Saturday, June 17, 2017

Grandma's - A Family Affair

It seems odd to live in India but run a marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, but with a friend from AES who lives there in the summers, it was a way to make a visit and do the run.  Sarah came for the half, I the full, along with two other people, Jason and Gary, in the half. The kids came out with us and after driving up to Pictured Rocks for a day, made our way to the lake house for some pre-race boating and fun.

With the bus to the start being about 45 minutes from the house, and another 45 minute ride after that, it made for an early start. The rest of the crew left earlier (as the half stated first) and I soon followed.  When I got off the steamy bus at the start, 26 miles from downtown, a light rain was falling. It was a brisk morning but little wind. People were sprawled out all over the parking lot, some in lines for toilets, others leaning against cars.  After a long wait, we packed into the line and were off.

Keeping it conservative with my climbing trip in Bolivia on the horizon, I hung with the 3:15 pace group for a significant amount of time. I had no ambitions other than to run a good time for me and not be wrecked for the climb.  My training had been much better this time, with two 20 milers in the preceding weeks, a distance I had not run for training in the past 3 years, and was ready.  While I cant say it made the difference in speed, it certainly helped with recovery and stability.  We hovered right on pace for many miles. The road was undulating and much harder than I expected given the reputation of the course.

I kept with the pace group for 19 miles.  It was a rare race as I didn't speak to anyone for 18 miles.  Normally, I a keen to chat it up. This time, I said nothing, and just listened. People chatted up the pacer, in awe of his accomplishments.  Everyone wanted a piece of this person. Jokes and stories were told. Most did not hang.

At 19 miles, I had enough. I pushed on and was soon ahead of the group. I took the pace down a little bit. I felt ok and never really red lined. I knew the family was waiting at about 24 miles so I kept it on until I saw them, pulled over for hugs, and caught a quick report of the half marathoners. I pushed on for the final two miles, finishing in 3:12:23. It was a long walk around the baggage and up about a mile to where I met everyone at a pizzeria.  Sarah had run strong, 1:35 flat, and Jason a minute and a half behind.  Gary bested his goal by 20 min with a 1:54. One bad Bloody Mary and a slice later, job done.  Nothing left but to grab some beers and watch the lake.

Marathon number 70 in the bag, fastest I have run in 3 years, and glad to be back on the wagon.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Motivation - A Tribute Run

It's no secret Doha sucked for running. I completed a few marathons while living there but ran little, sometimes cross-training, sometimes sick, sometimes just plain done. The move to India has been an improvement, but not significant.  Which is why today, on my 20 mile run, I reflected a lot. This was the longest run, outside of a race, that I have done in 34.5 months - nearly 3 years!!!  Therefore, this run was a tribute to the motivators over the years that keep me going.

I started at 5am with a loop of the ridge, a 10k run lining the forest.  It was hot. My mind began to wander to sources of motivation. What came to mind are the people who impacted me in my early running.

Rod Yeacker - my former high school track coach and long-time friend. Usher in my wedding and perhaps the only person in Ortonville I still talk to. Rod helped pace me to my first 100 mile finish and ran numerous other races with me (Crystal Lake, the Crim, and Mississippi). He is my model for a father, professional, and coach, and without him I wouldn't be the adult runner I am today.

Mike Richmond - I am not saying he is "old," but he is a few years my senior, though he never felt like it. Uncle to a guy I used to run with a lot, Mike has always been a friend, a peer. Back in college I would run from his house, and we shared perhaps the worst run of all time together in the snow. This is the guy who runs from East Lansing to Ann Arbor carrying the game ball. He moved out to Cali, reinvented his life, and enjoys bombing down wooded trails. I think of him often on the run.

The Women - Liz Terhorst was one of the state's, maybe the nation's best, runners when she was just a sophomore in HS. She opted not to run in college, but still runs often, after multiple kids and a doctorate in physical therapy, not to mention winning the award for nicest person year after year. I know I can always count on her for a run, and I know she will take it out fast.  Sarah Walker - my wife. Star HS runner. Top 50 in the world in the steeplechase, former top 10 in elite marathons. Yet today she runs to run, for her. Ran everyday of both pregnancies, right up till the birth. These ladies are strong.

