Hello, Bonjour

Since before 2000, I’ve imagined myself writing, playing, and living life in ranked mode.
Now I’m finally doing some of this, kinda pseudonymously.

In one grandpa

My family was sharing holiday memories around the dinner table this Christmas.

Grandpa’s story began along the lines of “we were going there by horse drawn carriage, as this was still before the time people drove cars during winter.”

My eyes sprang up from my Instagram feed and I spat a mouthful of tofurkey clear across the table.

Grandpa was a kid before people drove cars in winter?!

I understand prairie winters are harsher than other winters and this probably made a difference. And I probably learned the timeline of automobile adoption during school. But still…

I know my grandpa.

In fact I’ve known my Grandpa for nearly 30% of his life. And here he was intimately remembering a time before cars. A time that was real at some not-too-distant point in his still ongoing life. 

And there I’d been earlier that same day, complaining to my girlfriend about how I’d like to start using our car less.

In one grandpa the world has gone from not being able to use cars, to reaching a point where we’re looking for alternatives to cars.

In one grandpa we’ve gone from the internet not existing to internet on airplanes, from no fast food to McDonalds selling a billion burgers, and from no tv to live-streaming videogames. 

In one grandpa the entire history of space travel has taken place.

In one grandpa the world’s population has also more than tripled. Nearly 500 species have gone extinct, the world’s temperature has climbed ten times faster than average, and we coined the terms “global warming” and then “climate change”.

In one Grandpa we realized black lives matter. That women matter.

As I sat across the table from my grandpa, listening to his story about a time before cars, contemplating all that’s happened during his one single lifetime, two thoughts came to mind:

If we can accomplish all that in one grandpa, I have no excuse to limit myself.

Lately I’ve been struggling with a midway to midlife crisis. 

I have a university degree but was it the right one? Am I headed down the wrong career path? Is it too late for me to learn to code? Should I work hard now to retire early, or focus on having fun while I’m young and healthy? Is it already too late for me to live up to my potential?

I often oversimplify life into school > work > retirement > done, and underappreciate the vast, limitless opportunity waiting in every moment along the way.

“It is a shame to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which your body is capable.” – Socrates (paraphrased)

If so much can be achieved in one grandpa, then my fear-based doubts, complacency, and resignations are bullshit. 

And if we can accomplish all that in one grandpa, will the world survive another?

I suppose everything depends on what the next batch of grandpas, grandmas, abuelas, grand-pères, 祖母, and nonnos choose to do.


Because one grandpa is enough to change the world.

Finlayson Arm 100K Ultramarathon Race Report

On September 8th, I crossed the finish line of the Finlayson Arm 100k ultramarathon. It took me 19 hours, 9 minutes, and 51 seconds to do so.

To help come to terms with missing most of my pre-race goals (including failing to lose any toenails), I wrote this tale of my experience. 

– – –

| “You’re here well trained, and without injury. You can’t ask for more.”

This affirmation repeated in my head as I waited in the small group at the startline of the Finalyson Arm 100k. The countdown from ten had begun, the imperial march was playing faintly over the loudspeakers, and I was fastening the hood of my raincoat to sheepishly hide a polka dot headband and keep out the rain.

| “The only unknowns are the night, and now the rain.”

I felt calm, but could sense the weight of my expectations as the clock hit zero, and we comfortably trotted the ~100 meters up Finalyson Arm road before turning left onto (and into) the trails.

Little did I know that while running in the dark would be trancelike and soothing, and the rain for the most part pleasantly cooling – there was one big unknown that I was underappreciating: the shear scale of the journey.

Only 104.8 kilometers (and 6136 meters of both climb and descent) to go.

 

 

We’ve sprung a leak

I started out following along in a lead group of five.

My pre-race plan was to start out overly conservative, so that I could enjoy running strong while going “hunting” for positions over the second half of the race. That’s how things went during my first ultra experience at last year’s Squamish 50 mile, and my mouth was watering in anticipation of doing it again. As the early kilometers typically do when combining a taper + adrenaline – the pace we were moving did feel comfortable, and I casually chatted with the guy beside me about previous races, race ideas for the future, and what had led us to the start line today.

The first section of the double out-and-back race – from the start line to aid station #1 (Rowntree) – is an 11 kilometer stretch. Within a few minutes, you reach the much-anticipated “river crossing”. It’s really not that bad, but you will unavoidably be fully submerged up to your shins, so prepare for it. I followed the lead of others in our group by using the rope for balance for the first ~20 meters of river, before hopping over to the left-side wall as we went under the highway (the water is quite shallow here – mid-foot at most), and then we were up and out and done.

Following the river crossing, there is roughly 5 kilometers of squish squashing to go before reaching the foot of the Mt. Finlayson climb. Before the race I had discounted this section completely, thinking that with no major climbs, and at a peasly 5km, it would be over before it began. In reality, not a single kilometer in this race should be thought of as a traditional kilometer. It is always technical, always ascending or descending, and always requires your complete attention. And as I was about to discover, this section had probably the most significant impact on my race of all.

The rain was still coming down, but thanks to partial tree cover and our fivesome’s honest pace warming me up, I decided it was time to remove the raincoat. To avoid being left behind I attempted this on the move. Getting it off was easy, but I miffed the dismount – dropping the coat on the ground rather than smoothly into my pack like I was expecting. Thankfully, the kind runner behind me picked it up in-stride and handed it back, and I fatefully swung my pack off my shoulders to properly stuff the coat inside. I latched on to the back of our group as I fastened the pack back up, and unknowingly waited for a disheartening discovery only a few minutes up the trail.

My only water bottle (plus the 200 calories of Tailwind it contained) were lost. This is what I learned when I first reached into the kangaroo pouch at the back of my pack where my sustenance had been stowed.

 

– – –

 

Wordy nerdy description of my flawless nutrition plan, and why losing this bottle kinda sucked.

My nutrition plan for the race was to consume approximately 200 calories of Tailwind (powdered drink mix dissolved in water) per hour, along with anywhere between 33 – 99 calories in Salted Watermelon Cliff Bloks (fancy runner jube jubes) depending on what my body seemed to crave.

My pack (the Nathan VaporZack), has space for two 350ml soft flasks up front, and a 500ml soft flask in the kangaroo pouch at back. I’d planned to put 2 scoops of Tailwind in the 500ml flask (200 calories), 1 scoop in one of the 350ml flasks, and the freshest of lava-fed angel-distilled glacier water in the other 350ml flask. Then I’d stuffed dozens of the Cliff Bloks into one of the stretchy front pockets of the vest, so that everything would be easy, accessible, and seamless. I also packed more Honey Stinger Waffles (Ginger flavour) than I knew what to do with into both drop bags, had Gin Gins in my shorts pocket in case my stomach started to turn, and was planning to start injecting the NOS (Coca Cola) after about 60k.

