definitely kicked it extra hard on the fitness front this week to make up for it. We even had extra burpees this morning at Greco Lean and Fit because it was someone’s birthday, 36 in all.

Allons-y!

Week 51 – Home I’ll be, Part 2

Fredericton

(expletive)

I’m still in Fredericton.

Forgive the Captain Willard moment.  I’m actually enjoying my vacation back home.  It’s a much needed break from the pressure cooker that is Parliament in the weeks leading up to the Christmas break. I usually take off within a few hours of Parliament rising.  This year I waited until Monday so I could get in another Running Room clinic night and Sunday practice run with my 5K clinic. Even with a couple of days to get ready, it’s still like the scene in Spaceballs where the ship comes to an emergency stop while travelling at ludicrous speed.

My Christmas vacation usually takes three distinct phases:

Phase 1 – Prepare for Christmas. This is the aforementioned Christmas shopping.  Luggage restrictions make it impossible to get my shopping done in Ottawa.  I also like to coordinate with my sister and parents what was already purchased for the nephews.  I also knew what Santa Claus was giving them.  For the wee ones who may be reading this, I am an Agent of S.A.N.T.A. I am part of an intricate network, like Uatu the Watcher, who observes and reports to inform  the man up north’s naughty and nice list.  For all the hype I made of my dread of the mall this time of year, I ended up spending more on supplements to get me through 2 weeks at home than I did at the mall on presents. For the nephews, I actually used the Claus’ suggestion of an art set for Wes and a chemistry set for Andrew, both of which I found at a pair of stores owned by my friend, Luke Randall, Endeavours and ThinkPlay. I don’t know why I bother going to the mall as I usually end up buying the boys’ presents at Luke’s than anywhere else.

Did they like their presents? You decide:

 

There’s also the health aspect in preparing for Christmas.  As I mentioned, I have to stock up on supplies to keep nutrition plan compliant. While mom is more than happy to offer to pick some things up at the grocery store for me so it’s here when I get home, I’m loathe to give her the full list of what I need.  The good son, I am, I don’t want her running around town looking for brand X supplement when I know where to go to get the brand I want at a reasonable price. So I have her get the simple stuff that she was going to buy for the house anyway like frozen berries and yogurt and I’ll get the rest.  I still have half a jug of whey protein at home from my summer trip, but I didn’t want to brave the holiday hordes at Costco for the rest, so I went to GNC for the veggie greens, fish oil and protein bars. I spent about $150 after tax for two weeks of supplies. The leftovers will be stashed until my next visit.


Of course, no visit to Fredericton is complete without the return to the old haunts.  I made more than one stop at the Garrison District Ale House. The food there is great and they have the biggest beer menu in town. Of course, the only beer I care about this time of year is Picaroons Winter Warmer, from our local microbrewery which won the award for best brewery in Canada this year.  I lucked out this year that the Boyce Farmer’s Market is actually open twice this year during my vacation. Last year, Christmas and New Year’s both landed on Saturdays. There was a special Christmas Eve market on the Friday and then it was closed until January 7th. I flew back to Ottawa on January 2nd.

Phase 2 – Survive Christmas.  Christmas at the Read household is a three day affair.  Since my sister has a young family, we go to the early Christmas Eve mass at her parish on Fredericton’s north side, St. Theresa’s.  The competition for seats can be quite fierce, so we go early for the early mass. The tradition at St. Theresa’s is that the children bring bells  and ring them every time they say “Amen” during the mass. My ears rang for hours afterward.

After mass, we gather at my parent’s place for dinner and give my nephews their Christmas presents from us. When we got back to the house, we discovered Santa had come early for myself and my parents.  This stressed my nephews to no end. Suddenly they were scared Santa had passed over their house because they were not home in bed.  I had to download the NORAD Santa app for my iPhone to show them that he was still on his way.  I guess he delivers to employees first ;).

