Progress Report: Hudson River Ramble


Admit have not posted for over a week, Admit have not maintained my training regimen over the same week. Admit daughter Brett and I completed a grand New York City adventure the very same week. I’m going to do a general run-down of where I stand in my training for the 2012 New York City Marathon in my next Progress Report blog post. For details on Brett and Garry’s excellent adventure, your might have to meet me at the pub (you pick).

November 2011 proved to be a pivotal period. During that time I have become quite the joiner: I joined a new running team, Run 4 It Endurance Training; I am a proud member of the Streakers in Sneakers, an official team entry for the Ragnar Relays; and I have joined the legions of walking wounded, runners who have situational injuries, situation being that they can’t train with intensity due to some mysterious malfunction-mine a groin pull that makes it more difficult to walk than to run.

Despite the groin, I have had three good training runs this month. In my last Progress Report I shared my Veterans Day 11K race. The following week I put an eight-miler into my marathon wheelhouse. And I’m thrilled to say that I had my very first NYC run along the Hudson River last Sunday.

As for doing something about the groin pull, I have entered a yoga program and I plan to ask my Doc for a referral to a Sports Medicine program. Anybody have any suggestions about what else I can do to eliminate this pesky condition?

Bernice and Garry: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Fall is fading, winter is coming on, and students are knuckling down in hopes of passing the GED test before Christmas. Margaret is reading better, but Bernice doesn’t feel as though she reads enough in between their meetings. Me, I’m acting like a squirrel that has scored a ginormous acorn that could last me all the way to spring. The first week after Bernice gave me her card, I must have pulled it out of my wallet a hundred times. I’m not sure if I was trying to savour the moment or just checking to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

Whatever, it’s a Thursday night, last class for the week, and as I busy myself with instructions to a small band of students who have registered to begin the GED exam in the morning, I notice Margaret and Bernice packing it in early. I doubt this was Bernice’s idea, but it could be a good sign for me. All I had to do was nail down transportation to the testing center for my brave little band and then I could announce an early break. For some reason, conversations between Bernice and me had lacked the playful intensity I had come to expect. I was loaded up to remedy that big time.

What did I think was going to happen during the break? It was going to make it all about her. I was going to make her feel that she was the epicentre of my universe. I was going to chat her up with such wit and charm that she might openly complain that I hadn’t called her already. And that might embolden me to say, “Let’s just forget the card. What are you doing tomorrow night?”

The Bernice scene was playing out in my head and my communication to students was on autopilot. “So you know what you need. ID, Test Appointment slip, check or money order, and you all know who is riding with me and who is riding with Rose?” Heads nod and eyes roll at my pedantic repetition. Then two things happen simultaneously; I hear a student say, “Can we break now?” and I see Bernice pushing through the back door with her purse hand and making a behind the head wave with the freehand. A wave that said, “I know you’re expecting to talk to me but I’m in no mood for conversation.”


During the now Bernice-less break I ponder two scenarios. Wait for Bernice to come in next Tuesday and request an audience before she can make another unannounced exit, or I can get off my duff and call her, soon, like tomorrow. Standing off from the students, I thumbed through my wallet, idly at first. Then not seeing the card I adjusted my focus for a second go through. No card. The third time through I went back inside and laid everything but my cash on an open table. Rose, the adopted class mother and co-driver to most student-oriented events, was eyeing me suspiciously. I tried to nonchalantly place the items back into the wallet. The damned card was gone.


“Lose something, Mr. Cox.” Rose, who acted more like my supervisor than my aide, said in slight bemusement.

“No, I was just looking for some phone numbers I thought I had.”
“Must have been important phone numbers.”
“Sort of.”
“You’re looking for Miss Wagner’s number aren’t you”?
 “I can’t believe I lost it.”
“You know what that means, don’t you Mr. Cox.”
“Nothing good as far as I can see.”
“Let your fingers do the walking.”

I let my fingers do the walking for the entire weekend. They dialled up every hospital and care facility in the city of Detroit. I began my inquiries politely enough but after three days of  “would you hold please”, “may I ask what the call is about” and “we don’t have a Bernice Wagner anywhere in our system”, I was ending all calls with a strident, “I want to speak to your supervisor.”


Tuesday evening roles around again. Bernice comes into the class area and I can hardly make eye contact with her. A break comes but nothing comes from the break. In hindsight, I should have taken Rose’s advice, “Just tell her the truth. Maybe she’ll understand.”


Now it’s Thursday and I’d like to say I had screwed up my courage to come clean, but I find myself wasting our break time on bad jokes and idle conversation. Bernice has had enough of that. There is a pause and she looks at me with those baby blues, a half smile on her face and says, “You lost my card didn’t you?”


Suddenly I’m also feeling like a schoolboy who hasn’t done his homework. I can either take a scolding or try to talk my way out of it. At least I know Bernice has a sense of humor. So I launch into my frantic, week-end long search for her card, making sure I include the rudest remarks made to me and my most clever come-backs. I get a few laughs and some sympathetic headshakes. But as soon as she sees my story has run its course, she tells me, “I don’t work in Detroit. I told you, I work for a haematology-oncology group in Grosse Point.”


So not only could I not produce my homework, I didn’t even have the assignment right. But the hell with it, I say to myself. This is as good as it’s going to get.


I hear myself saying, “So know that you know I have no future with the Bureau of Missing Persons, you want to catch a movie or something”?


Then the pause you never want to hear. “I don’t know,” she says, “I’m going to be out of town for two weeks. I’ll be visiting my sister in Phoenix. Maybe when I come back, if you’re still interested.”

