Language, Limits and Loopholes

When people ask me if I’m still running, my answer has been that following the Rio Paralympics last September, I officially retired from international competition. While this is technically true, it implies that I’ve called it an athletic career. The disclaimer which I usually add is that I’m hoping to continue to compete in some local races and that I’m still doing a little running.

 

When people ask how much running is a little running, I answer five or six times a week; in truth, six days would be more accurate. I’ve even run twice a day here or there. The first few times, I was surprised when people would say, that’s a lot for somebody who’s supposedly retired. And, well, I guess it is.

 

When I was training in the lead-up to Rio for example, I typically ran 6 days a week, although I would run twice on two or three of the days and our training was more systematic and targeted. I ran more than I do now. But the basic weekly structure both then and now is pretty much the same.

 

Last week for example, I ran 50 miles for the first time since starting back into running again in late January. I did two workouts – a tempo run on one day and a series of 1000m intervals and hill repeats on another – with easy steady running on the other four days. Almost all of it was on our treadmill at home. I’m hoping to get outside for more guided runs as the conditions improve.

 

So why do I continue to say I’ve retired when people ask? I do need to come up with a better way of explaining it because … because retirement implies that you’re finished. I tried to adopt that way of thinking back in the fall and it just didn’t feel right. Sometimes, we become trapped by our own language. To say I’m finished would be disingenuous.

 

Inevitably there are lines which we must draw, or which are drawn for us in life. I’m no longer part of the national Para Athletics program, and so I’m not trying to make an international team, do not have to provide my daily whereabouts to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport anti-doping program, and no longer receive funding to help with living and training costs through Sport Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program. I’m learning, little by little to deconstruct the sense of identity which you derive from pouring your heart and soul into being the best athlete you can. You realize that life has more than one dimension. I’m home on Saturday mornings now and on most nights before 6 pm, compared to many nights when I’d be lucky to get home from the track before 9.

 

Previously, I would put running first and look for jobs which could fit around it. Now I’m trying to fit running in where I can. But to the extent to which my relationship with running has changed, in as much as it has a different tone within the music of my life than it did before, it still resonates with me at a deep level.

 

I may have fewer miles in my legs than I did a year ago, but there’s a new spring in my step. I’m enjoying running more than I have in a long time. There isn’t the pressure of trying to make a team or performing on demand as a national team athlete – it was an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to do so however. I’m running now truly because I want to, because it helps me to feel better, because it grounds me, and because it sets me free.

 

Next time I’ll write about the three, maybe four main races which I’m hoping to compete in this spring and summer. In the meantime, wishing everybody healthy and happy training. I also wanted to congratulate the Canadian Para triathletes who just returned from their season-opening ITU (International Triathlon Union) race held in Sarasota, Florida this past weekend. Each of them made the podium … fantastic job!

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Here’s to Glad

I was trying to think of a title for this blog and this is what came to me. It’s a line from a song I wrote recently about the idea of moving on. I think everybody encounters moments in life where they are trying to work through something, to come to terms with what has been and to move forward in the best way they know how.

The past year has brought with it some big changes. I started working at Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED), previously Industry Canada, in April 2016. In March of last year, another athlete and I had been invited to ISED to speak about sport for athletes with a disability as part of a diversity and inclusion event. I met a Director General at the presentation who mentioned that she might have some work for me. It has been my experience that conversations such as this often do not go very far, but a month later, I found myself beginning a casual contract at ISED, working in the Corporate Facilities and Security Branch. Subsequently I was offered a permanent position within the Corporate Planning and Governance team in November. The timing, post Rio could not have been better. I was very fortunate.

