It’s gorgeous at the Jack Wallace track today, just this red mondo oval protected by trees on one side and an accolades wall on the other, and an expanse of bright sky. If there is any wind it’s outside our tourbillon; we are protected from it here inside the fence. Our January temperature is 8 degrees. Doors open from cars in the parking lot and runners step out into the sunshine. Here we have Bruce Deacon, Olympian. Here is Kris Swanson, one of Canada’s top mountain runners. Racing flats tied by the laces and horseshoed around necks. Geoff Martinson is wearing a toque. Honestly it’s warm on the track, but here comes Geoff in a toque, gloves, a jacket over his long-sleeve, and running tights. “Dude,” I say.

“I stuck my hand outside the door before I left,” he tells me. “It felt cool.”

“You didn’t bring shorts?”

“I didn’t think I’d need them!”

Seven of us start the workout. We’re running a classic V02 max workout. Hard 1200m reps with harder 400m reps in between. I did some stats yesterday. I’m working on a regression formula for predicting race times, using two other race times as data points. Building your unique profile. Your unique decay. Most people slow down by 5% when the race distance doubles, and nearly everyone falls within a 3% to 7% range. Mine’s close to 3%. Is it possible to take a 400m time and a 10 000m time and predict all other race times? It is.

So based on my stats I should be somewhere around 15:20 for a 5km right now. Let’s aim for 3:40 on the 1200m reps.

Geoff is 20 meters ahead after 100m. He splits the 1km in 2:48. Click your stopwatch when he finishes. 3:21. The small dots in the distance? The rest of us, and I’m at the back of the pack. My 1200m is 3:42.

It’s not far off where I figured I should be. What’s troublesome is I feel awful. I feel like I did in the Times Colonist 10km last April. No power. I can’t generate enough power to work hard. My heart rate is cottage-scene peaceful, at sub-threshold.

I get through the first 400m rep, a 70, and jam on the rest of the workout. There’s no reason to continue. It’s not my day to work hard. I sit on the second step of the bleachers and wait for the others to finish. Here they come. Geoff looks like he’s jogging, but his splits are consistent and good. After the workouts he tells me he wasn’t getting down to where he’d like to be, but he was only a second or two off.  I'm burning to see this guy in a track race.

One race on my 2014 resumé, a 25:17 8km a couple of weeks ago. This Garmin 620 is nearly omniscient. Back then it predicted a 31:22 10km. I’ve done the stats. A 25:17 8km on that course would convert to a 31:26 at the Vancouver Sun Run 10km.

My updated 2014 bests: 1km: 2:59 1 mile: 4:48 5km: 15:34 10km: 35:02 Half marathon: still haven’t run more than 16km this year on a single run.

My latest Garmin 620 race predictions, based on HR variability, are: 5km: 14:59 10km: 30:59 Half marathon: 1:08:17


The morning test is first. In the kitchen I hold the eyedropper half a foot above my mouth. Sometimes my hand shakes so much it’s hard to get the drops in. I’m aiming for under my tongue. On good days the drops land four in a row right at the base of my lingual frenulum. On bad days I steady my right hand with my left and the drops end up somewhere in my mouth. I take Vitamin D most days. Sometimes I take a multi vitamin and fish oil, but often I forget.

I don’t take medication, haven’t ever tried medication. For my MS. Maybe one day I will, but there are enough things in my life I can refine before trying drugs. I can cut out dairy, or my food sensitivities (sesame, almonds, honey... some unexpected ones), eliminating anything that might cause inflammation or a reaction. Food is my drug. Sleep, meditation. My cocktail of drugs. I chase meditation with food, food with sleep. Hit me. This, before I start sticking needles in my arm.

Sometimes when you’re running there’s a strength with which the wind seems to resist you, and this perception is as accurate a gauge as the stopwatch and your body’s advance across the ground, for how fast you’re running. The wind whistles past. Objects close are bigger than objects far, but not in the usual way, not in the linear way. By some trick related to speed, some fraction and refraction of light, close objects are sharp and defined, and far objects are far objects are far objects are distorted and leave contrails.

But one week into the new year I’m slow. My energy is good. My mechanics feel good. When I run I feel as though I am running as fast as ever. The wind hits my face, my ears, makes a sound like a station you don’t get. This is normal. It is good. Then I check my split and it’s not good.

I’ve been using the Garmin 620 watch for the past three weeks. It keeps track of your best performances. It takes your best, say, 5km split during any run and records it. This could be between the 12.37 to the 17.37 kilometer marks of a long run, and the watch will catch it. In 2014, these are my best times:

1km: 2’59” 1 mile: 4’48” 5km: 17’41” 10km: 39’28” Half Marathon: I haven’t run 21.1km straight, this year.

And it learns you, and as it learns you its V02 max predictor becomes more accurate. It converts my during-run heart rates to an estimated V02 max, then plugs this value into a race predictor chart. Here are my watch’s race predictions:

5km: 15’05” 10km: 31’22” Half marathon: 1h09’10”

Which are producible. Eerily accurate, given it’s coming from a machine on my wrist and I’m running mostly cityscape and hilly trails. If I raced a half marathon right now, 1:09:10 is about what I think I could run, and on a windless night at the track I bet I could get that 10km time.


JF3_0955e The truth is, I am selfish. I can defend it because I know it takes a certain amount of selfishness to become an elite athlete. To become an elite anything. A chess player. Magnuss Carlsen practiced 3 to 4 hours a day when he was young. Young. Five years old. At 18 he became the youngest ever to be ranked number one in the world. Four years later, now 22, he is World Champion, defeating Anand in Anand’s sweltering India 6.5 - 3.5. Already he has the highest recorded ELO chess rating in history.

