Going to pot

20130619-111237.jpg I confess to posting that opening pic just for the cheap laugh. I’m exceedingly good at cheap laughs. The subject of this post, is, however, a little more serious. It seems that in the 10 months since I began gradual school, my body has decided to join Clemmy, figuratively at least. Ten months and 15 pounds heavier. It’s almost an accomplishment. I wonder if professional eaters can boast that kind of caloric gain. I mean really. It’s quite something.

Here’s a shot of me at my recent skinniest.

20130619-111757.jpg It was taken in the summer of 2010, at my first swim race after Alcatraz. I’d dropped about 50 pounds since that incredible feat from the year before, and was fully obsessed with swimming and running. Here’s another shot from the same summer, taken by Mel on one of our runs at Albion Hills.

20130619-111948.jpg I’m pretending to be Wonder Woman. Compared to today, I was. The thing is, I always need something to obsess about. For a while, it was physical. This last picture of me recovering from some ridiculous feat with Lou of Sacred Memory says it all. I’m exhausted.

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Then I broke my hip. That was a week before xmas 2010. Here I am hobbling around in the days after my lesser trochanter gave out on a run. Yes, I literally ran until my leg broke. Plans for training for an ultra with Mel were on hold indefinitely.

20130619-113940.jpg I spent that winter pretty depressed, I’ll admit. I wasn’t teaching at Ryerson that term and didn’t do a whole lot of anything while my leg slowly, slowly healed – after it took forever to get an accurate diagnosis from smug health professionals. (No one thought an overweight woman in her 40s could possibly have a real sports injury, let alone be an athlete). I finally got a diagnosis when a lovely woman took a nuclear scan of my leg. (Also, she was hot). The hottie technician let me see the pulsating white spot on the screen. Any idiot could see it was a break. The gormless sports doc confirmed what hottie already knew and what I had always known since I limped home from that fateful pre-christmas run. I had a stress fracture. Anyway, we got through all of that, and I slowly started to get back on track until the pinnacle of my late-life jockiness last summer when I ran (shuffled) to the end of a 25 km trail race with a cold, and then, in August, swam a 10 km race. Then I put away my running shoes, goggles, and all things to do with my physical obsession and switched gears. I became obsessed with school. I went from 100 to zero in a second flat. I’m almost proud of that. Who had time for the treadmill? I had 500 pages to get through in less than a day. Who had time for laundry? I had to write a paper about duelling. (Seriously, it was about duelling). Poor Kim. Anyway, 10 months ticked by and with it, a handful of half-hearted attempts to beat back the bulge with exercise and the usual bullshit. (Write down your calories, stay within a certain range, don’t drink booze, blah blah blah blah. Blah.) My heart wasn’t in it. I had no heart. I was all brain. It’s a miracle Kim didn’t trade me in for a better model. I was a royal pain in the ass. And that ass kept growing.

Until, here we are. Ten months later, 15 pounds heavier, and a form from my doctor to check my sugars and triglycerides because I’m not a 25-year-old who can subsist on Doritos and beer like the other gradual students I know. (Okay, I wasn’t actually eating Doritos but there was some beer). I recall the words of wisdom from a colleague at Ryerson, who also went back to school in her 40s to get her Masters. “The first thing to go,” she warned, “is exercise.” For me, it has to come back, or my PhD could literally do me in. So, as of today I have chalked up three open water swims and some time on my treadmill. I’ll venture outside to do a trail run soon – when I fit back into my running shorts. Until then, as I huff and puff in my sports bra and underwear, it may not be pretty, but at least it’s a start – if not an obsession. Yet.

Two milestones in one weekend

 

On Saturday morning, Kim and I met Amanda here, at Cherry Beach, this summer’s primary training spot. It was a perfect day for a swim, but we didn’t. We were road tripping to Welland for the thing we have been working so hard towards all season: the Masters Swimming Ontario and Swim Ontario’s Open Water Provincial Championships 10 km race. We were supposed to take it easy, which wasn’t hard since is was also Mel’s 50th birthday on Saturday. Mel invited all of us to Tina’s new place in St. Catharines to help her celebrate.

