Tuesday, July 26, 2011

To the winds

A farewell dinner tonight for an old colleague of mine, Jessica Boyd. Some old, some current, NRC colleagues met at the Economy Shoe Shop for a final goodbye before she takes a new post on the faculty of the American University in Yola, Nigeria.

It was a little bit strange seeing so many old, familiar faces again. Of course, as might have been predicted, as the night progressed the crowd around the table dwindled to just Roger Ebanks, Mike Reith, Jess and myself; in many ways just like old times. The juke-box played old folk-punk tunes such as the Pogues' Fairy Tale of New York and we talked about science, life, Jess's new position and the current state of NRC; Roger and Mike still working in the old Mother Ship whilst Jess and I had been cast aside in favour of the new reality four years ago now. To be honest, from what we heard, we might be better off out of it than in!

We all stayed for a pint longer than usual, on account of the rain you understand, and eventually staggered out into the drizzle (drizzle being something Jess is probably going to miss in Nigeria). As we did, I pointed out that in 2000, NRC hired five young RAs on the GHI Aeromonas project; Roger, Jess, Victor Nesatyy and Stephen Tsoi. Victor and Stephen moved on after three or four years, but Roger, Jess and I stayed until the bitter end, and if I may say so, did some damn fine work. Roger survived the great WR (work-force reduction; great euphemism!) of 2007 whilst Jess and I were let go, but we both managed to stay in Halifax. We might all have been pink-slipped nearly four years ago now, but with Jess's farewell dinner and her imminent relocation to Nigeria, tonight felt like the end of GHI, with only Roger remaining on Oxford Street and his erstwhile colleagues, the three Amigos if you will, relocated hither and yon.

We didn't have the silly hats or that intro dance, but we published our fair share of papers and abstracts together.

Plus, after three pints, like the lightweight I am, I fairly staggered home. I don't think I've done that since I went to the Prince of Wales in Aberdeen with Andy one Friday night after work in 1994, had way too much and spent the rest of the night face-down in a bucket moaning "don't move my head". In hindsight, tonight I probably shouldn't have gone for a run then headed straight down the pub to rehydrate with three pints of Rickards White. Just sayin'


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Descent of man: Johnny Miles

A latte and an almond croissant at TIBS this morning, just the thing to warm up after 60kms in the rain. Of course, putting a wet helmet and track-mitts back on after the coffee felt pretty icky, but having one of the best java-shots in town and a croissant still slightly warm from the oven? Priceless.

Of course, in the "icky" damp cycling clothing category nothing comes close to damp cycling shorts with an actual chamois leather chamois. I'm old enough to remember those, and had a pair back when I started riding. Now putting those on while they were still slightly damp is an experience I'm glad none of you have to endure.

Taint necessarily so: synthetic chamois - we're spoiled beyond belief!

It's been a funny couple of weeks, what with Johnny Miles, Coteau du Lacs, having the boys full-time for a while and then generally trying to maintain a rhythm of life (the universe and everything). La belle and I had a chat last night and we pointed out that me starting full-time at Cyclesmith co-incided with a significant uptick in her call schedule. All of which means we're not entirely sure what even represents a "regular" life rhythm nowadays anyway.

In many ways, this morning's soggy sixty represented one of the first times I was able to have some time for myself in quite a while. Sure, the >14hr drive to Montreal and back was also "me" time, which was ably filled with audiobooks, podcasts and the CBC, but there was also the slight matter of piloting the Ninja at 120 kph. This morning was a little more sedate.

I thought a little about Johnny Miles. On the whole, I was disappointed with my time; 3:13 and change. Now yes, I know, whinging about yet another BQ may not be seen as something worth whinging about, especially when the mean marathon time in North American is nearly 50% longer, but at least one person has looked me in the eyes and said "well compared to what you can run, and have run, you have a right to be disappointed with that". Thank-you. You know who you are.

I thought I was doing OK around the first two laps, hell, I was doing OK around the first two laps. A nice easy lope with Dave Nevitt, Kevin Tulloch (until he DNF'd) and Matt Callaghan. Pace felt good, legs felt good.

On the third loop I tried to pick it up a little. That did for Matt, Kevin had already DNF'd, and I still felt good. Everything was under control and it even felt like I was gapping Dave Nevitt. Sweet! Only 10 kms to go.

Then the wheels came off. Dave blew by at the start of loop 4. This was quite demoralising really. It felt like I'd been working to gap the guy, yet all I had to show for it was a 15 second gap in 10 kms, which Dave handily disposed of in a jiffy. Fuck.

Oh well, still in 6th place on the road.

The first five kms of the last loop, which were on road, felt OK. Well, my legs were heavy and my mind was starting to get that slightly hysterical, wild-eyed look, but the monster was under control. Plus I was now moving through the back-markers and if I was feeling a bit lunatic with only four miles to go, these guys had ten miles to go and they were walking already, whereas I was still maintaining a semblance of a run. Nothing like feeding off other peoples' misery.

Then the left turn, down a small hill, narrowly avoiding a Sobey's 18 wheeler K-turning across the course and onto the track paralleling the river; three miles home, nearly all on trail. It's called Albion Way.

Oh, perfidious Albion!

Every step took more and more out of me. The more I tried, the worse it became. The Garmin taunted me; "ha only 200m since you last looked at me". The only saving grace was that Matt was in worse state than me! Our paths crossed just after the last turn, with 2 kms to go (for me), well he was really suffering! If I was going through some kind of purgatory, he was already plumbing the lower levels of running hell.

I was only 25 minutes or so behind the winner; Dave McLennan did a 2:48 or something. This isn't too bad, I'm usually 25 to 30 minutes behind him, so perhaps I really did have something faster than a 3:13 in the legs, it was just the day (which was kinda warm), or maybe the course (which is nearly 50% trail) or some other intangible on the day, which affected all of us, to differing degrees of course.

We can be geeky and look at the Garmin tracks for the race; The clear upward trend in pace can be seen. Good and controlled through the first twenty kilometres. A slight swing upwards between twenty and thirty and all hell breaking loose after thirty.

Or we can review the photographic evidence. Here's the start. Hey, I look pretty good.

Coming up to the half. I still feel pretty good. Dave Nevitt is just behind the halfer in red, sitting there, taunting me with his presence. Matt (in black, to my left), well his wheels have already become unscrewed and are on the verge of falling off and rolling away in opposite directions. Still, a good action running shot for me I think. Not looking as fresh as the start, but allowances have to be made for having a half in the legs already.

This is my third passage along the trail. Still look OK, I know I felt OK and I thought I'd dropped Dave. Of course, he was probably lurking just around the bend behind me. I know this because a mile or so later he came steaming past me like I was standing still.

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear. 38 kms or something. That calm visage has gone, replaced by a mix of pain and hysteria, my arms have dropped and if this was a video, yo'd see the rest of my running form had gone too. The shades still look good (nice bit of bling from work) and they did do the job of hiding that wild-eyed, staring look of desperation quite nicely.

This series of pictures reminds me of those ascent of man posters, but in reverse. To be honest, I'd have preferred riding a bike!
Next up, I have no idea. A couple of TD gigs I think. Certainly, I haven't really run since Johnny, now three weeks ago, and to be quite honest, I haven't really missed it. Shawn Beaton beat me up on a 20km club-run on Sunday, but I managed to keep my pace. You know, I think I'm starting to feel the urge to run again. Maybe.