The Quebec City Marathon: or being chased by Irene.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A couple of ears ago Eric and I signed up to run in Quebec City. He was going to do the half and I was going to run the full marathon. In spite of car problems sleeping beside a cemetery, and hurricane Irene casing us through the race course, we both crossed the finish line- more or less in one piece. Hilarity pursues us as we chase a finishers medal.

Submitted: October 31, 2016

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Submitted: October 31, 2016



The Quebec City Marathon

Or Being Chased by Irene


21:00 hrs Thursday August 25th 2011- It has been a long 12 hr day.  This morning I dragged Eric along with me up to the shop in Stratford to help prepare some of my work so I don’t have to come in on Friday.  Now that it is 21:00 we’re closing up the shop and headed back to London to pack.


On the way back we’re running through the events of the next few days and making a list of the things that we’ll need.  O.K. first get up and need a toiletry bag, then a change of clothes, then breakfast items.  What are we eating at the campsite?....


By the time we arrive back in London our list is made and the corresponding items are systematically procured and packed into the car.  In the morning all that will have to be done is dress eat and jump into the car.


1:00 hr Friday August 26th I am passed out on top of my bed exhausted.


7:00 hrs-- The moonlight sonata, played electronically at 4x the normal tempo is assaulting my ears, bringing me back from the dead.  Staring at the alarm clock I again wonder what genius decided that a rendition of Beethoven hopped up on amphetamines is the ideal way to bring people back to the land of the living.


As the oatmeal in my brain begins to congeal in my head to form a brain and that brain begins the process of rational thought, I begin to think now is going to be the fun part, waking up a 6 foot 220lb fifteen year old.  As I emerge from my room an my eyes begin to make sense of the large moving object in the hallway, I am surprised to see Eric up, alert, dressed and ready to go.  I am left thinking, isn’t this supposed to be the other way around?


The weather is beautiful and the morning goes off with out a hitch.  By 8:05 I am filling the car with gas and by 8:15 we’re headed down the highway- destination Quebec City Estimated Time of Arrival 19:00 hrs


In Toronto traffic was so light that I don’t believe that my foot ever eased off of the gas pedal.  After Toronto Eric pulled out his laptop and - used his laptop to transfer the Audio Book-  Tim Dorsey’s “Hurricane Punch” onto his ipod.


“So” I am asked “Where is the faceplate for your radio so I can run my ipod through it?”

I look down at the radio up at Eric and back down at the radio.  I checked my pockets and had Eric check my bag, but by then I knew there is no need to look any farther.  “Umm” I said “I think you’ll find it in London.”

“In London?”


“Alright- whatever, I’ll plug my lap-top into the inverter and well just use my laptop.” As he promised the cord was inserted into the inverter and the inverter plugged into the cigarette lighter and then —Nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened. 


Sharing a set of ear buds seemed a little awkward so we set it aside for the time being. 


At the Trenton Service Centre we pull in for food and fuel.  I, who have been trying to eat vegan, realized at that moment I would starve on this trip as a dedicated vegan.  In fact eating in any sort of healthy manner was out of the question and so we had make do.  After filling both my car and carcass I tried to buy fuses at the gas bar.  No luck but there are directions to the Canadian Tire in Trenton.  We opt to go there. 


Just off the exit there is a Walmart. Good enough.  After parking the guy collecting carts walks up admiring my Daewoo Lanos.  He also has the same car.  We discuss how they like to play as hard as their gas quaffing counter-parts while sipping their octane like a proper English lady at tea (pinky up)


After going in to get fuses and replacing the appropriate one, the ipod docking station is working but does not have powerful enough speakers. So we go through Trenton looking for speakers to hook into the ipod or a splitter for two sets of buds.  What we end up finding is a set of computer speakers that we hang from the sunroof of the car in order to get them close enough to hear them.  This is how we now head down the highway.  The trip is again going smoothly.


