5 a.m.

The other day I was picking my kids up from school alongside my friend Roz who was doing the same. My younger one had been home sick all day but I had to drag her out to pick up her brother. Roz’ younger one was under-napped for having taken part in a school concert. Our boys were typically being silly, excited, and revved up on sugar as a result of the celebrations from one of their last days of school before the holidays. Roz and I were desperately trying to carry/cajole small people while locating boots, gloves, books of older siblings. Everyone was instantly ravenous and otherwise uncomfortable in some way which seemed to require immediate attention. It was only 3 p.m. We had five hours ahead of us which would involve getting everyone home, dinner made, a creative kid activity that involved exercise (unless we wanted three hours of constant whining and/or screen time), and then the bedtime routine including bath, snack, teeth and story. Tranquility and downtime seemed so far away. Roz and I looked at each other and both said simultaneously:”I can’t wait until 5 a.m.”

5 a.m. is when we meet to run. I discovered the window for running at 5 a.m. out of necessity. Often there are no other times in my day to fit it in, so I initially tried it out to see if I could do it. It turns out it suits my life perfectly. Sometimes I like to run at 5 a.m. even if I do have the option of going later in the day. There is something so calm and peaceful about that time. No one else needs you, you’re not running away from other responsibilities, you’re not in a rush, you’re not already stressed or annoyed from a recent interaction, you don’t come back in the door to chaos and emergencies. At 5 a.m. the day is a fresh start, full of optimism. You leave a quiet house and return to a quiet house. Roz and I meet and fall into a rhythm beside each other – it’s just us and the empty roads. We have an hour to enjoy this calm, peaceful and rare time to ourselves. We chat or run silently. We laugh or tell serious stories. An hour passes very quickly. I reach the end of these runs relaxed, happy and ready for my loud and busy life. I love the energy and bustle that surrounds me during the day, but once started, there is no ‘off’ switch. I know I need a window to myself in order to remain charged and available for others. Right now that window is at 5 a.m. Maybe in ten years it will be different, but for now I’ll take it and be grateful for it!

The calm before the storm

The calm before the storm


The storm

The storm

Race recap – Beer Mile World Championships

I don’t usually write race re-caps because I tend to think they’re a little boring and self indulgent, but I will make an exception for the one I ran last week. As the former women’s Beer Mile world record holder, I was invited down to Austin, Tx to compete in the World Championships. Although I had been in Beer Mile retirement for the past 15+ years, I decided to have some fun and try my best at making a convincing come-back. I did hold out a fair bit of hope that I could place well. I’ve kept up with running competitively, and although I’ve had my ups and downs, I currently feel like I’m about as fast a runner as I was 15 years ago. My only worry was the beer drinking. I do still enjoy beer, but I like to sip one or two in an evening. Let’s just say that in my 20’s my beer drinking was a little less civilized. However, people who are in the know say there is an “X” factor to good Beer Milers – they’re not always the fastest runners or chuggers, but together they can be the best. Physically, I look and feel similar to how I did 15 years ago, so whatever that “X” factor is, I should still have it.

The entire experience was amazing. As my friend (former Queen’s track buddy Suzy G) who accompanied me down said: “we played hooky from life for three days”. The organization and professionalism by Flotrack, the event organizers, was incredible. I was picked up at the airport, taken to my hotel, and then pointed in the direction of one of the nicest running trails I’ve run.

view from the running trail by my hotel in Austin

view from the running trail by my hotel in Austin

I had meant to go for a little “shake-out” jog but ended up going for over an hour because I was loving it and for once didn’t have to get back for chores or responsibilities.

miles and miles of trail

miles and miles of trail

Back at the hotel I met up with Jim Finlayson (also a former Beer Mile world record holder from Canada – same era as me but a more decorated runner – past and present). We went out for dinner and discussed strategy. This was the menu:

of course I ate the Drunk Chicken

of course I ate the Drunk Chicken

We each had a pint with our meal and then Jim suggested each chugging a quick beer. I wasn’t sure about having TWO BEERS the night before the Beer Mile, but he likened it to running a few 400’s at race pace – just to sharpen up. Made sense. We timed each other and were both feeling confident with our chugging abilities.

Suzy G arrived later and we explored Austin. A late night for me, but for once I could sleep in! This was feeling very indulgent.

The next day was race day. Suzy and I went for a little shake-out jog in the morning (this time really keeping it to 30 minutes). Then we had the athlete’s technical meeting. The attention to detail was astounding – everything was taken care of for us, right down to the exact temperature we wanted for our beer at the start – to the degree!

elite athlete package - including full event program

elite athlete package – including full event program

We had been told the venue would be at an F1 race track – The Circuit of the Americas. This was amazing as I’ve never been to an F1 track, let alone raced on one!

Beer Mile event site

Beer Mile event site

the "track"

the “track”

The event itself was pretty surreal. I’ve never raced at a large international level event with live broadcasting before, so I got a taste of what it’s like to be an elite track athlete. The elites had our own warm-up area, and everyone was getting into real race-prep mode. Stretching, doing drills, listening to music, not making eye contact. And every now and then some of us were pulled aside to do an interview. It was quite intense. Then we were marshaled to the start and it all unfolded from there.

When the gun went off I started into my first beer and I just felt that the taste was not right. It wasn’t a carbonation or stomach capacity issue – I just wasn’t prepared for the taste of that specific beer. (I know – how do you make a rookie mistake like that after 20 years?!) I was off the pace of the leaders from the beginning. I stayed consistent and ran well – I didn’t have any big pauses, but my beers were just consistently about 5-10 seconds too slow. I was a tad disappointed in myself, but I guess I had been relying on a magic “X” factor which had been lying dormant for 15 years.

competing on the same stage as Olympian Nick Symmonds

competing on the same stage as Olympian Nick Symmonds

I know the Beer Mile is a strange event. There will always be people who don’t approve of the drinking aspect. For me it was just something we did in university to take some of the seriousness out of our training and racing. It was our time to relax and have fun, but we were incapable of not adding an element of competition to anything. We are of a breed who were born to compete. We can’t help ourselves. We want to win – even if it’s winning the party. We had some other strange running-related competitions back then: Naked Run, Timbit Challenge, Earl St. Mile, Slow-Twitch Decathlon. I wonder if any of them will ever develop into World Championship events? 😉