Saturday, November 29, 2008

#25 A Kole is Born

First things first: I don’t like blood. So much so that I was told I could not donate blood because I almost passed out when they pricked my finger to test my blood type. Imagine being hauled across a gymnasium on a stretcher because I was so dizzy…did I mention I was in college when this happened?

Strangely enough, when Megan asked if I wanted to be in the room when she gave birth to her first child, I said yes. Even thinking about it later didn’t get me worried. I kind of figured it would be like watching a car crash, I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off of what was happening, no matter how I felt.

I happened to be on vacation when I got the call on July 8th to go in and see Kole be born. When I first reached the maternity ward about 11am I was asked who I was going to see. I said Megan Sloan and of course they didn’t know anybody by that name. I said I knew that she was there as I had been called. It wasn’t until they asked me if she went by another name that I realized my mistake. Megan Kramer. She has been married for two years and I still couldn’t get it right.

When I arrived in the room, Megs had been induced already for about an hour and was doing well with the contractions. There were two nurses in the room helping her through them and keeping her as comfortable as possible. There was also a student whose last name was Love…that’s right, Dr. Love. ☺

It wasn’t long before the contractions starting coming fast and heavy and the real doctor came into the room. Kole was coming so fast that when Megan decided she wanted pain medication it was too late to administer it. Not only was she is pain, but she was also irritated mentally. So whenever Tim and I started talking about anything we got a ‘shush’ and a hand wave. Megs needed to focus.

She did keep saying that she felt like she had to poo, which was strangely cute, as I’m sure that a lot of pregnant woman use other words to describe the sensation of something wanting to come out of their nether region.

I’ll spare you some of the more not-so-pretty aspects of the birth, like the bag they put under Megs to catch all the stuff that comes out or the way they poked and prodded inside her. But lets just say the female body doesn’t look anything like it should when giving birth, and as a result, it didn’t freak me out.

Soon you could see Kole’s head rocking back and forth near his exit door and I thought, “Oh great, he looks so small. This should be a cinch.” Half an hour later when he finally did come out, that little spot that I thought was the whole diameter of his head, was actually about a quarter of it. He was huge and he shot out like a bullet. When Megan gave the final push, Kole practically shot out and the doctor heaved him immediately onto Megs’ lap. All she could say was, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.” He was finally there. He was no longer in her stomach but suddenly on top of it. I almost cried. Almost. Though Tim, for sure, teared up.

There were plenty of pictures and they weighed Kole and cleaned him off. He was 9lbs 5 oz. and ridiculously long, but healthy.

But this is where things went bad for me. It is time to stitch Megs up. Needless to say, Megs was going through more discomfort and pain I start to get dizzy. It was then that I had to leave the room. I can watch a baby be born but I could not even stand and talk to Megan while they did all the clean-up work. You know you are a total wuss when the nurses are asking YOU if you are okay.

Kole is now a fast growing boy. I think he will be taller than his dad in a couple months. He almost weighs more than my twin nieces who were born two months before him. He is usually pretty content and I am happy to report that he no longer cries every time I hold him.

Thanks Megs for letting me share the experience with you!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

27c Pounding Pavement - Finishing!

Bang! The gun goes off and we are running. I chucked my throw-away sweater and did the normal start and stop with the thousands of other people trying to get across the start line. Once I crossed the start line the crowd loosened up. There were well over a dozen bands along the route getting the Motown music flowing and pumping us up along the way. I reached the Ambassador bridge about 15mins into the race. Coming up to the bridge you could see the elites already crossing over. They were going almost twice as fast as I was and it was incredible to think of how much distance they had already covered.

