2021 Race #1: Tannenbaum 10K, Toronto, ON

Date: November 28th, 2021

Gun Time: 44:08
Chip Time: 43:59
Placing Overall: 36th out of 470
Placing in Age Group: 9th out of 65 (M40-49)

The Lad:

Gun Time: 51:49
Chip Time: 51:41
Placing Overall: 143rd out of 470
Placing in Age Group: 4th out of 10 (M1-19 – seriously, they let 1-year-olds in this race?)

Theme Song:Angel From Montgomery“, Leslie Spit Treeo (John Prine cover, may he rest in peace.)

This, as you might imagine, was not just the first race of 2021, but was the first for a very, very long time.

I managed to keep the legs churning more or less all the way through the pandemic; in fact, it was one of the few things that kept me from going completely off the rails. But as some of you probably noticed, it’s a real drag when you aren’t able to race anymore. Those “virtual” runs? Not for me, although I do appreciate the efforts of race organizers to do something.

So it was with glee towards the end of 2021 that I noted in-person races were starting to come back. I went into this one with no idea how I would perform after a two-year hiatus, but I had done some pretty solid recent tempo runs, and was optimistic. The idea of competition was enough of a motivation, so I did not worry overmuch. But one always wants to put one’s best foot forward (if you’ll pardon the pun).

The great thing about the passage of the intervening two years is that I now have a willing running partner in my son Brendan, so I’m going to be posting his results as well. He’s made appearances in this blog before, but he’s now a lanky 15-year-old who can already utterly destroy me at the 400 and 800 meter distance. He’s still learning long-distance running, so for now I have the edge in that (not for long I’ll wager). The Tannenbaum was unfinished business for us. Back in 2019, we had planned to run it to cap off the year, and weren’t able to make it to Toronto due to freezing rain and unsafe conditions. So, it seemed only fitting that it would be the race to kick off our slate of competitions as the pandemic was on the wane. It would be his first 10K, and he was stoked, if a bit nervous.

For 2021, the Tannenbaum, put on by Beaches Runners Club, had a new course. It now would start at Tommy Thompson Park and would be an out and back along the Leslie Street Spit, which splays out into Lake Ontario in Toronto’s east end. It’s a beautiful area of wilderness minutes away from the buzzing, hyper-urban expanse of the city – in summer, that is. My concern was that running out onto a spit of land surrounded on all sides by a huge freezing body of water at the end of November might prove to be, ah, a bit challenging. Yeah. I was right.

Pleading to the weather gods for clemency did no good, and the morning dawned grey and cold, with 2 inches of snow having already fallen and more on the way. We got to the end of Leslie Street and found parking alright, and headed down to the start line near the park pavilion.

Yeah. It was that kind of day.

The race would start in waves 30 seconds apart, because, you know, pandemic. I was up front in the first wave, as I was pretty sure I could bust 45:00, but Brendan hung back in the second wave. As the horn went I looked at the course ahead and thought, “huh, that footing doesn’t look great.” One of the race organizers even went out of his way to tell us not to expect a PR while we were in the starting corral. Thanks for the vote of confidence, my man.

Let’s get moving already. We’re cold.

So, yeah. The footing was pretty bad, but the course was largely dead flat. I felt like I was moving along pretty well given that I hadn’t really tried to run an extended period at race pace in a long time. We hit a slight rise followed by a downhill at about 2K, and then crossed this wacky floating bridge that was made of steel and really slippery. I felt pretty good at this point (and would soon realize why) and wondered how Brendan was making out behind me. The 42 minute pacer was still in my sights, although he was starting to pull away a bit. I had set a goal of wanting to go under 44 minutes for this one, and so far everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Me in a pack, with the pink Vaporflys on (I’ll talk about them in an upcoming post).

Having hit the 5k turnaround, I glanced at my watch (yes, I now wear a Garmin – more on that later) and noticed I was at about 21 minutes. I soon realized why, when the howling wind that had been pushing me along hit me smack in the face. Uh oh, I thought. It was blowing at about 20-30 mph and there was absolutely no wind break. To make matters worse, it had started to snow, and we were getting a faceful. I did get a bit of a burst as I passed B coming back and gave him a wave (he told me that he was a bit gassed at that point, which was around 4k for him, but got a substantial second wind later).

Unfortunate conditions for the kid’s first 10K.