My loop brings me to sunrise, and there is Bernie Manker, standing at the gate. Since no one else in the running group pitched up, I asked Bernie if he wanted to do a loop. He said he was still getting over injury, so like 9 min miles. I grinned, knowing Bernie. My fastest splits were coming soon.

We took off into the ridge, a wooded area next to campus with trails full of peacocks, pigs, cows, coyotes, and birds. Bernie is AES's Ashton Eaton, the pinnacle of athlete - he can do it all. Bernie was my motivation for the 60-day Ab Challenge I did recently. He is a beast.  He took me up hills and on a new route.

In the (relatively) cooler forest, I thought of other encounters I have had with people around the world.

Jason Coleman - A long-time AES man, Jason started running later in life, but he was hooked. He is the driving force behind AES Runners and is best known for his blog posts on mapping routes in the shape of things (a reindeer for Christmas, a turkey for Thanksgiving, the Millennium Falcon), all on his blog where he dedicates runs to people who donate to the fundraising he is doing to send needy students to summer camp. Jason created the shamrock route for me for my St. Paddy's party and dedicated it to me. Jason is equally known for playing Pokemon Go on his phone and holding a hell of a pace while he catches them all.  Pursue your passions, people.

Kirsten Leemans - The best training partner I ever had, he pushed me to my limits and beyond many times. Top 50 at Comrades - I don't care what year you do that, you are a balla. Late into the running life, he has never looked back. This man lives and breathes the run. He is the ultimate in no excuses. Rain, illness, work, stress, exhaustion - nothing would stop him from getting in the work he knows must be done. He is running when you are not. And that's why he will beat you. If Superman was a skinny bald dude, he'd be Kirsten. He has a set of guidelines, "Kirsten's Rules of the Fridge" which range from motivational quotes to outright attacks on your psyche. Never let him know you are hurting; it will just make him push more.

Lindsey Parry - The Coach. The man is the National Triathlon Coach for South Africa and Official Comrades Coach. Father, husband, son of a Comrades gold medalist, he does it all, day in and day out. And while he coaches some of the best athletes in the southern hemisphere, he still invites you in for a Coke and a beer post run. Everyone can learn something from this man.

Dr. Stan Fortuna - father to the above mentioned Liz, I have known this guy for a long time. He always tracks my runs, and sends me plenty of updates about his.  Stan finishes some and DNF's others, but he always has a lengthy write up, is positive about the experience, and thankful to everyone around him that made it happen, from those on the trail with him to family at home.  He understands the adventure is in the journey, not the destination, and I appreciate that. Hence my blog title.

Michael Trahan - Chase Pack. PB. A former athlete of mine, Michael is central to one of the craziest stories of my life. He has been with me for it all, from UNC to Leadville and paced me the whole way at Western States. He was there for many failures on his own dime. He came to Comrades. We have a epic run planned next summer together.  He is my past and future of running.

Bernie and I circled back to campus, and I had 11.2 miles in the bag. I said goodbye and turned out again. But where? I wanted 16+, but Lodhi Garden is 6.6...that would make 17.8. Time to go. As I stumbled back in the increasing heat, things seemed to cool down, like the reverse of hypothermia. It was 90+ degrees, on its way to 110, and no breeze.  Yet I did not overheat.  When you get faced with the abnormal, you must draw on the abnormal - otherwise, it would be like any other day. So I got to thinking about guys who are abnormal to this story that I still draw on for strength.

Matt Tegenkamp - his future wife and mine ran together at MSU. We have been a big fan for a long time. I regret not going to his wedding (I was coaching university), but he came to mine. Great career, American record holder, one of the best Americans in his event for many years, maybe ever, and a hell of a good pacer. He was the model for my team when we wanted to learn how to run - signed autographs for each one of the guys. What a champ.