On the food front, I was mostly responsible.  Our Christmas Eve dinner is a smorgasbord of meat. It consists Mom’s sweet and sour meatballs, cabbage rolls, and meat pie. Dessert is a five layer blueberry tart.  I kept my portions reasonable.

I made my parents post-run Christmas morning brunch of whole wheat French toast with organic hot Italian sausage and hash browns.  The hash browns were an indulgence, but I added onions I threw in some onions that were leftover from when we barbecued steaks earlier in the week so there were veggies.

Hey, I ran 5K in -20 windchill.  I earned that brunch. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/136307218

Christmas dinner was the traditional turkey and all the fixings. Mom cooked me some sweet potatoes along with the rest of the veggies so I was spared the simple starches of their white cousins.  My brother-in-law’s mother made the turkey. His grandmother made the stuffing, of which I had only a spoonful. My sister made dessert, a gingerbread cake with lemon sauce. I would like to say I had a only little bit of dessert, but my sister’s definition of small portion and mine are two different things.  She was the natural athlete in the family, so she can get away with it.

Phase 3 – Recover from Christmas.  The nephews can be pretty rambunctious.  They’re 9 and 6 and love to wrestle with their Uncle Michael. Andrew even brought boxing gloves to our house this morning. Since my parents thought it was a good idea for the boys to sleep over Christmas night, I was under pretty much constant assault from mid-afternoon Christmas Day until lunchtime Boxing Day. They are savage and relentless. Needless to say, I was battered and bruised and needed time to heal up. I thought the mall was going to be killer.

Andrew has developed the Read sense of humour. He drew a picture this morning of small person wearing big, red gloves hitting a larger person a little below the waistline. He handed it to me and said, “This is what I’m going to do to you.”

My response, “If you ever want to have a cousin, aim higher.”

Part of the recovery means getting back into the exercise routine that I allowed to lapse over the holiday weekend. It’s a little difficult to keep the routine of waking up at 5:00 am and walk to the gym when the gym is now 5k away along a highway with no sidewalk. I’ve gotten my usual runs in.  After posting last week’s blog on Friday, I went for a run in a snowstorm and enjoyed it immensely. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/135991133 Sunday, Christmas Day, I went for the aforementioned morning run in -20. There is something oddly invigorating about a cold weather run.

On Wednesday, I ran with the local 5K Running Room clinic. They were MIA last week because they had the opportunity to drill with the track coach at University of New Brunswick. In a funny twist, it turns  out the instructor for the local clinic is the wife of a classmate of mine from high school. Fredericton is a very small town.  It was a cold, rainy night and  didn’t know the route, so I kept this one slow and paced myself with the group. http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/137213530

Both Mom and my sister got me guest passes to Goodlife so I could go the gym while I was home.  These were actually my first solo non-run, non-swim workouts since I started this journey and, Good Lord, working out alone is capital B Boring. I clocked some time on the elliptical to warm up and then did a couple rounds of the circuit machines. It was a good workout, but just dull. There were a lot of little things that made me miss the gang at Grecoleanandfit. They gave me a shower towel out of courtesy, but it was going to be $5 if I took out a membership. I guess Loblaws, the owners of Goodlife, take their marketing cues from crack dealers. The water fountains were on the municipal system.  If I wanted filtered water, there were plenty of Aquafina bottles for sale. There were also no spare toiletries or comb in the change room.  The water and toiletries I can understand, but paying for towels? Really? Fail. It’s not like I’m the big city guy coming to Palookaville telling the yokels how to run their business. I’m the local guy coming home and using a national chain, yet it feels like I’m slumming it.  I guess the locals at Free Form Fitness and Greco have spoiled me this year into thinking little things like towels included in your fees or can of body spray if you forget your deodorant is the way it’s supposed to be. In the end, they were free workouts and unlike the last time I was given a free pass to Goodlife, I didn’t have to go through a sales pitch every time I showed up for a workout.