So, I was really trying to gut it out and keep the pace as we moved into Km 7 and 8, but man. That wind was absolutely brutal. And cold. I don’t know what it is about this race, but it does not seem to be favored by weather conditions. Anyway, I knew I had dropped off the first half pace, but I wasn’t being caught from behind and I was holding my own. As we went over the weird bridge and up and down the little rise again I was pretty sure I would hit my goal time. And I did. Barely. 43:59 is not much faster than 44 minutes, but I would take it given the conditions. Even though I almost went ass over teakettle on the slippery bit at the finish line (despite being fairly warned by a race marshal).

An uncomfortable return to racing.

Brendan rolled in at just over 51 minutes, and he seemed pretty pleased with that. He was still feeling the adrenaline after the race, and couldn’t wait to do it again. He’s got the bug now. I suspect we will be racing together for a long time to come.

It’s good to be back. And hey, we also got these nifty hoodies!

Races, and goals, for the coming year.

So, it’s January again, and I’ve been back into the weeds at work, but I have been thinking a lot lately about running plans for 2017. I’m shooting for ten races of varying distances, and have put together something of a tentative schedule for the first part of the year. I’m sure this will change, but for now, it’s as follows:

January – No Events

This of course is the month where I choose to run inside to prevent being flash frozen. Our winter has so far been up and down, but the last three weeks have been pretty cold. We are going to get a thaw starting this weekend, so there is a slim chance I might be able to get outside for a run early next week. I will also get a reprieve due to a conference trip to San Francisco later next week, so I plan to at least do a couple of runs there. Although, I guess Northern California has been pretty rainy so I might get wet. I’ve already started a new training cycle for my next half marathon in March. It just sucks that I have to do a lot of it on the treadmill.

February – Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8 Mile

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Running in Southern Ontario in February is no picnic either, but it’s a bit better than January. In the past, I’ve always been somewhere south on vacation during the Re-Fridgee-Eighter, but this year it fits into my schedule. There’s an 8K and an 8 Mile – I’ve never run an 8 mile race before so I figure it’s at least good for a PR. Going to shoot for under an hour but I guess it will depend on the weather. Also, I get to complete my training cycle for the March race in Cuba at the end of February, which will be hot and humid and will prep me for the following month, where I will be taking on…

March – Puerto Rico Half Marathon

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We’ll be in Puerto Rico for the first two weeks of March, and I plan to make the most of it. The main worry I have is that I might, erm, overindulge before the race. I mean, mofongo! Lechon asado! Puerto Rican rum! So many temptations. I’m definitely going to shoot for a PR despite the fact that I will likely eat my weight in suckling pig and chicharrones. I think with the way I finished last year and my 10K times I should be able to crack 1:35.

April – OE Canada INC Run For Retina Research 10K

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I have some unfinished business at this race, because last year I wussed out. There was a big early spring snowstorm the week it was on and I just couldn’t get myself interested enough in running in the cold. Weirdly, we got more snow last year in the first two weeks of April than we got in January and March combined. Doubt that will be the case this year. Will also be starting a second training cycle this month for my June event. And it finally gets warmer at home!

May – GoodLife Fitness Toronto 10K

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No real reason why I chose this one, other than it fits into my schedule, and it’s always fun to come back to Toronto to run. May is usually beautiful in our neck of the woods, which is good, because I’m going to be doing a lot of preparation for…

June – Conquer the Canuck 25K

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This is put on by my club the Cambridge Harriers, and I couldn’t do it last year because I was out of town (and pretty bummed about it). It’s a trail run through Shade’s Mills, our local conservation area. June was super hot last year, and the course is pretty challenging. I’m stoked about this one and my goal is to break two hours. The weekend also includes a marathon, a 50k, and (for some reason) an 8.33k race. The marathon and 50K can also be run as a two-day staged race. No, I’m not doing it.

Still have to figure out the latter half of the year, but I think there will be another half marathon in there and at least a couple of 5K runs (gotta bust that 20 minutes).

Happy running everyone.

2016 Recap, and plans for 2017.

So, the holidays are upon us, and it’s time to reflect on another year.

I had some pretty grand plans for this year, and well, not all of them came to fruition. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with how things went. I ended up getting a respiratory infection that took me out for part of October, so I had to cut a couple of events, unfortunately. I don’t intend to do any more competitions until February, so let’s look back at 2016.

Going into this year I had a few goals:

PR in the 8K – Check. I ran 33:39 in the only one I did this year, the Cambridge Mill Race.
PR in the 10K – Check. Again, I only ran one, but it was 41:17 in San Francisco, an utter dismantling of my old PR.
PR in the half marathon – Check. 1:35:46 in Buffalo.
Sub 20:00 5K – Not quite. Best I did was 20:09 in Chicago.
Finish a marathon – Nope. Could not fit a proper training schedule into what turned out to be a rather topsy-turvy year.

