Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017 Egg Nog Jog

Last time I did this race, I got a personal best (P.B.) of 43:59 minutes at a pace of 4:04 which is pretty damned good given the long climb that this course has. But that was four years ago. I'm older now and my last running race was four years ago. It seems I've lost a step (or two). I've also put on a few pounds. Did I mention I'm older now?

I wasn't confident on race morning. My training runs  with Leo (the dog) have been all around 6:30 min pace which is pretty slow by anyone's standards. Leo is old himself now. He likes to run but he also likes to stop and smell the roses (or pretty much whatever smells are out there) and he doesn't like to run fast anymore and he let's me know it. From that perspective, he's probably smarter than I am. But I've got this new goal of running another marathon and qualifying for Boston. And, of course, I can't be happy just qualifying; I want to give myself a shot at winning my age group. Today's race was to be a test of how well my training is going. I wasn't expecting to be anywhere near my P.B. of four years ago but I was hoping to be within reach of most of my other times which were mostly around the 45 minute mark.

The weather's been pretty good so far this Winter such that there's been no snow on the ground so I elected to run with my "Newtons". I debated racing in my trail runners but given that most of the course is on asphalt, I thought the "Newtons" would give me an edge of the trail shoes so I went with the "Newtons". I also debated wearing shorts and t-shirt but -5 C felt just a bit too cold; I've become a bit of a wuss these days when it comes to cold. In the end, I wore my warm running tights and layered up with a t-shirt, long sleeved running shirt, vest, a decent pair of Winter running gloves, a beanie and a running hat. Other than the shoes, I pretty much nailed it with my choice of clothing.

My warm up consisted of 1.25 k following the race course down the hill and another 1.25 k to come back. A light snowfall had begun but it wasn't really of much significance and I didn't give it any thought. My warm up was probably a bit slower than I expected because they were already announcing the race start by the time I got back and I barely made it in time for the National Anthem. But I did make it back in time. I looked around for Amie while waiting for the race start but didn't see her near the front of the pack where I'd lined up. "Maybe she didn't make it this morning," I wondered. No matter, with one minute to go, I had my own race to run.

The Egg Nog Jog route, starts with just over a mile of downhill. It's important to go fast on this section to bank some time against the time that's going to be lost on the much steeper uphill that comes midway through the race. So I set out at a fairly fast pace. I wasn't the only one. There were probably around 20 or so others going at least as fast or faster which put me right about where I expected to be. I found a comfortably fast pace that allowed me to draft behind someone. The wind coming from the South wasn't too much of a factor but always better to be in the draft than not. Up ahead I saw a pony tail that looked like it might belong to Amie but wasn't sure. But after making the turn onto the flat section along King Road, I was sure; it was Amie.

The guy I was drafting behind and I passed Amie just after making the turn and she slipped in behind us to also benefit from the draft. We stayed like that along the short flat section until making the turn onto the start of the rolling section where Amie passed me and herself tucked in behind the draftee. I managed to stay on Amie's heels all along the rolling section but probably making a lot of noise with my heavy breathing. Amie must have been wondering whether I was going to have a heart attack. I started to lost Amie and the draftee once we made the next turn. The snow was becoming more pronounced making traction difficult in the "Newtons". I tried each side of the road with the hope I'd find more traction on the shoulder but no go. Amie and the draftee slowly pulled away. I was able to more or less stay in touch with them on the downhill into the valley but lost ground again on the flat leading up to the climb.

The climb comes about midway through the race. It's what gives this race its character. It curves steeply up gravel road for about half a kilometer which doesn't sound like much but with gradients of up to 17% it's no walk in the park. I struggled going up the climb, my pace dropping way off. In years past, they'd have a guy playing bagpipes towards the top of the climb. It was probably intended to be motivating and it kind of was. But there were no bagpipes this year. Instead, there was some guy who seemed to be playing what sounded like a gazzoo. Better than nothing I guess but it didn't help me much getting up the hill. Once the main climb has been crested there is still more climbing for the next couple of kilometers but the worst part was behind me. Still, a number of people passed me over this section putting me at least half a dozen more runners ahead of me. Finally, at around the 7.5k point in the 10.8k course, we made the right turn onto Ballinafad Road which not only was flat but also put us back onto pavement.

The snow wasn't accumulating on the pavement so I was able to get up to a decent pace and started to close the gap back up to Amie who I could see about 50 m ahead. For the next 1.3 km, I gradually closed the gap until I was almost up to her. But, alas, we made the right turn back onto Winston Churchill and back onto gravel which meant once again back onto snow and my traction issues returned. Over the next 1.2 km, I was passed by close to another half dozen runners until finally getting back onto pavement with 800 m to go. There's a very steep downhill at this point and I just let fly passing at least one runner and closing the gap back up to Amie. I caught her just after the turn back into the park with about 200 m to go and we basically ran in together. Well, not quite together, I guess, because I managed to out sprint her to the line. Hey, it's a race! I glanced at the timing clock as we crossed the finish line, 48 something or other, and my heart sank. I had a feeling my running wasn't quite what it used to be but having it confirmed didn't feel good. But I gave it my best effort and was glad for that. Next stop the "Boxing Day 10 Miler". Amie's planning on doing that one too. I wonder if I'll be able to get the drop on her in that race also :)

Friday, January 13, 2017


"Dad, I think there's a fire in the garage!", my son, Jon, exclaimed with a sense of urgency.

