Saturday, September 16, 2017

Street Feet Run Well, Point Douglas Race Report

Waldo, Intrepid Reporter, and Mickey.... hanging out in Point Douglas.
Photo credit Bridgette Robinson.
There is something in the air around the Point Douglas Norquay Community Centre that's fresh and energizing.  Maybe it's the lingering smoke from the community oven or perhaps it's the sweet grass blessing, or the musty, mighty Red flowing softly by and by.

Yes, there's something in the air, I can't quite nail it, but it's lovely and welcoming, sweet and warm. I love this neighbourhood, this race, this spirit, I love it openly with all my heart.

"This is how we do it in Point Douglas"
Mwaka Kaonga
"It's the community I love" says Bridgette Robinson "it's what makes me happy." Bridgette is one of five committee members who volunteer tirelessly year round to bring this event to life every September. It's a small event of about 100 participants which raises about $2000. The money is divided equally between the Graffiti Art Program, Norquay Community Centre, and the North Point Douglas Women's Centre.
Point Douglas Women's Resource Centre, 221 Austin
We need to support small, local, independent, non-corporate running events before they are swallowed by large, for-profit events.  I run to support the Women's Centre because it's a beacon of hope in this diamond-in-the-rough neighbourhood.  Our premier (don't get me started) has significantly reduced funding to the centre and it's at risk of closing. A cheque for just under $700 is in the mail from the Point Douglas Race Committee; it's not much, but every cent helps!

Run local, you'll feel good.

This 6th annual Point Douglas run is a true gem.  The course is grand old Winnipeg riverbank and bridges.  We run on mud trails and take short cuts through backyards and back lanes.  The police flash their siren and cheer runners from their cruiser. We bring smiles to locals and startle dogs on leash. Children and adults laugh at Waldo and Mickey and wind blown reporters, brides and bananas... and we run, and we laugh deeply from the belly.

My how we laugh.
And we talk.
And we philosophize.
And we are blessed by elder.
And we wonder.

Oh and the food? It's prepared on site by none other than Talia, owner/ operator of The Tallest Poppy another local independent Winnipeg gem.  Do you need any more reasons to put this race on your radar!  Didn't think so.

North Point Douglas Women's Centre
Vision and Mission Statements. 
So dear friends, please support your local, not-for-profit running events. They add such texture and colour to our neighbourhoods.  And, if you happen to have an extra $20 why not donate it to the North Point Douglas Women's Centre. They really need it and you will feel so damn good. Skip church tomorrow and move your feet.

Yo, it's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Winnipeg Investors Group 10 10 30 2017 Race Report

"Perfect" is the superlative that immediately comes to mind when reflecting on today's annual Winnipeg 10 10 30. Everything ticked and hummed like a BMW convertible cruising the Autobahn.

The course has improved since the last time I ran the 30 km in 2014. The stretch along Sturgeon Creek is spectacular (another superlative... they just keep coming). The best change from my eye is the absence of the annoying 'add on' penalty lap through Assiniboine Park's Formal Garden on the return. I hate penalty laps!

The volunteers were Winnipeg's finest with smiling faces and lots of curbside cheering.  The water stations were located strategically along the 30 km course offering both water and Gatorade.  One station even had some granola bars which really came in handy (thanks Kathy).  Just when I thought, "hmmm I need some hydration", there appeared a group of smiling happy volunteers only too pleased to assist.   The only pet peeve were the teeny plastic cups for water, holding 2 ounces at most.  At every station I had to ask for a second or even a third. This is obviously wasteful and time consuming for the busy runner with his eyes on the prize.

My favourite water station. But what's with all that green?
Photo credit Lorraine Walton

It was also nice to see Steve J managing the timing.  You know the results will be flawless when he's at the timing-helm.  Aldo Furlan managed the back half of the 30 km ensuring things were done right and to his high standard.  Lorraine Walton was busy on the course stocking water stations and providing good cheer and hugs. The lead cyclists and sweeps, Pietra, Bill, Dorothy (and others) were outstanding (loving my superlatives), and kept us safe.

Race Director, Chris Walton, is proving to be an asset in Winnipeg's running community. A complete neophyte several years ago, he now has a solid track record of successful events.  He has a tremendous team behind him, but the buck stops at the race director. Everything from pins to bibs to emergency plans, go through the race director.  It's an onerous task, some say thankless.  Well done Chris... you do us proud.

An open question to Chris;  why do you not kick this course another six kilometers down Sturgeon Creek making it a full marathon course?  Just asking, not to take away from today's incredible (superlative) amazing (another one), magnificent (is that too many) 10 10 & 30.

Oh, the coolest thing about the 30 km course? Carly and I agree it's having a cop stop traffic, even busses, while we tear freely through red lights. Now that's cool!

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

I have a Dream

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

John Lennon

What do Edmonton, Regina, Cape Breton, London, St. John's, Sault Saint Marie, Prince George, Montreal, and Toronto all have in common?

Fall marathons.

