A hodge podge of a month: June 2017 recap

I spent the first half of June taking part in the Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference (GGCLC).  This intense and immersive trip lasted 16 days and spanned three provinces.  It was an honour to attend and learn about leadership issues from fellow citizens from across the country.

Over the period of the conference, on an average night, we only slept for 5 - 6 hours, but I still managed to run five times, in Whistler, Saskatoon and Regina.  There is such beauty in all three cities.  I only wish I had snapped a picture in Saskatoon.

Mini hill sprint with a new friend in Whistler, B.C. - watching out for the bears!

Sunrise over the legislative assembly in Regina, Saskatchewan. 

GGCLC spanned three provinces, ending in Ottawa, Ontario.  On June 17th, the day after the closing plenary, I zipped east to Andrew Haydon Park in Nepean, to support my mom in the Breakfree 5 km walk.  The event is a fun run/walk to celebrate participants in the Running Room Run to Quit Smoking Program.  After several decades of smoking, my mom registered for the program as a walker and has officially quit cigarettes!  I'm so deeply, incredibly proud of her!

Mother and son, pre-walk.  

My mom and her coach, Rhonda, beginning the walk.  

As we embarked upon the walk, it was a truly uplifting experience to join so many people who had not only supported one another as they battled and won against a smoking addiction, but who had taken up running and walking together.  What a triumph.

My mom later admitted that she had been nervous about doing the 5 km walk and thanked her coach, Rhonda, for all of the support.  Before mom registered in the clinic, the local store staff said that Rhonda was absolutely amazing and I will vouch for that.  She is stellar!

The Slater Street Run to Quit team celebrating following the race!

Shortly after the Breakfree 5 km ended, I made my way back to my hotel in Ottawa to collect my suitcases to catch a flight back home.

Landing in Toronto that afternoon, I felt a fatigue so deep it reverberated at the cellular level.  But I also felt a newborn strength flowing and hardening within me.  A powerful thought.

Six days later, I laced up for the Pride and Remembrance Run 5 km.  Why do I take part in this event?  Well, Pride has its origins in community members coming together to support one another and to fight for equality.  I run because the event gives me another touch point during the festival to reflect on and support our community.

On a lighter note, the race starts with a blast from a giant confetti cannon.  What beats that?

For the last several years, I've joined or organized a team that did the event in costume, focusing on having fun, cheering on fellow runners, taking pictures and raising awareness for the cause.  We weren't aiming for a PB - far from it!  This time around, most teammates were unavailable, so I joined Team Frontrunners and decided to actually race.  Or at least to the best of my ability, given my reduced training in June -- and attending a U2 concert the night before!

In theory, I remembered how hot it felt the last time I actually ran the race.  In practice, I had no idea.  My throat was dry within the first kilometre and I greedily splashed water into my mouth and onto my face at the water station.  By 2.0 km in, the soles of my feet were on fire.  "Why are they so hot?!?" I thought silently in the moment.  Here it is important to note that the race starts at 10:00 a.m. - this isn't an 8:00 a.m. kick off - which is late enough for the sun to be blazing down.

Running rockstar Eric Bang smashing the race and winning in 15:44!!!

Fast forward, I did my two laps of Queen's Park and made it back to the start/finish line at Church and Wellesley, completing the race in 18:57 at an average of 3:47 / km.  I went into the run with minimal expectations and this result was a pleasant surprise!  

Shoulders heaving, I was clearly huffing and puffing to the finish line!

Following the race, I discovered an awesome blog review by Cathy V, who also battled the heat and appreciated the festive atmosphere!  Her post perfectly captures the fun and excitement of the race.

This is a year of firsts for the event.  It's the first time Nathan Monk has taken the helm as race director.  He quickly made an impact in the months before the race, organizing community fun runs and better promoting the event online.  Kudos to him and the volunteer team on a job well done!

It's also the first time the course was certified by Athletics Canada as officially 5 km.

And what's more, this year the event raised $188,810 - the highest amount in its 22 year history.  The top two fundraisers were Al Ramsay and Tony D'Addario, who happen to be two friends of mine.  Nice work, gentlemen!!  The money raised goes to Fife House, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Casey House and the Pride Remembrance Run Foundation.

There are several unique touches to the Pride Run that make it a top calibre event.  One is the race kit: full of fun swag with a rainbow theme.

At race kit pickup, runners get to try on and choose a t-shirt that fits them.  That's a process that can only work at smaller events.  I liked it because athletic shirts all fit so differently and in this case, I found one that fits perfectly that I will keep on wearing. 

And finally, following the race, athletes are rewarded with lots of good nibblies - bananas and bagels (of course), but also brownies (yes, why not?), Starbucks coffee, Greek yogurt and other treats.

The two areas for improvement revolve around the run's online presence.  Its web site could use a good refresh to remove old press releases from the splash page and replace them with more relevant information.  Along that theme, nowhere on the front page or table of contents is a link to results or photos.  (I eventually found them under a sub-menu.)  But I get it - the run is organized almost completely by volunteers.

Likewise, the web site for RaceMine, the vendor that tracks results, is missing some functionality.  When you search by bib number or last name, you can see all of an individual's results -- except their overall finish place.  That seems a little odd to me.

These are small changes that would make an excellent event even better, but really, the Pride and Remembrance Run is already stellar. 

I hope to see some of you at next year's event.  In the meantime, my next race is the MultiSport Canada Gravenhurst standard distance duathlon on July 15th.  I am ecstatic to be an ambassador for the series - stay tuned for more updates. Happy racing!