Crossing the bridge, while the sun came up over Windsor was really impressive. I was RUNNING over the bridge! Can you imagine? How many people get to run over that bridge? As we crossed the centre I yelled out “Yeah CANADA!” to which I received a few snickers from some Americans who started harassing me in jest about our accent and customs. “You like hooocky, eh?” “Don’t you put vinegar on your fries?” To which I replied, “Yes, you have the accent down perfectly. And vinegar on fries is delicious. Have you ever heard of poutine? Gravy and cheese. Try that one!” Well that scared them a little! As soon as we were in Canada the Tim’s cups were abundant, warming the hands of dozens of spectators our in the cool morning air. Strangely this made me feel proud. I even ran past a woman with Timbits and asked her if she was handing them out. She laughed, but I was serious! ☺

We crossed back into Detroit through the tunnel, which was a cool experience in itself since it is the only underwater mile in any marathon in the world. As far as the eye could see there was a solid mass of runners bobbing along. As we came out on the incline of the tunnel it grew hard to breath. There was still exhaust in the air that hadn’t been blown out. As soon as we high fresh air I was coughing from the difference in air quality. But that also signified the end of the hilly portion of the race. It would be flat from here on out.

About a kilometer before I hit the tunnel I had noticed another female runner checking her watch and walking every now and then. I figured she was doing the same method of running that I was (the Galloway method of running ten minutes and walking one minute AKA 10 and 1s). As we went into the tunnel I struck up a conversation and we didn’t stop talking for the next 10 miles. I had been praying the night before that I would meet someone on the run that would help pass the time and give me that push that I needed to make it through and Courtney did just that. It was great.

The next best motivation was seeing my family at the 9.5 and 12.5mile marks. I was so happy to see Abby’s face cheering me on. Shane even brought her out on the road and we did a little fist bump. I think she was overwhelmed by it all though because she had a bit of a goofy look on her face. Seeing family was a wonderful extra boost to keep me going for the second half.

The first half went by so quickly I thought it was a joke when I saw the 13mile mark. How could I feel like I had only ran 2km and have actually ran 21k? At that point I didn’t care, I just wanted to keep my pace and finish strong.

I continued to drink at every fluid station, rotating water and Gatorade. Being an environmentally friendly person, I loved being able to through my empty cups off to the side, not worrying that they wouldn’t be cleaned up. In fact running through these fluid stations was like running through a mine field. You were constantly dodging flying cups (some half full) while running through literally hundreds of cups already on the ground. It was kind of exciting.

Fluid and food were very important during the run. I needed to be replacing all the salt I was sweating out and the carbs I was burning off. During the run I was going to burn about 2500 calories, so I needed all the food I could get in me. I grabbed every cup of candy that was passed to me, including M&M’s, jelly beans, Jolly Ranchers and pretzels. I also grabbed oranges and a full banana. I had brought some energy gels with me to eat, but at about mile 15 we hit a free gel station, so I just started grabbing them out of the volunteers hands and stuffing them in my sports bra (a very secure place to keep them, I might add!). This really was a 4-hour party in my mind, I got to eat and run. I must have looked silly holding a big pretzel in one hand and having a fist full of oranges in the other, but it was all so good I couldn’t resist! I was determined not to ‘bonk’ at the 20mile mark so I needed to be sure that I was taking in energy to get me to the end.

At the 17mile mark I lost Courtney, I was going too fast for her and she needed to conserve energy or she wouldn’t make it. I understood that and we didn’t say goodbye, we just eventually separated. My foot was starting to hurt at this point, but I was determined to push through. I could recover later.

It happened right about the time a runner in front of me ran over to join a mariachi band for a minute shaking a shaker like nobodies business. It was hilarious. Another memorable moment happened a couple miles earlier I had seen a woman handing out Vaseline for all those people who forgot to use their BodyGlide for chaffing. (You don’t even want to know all the places you can rub raw!) Shortly after I saw a guy on the side of the road with his shorts hiked way up applying Vaseline to his thigh. I did not stare...for more than a couple seconds. ☺ I would also later see another funny site as a man ran to a Port-A-John on the side of the road, only to open the door to reveal another runner doing his business inside. A little embarrassing? Yes. Funny? Absolutely!

