Thursday, September 26, 2013

17th race of 2013: Rock 'n' Roll Montreal

First International Stop on the Get Back UP Tour: Rock 'n' Roll Montreal Half Marathon

Wednesday, September 18th:

Another early morning alarm, 3:00 a.m., and I'm throwing the last few things into my bags en route to Montreal, Canada. This will be the first official international trip for the Get Back UP campaign. I had originally planned to arrive on Friday but was asked to arrive 2 days earlier to travel with Simon Beals to visit physicians and therapists in the greater-Montreal region. Simon is the Canadian equivalent to the US District Managers for Allard. He works for one of the largest distributors of O&P supplies in Canada, OrtoPed, and although he lives in Toronto he actually covers Canada coast to coast.

A 3-hour layover in DC offered the perfect opportunity to work on my blog post from the Philly trip this past week. I really want to complete this post before the weekend but I have no idea what kind of free time I will have once I get to Canada. As I'm working, it occurs to me that I'm not sure if my phone and internet will work in Montreal. I call Allard HQ for information and luckily we can switch my plan over temporarily before I leave the US. Whew! I can't believe I forgot to check into this before now... I guess I'm just used to jumping on a plane every week and didn't think about what was necessary to travel out of the least I remembered my passport!

My flights were uneventful and I was surprised to be in Montreal before noon. Simon plans to meet me at the airport (literally, since we've never actually met before now) but first I have to find my way through Customs. I decided not to call him until I had my luggage in hand which turned out to be a wise decision--it took over an hour to get through Customs and then to pick up my bag.

Simon was right on time, waiting for me in a red jacket so I could find him in the crowd. He actually recognized me from my PR photos so we had no trouble finding each other. We went straight from the airport to lunch, both of us hadn't eaten since dawn and it was almost 2pm now. After learning a bit more about each other over lunch and then discussing our plans for our time here in Montreal we headed over to the OrtoPed national headquarters to meet the team there. Here are some of the photos from my afternoon visiting with the OrtoPed team:

This was a nice greeting as we entered the OrtoPed offices and warehouse. 

Simon gives me a tour of the warehouse.

I was amazed at how bright and clean (and HUGE) the warehouse was. Not a speck out of place, with rows and rows of merchandise and materials ready to be shipped across Canada.

This was an area of the warehouse they were using to stage a planned exhibit for a trade show coming up.

Spotless fabrication room.

It's truly amazing what can be done for people with missing limbs these days.

This is a hand-held scanner for use in getting 3-D information without the invasive practice of casting. The information stored in here gets transferred to the carving machine to make an exact mold of a hand, a leg, a head or anything else imaginable.

Here, the info from the scan of a baby's head has been transferred to the carving machine where it creates an exact foam replica of the baby's head on which to mold her cranial helmet. Really amazing to watch! 
Each Allard brace has it's own separate storage cubicle.  They looked like babies bundled up and napping....

Long aisles of Allard's products are housed among the thousands of other O&P supplies and products...

 When I finished the tour, I got to meet with a group of the employees at OrtoPed. I shared my story with them via an informal presentation in their conference room. As with most of the distributors and salesforce in the US, these professionals rarely have any contact with the people who actually wear the orthotics and prosthetics they promote. It was rewarding for them to hear (and see) first hand how their work is changing lives; it was rewarding for me to see the enormous amount of work "behind the scenes" that gets done on behalf of patients like myself.

Simon and I had one more item on our agenda at OrtoPed: a short planning meeting with Francois, the director of operations here. We have several meetings across Montreal tomorrow and we needed to make sure we knew where/when and with whom we were meeting at each location. Once we had our plan set, Simon drove me to my hotel, the Hyatt Regency downtown, so I could check in and grab a quick bite before hitting the sack after a long day.

Most of the fare on the restaurant's evening menu was meat-based which wasn't going to work for me. I didn't have the energy to leave the hotel in search of vegetarian food tonight so I opted for a vegetable thin-crust pizza and a local Canadian beer. I was too tired to think about photos once the food showed up, but the pizza was actually really good. The beer I chose was just ok, so next time I think I'll stick with the water. Off to bed from here!