So, in 7 races, I had:

One victory (in the Harvest Quarter Marathon)
Two second-place finishes (in the KW Kids with Cancer Run and the Lurie Cancer Survivors Run in Chicago)
Two top-15 finishes (Laurier Loop, Cambridge Mill Race)
One top-20 finish (San Francisco Giant Race 10K, which it should be noted had almost 6,000 participants. This is probably the race I’m proudest of this year.)
One top-100 finish (out of almost 4,000 in the Buffalo Half Marathon).

Not bad for an old guy.

As for next year, still some stuff to work on. Right now, the plan is to do the Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8K (or possibly the 8-mile, which is also part of the event) in February, the Puerto Rico Half Marathon in March, the Mercedes-Benz 10K in Oakville in April (if I can fit it into my schedule – they still haven’t announced the date), the GoodLife Toronto 10K in May, and a new local trail race, the Conquer the Canuck 25K, in June. We shall see if this holds up.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

2016 Race #6: The Giant Race 10K, San Francisco, CA

Date: September 11, 2016
Gun Time: 41:29
Chip Time: 41:17
Placing Overall: 17th out of 5497
Placing in Age Group: 2nd out of 260
Theme Song: Embarcadero“, Paul Desmond

My son and I are both big baseball fans, and several months ago we were having a conversation about which big league parks we’d most like to see a road game in. He is a rabid Toronto Blue Jays fan, and I’m, well, still a fan but slightly less emotionally involved than I used to be (22 years between playoff appearances will do that to one). As I recall, the list we came up with went something like this:

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. AT&T Park
  3. Camden Yards
  4. Dodger Stadium
  5. Fenway Park

We actually checked off the first one this summer on a road trip to Chicago, and now my son has a crazy plan to see ALL the MLB parks (he’s ten, so it may take him awhile). Much to his chagrin, however, his old man beat him to AT&T Park. Though, I didn’t see a game there. Perhaps I should explain.

I am not really a San Francisco Giants fan, although I have nothing against them – they play way over in the NL West, and we Blue Jays devotees tend not to pay much attention to the senior circuit. However, I do travel to San Francisco for conferences at least once or twice a year, and I love running there. Not only is the temperature usually ideal, but it’s a beautiful place, and though Nob Hill is a bit daunting, I could happily spend every day running up and down the Embarcadero (if I could actually afford to live in the Bay Area, which I can’t).

Running in San Francisco is not without its quirks, of course. Aside from the fact that the hills take some getting used to, I’ve been accosted by a schizophrenic screaming incoherencies at me at 5:30 in the morning (“What an asshole”, muttered a city worker to me, having observed said encounter, and I wholeheartedly agreed) and had my shoes thrown up on once by a homeless guy on another early run. These rather gritty incidents aside, at least going for a run in the city has the virtue of never being boring. Usually I’m in town in January, when events seem to be few and far between, but my recent September conference coincided with the SF Giant Race, which not only fit my schedule but was run right along one of my favorite routes in the world, and finished on the outfield warning track of AT&T park. Sign me up, I thought.

My son was envious, but mollified by the fact that I would take lots of pictures and would give him the Brandon Crawford bobblehead that was included in the race kit (he loves those things and I really would have little use for it). I took a break from my conferencing on the Friday morning before the race to visit the stadium and the expo and pick up my race kit, which gave me an early peek at the stadium and its environs.


AT&T on a typically sunny San Francisco morning.

The kit pick-up was well organized, and I wandered through the concourse looking at some of the exhibitions, which included the typical pre-race odds and sods. It was a beautiful day, and I lingered a bit before heading to the lower level of the stadium to pick up the bobblehead, which was handed out beside the exit, and then left to return to conferencing. The race organizers suggested coming outside of peak times (identified as late afternoon Friday and Saturday) and I’m glad I did, since the various races included nearly 20,000 participants between the half-marathon, 5K, and 10K.


Brandon, in all his bobbly head, scraggly-haired, short wearin’, flag-wavin’ glory.

Sunday morning dawned cool and cloudy, and I warmed up by trotting the mile and a half or so from my hotel down to 2nd and King in front of the stadium in anticipation of the 7AM gun. The race would start in waves, with the sub 45 minute 10K and faster half-marathoners in the lead corral, followed by two corrals of slower runners. It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find the bag check, as it was situated way down 3rd Street on the other side of McCovey Cove in front of Parking Lot A, but eventually I got my stuff dropped off after snapping a few blurry pics with my cruddy phone camera.


Ooooh, twinkly palm trees.


