For Hadley

With apologies to my wife, this is a love letter to the love of my life: my daughter (it’s ok, my wife knows this).

After the birth of our beautiful baby boy, Jacob, my wife Haylie and I knew that we wanted to continue building our family.

Of course, after having lost our son, there was some trepidation, and definitely a lot of worry about what might happen with a second pregnancy.

After spending some time reflecting, and waiting until it was medically prudent, we decided to begin trying to have another child.

My wife took a few inconclusive pregnancy tests.  Inconclusive, in that the indicators on the strips were not really that clear.  In the end though, it turns out that my wife was in fact pregnant, and we began the journey towards welcoming another child into our hearts and lives.

Having lost a child previously, my wife’s pregnancy was considered “high-risk,” and as such, we were able to remain under the care of the neonatal specialists at LHSC Victoria Hospital.

As part of our care, we were able to have an extra ultrasound a little earlier than normal, to rule out the difficulties from the first pregnancy: Potter’s Syndrome.  When the time came, we were exceptionally happy to see that things were progressing well.

A short time later, we were able to determine the gender of our baby at another ultrasound.  It is cliche to say that the gender didn’t matter, only that we had a healthy baby.  Given the fact that we had lost a baby previously, this of course rang more true for us than it may have done otherwise.

This ultrasound was not without its moments of worry.  We were told that our baby had an “echogenic focus” and another marker of some sort, the name of which escapes me.  Either way, neither of them sounded good, especially when we were told that these were markers on the heart and brain respectively.  After all, those are considered rather important.  However, since our baby was measuring normally on the developmental charts, we were assured that these findings were nothing to be concerned about.

Since I had complete faith in the excellent medical care that we were receiving, these developments were not a cause of concern for me.

Unlike our first pregnancy, our baby cooperated, which allowed the doctors to determine the gender.  We were very excited to learn that we would be having a little girl join our family.

Things continued to progress well with my wife’s pregnancy.  As we had done with our first child, we took some lovely pictures of my wife with her growing belly in some picturesque settings around our city.

Our second child was expected to be born around the birthday of our first.  While a part of me thought that it would be very cool if our little girl joined our family on her brother’s birthday, I was also liking the idea of her having her own day.

A few weeks prior to the due date, I ran my third marathon, The County Marathon.  I figured I could sneak it in prior to the birth.  Prior to setting out for the run, I wrote upon my hand the name of my son, Jacob, and BM2 for “Baby McKay 2,” since we had yet to decide upon a name.  Given the strong personal connection that I had developed between marathons and our son, I was a little emotional prior to the race.

In the early hours of October 16th, 2015, my wife woke me to tell me that she thought her water had broken.  I thought we could go back to bed for a bit, but she wisely disagreed with me.  We called the hospital, and they informed us that my wife should take a shower and then we should head in.

As we left in the early hours of the morning, it was of course still dark.  We exited our home, and I paused to look up to the sky to see that it was an exceptionally clear night.  I could see a multitude of stars in the sky, and as such, I knew that our son Jacob was with us on this journey.

We went to the hospital, and a nurse checked my wife over.  She advised us to take a walk and come back in a little bit.  We took a short walk, and my wife called her parents to inform them that things might be progressing on this day (they had a 3 hour drive to make).  I also informed my parents of the situation, as they were planning on making the 1.5 hour drive as well.

After our short walk, and our family communications, we headed back to the nurse.  She once again examined my wife and told us the great news that “I think you’re going to have a baby today.”  We were admitted, and of course, were tremendously excited by this declaration!

The birthing centre at the hospital is awesome, as is the care that we have received on both of our visits.  A private room is available, which includes a private washroom, and a nice view over the city.  In addition, we had a nurse by our side for the entire process.  It is an extremely comfortable environment in which to welcome a child into the world.  The care is nothing less than first rate.

Once things really began progressing, I was asked by our nurse to hold onto one of my wife’s legs, as she coached my wife through the process.  I was somewhat surprised by my active role in the birth, but happily so.  It was not until our daughter was very close to her debut, that the doctor was called in to finish things up.

