Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Running in Whittier Park, Winnipeg, Canada

I just have to share this life-affirming video.  It'll make you want to strap on the kicks and get out there on the winter trails.  Thank you Alain Foidart. Turn up the volume!  Let's go dancing.

It's a good day to be alive.


Winter Running in Whittier Park from 57belowzero on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon... (first annual?)

Well it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of November skies
Van Morrison
Like the Van says, it's a marvellous night for a moondance. If you haven't danced along a dark, winding, single track river trail with the stars up above in your eyes, well then friends, you just haven't danced. From the explosive start of the fireworks to the post run beers at Finn McCues this race is sublime.  Thank you Rheal Poirrier for organizing this marvellous moondance.

Thirty-six runners of all sizes and shapes trickled to the start line at the foot of Esplanade Riel for a 7:30 PM start. Our dance cue was the opening blast of the Santa Claus Parade fireworks (silly kids, they thought the fireworks were for them!).  KABOOM... on cue, we're off.

The Pre-start
photo credit Nicole Nicol
The KABOOM Start
photo credit Nicole Nicol
Well, most of us were off on cue.  I was just getting out of my car at the other end of the park when I heard the blast.  I sprinted to the bridge, dodging thousands of families with eyes on the skies.  I had to be watchful of the little ones underfoot.  I crossed the line several minutes behind the others.  With heart pounding I dived hard on to the trail, anxiousness set in, twisting my ankle on a dip, I stopped, frozen...remember to breathe, find your stride, work out the pain, you'll be fine, you know this trail, you've run it hundreds of times... but never in the dark.  I set off again, much slower this time and with calmer breath, settled mind, even heart, pain leaving my ankle.  The familiar sound of crunching gravel underfoot calmed me.

In time I saw headlamps shining like summer fireflies as the runners bopped along the trail well ahead (it's hard to measure distance in the dark). I followed these lights and slowly, like ships passing, I slid by a dozen or so runners. Not recognizing anyone, I found my pace and settled in for a zen inducing solo-waltz.

Fireflies lighting the trail
photo credit Curt Gui
My head lamp was useless and provided no light at all.  I fiddled with the lamp. The beam was strong but it didn't light the trail.  I adjusted straps and buckles to no avail. It only lit the trail if I ran with my head facing towards my knees.  "This is ridiculous" I thought, "I can't run 13 miles in this position!". It was then that the light bulb in my brain switched on. I had the damn lamp upside down! This would explain the aircraft circling overhead. The lamp worked fine... it was the owner that was a little dim.

Running along the Seine River in complete darkness save the headlamp, I became lost in that muted, fuzzy thought that happens as one enters a comfortable space of white noise. This state happens on trails and is heightened under the moonlight.

I found some familiar faces at mile 10. The comfortable chit-chat took the chill out of the air.  We talked about how fine that beer would taste and sped up a bit. We crossed the line with cheers and high-fives. All winners.  All realizing that we had participated in something special, something very special.  The magic of the trail under a moonlit sky.

The Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon (whew, I get tuckered just typing that name) is the brainchild of Rheal Poirrer of the Manitoba Trail Runners. The name is a compilation of several suggestions that were tossed about in the early planning stage.  Rheal just put them all together and thus we have The FAFBMTHM. Will there be another? Only Rheal knows for sure.

Oh, and the best part of FAFBMTHM  It's free!

Rheal hints that there might be a full-moon, full-marathon trail run coming soon.. a full-full, a runners double-double if you will.  Rheal,  on behalf of the 36 runners that participated in this spectacular run I thank you for the time and effort. It was a marvellous night for a moondance.

It's a good day to be alive .... running under a big ole full moon or not, running on a trail or not... running on a pavement or not.... it's just a good day.. eh?


Friday, November 8, 2013

A Letter to Jamie McDonald; You're Not Almost There

On mile 10 huge blobs of watery snow (freezing rain) began to hit me and Caesar with force. I had waterproof gear on which was keeping the cold out but it was softening up the dirt track. Now I was pushing 60kg through sludgy sand. As I got to mile 16, I was so fatigued and hurting in so many areas, that being seriously sleep deprived on top of this, just intensified the pain.
Jamie McDonaldSomewhere east of Regina on Highway 1, From a Facebook entry, November 4, 2013
Dear Jamie,

I have been following your progress since your arrival in Kenora, Ontario. I was one of the runners that escorted you from the eastern outskirts of Winnipeg to The Forks located next to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.  As our little delegation of runners stood next to this gorgeous museum, dwarfed in its magnitude, I considered the connection between your vision and that of The CMHR. The dots weren't fully connected at the time, but in reflection they have come into brilliant focus.

If The Canadian Museum of Human Rights represents a beacon of hope for all humanity, and if that beacon shines hope across the world, then you my friend, and people of your ilk, are surely the flame that ignites that beacon that shines so brilliantly.The beacon that builds community and opens hearts and minds to the concept of goodness on a micro-scale. To change the world one painful step at a time. To believe that each step, each mile, each day brings you closer to your dream of goodness inspires us. You, Flash, superhero that you are, have come to represent the flame.... and we do not have words to express our gratitude. 

It is no surprise that strangers go out of their way to support you. The momma bears and poppa bears as you call them, look out for you because they care for you. They invite you into their home and fill your belly with nutritious, hot food. They give warm beds and chilled beer. They bring you hot coffee and chilli in the middle of a frozen prairie and deliver countless acts of unsolicited kindness all in the name of Jamie.  Why this outpouring of love? 

Because you have ignited the flame of goodness in people and that flame will carry you through to the end of this incredible journey.  But, mark my words Jamie, you will need continued support from hundreds of momma bears and poppa bears to realize your dream. You can't do this alone.

Jamie, you are the first thought that pops into my head in the morning and the last at night.  I read your Twitter feeds, your Facebook updates your blog daily. I would be lying if I said  I wasn't worried. The cold and the winds combined are a deadly duo. You simply can't imagine the severity of the prairie cold and the intensity of the flatland winds, they cut deeply. The cold and wind will scheme to smother your flame and to kill your spirit. Jamie, it has been a tough slog, but it's about to get tougher.

Some of your followers cheer you on with a happy don't give up, you're almost there :) :) . They mean well, but you know better than most, you're not almost there. You're about to face elements that few on this planet can conceive let alone survive.

The only way you can endure this incredible ordeal is through continued support of hundreds of momma bears and poppa bears out there in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.  With their love and their hot meals and warm beds and cheery words, and hot coffee you will be successful in realizing your goal.  You have created a groundswell of support, but now, that groundswell must be more vigilant, more watchful, and more mindful. You need the momma bears and poppa bears like never before. 

Jamie, this is what I promise you.  When you reach the Pacific Coast, and you surely will, I will run silently to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the foot of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. I will pause and I will think of you and what you have accomplished.  I will think of goodness and hope.  I will think of flames and beacons and super heros. Then, my friend, I will drape a Flash cape over Gandhi's head and tie it snugly.  This small gesture is to honour you Jamie.  You see, Gandhi was another individual that ignited the flame of hope, the beacon. 

This I promise you.

Now you promise me... be safe.

See Flash.
See Flash run.
Run, Flash, run.

It's a good day to be alive,