I dream of a Winnipeg Fall marathon.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the Manitoba full marathon. In fact, I believe it is the premier running event in Winnipeg and, as a community of runners, we should run proudly alongside this event. When executive director, Rachel Munday took the reins two short years ago the marathon had stalled out and was losing runners to Fargo ND in droves. Sadly, it had digressed to a maudling 2-star, 2-bit race that was more about the half-marathon than the full.

Fortunately, Munday's creativity and abundant energy has breathed new life into this fine event and has upped it to a 4 stars and, knowing Munday, she won't stop until it's reached the status of Minneapolis or Chicago!

Why should we be proud of the Manitoba Marathon?

Since its inception in 1979 the Manitoba Marathon has raised millions to assist people live independent lifes, to move them out of institutions into the community. Whether it's a $200 grant to buy IKEA furniture to furnish a room in a group home or $1000 to buy specialized medical equipment, the Manitoba Marathon Foundation is there to support our citizens lead productive, meaningful, and independent lives. It's our marathon, our little bump on the prairie, our hometown pride.

Rachel Munday presenting a cheque to Jessica to assist her in living independently
(Photo credit, unknown)
Winnipeg is ripe for a second full marathon either in September or October.  In a recent See Mike Run poll asking: Would you support a fall marathon in Winnipeg 92% replied yes, 5% said no, and 3% were unsure. 

The 10, 10 & 30, Running Room sponsored event almost got it right, but they came up short by 12 km. On the plus side it's in the fall, it's very well organized, they've worked through the red tape and street permits, but why stop at 30 km when 42 is the prefered choice?

I have a dream (with apologies and reverence to Martin Luther King).

See Mike Run proposes an entirely new marathon from the ground up with no hidden agendas or egos. I dream of a marathon that inhales the full diversity of our peg City. One that leaves us breathless and attracts international elite runners along with plebs like me.

I do not want a start line in the burbs (been there, done that). I do not want to run down old wealth, Wellington Crescent or through Assiniboine Park (been there, done that). I want to start at Portage and Main and finish at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
(photo credit unknown, CMHR 

I want to weave through the Exchange and over the Esplanade Riel. I want to run through the French Quarter to the sound of fiddles and bagpipes. I want to be cheered down Main Street, past Thunder Bird House and Neechi Common with sacred drums and jingle dancers. I want to make noise on grand old Selkirk Avenue with local activist, Michael Champaigne encouraging runners to ring the Bell Tower for peace and tolerance.

Esplanade Riel
(photo credit unknown)

I want to breathe in the Exchange with the option of stopping for a pint of 1919 at Little Brown Jug. I want to stop traffic at Portage and Main and be dwarfed in the magnificence of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

I have a dream.

I want to run along grand old Scotia Avenue, through magnificent Kildonan Park, over the Chief Peguis bridge and return along Kildonan Parkway, through the achingly beautiful Elmwood cemetery. I want to traverse the almost unknown Disraeli foot bridge and return via historic North Point Douglas along Anabella (named after a certain woman of the evening) and past Jordan Van Sewell's funky art studio on the banks of the Red River.

I have a dream.

We need leaders in our community to step forward. We need the Manitoba Runner's Association to take a stand, to provide leadership and experience.  We need the movers and shakers of the running community to join the dream, people like WPS race director Nick Paulette, WFPS race director, Jonathan Torchia, and MB Marathon executive director, Rachel Munday to combine their talent and expertise to make this happen.  We need people like Box Cox of the Winnipeg Free Press (a fine runner in his own right) to grab onto the idea and run with the concept. We need our mayor Brian Bowman to recognize the possibility and make it happen.  We need corporate sponsorship with deep pockets such as Lulu Lemon or Goodlife to take a risk and join the dream.

I have a dream.

And we need you, dear reader, to make your thoughts known.  We need to talk it up on our runs, during the post run coffee, in the evening over wine.  We need you to step up to the plate, make some noise, and make it happen.

I may be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Manitoba Marathon 2017, We Run.

Photo Credit Janice Matthewman
(used here with permission)
We run. 
We move our feet. 
We propel ourselves forward. 
We pray and cuss. 
We sweat and bleed.  
We laugh through hurt.  
We are humiliated. 
We are honoured.
And we give thanks.  

We honour a fallen father, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend.  
We pause.
We reflect.
We hang a medal on a tombstone, and then we cry.
This thing called running.
It's what we do.

This pesky blogger regrets not running today. His confidence fell a notch or two recently and he chose a comfortable path. No regrets, but a little disappointed in self.  But I dwell on self when self is meaningless and egotistical. Running is about life and community.  It's higher order thinking and spirituality.  

To say we reach a state existential existence is preposterous, laughable, to those who have not experienced complete and utter exhaustion. The exhilaration of giving all you have and then digging deeper... and deeper, and deeper yet. We run through hurt and humiliation, tears and vomit, and yes, even a little pee. 

