A Swanky Evening for a Great Cause

Saturday March 22nd was a great evening of wine tasting and great food.  We had a sommelier who gave us an informative overview of the French wines of the Bourgogne and Loire Valley.  The chef perfectly paired each dish with each wine.  A total of 8 wines were served along with the food pairings. Both the sommelier and the chef said a few words before each wine and dish was served.  Everyone in attendance had a most enjoyable evening.   Each guest was even given a few gifts to take home.

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Marie-Pier Guilmette of VLC Corpo organised the evening.  She tended to every detail to make this a fantastic evening!  I can’t thank her enough for making this happen.  Marie Pier and I gathered a nice top quality selection of items for the silent auction.  All proceeds from the evening were donated to Love4Gambia.

New Love4Gambia Logo!

I am so pleased to show you the new Love4Gambia logo.  Lynn O’Connor, an Ottawa graphic designer has designed the logo and has done an incredible job.  Thank you Lynn!  Stay tuned – I’ll post photos of the new shirt that I, Pa, Kebba and Spider will be wearing.

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There’s plenty going on.  Next week, I’ll be running 30 kilometres in Hamilton at the Around the Bay  Road race.  This will be my 7th ATB race.  It is the oldest road race in North America (yes, older than Boston).  This year they will be celebrating their 120th anniversary.  For all you runners out there, this one you want to put on your list.  I speak from experience.

Two weeks later, I will be running in Rotterdam, Holland.  Gen and I look forward to the trip.  We’ll be visiting Bruges in Belgium, then Amsterdam and surrounding areas before heading to Rotterdam for the marathon.

Nova Scotia Gambia Association Dinner – March 1, 2014

Saturday March 1st, I had the pleasure of attending the NSGA fundraising dinner.  The highlight for me was meeting all the wonderful people involved with the NSGA and of course meeting Erin Poirier and Jennifer Pasiciel.  It was great to finally put a face to the names of all the people I’ve been in touch with since I started my Love4Gambia campaign.

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The evening was MC’d by Cathy Jones (from this Hour Has 22 Minutes).  Luke MacDonald, owner of Aerobics First, came up to speak and I was asked to accompany him.  I had no idea what he was going to say or do.  Well…. I would like to say a great big THANK YOU to Luke for the TWO pairs of running shoes and socks he presented to me.  The shoes fit perfectly.

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Erin was seated next to me and she had to endure my many questions about my upcoming run. She was happy to oblige and offered some invaluable advice and so did Jennifer.

After Luke completed his presentation, I said a few words.  Here is the speech I gave:

I can sum up my reason for doing Love4Gambia with one quote from Nelson Mandela:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In 2007, I visited Tanzania.

One day, I was returning to my lodge after spending the day on safari at Lake Manyara.

We were driving on a rough gravel road.  We noticed some children who were walking home from school.

When they saw us, they stopped by the side of the road.  They started doing these hand gestures.  They were pretending to write in the air. They didn’t want candy or chocolates.  They wanted pencils.  They wanted pens.

We scrambled to find whatever we could to help them out.  We managed to find something to give to every child we encountered.  How I wish I’d brought that big bag of free pens I’ve been collecting for years at home.

The pen truly is mightier than the sword.

Knowledge gives you options. It gives you the power to make your own decisions and to make the right ones.

Knowledge improves your life and the lives of those around you.

Once you have learned something, no one can take it away from you.

That is why I am so pleased to do my part to help the Nova Scotia Gambia Association in their ongoing work.

Before I finish, I would like to thank all three of the previous Love4Gambia runners:  Erin Poirier the first Love4Gambia runner, Andrea Moritz (2012) and Jennifer Pasiciel (2013) for all their help and invaluable advice so far.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who work at the NSGA.  You are an amazing team!

Winterman Marathon 2014

Last year, after completing the Winterman Marathon on February 17th 2013 in -29 temperatures with the wind chill, I promised myself that I would find a warmer climate in which to run during that time of year.

I was eyeing the Miami marathon. Actually I’ve been eyeing Miami for a few years now. But my finances usually hold me back because there are other trips planned down the road. I have to make choices unfortunately.