Team RWB, ready to roll.

This being Patriot Day, team RWB was given the prominence it deserved, leading the charge out of the start gate after the anthem was played. I settled into a fast pace with the Bay Bridge looming ahead. It was maybe 50 degrees by now, and the cool weather was a blessing after the heat I had been training in. I felt like I could be pretty fast, given that I’d been doing 35 mpw lately with a lot of tempo running. Settling in behind a team of four female runners who were moving at a good clip, I watched the landmarks roll by; the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, the various piers. In front of Pier 9, we were serenaded by a full-on marching band, which I thought was pretty cool.

I felt strong, was still comfortably using a 3/2 breathing pattern, and really quickly seemed to be getting closer to Fisherman’s Wharf where the turnaround was. As we branched off from the Embarcadero onto Jefferson and I saw the clock at the turnaround, I was initially a bit taken aback that it was at about 18:00. I hit the timing mat at about 18:30, but realized that actually I was a bit short of 5K, so I wasn’t quite as fast as I thought (though doubtless I hit the 5K mark, which was about 300 yards back down the street, in under 20 flat).

Coming back was, well, interesting. Because, see, when you have a combined 9,000 runners running up one side of a city street, it gets a bit crowded. By now there was a thin line of leaders in the 10K coming back to the finish, and we hit the glut of second wave runners head on at about the 6K mark. They basically took up the whole width of the street, which meant that we had to depend on them to get the hell our of our way to avoid flattening them. In theory, we were supposed to be given the extreme left hand side of the sidewalk; in practice, that really didn’t happen. I was slowly catching up to the runner ahead of me, and so in addition to cutting wind resistance she was kind of acting to part the crowds for me as well. The nice part was that we were getting tons of encouragement and smiles from the runners we passed, and that helped a lot as the legs started to complain.

I had switched to a 2/2 pattern by now and was trying to maintain the pace, but it was getting difficult with a somewhat brisk wind in our faces. Nevertheless, I still seemed to be passing people on the back stretch, and eventually the last of the slower stragglers coming in the opposite direction were out of our way and things were wide open to the finish. I had settled in behind another female runner as we approached the stadium and passed the start gate, and unfortunately for her she took a wrong turn, not going wide enough going around the corner to the entry gate to the stadium, and I was able to pass her (her consolation was she was the female champion anyway, as it turned out). I started sprinting as I hit the inside of the stadium and the covered warning track leading to the finish line, and noted with glee the clock was still at 41 minutes, and my PR was toast.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with my result. I guess San Francisco brings out the best in me. Second in my age group was a definite surprise, and I got a wicked award on posterboard that I can put in a frame if I want. This was a fun race, with lots of goodies, and I would absolutely recommend trying it out, whether you’re a Giants fan or not. And as for me, I can tick off a couple of my to do items for this year – I ran my age (and then some) in a 1oK, and I got to hang out on the field of a major league ballpark. Sorry, son. Hope you enjoy your bobblehead, though.



The Polar Vortex, and its General Suckitude

I shouldn’t be complaining again about the weather. After all, I was fortunate enough to be in the southern sunshine for almost the entire month from mid-February to mid-March, plus we had a record for warmth in December and the rest of March after returning wasn’t terrible either.

It’s just, when you get to April, it’s supposed to be all daffodils and bunny rabbits and chirping birds and such. Not this:


Yeah, this is what it looked like where I live. Last weekend. IN GODDAMN APRIL.

So, the weatherman tells me it’s because of the polar vortex. You know things are bad when you see a weatherman and you have an irrational and nearly uncontrollable urge to punch him in the mouth. Or I suppose punch the TV since I rarely run into weathermen in person. Lucky for them, I guess.

I mean, seriously, WTF?


I have developed a pathological hatred of the color blue.

This actually started with an ice storm on Easter weekend. Ice storms aren’t very conducive to outdoor running, or driving, or, you know, pretty much anything not indoors. And this one was hideous enough that even the trees looked sad and defeated:


We are the trees of Ontario. See us despair.

This vortex has been vortexing (vorticing? or whatever it is vortices do, besides make shit cold) over us for awhile now and it seems it’s not going to piss off back north for another few days. So, I looked at the prospective weather for my race in London on Sunday, and, well, -5C with -10C windchill (that’s 23 with 14 windchill if you speak Fahrenheit). The normal temperature for this year is 8C (mid forties).