Until we step over the line.  This is when life comes to focus.  This is when tears flow and our minds open to higher order.  We are all that we can be in this moment... it's fleeting, it's beautiful. As we step over the line we are perfect in our imperfection... our minds are soft, our bodies spent. 

Today I saw dreams smashed, dreams foiled.  I saw tears and laughter.  I saw you gritting and screaming.  I saw life unfold in slow motion and it was grand.

So to you, the hurting, the depressed, the sick, the survivors, the obese, the injured, the short ones, the wheelers, the 'one step from suiciders'.. what you have accomplished today is extraordinary. No one can ever take that away from you.

You inspire us.

You make us proud.

You are all that you can be.

I can only hope my moniker "it's a good day to be alive" will never be seen as trite or insignificant. Tomorrow is unknown, but today...

... is a good day to be alive.


PS 19 pictures ...

Jenna, a gifted runner

The 3:50 Bunny is amazing!

I love the young. They bring such fun!

It's a good day when Jeff is on the course!

Everyone's favourite ultra-marathoner, Melissa. 

Pietra is lovely.

Rod, a kindred spirit in age and profession.

Scott is a gentleman and a friend.

Professor Christopher Frand rocking the course (again).  

Jonas, nothing stopping him!

From extreme ultras to tri's to marathons, this girl is amazing.

This is my group... 4:15!

Derek gives so much and expects so little inreturn.

Janel... the sign says it all.  

Carly, TRL Social Media wizard. Isn't she amazing!

These ladies trained 800 km for their 1st marathon.

 I love this guy... TRL's Registration Chair

And Darcie, everyone's favourite runner.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spruce Woods Ultra 2017, 50 km, Race Report

Tim and Mike at finish.
photo credit, unknown (SWU Facebook)
"Drag your own (expletive) ass across the line" barked a testy Mike to his good friend Tim.

Mike was dehydrated you see, grouchy, sun burned, and retching on all fours.  This was at 35 km and Tim, good soul that he is, kindly offered  to stay by his side for the full 50 km.

"I'll help you get to the finish line.  I'll stay by your side." he said.

Mike's reply was nasty and out of character.

Several runners stopped out of concern for Mike's wellbeing.

"Whoa, is he okay?" one said.

"Don't worry" said Tim "he's just doing his afternoon prayers".

"Say a Hail Mary for me" yelled an anonymous runner.

"Yea, and an Our Father for me" said another.

I managed a feeble thumbs up, and a drooling half-smile while looking upward  like a chained junk-yard dog.  Heat, wind, retch, endless hills, humiliation, sarcasm, exhaustion, ... all in all, a good day to be alive.

Spruce Woods Ultra Marathon is a  humbling experience and an unforgiving trail. It tests the limits of human endurance in terms of physical toughness and mental agility. The hills are endless and vary from impossibly ragged goat trails to curvaceous ribbons of unicorns and butterflies.  The scenery is Manitoba sublime; blue sky stretching across horizons, whitewater streams, placid secret lakes, bright meadows, culvert fishers, dark forest ... leave us helpless, helpless, helpless. 

The course is marked with coloured orienteering flags; orange for outbound, blue for back home, and pink for primal torture(?).  Flags that matter are always on the left. If they're on the right you're surely lost! Confidence flags are staked every kilometer or so and multiple flags, often of several different colours, are generously planted at the convergence of trails and other areas of potential confusion.  As a non-orienteering person I had little trouble staying on course, but I studied the map intensely before the race. Some runners added kilometers to their distance by falling asleep at the switch and missing key turn-around points (man, that must suck!).

I first recognized signs of dehydration on the pink trail. ("P" primal torture)  The wind was cool and suckered me into believing the temps were also cool.  Runners are fully exposed to wind and sun on the out-and-back pink trail. It's not a terribly long section, but it seemed to burn me out more so than the distance would suggest.  I became nauseous (not unusual for me) and then, more troubling, I realized water was causing discomfort.  Under the caution of too much information I  let loose several loud and very satisfying long burps which cleared up the nausea however temporarily.
Cool Shirt
photo credit Jason Enns (Facebook)
It's widely known that once one recognize the signs of dehydration it's too late. You can't catch up by glugging water. I trudged on and on, stopped and vomited, trudged, stopped, vomited ... you get the sorry picture. It was definitely not my finest race and most definitely not the prettiest.

I managed to haul my own sorry ass across the line in 7 hours 30-something minutes. It may not have been pretty, but it was sweet like a pint of Barn Hammer 7th Stab, Red Ale, more so actually (and I love 7th stab just so you know).  Someone gave me a woodle (Ultra wooden medal) as I slow danced over the line.

I was greeted by Tim.

"I was worried about you" he said.

"Worry about your own (expletive) sorry ass" I replied.

Yes, See Mike Run can be downright pesky at times, surly even, especially when he's thirsty and over heated.