I love to travel and if money were no object I’d be writing a race report about Miami right now.

In the late summer of 2013, it became apparent rather quickly that I wouldn’t be flying to Miami to run the marathon.

I registered for the Winterman Marathon race on the last day of 2013.

Winter has been brutal this year. Extreme cold, wind and plenty of snow made for a challenging training season so far. The week before the race, I start my usual ritual of checking the weather. The temperatures are moving up to the single digit minuses – encouraging.

I pick up my race kit on Saturday the 15th at the War Museum. The weather is perfect; mild and sunny. I even have a quick conversation about it with other runners in the parking lot. “It’s only going to be slightly colder tomorrow than today” one said. I nod in agreement.

At home, I get my things ready for the next day. I check the weather forecast to help me determine how many layers to wear. My jaw drops when I see what’s in store. The mercury is going down and the winds are increasing to produce a -28 degrees Celsius (with wind chill) temperature at race start. Great!

Part of me is thinking, “Why do I do this to myself?!  Again!”  But to be honest, I love a good challenge.

On the kitchen table, I place: my running jacket, 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 pairs of winter running tights, 2 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of gloves, a balaclava, a polar fleece hat, 2 neck gators, sunglasses and my race number holder belt. Later on, I decide to throw in another thin jacket to the mix. I’m ready for race morning.

In bed I remember that I forgot to put some nutrition gels in my jacket packets. I don’t get up. “I’ll remember tomorrow morning” I think to myself.

Race morning, I eat and get dressed. We leave the house. Gen drops me off at the War Museum where the race starts.

I walk in the museum and immediately see Patrick and Shauna, two of my good running friends. Shauna I met the very first year I started running. We trained for our very first marathon together in a run clinic. Pat I met the following year as I was training for my third marathon.

I pick up my timing chip in the main hall where all the military equipment is on display. For this race, the chips are on a Velcro strip that we attach to our ankle.

As I’m talking to Shauna and Pat, I realise that I forgot my gels. In all my years of running I’ve never done that. How could I forget to bring gels for a marathon distance? 42.2 kilometres is a long way to run without some form of nutrition.

Luckily Pat, the generous guy that he is, gives me two. I hesitate at first. I want to make sure he’s ok before I accept. He insists that he’s fine. Pat would give you the shirt off his back.

It’s time to head outside. It’s race time. Pat and I are running the marathon and Shauna is running the half. The start times are the same for everyone and so we can all start together.

We line up outside near the museum entrance. It doesn’t feel as cold as it was the year before but then again, maybe I’m trying to convince myself of that.

A voice is heard counting down and so we all join in. The Howitzer goes off a fraction of a second after the vocal signal is given and we collectively jump in reaction to the loud noise. It’s time to run!

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The Howitzer goes off signaling the start of the race. (photo by zoomphoto.com)

It’s crowded but it will thin out as we progress. The 5 k, 10k , 21.1 and marathon runners all start together. It’s a looped course. Pat and I have 8 loops of 5.275 km to run. Shauna goes around 4 times.

All three of us start together. Having not seen Shauna in some time, we catch up – there’s no shortage of things to talk about.

I run two loops with Shauna, I let her go at the start of the third loop as she’s aiming a 1:45. My plan is to go slower.  I’ve turned down the “race switch”.  I’m treating this marathon as an extra long training run but with the goal of keeping under 4 hours.  

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Shauna and I (Photo by zoomphoto.com)

I stop briefly because I can’t reach into my inside jacket pocket to grab my gel while running. I find the gel and look behind me to see if I can find Pat. That’s when my friend Brian comes out from a small crowd to see me. I ask him if he has seen Pat. “He’s about 1 to 1 ½ minutes behind you”. I thank him and start running again.

(Brian ran the Miami Half with his wife a few weeks prior and it was extremely hot and humid. Perhaps running in the cold is not so bad after all.)

“Six more loops to go” I say to myself as I head out into the headwind again. I sense a faint feeling of unease. “What’s this?” I think to myself. No matter how many of these races I’ve done, there’s always that element of the unknown. It’s a big question mark as to how things are going to go. I put in the training and the hard work. The rest is up to chance and mental determination. I dismiss the thought and press on. I’m just over ten kilometres into the run.

