Race Report: Eggnog Jog 10.8K

Eggnog Jog 2015- with Dave
Pre-race at the Eggnog Jog, photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

The Eggnog Jog is a popular race which runs out of the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, just north west of Toronto.  It is 10.8K, is unusual distance but the country roads in the area make  a 10K route difficult unless it is an out and back course. Regardless, the race draws over 600 participants; every year, it sells out so my husband and I registered early for it. This was my first race after the Chicago Marathon and the mid-December date gave me enough time to recover and work on regaining my speed.

Since the beginning of November, I spent my Saturday mornings focusing on speed work.  Knowing that the course has a challenging elevation, I incorporated hill training, mile repeats, and shorter intervals in those workouts as I could do them in daylight.  On the other running days of the week, I tempoed, did a long run (with my longest run at 17K) and just ran for the love of it.  I headed back to the yoga studio on Friday nights (and, by the way, yoga on Friday followed by speedwork on Saturday  makes for tired abs on Sunday morning).  Everything felt right.  I was ready and, hopefully, going to race a sub-50 minute race.

Dave likes this race because of the later start (10:30 a.m.).  I like it for the challenge.  The elevation drops about 100 metres over the first 2K and then climbs over 120 metres for the next 5-6K; the finish is a fast 400 metre downhill.

One of the biggest challenges that morning was deciding what to wear.  I had my LVA singlet, Saucony Sayonaras, and Sweaty band – but did I need one layer or two; tights, capris or a running skirt?  It poured in the morning and temperatures were hovering over 0 degrees at the start, so I opted for a t-shirt with my Running Skirt long sleeve and my tights.  I was worried about being over-dressed but, as it turned out, my gear was perfect for the day.

Despite the training I had done, when I started the race, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I had 3 goals: to run as fast as I could, watch my pacing and try not to let any women pass me.  I took the first 2K conservatively as I knew that I had to start an evil climb right after.   In those first kilometres, I heard a woman talking to a man – something about keeping up – and picked up my pace enough to open a bit of a gap.  From that point on, I didn’t hear her again.

Once I got to 3K, I started to play cat and mouse with a few men.  They would run ahead of me, I would pass them, they would work to pass me again….It became a vicious cycle.  At 7K, another male runner caught up to us and, then, another at 8K.  I tried to stay with them but they were both stronger than I was – and finished less than a minute of me.  Once I got to 9K, I turned on what power I had left and gave myself another boost at 10K.

Eggnog Jog 2015
Racing the last 400m of the Eggnog Jog.  photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

 

As I made the last turn towards the 400 metre finish, I focussed on stretching out my legs, which was tough to do when my quads were still burning from the rolling hills.   I saw the clock read 48:something and gave it everything I had to finish in 49:12.  About 20 seconds later, another woman ran in and called me a “powerhouse.”  Never in my entire life have I been called a powerhouse; it felt great.

 

I had no idea where I was in the final standings.  I felt that I was close to the top but, as I didn’t see any women ahead of me, I didn’t know if I was chasing 2 or 3 or more.  I was thrilled when I found out that I finished Third Overall.  It was a great way to end the season.Eggnog Jog 2015 - awards

 

This course was tough and I promised my husband that I would do my cooldown by running back out so that I could cheer him in.  I tried to convince a few other runners who finished ahead of me to jog with me and they looked at me as though I had horns coming out or my head.  So off I went on my own; the things we do for love.   I found Dave around the 9K mark and ran with him until we neared the finish line, when I let him close his race alone.

Both Dave and I got what we wanted out of the Eggnog Jog.  Dave wanted a goal race, a chance to push himself to run the 10.8K distance regardless of the time it took.  Me, I wanted a goal of running a sub-50 and I got that.  Best of all, though, was the chance we had to race together.

Back to Basics

Christmas 2015 - treeThis is the first Christmas that I am no longer the child.  We lost my parents in the spring and, for the first year in a long time, my brothers and I did not spend Christmas together.  So this year, Christmas was on me.  It was my year to establish some new traditions while keeping the old.  This is a mothering role that I wasn’t quite ready for and there is a lot of pressure in doing it right.  So I did what felt natural; I took my family back to basics.

We started our holiday prep on Sunday.  That is late for most families but both of our dudes have birthdays in the 3 weeks before; we wanted to respect those and not blend them with the rest of the Christmas season.  We were also so busy with choir, school concerts and events, and report cards that I didn’t really have time to focus on anything Christmas.  So Sunday was the planned day to put up our tree.