At mile 20 I looked over to see a group of the Hanson Brooks Distance Training guys (with Brian Sell in the centre) cheering us on. How incredible is it to have an Olympic athlete cheering you on at their sport? It gave me another boost to keep going.

For the last ten miles I couldn’t get the smile off my face. I was having such a good time befriending other runners and encouraging those who were struggling. All first timers, including myself, wore green bib numbers. My friend Joe, who is the Start Line Director for Detroit, told me first timers were called Greenies. Volunteers and spectators knew to cheer us on even more when they saw the green and often you would hear people calling your name. “Go Dana! You can finish strong!” And I was strong…well at least stronger than the guy I saw at mile 24 laying on his back in the middle of the road, groaning in agony as a volunteer helped him stretch his legs…another casualty of the marathon.

As mile 25 I was greeted by a group of spectators handing out cups of beer and pieces of brownies and cookies. What the heck! It was close enough to the finish line, I felt like celebrating. Beer it was! I grabbed a cup and splashed some of it on my arm as I reached for a brownie. I missed the brownie but wasn’t about to stop and go back for it. A second later I heard a woman yell, “You missed your brownie!” She had actually run after me to make sure I got one! Detroit has the best spectators!

The hardest part came with one mile to go. As soon as my brain registered that I was almost done it started to shut down. Mind you, I didn’t struggle too bad, but I couldn’t go much faster than I was, so I upped my pace just a fraction as I came into the final turns…and more turns. This is the notorious point in a marathon where people on the side lines start cheering that you are almost done, just one more corner…but it usually means three more corners and 5 more minutes of running when all you want to see is that finish sign. I even started mumbling under my breath, “Where is that bloody finish sign!” The woman running beside me overheard and gave a laugh. We were close!

At this point I also started to choke up a bit. Leading up to this day I had expected that I would be a fountain of tears when I saw the finish line, knowing that even on some of my longest training runs I would get emotional after I finished. But for some reason I got a little verclempt but didn’t shed a tear. I started strong and that was how I was going to finish. Finally I saw the finish sign and knew that I was about to complete one of my lifetime goals: my first marathon. As I ran under the sign I jumped up and smacked it with my hand. It was over. I had did it! With my foot troubles I had hoped to finish in 4:15, but my final time ended up being 4:04:24. I had managed to surprise myself!

I was handed a medal and worked my way through the finishers chute to grab more water, food and a space blanket to keep me warm as my body cooled down and quickly adjusted to the temperature. As I worked my way out of the finisher’s area, passing the long line of people waiting for a free massage, I saw dad and then Breanne and Shane waiting for me on the other side of the fence. I squeezed out of the gates as fast as possible and was greeted by a big hug from Abby and then my parents. It felt great. We were all so happy at what had been accomplished. It was also great knowing that my parents were proud of me. They don’t always relate to the crazy things I do, but I know that they knew I had worked really hard for this and that it was such a great achievement for me.

From there we headed back to Windsor for lunch at Applebee’s and then I took the long drive back to London. Work the next day was extremely sore. I felt like my 87 year old grandfather who hobbles around with his cane. My toes were so sore that I couldn’t wear anything but sandals, afraid that any more pressure and I might lose a toenail or two to the blood blisters that were forming under some of my nails.

They say that marathon running is addicting, and leading up to Detroit, with such tough training (up to 7 or 8 hours a week or running) I didn’t think this was something that would ever become an addiction for me. Over the winter I had planned to cut back my running and take up swimming and cross-country skiing and indoor soccer. But now, having completed my first marathon and realizing that it was the happiest 4-hours in my life, there is no doubt I will do another one at some point. The question now is where? Rome? Hawaii? Big Sur? I can’t wait to see where my feet will take me next!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

27b Pounding Pavement - Getting to the Start Line

The Saturday morning before the race came quickly and I drove and picked Breanne up at home and we headed to Detroit. We first went to the race expo at Cobo Hall and started weaving our way to the race kit area. Bre tried to not ask any silly questions with so many runners around, but she did slip one. “What does 26.2 mean?” Perhaps that does not me anything to most people, but that is the distance of a marathon in miles. Something all runners know. I quickly shushed hers and whispered the answer as not to be heard! ☺

