Thursday, July 31, 2008

Heroes Among Us

Most of you will recall Chris Kacsmar's (centre) brush with death last February, but for those of you reading this from afar I'll summarize the incident.  Chris and his pals Chico Martineau (right) and Ali Roy (left) were well into a friendly game of indoor soccer when Chris suddenly reeled forward onto his face.  The other players thought he was feigning to be hurt to slow down the play.  Seconds ticked by and Chris lay motionless. Within moments his pal Ali realized this was no joke.  He knelt down next to Chris and rolled him over.  What he saw caused alarm; Chris' breathing was erratic, his face twisted, and his eyes were "somewhere else."  The doctors later determined that something terribly wrong caused the electrical patterns of Chris' heart to stop cold.  For all intents and purposes, Chris was dead.  Ali yelled for help and he and Chico immediately started performing CPR.  Someone called 911 and a staff person appeared with an automatic external defibrillator which was immediately put to work. Between the quick thinking of Ali and Chico, and the defibrillator, Chris' heart re-started and his breathing returned.  Chris was rushed to the hospital where the doctors kept him in a medically induced coma for 24 hours while they put him through a battery of tests.  Chris, an otherwise healthy and active 52 year old, says "It was just one of those freak things.  They don't know if it'll happen again. I have a built-in defibrillator now." Ali Roy and Chico Martineau received a Red Cross Award this week for their heroic efforts in saving their friend's life.  
The running community supported the family during Chris' convalescence by providing meals, baby sitting, and lending support and comfort where needed.  We came together in a big way and I like to think we made a tiny difference to the family during this remarkably difficult time. Like all communities we supported our own, even if we didn't know them personally.  We didn't need to voice our thoughts... it could have been anyone of us, fate chose Chris.
What can we take from this experience?  For me I think of family and friends.  I think of the preciousness of life and I think of the the thin thread from which we all dangle precariously.  I think of how lucky I am to have good health, numerous friends, and supportive family.  I think of the quality of my life past and present.  I think of my friend Jim who, at age 49, died from cardiac arrest... sadly, there were no heroes around.  I think of Ali and Chico and the shy heroes that walk among us and perform extraordinary courageous acts when called upon.
Most of all I think of Chris and Shelley and how they survived this ordeal with such dignity and love.  They accepted our acts of kindness with gratitude understanding full well that they were for us just as much as for them.  
I've never met Chico and Ali.  Perhaps I will one day and if I do, I'll tell them they're heroes. 
To my pal Jim... I think of you every day.

Friday, July 25, 2008


A huge thanks to my running group, Debbie, Nazir, Manny, David, Dinu, John, Dianah, Rod, and Jacques for their generous gift and gathering yesterday evening at Stellas.  The Merlot looks stunning and the gift certificate to my favourite store, although way too rich, will be used with much appreciation.  I truly don’t know what I did to deserve such kindness   If you only knew how much my knees were knocking on the days leading up to the marathon or how little I actually know about running.    I am the one indebted to you; I am the recipient of your friendship and your wisdom.  As Nazir wrote “we met as strangers and leave as friends”.  Thank you all.

 Ran a 16 miler today.  I’m off to the lake this weekend so I snuck in a long run to avoid the huge guilt trip on Sunday.  It was on the warm side, but I found lots of shade and the breeze was cooling.  I ran out of water at about mile 9 and couldn’t find a place to refill for a couple of miles and became a touch dehydrated.  No serious consequences, just a little unpleasant for a bit. A huge bowl of fresh fruit, a tall glass of high-end juice, and a granola bar fixed me up fine.  I must be getting good at estimating distance because my driveway was precisely mile 16.  Running solo again provides me lots of opportunity to get lost in thought.