I was born in St. Kitts, and when I’m there, we try to stop in and see my Aunt Rene who celebrated her 92nd birthday in February, though she’d probably be hopping mad if she knew I announced that fact in a blog. So the three of us had a visit with Rene, who was keen to hear about the swim and wished us luck. She used to enjoy swimming in the sea near Chatham, Kent, which just proves what I’ve always said about Rene; she’s way tougher than me.

Mel’s party was well underway when we arrived at her place a few hours later. Tina and Jodi put out an amazing all-local spread that included smelts, perch, and Niagara produce. Lori, Jackie and her partner Ann rounded out the group. After noshing, we all headed out for a unique birthday event: Roller derby.

I would never have described Mel, the ultra runner, as fragile or delicate, until I saw her happily sandwiched between two champion roller babes. They could crush her like a bug. Way to go, Mel. Needless to say, I had to behave myself and couldn’t have quite as much fun as the birthday girl clearly did. But I did get to drink a couple of beer and relax, with every need I could possibly have taken care of by Tina, a.k.a. hostess of the year.

Our host and ultra runner extraordinaire: Tina

Amanda and I tried not to think too much about the swim, but that was impossible. I did manage to get some sleep, but Amanda was too keyed up to get any. So early on the morning of August 19, we woke up to freshly brewed coffee, a continental spread courtesy of super-hostess, and a set of nerves so wrangled that I’m surprised the nervous energy vibrating between the two of us didn’t wake up the whole house. We set off with Kim to the race.

As this was also the site of the FINA world junior open water championships, the event was more official than anything I’ve taken part in before. All athletes had to have

Amanda getting her timing chip

ID badges and pass through security to enter the starting area. There was even a tent marked “Doping.” It was a little intimidating. After getting inked (I was number 77) and fitted with our timing devices, we listened to the pre-race instructions, when I learned that I could not wear my watch. That threw me. Okay, it more than threw me. I was in a panic.

Before I knew I had to ditch the watch

 

My goal was four hours, but I feared it might take me 4:15, and the race cutoff time was 4:30. Without my watch, how would I know if I was going to make it or not? What if I got pulled? How awful would that be? These were my troubling thoughts as we made our way to the starting gate.

The atmosphere on the dock where only 19 swimmers were getting ready for the 10 km was tense to say the least. Nobody knew what time it was, not even the security detail watching over us. Predictably, I was stricken with a sudden urge to pee, but didn’t go to the loo for fear of missing the start time. It was a good call, because suddenly we were told to get into the water and had our hands on the dock waiting for the air horn. In the end, we barely had a second to get ourselves together. I just managed to turn to my left and squeak out a ‘good luck’ to Amanda before the horn sounded.

The route was a circuit – specifically, four loops of 2.5 km. I couldn’t clearly make out the orange buoys from one end to the other. Psychologically, that’s a bit difficult. For the first half loop, I just tried to do what I usually do – stay to the right of Amanda’s wake and find a rhythm. This time, I had Adele in my head and thankfully not Frere Jacques, which Mel gleefully tried to insert as an ear-worm the night before. Amanda pulled ahead of me, as I knew she would, by the last third of the first half loop. Then I knew I was on my own. At least, I thought I was on my own.

In my mind, I looked forward to the halfway mark that would come after two loops, or 5 km. To date, that’s the longest race I have ever swum, so if I wanted to bail after that point, I rationalized, then no harm no foul. Also, I knew then I could pause at the feeding dock and try to down some Gatorade. Historically, food always works as motivation for me – even gels and Gatorade, apparently. And maybe, just maybe by then, I could relax enough to finally pee because I still had to go, quite desperately. It took a long time, but at the halfway point, I was actually feeling pretty good. I had to concentrate so much first on finding the dock and grabbing the Gatorade from the volunteer without touching her or the dock (which would mean disqualification) then on actually getting the Gatorade into me by flipping onto my back and being an otter for a few seconds, that there was no time at all to relax let alone unclench. (Read bladder still full). I didn’t realize that Kim was there filming it. She was there the whole time, walking beside me up and down the embankment, for the entire race. I was never alone, not even for a second.