The wind is stronger on this loop than it was on the previous two. This is my fifth time running this race and there’s always a head wind on the way out. The entire course is on the westbound lane of the John A MacDonald Parkway that runs along the Ottawa River which explains the ever presence of wind. The course is not flat; there are two rolling hills. The only flat part is the area around the museum.

The more loops I run, the less runners are left on the course.

The volunteers are great. It’s cold and windy and yet they’re smiling and cheering for us. They are posted here and there to direct flow and at the water stations. At every loop, near the turnaround point water station, there’s a woman holding up two water cups and yelling “water!” I say “Gatorade” and the guy behind her hands me a Gatorade. Her reply is always “Ah – nobody wants water!?” My reply is “Not yet”.

The official photographers are set up almost half way along the route. At one point I tell them that they deserve a medal for working in this cold weather. They are quick to reply that I deserve one for my endurance. On the third or fourth loop, I spread my arms out and smile for the camera. The photographer is happy and so I make a point of doing something different each time I pass by. It will make for some interesting photos.

There’s a woman at the corner of the parkway and Vimy Place near the museum. She’s holding up a sign and cheering for all the runners. At one point I tell her that what she is doing it great. She is happy to hear it. She stays in the cold and wind for close to 4 hours.

There’s a volunteer directing flow as we turn on to Vimy Place.  He’s always smiling, cheering and high fiving us.  With each loop I run I say how many I have left to go.  He always replies with something encouraging.

We could not run without people like these who volunteer their time to make events like these a success.  

There a few things on my mind as I run.  One of them has to do with recent news: Gen has found out just a few days before that someone she knows well has cancer.  The chances of this person surviving are very good.  Still, the news is hard to take.  

The wind is getting stronger.  Luckily what I’m wearing is perfect.  I’m neither cold nor am I overdressed.  It’s always difficult to gauge especially when there’s wind involved.

Every time Pat and I see each other, we high five each other.  I say things like “We’ve got this!”.

I also cheer on other marathon runners with a wave or a thumbs up.

I don’t run with music as I like to hear what’s going on around me.  It also allows me to interact with others.  I play my own music inside my head.  Sometimes the siltiest songs come to mind.

My pace slows as I get closer to the last loop.  I am not running as fast as I had hoped.  I have a slight pain in my left foot.  It’s been there since kilometre 10.  It never gets worse but I am careful.

It’s my last loop and as I always do, I thank the volunteers and the photographers.

I look for Gen’s Prius in the opposite lane that is open to vehicle traffic.  I don’ see her car.  She’ll be picking me up after the race.  I am pleased to see her near the finish line.  I tell her I love her and cross the finish line shortly after.

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Marathon #28 done! (Photo by zoomphoto.com)

Marathon #28 done!  They take off my timing chip and I get my race medal.  I find out later that I came in second in my age group.  I’m happy about that.  My time?  I go over 4 hours.  Not my best.  Actually it’s among my personal worst times.  The focus was not on speed but on completing it “comfortably” – if there is such a thing.  I have three more marathons to run before I head off to Africa in June.  I can’t race them all.

Gen and I stay a while longer to see Pat come in.  I give him a congratulatory hug.

Next up: Around the Bay Road Race 30k in Hamilton in March – the oldest road race in North America and the Rotterdam Marathon in April.

Winter Running in Canada

Winter running in most parts of Canada can present a challenge.  One must be prepared for anything.  Mild temperatures are ideal but those days are few and far between especially in months like January.  Freezing temperatures and wind chill factors must be, well, factored in before heading outside.  That means extra caution and extra layers of clothing.

I must say that I haven’t always followed my own advice.  I’ve run long runs later in the day near dark, with no money on me, no identification, no cell phone and I headed out without letting anyone know the route I was planning to run.  All I had on me were gel nutrition packets and 2 small water bottles – all frozen..  I was lucky that nothing happened.  I’m more cautious now.  At least I try to be.

