A Teachable Moment

Betty and Veronica2One of my students’ favorite times of the week is the visit to the school library.  It gives them a chance to get out of their chairs, roam around shelves full of books and pick two – one in English and one in French – that they can read for the next week.  I love it because it gives me a chance to see them get excited about books.

Today, one girl brought “Betty and Veronica” to the circulation desk to sign out.  I took it from her, exclaiming, “Ooooh, Betty and Veronica!”  She and the librarian both looked at me, expecting me to tell some story about how I loved to read Betty and Veronica when I was in school.  “Did you watch any of the PanAm Games?”

The girl was confused by my question.  “Ah…no…”

“Do you ever follow Canadian track?”  She shook her head again.  “Well, let me tell you about Betty and Veronica.”

Betty and Veronica1
Photo credit: Canadian Running Magazine

I proceeded to tell about Lanni Marchant and Natasha Wodak, two of Canada’s top distance runners, to a blank look.  I bragged about how well they ran at the PanAm Games and how they helped to put Canadian female runners on the international scene.  I talked about Lanni’s marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and about Natasha’s 10K record.  “They train together, they are both sponsored by Asics, they race against each other…they’re frenemies.”

Her face lit up; frenemies was something she understood.  Excited by her now mild interest,  I couldn’t stop myself.  I quickly pulled up a picture of the two of them on the computer and gave her more.   “And look!  One is blond; the other is a brunette.  They’ve been nicknamed Betty and Veronica on the running scene.”  And I held up her comic book.  “See.”

Poor kid.  Speechless by my on-the-spot lesson on Canada’s female distance runners, she took her book and sat down to read it.  That was all she wanted to do.

Me?  I had a great time sneaking in a lesson on how to connect what we read to the real world or, in this case, how we connect the world to what we read.  Most of all, though, I had a great time sharing the story of the real Betty and Veronica.

Not Your Typical Prerace Routine

Tomorrow is race day for me, a C-race but still a race.   On the day before a race, I usually go for an easy run to unwind or to a yoga class to get a good stretch.  Not today, though.  My typical prerace routine went out the window as I took my sons to CIBC PanAm Park.

PanAm Park, known as the centre of all of the PanAm action,  is a great place to take kids as there is a little bit of everything.  The main stage has several performances each day and we were lucky enough to get there on time to see Eva Avila, who sings Unidos Somo Mas, the official theme song of the PanAm games. PanAm Panamania About an hour later, Cirque Inspirall wowed their audience with their acrobats.  Every day of the games, all day long, there are entertainers lined up and, the best part is, it is free.

PanAm bike - Robert
Powering a slot car with his own energy and being able to see himself on the big screen. What a great idea!

Of course, there are also a few sport events.  Chevrolet has a large tent set up with an indoor volt-powered slot car track.  Each of us had our turn pedalling a bicycle against four other people to see whose car could get to the finish line first.  The oldest dude raced and finished first in his group.  The Littlest Dude and I went together and he finished ahead of me in first place!  While we were only on the bikes for about a minute, it was a hard minute of spinning and my quads were burning by the end.  All I could think about after was whether I would regret that minute of spinning at tomorrow’s race.

There was lots more to do at PanAm Park.  Some people played wheelchair basketball; others tried their hand at Bingo or throwing darts.  The three of us walked around PanAm Park and were able to have our pictures taken holding a PanAm Torch or next to an image of the CN Tower.  PanAm torch The Littlest Dude had his picture taken in front of a green screen, and his head was superimposed on an ultrasound image of the human body. We could hold a bronze, silver and gold medal from the PanAm Games and, if we waited long enough in the Coca-Cola line, we could each have had our name printed on an empty coke can.

We were only at PanAm Park for a few hours since we had to get back home so that my oldest could get to work on time.  However, we could have easily spent a few more there.  The atmosphere was fantastic.  If you haven’t been yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun.


The Race to the Buses

This month, it has been obvious that my boys live a runner’s life.  Ironically, though, they don’t run.  I wish they did as both have a beautiful stride and my youngest has natural speed.   At times, I think they are ready to jump into the running scene and, then, they pull back.  I think that they are intimidated by seeing me train and race; I think they worry that they have to put in the same dedication and effort, and come home with the same kind of results.  When I questioned both, and separately on this, their replies were “no”.  But deep down, I think that they are simply intimidated, believing that they need to follow my footsteps, race and race well.  One day, they will be ready; meanwhile, I’m not pushing it.

Canada Day - Andrew and Mom
Eating Tasty Tatters, one of the day’s highlights for The Littlest Dude.