Thursday, September 19th:

I was able to sleep in until 8:30 this morning then did more work on my blog and answered about 30 email messages. Simon is picking me up at 10:30am so we can make our way across town for our first appointment of the day at Lucie Bruneau rehab center. Both Francois and Simon told me that traffic could be horrendous here so we plan to allow extra time. We are scheduled to present the Allard product line (and the Get Back UP and TeamUP campaigns!) to a group of therapists over their lunch hour; Simon had prearranged for lunch to be delivered upon our arrival.

Thank goodness Simon is driving! The traffic signs (all in French) and the signals are all a bit confusing so I played co-pilot while Simon did most of the work.

The lunch was being delivered behind me while Simon was arranging the room and displaying samples for our presentation.
On the left is the therapist who arranged today's "Lunch and Learn" but I apologize, I have forgotten her name. On the right is Lisa-Marie who currently works for OrtoPed but is leaving soon to return to school. Today she is here to translate between French and English--thank you, Lisa Marie!!!

 The TeamUP video once again was a HUGE asset and always seems to serve as a great conversation starter. I presented for about 30 minutes, telling my own story and how I found Allard's braces and then continued with how we are now sharing the Get Back UP message through our race events and also through the creation of TeamUP. Thankfully, many of the therapists were able to understand me in English but frequently Lisa-Marie stepped in to provide a more thorough translation in French. When I was finished, Simon continued the presentation with more technical information about the bracing and the many ways the PTs could utilize the ToeOFFs in their assessments. What was really neat is that these PTs immediately saw how these could help people with stroke, MS, spinal cord injury, CMT disease and our video helped get them thinking along these lines. Many of these products are new to Canada so these educational opportunities are so important for Simon and the rest of OrtoPed.  We used up our entire allotment of time and still, there were PTs who wanted us to stick around for more questions-and-answers. Simon later told me that this went even better than anticipated so I was relieved to know that, even with the language barrier, we connected with our message.

Simon had another appointment to rush off to so we raced across town again. Luckily my hotel was on the way so he dropped me at the Hyatt where I had an hour's break to take care of a few things. One thing was lunch! There was a shopping mall attached to my hotel and this was the most convenient, cheapest option for food.

While I can read and understand some French, this sign doesn't help me at all regarding a good lunch spot. I walk briskly through the mall until I find a restaurant with a good veggie option.
 The restaurant I found was Baton Rouge just outside the entrance back to the Hyatt. Here's a link to the site followed by the sandwich I ordered:


Champignon portobello, poivrons rouges, aubergines et courgettes grillées dans une vinaigrette balsamique. Garnis de laitue croustillante, de fromage de chèvre émietté et de mayonnaise au basilic frais. Servis sur pain de campagne grillé. 

For those who don't read French, this is the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich which was fantastic!!

Next it was back to the hotel to grab a few things then outside to meet Simon. I passed the view to the pool on my way to the room, hopefully I'll get a chance to swim this evening--it looks so inviting.

Our next stop was to CBC Radio Canada. Thanks to the valiant efforts of our PR team, BKI, and specifically Ashley Watkins we were able to score an interview today. This place is enormous and I learned that they also do their TV broadcasts from here as well.

The journalist who opted to air our story is Douglas Gelevan, left, and he got a sigh of relief from me when he said he would tape the interview--it wasn't going to be live. Also, he spoke English which you can't always count on here in Quebec. I really need to get back to my French and Spanish lessons!

Douglas was great to talk with. He really seemed to tune in to the nuances of living with foot drop and asked so many pertinent questions. I got the feeling as I left that we may have some real success connecting with his listeners thanks to his intellect and insight. Thanks, Douglas, for bringing the GBU story to your Canadian viewers--our first International media hit!
By the time we left CBC it was late afternoon and both Simon and I had more work to do before tomorrow. We opted to part ways and have dinner on our own tonight so we could use more of our time for working. I spent several hours on my computer then went down to the hotel restaurant for a bowl of soup and a salad while I waited for Jim to arrive. When I got the update that Jim wouldn't get to the hotel until after midnight I went back to the room and went to sleep for the night.