We have always gone to a local church to purchase one from the Boy Scouts of Canada, where we have always able to find a beautiful tree from Nova Scotia, but I wanted to try something different.  This year we decided that we would go to Merry Farms where we could cut our own.  At the last minute, the littlest dude resisted making the trip out of town and complained most of the car ride but, once we got to Merry Farms, he was the one who had the most fun.  The two dudes laughed and giggled, took turns pulling each other on the wagon and ran around looking for the perfect tree.  After that, they picked out a new ornament for the tree and shared a large chocolate chip cookie.   The day was a success and a new memory for us.

This year, the boys had big ticket items on their lists – electronics and expensive.  Christmas 2015 - toilet plungerI have always followed 3 criteria for purchasing a gift: something that the other person wants; something that you aren’t really buying for you; something that is affordable.  Their “wishes” did not fit the bill but this toilet plunger  for my husband did as he always complains about our old one.  It also had the benefit of being completely unexpected – and it raised loads of laughter on Christmas morning.

For my husband and boys, I had ideas which were much different than their dreams of gadgets and electronics.  It was going to be a year free of technology- not even an iTunes card; it was a year of gifts which brought the family together and would help them grow rather than send them to their quiet spots where they did their own thing.  Santa and I respected their interests – sports, cooking, and play – and they found real toys, games, books, magazines and cooking appliances (“Oh!  A rice cooker!  It will do the work for me!”) under the tree.   Everyone has happy; there wasn’t one complaint and the house was filled with laughter in the afternoon.C

Laughter cutting down our tree; giggles while playing Monopoly or during Nerf gun battles; hysterics about a toilet plunger carefully wrapped and placed under the tree.  These are the sounds of togetherness, the joy of being with family, and the feelings that will stay with us for many Christmases to come.

 

 

Do You See What I See?

A few weeks ago, when mornings were suddenly dark at 6:30, a friend emailed me:

“Cynthia, I’m so upset.  I almost hit a jogger.  I didn’t even see him.  He was wearing black.  I’m still shaking.”

Tonight, while driving along a dark and quiet street, I went through similar emotions.  A man was running on the road, facing the direction of oncoming traffic (i.e. me), and wearing an orange jacket with a reflective strip.  He likely thought that the orange made him visible; it did not.  The jacket itself was not reflective and the reflective strip was worn so I didn’t see it until after I saw his face – at the last minute.   I swerved to get out of his way and he was fine.  In fact, he probably had no idea of what was happening or that I felt panic; he continued jogging down the road and I cursed the fact that he wasn’t wearing reflective clothing.

Visibility for runners is essential.  Whether it is day or night, we need to be seen.  For this reason, I tend to run on the road – and am sometimes criticized for this by my non-running friends – but I am safer.  First, drivers are more likely to see me when I am on the road than on the sidewalk; since I am sharing a lane with traffic, it is hard for them not to notice me.   Secondly, without trying to sound too cocky, most drivers can’t judge my speed; if I am on the sidewalk, a driver will often try to quickly swerve into a turn, thinking that he/she can beat me to the intersection but, instead, forces me to a grinding stop just as I am about to jump off the sidewalk onto the road.  For me, running on the road often seems to be the better option; I just have to dress for it.

For the past few winters, I was sporting a Vizipro jacket by Saucony.

Reflective gear 1
Kelly-Lynne and me in our Vizipro vest and jacket.

I loved its vibrant pink and, even more, the battery-charged piping that lit up when I ran.  When training with my club, I often did a reverse-Rudolph run and ran at the back of the pack so that we could be sure that cars from behind would see us.

In January, when I found myself lying face down in the middle of a busy road, I clearly remember thinking “It’s okay.  Drivers will see me.  I have my jacket on.”  The next day,  I looked at my running gear and noticed a rip on the right sleeve of my Saucony jacket.  Since I loved that jacket, I considered fixing it with duct tape but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the jacket’s life looking at the sleeve, remembering the night that I broke my jaw.  My husband agreed.  “Get rid of it,” he said.  Being frugal, I usually pass unwanted gear onto running friends but this one didn’t make the cut; I didn’t ever want to see someone else wearing this pink vizipro because of the negative connotation it now had.  Straight into the garbage it went.