I saw the excitement that running brings to The Littlest Dude on Canada Day when we headed to Bronte Harbour to watch the evening fireworks.   When we heard that there were only 4 shuttle buses to take everyone – hundreds of spectators – back to the parking lot with our cars, the two of us knew what that meant.  It was going to be a race to the buses.   As soon as the final applause started, we were on our feet and running.  Follow me!  Stay on the outside of the crowd!  Run next to the teenagers (since they wouldn’t be rushing home so it was a section that wasn’t moving)!   All of my race-start strategies came through, and The Littlest Dude instinctly knew what to do.   And we made it; we were on one of the first four buses to leave the harbour.

PanAm Flags and Tents
Tim Horton’s Stadium, Hamilton, Ontario

This past week, we faced the craziness of shuttle buses again when we left the soccer field in Hamilton, where we were watching PanAm Soccer.  This time, it was the fourteen year old who sensed what had to be done.  In the last few minutes of the game, he looked at us and said, “When the game whistle goes, we have to run.”  And he was right.  Unlike the hundreds of people at Bronte, we were leaving the stadium at the same time as thousands of other soccer fans.  The two boys are smaller than I am so they could weave their way through the crowd inside the stadium more easily than I.  Once we were outside, though, the starting horn sounded in our minds and we raced to the shuttles.   I heard my youngest coach his older brother “Stay on the outside of the crowd.  It’s faster.”  I watched them jump curbs and hurdle trash lying on the ground, and I hoped that they wouldn’t bump into anyone.  We made it to the buses quickly, which got us to the GO station with 40 minutes to spare.  It made us wonder why we rushed out of the stadium but we had fun doing it, so much fun that we raced out of the stadium the same way on the other two nights that we were there.

Each night ( at Bronte Harbour or Tim Horton Stadium), my boys proved to me that they can run.  They have speed and they can manoeuvre.   For them, running is fun.  But, for whatever reason, they aren’t ready to make a commitment to Cross-Country or Track and Field.  And I’m just fine waiting for it to happen because, once they do, they are going to be awesome!



Supporting Our Athletes on Home Soil

The boys and I have been pretty excited about the PanAm Games being in Toronto.  Now, for those of you who aren’t in Toronto, the Games are really being held in Toronto, Milton, Mississauga, St. Catherine’s, Hamilton and a few more suburbs on the other side of Toronto.  So, really, they aren’t just being held in Toronto and this makes getting to them a logistical nightmare; from where we are, getting to any of the venues takes some effort.

But so does raising a child.  How could I not give my boys the opportunity to see some of our national athletes compete on home soil?   Tickets are reasonably priced and they include the cost of public transit.  Soccer was the obvious choice as games are at the Tim Horton Stadium in Hamilton, which is close to home, one son plays soccer and the other referees the game.   For me, it is important that my guys see Canada play.

boys at soccerYesterday, the three of us dressed in Canada’s colours and headed to the GO station to watch Brazil play Peru and, then, Canada face Panama.  We got to the stadium in time to watch Brazil, Peru and their referees warm up.   Son #1 had his eyes on the refs and was obviously taking mental notes on what he could be doing  before he takes charge of the field.  I pointed out to both boys that a lot of the drills are the same as the ones that we use when running and reminded them that a lot of world-class runners use to be soccer players.  When I heard, “Look, he’s doing some accelerations!”  I knew that running terminology was becoming more and more natural to the littlest dude.  What I also liked was seeing a different drill – a combination of A’s and side-stepping – that I will use with the kids when I start coaching cross-country again.

Oddly enough, the first game between Brazil and Peru seemed to take forever.  I had one restless child who was losing interest quickly.   We broke the monotony of sitting by going for walks, getting a drink, and exploring the stadium.  Half-way through the second half, he wanted to go home.  I waited for the ultimate meltdown to occur.  “Relax,” I told him.  “When Canada gets on the field, the game will be so much better.  You’ll see.”

And it was.  Even though it was an 8:30 start and only about 40% of the stadium was filled (a lot of people left after the first game), it was the place to be.  We cheered, we did the wave (many times), we watched a beach ball being bumped around from section to section until a volunteer took it away, and we cheered some more.  The littlest dude asked for his ipod, which we brought for the train ride home, so that he could take some pictures.  There were no requests to go for a walk; there wasn’t any whining about being tired of sitting.  Without a doubt, he was happy.   And my teen?  He was thrilled that he was able to watch, not one, but two games with national level athletes.

Both boys loved the chance to see our athletes play so close to home.  We talked about how sad it was to see the stands so “grey” during the second game.  “Yeah, Canadians need to watch our own team play, not just leave,” commented the littlest dude. mom and drew And he is right.  Seeing Brazil play Peru was great, but supporting Canada is really what it is all about.  We did – and we’re going back for more.  Go Canada!