Candy Palmater (1968-2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Mi’kmaw Summer Games 2019

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

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

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Team We’koqma’q.

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

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

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

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

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Start of 1600M. Photo courtesy of Candice Paul.

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

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

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

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

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Track and Field medals.

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

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5K Race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Receiving my gold medal. Photo courtesy of Chief Andrea Paul.

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Two gold medals. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing. 

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

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Five medals in various running events at the 2019 NSMGS.

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

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Decorated porch.

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 Decorated porch.

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Celebratory dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just finished shadowing Sonia on stage BODYATTACK™ 101.

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Just climbed 28 floors. BOOYAH!

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

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Always great to see Josef.

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Meeting up with Mandy and Susie at the opening ceremonies.

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

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Getting emotional chatting with Lisa.

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With Kerri at SOCO.

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

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

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BODYATTACK™ Presenters and the 100 Winners.

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With Kerri and Kristen.

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

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Looking good at the Gala.

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

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

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

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Backstage shot. Photo credit to Brian at Tarsipix Studios.

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

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Back at the hotel with my award.

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

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

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

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East Coast folks.

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

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

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Random Monday morning shot.

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Patch just gave me his jacket. Wela’lin.

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

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

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

Bluenose Marathon 2017 – Second Marathon

The Bluenose Marathon in 2016 was my first road race, so it holds a special place in my heart. I had initially registered for the 10K, which was the same race that I did last year, and curious as to how much I have improved in a year. But I switched to a full marathon for three reasons. One, I was going to do the full marathon in Fredericton the week before, but given I couldn’t do a half before then and or get another long run in, I went into the half instead (and earned a new PB of 1:30:34). Two, I wanted to use the Fredericton half to prepare me for a full marathon. Three, I figured that, given it’s my one year anniversary of road racing, I may as well go big and do a full marathon.

A few weeks before I did Bluenose, I watched a video of the full marathon (which was pretty much a half done twice). I counted roughly nine hills (times two laps, for 18). While I knew that it was less (or at least, would or should feel like less) than what I ran through at my first marathon in Eastern Passage last year, I knew that I would still have my work cut out for me.

Bluenose is a very busy and incredible weekend in Halifax. I went to pick up my race kit on Friday, scoping out exhibits and on the lookout for anyone I knew to ask if they were racing over the weekend. Then I went to Park Lane GoodLife to meet up with Michelle, who I was doing the warmup with for Saturday’s 5K run (as per last year). We kept the choreography roughly similar from the 2016 warmup and even used the same song.

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Just picked up my race kit.

Saturday (albeit beautiful, was very windy and thus cold) I volunteered to help with the Run Nova Scotia booth, and had the opportunity to chat with some runners who did a few marathons themselves. When my shift ended, I wandered around for a bit, and went to see Jenny, a registered dietitian that I saw for nutritional advice/guidance last year. She gave me some sound advice on consuming my energy gels before the halfway point of the marathon. Then went to the Epic Canadian booth. I was told that my photo was on one of the promo posters and I thought it would be fun/funny to post in front of it. Afterwards, I went to meet up with Michelle, had a brief lunch, then headed to the warmup stage area to go over things one more time.

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Posting in front of the Epic Canadian promo poster.

Like last year, the Saturday crowd was massive. Once on stage, we started things up. I kept trying to spot anyone I knew but didn’t (although my focus was the warmup choreography). Once done, I headed to Park Lane GoodLife to stretch a bit (as my left hamstring hasn’t been 100% since Fredericton). Afterwards, I picked up some carb food at Pete’s (loaded potato salad, chicken parmesan, and meatballs) for later that evening and stopped by the Halifax Shopping Centre for some chicken pad thai. I took an Epsom salt when I got home to help prepare my muscles and myself. I’m wondering if I may have overloaded myself with salt/sodium that evening, because I didn’t get a good sleep that night. Lesson learned; don’t overdo the sodium when you need good sleep.

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Just about to warm up the 5K runners with Michelle.

The next morning, I drank a litre of water the moment I woke up and had my usual race day breakfast (oatmeal, orange juice, and skim milk). I also wore the same socks and shorts as I had on last year as homage to my first road race. I went early to get a parking spot on Summer Street, where Erica parked last year. I didn’t travel down with her as she was pooling with members of her marathon relay team. Wandering about by the ScotiaBank Centre, I bumped into a former work collogue (who’s an accomplished runner himself). We briefly chatted and caught up a bit, and he told me that he was a pacer for the half marathon for 1:30 (which was very impressive). Then I went to meet with a Global News video journalist, Alexa MacLean, to do a bit re my one year anniversary of running. The interview went well, then I volunteered that I have battles with depression due to Clint’s suicide, and that exercise is a major way I cope with it. She seemed quite impressed and asked me to elaborate more about it, and I think the story shifted to that a bit more (which I was happy with, as I try to share it). She asked to do a follow-up after the race and I was cool with that. I spotted Erica right after the interview and we did our usual Facebook Live video. I left early to use the bathroom again and to get into the lineup. Before the race, I was trying to adjust my new water belt but it wasn’t securing properly. As the race was starting, I figured that it’ll be one of those annoyances I’ll deal with, 42.2K and all. Making my way towards the 3:00:00 to 3:30:00 pacers, my BODYATTACK™ mentor spotted me and we exchanged best wishes prior to the run.

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Pre-race photo with Erica.

At 8:00 a.m., the gun fired and everyone was off. Like Maritime Race, I honestly thought that, despite the hills, maybe I can qualify for Boston with this one. I had my Runkeeper activated for every two kilometres (instead of every 500 metres, which was an awful decision last year) and to only give me an update on my time.

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First time up Ahern Avenue.

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Running down Sailor’s Memorial Way in Point Pleasant Park on the first loop.

Doing the first 21.1 kilometres, things were pretty much fine. I took my first energy gels at about the 12 kilometre mark, and I didn’t stop for water/Gatorade. As I said, I felt fine. As for the hills on the first half, I thought that the only real ones that affected me were Inglis Street, Point Pleasant Park, and Pine Hill Drive. The “gradual” hills didn’t bother me (such as South Park Street and Hollis Street).

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Finishing up the first half of the marathon.

While Maritime Race had crowds of people at the start, it eventually thinned out as the marathon went on (likely due to the non-urban environment) with occasional pedestrians, runners, and aid stations. What I like about an urban marathon is that there’s pretty much almost always people nearly everywhere. Bluenose had tons of this. I really wasn’t alone a whole lot. Another fun bonus was spotting people I knew (either in the Marathon Relay or coming across those doing shorter races).

