Boston Marathon 2022

On April 18, 2022, I completed my seventh marathon; Boston. The Boston Marathon takes place on the ancestral homelands of the Massachusett, the Mashpee Wampanoag, and the Pawtucket people.

After qualifying with Blue Nose, I honestly felt like it took all of November to emotionally and mentally recover from the marathon (physically I was good after two weeks). I was feeling wonderful with a time on a course that I otherwise thought I couldn’t achieve. While informed on November 18 that all those would be accepted with qualifying times, I still needed that official acceptance that I was in, which I received on December 2.

For the first time ever, I was training in the winter, and this was tough. Before, I would just run in the winter. If I slowed down due to the cold, that was fine and I just accepted it. But now I had purpose; speed, intervals, times, pace, specific distances, etc… The cold slowed me, and it was discouraging at times. Due to storms, I reshuffled some days re types of runs that my coach Erin Poirier had me to. Later in January and into February, I resorted to wearing spikes on my shoes. It did slow me, but it made running safer and I was good re clear ice. With mid- to late-February, it felt as if things got worse. I was frustrated with snow-packed and ice-covered roads. My times were slower and it was just tough to try and go faster. I had a talk with Coach Erin on February 20 and she assured me that this was all normal. Early-March was still cruel weather-wise, but knew it wasn’t going to last forever, and by March 9, my Wednesday Workout was quite fun for the first time in weeks (maybe months). Coach also sent me articles on proper resting. Patti Dillon also reached out to me to say the same thing and to not overdo things. By late-March, I noticed that my uphill runs were very strong. I thought it was the improved weather but Erin said that it was the training that we were doing. But then I hit a snag. Due to scheduling, I did my long run on a Saturday night and then my recovery on Sunday morning. Normally, I long run Saturday mornings and recovery run on Sunday afternoons or evenings. The 12-hour turnaround time was a lot. My right knee was tender and sore, but from experience, I knew it was not injured. Thankfully it was taper week and the major training was done. Coach said to take April 4 and 5 off to rest/recovery, and we adjusted accordingly from then until Boston.

On April 13, I did an interview with CBC that morning re traveling costs of doing a marathon. I mentioned being grateful to several entities that offered to help sponsor my race. The next day, Kerri and I started the drive to Boston, splitting it over two days (I can’t stand driving over eight hours in a single day). That night we stayed at a lovely AirBNB in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. Crossing the boarder into the United States Friday morning, I used my Indian Status card rather than my passport on principle via the Jay Treaty. I felt like a badass doing this. In Maine, Kerri drove the rest of the way to our Natick hotel. She found for me a beautiful trail behind our inn where I did an easy 6K Recovery Run. My knee felt good and was practically back to normal with no issues with running (which was my main concern along with COVID).

Greeting sign at the hotel lobby.
Recovery run on a lovely evening in Natick.

Wearing my We’koqma’q Proud shirt, Saturday morning we went to the expo to pick up my bib and check it out. Outside towards it, we bumped into Stacy Chesnutt, Sole Sisters race director, for a brief chat. Inside, the atmosphere reminded me of a LesMills quarterly, but on a much more massive scale. Some runners had their Boston Marathon jackets on from previous years, and while I did buy one, I only tried it on for size then took it off. I refused to wear it until I finished the marathon. I did the bib photo shot for back home. Then Kerri made me a thoughtful sign for my run, and we met two women from the United Kingdom, one who did the 5K that morning and the other who was also doing the full on Monday. As Kerri was drawing, I wrote “Ketkwi’m” (which means, “I run”) on a message board and signed my name in honour of the Mi’kmaw language. Afterwards, we left the expo and headed to the Fairmont Copley to drop off a bag of clean clothes for me for after the race. Fellow Love Training More runner Christina Bower and her husband Andy were staying there and kindly allowed me to use their shower and to change post-marathon. Then we drove to an outlet where I found another pair of Nike Zoom Vaporflys at a good price. That evening we returned to the hotel, where I finally had a chance to watch a pep rally video that my community put together for me a few day before. I was almost without words. It started off with a long shot of seeing and hearing children from home chant “Let’s go Jarvis,” holding signs of encouragement, followed by clips of many community members (from We’koqma’q and elsewhere) sharing thoughtful and wonderful words. It meant absolutely so much to me, especially as many in the video saw me grow up back home. I managed to get a file of it and shared it on YouTube.

We’koqma’q Proud and the race bib.
Kerri’s amazing sign.
Ketkwi’m (“I run”).
Got to meet Cori. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.
Watching my community’s pep rally video. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.
We’koqma’q pep rally video. Video credit: Robert Smith.
So many carbs.

Sunday morning I did a shakeout on the same trail behind the hotel and then went for breakfast. We returned and I started to carb load and rest up. Lots of Gatorade, Skittles (which I consumed along the drives), and breads. I spent most of the day laying on bed, texting and chatting with folks (including Jennie, Coach Erin, Patti, and several others from home), doing some video calls, and watching YouTube videos that was both emotional and funny. That evening, I went outside to smudge with some sweetgrass. I also tried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with pineapple, bananas, and Skittles. Not as great or awful as it sounds; just a bit messy. Unfortunately, as with the last few days, I didn’t get the best sleep, although it was nice to smell the sweetgrass as I had on the nightside next to me.

Sunday morning shakeout.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Skittles, bananas, and pineapple.
Smudging with sweetgrass.
My running gear.

On race day, I looked at my Body Battery on my Garmin; it was at about 50%. I was going into the Boston Marathon already half-drained and this added to the stress. On the plus side, my knee felt good and I had no COVID symptoms. I had breakfast, did a short interview with Global News, packed up, and headed to the lobby for the shuttle. I struck up conversation with several other runners, some of whom were doing Boston for the first time. One was a United States Marine, who’s first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon (which he went into without really training for). I told him about Clint, that I was registered, and was going to run it in his honour and memory. He simply said that was a fine good reason to do it. The shuttle driver was a very happy guy, who shared stories and jokes to pass time while he took us to our first drop spot, and he also had one of the thickest Boston accents that I may have ever heard.

At the Athlete’s Village, I took a few photos and posted a Land Acknowledgement. I didn’t encounter anyone that I knew, which was okay. I placed out my poncho on the grass and tried to do a short snooze, but listening to the race wave announcements, I skipped the nap, went to a restroom lineup, and then the start area. On my way there, I reviewed Coach’s email notes one last time, and even got a bit emotional with her encouraging words. Along the way, an elderly woman was handing out ribbons in support of Ukraine and offered me one. I happily accepted and asked a security guard pin it to the star on the Mi’kmaw flag on my tank top. The Star-Spangled Banner played and two military airplanes flew low towards the end of it – it was quite the spectacle.

To the Athlete’s Village.
Crowd shot of the Athlete’s Village.
It all starts here.
To Boston.
Headed to the start.

Soon the 10:00 a.m. first wave started (I was in the eighth corral). Unlike all my other marathons, I felt that I didn’t have that “singular start.” With other races, I heard a gun or horn go off, and that was my magical time to take off. Not here. It was absolutely packed and challenging in trying to get through. Coach’s instructions were to keep it at 4:14, and to not run fast down the early hills. Like my last two races, I listened to Coach on this. I also learned over time how running downhill is kind of overrated. I kept an eye out for the starting mat to hit my Garmin. Early into the race, I managed to grab a glimpse Spencer, the official dog of the Boston Marathon, which excited me. For five to six kilometres, I felt it was tough hitting the 4:14 pace due to the number of participants. Eventually at about the 7K mark, I had to stop for a restroom break, which probably cost me almost a minute (I should have timed my pre-race hydration better). While doing so bugged me in other races, it didn’t on this one, as I learned that when I go, I am more energetic afterwards. But as I didn’t keep a 4:14 for the start and struggled to get the rhythm of it, I figured that I wasn’t going to hit my sub 3:00:00 goal. This was okay, as numerous runners told me that the Boston Marathon was done for the experience; not personal bests. So I decided enjoy and embrace the big atmosphere feel of it all.

Once I got into Natick, I spotted fellow undergrad and law school alumnus and runner Marc LeClair (who told me that he was driving down to cheer on fellow Nova Scotians). He held up a large Nova Scotia flag with various runners’ names from the province on it, and had a message written for me in Mi’kmaw: “Muskajewej l’pa ki’l Jarvis. Kesalul,” which translates to, “You are excellent. I love you.” I absolutely appreciated it. At about three kilometres after that, I saw Kerri, holding up the sign that she made for me two days before at the expo. It was another piece of motivation that I was grateful for.

Marc’s flag for the Nova Scotian runners. Photo credit: Marc LeClair.
Video of me running in Natick. Video credit: Kerrianne Ryan.

Then from about the half marathon point to the 26K mark, I was to pick up the pace to 4:10. However, I just didn’t have it in me to pick up the speed and pace. But on the plus side; I was still capable of maintaining 4:14. To me, this was still a win as I had the endurance to keep on going. It was also around this point that I started to embrace the experience of doing the world’s oldest annual marathon. Albeit not going to hit a personal best, Boston’s energy on the 42.2K journey was an excellent consolation prize. A new record will have to wait for another race.

Running along. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Running along. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com

Also a first for a marathon was taking salt tablets. As per Blue Nose, Jennie explained sodium’s importance. In total, I only took two; at the first and then second hour. I still took my gels every six or so kilometres, and eventually stopped as I was feeling a bit bloated. While sometimes I used to grab Gatorade, I learned a new trick in the midst of a marathon (which I will continue). I saw another runner take a Gatorade cup, and rather than quickly chug it down (which would’ve spilled a bit), he pinched the cup, and sipped from it till it was empty. This absolutely fascinated me (and I had no idea why I never thought of it before). I did this for the rest of the race. But when needed, I consumed my own Gatorade. This was also the first time I truly noticed how much my times slowed down when stopping for Gatorade or even drinking my own bottles. My pace lowered to almost 5:00. I’m wondering if I can develop a new/improved consumption practice for marathons that won’t affect my pace plans.

Checking my pace. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com

One well-known area of the Boston Marathon is the “Scream Tunnel,” which is at Wellesley College. You most certainly hear it before seeing it. While running through, I could barely distinguish what song I was listening to, and saw numerous signs of support, along with offers of kisses. While I was happy that we were having in-person outdoor events again, I was still mindful and cautious of the pandemic, and thought to myself, “aren’t kisses a way to transmit COVID?” I simply smiled and waved a bit as I continued running.

At about 30 kilometres, my left hamstring sort of had a “waking up” moment. In the past, sometimes it would pull on me usually at around the 37K mark. I wanted to pick up the speed again, but when I would try to lightly tease and test it to see if I could go faster, I felt as if my hamstring was going to adversely ask me, “what do you think you’re trying to do? Go faster? I’ll pull on you if you try it.” If I picked it up, it may have pulled on me. I dislike it when this happens. So to play it safe, I didn’t go for it. On the plus side, my hamstring didn’t pull on me at all during the marathon. Maybe I could’ve ran faster if I properly stretched it in the days leading to Boston to prevent any hamstring issues.

Running through Newton. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com

For another marathon first, I grabbed sticks of Vaseline about three-fourths of the way through. While I use an anti-chafing glide stick for other areas (which works), for some reason, it didn’t help with my underarms. I was feeling my skin burn, and I think my tank top may have been too open/exposed on the side, allowing skin-to-skin contact. I used the Vaseline accordingly, and while it still didn’t address the issue 100%, it did reduce the burning sensation a bit. I don’t think it affected my time, but it definitely affected me.

Then came the infamous Heartbreak Hill. While I’ve read how some dread it, it greatly differed from talking to folks I know who actually did it. Those whom I know who did it said that it really isn’t all that super tough. In fact, many simply told me that doing the Blue Nose (with the Halifax hills) was more challenging. During the winter and early-spring, Coach had me incorporate uphill sprints as part of my Wednesday Workouts, performed in all kinds of weather. In sum, Heartbreak Hill for me was demanding, but I’ve had other races (e.g., two Blue Nose Marathons) where the hills felt more difficult to do. I’m not belittling the hill at all. It was quite something, but maybe because I’ve already ran tough marathons and trained with hills, I was stronger in facing this.

Heartbreak Hill. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com

However, one thing that I did see along Heartbreak Hill (which I experienced before) were folks stoping to stretch. I suspected their hamstrings pulled, and my heart went out to them. I saw others walking, and I too had to do this for some other marathons where I felt as if my energy tank was practically on empty (e.g., Maritime Race Weekend 2016, Blue Nose 2017, Nova Scotia Marathon 2021). I even saw one person sitting in a medical tent. I was grateful that the marathon was still going good for me (even with the non-personal best time), and it reminded me that sometimes things can go sideways at any time during the 42.2 kilometres (I learned that someone was injured and had to stop very early in the race). I admired an elderly man who was using a wheelchair to go up the hill, and I shouted some encouragement as I passed him. We all handle the hills in our own way.

