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.

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!

Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games 2017

On August 24, I did the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG) 5K. This was the same race that I did last year in Membertou First Nation, but this time, it was in Wagmatcook First Nation, the host community. I was determined to defend my gold medal win from 2016.

The day before, I left Halifax and headed up to We’koqma’q First Nation. Stopping in Millbrook First Nation for gas and a late supper, I checked my inbox and saw that my goddaughter, who also represented Nova Scotia at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in July, messaged me. She was wondering if I was doing the 5K and if I could give her a lift (along with her sister) up and spend the night wherever I was staying. This wasn’t a problem, but would delay my arrival a bit as I would have to stop in Pictou Landing First Nation to pick them up. The ride with them was good company. I asked them about their running history and activities and shared my own with them. They seemed pretty amazed when I described what a marathon entailed. We arrived at my mother’s place a bit behind schedule, talked for a little, but then I needed to get to sleep as I had a long day and drive.

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Posing in front of the 5K Run sign.

The next morning, I woke up the girls. I wanted to get to Wagmatcook First Nation early as I don’t like to feel rushed/stressed out prior to a race. I had some oatmeal for breakfast, and decided to try some coffee. I normally don’t do coffee prior to a race, but my fiancé suggested trying it as she read a study about it’s positive effects prior to physical activity. So I broke my own running rule and experimented on race day. When we arrived, we were the first participants to park. I saw one of the NSMSG organizers and had a brief chat. Soon other participants showed up, including some NIAG athletes, which made me a bit nervous as I knew they’d be well-trained and fresh of the games. There were about 31 runners this time, four less than last year. I met a few new folks, some of whom were attending the NSMSG for the first time. One vibe/thing I kept hearing was that, “Jarvis is fast,” and “He’s the one to beat in this race.” While flattering, I tried to stay humble and focus on the upcoming race. Then I started my warmup, consisting of basic BODYATTACK™ moves and very light running.

While I was the only We’koqma’q First Nation person running last year, for the 2017 NSMSG 5K, I was joined by three others, including my brother Matt. I bought him a pair of shoes a few months ago on the condition that he run in the 5K. He kept his word and came to the race. Apparently one of the other We’koqma’q First Nation runners wanted to make a point to beat Matt in the race, which I found amusing in the spirit of fun competition.

The race began at least 30 minutes after the scheduled start. A part of me worried if my warmup might have cooled off by the start of the race, but thought that it was better to warmup and cool down rather than to not have warmed up at all. We took our positions. The timer explained the route, counted us down, and then we were all off.

The race started up a hill. The overall roads were very bad, with numerous cracks and potholes, and I spent quite a bit of time at the start trying to avoid them. I learned after the race that one runner even rolled his ankle and had to drop out. Two younger guys got ahead of me right away. Initially I panicked and thought that they’d be winning it. But one advantage of being behind someone is that you can evaluate their pace and perhaps get a rough idea of how they utilize their stamina/endurance. I thought that the younger guy was putting in a bit too much right away, and in about 30 to 40 seconds, I passed him. Then there was a slightly older runner. He had pretty good energy and a decent pace, and I was wondering if he would be able to keep it up to stay ahead of me. At about what I think was two minutes or so (I chose to not use music or Runkeeper), I started catching up to first place, knowing that I can pass with a gradual pace rather than full sprint. Once I did, I increased my speed a tad bit, knowing that I had enough energy to get me through.

At the halfway mark, I was greeted by my cousin (whom I’ve ran against in several other races), who was volunteering with the 5K. Turning back, I came across the second-place runner, and estimated that I was maybe 40 seconds ahead of him. I gave him, and others, a quick wave, as we ran by each other. Then at about three-fourths of the way back, something happened to me that I haven’t felt since grade three; abdominal cramps from running. I was taken aback, as I always thought that cramps came from dehydration. I thought that I had enough water that day, but maybe I had too much. I really didn’t drink enough water to pre-hydrate (even for a 5K), and I started wondering if the coffee that I had may have had something to do with it. So I slightly lowered my speed so that the cramps could subside until I was ready to resume my normal speed. I also felt my left knee acting up. I injured my meniscus back at the Bluenose Marathon, and while I went to physiotherapy for it and have been back to running and teaching, I’m not quite 100% just yet. While I wanted to beat my time from last year of 18:03, I knew it wasn’t going to happen due to the initial hill, bad roads, my knee, and the temporary abdominal cramps.

