Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games 2019

My home community of We’koqma’q First Nation hosted the 2019 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG). In addition to the usual 5K race that I do, I decided to also try Track and Field. The last time that I did a Track and Field event was the 5000 metre (5000M) in high school (May 2000). This time, I would be competing in the 100 metre (100M), 200 metre (200M), and 1600 metre (1600M) races.

Track and Field was on a Thursday (August 22) morning, so I took the day off from my day job and went to We’koqma’q the evening before. I stopped in Millbrook First Nation for an evening supper and then kept driving. Upon arriving, I gassed up, parked at One Stop, and then went down to the ballfield to check out a baseball game. On my way there, I started seeing many We’koqma’q people that I knew growing up. I hugged several on my way to the bleachers to meet up with Philip (who’s place I was crashing at that night). I caught the end of the game where We’koqma’q ended up winning (my sister Emma was also playing). Afterwards, I went to get the t-shirts, one for myself and the other for Kerri, who was unable to attend this year due to our new Sheltie Looloo (she’s on Instagram, so give her a follow). I didn’t get to fall asleep until nearly 1:00 a.m., thinking about the next morning.

Team We'koqma'q
Team We’koqma’q.

When I woke up, I was still tired but couldn’t fall back asleep just yet. So I got dressed and ready. I ended up taking a 30-minute nap and left the house by 8:30 a.m. I arrived before 9:00 a.m. As they needed to finish up the prior day’s Track and Field events (I understood that the heat resulted in a delay), I wasn’t competing until later on (as the younger divisions went first). The weather was overcast and cool and I was a bit worried that there may be a rain/thunderstorm delay. As I didn’t know when I would actually be running (as they had to do heats for the younger age categories), I started to warm up.

In the weeks leading up to the NSMSG, I did some brief internet research on doing a 100M, but honestly didn’t pay attention nor study it. I just told myself that I’d run as fast as I can at the start and see how it goes. As I wrote in my NSMSG 2017 entry, “I really don’t consider myself to be a fast runner per se; I’m sure that I’d lose a 100M sprint. Rather, I think my endurance and stamina just allow me to do a very good speed and to maintain it for a while…” In the days leading up NSMSG, I knew that, the longer that the race goes (e.g., above 100M), the better chance that I will have.

What made Track and Field special was that I had family in attendance. My sister Sammy-jo was there, along with my Aunt Dolena and others. When it was our turn, because there were so few of us, we didn’t do a lot of heats. We just went by times. In our race, while I finished second, my time was the third fastest, so I got a bronze medal out of it.

The next was the 200M. As it was above 100M, I thought that I’d had a decent shot at a silver medal. As with the 100M, we went by times. When it was time for us to start, I was actually in second for the first 100M. I thought that I also wasn’t going to win this one. Then at the 100M mark with the turn, I got a lead and ended up winning. The other heat looked pretty fast and I just assumed I earned second or third.

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Start of 1600M. Photo courtesy of Candice Paul.

Then came the 1600M. I knew that my best shot was this one. Philip’s son said he would do the race. I gave him a few pointers about not to go all out, pace, and to not get discouraged if others pass him. Philip took a quick photo of us before we started. There weren’t a whole lot of us in this one, and it was simply decided that whoever finished first was the winner (i.e., no timer was used). I did see one guy who wasn’t racing before who looked like a runner, so I was wondering how well he would do. Once we started, I took off. For whatever reason, I kept thinking about my 5K runs and the time it often takes. Once I passed the second lap (and a couple of the other runners), I realized that the 1600M would end soon. I then lost count and I think I ran five laps. Once done, I did my usual slow walk and went over to see my sister (who congratulated me), then I did a quick interview with the Cape Breton Post re the NSMSG (which you can read here).

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Running the 1600M. Photo courtesy of Chris Conners/Cape Breton Post.

Once the medal presentation began, as I figured, I won third place in the 100M. But my somewhat surprise was winning gold in the 200M (as I thought the other heat was faster). After I was awarded my 1600M gold medal, I uploaded and share the good news, got into my car (no time to stretch), and immediately headed back to Halifax as I was subbing for two classes that evening (which I think I ended up paying for). After the classes, I did stretch a bit that night though.

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Track and Field Medal presentation. Photo courtesy of Candice Paul.
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Track and Field medals.

On Friday, I was paying for what I did on Thursday. I didn’t run nor exercise that day as I was sore from Track and Field and was doing the 5K on Saturday. While it would have made sense to simply stay in We’koqma’q, I didn’t as I was covering for classes and Kerri and I needed to ensure Looloo was looked after properly with our schedules. That evening, I returned to We’koqma’q. I went to the ballfield as there were games going on (and my sister Emma was playing again). I caught up with Roo and chatted for a bit. When discussing the 5K route, he warned me about the elevation. Having fun, I decided to downplay what he said. I saw several others and it was wonderful to meet and catch up with so many in such a short period. I decided to stay at Emma’s house that night and went to bed early, but not before catching the great fireworks show.