The last two to three kilometres were happy ones. By then, my pace slowed even more, but I was still moving. I kept thinking to earlier, “maybe I could push it.” I most certainly did have the internal energy inside of me. I wasn’t feeling tired per se. I think that I could’ve picked my pace back up after being a bit slow (I even did this at Blue Nose 2021). But would my hamstring have been happy? Would it punish me for trying to go faster? I thought to myself, “I’ll be sure to stretch you properly before our next marathon. You’re not going to do this to me again.” I turned off my music. I should have done this at the start. I had no need for it on this marathon. Given the amount of spectators and supportive energy, that was the noise I could’ve used. I think for my next major massive marathon, I may do it without the tunes. Coming up to about 41 kilometres, as the people got louder, I played a complimentary chant in my head; the voices of We’koqma’q youth yelling and repeating, “Let’s go Jarvis.” I did replay this throughout the marathon here and there, but it was more consistent with the final kilometre – the final push. The crowds were great and wonderful, and so was the community that raised me. They wanted to see me finish this. I smiled running towards the 42.2K spot.

Support sign my sister made back in We’koqma’q. Photo credit: Sammy-jo Googoo.
Wiping away some sweat. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Not far from the finish. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
I am running in this photo. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
All smiles. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Looking way ahead. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Moving along. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Getting closer to the finish line. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Final turn. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Seeing the finish line. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
So close. Photo credit: Micaela Choo.
Video of running to the finish. Video credit: Micaela Choo.

Stepping towards the finish line, I wanted to cross it with my arms up in victory. But given the chafing I developed and worried about what the photos may look like, the lowered my arms into a bit of a bicep pose, which turned out to look pretty cool. Unlike other races (e.g., Valley Harvest Half and Blue Nose, both 2021), I didn’t feel like I was going to get sick. I should have felt exhausted (e.g., Nova Scotia Marathon 2021), and yet I wasn’t. In fact, for the first time ever, I finished a marathon feeling fine (a word I really don’t like using). My post-marathon walking strength was impressive to me. Typical soreness did eventually set in later on, but after I stopped running, I was happily still moving. This was the best I ever physically felt (to date) right after a 42.2 kilometre race. I am certain that the training Erin had me do somehow helped with the post-marathon strength. I remained injury-free and my knee (which I was worried about for weeks) held up. Taken together, although I didn’t earn a new personal best, this translated into a successful marathon for me. I learned good lessons from Boston. I most certainly need to get great and proper rest/sleep in leading up to the race, to actually stretch (especially the hamstrings) days/weeks before the big event, to figure out how to consume Gatorade and gels in a manner that won’t slow me down, to have solid carb meals the days (and night) before (the sandwich was a fun idea, but I should be eating pasta or a good pizza), and to stay off my feet in leading up to the big race. I did rest on Sunday but Saturday I did walk a bit too much.

Smiling. So close. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Arms up in celebration. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Crossed it. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
So happy. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Very happy. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
That expression. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Professionally done running highlights. Video credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com

After I finished, one of the volunteers met up with me; Steve Moland. We spoke the night before about doing a potential media interview with a Boston station. While it didn’t work out, he offered to do a Facebook Live video, which was widely shared. I thanked him for it and then went to go get my Boston Marathon medal, and I was all smiles. While my iPhone had tons of iMessages, I didn’t have the time nor focus to respond. I was in the midst of working out a live interview with CTV. After that was done, I met up with Kerri, who was a bit cold as the wind picked up. I was also now feeling the post-race chill when one stops running. I got word from Christina to come on up. It was nice to finally meet her (and her husband) in-person (after months of inboxing). I didn’t shower right away, as we also used the time to simply chat and reflect upon doing our first Boston Marathon under the coaching and support of Love Training More. Kerri made reservations at PURO ceviche bar, which we would walk to. So I showered up – quite painful when you’re chaffed – and changed. I thanked Christina and Andy for their generosity, and said that we’d drop by next time we were in the area.

126th Boston Marathon finisher.
Another medal shot. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
This expression. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Started feeling cold shortly after I stopped running. Photo credit: http://www.marathonfoto.com
Celebrating with Kerri. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.
We’koqma’q # 1. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.
Celebrating with fellow Love Training More runner Christina Bower. Photo credit: Christina Bower.

Kerri and I headed to the restaurant. Along the way, we somehow managed to briefly stop in front of a pub, where upon looking inside, we saw many Nova Scotian marathoners and runners. We recognized each other and I went in for a short social chat. We continued on to our restaurant, enjoyed the celebratory dinner, and walked around for a bit. It was recommend to me years ago that walking post-marathon was good for you, especially if you have an upcoming long drive. When I had a sufficient moment, I uploaded a post-race selfie and a short note about finishing the Boston Marathon. One of the nicest and coolest things that I loved about being in downtown Boston after the marathon were strangers simply congratulating each other for doing the race that day. Even those who didn’t do the marathon were congratulating the runners. I loved the atmosphere and gesture of appreciation and support we were all giving each other, just like during the race. We took our time downtown that evening so that things would lighten up a bit to catch an Uber back to the hotel.

Hydrating post-marathon. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.
Fish tacos for post-marathon celebrations.
Out and about. Photo credit: Kerrianne Ryan.

The post-marathon morning – what would otherwise be a quiet time for me – was anything but. My two interviews that I did, as well as the We’koqma’q pep rally video, caught on quite quickly, and with that, more media inquires came in. It reminded me a lot of last year, but crammed into a few days. I did two interviews from our hotel room (with CBC Maritime Noon then APTN) before we left. On the road and headed towards Maine, the Cape Breton Post and Canadian Running Magazine also reached out. I was fortunate and grateful that Kerri, who was very patient with me, wanted to stop to shop along the way, as I was able to take the calls sitting in my car in parking lots. We spent the night at a relaxing Hampton Inn in Bangor, and on Wednesday at 8:00 a.m, I did another interview with CBC Indigenous. Then Kerri and I had Hampton Inn waffles for the first time since January 2020 in Houston, Texas. Later that morning, I did another interview with SaltWire from a Bangor parking lot. Heading home and just outside of Saint John on the Mi’kma’ki side, I started to feel a bit drowsy. I promptly stopped and asked Kerri to drive the rest of the way. Checking my inboxes as Kerri drove, I scheduled another interview with The Reporter, which I did Thursday morning. I also learned that earlier on Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Member of the Legislature for back home (Allan MacMaster) gave me and We’koqma’q a kind shout-out that morning in Province House. Then later on Thursday afternoon, I emailed Coach to share some early thoughts on the Boston Marathon and she responded. She asked for some detailed breakdowns of how I felt during the race, which I replied with late that night. Coach gave further thoughts and wonderful encouragement on Friday. Also that day, Patti Dillon said that she’d also like to speak to me about Boston (which meant a lot).

With all my interviews (which I enjoyed doing albeit how busy things got), there was a consistent message that I tried to share. Mainly, how thankful I was for my community’s encouragement and how I hope that me doing the Boston Marathon would inspire Mi’kmaw youth to chase their own dreams and goals, and that nothing is impossible. While proud to be the first person from We’koqma’q First Nation to do the Boston Marathon, I most certainly don’t want to be the last nor only one to do so.

Since September 2016, I’ve been running marathons. It’s interesting how I’ve felt after Boston. I’m still a little bitter that my Fredericton 2021 wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, yet not only was that a Boston Qualifier, it was faster than my Boston Marathon time. Blue Nose 2021 is my personal best to date on a tough course, and I still find myself feeling great from it. With Boston, I’m oddly proud of my 3:15:07 even though it’s only my third best time to date. I think because I have two other marathons planned for 2022, not to mention several other races, my “post-marathon glow,” isn’t lasting that long. I’m grateful for the experience beyond words, but I think it’s because other races are coming up, my mind is already on them. With Blue Nose 2021, it was my last one going in into the winter, so I stretched out the post-race euphoria longer than usual. Boston is in the spring, and with more races in 2022, my focus is set. Coach Erin always encourages me to be proud of how I do, and she is right. One powerful lesson I learned about myself from Boston was that I still have potential for faster times. I’ve learned to accept that slower times (in fact, all marathons) still give valuable lessons for future races. As I already wrote, there’s so much I’m taking away from Boston, and am ready for the next marathons.

Finally, in addition to all those who gave me such encouragement, love, and guidance along the way (such as my wife Kerri, my amazing coach Erin Poirier of Love Training More, my home community of We’koqma’q First Nation, and the countless comments, inboxes, texts, etc… from everyone else), I received generous financial support to help me out for my trip to the Boston Marathon. I’m truly grateful for sponsorships from We’koqma’q First Nation, Ulnooweg, Eagle Island Lodge, the First Nations Regional Adult Education in Gesgapegiag, as well as several family members and friends. From the bottom of my heart, wel’ioq m’sit wen/thank you all.

Candy Palmater (1968-2021)

On December 25, 2021, Candy Palmater passed away. There have been many tributes. This one is mine.

Candy and I first met at Saint Mary’s University on March 21, 2001. There was an event on campus to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I saw on the poster “Mi’kmaw Lawyer,” and just had to go meet her. There wasn’t a whole lot of people at the event. I don’t even think that there were ten of us in the room. In retrospect, maybe talking about “racism” was uncomfortable back then, and many didn’t want to show up. After things were over, I went over to introduce myself to Candy and we pretty much hit it off from there.

For the next few years while I was a student at undergrad, Candy took an unofficial mentoring/big sister role for me. We had many lunches and dinners, and spoke about numerous things; life growing up on- and off-reserve, university, her family and mine, law school (she provided feedback on my application and prepped me for my interview), professional wrestling, racism, etc… We chatted about the funniest and most casual topics to more serious ones. Nothing was off-topic.

The next time I got to listen to Candy speak publicly was as an alumnus at the anniversary celebrations of the Indigenous Black and Mi’kmaw Initiative in January 2005. At the end of her session, she closed with a statement, pointing out that while folks rant and go on and on about the “War on Terror,” Indigenous peoples have been fighting terrorism since 1492. While it definitely got some vocal cheers from the audience, reading about the celebrations days later in the media, Candy’s thought-provoking line wasn’t mentioned. I emailed Candy about this, telling her that I was quite surprised that the paper didn’t highlight what she said, because I thought it was a pretty powerful message. She simply broke the truth to me; people get uncomfortable when you talk about racism. Two months later at a conference put on by the then-Dalhousie Aboriginal Law Student Association, she shared another robust perspective; if White women faced violence at the same rate as Aboriginal women did in this country, Canada would declare a national state of emergency. That May, she came to my undergrad graduation.

From 2005 and onwards, she hosted a weekly Friday event; Candy’s Happy Hour. Basically, every Friday for 5:00 p.m., we would go to a new bar/restaurant in the downtown region and socialize and drink. It was also a nod to Drybones, an Indigenous man charged with drinking off-reserve under the Indian Act. He challenged the law under the Canadian Bill of Rights and won. At these socials, I met so many of Candy’s friends and associates; one eventually became my real estate lawyer and the other helped me get my first law job post-articling. In third year law school, I invited Candy to speak at Law Hour on November 1, 2007 to talk about her career and life experiences. After my law school graduation in 2008, her and Denise hosted a celebratory dinner for me that summer at their place. That July, I went to see one of her shows at the end of Pride Week (I’ve been to countless shows of hers in the city). Less than a year later, she sent me a lovely card, expressing how proud she was of me and all that I’ve accomplished so far.

From 2010 to 2012, I had the privilege to working with Candy when I was employed with the provincial government. In 2013, knowing that I loved performing, she gave me an acting spot on The Candy Show. A year later, working with Denise, I nominated Candy for the Bertha Wilson Honour Society at the law school. She was eventually inducted in 2016.

While Candy, directly and indirectly, supported and facilitated my education and career over the decades, it was exciting and wonderful to see hers take off. In many ways, she sort of reminded me of an established and charismatic professional wrestler. Albeit how high and far she has gone with her calling, she always took the time to help “put over” those still working on their careers and or causes. Whenever I was in the room (in-person or virtual), she always gave a shout-out of kudos for how I was doing. She highlighted and praised others in their vocations too. She provided venues for folks to share their words and works. From my first memory/encounter over 20 years ago to my last chat with her in October 2021, she never changed. She was always the same. She was always Candy.

While we can inspire folks with words, sometimes actions and examples speak louder and can go further, and Candy did that for me. During law school, I started feeling as if I didn’t want to practice law, and articling confirmed this. With both, a few tried to convince me otherwise, that I had to become a lawyer and stick with it. Candy was also a lawyer. After practicing for a bit, she left the profession and pursued new endeavors, one in government and the other in entertainment. She shared how others, regardless of their age and where they were in life, would switch careers and try something new. What she did and what she shared continues to inspire me, and it will inspire others.

Storytelling is an integral part of Mi’kmaw culture, and Candy was incredibly solid at this. She always had stories, whether it was a part of her standup, The Candy Show, a panel speaker, over lunch/dinner, or at a work meeting. Over the years, I reheard many of her stories, and I never got tired of them. The one of her brother Billy is an important one that we should all follow; if you know how to get up, you can live without fear.