Since I haven’t really needed to run in the dark or the cold since that night, I haven’t had to worry about a jacket either. Reflective gear2 A few  Tuesday’s ago after school, I was dressed to run when my husband stopped me at the door.  “You are not wearing that,” he insisted.  “You’re wearing black.  By the time you get home, it’s going to be dark.  No one will be able to see you.”  I reminded him that I hadn’t replaced my reflective jacket yet.  “Take my Brooks jacket.  I don’t need it.  I have another.”   It is orange (not my favorite colour), a little big on me and a little warmer than I need right now, but it does the trick.  I can be seen when I run.

Tonight, I realized how much I do need this jacket until I do replace it with one that fits better.  In the past few weeks, drivers have slowed down to let me go first, or they have given me space on the road; I know they can see me.  But the guy who was running tonight when I was in the car?  He was not visible; he may as well have been dressed in black.

A simple trick to check your reflectivity is to ask someone to shine a flashlight on you, dressed in your gear, before you head out the door.  If that doesn’t work, trying taking a selfie outside.  You may be surprised by what you do – or don’t – actually see.

How Did I Become a Soccer Mom?

For the past 2 weeks, I have been hopping around from one blog to another and have enjoyed meeting new people.  Today is my spotlight day so I am going to start off telling you a bit about me.

Chicago - expoChasing My Dreams – Setting goals and going after them makes me happy.  After my long layoff this year, I still ran the Chicago Marathon and BQ’d.  When I was still on the course, I set one of my goals for 2016: to marathon in the spring and improve my time for a better corral start.

Yummy – My favorite food is chocolate.  I’m pretty good about staying away from it.  Being lactose intolerant helps.  But when I do my own baking and I know that foods are “safe” to eat, I have to really watch that I don’t eat all of the chocolate chip cookies.

Nerd – I am such a math nerd.  I love looking and analyzing data, especially when it involves running.  It’s a good think I teach math.

Toenails – I have ugly toenails – really ugly.  Running has not been kind to my feet at all.

Hot – I love hot weather runs.  I love to sweat.  I hate all of the winter laundry.  Summer laundry is so much easier.

Ice – After last January, ice terrifies me.  When I fell, I broke my jaw in four places. cropped-pw-near-trail.jpg I was off work for weeks and was forced to stay away from exercise of any kind for weeks and weeks.  Even downward dog was dangerous for me to do!  I’m not sure how I’ll deal with running this winter yet but I should know soon.

Asthma – I developed asthma when I was in my late 20’s.  For a while, it stopped me from running.  I tried and tried, but I had asthma attacks that simply wouldn’t let me run.  I go fed up and took asthma by the horns.  Over a few years, I learned to run with it, even in the winter, and can now race as a top Masters athlete in Ontario.

I am a Grade 6 and 7 teacher and, from one day to the next, each of my students has something special that makes them stand out, something that makes them shine.  It could be a passion for a sport, a favorite hobby that they love to talk about and share, or a general excitement that they bring to class.  That enthusiasm makes their eyes shine and makes even the toughest kid smile;  it defines who they are.

Ten Miler - finishMy enthusiasm for fitness and an active lifestyle makes me who I am.  Fortunately, the digital age is still fairly young so I can’t post any pictures from the Richard Simmons’ era, when I was bitten by the aerobic bug that eventually led to me teaching aerobics.  In the 90’s, I needed more of an adrenalin rush so I turned to running and general fitness training – and I haven’t looked back.   Today, if you were to ask someone about me, they would most definitely use the word “runner” in the first two sentences.

In the past 25 years, my running has only been halted three times.  The first was when I developed asthma – induced by cold and exercise (not great for a Canadian runner)  but I spent several years learning how to run with it.   I also stopped running when I was pregnant (my boys are now 9 and 14)  as I really didn’t enjoy running while pregnant .  So I turned to cross-training – mostly stationary cycling and the stairmaster.   My most recent hiatus was this past winter when I broke my jaw while running and, then, had to deal with the deaths of both parents in the spring.    After every “rest” period, whether forced or self-inflicted, I could not wait to get back to the roads.

So it has always shocked me that my own boys have not been into sports.  My husband is an avid hockey player, cyclist, tennis player and occasional runner.  Me:  I run competitively (competitive enough to claim the Canadian 50-54 title for the 8K distance).   We dreamed about raising superkids with both fast-twitch  and slow-twitch fibres, coming from his speed and my endurance.  Nope!

04800-p6080047
The Littlest Dude (at 4), ready to go.

