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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Guaranteed Better Running....

Any gals out there need to get faster?
Susan….Beth….Penelope….Constance….Hanna…..Evelyn (all real names are changed to protect the innocent)….but pictures….why not!

one of Georgetown’s all-time fastest ladies….
New form of running coaching….date Peter.!!   lol   Guarantee to run faster or your money back.  And there are good running lessons to be learned from this list, so keep reading and take something home with you.

Wait, if I start charging as a coach, they’ll call me the running pimp…Pimp my Run.  MyNext Fast  
 Seriously, I started looking back on my relationship history, a work in progress, some might call it a work of art, others (see list above) might call it a demolition zone.   Since I started running, like many runners, the Law of Attraction suggests you attract those who also enjoy similar pursuits.   Or, the more you think about something, the more likely it will happen.  I recently turned 46 and as I watch the Tour de France these days, the pile ups of bikes on all these crashes started me thinking….imagine if all my exes formed a running team, they would be a Tour de Force to be reckoned with!
Starting with Susan….way back when, my first few years of racing, now she could fly.  When we met she was a 3:02 marathoner, and although her pb when we broke up 3 years later was 3:01, that’s still an improvement!    It was tough on her though when I ran a 2:49 marathon (Columbus) in the first month we started dating, she was super-competitive and hated to be 2nd fiddle.   She co-owned a running store and was the fastest chickie in the group, but she did get much faster at the 10km distance and compared to the rest of the bunch (keep reading below) she still remains among the fastest in the group.  And we were engaged for 18 months, so on this measurement, she could be tough to beat….

Beth was next, and although it was just a summer romance, Beth qualifies as gf material.  She was not really into racing at the time, just alot of fitness like commuter cycling, and we met just as I started my business, in fact I think I got her a free entry into her first race.   She was fast out of the gate, but like alot of newbies her full potential took longer than expected to come to fruition.  Patience is a virtue as they say.  Like myself, it took Beth 5-6 years to start hitting her stride, in fact my 10km (33:20) and half-marathon (1:16) pb’s occurred in my 9th year of running, so there is a lesson here.  Now, 10 years later, she is winning races, prize money, trophies and has sponsors!   Where is my cut by the way???
“Beth”, still getting faster, the mold has been broken…

Penelope was next, and she improved the most, by far.  She had just ran her first competitive 10km when I got to know her, and 24 months later she was in an Ironman!  She was willing to try anything, Adventure Races, a Cyclo Cross (she swore all day at me during this race)….but that open-mindedness probably helped to overcome the challenge of an Ironman, which I think she has now finished three or four.   She also got the racing travel bug which I think makes you a better racer, it’s always easier waking up in your own bed and setting a PB.  And she scalped me recently in a 10km!  Like the energizer bunny….Penelope….she keeps going, and going.   She was a cutie pie too.

Iceland Marathon with Team Diabetes, great memories!

Constance….how could we forget Constance.  Maybe the most stubborn runner among the group, who REALLY wanted to get to Boston, so much so that she came agonizingly close soon after we broke up (there is a lesson here for sure).  She was very busy and stressed at work, and did not sleep enough, and drank way too little water throughout the day and especially in training.  If I told her once, I told her a thousand times, drink more water.  Well, Constance ran that marathon, in a desert no less, and woke up in a hospital bed still in her running clothes!   Yikes….she has no memory from 40km onwards (the best kind of memory loss for a marathoner I say), and is very lucky to be alive.  Many medical tests and $$$$ wasted down the drain (I am a taxpayer afterall), the medical community pondered and tested.   In the end, was it a weak heart, a hidden, faulty valve or aorta?  No, dehydration was the culprit!  Calling Dr Donato, calling Dr Donato…  (ed note, Constance did finally qualify for Boston, but couldn’t get thru the registration mess to sign up on time, does she ask me to help since I know the race director?).  Calling Dr Donato, Calling Dr Donato….

The more kisses, the better the running!

Next?!   Hannah my dear, now there was a tough student.  Multi talented, excellent cross training, “good” at a whole bunch of sports but not willing to cross that line (pain)….the lessons learned here, too much partying I believe.  Yes, indeed, if you want to improve, at some point you have to give up “something” to gain “something”.  Possibly the toughest lesson in sport.  Run faster?   Lose a few pounds, go to bed early, read those books.  It all adds up, Hannah was eager to learn, raced a fair bit, but yes, there will be pain and discomfort peoples, the question is, how bad do you want it?  I once ran so hard in a 5-mile race my heart rate monitor hit maximum!  My heart would have jumped out if not for the band around my chest (thanks, Polar, that might have been too much for the EMS at the finish line).    The lesson here?  It’s never too late though to get that PB, just try, try again is all I say. Cut out the Pinot Noir maybe.

Race often, yes, that might work….did I say I get tonnes of free entries?

Evelyn…your turn!   Now here we have, for the first time, someone who started fast already, so this should be an easy experiment, no?   We met at the Boston Marathon, so that says something, and over the course of a few short months there were 5 races to test her mettle at (she beat me every time too).  Already fast, I started thinking, what effect could Donato Dating have on this woman?  Have I hit the dating wall?   BUT, that’s not the story folks.  The lesson here is, you never know what sport is truly yours to excel at.  Now Evelyn was a great runner, of course, I mean, hello, she had four Boston Marathons under her belt in her first 5 years of serious running.  She did speedwork….yoga….biked.   Well there it is….the Bike.  I spent 15 years running myself before I realized, heck, I think I was a better cyclist!  I wish….I only wish I turned on that Tour de France channel sooner….but Evelyn, if she’s reading, now she could be in Rio in 2016, mark my words.    Don’t put all your dirty socks in the same basket peoples, too much running and you might miss something else.  

Is that all?   Save the best for last as they say…..or do we open up a new account?
One of these people is really fast, and it’s not the dog we’re talking about.
Onwards and upwards, yours in running.


Monday, April 9, 2012

45 and 45, sugar cubes anyone?

Hyde Park, London, October 2012

Seriously folks…I went back in time twice on my travels and adventures to complete 45 races in my 45 years.