After a few pulls of Gatorade,  I was gone, striking out for the end of lap two to do it all over again. The sugar rush didn’t last long. Working towards 2.5 loops was hard. By then, I’d been lapped by the fastest 10 k-ers, and had been swamped a few times by the speedy 5 km racers who hit the water half an hour after us. I was feeling old and slow and wondering if I’d even make the cutoff time when I rounded the far end buoys marking the end of 2.5 laps. Then I saw them.

Right there, at the far end of the course, in a screaming yellow canoe, floating amidst all the officials and lifeguards and uptight FINA types were, from bow to stern, Lori, Mel and Tina. I couldn’t believe that they managed to sweet-talk their way onto the course, but they did. I was the only one with a cheering flotilla. As I swam

My race from the perspective of Tina, Lori and Mel in the canoe


that long length back to the feeding station to end lap three and start the last leg, they paddled with me. Although I couldn’t see them for most of the last lap because they were to my right, I certainly felt them there. Kim also gave me a huge pick-me-up at the feeding dock as I was finishing lap three. She told me my time was good, that I was under three hours at that point. That was a huge relief because I had no idea how I was doing.  After three, I knew I’d make it. There was no question. And Kim filmed my finish. Here it is. 10 km finish

Pretty bloody proud of ourselves

Amanda’s time was fantastic: 3:29, making her first in our age category. And I was 19 minutes behind her, at 3:48:08.5, coming in second. My first objective once I crossed the finish line, realized my legs would work, dragged myself up the ladder, out of the water and into the arms of my support team? Find a bathroom.

Feeling fine if a little dehydrated after 10 km and a pint

After the race, Jodi took us to a great spot overlooking the harbour in Port Colborne, where I inhaled two pints and a cheeseburger and after some prompting from Lori, what felt like gallons of water. At lunch, we even discussed possible future swims.

I didn’t realize it, but with an official 10 km race under our belts, it opens the door to a whole new world. We are now qualified to enter races like swim around Key West: a 25 km marathon swim in stinking hot weather with sea life to contend with – you know – jelly fish, sharks. Sounds like fun. Sitting there with our cheering section and the birthday girl, both Amanda and I were also thinking about some other swimmers.

 

Tina and Jodi in Port Colborne

Lori, suggesting perhaps I drink water with my beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we began our race, 62-year-old Diana Nyad was already in the water, in what could be a 60-hour swim and her fourth attempt to swim without a shark cage from Cuba to Florida. She’s still swimming as I type this. It’s day 3.  And when we started our race, 14-year old Annaleise Carr had been in the water for about 15 hours of what would eventually take her 27. Last night just before 9 p.m., she  became the youngest to swim across the traditional 52-km crossing of Lake Ontario. I can’t even describe my admiration for them.

Amanda, me and our fantastic support team

Thanks to Kim, Tina, Lori, Mel and Jodi for making our swim truly memorable. No matter what happens on our next adventure, I can never lose with these wonderful women in my corner. Lucky, lucky me.

LOST swim – 3.8 km in waves

If I  look a little nervous here, that’s because I was. The marine forecast today called for metre high waves on Lake Ontario. Fun. I woke up at 6 a.m. to the unsettling sound of rolling thunder all around. It didn’t bode well. I recently discovered the hard way that I get sea sick in high

seas. My friend David said it best. He suggested that I get nauseous while reading in a bathtub. He’s not far off. The idea of getting queasy made me queasy enough to down some natural ginger Gravol, but I feared it may not do the trick in waves that could easily swamp a small vessel. But, I’m not exactly one to quit, and I’m  also a firm believer in the placebo effect, so I figured what the hell. I also kept a constant mantra going in my head that was a bit Dorothy-like. “There’s no need to chuck, there’s no need to chuck…”

Ninety-odd swimmers were waiting at the foot of Maple Grove street in Oakville by 8 a.m. to take on this route in the nastiest conditions this race has experienced to date. Most

were in wetsuits, but there were a few naked swimmers like me, including the inspirational Colleen Shields, a double Lake Ontario crosser whom I had the pleasure to meet a few years ago at Kelvin’s swim camp. Today Colleen was supposed to be going for her third crossing, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Her swim is now postponed until September. Colleen is

in there somewhere, along with me and all the other naked crazies. The worst part was waiting to get on with it, but eventually, we were all in the water bobbing around like sea lions . Here’s a short video: they’reoff (iPhone & iPod)