Over the years, we encouraged both to participate in sports but they showed a combination of low skills and an even lower interest.  They came to races with me, cheered me on, and would race the odd Kids’ event.  We’d see glimmers of potential and a bit more enthusiasm, but the boys kept going back to the things they loved: music and lego.

We couldn’t push them.  I wasn’t going to be “that parent” who dragged a screaming child to a swimming lesson or soccer game.  But I could plan my training with them in it.  I would throw one into a baby jogger or drag them out on their bikes when I ran long.  We talked running around the house a lot but, still, there was no real interest.  All I could do was hope that they would eventually realize what they were missing.

At the beginning of August, like every other August, the two Dudes and I talked about what sports they could get involved with this year.  To my surprise, they both said soccer.  My oldest has been refereeing for the past year and has taken an interest in the game as a player.  My youngest is either following his lead or was bitten by the soccer bug when we watched the PanAm Games.  Either way, it didn’t matter; they wanted to play soccer.  Soccer cleats

At the end of the month, I opened an email: “Coaches Needed for U11 Boys.”  Hmmm…. We had a quick family meeting, a few days to digest the decision and I was suddenly coaching the Littlest Dude’s team.    So now, a typical weekend for us includes one U11 game, one U15 game, a few games to referee and a load of soccer laundry.  This week, Soccer Mom also organized a practice for the team.  It looks like the boys aren’t the only ones bitten by the soccer bug.

“Where are my soccer socks?”  “Can you wash my ref jersey?”  “Who do we play this week?”  Soccer has quickly become part of the regular language in our house.  The boys are excited about it.  They smile when they talk about it.  Soccer: it defines who they are.PanAm Green Screen Andrew

 

 

 

 

Hills and a Little Bit of Crazy

Lions Valley BridgeFor the past few Saturday mornings, I’ve played “Choir Mom”.  The Dude has been singing since he was 6 years old, moving from being the one of a few boys in a children’s choir of 80 voices to 1 of 65 voices in a male choir.  It’s been pretty exciting to watch him grow, adapt to his changed voice and take leadership within the organization.  This fall, when the opportunity came along for me to give back, I jumped at it.  So I spent a few Saturday mornings measuring boys for their uniforms and helping out at the choir, which somehow this led to car-pooling with another family.  Don’t get me wrong; this is a good thing as it gets one more car off the road and saves me an hour of my time every Saturday.  But it’s also meant that I’ve had to move my morning run to a later start.

Last night, one of my training partners, Monica, texted me:  hills tomorrow?  At the same time, I got a message from the car-pooling family offering to do the morning drop-off.  This meant I could run earlier.   It was a clear message to both:  yes!  I love it when things fall in place.

This morning, I ran up to Lions Valley for our hill workout.   I don’t like hills but, like medicine that tastes bad, they are good for me.  I was worried about today as I haven’t done repeats since this time last year and the hill we picked is a beast.  But, with a race on a hilly course only a few weeks away, I knew that I needed to train on them.  And there is nothing better than getting through a workout than getting through that workout with a friend.

Lions valley hill - the startMonica’s coach had sent us a plan.   He suggested a ladder, which could have come in handy on the hills, but he had another idea in mind – a few 300’s and 600’s, a few continuous hill repeats, and more of the same  shorter sprints.

“Ummmm….Greg knows that I haven’t really done much speed work in the past year, right?”  I asked.

The hills did not disappoint me.  I wanted a tough workout and I got it.   We started at the end of a gravel path, which stretched out the hill an extra 30 metres.  “Really?” she questioned.  “This far back?”  Of course I did as I secretly hoped that the longer flatter start would somehow throw some extra momentum into my legs to help me spring up the last 100 metres.   The first time we ran up, I chased Monica and yelled – just to hear my voice echo off the walls of the trail.  I felt like a kid but, then, feared that I might wake up someone who lives on a street near the top of the hill.  As soon as we got to the top, we turned around and went back down for me.

“You really want to go this far back, do you”?” Monica asked.   “Hills and a psycho.”  Then she proceeded to share her theory on progress.  “You need to be crazy if you want to get better.  Look at Einstein.  People thought he was crazy but look at what he did.”

She was right.  If I want to improve in my running, I need to be crazy – crazy to know what I want to  do and just crazy enough to push myself in that direction, to do what it takes to get there.  So if pulling the start of our 300m climb back to make it 330m is crazy then, yes, that’s me.