I had visualized each aid station pit stop a thousand times over, and honestly felt like I belonged in Formula 1. For the stretches between the startline and Rowntree (11km on the way out, 6km on the way back) I would carry only the 500ml soft flask, and stow the two smaller flasks in my drop bag at Rowntree for an even faster transition (this is why I found myself completely liquidless upon losing my bottle). Between Rowntree and the start of Mt. Work (a 12km stretch with serious climbing) I would carry all three bottles, before going back to just the 500ml flasks for the double summiting of Mt. Work at the mid-loop turnaround.

While I would need to endure a dry mouth until the first aid station, losing this bottle didn’t seem like the end of the world. I’d also packed two 650ml handhelds into my drop bag at aid station #1. I decided that once I got there I’d grab one of those to replace my lost bottle, and continue following my original plan. The flawlessless shan’t be stopped!

Being the genius that I am, the only things I hadn’t had a chance to test ahead of time were (1) storing the 500ml soft flask in the kangaroo pouch at the back of my pack (went seamlessly…), and (2) actually running while fueling with the Clif Bloks (Jim Walmsley used them for his Western States win, surely nothing could go wrong…).

 

– – –

I did my best to convince myself that I’d be fine without water or liquid calories. Over the past few days I’d carb’d up, and soaked up liquids like a sponge – I could easily survive a 1 – 1.5 hour run on that pre-fueling (I’d done so countless times in training). Still, I decided that the safe bet was to be even more conservative, start hiking every incline, and let this front group go a bit (fully confident that I’d be seeing them again when I had my triumphant resurgance over the final 10–20k).

Around a kilometer before the Mt. Finlayson climb begins, you re-cross under the highway via a (dry) tunnel. This was pitch black, so I was glad I had my headlamp in my pocket to shed a quick ray of light. From the tunnel I followed the flat and fast gravel trail to the main Goldstream parking lot, briefly onto the road, and then sharply up to the right to begin the climb.

Due to my inability to abandon fear on treacherous terrain, I loathe racing up Mt. Finlayson, especially in the rain.

The first two thirds of the climb (in terms of distance) are fine, just very steep, often very rocky and rooty trail. The final third however, is all scrambly, smooth granite slabs. Hastening up it the rain, while stressed about conserving energy due to a lost bottle, while wearing my most worn out trail shoes (my plan was to change shoes at Rowntree each loop after having done the river crossing, and after over a year of use this particular pair was better suited to a bowling alley), was not a fun experience.

I started Mt. Finlayson in sight of the entire lead group, but reached the summit completely alone in the rain and fog, stumbling around trying to figure out where the route continued (tip: run up and over the top and you’ll decend down the backside. As far as I could tell the flagging slightly assumed that you knew this, but I might have missed a couple in the mist). The summit is also where I decided that it was high-time I start pounding Clif Bloks (without the recommended water to wash them down), and had about four.

The descent down Finlayson wasn’t memorable. I recall it being fairly technical, but nothing compared to the steepness, technicality, or length of Jocelyn Hill and Mt. Work. Once you reach the bottom, you begin the only paved section of the entire course – approximately 1km on winding, undulating pavement, before a final ~500 meter gradual ascent up a gravel path to the (much longer awaited than anticipated) Rowntree Aid Station.

The tabby that thinks he’s a tiger

The transition at aid station #1 went exactly to plan: add the two pre-filled 350ml soft flasks to vest; change shoes and socks; re-apply Body Glide; learn that I’m about 12–13 minutes behind the leaders; realize that the first place female caught and passed me while I was fiddling with my wet laces; begin chugging my Tailwind stores like I’d been stranded on a desert island for weeks, pop back even more Clif Bloks because who’s counting calories anymore…

 

At last I found myself in a section that I had covered fully in training. Despite a growing bloating from my frantic replenishing, I set forth confidently on the grueling 12km trail to aid station #2. Between Rowntree aid station and the tippy top of Jocelyn Hill is about 5km. In the middle is Holmes Peak (a relatively simple climb), countless false summits of Jocelyn Hill, and many sections of exhaustingly steep and technical rock that is best “dance hopped” over. On the plus side, the views down to the ocean along the way would leave you speachless if you had the energy or wind to talk. Seriously – the views in this section are worthy of pulling one’s self out of race mode to pause and take in (ideally everyone other than me would do this, to help me catch up, but it turned out all the front runners this year were a bunch of nature-hating monsters). Throughout this section I didn’t feel amazing, but was still moving steadily yet conservatively, and enjoying being alone.

After reaching the top of Jocelyn Hill, comes a plateau-y run across the summit, before beginning the 6km descent down the opposite side (down, all the way down, and then down some more, until you reach the ocean). It’s not a straight descent the entire way, as there is plenty of climbing too, but by the end your legs will certainly know what you’ve been up to. Yet again, this section is also very technical, meaning you can never truly let go or feel like you’re really flying.

During this roughly 45 min – 1 hour descent is when the sun finished setting, and when I first heard the sound that would track me for the next 10+ hours. I can only describe it as a “bellow from the deep”.

In reality it was another runner burping. But when it’s dark, rainy, and foggy, you’re not sure where it’s coming from, and you’re running in a semi-trance – it sounds like much more.

That other runner was part of a threesome that I first noticed gaining on me shortly after beginning the descent. I used their presence to keep my pace honest, and tried to stay just out of their reach while remaining “conservative”. This continued for a good half hour before the two non-burpers at last caught and passed me. But oddly, literally seconds after they ran passed, both abruptuly stopped, stepped to the right of the trail, and started peeing. I never saw either again for the rest of the race.

The descent went on, and on, and on, until finally it went on some more. Then after going on and on, it turned left for the final (even steeper) section down to the ocean. I was alone again at this point, but could hear the consistent belowing not too far behind, and I probably exhausted my quads a bit by moving quickly and heavily down the sets of stairs and last bit of steep trail (both trying to stay ahead of the burps, and just wanting to get to the f&%$ing water already).

The pleasure of reaching the water is short lived, because you immediately head straight back up a steep (but thankfully non-technical) trail to reach aid station #2 (Durrance). One of my key workouts during training was to run from this beach straight to the summit of Mt. Work, and then bomb back down the descent, and repeat. I knew I could run the rest of the way to the aid station in 8 minutes, or power hike it in about 12, so to remain conservative I hiked it at about 80% effort.