Over the same time period, Josh my guide runner, Ian our coach, and I were attempting to navigate the process of qualification for the Rio Paralympics in the 5000 metre event for blind (T11) runners. It’s fair to say that the route we took was a circuitus one. Sport has its moments of poetry, and its moments of dissonance. The process became a grind. There was no element of joy in what we were doing. The tiny nuances of conversation, laughter, empathy and trust so critical to unity and forward momentum were in short supply. It was physically and emotionally draining. In the end, Josh and I barely squeaked onto the team after months of subpar training and racing, and not in the 5000 metres which we had been aiming for, but in the 1500, after things began to finally turn around in July, in the nick of time.

Rio seemed to come and go in a blurr. We would go on to finish fifth in a near personal best time of 4:07.98. At 39, after five Paralympics and 18 years as a member of the national team, it seemed a fitting moment to hang up my spikes.

Except that when the dust finally settled, my restless spirit awakened to a new, undeniable truth: that I was unhappy about the way things had ended, that it felt hollow and empty to walk away from competitive sport with the sense that I had still more to give.

I’ve spent time individually with both Josh and Ian since Rio. They are both friends, both good people who poured their time and energy into our shared project. I’m eternally grateful to each of them. I have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for the support and guidance, both literally and figuratively which each of them gave me in pursuing my athletic journey in recent years.

There has been considerable push-pull for me over the past several months in terms of retiring. There have been moments when I’ve been at piece with the idea, and others when I’ve felt haunted by the “what iff’s”. Through it all, Colleen has been incredibly patient, supportive and kind. I have some close friends whose lived experience of athletic retirement has been a valuable source of strength also.

A few months ago, a coach who is working with the Para triathlon group here in Ottawa approached me about the idea of trying Para triathlon. At first I was completely against it. I had just retired from track and in addition, as I told him, I “sink like a stone” in the water. He has continued to work on me though; evidently he isn’t one to take no for an answer.

At the end of January, I found myself as an unlikely participant in a mini Para triathlon training camp here in Ottawa, working out on a stationary bike alongside several athletes with aspirations of representing Canada in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games; these included Jon my brother, who himself competed on the track in the Beijing and London Paralympics, and Jessica Tuomela who is pursuing a second athletic career after representing Canada in swimming at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games.

This past weekend, I participated once more in a Para triathlon mini camp here in Ottawa. After a brick workout involving stationary bike intervals interspersed with 800 metre repetitions which I ran with local triathlon guru Rick Hellard, we trekked from the indoor track over to the Nepean Sportsplex for a swim workout. Here I was completely out of my element – it was my first time in the pool in years. I spent the session working on kicking with a flutterboard while the rest of the group undertook a series of 100 metre intervals.

Following the workout I found myself feeling a bit discouraged. The question which people have been asking me recently reverberated in my head: why would I put myself through something so foreign? After so many years of hard training, why bother?

An answer has begun to crystalize in my mind since Saturday. It has to do with embracing the opportunities which life presents us with, without judging them or weighing them against the past. Sport enables us to become remade, or to paraphrase Gilles Deleuze, it deterritorializes and reterritorializes us. We may never be able to revise the narrative of our sport experiences such that we feel a sense of perfect closure. For better or worse, we bear witness to the emotional footprints of our time as athletes; we study their contours in an attempt to understand where to place our feet in the journey forward, as athletes and as human beings.

To be healthy, to feel vital and alive, and to nurture a new “I am” in relation to sport that is informed by past experience yet free of any baggage is special in and of itself. So, here’s to new horizons, wherever they ultimately lead. Here’s to hope. Here’s to glad. Here’s to sport’s unique ability to recreate us.