Kerron Clement - We crossed paths at University of Florida where I worked in the academic support office for athletes. Even though he was fresh off Gatorade National Athlete of the year, this big shot freshman still called his mother all the time; she was what was important to him. He is caring, happy, and gracious. Now he is a star, with a world record, World Championships, and Olympic Championships to his name; hell, he was in a Beyonce video! We kept in touch for several years after I left UF, but that faded. I doubt he would remember me, but I almost cried when he won Gold in Rio.

Steve Prefontaine - The only guy on here I haven't met, yet he reached me in a way few others could. Larger than life, he transformed running, during his life, after his death, and for me as s snotty 18-year-old. His rebellious streak was emulated by every teenager, and his determination is the stuff t-shirts are made about, books are written, and films dedicated to (all of them literally so). Cut down in his prime, he would have done even more than we ever imagined, and no one doubts that. If there was every proof that the soul lives on, it does with Steve Prefontaine.

I tagged the gate with 18 miles done. That was the longest I had run in years, and could have gone home. But something inside me said, "Keep going. 20 sounds sexier than 18 when you write it up."  So I headed out again, and up a long, 1 mile hill, and it got tough.

When it gets tough, I think of those who have it tougher.  Pain is, after all, relative. My mind goes out to my brother, Matt Walker, who does as much as anyone with half the legs, proving it isn't what you have but how you use it. I respect him because despite this difference, he hasn't changed a damn thing - or maybe he has changed everything....

At the point of most suffering, I cast my mind to paralympians.  They are better than me. Stronger more determined.  I also think of Rick and Dick Hoyt; did you push your kid in marathons, ultras, and Ironmans, you prick?  Tired? Try climbing Mt. Everest blind like Erik Weihenmayer, you asshole. What are you bitching about? Tear a page out of Kirsten's rules of the fridge, take a concrete pill, and toughen the %$#@ up!

I touch the "summit" of the hill and start back down, a mile to home.  In the home stretch, the only motivation you need is yourself.  Because no matter who trained, encouraged, and paced you, you still have to take every step. A thousand voices can scream "quit!" but it takes only one to silence them - your own. I have won marathons, completed 100 milers and Ironmans, yet someone is always better, stronger, faster. We may temporarily emulate those to pull us through, but we must look inward to make the journey worth it.  What does anyone run for when they don't run for times, medals, or shoe companies? They run for themselves.  If you race for anything else, it is a race you can never win.

So here's to those who inspire us - and here's to you, finding your own reasons to pull out the shoes and head out the door.

Cheers! The ultimate post-race drink!

They'll tell you I'm insane
But I've got a blank space baby
And I'll write your name

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Charge of the British History Half Marathon (4th Ed)

Wait, what?

Let me explain.  First, you have to take a guy who has lived in India a while and has become obsessed with running.  He gets this pet project and grows it, and soon he turns it into an organized run, and by that he scrapes together a route, calls his friends and colleagues, and leads them throughout the city to parts they would never run on their own.  Fast forward a few years to this morning.

4:40am - a rag-tag bunch of runners, some fresh of Cinco de Mayo, assemble at Gate 2 of AES.  A desk is set up, and a short, bearded man, donning a neon yellow t-shirt obscured by a Camelbak, sits, unfurls a British flag, which he will later tie to his back.  A pile of wristbands in the colors of the Indian flag are strewn about, and one by one, blurry-eyed runners came to collect their bibs. Each had the runner's name, but the number, 1857 was the same. This would prove important later.

5:10am - The bus was loaded and the brave few departed for the start. A long ride meandered first through familiar neighborhoods but soon ventured into parts unknown.  The sites (and smells) of Delhi waking up were all the stimulants needed when they arrived at the line.

5:50am - Coronation Park, the site of King George V's declaration as Emperor of India and the shift of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, was also the start of the run.  Numerous locals had come out to see the event kick off (or perhaps do their own training and just happened to stop and stare at 18 white folk dressed oddly).

The pace was casual to keep the group together, many of whom were not serious runners, but felt the need to expand their minds on this run.  After a few miles, we stopped and listened to the organizer, Jason, regale us with tales of the British occupation of India and the (unsuccessful) attempts in 1857 by the local people to oust the British. We ventured from historic gate to erected pillar and learned more than a lot of facts, dates, and stories of woe, battle, success, and defeat. There was often a poem or lament incorporated.