I was expecting this aid station to be in the Mt. Work parking lot, but it actually comes a tad sooner, being just off the side of the trail about 50 meters before you cross the road to head up the mountain. By now the night was pitch dark, and it was warming (and eery) to see the trail completely lit by white christmas lights leading up to and surrounding the aid station. This was my first time meeting my crew (my girlfriend plus a friend, and both my parents were waiting here) which gave me another boost of energy (or at least led me to pretend like I had one).

Before the race I’d asked to be updated on my gap to the leaders each time I saw my crew. It had been 12–13 minutes back at Roundtree, and now my Dad held up his phone to display a stopwatch that read “35”. That’s more than I was expecting.

In training I had never run the backside (Munn Road side) of Mt. Work, but I’d run up to (what I thought was) the summit on the Durrance side countless times. The whole over and back loop is 10k, but given my experience in training I was confident that it wouldn’t take me much more than an hour. I ditched my pack for just a handheld, took off my raincoat, swapped my headlamp (now using my main headlamp, which I hoped would survive 5–6 hours, at which point I’d go back to my less-bright backup), and naively told my loved ones that I’d be back to them shortly as I trotted off to go and have a pretty miserable time.

 

Oops, miscalculated

In short, Mt. Work did not summit where I expected. In fact it was nowhere close. Instead of the 20–25 minute effort I was anticipating, the path branched left near the top to continue on for another 10–15 minutes of highly technical, confusing, and demoralizing false summits. To this point I’d been propelled up the mountain by a stubbornness to not be caught by the chasing belches, but at last their creator tucked in right behind me (this runner and I would go on to yo-yo back and forth for the next ~50 kilometers, and share some of my favourite times of the entire race. Turns out he’s a really nice guy named Brandon, but I wouldn’t learn his name for several more hours).

Fog had settled at the top of Mt. Work, and Brandon and I moved along frustratingly slowly trying to discern where the trail led next. Between the fog dispersing the beam of my headlamp, the flagging being further spaced than I would like, and a continued bloating rising in my stomach – I was having a bad time. I said as much to the first place runner, who we saw re-ascending the mountain shortly after beginning our first journey down, and as he powered past us he called out that he “hoped I feel better” in far too chipper, kind, and sincere a voice compared to what my current mood desired.

 

Throughout this descent we saw the rest of the runners ahead of us spaced apart evenly, and again everyone was friendly and supportive with none looking much stronger or more exhausted than the rest. At some point during this descent I re-gained my gap on Brandon, which was further increased by my decision to run straight through the Munn Road aid station, and immediately begin my climb back up and over Mt. Work.

The second climbing of this mountain in such quick succession was rough. For most of it I tried to simply picture time passing, and how nice it would be to soon run into my girlfriend’s arms back on the other side, have a good cry, and go home. Unfortunately, I started feeling a bit better during the charge down the Durrance side of the mountain (likely the route I trained on most), and when I arrived back at the aid station my crew had dried out all my gear, prepped my bottles perfectly, and were acting all supportive.

And so, after a few pity-seeking hugs, I was ready to head back out for my most dreaded section of the race. Just as I was leaving my Dad put his phone timer in front of my face: “45 minutes”. “You can stop showing me that for the rest of the race.” I told him with more acceptance than disappointment, as I trotted away from the lights into the literal and metaphorical dark.

 

Finding new goals

Thankfully, I don’t remember much of the journey back from Mt. Work. However, I do know the route well, so I can describe why I dread it.

I mentioned that the descent from Jocelyn Hill to the ocean seemed like it went on and on forever. Well in this return direction, you have to cover the exact same path, only uphill. And it’s not smooth, fun, “oh yay it’s just like I practiced on the treadmill” uphill either. It’s “this is so steep that every step is something I have to think about”, and “this is so technical that my brain feels like it’s doing math”, and “this has been going on so long that this might literally be limbo” kinda uphill.

My strategy to survive it was to promise myself that “no matter what, this willeventually end.” I just needed to transport my mind out of the present as much as possible. Unfortunately for most of the ~2 – 2.5 hours it took me to travel the 12km to Rowntree aid station, all I could think about was how I was having a really hard time breathing, and how my heartbeat felt like a doctor should be telling me to stop.

I was throwing my pre-race goals and aspirations in the garbage, and asking myself what reason(s) I had to continue. The best answer I came up with: solving this challenge.

Why was I feeling so awful? My fitness is great and I’d run much farther than this in training.

 

| How can I possibly get my body to the finish line? Inconceivably and laughably, I was not even close to halfway yet.

It worked to keep me moving. Regarding my current state, I diagnosed by process of elimination. I hadn’t overexerted myself to my knowledge (in fact I’d be running overly conservative). I wasn’t behind on calories (I’d been popping Clif Bloks and chugging Tailwind like a fiend). I wasn’t dehydrated (thanks to the rain and night I was barely sweating, and I’d been pounding Tailwind and water like a……………………. dummy).

 

As I laboured to inhale each breath, and winced in discomfort with each heartbeat, I realized that I’d been overwhelming my stomach with fluids that it didn’t need, and pumping it full of Clif Bloks that it clearly wasn’t enjoying.

With that epiphany, I stuffed a Gin Gin in my mouth, abandoned all Clif Bloks for the rest of the race, and didn’t have another sip of water until Roundtree (which still took a really, really long time to get to).

At Roundtree I ate my first Honey Stinger waffle, filled just one handheld with only water, and rolled my body onwards for the final 6km to the halfway point (where I was intensely eager to unleash the secret weapon that would be sure to turn all my misery into magic).

 

Coke’d up

That first sip was bliss.

I pounded about a can’s worth, and then filled the handheld with Tailwind before heading out for loop two. My time for loop one had been 8 hours, 23 minutes, and some seconds. This helped me diminish the thoughts of how ridiculous it was that I had to now go do EVERYTHING all over again, by presenting a new goal of finishing the race in under 17 hours.

The trip back to the start of Mt. Finlayson was a blur (in that I’ve chosen not to remember it – at the time I was overly aware of every endless second). The journey up Mt. Finlyson was a bullshit – filled mostly by my audible cursing at the fact that I was essentially rock climbing in the rain, in the deepest hours of the night, while completely alone apart from the unrelenting burping that echo’d behind me from its invisible source.

I endured the mountain alone, but Brandon and I arrived at Rowntree together, both eager to change our shoes (while the frigid waters of river crossing #2 felt amazing on my tired feet and ankles, this particular pair of shoes had refused to drain).

Rowntree aid station was awesome in that it had both lawn chairs and a propane fire, and we gladly took a short break to enjoy these perks while going through the motions of getting ready to move on. My parents were both here too (even though I’d asked them not to be), and it was nice to be able to take out my frustrations on someone each time they asked how they could help :).