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Second half of the marathon.

However, it was the second half of the marathon where things started going physically wrong. I had to stop for Gatorade at nearly every aid station. Around the Barrington Street and Valour Road area (around below the MacDonald Bridge), my biceps started twitching. It spooked me a bit as this has never happened to me before while running. At first I just rolled down my arm sleeves to my wrist (I had them on in the morning due to the wind chill). But then it still didn’t feel right, so I took them off and stuffed them into my iPhone holder. Running along, things got worse on Hollis Street. Just seconds after grabbing some offered gummies, my right hamstring knotted/pulled on me. I had to slow down right away and do a quick stretch. My immediate thought was, “let’s slow down. Better to finish slow than not at all because of an injury.” So I did just that. Coming to Inglis Street again, the hill felt like it doubled in length. Given it was tough the first time around, the second was obviously worse, especially with the hamstring issue.

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Despite the smile, my hamstring was in a lot of pain here.

The scariest part of the race was on Sailor’s Memorial Way in Point Pleasant Park. Nearing a fork in the road, I thought that I could increase my speed once more. I did for several seconds, and my hamstring acted up again. While I had the cardiovascular strength and energy to go faster, my hamstring absolutely refused to let me do so. I had to completely stop and do a short stretch for 30 to 40 seconds. I repeated to myself, “better to finish slow than not at all because of an injury.” Once well enough (not better), I went back to the slow run. Then I came up to the steepest hill of the race; the Maple and Serpentine roads (which felt like a mountain). I hopped/wobbled my way up and passed others who were walking up instead. By this point, qualifying for Boston was long gone and the only thing that I wanted to do was finish the marathon and in less time than I did at Maritime Race. I wondered why I developed a cramp/knot in my hamstring. Then I thought that it was probably due to all the salt/sodium that I had yesterday, and maybe I was dehydrated despite all the water I had that morning.

Once on Cambridge Drive, I knew there was still Pine Hill Drive, but to me, the worst of it was over. Getting towards the end of Point Pleasant Park, I saw Erica and we exchanged a high-five as I ran by. I also thought/realized that I was probably slightly ahead of her relay team, which was a bit of an ego boost. I knew that she was doing the last leg and I thought it would’ve been awesome if we crossed the finish line together (especially as she was the one who got me into running).

After Young Avenue and getting onto South Park Street, it was the last gradual hill of the race (I really didn’t consider Ahern Avenue a gradual hill). In what was a marathon first for me, I was joined by a “Bluenose Helper” (a runner who runs along by your side to motivate you) named Don. He recognized me from, and congratulated me on, the races in Fredericton the week prior. To say that the Bluenose Helpers were great is an understatement. Having someone run alongside you, especially as you near the end of the race with tons of exhaustion, encouraging and boosting you along the way, is an incredible asset and needed feeling. He reminded me that the last “hill” was Ahern Avenue, and that I could do it. Near the intersection of Spring Garden Road, I told Don that I had to stop for another quick hamstring stretch (to which he understood). Shortly after that, he said that he had to go back down South Park, but that I was fine for the rest of the race. I shook his hand, thanked him for him for his help, and was on my way to the finish.

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All smiles going up Ahern Avenue, knowing that I was done soon.

About halfway down Cogswell Street I saw Meaghan, a running coach who I went to undergrad with. Recognizing bunny ears on her, I figured she was doing some sort of pacing work for the finish line. She recognized me, and while I think she was running with someone else, she cheered me on, encouraged me to pick it up, and keep up with her. While I was still worried about my hamstring, I thought that I could spare a little more speed without things going bad again. So I listened to her and did as she said. Going onto Brunswick, she kept facing back at me to yell praising words and to keep it up. At that point, while I knew I couldn’t go for that sprint ending, I could still cross the line with some speed. As I got closer to the finale, the spectators’ cheering got louder, and what was some sort of even finish, I crossed the finish with Meaghan. I thanked her for what she did for me, then went into a walk around, as I was wondering if Erica was far behind. I went to get some water, and nearly collapsed under my right leg, but caught myself to not fall. I turned to face the end of the race again, and saw Erica (and the rest of the CrossFit folks she was racing with/against) complete the relay.

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Getting great encouragement from Meaghan.

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Almost there.

 

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Made it.

After getting our medals, we all went into the ScotiaBank Centre. I wanted chocolate milk so badly. I found a booth and helped myself to one. Erica and I got our post-race photo, and before I left, I took a selfie in front of “YES I DID IT” banner. I then text Alexa, as she wanted to do a post-marathon interview with me. She responded with, “Let’s meet at the top of Citadel hill when you’re back in your car.” As my car was parked on Summer Street, I didn’t want to go get it, so I said that I would just walk up to the hill and meet her there (which didn’t sound as bad as it was despite just finishing a marathon). As she couldn’t get up there (I think due to some road closures), we just met where we interviewed that morning. She congratulated me with a hug, did a quick interview, and I thanked her for the opportunity for me to share my story.

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Post-race selfie with Erica.

 

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Another pose.

 

Once done, my fiancé Kerri and I met up. She offered to take me out for a brunch celebration, but I wasn’t hungry. I’m not sure if I was just full of water or if I was still running (emphasis on the pun) on endorphins and adrenaline from the race, but I seriously had no appetite and no desire to eat. As I burned over 4,000 calories that morning, she said that it was important to eat, so I listened. I thought about walking to my car to get my gym bag with my change of clothes and then showering at GoodLife Park Lane. But I knew that once at my car, I wouldn’t have the desire to walk back. So we went to Your Father’s Moustache, where I immediately recognized a ton of other racers with their shirts and medals (so I didn’t feel out of place). As it was busy with tons of costumers, we did have a bit of a wait, during which that time my appetite finally showed up. I enjoyed some good carbs and protein with French toast and bacon.

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Exhausted and waiting for brunch.

 

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Brunch!

We returned home and I took my usual post-race nap, followed-up with an hour-long Epsom salt bath. That night, I enjoyed some Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake (along with pizza and garlic fingers).

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Victory cake. They wrote exactly what I wanted.

While I didn’t achieve a Boston qualifier, I’m still proud that I earned a better time than my first marathon. Obviously, I will do Bluenose again next year, but it will highly unlikely be a full marathon. However, given Erica did a marathon team relay, I’m thinking that I’d like to put one together for next year.