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Almost back. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

Towards the end of the race, I did have a bit of fun. Since late-May, I’ve been playing Friday the 13th: The Game, a lot. The counselors in the game have various statistics: composure, luck, repair, speed, stamina, stealth, and strength. I was thinking, “If I was a character in the game, based upon real life, what would my statistics look like?” I think that my speed would be an eight out of ten (not an actual ten). I really don’t consider myself to be a fast runner per se; I’m sure that I’d lose a 100M sprint. Rather, I think my endurance and stamina just allow me to do a very good speed and to maintain it for a while, so I’d give my stamina a ten out of ten. I imagined Jason Voorhees chasing me, but I was able to just stay ahead and not get caught/killed.

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

Soon I recognized the first hill that we all had to run up on at the start. Making my way towards the finish via a sharp turn, I crossed it and earned first place with a time of 19:20, one minute and 17 seconds slower than last year’s NSMSG 5K. I transitioned into my post-race fast walk to start lowering my heart rate and breathing. I then went back to the finish line and congratulated several runners who came in second, third, etc… as they crossed it. I got my car keys from my sister, who congratulated me along with my mother, so I could get my BCAAs. Eventually my Aunt Dolena showed up to congratulate me as well.

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Posing with my Aunt Dolena.

After two fellow We’koqma’q First Nation runners crossed (one who earned third place in his division), my brother eventually finished. I was quite proud of him, especially given he never did a race until that morning.

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Posing with my brother Matt. It was his first 5K.

Soon everyone was done and the medal ceremony started. Unlike last year, they started with the lower ages (not overall winner), from bronze to gold, and worked their way up the ages. Since there were no overall medal winners (just age/gender division), I only received one gold medal. While I was hoping to get two gold medals (like last year), nevertheless I was still happy/proud of my accomplishment. I was also quite proud that my goddaughter earned a gold medal too (and her sister, who earned silver). Afterwards, a group shot of the medal winners was taken.

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Just received my gold medal.

 

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All smiles.

 

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Gold medal selfie.

 

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Posing with my goddaughter (centre with gold) and her sister (with silver).

Once back at my mother’s house, I showered and then dropped off the girls back in Wagmatcook First Nation, then returned to We’koqma’q First Nation. I spent the rest of the day wearing my Team We’koqma’q tank-top (and gold medal), and then went to go pay a quick visit to an Elder named Margaret Poulette (“Magit” in Mi’kmaw), who always reminds me of my grandmother. She asked me last year if I was doing the Fiddler’s Marathon, which I said no, and took to mean that she wanted to see me do a race. I invited her out that morning for the 5K but she was unable to make it. So like a young boy, I went over to her home to proudly show her the medal that I won. She congratulated me and we shared a quick hug.

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Had to go show Elder Magit my gold medal. Loved how we ended up matching that day.

One thing I am finding interesting about running (despite it being my second year) is that, with the NSMSG 5K (and the games in general), while other annual races usually stay in the same place/route, the NSMSG 5K changes every year due to a new host community. Next year, the games will be in Eskasoni First Nation, and I am hoping that my schedule allows me to attend to try and defend my gold medal for We’koqma’q First Nation.

Maritime Race Weekend 2016 – First Marathon

On September 17 (which is also the seventeenth anniversary of R. v. Marshall), I finally did my first marathon at the Maritime Race Weekend in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. I signed up for this one back in June once I learned more on how to find and register for races. It was also the only first truly available marathon for me to do that fit my schedule. I also signed up for the Tartan Twosome.

 

The Tartan Twosome is where you do a 5K on Friday evening, and then another race the next day (a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or a full marathon) for three medals. As I wanted to do my first marathon as soon as logistically possible, I signed up for the marathon.

 

In leading up to Maritime Race Weekend, I did the Cobequid half marathon in August as sort of a last race prep. It was a very flat trail, where I did earn a PB. Last weekend before the marathon, I went for another run around the city, intending to do something above 20 kilometres but less than 30. Running with the Run, Zombies app, it turns out that I actually ran just under 20 kilometres in about two hours.

 

Throughout the summer, I was researching on marathon preparation/training. I learned from my Cobequid run what shoes and socks wouldn’t work for me. I wasn’t too worried about my endurance as a whole, given BODYATTACK™ keeps it very strong and I run on occasion. I also learned (from research and experienced runners) to eat/snack on something for marathons, and to carry water, things that I’ve never done in my two half marathons (nor would have thought to do so). The other piece of advice was to not experiment on marathon day, a rule that I did break but didn’t pay for it. Finally, I was repeatedly told to pace myself, and to not go all out.