After snorting up another solid chug of coke, and stashing more in one of my 350ml soft flasks, Brandon and I shuffled and shivered our way out of Roundtree without looking back.

This trip from Roundtree to Durrance was my favourite of the race. We were locked in as a duo with Brandon right at my heels, surrounded by the night but focused only on the narrow path ahead presented by our headlamps. I was climbing strong, running more of this stretch than I ever have before, and was thoroughly consumed by the sensations of the dark. Startled mice jumped at our feet, fat slugs acted like land mines, a deer on the path made my mind scream “COUGAR”, and all the while I pictured the pace I was setting slowly but surely breaking Brandon down.

In my mind I was a gazelle covering the trail with the agility of a ballerina. In reality, I imagine the scene looked more like an 85 year old man shuffling along with a twisted grin on his face while his counterpart comfortably and calmly sauntered behind.

Again this section continued on without end, and by the time we reached the final steep section with stairs I could sense my legs were in trouble. The climb from the water to the aid station was my strongest moment of the day – I power hiked like a fiend and finally gained a 1–2 minute gap over the relatively short stretch – but what I didn’t know was that this was also my final glimpse at happiness.

 

Dead legs

“Coke!” I pleaded as I stumbled back into the Durrance aid station after the trip over and back Mt. Work. “Cooooooooke.”

“Should you be having real food too rather than just Coca Cola?” my Mom innocently questioned.

The glare I shot her ceased her questions. Unless she knew of a way to inject caffeine, immense loads of sugar, carbonation, AND pure pleasure into a slice of baked potato – then at this moment, and at all moments, Coke would be my one and only answer.

I’d said “f&#k it” to my legs on the way back down Mt. Work, and tried to let myself fall freely down the mountain. This meant Brandon was again a couple minutes behind, but I knew it was over. There was nothing left.

Picturing the journey all the way back to the finish was absurd. I physically could not move my legs beyond a limp for anything less than an incline, and even then each and every step was painful. Many times during this section I was struck by the shock of how long this was going to take, and disbelief in the extent of the destruction to my legs.

Brandon caught up within minutes, seemingly bouncing up the path propelled by his poles (I decided that poles would have been a really good idea, even if they potentially could also be a hassle). As he began to pull away I wished him a fun time, and he replied that “I’m sure I’ll see you again”. That had been true all night long, for upwards of 60 kilometers, but this time it was more like he was telling a toddler that their furry friend had “gone to live at a farm where he’ll be happy forever”.

This was going to be a long, lonely trek home.

And it was.

So long, so painful, and so lonely, that I’d rather skim over it:

  • While traversing the plateau of Jocelyn Hill I saw the first of the 50km runners (they were absolutely flying).
  • By the summit of Jocelyn Hill I made the phone call to my girlfriend to say “If you’re not already at the finish line, please delay a couple hours. This is going to take, literally, forever.”
  • About 20 minutes later my cheers of encouragement to the 50k runners had turned to a simple nod and grunt.
  • About 30 minutes after that the audible moans of pain that I’d been trying to muffle became audible moans of pain that I wanted everyone to hear.
  • An eternity later, the feeling that both my feet had been shattered joined in with the deafening pain in my quads.
  • After time ceased to have meaning, I still could not shake my confusion that no other 100k runner had yet to come past me.
  • Who knows how long later (plus the endless climb back up from the base of Holmes Peak) I arrived at Rowntree for the fourth, and final, time.

 

The journey from Rowntree to the finish was more of the same. Pain, less-than-walking, and disbelief with how slow time was moving. But then came one glimmer of relief.

My feet were in so much agony that I knew something must be off. I hadn’t stepped wrong, or fallen, but each step was bringing a searing pain that I didn’t think I could endure to the end. After some deducing, I realized that my feet had swollen up to the point where my laces were now cutting off the circulation. I loosened the laces to discover large welts on the tops of both feet where the garrottes had been pressing, and immediately the returning blood flow began providing relief.

For the final 4 or so kilometers, I managed to run most of the uphills (for this stretch they are all minor), and endure the slow struggle of the downhills. The centimeters ticked by, and with time I could sense I was actually, somehow, nearing the finish.

Before starting this race one of my main goals was to end completely depleted (you don’t sign up for an ultra to avoid pushing your body to its limits). While I’d definitely got there with my legs, all this walking had left too much in the tank of my lungs. So when I came across a family of hikers who told me there was only one kilometer to go (a good natured white lie, but lie nonetheless), I committed myself to start really running. Surprisingly, my legs were able to handle it as long as I didn’t brake, and I continued to gain speed (this is relative) ‘til the end.

The final, final stretch to the finish is a smooth and gradual downhill, and by the time I could hear the small crowd and announcer I was (at long last) really moving. After nearly face-planting over a miniature bridge with 100 meters to go, I managed to burn around the final corner, cross the line, and stumble over to do what I’d been dreaming of for most of the last 19 hours, 9 minutes, and 51 seconds… collapse.

 

– – –

Gear

Head: Tour de France “King of the Mountains” edition Buff

Headlamp 1: Petzl Nao+ (the brightness of the Nao was appreciated, battery lasted ~6 hours)

Headlamp 2: Black Diamond Storm

Pack: Nathan VaporZach

Shirt: Nike something

Shorts: Salomon Agile Short Tights

Shoes 1: Nike Wildhorse 3’s

Shoes 2: Nike Wildhorse 4’s

Shoes 3: Altra Lone Peak 3’s

Socks: Smartwool PHD Run Light Elite (the just-over-the-ankle types)

Arm Sleeves: Basic ones from MEC (really big help in balancing my temperature during the night)

Watch: None (and I’m glad, because not knowing felt much better than the alternative)

Bonus: Race number attachment belt (highly recommend – this made it easy to change shirts and layers throughout the night)

Takeaways

Fuelling is so important, and it’s a different beast for a race of this length. I think most of my misery, including the failure of my quad muscles, can be attributed to this (and maybe Coke isn’t always the only answer).

The night was actually nice, and nowhere near as scary as it always seemed in training.

If you’re going to do this race, train for long, steep downhills (highly recommend doing repeats of Jocelyn Hill down to McKenzie Blight ocean if possible).

Poles might actually be a worthwhile investment.

Swapping shoes at Rowntree was a really good idea.

Never take any section of this course for granted.

All in all, had I (a) done better with nutrition, and (b) not underestimated certain sections of the race, I imagine this report would paint the course in a more positive light. But, I did neither, so take that course — an eye for an eye.