 Speaking of which,  I gave some more thought to why I run… reason #2, the euphoric affect.   It doesn’t happen often, certainly not every run, not even every other run.  It happens at most once or twice a month, usually when I'm running solo.   No amount of trying will coax it along, it come naturally or not at all.  It creeps up on me and I’ve only recently learned to read the telltale symptoms that it’s about to happen.  I become aware of my form and my posture.  I think of the puppet string that Stanton talks about.. you know, run like there's an imaginary puppet string running out of the top of your head.  I push my chest out and run tall.  My legs, my arms, my hips, my entire body becomes synchronized and efficient like a machine.  There is no wasted energy; my entire body works together and it feels very good.  My awareness of the motion becomes heightened.  I focus on a spot way in the distance.  My motion feels fluid; it is fluid.  I begin to zone out, not completely -THAT would be crazy- and I let my body take over. I feel strong, even omnipotent like I could run forever in perfect harmony. Sometimes, not always, near the end, I’ll feel a rush starting at the base of my brain which then slowly travels down my spine.  The whole episode lasts about a minute, maybe a minute-and-a-half if I’m lucky.   It’s an entirely blissful feeling, one to savor.  I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to it, but I sure do look forward to it! Perhaps you’ve been there, or perhaps I’m crazy.  Either way, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 

No, I do not mix hallucinogens in my Gator-Aid! :>)

Thanks for tuning in... back next week.  Cheers to the c/w crew. 


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top 10 Reasons Why I Run.

I had a good run this morning, 14.5 miles at a smooth clip.  The temps were moderate and the skies clear.  I purposely set the Garmin to show heart rate and distance only.  I wasn't at all interested in pace.  I adjusted my speed to keep the heart at a consistent 150 - 155 range and it felt good and natural.  During the walks the heart dropped to about 125 - 135 bpm and that felt good too! Lost in my thoughts and grooving to the tunes.  Yup indeed, it was a good day to be alive.

In my mind I composed two letters, one to a former student who fell by some bad times but is recently starting to find his place in this old world.  He's a good lad and has a promising future. He's at a stage where he just needs a couple of life lines to keep him afloat, but he'll be ok.  The second, and far more challenging, was to a close family member who also has fallen on bad times.  This person has made some choices that have profoundly impacted my life.  As children we were best of friends and now we've grown apart.  I finished the letter to my student and sent it off; that was the easy one.  The other one, the more challenging one, will take more thought.  So, where’s this going? 

I’ve read many running blogs and I’ve talked to many runners.  The conversation invariably turns to why we run.  Aside from the obvious, to get healthy, why do we run?  I suppose there’s several trillions reasons out there and they’re all respectable and intelligent. Today I didn’t set our to compose the letters, I didn’t even think of these two people until I was well into the run.  Their faces simply popped into my mind… zap, there they were, front and centre.  I believe this happens because when we run we clear our minds of all the clutter, all the chatter, all the garbage.  We become focused on out heart, our lungs, our legs, and our minds.  The daily happenings, the shopping lists, the kids, work, deadlines blur.  Our minds clear and what's important rolls by like a video in slow motion (now, if I only had a rewind).

Over there on the right hand sidebar I’ve added a “Top 10 List of Why I Run”.  Not one to rush, I will add one additional reason every week for 10 weeks.  I need to do some serious thinking about this and serious thinking takes some time.  

Why do you run? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Only in Canada, pity.

Is a 2:16:59 marathon time good enough to qualify for the Beijing Olympics?  How about 2:16:55? Apparently not, at least not in Canada.  These are the times set by Canada's Giitah Macharia and Matthew McInnis at the Ottawa Marathon on May 25th.  Although excellent times, they don't meet the Canadian Olympic Committee's A+ standard of... wait for it... 2:11:31, or the A standard of 2:12:38, or even the B standard, 2:14.  The women's standards are A+ 2:27:35, A 2:29:08, B 2:31:00. The Canadian standards were established following a statistical analysis from the past five years to demonstrate the top 12 ranked athletes in the world (i.e. the top times in the history of marathons). Hmmm, odd when one considers the first place male finisher in the 2007 Worlds in Osaka, Japan was 2:15:59 or the average marathon time in the 2004 Athens Olympics was 2:22:00.  To be fair to the Canadian Olympic Committee both Osaka and Athens had extenuating circumstances which made for slower than average races, but the point is the A+ standard is virtually unattainable by all except for a micro-percent of athletes. Most agree that a winning time for Beijing Olympic marathon will be a sub 2:08 time (or about 2:15 to 2:18 in extreme weather). The question is, what's it all about?  Is it about winning medals or nurturing the elite athlete of the future?  
It depends.  Many countries say yes, medals are important, but they also believe it's about exposing budding elite athletes to international events. Many countries, including USA, will send their A, B, and C athletes not with the expectation of them winning medals, but rather as an investment in the future.  Greg McMillan  of McMillan Running Company, Flagstaff, Arizona explains:
“..for those of us working with emerging elite runners, we feel that providing opportunities for athletes to experience international competition is vital to their ability in future championships to compete for medals...  they usually need one or two exposures to this level of competition before they can perform maximally."
While other countries regularly send their A, B, and C standard athletes for the experience and the exposure of competing internationally, Canada stands firm with the A+ standard.  In the opinion of this blogger,  it's a downright shame.  How else will these athletes get experience? The A+ standard is virtually impossible to attain for a country the size of Canada.
With 10 times the population of Canada, USA will send 22 times the number of athletes.  Do the math, Canada will send 29 athletes to Beijing.  USA will send 630.  21 American men and 44 American women will compete in the marathon event.  No Canadian athlete will compete in the marathon event.  My guess is very few of the 65 Americans running in the Beijing Olympic Marathon live up to the Canadian A+ standard and yet all 65 are competing  There is no expectation that all will win medals, they are sent to expose them to competition at the international level and to make their homeland proud.
Oh, and the USA standard? Men A Standard 2:15, B Standard 2:18, Women A Standard 2:37, B Standard 2:42.
Only in Canada, pity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back at 'er

