Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games 2017

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

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

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Posing in front of the 5K Run sign.

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

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

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

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

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

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Almost back. Photo courtesy of Limitless Race Timing.

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

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

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

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Posing with my Aunt Dolena.

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

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

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

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Just received my gold medal.

 

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All smiles.

 

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Gold medal selfie.

 

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

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

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

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

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.

Maritime Race Weekend 2016 – First Marathon

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Erica and I doing our pre-race photo.

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

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

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

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Erica ringing the PB bell for her 5K.

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Massive crowd post Sunset 5K.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating a la Rocky in Rocky IV post-race.

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

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Post-race photo of Erica and me.

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

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

 

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My three medals from Maritime Race Weekend.

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

 

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

 

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

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…