I will try to describe in full detail the uniqe races I experienced recently in Europe, race #’s 21 and 22, while on holiday in England and France.  The trip was planned well before I decided to pursue all these races, but as soon as the airline tickets were purchased, it was click, click, click and surf into the night to find some possible races that might fall in the brief 12 days I was abroad.   David had an easy time getting his two races while in the UK for three weeks, so why not me, it’s a bit of a competive game afterall.

“Oh honey…..what’s the address again of your Uncle’s place in Chelsea?”  (at the time of my trip the girlfriend I was dating had a cousins wedding to attend, just outside London in the country).   I can’t easily describe here the look on her face, but just visualize if you can.

As luck would have it, my first run in London was pretty easy, and the price was right.    $4lbs and the start line 2km away.   Calling this “race”  old school wasn’t difficult.  Held at noon every last Friday of the month, it’s organized by the Serpentine Runners Club, no online registration for these time trials.   In fact, you emailed your info. on a simple 1-page registration sheet, and paid on-site.  I think it was actually 8lbs since I was not a club member, but I look English, they said nothing.   The entry included a race bib.  That’s it.  Hand-timed, well marshaled, no post race food, medals or music.   There may have been water, I can’t quite recall, we did enjoy the hottest weather in 86 years so it felt like July as we went twice around the course.   Hyde Park is very cool, massive and full of dogs, sunbathers, statues older than Canada….

My finish time doesn’t matter really (22:30),  I drank and ate so much in the first three days of arriving, went hard at the get-go but after 3km remembered I was on holiday, this needn’t hurt I kept telling myself.   Did I mention it was HOT, gawd,  everyone was talking about it, even the yankee from Boston who used the same surfing skills I used to find this small, off the wall race.  I didn’t hang around much afterwards, the sightseeing agenda included some museums and more pubs.  Tally Ho as they say…..

Bar le Duc, France

After a pleasant family wedding, and a quick brunch visit with my 2nd cousin, Marco, also a runner, we whisked across the Channel (underneath actually) on the EuroStar, 186 miles per hour, full speed ahead for Paris.    Quick transfer, more trains, and a late nite arrival in a small, quaint town to visit a first cousin who has lived here for 20 years.   Bar le Duc is close to a much more well known city, Reins, heart of the champagne region and home to a rather large, well-known marathon that is on the radar in Europe.  I continue my searches here as I had yet to nail down a race in France.

The one race I did find earlier in Canada was the Paris 20km, the day before we leave back for Canada, but it was already SOLD OUT at 20,000 runners.  I did make contact with the Race Organizers and it seemed like I would be able to obtain a race bib, but truthfully I was way more interested in the cycling and wine drinking we were planning in the Alsace Region, so the next 5 days was filled aplenty with just that, food, drink and wine.    Plan B could be this one, but did I really want to end my trip with a 20km run??

Welcome to Europe! Smoking....running 20km, no problem!

Fast-forward many miles, drinks, meals and more trains, Sarah and I arrive late Saturday in Paris, a beauty, boutique hotel around the corner from the Eiffel Tower.  I have now been so far removed from the office I can’t bother to find the emails I had with the race organizers.  I have no idea either where the race starts, we’re beat and I need to also focus on the task at hand….Paris, girlfriend, romance…..etc.    lol    Maybe in the morning if the weather is good, I can use the internet in the lobby and see where this race is.  The next morning does arrive and it’s wet and yucky looking, as I stare out the window.   Is that a gathering of runners below on the sidewalk?    It actually is, and I wonder if the race in question is actually close by?    Sarah is still in bed so I wander outside to investigate further.  Walking around the corner towards the Eiffel Tower, I see finish lines, trucks, hordes of runners. Wow, imagine that, we are in the closest possible hotel to the finish line!  Further investigation leads me to some sort of post-race collection of tents, so I use 15+ years of experience to try and find my race number.

I am soon told that the media tent is quite far away, near the start line across the river, and in-between me and there are twenty thousand runners arriving, and I still need to go back to the room and get permission to run!  This was just a scouting trip I remind myself, but with so many charity tents I must be able to get a number here.   Back to the room (750 metres away) and I have to stretch, change, plead my case….if not for the 45 and 45 I think I would be SOL.  Sarah can enjoy some solo time browsing book shops and more, she buys my argument….so I head back out determined to get my number.  After a few tries, I find my opportunity and convince a french guy who has pretty good english that with minutes to go before the race, any unused bibs can be switched over to me, we haven’t even gotten around to price but he likes my North American idea.   But now he asks for my medical clearance letter!

Now at least the french know how to celebrate! This was THREE cases of Champagne waiting at the finish.

I completely forgot this bizarre rule that is still in place for many Italian races and now I guess French ones too.  You have to produce a written letter of permission (medical clearance) from a physician.  No exceptions, some crazy Insurance requirement, but before I can think smartly (who says Dr. Peter Donato isn’t my cousin from Canada?) I have run out of time, I could have easily gone back to the room and quickly made up something (I hope no one reading this is a Medical Dr.).   Crap.  And it’s now raining.  But I tell myself I have come this far, so I join the massive line at the back of the start area, and slowly we make our way to the start after the gun goes off, 10 minutes for sure.   Bandits are common here too!   It’s a pretty similar mad pack start as any other large race in North America, and typical of a big city most locals aren’t too concerned with the yelling, shouting and pounding afoot.  I do notice that it’s not too organized, no barricades and few police visible, it’s like the runners just take over.  My race?  Typical of late, good start, body breaks down, last half is brutal, stretching was not on the agenda all vacation, but sitting on a bike, train, bar stool was. Can you say tight hips?

What was very different was the water stations.  The first one had large, 2L bottles from a sponsor, yeah, 2 liters!   Very few volunteers and no where near enough tables, so people were grabbing new bottles, taking a swig and then passing to the runner in behind.  Later on, it was the same BUT with plain white sugar cubes and orange dried fruit chunks!   How funny was that!  Self serve too, I felt like a horse….and then in several places the hordes of runners literally came to a halt, as we entered narrow roads along the Siene, back in front of the Eiffel Tower, down to the Louvre, across the water and back again.  Pretty tough to complain when you run through history here….
Great city to run and stare.....