Being around Candy can be easy and difficult to describe. There was so much uplifting energy with her presence and what she said. You wanted to listen to what she had to say. You wanted to hear her jokes. You wanted her to help you see things differently. You wanted to listen to her stories. You wanted to be inspired. The forum didn’t matter; behind the scenes, a house party, work, being in the audience, on television, or just a simple lunch between you two at The Old Triangle. Yet it is difficult to describe her. There would be too many good words to use. I could go on and on, and maybe it’s because being around her as aforementioned are more than just words; it was an experience.

You can watch standup comedy, a talk show, a motivational speaker, a concert, a keynote address, etc… and while you may enjoy it, laugh, learn, and walk away feeling better, Candy had that extra gift to make you feel as if you were the only person in the room and she presented a world of energy for you. It was an energy that inspired and motivated you to want to do good – to do better – for others.

That’s what I think one of Candy’s greatest legacies will be.

There will be people in your life who will mean and do so much for you. Sadly, sometimes we don’t thank them while they are alive. Donald Marshall Junior was one of those persons, and I was always too scared to tell him that his life events have inspired me to go to law school and to help others – that he was my hero. I never told him that, and I live with this regret. However, I have expressed my gratitude to those who have inspired me. I thanked Clint in the latter part of his life before he died. Fortunately, I did tell Candy how I felt and what she meant to me – what she did for me. She never had to look out for or guide me along the way; she just did it. At her housewarming party on Gladstone, I was one of the last guests to leave. Before I did, I held her hands, looked her in the eyes, and I told her that, despite having three strikes against her (being a gay Mi’kmaw woman), as far as I’m concerned, she hits a home run every time. I told her that I was proud of her, thanked her for everything, and thanked her for being herself.

Tell your inspirations and motivations what they mean to you. Don’t ever wait, because one day, it may be too late. 

Kesa’lul Candy, wela’lin, aq namultis. 

Blue Nose Marathon 2021

On November 8, I completed my sixth marathon; the Blue Nose. I won’t recap the race route in too much detail (as I already wrote about it in Mary 2017). But rather; will focus on preparation, a few in-race moments, and afterwards.

One day after the Fredericton Marathon, I reached out to Erin Poirier of Love Training More. I asked her for two main reasons. First, she reached out to me last year to present on some Mi’kmaw education for her running group (so that trust was already established for me). Secondly, I’ve been directly/indirectly asking/inquiring to numerous folks about a running coach, and while many were suggested, almost all of them mentioned Erin, and had only great things to say. I was happy that she agreed to coach me.

While I was registered for both the Valley Harvest and Blue Nose as a full, one of her first directives was to do the former as a half and focus on the latter as my goal. She noted both recovery times from Fredericton and the Valley Harvest, and we only had about two months for this. Blue Nose is a challenging and tough marathon; it has many hills, both sharp and gradual, and I injured myself the last time I did it. But I wanted do a sub 3:00:00, and I placed my trust in Erin. So I made the switch, and albeit knowing the challenge, I was up for it.

So I shifted up a lot of things for my training. The first major change was leaving the FitBit world. I had mine since March 2015. I was a bit sad but I had new dreams to achieve. However, after earning my 100,000 Steps in a Day badge in May 2016, there really wasn’t much else to accomplish with it. So I swapped to a Garmin. I briefly explored an Apple Watch but was informed that a Garmin was better for runners. Garmin also has more badges to that I can earn. With that, I created a Strava account and left RunKeeper, which served me well since September 2016. But like parting ways with FitBit, I was working towards something else, and could no longer stick with old routines.

Speaking of old routines, probably the biggest transformation I underwent was ditching my old running schedule and style. Initially I thought I would just be modifying what I did in August for Fredericton. Instead, we had a weekly agenda for days dedicated for easy runs, BODYPUMP and or GRIT, intervals (which I never did), speed work,  recovery and rest, thresholds runs, shake-outs, tapering, yoga, and or long distances (and none of them were 42.2 kilometres). While this was different than what I was doing (which I thought was great at the time), I trusted Erin, and would follow her coaching on this. Furthermore, for fueling and nutrition advice, she recommended a registered dietitian – Jennie Orr – who was also a marathoner herself.

The Valley Harvest as a half was the halfway point between the fulls for Fredericton and Blue Nose. To sum it up, albeit its hills, it was a new half marathon personal best at 1:27:28. It was the first time I realized the great advantage of using a Garmin. With a focus on a 4:15 pace, rather that waiting for my RunKeeper to update me on it (which also forced me to make educated guesses), I was able to simply look at my Garmin to see my pace. That’s it – anytime, and with no interruptions to my music. For the last three kilometres, at Erin’s pre-approval, I dashed for the finish.

With a week before Blue Nose, Erin said to do no BODYPUMP nor GRIT. It was my taper week and carb-loading. One of the biggest things that really took a mental adjusting to was not warm-up at all prior to the marathon. This took some extra explaining from both Erin and Jennie. I’ve always warmed-up before every marathon (in fact, before any race), and have seen others do it. But again, I trusted Erin (and Jennie) on this. Mainly, I needed to save all my energy for the 42.2K race. So I wouldn’t be doing a warm-up. The carb-loading was interesting and educational. Jennie explained quite a bit of it, the science and reasoning behind it, sodium and hydration, and how to eat days leading up to the full. With the emphasis on carbs, I invented Skittle Pizza (it’s just Skittles on a pizza).

The Skittle Pizza.

Mi’kmaw Marathoner Patti Catalano Dillon gave me some extra advice (some of which crossed-over with what Erin and Jennie told me). One that stood out was to relax the evening before. My initial plan to was watch something with great action to “psyche me up” for Blue Nose. Instead, Patti suggested to watch something that would clam and relax me to ensure I get a good sleep that night. So I watched a few older “feel good” episodes of The Simpsons. With daylight savings, I got even a bit more sleep albeit still somewhat “wired” an hour ahead.

Sunday morning, I had oatmeal, natural peanut butter with a tad bit of salt added, orange juice, and Gatorade. As I was up early, well-rested, and had the extra hour, I took my time getting ready at the house. In what was a first and big decision, I decided to not wear my heart rate monitor (my MyZone) for a few reasons. The prime one being that it can become awfully distracting. I’ve had races where the chest strap can loosen at any time. I end up trying to adjust or tightening it, and this wastes some time as I need to slow down to get it right. Secondly, I know on average how many calories and MyZone Experience Points (MEPs) I earn on an average marathon. MEPs are fun to track and all, but my marathon time was the focus. Finally, sometimes the MyZone can cause chafing. While I do use Polysporin for this, I didn’t want to deal with any additional recover times.

Arriving decently early, I parked on Summer Street just a block away from the start line. Once ready, I made my way over and went to the restroom for one last time before things got underway. While I normally see a ton of friends before my race starts, for whatever reason, I barely saw anyone that I knew (a friend from law school, one from GoodLife, and one of Kerri’s dance friends). I was a bit worried that it would have been chilly (as it was November, and I did the Blue Nose in May when it was quite cold at the start), but the weather was perfect for running. Remembering what Erin said, I didn’t do any warming-up at all. The “warm-up” was pretty much just me walking over, and then doing one big crouch to pop my knees (not bad/dangerous at all despite how it sounds). Soon, the horn went off and the marathon began.

Blue Nose Start Line.
Crowd Shot.

The first and immediate thing was reminding and telling myself to absolutely stay with a 4:15 pace. No matter who passes me, who I pass, or what I was feeling at any time, the target was 4:15. I had a few periods where I was going a little too fast and would pull back a bit, and other times, I was a little slower than my pace aim and picked things up only to ensure that I was back on 4:15. As well, Erin said do not attempt to “bank time,” as that never works (and I knew this from doing five other marathons). As well as with Jennie’s advice, I would take my energy gels every five kilometres. Because of COVID-19, rather than handing out cups, volunteers handed out bottled water and Gatorade. So to preserve what I had in my belt, I grabbed bottled Gatorade along the way on occasion.

The course had slight alterations from the last time I did it. The two main ones were running up Cornwallis Street (can’t wait till they change the name of it) and then running down onto Duke Street. Basically, I viewed this as my “give and take” re time. Going up was going to slow me down, and going down was going to speed things up. Without an actual calculation on this, I presumed that this would even out.

On my first lap going up Inglis Street and nearing the turn towards Young Avenue, I saw my coach, which was a great moral booster. She ran with me for a brief period, encouraging me to simply keep up the good work, which is all that I needed at the time. She would do the same again when I ran up Hollis Street later on the second lap.

Speaking of which, at the second lap, I noticed that my time was slower than my personal best from Valley Harvest but still under 1:30:00. I was mindful though that with Valley Harvest, I did dash for the finish. Obviously I wasn’t going to dash now. The focus was simply 4:15.

Running through Point Pleasant Park. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com

While overall things were going good/steady for me on the race, something did mess up. Just after 37 kilometres, I got out of Point Pleasant Park and turned left and down a short steep Point Pleasant Drive. As soon as I turned onto Francklyn Street, my left hamstring badly pulled on me. I stopped and had to make a fast decision; either limp and run slowly for next five kilometres, or give it a good stretch and then try and get back on pace. I opted for the latter, and did it for about 30 or so seconds. I didn’t want to do less than that because I worried it would’ve acted up again, with me repeating the process, and this would be more time wasted. It’s better to stop and repair the vehicle than to drive a damaged one that could further break down. Plain and simple; good stretch now, and then try to get back into the race. It worked, because I was able to resume things.

Running up Young Avenue and onto South Park Street was a gradual climb. I knew it was going to be tougher than the last time I did this with just having a pulled hamstring. Unlike Valley Harvest, there would be no dash for the finish (maybe another time). A bit more on South Park Street, Erin and I saw each other again. She paced me up, and like before, encouraging and motiving me along the way, and I badly needed it. I was feeling uneasy with my left hamstring, but at least I was stable. Her pacing was a great and necessary mental boost that helped me out so much. I wanted to inform her of my muscle pulling and that I had to briefly stop, but decided against it, opting instead to concentrate my energies on finishing the race. I would explain everything afterwards and during our weekly updates. Going past Spring Garden Road, we ran by Kerri, Holly, and Looloo, who cheered me on. Then headed onto Bell Road, Erin said she’d meet me at the finish. 

The final kilometre towards the finish was tough but nothing too grueling. It wasn’t the route itself that bothered me; it was knowing that I had to keep a set pace till the finish – no dashing. If my hamstring pulled again, it would just be more time delayed. So stability was key, although I think having one last downhill run on Rainnie Drive, especially with the larger and louder supportive crowds, helped get my final kilometre pace under 4:15.

Running down Rainnie Drive. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com

On Brunswick Street, Erin cheered me on towards the finish line. Crossing it, I immediately stopped my Garmin and took a concentrated slow walk. I was congratulated, and said thank you, but had to keep moving. A part of me kind of wondered if I was going to get sick (fortunately I didn’t). Erin met me on the other side of the guardrail, congratulated me, and I thanked her for everything. I was on an extreme emotional high, but also had an aching lower body, especially on both hamstrings and feet. Soon we came up to Kerri, Holly, and Looloo for more congrats. I headed towards the post-race site to grab some juice, all with a weakened walk. I was sore. In fact, I’d say that it was the most sore that I have ever been right after a marathon. But thankfully, I was not in pain. Unlike my 2017 Blue Nose Marathon, I was fortunate enough to have done this one without incurring an injury. I saw a few other runners and we all congratulated each other. It was a tough course. I got some congratulatory text messages from others who saw my results before I did. I went home to recovery, stretch, and shower. I struggled to simply get up the stairs. After some waiting, I viewed my official results; 3:02:14 – a new personal best, and a Boston Qualifier with more time than my last one.

Coming up to the finish. Photo credit: http://www.marathon-photos.com
Just crossed the finish line. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Celebrating with Coach Erin. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Celebrating with Kerri and Looloo. Photo credit: Erin Poirier.
Marathon finisher selfie.

One observation about Sunday that was a first was a good physical recovery. While I was severely aching right after the race, by the early evening, I was feeling much better. This is in especial contrast to the Nova Scotia Marathon back in July, where the most serious soreness stayed with me for the whole day and even into the next few. That night, I had my weekly check-in chat with Erin. I mentioned the hamstring pull. She thought that the downhills may have had something to do with it. I wondered if it was me taking an epsom salt bath on Thursday night and not stretching enough prior to the marathon were additional factors. I shared that I had some more future goals that I would like her to help me with. She agreed, and the next order was recovery; take the next two weeks off from running, and for the next week, just rest.

Days after the Blue Nose Marathon, there was another recovery that I was undergoing; an emotional one. While I was beyond grateful that I got to do two other marathons (along with two other races) in 2021 during the pandemic, I think the combination of being coached by an amazing woman for a new personal best on a very challenging course (one I didn’t think that I could do but she did), the race being right in Kjipuktuk, being greeted by Looloo at her first marathon, perfect fall running weather, the big crowd energy of Blue Nose, and just having the feeling of what racing and life was like before the pandemic, all left me with an emotional high. I’ve had a few moments in the last week were I would simply start crying thinking about how wonderful things were during the Blue Nose Marathon, and our gradual return towards this. With Fredericton, I went in with high expectations for myself and felt as if I fell short. Even with earning a Boston Qualifier, I wanted more out of my performance – more out of me – and I think this is why I had a hard time feeling good about how I did. With Blue Nose, albeit having a goal of sub 3:00:00, with 3:02:14 as my new personal best, I was happy/proud of this. I went into this marathon feeling like I had a rematch with a tough opponent that I held a grudge against (the last Blue Nose left me with an injury), but instead, walked away with a mutual admiration and respect, and a deeper appreciation. Sometimes a tough opponent brings out the [personal] best [time] in you, and this year’s Blue Nose did just that.