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FitBit stats.

 

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MyZone stats.

Clint Joseph Bernard Phillips (1982-2006)

Ten years ago tonight, I lost one of my biggest inspirations and best friends in life to suicide. Clint was only 24 when he killed himself.

Our friendship went back a while. After I failed in grade five in the early 1990s, I was in his grade. We got along well (as I did with the other guys), but it was really going into high school that our friendship truly strengthened and shined. We worked together, played floor hockey, joked and teased, drove around, went to the movies, shared ambitions and dreams, and most of all, just always got along so well that we were never on bad terms. Then entering grade 12, our friendship became even greater. Like many First Nations people, we didn’t grow up in luxurious homes or affluent families, but that never mattered. We talked often about making sure that, after high school, we would become successful in life. Before grade 12, I wasn’t the greatest student (I also almost failed grade nine, and even thought about dropping out since that is what a few others were doing too). I think my grades were around in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (nothing special). Then going into grade 12, Clint told me that he was going for the highest average. Listening to this, I too decided to do my absolute best for that year. For the next several months, after assignments, tests, and report cards, we compared each other’s grades to see who was in the lead (I actually had the lead only once in the first term; Clint ended up beating me in the end). Nevertheless, like Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, we both walked away looking great. At graduation, we earned several awards and even had to share a few.

Eventually, the grade 12 fun was over. We had to grow up and we went our separate ways. He enlisted in the Marines and I went to Saint Mary’s University. I always wished that he went straight into university instead. Clint had so much potential and knowledge that I knew that he could have gone further than I ever could have. The two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) obviously changed him. After he got out and returned home, whenever I would see him, the vigour, ambition, and energy I remembered in him from high school was gone. He was barely the same guy. He became apathetic, uninterested, and depressed. I don’t know if he ever got the mental health/debriefing after the wars/Marines and or when he returned home.

It was September 7 when Clint took his own life. He was missing for just over a month. During that time, there were searches for him back home. I was unable to help, as I was 300 kilometres away and in second year law school. Then one of my cousins came across his body in the woods. While the autopsy had to be performed, we all knew that it was Clint. I was at the law library when I got the news, and oddly enough, my immediate reaction was relief; we finally found him, although only hours later I learned that it was suicide. Him dying did not hit me yet, and when it did, it was like slamming into a brick wall.

In the weeks and days leading up to the funeral, I didn’t cry. I don’t even remember really being that sad. Sometimes things just don’t hit me right away, and it takes time for anything to sink in. At the funeral, I was pleasantly surprised that the Canadian Armed Forces were thoughtful and sent a bagpiper. I did the First Reading. After the funeral and with everyone walking to the graveyard, I carried his only goddaughter (who was just one). At the burial, three Marines (who drove up from the United States) came as Honor Guards. Then, in what was the first wave of it, I finally cried (triggered by my sister crying). It probably was the hardest that I may have ever cried to date. Walking up to his grave, I embraced with several others, and we had to say namultis (Mi’kmaw for telling someone that you will see them again. We don’t have a word for good-bye).

In the weeks and months after his death, things went from bad to worse for me. The second wave of mourning hit me on Remembrance Day. Handling law school and the job hunt didn’t help either, and as a result, my grades went down and I was struggling just to barely pass. At times I found myself calling home at odd hours, crying over how sad I was and how much I missed him. While some in law school reached out to me, I don’t know if many knew what I was going through or how to approach me, given suicide and depression may be an uncomfortable and taboo topic for some. I had dreams and nightmares about Clint, and they both hurt. Dreams reminded me of when he was alive and how much I missed him, and the nightmares were of him killing himself. I kept asking myself about Clint, “Why did you have to die?” Then on January 24, 2007, more or less, I finally broke down and reached out. I resigned and or took time away from law school groups that I was involved with, got in touch with student services, and had folks in the law school administration get me into counseling. I needed someone to talk to, and at that time, I felt alone, lonely, and deeply depressed. Besides low grades, I was overweight (at about 260 pounds). I stopped exercising for months and ate badly. I was somewhat back into jogging, but knew I was unfit, slow, and easily winded. But my priority was my mental health and well-being.

Throughout January until the end of March, I went to counseling once a week. It was my first time ever asking for such help, but I badly needed it. When I think back on the sessions, it was probably me talking for eighty percent of the time and the counselor responding for the remaining amount. Mainly, I expressed how hurt I was. Given what I imagined what he went through, and with what I knew about First Nations suicide rate statistics, it wasn’t supposed to be a mystery as to why Clint took his own life. Yet, I found myself always asking why he did it. Even if he was able to thoroughly explain to me for hours on end or write out hundreds of pages in a detailed suicide note, I was still asking why he did it, why did he have to die. As time and weeks went on with the sessions, I learned that I was angry with him for what he did. I found myself thinking that, if he was killed during the wars, then I couldn’t be mad at him. But by him being the one who took himself away from us by taking his own life, I was only capable of being mad at him. I could’ve been mad at the wars, the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), all the statistics that he fell into, gaps in services for those with PTSD, anything. But I was really just mad at him.

Then in mid-March, I realized what was hurting me. While him being gone via suicide hurt, what was also hurting me was finding myself being mad at him. When he was alive, I was never mad at him. Friends never stay mad at each other. If friends hurt one another, they apologize, and then forgive each other. Clint couldn’t apologize to me or to anyone else for what he did. He’s dead. But as a friend, I forgave him. I forgave him for hurting me and everyone else who loved him when he killed himself. I forgave him for leaving us too soon. I forgave him for all the pain he caused. I forgave him for what he did. I forgave him, and that’s when I started to heal emotionally. By forgiving him, I was no longer mad at him. With that, I finally let go of my own pain and suffering that I carried since I learned what he did.