The finish was crazy, jam packed, the lineup and post finish cram fest meant people started backing up across the actual finish line, so a mos big failing grade if you were rating this for technical merit.  But mostly people didn’t care, a nice medal was given out and a decent post-food baggie, then you were on your own to check out some vendors, etc.  I enjoyed shuffling my achy body back to the room, another unique race experience in the books!   Marveloux!

45 and 45 to date (as of April 2012)

1.Huntington Disease Run 10km (with Jefferson) – June 26th
2.Peachbud 5km – June 28th
2.5 Peachbud 1-mile Kids run (as Jefferson mascot)
3. Canada Day 5-miler
4. Pride Run 5km
5. Warrior Dash

6. Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon Run
7. Downtown Dash 5km
8. Durham 1/4 Marathon
9. Muskoka Rocks 5km (age group winner)
10. Wilson Wet and Wild Sprint Tri (New York state, water was 60 degrees, no wetsuit)

11. Coburg Duathlon
12. Acura 5km
13. Sunset Shuffle 6km

14. Mid Summer Night Run 15km
15. VR Pro 10km – Children of Merinden Mtn @ Erindale Park (with Jefferson)
16.Slainte Pub 5km
17. Element Racing Off Road Triathlon. (1000 M – 18km – 8km)
18. Logs, Rocks and Steel Off-Road Triathlon / Adventure Race

19. Centurion Cycling Canada – 100 miles (Century)
20. Zoo Run 5km
21. Hyde Park 5km (London, England)
22. Paris 20km (Paris France baby, yeah)!
23. Scotia Bank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon (pacing the Mascot Jefferson to another Guinness Record)!
24. Trek or Treat Nite Trail Run 10km (with Jefferson the dog tagging along)
25. Peel Region 5km (7th overall, small race obviously, 20:18)!  (Saturday morning the 29th)
26. Variety Village 5km, as Jefferson Mascot, with Jefferson tagging along (Sunday morning, the 30th, 9:20 am)
27. Mad Dog Scramble 10km Trail Run, with water crossings!   With Jefferson tagging along, 11:25 am the 30th)!!
28. New York City Dash to the Finish Line inaugural 5km, Nov 5th.
29. Hannukah Hustle 5km
30. Santa Shuffle 5km, with Jefferson, as Jefferson!
31. Jingle Bell Run 5km, with Jefferson.  Dec 14th.

32. New Year’s Eve Midnite Run 5km – Created, organized and Race Director, so I am counting this!  Plus we ran the route before the race as a group and gave ourselves medals.

33. Miami Tropical 5km – Jan 28th, 2012  (35 degrees and humid)
34. Chilly 5km – Burlington, March 5th, with Jefferson (minus 35 degrees)!
35. St Patrick’s Day 5km – Toronto (actually, 5.4 km’s)
36. Run the Lake 5km, with Jefferson (Pickering)
37. Good Friday Road Races 5km, Burlington, with Jefferson (April 6th)
38. Harry’s Spring Run Off 5km, High Park, Toronto (April 7th)

Yeah, I know….I have become a 5km slug!

Monday, February 20, 2012

My First Win

My First Win

I was driving this winter, again, from Toronto to Florida on my usual January getaway to see family and continue making business inroads with my sports marketing company.   It’s necessary to drive when you have bikes, roller blades, tennis racquets, the dog Jefferson…loads of stuff.  Always too much stuff, the border guards surely think I am never coming back.  Like six pairs of shorts when only one get worn everyday, and then I arrive at my sister’s house near Orlando and find many items of clothing left behind from the last visit.
Driving the same route each year, I whiz through Virginia and North Carolina to get as far south as possible on the first day, and as soon as you pass thru Charlotte on Interstate 77 you’re immediately in South Carolina, and the first exit is Fort Mill.  It’s 2:00 am and I can practically smell the distinctive, warm Florida swamp air that greets travellers when you connect to I-95 just before Georgia.  In my case the windows are down to clear out the foul smell from yet another dog fart!

I start to think back many years ago, 1999, when I entered and actually won my first 10km race here of all places, Fort Mill…ah…the memories….suddenly, the cold, crisp air blasting in the car not only wakes Jefferson up but the dreaded sights of red and blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror bring my mind back onto the highway.  Rats.  Speeding ticket for sure, now the second time I am fastest around in Fort Mill….but I have to go back 13 years to where this story started.

October 1999, Toronto, another season of early morning races, evening training sessions, too many bagels and bananas.  My coach and I have been working to get me that elusive Personal Best or PB road race result, something I finally gave up years ago after turning 40.  (The 2nd running boom had not yet started, 75% or more of the runners are still male, there is no online registration and the internet is still a luxury to the few techies and nerds paying attention.  Google was just invented!)   The race in question is the Compugen 10km, renamed and relocated now to the Toronto Zoo, Toronto’s last, fast 10km.  It was  to be my season ending run, a new PB in the sub 34:00 range as per my goals.  It was a race of firsts on several levels.
My mother and sister came to watch, I was addicted to running, became very skinny and so they probably felt sorry for me.  Maybe they thought I was going to win?  Turns out it was the first and only run my mother ever attended, and I can’t blame her.

It was cold and brutal, and I was in no mood to talk much after the race ended when I unceremoniously bonked halfway and stumbled across the finish line well slower than planned.  “Peter….congratulations” was probably what she said to her only son who has tried soccer, tennis, golf and now running to fuel that competitive inner demon.   I was so serious I don’t even recall much of a conversation with them as I huffed and puffed to gain back my lost breath.  Plus I certainly went out for a post-run cool down, leaving them alone again to ask why are runners so weird anyway?