In my first winter of running, I sometimes would inadvertently under-dress. On a lunchtime run with a good friend, I noticed something wasn’t quite right.  We were running on a path that runs along the Rideau Canal on our way back to the office.  The wind was stronger than I had anticipated.  A certain “special” area on my body was getting cold.  I needed to do something fast.  Without saying too much, I told my female running companion that I was going to run behind her for a few moments while I made some adjustments.  I was wearing an extra pair of running gloves and so I removed the extra glove from my right hand and shoved it down my running tights.  It worked!  I rejoined my friend.  To get back we had to run on Wellington Street in front of the Parliament Buildings where there are always people.  Needless to say, I got some odd stares here and there as people looked (or tried not to look) at the bulge in my pants. I didn’t care as I was warm.

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Sometimes the roads and paths are ice covered and it becomes slippery everywhere you go.  Freezing rain is fairly common here in Canada’s capital.  No one enjoys it and runners probably dislike it even more.

What to do when the conditions are less than ideal?  Some opt to run indoors on a treadmill.  I am not a fan of the treadmill or “dreadmill” as I call it.  I will only run on the treadmill if I absolutely have no other choice.  I haven’t used a treadmill in at least 2 or 3 years and I hope I can continue not using it.  The air is dry indoors in winter and running in the same area for extended periods of time just isn’t fun for me.

This year I tried some special ice-grippers that slip over any type of shoe.  They were excellent on ice.  I found myself purposefully seeking out the iciest areas that I would normally avoid without ice-grips.  It was fun to run up the hill near the Bytown Museum near the Rideau Canal locks.  An area that sees very few runners because the path is closed in the winter.

Non-runners often ask if the cold air will “burn” or hurt your lungs.  Having run a half-marathon in -37 and a full marathon in -29 degrees Celsius I felt no pain in my lungs during or after the run.  There was a slight adjustment period that lasted maybe a day or two the very first year I ran but it was minor.

In this piece that I wrote for iRun magazine several years ago about the positives of winter running, I sum it up this way:

“There’s a special quality to running outdoors in winter.  Maybe it’s the absence of colour; the white snow, the black, wet pavement, the grey sidewalks and the cloud-covered sky. It’s as if you are running in a black-and-white photograph. But then it all changes when the skies clear up, maybe just in time for the sunset and for colour to make its way back into the day. You keep running as you stare in awe at the best sunset you swear you’ve ever seen.”

Running in the Heat – The Experiment

When talking about Love4Gambia, people often ask me what kind of weather I can expect during my run in June.  When I tell them that it will be extremely hot (40+ degrees Celsius) and humid they ask me; have you ever run in those conditions?  And my answer is yes, but only for a very brief time.  And then I tell them this true story that I call “The Experiment”.

A few years ago I volunteered at Ottawa University’s Human and Environmental Physiology Research Unit (HEPRU) for an experiment whose goal is to study the treatment of exercise-induced hyperthermia.  I was hesitant to take part in the study at first, especially after reading the short explanation of what would take place but I sent in my name anyway.

I did not do it for the money as it only paid $70.  What drew me in was the VO2max test I had to perform at the start.  The VO2max test measures the maximum rate of oxygen consumption that is calculated during incremental exercise a motorized treadmill.  There is a specific point at which oxygen consumption plateaus even if the exercise intensity increases.  This plateau marks the V02 max.  Anyone can pay to do the test but it not cheap and can cost over $200.

I perform the preliminary session of the Vo2max and percentage of body fat analysis at the University.   It goes well and I fit the criterion as an ideal candidate.

A week later, I return for session number two.

There are two students administering the tests.  Brian is the student in charge of this experiment.  Before heading in to the change room, I am given some explanation as to what will happen.  I step on a scale to measure my weight.  I am also given a 50 cm (18”) long wire mostly covered in a pliable plastic; a probe.  I prefer to call it a thermometer. There’s a piece of tape at about the 30 cm (12”) mark.  I’m asked to insert this tube, to the tape line, in an area that does not see the light of day very often.   I give the student a look. He’s used to it and informs me that it’s not that bad.  This was the part of the test I was dreading.

I return, minutes later.  The student was right.  It wasn’t that bad. As instructed, I make sure that the other end of the wire is taped to my back and ready for connection.