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Racing Through the Base

It’s been a few months since my last post, and since we have the extra day of February 29 this year, I thought I’d really better get around to writing an update. Training has been going well over the past few months, with a steady build-up in mileage. I had just one small hiccup when I picked up a flu at the beginning of February which set me back a few days, but otherwise have been able to remain consistent. Beginning in early December I was at around 50 miles a week and since then, have worked up to consecutive 80-mile weeks. Last winter I ran just one week of 80 miles, so this is uncharted territory in a way. Over the past three weeks I ran 79, 80 and 82 miles. I’ll back off and probably run around 55 to 60 miles this week, and then go back up into the 80’s. The majority of it has been easy steady running, mostly around 7 minute to 7:30 pace done outside or on the treadmill, with some hills, strides, and the occasional tempo run. I’ve done one track workout, threshold mile repeats, on a day when temperatures were in the minus 40’s with windchill. I raced once also in a 3000 here at the Dome last weekend, running a slow time of 9:19.97 in what really was a rust buster. It was surprising how quickly Josh and I were dropped from the main pack in that race. With next to no track workouts, I just didn’t have any gears, but all in all it served its purpose as a hard effort coming from the strength end of things. I hope to go a little faster this coming Saturday when I plan to take another stab at a 3000.
Our approach to things this year has been quite different than what we’ve done in the past. In previous years, I would have been on the indoor track two or three times a week and would have been doing some hard sessions. We’ve found that every season inevitably seems to have ebbs and flows. I would do some very good workouts but then go through periods of staleness. This year with the ultimate objective to make it to the Rio Paralympics in September feeling fit, strong and motivated, we are really trying to have a linear progression as much as possible. Ian proposed that we stay away from the indoor track this winter and focus on developing a strong base, which to his mind would help to make me more resistant to injury and support the intensity and improved recovery when the time comes for harder training. Approaching things in this way made a lot of sense to me.
Running 80 miles a week without workouts can be on the monotonous side although I’m getting used to it. A typical week involves three double days where I might run 12 miles in the morning and 6 in the evening. Josh and I will run 13 to 15 miles on another day, and then I’ll have two days of running 6 to 8 easy miles, and generally take a day off. I’m feeling great and am adapting well to the mileage. The plan is to transition into a little more intensity beginning in April. We’re going to travel to the San Francisco State Distance Carnival to compete in a 5000m on April 2, where Josh and I hope to get the Paralympic T11 5000m A standard which is 16:30. Once again we will not have done anything too anaerobic prior to that race so will be going on our strength. After that we’ll spend the following week training in and around Berkeley which is our coach Ian’s alma mator, and where there are apparently some great trails and hills also, so it should be a good spell to begin to work into the next phase of our training.