In fact, since I was a new runner and willing to try ANYTHING to set a PB.   I believe this race involved yet another nutrition experiment, this time with caffeine.  I was not a coffee drinker at the time, but I literally read dozens of running and training books and tried EVERYTHING to gain that edge.  Like the newbies today in our sport who wear these compression socks up to the knee, or take the vitamin-of-the-month for maximum nutrition effect, I was open minded to say the least.  I recently read about caffeine and sports performance benefits, so before this race I bought two, large, Kenyan Blend coffee in the morning before the race.   Seriously, why not?  I drank them miserably in the car on the trek south on the 404 from Markham, plugging my nose certainly, thinking how can anyone stand this crap?  

It’s the year 2012 now and I am on my 3rd coffee as I write this article….

Could those two coffees caused my upset stomach?

That evening, bummed out that my season ending race was a disaster, I called my eldest sister in North Carolina.   Susanne was married and  lived in Concorde, North Carolina, perfectly situated near the Basketball Triangle of Duke, NC State and UNC, where I became an NCAA basketball fan.  I also figured it was my last chance at a fair weather race since Toronto at the time had nothing to offer.   “Susanne, can you search for a race in 6 weeks time, a 10km, somewhere within an hr’s drive of you….’

Next phone call, Aeroplan, to cash in some points, so desperate was I that I took the option of flying on points from Toronto – Dallas – Charlotte, NC, and the same on the return…not exactly direct but a free trip!  My sister gets back to me, a 10km race in a place I never heard of, but she says only 20-30 minutes from her place.  Perfect, I book this without planning and then told my coach my Plan B to end the year right.

Coach:   South Carolina, for a PB?’s hilly down there….famous last words…

Over hill and dale....
Excited about the season continuing, I keep training like a madman, while most of my running friends finish their marathons and half marathons that month and put their feet up, down time after a long season of training and racing.  Not me. Speed Work indoors at York University, long runs through Sunny Brooke Park, hill training in Hoggs Hollow.  No junk food, hold off on that second beer on Saturday evenings, no couch surfing each evening while munching on salty snacks.  It’s a military-style existence when you are hell-bent on watching those extra pounds that can mean the difference between  a 33:50 or 34:05 time.   I did however enjoy beautiful, crisp fall weather in my single-minded, focused pursuit of Plan B, Mission USA….here I come.
My trip weekend arrives and I actually took advantage of the circuitous route to the Carolina’s.  In Dallas on the way down, I have a six hour layover between flights, so I head to downtown to grab dinner and then wandered over to the intersection of Houston and Elm.  In case you forgot, it’s the famous intersection where John F. Kennedy took his last turn in the motorcade as U.S. President.  I was a political science junkie through school and became a huge admirer of this Presidency, so it was eerie and serene as I walked from the restaurant to the bottom of the 6th Floor Depository.  I had goosebumps on top of goosebumps, and will never forget that quiet moment to myself as I read the plaque on the building and stared down at the grassy knoll, untouched and unaltered after all these years.

The return swing through Dallas four days later was a little more upbeat, my first Dallas Cowboys Football game!   Monday nite even, what a blast.

Back to the race though!

Fast-forward….race morning, it’s FREEZING.  In fact, colder than the race day six weeks earlier back in Toronto, when I could blame coffee, my mother and cool temperatures on poor racing performance!  Bad news but what can you do, it’s the one thing as a runner you can never control, everything else for me was perfect.  My monthly build up, race taper, energy levels, mood, no winter fat has found it’s way around my mid-section.   My sister shouts words of encouragement as I head out the door to find this place called Fort Mill, “bring back a trophy Uncle Peter!”   She seriously said this, did she realize I was barely top 50 in my last race?

As I drive south I can see frost on the ground, can you believe my luck, a rare cold snap blows through town, the entire Eastern seaboard has been blanketed by this freak, ill-timed weather especially if you’re a runner hoping for a 7-8 degree morning. Lucky for me I am CANADIAN and brought a toque and gloves just in case.  More good luck greets me at the race site, many of the fast runners could be signed up for the half-marathon which started simultaneously with the 10km, a tune-up for the Raleigh Marathon in four weeks time.   My game face is on, you would think it was the Olympic Trials, but no one here travelled so far like I did, and I don’t think anyone could have been so serious in their training the past 30 days.   It’s actually fun travelling far away to a race, even just a short distance like this one for a marathoner like me trying to get a little faster before taking on the 26.2 mile distance once more.  I had failed several times breaking 2:50 in the marathon so Coach Peter Pimm, a former National Team coach with impressive credentials, suggested I lower my short distance race times for a few years.

I start getting ready, arriving an hour early allows for much planning and preparation, sometimes too much!  My wind wanders….should I switch to the half-marathon instead?   Is that guy over there the favourite?    Must be the pre-race nerves, silly me, stick to the Plan, Peter.    I can’t believe I travelled so far for this 10km, it’s the middle of nowhere actually, Fort Mill might as well be Fort York 75 years ago…. it’s like taking a few steps back in time….

Is everyone staring at me?   Are they wondering if I am the favourite?  I actually like being anonymous sometimes, running under the radar as they say.  I am the only Canadian here for sure, but this is no tourist visit people, I am here on BUSINESS!   So I focus on my pre-race, 45 minute warm up.  15 minute light jog, stretches, strides, all the while enjoying the stares from a few fellow skinny runners.   “Who is that guy?” they must be wondering…”and why are his legs so white?”

Everyone is called to the start line, it’s only 250-300 altogether as I suspect this cold weather kept many home snuggled under their warm sheets.  Looking to my left and right, I see that I am the only runner wearing a toque and gloves, advantage to me.  I have no idea what the race route is but we’re told to follow the Police Cruiser up ahead.  The sun is shining but it’s close to zero degrees for sure, we can all see our breath as collectively we create a shroud of white mist in front of the standing pack.  BLAM goes the gun, I take off excitedly in that first mile, and quickly realize a few things.  Firstly, it’s straight uphill, mile #1, a foreboding of things to come.   I can hear my coach laughing 1500 km’s away in Canada.

Secondly, within 2-3 minutes my pace puts me at the front, and I mean, the FRONT!   It’s just a Police Cruiser ahead of me, with flashing lights, and I keep looking back certain we have gone off course.  The pack behind me seems to be settling into a comfortable pace and no one is chasing me.  I keep looking back, like something is wrong, unfamiliar territory….sweet...I am in First Place!

