Porto, Portugal, September 15th. 8:00 a.m. and the morning is full of sun. Thirteen straight days of sun, in fact. Tourists walk along Cais de Gaia with parasols and bottled water. The pastel horizon heavy with heat, pink lightening to yellow into Columbia blue. It dropped to 15 degrees overnight and it will go up to 27 in the afternoon today, temperate for what has been a hot week. It's 21 now, along the Douro river. Along the runway strip of pavement Cais Estiva, parallel to the river, where jewellers and painters set up their weekend stalls. Gaia and the port cellars of Taylor Fladgate, Croft, Graham's across the Dom Luis bridge from downtown. The mosquito sound of a hovering camera drone. Residents leaning over balconies of their upper floor downtown apartments, in the buildings that aren't burnt out. The buildings that aren't abandoned, in a city and a country in economic crisis, unemployment rate at 17.6%, and graduates leaving the country to find jobs, just to survive. Residents leaning over these breathing buildings, looking eastward for a first sight of the runners. Because here in 2008 they saw the Olympic marathon gold medallist Sammy Wanjiru. In 2009 it was Haile Gebrselassie, who over the span of his career broke 26 distance running world records. Here along Cais Estiva near the Dom Luis bridge residents lean over their balconies because at one of the busiest sections of the course there isn't enough standing room street side. They cradle their morning cappuccinos, and near their feet through the iron guardrail sometimes you can see cats poking their heads out to see what the commotion is about. The commotion below is over some of the world's best distance runners, who are racing one of the world's fastest courses for prize money that goes twenty deep.
Eight time zones and thirteen hours of flights away, on Vancouver island, west coast of Canada, it's nighttime and already raining, and the rain will be intermittent throughout the next day. It will go up to 17 degrees, but only in the late afternoon when the rain breaks; when the winds pick up and move new air into the harbour, and the drumming and distant thunder settles. I'm asleep. If there are dreams, they don't stay with me.
I'd planned to be in Porto for this half-marathon. It was where I wanted to attack the Canadian Master's half-marathon record of 1:06:33. For the six weeks heading into the race, though, I slept more than I trained. I dropped out of workouts. July 26th. That was the last day I completed a prescribed workout. I often didn't even start them. One day I jogged to the track for my warm up and didn't stop when I reached the gate. I slowed, but didn't enter. Just kept running. Up over the stone bridge with the ducks in the stream below, and straight home, my legs a fusion of agitation and fatigue. Of hot nerves and little conductivity.
So no Porto and no Lisbon races. No attempts at the record this fall. Instead, I'll race the Victoria half-marathon. I'll see if I can get close to Bruce Deacon's master's course record of 1h08'02. I'll be wearing the new adidas singlet, coloured a Husky Eyes blue, and probably the matching Takumi Sen 2 racing flats. Hoping between now and then to be galvanized by a few new ideas I'm playing with. Some tweaks with my nutrition. Some training for the mind.