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A New Season, A New Reason

As the nights grow longer and the approaching holiday season signals that another year is nearing its end, you become aware of the passage of time. Its difficult to believe that we’ve nearly completed another cycle. From a running standpoint, this was a fairly big one! Josh and I competed in two major championships. The first was the Para Pan Am Games in Toronto where we came away with second in the 1500 metres and first in the 5000 (albeit because of a disqualification). The second was the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar in October, where we survived a 5000 metre race of attrition to come away with second (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8JVDnyTsIc).
Having extended our season into late October means that I’m only now getting back into regular training after having taken a much-needed two week break. Following the high point of Para PanAms, where I felt Josh and I ran well but which I came away from with a lingering “what if” feeling, it was difficult to pick up where we had left off. We are used to having a break at the end of the summer and with Worlds looming, we just couldn’t afford to shut it down as we normally would. Things certainly did not progress in a linear way as we continued training into September. Having backed off a little right after Para Pan Ams, it was difficult to get going again and I felt rusty, with motivation at a fairly low ebb. I had even contemplated whether to go to Qatar, but in the end resolved that any opportunity to face our international competition would be more than worthwhile, given how infrequently we get to do so.
As part of our build-up, Josh and I ran in the Army Run 5k road race on September 20, finishing 10th in a slow 16:46. At one point in the race, I remember thinking that I would be ok with whatever time I ran or whoever beat me because I didn’t have any fight. This was not the competitive mindset which I am almost always able to draw on – I’m sure it was a symptom of a long season.
Three weeks later Josh and I were heading with the team to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, where we would spend five days acclimatizing to the heat and eight-hour time change before taking the short flight over the Gulf to Doha, Qatar. I had picked up a cold at the end of September and it had curtailed our training such that I had missed some key workouts. As Ian put it before we left, I would be short on race fitness but we would have our experience to draw upon.
We were able to fit in a couple of small track sessions touching on 5k pace– one in Sharjah and a second in Doha four days before the 5000 final. These were fairly critical workouts given the training I had missed and getting refamiliarized with race pace. They were probably too close to our race to have a lot of physiological benefit however. I went into it with little real sense of my true fitness which is unusual going into a championship race, and coupled with this I hadn’t been able to shake off the cold.
In terms of race strategy, we had envisioned trying to be near the front but not leading, and conserving energy and covering any moves as the race developed.
Early evening race temperatures in Doha were in the mid thirties, which we expected would temper the pace, but this was not the case as the Brazilian, Odair Santos and his guide took out the first kilometre in a speedy 2:57. Although they did not run aggressively like this at Para Pan Ams, this style of running isn’t unusual for them. Cristiano Valenzuela, the 2012 Paralympic 5000 champion, and his guide from Chile, followed them closely, and the Turkish team went out hard also, so that Josh and I found ourselves in a distant fourth place despite running 3:06 for our first kilometre. I was basically flat out and despite Josh’s encouragement, for me it was a matter of minimizing the slow-down, as opposed to picking up the pace.
After about 2000m, we caught up to the Turkish team and started edging away from them. A lap or so later, they would drop out. For most of the way from here on, Josh and I sat in nomansland in third place. Santos and his guide had opened a big lead over the Chileans, who in turn had a significant margin over us; we had no one behind us within 50 metres. At one point we closed the gap on the Chileans a little I think, but then the Chileans picked it up and got away on us again. I remember hearing the bell as Santos and his guide started their final lap while Josh and I were running the curve prior to entering the home straight – we were probably 150 metres back. At this point I had slowed to 79 and 80 second laps – “Dead pace” as my friend Matt Stacy calls it when you’re just surviving in a 5k.
As Josh and I ran down the backstretch for the last time, there was a collective gasp in the stadium and the announcer screamed in English that Santos had gone down. Josh instantly yelled, “Jay we’ve gotta go now!” There wasn’t much energy in my tank but I put everything into it, fully expecting that Santos was too far ahead to catch. However as it turned out, he was exhausted and unable to stay on his feet. He would stagger and crawl his way to the finish line with help from his guiderunner to place fourth, only to be later disqualified because his guide had aided him. It was a sad thing to run past the two of them on the home stretch and to hear the desperation in his guide’s voice – poignant even in a foreign language. It had been a race with eight starters and only five finishers, run in brutally hot conditions. Even Josh, who is a big fan of heat, would complain about it throughout our time in the Middle East.
Running 16:11 for 5000m, and finishing a distant second to Valenzuela and his guide, who improved a lot over the ensuing two months since Toronto, is not at all the result I had wanted but in retrospect given our less than ideal preparation, illness and the conditions, I know we gave it our best shot and came away with a result that we can build on. Although as I have said above, progression in running isn’t always linear, I think the lessons of running are. Over time we learn how to keep going and to dig deep even when we’re up against it. I think by trying to remain positive, doing what you can do and not giving up, things can sometimes change in ways you would never expect.
Now that the dust has settled and having had a good rest, I’m excited to get back into the regular rhythm of training again and together with Josh and Ian, begin to plan for the year ahead – the Paralympic year. I think this may well be my final competitive season on the track, so perhaps more than at any other point in my running career, I’m hoping to get it right. When I look back at the past year, there were many positives – notably a personal best over 10 km on the road at the Ottawa Race Weekend, our success at Para Pan Ams and Worlds, and getting back to within 5 seconds of my 5000 metre personal best from 2012. At 38 now, I’m still at the top of my game and still believe I can run even better. But I also found myself working through periods of extreme fatigue at certain points this year, particularly after our stint at altitude in Flagstaff, as well as leading into Para Pan Ams, and during our build-up for Worlds. I picked up a cold which seriously impacted our Worlds preparation and which persisted for six weeks. In retrospect, there were a few points where I probably pushed the envelope a little too much and this is something I really need to be careful about. I may try to incorporate some planned rest or down periods over the season, take it a little easier on recovery days and recovery runs, and really focus on good nutrition as well as sleep to try to keep on the right side of good health. It is consistent, steady training over time which will lay the groundwork for good racing. If we do this well then I believe the results will inevitably come and there can be no regrets. So as the temperatures drop outside and we turn inside to examine what has been and to envision a new way forward, I’m excited to build on our progress from this past year, to learn from the mistakes, and to put my best foot forward every day.