We keep heading uphill, near the end of Mile One we turn left and I guess the half-marathon distance runners go straight, now it’s just me and the Police Cruiser and I am still leading!  First time ever, so of course my heart race is BEATING through my chest, the cold weather is no longer a concern as the heat of battle drives up my internal temperature.  I seem to be sweating profusely despite the near freezing temperature, so I think I toss the hat and gloves as a result.  I still can’t recall too many memories and details of this race, it’s been so many years, too many miles and too many races in between to count.   But I will never forget the fear mixed with excitement of being the pursued rather than the pursuer, and wonder how can these Elite Athletes take this pressure all the time?

We are probably half way when I realize, after yet another rolling hill, that my elusive season-ending PB will remain elusive.  Oh well….there’s always another race further south like Florida a few months from now!   But who cares I might just WIN this thing, imagine that.   We’re in the countryside of a typical, rural, Southern USA small town, mostly farms or low lying, single level homes with a Pick Up Truck or two in the driveway.  And something else common to these parts besides rifles, chewing tobacco and badly needed paint jobs on the houses.  Dogs.   The good feeling of being first quickly fades as I hear two sounds I will never forget.  Firstly, heavy breathing down my neck. My pursuers have caught me, one or two I think but they are now steps behind me and probably licking their chops as my frenetic early, rookie fast pace has caught up with me.  Secondly….BARKING at every corner as these lonely canines have little throughout their day to get much excited about.  More barking, louder, and we realize that some of these dogs are free to roam and leave their long driveways!  Literally my heart has leapt from my chest, not one but TWO pursuers on my heels…..and four legs!  Try running full-out and there’s Fido nipping at your heels.

Heel boy, heel....

Thankfully I had less fat on my legs or the dog ran out of rope….but that actually helped my pace so now heavy breather #1 is no longer within earshot, and I think I can pull this off.   Maybe he had to stop to ward off the dog?

The last mile was all a blur, I do, in fact hang on for the win, my first of just four official first place finishes as a runner.  My first and LAST time at a race in Fort Mill, S.C. and when I get called up to accept first place I think I was the first Canuck to ever attend the Springbank Road Races.   My prize was a cool, engraved Crystal Bowl, a perfect souvenir that can be used as a Salad or Fruit Bowl I imagine.   When I get back to my sisters’ it was proudly displayed on her mantle, and funnily enough her early morning prophecy was correct. 

So that’s the end of the story?   Well, no, I decide to bring the Bowl back to Canada, rather than have her keep it till she drives herself for a visit home, as soon as Christmas which is three weeks away!   Heck, it’s my first ever win, I need to show this off as quickly as possible.  So we pack it up safely in a small box, and use all sorts of cushioning, padded items to protect the glass.

Remember now, I have an in-direct flight home, but this little box survives Charlotte to Dallas, an overnight, all-niter after the Cowboys football game, another flight to Toronto, and since I ran out of money an airport transfer on some bus to York Mills Subway station, then a TTC bus just a few more miles to my street in leafy, mid-town Yonge and Eglinton.   I am juggling a suitcase or two, probably something to eat and drink, and the box.  I step off the bus, my house is 500 yards away….guess what drops onto the ground?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

45 in 45 Race Update - Unlucky 13th

Here’s the latest update, 17 races down….28 to go!   My body is aching, Advil needed….
 Everywhere we go, Jimmy seems to be there!

Here is the updated list, from June 26th till August 28th

1.Huntington Disease Run 10km (with Jefferson)
2.Peachbud 5km
2.5 Peachbud 1-mile Kids run (as Jefferson mascot)
3.Angus Glen Canada Day 5-miler
4.Pride Run 5km
5.Warrior Dash
6.Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon Run
7.Downtown Dash 5km
8.Durham 1/4 Marathon
9.Muskoka Rocks 5km
10. Wilson Wet and Wild Sprint Tri
11. Coburg Duathlon
12. Acura 5km
13. Sunset Shuffle 6km
14. Mid Summer Night Run 15km
15. VR Pro 10km – Children of Merinden Mtn @ Erindale Park (with Jefferson)
16.Slainte Pub 5km
17. Element Racing Off Road Triathlon. (1000 M – 18km – 8km)

What’s becoming the MOST fun now is the planning, looking ahead and seeing if there are any new or unique races ahead.  Like most athletes we have our bucket lists, so why not get some of these checked off along the way?

David looks to be running the Bupa Great Run in Scotland, as he heads across the pond to visit family.   He and Haile Gebreselaisse apparently.  When he mentioned the trip, of course we both start searching online for races he can attend.  It’s like a game within a game, who can get the most exotic races completed…..
“Sold Out” he says, at 50,000 runners it’s the World’s Largest Half-Marathon.

Some races are this much fun!

“Don’t worry” says I, nothing is Sold Out in my world, check the Media section and fill out an online request for starters.  David appears doubtful but he quickly learns the power of our brand.  Within 24hrs he has two numbers, one for both of us.  I guess I need that clone again.   That same day, I will be on my bike doing 160 kilometres at Centurion Canada (metric Grand Fondo).   Ask me how long my longest ride has  been to date??  My butt is starting to sweat just thinking about it.

I will wait till I get to 30 races completed before I worry about the last one, which will include a rather large cake and copious amounts of alcohol to wash it down.

First things first, let me plan the next busy month before I go online and search myself,  when I am in England and France for a 12 day holiday end of September (don’t tell Sarah I want to find a race somewhere).   The month of September will include a tough Adventure Race that my buddy Steve and I did not finish last year (Logs, Rocks and Steel)…..

…..and my first Century Ride of the season (160 km’s), so alot of training days still ahead.  There may also be another 3-4 race weekend at some point, the most recent one (#’s 15-16-17) didn’t completely kill us.
Since my first Triathlon was such a disaster (race #10) I was hoping for a better result at the Coburg Triathlon last weekend.  I’ve done this Olympic Distance race before and although the swim (1500 m) can be rough and wavy, and the bike is super hilly (neither of these disciplines have been prepared for btw), what the heck it looks good on the resume.   My biggest concern was the long swim and what would the water temperature be like (see race #10)!    