The waves were okay at the beginning, and then again, at the very end, but in between it was like swimming in the sea. We’d flop down into troughs and then get slapped in the face by the next wave. But the ginger worked and I just kept on going. At one point, I churned through a miniature log jam. I think someone dumped a truckload full of lawn and garden trimmings into the lake. I think I ate a twig at one point. I certainly swallowed a few mouthfuls but only inhaled water once – not bad, considering the fact that I was breathing into the oncoming waves. (Still not breathing bilaterally – oh well.) It was a good swim. The times aren’t posted yet, but hey – I wasn’t last! I only wish my swimming buddy Amanda could have been with me. In the end, I met another Amanda; Amanda Lee Kelessi. She’s the cute young thing pictured here. I asked Kim to take our picture (not because she’s a cute young thing…) but because she is taking on a Lake crossing on August 24. Best of luck to her. Kim took a video of me coming in, so here’s a clip. theend (iPhone & iPod)The guy cheering every one on at the finish is Madhu Nagaraja, who recently became the 50th person to solo swim across Lake Ontario.

I feel ready for next week and the big 10 km race. I did manage to get a three hour swim in last week in Barrie, so hopefully that means I can swim four. What’s another hour? At least there won’t be waves – it’s in a canal. Right now, I’m also thinking about Mel. When I started my race, she started hers – another epic battle. The Dirty Girls 24-hour ultra. Go Mel, go!

My achilles heel

I get seasick. I can’t read in a car or even on a train. I can’t even navigate in motion. If asked to check a map or a GPS while riding shotgun, I can only scan it once, maybe twice, before waves of nausea sweep over me.

I always knew this could be a problem in open water. I just didn’t realize how much of a problem.

This morning was supposed to be our epic three-hour test swim before the 10 km race in August. It began inauspiciously. I had an alarm clock failure. Fortunately Kim woke up at 7:30 – just enough time to put me into a complete panic. She helped to get me sorted while I flew around the house in a state. I’m easily rattled by things like being late. I hate being late. Fortunately Amanda was having a slowish morning herself and she told me to relax as I was heading out the door fumbling with the phone and my heavily laden swim bag. Today, I carried ‘supplies.’ I had a mesh bag, water, gatorade, gels and empty kitchen catchers and string to MacGyver an extra buoy so we could mark a distance closer to 500 metres than the existing buoy line at the beach.

I arrived at Woodbine just as Amanda did. While we futzed with rigging up our makeshift buoy, and attaching the mesh bag filled with our refreshments to another buoy, I fretted a bit about the conditions. There were breakers and swells. This would be a challenge, we both agreed. But Amanda wasn’t feeling too talkative. We just got on with it. At 8:35 a.m. we stood together beside our new buoy, gave each other a half-hearted cheer, and got underway. We had already established that on this swim, we would act as though we were in the race, which essentially meant no standing, no stopping, no chatting. We could swim up to the mesh bag, grab a few swigs of water and a gel if we wanted, but that was about it.

At first, I was excited. Sure, it was daunting, but I also enjoy muscelling my way through tough conditions. And I did, initially. Amanda struck out for deeper water, but I stayed closer to the buoy line. For the first kilometre, we stuck to our usual pattern. Amanda  is stronger and faster than me, so I typically swim off her right flank, back  a ways, but never out of her sightline. As she turns to the right to breathe, she can spot me easily in my neon cap, just as I can pinpoint her ahead and to my left. It works well, and we both feel secure together out there in the open water. Amanda just got her NLS certification and is the definition of sensible. Kim doesn’t worry when I swim with her, and, I hope, her partner feels the same way about me. But today wasn’t typical.

There was a section I immediatly dubbed The Washing Machine. It was weirdly predictable, running on an angle between two buoys at the west end of the beach. As soon as I hit it, the water became an impenetrable, roiling sludge through my goggles lens, and the waves hit me from seemingly every direction. It was a proper bitch slap section, and for the first few runs, I loved it. This was a tough swim, so it effected our time. I passed Amanda and called it out to her, as I was the one wearing a watch. It was 9:23.