 

Friday night I went over early, as I’ve read that parking can be a bit challenging. After finding a nice spot that wasn’t a far walk, I went over to Fisherman’s Cove to scout the location. It was a picturesque evening with a full moon, albeit a tad bit chilly (which I knew wouldn’t matter once the race started). Erica (who I’ve been running with since May) was on her way over. While waiting, I bumped into a class regular and we chatted for a bit. Once Erica arrived, we walked around for a bit, and then did our pre-race Facebook Live video. We spoke about the Sunset 5K (the evening race), how Erica wanted a PB, and I was talking of taking it easy as I had a marathon the next morning. But I remembered doing my 5K at the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG) just last month, and how I went on to instruct BODYATTACK™ that night. So I figured, “Why not?” Let’s try and win this.”

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Erica and I doing our pre-race photo.

We lined up, and instead of a horn, they used a cannon shot, which was quite unique and fun especially with the pirate theme everywhere. I got into second pretty much right away with another guy (who also took off from the start). There was another guy in the lead, and then he slowly got further and further ahead of us. I kept up with the other guy in second for several minutes, and it was probably the longest that I ever stayed with side by side with another runner. I was asking myself if this was annoying him, although I turned the question onto myself, and answered that I wouldn’t/shouldn’t be annoyed either. Near the turnaround point, I threw off my running buff (which was around my neck), as it was not only annoying, but also even somewhat obstructing my breathing. Eventually, my pace got me ahead of him, and I was in second place solo for a moment until I heard another runner coming up from my left side. I thought it was the original runner I was side by side with, but it was another guy, who said something about the other runner but couldn’t hear him clearly through my music. He got ahead of me, and then a woman caught up and passed me as well. I don’t look behind when running, so I wasn’t sure how close fifth place was. While I drank lots of water the whole day, I stopped before 5:00 p.m., and probably because of the running buff as well, I felt my throat dry up on me. I was coughing for a bit, but given it was a 5K, I decided to keep up the good pace.

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Running back to Fisherman’s Cove. Photo courtesy of Tim Chestnutt.

Running back to Fisherman’s Cove, I saw several friends, giving quick waves and smiles as they were making their way to the halfway point. Soon I was at finish line, and immediately was high-fived/congratulated by the three faster runners. I went to receive my medal, then not sure how far behind Erica was, I started my Facebook Live video and entertained whoever was watching. I also filmed several runners crossing the finish live and cheered them on. Soon enough, Erica crossed, and I went over to congratulate her on the new 5K PB (although she expressed hoping to have finished in under 24 minutes). We went over the tables for water and bananas, and I congratulated several friends that I was able to spot in the massively large crowd. Erica then rang the PB bell (which I think is also unique to Maritime Race Weekend). We finalized plans for the morning (I was pooling with her as my girlfriend needed the car to teach class) and went our separate ways. Once back, I broke the marathon rule of not experimenting with something; I had lasagna for supper with my vegetables and smoothie. I didn’t have time to stop by a grocery store and wanted good carbs but nothing with too much sodium.

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Erica ringing the PB bell for her 5K.

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Massive crowd post Sunset 5K.

The next morning I had my usual breakfast and two litres of water. Erica then picked me up and we went to Fisherman’s Cove. My throat was still somewhat dry from the night before. She loan me her water belt for the marathon, and breaking the marathon rule of not experimenting, I decided to use it. I packed energy gels into the water belt pouch (breaking the rule again, as I never ran and consumed them before). As we were early (which got us great parking), we were talking about our running apps, and she convinced me to use Runkeeper instead. Breaking the rule again, as I wanted to know my kilometres and pace, I decided to use it for the marathon (without having experimented with it before). Throughout the marathon, I found it to be both very useful (as the tracking kept me informed) and super annoying (as Erica set it to update me ever half kilometre, which I didn’t need).

 

We got in the massive lineup to head to the restroom one last time before the race started, spotting various friends here and there. Once done, we tried to get into the lineup. When the warm up began, we were barely able to do anything, so I just sort of hopped up and down to get whatever warm up I could. Missing my shades for a while, Erica also loan me her sunglasses.

 

Once the cannon fired, we were off, and I immediately started telling myself, “Pace! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take it easy.” I caught up with Erica and we exchanged a high-five, as we wouldn’t be seeing each other for hours (she was also going to greet me after the finish).