In Montreal we hit traffic in a big way we are in a stop and go mess.  My car is getting hotter and hotter.  Eventually it is steaming and I pull off the road at the next exit.  It turns out that the exit is not for a street but another highway- damn I pull to the side of the road and open the hood.  The coolant is full and nothing untoward seems to be happening.  Pull the dipstick out and see that it is low.  Maybe because I am low on oil the car is having issues. Eric offers to find oil while I sit on the side of the highway watching the world go by.


When, after what seems like ages, he finally gets back I hear how far a-field he has gone and how many streets he has wandered up and down to find it.  The advantage of his exploration of Montreal on foot is that now the engine is cool and the traffic much lighter.  We put the oil in and off we go. No Problem.


We start driving and Eric opens his laptop to do some work and the hinge holding up the screen explodes like a suicide bomber.  Parts of the hinge go flying off never to be seen from again.  What can be found is the plastic cover that covers the hinge area across the width of the laptop.  That is put on the dash while a search is conducted for other bits.  The cover vibrates with the car a bit and slides down to the point where the windshield and dash meet.  With my car there is apparently a small gap there, one small enough for the cover to slide into.  A stick is procured to fish it out.  Instead of coming out, the cover slips under the dash in a place completely inaccessible without removing the entire dash.


After coming to terms with the loss of parts, the computer is stowed away and a meal contemplated.  Eric begins to pull a meal together only to discover that when we made out checklist, cutlery had been left off it.  When I pulled into Sainte Julie for gas, he saw a Dollar Store across the street and went in search of utensils. 


After leaving Sainte Julie we are now finally organized and the drive to Quebec City is pleasant even if we are more than a little behind schedule.


We arrive in Quebec at 21:45.  The office to the campground we’re staying at, Camping de la Joie, closes at 22:00.  Looking at our directions to the campground it seems that we will arrive a little after they close.  Eric calls them on his cell…


“ Hi were driving though Quebec trying to make sense of our directions.  Could help us find you?”


All I can hear is “ yes…Ok turn at the fountain…Ok…. Ok… Marvelous. So how long will it take us to get there?...  Will someone still be at the office?... Oh Great I really appreciate it.”


Eric turns to me and says “Ok she’ll wait for us to get there before going home.”


Finally at long last we pull into our campsite, keep the headlights on and start unpacking the tent.  Our neighbour asks us something in French I don’t understand and try to respond in very poor French.  Her boyfriend switches to English and ask if we need more light.  We do and he turns his car toward us with his lights on as well. 


In no time the tent is up and we have corn boiling in a pot on a camp stove.  Our helpful neighbours return to dancing in a manner that suggests they might be a bit stoned.  After a minute Eric looks at me and says “My grade one French Immersion Teacher taught us that song.”  “Our dancing friends are partying to children’s music.” He laughs


Soon I turn in and fall into a deep deep sleep.  Eric fallows soon afterward and spends the night wondering if our neighbour snores louder when he is stoned or if this is his normal state of affairs.


In the morning we slept in a bit before getting ready to head in to the city.  Our happy-go-lucky neighbours ventured out into daylight as we were leaving looking like they had spent the night in a butter churn.


The Quebec City Convention Centre has organized their facility an interesting manner.  You are encouraged to park you car underground, then, proceed through an urban rabbit warren.  Signs direct you through what seems like an endless series of hallways until finally you arrive at the main hall.  Once there, we were quickly and efficiently processed.  I was informed that since there was a hurricane bearing down on Quebec and expected to arrive Sunday afternoon that the ferries wouldn’t be running and everyone would be bussed to the start line. 


Inside I thought  “WHAT hurricane?!”  The last time I checked the forecast it said possibility of rain but no warnings.  OK- so I had left my car radio at home and we had heard no news; but, how could this beautiful warm sunny weather turn into a hurricane?  “Ahhh well it will arrive after the race so fine, I won’t worry about it.”


Quebec seems to have a good running and biking culture.  At the display booths in the Expo, we were encouraged to return to the province for other family centred running events.  I was all set to register for the Medoc Vinyard marathon when I found out it was the in Madoc Bordeaux France not the one in Canada. Do you really get wine at the water stops?


Just before leaving I was sold a few new energy bars.  Organic, vegan and the whole bit.