The second time we climbed the hill, I listened to my breathing get harder and harder with each step. Lions Valley - after hill repeats  “Maybe my breathing isn’t that bad,” I thought.  “Maybe it just sounds bad because it is echoing.”

Definitely crazy.   Now I just have to figure out how to channel that craziness into progress.

 

Now for Something a Little Different: Remembering.

Did you run today?  I didn’t.  In fact, I didn’t even wear running shoes to work, and I am always in my running shoes.  Today, I traded them in for my dress shoes – shocking, I know – and my “big girl” clothes.

Remembrance Day - meThere are so many days that I find myself reminding the boys and girls in my classes about how lucky we are to live in Canada.   Either they have moved to Canada, or their parents did, or their grandparents, or….In my eyes, Canada and the United States are still new nations and all of our families immigrated recently (relative to the time frame of World History).   When I read and listen to today’s current events in Syria and the Middle East, I am so grateful that I live in Canada and I am raising my children in a free nation.  It is hard to explain this to children.   I don’t want to scare them but I do want to make them understand.

So I make a big deal about Remembrance Day.  We have a lovely assembly at school and I make a point of getting dressed up for it.  My students notice.  It makes them think about the day and realize “Yes, we need to remember.”

This morning at breakfast, my 9 year old complained about missing gym class because of his school’s Remembrance Day Assembly.  “Do you understand why you have that assembly?” I asked, and I got a quick reply about having to remember the people who fought in the war.  “I want to show you something.  Wait here.”

Remembrance Day - uncles
Brothers in Arms

Minutes later, I was sitting beside him with pictures from my father’s family.  My dad, who passed away in April, was from Newfoundland and two of his brothers went to Europe during World War II.  I told the Littlest Dude that Newfoundland wasn’t even a part of Canada at that time (Newfoundland was its own dominion until 1949, when it became the 10th province of Canada) but Europe was in such trouble that when Canada went to fight with Britain, Newfoundland joined.  I reminded him of the day his granddad proudly told him about his one brother, who was a navigator of a plane called Sierra Sue, and his other who was a medic.  My dude was entranced by these pictures, accompanied by a newspaper article about them in their town’s local paper.  He turned the page and saw photos of their medals.  On the next page, he started to read a letter.  I almost took it away – almost.

“That’s the letter they sent your grandparents to tell them that your uncle died.”

Eyes focused on the typewriter text.  No expression.  He was so blank that I thought he might start to cry.  “Are you still reading?”  I asked.  He replied with a simple “yes”.

Finally, he looked up.  “Wow.  That would be an awful job – having to write all of these letters.  They would have written thousands.  I mean….” The Littlest Dude turned back a page to look at the picture of the medals and announced, “I’m going to go to school today and I’m going to tell my friends about my grand-uncles.  That’s who they are, right?”

A picture says a thousand words but these said so much more.  They gave my son a understanding that no book or assembly could have done.  This morning, World War II became real.

Because of my uncles and thousands of other men and women around the world who have fought and continue to stand for peace, I live in a free country.  For that, I am grateful.  I am thankful for the things that I have, for being able to dream about goals, and run.  And that is why, today, I traded in my running shoes for my dress shoes.

Giveaway: Hemp Hearts

Hemp Hearts pastaYesterday, I wrote about Hemp Hearts, produced by Manitoba Harvest.  They are an easy and delicious way of adding protein and omegas to your diet – and they taste great!  If you missed it, you can read all about them here.

One lucky reader from Canada or the United States is able to try a 2 ounce (56 gram) package of Hemp Hearts.

 

Entering is simple.  You must:

  1. Follow @manitobaharvest on Twitter.  Leave a comment here, telling me that you did.
  2. Follow this blog.  Leave a comment, telling me that you did. (mandatory)

For extra entries, you may do any of the following.  Leave a comment below, telling me what you did.

  1. Follow my facebook page.
  2.  Follow me on Instagram.
  3.  Follow Manitoba Harvest on Instagram.
  4. Leave a comment below telling me how you will try Hemp Hearts.

Contest closes:  November 18, 2015

Disclaimer:  The Hemp Heart Giveaway is sponsored by #manitobaharvest and the #sweatpink community in exchange for a review of Hemp Hearts.  The opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Manitoba Hemp Hearts

Hemp hearts envelopeGetting protein in my diet is a struggle.   Don’t get me wrong; I love my meat.  But I don’t eat a lot of it and I am not a huge fan of meat alternatives.  So when I came across the opportunity to try Manitoba Hemp Hearts, I jumped at it.