At one point, our fantastic nurse mentioned that our baby girl had quite a head of hair.  I asked her if I could take a look, and gazed upon my daughter for the first time.  Although at this point I could only see the top of her tiny head, it was an incredible moment which will stay with me for the rest of my days.

Before very long, our daughter made her long anticipated arrival, and to put it mildly, my wife and I were overjoyed to have her.  Hadley Isobel Jane McKay brought us unspeakable joy on the day that she was born.  She continues to do so on a daily basis.

Prior to the birth, I had not planned on cutting the umbilical cord.  I figured medical procedures were best left to, you know, people with medical degrees.  However, once it actually came time to do so, I had changed my mind, and took part in this fatherly experience.

At some point after Hadley’s birth, I paused for a moment at the door of the quiet room where we had said goodbye to our son 51 weeks prior (we were only a room or two away from where we had had Jacob).  When we lost our son, people told us that we would be back in the hospital before we knew it, welcoming another child into our family.  I guess they were right.  We had come full circle.

We moved to another part of the hospital for the recovery, fortunate again to have a private room.

The night following Hadley’s birth, we were able to take her home.  We brought her inside, much to the interest of her curious feline sister, Winnie.

Both sets of grandparents spent the night at home with us as well.  In the days that would follow, my Mother-in-Law stayed with us, and helped us get acclimated to having a child to care for.

On the Tuesday after her birth, we took Hadley to her first check-up with our family doctor.  She looked Hadley over, and she was happy with how she looked, was behaving and so on.  Hadley had developed some jaundice, so our doctor told us to come back in a couple of days to have that looked at.

We continued to get used to caring for a child, and of course, our love for her just increased with each passing moment.

As per our doctor’s wishes, we returned for a follow-up a couple of days after our first appointment.  Our doctor observed that the jaundice had progressed to Hadley’s feet, which had not been the case on our prior visit.  She advised us that we should go to the emergency room to have her checked out.  Our doctor suggested that this was not abnormal, and that they might put Hadley under the lights for a bit, in order to alleviate the jaundice.

At this point, there was no sense of urgency, rather, just the suggestion that we take Hadley to be examined further.  We actually discussed going home first to grab the stroller, since we anticipated we might be waiting in the ER for awhile.  Thankfully, we decided to proceed directly to the hospital.

We arrived at the ER and waited for a relatively short period of time, before being admitted.  We were brought into the ER, and Hadley was examined, and had some blood taken.  At this time, everything was still calm, and we were unconcerned.  This would soon change, and our lives would once again be turned entirely upside down.

Suddenly, our room was a whirling storm of activity, with all sorts of medical personnel rushing in to attend to our daughter.  She was whisked away to be put under the lights immediately, with us left to wonder what the hell was happening.

We were informed that her bilirubin levels were exceptionally high, and that our daughter was in substantial danger at this point.  After our experiences which would follow, I soon hoped to never hear the word bilirubin again.

Of course, as it would be for any parents, this was extremely frightening, but given the fact that we had lost a child 363 days prior, it was perhaps even more so for us.

Shortly thereafter, our daughter was brought up to the Paediatric Critical Care Unit where we would end up staying for days.

We spoke to the doctor who gave us the treatment options.  He advised us that he would like Hadley to undergo a blood transfusion, and we agreed with this being the best course of action.

In my mind, I had imagined this process would happen mechanically, but in fact, it was two doctors who manually transferred blood into and out of our daughter’s tiny body.  In the end, Hadley received a double-volume blood transfusion at the tender age of six-days-old.

At some point in this whirlwind ride of a day, we were told by a doctor in passing, that “she’s OK, and she’s going to be OK,” which made us feel much better.  Our little girl spent the night under the lights.  The only contact we were really able to have with her was through the openings in the incubator to hold her tiny hands.

The following day, Hadley was sent to get an MRI, as high-levels of bilirubin can negatively impact upon the brain.  The scan revealed that there was in fact cause for concern for our daughter’s health.  Agonizingly, we would have to wait until the following day to meet with the neurologist, in order to receive the results.