As I was walking out the door the lady from the tourist office asked if we needed help finding anything gave us a map and asked where we were staying.  I told her about the campground.  She was surprised and asked if we weren’t worried about the hurricane coming Sunday.  I answered  “ After the marathon we are going to pack up and start for home.  If the storm gets bad we’ll wait it out in a rest area”  “ I don’t think it will be a problem.”


The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent being tourists and enjoying the energy and atmosphere of the old city.  By early afternoon I was starting to feel weary from the car trip the day before so we headed back to the campground for a rest.


A couple of hours I am felling great and we get ready to head back to the city for dinner and a little bit of the night life.  I grab my licence and $50 so I am not tempted to burn through my budget tonight.  My wallet get left with the camping gear, and off we go.


If you have ever been to Quebec City you will notice two things, the old city is full of old-world charm and it is very hilly.  We found ourselves driving up near the convention centre again.  There are about 5 stop-lights going up a hill that has got to be greater than 45 degrees.  I hit every one of them red.  At the last light my car is beginning to overheat.  As I pop the clutch to go when the light turns green something else pops.  I hear a bang up under the hood and stream starts blowing out.  Quickly I turn the corner, stop the car, and pop the hood.


Steam is billowing out of my car like a Yellowstone Geyser.  This is not good.  Here is the situation… It is Saturday late afternoon, and I have $50.  The campground had a shuttle that can bring us into the city in the morning, but it starts running at 9:00 two hours after we have to be at the finish-line to get bussed to our respective staring lines.  With $50 I am dreaming if I think I can eat, get a tow-truck and a hotel room in this town.  I am currently parked in a No Parking zone with evening approaching.  So I Eric heads off to scout for a convenient parking lot while I brood and try and come up with a solution.  After a short time Eric has found a lot at the bottom of the hill one block over.  He offers to push while I steer.  At the top of the hill things get much easier except without the car on my breaks are getting harder and harder to push.  I get into the lot and wait for a spot to become available.


Ten minutes later a car leaves and Eric starts pushing again.  This time an attractive young lady jogs up to Eric and offers him a hand.  Deciding that her company is better than showing off his strength he accepts the offer.  We get the car parked feed it with $5 and look around. 


We are one block away from Rue St. Jean.  There is a bar whose sign sports a cartoon moose beside us.  Behind us is an Anglican Cemetery where it looks like a homeless guy is holding court in his rocking chair.  On the other side of the cemetery is a Transvestite Cabaret.  We are perfectly situated to campout for the night.


Well there is nothing for it.  We had left our running stuff and food in the car including those new Organic Vegan things so if we stay the night, we’ll survive the run in the morning.  So we lock the car and go exploring.


While out I find a, aluminium beer can and duct tape.  We return to the car to see if these items can be used to hobble together a repair.  We drain the beer down a couple of convenient organic receptacles, cut the can, wrap it around the hose and duct tape it all together.  When I start pouring water in the reservoir, I discover that my repair is as effective as putting a screen door on a submarine.  The water drains out as fast as I can put it in.  Admitting defeat we forget about the car and go to search for a quiet place to put our feet up.


We make a marvellous discovery around the corner, Brûlerie St-Jean.  Coffee and a Hot Chocolate take the edge off of frustration, and the washroom facilities make it possible to take off of the dirt and grease we’re sporting.  The baristas are two attractive young women that make us feel like they are happy to see us tonight.  The one preparing our beverages smiles up at Eric and proceeds to, somehow with a dollop of cream, draw an artistic leaf on top of his hot chocolate. This place is great.  The coffee shop has wi-fi, so we use our i-pods to log on to e-mail and generally allow the evening stress to fall away and relax for a while.


When we do return to the car I pull my cap over my eyes roll my seat back and try to fall asleep.  Two minutes later someone comes roaring into the lot music blaring, only to sit, music on and engine running, waiting for someone in the bar.


When they leave I fall asleep.  Eric sleeps fitfully and is woken up at about three when two gay couples come into the lot.  One notices us trying to sleep and points it out to the others.  Apparently we are soon all but forgotten as their loud and long farewells to each other begin.  Soon they are yelling “I LOVE YOU, AND I’LL MISS YOU!” back and forth at each other.  As they are Anglophones, there is no mistaking their enthusiastic ( and did I say loud yet) declarations of love.