With thanks to race director Dwayne Sandall and his crew of over 100 extraordinary volunteers. I owe them thanks for helping me achieve this impossible dream, this 50 km SWU Ultra. I have many more years behind me than afore and this badge means the world. I also extend thanks to the lovely woman with gorgeous full body tattoos who stayed with me, crouched down and comforted me, as I retched at 49 kilometers.  I also owe thanks to the medics who cycled on course to check on my health.  I am forever in gratitude, forever humbled.

And to Tim, thank you friend. You had my back. You made me laugh through pain. You made me see success when I saw failure.

I am humbled by the experience.

I am thankful for my strength.

I am in awe of life.

I leave you with this quote from Scott Sugimoto (AS2) that exemplifies the quality of volunteers. These are  not mere volunteers, they are angels with flat coke and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Unless you have a bone sticking out somewhere...I will personally DO WHATEVER necessary, to get you on your way down the trail!

It's a good day to be alive.


Spruce Woods Ultra Results by the numbers

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Am Not Your Inspiration. A guest blog by Natalie Pirson

Natalie Pirson, everybody's favourite person, is strong and independent. She's bad ass and dreams audaciously. She wheels through life and has a smile that melts rock.  While others hope to shave a few seconds off their PBs our Natalie dreams larger, much, much  larger.  Enjoy this guest blog by Natalie Pirson.  Mike

I am not your inspiration thank you very much.
photo credit Kelly Morton Photography
Saturday, May 12th -- the day before the Winnipeg Police Half Marathon and my second year participating in the half marathon event. 

I was at breakfast with my run club, (shout out to Winnipeg Run Club!) and I jokingly asked my good friend, Junel, if it was possible to shave an hour and a half off your previous race time from the same event. The good friend that he is, he didn't make a wisecrack or tell me it was a lofty goal.

photo credit Facebook

I knew it was a lofty goal and most likely not physically possible. I figured if I wanted to get any faster, I would need to get an even lighter wheelchair.

My time last year for the WPS Half Marathon 2016 was 5:36. When all was said and done on May 13th 2017, I finished with a time of 4:08. 1 hour and 28 minutes faster than the previous year. Damn proud of myself, I tell ya, and I don't say that often.

How was it possible? I believed I could do it. Racing for me is 90% a mental game. Physical training is important, of course, but to me, training the brain is even more important.
photo credit Facebook

Another noteworthy detail... I was wearing bib #2. Everyone who reads this blog knows Joanne Scheiwe's name and what she has done for the community. I did not have the privilege of knowing Jo but I know that she wore bib #2 in her final WPS half marathon last year. I knew I had to do that number proud and leave everything out on the course.

And finally, there is the running community as a whole. It is second to none. As an introvert and someone who does have a fair amount of anxiety, I was apprehensive in approaching people and I have to force myself to get other. But, I always get out there because I know my life will be better for it. The people I've met, the dear friends I have made, the encouragement and support I have received... Being a part of this community has changed my life in so many positive ways. Running has given me so much more than I could ever give it.
photo credit Facebook
So, I'll finish with this quote from a TED Talk given by another person with a disability. "I'm Not Your Inspiration, thank you very much." I'm not an inspiration because I have a disability and I get out of bed in the morning or because I go to work, or just generally live life like a lot of us.

But those of us who have the courage to believe in ourselves, set goals, crush them, fail and pick ourselves up, try again, keep trying when life beats you down... Sounds kinda cheesy but we're all a little bit inspirational in our own way.

Natalie Pirson
It's a good day to be alive.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

You must look...

Look.  See.
photo credit thehipdotcom
Perhaps you saw the headline, Master's Style Green Jacket Bought for $5.00 and sold for $139,000 USD.  It's a mystery.  How did a 1950's Masters-style jacket from Augusta National Golf Club end up in a Toronto thrift shop? 

The plot thickens... the original owner's name was carefully cut from the inside lapel which adds to the intrigue.  The imagination is sparked; colours, textures, emotions, wonder  flood the brain. The authenticity of the jacket has been confirmed by the famed Georgia club yet the original owner remains anonymous.This ugly green jacket, this insignificant blip in sports history, this cotton nothing has intrigued the golf world.

One saw the beauty, others saw ugly.

The headline story reminds me of my late uncle Bernard.

Bernard was an amateur art collector with a sharp eye for art and an even sharper pencil for negotiation. While shopping with his brother at a Winnipeg thrift shop in the 1960’s he came across a small oil painting. An insignificant, dirty, old, nothing of a painting. 

He looked closer.  He moved to the sunlight and his heart skipped a beat. He smiled and he choked a muffled tear.

The letters emerged through the dirt of time...

maurice cullen

Group of Seven, Anne of Green Gables, You Are Ahead By a Century, Acadian Driftwood, Wanda Koop, Maurice Cullen... 

The quintessential Canadian eureka moment.  

Bernard and his brother pooled their resources and paid $5 for this Canadian Masterwork which, in 2005, sold for $200,000.  

The mystery remains and adds to the intrigue. How did this iconic piece of Canadian history, this Canadian beauty almost come to oblivion in a Winnipeg thrift shop?  