Wearing nothing but my running shorts and my running shoes, I step in to the area just outside the lab.  I sit on a chair and wait.  I’m relaxed; I’m not someone who stresses out easily.  At the dentist I often struggle to stay awake as they work on my teeth.

The lab is completely enclosed and temperature controlled.  It is a room within the room.  It is sealed on all sides and is clad in stainless steel.  Inside, there’s a treadmill, electronic equipment and computers.

The students return with some wires and a razor.  They start shaving areas on my right leg and chest.  They attach the wires to my skin with a warning that it will sting a little bit when they remove them later.  “No problem” I say.

Then Brian arrives with another one of those long wire thermometers just like the one I have currently inserted.  He explains that this one will go in my esophagus through one of my nostrils.  Knowing that I’m not the only candidate in these tests, I immediately ask him if they re-use these thermometers.  He assures me that they are all new and sterile.  I’m very pleased to hear that.

He hands me a large red Solo cup with water and a straw.  On the count of three, I start drinking.  Brian quickly pushes down the long wire down my right nostril.  Not a pleasant experience to say the least.  He finishes and asks me to overcome the overwhelming feeling of wanting to rip this thing out.   Amazing, he can read my mind!  It’s more than uncomfortable but I oblige.  After a few minutes, the discomfort lessens.  He tapes the protruding wire to the side of my face.

Eventually, Brian opens the metal door and I am let into the lab.  It is 40 degrees Celsius.  I sit on a chair by the treadmill and they connect all the wires to the equipment; over 35 wires in total.  To my left is a large black plastic tub with water and ice – but more on that later.

Readings must be taken of me in a relaxed state.   They put on a movie on the monitor ahead of me – it’s “The Lord of the Rings” the first movie. After about twenty minutes (if not more) of monitoring, they pause the movie and I can now carefully walk to the treadmill. Before I start running there’s one more step; I must wear a thick plastic poncho.  One of the “World Famous” type ponchos you can buy at Canadian Tire.  It’s dark green.

I start the treadmill and begin running.  The guys are behind me and checking their equipment ensuring everything is working properly.  They put on some music: 106.9 FM The Bear.

Brian and the other student (I forget his name) give me status updates and encouragement.  I could do without them; it is more of an annoyance for me.  I wish they would keep quiet but I am too polite to say anything and I know they mean well.

“You’re doing great Terry!”  “Keep going!” “You can do it!”

“Your body temperature has gone up .5 degrees….” “You’re at 38 degrees!”  “You’re doing great!”

The goal here is to get my body’s internal temperature to 40 degrees Celsius; an exercise-induced hyperthermia.  (The human body’s normal temperature is 37 degrees.)

I stare at a section of the metal wall in front of me.  It’s getting more and more uncomfortable as my body temperature keeps rising.

“Way to go Terry!” I hear again.

Above 39 degrees I can feel a slight reduction in my reaction time – as if I’m slightly inebriated.  I press on still fixated on the small portion of the wall.  I’m studying the patterns on the wall; anything to keep my mind off the discomfort.

“39.5 degrees!  Almost there!”   

I look over to the tub filled with ice and water.  I never thought I would say this, but I could not wait to get in there.  I was willing to do anything to cool off.

“We’re almost at 40 degrees.  Keep going.  Not long now!”  I’ve been running about 40 minutes now.

“OK.  You can stop!”

“Yes!” I think to myself.  I slowly step off the treadmill when Brian says “Wait!  Your body is cooling down too quickly.  I need you to get back on the treadmill”.

“Really?!”  I walk back on and start to run again.  I’m not a big fan of Brian at this point.

I get off the treadmill after about ten or twelve minutes.  They lead me to a chair and I sit down.  Puzzled, I ask “When do I go in the ice bath?”.  “Not yet” Brian says “Not yet.”

I sit there thinking “When do I get in the tub?”

Finally after about ten minutes, I take off my shoes and they put on some neoprene socks to keep my toes from freezing in the water.

I walk up the steps and slowly get in the water.  What a relief!   After a few minutes, Brian dumps a few buckets of ice in the water.  I smile and say “This isn’t so bad”.

My head, arms and shoulders are above water.  I can’t believe I’m enjoying this!