Six o’clock in the morning finds two still and groggy apparitions crawling out of a car to lean against a cemetery wall to change for a race.  Our Vegan sport bars are breakfast and down to the shuttles we walk.


Upon arrival there only appears to be one line so I get Eric to hold my place and run up to ask if both marathon and the demi are queuing up together.  I am told yes and jog back to find Eric.  When we finally get seated on our school bus he is on the bench ahead of me. 


When the bus stars rolling my seatmate begins to talk to me.  I unfortunately don’t understand him and express my regret.  He switches to English and says “I guess your disappointed today.”


I look at him confusedly and empress him with the full value of my erudition when I grunt “Huh”


“I see from your bib that your registered for the marathon right.”


“Didn’t you know the race was cancelled?”

“What the F*@#!  What do you mean the race was cancelled!”

“Yeah they posted on Facebook this morning that because of the hurricane they have to have he course cleared by one.  With a marathon, they can’t have everything cleaned up by one so… everyone is doing the half.”

I leaned forward and poked Eric.  “I guess I am running with you after-all”


After Eric checks his bag and I can finally get to a toilet open to the public, we make our way to the awaiting crowd of runners.  By and by the count down begins.  There is a long snaking line ahead of us to where the starting line is located.  I look over to the right at the anti-aircraft guns and know they will be starting the race.  I see them, I know they will soon be firing, and yet when they do signal the beginning of the race the racket they make cause me jump back anyway.  About five minutes later we cross the starting line and begin to run.


The morning is cool and overcast, a pleasant day for a run, and remains pleasant for the first 5k.  It is then that a seams gives way on Eric compression shorts and he is having friction issues.  A few kilometres later he is in pain and I ask a volunteer about Vaseline.  I am told that after the bridge there is a medical station there where it is available.  We continue to run although it is hard for Eric to maintain a decent pace with his legs being rubbed raw. 


As the race has progressed the wind does seem to be picking up a bit but were in a residential area and the building are keeping us protected.  This is not the case on the bridge.  When crossing the bridge we are being blown sideways; however, Eric has lost much of the feeling in his leg where the tear is.  We actually start to sing Zippity Do Da in order to lift our spirits and keep this run light and fun.  When we get to the medical tent Eric doesn’t want to both with the petroleum jelly, the skin has lost most of its feeling now, what’s the point in tempting fate by playing with it.


As the road curves down from the bridge in order to follow the river under the city to the finish line, we are met with a frontal assault from the wind.  Most of the time we can run, a bit slower mind you, but run none the less; however, there are times when gusts come up and we are reduced to walking for short periods of time.


This continues kilometre after kilometre.  About 3k from the end the subconscious changes Eric has made to his gate in order to compensate for the pain exact their price.  Cramps.  He can barely straighten out his leg to run, but he continues going forward.  I ask volunteers if they have any bananas, or minerals to no avail.  A medic cycles by and offers to stretch him out, but he doesn’t want to stop going forward.  With grim determination he makes it to the finish line.  When the medal is placed around his neck, he has earned it both for the distance he covered and the grit that pushed him through.


Part 2


For us the race is now finished.  Were a bit tired and Eric is definitely sore.  As much as we both want to sit down and have something to eat and drink we are now starting a new race- The Race Against Time and Irene. 


We have to get back to the car and figure out what the heck to do.  Eric walks on determinedly although a bit like a penguin trying to keep his legs from rubbing further.  We get back to the car and dress in yesterday’s clothes and head-out.  I am definitely feeling self-conscious knowing I smell like a locker-room but having no other choice.


While I am cleaning out the failed attempt at yesterday’s patch job Eric goes off to look for a hardware store.  He asks one person and they direct him in one direction.  He has no luck and asks another person and they alter his course down another street.  Here he still has no luck.  On his third attempt the girl he talks to says “We don’t use the term hardware store in French what do you mean.”  Eric quickly explains it is a place that sells nails, screws paint and plumbing stuff, all the while thinking, “ I’ve been walking around with sore legs looking for some random store, because nobody understood what I meant and didn’t want to ask me to clarify.”  She told him exactly where to go and there it was 4 blocks from the car. 