I started running when I was ten. Maybe even younger, I can't recall. Ten is my earliest memory. It was when I began creating an identity through running. I came from footie. Outside right, at that age. A striker. In the second half when the defenders lagged, I could sweep tirelessly past them. It was a natural grooming. I was encouraged to join a track club, where I tried all the disciplines and discovered I couldn't grunt loudly enough to be a shot putter and couldn't sprint quickly enough to capture the flag, but I could run distance.

I became a runner at a selfish age. At an age when everyone is too young to be anything but solipsistic. I was also competitive. When running didn't go my way I got frustrated and punched holes in my bedroom walls. Over the holes I pinned a calendar on which I recorded my heart rate every evening before bed and every morning on waking.

After some moderate racing success I started tying my dreams to running, and then I tightened the knots.

I started feeling really low if I had a bad race. After particularly awful ones I threw my spikes into the high branches of trees. My mum drove home in silence from those races while I stared out the car window. Two hours home from Toronto to London, my mum with both hands on the steering wheel while the muscular trucks of the 401 buffeted our car, and me staring out the passenger side letting my emotions cascade until they became thoughts I could make sense of.

I wanted to quit the sport. But I also loved running and instead of quitting I went to my room and raced marbles on two parallel race tracks, down one wall and across the floor and up the other wall, and back. It was a type of meditation. It relaxed me. The humming of a marble on the track. The sound it made when the run was clean. The orange track and the hum of the marbles and the silence of a quiet street. Sometimes a snowfall, and the sound of the heat coming up through the vents. I went to my room knotted with frustration, and I emerged mollified.

When I ran well I was ebullient, recapping the race over again from different perspectives. From my perspective of how good I felt. From my opponents'; the moment their breathing started to labour, or how I discovered their weaknesses during a race and struck hard.

It must have been difficult for my mum. It must have been brutal on her, yet in a week's time she drove me to my next race. She hadn’t forgotten the week before, but she pretended like she had.

And so there’s something about the running itself that turns me selfish. Those grooves are smooth in me. I've done it for so long, and from such a young age, that even now when I have a awful race or when my body feels defeated I fall right back into those well worn tracks. I become self-absorbed. I fight for it, and when I feel I'm losing it I fight blindly. I stop seeing outside myself.

I respond differently when I can't run at all. In some ways I have matured. When multiple sclerosis takes my legs from me and I can't walk, and this has happened twice, I do other things. I seem to be able to accept losing running when competing isn't possible. I look outside of myself. I become more graceful. I try to find ways to create beauty, partly because I enjoy doing this, but mostly to make others happy. I want other people to feel. It happens the same way artists paint: If it doesn’t come bursting out of you... Sometimes it’s impossible to keep it contained, and so in a way I suppose the great show of it is partly for me, this need to express myself, but the essence of it is about creating beauty, a beauty sometimes scintillate and sometimes burning to nothing, but a beauty nonetheless, manifest in the readers as emotion. Maybe it's because I started doing these things later in life. Writing, photography. Maybe I haven't been selfish about these things because I didn’t ever attach any of my identity to them. I enjoy my time with these expressions, but I don't panic if I can't master them. Running isn’t like that. Running has always been about me. I don't run because I want others to appreciate human movement. I do it because I have so much of my identity wrapped up in it that it’s frightening to think about stopping; I don’t know how to run in a way that’s any different from how I’ve always run, which is evaluative and competitive and goal-driven. If I have to let it go, when I am too unwell to run, I can do this. It's the purgatory. The middle ground when I can run but can’t run easily. Then I feel rudderless. I love it, yes, and I hope I don't have to ever let it go permanently. On the days when it flows, those feather and rocket days which so few feelings rival, I suddenly stop being self-absorbed. I escape from the grooves of selfishness and pity and depression. When running is right, I relax and can see outside of myself. When it is wrong, I am blind and I am carrying the weight of 30 years of dying dreams.

In July I met a lovely woman. We started exploring trails together. We ran Channel Ridge on Saltspring. We ran Elk and Beaver lakes a few times, and twice we ran at Thetis. We got lost together on a run after leaving the main trail. We passed a woman. Going for a second loop? the woman asked. We looked at each other, eyebrows arched. Thrice we popped out on the same flat stretch the furthest reach from where we began. Three different trails leading to the same spot. After the third time we laughed until our legs got weak and we had to walk. Finally we found a path to get us back. It wasn't yet dark. Overhead the birds sounded prehistoric. Lindsay was moving quickly. She was light on her feet. She flashed through the trees ahead of me and I had to sprint to catch her.

In October I raced the Victoria half-marathon in 1:09:47. My slowest ever time for the distance. I don't know what went wrong. Usually I'm good at the forensics but I didn't have any way of understanding that race. It was nearly three minutes slower than my time in March of this year. Nearly two minutes slower than my estimated fitness. Sometimes when I catch a cold the electricity in my body gets cut. I lose all power. It didn’t used to be this way. I used to lose a couple of seconds each kilometer. Now I lose fifteen seconds. Is it the Multiple Sclerosis? I don’t know. When my immune system kicks up I get in trouble.

After the Victoria half-marathon I slipped back into the furrows of solipsism. With this disease, with MS, I don't ever know if depression is from my thinning myelin sheath and my unprotected nerves, and so my unprotected emotions, or if it's circumstantial. I started feeling sorry for myself. How is this even possible? That I am 41 years old and can still be so affected by a race. I watched a woman I love die from cancer. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My girlfriend's mum had a heart attack and passed away. Then my girlfriend and I broke up. All of this happened over 18 months. There were other things in there, too, really unpleasant stuff. How myopic must my vision be, when a race still affects me like it does. Yet it does. Thirty years of laying the neural pathways. It’s hard to free myself from race goals, from the expectations I have of myself and those I feel others have of me.