Fun's over, back to training.. no rest for the wicked.  I started hill training this evening and Jacques was kind enough to join me.  We met at 6 PM, got caught up a bit, and then headed to Garbage Hill at a slow pace.  We did 4 reps at a pretty good pace.  I didn't have my HR monitor but the ticker was definitely working hard.  I was also sucking air and I got a sharp stitch on the last rep.  Man, I thought I was in pretty good shape, but apparently not.  Hill training builds strength and endurance, but man, it's a hard work out.  Jacques and I have decided to get together at least once a week for a run.  Consider this an invitation to join us.  Drop me a line if you're interested in joining us.  I run every day except Monday and Friday so there's lots of options.
4 hill reps, 4.03 miles, 9:10 pace, 36.55 minutes (not counting the chit-chat with Jacques).  

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not About Running.

Joan Armatrading had Sunday night's audience waving their hands... 12,000 people waving their arms in unison is a sight to behold... another festival experience for the memory book.
A blog about running occasionally needs to stray off the beaten path, like today.  The Winnipeg Folk Festival was amazing and aside from the teeny twinge of guilt from not running for 5 days, I had the time of my life. I've attended about 30 of the 35 folk festivals, most as a volunteer.  I started volunteering in grade 10 or 11 and have stuck to it ever since except for a few years where travel, school, or life prevented me from attending.  For the last 13 years I volunteered at the front gate box office.  It was a good job but there was a fair bit of stress, especially when it came to balancing out out at the end of the shift.  I applied for the schlepper crew which is the most sought after crew of the festival (always has been, always will be).  It's very rare for an opening on this crew and even so the wait list is huge so I didn't expect to make the cut.  Well, someone out there must like me (and I think I know who... a thousand thanks!) because I got the job! A schlepper transports people, equipment, and just about anything imaginable to where ever it's needed on site.  We drive little golf cars, trucks, or vans (mostly golf carts).  We're also hooked up to a radio so you hear all the chatter between security and the other crews... it's incredible how much happens behind the scene.  It's so cool to be a part of that entire scene!
Up really, really close with Seun Kuti and Egypt from Africa at the make-shift Saturday night main stage.  Afrobeat/ Afrojazz at its pinnacle!  THE most amazing festival memory ever!
A first for the festival.  The winds were so intense on Saturday that the main stage performances was relocated to a MUCH smaller but sheltered stage.  As luck would have it Saturday night was one of my three shifts.  The complications of transporting equipment and musicians across acres of rain drenched soggy prairie was enormous and I had the stunningly pleasure to be a part of the entire process.  My job was to transport musicians from the plush backstage  "green room" to the makeshift  backstage "green room" at the new much, much, much smaller new main stage (Green Ash stage).  Imagine wet grass.  Now imagine wet soggy grass... imagine mud... imagine lots of mud... imagine sucked out Chrysler mini-van... slipping mini-van... mini-van getting stuck... security pushing me out... precious musicians... My job was to get them as close to back stage as humanly possible.  Under normal circumstances this wouldn't have been a big deal, but under the circumstances of Saturday night it was, ummm, an event to remember... yes, definitely an event!  
The last band of the night was the 15 member Afrobeat/ Afrojazz band Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 from Africa. They were simply amazing... a once in a life time experience.  Under normal circumstances schlepper do not have direct back stage access but this time I did.  The stage manager told me to wait backstage while they played.  As the photos show I was right up front and personal.  It was simply the best folk festival experience ever.  
I could go on and on, but I better stop.  This is a running blog after all! It was a very good day to be alive.  Yes indeed... a very good day to be alive.  M