I didn't really think there was a fire in the garage but I was concerned for my coffee roaster which I thought may have overheated so I hurried towards the front of the house, through the laundry room and opened the door leading to the garage. Total darkness which was odd because I had left the light on while the beans were roasting. It was too dark to enter the garage and the smoke was too thick anyway. The foyer's fire alarm prompted me to action. I let the garage door close and hurried through the foyer and out the front door, grabbing the keys to the garage on my way out.

Upon opening the garage door, I could see the smoke got thicker towards the back of the garage but I wasn't going to be in there long so I took a couple of steps towards the back corner where the roasting appliance sat. Flames erupted from the far end of the workbench stopping me dead in my tracks. "Oh crap!" I thought. Running back around the front corner of the garage, I called to my wife who waited expectantly by the front door. "Call 911!" I yelled. I went back into the garage to try and do something about the flames. There was a water hose on the back wall, if I could just... No dice, this was getting serious. "Crap, crap, crap, this can't be happening," I thought, realizing at the same time that my life trajectory just took a significant zag.

I ran back in the house as Michelle and Jon evacuated, pets in tow. "The oven," I thought and ran back into the kitchen to turn it off. Wouldn't want the oven catching fire. I grabbed the car keys exiting the front door. The flames licked at the second floor balcony even as the three of us backed our cars out of the driveway.

I paced back and forth on the sidewalk opposite my house, loud gunshot noises burst periodically from the garage as one by one my bike tires exploded drawing more and more people from their houses. A carbon trispoke track wheel flipped into the air with a loud pop. "Fascinating," I thought. At this point, I didn't care about all my bike stuff going up in smoke. I kept thinking how good it felt to be alive. "Thank you," I said to no one in particular.

I wasn't feeling the cold but a neighbour from across the road took the plaid jacket he wore off his back and gave it to me. He was the first of many. The police arrived and began backing people away from the immediate vicinity. As I wandered down the street away from the fire, people from the neighborhood approached me with offers of help. "Whatever we can do," they said. I thanked them politely but my mind was kind of vacant. The lights were on but nobody was home.

Sitting in my car now, the heater on to keep warm, my phone rang. It was Michelle. We had gotten separated. She was at one of the neighbours up the street. I was interviewed by a policeman and then the supervising fireman and finally the fire investigator before I was able to make my way to the neighbours house to join Michelle.

At the neighbours house, relatives were called and cat food, dog food, and kitty litter magically appeared. A coat was given to Michelle to go over her onesie. The three of us were given shoes to replace our slippers. Coffee and tea provided to warm our insides.

We stayed overnight in Michelle's brother's home, their two kids vacating their rooms to provide places for us to sleep though none of us really got much sleep that first night.

By the next day, Friday, word had gotten out. More clothes magically arrived at Michelle's brothers house. Heavier coats were provided. I was given running gear by one of my thoughtful friends who thought I might want to "clear my head with a run". Before the day was done, I learned that Shanta had started a GoFund campaign.

It was awhile before I paid much attention to it. I had other concerns on my mind. Also, I had only limited access to the internet at that point. My daughter, Alysha, who had driven from Montreal that first night, first mentioned it stating that over $4000 had been raised already. I was surprised. By Sunday, it was up over $8000. "Holy cow," I said at dinner that night. "Who are these people?"

Alysha began reading off names. Shanta kicked it off with a $500 donation followed quickly by $200 then a $500 anonymous donation, $250, $200, $200, $50. These were not small amounts. I was blown away and had difficulty processing what was going on. "Why are all these people giving me money?" I wondered. I still had plenty of other things on my mind and put the matter aside for the time being.

There was/is much to do. Insurance has put us in a pet-friendly hotel suite. We've gone shopping for all manner of essentials: clothes, bathroom stuff, a replacement computer, more pet food and supplies, groceries, and of course workout stuff. I've been able to more or less maintain my run schedule. I was fortunate to have left my training road bike at a friend's house as well as a trainer so I've been able to keep up with the weekly "Usual Suspects" spin class. I've been able even to get out to a track session (though the gearing, or rather lack thereof, on the rental bike was punishing). This has kept me more or less sane as we go through follow up interview with the fire investigator, insurance adjuster,  a second insurance adjuster (they brought in the big guns once they learned of the extent of the damage), the insurance forensic analyst. Living out of a hotel suite is, of course, not ideal so much of our time these days is spent scouring the internet for house rentals (going to see one this afternoon) as well as shopping for all new furniture which we will need once we find a suitable rental. Which finally brings me to the main point of my rather lengthy (maybe somewhat run-on) expose. Up until now, I've been pre-occupied and as such have neglected to adequately give thanks to all of you who have so generously provided support of one means or another.

Thank you! To everyone, thank you so much. I can't express how I feel about all the support. I've finally had a chance to go through the list of donors. I don't know what to say. As I told Shanta, "I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life".

"What's that?" Shanta asked.

"You're kidding," I responded. "You've never seen It's a Wonderful Life? She had not. Anyway, that's what I feel like. I always loved that movie. I've seen it several times. I particularly like the end where people pour out of the woodwork in droves to offer their support and bail George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) out of a seemingly insurmountable hardship. I can't believe this has now happened to me. There have been donations from every quarter. People I haven't even seen for ages. Some people I haven't even actually met. Many donations from previous members of the FMCT triathlon club I used to belong to, many donations from members of the Brampton Cycling club, huge support from Kurzawinski club members, donations from people I've known through bike racing, many anonymous donors, donations from long time friends and of course the "Usual Suspects" (you know who you are). I feel very humbled.