“But we’ve only done two!” she was perplexed. Almost an hour in, and only a little more than two km was under our belts. I shrugged, but clearly this bothered her. She powered on. And as she found her new, faster pace, the first bouts of nausea hit me. I tried to ignore them. But that’s the thing about seasickness. It will not be ignored. I didn’t tell Amanda.

I tried to think of other things, to work through it, to ‘dig deep,’ as athletes and individuals with more guts and glory than I refer to it. I guess I’m just not that strong. Eventually I even stopped playing my inspirational/comforting soundtrack in my head. (Lately, it’s been Christina Aguilara and Chris Mann’s rendition of The Prayer). Not even Christina could help me out there. I felt wretched. I had slowed down considerably. Amanda passed me and checked in. “What’s up?” she wanted to know, as I had slowed down so much. I told her. She looked worried, then told me to swim in to shore if I felt like I was going to puke. I told her I would and she continued on. So did I, but several times I stopped swimming altogether and just bobbed around, trying to quell the heaving in my gut and shake off the shivery eruption of goose bumps that pimpled my arms and made me shudder. “Fuck Fuck Fuck!” I yelled out loud in frustration at one point to no one in particular, thinking I really ought to call this thing off. But I’m stubborn. And, apparently, I’m stupid when I’m feeling stubborn. I put my head down and swam on, for what seemed a long time, slightly off course into deeper water well beyond the buoys. Without realizing it, I had swum smack into the cauldron of The Washing Machine.

While there, being tossed around by those suddenly seemingly garagantuan waves, I couldn’t get my bearings at all. I couldn’t see my markers. I couldn’t see Amanda. And while I knew I wouldn’t drown, because I just refuse to give up that much and even if I did start to puke, I was certain I could do so without inhaling water, I admit it; I was scared. Because it was then that I finally understood, in a real, physical way,  something I had never before truly comprehended; how good swimmers can drown not that far from shore.

Amanda found me shortly after that. She suddenly appeared out of the surf, looking like a very serious mermaid. “Hi,” I said. “It’s 10:19.”

“I don’t care,” she said. “I’m calling it.” That she couldn’t see me freaked her out. She was right. And I should have listened to my gut and called it myself. On the beach, still reeling from nausea, Amanda did most of the talking. She chalked this one up to a learning experience. And before we take on any epic swims together than involve sea swells and breakers, I have to get the seasickness in hand. Gravol and Red Bull, perhaps? Amanda suggested a mariner’s magnetized bracelet. There’s a drowsy-free Gravol type drug available in the States too, I’ve heard. But this much is certain; we won’t swim out of each other’s sight ever again.

I’m sure no one cares except for me and Amanda, but we swam 4 km today. All things considered, that’s not bad.

 

 

 

Training daze

Open water swim camp

This 10 km swim looms sooner than later, and I’m in a bit of a frenzy trying to get as much lake time in before the big day on August 19. Almost daily, Amanda and I have been meeting at Cherry Beach in the early evening and swimming two to three km. But in this bizarre heat wave, the water at Cherry is now a bath-like 25 degrees, and very organic. Frankly, it’s gross, and we just aren’t enjoying it anymore. So we’ve ditched Cherry, in search of clearer, cooler waters. Yesterday, along with Thea, our new young swimming buddy, we met at the foot of the RC Harris water treatment plant for an 8 a.m. dip. It was a great, hour long swim. The morning before, we were at Woodbine, where we swam over to the next beach, bobbing offshore from the Leuty Lifeguard station. It was another great swim, but nowhere near 10 km. I’m nervous about this one. Maybe I’ll feel better after a longer training run. I did a three hour swim a few summers ago, on a freezing cold miserable day in early June at Kelvin’s swim camp.

I'm the one with the jacket over my swim suit. Yeah, I was a little cold...

At the time, it seemed inordinately daunting. It didn’t much help that I put it to music in my head.(Specifically, to the theme from Gilligan’s Island … “A three hour swim, a three hour swim…”) But I got through it, albeit mildly hypothermic (I couldn’t really feel my flippers by the end) and suffering from wicked heartburn through the last half of the ordeal. (Apparently, I was breathing all wrong and swallowing air – who knew.) In three hours I covered about seven km and I have no reason to believe I’m any faster today, so, the 10 km should take me about four hours.