About a minute later came one of the most exciting parts of the whole weekend. I turned around and there was Brian Sell signing autographs. My heart went through my chest! Note: A week before I was telling someone how, at my age, I wouldn’t get star struck if I saw someone famous…well I was wrong. Who is Brian Sell you might be asking? He is only one of my top two favourite male runners, right behind Ryan Hall. He was third in the US Olympic Trials and ran in Beijing at the Olympics finishing 22nd in a field of almost 100. He runs with the Hanson Brooks Distance Project, a group that trains and lives together in Rochester Hills, MI. He is one of my heroes and an even paced runner…just like me. Of course I didn’t know what to say but I had to get a picture with him. I built up the nerve and walked up to the table. “Uhhh hello. Can I get a picture with you?” (Yes, lame I know, but I didn’t know what else to say.) It was wonderful and he was really friendly. What surprised me the most, but shouldn’t have, is how skinny he is, I think he is about 120lbs. I did manage to tell him that he really inspires me, but later, laying in bed, I realized I should have asked him if his feet had recovered from Beijing. Brian doesn’t wear socks when he runs and with the humidity in Beijing he blistered so bad that his shoes were a bloody mess afterwards. But he finished.

I was pumped the rest of the day, even when I picked up my race T-shirt which was an XS but was still a couple sizes to big…I don’t understand why they think people running a marathon need such large sizes. Anyway. Bre and I loaded up on carb-onara at a great trattoria called Spago’s in Windsor and relaxed at Chapters for a bit before meeting up with mom, dad, Shane and Abby at the hotel.

I had a terrible sleep that night (and the entire week before), waking up almost every hour. We woke up at 5am and got ready to go. We were out the door by 6am and crossed the border easily…however, we got seriously lost after that. Thank goodness for GPS on my iPhone or we would have been in Florida before we realized where we were. At one point we went the wrong way on a one way street (which even after we realized it we kept going down…much to mom’s delight). It was ridiculously stressful and tense. We finally managed to get pretty close to the start with only 15mins before the gun went off. I was dropped on the side of the road and did a warm up sprint to the start line. Of course, being tense and nervous, I had to go to the bathroom really bad and ended up scaling a 5’ fence to get into the Port-A-John area. I did my business in record time and managed to be in line to start with about 5 minutes to spare.

Monday, October 27, 2008

#27a Pounding Pavement - Training

What an incredible experience! Training for a marathon was the hardest thing I have done in my life, both physically and mentally, but being there in Detroit, running those 42kms was truly the happiest 4:04 hours of my life. Here’s how it unfolded.

July 1st: Day one of training. I had a foundation of 15kms under my belt and had been resting my knees since the Around the Bay 30k the end of March but it was time to pick it up again. I joined a training group led by the wonderful Sherry Watts. She is an Olympic certified running coach and had a wealth of knowledge. I was by far the youngest person in the group, I think the next person was in her mid 40s, but they were all friendly and wanted to see me achieve my goals.

I trained hard through the hot summer months and was up at 6am to do my long runs on the weekend. I would do anything to beat the heat. It took a lot of running to figure out how best to keep my body strong while running over three hours. I had one training run that was 38k and my legs seized up with 10k to go. It was the most painful run I have experienced and I had a bit of a cry in the shower after while I iced my legs. And to think that in just six days I have to do a 40k. The very thought just drained me. This was going to be tough, but I was confident I had it in me to do it. Running is 75% mental. Your body can do amazing things if your mind has the confidence, determination and discipline to do it.

I did discover something beautiful while I was training. The Fanshawe Conservation Area 25k trail. I used this trail about three times during my training. It was gorgeous being out there at the crack of dawn, seeing the sun come up over the trees and watching early paddlers out on the lake. I loved being out there in God’s nature listening to sermons by Bruxy Cavey, a Relevant podcast, books and music to pass the time. Yes all of those in one run…they were long. What would I have done for four hours without my iPod? Thank you Steve Jobs!