I suppose it’s open to interpretation, but to me this was her way of telling me the romance ship had sailed and maybe we could still be, if not friends, then at least break buddies.



Progress Report: National Veterans Day Run 11.11.11

The Run 4 It Endurance Training team, coached by Jeff Hall, was well represented at the Phoenix version of the National Veterans Day Run. Jeff, Victoria and your RFYL reporter showed up at Paseo Neighbourhoods Park in Glendale for a 7:11 am race start. I brought along my digital recorder to do a before and after on our race goals, and also for me to see how I sounded at certain points along the race route.

All three of us had the goal of celebrating our veterans by putting some skin in the game, 6.8 miles of skin to be exact. Our personal goals were similar but unique to each of us.
Jeff: Have fun. Support Victoria and Garry. Honor our Veterans

Victoria: Other than surviving it, I’d like to go at a 12 minute pace
Garry: No feet or hip ailments. A few miles in the 11’s. Negative splits.

The opening ceremony was Top Drawer. We saluted the flag during an inspiring choral rendition of the National Anthem. This followed by a moment of silence for our fallen heroes. \

The course: goodly number of hills, long stretches of semi-rough canal, asphalt and cement.
The weather: perfect, cloudy, cool, very little wind.

The highlights: For me, there were three;

1) Garry does the King; About two miles into the run, feeling good, chatting up Jeff and Victoria I wanted to take a voice check to make sure I wasn’t working too hard. So I pushed record and burst into a rendition of Elvis Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes. I may have been out of tune but I wasn’t out of breath and I really laid into the final chorus. I got a “Whoop” from Victoria and a long story from Jeff about following two Elvis impersonators pushing a third impersonator in a baby carriage through an entire marathon.
2), Garry eats canal: Literally out of the blue I took a rocky smack-down that bloodied two knees and an elbow while making my hands feel like they had just been peeled by a dull paring knife. Hurt? Would it hurt to get sandwiched between two NFL linebackers? You gotta love the human condition though. I’m too shocked to move, but I’ve got Jeff and Victoria looking down on me like a was a big rag doll that just fell off a shelf.
Victoria: Are you all right? Can you get up?
Jeff: No wait, let me get a picture of this.
Jeff & Victoria: Do you need some help?

Keep in mind, we’re talking about a marine and a fire-fighter here. I know they have handled worse cases than this, but somehow their total lack of technique almost caused them to fall down on top of me. And when they do get me up and going again Jeff is talking about putting the image of my sprawled body all over the Internet. Victoria got a big kick out of my dusty rear end that wouldn’t have been dusty if they hadn’t dropped me while they were getting their rescue act together.

3) Garry receives a random act of kindness: In defence of Jeff and Victoria, I looked a lot worse than I was. It wasn’t long after the spill that I got into a nice pace and soon after that that I remembered about my negative split goal. Enter Sharon Campbell, a lovely lady who had passed me around mile three. Luckily for me, she took a long time putting distance between us. I sort of figured that was my reward for sticking to my pace.


But after another mile I was surprised to look up and see that she was walking. As I passed her I gave here a few words of encouragement and continued on. I couldn’t have gotten more that a quarter mile ahead of her when here she comes again. “I knew it,” I said to myself. “She’s one of those run-walk- run-walkers and she will just leave me in the dust again.”  “Good job,” she said as she eased on by. Only this time she wasn’t putting distance between us. In fact I stayed on her heels, losing ground only when we had a long uphill to negotiate.  And then the nicest thing began to happen. Whenever she would pull a few meters ahead, she would look back to see how I was doing. This happened so often I concluded that somehow we needed each other to meet our race goals. Both of us were outside our comfort zones, yet neither of us wanted to give in.


 Not a word was spoken, not even when we hit the six-mile mark indicating that we had slightly less than a mile to go. Stride for stride we approached the finish area. The crowd, small but mighty was roaring. My whole life I have been a natural sprinter. The horse heading for the barn never had a thing on me. And I sensed something similar in my partner. We are about 400 meters out and I say to her, “Let’s give ‘em a show.” She knew exactly what I meant. Race crowds love nothing more than a dual down the stretch, especially between a man and a woman. So all of a sudden we’re duking it out and people are going wild.

“Come on honey. You can take him”
“Look Look. She’s gonna get him.”
“No, no he’s picking it up. Her’ll nip her. Just watch.”

“Whoohoo, she got ‘im! You go girl.”
I didn’t look but I have a feeling that going through the shoots her smile was as big as mine.


Jeff, Victoria, Garry and our new best friend Sharon Campbell got to hang out for awhile after the race. I told Sharon she was a good runner and she returned the compliment. The coolest part was meeting Sharon’s parents who are both marines and very proud of their daughter.

Turns out Sharon and Victoria are going to do the Tough Mudder in January, one of the most challenging running events in the world. Jeff and I have already agreed to volunteer for the event.

Did we meet our goals?
Jeff: My goal was just to have fun and support Victoria and Garry with thier goals. They were awesome.
Victoria: Well, since my goal was just to survive I guess I made it. I really need a do-nut.
Garry: Thanks to Sharon, I got my negative splits.
Sharon: It was a hard race but I finished it.

Of all of us though, Jeff had the most fun this day. He truly enjoys encouraging his runners and goes out of his way to make their running fun.

Parting shot:
Victoria: Jeff you really are a strong athletic supporter.
Garry: Hey Jeff, I think Victoria just called you a jock strap.

Ok, one more-I’m trying to interview Jeff and he doesn’t like having my recorder in his face.

Jeff: I’m not going to say any thing until you put your “thingy” down.
Garry: But Jeff, I’ve spent my whole life trying to keep my “thingy” up.
Victoria: You’re a dog, Garry