Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Four or Whirligig Wonder

Only racers go to motel breakfasts at 6 a.m. Sundays; it has to be funny to see us all come in, skinny legs and all

It was a good thing K and I had been to the Barrington Rec Center the day before. No way in hell we could’ve found it before race time at 8 a.m. Sunday

Oh yes, the car’s dipstick is still showing full, not a sliver lower than at the auto show at Woodstock  

Ten minutes before the 8 a.m. start no one is standing under the banner; we are among the first to line up, the fulls, the halfs, and the 10Ks –  eventually the 10Ks are told to split up and go about a football field away where at one point the starter asks through the public address system if anyone in the 10K group can hear her. No one says a word in reply. She asks the question again, slightly louder, and a man in front (there are more than one hundred of them in the group) gingerly raises his hand

After On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! we trundle off; eighty-four marathoners, double that for halfs. K urges me to run ahead and I do, Go Dado! she says with a “Boston” look in her eye

It’s quite cool at the start but not at the finish, which is still as the Bayou. Along the way, few signs are out, not a lot of roadside cheers. “Half-Marathoners Are Only Half-Crazy,” and in front of a church beyond the twenty-mile mark, “Remember Why You’re Out Here!” (I couldn’t and stopped and walked for a spell)

The best bit: Under the burning sun at the 16-mile mark, with a hard-to-fathom 10.2 miles to go, I see along the roadside a row of handmade wooden signlets with first names printed in black block letters. There’s a slew of them and when I see the name LARRY I tell myself that they have been placed there by the Nova Scotia Marathon organizers to honor the runners, which certainly helps salve the sting of the motorist who flipped me the bird at the 9-mile mark in response to my smiling wave to him

At the 12 miles I’m making good time and begin to pace ahead of a guy I’d been running with when the fella cries to me, “See you at the hills!” “What hills?” I reply       

Finally the finish line is in sight. More than four hours, twenty-five minutes since that 8 a.m. start. I’ll have finished six of eight marathons, but this will be my slowest. K is there, though, as I manage a final kick. During the last 400 meters I make my best time of the race. There’s a medal, chocolate mile and a sweaty hug from K

She’d done OK in the half! Ran all the way, that’s my girl!

Before heading on to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and the ferry to Portland (an 11-hour trip with 5,000 Muzakian versions of “Farewell to Nova Scotia.” Word of caution: Bring earplugs!) K and I head back for an afternoon in Shelburne, our new favorite place, where on a fence-top I see it. The steely-eyed lobsterman, his wooden arms wheeling a mile a minute in the never-let-up breeze, where ten years ago the ultimately unwatchable “Scarlett Letter” starring Demi Moore was being filmed, the locals never tire of telling us, there are two lobster pots in the back of my hero’s whirligig skiff, and K and I are hooked, we later learn there is a whirligig festival in Shelburne every year and standing before the work-obsessed face of the lobsterdude we make our pledge to come back to this place, not to run a marathon, but to conceive, design and build our own whirligigs and fly them in the 16th annual festival in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, in September 2015!

Next: Running for Your Life: When Training Isn’t the Goal

Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Three

Just folks live with majestic Fundy Bay views above ferryside Saint John, New Brunswick, where towheads learn to skip stones from their pops; one father throws a sinker, then recovers, skims a seven

I try to rest on the ferry but no dice. I’ve parked the car on an incline and have visions of the deck floor being covered with slick oil from the diagnosed terminal leak and elder Yanks, South Asian families and lifetime fishermen slipping and falling on the treacherous floor surface as they try to go to their cars at the end of the trip

But no. When we go to the car as we enter the darling port of Digby, Nova Scotia, I again check the oil. The level, mysteriously and unbelievably, is still holding firm

We’re directed off the highway to the historic Acadia way where we make two memorable stops

1/ At a pier walk farmers’ market, the stalls are plank-empty and there’s nothing to buy, a toilet with paper and places to sit along the shore wall, sights of crabs scuttling in the low tide mud, rivulets pulling back to the sea, the power of nature in a thimble of water, and sandpipers, not by the dozens but enough, and KILLDEER! I forget the name but then it comes to me, like a shot to the heart

 2/ Behind a lighthouse along the coast where on a clear day you can see the spit of land where the whales come, K and I walk down to a ledge, the wind with shards of ice in late July, mind you, and covering the shore rocks like a wench’s hair is massive tresses of kelp with not a seal or a sea lion or an otter in sight

Landmark churches of Acadia, French Canada, doilies on the sofas, tea for breakfast, poutine for lunch. Even the gas bars shout stay away

The English rule in Barrington, though, where we arrive as late as is deemed prudent, 7 p.m., credential closing time for the 44th edition of the Nova Scotia Marathon, a manila folder with our orange-hued public warning to be aware of morning drivers, a T-shirt that’s shriek-loud orange, and a raffle. We put in our names, and not even a loonie is demanded, and I wonder out loud if the medium-dog-sized rosy-red toy lobster, the marathon mascot, is the prize, and the bored teen who is alone manning the desk at the Barrington Recreation Center doesn’t miss a beat. “Just take it. Please. No questions asked

In Shelburne, Nova Scotia, we put our things in the motel room. And go to the one place where you can still get dinner at 9 p.m. on a summer Saturday night. The Sea Dog Saloon. With a red ale they call Boxing Rock

For dinner we sit by the harbor, one of the oldest on the eastern seaboard. There’s a skiff anchored with a Jolly Roger flying, and in the distance a lone mansion in the woods. K smiles under the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen outside of the Rockies and says, D, that’ll be my summer house, indicating the skiff bobbing on the gentle waves, and beyond, the house in the bush, my winter one.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Four   

Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two

K and my unforgettable motor trip last month had less to do with the big race, the 44th edition of the Nova Scotia Marathon along the exquisite blue coastline of Canada’s most picturesque province. Rather, it was a marathon of stories, of moods, of laughter, of drama, of infinite surprises.