Fredericton Marathon 2021

On September 5, I did my fifth 42.2K race; the Fredericton Marathon. I won’t recap my actual journey within it in too much detail (as it was the same route in 2019, which I already wrote about). Instead I’ll share more about how I trained, a bit of my time in Fredericton, some race highlights, and my thoughts afterwards.

This one felt like a friendly rematch from 2019. Back then, I missed my Boston Qualifier by five minutes and 14 seconds, and it really didn’t bother me a whole lot. I think it was because I improved on my time by 38 minutes and 41 seconds and was so close to qualifying. I also had fond memories as this one didn’t leave me injured nor seriously sore. Like so many events, I was registered for this in 2020 but it was obviously delayed until this year.

After the Nova Scotia Marathon, I was wondering how I should train for Fredericton. After pondering a few options, I decided to do at least two to three half marathons during the week and one full marathon on each weekend. I also stopped drinking three weeks prior to the race. August was incredibly hot and humid. My first three marathon runs were tough. Some days, the weather felt like mid- to high-thirties, and hydration was critical. My times were roughly about four hours and 30 minutes for two of them. A third was three hours and 46 minutes. But my last one (August 28) was three hours, 19 minutes, and 47 seconds. It was my fastest non-race 42.2K run and just roughly nine minutes from my personal best. For my final week before Fredericton, I did easy shakedown runs, some LesMills GRIT, and yoga. Friday before I left, I hydrated a lot.

Spending quality time with my mommy.
Corned beef hash, all the way from Maine.

Saturday morning I woke up at 5:30 a.m., did some yoga, and then left just after 9:00 a.m. The drive up was good and I recognized a few vehicles (e.g., Epic Canadian) and saw a few car magnets with marathon distances on them (I also have a 42.2K one). Arriving in town, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many red dresses and signs/symbols in support of Indian Residential School Students not far from Queen Square. I checked into my room and went off to a nearby Starbucks to visit my mother (who recently moved to Fredericton). It was great catching up, talking about Indian Day Schools, family, travel, and marathon running. I explained how she would be able to see me the next day, and before I left, she gave me two cans of corned beef hash that she picked up in Maine. Back at the hotel, I did LesMills CORE in my room and then had a supper of two bagels and Cracker Barrel (which is a new favourite of mine as of late). Then I drank approximately three litres of water between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and fell asleep just before 10:00 p.m.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 4:30 a.m., drank about a litre of water and orange juice, and had my oatmeal. I geared up and did a light run over to the start. I saw Troy of Atlantic Chip and he jokingly said that I was way too early. Joel arrived before I did too. We all briefly chatted before I went off to do my additional warmup. I did some BODYATTACK and GRIT moves in the tennis court, and lightly ran around Queen Square a few times. I bumped into a few more fellow runners (including a former roommate from undergrad), and then went to lineup. Apparently one of the volunteers recognized me from teaching BODYATTACK at Park Lane (which was nice). My mother then showed up and took a video of the race starting.

One thing that I thought that felt very different was the bridge going over the Gibson Trail bridge. Two years ago, it felt like any other wooden bridge. This time, it sort of seemed weaker, and somewhat gave a bit. I figured it may just have aged since 2019. Another thing was the overall distance. The route didn’t feel different at all (and I obviously trust the measurement), yet my RunKeeper recorded it as a 43K run. I don’t know where the extra 800 metres may have came from.

During my run, I noticed that I was passed a lot (although I could not tell if they were running the full or the half). This did not bother me at all. In fact, I was admiring how great they were doing. I just kept thinking about my August training, what I did, and asking myself if I did something wrong. Was it my last marathon run? Did I do it too fast prior to this one? Should I have been tapering for two weeks instead of one? Was I doing too much yoga or not enough? About halfway though, I knew that I should look into getting a regular running coach. I knew that I was only able train solo for so long. Some guidance and direction would only help.

Moving on to the second half of the marathon. Photo courtesy of Brett Ruskin.

Around the 28K mark, I knew that my average pace was not going to work out to be 4:15, which is what I needed in order to finish in under 3:00:00. A part of me just wanted to slow down. But at the same time, I thought that it would still be good to finish with a Boston Qualifier and under my old personal best. At about 37K, I noticed that I was feeling a bit bloated, as if I drank too much water. I wasn’t really drinking any water nor Gatorade from the stops, so I think the gels that I was using were a bit much (yet they didn’t bother me on my 42.2K practices, although these packages had more). So I stopped taking them. At 38K, my time was running out and knew that if I was going to make my qualifier, I had to pick things up. I remembered from the Nova Scotia Marathon when I tried to speed up a bit for the last few kilometres, my hamstring cramped. So trying to go too fast now would have been foolish, but I found a healthier and safer speed to do. For some extra motivation, I replayed a few of my favourite tracks from Rocky IV (I had my playlist programmed for Rocky IV music towards the 3:00:00 mark).

Celebrating my marathon finish with my mommy.
My Fredericton Marathon medal.

Crossing the finish line, I saw that I was under 3:10:00, which was a qualifier. But the first thing on my mind was to keep walking and to hydrate. I saw my mother and she congratulated me. A woman from one of my The Facebook running groups recognized me, congratulated me as well, and asked for a photo together (which was quite flattering). I also did an interview with Global New Brunswick re the marathon. Afterwards, I walked with my mother for a bit because I did not want to stand still for too long. Then I headed back to my hotel (by foot) and got a text from Jennifer (my BODYATTACK mentor), who congratulated me on qualifying. Strangers also congratulated me on the run along the way. Back at the hotel, I tried to get a later check-out (as I wanted to do some yoga in my room), but was unable to do so. I shared an elevator ride with a few of the Road Hammers’ runners and we congratulated each other. At the room, I quickly stretched, showered and packed, and then checked-out. Outside the hotel, I bumped into Val and Kim, who I volunteered with at Sole Sisters with in 2018 (and were the ones who shared the advice of walking post-marathon). Before I got into my car, I saw Stacy (Sole Sisters Race Director) who also congratulated me. She shared some more advice, and again strongly encouraged me to find a running coach. I phoned Kerri to tell her how I did before I got on the road. In Sackville, I pulled over into a parking lot to take a nap (I was tired and needed some rest).

On the drive back (four plus hours), I had time to reflect. While I was glad that I did finally qualify for the Boston Marathon, it was not as strong/fast as a qualifier that I wanted. I had my goal set for sub 3:00:00 and I didn’t make it. I was basically beating myself up over it. It kind of felt like earning a great silver medal but I still wanted a gold one. I kept going back to my August training and wondered where I went wrong. I kept thinking about my next two marathons in the fall, and wondered if I should try something slightly or drastically different. Both will be a bit hillier, but I know folks have finished them in fast times. I knew I needed help, and a coach would be an excellent start.

Nova Scotia Marathon 2021

It was over 800 days since my last marathon. While I did run 42.2 kilometres a few times since the pandemic began, it obviously wasn’t a competitive race, and I’ve only done three 5Ks since March 2020. I’ve also done a ton of regular running, mainly around the block. But I missed racing. Once I saw that the Nova Scotia Marathon was tentatively going ahead, I signed up.

On July 26, I did my fourth marathon. I almost did this one in 2019, but we had to pick up our Looloo the day before the race in New Brunswick. Given it would have been a six hour drive to Barrington Passage with a new puppy, I chose not to do it and instead wait until 2020. Obviously that got moved to 2021.

This was probably the first marathon I did where I wasn’t mentally “psyched up” leading up to it. I think it may have been because I just wasn’t unable to do many races. Furthermore, I developed a bit of a tight piriformis issue in the last few weeks. Knowing that my training wasn’t the greatest, I figured that I wasn’t going to hit my 3:00:00 goal. But I wanted to do another marathon, so I went ahead with it anyway.

A week before, I tapered a bit (with a 21.1K on July 17) and did more yoga to help stretch myself out, especially for the piriformis issue. Friday I drank a ton of water, mowed the lawn, and did some light yard work. This was my first July marathon, so to play it safe, I got a new water belt that held more from from Aerobics First. Saturday was the pre-day rest (and final water-up) and drive on over.

Saturday morning we went to Eastside Mario’s (my first time there since the pandemic began) for a good pasta lunch. Arriving at Barrington Passage, I went to pick-up my race kit at the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena and then we checked-in to the Starboard Inn. I was fortunate to have gotten this spot because it was only two kilometres from the start line. As I didn’t know the area at all, Kerri and I went for a drive along the race route (with a few beach stops). The race description read that it had some rolling hills and was basically a flat course. I would say that it probably has more rolling hills than I had anticipated, but it does have some good flatness. Driving along the ways, I cringed a bit looking at the steeper hills and occasional sharp turns because I knew that I wouldn’t like these while running.

A beach stop.

That evening, we returned to our accommodations and I spotted several fellow Run Nova Scotia Management Board members. I chatted with one for a good while about Sunday morning. She gave me some advice which I decided to do. She said not to dash/sprint at the start. Basically, that I’m a powerful runner with a lot of potential, but I shouldn’t be spending the first few kilometres trying to get by everyone right away. This was something I commonly do and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it for the next morning. After the chat, Kerri and I went to Pizza Delight for one last meal for the night. She read up on some marathon tips while we waited for our food, and suggested I consume my energy gels every five kilometres (normally I wait longer). Before calling it a night, I prepared my running clothes and gear on the table so I wouldn’t be scrambling the next morning to get ready.

The marathon started at 7:00 a.m. I didn’t get the best sleep. I woke up twice to use the bathroom, and at 3:30 a.m. or so, I couldn’t fall back asleep; I just tossed and turned. My alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and I pretty much chugged over a litre of water, along with a large glass of orange juice. I thought the near-two hour window would be enough of a span to use the bathroom a few times before the marathon got under way. At about 5:50 a.m., I began a light run over to the starting area. Once there, I continued with it. While I normally do some LesMills GRIT and or BODYATTACK moves as part of my warm-up, I chose not to really do any this time around. I don’t know if this factored my performance that day. I used the bathroom a couple more times, and at about 6:50 a.m., I headed for the lineup. I briefly chatted with some friends around me before things got underway.

With the buzzer going off, we started. I remembered trying to not pass everyone in front of me. I kept a steady pace for a bit. At about five or so kilometres, I knew all those liquids I had at 5:00 a.m. were coming back to haunt me. I needed to make a rest stop, which delayed me for about maybe 30 or so seconds. With Fredericton, I has a bit more time between waking up and the race, and even had less to drink.

Coming across the causeway. Photo courtesy of Ken Chetwynd Photography.
A foggy morning run. Photo courtesy of East Coast Running Photos.

The route was foggy, which I understood was common at that time of day in Barrington Passage. There were waves of spectators cheering us on from their homes, which was always a great morale booster. Speaking of which, at around Penny Road (maybe just after the halfway point), I did see a house with a large Mi’kmaw flag. I had no idea if the residents were Mi’kmaq, if it was a flag of solidarity and support for Mi’kmaw fishers, and or if it was done in commemoration for the recently located bodies of Indian Residential School students. But in any event, it felt great to see.

At about 28 kilometres, I knew that I wasn’t going to catch up with the pace that I needed to qualify for Boston. This did bother me a tad bit, but I did tell myself that I still wanted to make this my second fastest marathon. As well, there was the principle of finishing the race. I think I felt as if I was “hitting the wall” at about 30 kilometres.

One thing I noticed was that the marathon reminded me of my first one. In addition to the ocean scenic route, I was often alone, especially for the second half. The other marathon reminder was the Bluenose. This was because at about 38 kilometres, I felt my left hamstring pull on me. I had to stop and give it a good stretch. This took about 30 seconds. Another runner who I passed earlier (while he was stretching his hamstring ) shared some motivation with me, and I returned it when I passed him again later. This hamstring issue was, fortunately, the only time that I had to really stop in the race.

At 40 kilometres, I managed to pick up some speed and figured I could make the last 2,200 metres with better time. Nearing the causeway, I saw one last cheering station, which was inspiring. Once on the causeway itself, I trekked along and then saw Kerri waiting for me. She yelled encouragement as she filmed me running. Feeling motivated, I picked up the pace and made my way towards the race’s end. As I heard my name being congratulated by the Masters of Ceremonies, my left hamstring acted up again just as I was right on top of the finish line. What timing.