5K Race.

Saturday morning was beautiful. I shaved, dressed up, ate, and went to the race start site. I was the first to arrive. There, I saw Wally (who was coordinating the race) along with Enos. We chatted for a bit then other runners showed up. Some were marathoners and others were North American Indigenous Games runners. I got a bit worried but just decided to focus on myself and my warmup. Wally offered me a ride up the trail on a four-wheeler to see what it looked like. I declined, thinking it would be better to just be surprised instead.

As we didn’t start right away and I had a pretty long time to warmup, my curiosity got the better of me and decided to take a peek of the route. I went up about two hills and knew that Roo wasn’t kidding. It was steep, and it was going to be a very tough race. I then went back down to the race site.

Eventually, we were to begin. Shortly before we took off, the Mi’kmaq Physically Active Lifestyle (MPAL) Coordinator of Glooscap First Nation took a group selfie. Then we lined up and the race started.

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Group Selfie prior to the 5K start. Photo courtesy of Jordan Smith.

Right away, I took an early lead and started up the hill. I instantly felt the side of my legs; they were still sore and was hoping they wouldn’t give out on me. There are no real trail markers so I can’t really recap things except a few. For one, there were way more hills than Roo or Wally told me about, a lot more. While there were brief moments of flat terrain, the race had more hills. The trail itself had some sunken spots, so I did my best to stay safe and in the middle. Even though the trail was getting tougher (as it was just virtually all uphill), I reminded myself that, “if I’m doing this, others are too.” Basically, if I deal with wind or hills (and other obstacles), others are too (and all our times are affected). At LesMills LIVE the week before, I did several classes, including all three LesMills GRIT™ programs. I kept telling myself as I was running up, “you did all that last week; you’re prepared for this.” With all the hills, I kept thinking about the training scene from Rocky IV and Hearts on Fire (especially where Rocky climbs the mountain at the end).

While at the start, I kept hearing the second-place person behind me for a bit, but with the more hills that I went up, the quieter it became. But like any race, I didn’t chance slowing down. This was one that I wanted to win because it was for We’koqma’q. Soon enough, I knew that I was alone.

Going towards what I estimate was a halfway point, I caught a brief beautiful view of We’koqma’q. But as it was a race, I didn’t stop to take a photo. Then I got to the halfway point, turned around, and started back. Going downhill on a race, for me, is very overrated. I had to be very careful as to not to trip and fall. I was thinking to myself, “I hope no one gets hurt coming back down.” Then I crossed paths with the second-place runner. I was ahead by a bit but kept telling myself that it wasn’t over until I finished. Eventually, I crossed paths with the rest of the runners. As I got towards the finish, some showers picked up (which didn’t affect me at all). I also crossed paths with my Aunt Dolena (who was doing some of the race) and was very proud of her for giving it a shot.

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Just crossed the finish line. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

My time across was 20:02 for first place. I wasn’t aiming for under 20:00 but wish that I did. Once I crossed the finish line, I went into a fast walk to cool down. Second place finished nearly three minutes after me, and I congratulated him (and others) on finishing such a challenge. With a 170-metre elevation, this was by-far the toughest 5K that I have done to date. While I do want to say that it made me stronger, I felt bad for those who are not regular runners who did this as their first race.

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Receiving my gold medal. Photo courtesy of Chief Andrea Paul.
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Two gold medals. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing. 

The last runner crossed just one hour after the race started (my heart rate was still up), and then we began the medal presentations. Like the NSMSG in Membertou, this one had a placement and overall medal. I beamed with pride as I received both of my gold medals on behalf of We’koqma’q (the MC jokingly announced me as, “‘The Iron Man’ Jarvis Googoo”). I then gave several young guys a lift back to the community, and then went over to my Uncle Ken and Aunty Angela’s place to tell them how I did (and deliver my gift to them from France). I showered-up and returned to the ballfield to watch some of the games and socialize a bit more (as I wore all my medals). After a little while, I said namultis and got on the road.

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Five medals in various running events at the 2019 NSMGS.

Upon returning home, Kerri surprised me with a beautiful and thoughtful celebratory dinner on our balcony. She decorated it and made up some delicious and healthy burgers. Given I didn’t eat much that day, it was a great way to finish off the Saturday night.

Decorated porch.

 Decorated porch.
Celebratory dinner.

The next morning, I did a 5K (and finished third in the men’s division) at the Cobequid Trail. While I did okay, a part of me wondered if I would’ve done better had I not did the NSMSG races. Nevertheless, participating in the NSMSG means a lot to me, and proud and happy that I did it.

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