We had decided to use Plumber’s Putty.  I’ve used the “As Seen On TV” stuff in the past and it dries hard.  I figure that the pipe wont get as hot as a hot water pipe in the house in a 15 min drive.  The hardware store didn’t have the TV stuff but it did have a popular major brand name of similar stuff. 


The putty works in a similar fashion but takes longer to cure.  A lot longer.  We don’t have a whole lot of time.  Irene is supposed to be here in two hours, and I don’t want to be messing around with the car in a hurricane.  In the end we decide to give it an hour to cure and make a run for the shop. 


We head back to Brûlerie St-Jean for coffee, and to try and secretly wash off all the grease in their elegant bathroom and fill all the empty water bottles we brought with us from the car.  After wiping the sink clean again and savouring the last drop of coffee, the hour is almost up and it is time to give the car a try. 



While in the Café we were able to use ipods to surf the internet looking for a large chain store with an auto shop that will be open on a Sunday.  We find the closest one google map the directions and were ready.


Back at he car I begin to fill the coolant reservoir.  It holding!  I start the car and we’re off as quickly as I can.  I scoot out to the highway see the exit and we should be there.  As I drive down the street I don’t see the place-- it is supposed to be on this corner.  I keep driving:  Maybe its over with that mall over there.  It’s not.  Damn! I know I don’t have long and I am driving around lost.  As soon as I see someone we pull over and ask.  I am going the wrong way, I pull a u-turn and head back. 


The car is beginning to over heat and it is starting to rain.  I am watching the temperature rise when I hit a red light.  Just before intersection is a parking lot and I pull in and turn the car off.  I can see that we only have two more blocks to go.  What was a drizzle is turning into large heavy drops as I open the hood and open the oil cap hoping that will allow some of the heat to dissipate a little more rapidly.  My patch is leaking but not gushing yet.  Fifteen minutes later the engine isn’t hissing when the odd raindrop hits the block.  Hoping it is cool enough we prepare to head off.


The engine is still a bit warm and I book-it over to the shop and turn the car off as I head into the parking lot coasting up to the door.  We made it.  The rain is starting to drum a rapid tattoo on the hood as I go in and talk to the guy at the counter.  We make arrangements for the car to be repaired in the morning and push the car into one of the bays.  I guess I won’t be at work tomorrow, but at least we aren’t taking the train home.


After getting our stuff out of the car we borrow their phone and call the campground.


“Hi, were not too far off the highway, is there a chance the afternoon shuttle can pick us up?”  I explain where we are and she agrees to have us picked up.  Bless her soul she sends her father over to pick us up within the half hour. 


By the time we are picked up Irene has arrived with vengeance.  If a bull out in a field doesn’t get his horns blown off he might just drown in the rain pouring from the sky.  It is like someone turned on a faucet in the sky. 


When we get to the campground we are told to feel welcome to spend the evening in the common room watching TV or whatever.  We do.  The wind is howling the rain is in a fury and we have no idea if the tent is still standing.


There is a cribbage board on the games shelf and I ask Eric if he knows how to play.  He quickly learns.  He loses the first hand and wins the second and the third.  It doesn’t take him long to win the first game, and the second and the third.  How can my luck be so bad?  The cards are in random order.  The odds have to go my way eventually.  That night I just cant win.


Finally we gather our courage, our gear, our new candles, the food that we had brought with us, and with the large garbage bags we’re given make rain ponchos we make the long trek up to the top of the hill where our tent will hopefully protect us from the elements and remain upright through the night


Thankfully the tent is still standing 


Dropping our things in the surprisingly dry tent, we get towels and head for the showers.  I know it seems redundant walking through the pouring rain to get to a shower were I can have the exact same experience.  There is one major difference however- the showers I am headed for are hot and with a bar of soap I can actually feel clean when I put fresh clothes on, and with luck I wont get too cold going back to the tent. 