Headed towards the finish line. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

The first person to congratulate me right after the race was Joel, whom I’ve raced with several times. We took a quick photo and spoke about the next marathon that we’d be dong together. Two friends handed me a bottle of water. I thanked them for it and headed towards Kerri, who also then congratulated me. I said that I wanted to walk a bit before going to the car. We went up the causeway, coming across some fellow Run Nova Scotia Board members, both as spectators and fellow marathon participants. I took one more photo by the 42.2K banner and then we returned to the chalet. I jokingly asked Kerri to piggyback me up the stairs, and she did. Inside, I briefly stretched, packed, showered, and then we checked-out.

Celebrating with Joel.
My medal.
Fourth marathon completed.

Returning home, our first stop was Sandy Hills beach. One elderly man who saw me slowly walking asked if I just did the marathon, which I answered in the affirmative. The stairs were short, but it felt a bit brutal to go down them and then onto the rocks. But once we made it to the ocean, it felt relieving to walk on the soft sand and in the salt water.

After the beach, we stopped in Shelburne to visit a friend of mine, Seth, from Saint Mary’s University, whom I haven’t seen since maybe 2003-2004. He’s a teacher now, and we caught up on many things. It meant a lot to learn that he was teaching his students about colonialism, Indian Residential Schools, and Mi’kmaw history. I thanked him for the work that he was doing. Afterwards, Kerri and I had a late lunch at the Boxing Rock, where I finally had something to eat. For whatever reason, I’m usually not hungry after a big run. But I was still quite dehydrated even though I consumed a lot of water all afternoon. I had an ibuprofen to help me deal with my headache.

Late lunch at Boxing Rock.

After leaving Shelburne, we stopped along Carter’s Beach. As I didn’t have much of a sleep and I was awake for almost 12 hours, I lightly dozed off on the beach with a power nap. It was pretty much what I needed. As Kerri went for a quick swim, I stayed on the sand to stretch out a bit more. Once back on the road, we made our way to the city, picked up Looloo, returned home, and ordered some Little Caesar’s pizza. I opted to not have an epsom salt bath that night. I usually do one the same day I complete a marathon. Given my earlier headache, I figured it would further dehydrate me. The next morning, I did yoga for over an hour and had the bath that night.

Relaxing at Carter’s Beach.

With four in-person marathons to date, I’ve learned some new lessons from this round. One, anything more than a litre of water two hours before a marathon isn’t a good idea. Two, don’t shower then do a marathon. It’ll increase your chances of chafing. Finally, consume your energy gels every five kilometres. I felt this helped me a bit more than if I waited longer to take them.

The next one is the Fredericton Marathon on September 5. I’m also registered for the Valley Harvest Marathon on October 10.

Gorilla Mat – Review

While we moved into our new house on January 2018, I didn’t start utilizing our large basement room (the exercise room) until July 2019. It has laminate flooring, which isn’t safe nor great to work-out on. But I was able to practice BODYATTACK™ and BODYPUMP™ on it with either modifications and or lower intensity. Then in October 2019, LesMills On Demand launched in Canada. Obviously and right away, I was doing LesMills GRIT™. I tried some of it at home, but mainly went to the gym (with the video downloaded to my iPhone®) to get the most out of it with its flooring, space, and equipment.

When the province went into a declared state of emergency, the gyms (and many other things) had to close. So I did a lot more running (and even earned a Personal Best of 328.83 kilometres in April). I still used the exercise room but not all that much. In May, I was starting to really miss strength training, and in particular, BODYPUMP™. I purchased an entire SMARTBAR™ and SMARTSTEP™ set (along with an additional pair of extra-large plates). A bit pricy (as I had to import it from France), but worth it. While I was happy to get back into BODYPUMP™ and LesMills GRIT™ Strength, there was another major issue I’ve had for a year; the floor. I was still capping my efforts with LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic and Cardio and BODYATTACK™, not because of fitness nor ability, but for safety and slipping. Doing burpees, tuck jumps, push-ups, donkey kicks, etc… were always challenging because either my hands or feet would be at risk of quickly sliding on the sweaty floor. The foam tiles I bought several months back were useless and unsafe. While I did have a yoga mat and an MBX MAT™, I was still limited on spacing and hand and feet placement. I had to adjust them (along with the SMARTSTEP™) when the workouts changed. I even had a tumble doing a BODYPUMP™ Lunge track. Frustrated, I began researching floor options.

Right away, I knew that I didn’t need to replace the floor. It was unnecessary and expensive. I just needed the right mat or proper tiles. I posted on several social media fitness spots/groups, asking others what they used and or recommended. Then eventually, one common thing kept recurring; the Gorilla Mat. A friend in the city also had one and I asked her for more information/details on how she liked it. Reading only wonderful reviews and loving how Gorilla Mats were made with eco-friendly and non-toxic materials, I decided that this is what I would go with. It also came with a life-time guarantee.

As I’m 6’2 and wanted to max-out my efforts, I went with the largest mat (at 6’ x 12’). I also workout with Kerri on occasion, so the more floor that we got covered, the better.

I picked up my Gorilla Mat on a Saturday afternoon. It was pretty large, but I managed to fit it into my car. Once home, I removed it from the box it was shipped in and saw some nice notices on how the Gorilla Mat was made from eco-friendly and non-toxic materials (which I already knew) and that it was manufactured by a small family-owned business (which I didn’t know). It also came with a free wiping towel designed for it. I unrolled it and placed weight plates at one end to ensure that it flattened out. I returned a few hours later to “break-in” the Gorilla Mat with a workout that I wasn’t really ever able to do at home; LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic.

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Gorilla Mat features.

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A great thank you note.

As it was a new mat, I knew that I had to give it a few workouts before truly evaluating what I bought. While it did have an initial tad tiny bit of fresh slipperiness to it, I knew that this was simply because it was new. The Gorilla Mat is amazing and awesome. I was able to go all-out with tuck jumps, lunges, quick/fast movements with sudden stops/changes. I was never able to do this with tiles/mats because they would either break-up or skid underneath me. The Gorilla Mat was really almost no different than what I would do on a gym floor. That is, if a spot got a bit too sweaty, it becomes slicker, and I would adjust/wipe accordingly. But with a laminate floor, I would have to stop. It was too dangerous. I would need to put a mat underneath me or use a towel to wipe up the sweat. Even then, it was still hazardous. However, with the Gorilla Mat, those worries were gone. I did very minimal sweat wiping. I was able to focus entirely on the work-out.

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Breaking-in the new Gorilla Mat with LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic.

As for the SMARTSTEP™ (which we use in LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic and other LesMills™ programs), before I would’ve needed to place it on top of the yoga mat or MBX MAT™. Or snuggly between both mats so I could do moves requiring me to go on and off the side of the SMARTSTEP™. This became a non-issue with the Gorilla Mat. I was able to place the SMARTSTEP™ on it and it firmly stayed in place; no shifting when I jumped on and off of the SMARTSTEP™.

Furthermore, the Gorilla Mat is very shock-absorbent (which I wasn’t necessarily even looking for), which is a beautiful bonus. Landing felt fantastic compared to the flooring beneath it. At the end of the workout, I didn’t even need my other mats/tiles for Core; the Gorilla Mat was perfectly fine. In addition, while I did purchase some flooring tape to ensure that the Gorilla Mat would stay put on the floor (a problem with tiles/mats), the size, weight, and grip of it were so good that I didn’t need to apply any.

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Feeling happy with my first all-out LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic in months on the Gorilla Mat.

The next day, I tested it with LesMills GRIT™ Cardio, another workout that was difficult to do on laminate flooring. Given LesMills GRIT™ Cardio (I find) tends to have more room running/movement along with bear crawls, I found this workout even more difficult to do at home than LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic. On the Gorilla Mat, once again, virtually no issues at all. After doing LesMills GRIT™ Pylo/Athletic the day before, I think the new/fresh slipperiness was lessened a bit. Various workouts/moves on it were excellent and safe to do. The next morning, I woke up and did LesMills GRIT™ Strength. Same story as above; essentially flawless. Another added bonus (which again I wasn’t necessarily looking for) with the Gorilla Mat was how soundproof it was. Either when working-out or placing weights on the laminate floor, it made noise. With the Gorilla Mat, when running on the spot, landing hard, or placing weight plates and or SMARTBAR™ down, the sound was very muffled.

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LesMills GRIT™ Cardio.

Finally, I got to try BODYATTACK™ on it. Since I started using our exercise room, it was really a place to practice BODYATTACK™ and BODYPUMP™; I never actually used it as a “workout” per se (although a practice is still a workout). Now was the time to test the Gorilla Mat with BODYATTACK™, and it absolutely passed with flying colours. I did release 63 (which sold out in Canada years ago but I managed to buy it when visiting the United States in August 2012 at a LesMills™ Mega Quarterly). Doing step touches, supers, jumping jacks, and other BODYATTACK™ moves were stress-free. For the first time since the declared state of emergency, I had a lot of fun doing BODYATTACK™, and in particular, doing it in the exercise room without worry if I was going to fall on the floor.

The Gorilla Mat was also great for yoga. I felt no pain when I rested on body parts that would otherwise hurt (e.g., a lot of bodyweight on the knee, even on a yoga mat). But given some moves require a bit of holding on the hands and or feet (e.g., downward dog), I would still place my regular yoga mat or MBX MAT™ (which does have a yoga option) on top of the Gorilla Mat for a bit of extra security. I know that there are yoga Gorilla Mats, but my focus/purchase was the exercise mat.

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Yoga with Looloo. The yoga mat isn’t really necessary, but I use it for extra security.

Overall, the Gorilla Mat (like the SMARTBAR™ and SMARTSTEP™ set) is one of the best purchases that I have ever made for working-out at home. Given I paid $339.95 at Amazon (and free shipping with Prime), being made from eco-friendly and non-toxic materials, being a small family-owned business, the size I bought, coming with a lifetime guarantee, being excellent for high-intensity and fast work-outs (including with equipment) with its firm grip, yoga comfort, and being shock- and noise-absorbent (two extras that I wasn’t looking for but will gladly take), it was practically a steal. I love it.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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Decorated porch.

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 Decorated porch.

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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.

Fredericton Marathon 2019 – Third Marathon

On May 12, I completed my third marathon. I was scheduled to do this one last year, but I developed sciatica just days beforehand. So I had to withdraw from the race. While I was back to my regular running near the end of Summer 2018, I avoided full marathons for the rest of the year.

Going into the Fredericton Marathon, I was better prepared than my last two. Since January 1, I have been running virtually every morning for at least five kilometres (even in the winter with minus 20 wind-chills). I did a few races (including two of half marathons), and even went for a 50-kilometre run a couple of weeks ago (going for distance and not speed per se, although I beat my prior 50-kilometre run by over an hour). Furthermore, taking my wife’s advice, I went to get properly fitted for shoes and met with a running coach for some pointers.

For my third marathon, I decided to do a few things differently. First off, I was going to rest the day before; no running or even working-out. Secondly, I hydrated up, a lot, days before the big race (not just the morning of). Normally I have at least two litres of water every day; on Friday I had four. The next day, I must have had at least five. Third, I would carb-up in the latter afternoon/early evening (normally I don’t eat until 9:00 p.m. or even later). Fourth, I had a hydration pack (bad idea). Fifth, I would consume my energy gels every seven kilometres (which worked great for me). Finally, unlike my prior marathons, I actually got a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning, I hit the road alone. I got to town at about 3:00 p.m. and went straight to the Fredericton Convention Centre to pick up my kit. I hung out briefly to see some familiar folks from my running circles/friends/communities. I stopped to check out the marathon map and saw that it was slightly different than what I did (as a half) in 2017. After getting a bit familiar with the altered route, I went over to the Epic Canadian (one of my favourite races) and Sole Sisters booths to chat with the race directors. Due to low registrations for Sole Sisters, I purchased two entries to help support it. The race director thanked me in-person for my gift to help two women out and I was only too happy to do so. I went outside and wasn’t entirely hungry just yet, so I went for a brief walk around the area while playing some Pokémon GO™. After about an hour, I went over to East Side Mario’s® just after 5:00 p.m. to carb- and hydrate-up. I order lasagna, got all-you-can-eat bread (made it to four loaves), and I asked the server to please leave me a pitcher of water (which I finished). Stuffed and full, I felt great, knowing I had a few hours until bedtime. I went to my friend’s place (Alyssa, a fellow LesMills Instructor who’s also a Presenter) to hangout and chat for a bit (I was crashing the night). We caught up on things for about two hours as I kept drinking more water. Afterwards, I FaceTimed with my wife back home. She wished me well on the marathon then I went to sleep.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and immediately finished one litre of water. My breakfast was oatmeal, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and orange juice and chocolate milk. When I did the Run Our Shore Half Marathon, I made the mistake of running it on an empty stomach. By 6:00 a.m., I stopped drinking water as the marathon was at 8:00 a.m. I packed up my things and went to a nearby grocery store to park. It was a bit chilly that morning, so I mainly sat in the car until about 7:30 a.m. I phoned my mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, but she didn’t answer. I left a voice mail, telling her that I would phone her again later and that I won’t be answering calls between 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Then I started to warm up with some light running, BODYATTACK™ moves, and went for one last restroom break. But in all of this, the race lineup was already big. I ended up stuck at the wrong pace area (I thought I needed at least 4:15 pace to qualify for Boston Marathon).