Lunch at Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill, Conn., next to the butterfly bush garden with a butterfly caution sign

On an jammed but fast-moving interstate north of Boston, with the car windows open because K and I both detest A/C, a rogue wind literally ripped the only map we had that took us from Massachusetts to the Maine-New Brunswick border, and whipped it out the open passenger window. It did not land on a windshield of one of the cars behind us. Thankfully

Under a shade tree in the Shaker Village near Gray, Maine, we whiled away an hour in adjacent Adirondack chairs. We admired a cat – and we don’t like cats

Hours later we realized from looking at the $#@&&^ Mapquest journey printout that a significant part of our trip required that we take a car ferry, upon which we had not made a reservation. Heretofore, we thought there was a bridge between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that linked Saint John to Digby. That would a 49-mile-long bridge. The longest in the world is the Quindao Haiwan in China at 26 miles.
“Good afternoon, yes, can I help you?” the chirpy sales clerk at the ferry service said to K, calling from her smartphone.
“We’d like to book a spot on your ferry,” K said.
“Do you have a car?”
“What date were you looking at?” the clerk beamed. It was late on a Friday.
“Tomorrow morning?” K asked sheepishly.
Amazingly, on a Saturday morning in late July, the height of tourist season, they had space. Not much. But enough

Two miles inside the Maine-New Brunswick border we stopped at a visitors center that was minutes from the border. K wasn’t keen; she wanted to put some serious miles behind us. But we had no maps, and the car … In the past couple of years or so it has been reliable, and a week before had been given the all-clear by my trustworthy mechanic, but it was emitting a strange smell. Like burning rubber.
In Maine it was 5:55 p.m., but in New Brunswick, we lost an hour; it was almost 7 p.m., closing time at the visitors center when we left with stacks of maps and brochures.
In the parking lot I had a thought before getting back on the road … I checked the oil. To my utter dismay the dipstick was bone dry. K and I stood dumbfounded, alone in the empty parking lot, staring at the thing. Now what do we do?
“Car trouble?” said a middle-aged man, the manager of the visitors center, in a heavy French accent. I guess the open hood and our long faces were a dead giveaway. He had driven up behind us without our noticing.
“Yes, oil, we –  ”
“Here, maybe this will help,” he said. The man must have anticipated our problem because before approaching us he had grabbed an extra quart of oil that he had in his trunk.
After I put his oil in my car engine, the man gave us complicated-sounding directions, half-French, half-English, to the nearest auto repair shop. We blinked at him million-mile stares, and he said, “C’mon. Follow me.”
We did, of course. The Canadian Tire was open for business. Brady, at the emergency bay, put her up on the hoist, and then, shaking his head while wiping his hands with oil that seemed to be just about everywhere on the underside of the car, delivered the news: the rear engine mount seal was gone. The engine wouldn’t stop leaking. Eventually it will have to undergo a car-killing overhaul, but here, try some heavy oil, it won’t leak as fast, you know; yeah, four quarts at first, and use this seal repair additive, check the dipstick every one hundred miles or so, and hope for the best. Good luck

K and I drove on toward Saint John. At the first fifty miles, I checked it. The oil level was holding firm.

Starved, we looked for something, anything open at 9 p.m. in Fredericton. Out on the Trans Canada, there’s a 24-hour Tim’s, of course. But we needed a real meal. Spotted an A&W, shrugged, the drive-thru would have to do, but in trying to turn in was so tired that I missed it. Instead, we found ourselves in the parking lot of the Hilltop Grill, a steak and fern bar. Live music on Saturday, but it was Friday and there was still some action. Here, K would have her first Moosehead ale on tap. I daresay, after the day we had, the memories this trip will deposit in our brains, it won’t be her last. I can’t remember when it was I enjoyed an ale on tap as much as that first sip of Moosehead with K on the night road to Saint John.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Three

Running for Your Life: The Horror

 Public notice in the Etats-Unis/US waiting room, Terminal Three, Lester B. Pearson International Airport :

All passengers are invited      

      to enjoy our enhanced seating and iPads

while waiting for a flight.

                                     Restaurant purchases are not required.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two

Running for Your Life: Sometimes Not There!

Boston Marathon race bibs are brought to you by John Hancock.
Steamtown Marathon (2013) race bibs are brought to you by Subway restaurants.
Nova Scotia Marathon race bibs are brought to you by … folks, just folks.

In our personalized race envelopes, along with that uncluttered race bib and an Orange Crush-colored T-shirt, was tucked these gems, the second and third of seven bullets of essential information before we started on the Sunday morning race of 26.2 miles (that’s 42.2 kilometers in Canada):


  • This is not a closed route – PLEASE WATCH OUT FOR Church services, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s runs for morning coffee drinkers, men driving from wharf to wharf!
  • Shoulders on road – sometimes not there!

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two