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Looking Back

Its been a strange, rollercoaster of a summer. From a training and competitive standpoint, it went pretty well. We came away with Para PanAm gold over 5000, running my third-fastest 5k in a race where we actually finished second to our Brazilian rival Odair Santos, only to see he and his guide get disqualified because of an obscure technicality (they had registered two guide runners prior to the race but only used one). We also won 1500m silver, losing out in a close race to Santos and his guide. I’ll try to post the race videos – the site where these are hosted seems to be down at the moment.

Our Para PanAm preparations went well. After a couple of fairly mediocre races – a 28:33 run in the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5-miler in Central Park, New York City, and a 16:20 5000m at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in early July, things turned around fairly dramatically. This happened in large part I think because I switched back to running on Josh’s outside. For about two years now, we’ve been working on having me running on the inside and hence, covering less distance on the track. Although this should in theory give us an advantage, it simply hasn’t translated. I guess its difficult to break old habits which have been engrained for years – much to our coach Ian’s frustration I think. Josh and I have raced a few 1500’s with me on his outside during the past two years and the difference in terms of level of comfort, and my ability to push through fatigue and dig deep is significant. Its not that I’m especially uncomfortable running on Josh’s inside – its that I feel automatically so much more comfortable running on his outside.

We took an important step forward at a Twilight meet on July 15 by running 15:39.74 in a 5000m race where we got dragged along. The following week, we ran a 4:11 over 1500m and followed that a week later with a 4:10.

Away from the track, I found out on July 21 that I would need additional documentation in order to undergo the process of classification necessary to be eligible to compete at Para PanAms (this is the process where your disability is assessed so as to be matched against athletes with a comparable disability). I had been told that obtaining a letter from my family doctor explaining my disability would be enough, and I had done this. Now, obtaining the medical diagnostic information which I apparently needed was going to be difficult. To make a long story short, I visited an optometrist who referred me to an ophthalmologist, who in turn told me that it wouldn’t be possible to have some of the required testing completed in Ottawa on short notice. I was very lucky as I was able to get two appointments in Toronto to have the necessary testing completed due to some cancelations. I travelled three times to Toronto within the space of eight days and in the end, was classifiable …!

I think the back and fourth travelling, coupled with hard training, had me going into the Games a little more tired than I would have liked. I also slightly tweaked my right Achilles the week before we moved into the Para PanAm Village. What was supposed to be an incredible experience and amazing opportunity to compete at home was starting to feel like an uphill battle in terms of just getting there.

I’m happy to say that our Games experience was positive. We raced well and although I think there’s always room to work on race tactics, and room to work on some different things in training to be even more prepared, we competed well against some of our top competition. It was nice to have so much support behind us and to have family and friends in the stands cheering us on. I also want to thank everybody who supported us from afar and who sent messages, Josh and I greatly appreciated it. The Games received a lot of great coverage and Josh and I found ourselves in the spotlight also, particularly after our gold medal win.

The Games, perhaps the pre-Games, took a lot out of the tank however and I was glad when all was said and done to come home, and to have had these past couple of weeks to wind down. I had a birthday last weekend – #38. My parents came up to visit and we had a nice weekend. I took nine days with very little running, and spent last week building back into some consistent runs. Its been exciting watching the IAAF World Championships and especially seeing Canadian athletes performing at such an unprecedented level. We have our own IPC Athletics World Championships coming up in Doha, Qatar in late October – a fairly quick turnaround from one championship to the next.