I can not get out of the bath until my internal temperature reaches 37.5 degrees.  It takes about eight minutes.  I get out and am given a towel to dry off.  I sit again and continue to watch the movie.

Finally it’s time to remove the wires.  The students are not gentle and it stings in certain areas but I’m just glad to get them off.

Brian also removes the wire from my nose.  I’m happy to have it removed but I’m left with a sore throat feeling.  I step back on the scale before being set free to shower and change.

What an experience.  Something I’m not too keen on repeating except that… I have to do it all over again.  The water temperature will be 26 degrees instead of the 2 degrees for today’s experiment.

What I won’t do for science!  The experiment at 26 degrees goes well.  The main difference is that I stay much longer in the tub to cool off.

The data collected will help determine the best possible course of action to treat athletes, firemen and others who perform in high heat environments and experience heat exhaustion.  Having gone through what I did, I’d suggest the 2 degree water.

A Few Words on this Last Day of 2013

I just wanted to say a few words on this last day of 2013.

What a year it has been!

I’ve had many “pinch me” moments this year:

-  Standing at the start line of the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris on the cool and sunny morning of April 7th.  I’m on Avenue des Champs-Élysées one of the most famous and beautiful streets in the world.  The Arc de Triomphe is behind me and ahead in the distance is Place de la Concorde.  Around me are runners from all over the planet.   I’m excited and beside myself.  I’m about to run a marathon in Paris!

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- On September 22 at the Alzheimer’s Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg (near Windsor) in the first few kilometres of the race.  We are surrounded by various crop fields; the light is getting brighter and brighter until we see the sun peaking out.  The colour and the quality of the light against the fields is spectacular!  (This moment could also qualify as a “Darn, I should have brought my camera!”)   As much fun as the big city races are, I also love running in the smaller ones.  It’s a totally different feeling and just as rewarding (if not more sometimes); one doesn’t feel lost in the crowd.

- On November 3rd at the ING New York City Marathon near kilometre twenty five on the Queensboro Bridge, I’m running up the incline on the area that most runners consider to be the toughest part of the race (and I agree with them).  I look out to my left and take in an incredible view of Manhattan.  I had not completed my race that I wanted to run it again.

There have been other moments during our travels this year.  Gen and I travelled over 2000 kilometres by car in Ireland in April and we have seen rugged, breathtaking beauty and incredible buildings and castles too numerous to list here.  Sharing these adventures with her is in itself a pinch me moment for me.

After years of going to NYC as a couple we finally brought the kids to Manhattan in July (at their request) and shared in their excitement as we explored this great city.

I’ve also had some “What was I thinking” moments:

- February 17th at Winterman Marathon in Ottawa.  It is eight loops near the Ottawa River.  With the open water nearby that means more wind when the conditions are “right”.  I wake up and check the weather; it is -29 with the wind chill.  What was I thinking?!?  I put my determination/ stubbornness to good use and headed out there and ran the race.  I’ve run this race several times in the past, but this was by far the coldest to date.  I’m crossing my fingers for 2014 as I will be running it again.  I may be having another “What was I thinking” moment if the temperature dips too low.

In closing I’d like to say that there are everyday moments that are just as special as the ones I’ve mentioned above.  Of course, Gen and I love the kids and show them affection but, our hearts still skip a beat when the kids either grab our hand or give us a hug or say something from the heart.  When we all sit on the rather large sectional in the living room, Gen and I will sit together at one end and quickly our boys (8 and 11) are glued to us leaving most of the couch unused.  Perhaps a smaller couch would have been more than sufficient?  We take advantage of these moments because we know all too well that they will be teenagers soon enough.  The sectional will seem small then I’m sure.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year!!  Hug the ones you love a little bit harder this year and never forget to let them know how special they are to you!

A Weekend in Manhattan – The 2013 NYC Marathon (Part II)

As I am getting ready, the telephone rings.  It’s my friend Richard.  He too is from Ottawa. An incredibly nice guy in his very early sixties who runs unbelievably fast.  I keep telling him that when I grow up, I want to be fast like him.   

I put on my running clothes and put on an extra cotton long sleeve shirt and t-shirt to keep warm at the athlete’s village.   I grab my things that I put in the clear plastic bag that was given to me at the race expo as no other bags will be accepted at the waiting area.