I should explain a bit about the tent.  It is a two room jobby with a kind of floorless vestibule in the middle.  So back at the tent we open the two interior flaps and put lit candles on the dirt floor between us as we talk. 


The wind is howling.  It sounds like we are camped in the middle of a 4 lane freeway with 18 wheelers constantly whizzing by, along with the rain pounding at the roof.  Even with all the noise it doesn’t take long before we’re too tired to talk.  Blow out the candles and zip up the flaps to go to sleep.


Five minutes later I hear something in the vestibule and poke my head out to see what’s up.  What ever was there is gone. I light a candle and look around nothing.  Hmmm.  I leave the candle lit to see if the light will discourage guests and lay back down.  I hear nothing and hope it will work and fall back asleep.


In the morning the sun is shining.  I see the candle still burning and something has been pulled out of my pack.  On the way out of the tent I see that a package of jalapeño flavoured nuts has been emptied not far from the tent.  Well I imagine whatever ate that stayed warm last night.


This morning’s shower is amazing.  You really appreciate the sun and warmth when you haven’t had it.  The world smells fresh and clean and I feel the same way. 


We go down to the office/ meal counter/ common room, for breakfast.  It isn’t long before we are playing cribbage again.  Now I can’t loose.Luck is all headed my way.


We were supposed to have had a call fro the garage in the morning about when the car would be ready.  I call and the manager is out but the guy I talk to thinks the part has been ordered.  We make arrangements to take the noon shuttle in to the city and we go pack up our site.


It isn’t long before we’re sitting in the waiting room.  The manager walks in and tells us he’s just been talking to the parts guys and it will be delivered within the hour and then it will be about another hour to get it on the car.  All right then.  We’ll be back at 3.  Of we wander looking for souvenirs and whatever.  There is not too much around but we kill an hour and a half and head back. 


When we are seen through the bay windows the manager has an opps I forgot about that one, look on his face, walks over to a mechanic and points to a box.  When he walks in he says the part arrived just before you did come back in an hour.  I look at him and say, “Look I know the book says that the job takes an hour, and I am happy to pay the hour, but, if you can get it done in 20 min I really need to get on the road.” 


He snorts “You’ve done this before and you know that it’s a quick job eh.”


He is not looking too happy so I replied “ You mechanic looks like an older experienced , competent , and efficient guy.  If he is as good as he looks I will happily pay or an hour labour.  I’ll be even happier to pay that money if the job is done faster than an hour.”


By this time I can see the guy through the window has packed up his tools and is filling the reservoir with coolant.  The manager sees me watching him and goes out to see what’s up.  When he comes back in he says  “O.K. the jobs done, and I’ll only charge you for half an hour.”


I couldn’t be happier.  I go to the cashier and pay the bill pack up the car and we are driving away at 3pm. 


As we’re driving away Eric says “ With all we went through you should at least get a couple of pictures if where we were.”  He’s right. I go and we take a picture of the parking lot the Café and the logo to the bar be slept beside. The pictures are taken in a moving car so they don’t turn out that well, but they’re some kind of record anyway.  I get gas and by 4pm we are heading down the highway to Montreal… in heavy traffic… driving slowly.


I need to be at work on Tuesday stopping for the night isn’t an option.  On and on we drive, the kilometers clicking by.


By midnight I am getting tired.  I have chia in the car and soak about 2 tablespoons in a water bottle that has about 400ml left in it.  I shake it well so it doesn’t glob up.  Normally I put a couple drops of lime juice in it for flavour but that’s not an option at the moment.  At a rest stop about 20 min later I drink the chia get a coffee and a bottle of 5hr energy and drink those down as well.  About twenty minutes later I am feeling more alert then I do most afternoons.  For the next 4 hours I am doing great no jitters or weird reactions, I just feel awake and energized.


When we get to London, Eric crashes on the couch and falls instantly asleep.  I unpack the car for about half and hour and then go to bed myself.


I look at the alarm clock, 4:30 in the morning.  I decide to set it for 11am.  I think I have earned the pleasure of sleeping the morning away.


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