It was salvaged by Bernard, a person who saw the beauty where others saw dirt and insignificance.

When we run we can choose to see sunrise or  darkness.  We can choose to see beauty or dirt. We can run with negativity or passion. It's our choice.

Choose wisely my friends, and proceed with passion. If you choose to see beauty you must first look.

I choose to run with the Jos, the Meems, the Tims, the Scots, the Davids, the Melissas, the Darcies, the Stepahnies, the Junels, the Connies, the Scotts, the Carlys, the Sandies, the Natiliess  of the world... and many others who see beauty where others frown and judge. 

We choose light over darkness.

We choose positive energy over negative.

At the moment of sunrise where it's mostly dark save a sliver of light on the horizon, some see the darkness, some see the light.  

Today a grade 9 student at a Winnipeg school chose to end his life. I saw the aftermath. We failed him.  We did not look. He saw despair.  He chose darkness.

It's a good day to be alive.

We are ahead by a century.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Were you a Nicole or a Mery?

Ted's Run for Literacy is a proud supporter of Can U. The other evening Can U's executive Director, Roger Berrington spoke passionately of the work they accomplish to promote social justice for children who may not have the opportunities others may take for granted.  Can U was one of ten NGOs shortlisted to present a three minute pitch to vie for cash prizes offered through Winnipeg Foundation.  Can U, University of Can, won "The People's Choice"along with a $5000 cash prize. The little race that could loves this little group that can!

The following is the three minute pitch delivered by Roger Berrington.

It's a good day to be alive.


CanU students, Roger Berrington (centre) 
My name is Roger Berrington. Mery and Nicole inspired me to be the founder and volunteer Executive Director of CanU. Were you a Nicole or a Mery?

Nicole was a kind and hard-working, raven-haired young woman with dreams of studying medicine and helping others. University was the norm for Nicole’s family and she excelled at her prestigious high school. In Winnipeg, 92% of the Nicoles, who have ample opportunities and resources, graduate from high school. Nicole is now realizing her potential and fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor.

Mery was a kind and hard-working, raven-haired young girl with dreams of helping her family start a brand new life in Canada. Mery had great potential but limited resources and opportunities. The oldest of 6 children, she had lots of responsibility at home, and had to work hard to learn English and catch up in school. In our city, 47% of the Merys graduate from high school.

CanU, the University of Can, specializes in recognizing potential like this, turning obstacles into opportunities and connecting the Merys and Nicoles in mutually beneficial and transformative ways. Beginning in grade 5, CanU kids travel weekly to Nicole’s universities where they can see their own potential and share in a whole new world of possibilities.

With $10,000, CanU will build on its track record of combining social innovation with leadership development. We will launch a brand new program; a social innovation version of Dragon’s Den. With the help of mentors, CanU kids will turn our city’s obstacles into opportunities for social change and pitch their ideas to potential partners.

CanU began as a pilot program for 15 kids and now, six years later, inspires 1100 youth and university students through 70 university-student-led programs.

· Now, university labs are crowded with dreams as Medical students, like Nicole, and CanU kids discover together remedies for chronic social barriers.

· Now, the smell of confidence fills the million-dollar research kitchen as Nutrition students and CanU kids cook together and share meals and recipes for health and friendship.

· Now, the beautiful sound of justice fills the campus courtroom as Law students and CanU kids together experience fairness and equity.

· Now, Mery, who has just graduated from high school, has a dream of studying Law one day.

My name is Roger Berrington. Mery and Nicole inspired me to be the founder and volunteer Executive Director of CanU.

CanU imagine if Mery and Nicole were here today to see what they inspired?

(At this point Roger pointed to Mery and Nicole in the audience and they stood and received a thunderous applause.)

Roger Berrington, Executive Director, CanU.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Great Grain Relay Race Report

Team Malicious... Dez, Mike, David, Mimi, Sara, Shelby
Oh my, what a glorious day to be alive!

Dez was our ringer, Mimi gave it her all, David kept the spirit light, Sara added sparkle, and Shelby kept us honest. Me? I danced like no one was watching.

We were in it to win it, but sadly we missed third place by a sliver to a team called Your Pace or Mine. We ran 147.75 laps while YPOM bested us by a few lousy meters.

Team Malicious had a scrum meeting in the final minutes... how to beat YPOM?...Desperado David pulled a bag of marbles from his kit suggesting we trip them up..."YES" we yelled...but honest Shelby kept us honest and spoke of ethics and fair play and other boring stuff. We finally agreed the only option was to run like hell, to dance hard and furious, to give it our all all... 

...and we did, we ran like hell, it hurt us, it elevated us, it sucked, it elated, it deflated, it left us heaping on the track gasping for oxygen.  We gave it our best.

We danced a good dance, but we came up shy.

We lost to a team called Your Pace or Mine.   Our friend Joanne Schiewe was a founding member of YPOM and I wanted to kick her butt. To honour her by dancing hard and giving it all. Joanne was on my mind in those final laps. She cheered track side... go Mike go, dance Mike dance... and then she laughed.