Life went on. I finished law school, became a lawyer, got a day job, a home, a nice car, and an awesome side job that I’m passionately in love with; instructing LesMills programs (which has opened a whole new world of great times). With that, I’ve been able to travel across the continent and the ocean. I’m finding new adventures (e.g., racing) in life. I’m blessed, and in so many ways, I’m still thinking about Clint (even when I’m travelling for LesMills events, instructing a class, out with friends, or doing a race), and how so many wonderful things in my life are possible because he inspired and motivated me to work hard back in grade 12. That same work ethic is still with me. By inspiring me, he made me a better person, and helped me find my potential, which I doubt I would’ve ever found on my own. At times, I reflect on our friendship as parallel to Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed; through great competition (grade 12, or the fight from Rocky), you can bring out the best in someone, and it was because Clint pushed me to do so, he brought out the best in me. Just like (but also somewhat unlike) Rocky IV, I lost him along the way. We all lost him. Rocky avenged Apollo’s death in Rocky IV, and so I guess I feel like I’m “avenging” Clint’s death by continuing to work hard in life, to give it all I got into anything that I do, and to try and be a positive role model for Mi’kmaw youth. Sometimes I hear, when someone that we love dies, a part of us dies with them. Ten years later, I don’t think any part of me died with him. I was hurt for a while – depressed, emotionally wounded, “knocked down,” – but I have become stronger because of it. Maybe that was one of the great strengths in life I learned through his death, and maybe it was last thing I ever learned from him; to forgive, no matter the pain.

Some of us wonder what we should have told our loved ones before they pass away suddenly. Fortunately, I did tell Clint a few things throughout the latter part of his life that I wanted him to hear. I told him “Thank You!” I thanked him for befriending me back in the day when I felt like a loser for failing. I thanked him for being someone to talk to. I thanked him for his advice, guidance, and wisdom, and I thanked him for my success. Because of Clint, I have carried on that grade 12 work ethic to university, law school, and now, for the rest of my life. I used to thank him every once in a while via e-mail and in-person for what he did for me back in grade 12 because it has helped me get so far in life. While his life has ended, I will always know that my success is also his success. He befriended me, motivated me, and encouraged me to go far in life, and to make something of myself, which is one of the greatest things a friend can ever do for you.

I love you Clint. Your friendship, encouragement, motivation, as well as persona, sense of humor, and guidance, will never be forgotten. Thank you for all that you have done for me, aq namultis.

Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games 2016

For the first time since I got into racing back in May, I finally won a race. I did the 5K race at the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games (NSMSG), which took place in Membertou First Nation. For a great history of the Mi’kmaw Summer Games, please read up on it here.

 

Given my last several races that I’ve been performing pretty well, but just not winning first place, I wanted to win this one. It was going to be pretty tight juggling travels. I returned from Toronto on a Sunday night, then had to drive up to Membertou on Tuesday afternoon, race Wednesday morning, then return to Halifax that afternoon to teach class that night. What was also going to make this race extra special for me was that it was the first time that I was going to be representing my home community of We’koqm’q First Nation in a solo competitive event. I was a part of a tug of war team at the NSMSG in Potlotek in 2014, but I was thrown on a team of various individuals, and I don’t think we actually represented any community. Plus I think tug of war was considered a demonstration event of sorts rather than a competitive event back then.

 

The drive up was good with the beautiful weather, and that evening, my girlfriend and I bumped into some of my family and other friends around the Membertou Trade & Convention Centre (MTCC). We went to go find the elementary school (Maupeltuewey Kina’matno’kuom), as that is where the race was to start at 8:30 a.m. and I didn’t want any last-minute issues (namely, being unable to find the start). Once we found the school, we went back to the MTCC to head to Kiju’s Restaurant for dinner and my pre-race fuel/carb meal (a salad with chicken and quinoa).

 

The next morning, I woke up to a downpour (which I knew was coming). My immediate reaction was to check the NSMSG Facebook page for an update, hoping that the race was still on. While some games were cancelled/re-scheduled, the race was still on. Not wanting to take any chances, we left around 7:30 a.m. (as the runners were informed to arrive by 8:00 a.m.). I was actually one of the firsts to show up. I picked up my kit and race chips, and started my warm-up with some BODYATTACK™ moves. While I’ve run in the rain on occasion, this was going to be my first rain race. My running friend gave me a friendly reminder to avoid painted spots and manhole covers (as they tend to be more slippery in the rain). Soon enough, others started to show up and some of us chatted for a bit. Then eventually, my mother and one of my aunts made the one hour and twenty minute plus drive to come see me race. Needless to say, I was pretty happy.

 

When the organizer instructed us to lineup, the rain picked up even more. We were all waiting while a few other runners were registering last-minute. Before the horn started, I kept thinking about how I wanted to win this race, not just for myself with a potential personal best, but to be able to say that I won a gold medal for We’koqma’q.

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Taking an early lead.

After the last registrant got to the lineup, the horn sounded and the race began. As this was a 5K, I knew that it was okay to put more effort and energy early into the run. I was going for speed over a short distance, and not a long-term pace. I ran past behind the school with an early lead (after viewing a video taken) and down Tupsi Drive (Mi’kmaw for alder wood). I was to go off Tupsi Drive onto Kitpu Crescent (Mi’kmaw for eagle) then onto L’nu Avenue (Mi’kmaw for The People, a self-referral term), and then back onto Tupsi. I kept a pace and assessing myself, and I knew that I was capable of going a bit faster. So every so often, I re –gauged where I was internally, and estimated externally where I was in the race (I wasn’t running with a tracker activated). Then I saw one of my cousins (who was also one of the organizers of the NSMSG) with her iPhone taking a picture and cheering me on (and I replied with a smile and wave).

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Almost at the halfway point. Photo courtesy of Marcella Marshall.

I knew that the Membertou Wellness Centre was the halfway point to turn around, although when I arrived, I wasn’t sure if I did a short loop or what, but the guide simply told me to run back. Now, when I race, one of my personal rules is that I never behind me (I took this from Bret Hart’s autobiography, where I believe he said this about his grandfather on his mother’s side, who ran a marathon where Tommy Longboat also competed). But given I was to run back, I was going to essentially “look back” at where I came from, and who was “behind” me. However, I didn’t immediately see anyone as I made my way back up Tupsi Drive, and ran by the second closest runner about 30 plus seconds later. Even with my comfortable lead, I knew that I couldn’t slow down. It was a 5K and was very capable of keeping a good pace.

 

At the start of the race, I was informed that I was to loop back as how I started and did just that. I was encountering and crossing more and more runners, giving them quick waves and thumbs up to keep them motivated. As I was on last part of the race, one of my cousins drove by me for a bit, which was a nice boost of moral support. Getting nearer to the school, I kept telling myself that I can do this for the gold and for We’koqma’q, but as I haven’t won the race yet, now was not the time to slow down or celebrate early.

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Coming up to the finish line. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

Then finally, after doing my first race in May 2016, the 5000 metre in high school Track & Field, and coming up short several times before, I crossed the finish line and won my first race with a personal best to date of 18:03. I immediately went into a fast walk to cool down.