It is enough that I feel limited in my own life because of this. It affects others, too. It’s harder on those who love me than it is on me. My mum and my younger sister Maggie who have been at many of my races. They hope this one goes well. They huddle in snow, stand in rain, get scorched in summer heat watching and hoping I run up to what I feel capable of. If it goes well, we can enjoy ourselves after. Laughter, which is as much an expression of relief as enjoyment. If it is a disaster, I am sullen, and can be for days. I feel the same as if there was an infidelity. Running has been unfaithful to me. My body has been unfaithful. I shut down the way those who live in the tropics prepare for a storm, latching the shutters, battening the hatches. I close off like a hurt lover. For some, it can be decisive; those who haven’t been through this with me and those who don’t understand my reaction. I’m not fun to be around.

I have started meditating. I did it in the past and have begun again. From March until now, nine months, my running has felt good for only six weeks. The last time I ran well was in July. I am searching for different ways to experience running. Meditating while running, trying to stay focused in the moment. Trying to not get snagged in my history and all the attachments I have to running, all of the hopes I had and still have. I'm trying to enjoy it for its own sake, because it is a beautiful activity. It is a meditative and sexy and smart activity. Is it sexy? I don’t know. But running does more to develop the brain than thinking.

I’ve been with running for 31 years. There’s the complexion of a romantic relationship between longtime runners and running. My Mistress, is the sobriquet Olympic champion Toshiko Seko gave the marathon. In Ann Patchett’s latest book her friend counsels her on a suitor: Does he make you a better person? Are you smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer? Does running make me a better person?

This is the question.

Book 23: The Circle - Dave Eggers A possibly frightening look at social media and our insatiable need for information and knowledge. Fiction.

Book 24: Levels of Life - Julian Barnes Split between balloon flight and stories of love, I became fully engaged when he started writing about his own life.

Book 25: This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage - essays by Ann Patchett

These horses...

Rachel Cliff (2nd) and Natasha Wodak (1st) JF3_1177Jessica O'Connell (3rd) JF3_1194


Cliff Childs (12th), Robbie Watson (7th), Aaron Hendrikx (3rd), Chris Winter (2nd)

JF3_1272 Aaron Hendrikx (3rd)JF3_1286 Cliff Childs (12th)JF3_1316 Luke Bruchet (your champion)JF3_1357 Chris Winter (2nd)JF3_1361 Kip Kangogo (8th)JF3_1375 Ryan Cassidy (4rth)JF3_1386 Kyle O'Neill (middle, 6th)JF3_1413 Chris Winter, Luke BruchetJF3_1417b Aaron HendrikxJF3_1425Charles Philibert-Thibout (11th) JF3_1431Allan Brett (14th)

Your 2013 Canadian Cross Country Championships strongmen/women.


If only I'd run more like this: RVM13_21

Instead of how I did run, 1:09:47, a personal worst, nearly three minutes slower than my half in February, my half in March, surely not just because I'm getting older despite seven people propounding this post-race, as though it's normal for someone to lose three minutes in seven months, as though it's normal for someone to fall off a cliff. People fall off cliffs every day.

From recent workouts I figured I was in 1:07:30 - 1:08:00 shape. My heart rate had been good. I didn't have any MS symptoms. When I woke Sunday morning I felt strong. Strong and light. This is what I do when I wake race morning: I go for a 1 mile jog to enliven my body. One mile slow through Beacon Hill park, which in October at 5:15 a.m. is dark. Dark and hungry. An hour that wants. On my return there wasn't even a sound; just the sudden and panicked emptying of the air around me, and sharp talons digging into my scalp. I ducked and spun, and when I focused to see what the fuck, the owl had circled back and was diving again. Then there were sounds. Me like something inarticulate and blunt and extremely loud. Something Neolithic.

Now here we are and the race is underway. My body is light. My body is springing off the ground. It's hard to keep my body on the ground. This feeling lasts a kilometer and that's the end of it. I don't feel like that again. At 3km I'm behind pace and I fall further behind with every kilometer. But I'm not feeling terrible. The top four seeds have bolted ahead, and there are another five of us together and I'll run with them in the second pack and then blaze the last 5km, is what I'm thinking. At 16km I'm still thinking this. Our group has been whittled to three, the other four too far up the road. I'll just rip it home and collect the master's record time bonus.

One of the guys surges up the hill and he's gone. He was next to me, and now he's so far ahead of me I can't tell the colour of his singlet.

There's still one guy next to me. He drifts to the middle of the road and starts high-fiving the marathoners on their way out. He knows some of them by name.

We split from the marathoners and now it's just the two of us, and five guys ahead we can't see, and behind us another guy but he's pretty far back. I look over at this guy. He looks young. One of those tall and baby-faced types, someone who doesn't yet need to shave. His legs are long. I'm watching his feet hit the ground, making sure they do. Making sure he isn't cheating. Then he's gone too. Up the road somewhere.

There's 1km remaining and I'm in real trouble. That guy way behind me is now right behind me, maybe ten seconds back, there's his yellow singlet, and I know I just need to turn on the jets for 400m or so to hold him off. He streaks past me. I can still see the yellow from where he'd been.

Sometimes you don't even do a cool down. My race number is already crumpled and in the garbage. I walk-jog to find my mum and the 8-year old with her. The two of them are still on Dallas road watching the race, and when I find them we start heading back to the finish. My mum has a bum knee. The 8-year old is eight. They're sort of jogging to the finish area, sort of walking and also sort of limp-jogging. I can't get my body to move faster, so I yell up to them that I'll just meet them there.