Thanks

My crew: A, Liz, Mom, and Dad ❤ (special thanks to A for putting up with the training schedule associated with an ultra over the entire summer, and for providing me with the unrelenting, inspiring example of how RUN can actually win out over SNOOZE).

Aid station volunteers: Awesome. Out there all night, always doing everything possible get runners the support they need as quickly as possible, and (even though I was only focused on getting Coke’d up) the food selection looked amazing.

Race organizers: I cursed you many times during the night every time I failed to see a flag, or had to run up a seemingly unnecessary hill – but thanks for putting this race on, it’s awesome that we have such an amazing ultra right here on the Island.

Post race massage: Whoever it was from Fix Healthcare who rescued me from my heap on the ground at the finish line to save my legs from the brink of the abyss – thank you.

Portobello

This whole situation is Milissa’s fault. I feel no hesitation in blaming her either as she is more than asking for it. Partly because her decision to go by Milissa rather than Melissa screams “make me your scapegoat!”, but mainly because as my hairdresser, she should know better than to schedule a vacation the week before I go back to school.

If it wasn’t for Milissa I would be in a top of the line salon right now, being offered a delightfully foamy latte, and receiving a follicle stimulating scalp massage. Even though I always refuse the latte and the scalp massage makes me uncomfortable, I would still rather endure my salon’s hospitalities over the unknown horrors that await me within the $11 barbershop I am about to enter. I was sent here by my father, who has been coming to this place for years, but as he is rapidly running out of hairs on his head left to cut I value his recommendation about as much as I now value Milissa’s reliability.

I creep through the flimsy narrow doorway of this unnamed “barber shop” and shuffle two steps to the left before planting myself in the nearest of three chairs. The simplicity of this shop astounds me. Uniform beige wooden planks cover the floor, ceiling and walls, and the room appears to be configured into a basic four-corner plan.

Corner one, in which I am seated, is the waiting corner. It is used by those who are waiting and features issues of three different cycling magazines, and one copy of yesterday’s newspaper.

Corners two and three are bare-walled and nearly empty, spare a minefield of hurriedly piled hair, and the tattered straw broom used to set the explosives.

Corner four, directly to my right, is the most important corner of them all. It is where the hair gets cut, and is also the place I hope to get in and out of as soon as I can. In it is a dull red barber’s chair, one thin frameless mirror, and a word-processed paper that reads “Haircut: $11.00”, permanently joined to the wall by a single nail.

Right now the chair is filled by a middle-aged man receiving one of the cleanest looking flattops I have ever seen. As I struggle to covertly examine the edge-perfect masterpiece being constructed before me, I briefly lock eyes with the Barber, and receive a slight nod confirming that I am lucky enough to be next. I spend the rest of the wait brushing up on my cycling.

When the door clicks shut behind flattop, I am at last alone with the barber and accept the invitation into his chair. He mumbles over his name and I am not brave enough to re-ask it, but he continues on with some amusing yet surprisingly self-deprecating stories of how unskilled a barber he actually is, and the vast array of hairstyles he refuses to provide. He manages to have me fully convinced that he is indeed a blemish upon the barber profession before making the confession I should have seen coming: “Your hair is too thick, and I’m not good enough to cut it.”

While I am proud to be one quarter Italian, and of the thick luscious hair this heritage provides, the barber’s statement concerns me.

“I’m going to have to just trim up your sides and send you on your way” he says as his eyes deliberately glance to the $11 sign and then back into my own. My lips quiver in anticipation of a response, but fall limp when my body instead simply slumps back in the chair. I spend the rest of the cut cringing at every clip, as I watch the sides of my head transforming into a stem, barely able to support the tremendous weight of the cap with which it is burdened. The barber’s moans of complaint at how my thick hair is making things difficult only prolong a final few minutes that deflate me of all self-esteem.

The cut ends with the barber’s heartfelt words of “If you ever come here again, I will have to refuse you service”, and I am out the door with a dead heart and a blank mind. Outside, the morning breeze biting my face is harsher than I was expecting, but all I can focus on is that my head is a mushroom, and that I hate Milissa.

I start school in two days.

– – –

Portobello is a (mostly) true story about a hair cut gone wrong. It was named Top 10 in the Polar Expressions National Short Story Contest.

Something Borrowed

It was rare for my dad to trust me with any of his things, but then again it was even rarer for the Goldeyes to be just one win away from making the playoffs.

Dad and I were baseball fans, as were his friends and my friends, our family, and pretty well everybody else in our city, especially around playoffs. Sadly for us, the team that we loved had a habit of losing. The Goldeyes hadn’t made the playoffs in years and had never in league history made it past the first round. In my entire fourteen years I had only seen them make it once, and although I was very young, I can still remember my disappointment at their failure to win a single game. The Goldeyes were bottom-feeders, but for us it was the game and not the results that mattered. Our passion was for the excitement of cheering on the home team, and for the bond that only evenings spent huddled together shouting encouragement at the TV could provide.

This passion for our Goldeyes was the reason my dad met me in our kitchen the afternoon of the big game and reluctantly placed his precious binoculars into my eager outstretched palms. “Win or lose, this is going to be a big game,” he said. “Just be sure to be responsible, keep your head, and don’t let anybody use those other than yourself.”

“Thanks dad! Love you, and don’t worry!” I replied with a grin as I hustled out the door. Looking back I am confident that had he known my real plans for the evening, neither his binoculars nor myself would have ever made it off our yard.

Sneaking into the stadium was Johnny’s idea, as were most of our plans, but for once I was following as a somewhat willing accomplice. Sure I was terrified, as I knew being caught trying to break into Goldeye stadium would forever taint me in my father’s eyes, but the chance to be with Rachel when the greatest Goldeyes’ squad in decades won its way into history was too good to pass up. Johnny was my best friend, he had been for years, and Rachel was his older sister, the girl of my dreams. People always told us that Johnny and I were joined at the hip, and it was easy to see why as we had so much in common. Johnny and I were runts, or at least agonizingly late bloomers, though we did our best to make up for it with our athleticism, intelligence, and large video game collections. We were both always small, but Johnny was always just a little bit bigger. We both had brown hair and skinny bodies, but while I had bushy eyebrows and a bulbous nose, Johnny had piercing blue eyes and a naturally forming six pack. Johnny’s slight superiorities had determined him to be the leader of our duo, but I was happy to tag along, and never more so than on the day of the big game.

I left my house just after lunch, with my dad’s binoculars hanging off my neck by their strap, and with my trusty leather baseball mitt tucked under my arm. The warm late summer sun was a comforting presence on my back as I took the familiar shortcut to Johnny’s house through our old elementary school playground. I imagined myself leaping from the stands to snag a Bo Biddlerson grand slam as I made my way through Mrs. Peterson’s garden, and had fully expelled any doubts of our ability to actually find a way into the stadium by the time I reached Johnny’s gate.

