Monday, October 20, 2008

Maritime bliss - friends, food, running and fun

Pre-race Report

As many of you know, the main reason I came to PEI was to work with my Ph.D. supervisor, who relocated to the island this past summer. About a week prior to my departure I sent him 150 pages of draft chapters of my thesis for us to discuss during the trip. His feedback has been very valuable and has moved me forward a great deal with my study.

He and his wife hosted me during my stay, which was delightful. They are generous and kind hosts. I have eaten more fish, scallops, crab and lobster since I arrived than I have in the past decade, I daresay, and I've savoured every bite of it!

The fact that I got to run a race while I have been here is just a bonus. And since this is mostly a running blog, I'll keep most of the post about that. I could rave on about the seafood, but for folks back in Cow Town, that would just be cruel and unusual punishment, as good seafood is hard to come by at reasonable prices in most corners of Calgary, I find.

The day before the race, my supervisor's wife took me out in the family car for a survey of the race route. Apart from the foot trails, we drove the entire course and that got me pumped. I find it adds a lot to my race experience when I know what to expect along the course. It adds a degree of psychological comfort that makes the run much better, I find.

I wondered how all those scallops that topped my pasta bowl the night before the race would sit in my tummy, but that did not stop me from devouring them. Oh, right. I promised not to go on about the seafood.

Moving along...

Race morning brought a delightful surprise.

As I was heading into the race headquarters to drop my bag I heard someone call my name. I turned around to look and a woman about my age screamed something to the effect of "Oh my, God! It's you!!"

I looked at her. Blankly. I don't know anyone on PEI and anyone I know through contacts isn't around my age.

She said, "It's Rosanne, from Halifax!"

Rosanne, from Halifax, was one of my closest friends from childhood. After graduating from high school, we went to different universities and all but lost contact, except for Christmas cards and Facebook.

Of course by then, it had all clicked. We quickly established that she and her husband had decided at the last minute to come from Halifax for the weekend and visit his parents, who live in Charlottetown. She had remembered that she'd seen a status line on Facebook saying I was going to run the race and decided on a whim to come and look for me.

I was flabbergasted. We hadn't seen each other in 20 years and she decided to get up early on a Sunday morning and, as she put it "try and look for my needle in a haystack". If you've ever tried to find someone at a major race, you know it is possible, but not always easy. Try adding 20 years of not seeing one another, and one of you having no idea that the other was looking for you, and the chances diminish a bit.

She said she recognized me from behind, as I was about to enter the building where the headquarters were. I laughed. Now there's proof, after 20 years, that running keeps more than your spirits from drooping.

We both found ourselves in tears at our unexpected reunion and I quickly got her phone number so I could call her after the race and we could catch up properly. With just a few minutes to spare, I hit the bathroom and then made my way to the start line, full of the usual pre-race emotions, and also with elation and surprise about seeing Rosanne.

Race Report - PEI Half Marathon - October 19, 2008

As for the race, I clocked my fastest time this year, but not my fastest time ever. Having said that, I can't complain.

First off, let me say that this is a beautiful race course. With ocean views, trails, bits that weave through gorgeous residential areas and give the runner a chance to see downtown Charlottetown, this definitely ranks among my favorite races ever. The organization was outstanding and helpful volunteers who readily share their Maritime hospitality and generosity abound from the moment you get to race headquarters, at regular and short intervals along the course and again at the finish line. To add to that, the weather was perfect. Really, the conditions were ideal and I'd recommend this race wholeheartedly.

They say that you never know what to expect during a race and you hope that you face most of the potential "blips" in training so you figure out how to deal with them. I had a surprise yesterday that's never happened before.

I got the most spectacular calf cramp that came on slowly and built steadily until it peaked when, like a lightening rod, it shot down my leg and through my foot, causing my toes to spasm shut. That part was instant - and immobilizing. I actually cried out in pain and had to stop. I tried to relax it and get the toes to unravel, but they wouldn't. It was like a car engine seized up at -40 degrees in the winter. Nothing moved.

I had to *sit down* on the side of the road, take off my shoe and manually uncurl my toes - while gasping and grunting and yet, sounding light and happy to other runners who asked if I was OK. I yelled back, "Yeah, it's OK. Just a cramp." Just. Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, the toes spontaneously and involuntarily slammed shut again a few times before I could get them to stay flat long enough to get my shoe back on. Once it was back on, I thought, "Keep moving, or everything is going to cramp up." So, away I went - much slower than before. I thought I was well hydrated and followed the usual diet as closely as possible, not being at home, so who knows what happened. Whatever it was, I am quite sure it had nothing to do with the scallops the night before. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Apart from that, it was a good race and I enjoyed it.

Rosanne was waiting for me at the finish line with a big smile and a hug. I quickly retrieved my bag from the drop and wrapped in the silver emergency blanket that volunteers draped around each runner after the timing chips were retrieved and medals were bestowed, Rosanne and I set off to break bread and catch up on the last two decades. We shared stories over lunch, as time melted away. Finally, it was time to go and, still nursing a cramp, I headed back to my host's home for a shower and to get ready for a dinner of lobster and crab.

There I go with the seafood again... What can I say? I'd take this trip over a holiday to a tropical resort any day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I've been tagged by She Who Makes Waves. I need to come up with six random thing about myself and tag a few others. Here goes:
  1. My favorite candy is Smarties. When I was a kid one of my siblings told me they'd make me smart, so I ate them any chance I could get. Guess it worked. I'm doing a PhD. And I still like Smarties.
  2. I once saw Elton John perform at an outdoor concert in Madrid. That is the only time I have attended a concert held at a bull-fighting ring.
  3. I'm 5'1". There are ladders or step stools on every floor of my house. I use at least one every day for something or other.
  4. When I was 21 I was hit by a car while walking through a cross walk. It didn't break any bones, but the doctors said if I'd been taller, the impact would have shattered my femur. Yaay for being short.
  5. I lost all sensation on the outside of my right hip after that accident. You could have drilled a hole in my leg and I wouldn't have noticed. 15 years after it happened, I started seeing a chiropractor. After two visits, the nerves "woke up" and now function just fine. I had failed to tell him about the nerve damage since by then it was "normal" for me and it never occurred to me to mention it.
  6. I have a full birth brother, 5 years younger than me, who was given up for adoption at birth. We were reunited with him nine years ago and have become good friends since.
I'm tagging:
Local runner, Karen
Local runner, Dawn
My good friend from university and brand-new baby blogger, Claire
Another fellow Maritimer and runner, Robb
Runner and artist, Angie

Thursday, October 09, 2008

10 days to the PEI half!

On October 19 I'll run in the Prince Edward Island half marathon. I'm so pumped about this I hardly have words. I don't really know why... It's not my first half. I'm not expecting it to be my fastest. My trusty friend A. won't be there to hand me a razor blade at the end to lance my blood blister. I have no idea why I'm so excited. But I am.

Maybe it's the thought of being back in my beloved Maritimes for the first time in 14 years. Or the fact that I'm pretty darned sure the heat won't get to me. Or that I'm trundling off to the island with a draft of *4* chapters of my thesis with me. (No guarantee on the quality. It is most likely all rubbish and I'll be told so by my supervisor.)

Training has been going well. I am really enjoying the Tuesday night speed work with the Calgary Road Runners. This week Karen was there and we paced and motivated each other well. I had a blast. This week we did a pyramid in minutes - 2-4-6-8-4-2, with rest in between. On three of them we were clocked in under a 9:00-minute mile. Wowee!

The leaves have mostly all fallen off the trees here and I have been wearing gloves this week. Fall is definitely here. Love this time of year.