Project 1:08:01

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.



Abdominal muscles hurting from laughing so hard. Hurting from core work, too, but mostly from laughing. Thursday evening. Morning at a café, and now the evening at a pub. Mostly laughing, but there's a sobering moment, too, when a couple of guys we don't know think my friend and I are together. Dating. He's my height and thin like a distance runner, this friend. Built like me. Gaunt is beautiful. So these guys. They approach us at our table. The big one looms over my friend. "You ever been knocked out?" he leers. He's doughy. The pale skin of hours spent playing video games. Ball cap on backwards, a Bluejays supporter. S looks at me. We think it's a joke, it must be a joke. We laugh and answer No, but the guy isn't smiling. Number two is wearing a green shirt, ball cap facing forwards. He sits down at our table. Six of us now, the four of us plus these two new guys. The big guy is still looming. Blocking S's exit. Four of us who arrived together, and these two goons who seem to want something from us, we're not sure. The band in the background, finishing their last set. Three pints of beer on the table and an empty scotch tumbler. Four of us dancing in our seats, moving with the music, our arms in the air. The guy in the green shirt sitting at the end of our booth, anchored like a tent. We're still laughing and the big guy still isn't smiling.

The manager at the Bard arrives. He gets the green shirt out of his seat and sits down. "These guys bothering you?" he asks. Before we can answer he asks me who's in our party. I point to the four of us. L, J, J, S. "But not these two?" He's pointing to the guys in ball caps. Not them. "So you were just sitting here enjoying your evening, and these guys approached you?". That's right.

It isn't long from then the Bard closes and we pay our bills and leave. The manager is standing just inside the exit and as we're leaving we shake his hand and thank him for sending those guys away.

It's quiet in the street and it's dark, too, except under the street lamps and the awnings lit from above, light diffusing near the buildings. Mostly quiet in the street. Five guys huddled under a tree near the exit of the Bard. One of the guys steps out from the shadows when he sees us. It's the big guy who was looming over S in the pub. He's moving unsteadily but his general direction is toward us, and we see his fist is cocked. It's up near his face, his fist, and his elbow is bent like he's carrying a Glöck, but it's only that meaty fist aimed at us. He lunges past the girls at S. But we've clocked him. We see him coming and S moves like a butterfly. S moves like Neo in the Matrix. The big guy throws his fist and S watches it coming in and bends willowly from it, without moving his feet, he just kind of bends away from it through his torso at same rate it's coming in, on the same arc, like some kind of choreographed dance. The guy stumbles forward, and then the bouncers are on him. They take him to the ground. Four other guys in hats still standing in the shadows under the tree, unmoving. The guy in the green shirt yelling after us as we walk away, telling us we should be ashamed. Ashamed is not one of our feelings. Disbelief, yes. A sudden alertness. There's comedy, too, in a tragic sort of way.

Book 20: Sweet Tooth - Ian McKewan. Compelling. But it's about a writer, a beautiful mathematician, and espionage, so I was hooked from the book jacket.

Book 21: Oblivion - David Foster Wallace. Not my favourite of his, but still some brilliant sentences.

Book 22: A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood. Yes.


It's Thursday and I am in my Carlos Lopes room doing dead lifts, stacking more weight and bending at my knees and lifting explosively into a vertical position, or more like first position since my feet splay and the weight itself is the lightest bar I could find with a few more pounds added, so that the movement looks almost delicate. In my Carlos Lopes room with the light bouncing off the neighbouring building into my place, between sets now, none of the neighbours themselves visible through their windows. In my room and padding in front of my window less like a lion and more like a bird, nervous-looking but not feeling any nerves since this is business, these dead lifts, moving meditatively and bird-like in front of the window and looking out at the building next door at the drawn blinds and the street below which doesn't see much traffic on a Thursday morning, for what is often a busy street. Letting my muscles recover. Here in my Carlos Lopes room, walking to one end of the room and back, the window first on my left and then on my right, two sets finished, settled into a comfortable zen-like rhythm of getting things done and thinking about them only in present-time, all other thoughts passing through without snagging. Bending at my knees for my third set, hands curled around the bar, the bar surprisingly cold for a summer's day. Staring straight ahead at a painting of a red tulip. Quadriceps flexed. Gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius all flexed. The background of the painting yellow, and just the top third of a green stem visible. Biceps and triceps flexed. Body like a whip. When I think Holy shit. 

I only have seven weeks.

Seven weeks until the Porto half-marathon and ten weeks until the Lisbon half-marathon. I raced a 10km last weekend in Vancouver in 31:40 which was exactly my split in my half-marathon in February, most of it on the same course. Seven weeks out from my next half-marathon and an attempt at the 1:06:33 Canadian Master's record, and I can't quite run half the distance at the pace I need.

To be fair the past two weeks' training hasn't been good. A week before the 10km I had a day when I was awake for only 6 hours, and those six hours were feverish and painful from something I'd picked up at work. Headaches, dizziness. Joint pain. Even heart pain, and a friend suggested it was because my heart was expanding, at which I publicly and stoically balked while privately thinking maybe. And fatigue. That came back. My heart rate climbed ten beats at my usual pace. I was like this for eleven days.

Some mornings you wake and you just know things are different. Better. And so Wednesday of this week arrived and I woke and everything felt slower, in a good way. Sounds came at me differently. They were sharper. Layered and deep instead of olioed.