The run then went to the Red Fort and into the fabled area of Old Delhi.  We passed many a sight and experienced more smells and sounds than the human body can reasonably process in a given moment.  I had to stop for a while and stare at the body of a man, laying on the sidewalk. His eyes wide open, his tongue hanging out, I feared he was dead.  His foot twitched, as in the neuromuscular spasm of a body recently deceased.  After about 30 seconds, I saw a shallow rise and fall of the chest.  He was alive, although I expected just barely and probably not for long without treatment, which was unlikely to occur.  What brought him here? A product of the caste system? A life of malnoursishment? Nights of drinking paint thinner or sniffing glue? Disease? One will never know, and it is the sad reality of so many in this place.  I hustled back to the group saddened, but grateful for my circumstance.

We made the obligatory stop for Coke and water at an insanely crowded refreshment stand on the corner of a street, bustling with people, cows, and dogs, as once every 10 seconds a scooter blasted through, horn blaring, and nearly killing one of us in the process.  Holding noses, the smell of rancid meat, fecal matter, and cesspools of waterways were too much to handle at times.  It was important to try and jump over any standing water (that ain't rain) while not getting run over.  We jogged past a minivan, its insides removed to hold.....wait for it....about 30 goat heads.  That's attractive.

Animals, people, traffic, pollution and knowledge. We had it all.  What started with 18 dwindled to about 10 by the end of the 14 miles, people picking their bailout points by their own accord.  A shower left us clean, and a brunch left us full.  It was a great morning of running and spending time with people.  The Bloody Mary's helped, I guess. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Win Some, Win Some

We made a return to Dubai this year for my 3rd Dubai marathon in a row.  Aside from being a decent, flat race in the middle of winter, it had the added benefit of being where our good friends live.  So we saw them and got a race in.  Good times.  Sarah jumped in the 10K, running about 43 min which was a solid effort for her at this point, and good for 9th place overall.  I toed the line on less than ideal training.  While I normally suffer in the first part of the Dubai, this time I felt good, really good.  I started slow and say a 4:2x kilometer. Slow down. 4:30. Slow down. 4:30. Alright. It is what it is.

I clipped off 4:30s for a LONG time, bouncing around and forming quite a group. My body felt pretty good at this pace and while I thought it was too fast for my training, I was managing fine, so I kept it. I passed the halfway point spot on 3:10 pace so I was really keen to hold it and dip under that former Boston mark, especially on absolutely no training.  And therein lies the rub.  I had not done enough work.  Cresting 30K I was fine.  But 2K later I was starting to feel pretty poor.  I had passed the 20 mile mark, and as they say, the race is in 2 parts: the first 20 miles and the last 10K.  I managed to keep the damage at a minimum for a couple of kilometers but the body can only do so much and by 35K I was buggered.  The pain really set in and I slowed. At 38 I walked, which didn't really help, but the hot spot on my foot was at a maximum. I haven't walked in a marathon in years, but I took a second walk with 2K left. I was terrible, handing back time, and letting people pass me that had no business beating me. Ahh well, I deserved that with the training I had done.   I still finished another marathon and called it good in the Middle East.

Moving forward to another adventure, we return to India for the Urban Stampede. After being delayed a month for pollution, we registered a team for the Corporate Relay, a 4x5K race.  Our school entered a team the year before and won it all, so we wanted to do it but they had their team so I formed my own.  With Sarah, another teacher, and a parent, we had people that would help us. So we headed out.  It was met with the usual Indian issues: the guy guarding the parking lot designated for the race wasn't letting in racers, the Zomba to start the activities, the race starting late, etc. Sarah led us off and took an early lead.  She rolled along having done no speedwork and still put us in first at the end of her leg, with a 20:58.  Next, our "old man" cracked off a 21:06 and we were looking great. Nathan took the 3rd leg, a guy who hadnt run much but was a good athlete, promised us a 22 flat.  He crossed in 22:02 so we called that fair.  I took the baton.