 

After the finish line, I walked over to the school and was soon greeted and congratulated by my girlfriend, my mother, and one of my aunts. Like placing third in Epic Canadian, winning gold didn’t really strike me nor sink in right away. I knew I won, but just didn’t feel it at the moment. I guess that, because it was my first time winning a race, I was just so used to, and happy with, coming so close, yet just not making it.

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First overall male. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

Talking with my closest supporters at the race, other runners started to come across the finish line, and I congratulated all those who were within my vicinity. We then made our way to the registration area. Waiting for the last runner before the medals were to be awarded, I went inside the school to stay warm. My mother and girlfriend followed along, and we chatted amongst ourselves and with others coming in and out of the school. Finally, we got word that the medal ceremony was commencing. We went outside and things got underway. They announced the overall male winner, and I did beam with pride and a smile as I walked over to accept my first gold medal, and eventually, my second gold medal for placing first in my age division. My goddaughter (who just turned 14) was the second overall female and second in her age division. It goes without saying that I’m proud of her, and am excited for her future in racing.

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Received my second gold medal as first in my age division. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

 

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Top three male runners between 30-39. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

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Me and my goddaughter (who placed second twice). Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

 

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My two first place gold medals.

 

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Close-up of the medal.

After I received my two medals, I uploaded a selfie of my medals and me, dedicating the win to where I was raised; We’koqma’q First Nation. I was congratulated from many. It felt good to finally win a race, but felt great to have won it for the community that I represented at the NSMSG. My girlfriend and I went back to the hotel so I could shower, checkout, and grab breakfast. We returned to Membertou to go to the NSMSG tent, which had a We’koqma’q section near the end. I shared with others, including family, other community members, and our Chief, my success that morning. We hung out for a bit and chatted, but as I had to teach class that night, we said our farewells to those there, and wearing my two medals for a few hours, we drove back to Halifax.

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Driving back wearing my medals. Photo courtesy of Kerrianne Ryan.

It’s hard to say what my favourite race is to date. I loved the challenge and uniqueness of Epic Canadian and the historical people it honours, and the NSMSG allowed me to represent my community. Every race can be special for various reasons (a personal best, a first time race, placing first for the first time, the history behind it, being able to represent your home community, etc…), and for me, the NSMSG 5K ranks up there as I won gold for We’koqma’q.

Epic Canadian 2016

On July 1 and 2, I did my first Epic Canadian race. I never did anything like this before (although I only started racing back in May). With this race, you have the option of doing a 10K and or a 5K on Day 1, and then on Day 2, to do a half-marathon or quarter marathon. Given my original Canada Day weekend travel plans had to change due to a scheduling conflict, I decided to do Epic Canadian after my friend encouraged me. Given how adventurous I like to think I am, I opted on the 5K + 10K in a day (Double-in-a-Day) plus the half-marathon (Triple Half Marathon).

 

On Day 1, I hydrated with at least two litres of water before the race (as I usually try not to slow down for water during the race). It was bright, warm, and sunny, and my friend and I drove over early (as we weren’t sure how parking would go). We got a good spot and chatted for a bit, talking about future races we were planning to do and other things Group Fitness. A bit before start time we went down to the race area, where I bumped into friends from undergrad and law school, and then to take our pre-race selfie (a fun tradition we stated back in Bluenose) and went for a short warm-up jog. Then we went back to the start line, and my friend insisted (as per Johnny Miles) that I go near the front, as I am decently fast and have excellent endurance. Motivated, I took her advice and did likewise. Once the race began, I did my initial getting around those in front of me bit to get further ahead, pretending I was in a Star Wars movie and navigating getting by other ships (i.e., runners). I saw the leads take off, and while I knew I wouldn’t come in first for this race, I would still do well, and wanted this to be my best 10K to date (but mindful that I had a 5K and a half-marathon coming up).

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Pre-race selfie.

The race had a lot of hills (maybe even more than the Bluenose I think), but while some may not like them, I don’t mind them. Runners may tend to slow down on the incline, but I actually pick up my momentum and even somewhat leap up a bit, and while it does take up energy no matter what, I use it as an opportunity to pass others (or at least, to catch up).

 

When I got closer to the end, I picked up my speed but didn’t feel myself going particularly fast. After I crossed the finish line, my girlfriend and her best friend were the first to greet me (they would join me and my friend for the 5K at 9:30 a.m.). My girlfriend’s best friend asked her (in reference to me nearing the finish line) if that was me approaching, to which my girlfriend replied, “Yes! He’s the one with the bad running form” (which I found funny and it’s probably quite true, as I’m not a trained runner). I walked, hydrated, and rested a bit before the 5K.

 

As the 10K was first, I knew that it would be a chance for a personal best, but that my 5K wouldn’t be a strong one for me as compared to my Ulnooweg run. I didn’t feel as if I was going to run with the greatest of energy and strength, and I was reminding myself that I had a half-marathon the next day. I wasn’t going for a record-breaker here. Not today.

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Running on Day 1. Photo courtesy of Paul D. Morris.

Of my friends, I finished first, so I did a fun Facebook Live video at the finish line, waiting for the others to arrive. It was quite fun to do, and pretty entertaining especially as I was full of adrenaline and on an endorphin high. After the race, we celebrated with a massive brunch at Cora’s, went for a short swim in Long Lake, and then checked out Rib Fest. I then went to go stretch for a bit at Barrington GoodLife, knowing that I needed to do so before the half-marathon.

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Day 1 10K + 5K finish.

On Day 2, again I drank at least two litres of water beforehand, and I was not 100% from the prior day’s race (which was no surprise), but would still give it all I got. This time, the weather was cooler, and I did not go to the race with anyone (although I did bump into another friend from undergrad). After some chatting, I went to go do a warm-up. Not a jog/run, but rather, something akin to the first track in BODYATTACK™. Once done, I went to the line-up, but this time, as I knew that this wasn’t going to be a fast race for me, I didn’t go to the front. As my FitBit’s battery lost its usefulness for good the day before, I didn’t have a way to see my time (and I was also irked that I was unable to record 36 kilometres of steps that weekend). Thankfully, there were Race Bunnies (or pace-setters or pacemakers) along the way. Once we started running, I still made my way to pass the masses, and in the distance, once again saw faster runners leaving the rest of us.

