Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Do you believe in divine intervention? I didn’t, but after today’s race I’m thinking there might be something to it. But forgive me, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Today was the 120th anniversary of Around the Bay 30k Road Race.  Despite  having said I would never do a race twice, I some how got it in my head that not only could I run the race again, but I could take off nearly 26 minutes from my time competing two years ago. My goal this year was to complete the 30k in two hours.  Based on the training I did, I saw no reason why I couldn’t hold a 4:00 minute/K pace over 30k.  Unfortunately I seem to have a difficult time turning training results into race results.

Conditions were perfect this morning for the event.  Cool, but blue skies and sunshine in the forecast.  Throughout the pre-race chatter you could not help but overhear all the last minute doubt for race attire.  I was confident in my choice, and along with my cousin Lili (who was also running), ignored the debate and instead spent the last few minutes before the start doing some laps inside the FirstOntario Centre.

We parted outside the arena, she, with a goal of finishing between 3h and 3:15, me looking for my gold medal.

I was confident and had been for weeks leading up to the race. I was going to hunt down that 2:00h bunny and stick to him like glue.  A last minute decision crept into my head and instead of seeking my prize, I chose instead to rub shoulders with the 2:10 bunny.  My logic, 2:10 is still way faster than my previous time and if I felt good I could always break away later in the race. You know what they say, “The best laid schemes of mice and men…”

At the gun we bolted, about a half dozen of us sticking with our pace bunny as he went over his game plan. I was half listening, intent to just stay with him whatever he decides to.  I was amazed at how quickly the kilometer markers were coming up and then disappearing behind us.  We very quickly dispensed with the first 3k and I for one was feeling great. Then , up ahead loomed the first incline.  An overpass that our bunny was actually not sure if we were to go over or around.  After confirmation that it was up and over, he explained his pace strategy and  then we were on it.  I kept the same pace as the others, but slowly began to slip behind.  Not far mind you, just a few paces off the bunny, but it was enough. Immediately my mind went into the negative zone. “If I had hoped to keep pace with the 2h bunny and at 4k I’m already falling behind the 2:10 bunny, then what the hell am I doing this race for.?” It was the beginning of the almost end.

I was suddenly moving backwards in a race full of people moving forward.  When the 2:15 bunny passed me, I managed to stick with him through 10k, recording a 10k time of  45:25.  That was the last decent result.

As the race went on I became more and more defeated.  Each time I went into run mode. my mind stepped in and asked, “Why bother?” I couldn’t gain momentum, and had actually lost interest in the race.  This had never happened before.  My legs were holding up, my lungs felt fine, I just couldn’t see the point in continuing. This is where I believe some divine intervention stepped in.

Around the 21k mark I was ready to fold it in.  I was actually cutting across the course to the ambulance attendant to see if there was anyway to get back to the arena without actually having to continue on the course. As I wove my way through the runners, an arm went across my shoulder and a familiar and friendly voice piped up in my ear, “Hey Mike.  How you holding up?” It was my friend Steve Quattrin.  I have no idea where he came from or how he recognized me, but I do know had he not shown up at that moment, I would have most certainly been on my way back to the start via motorized assistance. As it was, we had a nice chat and he offered to finish the race off with me. I think I stayed with him for a kilometer or so before I began to fade off again.  I let him go on and despite still feeling deflated and defeated, decided that whatever happens, I need to finish the race.

The last 5k or so were hell.  There was a lot of walking mixed in with the running, it seems my mind had a very strong hold of my body.  But I persevered, and while not achieving the goal I set out to do, I did finish the race, and most importantly, I finished with a smile! My time, 2:53:45.

There was no way I would have finished had Steve not appeared out  of nowhere when he did.  Based on part of the chat we had, I know you read my posts Steve, so a huge thank you for helping my body hold off my mind just enough to get me through the finish line! You’re AWESOME!

Afterword:

Lili also seemed to have struggled with the course.  However, as this was her first time conquering a 30k distance, her finish is a testament to her hard training and determination. She  also finished with a smile, which, much like mine, quickly faded after the the finish line photos were taken.  The two of us making our way back to the car were definitely not an endorsement for running! I felt a little generous and decided to share my lunch with those around me,  while Lili had great difficult overcoming the monumental height of the curb along the sidewalk.