“Hey there Luke!” Johnny called from the porch. “You doing a little bird-watching today?” He was sprawled out in his hammock with his yellow Goldeye hat half covering his eyes, sipping a lemonade with one hand and tossing a ball up into the air with the other.

“Hilarious,” I responded. “I wonder who’ll be laughing when we get to the game and I’m the only one who can actually see the field.”

“Probably the fans in the stands around us.” Johnny said. “We’ll all be pointing and laughing at the little nerd.”

I chose to end the exchange there, as though I considered myself to be superior to Johnny in wit, he certainly had me trumped in stubbornness and persistence.

“Does that mean you aren’t going to share your binoculars with me Luke?” an angelic voice called down from the upstairs window. “I was hoping we would get along really well today.”

My face instantly flushed red and I shot my gaze downwards to make sure I was twiddling my thumbs with proper form. Rachel often had this effect on me; it didn’t matter how many times we had spoken before. “Well I promised my dad that I wouldn’t Rachel, but I suppose you can use them if you promise to be careful.” I called up, trying my best to paint confidence into my shaky voice.

Rachel giggled. She seemed to do that in response to almost anything I said, and most times I wasn’t even trying to be funny, but her laugh was so light and carefree that I would accept any excuse to hear it. “I’ll be right down boys; I’m just trying to find the perfect outfit for adventure!”

“I bet it’s what you had on when you came out of the shower.” I mumbled loud enough that only I could hear, but caught Johnny’s glaring gaze as I brought my head back out of the sky.

Johnny hated that I liked his sister, and he hated even more our suspicion that she might inexplicably also like me. We had an unspoken agreement that if I so much as mentioned her name outside of her company I would receive a purposefully delivered punch to the kidneys. Comments about my sister had always been fair game, probably because she was much older and as Johnny and I both agreed ‘gross’, but for some reason Rachel’s being only two years older had placed her off limits.

“Think the boys can do it this year?” I asked, hoping to draw Johnny’s attention away from my midriff.

“Of course!” Johnny said. “Home-field advantage and we’re playing the Brushdogs; I bet we glide through this game like we’re going to glide to the last round of the playoffs!”

“I hope you’re right.” I said. “I don’t want to risk banishment from my house for a loss.”

“Who cares who wins!” said Rachel, now changed and standing beside her brother on the porch. “The real excitement is going to be us getting into this game!” She had put on a slim sleeveless summer dress covered in vibrant yellow flowers and ending in billows well above her knees. Her hair was tied back in a loose pony tail, showing off the flowing curls of her marbled brown hair, and giving the world full view of her breathtaking face. She had the same eyes as her brother, which was slightly disturbing, but her beaming smile and tender looking lips added an overwhelming feminine flair.

“I see you’re wearing Goldeye colours.” I said, suppressing a stammer.

“I’m glad you like it Luke.” she replied, looking deep into my eyes. “Now get off your lazy rump, Johnny, and let’s get to this game!”

The city we lived in was simple and small, but the walk to the stadium was still over an hour. We had left Johnny’s house with plenty of time to spare and so strolled along comfortably, following the tunnel-like roads overshadowed by oak trees.

“I thought Marcus was coming too, what happened to that guy?” I eventually asked after finally noticing his absence.

“He’s locked up in his room.” said Johnny. “I doubt we’ll see him for the rest of the summer.”

“Poor Marcus.” said Rachel.

“What happened to him?” I asked, feeling as though I had somehow missed a great tragedy.

“Kinch.” said Johnny. “That giant scrambled his brains!”

“He beat him up?” I gasped.

“Mugged him,” stated Johnny. “Scarred the poor kid for the rest of his life.”

“Can you quit the dramatics and just tell me the story!” I pleaded, now very intrigued.

“I suppose,” said Johnny, “but I wasn’t there and this is just how I heard it happened from Kurt.”

“Fine, good enough.”

“Well,” Johnny began, “apparently it happened when Marcus was walking home at lunch from summer school last Tuesday. He was stumbling his way along like a dope, because he forgot to wear his contacts and never carries his glasses, and was probably actually lost even though he lives just two blocks from the school. Then he heard someone yell: “Hey punk! Get your hands up!” So Marcus shot his arms in the air like a startled cat, and just stood there trembling, blind as a bat. “Keep your skinny arms in the air you little shrimp, and don’t you dare move!” this voice yelled at him again. Now Marcus started really trembling, and when he turned around to try and make out who was yelling, he saw a guy holding a gun, and it was pointed directly at his little blubbering mouth!”

“A gun!” I exclaimed.

“Not a real gun dummy, it was just Kinch holding his hand in the shape of a gun, but silly blind Marcus couldn’t tell the difference. So the brute Kinch gets right in his face, and now Marcus can see that the gun is a fake, but for some reason the wuss is convinced this mugger must have a knife in his pocket! So Marcus hands Kinch everything. His wallet, his backpack, the lint from his pockets, and he just starts sobbing and begging for mercy.”

“Kinch robbed him?” I gasped.

“Course not.” laughed Johnny. “He threw the stuff all back at Marcus, laughing about how much of a wimp you have to be to get robbed by a finger gun. Kinch was in stitches and Marcus was standing there weeping, and of course Kinch went and told everybody and now Marcus is too ashamed to leave his house.”

“I can’t stand Kinch!” I said. “I don’t know how you survive class with him, Rachel.”

“He’s harmless around kids his own age,” she said, “and he’ll probably be held back a grade soon enough.”

“You only hate him because he terrorizes you too Luke.” said Johnny.

“Never that bad thankfully,” I said, “but I sure hope this Marcus episode hasn’t raised his standards.”

“I’ll tell him to go easy on you guys.” said Rachel. “I’m pretty sure he likes me.”

“I’d say definitely.” said Johnny. “But I doubt anything can stop him.”

We walked the next few blocks in silence as Johnny hurled rocks at birds, Rachel admired the wonders of nature, and I anticipated the tortures of my next meeting with Kinch. The sun was just beginning to set as we continued along our long loop to the stadium. Despite the fading daylight it was still a warm and muggy evening, and I could feel an uncomfortable dampness running down my spine. Johnny and I were walking along opposite sides of the street, entertaining ourselves with our baseball mitts by throwing small rocks back and forth. I was distracted by trying to appear fully consumed by our game, attempting to mask my lack of conversation for Rachel, and so wasn’t prepared when we ran into trouble.

“Evening boys! Hello Rachel,” a familiar voice boomed out from the shadows of a path.