And I’m wussing out. Screw it. I haven’t made any secret of the fact that I hate running in the cold. I’m going to pick up a race in the summer instead; the Angus Glen 5 miler, I think, run on the cart paths of the golf course that hosts the Canadian Open, which is kind of neat. And it will be a sane temperature in July when it’s held. So, the next race will be my local, the Cambridge Mill 8K, on the first of May. God help the weatherman if any vortices try to intervene…

A sporadic January. Plus more plans.

January, ecchhhh.

Running in January is hard for me for a few reasons. I teach 3rd and 4th year undergrad students as part of my university duties, and the only time of year both classes are in the building is in January and February due to the weird co-op schedule. This just means for the first few weeks of the year I am in the shit work wise, if you’ll pardon the expression. It’s hard to find running time when one is working 60+ hour weeks.

Then, there’s the obvious – the weather sucks. No getting around it. So an inordinate amount of time is spent on the hamster wheel, which is a bit disheartening. I do try to bundle up and get out there when I can, but if the footing is crappy (which it usually is) I tend to stay indoors. The dark doesn’t help either. Though Cambridge is kind of pretty in the winter.



Nice to look at. Not so nice to run in.

My kids are great at sharing. One of the things they share is horrible mutant rhinoviruses from hell. So I’ve also been sick for a big chunk of the month, including a brutal sinus infection that I’m just getting over. I haven’t run in over a week, having seemingly spent most of my time boiling water for sinus irrigation (wouldn’t want the amoebae eating my brain, after all.)


Yeah. Gross.

On the bright side, the toughest part of the year is almost over, and I’ve got my running schedule more or less set. I’m gonna stick with the 12 races per year target I set last year and tentatively things look like this:

Orlando Xtreme 5K, Apopka FL. I know, I know. 5K races aren’t “Xtreme”. There is a half marathon also being run as part of the day which I suppose is slightly more “Xtreme”. I had originally planned to run a race in the Everglades, but the cost of the race plus a 6 hour round trip drive plus the cost of a motel worked out to close to 450 CAD. So, some other time. Damn Canadian Peso. I doubt I’ll be too fast in this one given my lack of January activity, but we’ll call it a tuneup.

Laurier Loop 5K, Waterloo, ON. They moved this race from the fall, and I’m not too sure what the weather will hold for a late March race in Southern Ontario, but who cares. Plan on doing this one as a team with B (the McFastlanes return to strike terror into the field, in other words).

Run for Retina Research OE Canada INC 10k, London, ON. Never run a race in London, but it’s only an hour away. This one looks like it might be pretty good.

Cambridge Mill Race 8K, Cambridge, ON. My local, as previously described.

Buffalo Half Marathon, Buffalo, NY. Buffalo gets a bad rap from some quarters, but I really like it there. There’s way more cool stuff to do and see than it’s given credit for, and Buffalo people are great. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

Peach Bud 10K, Stoney Creek, ON. The main reason for running this one is it’s midweek and fits into my schedule.

KW Run for POGO 5K, Kitchener, ON. I was delighted that they made this race part of the Run Waterloo series, because it’s such a great cause. Doubt I’ll finish in the top 5 again this year though as the level of competition is bound to go up considerably.

B & O Yorkville 5K, Toronto, ON. This time I’ll pay closer attention to the sizing of my race kit.

Harvest Half Marathon, Wellesley, ON. Nice quiet half marathon on country roads north of the city for my second long event of the year.

Oktoberfast Run 10K, Kitchener, ON. For those of you who don’t know, our city has the second biggest Oktoberfest celebration in the world after Munich, due to the huge numbers of German immigrants who settled here. This race has been run for years, is supposed to be very fast, and should be fun (though my suggestion would be beer stations instead of water on the course).

Road2Hope Hamilton Marathon, Hamilton, ON. The big enchilada. At this point, I’ve decided I’m going for it. It’s fast – the #1 BQ marathon in Canada (not that I’m expecting to BQ).

YMCA Jingle Bell 5K, Cambridge, ON. Might as well finish with a local.

This will probably change, but for now, onward and upward. Now, let’s get some more warm weather – it’s 43F here today (7C) so I might actually be able to get out there for a change…


My plans for 2016, or, wherefore art thou, marathon?

Well, it’s December here, and I gotta say that we’ve been pretty lucky with running weather as the temperatures for the most part have been several degrees above the norm. I went out and did a 44 minute 10K tempo run today in lovely 40 degree weather with calm winds and it felt great. This isn’t going to last forever, though, and it got me thinking about my race schedule for next year. I’ve got a few things figured out, but I also have a few questions. It’s getting somewhat difficult to work the weekend races in with my wife working 20 weekends a year and no one to watch the kids. Here’s what I know for sure.

