This past week I had a pretty cool experience to run the 1st ever World 50km championships in Doha, Qatar. This was an opportunity that I found out about in early October, and I decided to jump on board instead of doing Philadelphia marathon. The accommodations and meals would be paid for, but the flight I would have to pay for. So I was able to find a flight for under $1000, which I can justify spending based on the prize money I earn in races. Being the cheap person that I am, I found that I could save several hundred dollars flying Saudia Airlines and having a long stopover in a Saudi Arabian city. Sure! I may be a bit of a minority on that flight, but I don't mind. All though I disagree with the ideology of Islam, I don't have anything against Muslim people, because there are both good Muslims and bad Muslims, good Christians and bad Christians. (The bad Muslims are all over the news, but slightly lesser known are the supposed 'Christians' from Westboro Baptist Church that picket funerals and celebrate it as God's judgment whenever those ISIS wackos do anything). The fact remains that for the two largest religions in the world, these morons make up a tiny minority, and let's pray to God it stays that way! For the flight, I will just have to do without pork or beer on the flights, and on the announcements I will respectfully listen to the supplication that the Prophet used to say before traveling.
I arrived in Qatar on the Tuesday, three days before the race. The hotel is called the Torch Hotel, and it is stunning. Let's just say I am glad it is paid for, because I would not be able to afford it! The food was amazing, and the rooms came complete with a complimentary mini-bar with pop, water, and non-alcoholic beer (which I tried but it was disgusting). The room came with an Ipad that pretty much controlled the entire room – the color of the lights, the curtains, the TV, the music. For the men's side, it would be Cleve Thorson and myself on the team. The women consisted of Kimberley Doerksen, Catrin Jones, Alissa St. Laurent.
The race was on Friday at 6pm, and consisted of about 50 men and 30 women. It is considered their winter, but it is still pretty hot, with a race temperature of about 25C at start time. This is not deathly hot, but it is enough to significantly affect you in the later stages in the race, especially if you are not used to training in a hot climate. The 50k is a bit of an odd distance, as it is only 7.8km more than a marathon, but do not let that fool you! A lot can happen in those last 7.8km, especially when it is hot and you are running on an unusual surface. The race was run in 5km loops, and there were several hairpin turns as well as some running on cobblestone surface. My race plan was to just go out with the lead pack and see how long I could handle it. I know the American runners have personal bests a little bit better than me, and similar to my would be goal marathon time of 2:18. The race went out quite conservatively for the first half of the race, we were cruising at around 3:30 per km. At this point I was in 7th place, with a couple of Americans and Kenyans and one Zimbabwe runner ahead of me. I did not feel to bad at this point, but after I hit the halfway mark, the heat started to take its toll. At the 35k mark, my legs started to cramp. On the last lap, I was reduced to a humiliating shuffle. It was bad! How bad was it? I lapped several girls on the 8th and 9th lap, but on the last lap, they were able to 'unlap' me! I wanted to quit. What is the point of finishing when I am running a pace so much slower than I would, even on an easy recovery run? Well, at that point I have to remind myself that friends and family are watching to see how I do, and it just wouldn't look good for me to quit. Besides, many of them wouldn't know the difference if I ran 2:30 or 4:00, to them, the fact that I place high at a world championships is impressive enough. They don't really care that it is an inaugural event composed mostly of sub-elite runners. I managed to suffer across the line in 3:09, good for 13th place. For me of course, I realize that if I ran this race smarter in terms of pacing and fueling, I realize that top 10 would have been easy, and possibly top 5 if things went well. Some of the race favorites had an even worse time than me, so I guess I can't feel too down on myself. Both two time Detroit Marathon champion Zach Ornelas and last years defending champion Shingirai Badza were behind me. Nevertheless, I learned from this experience, and God willing, I will be back next year! As I said, the 50k is a strange distance. There were sub 2:18 guys behind me, and there were 2:25 marathoners with 50k experience than finished top 10. A good marathon time may predict your expected time in a 50k, but there is a lot of variance, especially when you add in variables such as temperature and an unorthodox running surface.