I kiss Gen who is asleep and head out the door.  Richard is waiting for me in the lobby.

We walk out and head right, towards the Library.  The line-ups are long but things move relatively quickly.  Security is tight and we are asked to show our bib numbers several times.  At 6:30 am we get in a coach bus and start moving

The sky is cloud covered and it’s chilly.  Not at all type of weather we had the last few days temperature-wise.

We approach the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  We slow down to a crawl.  Eventually we are let off the bus.  Again, security is high and everyone is checked.  

Once inside the athletes’ village we wish each other luck and go our separate ways. Richard is in the first wave orange section and I am in the second wave blue section.

Richard Borsos and myself at the athletes’ village.

Eventually, it’s time to line up at the exit for my corral.  There’s a woman with running shoes around her neck.  She asks me if this is the line for corral #21.  I confirm.  I look down at her feet and she’s wearing running shoes.  Hmmmm why the extra pair?  Then I notice they are men’s running shoes.  Curious, I ask her about it. She tells me her story.

Five weeks prior, her good friend, a super fast triathlete, collapsed.  It was just after two taxing ultra running events.  Doctors believe that he did not give his body enough time to recover.  He is now paralyzed on one side and can barely walk.  He hasn’t given up and looks forward to competing again.  Doctors aren’t so sure.

He was registered to run the NYC marathon but obviously couldn’t.  His friend decided that she would run it for him and she would bring his shoes across the finish line.

I tell her that she was doing something good, something inspirational.  She smiles and thanks me.  She asks me to sign the back of her race shirt.  I oblige.  I have something in mind but then write something completely different. I write “Run and Enjoy – Terry from Canada”.  Huh?  That’s the best I could do?  I suppose what I meant was, run and don’t worry too much.  Things have a way of working out.  He sounds like a determined person and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he competes again no matter the doctors may say.  I hope she understands my message.  I wish her luck.

One last stop at the toilet and I get back on the road.  It’s not long before I start up a conversation with someone else.  This time with two runners; I meet Lauren from New York (currently living in Paris) and Dan from Saskatoon.

We move slowly to the start line and stop.  The national anthem is sung.  A few announcements are made then the song New York, New York is heard blasting over the speakers.  The crowd is excited and so am I!  This is NYC!!

We wait for the race to begin.

We wait for the race to begin.

The signal is given and we start running.  It’s crowded as we make our way up onto the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  We lose Lauren.

I take a few photos and videos – something I’ve never done during a race.  I’m not sure they are going to turn out with all the movement but I go ahead anyway.

There are helicopters buzzing everywhere.  I feel like we’re being followed by crazy paparazzi!  To my right, to my left and overhead – helicopters!

Helicopters everywhere!

Helicopters everywhere!

I think Dan is the first to mention that he hopes nothing will happen like what happened in Boston.  I nod in approval.

I put my phone away – I have a race to run!

The bridge is over 2 kilometres long – it’s windy.  I have a “pinch me” moment – how incredible it is to be running here.  I had that same feeling seven months ago at the Paris Marathon in April.  I am grateful to be able to do this.

Verrazano–Narrows Bridge

Verrazano–Narrows Bridge

Not too far after the bridge I remove my long sleeve throw away shirt.  The arm warmers stay on.

We start running on land and at the first water station I head to the right and Dan to the left. I lose him in the crowd of runners.  I keep running and looking around but can’t locate him as there are just too many runners.

I’m on pace and feel great.  The spectators are very supportive and there is band after band.  I see more bands in the first 10 kilometres of this race than I’ve seen in entire marathons elsewhere.

Upon seeing the large CANADA spelled across the top of my singlet, a guy on a megaphone says “Go Canada!  Our friend and neighbour to the North!”  Now that’s quite the welcome.

I’m constantly impressed by the crowds and the entertainment as I run through Brooklyn and then Queens.

I feel great as we are about to climb the Queensboro bridge.  We are nearing the 25 k mark.  

The crowds thin until we no longer see them – we are running on sections where there are no sidewalks.  There’s a subway train going by above.  It’s windy and cool again – I bring up my arm warmers to stay warm.