Another race checked off and I think the last.  I love running, and in training I do very well.  Unfortunately I no longer seem to have the mind set for racing, at least not long distances. So, for now, I’m sticking to my daily routines and just enjoying the freedom that running for pleasure provides!

 

 

 

 

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Well, spring has sprung according to the calendar, but my run this morning begs to differ.  -12, plus a wind-chill, snow and ice on the ground does not a spring day make!  On the bright side (literally) the sun was shining and warm and the sky was a beautiful blue. With the crazy weather we’ve been having one can only hope for so much next Sunday at 30k Around the Bay.

The other thing I’m hoping is that I’ve done enough to prepare. The long, extremely cold winter we’ve had has really put a limit on the outdoor training.  I’ve managed to get out often, but really can’t call it training when battling frigid temperatures, deep snow, and icy paths. I can only wish the old adage “If it doesn’t kill you, it can only make you strong” comes into play as I head off from the start line.

At this point, with seven days left before go time, I know there really is nothing more I can do to improve my time or distance.  However, I am also keenly aware that there is a lot I can do to hurt my chances of achieving my goal. While winter may not have provided optimum training conditions, trying to cram a season’s worth of workouts into the final week is a big NO NO! After my run this morning, the rest of the week will consist of some core strengthening, a few walks and most importantly rest. My prerace ritual of Epsom salt bath and early night will be my final act before race day.

This week will also be a week of fueling for the race.  Of course, over all diet is important, and if I may toot my own horn, I’ve done really well throughout the off season to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight.  But this week will be key to ensuring my performance on the course lives up to the vision in my head.  I won’t be changing my main meals so much as stopping the odd indulgences that can creep in during the day.  I’m not the “Carbo Load” kind of athlete that spends the days leading up to a race stuffing my gut with pastas and potatoes.  I don’t eat the stuff on a daily basis, why would I start now? And besides, I saw what happened to Michael Scott during his “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure”.

The first race of the year is always an exciting and nerve wracking event.  For many, the Around the Bay Road Race is their first chance to see where they are at the start of the season.  This year I’m using it as a measuring stick and a means to an end.  My first goal is to beat my time of two years ago. If I can accomplish that, I’ll be happy.  My second goal is to not just beat my time, but to actually finish in two hours.  If I can accomplish this, I’m thinking that my longer distance race days are over.  But, as any true athlete knows, checking off one goal does not actually allow you to put anything to rest, instead, it opens up more possibilities to see what else you can accomplish. Hmmm… 

Throughout my long and illustrious athletic career (guess whose teaching hyperbole in English class), I’ve competed against a wide variety of people.  Although events often put you in age and gender categories, for most of them, after the gun goes off, everyone is on the course and everyone is a potential rival.  And I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been beat by younger and older (actually much older) competitors in a few of my races.  I also have no shame in admitting that some of those racers ahead of me at the finish line have been women.  And some of those women did not just come in ahead of me, they kicked my ass!

Which leads me to wonder, why do women get to have their very own marathon event?  In fact, they don’t just get one; they get a whole series dedicated to allowing them to run on their own!  And as if that wasn’t enough, the get chocolate and fire fighters!   I’m not kidding.  The Women’s Toronto half marathon/5k presented by Goodlife Fitness invites competitors to “quench your thirst at the firefighters’ water station and re-energize at the Chocolate Station.

So guys, here’s what I’m thinking.  Let’s get together and organize a GUYS ONLY event!  Let’s say a 4k run, because let’s face it, aside from the dedicated runner, most of the male side of the species can’t really be bothered to run much further than the distance from couch to washroom to fridge and back to couch during a commercial break.  We can also get some sponsorship to bring some excitement to the event.  Maybe even some television coverage, so those guys who don’t bother showing up can at least feel like they’re doing something while sitting in the easy chair!

I picture it like this:

Welcome to the inaugural Guy’s Only 4k Shuffle/Walk/Light Jog/Sort of Run, Run sponsored by TORONTO STAR, HOOTERS, LA-Z-BOY, TIM HORTONS, CANADIAN CLUB, and MOLSON CANADIAN!

The morning will start about 10:30, or whenever the most guys show up.  Corrals will be colour coded to sort runners into categories; Blue for spandex wearing runners, Red for short shorts and cut off ts, Green for matching sweat pants and top, and Black for those who thought they were queuing for Rush tickets.