The concern was that Hadley could have something known as kernicterus, which leads to cerebral palsy.  This was of course devastating news for us, and led to a very restless night waiting for our meeting.  We were given a room to sleep in not very far from where Hadley was staying.  We knew that she was in very good hands with our exceptional nurse, and the rest of the medical staff, but we still checked in on her throughout the night.

Before drifting off to sleep for the night, we had some very difficult conversations about what our life might be like should Hadley need some special care.

This all transpired on Jacob’s first birthday.  As our beautiful newborn baby fought for her health, and we agonized over her condition, we also had to deal with the emotions of having lost our boy exactly one year prior.

The following day, we met with the neurologist after what seemed like an eternity.  He told us that he did not think that the scan was conclusive in showing the worst case scenario.  He said he would like to do another scan.  Basically, there were two outcomes from where Hadley stood at the time: 1) she had kernicterus, and would develop cerebral palsy, or 2) she would be 100% healthy.  There was no middle ground.

Throughout our stay in the P.C.C.U, Hadley’s bilirubin levels were continually monitored, and in general, they continued to go down in the direction towards a normal level, which was encouraging.

On our second night in the P.C.C.U., we did not have another room to sleep in, as priority for those rooms is given to families from out of town, which makes sense.  That was OK anyway, as we were quite happy to spend the night in the room with our little girl.

The P.C.C.U services a number of communities in Ontario, not just London and surrounding areas.  On one night, a patient arrived via air ambulance.  Unfortunately, it is an extremely busy facility.  Fortunately, we were lucky to have such amazing medical care for our daughter.

I believe it was on our third night, that we were moved out of critical care, and sent to the regular paediatric wing of the hospital.  Our daughter continued to have her levels monitored on a regular basis.  In addition, she was regularly tested with different neurological tests, reflex type activities, and so on.  Thankfully, she was passing those with flying colours.

By the end of our stay, I could’ve administered those tests on my own, no medical degree necessary.

During our stay, we were in a semi-private room with another family.  They had been in the hospital for six months, ever since the birth of their son.  Once again, our own situation allowed us to really appreciate what families are going through on a daily basis throughout Ontario and around the world.  It’s pretty tough for a lot of people.

Our stay in the Children’s Hospital was first-rate, with tremendous nursing and care for our daughter.

In addition to the world-class treatment for our daughter, there was a Ronald McDonald sponsored area on the floor where snacks were available, as well as sleeping quarters for parents of patients.  Not a place where you ever want to end up with your child, but if you do have to be in a hospital under such circumstances, there is no better place.

I told my wife to take the Ronald McDonald accommodations in the hopes that she could get some rest.  I would of course have to text her from down the hall in order to come feed our little girl as necessary.  As a father who was new to changing the diapers of a screaming child at 3 am, I was thankful to have the tremendous nursing staff on hand, who took pity, and stepped in to help.  As an exhausted and stressed parent, this was invaluable.  Thanks again to those wonderful ladies.

In addition to the great medical care, there was, for lack of a better term, entertainment available.  On one or two days of our stay, a music therapist came to visit our roommate and sang some incredible songs which we were also able to enjoy.

Over the course of our stay, I had returned home occasionally to check in on our cat and pick up some clean clothes.  My wife also came home once or twice, as we needed to shower and so on.  Other than that, we were in the hospital the entire time, for a week or so.  While this was happening, I was unfortunately also required to plan lessons and whatnot for school.  Fortunately, my supply teacher at the time took on much of this burden, which she was not required to do, but I was exceptionally thankful for.

Over the course of our stay at the hospital, I continued to be amazed by the care we received.  Once patients are moved from the P.C.C.U they are assigned a P.C.C.U nurse who follows their recovery.  I can recall that during the visit from our nurse, we ended up chatting about our prior experience with Jacob.  She became emotional upon hearing our story, and said that unfortunately, in her experience, a lot of couples are broken up by such events.  She was happy that that had not been the case for us.

There is a chapel at the hospital, and my wife and I stopped in on one occasion on our way to the cafeteria.  For me, it was just an escape from the craziness of the prior week of our life.  I enjoyed the peace and calm that it afforded.

I did not ask God to help my daughter in this situation.  I did however, ask her big brother Jacob, to take care of his little sister.

