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.

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.

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.

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.

IMG_8633.JPG

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.

IMG_8674.JPG

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.

IMG_8701.JPG

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.

IMG_9228.JPG

On our cannel tour. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

IMG_8767.JPG

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.

IMG_8781.JPG

Thursday morning run selfie minutes before I got lost.

IMG_8798

Me and Kerri at the Van Gogh Museum.

IMG_8803.JPG

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.

IMG_8910.JPG

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.

IMG_8893.JPG

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.

IMG_9210.JPG

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.

IMG_8941.JPG

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.

IMG_9229.JPG

Right before everything started. Photo courtesy of Erin Hanley.

IMG_9017.JPG

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

IMG_9230.JPG

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.

IMG_9231.JPG

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.

IMG_8971.JPG

Selfie with Fred.

IMG_8978.JPG

Alyssa and Fred representing Canada.

IMG_8984.JPG

Group selfie with BODYATTACK™ Canadians.

IMG_8995.JPG

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.

IMG_9018.JPG

Elevator selfie on our way to the after-party.

IMG_9023.JPG

Canadian group selfie at the after-party.

IMG_9047.JPG

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.

IMG_9232.JPG

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

IMG_9132.JPG

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

IMG_9235.JPG

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

IMG_9234.JPG

Romance behind the waterfall. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

IMG_9157.JPG

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!