Thanks to LA-Z-Boy’s generous contribution, the entire 4k will be lined with leather sofas for those participants who are having difficult navigating the course. To encourage runners (and confused concert goes) to reach each of the 4 station located along the course, LA-Z-Boy will have deluxe massage recliners stationed at every kilometer.

Once a runner reaches that first kilometer mark, he will be greeted by the lovely Hooters Girls, ready with ice cold pitchers of Molson Canadian and plates of wings.  Runners are encouraged to fuel sufficiently to make it to the next k.

At kilometer 2 they are again greeted by Hooters Girls (save some time and let you know they will be at all of the rest stops!) where tired runners can get back some energy feasting on a variety pack of Tim-Bits and cups of coffee. Remember, the sugar in a double double is great, but the milk may not be!

By the third rest stop, weary athletes can stop and take a break with a complementary Toronto Star and a clean port-a-potty.

Crossing the finish line at the 4k mark will be quite the accomplishment for the tired runner.  To properly congratulate each of the male participants for competing in such a grueling race, bottles of Canadian Club will be offered to every finisher.  After receiving their medal, each guy will be directed into the large party tent where they will be free to open and partake of their C.C. or just sit back and enjoy the wonderful service of the Hooters Girls who will happily bring you an order of Canadian and 2 pounds of wings!

They say that writing is supposed to be very cathartic.  If that’s true, I should, right about now, be able to write the novel I’ve promised my wife and then follow it by at least 10 more!  To say the last couple of weeks have been crazy would be the understatement of the year.  With three funerals in seven days, it is a damn good thing I’m a glass half full kind of guy, otherwise I’d be staring at a half empty glass with a crack in the bottom.  I must say, there is something very profound about leaving a funeral where I was a pall bearer and returning to school where I am instantly immersed in the sights and sounds of my students laughing, and learning.

And if three funerals in seven days (isn’t that a movie title? If not it should be!) weren’t enough to dampen the spirits, through it all, my mother was admitted to hospital and is now waiting for her quadruple bypass surgery.  I tell ya, the fun never stops!  To be honest though, I’m not that worried about my mom.  She is where she needs to be, under the best care and after what should be relatively routine procedure; she’ll be out and hopefully raring to go.  My dad on the other hand is the one that concerns me. This has been the longest he and my mom have been apart, and it will be at least another seven days before she’s home.  43 years of marriage and he’s just now realizing who really runs the household!

So here I am, stuck in the middle of all of this. Looking out through the eye of the storm and waiting to see when the next touchdown is.  Thankfully I’m not in it alone though. Support, from family and friends, has been amazing.  My brother, sister, and I have been working together to make sure my dad’s okay.  My wife has been there with hugs and an open ear to listen to me vent, bitch and complain.  Friends have been there to help me organize my time so that I can be where I need to be.  And of course my good friend exercise has been there to let me release my stress and frustration!

The satisfaction of finishing three, five minute rounds on the heavy bag cannot be overrated.  And, dare I say, a full on sprint while perched upon my trainer has been a fantastic release.   But, as good as those two bouts of therapy are, the stress is still trapped inside the four walls of my basement.  And this is why nothing beats running.

You can’t run away from your problem, but you most certainly can leave a lot of the stress, worry, and fear along the way.  With each foot fall I feel the anxiety exit my body, stamped permanently on the path behind me.  I may leave the house with my mind full of worry and concern, but it only takes a kilometer or two before my mind has wondered and I’m lost in the runners daze that allows us to complete countless kilometers without realizing where we’ve been. 

Once winter decides to leave, I will add cycling to my prescription for stress release.  While I’ve certainly come to appreciate the physical and emotional benefits of using my trainer, nothing beats the great outdoors.  Whether it is losing myself on the open road, or focusing on the narrow trail between the trees, losing myself on a bike definitely helps make the world a better place! 

For now though, I have my running.   And even though it is tough coming home after an emotionally draining day and then get the gear on to go out again; I never regret finishing a run.  The best part is that no matter the distance, the result is the same.  Whether I decide to do a short fast run, long slower run, or any other combination, I arrive home feeling lighter, emotionally and physically!

Thank you for allowing me to dump this emotional load on all of you.   And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to lose myself in the rhythmic beat of feet and the drifting mind of a runner!