  1. My next race is going to be in Florida in February, and it’s going to be in the Florida Everglades. Despite the fact that my dad’s going to be in Central Florida when I visit him, he expressed interest in making the 3 hour trip down to Fakahatchee Strand State Park so that I could do the 25K race that is part of the Everglades Ultras series in late February. This looks super cool, though I may be dodging some gators along the way, and we’ll see if El Nino decides to drench us with rain.
  2. I need a March race, and it’s not gonna be in Costa Rica. We’re heading down to Central America in early March, and I was really hoping to do the 10K race that was part of the Arenal Ultramarathon Series. Unfortunately, we are heading back that weekend and it’s just not going to work. There’s not a lot of choice when it comes to March races in Ontario. In fact, there’s none. Not sure what I’m gonna do about that yet.
  3. I’m going to do another three half-marathon-ish races in 2016. Right now I’ve got the Everglades 25K and the Buffalo Half as targets. I have to pick one out for the fall so that will require some thought. I’d love to travel to one, but have you seen the Canadian Peso’s exchange rate recently? Geesh.
  4. I’m definitely going to do the Kitchener Kids for Cancer Run again. Not only is it a good cause, but it’s now part of the Run Waterloo series, which I was really thrilled to see. They have a 10K this year as well.
  5. There will be another 12 competitive races in the plans for 2016. Don’t know how it’s going to break down yet, but it’s happening.

Here’s what I don’t know for sure (running schedule wise, I mean – there’s lots I don’t know about everything):

  1. Will there be a marathon in 2016? Man, I don’t know. Maybe. I’m gonna see how things go with the spring races. I think if it does happen, it will almost certainly be the last scheduled race in my area, Hamilton Road2Hope.
  2. Would the mystery race please sign in? There’s some talk about a trail race this spring here in Cambridge which sounds pretty killer. Have to see if it will work in my schedule, and indeed if it’s actually going to happen.
  3. Can I finally break the 20 minute barrier in the 5K? Hope so. I just started a new training regimen that’s a lot more formal. We’ll see if it works.
  4. Is this plan to do a series of races in the US National Parks viable? More on this later, but I really like the idea. Plus the family are all keen hikers. It may not be viable, because, Canadian Peso.

Anyway, I’m excited. Hope everyone has a great 2016.

2015 Race #6: Huron Shore Rotary 10K, Southampton, ON

Date: June 6, 2015
Gun Time: 43:36
Chip Time: 43:34
Placing Overall: 10th out of 174
Placing in Age Group: 4th out of 19 (M 40-49)
Theme Song:Bittersweet Symphony“, The Verve

“You know, maybe we could ditch the city and move here,” my wife said.


I’ll admit the idea had some appeal. After all, Southampton has its charms. Quaint cottages, long strands of tan sand sweeping along the cerulean shores of Lake Huron, and all that. Small towns are very convivial places and we were both raised in one, and small town races, too, have a different vibe to them than the bigger city-based ones. The Huron Shore run was no exception. This was to be the replacement event for the Oakville 10K that I missed when I was hurt, and I felt great going in. And notably, my son, at eight years old, having apparently falling prey to the running bug, was to run his first timed race, and would be in the starting corral with me. We had been out a couple of times earlier in the week already and despite the fact that he would be one of the younger kids in the 3K race, he was raring to go (and seemingly slightly nervous).

There was additional motivation for me as well in this one. As I mentioned before, I have a close family member with gastric cancer who is now reaching the end stages of her disease. It has been very difficult. Though I was able to successfully raise several hundred dollars for Debbie’s Dream foundation in Cleveland, the fact that I didn’t run the marathon made me feel like I had some unfinished business, and so I decided that this race was gonna be dedicated to her and I was going to go absolutely all out. The race proceeds were partially going to an expansion of the cancer center at the Owen Sound Hospital, so I felt that was fitting.

It helped that conditions that morning were pretty much letter perfect for running. The sun was shining, temperatures were in the mid to high 50s, and the wind was limited to a fresh breeze of maybe 10 miles an hour or so out of the northeast. The race had a compact but surprisingly robust little runners expo (held, naturally, in the hockey arena, this being rural Ontario) and we were greeted warmly by the volunteers manning the registration tables. Everything was very well organized, and there were a lot of the townspeople out just strolling around the festivities and lending support to the event.

The half-marathoners were already out on the course when we got there, and the next event was the kids’ fun run, which was loudly cheered by the spectators. There’s something about watching a gaggle of 4- to 6-year olds charging down the street, legs pumping, some accompanied by their huffing parents, that’s enough to warm the cockles of any runner. My daughter was in their number, and indeed went so far as to hurdle a fallen competitor on the way to the finish line (rather than stop and ask if the other child was OK, of course, which maybe wasn’t the most sporting of acts but there was nothing that was going to keep her from that finish line).