For the rest of the month, I plan to take some time off to recover, as I start to plan for many changes in my life over the next year. For one thing, I am getting married in June! Also, my fiance landed a job in Abbotsford B.C. as a dietician, so I will join her there and will work part time as a tutor in Abbotsford, while I also seek full time employment as a teacher. Life is like running a road race, and God is the course marshal. I don't have the course memorized, but I trust God to lead me on the twists and turns as I press on towards the goal! Right now, I am in Markham, still working part time as a tutor, but my hours are pitiful, and the few hours I do get are during weekends. I am not even tutoring the subject that I want, and I found the company to be disorganized and their communication with me was lacking. So despite the fact that I enjoyed working with the kids (A group of Muslim students who are pulled out of regular school to study the Koran, and I teach them Math and English on weekends to get them ready for high school) it seems like an obvious decision for me to quit that job, and find something better out in Abbotsford, and join my fiance. God knows that he created me as a person of logic, so I often pray that he use that fact about me to show me in a way that I will understand, the direction he wants me to go, and that the right doors will be opened for me. I have faith of this, and I pray that God will provide for me an opportunity to start a new chapter out in B.C. where my gifts and talents will have opportunity for growth, and to be used to serve God and others.
Last time I said I would talk about my opinion of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team, so for those of you who don't care about that, feel free to not read any further about my short rant.
I remember when I was a young kid, and my favorite farm cat would get hit by a car, and it put me to tears. Of course, when I got older, I realized that this was a common occurrence, and future cat deaths did not bother me so much. You may wonder what this has to do with Maple Leafs hockey... but let me explain. I remember the first time I watched the Leafs when I was young, they made it all the way to the semi-finals against Buffalo, and lost. I was so upset, I cried. But of course, in future years, I realize that this is a regular occurrence... and I pretty much come to expect them to let me down. Fast forward to 2013, when I thought I would introduce my now fiance to the extremely rare occurrence of Toronto maple leaf Playoff hockey. When we went out to watch game 7 with a bunch of friends, of all people, SHE was the most upset when they blew a 4-1 lead. Experience veteran fans new better. Despite the unfortunate result, this was the only playoff berth for the inept franchise in the last 10 years or so. You'd think the players who were most responsible for this accomplishment would be respected among both leafs management and their passionate fan base. THINK AGAIN. In that playoff year, the Leafs got quality elite goaltending from James Reimer, something that you need to be competitive in the NHL, and something that the Leafs have lacked for quite some time. A breakout year for him. Hmmm what should we do next year. I KNOW! Let's look to acquire another goaltender in order to replace him next year, and continue to go with him, even though Reimer has proven himself as a young and up and coming star last year. THAT will be great for his confidence and development! With all due respect to Bernier, this was an idiotic move by the Leafs. But again... idiotic moves are what we come to expect from a team that trades several picks to get an elite player like Phil Kessel, only to trade that player for next to nothing despite several years of consistent top-tier scoring production...I can only guess that the reason is so they can finally get those top 3 draft picks that they should have got several years ago when they traded for Kessel in the first place. And don't get me started on some of the idiotic fans we have. So when Reimer gets shafted from his starting job for no apparent reason, not only does he not get much playing time, but when he does get the opportunity to come in, and has a sub-optimal performance, he is subject to idiotic fans who somehow feel the need to verbally attack his wife! (This happened a few years ago I think) WHAT? I guess some fans (with very low IQ) seem to forget that professional athletes are human beings too. I guess its no surprise that these same fans also forget that this was the same goalie that had a breakthrough year which was a main reason for ending the long playoff drought of the franchise. I guess as a semi-elite distance runner, I can sympathize more with the amount of discipline and hard work it takes to compete at an elite level of a sport than the typical average Joe... but C'mon MAN , learn to draw the line somewhere, and refrain from attacking the player's wives! It's great to see James Reimer stealing a few wins for the Leafs this year, he is my favorite player on the team, however it would probably be best for them to tank, so that they can collect that high draft pick that they should have got several years ago but traded away to a player that they...traded away last year.