A four hour swim … Jesus Mary. Why am I doing this? Let’s not sugar coat it. Here’s the reality. I am a fat 45-year-old with hip bursitis. My time for making any significant athletic achievement was forfeited 26 years ago to too many cigarettes in too many pubs while having way too much fun. I stopped being an athlete the moment I left home at 19 – that’s the sad truth. I was an athletic kid, but never a star. I was always the helpful guard who rarely got one in the basket. I ran cross country, always finishing mid-pack at best. I was an okay softball player and an okay swimmer, but I never made the podium – not even close. I was a dependable plodder. I’d get the job done. I wouldn’t quit. That was my thing. I’d get there, if it killed me. I guess that attitude hasn’t really changed. But lots else has.

When I think back now on the times I’d go out alone for a 10 km run when I was 14, I know  it was because I was, as all teenagers must, working stuff out. Granted, I had quite a bit to work out. I’m not complaining, but let’s put it this way. It wasn’t easy being 14 and gay in 1981. That I decided to lace up a pair of Nikes and hit the road in my red cotton running shorts and non-wicking tee-shirt instead of hitting the streets looking for heroin is obviously a relief now, but not something I can really take credit for. Frankly, it probably could have gone either way. Sports, back then, and running, in particular, was clearly an important coping mechanism.

cross country meet circa 1985ish - notice no one's behind me...

But I’m not running from anything anymore, at least, nothing that I’m aware of. And I’m not hiding anything. Well, nothing on par with being a teenaged lesbian in the early to mid 1980s. So why bother? Why set myself a ridiculous task than no middle-aged woman needs to accomplish. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone. But for some reason, I really want to do this thing. It doesn’t matter if I’m last – and I will be. I just want to do it. To have swum 10 km. That’s all. It’s a challenge. It’s my thing.

First swim

I’ve been itching to get into the water again at Cherry Beach, ever since my swimming buddy Amanda let me know weeks ago that the water was a balmy 18 C – about as warm as it ever got all last summer. Bronchitis scuppered any plans to join her shoreside, until this morning. 

Before 8, I was in the car, singing en route to Cherry Beach. I rarely sing. I can’t sing. I was just so damned happy to be going swimming again. Kim Lumsden was on the beach with a pod of triathletes in their wetsuits, waiting for her to put them through their paces. I was chuffed when she introduced me as someone she trains with – and as someone who swam Alcatraz without a wetsuit. Ok, I’ll admit it. I was dead proud to be introduced as a swimmer by one of the coolest swimmers ever. Kim has swum across Lake Ontario. Twice. The first time was when she was 19 and only the 11th person in the world to accomplish the feat, and the last time was in 2006, when she was 49 and, at the time, the oldest person to have swum the lake. An interesting aside, there have only been 56 officially recognized solo swims of Lake Ontario, and only about 50 swimmers, given super-stars who did it more than once, like Kim. She tells me that there are 10 swimmers hoping to swim Lake Ontario or Lake Erie this summer. Good luck to them.

Amanda arrived and we left Kim’s pod for own little adventure. The water felt more like 15 than 18. It certainly wasn’t horribly cold. There was no face-sting factor, which tells me when to be mindful of hypothermia, and no chop. It was perfectly comfortable (once you’re in, that is). We struck out for the gap and took a moment to enjoy the view of the CN Tower from that unique vantage point. Then we swam back to the lifeguard dock, and headed east, close to the shore, to the point. On the way back, we opted for a more direct route. Total water time was about an hour and five minutes, and about 2.5 km.

This summer, we hope to swim across to the Leslie Spit early one morning with a few more swimmers, for safety. Maybe we’ll swim to the island again this year. We just have to watch out for the pesky harbour patrol and kite boarders on windy days. Can’t wait.

 

Wonder women

This clip says it all. Way to go, Mel. She did it – 100 miles in 27 hours and 20 minutes, roughly. The official results aren’t yet posted. Tina kicked ass too, covering more than 120 km before her metatarsals gave out. She wisely stopped before doing herself permanent damage.