The 3K (reserved for the teens and kids), 5K, and 10K runners were all slated to start at the same time, and my son got loose by warming up rather demonstratively to the strains of “Uptown Funk”. I passed out handfuls of jellybeans to the kids (and scarfed a few myself) and we posed together for a dual-generational photo in all our athletic glory just before the races were about to begin. In the corral, I looked proudly at the boy, who was bouncing with pent-up energy. I searched for something to say that wouldn’t sound like a bad sports cliche.

The runners. Doin' what runners do. Kinda.

The runners. Doin’ what runners do. Kinda.

“Don’t be afraid to push yourself,” I told him. “One thing you’ll learn about running distance is that sometimes it feels tough to keep going. But don’t ever quit, because in the end, it always hurts more to quit than to see the race through.”

“I won’t. Good luck, Dad,” he replied, smiling a smile that I know I’ll remember for a long time. As we counted down to the gun, I said a quick prayer to whatever capricious gods might be listening, and promised I’d do my best to live up to the advice I’d just offered.

Focus now, focus. SPEED.

Focus now, focus. SPEED.

Near the front of the pack, I set a fast pace. The course was an out and back along the waterfront, and this created a bit of a problem at the 3K turnaround because the race marshal there needed to be a bit more vocal about the fact that the kids running the 3K were about to miss it. This led to one of the kids, maybe 11 years old, doing a sudden reversal of direction right in front of me and I nearly steamrolled right over him. As it was, I only ended up having to break stride for a moment, but, being in the throes of competition I did end up fixing him with a bit of a baleful glance (which I felt kind of bad about later, but, you know, heat of the moment and all that).

I felt extremely strong early in the race, and the wind was more or less pushing me along, which I was enjoying at the time but knew would come back to bite me later. When the 5K runners turned around I knew I was pretty close to the front of the 10K group. I pushed hard, knowing that I had a good chance of at least an age-group placing given that the race wasn’t huge and I was making such good progress. Things got tougher, as expected, when we hit the 10K turnaround and I had to run smack into a wind that was a little brisker than at the start of the race, since we were facing the open waters of Lake Huron at that point. The faster half-marathoners had started to return by then and we ran alongside a few of them as the course took us into a side loop which was needed to make up the entirety of the 10K distance. By kilometer 7 my legs were loudly complaining at me, but I still felt I had enough left in the tank to keep a strong pace to the finish. We were starting to pass the 5K walkers now, and it took a bit of energy to get around them at times, but mostly they stayed out of our way. The course was flat as a board, which certainly suited me as I’m not much of a hill guy. As I rounded the last corner, I could see that the time was still under 44 minutes which was a bit of a pleasant shock – I knew I’d been pretty fast, but I wouldn’t have bet on that kind of a time. Thanking the aforementioned capricious gods, I had reserve enough to power to the finish in a near sprint, with my family cheering me on, and crossed the line with a fist pump.

I believe there may be a beer in my near future.

I believe there may be a beer in my near future.

So, having set out to honor my loved one’s struggle with cancer, and do right by my son, my feelings were bittersweet; but I was pleased, and felt I had done my best. I shattered my old 10K PR by more than a minute, and in the end I did get on the podium, since the winner of my age group was one of the top three overall and the organizers gave medals to the next three fastest in the group accordingly.

On the podium. We're blurry because... we're just so damn fast.

On the podium. We’re blurry because… we’re just so damn fast.

And my son took my advice and didn’t quit – he finished 14th out of 41 in a race where he was maybe the 6th youngest participant. I envy him, as his best racing days are ahead of him. And the old man will always be there to give advice (whether he wants it or not, I’ll wager).

The future. Which will no doubt be faster than I could ever hope to be.

The future. Which will no doubt be faster than I could ever hope to be.

2015 Race #5: Rite Aid Cleveland 10K, Cleveland, OH

Date: May 17, 2015
Gun Time: 47:06
Chip Time: 46:30
Placing Overall: 88th out of 2483
Placing in Age Group: 13th out of 121
Theme Song: Running Down A Dream“, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

My son is not impressed with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He’s eight years old, so you can’t really blame him. His experience with music is pretty much limited to the likes of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars, with a little LMFAO thrown in. None of these are what you would call particularly well represented at RRHoF. It seems Dad’s stupid dinosaur bands didn’t really rate with him, so this made for a lot of aimless wandering, and complaining. Worse still, Lori railed at the lack of Bon Jovi related memorabilia (I won’t say the RRHoF missed the mark on that one, exactly). Leaving aside the discussion of whether a museum could ever be considered “rock and roll”, I will say that I thought the Rolling Stones pinball machine contained therein was particularly badass.