She left me in a pukey, sweaty mess on the track.  Like many of you, dear Jo lives in my heart, my legs, my blood, my bones. She whispers. She encourages. She chats incessantly. She laughs as I heave in the corner.

See Mike Run like hell.
Photo credit Junel Malapad.
The 35th annual Great Grain Relay was a uge success, a grandocious affair, no one was fired, all were welcome.  Fun was in the air and the tunes were loud and poppy.  A couple of youngsters handed out 'speeding tickets' entitling runners to an instant prize. Sandwiches, chips, fruit, vegetables, and beer were plentiful. The vibe was positive and uplifting throughout the event and the groove was contagious.

The proceeds to this year's Great Grain Relay are directed towards Kidsports, So All Children Can Play, an organization whose prime purpose is to remove financial barriers that prevent kids from playing organized sports. Kidsport believe no kid should be left on the sideline and all should experience the positive effect of organized sport.

I love my community.  I believe Winnipeg is the finest city in Canada. The Great Grain Relay is just one more validation, one more reason to love our peg City.

It's a good day to be alive, all sweaty and out of breath.


Mimi wins FIRST Prize! David is there to record the event. 

Junal and Mike.. a selfless selfie.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hypothermic Half Marathon 2017, Race Report

photo credit, coach Tim MacKay

The coffee was hot.  
The smiles were lovely. 
The good-cheer overwhelmed. 
The hugs were warm.  
And did I mention the coffee?  
It was hot. 

These are the random observations of a nine time Winnipeg Hypo runner named Mike.

There were a few nasty puddles and the black ice along along Chancellor Matheson Drive was treacherous, but overall this year's Hypo was a grand success. This is the second year of the new Hypo course and it was a huge improvement from last year.

Last year I chose not to write about the event because it was distressingly poor. After years (decades) of successfully hosting the event at gorgeous Fort Whyte Centre it was moved to St. Norbert Community Club in South Winnipeg. Last year's event did not measure up to the previous standard in terms of overall enjoyment, food, and course. Not even close.  Runners voted with their feet and the traditional three waves were reduced to two waves, barely.  It did not bode well for the Hypo. 

Despite the freakish weather, this year's event was a remarkable improvement from 2016.  Race director Chris Walton and his merry crew listened and responded to the many suggestions from the running community. There was a new sense of professionalism in the air while last year it seemed amateurish.  

Here's a how I saw it... 
  • The new course is safer, more interesting, and much more 'runner friendly'.  There's still way too much side walk where runners get bunched up, but less so than last year. There is room for improvement here.
  • The police presence was outstanding while last year it was non-existent. The police presence is reassuring to runners and volunteers and adds to the professionalism.
  •  The volunteers were plentiful, and knowledgeable of running needs.  I recognized many stellar volunteers from or running community such as Bob and Julie Gold Steinberg, Junel Malapad, Rick Lecuyer, Oliver Valencia, Aldo Furlan, Gary Sutherland and many others.  These are dedicated runners who understand.  Their collective running experience is invaluable and their presence adds to the quality of the race. 
  • The pylons clearly delineated the running lane and kept us safe from oncoming traffic.
  • The City of Winnipeg was nudged into sanding the trail through King's Park at the last moment... and this is a significant feat! 
  • The results were posted within 24 hours.... not bad, but perhaps room for improvement.
  • The post-run food was way better this year and the coffee was hot (last year it was luke warm). Vegetarians and vegans would have been disappointed, but meat eaters were in heaven (do you really need sausage AND bacon?).
  • There were pace bunnies for all levels of runners ranging from TC to 1:50.  
  • The medal is cool and unique and the swag is practical (a backpack which I will donate to an inner city school).
Perhaps the best part of the Hypo is the training. The Hypo gives us a reason to get outdoors at 6PM in minus crazy temperatures with equally crazy windchills.  Eight weeks of training outdoors in dark winter conditions makes us strong and brings us together.  We run with other like minded 'crazies'. We develop incredible friendships and camaraderie.  We cheer novice runners until they feel part of the team.  We run outdoors when many are huddled around the warm glow of the television.  We have suckled heaven where others taste cinnamon buns and coffee. We are stronger in mind, body and spirit.

We are all that we can be.

Thank you Hypo, for this we are grateful.

I expect the Hypo will be back next year as it should.  It's a wonderful, mid-winter event that adds to the quality of our lives.  Winnipeg is a finer city because of the the Hypo and the many volunteers that turn the cranks and gears of community.  We are fortunate for this event and I wish the crew continued good success.

It's a good day to be alive.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

We killed a bottle of scotch.

It's just a cup,  a plastic juice cup used in hospitals around the world. This one was stolen from St. Boniface Hospital palliative care the night before my father died. We killed a bottle of Scotch that night, a 24 ouncer of Balentine. We had been working on it for several days, but truthfully it wasn't our first bottle. We bought the first one on New Year's eve and kept the bar stocked to the end.