There are a few things that pulled me towards Hemp Hearts.  First, it is a Canadian product.  The hemp seeds are grown in Canada and products are manufactured in a hemp-only facility in Manitoba.    Before I even tried them, I knew that I was heading into a  romance between Hemp Hearts and this former-Manitoba girl.   I also love that they are packed with protein: 10 grams of protein and another 10 grams of omegas in a 30 gram serving.  Lastly, it’s an easy protein fix.  There are lots of recipes that use Hemp Hearts that I can try but, for me, nutrition has to be easy.  hemp hearts with eggsI love that I can just open the bag and sprinkle them on my salads, pasta (my favorite way to eat these) and even hard boiled eggs.  I wish that I had found these last winter when my running accident meant that I had to spend a month living off smoothies.  Hemp Hearts add a delicious sesame taste to my food.  Yum!  Check out their website for other great nutrition ideas.

Other great things about Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts is they are vegan-friendly and they are non-GMO certified.

Often, when I come across great looking products on the web, I end up being disappointed because they are hard to find in stores.  This is not the case with Manitoba Harvest; there are oodles of local stores which carry Hemp Hearts and other yummy hemp products.  I know that I’ll be heading out soon to pick up some of their Hemp Heart Bites for my mid-afternoon snack at school or Hemp Heart Bars for my son with the teenage bottomless pit.   Hemp Hearts package

You should try some too.  Use the promo code HHSP1015 for a 20% discount off the entire web store at Manitoba Harvest.  (expires December 31, 2015)

 

 

On Coaching Kids

IMG_2035I’ve coached kids for years, so many years now that my first cross-country team is now grown up, starting their own families and looking for ways to get their own children involved in sport.  As a young teacher, I did it all: cross-country, volleyball, basketball, and track.  Now that I am more experienced and in a large school with other teachers who have their own set of expertise, I can focus on what I know best: running and track.

When my own children were young, I coached their soccer teams.   It didn’t take long, though, for them to walk away from the sport.  My oldest was a music guy; my youngest simply didn’t have the maturity or mindset to play a team sport.  It didn’t make sense to force them to play so our family went on a soccer hiatus as they became more involved in other sports.   This year, both are playing soccer again.  The Littlest Dude, 10 years old, asked me to coach his team.  My oldest shut down that idea.

Whether as a teacher or a parent, I coach because I want to.  I don’t keep track of how many hours I have put into selecting and organizing teams, corresponding with parents, running practices and competing; nor do I worry about the unexpected costs that can be incurred, such as buying relay batons for track or gloves for our soccer team’s goalie.  The excitement that kids bring to each practice or game and the occasional thank you (yes, thank you’s are far and few between) make it worthwhile.  I can’t imagine working with kids in a sport setting not being a part of my life.

Sadly, that is now taking place in my work life.  In Ontario, elementary teachers are currently in a Work to Rule situation.  We have been without a contract since September 2014, and our union and the provincial government continue to negotiate.   Among the issues the union is standing up against are increased class sizes and significantly reduced support in Special Education.  In order to show concern to the government, teachers have gradually walked away from tasks which are not assigned parts of our jobs, but have come to be expected.  This past Wednesday, all extra-curricular activities have been added to the list.  The government’s response was a threat to reduce teachers’ pay.

Like many other teachers I know, I already miss spending time in extra-curriculars, be it a team, an art club or an outreach group.  Docking our pay, though, is not the solution.  In fact, exactly how do you take money from someone for not coaching a team that they volunteer to run?  How do you remove pay from a volunteer?  As a parent, I completely understand the frustration that others have over the cessation of extra-curricular activities but it would be far more frustrating to see my 10 year old child in a class with over 30 students.  How could I possibly expect any teacher, regardless of youth or experience, to be able to manage a class effectively, plan, teach, assess, and report accurately?  Add in all other expectations, such as coaching and other many demands of the job, and our education system will certainly lose strong teachers; it will fall apart.

What we need is not threatening language or complaints. Public support and respectful negotiations are a must.  Understanding is essential.  Once those are in place, things will settle and we can slowly re-establish the public education system in Ontario.

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions above are solely my own.  They have not been endorsed by others.