All this sightseeing was possible because of my bumping down from the marathon to the 10K. This became fairly evident to me as we strolled downtown Cleveland in the afternoon as the last of the marathoners were straggling in, and I happened to note that everyone wearing a blue bib looked like they were in dire need of a rollator.





Perhaps this impression had a lot to do with sour grapes, given that I opted not to run the marathon myself. I don’t know, but those people looked like they were in some serious pain.

The weekend included a pretty large race expo and the kids had lots of fun roaming around picking up little freebies, as kids do. Pretty soon we had a bag full of odds and ends, and I picked up my shirt which was pretty nice (the 10K shirts were less so, but obviously I had already paid for the one that went with the marathon). Seeing the marathoners all stoked and raring to go was awakening the little voice in my head telling me I should go for it, and to hell with the injury. What’s more, I chatted for awhile with a couple of firefighters from Parma Heights who were planning to run the full 26.2 miles – in 40 pounds of gear, raising money for ALS.

Suddenly, I felt a little like I was wussing out.

However, common sense did prevail, and as for race day, I started with a quick warm-up on the bike at 5:30AM in the gym at the Marriott (which as you might expect was completely deserted at that hour) and went outside to join a stream of runners who were making their way toward the start area. Light was just starting to touch the sky in the east, and the day was dawning not particularly hot but very, very humid, with some ominous slate colored clouds roiling above. Passing a giant billboard of King James (as if we needed a reminder of who actually runs this town), we arrived in front of the Quicken Loans Arena where a large crowd was gathering. The organizers made a big show of proclaiming that they had 20,000 runners participating in the event, but it’s worth noting that this includes a fairly large division of walkers, and the 5K and kids race the day before, so the number of runners in the 10K, half, and marathon was rather closer to 10,000. Still, it was by far the biggest event I had ever participated in, and felt like it once we got into the starting corrals. The marathon organizers, doing credit to the great city of Cleveland and its storied place in the history of rock and roll, got us all pumped up with a rousing array of tunes, starting with, uh, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk“.

Yeah. That happened.

This image isn't from the 2015 race, but you get the idea.

This image isn’t from the 2015 race, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the skies opened up a few minutes before the start of the race, drenching everyone. Whether Trace Adkins had anything to do with this remained to be seen. I was at the lead edge of the B corral, and in front of me a couple of young guys were nervously discussing running their first marathon. Turned out they were 19 and 17. God. I hate it when my competition could be my kids. I should have been in the A corral, because after the gun I got pretty much totally boxed in by slower runners for the first 3/4 mile or so. I guess I should have figured out that would happen given the size of the race, but chalked it up to lessons learned.

All hail the king.

All hail the king.

Once things thinned out as we came around the back side of the Q and Progressive Field, I managed to kick things into a higher gear. I felt good and the groin seemed strong. We surged over the Cuyahoga at the Hope Memorial Bridge and at this point the 10K runners split off from the rest and headed past the West Side Market into Ohio City. The long straightaway down Franklin Blvd was generally quiet, but a few Clevelanders were out to cheer the runners on. Eventually we made our way up onto the Memorial Shoreway and started heading back into downtown. The legs were getting a little heavy by this time and it was obvious that my conditioning had suffered quite a lot with the month off. As we passed the 5 mile mark another runner asked if I had the time, which I didn’t.

“Oh, well, we know it won’t be more than another 10 minutes,” she said sunnily.

I was able to dig down and find a last reserve of strength as we came down off the Shoreway and the finish line was in sight. A young blond guy, maybe mid 20’s, came up beside me and started barking like a Marine drill sergeant down the stretch, exhorting me to sprint to the finish. I could see the clock just turning over to 47 minutes as we hit the line and I was pretty pleased considering my goal was to go sub 48 minutes with all the time off.

Given that it was still before 8AM, I didn’t expect Lori and the kids to be there, but they were, and Lori snapped a rather happy looking photo of me with my medal (which had a cool spinning guitar in it). Race run, off we went to find me some carbs.


My results looked a bit more impressive than they maybe were; the almost 2500 runners in the 10K included the walkers, who were also timed. All in all it was a pretty nice return to form, I didn’t get hurt, and the dream of the marathon is still there. Better start pricing rollators.