Monday, May 26, 2014

Race Report: Cabot Trail Relay 2014 - Everything according to plan…not!

It's Monday night and I'm still recovering from what turned out to be another great weekend on the Cabot Trail. 

The weather was cooler than expected but mostly good for running. The folks who ran legs 9, 10 and 11 had to contend with dark, damp conditions that made their runs more treacherous than usual but everyone performed well. My team, the Smokey Mountain Daredevils, completed all 17 legs of the 276km race in a total of just over 24 hours, placing 38th out of 70 teams. Not bad considering the team included so many newbies.

I ran my own leg (#1) faster than I expected, "making the mat" with an average 5:57/km pace - which I was pretty damn happy about given that leg #1 was just a tad hillier than I expected, with ascents totalling nearly 400 metres. 

Logistically, things went well too…for the first while, at least. Team members arrived in Cape Breton early Friday evening, enjoyed a community pasta dinner together, then headed up the road to settle into rooms at the Gaelic College before reconvening for our team meeting later that evening. Before joining them, I went to a local hotel to attend the mandatory captain's meeting, filled the car with gas, and stopped to take a couple of photos. As I drank in the gorgeous views, I was confident my plan was unfolding perfectly.

My confidence was short-lived however. The first four legs went well…

...but in the midst of leg 5, a caliper on Sarah's van seized and we were suddenly scrambling to make alternative travel arrangements for five teammates stranded on the side of the road.

The next couple of hours are a blur. I remember a lot of good ideas being thrown around as we waited for those who'd been travelling in the van to rejoin us (thanks to the kindness of other teams who offered lifts), and more than a few moments of panic as I tried to figure out the best alternative. However, by the time leg 7 was underway, we had a new plan and everyone was pulling together to make it work.

And, wow, did they ever. With little or no sleep, the two Sarahs and Gwyn ran great races in the wee hours of the morning with terrific support from Ruth and Krista. The late night crew, who faced some of the hardest runs, stayed focused and ran brilliantly with only minimal support from their driver/captain (me!) who was quickly running out of steam after all the unexpected decision-making and tough driving conditions. In fact, by the time we finally rolled into the motel around 1:30, I was so tired, I could barely string two words together and, to be frank, wasn't enjoying myself much anymore.

Fortunately, things looked a good deal brighter with a few hours rest. My teammates and I awoke to blue skies and beautiful views of Cheticamp harbour. As we sat outside sipping the hot coffee and tea David had thoughtfully popped out to buy first thing, we shared our favourite moments from Saturday before jumping in the car and heading up the road to join our teammates at the end of leg 16.

After a beautiful drive along the coast and through the Margaree Valley, we arrived to find them in good form - happy with their runs, enjoying one another's company and talking about "next year". By the time we reached Baddeck, we were all in full party mode, laughing and dancing as we waited for Julian to cross the final finish line. What a great feeling!

Looking back on the weekend, I realize that I'm already only remembering the good things - amongst them, my teammates welcoming me over the finish line at the end of leg 1, Jim gently counselling and Julian patiently listening while I struggled to rework our race plan, Ron and Hughie sacrificing their weekend plans to enable the team to finish the race, Deidre's strength as she climbed North Mountain, the excitement and fearlessness in "little" Sarah's eyes as she headed out into the darkness at 2:00 am, the joy on Tristan's face when he finished his leg in fifth place and on David's when he conquered MacKenzie Mountain, and Sarah's warm hugs and encouragement.

Did the weekend go exactly as planned? Nope. Was it terrific just the same? You betcha! Will I do it again? Well, the jury's still out on that one but I expect it'll be hard to stay away. The Cabot Trail Relay truly is a race like no other.

Thanks once again to the organizers and the people of Cape Breton for hosting such an amazing event and to my teammates for making CTR 2014 such a positive and memorable experience!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One more sleep!

Another long silence. Well, that should tell you something. Let's just say keeping the team roster full has proven to be a bit of a challenge. Injuries and family duties have lead to about half our original members opting to pull out of the race. Fortunately, we've managed to fill their spots, but the chaos of dealing with so many changes means I haven't been sleeping or training well. And, given that, I'm not expecting much good to happen during my run on Saturday.

On the upside, I'm really pleased with our final roster. We've got a nice mix of ages, genders and running abilities. A few members are old friends and running mates, others are former Devils I look forward to racing with again and the rest are friendly, dependable folks - so I'm sure we'll have fun together.

The weather is cooperating too. After several weeks of grim long range forecasts, it now looks as if we'll get sunshine and perfect temperatures - cool enough for the runners, warm enough for spectators. Of course, it may also be perfect for blackflies but we Bluenosers are tough enough to handle a few bugs.