 

With my first half-marathon, for whatever reason, I found the first half more difficult than the second half. Like various times in the 10K, I ended up running alone a lot. I don’t race with music, and after I finished, was encouraged by my girlfriend and our friend that I should do so. I guess I just like to let my mind wander and ponder things as I run. I also started grabbing water along the way (something I stopped doing after Bluenose), as I knew doing something above 10K needed hydration. But a bit before the halfway point, I needed to use a bathroom. I knew stopping for the break would add time, and then I thought that that would be okay; it was my first half-marathon and a higher time would be fine. But when I saw one, I also saw a photographer taking pictures, and I thought, “Oh boy! What if he gets a great shot of me running into the bathroom?” I didn’t have time to think any further, and figured I just keep running faster so that I’d get to a bathroom quicker.

 

After the halfway point, I found myself actually having a bit more energy (or motivation to get the race done faster given the biological need I mentioned in the previous paragraph), so I picked up my pace a bit. Like the first-half, I found myself alone for a majority of the race, only seeing distant leads way ahead of me. I kept thinking that I would not catch up, but I could still get decent time, as I am a bit faster now. I also learned a neat/fun trick (which I am sure lots of runners do). When grabbing water, I dump some of it on my head. The cold refreshing hit spikes a burst of energy in me, I let out a loud yell, and take off fast (even if it’s just for a few seconds).

 

At about 17 kilometres or so, and still having even more energy than the first half, I caught sight of two runners ahead of me (who passed me well-over an hour before). I asked myself if it would be possible to catch up and maybe even pass them. Before answering the question, I amplified my speed, mindful of exhausting myself, but excited at the possibility of passing someone again (which I haven’t done for a bit, as I was often solo). As I ran towards underneath the bridge intersection of the Highway of Heroes and Micmac Boulevard, up the little hill, I accelerated and passed the first runner, maintaining my improved velocity and didn’t slow down. About a minute later, I caught up to the next runner. When the last upward hill ended (I knew as this race was two loops), it was all downhill from there on. The beginning of the end was Lake Banook Trail, and it had the last downhill steep slope of the race.

 

Right before I got on Lake Banook Trail, I saw two young boys who held encouragement signs. I gave them both a passing high-five, imagining that one day, they’ll be doing their own Triple Epic Canadian Race, and maybe thinking about all the runners who gave a brief moment to acknowledge their support. I wanted to be one of those runners whom they would remember. Then when on Lake Banook Trail, I used my own energy and the downhill momentum to up my swiftness, and kept it going. I saw myself eventually catching up to the next runner, and thought about staying with him until near the end, visualizing the both of us dashing for the finish line, one of us edging the other by mere seconds. I did a speedy (pun emphasized) assessment of my remaining power. I knew that I had a bit more than enough to just simply give it all I had and to go the fastest as I could and not slow until I was finished.

 

So I did it; I decided to pass the next runner. Once I did I only kept up the rapidness. In the distance, I could hear the announcer calling out the names of the finishers, and wanted to hear mine. To my surprise, as I got onto the bridge that crosses Lake Banook and to the finish line, I saw one more runner. But keeping with my tempo and drive since the last downhill and the last runner, I wasn’t slowing down. I passed. Once I was off the bridge and passed the final turn, the race finish line was only a straight run. Without thinking, calculating, or any consideration, I gave an all-out sprint with everything I had in me. I knew that I wasn’t catching up and passing anyone else, and that I probably wasn’t going to be passed either. While it would only make a few seconds difference in my place (in the half-marathon or my Triple Half Marathon results), on principle I felt that it was the right thing to do. Hearing my name finally being announced, I crossed the finish line, and was able to slow down to a fast walk.

 

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Running as fast as I can for the finish line in the half-marathon. Photo courtesy of Valerie Van Spengen.

Immediately, my girlfriend and our friend (who I did the Day 1 runs with) greeted and congratulated me. I thanked them quickly, but honestly, what was on my mind was getting to a bathroom (given I didn’t get to go for over an hour). Once I was done and out, I had a better focus on things, including that I just finished the race. I went back to the finish area, congratulated (and was congratulated by) various runners (including one who I knew that I passed), and a massive smile emerged on me when I saw my girlfriend hand me a bottle of chocolate milk. In the second personal record I’d break all weekend, I finished the bottle in mere seconds. I wanted another, but scarfed down some orange slices instead. The Atlantic Chip site wasn’t loading up on my iPhone, so I couldn’t see how I did, but I knew it was around 1:40-something. Exhausted and proud to have finished the Triple Half Marathon, my girlfriend dropped me off at a nearby GoodLife so that I could stretch and shower up.

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So happy to see chocolate milk.

We went out to an Italian restaurant to celebrate (and for me to fuel up). Then I got a text from my friend, telling me some news that flabbergasted me and caught me off-guard; I placed third overall in the Triple Half Marathon. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t win a single race all weekend. Yet, I placed third in the Triple Half Marathon? I went to Atlantic Chip, and sure enough, I did (with a 13th place finish in the half-marathon itself as 1:40:39, which is just a bit behind the Race Bunny). I immediately text several friends back home with the astonishing news and was kindly congratulated. I was in complete disbelief. To some extent, I still am.

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My Epic Canadian medals.

Despite not winning a single race, I was quite proud for not only finishing the Triple Half Marathon (especially as the half-marathon was my first, and a day after the 5K and 10K), but also coming in third overall. I had such a fun time at Epic Canadian. Sometimes things may happen for a reason, and with my original vacation plans changing, it turned out to be a fantastic thing. I got to do a race that I otherwise would not have done, and had an incredible time doing it. I’m quite excited for next year’s Epic Canadian, and for the next race.

Racing

A week after I completed 100,000 FitBit steps last month, I participated in my first race since high school (a 5000 metre run in Track & Field, where I was third last); a ten kilometre (10K) run in the Bluenose. Days and weeks going into it, I jokingly said that I would run as fast as I can for as long as I can (the strategy didn’t work in high school). But I knew that I shouldn’t be doing this for the race.

On race day morning (Sunday), a fellow instructor friend (who was actually the person who convinced me to start running) and I carpooled downtown. We were running a bit late (pardon the pun), so we had to go the end of the line, but we tried getting towards the front. When the gun went off, I stayed with my friend for about two or so minutes (maybe a bit longer). But eventually, I took off, leaving her behind (who subsequently thoroughly supported me doing so). I was mindful to keep pacing myself, to not dash all out until near the end, but at the same time, to not let anyone pass me, and to slightly catch up and pass others ahead of me. I ended up doing pretty well up slight and steep hills (given I actually kind of somewhat leapt going up, which I felt saved my energy), so that ended up being a good opportunity to pass others. Given I instruct BODYATTACK at least three times a week (not counting practicing and subbing), I have pretty good endurance even though I don’t run regularly for training. When all was said and done, I finished at 70 with a chip time of 43:34 (which I was told was good for a first-time runner).