After the constant cheering along the course so far, it’s somewhat peculiar to hear nothing but footsteps.  I don’t mind it though, for me it’s one of the parts I will remember well.  I glance over to my left and look over at the Manhattan skyline. This is definitely another “pinch me” moment as I quietly stare at the skyline.   I see the UN Headquarters, The Citibank Building, the Sony Building and so many other well known Manhattan buildings. I’m not done running this race and I already want to run it again.

I can hear the crowds cheering from a distance as we are almost across the East River. It sounds like a rock concert.  I consider taking my phone out to take a video.  Again another first, but this is too amazing not to capture.  It’s incredible!  The crowd response is beyond anything I’ve seen anywhere else.  The race organisers proudly boast that they have 2 million spectators along the course and I believe them.

The sun is shining now.

I am starting to slow down.  I don’t know what’s going on.  I keep pushing.

A few turns here and there and then I’m on 1st Avenue.  This is where one gets a true sense of just how big this race is.  The avenue stretches on for about 5 kilometres and is completely straight.  There’s a gradual incline but it levels off in the distance giving you the impression that the road ends and that the runners in the distance are falling off.

1st Avenue

1st Avenue

During this stretch, I receive the most “Go Canada!” cheers of the race.  I also get several variations including “Go Eh!  Go Canada Eh!”.  I try and say “Thank You!” to all who cheer for me.  I may not know them but they sure are helping me with their cheers!

My pace keeps fluctuating but I roll with it.  The body’s fine, I have no aches or pain; just fatigue.  

Near the 32 kilometre mark, I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Dan from Saskatoon!  He’s moving at a slightly faster pace than I and so I decide to stick with him.  He tells me he’s suffering badly but he’s in good spirits.

We are running in the Bronx now.  Soon we’ll be heading down towards Central Park – we are both looking forward to it.

Dan is not wearing any Canada branded apparel and so he gets a taste of what I’ve been experiencing throughout the race.  “Go Canada!  You’re almost there!” and the like.  “That’s great!” he says.  “It is!” I say, “It is!”

We finally see the road leading in to Central Park near the Guggenheim museum.  The course gets narrow and crowded in areas.  Again, the spectators are ever present.

Dan wants to stop and walk; I wish him luck and tell him I’ll see him at the finish line.

I continue running giving it all I’ve got.  Not far now.  Less than 4 kilometres to go.

I turn right on 59th street – almost there!

I don’t know why, but at this point, I start thinking of my father (he passed away in 2001).  I wonder what he might think of me doing this (I started running in 2007).  My eyes well up when I think and know that he’d be proud.  I also think of my grandmother, who passed away just one month before the race.  I don’t know why I’m going through this.  It’s not like me.  I quickly snap out of it but I keep them in my thoughts.

The Time Warner towers at Columbus circle are getting closer and closer.  I dig deep.  It’s time to use up all I have left.  I turn to the right at Columbus Circle.  I’m back in the park. The path is lined with flags from every country represented in the race.  And just like that – I cross the finish line.  Marathon 27 done!

I take out my phone and take a photo of myself with the Finish line in the background.

My finish time is not my best one but it doesn’t matter.  The experience alone was amazing.

I wait for Dan.  I see him and head towards him.  I shake his hand and congratulate him. We continue walking as he gives me a side hug.

We receive our medals.  We are happy.  There really is no other feeling like it.

After a long walk out of the park we eventually are given some fancy fleece lined orange ponchos.  The air is cool and the ponchos are just perfect to keep us warm.

We walk down the stairs to the metro station at the Dakota.  The legs are stiff.  Once downstairs, we are greeted by NYPD policemen who says “If you ran the race you get to ride for free” as he opens the metal gate to let us through.  We thank him and get on the next train.

As I prepare to get off the subway at Times Square 42nd Street, I shake hands with Dan one last time.

What a wonderful weekend!  What an incredible race!

Within days I put my name in an early draw to win an entry in the 2014 race.  

I will remember this for a long time to come!

The medal and shirt

The medal and shirt

On December 1st I officially entered the draw.  Now I wait to find out if I will run the race in 2014.