Here they are, admiring Mel’s new 100-miler belt buckle (it’s the same as Tina’s). I don’t aspire to one. I’m quite happy where I am, a mere mortal when it comes to trail running. And yes, I did make it after all. It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t speedy, but I did cross the 25 km  finishline (dead last, I’m sure) in four hours and 19 minutes. Mission accomplished. I’m so proud of Mel I could burst. 

Bad timing

Tomorrow is the big day. The big run. The thing I’ve been training for quite seriously since early January, beginning with an 8 km snowshoe trek up the side of a mountain in minus 30 degree weather. (That was fun…) My last run was on Sunday, a lovely if somewhat sticky mid-morning jaunt to the end of the Leslie Spit. I decided to forego a run early this week, as I figured that helping Kim schlep pottery all weekend counted towards some sort of workout. No problem, I thought. I’m ready for this.I’ve even run the distance once before. I know I can do it. I’m pumped.

And I’m sick. Here’s a picture of me taken at the show on the weekend,  slogging through the last bits of Granatstein’s history of the Canadian Army and rather enjoying it, while unknowingly incubating a virus. There were a lot of sneezy, coughing people at the Distillery this weekend. (I’d like to blame Prince Charles, but he came by a day later.)

Yesterday morning, Kim mentioned that I wouldn’t stop coughing and asked if perhaps I needed my ventolin.  I hadn’t noticed. So I took my puffer, mainly to appease her, and continued coughing. About 12 hours and  many puffs later, I was drinking black coffee in a steamy shower hoping my lungs would cooperate because I didn’t much relish a trip to emerg. The coffee and steam did the trick. And in the middle of the night, it became apparent that the asthma episode had been kicked off not by poor Toronto air quality, but  by a cold. What a pisser.

Now, I understand that there are more important things, that I shouldn’t whine, that I’m not really sick, and that I should be thankful because god knows there are plenty of people who wish they only had a cold and were missing a stupid race. I know. You’re right. But I’m not feeling very magnanimous right now.

It reminds me of when I was a kid, and I’d always get sick before big, exciting events. Like the time when I was 15 and I landed an acting gig on that old ’80s sitcom Hangin In. When it was time to film, I came down with a wicked case of strep throat. I am still hoping to go tomorrow, see how I feel, and give it a whirl, if possible. After all, if I could film four days with a fever and the feeling of having swallowed razor blades, I should be able to run for a few hours with a cold. That is, if my lungs and Kim let me.

10 day countdown

The three amigas training at Albion Hills

In 10 days, I run a 25 km trail race at Sulphur Springs. Let’s be clear: I’m a swimmer, not a runner. I am not a natural land animal, and would much rather bob along in freezing water than lug my guts across an arid, rocky course. I blame my friend Mel, the one on the right, who will be tackling the 100-mile race that day (at least 24 hours of solid running) and Tina, on the left, who completed the 100-miler last year and is going for it again. I am in awe of both of them, but I still blame Mel for talking me into this. Years ago I ran (not well) and enjoyed it, but that was in high school. I have no illusions about this — I won’t mind coming in last. At least, that’s what I tell myself. (Kim raises an eyebrow at that one. After 15 years of living with me, I guess she’d know.) The point is, I decided to take Paula’s advice and run a “fast” 10 km, 10 days before the race, in order to improve my performance at the big event. Paula is a runner extraordinaire, who routinely makes the podium and does super-woman feats, like qualify for the Boston Marathon. Paula will be there too, running the 25 km with me. (When I say with me, I mean she will be a flash of fast-drying fabric at the starting line, as she whips past me to join the lead pack.) Since today is the magic 10 day marker, I decided what the hell, I need all the help I can get. This morning I ran my “fast” 10 km  at the Beaches and was shocked to find my time shaved by nine minutes. Either I got the start time wrong, which is entirely possible, or I have literally been dragging my ass since training began in January, which is entirely probable. Hell, Paula can probably run 10 km in nine minutes. At any rate, according to Paula’s math, I’m as good as I can hope to get before the race. And while I am looking forward to the run, and especially to cheering on Mel and Tina, I am more impatient for Lake Ontario to warm up so I can start swimming again. I’m toying with the idea of going for the 10 km open water race in Welland this August.  I’m not really sure why.