My last long training run was a 40k, just 2k short of the full thing. It was a good run and I felt like I finally figured out the right combination of eating, drinking and pace. I finished that 40k in 4hrs and 15mins. Longer than I wanted to be, but my training had suffered as things picked up at work and I started taking an online marketing course. I just couldn’t be as consistent as I was in the summer. Instead of running four times a week I was just getting in three runs and sometimes not event that many.

Things would only get worse though. Two days after my 40k I had severe pain in my right foot. I was forced to stop running for over a week. I couldn’t even put my running shoes on because it was so painful. By the next Sunday I decided to go to the hospital and get an x-ray, I was terrified it was a stress fracture, something that would definitely put me out of running the marathon in two weeks. Thankfully it was not a fracture. The doctor said it was something to do with the soft tissue and that I needed to go easy. He even said something along the lines of me being really athletic, which was really strange to hear since I still have a hard time associating myself, the bookworm, the academic with being athletic.

So I took another five days off until I felt less pain in my foot. The marathon was in 11 days and I needed to get running again, for fear that I would have a horrible race. I did a short 3k, then a 10k two days later. My foot was feeling okay but not perfect. With lots of praying and ibuprofen I hoped to make it to the finish line in Detroit. I would finish even if I had to crawl.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

#26 Bike License

When I told people that I wanted to get my motorcycle license the general response was surprise. I guess I had never really been vocal about wanting it, but I had been thinking about it for about eight years. Probably since I dated Ian who had a bike himself which we would go out on from time to time. Chris also had a bike and the last time I was in Moncton we took it for a spin.

Back in May I started thinking about it more and one day at work we were talking about things we wanted to do and that came up. I said I was going to do it, but didn't know when. Then it struck me, why not do it now as one of my ten new things? And just like that I was 'driven' to get it. I drove all the way to the south Chapters to buy the handbook and started studying for my written test. I forced myself to read that boring book every night until I was done. Then a week or two later I wrote the test. Great, I told myself, I have my license! Problem, I don't have a bike and the license (M1) would expire in three months unless I took the M2 test.

I don't know anyone who has a bike, let alone would let me drive it to practice, so I started looking into the motorcycle courses at Fanshawe. You use their bikes and took the M2 test at the end of the course. Perfect! At the start of July I called them up but they were booked. Call back in mid August to sign up for the fall they said.

Side note, I didn't tell my mom or dad that I was doing all of this. I wanted to make sure I had my M2 and had been on a bike before I broke it to them gently. I like keeping my folks in suspense! I did tell my siblings though, Shane being the most excited because he would like to get his too someday. And they were good and didn't give me up to mom and dad. Thanks guys!

I sent a fax to Fanshawe in August half hour after the registrar's office opened on the day or sign up. However, I got a call later saying that the day I wanted (the only weekend I could take it before my license expired) was full. Apparently it takes three days to process a fax! Who knew?

So the jig was up, I told mom the next time I was home and she was quite surprised. All along she had been trying to guess what I might be up to. Are you getting a tattoo? No. Are you pregnant? MOM!?! Are you moving far away? With these questions I might consider it! She was surprised/relieved/worried and probably happy I hadn't actually bought a bike. Perhaps more happy that I didn't get into the course....little did she know that the week before the course started someone dropped out and I got in.

It was a bit of a mad scramble to get my stuff together. I needed to make sure I had the proper clothing and a helmet. I tried to find someone to borrow from, but in the end had to buy one.

On the Saturday of the course, the first day I we got to ride, I was pretty nervous. They broke us down into groups of ten and we had two instructors who were going to teach us. I got paired with a 79 year old lady who came by herself. She blew me away with her desire to learn. However, by the second day she dropped out. The bikes were too heavy and she was not getting the hang of shifting gears. I was then the only girl in our group and damn if I was going to let that intimidate me!