Eventually, Hadley’s bilirubin level returned to normal, and with the doctors being happy with how she was progressing, we were cleared to go home again with our little girl.  The doctors were fairly confident that she was going to be OK.  But, they did want a follow-up scan in a few months to be certain.  In addition, we would have to wait to see if Hadley was meeting the various development milestones that are expected of newborn children.

Thankfully, Hadley continued to develop normally, and eventually, the time for the scan came.  After waiting for the results, we could finally be fully confident that our daughter was OK.  I already knew in my heart, from my own observations of my daughter, that this was the case, but it was of course great to hear the medical confirmation.

A short time after Hadley’s release from the hospital, we took her to our special spot in order to honour Jacob’s birthday, since we had been unable to commemorate it as intended while in the hospital.  During this occasion, I made sure to thank him for taking care of his baby sister.

Now, when I run marathons, I run with three names on my hand, my son Jacob, my daughter Hadley, and my wife Haylie.

Recently, I completed my fourth marathon, the Road2Hope marathon in Hamilton.  Afterwards, my family and I went for a walk to a local park.  My wife snapped this picture of Hadley and I, which is one of my favourites.

I’m beyond thrilled to report that Hadley is now 16 months old, and is a perfectly happy and healthy little girl.  She brings so much joy, pride, laughter, and love into the lives of my wife and I on a daily basis.  She is an absolutely amazing little girl.

I am extremely thankful for the tremendous care that my daughter received.  I am indebted for life to our family doctor, and to the heroic actions of the doctors and nursing staff at the hospital.

In honour of my two children, the patients and families that receive first class treatment and care in our outstanding medical facilities, and the great staff that provides that care, I am running the Canadian 24 Hour Championships, a 24 hour ultramarathon, in September.

I am attempting to raise $24 000 for the Children’s Health Foundation, which not only oversees the services that Hadley received at the Children’s Hospital, but also supports research initiatives for children through the Children’s Health Research Institute, and provides support through the Thames Valley Children’s Centre to children and young adults with a variety of special needs.

I am asking you to support the Children’s Health Foundation by donating $5 (donations of any denomination are truly appreciated) and sharing my fundraising page with 5 people.  These small gestures can make a huge difference in the lives of children.

All funds go directly to the Children’s Health Foundation.

I am also seeking corporate donations.  If you know of any available partnerships, please email me at neilgordonmckay@gmail.com.

Thanks again for reading my story and contributing to a worthy cause.

Please follow the link to my personal fundraising page.

Let’s work together to make a difference in the lives of children.

The Lament of the Injured Runner?

Well, that doesn’t feel good.  I’ll just push through and hope it corrects itself.  How many of us have made similar utterances?  I know I have.

I’m 39 years old.  On my 34th birthday I ran my first half-marathon in Stockholm.  Since that point, I’ve added seven more of those, a couple of 30 k races, four 10 ks, three 15 ks, four marathons, and a triathlon for good measure.  Up until 3 weeks ago, I was “healthy.”

Oh sure, there were aches and pains.  I missed a week or so once with a calf that didn’t feel right.  Blisters, some discomfort in my hips, and so on.  But, up until now, nothing that has put me on the sidelines for an extended period.

A few weeks back, I was about a kilometre and a half into a planned 12 k run when I felt a sharp pain below my kneecap.  “Hmm, that doesn’t feel right” I thought.  My first instinct was to perhaps call it a day, but that is not the runner’s way.  I have often had an ache or pain along the way during my runs, and usually, it subsides shortly thereafter.  However, this felt different.  Having said that, I carried on, the pain did not, and I finished my run that day without any problems or concerns.

The next day I went about my business as usual, but, the following two days, I found there was pain when going up and down stairs.

I decided this called for some ice and rest.  I did so, and it felt better.  A week after the initial pain, I set out for what I refer to as a “j.a.r,” or “just a run.”  This is a rare occurrence which is free of time or distance goals.  I don’t run these frequently, but thought it was wise to take it slow.

My original plan called for an 18 km run, but my revised plan, given my new reality, was for between 3 metres and 18 km, depending on how the knee responded.  If it hurt right away, I would stop, in the hopes of not causing any further damage.  In the event that it felt good, I would enjoy the day, and go for the desired distance.