Friday, September 20th:

Jim made it to the Hyatt VERY EARLY this morning so he was gonna be short on sleep today. Luckily we didn't have to meet Simon until 11:00am so we had an opportunity to relax before I had to pack up and get ready for our next presentation. (My original reservations were at the Westin and when I learned I needed to arrive 2 days earlier they offered me a room at almost 3 times the original price. NO THANKS! So that's why I was at the Hyatt until today)

Jim waits with our luggage while I am checking in with Simon. We've had some last-minute changes to the plan since we got offered a TV interview in the middle of our other planned visits. Just learned that Simon will not be driving us but instead Francois will bring us to this morning's meeting. We'll have to divide and conquer with all the opportunities we hope to take advantage of while we're here!

Simon went straight to the hospital from his morning meeting so he could begin the presentation on time. Thanks to traffic, Francois was a bit later to arrive (with Jim and I and all of our luggage in tow!) When we got there it turned out to be the perfect time for me to tell my own story... much as we did yesterday. Here there are 2 doctors (or therapists?) wanting more information on using ToeOFF with patients with partial foot issues.

Simon, Lisa, me and Francois took a precious moment for this photo--thank you, Jim, for remembering to do this for me! The presentation went very well and again, thank you to Lisa for helping translate much of the details. And once again, we went over the time allotted to us thanks to great interest and many questions from our audience today. 

Outside of the hospital Simon was transferring our luggage to his car for later transport to the Westin. For now, he had to rush off to a patient fitting which I was originally going to attend. As it happens, we got a call from CBC that, thanks to the success of the radio story they wanted to do a TV follow up--cool! But this meant that Francois had to take me to the studio and drop me off there on his way to his next meeting. Later, Simon would bring our bags to the hotel while Jim and I would find our own way from CBC back downtown after the interview. Whew. Crazy day. 

Reporter Andie Bennett, middle, opts to do an outdoor interview since the weather is perfect. Once again, Andie is extremely thoughtful in her questions and I feel so fortunate to have had the media opportunities here at CBC. 

On behalf of those with mobility issues across the globe, here's a thank you and a Get Back UP medal for Andie.

Here's a link to the story that ran in Montreal, which then got picked up in the Toronto market and went on the national feed across Canada:
(Again, not sure how long the link will be live but we will try to get a link to embed permanently)
 When we finished the interview Jim and I took a cab to the Westin to get checked in. Simon was still out on his other appointments so we didn't yet have our luggage. We chose to walk the mile or so from the hotel to the Expo to get our race gear. As I said earlier, the weather was gorgeous here...high 70's, low humidity and it was a perfect day to walk around.

I kept saying that Montreal reminded me so much of Paris, especially with the mixture of new and old architecture and everyone speaking French. This metro stop was yet one more Parisian reminder.

 We went through the Expo quickly, it was fairly small and none of our usual RnR friends/gypsies were  here this weekend. We picked up a few race essentials then got a call that Simon was about 5 miles away and would meet us in the lobby of the Westin with our luggage.

Well, 5 miles away turned into about an hour thanks to Friday rush-hour traffic downtown. By the time he got to our hotel we had about 10 minutes to change then catch a ride with Simon to the restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant Simon found was in a beautiful neighborhood about 20 minutes from downtown Montreal. The evening was shaping up to be beautiful, with a crisp, Fall feel to the air and we enjoyed getting a tour through town.

The view of the restaurant, Station F, from our corner window seat.

The menu at Station F. 

The view of the main street from our table.

Agghhh! Sorry, I forgot to take photos of our meal BEFORE we devoured it. We were having such a great time relaxing with Simon after a crazy few days that it didn't occur to me to take out the camera. For the record, this was my dish, the last entree listed on the menu above...a smoked salmon, potato gratin with fresh goat cheese. YUM!

This was Jim's Poulet a la Portugaise.
Thank you to the staff at Station F for taking your time and patience communicating with us this evening! The dinner was wonderful, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Montreal. And thank you to Simon and OrtoPed for treating us to dinner, what a great way to end a busy and successful week!