Of course it did kind of help that one of the instructors, a middle-age man with a mustache, had a bit of a crush on me. He would always tell me I was doing well, ignoring the guys, and even gave me a ride around the parking lot on my bike showing me how to downshift (which I was having a hard time with). It was a little awkward and he was a little creepy, but he was also always looking out for me and gave me extra help when I needed it. If he had been the final tester I probably could have skipped the test and still passed. :)

Riding the bike was really tough at first and I didn't really enjoy it on the first day. There was so much concentration involved in operating the bike. Right hand throttle and front brake, right foot back brake, left hand clutch, left foot gear shift. Four limbs all doing different things at the same time, now that takes talent! By the second half of the first day it was pouring rain but we just kept going. The last exercise of the day was a 'road ride'. All 30 students went around the parking lot which was set up like a box with a plus sign in the centre. It was two-way traffic all around and through the centre which had stop signs. It was utter chaos. Of course no one was going faster than 20kms/hour, but people were dropping bikes at the intersections and stalling out, etc. It was pretty scary! I kept on thinking that driving had to get easier and would eventually become second nature, and by the second day it started too.

The second day went so much smoother. I didn't drop my bike once (though they were really heavy!) and I figured out how to downshift smoother. We even went for a spin around the college. I passed the test at the end with an almost perfect score. It felt really good to have learned something so challenging.

I still don't have a bike, but I do have my M2 which will be good for 5 years. Depending on my living situation and my job, perhaps I will buy a bike one day. But for now, I can at least rent them if I travel or even for a weekend here. The Forest City Road Races committee I sit on has already designated me official lead motorcycle for the race and one of the committee members wants to ride with a camera on the back. Not so sure about that!

Hmmm what can I taunt my parents with next? :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

#13 It's A Dog Eat Dana World

Growing up my Grandparents (DeBruyne) always had a dog. I remember the excitement of going to their house and playing various games with my cousins, sisters and the dog. All the games involved the dog climbing over and slobbering on us. For some crazed reason we loved it! (However, face licking grosses me out. That would be the dog licking my face, not the other way around. Yuck!)

When I was 6 or 10 or 13...I don't really remember when...we met for a family get together at my grandparents and of course my grandparent's dog, Spencer, was out running and frolicking in the grass. He quickly changed course and came up all excited to greet us. I reached out my hand to pat him on the head and no sooner did I have my hand out then he bit it. I was shocked, I had not been bitten by a dog ever and especially by a dog I had played with several times before and one who had never bit anyone. To top it off, I was told with a stern voice that I had provoked the dog to bite me. I was so upset.* That moment has never let my memory.

From there on in I would not touch a dog or even come close to one without cringing. Just the thought of touching a dog made me panic. I dated a guy for a short time who had a very large dog and the first time I met the dog I actually broke out in a sweat and practically plastered myself to the wall in an attempt to get farther away. It wasn't until I started dating a guy from New Brunswick that I realized that I needed to get over this fear once and for all. Because let's face it, some men come with dogs and I can't let that get between me and a good man.

Chris had a beautiful, black lab named Cole and when I went to visit him I was forced to deal with the her. Cole was young and rambunctious. I remember the first time I met Cole, I stood behind Chris with a vice grip on his arms and my head pressed against his back as Cole tried to get around him to 'greet' me. I think we actually turned in circles while she jumped trying to get to me. Once she calmed down I started to as well. Chris taught me that I needed to let Cole smell my hand before I touched her, allowing Cole to get familiar with me and know that I was safe. I wish someone had told me that decades ago because as soon as I knew that was the safe way to touch a dog everything changed.