I started my run, and shortly thereafter, a dull pain kicked in slightly before my knee quickly flipped me the bird and said “hey dummy, something’s not right here.”  A short two minutes after my run began, I was walking back towards my home.

I was not a happy man.

This was extremely disheartening, and to be quite honest, I was rather bummed out.

In the days afterward, there was no pain, even on the stairs.  I could be up and down on my knees, and playing with my amazing 1 year-old daughter Hadley, without any discomfort.  The disappointment could not hold on in the face of the happiness that is playing with my daughter.

I planned to visit the doctor that week after giving it a few more days rest, and one more attempt at a short run.

I headed out four or five days later and things started off better.  No pain was present at first, however, four minutes or so into my run, the pain began.  By the 5th minute, I was reduced to a reluctant hobble.

I headed to the doctor the next day and was referred to a physiotherapist.

It was frustrating to be missing out on many mild days and ice-free running conditions which are often not present in south-western Ontario during February.  However, my mood remained good.  Although I am registered for some smaller races, my goal race will not happen until September or October (still deciding on which one), so I was pretty confident that those would not be in jeopardy.

My fingers are crossed that I’ll be back in business by March, which would allow me to prepare sufficiently for a registered half at the end of April.

Well, the physio appointment occurred and went very well.  I was asked about my stretching routine, which went something like this:

Physio:  “So, do you stretch?”

Me: “I’m not really what you’d call a stretcher (This is an understatement.  I do not stretch before, during, or after runs….ever).”

Physio:  “You are now.”

She was also quite impressed that I had lasted this long without sustaining an injury.

As a (slightly) sub-four hour marathoner, I always liked to think that the first km or two were a good warm-up, and that stretching was not really necessary.  Besides, who has time for that stuff?  Let’s get out the door, get the run in, and get back to being a father and a husband (and maybe plan some lessons for that whole teaching thing).

Anyway, turns out I have some issues with the IT band and my patellar tendon in the right leg.  Encouragingly, it does not seem to be anything that will keep me out of action for too long.

I’ll be honest, it was tough on that first trial day.  It’s been tough watching the nice days roll by as I can’t get out for my runs every week.  And, I noticed in the first week or so that the stress of work and life definitely was building up without the release that is running.  This was a bit hard to reconcile, as I pride myself upon not feeling stress in general.

However, I’m still able to be pain free otherwise.  I can still run around and chase my daughter through our halls and up and down stairs.  In the end, if I could never run a race again, I could do far worse than being able to chase the love of my life around as she smiles and giggles away.

There may not be much better than being a runner, but being a father is certainly one of those things.

I’m pretty confident, that before long, I’ll be able to do both again.

In the meantime, I’ll do my rehabilitation exercises, hope the knee comes around, and enjoy the extra hours per week that I get to spend with my daughter.

Are you a runner who’s been injured?  How’d you cope?  Leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your thoughts on injuries.

Thanks runners!

 

The County Marathon

After my failure to achieve a personal best at the Mississauga Marathon in May of 2015, I felt like I still had unfinished business for the year.  With my wife and I expecting a daughter in October of 2015, timelines were tight.  The Scotiabank Toronto Marathon would have been cutting things too close, so I set my sights on The County Marathon in Picton, Ontario, which would be held a couple of weeks earlier, in the hopes that I could sneak it in before the birth.

I did not run any other races between Mississauga and The County Marathon.  So, it was just training run, after training run.  I signed up knowing that the training could all be for nothing, should my wife go into labour early.  But, that was a chance I was willing to take.  In addition to really wanting to achieve that personal best, I also figured that it might be the last marathon I would have time to train for for some time, given the new responsibilities I was about to take on with the upcoming addition to our family.

When it was finally time for race weekend,  we made plans to have a close friend of our’s on stand-by in case our daughter decided to put in an early appearance.  I told my child to stay in her mom’s belly at least until I made it home, and headed off for the weekend.  I spent the Friday night at my parents in order to cut down the drive on the Saturday preceding the race.