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Selfie prior to my third marathon.

The marathon started at 8:00 a.m. Like almost every race I do where I start somewhere in the middle (Erica keeps telling me to go near the front), I spent about four or five minutes navigating my way through the sea of other runners. Things started to spread out for me when I got onto Saint Anne’s Point Drive. Going up the bridge was the only real elevation of the whole route, and we only had to do it once. Then turning from Field Street onto Northside Trail, my music paused, and the phone rang (I had forgotten to put it to silent). Without looking, I knew that it was my mother. I couldn’t answer it, so I just let it go to voice mail. A few guys running nearby had a good chuckle and I said that I knew it was my mother, but that I was going to have to call her back.

With Maritime Race Weekend, I ended up running alone more often than not. With the Bluenose Marathon, this was hardly the case (due to being in the city). With the Fredericton Marathon, I felt it was a halfway point between both. There were crowds, and about half the time, I felt that there wasn’t (with Gibson Trail being the most noticeable).

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Running the Fredericton Marathon. Photo courtesy of East Coast Running Photos.

Nearing the halfway point of my race, I had to cross the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge. The wind was pretty strong, and my race bib ripped off on the bottom right side. I panicked, fearing the thought of my race bib flying away towards the river and not knowing what I could do about it. So for my trip across the bridge, I held the race bib against my body to ensure the wind wouldn’t catch it. While it may have appeared to onlookers that I was in pain by holding into my core, I just wanted to ensure my race bib wouldn’t fly off of me.

At the halfway point, I noticed that I was just under 1:30:00. Which was fine, but I needed to remind myself that I had to do a negative split if I wanted to make a 3:05:00 finish.

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Having a blast. Photo courtesy of East Coast Running Photos.

In doing my third marathon, I caught on a few things that affected my performance (albeit slightly). One, my hydration pack was very useless and quite counterproductive. Not only did it cause some bad chafing on my right neck, but I wasn’t able to get any water out of it. Every time I tried to take a sip, I used too much air and energy trying to get some hydration. I attempted this twice then I abandoned the idea. I actually felt like untying the thing and throwing it in the trash can while racing. But in all honesty, I was okay as I had my own water bottle, and I wasn’t as thirsty as I was in previous marathons especially after the halfway point. I’m convinced that all my hydration in leading up to the race worked. I did stop for some water and Gatorade® on the second half out of a habit, but honestly probably didn’t really need it all that much (as my own water bottle was sufficient). Second, my music. I had mainly BODYATTACK™ songs (and often these were the Plyometric or Power tracks). While it was great to run to the beat of the music, I sometimes got caught up in playing the choreography in my head, trying to coach it, and before I knew it, I found myself slowing down. I would remind myself to stop coaching the choreography and get back to focusing on the race. I had to do this a few times throughout the marathon.

Somewhere along the Nashwaak Trail, I did have a bit of an emotional moment. I was thinking about how well I was doing, and pondering what other marathons I’d like to try. Then the Marine Corps Marathon popped in my mind. I imagined doing that one in memory of Clint, and how emotional it would be for me to do so, especially after crossing that finish line. A tear started coming down my face, and I had to snap back to reality that I was in the middle of a race.

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Getting closer towards the finish. Photo courtesy of Kris Acker.

Soon I was coming back onto the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, and once again I held onto my race bid to ensure it didn’t fly off. After I crossed it, I picked up the speed to make it to the finish. As I approached the final turn on the Lincoln Trial, my Runkeeper™ updated me that I was nearing three hours and ten minutes. In the last few kilometres leading up to this final update, it felt as if my time was going up faster and my pace going a bit slower. I thought I needed at least a 4:15 pace the whole time to qualify for Boston (at 3:05:00), with a 4:00 being a “buffer” re getting under 3:00:00. I was wrong for the whole marathon. Ugh! Lesson learned.

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Just about to cross the finish line. Photo courtesy of Paul Jordan Photography.

Running towards and crossing the finish, I didn’t stop but slowed down to a fast walk. I received my medal and as I kept moving, a young woman offered and handed me a bottle of water. I thanked her for it and kept walking. I went over to a booth where I chugged down several cups of Gatorade® very quickly, which felt absolutely great. Then I went over to some open space on the grass and slowly tried to lay down to do some back extensions, something I do after almost every workout and run on my physiotherapist’s advice. I started some stretches, all of which were stubborn to execute. I was very sore nearly all over. In fact, there was even a Sheltie nearby and I couldn’t bring myself to stand up to go over and see it. After about what I estimate was 20 minutes on the grass, I slowly got up and started to walk away. I saw a fellow runner from Truro named Joel. We shared our times, both of us missing the Boston Qualifier, and congratulated each other on finishing our marathons. I went back to my car then went up the hill/road to go stretch a bit more and shower at a GoodLife FITNESS®. Due to the chafing, the shower was rather painful, but got through it anyway. On my way out, I bumped into Alyssa doing some lunge work. We chatted briefly, I told her how I did, and thanked her for letting me crash her place the previous night. We gave each other a farewell hug then I left the gym.

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My Fredericton Marathon medal.

Given I didn’t want to be in town any longer than I had to (as it was a four-hour drive back), I just went to a nearby KFC® for some post-marathon calories. While enjoying my meal, I noticed something very important; I wasn’t injured. Yes, I was quite sore, and understandably so, but I wasn’t injured. No limping; no pain. After years of instructing lots of classes and doing tons of running, I know the difference between soreness and injury/pain. A lot of it may have been trial-and-error, but I’m certain that getting fitted for proper shoes and talking to a running coach helped me out so much with it.

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Post-marathon meal.

Driving back, I phoned my mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and told her how I did. She told me about my sister’s graduation from Cape Breton University on Saturday. Once done talking, I had time to reflect on my third marathon. Not only did I achieve a new PB of 3:10:14 (beating my last time by 38 minutes and 31 seconds), but I accomplished it injury- and pain-free and was within minutes of a Boston Qualifier. I was very happy/pleased with all of this and knowing that I’m getting closer and closer to making it.

The funny part about my reflecting was realizing that I was very excited for my next marathon (scheduled in September), but I was thinking about what other ones I could do in 2019. Over the years, I learned about the importance of rest, relaxation, stretching, mixing-up my training, and proper hydration/eating. While I am excited, I don’t want to overdo anything that’ll put me on the shelf again.

Back home, I struggled to unload my stuff from the car as I was obviously still sore (but thankfully injury/pain-free). I filled the bathtub with hot water and dumped in some Epsom Salts. I initially considered stopping elsewhere for a hot tub, but with my chafing, I didn’t want to chance an infection nor would I have even been allowed in. The bath was soothing, and just what I needed after both a marathon and long drive. My wife returned that night, and at my request, brought home a rising-crust pizza and a Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake for us to enjoy.

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Celebratory Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake.

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New marathon record.

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My route.

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MyZone® MEPs.

LesMills LIVE Toronto 2018, Top 500, and Top Six Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence

From August 9 to 13, I attended canfitpro/LesMills LIVE Toronto and the Top 500 GoodLife Fitness celebrations. This was my seventh canfitpro/LesMlls LIVE Toronto event in a row, and my second Top 500 GoodLife Fitness celebration (the first being in 2014).

A lot has happened since April. I severely hurt myself training for a marathon, combined with doing too many BODYPUMP™ classes/practices, resulting in an injured L4/L5 disc vertebra, leading to sciatic nerve pain for months. So I’ve had to take a lot of time off since May 12 (the day after I ran 42 kilometres) until now; no real running and no classes. I also got married and went on a honeymoon.

In April, I entered a BODYATTACK™ 100 contest, which was a paid admission to LesMills LIVE and a chance to meet-and-greet with Lisa Osborne, the BODYATTACK™ Program Director (Lisa recently underwent hip surgery and was unable to make it to Toronto). I was one of one of five folks from across Canada who won the contest. I got the great news back in early-May (days before my injury). Two days before my May 12 run, with the encouragement and support of my General Manager Nicole Lewis, I submitted my self-nomination for the Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence award. A little less than two months later on July 3 in the afternoon, I was at my day job when I got the call from Marian McTeer (Vice President of Operation of the Group Fitness Department), informing and congratulating me with the incredible news that I was one of the Top Six Group Fitness Instructors of Excellence award winners. Needless to say, being informed about the award, along with winning the contest, was some good news that I needed to lift my spirits re not being able to instruct for weeks/months.

This year, I arrived on a Thursday prior to the event (sometimes I arrive on a Wednesday). I was in touch with a fellow BODYATTACK™ 100 contest winner Sonia Baldassarre, and while I usually team teach with her when I am in Toronto, I didn’t feel right doing it as I was just easing back into things. So I asked if I could just shadow on stage for BODYATTACK™ 101 (which she was perfectly fine with). Afterwards, I thanked her for letting me share the stage with her, as it felt great being up there, that it meant a lot, and I was proud of her love for the program, her dedication to it, and for motivating me to the finish (as I was still getting back into my regular endurance). She congratulated me on getting through it (knowing about my injury and recovery), and really lifted my spirits when she said that it was an honour to share the stage with me. I celebrated with my annual solo dinner at Hooters. When I got back to my Airbnb, instead of waiting for the elevator, I felt that climbing 28 floors would be an extra fun workout.

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Just finished shadowing Sonia on stage BODYATTACK™ 101.

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Just climbed 28 floors. BOOYAH!

The next morning, I went to pick up my delegate package at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, seeing lots of LesMills instructors (distinguishable by our clothes) and some whom I know personally or via social media. I went to my first lecture (True You: How To Teach and Motivate with Authenticity), which was put on by Josef McMatthews, who remembered me from AIM II at MEGAMADNESS. We briefly chatted before the start, then he proceeded with the presentation. He spoke about gratitude, going through some difficult times, and being thankful for those who’ve helped him. It reminded me of how I appreciated my own blessings. Some instructors shared their stories, and a woman told us hers that moved some of us to tears. About ten years ago, she left an abusive relationship. She started going to a women’s-only gym and tried a fitness class; she fell in love. She lost weight, experienced better mental health, made great friends, and now she is an instructor herself. Josef gave her a quick hug and I would’ve done the same. Afterwards, I dropped in the opening canfitpro ceremonies and managed to sit with friends Susie and Mandy (both of whom I attended the LesMills OneLive in Stockholm with in 2015). While we had guest speakers, Jana Webb’s story re her accident and comeback touched me the most. Then I headed to one of the registration spots to register my wife for LesMills LIVE.

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Always great to see Josef.

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Meeting up with Mandy and Susie at the opening ceremonies.

As Lisa was unable to make it to Toronto, us five BODYATTACK™ 100 winners (along with our National Trainer Fred Kung) did a live video chat with her. After finding a quiet and private space, we called in, each of us taking some time to talk to her, asking questions, sharing our stories (some of us were even crying), and our love for the program. One of the contest winners recently beat cancer and shared her story. As Lisa also had a breast cancer scare (thankfully it turned out to be a negative result), I shared the story of a family member who had breast cancer herself. I also told her about my injury and how it was hard to take some off, but was excited about the comeback. Before the chat ended, she asked Fred to bring us up on stage and we thanked her for her time (especially with the time zone difference). Afterwards, I met up with Kerri and brought her back to our Airbnb to drop off her bags. We went out for a dinner at SOCO Kitchen and Bar. While I’m not much of a foodie per se, I was quite impressed with my burger, guacamole, and even the thin crust pizza. While I have never liked a thin crust pizza at a restaurant (I find frozen thin crusts way better), the SOCO one was actually quite good. Then like the night before, I suggested to Kerri that we take the stairs up (and she agreed).

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Getting emotional chatting with Lisa.

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With Kerri at SOCO.

The next morning, we headed to the venue for LesMills LIVE. I was a bit worried in that I haven’t actually participated in BODYPUMP™ in months. Given my injury and recovery, I decided that I shouldn’t do everything that I registered for. So to play it safe, I decided that I would only do BODYPUMP™, BODYSTEP™, BODYATTACK™, and some of BODYFLOW™ (with modified options as my physiotherapist has not cleared me to do yoga just yet). The first program went by well. I didn’t lift really heavy and absolutely ensured that I had my core braced for the entire thing. Right after that was BODYSTEP™. Normally it takes me a bit to catch a handle on the choreography when it comes to BODYSTEP™, but I managed. I was a bit iffy when it came to straight-out burpees, so I just did the option. Once done, I had a few hours before BODYATTACK™, and as much as I wanted to do GRIT™, CXWORX™, and everything else, I knew that shouldn’t push myself due to being in-recovery. So I took our luggage early the Sheraton® just up the street. It was my first time there and it was a pretty nice place. I then got Kerri and we picked up breakfast at Chipotle (one of my favourite quick meals in Toronto and conveniently located). We returned for the lunchtime lecture with Steve Tansey re Increasing Athletic Performance, which was quite informative and useful (and pretty fun and interactive).