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Winnipeg Folk Festival

We're off to the annual 4 day Winnipeg Folk Festival tomorrow.  Jen and I have been volunteering there for about 20 years (me, about 30 years).  This year I'm on the coveted schlepper crew which, as the name suggests, I schlep things hitherto and back again (apropos for a runner except for the fact I'll be driving an atv).  Apparently I'll be kept hopping busy for my three shifts.  In preparation for the weekend I've skipped my two rest days and completed my long run on Tuesday rather than this coming Sunday.  On the good side, I'm two days ahead of my training schedule and I have my long run in the bank.  On the not so good side, I've had one day off in the last 9 days!  Yup, ready for a break.  We decide years ago not to camp at the festival... there's camping and there's the festival and never the two shall mix!  I might manage to squeeze a blog post and some pictures in between now and Sunday, but if not you'll know why.
A friend sent some information on Trail Running Manitoba.  This is the first year they've introduced something called Try A Trail.  It looks like a lot of fun so spread the word.  I plan to attend one or two in later August so let me know if you're interested and we can hook up.
Also, a desperate plea for some running company.  I'm solo training for the Twin City Marathon and I'm starting to get a little punchy with boredom, especially the long runs.  Let me know if you're wanting to join me if even for a portion of the run.  I run five days a week with Monday and Friday off.  Drop me a line if you're available... I tell jokes, all bad.  If I don't hear from someone soon I'll have to post an ad in the classifieds,  "wanted... lonely middle aged male runner.. Brad Pitt look-a-like,  looking for platonic running relationship... no string attached... seeks same...serious inquiries only" .
;>) later,  M

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I know, I know, I've been lazy.  My postings have been far and few between since the long dance on June 15.  My apologies.  The thing is I was a little discouraged.  I completed the MB Marathon on Sunday June 15th and on Monday June 16th I checked the training schedule for the Twin City Marathon.  It seems I was already two weeks behind schedule!  What's a guy to do? 
I've been training 5 days a week for the last couple of weeks.  I'm averaging 26 to 30 running miles per week with a fair bit of commuter cycling in between.  The weather has been on the hot side, but not unbearable.  Today and yesterday were actually pretty chilly for July.  I've been running solo which is very different to what I've been used to for the last several months.  I find solo running fine for the shorter runs but the longer runs (like today's 12 miler) can be pretty boring.  I ran with Vivian and Gwen on Sunday and that was great fun (Vivian is considering a full marathon this fall with David and Gwen seems content with the Half - Mary's for the time being).  Chatting with a couple of buds absolutely makes the miles go by faster.  I'll probably be running the Twin City marathon alone so these long quiet runs are good mental preparation. The picture above shows my gazebo; it's my place of solitude and rest. It's where I go to come down after a run (i.e. read "nap").  
You know it... it's a good day...  M

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Car Back Retires

I've decided to pull the plug on Car Back.  It was good fun chronicling the 6 months leading up to the Manitoba Marathon, but the blog has run the course. Thanks to everyone for logging in and leaving your comments; it's the comments that make it interesting and breathes life into the blog.  The comments and the fine people I have connected with through this old blog.  Thank you for your friendships and thank you for the connections.
Welcome to the new blog, See Mike Run.  In the coming days you'll see a new masthead and a new layout.  All the previous posts from Car Back will remain in the archive, and the url remains unchanged.   Those of you growing up in the 40's, 50's, and 60's will remember the Dick and Jane readers.  Some of you may remember the first words we learned to read, "look",  "see", and then,  within several pages, "run".  Who knew back in the day that these three letters, r-u-n, this teeny, tiny little verb would become such an important and defining part of my life force. It's weird how something so insignificant from one's distant past can come back in such a profound way! Run.
Like its predecessor, Run Mike Run will continue the search for answers to why we run. Bono says it best...  I still haven't found what I'm looking for.  
Stay tuned!  Michael