The packet pick-up was at the Crystal Palace in Picton, near where the race would finish.  As this is a smaller event, I was able to grab my packet with no fuss.  I also had the opportunity to speak with one of the volunteers who had some good knowledge of the course, and he told me to be prepared for some heavy winds in the back half of the race.  After that friendly chat, I made the drive back to nearby Belleville, where I would spend the night before the race.

As I said, this is a small race, but the organization was absolutely first-class.  Before registering for the race, I had emailed a question, and within a day, I had a response directly from the race director, which is just great communication.

On the morning of the race, I made the drive back to the finish area to catch the shuttle to the start-line.  The building was open, and you were able to wait inside, and had access to washrooms as well.  From there, it was on to the shuttle bus.

I ended up sitting in front of the defending champion who was having a conversation with another runner who asked if he was going to go after the course record or not.  The defending champ told him he would see if he felt like it or not.  Must be nice to be talented enough to decide on chasing course records on a whim!

At the start area, you have access to an arena where you can wait away from the elements.  There is a short track on the upper level of the arena for anybody who would like to warm-up (the only person I saw on it was the defending champ….maybe that’s his secret).  Also on the upper level, are some change rooms.  I chose to stay up there away from the crowds on the main floor of the arena lobby.

Once the start time was near, I made the short walk to the start area and checked my bag in with no fuss.  Soon, we were off.  The course is run along some country roads and through some nice small towns.  If you are not familiar with Prince Edward County, it is a really nice part of Ontario.

I enjoyed the course, but, I am quite content to run without thousands of spectators along the route.  If you are looking for a bunch of people cheering you on to push you to your finish, this is not the race for you.

I started out more conservatively than in Mississauga, and was doing a good job of keeping up a respectable pace, which would have me in line for a new pb (sub 3:59:59).  However, as promised, there were some winds to battle, and around the 31 k mark, things began to get tough.  The race is known for a hill around the 37 k mark and I am sorry to report that on this day, it did get the better of me.  While not as fierce as the vaunted hill at Around the Bay, the fact that it comes late in the race, makes it tough.

Like Mississauga, I struggled along my way to the finish.  I did some running, and some shuffling, and unfortunately at some points, slowed to a walk.

I did manage to pick up the pace a little bit towards the finish, but by that point, I was resigned to not reaching my goal of a pb.  I happily crossed the finish line.  At the finish there were some people recording what type of shoes people had on, I suppose they were doing a survey for some purpose.

I ended up crossing the line in a time of 4:05:49.  “Fast” enough to be my second best time, but well short of my goal of bettering 3:59:59.  Nonetheless, I was still pleased to have another marathon under my belt.  It was a tough day though, and I think the combination of the windy conditions, along with the fact that it was my 3rd marathon in under a year, may have caught up with me.  I can recall texting my wife after the race and describing myself as being “shattered.”

As promised, free beer was available after the race.  We were given a rather small sample, however, to my knowledge, you could have returned multiple times.  I had that small sample, some other beverages, and snacks, recovered for awhile, and made the drive home.

All in all, if you are looking for a really well-organized race, this is an excellent choice.  We received a nice long-sleeved race shirt, as well as a pair of technical socks with the race’s name on them.  I actually wore the socks in my most recent marathon, so they are a useful freebie.  Medals were also awarded to all finishers and the volunteers did a great job along the course.  I really can’t say enough about how efficiently this race is organized and carried out.  I have not returned yet as I have some other challenges I am trying to meet, but I would highly recommend this race to anyone.

To register for the next edition, or to find out more information about The County Marathon, check out the link.

Thankfully, my daugther did not make an appearance while I was out of town either.  We welcomed her into our lives 12 days later.  Much better than a personal best.

A couple of weeks later, I completed my first 15 km race to wrap up the season.  Since it was the only one I had done at that point, I had a new pb.

Have you run The County Marathon?  Join the conversation by leaving your comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississauga Marathon

After completing my first marathon in October of 2014, I had decided that I definitely wanted to run another one, and set my sights on my hometown run, the Mississauga Marathon.

For details about such race features as the expo, shuttle buses, and the like, check out my post about the Mississauga Half-Marathon where I touched on all of those things.  The marathon and half are run on the same day, along the same course, with the obvious addition of some lengthier portions for the marathon.