After dinner Simon dropped us at the corner of St. Catherine and Crescent in a hip area of downtown Montreal.
I ordered the grilled Salmon and veggies to share with Jim...

This is the view from the rooftop patio at Stogie's, a noted cigar lounge here in town where Jim is buying his first Cuban cigar. From here it was back to the hotel to rest up for a busy weekend ahead.

Saturday, September 21st:

With only today left to finish my work from last week's events I was stuck in the hotel all day working. Jim was able to get a short work-out done while I spent most of my time on the computer. Jim also was helpful by going on a postcard and souvenir run...which I used later in making my GBU sign a bit more Canadian:

The sign took a bit longer to make today since I had to add a layer of plastic to waterproof it.  Tomorrow's weather is predicted to be cool and rainy so I want to be prepared.
 Not only did Jim help with my sign but he also looked at all of our options for getting to the race and back tomorrow. We thought the subway would be our best bet but we needed to check with the concierge. As luck would have it, the Westin is now offering a "Run Westin" program and have partnered with the Rock n' Roll race series for the rest of the year. Jim met the RunWestinConcierge, Chris (a runner from Boston) who gave us passes to the VIP at the finish line and 3 spots on the shuttle (for Jim, Simon and me) at 6:45am. Woo-hoo! That problem was solved rather nicely.

Once everything was done and we got all our race gear laid out for tomorrow morning, I had to get out of the room. Tonight we have plans to meet up with our RnR gypsy friends, Ron and Susan Carino, who had invited us to dinner. We had a few "Green Coupons" from the Westin to use up and since we hadn't eaten all day we went downstairs to get an appetizer before the Carino's arrived.

Wonderful French cheese, bread and fruit were a perfect snack before our early dinner.

I loved the touch of an edible flower for garnish on the cheese tray. 

Thank you, Susan and Ron, for inviting us to dinner this evening--what a treat to visit with friends here in Montreal! And thanks to Al for recommending this restaurant, Il Campari Centro, which turned out to be spectacular.

...who ordered the homemade pasta trio, delicious!

Ron ordered a Tiramisu to share with the table. It was as good as it looked!

A great dinner with great friends at a wonderful Italian restaurant in downtown Montreal. What more can you ask for? Oh, our waiter, Carl, was also wonderful--he offered to take this photo for us while standing in the street in the rain.

Sunday, September 22nd--RACE DAY:

Thanks to Jim for finding the Run Westin program we were totally set for race morning. For any runners reading this, we can fully recommend the perks of the Run Westin VIP!

Grab-and-go goodies set out for us at the VIP breakfast.

Much needed coffee and tea to start the day. It's 6:00am so we have 45 minutes here before we leave on the first shuttle to the start line.

It's a "Beth-Breakfast"! Oatmeal, fruit and yogurt are my race-day go-to's... yay! Thank you, Westin!

Simon shows up right on time and ready for a long day in the rain. Thanks to Rock "n Roll for the VIP , Simon can help coordinate media efforts for us after the race.

So far, so good. We're warm and dry and no one is off course so far. :-) Simon, you're a trooper for doing joining us when you could be tucked in bed and fast asleep.

Thank you Chris and Le Westin!

The first shuttle leaves for the start line at 6:45. That's Jim up front with the driver and the middle rows are filled with our new runner friends.

Simon and I are squeezed into the back seat strategizing for meeting up after the run.

A very surreal look to the morning...our view from the bridge over the St. Lawrence River is almost like a painting.

All 3 of us are surprised by how cold it feels right now. A light drizzle with heavy wind across the bridge belies the "calm and mild" forecast we got when we left the hotel. I guess that's Canada for you. Jim and Simon are making their way back across the bridge to the start line (apparently, we got dropped off on the wrong side so we're now heading to the start line which faces us... we'll be running back this way again shortly.)

Again, a weirdly picturesque morning here on the bridge. We'll be running through this amusement park below, which is a leftover from one of the World's Fairs held in Montreal.