While there was GRIT™ Pylo, and as much as I love it, I knew that I still had to take it easy, so I had to sadly sit it out. Plus I wanted to ensure that I would be able to fully participate (to the best of my ability) for BODYATTACK™ 102. Before it started, a video of Lisa was played, congratulating us BODYATTACK™ 100 winners, and wishing that she was there with us this year. While she couldn’t make it, Giles Bryant (who presented on BODYATTACK™ 99 and other releases) came and was a great presenter (he also did an amazing job presenting BODYSTEP™ earlier that morning, which I normally don’t do). While I always treat LesMills events as my opportunity to go all out (e.g., no options, all push-ups on my toes), I had to play it safe. I sort of went half and half (just like on Thursday). For the Interval Track in the last block, at Lisa’s request, us BODYATTACK™ 100 winners were pulled up on stage to shadow, and then invited back to up shadow the Cool Down. Albeit not going to my normal maximum abilities and efforts (for safety), I still had fun. As for BODYFLOW™, while I normally do it to finish off Toronto LesMills LIVE, as I haven’t been cleared for actual yoga just yet by my physiotherapist, I kept my participation very minimal and safe. Afterwards, we got some pictures (including with Kristin Anderson, who was also at Amsterdam).

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BODYATTACK™ Presenters and the 100 Winners.

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With Kerri and Kristen.

We went back to the hotel so we could shower and get ready for the GoodLife Gala Awards. Days before, I bought myself a tuxedo as I wanted to look spiffy and sharp. Kerri wore a gorgeous and ravishing rose gold pink sequence, which she found in Ireland on our honeymoon. We arrived and saw familiar faces, including Atlantic folks, friends from elsewhere, and some fellow instructor Top 500 winners from the region. After some beverages, we headed over to the actual awards (the original venue got flooded and had to relocate to the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, which was a good spot). Some other East Coast friends were also up for awards, and I was quite proud of them. Several categories were awarded, and the recipients went on up to be recognized and honoured on stage.

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Looking good at the Gala.

Then came the Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence awards. As they read off the category description, I smiled, and Kerri grabbed my hand, smiling as well. Then our names were read off to thunderous applause; Kelly Black, Many Dolley, Kathleen Fursey, Jarvis Googoo, Monica Lopez, and Like Wooliscroft (I also knew Luke from 2014 when we were both in the Top 20 Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence). Once my own name was called, my surrounding Atlantic folks erupted into cheers. I walked towards the stage beaming. Given how much I’m in love with my Group Fitness Instructing job with GoodLife for our members, it was truly one of my biggest honours to be recognized as a Top Six in the company (out of an average approximate 3,700). On stage, I gave Patch a gigantic hug (who quickly complimented my tux), along with Marian and Maureen “Mo” Hagan and my fellow recipients. After embracing, we stood side-by-side and close on the stage as Marian congratulated and praised us with a lovely speech:

So, on behalf of GoodLife, I want to express to you how extremely proud we are of each and everyone, not only for your abilities as amazing instructor, but for your kindness, the people who you are, and what you bring to your classes, every single day. You keep them motivated, you install in them a desire to be as fit and as healthy as they can be; you are role models and they look up to you and we thank you for everything you do.

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Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence award winners (with Mo) listening to Marian’s speech.

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Backstage shot. Photo credit to Brian at Tarsipix Studios.

Her words really touched me (as I’m sure if did for others). Afterwards, we went back stage for a group photo and a margarita shot. I briefly chatted with Luke, then went back to join my East Coast squad. We sat through the rest of the awards, applauding everyone on their recognition, as I knew they also worked hard for it. Then we all headed downstairs for the Gala celebrations (and some grub). Given I did some classes that day (and not being as conditioned as I was pre-injury), I decided to hold off my dancing until Sunday night on the Last Sail. So Kerri and I returned to our room. Upon arriving, I saw that my plaque (and gift) were waiting for me. I took a quick picture with it (still in my tux) prior to bedtime.

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Back at the hotel with my award.

The next morning, I needed some contact cases (as I forgot to pack mine at my Airbnb). So I went up the street to grab some. Before going inside, I saw a homeless person with a sign, asking for food or money. Given how hot it was, I also grabbed a cold fruit drink, a sandwich fresh from the cooler, and something else that I can’t remember. He quietly thanked me as I told to please take care. Then I headed to the Toronto Metro Convention Centre to get my Top 500 badge. I quickly met up with Kerri’s relatives (who were in town) for brunch. I had to duck out early to get back to the rest of the celebrations. I arrived ahead of scheduled and didn’t miss anything. We got a glimpse of a new upcoming GoodLife campaign, which really appealed to me as it also featured a First Nations story. We had some keynote speakers, and I truly enjoyed the ones from the Atlantic region (one being an immigrant and the other with a disability), both which were inspiring as they spoke about GoodLife and how exercise has helped them.

Afterwards, I went back to my hotel to rest up a tad bit. Alone in my room, I killed some time with various YouTube videos. I watched some moving scenes, such as the trainings (and deaths) from Rocky III and Rocky IV, and The Lords of the Rings: The Return of the King (“I can carry you,” and “You bow to no one”). Then my eyes started to water, and I had both a sad and happy cry, which was good for my soul. I thought of my hero Donald Marshall Junior and Clint. One comment I read on YouTube reminded me of Clint and Kerri: “I think every man wants a woman like Adrian, and a best friend like Apollo. A woman who is always going to have your back and lift you up, and a best friend who can rival you and push you to your furthest limits as a person…” Although Clint has been gone for over a decade, I still think of him pushing and motivating me, and it reminded me of Kerri, who always lifts me up when I experience darker moments in life. As always, I was thankful for my blessings, appreciating how fortunate I am to do what I do for my class participants, for First Nations communities and health, and everything else.

Nearing 5:50 p.m., I met up with Genevieve and Graeme (fellow Atlantic Top 500 winners) and we made our way towards the Last Sail. We got on the boat and headed to the lower level for food (they feed you well on the boat). We saw other East Coast friends, so we went over to chat. Eventually it was just me, Genevieve and Graeme, and John Marsh (Divisional Manager for the Atlantic). We spoke quite a bit about Group Fitness, ideas to continue to promote and push it, engagements with instructors and our members, and other things related. As we ended the conversation, I told John that I’m 100% on-board to help Group Fitness and was very open to a follow-up meeting.

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East Coast folks.

The Last Sail was both great but also a little sad. Given the company is growing, recognizing and fitting the top Associates on the boat was something that can’t be done anymore. So it was a little sad that this was the last time that we’d be on the boat for Top 500; the Last Sail. But of course, we wanted to end it with a bang. As I was tired the previous night, I wanted to make up for it, so I sure to really bust some dance moves on the second floor, working up a great sweat. An impromptu dance contest started, and I did make the final six (but just couldn’t win the top one). I had numerous side conversations in more quiet spots on the boat, went back to some dancing on different levels, and before we knew it, we docked. As people left the boat, Patch was bidding us all good-night. I shook his hand, told him that I’ve been teaching at GoodLife for seven years, and that it was the greatest job ever. He thanked me for my loyal service. Then Genevieve, Graeme, and I made our way back to the hotel.

On Monday morning, I had a good breakfast at the hotel, but didn’t want to eat too much as I was to be on stage with the fellow Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence winners, shadowing Mo for a short Nubody workout. Earlier in the month, Julie Young had asked us Group Fitness Instructor of Excellence winners to submit inspirational member experiences. While I did have many to share, unfortunately I was on the road a lot that weekend and wasn’t able to get something put together in time (Luke wasn’t able to either). Nevertheless, it was beautiful to listen to my fellow winners talk about how Group Fitness touched the lives of their members. It reminded me how privileged I was to be able to do something that I loved so much that brought happiness and health to others. In addition to Mo’s workout (which was fun to shadow), we also did another one with Kim Lavender (and it was my first time using a Hurdle). Once all was done, we departed. I got a few selfies and went to go get my Top 500 jacket, but they ran out of Men’s Large. I went over to someone who was to help me, and Patch overheard me say that they’re out of my size. He asked what I size I wore and I told him. Then he literally gave me his jacket off his back. It fit virtually perfectly (Patch is just slightly taller than I am), and I thanked him for it.

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Random Monday morning shot.

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Patch just gave me his jacket. Wela’lin.

Kayla Short told Kerri about how great the pool was at the Sheraton, who then told me. Thinking that I wanted to try it (and having no time since my Saturday check-in), I requested a late check-out and went for a dip. It was a lovely pool that was both indoors and outdoors. I did a few laps to compliment my earlier morning workouts but didn’t want to push things as I still need to pack.

Once packed, I checked-out, grabbed a lunch at Jack Astor’s, and ended up sitting next to some fellow Top 500 winners, whom I congratulated. Afterwards, I walked towards Billy Bishop with my luggage (I try to walk as much as possible for the exercise and FitBit Steps). Not only was I a bit early, our flight was a little delayed. I found fellow Haligonians, and I sat with Kelly Davis, an instructor based at the Sackville GoodLife. We spoke for a while about fitness and mental health, and I even opened up about my story of Clint’s suicide and how it affected and depressed me. She also shared stories with me, and some inspiring ones from her members too. It was another great reminder of the magic that exercise can do for us and our members.

It’s been a few weeks since the wonderful long weekend in Toronto. I still think about it. Just like every canfitpro LesMills event that I’ve attended every year, I still reflect upon it, taking in what I’ve learned, and excited to continue to give back to our members. Looking forward to next year.

LesMills LIVE Amsterdam 2017 and BODYATTACK™ 100

On October 2, Kerri, Erica, and I took a trip to Amsterdam for LesMills LIVE (we met up with Erica’s sister Erin in Iceland). Similar to Stockholm in 2015, this was (to my knowledge) the third time that class filmings were taking place outside of New Zealand. What made the trip extra special was that it was the filming for BODYATTACK™ 100. This has been something that I’ve been planning since Stockholm 2015. Predicting/calculating that BODYATTACK™ 100 was being filmed around this time, I was prepared to fly to anywhere in the world, including New Zealand, for this. Fortunately (and speaking financially), it was only across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Lost in Amsterdam.

Unlike Stockholm 2015, I arrived with friends. Upon landing in Amsterdam and trying to find our way to the Golden Tulip (our hotel), we did get lost, and ended up taking an Uber (which is an amazing service from my experience). After checking in, we got another Uber to a wine and cheese to celebrate our arrival.

 

After a dinner, we split up. Kerri and I went to visit the Anne Frank House. I read The Diary of Anne Frank in high school, so I was looking forward to this. During the opening when the guide/interpreter was explaining how Canada limited the number of Jewish refugees into the country during World War II, I teared up a bit. As a Mi’kmaw/Indigenous person, I think of how my ancestors helped and welcomed people to the land, then decades/centuries later, this happened during World War II. While Canada has come a long way since (and did participate in World War II with the Allied Powers), limiting refugees who needed it is not a great moment in our history. Before leaving the Anne Frank House, I shared these thoughts in their electronic guestbook.

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Me and Erica stop for a selfie on our 5K run.

When travelling, I learned from Maureen Hagen (Mo) that one of the best things to do for jet lag was exercise. So Wednesday morning, Erica and I went for a 5K run to help us adjust to the five hour time difference. Once done, us four went for a walk, amazed and inspired at how the city had so many bicycles. I think a U.S. LesMills Trainer/Presenter even commented that the city had more bikes than people. We went to a food market and picked up some things so that we could have a nice picnic at Vondelpark. Although fun, it was a bit windy, and some birds tried to get a bit too friendly with us/the food.

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Picnic in the park.

Later that day, we met us with two friends who were on their honeymoon, Rebecca (who started instructing around the same time as me) and her husband. We booked a boat tour for some cannels with Those Dam Boat Guys. After a rough start (we had to dock as our boat took on water), we were on our way. Our host a South African woman named Dominik, who was a history major and knew so much about Amsterdam. As we cruised on the waters, we learned a lot about the city and got great recommendations. Sharing the boat with six others, we all did a round of introductions (with five of us explaining that we were attending a “fitness event” in the city), including a doctor who was a BODYPUMP™ participant in Washington State. After the tour, I thanked our incredible host for sharing her knowledge of the city and said that we would strongly recommend them to our friends. Later that night, we took went to a Thai restaurant and two other friends joined us; Faith and Alyssa (who was going to be a shadow for BODYATTACK™ 100). It was a good dinner and I even picked up the tab for us.

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On our cannel tour. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

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Group selfie outside the Thai restaurant.

Thursday morning, I went for a planned 10K run by myself. I thought that I had figured out a decent route plan; run 5K to wherever, then run 5K back. But due to my own misdirection, I ended up doing 20K (in some rainfall). I think that, when travelling with a group of friends, I tend to take less time to memorize the place and get a “sense of direction” (I hardly gotten lost in Stockholm). Pressed for time, I wasn’t able to make breakfast and had to get to the Van Gogh Museum to meet up with Kerri. I’m not really much of a paint artist fan, but I did enjoy the exhibits at the museum. However, what really caught my attention and emotions was Van Gogh’s life, his struggle with mental illness, and his subsequent suicide. It made me think of Clint, and lack of resources/knowledge re mental illness and suicide.