I felt really strong in my training for the event, and I was feeling fairly confident that I had a shot at bettering my personal best.  My PB was established at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon the previous fall, with a time of 3:59:59.  Yes, a sub-four hour marathon!

I had ended that marathon feeling strong, and coupled with the confidence in my training, I felt like I had a good shot at setting the PB this time around.

I spent the night prior to the race at my parents’ house which was very comfortable and convenient.  My parents were actually away in Jamaica for a holiday, so I would be driving myself to the marathon the following day.

I woke up on race morning very excited for what was to come.  In fact, I found I had to calm myself down, as I sensed I was over-eager for the event.

I took the 15 minute drive down the highway and arrived with plenty of time to make the short walk to the start area.

When I had signed up for the event, I had beautifully cool perfect conditions in mind for the run, as that is what I had experienced the year before for the half (average temp of around 9 degrees Celsius).  However, as race day approached, and I was stalking the Weather Network website, much to my chagrin, the forecast was not for cooler temperatures.  To the contrary, it looked like temperatures would climb well above my breaking point, which I’ve discovered to be 16 degrees Celsius.  Once the temperatures hit that point, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be getting heat exhaustion.

I did all that I could to stay cool before the race, staying in the shade, drinking some water, and making some clothing choices which I hoped would help (a last minute purchase of a white hat to take the place of my black one).

Finally, race time was upon us, and we were off.  I cruised through the opening sections, down through the campus off the University of Toronto at Mississauga, and on by the pricey homes on Mississauga Road.  I was feeling really good.

After the point where the marathon splits from the half course, I was greeted by a runner to my left.  My Mississauga Running Nemesis.  If you’ve read my half-report, you’ll know the backstory.  I was running down a wide section of road through a residential area when all of a sudden he appeared on my left shoulder, very close to me.  I honestly don’t know what this guy’s deal is, but his running style is extremely inconsiderate and quite annoying.  I did manage to break away from him and felt much more comfortable once I did.

With that inconvenience out of the way, I could once again enjoy my run.  I can recall cruising down Southdown Road and thinking how great it was to be a marathoner, how I was really enjoying the run, and, about how I was on pace for a PB, despite the increasing temperatures.  My joy would not last much longer.

The next section of the race is through a somewhat industrial area, which is not something that bothers me.  At the 25 k mark you do a hairpin turnaround and head back along the portion that you have just run, before turning off towards the finish area.  It was just after this turnaround, that I noticed the dreaded goosebumps of heat exhaustion, and knew that my day was about to go downhill (and not in a good running way).

My kilometre split times began dropping.  I tried to push through, and started consuming Gatorade and more water in an effort to cool off.  I managed to get the split times back down briefly, but quickly, I had not only hit the wall, I was repeatedly running into it…head first.

The last 17 km of the marathon were a real struggle for me.  It was impossible for me to continue running without taking walking breaks, something that I had never experienced before in a race.

As I slowly approached the finish line, a charity walk passed over the marathon course.  I assumed that they were heading in the same direction as the course so I turned along with them, frustrated at their intrusion (remember, at this point my brain was functioning at far less than full capacity).  I soon realized that I had in fact veered off of the course, extending my run by about 150 m, not a large distance generally speaking, but given my condition, a major inconvenience.

I pushed on the best that I could, up a surprisingly long hill on Lakeshore Blvd. which was exposed to the sun.  The temperatures rose to over 25 degrees, far beyond my comfort zone.

Soon, I was back along the waterfront, walking, and running when I could manage.  You can imagine my dismay when my Mississauga Running Nemesis went running on past me.  I’d love to regale you with a story of how this stirred my competitive fires and I dug down deep to push beyond my physical limitations and crossed the finish line leaving him in the dust.  However, that’s not the case.  I had no physical response, nor the mental capacity to push myself any harder.

I struggled onward, and crossed the finish line in a disappointing time of 4:07:05.  A reasonable marathon time for a runner of my caliber, but disappointing, as I really feel with favourable weather conditions, I could have had my PB.  However, that’s the life of a marathon runner, you can only control your training and preparation, you can’t control the weather you’re given on the day of the big race.  Unfortunately, for me, I just don’t do well with the heat.  As such, as much as I’d like to get my revenge on this course, I’ve sworn off spring marathons.