Almost back across the bridge, we pause for another photo-op in "the cage" hanging over the water.

The view from above of the race's first few miles, which pass underneath the carnival rides.

Finally! After a brisk 15-minute walk from where we were let out of the shuttle we're finally across the bridge and in the "holding area" for the 30,000+ runners today. (Notice, the streamers on my sign are indicating anything but "light breeze"!)

This band was really fun for all the runners waiting to start the race. I'm not sure how long they played but they were going strong when we arrived around 7:00am and still playing long after the 8:30 start. I think it took almost an hour to get all the corrals off the bridge and as we ran under the bridge at miles 2-3 we could still hear music.

With long lines for the porta-potties in the official starting area, Jim and I found a Petrol Station about 5 blocks away that was incredibly "runner-friendly".

Clearly we weren't the only ones with the idea to wait inside, out of the rain, and in much shorter lines.

After our pre-race potty stop (too much information?) we raced back toward the bridge to drop our gear in the designated buses (background). On the way to mine I spotted a "Suzanne Lookalike"...a.k.a. Skittles! I miss you, Suz and Dad!

Jim and I decided to run together today. Given that neither of us speak French very well, we thought it best to stick together in case we ran into unforeseen issues. We barely made it to Corral 6 before the countdown (en Francais!) and the gun went off.

Freezing runners await the start of the race, ready to get warm ASAP.

And we're off! The first mile is mostly downhill but with the cold rain falling we're all watching our footing.

Back to flat ground after Mile 1 we begin our 7 miles on the island before heading back across the St. Lawrence River to Montreal in the background.

We weave in and out of the amusement park rides, really a fun experience!

Note to self: Come back when the rides are operating--looks like such fun!

This original wooden coaster is in operation still... as far as I know anyway. I'm not sure if 1) I can trust what I hear from the other runners and 2) if there's any important info lost in the translation from French to English.

Last shot I got for almost 3 miles since the light rain turned into a downpour. (Ron Carino, I guess we've left your orbit!)

A few miles later we start hearing an incredible band. We first heard a perfect rendition of Roxanne by The Police, followed by a nailed cover of Tush by ZZ about range! We turned the corner mid-song of Tush and stopped to snap a photo and give our approval. Kit Katz, you were our favorite among a course full of fabulous music!!

The Biosphere stands between where we're running now and where we started on the bridge in the far background. We have this small bridge then the major bridge ahead before we hit the back half of the race in Montreal-proper.

A view to my left across the bridge into Montreal.

A view behind me over the bridge with a brief reprieve from the heavy rain.

Yay! We made it off the island and now running in Montreal. We passed this modular concrete "pod" apartment complex in the shuttle earlier this morning. This view doesn't exactly show how unique this looks, but there are overhanging pods with tunnels in between and rooftop gardens tucked into enclaves everywhere you look. Very interesting.
Jim's looking for Austin Enclosures among the cable and electrical enclosures. None spotted.

From the road along the St. Lawrence we take a right turn and head towards Old Montreal over this canal.

Our first view of Old Montreal.

We reminisced about our trips to Paris and Sweden as we ran this portion of the course.

The guys in blue all run straight forward while the guy in black appears to be grape-vining. As we say on Sesame Street in the US... "One of these things are not like the others"!

Although this doesn't look shiny and pretty, the course was in my top 3 Half Marathon courses ever! This section was mostly flat but we knew from the elevation map that we'd hit hills soon. 

Luckily the runners are in color or you'd think I was shooting black-and-white film.

Back to the lively streets of Old Montreal!

And the start of the "cobblestones" (made over by 21st century pavers).

Wow, the hill looks so innocuous when I see it now but it was much steeper along mile 10 than it appears here--I promise!

Up the hill and a sharp right we find water and Gatorade awaiting us!

A shout-out to all the volunteers at this event, they were AMAZING. :-)

Jim, left, running for CMTA in honor of "September is Charcot-Marie-Tooth Awareness Month"!

Somewhere after mile 11 the volunteers and the crowds grow in numbers.