Twenty-seven days later, I did my second race; a 10K in the Johnny Miles. Again, I traveled with the same friend. We had some trouble upon arriving, as many roads were closed and we had to re-route around a few times before stopping to ask for directions from a police officer (she drove and I navigated via iPhone). Once we arrived and got our race kit, we headed towards the start. The fun part was seeing a lot of familiar people (including family). Shortly before we began, my friend told me to go to the front of the line. Just like the Bluenose, I left my friend, paced myself, and ensured that no one passed me while trying to pass everyone else (even if it was just slowly). Unlike the Bluenose, I ended up finding myself alone for occasional periods (which probably comes with a smaller race attendance), but noted to keep a good pace going. This time I came in sixth (well, fifth as per chip time) with a chip time of 40:08 (and first for my division).

Then just two days later, I did a five kilometre (5K) run in the Ulnooweg Summer Solstice Run (where I also did the warm-up for the runners). I took the lead early and held onto it for the longest time until shortly near the end. I had to move off the sidewalk as a child approached me, then get back on, then onto the road, but by then the other runner passed me and I wasn’t catching up. No matter. I still had fun and finished in second and my chip time was 18:41.

I registered for several other races for the summer (including my first marathon in September) and planning some more. I’m very excited and happy that I got into something new/different outside of my own workout. Given my times and little race experience thus far, I’ve been told that I was meant for racing, which is very flattering (and hopefully true). The medals are fun, but I love the challenge of trying to beat my personal records and win a race. I’m not discouraged from coming in second or later, but instead, just more motivated to keep doing more races. I always wanted to do races as a teenager (as I did run a lot back in the latter-1990s), but couldn’t find any anywhere back home. Another runner drew my attention to Run Nova Scotia and another to Atlantic Chip,which have been great in finding races in the region. Like AIMs and or LesMills events, I would travel to other provinces/countries for a good race when the time and opportunity permit it.

To 100,000 Steps…

On Sunday, May 14, I finally achieved a fitness goal that I’ve been working on since summer 2015; 100,000 FitBit steps in one day. I’ve attempted this incredible goal several times last year and was unable to pull it off. But in that, I’ve learned what worked and what didn’t. The big key was having a good plan.

 

I stopped going for it in September 2015 due to less daylight (I wouldn’t try the goal at night). So I had the fall and winter to plan how I would accomplish the goal of Olympian Sandal (the FitBit badge name for 100,000 steps). So here’s the plan.

 

Time: You will pretty much need a whole day to do this. I got up very early (4:55 a.m.) and started walking at about 5:28 a.m. (a little bit before sunrise). I finished up at 100,000 steps at approximately 8:28 p.m., an exhausting 15 hours later, and the sun didn’t exactly set yet (but was quite close to it).

 

Route: I did some rough calculations (which were a little off). I used Google maps to map out my trail (I did deviate slightly from this). I would go from my place in Clayton Park to Point Pleasant Park, back to my place, up the Bedford Highway to Sunnyside Mall, come back to my place again, head back to Point Pleasant Park (I didn’t go all the way this time; just to the IWK Hospital), to my girlfriend’s parent’s place (for some water), back up the Bedford Highway to a restaurant off Larry Uteck, then towards Lacewood, up and down a bit, then back to my place. I walked around the building, parking lot, and surrounding areas several times until I got to about 99,000. I hit 100,000 inside my condo. I mapped it at approximately 76 kilometres (it was closer to 81 kilometres), which I thought would equal 100,000 steps.

 

Fuel: With my route, I was sure to stay fuelled. For breakfast I had my usual oatmeal, Greek yogurt, chia seed, cinnamon, skim milk and orange juice, and one cup of egg whites (via microwave). A bit before 11:00 a.m. in Bedford, I stopped for a six-inch sub (double the meat) with lots of vegetables, cookies, and chocolate milk. I mapped my route so that I would stop by my place to hydrate/refuel with some smoothies (prepared on Saturday night). Furthermore, I carried my credit card so that I was able to stop in some stores if I knew that I wasn’t going to be back at my place anytime soon. My massage therapist strongly encouraged me to stay hydrated, so I planned for this.

 

Clothes: This may sound trivial, but what I wore was very important. I wore light running shoes, light jogging pants, a long-sleeved athletic shirt, a light jacket with a hood, and I carried gloves. The weather was supposed to be cloudy with some light showers and somewhat cool. I didn’t want to walk being cold, but I knew from experience that walking in mid-July on a clear hot sunny day wouldn’t be too good either. May was a good month. I never really felt too cold (except at 5:28 a.m. when I started) nor too warm (except when I walked up a steep hill). What I wore kept me just right. I also had a running belt on. Last year, I tried carrying a backpack (with my water canister and other items) with me. This was a mistake, as the backpack started hurting my shoulders after several hours (even with the light contents).

 

Entertainment: Obviously with the long day ahead, I needed to stay entertained. I have a variety of music (LesMills playlists obviously, and various other songs), but I decided to try and download my first bunch of podcasts for variety. While I read various updates by BODYATTACK™ International Master Trainer and Presenter Bevan James Eyles, I never downloaded and listened to his (or any other) podcasts. So I took a few from 2011 and 2012 on inspiration and rest. It turned out to be a great listen (and source of motivation), and it made the first two and a half hours pass so fast that I wish that I had downloaded more for the rest of the day.

 

While on the topic of entertainment, I also knew that I had to stay mentally stimulated. On one of my 100,000 step attempts last year, once I went on the Chain of Lake Trails (which goes down to Yarmouth, a good 300 or so kilometers from Halifax). The trail is pretty much all forest with occasional houses/small communities along the way, and no guarantee of water or restrooms. What I found most frustrating about the trail was the lack of mental stimulation. With the exception of some people here and there, the trail was virtually empty. The silence (albeit having my music) and seemingly emptiness actually annoyed me after several hours. Once I was done at about 60,000 steps at around 6:00 p.m., I knew that if I was going to hit 100,000, I shouldn’t do it on this trail.