Having said that, it is a great event.  And, I would still highly recommend it for any marathoners out there.  The organization is first rate, with well-stocked aid stations, excellent volunteer support, efficient shuttle service, and a mostly enjoyable course.

Although I was unhappy with my time, I was proud to have my second marathon finish in the books.  Had I reached my PB, that would have put an end to my marathon running for awhile.  However, I felt I had unfinished business, so I soon set my sights on the Prince Edward County Marathon in October.  I had a sense of urgency about getting that one in, as my wife was expected to give birth a couple of weeks after race day.  I figured that my time for running, was about to be, greatly reduced.

This would mean running three marathons in less than a year.  How would that turn out?  I’ll let you know in a future post.

Thanks for reading.  What was your toughest run?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

 

Let Lanni Marchant inspire Canadians

“If you never try you’ll never know, just what you’re worth”

-Chris Martin

In 2012, Lanni Marchant achieved the Olympic Marathon standard and should have been able to compete in the London Summer Olympics.  Athletics Canada has a standard which is lower than the Olympic Standard (meaning you have to run faster), so, in their great wisdom, they decided to deny her the opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics.

This time around, she not only met (both) qualification standards, but she also qualified in the 10 000 m race.  Currently, Athletics Canada has not told her whether or not she will be running both events.  As it stands now, she is left in limbo.  This is outrageous, not only for Ms. Marchant personally, but also for a number of other reasons.

Before continuing, I should state that I have no affiliation to Ms. Marchant.  My experience with her consists of crossing paths with her and the other elite runners in the field along Lakeshore Blvd. in Toronto during the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2014 (a year after she set the Canadian women’s marathon record at the same event) and driving by her once as she ran in London, Ontario.  I come to this completely unbiased.

You don’t train for, and run a marathon overnight.  It takes months of preparation, dedicated kilometres out on the roads, proper nutrition, and strength training.  If she knew that she was “allowed” to run both events, it would of course affect her ability to train effectively.  Why does Athletics Canada insist upon hampering their own athlete’s ability to properly prepare for Rio?

Obviously, she is deserving of the honour of representing Canada in Rio.  In addition to the benefits that she will receive, she will no doubt inspire other Canadians, both adults, and more importantly, our youth.

How do Canadians aspire to do great things when they don’t have their own role models?  Athletics Canada is being narrow-minded and short-sighted in this instance.  Will Ms. Marchant win a medal in the Olympic marathon a couple of days after the 10 000 m event?  Maybe.  But in the end, does it really matter?  Not to the younger generations of Canadians who see somebody, like them, competing with the best of the best.

I’m a teacher, and I’ve seen the impact that positive athletic role models have on kids’ desire to be active, and as a result, physically fit.  Childhood obesity and lethargy are epidemics in this country.  When kids see people being active, it can inspire them.  I’ve seen this on numerous occasions.

Running is probably the most accessible sport in the world.  Some kids need inspiration to get involved in sports though, and every 4 years, kids can be captivated and inspired by the great athletic achievements of people like Clara Hughes, Hayley Wickenheiser, Donovan Bailey, Sidney Crosby, and yes, Lanni Marchant.

In addition to being a runner, Ms. Marchant is also a lawyer.  What a great example to young women about how to achieve a positive work-life balance.

Let her shine on the Olympic stage, let her inspire the youth of Canada.  Canada will benefit by having our youth being more active, and living a healthier lifestyle.

Athletics Canada, maybe you reap the rewards down the road, when that young girl from rural New Brunswick, Manitoba, or downtown Vancouver,  who was inspired by Lanni Marchant running the marathon in 2016, brings home a gold.  Maybe you don’t.

But, if you never let her try, will you ever know?

Update: Lanni Marchant competed in both the 10 000 m and the marathon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  To read a comprehensive report on her achievements, and those of her fellow Canadian marathoner, Krista Duchene, you can check out this article from Canadian Running Magazine.