 

The hills started early, and I knew about this. But alas; I was just excited and happy that I was doing my first marathon, hills or not. Around ten or so kilometres, I needed to use the bathroom. Remembering Epic Canadian, while I was barely able to do a half marathon while holding it, a full marathon was out of the question. I knew I had to go. The portable restrooms were spread out once every three kilometres, so I knew the next one wasn’t far (Runkeeper was very helpful, but so annoying with the 500 metre updates). Once I was able to go, I went to the nearby water station and drank some Gatorade. I also learned, from Cobequid, to not run (even slowly) and drink Gatorade, as you end up spilling some on yourself and you get a bit sticky (which I can’t stand).

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Running up one of the many hills. Photo courtesy of John Dube.

A big thing that was on my mind for months in leading up the marathon was finishing it in a Boston qualifier (at 3:10:00 for my age and gender). Either overestimating my own abilities or simply underestimating the race, with the kilometres, time, and pace updates, I started realizing that I wasn’t going to qualify on this marathon. I listened to how I was falling behind, and how my pace was becoming longer. But I wasn’t being hard on myself at all; it was my first marathon and I never even ran above a half marathon until now.

 

One special thing that I liked about Maritime Race Weekend was that, for those doing the full marathon, a custom sign was made and planted for you just after the halfway point. When I got to that sign spot, I tried to find my own, but as the wind must have tiled several signs over, I actually didn’t get to see mine in-person, and I didn’t want to stop to search for it. Nevertheless, I did see it online, and so after I left the sign spot, I imagined reading it again. What made the sign extra special for me was that it was written in Mi’kmaw “Wel-lukwen Jarvis Siewi attakna’sik,” which translates to “You are doing good/great. Keep working hard.” Knowing that Maritime Race went out of their way to make me a Mi’kmaw sign really meant a lot to me.

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My sign that I didn’t see, but still loving it. Photo courtesy of Maritime Race Weekend.

After the sign spot, I decided that it was time to try out the energy gels for the first time ever. Although a tad bit warmer than I would’ve liked (probably due to my body heat and the warm weather), they were so great for the run. I ensured that they went down well with a quick bottle of water from my belt. I held onto the packaging (as I hate to litter) until I came across another garbage can by a water station. Another first for me on this race were Skittles. At one water station, a young girl held out a spoonful. Given I like to chow down on them at a movie, I had a few. The sugar was a nice and different kick of energy.

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Running after the sign spot. Photo courtesy of Rod Dixon and Maritime Race Weekend.

Although I’ve written about being alone a lot during Epic Canadian in the half marathon, to no surprise I was alone even more so in the full marathon. The occasional passing car would beep or wave for encouragement, and sometimes, another runner would catch up and move ahead of me.

 

Throughout the entire marathon, I thought about a lot of things; qualifying for Boston (and how it was more and more likely that I wasn’t going to), various marathon records and statistics, how I was fortunate to have people waiting for me at the finish line (and how I didn’t want to keep them waiting), family, friends, the LesMills classes that I instruct (and how I love to tell participants that BODYATTACK™ is a part of my training), the 5K that I won last month, growing up in We’koqma’q, Clint and how much he has inspired me, how the run was indeed challenging and hard, yet I would finish it, wondering if I would see any Samoyeds or Shelties, thinking/hoping that my marathon would somehow inspire others for their health and fitness goals, Halloween, how the app voice has went from beyond annoying to a point that I cannot describe (it was the same jokes circulated over 80 times), future races, and of course, finishing my first marathon.

 

Eventually, I started recognizing areas near the start of the race. Reading signs and getting updates on the app, I was getting closer and closer to the 40 plus kilometre mark. On my playlist, themes from John Williams’ Superman and Bobby Roode’s Glorious played, causing me to smile and lifting my motivation, despite how tired I was as I picked up the pace a tad little bit. The day was still gorgeous, and when I went around the second last u-turn, I kept thinking about the Sunset 5K from the night before, and how I wish I had the ability to pull off the same speed until the finish line. I slowed down for the last water station for a final Gatorade, and then knew it was time to start picking up speed. I was going to finish above four hours, but I love finishing a race with a blast of energy.