My wetsuit is still broken (zipper) from last summer, many attempts and phone calls to fix it went un-resolved, so I check-in two days before the race and the water is a balmy 22 or 23 (celsius).  Break out the bubbles baby, it’s bath-like.

Race morning we arrive (staff person, dog) late as usual and some friends ask me as I arrive at Transition One do I have my wet suit with me?

….Oh Oh

Race Announcer Steve Fleck shouts another reminder, good news the race is delayed but bad news the water is TWELVE degrees and wet suits are mandatory, plus you might want to double up on swim caps!   Crap!  I gambled and lost, but REALLY don’t want to downgrade to the Duathlon, the Acura 10-miler scheduled tomorrow morning is lots of running.  I quickly cruise over to a retailer on-site (who will remain nameless) and figure I will buy one.

$245 and I could be the (stupid) owner of a new wetsuit, which I am thinking I may only wear once the rest of the year.  The announcer updates everyone that Fog is also still really bad and the Triathlon may actually get cancelled, so now I could really be stupid buying this wetsuit.  But I am also really stubborn, and pick one off the rack and dig into my pockets for the $$$$.

Crap again….I only brought a little cash and my Amex card.

“___________________”, do you take Amex?”

“No (in a very harsh and sarcastic tone that befits the individual who has already bankrupt 2 running stores in less than 10 years).

“No?” I repeat, “what about I give you the $60 cash I have and pay the rest on Monday”. (The guy knows me, we used to race against each other and it’s not like his pockets are over-flowing with money)…..

“Yeah right, what if I can sell all these wetsuits to other athletes here today”?  (Fat chance even though a small crowd of desperate looking triathletes have moved over to this booth and are trying on wetsuits as well).

“You won’t sell me a wet suit then?” I ask, again, shocked but not completely surprised (we have a history together and no we didn’t share running shoes).

Bah Humbug!

Long story short, I ended up doing my first Duathlon in years, a 10km run, super-hilly 40km bike followed by a 5km run.  Boring running mind you… least the chocolate milk afterwards went down smoothly.

Sunset Shuffle – 30th anniversary

Now this was fun….and unique….and my first time racing this odd distance and even odder race.  Odds are one of these words is not grammatically correct, how odd is that?

Beer always makes for a super post race!

I negotiated brilliantly on this one, traded some sunglasses for me and David  race entries, which were only $25.  It was like a Time Warp here with old runners (lots of miles under their legs),  hand timing, trophies given to 1st and 2nd, no finisher’s medal or tech shirt,  Vintage Hot Dogs that tasted amazing when downed with beer.

But that wasn’t the story folks, we took the canoe over!  David, Jefferson and myself, from Cherry Beach just a km or so paddle.  I have always wanted to do a race on the island and travel this way, so David went along despite the very high, choppy waters we faced.

David and Peter at Cherry Beach, navigating choppy waves over to the Island

Sean dropped off us and shot some video here, then Miki met us @ the race and took some more, for posterity!   4 beers and 4 hot dogs later, a new P.B. for both of us….darkness settles and the four of us head back to the mainland.   Our bikes were dropped off ahead by Sean, so technically this was a quadrathalon for David and I.  We figure a total of 20km for me adding the boat portion, run and bike home, maybe 30 for David.

If you have never canoed or kayaked across the Lake, at night, when the city lights shine brightly ahead of you, then you aren’t a Torontonian!   Of course, it’s risky and somewhat dangerous if you are not careful, we had life jackets, tow rope, bailer and cell phones in case of trouble.  The Water Police weren’t impressed with my Blackberry App Torch Light serving as our main source of light, but that’s their problem!   (what is the fine anyway)…..our intern from Japan, Miki, squealed a few times when Jefferson moved suddenly in the canoe and we almost tipped, key word “almost”, with my new Playbook on hand I was not about to let $600 go wasted on the bottom of the Lake!

We’ll let the video tell the rest of the story, stay tuned!

aka Jefferson Mascot

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

45 in 45 - Updates (Race #10 completed)

The first milestone race in the pursuit of 45 races completed in my 45th year, I hope the next ones aren’t so crappy!

How can I get mad at him for a broken doggie bag?
This was easily the most stressful race (start) yet, and it could have been the worst one too, my first venture across the border, dog, tent, bike and broken wetsuit in tow, invited by a potential client to check out his new race property.   It was actually supposed to be an “easy” weekend, a short 5km run Saturday then the rest of the time, R and R in Niagara (drink wine, cycle, drink more wine, eat, sleep, more wine).  etc.     But I messed up my schedule and the 5km was a week later, so of course I scramble to find something else to keep this streak going, get as many races under my belt before (pick any) age, injury, boredom or worse slows me down.   Sarah was anxious and eager to put her wine tasting skills to the test, so when I found this neat little triathlon organized by a great guy (Dan Horan, pictured here), I figured why not?

Now the sales part.

Happier times before the race.....

“Oh, honey, why don’t we drive Friday after work instead of Saturday morning (at 5:00 am, that would never fly for a nite owl like her).  We can stay in the falls and act like honeymooners, then you can sleep in, go for a run and I will do this short little race (600 metre swim, 20 mile bike and 5km trail run).
Well, I at least I kept my part of the bargain!  (the honeymoon part),  after a hectic 60 minutes trying to find a hotel room of adequate stature, pet friendly, a low floor to lug our bikes in…. no easy task at 9pm on a Friday evening in high tourist season.

Race morning, Jefferson and I head out on another adventure, probably the 200th race we have attended together now.  Grab some Tim Horton’s, sweet talk the border guard (remove the MyNextRace magnets from the side panels of course).  He actually asked me why I was going across the border to do this “trathlon” thing anyway.  I asked him would he not drive across our border to go fishing?  (that was risky).  He looked like a fisherman.  Glad once again he did not open the van doors, we’ve been here before kids, several times trying to cross for the Boston Marathon when we have a van STOCKED with our Team Canada brunch items.