Race Recap: The Chicago Marathon

One of my greatest fears is sleeping through the alarm on the morning of a race.  The night before Chicago, I requested a wake-up call at the Hilton, set my alarm on my phone to go off at two different times, and set my watch alarm as the last call.  On Saturday night, my head hit the pillow by 10:30 and I slept until I heard the first ring at 4:30.

As I stared out the window into the darkness, I was glad that I had woken up earlier and earlier each Saturday morning for my long runs.   I was now use to pushing myself through the wee hours of the morning;  I was ready for this marathon.  Chicago - pre-marathon My headache from the day before was gone, but I felt flat, empty.   Something seemed to be missing.   I ate anyway, had a quick shower, got dressed and left Dave and the boys sleeping away as I headed towards the start line.

By 6:15, I had found myself a spot to relax before I had to get into the corral.  Aside from my running gear, I only wore a sweater that the oldest dude had outgrown.  Since I was going to toss it into a charity bin, I didn’t need to worry about the bag check.   All I had to do was keep warm, stay loose, and visit the porta-potty every now and then to make sure I was as empty as possible.

The first corral went out at 7:30 and mine (Corral B) started to move just minutes later.  From the moment I crossed the start line, I was amazed by the screaming crowds.  I expected that they would die down at some points but that never happened.  Block after block, mile after mile, the support was incredible.  Between the feeling of being pushed from behind and the sidelines cheering us on, I knew I would be able to finish the marathon.  All I needed to do was run those 8 minute miles, all 26.2 of them.

And I did – faster than that at first.  I glanced at my watch at every mile marker and realized that my pace was too fast and I tried to pull it back.  But the runners behind me kept pushing me forward.  And I felt good.  No, I felt great.   Mentally, this was going to be a tough race.  “Stay focused,” I told myself.  “Eight minute miles, eight minute miles…. Oh no!  How did I end up ahead of the 3:30 pace bunny?”

By  Mile 8, I felt my hamstrings start to tighten up on me.  The car ride from Oakville had caught up with me.  I tried to ignore it and looked for Dave, who was going to meet me around Mile 9.  He was nowhere to be seen.

By the end of the first hour, the skies were blue.  In fact, there was hardly any shade so I started to feel the slowly increasing heat.   At  Mile 10, I was starting to feel nauseous again.  “Focus.  Pull back a bit.  You’re doing fine but watch the pace.  Eight minute miles, eight minute miles….”

At Mile 12, I saw Marcia from Marcia’s Healthy Slice and her crew wildly cheer me along.  It was just the pick-me-up I needed.  Thanks to the superb water and Gatorade tables (2 city blocks long, on both sides of the road), I had more fuel in the tank.  My pacing was back to where I needed it to be and I was looking at a 1:45 half.

Dave finally appeared around 16k and again at 19K, where he ran with me for a few (2?) blocks.  “How are you feeling?” he asked, to which I replied, “My feet hurt and I need a bathroom.”  This was a marathon in which something always seemed to be bothering me.  But even though I felt sick, my feet hurt, and my legs were getting tighter and tighter, I looked around at the crowds of volunteers and spectators and thought “I want to come back next year.”

From that point, my marathon was a bit of a disaster.  It was hot.  Apparently, it was windy too, but I didn’t notice it because I was too busy noticing the aches and pains throughout my body.   I basically walked-ran the last 8 miles of the course and watched the 3:35 pace bunny run by, followed by the 3:40 and 3:45 pace bunnies.   By then, I was in the last 5 kilometres.  I was going to finish this marathon no matter what but, please, let’s get to the finish line with at least a BQ.

And I did.  I crossed the finish line in 3:51, which gives me a 9 minute window for Boston 2017.  That window can be opened a bit more and it has already has me thinking about winter and spring training and racing.

Chicago - Windy CityAfter finishing, I headed back to the hotel to meet Dave and the boys.   We packed our bags, checked out and did what every runner needs to do after a marathon – eat a huge bowl of fruit and spend hours walking around the city.  By evening, my legs felt great and were ready for the trip back home.

Even though I didn’t have a time goal, I was disappointed with my finish time and I realize now that I need to train for my next marathon with one in mind.  However, my goals in Chicago were met.  I made it to the start line and I crossed the finish line.  That’s all I set out to do.  Qualifying for Boston was a bonus and I am proud of that.   Despite the aches and pains, running Chicago was a fabulous experience and I want to go back next year.  I have left some unfinished business to take care of.