The tulip painting resting on the floor, and above it at just above standing eye height the nail. Right quadricep twitching a little bit. Heart rate low and even.  The bar warming up where my hands are, where my hands had been for ... how long now? Another twenty pounds of plates lying flat on the yoga mat next to the bar, a yoga mat I use to protect my hardwood floor. Twenty pounds I reach for, coming out of my poised position. Twenty pounds I add to the bar.  I want this record.


Sometime in the late morning with the sun beating down like it really is trying to beat me, on this 29th straight day of sun which isn’t a record but is nearly so, with the ubiquitous summer sounds of sprinklers and children laughing, and on the hour every hour of the peak hours first the static and then the plosion of the hippo tour guide’s voice announcing something starboard so that in today’s breeze heads turn alee and hair sweeps across faces and I feel caught deer-like, which turns my gait mechanical and I have to will my next step and the one after that, with so many faces not looking at me but looking in my direction, through me and over me at something not-quite-captivating, with me in the way, my electricity already cut… sometimes when this happens I stop and find a tree branch and hang from it, thinking I’ll traction my back until the yellow-black bus-boat drifts off, knowing I’ll have another hour to myself before I’ll need to find another branch. Book 18: All That Is - James Salter One of my favourite authors. He's an octogenarian now, so I was reflective reaching the end of this novel.

Book 19: The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion Fun!

A Tear In The Open

It starts at the ocean. Starts as a lament. An early morning, a sorrowful one. This is where my run starts. At the ocean. At the pier where the fishermen cast their lines on this great still morning, it begins.

I’m not wearing a watch. I live near the ocean so that’s where it starts, my run, and I don’t know when I will be back. Forgetting is so long.

There’s a speed you can run at to narrow your focus. There’s a threshold speed. I’m crossing this threshold more often these days. These are the speeds at which I’m running. My internal rhythm thumping. My internal rhythm dropping a beat. If you run fast enough everything near you becomes a blur and in the distance only the end of your sight line is sharp. Sometimes just a single point, once you’ve crossed that threshold.

The unwritten rule is: you don’t slow down. Once you increase the pace you don’t slow down. It’s a gentlemen’s rule, for when you’re running with others. If you pick up the pace you need to be able to hold it.

It’s ok to look behind you. I look behind me. The ocean has nearly disappeared. It’s down below. That’s the ocean right there, through the gap between the Arbutus trees. This is a long run. I told you I don’t know when I’ll be back. I’m going to the summit.

Trees flash by. The bridge I am crossing is a double. Branches like claws above, a stream below. My breath thrust into the air. Heart thumping. A storm is coming. Between beats I press on. Pulsing like electronic underground. Streaking towards something. Streaking away. I want to fly.

I punch through. Unprepared. I look at my wrist for the time; it’s instinct. I’m not wearing a watch. Time doesn’t matter. I punch through and windmill to stop.

There is no wind. The noise has died. My breath. There’s a truth up here. There are dark things too. My breath. There’s a tear in the open. A fissure. I can see it.

I breathe. I think… I think I can slip through.


There’s no wind and the air is pre-rain heavy, pre-rain cool. The baker at Fantastico is on a break and is sitting at a table chatting to a guy who works at a Brewery. Baker’s jeans are folded once at the cuff. Black t-shirt. He’s on the left flank of the entrance if you’re approaching the café and I’m on the right flank, and our chairs are angled so that we’re in each other’s line of sight. Brewery is talking about their new marketing gimmick, sealing beer in mason jars and selling them for 60 cents per, but the baker, you can tell, has stopped listening because here comes a redhead his age. His hair is buzzed on the sides, the baker’s, and the length on top is parted, combed and slicked left. He has a British accent. Neither of the boys are smoking. It’s a non-smoking patio. The redhead is approaching from behind him and is separated from them by a stone retaining wall built with a wide berth, and she swings with it, all the way around so that now she is walking towards the entrance and the Baker is on her left. She looks quickly to her right and then angles her shoulders slightly left, which is not going to make it easy to open the door since the door itself pulls open left, so she is either going to have to perform some deft footwork, having now rendered ineffective the same-side-lever-principle, i.e. weight on the left leg if you’re pulling with your left arm, or she is going to awkwardly collapse into her right arm if she tries opening the door that way. The door isn’t light. Either way it was a mistake to angle her shoulders left if she wants to enter the café, if that’s her objective, but it’s clear she did it to keep her eye on the baker because since seeing him she has been unable to look away, all the way in, so that she nearly misses the door handle when she reaches for it. The baker himself, at this point, is still a non-participant in the conversation with Brewery and is staring back. Which is when she surprises all of us by pulling with her right arm, weight on her right foot, then spinning 360 degrees counterclockwise and entering the café with her left foot first, her red hair still gracefully following the momentum of her body, lifted off her shoulders for another couple of seconds and somehow picking up a bit of preternatural light on this cloudy morning. Brewery asks him if he’s listening.

“Sorry”, Baker says, letting out a puff of air. “I just felt really good about myself for a moment.”

I’m watching all of this with my head on the table, a head I seem unable to lift, which is probably from yesterday’s 35km day. The runs are feeling good.

484 001

Book 17. Of the ten longest novels written in English, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is 10th. 484 001 words. Compare this word count to: Crime And Punishment (Dostoyevsky): 211 591 The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway): 67 707 Wuthering Heights (Bronte): 107 945 East of Eden (Steinbeck): 225 395 The Bible (Old and New combined): 774 776 Mr. Messy (Hargreaves): 189

This number, 484 001, doesn't include the words from definitions I had to look up. I recall thinking I'm spending as much time reading the dictionary as this book, and so I counted the number of times, on a single page, I looked up definitions: six. *1

I started reading it on April 08 (this year) and finished it at 4:30 p.m. on May 28th. 50 days *2And somehow I feel both smarter and dumber. 