Well in the lead, I could have jogged but that wouldn't have been fair to my teammates who we asked to run their hardest, so off I went.  It was a winding course with a lot of headwind, so there were some challenges.  After the first 600m I was worried about the pace, but with no one to key off of, it was hard to judge. The halfway point of the course wrapped around to near the start so teammates could check on their runners.  I crossed halfway in 8:55, blistering for me.  The 2nd half was very difficult, with the pace catching up with me.  The lactic acid was burning my legs but nothing compared to the lungs. The pollution was low for India, but higher than most other places. I am not sure if it was that, or the dust from the dirt trails on the course, or simply that I just have not pushed myself that hard in a long time, but my lungs were searing.  I tried to settle in and maintain a good pace, but the turns and the wind slowed me.  I finished with an 18:25, probably the fastest I have run in 3-4 years.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

2nd Place is the 1st Loser

To say a misty fog dominated the start of the Running & Living Gurgaon Marathon would be a massive understatement. Pollution in Delhi is not great, and the sky can sometimes resemble a morning on a Scottish loch, but it isn't always water particles in the air. It is poisonous gas and smoke.  However, luckily for the runners, pollution was "lower" that day, or low enough to allow runners to brave the weather.  Cool air lead to a fog that blocked out the sky.

The run started with little fanfare as about 100 runners ventured out for a 26.2 mile journey (4 loops of 10.5K) of the remote portion of the city area.  Pitch black, it was impossible to see anything since there were no lights on the road and the fog blocked the moon and starts. I was immediately near the front, and considering this was won in about 3:40 last year, figured I had a shot. For the first 10K I, literally, felt my way through the dark.  Next time you want an adventure, pump up the treadmill and wrap a towel around your head. Now run.

We tripped on curbs, dipped into unnoticed potholes, and felt branches tickle our foreheads. Stray dogs would launch from the darkness, viciously snarling and barking, until a local would shout and call them off.  Perhaps a few men would huddle over a small fire at the roadside. Seeing the color from the flames through the mist gave us some indication of the general direction we were heading.  At one point, I saw a black figure ahead of me in the mist start to emerge. Unable to get a gauge on its profile, I squinted and ran closer, just feet from it, the figure's identity became clear. An 800-lb cow was meandering down the road. I jumped to the right just in time.

At then end of the 10.5K out-and-back loop, I was in 4th place, about 3:30 off the leader, and soon overtook 3rd and 2nd.  My pace was just under 8:00 min/mile, conservative due to my lack of training and racing, and cautious as I ran for 50 minutes without being able to see anything. But by the end of the first lap, the sun - wherever it was - had come up, and a diffused light made the road visible.  A whiteout ensued, blocking the presence of buildings just off the road and ensuring no one could see more than about 100m ahead or behind.  It is a good thing the course was so repetitive. Anyone could have missed a turn at any point in these conditions.

Figuring that I was now in 2nd and the leader had gone out too hard, I worked to move up. My original plan was not to do anything anything aggressive till halfway. But somehow I blew this, going way too hard from 10-20K.  I dropped about 6 minutes from the pace, and yet I really got nowhere, still about three and a half minutes back from the leader.  I had been running alone since about the third kilometer.  I decided to go into the third loop a bit more conservative, backing off the attack, and hoping that if he blew, I would motor by.  At about 20 miles, I knew this was going to hurt.

The final 10K were rough. My legs just were not with me. I hadn't run over about 13 miles since January.  My fitness and talent can carry me about 20 miles but after that it is all about the work that was put in. I didn't have the base. Definitely slowing, I tried to manage my effort as to not blow up myself, hoping no one would pass me and I could still finish.  Shoveling cookies into my mouth, I tried to withstand the inevitable bonk. I had no GU, and there were only a few stations for aid.

Completely spent, I inched the final miles, finishing in 3:22, about 12 min back from the winner, but in 2nd place. There is no substitute for training...

It will still go down as one of the most bizarre runs, in terms of environment and scenery, that I think I have ever done.