Having not believed it at first, Chris was right when he said that Cole was a friendly dog who wouldn't hurt a fly...other than the ones she pounced on for fun. By the third time I visited Chris Cole and I had become friends and I actually missed her when I left. When I was back in Ontario I would always pester Chris that the next time I came we had to take Cole to the dog park. Yes, I said it, the dog park! It also helped that I would bring a tasty treat to keep Cole occupied when I came. It was also one that would help freshen her doggy breath...but that is another story. I was over my fear of dogs and have since been comfortable with them. But I still won't let a dog lick my face. I don't care what you say that is still gross.

*Sadly, after Spencer bit me he was soon put down for having become violent with other people.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

#1 10K Win

I started running a few years ago...well actually about 9 years ago with a long hiatus in the middle. I was first motivated after a break up. What better reason to shed some pounds (thank you very much Ian!) and started by running down the street from my apartment in Old North London. At first I would run all out and be tired in about five minutes. I quickly decided that this was not a good strategy and if I wanted to get any distance under my belt I needed to slow it down. Soon I was doing 20mins without stopping and it felt good.

Then came the hiatus, university and 20 extra pounds. Who knew taking the bus, burgers and fries, reality TV and a roommate who liked to bake could add pounds. Well, it did. After a trip to Europe where I lost three pounds I decided to continue to shed the pounds and I was going to do it by going to the gym and getting on the treadmill.

I did a 5K at the Run for Retina in 2006 and made good time (23min). A year later I bumped it up to a 10K. I was told that if you can do 5, you can do 10 and I certainly could. I started near the front and took off strong. My iPod making time with the pistons in my legs...until about 10mins in when my battery died. I wasted some time fiddling with it, not understanding why it wasn't working. Eventually I admitted defeat with the machine and focused on getting to the finish.

By the turn around point I realized that I was the first female, but there was another girl hot on my trail and I needed to keep pushing. With less than a kilometre to go, I passed some of the volunteers helping out on the course who yelled with excitement that I was the first woman to pass. This added fuel me for the final leg. Knowing that the second female was hot on my tail, I poured everything I had left into the final sprint and crossed the finish line in 49:16:2. The girl behind me finished in 49:17:8. It was that close!

I certainly had not come to this race expecting to win. I just wanted to finish. But I'm not going to complain, it was an incredible feeling to win a race. The $50 that I won went into my first Lululemon sweater and boy to I love that sweater!

They say f you can do 10 you can do a half...more to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

#7 Choking a Snake

This will be short and at least ten paragraphs long!

It happened on a whim. I had just flown back from visiting my friend Chris in New Brunswick (where I had completed a slew of firsts) and had promised Chapters that I would work that night because it was the release party of the last Harry Potter book. Who wouldn't want to miss that? It was actually pretty fun and crazy. They had everything from "Bowling for Dementors" to a magician and a gingerbread Hogwarts and Quidditch pitch. It was pretty impressive. Even the staff was dressed up as characters from the series. Cudos to Cody on the awesome Neville Longbottom outfit.

I didn't know everything that was going on when I got there, but I heard from someone that there was a reptile display in the kid's section (of all places). So I took a quick break and went back to see it. The Snake Lady was just tearing down when I got back to that part of the store. However, there was still one snake being mauled by a few kids. I don't know what got into me, but I suddenly saw this as my opportunity to hold a snake. That probably sounds strange, how many people think of holding a snake as an 'opportunity'? But I knew this would be something interesting to add it to my list so I mustered up the courage and asked a six year old if I could hold it and another kid if he could take a picture.

If you look at the picture, it looks like I am about to choke that monster of a snake, but I was trying to keep my fingers as loose as possible without dropping it. I think I held it for a total of 15 seconds while the boy took the picture. There was no way I was going to spend any longer letting it slide through my fingers or having its beady little eyes gazing into mine. (I think it liked me!) Honestly though, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but be sure that you will never see me holding a boa constrictor and dancing backup for some pop princess.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

#22 Cliff Jumping

This one was a bit unexpected.

I'm a part of a Young Professionals group through a church. This past Saturday we planned a trip to Elora Gorge to go river tubing (which would have been another first). However, once arriving at the Gorge we found out the tubing was sold out. I was a bit disappointed, but thought that relaxing or hiking would be fine too.