“Hi there Kinch.” Rachel replied with a tiny cringe in her eyes.

“I said evening Luke! I’ve barely seen you around at all this summer.” Kinch was slowly strutting up to us with his hands resting on his massive hips and an overconfident smile stretched across his troll-like face. Even half hidden by shadows I could still make out his hideous features. He was sporting his usual shorts and t-shirt combo, with a hint of his belly poking out at their gap. When he stood his knees melded tightly together, but his feet somehow managed to remain inches apart. Scanning up from the pubey neck beard he always wore with such pride, I could see his tiny little face resting comfortably on a pillow of chins. He had a squished-in hook nose and beady little eyes, and thick rubbery lips that became overly animated when he talked. “You boys aren’t planning on going to the ball game now are ya? I hear it’s sold out.”

“Well we’ve got a way in.” Johnny thankfully piped up.

“I thought your buddy Marcus liked baseball, where might he be tonight?”

“I wonder.” I said, but regret ever doing so.

“There’s your voice Luke! I knew you could talk! Hey, those are some really fancy binoculars you have there, mind if I take a look?”

I hesitated, but let them slip from my trembling fingers into Kinch’s chubby grasp when he took a step forward. He stood there chuckling deeply to himself as he pretended to gaze through them at faraway wonders, and then squeezed their strap over his thick neck when he was through with his act.

“Please Kinch, they’re my dad’s!” I begged, not even thinking to hide my panic.

“Well they were your dad’s, but who knows who they belong to now.”

“Kinch come on, give them back.” Rachel demanded, causing Kinch to falter. The indecision was clear on his stupefied face as he apparently considered whether to maintain his bully image, or attempt to please his crush. This contemplation took him quite a while as he was not very bright.

“Well I’m not just going to give you my binoculars Luke, but I will trade you for your glove.” This terrifying proposition was a blow to my soul. My baseball mitt meant the world to me, but losing my dad’s binoculars would mean the end to that world. I thought about punching him, finally exacting my revenge, but I knew even my greatest blow wouldn’t manage to make a dent. I also thought about running, but knew Kinch would catch up to me someday, and probably torture Johnny until he did.

“Fine Kinch.” I whimpered as I slowly held out my glove.

“Thank you!” Kinch giggled as he ripped the glove from my grasp, and celebrated now owning both halves to the deal.

“Kinch!” Rachel started, but I quickly cut her off. I couldn’t handle the embarrassment of having her protect me from this brute.

“Let’s just go please.” I pleaded, turning with hunched shoulders to continue on our way. “This is hopeless, and I don’t want to miss the game.”

“Have a good night guys! I’ll be watching!” Kinch teased, holding my dad’s binoculars to his face and waving my beloved glove high in the air.

A chill seemed to have replaced the humidity as we ambled our way nearer to the stadium. I was distraught by the recent abduction of my possessions, but had decided that I might as well still try to enjoy what would probably be my last time ever out of the house. Rachel was beside me gingerly rubbing my back, and Johnny was informing me that I should just be glad that Kinch hadn’t done anything worse. Both had assured me that Kinch would soon give everything back and had tried to reinforce my belief in our stadium entry plan. I was still filled with doubts and I think they were both feeling guilty, but all our troubles were forgotten when we at last reached our destination.

Goldeye stadium was a giant. It loomed over the surrounding streets like a tank on the freeway, and the lights and sounds escaping its open roof created electricity in the air. I froze in my tracks as I examined the massive stone wall surrounding it, and decided only a fool would ever hope to sneak in. Thankfully Rachel was always eager for a challenge, and she grabbed Johnny and I both by the wrists and dragged us around back. She hauled our bewildered bodies along the edge of the outer wall, until we eventually came to a small opening where the stadium took out its trash.

“Now be quiet and wait here.” Rachel told us, as she alone slipped closer to the door.

We were waiting for Aaron, a kid from Rachel’s class, but also an errand boy who worked at the stadium. Rachel and he had an agreement that they would meet here just before game-time, and she had lured him to it with her skills in flirtation. Johnny and I had the role of sneaking inside while she had him distracted, and then opening the door for her after Aaron was gone. We must have arrived almost precisely on time, because the moment we were settled an eager-faced Aaron came bursting out of the building. Rachel went quickly to work, twirling her fingers through her hair, squeezing Aaron’s biceps, giggling at his every word and most importantly turning his back to the door. I did my best to ignore my boiling jealousy as Johnny and I crept like cats along the ground and then leapt in silence through the doorway without Aaron’s knowing. We quickly concealed ourselves behind some empty garbage bins that were stored just to our right, and couldn’t help grinning our faces off while we waited for Aaron to come back inside. It wasn’t long before he did, with a stupid love-struck smirk on his face, but Johnny and I stayed hidden until he had fluttered all the way back down the hall. I made sure to be the one who re-opened the door, and received a massive hug from a very pleased-with-herself Rachel when I did. Now all three of us were laughing and Rachel’s pride was well deserved, because the plan had been perfect, and just like that, we were in.

Once inside we hurried along the long grey hallway that appeared to contain rooms for the staff, being very careful not to be noticed, and followed it up a gradual slope until we finally arrived at the public concession and washrooms. We joined in with the flowing yellow crowd, and took the nearest access out into the stands.

“Don’t look up, just keep moving.” Rachel muttered to us under her breath.

“Why, what’s wrong?” I asked while foolishly glancing around.

“I think that guard over there saw us coming out of the tunnel. Let’s just find a place to sit as soon as we can.”

We did our best to blend in with the rest of the fans as we hastily made our way up to the top of the stands. Once there we dropped ourselves into three empty seats in the very back row, and scanned around with relief to find that nobody was on our tail.

“It’s beautiful!” Rachel said, and she was certainly right. From our seats we could see the entire stadium. The brightly lit field appeared miles away, and between us and it was a swarming sea of yellow-clad spectators. There were more fans in the stadium than I thought to be people in our city, and every one of them seemed to be supporting the Goldeyes. The night sky loomed above, and thousands of cameras flashed every second down below, and finally the roar of the crowd told me the game had begun.

– – –

It was now five innings in and the Goldeyes were ahead. Johnny and I were perched on the edges of our seats squealing like schoolgirls because Bo Biddlerson had just stepped up to the plate. Bo was the greatest player the Goldeyes had ever seen, and his specialty was crushing monster home-runs. He waggled his bat in his familiar pre-swing routine, and pointed deep into the stands seemingly right where we were sitting. The crowd cheered at his confidence but was drowned out by the thunderous crack of his bat. Bo had connected with the very first pitch, and his blast was sailing through the heavens destined right for my hands. I cupped my palms together, creating a cradle for the ball, and tried to ignore my fears of the pain the catch would cause. As the ball reappeared out of the darkness I stretched out of my seat, but at the very last moment a gloved hand reached in front of me to snatch away my dreams. The crowd erupted in celebration while I screamed in despair.