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Thursday morning run selfie minutes before I got lost.

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Me and Kerri at the Van Gogh Museum.

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Another moment with Kerri.

The rest of the afternoon and evening, Kerri and I just walked around Amsterdam, dropping into shops, exchanging ideas, and pointing out fascinating buildings and sites. Eventually we met up with some of our Canadian friends. We planned for dinner at any Indonesian restaurant. I don’t consider myself a “foodie” at all. Food is food to me and if it’s healthy, I’m generally satisfied. But what I had at ANEKA RASA was unbelievably delicious, and makes me want to try more Indonesian restaurants.

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The main reason why I came to LesMills LIVE Amsterdam.

On Friday, the first day of LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, we agreed to meet up at 6:30 a.m. and Uber over to the venue. Like other LesMills events that I’ve attend (Toronto, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Stockholm), I saw many friends, and at the same time, was recognized quite a bit (which is always flattering). I picked up a few shirts at the Reebok store that we don’t have in Canada, and even a pair of legging tights (my first LesMills Reebok ones). I mainly participated in GRIT™, BODYFLOW® (called BODYBALANCE™ outside of North America), BODYATTACK™, and one BODYPUMP™. For the most part, we were all in different programs, so I hardly saw my group in classes that I was doing.

 

One short but good experience that I enjoyed was meeting up with Gandalf (the BODYJAM™ Program Director). I quickly introduced myself, then said that I was the guy from Canada who proposed to his girlfriend after a BODYJAM™ class. He immediately knew who I was and congratulated me. It was one of those nice moments that I wish I could have had Kerri there with. Perhaps another time.

 

As we don’t have GRIT™ in our city, I wanted to do as many as I could (including a filming). Our tickets gave us three master classes on a Friday and Saturday, so I did three for the first day. While I may have been doing a lot of GRIT™, I was a tad bit worried that maybe I might have been tiring myself out (especially as I did a 20K run the day before), but I kept telling myself (as I do in other situations), “you teach BODYATTACK™; you do marathons; you can do this; you can do anything.” I also threw in some BODYFLOW® as I knew that I needed some physical and mental relaxation over the two days (and fighting a five-hour time zone difference). I maxed out when I could with GRIT™ and slowed down when I needed it, but when it came to BODYATTACK™ 99 (which I did on Friday), like other LesMills events (and to get the most out of it for myself), I didn’t do options and did all push-ups on my toes. I enjoyed 99 quite a bit (especially Athletic Strength and Power), but obviously my mind was on 100 for the next day.

 

During GRIT™ Plyo filming (the last one of the day), things got pretty intense for me. Romain Prevedello (a LesMills Trainer/Presenter from France who was also at LesMills LIVE Toronto) got down on the floor. I heard a camera operator say, “face us when coaching him.” Then I realized, “Oh boy! Romain is next to me and they’re filming us. Got to look strong for the video.” While others were slowing down a bit, I vowed to keep my energy and intensity going. With Romain coaching and motivating me, I kept leaping over my step and doing burpees, maintaining the pace until the song switched. He gave me a high five. After filming, I went to get a photo with him. With a large smile and enthusiasm to match, he pointed to me and said aloud to those nearby, “This guy is crazy.” I took this as a great compliment. I thanked him for everything and said that I hoped that he would be in Toronto again next year.

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Me and Romain Prevedello after GRIT™ Plyo filming. 

Later that night, Kerri and I met up with some New Brunswick friends (one of whom was battling an injury) for a pre-BODYATTACK™ 100 celebratory late-dinner. We stayed a bit later than I wanted to, but as I didn’t have BODYPUMP™ filming until 8:30 a.m., I knew that I could sleep in a little for the next morning.

 

On Saturday, I woke up thinking, “this is the big day; BODYATTACK™ 100.” I was so excited. I was ready to go wherever in the world for this, and here I was with friends in Amsterdam, ready for it. Kerri and I didn’t have time for breakfast, so we went over and got a spot in the back of the room for BODYPUMP™ filming (which had a tough Lunge track). After that, we went to grab some breakfast then walked around for a bit.

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Romantic moment with Kerri. Photo courtesy of Faith Flemming.

That afternoon, I decided to get into the lineup a bit early for BODYATTACK™ 100. A bit of a wait, I struck up conversations with folks around me. We all shared what releases we trained on (turns out I was more of a veteran having trained on 72, while many others trained in the 80s). We spoke about the program in our home countries/gyms, how loving BODYATTACK™ and LesMills programs truly brings people together, and how excited we were for BODYATTACK™ 100. I also took a group photo of several Greek instructors (who were there to support their local Trainers). Knowing that many countries/nations were in attendance, I decided weeks ago that I would be representing the Mi’kmaw Nation (and presumed that I was the only Mi’kmaw there). I pinned a small Mi’kmaw flag to the back of my shirt. While I am not sure if it’ll be visible on the filming, knowing that I still wore and represented it meant something special to me.

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About to go into BODYATTACK™ 100 filming with the Mi’kmaw flag on my shirt.

Soon we got into the room. I knew it would be highly unlikely that I’d get a front row spot. But the stage was unique in that it was in the centre of the facility and participants would surround it. So I ended up getting a spot to the right of the filming front. I was happy that I ended up with some fellow Canadians nearby, including Erica (who I used to take BODYATTACK™ with) and Erin (who I trained on 72 with). When Bevan and Lisa hopped on stage, the crowd erupted. They introduced the countries being represented (including Fred and Alyssa for Canada, and other international presenters I knew/recognized too), thanked everyone who made the trip from around the world, then got started.

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Right before everything started. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

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Push-ups on my toes in Athletic Strength. Photo courtesy of Faith Flemming.

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Fred and Alyssa (and others) on stage during the Running Track. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

 

The energy in the room that day; no words can do it justice in describing it. It seemed as if the crowd was red hot, on fire, and always yelling. I loved it so much. I actually barely heard a lot of the instructing, but given I’ve been doing BODYATTACK™ for over six years, I have an excellent sense of musicality (for BODYATTACK™ anyway, not for music in general), counts/patterns, and change, so I easily caught on to the choreography. Unlike Stockholm (where I had a good spot in filming), one advantage of not being front row centre was that I had room to do more; burpees, push-ups, side jumps, anything. I was able to get down when needed and had space for increased intensity. Of the many filming memories, several stand out. In Athletic Strength, I did the whole track on my toes. About halfway through, my Canadian friends surrounded me, shouting and encouraging me to keep up the hard work and to not fall to my knees. Even two other men nearby stopped doing their push-ups and just watched me go at it, looking on in either amazement or disbelief. The floor below me was an absolute puddle of my own sweat. I loved it. In the Running Track, Alyssa and Fred were on stage, and us Canadians ran nearby enough to ensure that they saw us, knowing that we were there to show our support and how proud we were of them. While I wasn’t sure if Fred saw us (as he was coaching), Alyssa did, responding with a beautiful smile and a fun wave. Then of course, the Power track was just pure vigour, drive, and all-out energy. The crowd of 1,5000 was absolutely cranked up to the max and I was so happy and proud to be a part of it. Then in the last block, it was the classic High Knee finish (which also seemed a bit longer than most ones). I vowed to absolutely let it all out at that moment. More presenters got on stage, and as it turned out, Bevan (who is my BODYATTACK™ idol and role model) was on the side of the stage where we were. As we all got closer, I wondered if he would see me. To what was one of my favourite/best moments of the filming and trip, Bevan recognized and spotted me from the stage, pointing at me. It motivated me even more to finish with a bang. The other moment was doing the Interval track. It was a classic with the same music and choreography from an older release. But what made the whole thing lovely was that we knew the words and sang along. Fueled by BODYATTACK™ love and passion, it was thunderously beautiful, energetically exquisite, and it only made me fall in love all over again with the program even more. It was a moment like no other. From all around the world and different walks of life; together, we were all one tribe, all simply in that moment. No tonight. No tomorrow. No next time. It was just that moment where I felt so alive. Pure love; pure energy; pure passion; pure BODYATTACK™. I can write forever and words can never do justice what I experienced at that moment.

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Fred and Alyssa representing Canada during the Cool Down. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

During the Cool Down, the presenters/shadows crossed the circular stage, some carrying their countries’ respective flags. We applauded them all, and when our two Canadians came out, we upped our volume and cheers for them. While I understood that there was no Canadian representation for BODYPUMP™ 100, I was so glad that there was for BODYATTACK™ 100 through Fred and Alyssa. Lisa gave a lovely thank you to everyone involved with BODYATTACK™, including Philip and Jackie Mills. At the end, one of the participants proposed to his girlfriend on stage (which didn’t entirely surprise me, as I was thinking for a while why no one has ever done such a thing yet, but it was beautiful). Afterwards, I walked around the stage, getting as many photos as I could with our Canadians (and even took a fun one for team Greece). I got a good quick photo with Bevan, congratulating and thanking him for everything that day. Knowing how busy presenters are especially after a presentation/filming, I didn’t want to take up too much of his or anyone else’s time.

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Selfie with Fred.

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Alyssa and Fred representing Canada.

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Group selfie with BODYATTACK™ Canadians.

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Selfie with Bevan.

Kerri had a BODYJAM™ class, which was being presented by Gandalf. I sat at the back of the room, scrolling through my pictures of the day. Soon she was done and we walked back to our hotel. Given I cooled down quite a bit and it was raining, I was very cold on the walk back. Kerri loan me her sweater to warmup (which helped). Once back, we got ready for the after-party. We stuck around our room for a bit, sharing drinks and stories, listening and singing to 1990s music, and ordered out. Soon other friends joined us. We took an Uber over to the venue again. Despite being physically beat, I vowed to bust a move on the dance floor. Just like the two guys who stopped to watch me do push-ups on my toes in BODYATTACK™ 100, a few heads turned when I was doing my thing. We met up with other Canadians, congratulated our presenter and shadow again, and enjoyed the good times. I also got to bump into some other friends. At about 2:00 a.m., I was finally starting to get tired. Kerri said she’d travel back with others later on, and I decided to walk back. Leaving the party then venue, I smiled at the LesMills banners that I came across.

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Elevator selfie on our way to the after-party.

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Canadian group selfie at the after-party.

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Post Valley Harvest Race Virtual 5K with Erica.

The next day, Erica and I did our Valley Harvest Race as a Virtual 5K (as we didn’t want to miss out on Super Nova). Then Kerri and I left Amsterdam for Iceland (us and Erin and Erica split a cab to the airport). Once in Iceland, we got our rental, checked into our AirBNB, then headed to the Blue Lagoon. This was Kerri’s idea, and unlike Stockholm, I didn’t research into doing anything. I just went with what others were doing. The Blue Lagoon was beyond marvellous. After days of running and going all out at LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, there was no better way rest, relax, and recover, than being in the Blue Lagoon. What that place did for me, physically, mentally, and spiritually, was so good for me and my soul. Even at one point I simply dozed off, absorbing in the experience. There was a special moment where I reflected upon, not only on LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, but life in general. When Kerri wandered off, I laid down, staring into the sky, past the Blue Lagoon’s mist and towards the clouds. I took time to reflect upon and give thanks to where I came from, as it brought me to where I am in life; a good place. I thought about being raised on-reserve by my grandmother and how she encouraged me to stay in school. I thought about Clint and how he motivated me to work hard and succeed in life. I thought about Donald Marshall Junior, my cousin and my hero, whose life and legacy inspire me to give back and to help others. I thought about my family, how proud I was of my mother for turning her life around, my sisters for raising their kids, and of my brother for going back to school. I thought about how my godfather was practically my father to me, and who helped me out so much in life. I thought about going to a Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey school on-reserve. I thought about going to university and law school in Halifax/Jipuktuk. I thought about how, no matter where I go or what I do, We’koqma’q is always on my mind and in my heart. I thought about all the running and racing that I do. I thought about how fortunate and blessed that I am that I get to teach BODYATTACK™ to our members, and that while I may attend events, filmings, advanced trainings, classes in other provinces and countries, and all other things around the world, simply teaching BODYATTACK™ to our members is always the best thing about BODYATTACK™. I thought about Kerri, and how it was practically a miracle that I met such an incredible and wonderful woman who means so much to me. I thought about life, and how it may not always be fair, it’s always beautiful.

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Me and Kerri at the Blue Lagoon. An incredible and magical place. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

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Kerri, Travelling Sheltie, and me in front of the waterfall.

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Tuck Jump with Travelling Sheltie behind the waterfall. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

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Romance behind the waterfall. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

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Hot water mud place. 

The next day, we ventured out for a bit. With me driving and Kerri handling the camera, we saw sheep (lots of sheep), cool rocks with moss, and horses. We went to a majestic waterfall and took out Travelling Sheltie. Afterwards, we went to some sort of hot water mud place, and while the sulphur smell was strong, I actually didn’t mind it. Then we dropped off the rental, got a shuttle back to the airport, met up with Erica, then boarded our flight back. That’s when I started writing this story.

 

LesMills LIVE Amsterdam, like any LesMills adventure, was awesome, amazing, and just simply great. As always, I look forward to the next one.

 

Kia kaha!