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Panamania: an Inclusion Solution?

I wrote the below post a few days ago for ParticipAction’s Pep Talk blog (see http://blog.participaction.com/en/panamania-an-inclusion-solution/).
I’ll write more in the coming days on our recent training and Para PanAm prep but for now, wanted to share this.
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Canadian summer holds the key to new horizons. Thousands of athletes have been reaching for the sky over the past two weeks at the Toronto PanAm Games. The event has been a watershed from a cultural and athletic point of view. Despite the naysayers and pre-Games skeptics, Toronto 2015 has shone a light on the capacity for sport to bring us closer to ourselves and to each other. Canadian athletes have risen to the occasion, cheered on by partisan home crowds stirred perhaps by the feeling of a collective Canadian soul. And the party is only half over. In just a few weeks, Toronto will host the Para PanAm Games, where athletes with physical disabilities will demonstrate that sport can enable people of all abilities to pursue their human potential.
I’ve been privileged to represent Canada a number of times in track events against blind runners, including at four Paralympic Games. For me, competing at the Para PanAm Games will represent the completion of a circle in an athletic career which has taken me all over the world and which now brings me back home. To represent your country in front of your own community of support is to carry its hopes and to let yourself be carried by the people you love most.
My guide runner, Josh and I survive the ravages of winter mostly by training on an indoor track or treadmill if running on my own. Summer is a beacon of hope for the distance runner. But we should not let its hazy days and heady nights cloud our introspection – the summer light is a light that we can shine on ourselves. 2015 is the #YearofSport in Canada. By opening ourselves to the world through hosting over 60 international sporting events this year, we have an opportunity to look in the mirror and critique our commitment to inclusion – a touchstone of the diversity central to our understanding of ourselves.
Sport is perhaps a foremost social practice in reframing our identity. As sports fans, certainly this summer has redefined the playingfield in a sense and given us every cause for optimism. Canada hosted a very successful Women’s World Cup of Soccer a month ago, remembered above all for its skillful playmaking even despite the spectre of FIFA scandal. The scandal will inevitably fade, but the playmaking will live on to offer hope and inspiration to girls and young women previously on the sidelines to take up the “beautiful game”. The PanAm Games have perpetuated this momentum. Thousands of the hemisphere’s best athletes have captivated us with their performances on the track, in the pool or in the ring. Many of these athletes come from humble backgrounds without the infrastructure or support that we might take for granted. Sport offers a way in, perhaps a way through. It is this message which I believe can survive as a legacy of Canada’s PanAmania.
If I think in a global sense about what has changed since my first Paralympics in 2000, I’m struck by what has remained the same. Many of Canada’s 4.4 million with a disability are still impoverished and underserved. Our aboriginal population remains alienated in a number of respects. As Canadians, the stark reflection from looking in the mirror may tempt us to avert our eyes. Yet, there is an undercurrent of change at work and sport is its proxy. The Para PanAm Games will be one of the largest multisport events for persons with disabilities ever held in Canada with 1500 athletes contesting 15 sports. Today’s Para athletes train on a par with their ablebodied counterparts. They are professional, dynamic and engaged role models for people of all abilities. Like its PanAm forerunner, the Para PanAm Games will be broadcast via an ever-widening net of traditional and non-traditional media coverage. Canadians will learn and be connected as never before with a dramatic sporting narrative expressed through a lens of equity and inclusion.
I’m counting down the days to our departure for Toronto. And I’m optimistic that the Games will compel us as a society to refocus our gaze in the mirror and challenge us to admit that we still have blind spots. An honest appraisal and recalibration of our world view in relation to sport participation, and broader societal participation by extension, seems to me to represent the ultimate gold standard of success when the dust settles and we look back on the impact of PanAmania and Canada’s #YearofSport.