It's been interesting to watch my psychological and emotional reactions to the chaos of the last month. I've lain awake more nights than I care to admit planning and worrying. I mentioned to a friend that I found being Team Captain more stressful than doing my day job, which seemed a bit bizarre. I suppose it's because I tend to be just a tad type A  (no sh-t, Sherlock) so typically aim to perform whatever tasks I take on as well as possible. At work, that's relatively easy to do because I have plenty of control over how I do my job. However, organizing a team of 17 people to run a race 285kms long is a whole different matter. There are any number of things that could go wrong over which I have no control whatsoever, which is crazy-making for someone like me.

Anyway, as tough as the past few months have been, I'm glad I took on the Captain's role. It hasn't been easy but I've certainly learned a lot - about recognizing when I'm demanding too much of myself and others, about dealing with uncertainty, about asking for help, and about letting go. Now that the hard work is done, my goal is to relax and just let the weekend unfold. We've assembled a great team and come up with a decent race plan (see above - I'm pretty darned proud of it!), and the Cabot Trail Relay is a first rate event. Whatever else may go wrong between now and Sunday, I'm sure we'll have a great time. And, as long as my teammates have fun and run well (for them!), I'll be happy.

Look for a race report early next week and more regular posts as my calendar opens up.

Happy running and writing, friends!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cabot Trail Relay: Three weeks to go...and hoping to get there

After a bit of panic last weekend, I'm happy to report that plans for CTR are coming together nicely. I met up with a few of our new team members on Tuesday evening after work and they're a really nice bunch so I'm looking forward to spending a crazy weekend in the mountains with them. Then, on Friday, I managed to find a few more sets of devil horns to round out our costume supplies and last night confirmed runners for two final legs. I have a bit more planning and coordinating to do but pretty soon all that will be left is to hope no one gets sick or injured before the race.

On Saturday afternoon, I joined my friend and teammate, David, for a hilly 17k run along one of my favourite routes. I was a worried  when we headed out because I'd been motorcycling for a couple of hours earlier in the day and was tired and cold by the time I finished, but it didn't take long to warm up once we started running and, as always, I enjoyed David's excellent company and the beautiful scenery along the way.

Riding "Patti" (as I've affectionately dubbed my little red Honda Rebel) felt a lot better than I expected. I was afraid I might have lost confidence during the months she was tucked in the barn but it seems the opposite happened. I find I'm much more comfortable carving down the road than I was last autumn. All I need now is some warmer riding gear so I'm not so cold by the time I get back to the house. 

Saturday's ride took me out to my favourite place in the world, Risser's Beach, where I stopped for a few minutes to savour the view and warm up in the sunshine. I wished I could lie down on the sand and daydream for awhile but had to get back to prepare for my run with David.

I completed two other runs last week - both of which went well. On Tuesday, I ran a quick 6k around the lake and focused on getting my form right and picking up my pace a little. Friday morning, I tackled my second last hill workout and ran a total of 8k. I'd hoped to do another easy 5-8k run yesterday but got side-swiped by a nasty bout of vertigo that kept me motionless in bed most of the day. Fortunately, I felt much better by this morning, though still too woozy to go to the office.

I've only had vertigo once before about ten years ago and I think it lasted 3 or 4 days so I figure I got off pretty lightly this time - though it was still unsettling to say the least. It came on before dawn Sunday morning when I rolled over and was awakened by a strong sense that the room was spinning. I lay there several minutes checking for other symptoms, wondering if it might be a stroke and what I should do if it was. Very quickly my mind moved on to other things - unfinished projects, diary entries I hoped no one would ever read, badly organized office files, and broken relationships I'd like to repair one day.

Though brief, the episode brought two things home to me: First, that I truly have no interest in dying anytime soon. Second, that when I do die, I'd prefer to be much more prepared than I am at the moment.

Which means what exactly? Well, for starters, I need to update my will and dispose of those old diaries.Then, I need to clean out my email boxes, organize my office files and finish or get rid of those unfinished projects. Most importantly, I need to see what I can do about the broken relationships. They're not all reparable but some may be if I make a genuine effort and I'd prefer to go to my grave knowing that I'd done what I could to put things right.  

So - there it is - my homework for the next few months. I'll try to begin working on the easier items this week but most will have to wait until after CTR. In the meantime, I can at least begin plotting strategies. Some will take time to percolate in any case.

And, on that cheerful note, friends, I think it's time I signed off and got a little work done. If this post seems grim, blame it on the dreary weather we've been having lately or the stress of preparing for CTR.  Personally, I think it's a good thing to be reminded of my mortality every once in awhile. After all, this moment...and this...and this...are the only ones we ever truly have so it's important to appreciate and make the most of them. 
“What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
“Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”
― Albert Einstein
Happy running and writing!