Do I have any sense of what just happened? I don't.

From the novel, a conversation between a tennis coach and a student of the game:

“You burn to have your photograph in a tennis magazine.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Why again exactly, now?”

“I guess to be felt about as I feel about those players with their pictures in magazines.”


“Why? I guess to give my life some sort of meaning, Lyle.”

“And how would this do this again?”

“Lyle, I don’t know. I do not know. It just does. Would. Why else would I burn like this, clip secret pictures, not take risks, not sleep or pee?”

“You feel these men with their photographs in magazines care deeply about having their photographs in magazines. Derive immense meaning.”

“I do. They must. I would. Else why would I burn like this to feel as they feel?”

“The meaning they feel, you mean. From the fame.”

“Lyle, don’t they?”

“LaMont, perhaps they did at first. The first photograph, the first magazine, the gratified surge, the seeing themselves as others see them, the hagiography of image, perhaps. Perhaps the first time: enjoyment. After that, do you trust me, trust me: they do not feel what you burn for. After the first surge, they care only that their photographs seem awkward or unflattering, or untrue, or that their privacy, this thing you burn to escape, what they call their privacy is being violated. Something changes. After the first photograph has been in a magazine, the famous men do not enjoy their photographs in magazines so much as they fear that their photographs will cease to appear in magazines. They are trapped, just as you are.”

“Is this supposed to be good news? This is awful news.”

“LaMont, are you willing to listen to a Remark about what is true?”


“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”

“Maybe I ought to be getting back.”

“LaMont, the world is very old. You have been snared by something untrue. You are deluded. But this is good news. You have been snared by the delusion that envy has a reciprocal. You assume that there is a flip-side to your painful envy of Michael Chang: namely Michael Chang’s enjoyable feeling of being-envied-by-LaMont-Chu. No such animal.”


“You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.”

“This is good news?”

“It is the truth. To be envied, admired, is not a feeling. Nor is fame a feeling. There are feelings associated with fame, but few of them are any more enjoyable than the feelings associated with envy of fame.”

“The burning doesn’t go away?”

“What fire dies when you feed it? It is not fame itself they wish to deny you here. Trust them. There is much fear in fame. Terrible and heavy fear to be pulled and held, carried. Perhaps they want only to keep it off you until you weigh enough to pull toward yourself.”

“Would I sound ungrateful if I said this doesn’t make me feel very much better at all?”

“LaMont, the truth is that the world is incredibly, incredibly, unbelievably old. You suffer with the stunted desire caused by one of its oldest lies. Do not believe the photographs. Fame is not the exit from any cage.”

“So I’m stuck in the cage from either side. Fame or tortured envy of fame. There’s no way out.”

“You might consider how escape from a cage must surely require, foremost, awareness of the fact of the cage.” *3


1. Only three of the six words were in my dictionary. *a a. David Foster Wallace uses the OED. 2. 72 510 minutes, or 6.67 words per minute for every single minute for 50 days, including the ones when I was sleeping or showering, rounded down to the nearest hundredth. 3. sic


Santoku 7-inch with Tsuchime finish. Edge angle 16 degrees. Cuts a tomato in the air. Toss the tomato up and if your hand eye coordination is good it's sliced straight through, so that by the time your arm is in the down part of its downward arc you aren’t certain there will be two halves. So that you think maybe you missed. There’s just no resistance. Your arm ellipses counter-clockwise when viewed from your left, and at 180 degrees on the arc, the knife and your hand now at the bottom, the tomato is still going up. The pieces of tomato. Two of them, you can see. Your hand-eye coordination is good. But mostly you leave the vegetables on the cutting board. You work in the traditional manner. You work like Tengo in the Murakami novel. You work efficiently and functionally, and many of the ingredients are the same ones Tengo uses. Cutting up onions, Shiitake, garlic. More. Broccoli and ginger, kale. A pear. The radio is on low. Jian Ghomeshi is interviewing Dexter. It’s a Tivoli, your radio, and Ghomeshi’s voice is sharp through the Kloss speaker, Kloss innovation, free of distortion. Kloss’s legacy. It’s dark outside but there’s a bit of light from the moon and you can see the tree out front, the branches, shadows like a hand. And since your Tivoli with its Kloss speaker is distortionless, there’s no mistaking what Jian Ghomeshi says, clear between the rhythmic striking of your knife against your cutting board, when he conversationally says “There’s a convicted killer here in Canada who claimed to identify with Dexter.”

Which is chilling and there's no way you can even begin to think about this. Especially right now, while you’re minding your mitochondria. Check with Terry Wahls. What you're back to doing now, having flipped your radio to Off, is absorbing the blow from MS and deflecting it, Jedi-like. Mitigating it, really, and through nutrition. Getting the response to settle down before it causes damage. Doing this by eating well. And it's working. This is also why you’re sleeping so much. Why you’re narcoleptic, but without the clinical diagnosis.

The next morning you're downtown at the Bay, buying new bed linen. Since you spend so much time there. In bed. At the Bay on the linen level, the fourth floor, which is also where you can buy knives and blenders and soaps and chocolate, anyway for this entire floor there’s one functioning cash register. The others are broken, and to fix them staff have been calling The Bay's customer service in … wait ... Bangladesh. And it turns out they can’t understand the woman on the other end of the line, so the machines remain out of service. The line is long. You don’t mind the wait, but as you're standing there you're thinking of the outsourcing and it’s making you queasy, to the degree you're rethinking the purchase.