 

Emergencies: Going for 100,000 can take a toll on your health, and I wouldn’t recommend trying it out right away, especially if you have not built up your endurance. While I exercise regularly, often at high intensity, I knew that, as I neared 100,000, things would become harder and more challenging (which they did). Last year, I left my car with my girlfriend so that, if I was unable to walk any more, she could pick me up and bring me home. This year, my girlfriend’s mother offered me the lift. While I didn’t need it (as I did get to 100,000 steps), I was glad that I had a driver standby ready. My massage therapist also offered, but I did tell her that I was okay.

 

Motivations: It goes without saying that, if you’re trying out for something demanding and exhausting, you’re going to need a lot of motivation. Obviously I was intrinsically motivated (e.g., getting the FitBit badge, proving to myself that I could do this), I had encouragement from those in my life. My girlfriend and her mother did check-in on me throughout the day with encouraging words, along with fellow instructors, and to see how I was doing.

 

Days Before: In leading up to the big day, I was experiencing a lot of excitement and anxiety. I found myself staying up later than usual, imagining how I was going to do on Sunday, what I would be experiencing by the end, and immediately afterwards. While Saturday is usually a leg day at the gym, I focused on my arms and shoulders to give my lower body as much rest as I could (even though I still taught my classes). When I went for the pre-walk massage and told my therapist what I was going for, she suggested doing a different treatment, as my regular one wouldn’t have been wise for my Sunday walk. I did an Epsom salt bath when I got back for only about 30 minutes (normally I can do an hour or even more provided I have a good book). That evening, I prepared some smoothies and my Sunday night dinner. I didn’t want to spend any time on Sunday preparing smoothies and I knew I wanted a massive dinner that night.

 

The Walk: Things started out well, but I knew what I was in for. In the morning, I noticed that I was averaging about 7,500 steps an hour, and I thought that I had calculated things properly. Just before 1:00 p.m., I got to 50,000; halfway there, and getting more excited. I knew that I’d get 100,000 by the end of the day as I had a lot of daylight left. But I noticed that as the day went on, my steps per hour were becoming less and less. I still wouldn’t run, as I knew I needed my energy. I knew that I was going to go over my time. By mid-afternoon, I started feeling my mental health was becoming a bit affected with everything. I was talking aloud to myself, repeating to keep moving no matter what, to never stop, and to not rest at all, that I’ve been aiming for this for virtually a year, and that today was the day. By 5:00 p.m. I made it up to Larry Uteck to a restaurant to say farewell to a fellow instructor who was moving away, but I wouldn’t stay for the social. I made my way back down to the Bedford Highway and got to 75,000 steps by 5:30 p.m. This is when I told my girlfriend that I was going to run until 100,000. I switched my playlist to one I named “Running,” containing various songs/themes from Rocky, Rambo, the opening to Chrono Trigger, and other movies/video games for that rush of adrenaline. Then I was off, thinking/calculating that, if I clock in 10,000 steps an hour doing this, I could finish by 8:00 p.m. I got up to Lacewood and rehydrated at a grocery store, and continued to run up the street. I turned around at Parkland Drive and went back down, running up and around little paths and sidewalks along the way to add up the steps. But then after the Dunbrack Lacewood intersection, it finally happened; I was unable to run. I had to go back to walking. When I got to Clayton Park Plaza, I went into the GoodLife to walk for a little bit on the treadmill. Then I went back out. The sun was still up, and I knew when it set, I could still walk some more for a little bit. But getting from 95,000 (when I walked out) to about 99,000 was the most exhausting part of the walk. Unable to run anymore, I went on pure motivation to just walk. The badge, the glory, and seeing 100,000 steps on my daily stats, is what pushed me at the end to keep on going. I reflected back throughout the last 14 plus hours, how others believed in me, that today was the day, and I wasn’t going to let them or myself down. I was beat, but knew that I had just enough energy and time to keep on going.

 

At 99,000 steps, I began to make my way back to my condo unit. I’d gather the last 1000 steps from the walk there and then from various errands. It was the homestretch for me and there would be no need for a victory lap. Then finally, after practically a year of mental preparation and planning, and 15 hours after 5:28 a.m., I earned 100,000 steps in one day; I did it.

 

I immediately sat down, staring at my FitBit and the app, letting my legs finally get their first true rest all day, and trying to come to terms with what I just did. I couldn’t believe it. Nearly what were almost two full marathons, I moved pretty much non-stop since I woke up that morning. It didn’t settle in. I wanted it to.

 

I text my girlfriend with the incredible news, and then others. Then I activated the Bluetooth, and synced my stats. I stared into the screen with a smirk; excited to see the steps hit 100,000. I stayed seated, appreciating that I can thoroughly sit for a bit. I felt like a child knowing what the exciting gift was under the tree on a Christmas morning; it wouldn’t be a surprise, but rather, what I asked for, what I wanted. Once synced, I looked at my Weekend Challenges, and saw the Olympian badge. I screen-shot my stats and the email notification from FitBit congratulating me, uploaded them to social media, and put my smart phone and FitBit away. I needed an Epsom salt bath (the first time that I would ever take two one day after another). As I took off my shoes and socks (one that developed a hole which I thought was a busted blister but wasn’t), a further feeling of relaxation and comfort overcame my feet. It felt great to just to not move. But I still needed some strength to even take a bath and then start my victory meal; a box of macaroni and cheese, 500 grams of extra-lean ground turkey, and a lot of protein bread.

 

After the Epsom salt bath (only 30 minutes, as I was desperate to eat), I started to prepare dinner and took a look at my social media and the Weekend Challenge progress room. Many were blown away that I pulled off 100,000 steps, and so was I. Deeply impressed, they congratulated on accomplishing what I set out to do last year.

 

While taxing and draining, I must say that I think that my initial BODYATTACK™ training was actually tougher. But I’m thinking that maybe it’s because I have better endurance now than in 2011.

 

Aftermath: the next day I was surprisingly able to decently walk, although I was not 100% even several days later. I took the day off from work to recover at home (after a good brunch with a fellow instructor friend up the road). I kept thinking about the day before, and was a bit sad that the goal that I worked on for so long was now over. A 200,000 FitBit badge doesn’t even exist, and I doubt that it could truly be pulled off. So what’s next? There is a badge for 700 floors in one day (which I’ll go for), and the lifetime badges are there too. Walking 80 plus kilometres a day does motivate me to try a marathon someday (given I essentially did nearly two in one day) along with other things…