The drive was really pretty, Wilson, NY is on the shores of Lake Ontario, very close to the Niagara on the Lake side (Canada), but the drive through downtown Niagara Falls, NY is brutal.  It feels like the world abandoned these poor people, Detroit, Flint Michigan would be nicer….of course we are late, it takes longer than expected to get to the race venue, so we arrive at approx. 8:35 am, for a 9:00 am race start and I have a tent and table to set up, a dog, registration to take care of.  Oh, and when Jefferson finally did his morning business, naturally to make things more interesting the bag breaks and 2 of my fingers are covered in $%#$.

Thanks a lot, the “dog gift bag” from the Best Western lets me down……crap.  Literally and figuratively.   I hear the race announcer saying, “all triathletes down to the water for race instructions”.  Oh, and I forgot my bike helmet too, one more item to worry about, plus the wetsuit is broken but I wonder how bad is the water anyway, it’s been a hot month?  After I hurredly meet Dan the Race Director, get my entry, bodymarkings, set up tent, table, brochures, bring bike and stuff into transition, find friendly spectator cyclist and trade helmet for free sunglasses, throw tennis ball a few times to give dog some exercise.  Did I mention I also went to the washroom, did my business and cleaned the hands with anti-bacterial soap (for those reading and wondering, when did that happen)?

Anyway, none of this really matters except the fact that I did barely make it to the water in time for the last wave start, which was funny as my grey swim cap should have put me in the first wave.  I tried to explain to the registration lady (my time does not matter).  I walked over to the swim exit to put my sandals, shirt and race bib down on the ground (which I forgot to leave in transition in all the haste).  Then I jogged along the beach back over to the swim start and the spectators started yelling at me, thinking I was the first swimmer in Wave One out of the water (“this way, this way they yelled).   Looking back this was pretty funny, I could have skipped the swim altogether and been first out on the bike!

Finally, my race starts, 9:15 I think.  I am a very fast swimmer (in a pool),  but it’s 62 degrees btw, freak’in cold even for a Canadian.    I am sure the surfers and scuba divers on hand were eying me closely, thinking to themselves, this guy in the grey swim cap started in wave One…… ”hhmm, when is this guy going under”.   I seriously wanted to quit and turn around after 15 metres in, my balls FROZE and my brain CRAMPED.   I stopped and looked back at the warm, sandy shore, then thought what would Dan think of me now.  Here I am an Ironman Finisher and I can’t even stomach some cold water and 600 metres.  I plunge back in.  The last wave is always a gas as the real newbies, many first timers in open water, start panicking and freaking out, so no matter how bad of a swimmer you are, someone is behind you.  I actually passed some swimmers in the wave (4 minutes) ahead of us, that was a surprise.  Mark Spitz look out, Phelps II is coming….not.

I did survive the swim, my BALLS thawed and I made it to Transition One,  jumped on my Cervelo sans socks and bike shorts (I brought bike shorts liner instead of my tri-shorts by accident, so as I type this blog 4 days later I still have welts on my inner thighs from riding an hour in wet running shorts).  Go ahead, keep laughing… pain and discomfort were hidden by the scenic, NY State scenery, countryside and all the mtn bikes I passed!    That’s about the only good thing starting at the back of a triathlon, no one passes you all day.  In fact, you can feel rock-star’ish” especially on the run, passing folks left, right and centre.  The trail run 5km was awesome, even though I left my running shoes in the back of the van and had to climb the transition barricades to quickly grab them from my car, which fortunately was 20 yards away.   I made every mistake it would seem, including trying to clean dog #$@# on race morning.   The end finally came, and downing two frosty cold Red Bulls at the finish didn’t hurt.

Wiped out in Niagara on the Lake.

They helped ease the sting of the icy cold stare Sarah gave me 2hrs later when I picked her up at Starbucks by the falls, and was too tired all weekend to do much else…..

Race #10 down…, “how many more races in this stupid 45 and 45 to go again”?

Race #1 – Huntington Disease 10km Run – June 26th
Race #2 – Tim Horton’s Peach Bud 5km (2 days later)
Race #3 – Canada Day 5-miler (2 days later)
Race #4 – Gay Pride Run 5km (4th race in 6 days)
Race #5 – Warrior Dash 5km Obstacle Course
Race #6 – Dowtown Dash 5km – July 14th (rode bike 50+ km’s first)
Race #7  – Run, Wine and Dine Half-Marathon (whine is a better word, for 45 minutes)
Race #8 – Durham 1/4 Marathon
Race #9 – Muskoka Rocks 5km
Race #10 – Wilson Wet and Wild Sprint Triathlon (USA)

Peter Donato
aka Jefferson Mascot

For those who care, here were my Triathlon splits…..

132   Peter Donato             1:57:36   (Total Time and place overall out of 227 athletes)
TM45-49    10/16   (age group placing)
185   (swim rank out of 227 swimmers)
16:27   (swim time adjusted as per starting in last wave)
2:45      (transition #1 – from swim to bike)
131    1:10: (bike time and rank overall)
17.0    (average speed on bike, mph)
2:30   (transition #2, bike to run)
54  (run ranking)
25:o6  (5km trail run time)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

45 in 45 - Race Progress Update (Warrior Dash)

I promised a separate entry for this wild and woolly affair last weekend, but my next two races (#6 and #7) were pretty interesting in their own right, so let’s get straight to the Mud, Sweat and Beers immediately.  If you haven’t heard of Warrior Dash and you are someone who races even just occasionally, then sleeping under a rock must also be a hobby of yours.   What do you get when you combine a gorgeous summer day, 15,000 people (10, 000 finishers), Live Music and a Beer Garden with a 5km obstacle course at a Southern Ontario Resort?  (if you have to even think about this for more than a nanosecond, please stop reading)!

What a Party!

I have been hearing about this “Warrior Dash” for some time, and it’s clearly struck a nerve among the Generation Active set, starting stateside 4 years ago when it was launched.  Thanks to some clever social media marketing, the organizers out of Chicago (Red Frog Events) hit the proverbial Home Run on their first attempt in Canada.  The event was capped at an ambitious 12,000 athletes (I use this term loosely people) and well over a month before lift off the event hung a SOLD OUT sign on their website.   Like a stone gathering speed down a hill, this was THE race of conversation all spring at our booth.  With a very busy day already planned, I decided I just could not miss spending the day here, but was I really interested in actually entering the race and getting down and dirty?