We killed the last bottle together on January 31, 2000 and I have the cup.

We sipped in silence and watched the sun slide below the yardarm of 1999.  I remember the fireworks and the warmth of the scotch. Mostly I remember the moment of quiet contemplation where silence spoke volumes. Love was in the air. Words were not necessary.  I think we were both overwhelmed with life, with just being. Scotch and silence became a panacea for the moment. As far as deaths go, it was perfect, fairytale-like my sister would say.

I'd arrive every day at 4:30 to the same greeting "Mike's here! Let's have a scotch." and we did, and we talked, and we sat in silence. And we apologized for past errors of judgement and laughed at the senselessness of life. We tossed around the meaning of life and finally agreed it is the pursuit of wisdom. That settled, it was time to let go, time to die.

The morning my father died I was with him, alone. He had passed and a nurse entered to fiddle with switches and knobs as I sat by his side. I spoke gibberish, telling her the light was bothering my father and if she could just turn it off he would be more comfortable. She was the mother of one of my students so I was trying to pull it together and be professional.  She approached me and dimmed the lights and then, unexpectedly she hugged me warmly and held me tightly. My gibberish turned to sobs, long guttural uncontrollable sobs.

And she held me.
And she held me.
And she held me.

I told this story to a friend this morning on a 20 km run through bush trail and side streets.  I'm not sure why, but in that moment it was the perfect story. When we run the talk turns existential as we question white light, theories of meta-physical existence and the human condition. As we run we develop incredible friendships based on trust and a willingness to let our guard down and show long shadowed vulnerabilities, flaws in character, hopes and aspirations, regrets and dreams.  We become human, we become at peace with ourselves.

Today was a sublime day to be alive. Thanks Tim.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Running in the post-truth era

Love at the end of an era
Cause it's love at the end of an era
Wait for the night, for the light at the end of an era
Wait for the night, the light at the end of an era

In this life we keep moving

Strumbellas, End of an Era

Like many I am deeply disheartened in this era of post-truth.  The bloated angry face, the ridiculous orange combover, the hateful rhetoric, the spiteful tweets cause emotional distress. We feel visceral, physical pain. It hurts to the core to witness the dismantling of principled American values centuries in the making. America the Beautiful has become America the Wounded. We mourn the loss of decency and kindness. We are frightened for the future of our children. We are angry and we march, and we sing and we dance in defiance.

I desperately want to understand the mindset of Trump supporters some of whom are reading this very blog. I simply don't get it; how one can possibly support the hatred, the divisiveness, the mysongny perpetuated by President Trump? I want to understand, but I simply cannot.

The other day Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Maestro, Alexander Mickelthwate introduced a sublime evening of choral music at Westminister United Church.  He spoke eloquently of his frustration with the new world order, the era of post-truth, the era of Donald Trump.  Ever the gentleman, Mickelthwate could not bring himself to say the word so instead he spelled it aloud...

I do not understand the s.h.i.t. that is happening in The United States.

He then disclosed a pang of guilt for hosting the gorgeous New Music Festival in such troubled times... a hint of frivolity in desperate times.  He then rebounded passionately, angrily, and dismissed the guilt.

I paraphrases here...

No, this is exactly what we should be doing. Singing and welcoming cultures from around the world. Celebrating cultures joyfully and welcoming differences, and demolishing walls that separate us. Sing loud...

This was met with a thunderous ovation and set a glorious tone for the evening.  A tone of love, and hope, and humanity. The choirs sang loudly, their voices rising to the frigid  night sky. We were enveloped in a cozy blanket of truth and warmth. For the moment we surrendered to the beauty of choral voice in these troubled times, this era of post truth.

We need to move our feet when we pray. We must never stop believing in the spirt of humanity overcoming hatred.  We need to walk for peace. We need to run for humanity. We need to march for truth. Together we will regain our moral compass and the likes of President Trump will, in time, fade from memory.

In this life we need to keep moving.

These are beliefs of a runner named Mike.

I believe in goodness.

I believe in truth.

I believe in kindness.

I believe love trumps hate.

I believe it's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

These Old Bones

Big wheels keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keeps on burnin'
Rollin' rollin' rollin' on the river
Rollin' rollin' rollin' on the river

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Proud Mary

"these old bones" image courtesy Google search

All things considered, these old bones have done me well. 

I can't touch my toes to save my life. I can barely lift the bar over my head let alone adding dumbbells to the mix.  I'm lousy at hockey.  I'm too short for basketball. I swim like a brick. I was a pretty good catcher in my day and sailboarding and racketball were my strengths, but I fail at just about every other sport...

...except running

I remember high school football... okay, let's forget high school football... I was an abject failure.... but high school ping pong, that's another story.  I used to cut classes to climb the ping pong hall of fame ladder. I was that good the mind of a grade nine, skinny geek, I was awesome.  