Instead, our group headed over to the Quarry just outside of Elora. There is a beach there and a swimming hole in the middle of the old quarry with a hard rock slop in the centre. I imagine this is were trucks would have rumbled out with their loads. I was pretty content to sit on the beach and read a book, visit or eat Kristibeth's food (she's my roommate), but because of the heat, literally, everyone was going swimming and the water on my feet was so refreshing. So I decided it was time to join the rest. By the time I doggy paddled/butterflied/breast stroked/floated out to the centre, where some of our group was treading water, the rest had climbed up this slope in the middle and had joined the throngs of prepubescent kids jumping off the side into the water. Now mind you, there were college age guys there too and they were jumping off the highest this is exactly where I headed, bringing Kristibeth and Anthony, another YP, along with me. This was where the action was happening!

There are signs posted everywhere that you are not allowed to jump off these ledges, but for some reason the park employees just sat around watching kids hurl themselves headlong into the water without so much as batting an eyelash. So I figured a pasty white, late twenty-something wouldn't bother them too much.

I'm not exactly sure why I decided to do this. I really think that I'm starting to become a little fearless and nonchalant about these kinds of things. I saw them from the water doing it and just said, "Hey, why not?" After scrambling up the rocks, I took a look at the first ledge. Not too bad, I thought. But not big enough. The second one was equally as disappointing. Slightly bigger but not enough drop. The third one was a decent hight and would be a good place to start this first time experience. I might venture a guess to say that the drop was 20 feet, or be like Bill Bryson and claim it was 1000ft drop into a tiny swimming pool below. Lets go with the latter, as it sounds more exciting. This spot also had a great running start. If anything I think this is what scared me the most. I feared slipping as I pushed off and cracking my skull off the rocks as I fell. Oh, and did I mention I had to do this without my glasses? Well, I did. But strangely, jumping off a cliff without much sight or depth perception that made it that much more exciting.

As several kids plunged off the edge into the obis, I decided I better push myself in front and make my move before I thought about slipping on that ledge too much. It was starting to get to me so I said, "I'm next." And that was it. As soon as the running path was clear I asked the kid who was the lookout if I was good to go...twice. I had to buy a little more time. Was I actually going to do it?

I took off running and hurled myself forward, arms flailing, over the edge. I hit the water pretty hard and felt it swallow me whole. It was a rushing sensation as I popped like a cork to the top and inhaled for air. It amazed me that I didn't even have to think about holding my breath on the way down...of course I started thinking about it once I was underwater and hoped that I had not went down so far that I would run out before I sprung back up. At the surface I coughed to get the water out that had went in my nose, then swam to the side and turned to wait for Kristi and Anthony...problem was I couldn't really them. There was lots of colour and movement, but I couldn't tell who was next until they were flying through the air. Eventually both pushed themselves past the kids and had safe landings. I did, however, manage to get a lot of water in my ears and at the restaurant later I looked like Will Ferrell in A Night at the Roxbury, trying to shake the water out of my ears.

It was a great experience, so much so that I did it a couple more times, almost losing my bikini top in the process twice, but managing to pull it back down before I came to the surface. Lucky me. Unlucky college boys. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the Beginning

Last year I sat in my living room watching an interview with Phil Keoghan, the host of The Amazing Race. He was discussing his new book which talked about all the amazing things he was doing in his life because he had started a list. A list of things he wanted to do before he died. I have often heard about these 'lists' and wondered how fast it would get buried or lost in my room and I would find it in ten years and think, "I haven't done any of this."

So instead I decided to do something more manageable. I told myself that I wouldn't create a life list but set a goal to do ten new things a year. They could include just about anything, from physical activities to work goals or even traveling to new places or eating new things. A lot of people have commented on this and supplied me with lots of encouragement, and my goals are starting to become more gutsy and exciting. I love every minute of it.

So here are some of my adventures. Enjoy!