After....note the stickers, amazing...still there.....

Not really to be fair, but then I have been there, done that (including a Mud Run years ago), and I have found my clothes, shoes and socks before beyond recognition.  One Adventure Race called Logs, Rocks and Steel was a 6hr affair and my buddy Steve and I didn’t even finish!   We were knee and waist deep in one place on the water slogging our canoe through a swamp, it was truly disgusting.   Another 2-day Adventure Race many years ago was a 10hr day that included a complete change of clothes mid-stream, the mud was so thick it took weeks before my bike was clean again.  Another 24hr Mtn Bike race where I completed 4 laps included a 2am affair where my lights gave out on me, so 2x I went end-over end on the handlebars in the middle of a forest.  My contacts were changed for glasses after I was rudely awoken at 1:45 am (“Peter, wake up, your leg is coming up”).   I had grass and dirt somehow wedged in my glasses, between the frames and lense.  How the $#^% did that happen???

I also completed a 160km Bike Ride for Charity, 145 of these km’s in the pouring rain.   That was a long day.  And an Ironman Triathlon in a desert (Arizona).

So, when I heard that Warrior Dash was ONLY 5km, I wasn’t about to rush madly and commit myself to the race, afterall, I do attend a lot of these and don’t even try to compete or complete then all.  But, with this stupid competition now almost a month completed, 45 races in 45 days, my weekends usually had to include at least one race to keep pace:

Race #1 – Huntington Disease 10km Run – June 28th
Race #2 – Tim Horton’s Peach Bud 5km (2 days later)
Race #3 – Canada Day 5-miler (2 days later)
Race #4 – Gay Pride Run 5km (4th race in 6 days)
Race #5 – Warrior Dash 5km Obstacle Course
Race #6 – Dowtown Dash 5km – July 14th (rode bike 50+ km’s first)
Race #7  – Run, Wine and Dine Half-Marathon (whine is a better word, for 45 minutes)

Well, I don’t need to say much more, the pictures speak volumes.   It was both tougher than I expected (due to the heat and hilly course, plus at 3pm I was up since 5:30 and on my feet all day) and more fun than I expected.  The atmosphere made for good times and fond memories, the obstacles weren’t that challenging.  In fact, a few more sprinkled in the beginning would have been fun.  The post-event shower by firemen, in a slopfest of a cesspool filled with bananas, shirts, shoes (probably 8,000 people were cleaned up here before we were) was unique, to say the least.

My french intern, my cousin, my clients Sean and Matt from Chico Racing, we all had fun indeed, my cousin bought a Warrior Dash mug even!   Definitely a new “to do” event for any endurance athlete’s list, and guys, if you are single…..well, just imagine what the venue was like with 65% of the attendees female, most had to clean up, strip and get semi-naked for the mud to come off.

Caesar would have been envious, thrills for the people and good times all around.

aka Jefferson Mascot
World Record Holder

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

45 and 45 - Progress Report

Well this is going to be a rather long year I suspect…if the first 5 races are any indication, and I will spend more money on race entries in the next year than the last 9 combined!
You can read more on how this started here……

It was innocent enough, fairly straightforward, not that difficult when you consider how many races I actually attend in person in a given year.   I even found some company from the get go, a runner who not only heard about my intentions but as a recently turned 41 year old, she became an inspiration.   “It’s not just me who is crazy……”

The first few races were not exactly text book preparation, race #1 was a 10km on a Sunday morning not far from home, but I was late on arrival and barely made it through registration, hurredly pinning my race bib and snapping a photo (here).    Thankfully Jefferson was completely distracted and stopped to sniff a million times, so my finish time won’t really matter, in fact it was so rushed they didn’t get my race entry processed fast enough!  Plenty of time to fix this later…..

My 45th birthday was June 21st, so this was on the 26th, two days later I was at a big client race and again, worked too hard with our tent, display and 200 free sunglass giveaways, so the 5km actually started while I was rushing to the line.  My time was okay considering I didn’t get my pre-race “dump” (20:47), which for me is more important than even a fast pair of flats.  Pardon the straightforward truth of this!  

Fours days hence, 2 more races were knocked down, the 3rd a 5-miler on a golf course that again took place in a hurry….literally I was pinning my bib to my shirt and bounding out of the clubhouse like Tiger when I see the first wave of runners zooming by.  At least with chip timing I was able to join a slower wave and weave my way through a pack of runners on a windy, hilly course.  I’ve played far better rounds here!   (38:00) …and could have hit some balls along the way and not hurt my time!

Finally, race #4 was a decent effort, slight improvement on the 5km (20:11) although it did nothing to help our MyNextRace team at the annual Pride Run, first time I can recall where i didn’t count in the standings.   At least it wasn’t too rushed and we had fun post-race – guess which picture here is from that event???    lol    I actually ran 2x this evening, the warm up with a few hundred kids was entertaining as I donned the jefferson mascot outfit and stumbled along in the heat for 1km, very difficult with all these little kids around me, but the stricter than Scottish rules for this year-long contest forbid anything less than 5km from counting….but we`ll see who logs the most `miles`in all these races!

I will post a seperate entry for race #5, it requires some thought, a crazy day at my first Warrior Dash.  My body is hanging on, I have to make a regular point to stretch more, visit the chiro and improve my diet a little, getting under 20:00 for 5km is the first goal, then under 40:00 for the 10km and eventually breaking 1:30 for a half which will be a first for a long, long time.  Along the way I plan on mixing it up with some cycling races, adventure races and a couple of triathlons.  Maybe another run in fur too....

My overall pace is good, 2-3 more races should be completed in the next 5 days, so well ahead of pace… least it`s not 100 races like Katherine TRYJANKOWSKI from Buffalo, poor thing, she finished number 31 at the Peach Bud, a third of her way finished after 6 months….yikes….and you thought I was weird…..