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Back to Earth

Its been nearly two months since my last post. Our time in Flagstaff seems long ago in the past now. Believe it or not, Nationals are just around the corner and the Para PanAms will be all said and done in another two months. Summer begins officially today.
I had the idea that I’d be at a new level of fitness after coming home at the end of April – that’s not quite what happened, at least not in an immediate or obvious way.
I started feeling the effects of seasonal allergies right when we got home. Fortunately I really only have them for a few weeks each year in the spring. But the main problem was that I was dead tired. Seasonal allergies may have been part of it, but in hindsight, I might have been in a bit of a hole coming out of Flagstaff. I was able to handle all of the training we did there but was probably right on the edge, or maybe even a little over the edge and of course, it’s a fine line. We had a couple of decent workouts once home, and a couple of disastrous ones. One in particular involved a series of v02 max 1200m repeats, where I was a good ten seconds off the goal pace and running flat out; I pulled the plug after just two. It got to a point where frankly, I wasn’t excited to be going to practice. I’d sleep deeply each night for 8 or 9 hours and wake up feeling zapped, not wanting to get out of bed.
I’ve struggled in previous years during May, so I hoped things would run their course, which is more or less what has happened. Our goal had been to aim for a good 5k coming out of Flagstaff. Josh and I travelled to London, Ontario to open our season with a 5000m on the track on May 17. We ran 16:17, not the fast race we were looking for. Six days later, we ran the Ottawa Race Weekend 10 km with a goal of breaking 34 minutes. We ran 33:54, going through 5 km in 17:06 and running the second 5k in 16:48. I was encouraged by this result as it was the first time I had run faster than 35 minutes for 10 km; more importantly though, it affirmed that all of the training behind us hadn’t been in vein.
The following weekend, Josh and I competed at the low key Ottawa Lions Springtime High Performance meet, running 4:18.12 for 1500m and 9:27 for 3000m. On June 10 (Colleen and my 9th wedding anniversary), Josh and I took a step in the right direction with a 4:12 1500m at the first Ottawa Twilight meet, and just this past Wednesday, we ran 9:00.18 for 3000m which is my best since running 8:51 in 2012. Ian has had me scale back a lot on the volume as well as intensity in training, and this seems to be helping. If anything I would say that I’m still on the way back, so I really think there’s better racing to come and I’m excited for that, and excited to be feeling good again.
On another note, the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability, where I’ve worked since 2008, is going to be closing its doors at the end of the summer. We have had no consistent funding source for years since the Public Health Agency of Canada withdrew its core support in the early 2000’s, and have been surviving by way of a series of projects. We were never able to secure alternate funding or adapt a new funding model. Eventually, yoyoing from project to project simply became unsustainable. Although the writing has probably been on the wall for some time, its incredibly sad to be coming to the end of the road in this way. There’s so much greater awareness around inclusion and physical activity today and I believe our work contributed to this seed change. Some of the young people in particular who were touched through our programs over the years to take up physical activity are a living, breathing testament. For these individuals, active living became a catalyst to self-confidence and personal development. It’s a tough environment these days in the not-for-profit world; in retrospect, I think we should have made a concerted effort years ago to diversify our fundraising, rather than running out of oxygen and chasing pockets of air in desperation as our ship sank. Since announcing our closure a few weeks ago, we’ve received so many kind letters and emails of support from the organizations we’ve worked with. I count myself very lucky to have collaborated with so many great people across our sector, and to have learned and grown with Jane and Chris – great mentors and colleagues. The bottom line though is that sadly, one more counterbalancing voice articulating the perspective of persons with disabilities is going to be silenced. Although many organizations work to introduce people with disabilities to our sport system, there’s no national organization to my knowledge working to support physical activity providers to accommodate people of all abilities, or to empower those with a disability to adopt active living as a value which can transform their lives.

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