There's Simon!! Waiting and cheering for hours in the cold rain, he films us as we take photos of him. Thank you, Simon, you are such a great sport!

Simon checking to make sure he "got the shot" before we can run off for the last mile-and-a half.

Here's a suggestion for any race organizer who may actually read this: When you organize Gear Check according to Corral Number (which is organized by expected finish time) you undoubtedly create a log jam for EVERY SINGLE BUS. All other bus-attendants have nothing to do while each finishing Corral bus-runner must wait for an hour or more while 2-3 people search the bus for each runner's gear. In VaBeach, they organize gear check by the last name of the runner... a much more random distribution of finishers than trying to get 3 people to pull 1,000 runners' gear all at the same time! FYI: I took this photo after waiting 30 minutes and still, my bus is the next to the last one in view in this photo... I waited 62 minutes and there were still others behind me.

Finally made it from gear bus to a WARM, DRY VIP tent! I was shivering so bad I could hardly hold my phone steady.

Simon slowly made his way from Mile 11 to the VIP tent. After long hours standing in the rain and over 7 miles traveled to and from "race-sightings" he's definitely earned his Get Back UP medal. But more so, this week's events that Simon organized will lead to many Canadians gaining access to better bracing opportunities and for this, he truly deserves an award. Thank you, Simon!!

I don't even know what to say here. David "The Clydesdale Runner" DeNeire left his home at midnight last night to drive to the race this morning. He just finished and is trying to get warm while he works a bit on his computer before driving 6+ hours back home. CRAZY. CRAZY. CRAZY. That said, it was great to see you, Dave!!

The Three Musketeers of Montreal!

Can you believe that in a sea of 30,000+ runners we ran into Ron and Susan at the start of the race and again, just now, at the end. Ron, your gravitational pull is the strongest we've ever experienced! Great to see you both and congrats on great runs!

Shameless plug for Westin, but what can I say? We were thoroughly impressed with the RunWESTIN experience.

Thanks, WESTIN.

Jim stays dry in the (dark) background while the rest of us take advantage of Private Potties, food and massages.

The cold and rain really got to us today, so Simon, Jim and I walk through as many indoor options as possible on our walk back to the hotel.
After a truly wonderful run today (despite the rain) we got back to the hotel to shower and change into warm clothes. We said good-bye to my host this week, Simon Beals, as he made his way back to Toronto. Jim and I had only a short afternoon now to enjoy Montreal--we have to be in a taxi en route to the airport at 3:30am in the morning! We opt to walk now that the rain has subsided and go in search of food and football.
Everywhere you look you see old and new architecture.

Jim found a brewpub! We were so hungry we would have settled for any restaurant with open seating but as luck would have it, Jim got to try his first Canadian microbrew pub.
Yes, I remembered to take the photo of our first menu of the afternoon (we ordered the Chevre chaud) but once it got to us we were so famished that I totally forgot to take a picture.

A view of the interior of the pub. The food was actually quite good but the service was slower than molasses so we left after our "artisan flat bread" in search of a new adventure. Truth be told, Jim was really itching to find the Seahawks game so that was the main criteria for our next restaurant.

Somewhere near Crescent and St. Catherine streets the sun pops out again! We really enjoyed walking through the streets of downtown Montreal... I wish we had more free time here!

This is the look of a happy Seahawks fan. We found a place called Ziggy's Pub where Jim got to pick the TV he wanted the Seattle game on... AND he got free pizza... AND he got to sit down in a warm and toasty booth after a LONG day of being on foot AND he got a wide selection of Canadian microbrews AND the service and the patrons were exceedingly friendly. By the time the game was over we were ready for a good night's sleep...and it was only 7:30!

The Biosphere graces the Montreal RnR medal. What a super event this was!

Thank you, OrtoPed, Le Westin, Rock'n'Roll, Allard, BKI, CBC and all the people of Montreal who made this trip so fun, so ridiculously hectic, and yet so successful! If I get the opportunity to come back for this race I will enter in a heartbeat. Otherwise, I'll be back to enjoy the city more thoroughly when the workload isn't so heavy.

See you in Providence, RI!