At home and out of curiosity you look up the Hudson Bay's mission statement. “HBC is a leading corporate citizen, giving back to the communities in which it operates. In 2011 alone the HBC Foundation invested over $7 million CAD, working with national and local organizations to build healthy families, create strong communities and inspire Canadians. Also in 2011, Lord & Taylor’s charitable foundation donated $1.7 million USD to charitable organizations in the United States, and through its ‘Do Better’ program, our Associates raised $66,000 for the communities in which they live and work. HBC is a socially responsible corporation, buying ethically manufactured products and recognized for our leadership in energy conservation and environmental protection.”

It's about then, with your radio off and your computer also now off, back to reading fiction, that you breach the 1000 page mark of the novel you're reading, not including the two hundred or so pages of footnotes you've also finished.


What we’re trying to keep track of, for now, in a casual way so that we’re not obsessing about things, so that we aren’t making things worse by worrying, are the symptoms. There was a crowd of school kids on the sidewalk downtown yesterday, drinking Super Big Gulps and moving in their slow I-don’t-give-a-shit way in the general direction of deeper into downtown, taking up the entire sidewalk. Moving in that sluggish way paper wasps fly late season, when the temperatures are high and they’re half drunk on fermented fruit. Girl turns towards boy to ask him a question, just as the scrum of kids ahead of her parts for a light post. She nails it, nails the post, both arms flying forward cartoon-like, and the Big Gulp leaves her hand and sails almost majestically through the air.

Which is what made me realize what this feels like… There’s the low thrum of what presents like a pinched nerve, but isn’t a pinch. In fact it’s demyelination along the nerves, which affects nerve conduction, which means loss of power, loss of coordination, loss of agility. More than that. It’s like if we drank a Super Big Gulp now, at this advanced age, how kids can drink one and be wired for three days, but when we drink one we feel like we're corroding from the inside out. There's a low-PH systemic burn. The nervous system just kind of hurts, low grade, top-to-bottom, as if we've been in the sun a bit too long, but affecting the insides.

And this pinched nerve feeling also presents as muscle weakness. Muscles don’t fire the way I'm used to having them fire. They tire easily. Feet impacting with the ground is time-shifted, only by fractions of a second but it’s enough, and maybe partly because of this there isn’t the same rebound. There’s no coil, no flight. I’m talking about running. When I am walking I feel normal. In the past, two separate and extended periods, I’ve had to be cautious descending stairs. Not this time. Not yet. So far it’s only when I’m running. I feel clumsy, like someone trying to run.

There’s the sleep. At night I fall asleep as though there is no dawn. I sleep endlessly, darkly, and what must appear to others as fatally. I sleep when I sit down. If nobody else is around, that’s when I sleep. At 5:30 p.m. I coach, so at 4:50 p.m. I rest my head on my pillow thinking I’ll just think, maybe about Roger Federer’s world number two ranking and the mathematics of how he can reach number one, or I’ll try to draw a character map in my mind of everyone in Infinite Jest, how they relate to one another. I do this, I actually do… I try to multiply two three-digit numbers in my head. This is what I’m doing with my head on my pillow for just a minute or two before coaching. My sheets are white. My pillow slips are white. The blinds are drawn and clacking a bit in the breeze. I think about hanging the rest of my paintings, and I think about acquiring another painting to fill out my mini-gallery. Then I’m in a gallery. I’m in New York in one of their galleries, I don’t know which one, there are so many; in Chelsea I think. Looking at the art.

The phone rings. It wakes me. I check the time and it’s 5:20 p.m. and I need to hurry.


This book-a-week mandate is taking a hit now with David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, a 981 page novel with 100 pages of footnotes, which took Dave Eggers (who wrote the current forward) a month to get through, and we're talking about a novelist whose job it is to write and read, and even then he spent 4 weeks doing little else. It's my 17th novel of the year and this means I'm behind schedule by about half a week, so if I can finish it tonight and then squeeze in another book by Monday night I'll be back on schedule. But that's impossible. Before I fell into a deep and disturbing dream-sleep last night, with an image landscape clearly pulled from this novel and no shrink would try to convince me otherwise, I spent the evening moving my bookmark from page 414 to 416, nearly not at all, because of a 30 page footnote I smacked into on page 415. Despite its immensity, and I do actually own the hardcover from when it was first released in 1996, and have boxed it and brought it with me through every move, usually getting my more muscularly-blessed friends to lift that last box, I'll point to, and so despite its intimidation factor I don't want it to end. Dave Eggers described it as a workout for the mind. He called it drum-tight, without a lazy sentence.

But I do have to wonder if anyone has actually truly finished this novel, footnotes and all. I have to wonder if this infinitely long novel is jesting with the reader. Sometimes it just seems like I'm trying to get to another planet, and by walking. As though, maybe, I'll reach the last word of the last page of the last footnote, and somewhere out there DFW will be laughing.



In my dream last night I was flying to France, probably (and here I'm filling in the details from waking life, as they make sense to me) on a chocolate and wine tour, but our airplane was making some odd jerking movements in the sky not far from our landing, and then we dropped straight down. Straight and fortunately so, because it was only that we didn't come in at an angle that saved us. We sat on the landing with our broken windows and baggage tossed about the cabin but we were safe, all of us, not one of us injured, and the captain was so flushed at having saved us that he decided to lift off again and do a loop-de-loop to show off, which was a total disaster. There was last week at the Sun Run, my shaky landing, a 30:54 which felt too hard and left me a bit rattled, and then there was the Times Colonist 10km yesterday. The one thing I would have asked pre-season, if this was going to happen, was please don't let it happen at the TC10k. This is my city. I know far too many people here, some of them who know the difference between a 32 minute 10km and a 30 minute race, but many who don't. Many who know only the gaps and how far back someone is, and how pedestrian they look compared to the real runners. Somehow this stuff still kind of matters to me. In a way, showing well here legitimizes what I do.