Sadly, I have come to the realization that I am in a perpetual state of recovery... recovery from knee aches, shoulder aches, toe aches, calf aches, arse aches, and aches I haven't yet discovered. The young have injuries too ... boo hoo (yes that's sarcasm with a sprig of envy)... and recover about three minutes later with maximum whining.  Curse the young ones! 

We experienced folks take more time to recover, to heal, to mend. We like our injuries to simmer on a low boil for at least two or three weeks. We come to depend on our beloved massage saviours (thank you Alerry) and equally revered physiotherapists (hi ya Stephanie) We are never fully healed, and we're okay with that cuz these old bones sustain us and they're all we have. There's always another pain just around the corner to replace the one from which we've recovered.  

It's as good as it's going to get, and we're okay with that because we have come to love our old bones with all their scars and blemishes.

Aging gracefully is a full time job.   If I were a car, my owner would be looking for a new one with less mileage, one with fewer breakdowns, and easier on gas.  If I were a toaster my owner would just pitch me and replace me with a sexier, skinnier, shinier model. 

We are among the fortunate ones for these old bones keep us rolling down the river. 

Thank you bones.  I have a few more excursions planned so please hang in there for another ten years. I haven't yet run a 100 miler, but it's on the bucket list.  And if you fail me I'll understand and I'll be thankful for the miles you've sustained me. 

I know I'm on borrowed time.  Thank you bones.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Notion of Do

Just do it.

Nike ad.

Nike's tagline is brilliant and almost compensates for their horribly offensive ad from 2012 where they mocked people with disabilities. The notion of do appeals to me. It suggests action and satisfaction. Do is gratifying. Do holds promise and hope for the future.  To do is to flourish, to not do is to languish.

The way I see it there are three interdependent principles to the notion of do: 1) Do Something. 2) Do it well.  3) Keep doing it.

Do Something
Choose an activity and just do it. I chose running many years ago because of its pure simplicity, its graceful elegance, and the sheer joy of spirit it provides. I also chose running because it's damn hard and humbling. It is wrought with failure and tough life lessons. Running is my do. It is joyful and paradoxically, it sucks. Over time I have learned to expect the suck and embrace the suck. It becomes part of the mystique of running, the joy, the satisfaction, the disappointment, the exhilarance.

I use running as a metaphor for activity. Just do something, anything.  Do something hard, something that makes you realize you're alive. Something that takes your breath away (literally and physically). Chose a do that makes your heart pound, makes your brows drip, makes you proud. Do something hard, joyful, and challenging.

'Hard' is relevant in terms of the notion of do. For some hard is just getting off the couch and walking around the block.  These are the brave ones, the ones who inspire awe; the ones that take a terrifying leap towards do. The obese who take a calculated first step, the depressed who writhe in invisible hurt, the physically challenged who roll through life smiling,  the sick who are determined to remain healthy and relevant for their families and friends. They lace up and do. These are the true role models.

Do it well.
Don't stop at do, learn to do it well. Doing it well promotes positive wellbeing and encourages us to improve, to not be satisfied with status quo, to become all that we capable of becoming.  My friend Bill Diel Jones once said "we race the way we train" an analogy for we live life the way we live.  We can live life in mediocrity and safety or we can live a life of trepidation and excitement. Learning to do it well means we accept our failures, we pick ourselves up, cry a little, and try again, and again and again.

Joanne Schiewe, hard to say, the late Joanne Schiewe was a consummate example of do it well. She became all of her being and then she tried harder and found untold potential.  She then climbed higher and tried harder, and climbed higher yet, and worked harder, and trained harder. She battled the insurmountable with courage and fortitude. She cried. She laughed. She achieved brilliance and then, ever so sadly, she died.

Our dear friend Jo, understood do it well better than anyone.

Keep Doing it.
At age 13 my son Max broke his arm while skateboarding. It was a serious break. His arm resembled a swan's neck and he was in significant pain. He was rushed to the front of the emergency cue and several surgeons were called to discuss options. He had lost circulation in his hand and the docs were worried he may lose his hand without emergency surgery.  They explained the procedure to his terrified parents and asked if we had questions. Shell shocked with the immediacy and fear we were mute. Max broke the pregnant pause with his personal question,

"When can I skateboard again?"

Fifteen years later we can laugh and analyze his intention with a clear mind. The takeaway from this unfortunate experience is passion. Skateboarding was his do and he gave it his all. He practiced endlessly on the streets and parks of Winnipeg. He could not imagine a day without skateboarding, a day without perfecting his passion.

The third do principle is perhaps the hardest. Keep doing it.  Never stop. Never settle for mediocrity. Be all that you can become.  Become better at your do.  Work hard to perfect your do.  Witness your self-esteem flourish.

I think of our friend Natalie Pirson and Joanne Schiewe and revel in their determination to be all they can become. I think of others, the invisible ones, the silent ones, the ailing ones who take a timid step forward. Who move forward with strength and dignity. They are the brave.

They do, they do it well, and they do it forever.

If you haven't yet set a new year's resolution might I suggest you do.

It's a good day to be alive.