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.

 

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 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!