I wasn't ever in the race. Fell off by 1km, reached in 3:08. Such an awful feeling to be running hard but posting 3:20 splits, which is where I settled shortly after the opening kilometer, and to see that the group ahead of me wasn't pushing yet still they were pulling away, when two months ago I would have been right with them and it would have been en route to my half-marathon.

And of course what I want to do is be proactive. I want to figure out what to do to bounce back, then do it. With this I can't. I have to wait, and for an indeterminate amount of time since really my immediate symptoms aren't overt, they aren't things I can feel coming or going. I'm mostly just tired, and sometimes not even that. Sometimes I can't tell how I'm doing even at slow running speeds, and it isn't until I try to do a workout when I discover my nervous system isn't working and that my body isn't conducting a current.

I care about the race to a degree, but mostly I worry about my body. I worry that this isn't the plateau; that in fact things are about to get exponentially worse.

Sun Run

After the race, though I guess I should first mention the race, the Sun Run, a 30:54 fight on a day I'd hoped to run 30:09 if things went perfectly, which they didn't, but so anyway after the race I arrived back in Victoria to some dinner made by two stubborn and loyal and dear friends. I drank two glasses of wine. Then I did three sets of six deadlifts, with all the weight I have. This being the third Canadian master's record I am now within 45 seconds of, without striking.

Book 16: Girl With Curious Hair - David Foster Wallace

"This sumac cyst between his eyes feels fucking alive, man. Pulses painfully with the squeak of his head's blood. The cyst is beginning to show a little bit of white at the acme. Not good. Clear evidence of white blood cells, which implies blood cells, and so a bloodstream. From there it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you've got a body."

and later...

"But storms move like the very wind out here, no fucking around, building and delivering very quickly, often with violence, sometimes hail, damage, tornadoes. Then they move off with the calm even pace of something that knows it's kicked your ass, they move away, still tall, bound for points East, behind you. It's a spectacle."


Finished books 14 and 15: The Book of Qualities – Ruth Gendler Life After Life – Kate Atkinson.

The former is a lovely little book in which human qualities are fleshed.

The latter. It’s Kate Atkinson. We should love her, but I had trouble with the concept of this novel. A woman, Ursula, dying only to be reborn into her life. It felt too gossamer, as though nothing had weight, nothing was permanent. When even death isn’t permanent, how can we become invested? How can we care? Isn’t it the fear of permanence that impels us into action? To create our legacy before we die. To ask that woman on a date before we forever lose our chance. To act now, while the opportunity is in front of us, because it will never again be like this. A sharper person than I needs to explore these ideas. Rumon? Or Kundera? Ursula didn’t know that she would be reborn into her life if she met an unfortunate ending, although she did have a sense of the otherworldly, but we as readers knew. We knew that any brutality would be erased and she would be able to start over, and we knew that the best events of her life would just as thoroughly be erased. If she missed an opportunity, she would be able to revisit it. In this dream world of falling off cliffs and bursting anew into wakefulness, nothing felt real, and though our own dreams may be engaging and exciting to us, and here my wife put it succinctly: other people’s dreams are boring. A Priori, I need to believe there will be consequences. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, this makes me a 'heavy' character. I'd be interested in knowing if 'light' characters would get a different sense from Life After Life. And to be fair, there were some beautiful passages. I can appreciate her talent as a writer. Other reviewers quite enjoyed the novel. It didn't engage me.

Two and a half weeks post-Comox. The first week was nothing more than easy running and the second was to find my legs. The Sun Run is in 11 days. Times Colonist 10km is the week after that. Finally, I've found a half-marathon to take one last crack at the Canadian Master's record: Bayshore, in Traverse City, Michigan. May 25.

I’ll be flying to Minneapolis Thursday for my sister’s graduation from her art program. Pack the camera, pack the running shoes. Hope their weather is nicer than ours. Looking forward to trying a couple new restaurants, and to visiting Louise Erdrich’s bookshop.


Comox is in the books. I mentioned in a post-race interview that it felt like an Escher run. You know the way the workers in his paintings start at the bottom of a staircase and climb, and if you follow the staircase around the quadrant, with your eyes, climbing the entire way, each step up leading to another step up until you’ve climbed across all four sides and reached the … bottom? That’s how the wind felt on Sunday. 14kph which isn’t strong but was enough, with the drizzle and the cool temperatures (4 degrees at race start), to stymie a record attempt. Wind that seemed to be against us on the way out, 5km in 15:50 and 10km in 32:02 (the second 5km has 70m of elevation gain), was against us on the way back. Geoff ran easily, and there were a couple of times he started pulling away from me on the hills between 5km and 10km before listening for my footsteps and slowing up to wait for me. 16km in 50:40. We were still within range of the record but I was getting pretty cold, cold enough that my face felt like it does after visiting the dentist, and my legs tightened up on the finishing stretch. Geoff got away from me with 5km remaining, and I worked hard to pull him in by 20km but it took most of my energy. My last 1km was one of my slowest, 3:12, though I knew well before then that I wouldn't be getting the Canadian master's record. Final time of 1:07:10, missing the mark by 37 seconds. I felt good about the race. Felt like I got everything out of my body and that perhaps, on a dry and calm day, I could have hit the 1:06:33. Since the race I've eaten at Devour, Brasserie L'École, Relish, Zambri's, Fol Epi. Watched the ma drink two car bombs at the Irish Times, while Blackangus' third set exploded over us. Spoils.