Unrelated note: if your parents named you after a totalitarian dictator, it’s not shameful to have your name legally changed as an adult. It’s smart. You’ll find life a lot easier, especially if you’re in sales. Just saying.

Haven’t decided on New Year’s Eve yet. I know. It’s tomorrow. As Dave Attell would say, “There’s people who have a problem with drinking and driving. I call them cops.” New Maryland’s geographic location vis-a-vis Fredericton makes it a perfect location for the Fredericton City police to stage a New Years Eve checkpoint at the city limits and they do. Every year. This means if I want to drink the car stays home I and I cab it.  There’s a few events in town that I wouldn’t mind going to, but between tickets and cabs it’s going to be $100 before I have a drink. Oh, if I go out, there will be drinking. Given the situation that’s waiting for me back in Ottawa, that money might best be saved for other purposes like the necessities of life or my registration for my half-marathon clinic.

I’ve actually gotten out of the habit of going out on New Year’s Eve. The last few have been non-events for me.  For some reason, I usually pick up a bug and get sick. Usually it’s whatever my nephews have picked up from school.

Remember, young parents, once they hit school, they bring home more than report cards and art projects.

I figure other years, I picked it up while travelling. Last year, God, himself, struck me down for having the gall to chill out in my parents’ hot tub during a snowstorm. I was out like a light by 10 o’clock. The sound of fireworks on the television coverage of Times Square in New York woke me up and told me it was time to move from the couch to bed.

2010

I have once again tempted fate this year, hopping in almost immediately upon my return home. I event repeated this when we had a second storm. So far, I have not felt His wrath. I even smoked a cigar, a Montecristo Churchill, a going away gift from the office.

Before you ask: yes, I’m wearing a bathing suit. Get your mind out of the gutter.

BTW, how are those for before and after shots?

It seems like any plans I make for the night have had fate intervene and expectations dashed, so I will make none of the former to increase the likelihood of the latter being exceeded. Besides, I have a run in the morning. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve run hungover, but I would really like to PB on this one, even if its unofficial, since it’s the last 5K race I run for a while.

My real new year begins at the end of next week. As you can see from the title, I’m starting week 51. For those not up on math,that makes just another week before my year’s journey is complete. That will be more of cause for celebration than the arbitrary passing of a date on a calendar.

Sure, the year is not starting on the best of notes, but I intend for my coming period of unemployment to be like Hobbes’ state of nature: nasty, brutish, and, most importantly, short. I’m sure if I throw the vigour into the job search that I threw into this journey, I will be just as successful.

That written, some cutbacks will be necessary in the short term.  There’s a Beyond the Rack purchase of suits that arrived a week and a half late that will be heading back as soon as I get to the apartment. When I received an email update that it was still pending, I called and tried to cancel it but in the couple of hours between the email going out and my phone call it had arrived at the warehouse, been packed for shipping and was awaiting pick-up.

The operator gave me the good news: I was getting a free upgrade to express shipping so it would be at my apartment in Ottawa before Christmas.

Dude, I’m calling from Fredericton … New Brunswick. I won’t be back until the new year. Oh well, the ten business day return policy will not have expired by the time I get back and three federal, therefore Canada Post, holidays between then and my return will be helpful.

Until the work situation is sorted out, the clothing purchases are on hold.  I bought a little bit more athletic gear with a Running Room gift card that was a gift from my sister and brother-in-law, but that’s the final purchase for a while.  My pre-Christmas shopping trip  and late summer and early fall purchases have me well stocked for winter wear. I was tempted by some items that were 50% off at Robert Simmons, but decided against it. My suit and shirt collection is sufficient until the paycheques start rolling in. I really don’t need to worry about clothes again until summer. Pretty much everything I bought for last summer is now too big. Even the aspirational Speedos are now baggy, and I don’t mean that in a pervy way. I’ll worry about that in May.

Until then ….

Allons-y!