 

Approaching Fisherman’s Cove, I immediately saw and recognized my girlfriend Kerri. She smiled and cheered for me, and then started waving the Mi’kmaw flag. At first I thought about just smiling and running by (as my plan was to wear it after I finished the race), but then I saw that she was trying to hand me the flag. I thought about how beautiful, inspirational, and great it would be to cross the finish line with the flag over my shoulders and back. So I took the flag, corrected it, wrapped it around, then I picked up my speed even more. But suddenly, as I started my final dash, something happened to my right hamstring; a knot. I could feel my muscles freaking out. I don’t think that I ever had such a feeling before, either from prior runs, weight training, and or teaching a class. I could start to feel myself limping. But I was running fast for the finish, and immediately thought that, regardless of what, exactly, was happening to my hamstring, I’m finishing this with some speed. I need to do this, and for the first time ever, albeit the very short distance, I ran with pain to the finish.

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Kerri just handed me the Mi’kmaw flag. Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Ryan

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Final dash towards the finish line with the Mi’kmaw flag around me. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

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So close to the finish line. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

The announcer congratulated me as I crossed the finish line with the Mi’kmaw flag. I cannot express how much that meant to me. Dashing to the finish line with what energy I had left in my body with the Mi’kmaw flag around me was one of the most incredible feelings that I have ever experienced (afterwards, the announcer apologized to me for not pointing out the flag to the crowd. I thanked him for reaching out, and said I may do it again at my next marathon). I didn’t stop and only slowed down to a fast walk. I went over to receive my medals, limping along the way. The pirate placed my finisher’s medals over my head, congratulated me, and I thanked him. I somewhat staggered towards the wooden walkway to my supporters. While I was having some pain from the knotted muscle, I wasn’t exactly in pain. I suspected that the adrenalin flowing through my system neutralized the pain that I should have been feeling in my hamstring. The first person to greet me was Erica (who filmed my finish), and I gave her an exhausted hug, followed by Kerri’s parents. Then my mother (wearing a We’koqma’q NSMSG shirt) was next. She spoke to me in Mi’kmaw, congratulating me for my marathon but simultaneously feeling sorry for what I just put myself through. I replied in Mi’kmaw, saying that I was done for the day and that I was tired. Then Kerri was next. We embraced as she also congratulated me, and I thanked her for handing me the flag so that I could finish the race with it. She passed me my prepared post-race drinks and I chugged them down. I explained to them the hamstring issue, and how I never felt such a thing before. Out of 89 participants, I finished twenty-first at 4:06:42.

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Celebrating a la Rocky in Rocky IV post-race.

Then me, Kerri, and Erica walked to the vendor booths so I can grab some food. Erica and I took our post-race selfie before she left, and I spotted a small portable pool filled with cold water that other runners had their feet in. I joined them as Kerri went to get my sandals from the car. Chatting with the other runners who were from various places while I ate my bananas, bagels, and small oranges, they congratulated me, as it was my first marathon. I thanked them and we all shared running stories. Soon Kerri returned. I said farewell to the other runners in the pool and went over to ring the PB bell (as it’s still a PB for my marathon, despite being my first and so far only one).

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Post-race photo of Erica and me.

We all planned to meet at a restaurant in Dartmouth and I said that I’d be a little late, as I wanted to drop in a GoodLife to shower up. Walking in, a fellow associate (who knew that I just did a marathon) congratulated me, and asked if I was here to workout, to which I smiled and shook my head. I synched my MyZone results (which had an incredible 3,500 plus calorie burn). I showered then went to the restaurant to join our families. Given I ate quite a bit right after the race, I didn’t have a large lunch (by my own standards anyway). We all enjoyed our each other’s company, talked for a bit, then Kerri and I left as I had a massage appointment that afternoon. I informed my massage therapist of what happened to my right hamstring, and she noted that it was definitely much more tender than the left. Afterwards, Kerri dropped me off at the condo as I went to go relax in an Epsom salt bath.

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Me and mom. She drove over 300 kilometres to watch me finish my first marathon.

 

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My three medals from Maritime Race Weekend.

The next day, much like after my 100,000 FitBit steps challenge, was spent mostly resting up. My shins and feet were sorer on Sunday than immediately after the race. While I racked up over 40,000 steps in the marathon, I barely walked 4,000 that Sunday.

 

My first marathon, like anyone else’s, was a multitude of experiences; pride, exhaustion, humbleness, patience, persistence, stubbornness. But I think my BODYATTACK™ mentor (an experienced runner herself) summarized it up for me in a congratulatory email she sent to me later in the day describing a marathon; horrible, but wonderful.

 

Obviously I will do more marathons, here and abroad. I’m excited to beat my PB, and to one day, qualify for the Boston Marathon.