“If I had my glove that would be mine! That monster Kinch needs to pay!” I slumped back into my seat noticing that nobody around me seemed to care.

“Luke! Johnny! We’re up on the big-screen!” Rachel cried out.

I shifted my pouting eyes upwards and saw that she was right; the three of us were up there for the entire stadium to see. Rachel and Johnny were jumping with excitement along with the gloved villain who took my ball, neither one of them seeming to remember that we had been trying to hide ourselves before. I was just about to suggest that they should maybe sit down, when a firm hand found my shoulder and roughly spun me around.

“You three! Let’s go! You’re coming with me!”

It was the same guard from earlier and he had finally sniffed us out. He looked very pleased with himself too, although also out of breath, and I took his moment of recuperation as my chance to escape. I squirmed out of his clutches and began bounding back down the stands; knocking over popcorns and spilling beers but not pausing to turn back. I was all the way down to the exit before I heard Johnny yelp, and turned around in terror to see the guard reel him in. Then, with the same swiftness as I had escaped, Rachel appeared to deliver a firm right foot into the unsuspecting guard’s groin. His knees buckled and his eyes crossed, but he was able to regain his senses long enough to secure a firm hold of both of my friends. I watched hopelessly from a hidden corner of the exit while this chubby guard laboured against his lack of fitness and injured privates to drag Johnny and Rachel back out of the bleachers. I followed from a distance and was just able to see him take them down the staff tunnel before they disappeared from sight. Now I was panicking. I didn’t know how I would explain losing my glove, friends and binoculars to my dad, so I came to the terrifying conclusion that my only hope was to help them break free.

The weakness in my knees was the only thing that kept me from fleeing as I began my careful journey to find where the guard had my friends hidden, but deep inside I think I knew this was my chance to be the hero. I inched my way down the tunnel, peering into the window of each room as I went, and eventually discovered them in a small security office near the end. The guard had my friends seated at a desk, but their backs were to the door and he was prowling the room, so I couldn’t take the risk of grabbing their attention. I fought the urge to give up and looked around for options, and discovered one in the tiny power room adjacent to the one containing my friends.

I creaked open its door and slipped inside, breathing a sigh of relief when I realized it was empty. This room was very small, about the size of an average closet, and it was so dimly lit I could only make out a few of its details. The walls to my right and center were filled with a series of complex looking switches, and on the left there was only a small desk with a single chair. Strangely, though, I could hear murmurs coming from the room containing my friends, and when I glanced up I noticed a narrow vent in the upper left corner. I locked the door to the room to prevent unwanted visitors, and then quietly climbed on the desk to peer through the opening.

I could see Rachel and Johnny, and the guard was still with them. Johnny’s head was hung to his lap but I thought I could see tears, and Rachel was trembling in terror but doing her best to stay strong. The guard was pacing back and forth, demanding to know their names as well as that of their accomplice, but it was apparent by his frustration that they hadn’t given him anything.

“I’m not letting you go until you talk you little punks, so it’s your decision whether or not you get out of here tonight!”

Neither responded, buying me more precious time, but I knew the guard’s building anger meant that I had to act fast. I realized I had to get the guard out of their room so that my friends could escape, and decided the best way to do so was by using myself as bait. Acting entirely on instinct, and completely out of character, I formed a massive loogey in my mouth and popped open the vent. The guard turned his head in reaction to the sound, but I launched my projectile before he had a chance to prepare. His mouth was agape as he was still surprised by my presence, and my masterfully aimed spittle found its way deep down his throat. He gagged and hunched over, seemingly stunned by my strike, but then let out a roar of pure anger and charged out of the room. I could hear a set of keys being filtered through the lock to my door, and worried that my decoy might have been a horrible mistake.

“Johnny! Rachel!” I called through the gap, “Get out of there and run before this guy gets any back-up!”

“We can’t! The door’s locked!” they both cried out with alarm, and just as they did I heard my own door unlock.

I scrambled frantically to find safety, and crouched behind the back side of the door. The guard burst in with a huff, but faltered when he couldn’t find me, and I took this brief window to slither out from behind him. Once in the light of the hallway I noticed the guard’s keys still dangling from the doorway, and I locked him inside with a slam before he had a chance to react. The guard’s muffled radio crackled to life the instant he realized what had happened, and I hurried to free my friends before any assistance could arrive.

“My hero!” cried Rachel, giving me a big hug and wet kiss.

“Let’s just go!” growled Johnny, juggling his gratitude and resentment.

We escaped down the hallway the same way we came in, and were giggling while almost sobbing when we stumbled into Kinch in the street. Kinch was roaming around along the wall of the stadium, and it appeared as though he was trying to figure out how to get in. My dad’s binoculars were still dangling by their strap around his neck, and my glove had been disrespectfully stuffed in his pocket. When he heard our commotion he turned around smirking, and waddled into the street to block our escape.

“Well, well, well, and just what have you guys been up to tonight?”

“Watching the game Kinch, too bad you missed out.” I said, suddenly finding the confidence.

“I don’t think it’s over yet guys, how come you’re leaving so early?”

“We got nervous after sneaking in; don’t want our parents to find out.” I lied, trying to beat Kinch to his punch line.

“If you snuck in how’d you do it? This wall goes all the way around.”

“Helps to have the keys.” I said while removing the guard’s set from my pocket. “But I’m always willing to trade.”

“Your glove for those keys? That sounds like a deal.”

“My glove and my binoculars, and this time you hand over my stuff first.”

“Too dark for binoculars anyways, and your stupid glove doesn’t fit.” Kinch said as he returned me my treasures, only afterwards removing the guard’s keys from my palm.

“Enjoy the game Kinch! Goodnight!” the three of us called out to his back.

“Enjoy being wimps who run home!” Kinch replied as he unlocked the stadium door, and disappeared inside to where an embarrassed but bitter guard would greet him.

Johnny, Rachel, and I sauntered off slowly into the night, reliving the ups and downs of our day, and appreciating just how lucky we had been. The eruption of cheers from the stadium told us that the Goldeyes had won, and we looked forward to watching them in the playoffs, but preferably from the safety of our homes. As we ambled silently onwards I felt Rachel’s cool hand fill my palm, and I remember experiencing a moment of complete happiness before a fist rocketed into my gut.

– – –

Something Borrowed was awarded the Orca Book Publishers Creative Writing Award – Children’s Fiction