Emerging from the mist with about 15k to go
About 5K to go

Coming off of the dirt road
The winner of the half, and 2nd (me) and first in the marathon

2nd place is the 1st loser

Sunday, October 23, 2016

First Race in India

I don't usually write about half marathons. Hell, I don't usually run them. But since was my first race in India, I felt it worthy of a post.

I should have expected something from my registration. It took me 30 min to get down there, 2 min for the packet pick up, and an hour 20 back (thank you very much Uber).

Bathroom lines...what lines? Apparently you just push your way to the front and hold your ground. Sanity eventually prevailed. (Sanitation, on the other hand...)

Most people's preferred method of warm up was dancing or imitating a seizure. Except for the dance party Zomba that broke out. The music was totally inappropriate for 4:45 am and I mean that in a couple of ways. First, it was pumped to about 1 am levels in Ibiza. I hope no one lives near here. Also, content. I arrived to the repeated phase of "Who the @#$% is (indiscernible name)" blasting over the holding pen.

I experienced plenty of smells and sites on the run. Some notables:
  • I saw about 50-60 men for every woman; clearly there is a gap.
  • About 400 cars and motorcycles came into the running lane, most of them head on.
  • One guy stopped at 16K, went down into a sprint start position, and took off. (Later that same guy ran into me as he danced around a corner. And after that he sprinted up to me then stayed with me at a pace too much for him until an ambulance wailed up and he stopped with an apparent knee "injury."
  • A pack of stray dogs surrounding and harassing a group of "stray" pigs
  • About 300 garbage-munching pigs
  • A cow with a rack of horns so large it couldn't walk up the street
Kept it smart as I am not in much shape. Pollution was bad. Rolled pretty even 5Ks except for the final 3k where I pushed it up just a bit. 1:32 flat. I feel like I am finally getting back into running, although still a far cry from where I was.
Which post-race meal should I have first? Maybe the tin of rice? How about that white bread fish sandwich? Maybe the pack of green liquid that was open in the bag? Or the chai, ginger buttermilk?  I at the cupcake - the only thing that was sealed.


And more pigs

Hospital zone. No parking. Merely a suggestion.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Ice Hockey in the Desert

At the end of two years, I'll have little to say about my time in Doha. You will notice by the lack of posts that adventure here was slim. I intended to write about marathons in the Middle East but even that passion was gone. However, there is one thing I will truly miss about my time here, and that is playing ice hockey. Yep, ice the desert.  Given this place is more expats than locals, and a good amount of them from Europe (as engineers and pilots), and many from Canada (a college here), a large amount of people familiar with the game could play.  What started as humble beginnings in a mall (and continues in a mall, just a better rink), now is 10 teams across two divisions battling multiple times a week for the illustrious title, given out twice a year, for the Qatar International Ice Hockey League Champions.  There are even tournaments in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for groups to travel.

Qatar Team - Abu Dhabi Fall 2015

Qatar Beer Team - Dubai Spring 2016
It's adult hockey, so no hitting, but it does get pretty physical.  Each game has 1-2 referees with a few of them pretty permanent staples; other times it is just a player coming out to help ref before his game starts. A score keeper runs the clock and keeps stats, but don't expect credit on that second assist. Skill level runs from beginner (in the B/C league) through decent guys that have gotten somewhat older and slowed a bit, right on through former collegiate and junior players in the top division.  This year there were even some former semi-pros and Olympians in the mix.  The A-league makes for some fast hockey. The Qatari National Team plays in A and is coached well and continues to get better and better. Guys are drafted by team captains behind closed doors at a local pub while the rest of the league sits at the bar and watches names come up, round by round (and drinking the same). The same bar also hosts a party during the Desert Cup (Doha Tourney) and at the end of the season, a couple of dhow boats are rented - BBQ, swimming, and lots and lots of beverages accompany awards out on the water, ranging from most valuable to best dressed.

For two years I have been playing in A and enjoyed every minute of it.  Drafted very late in my first season, I put up some numbers and got noticed, finishing 11th in scoring. We played well the first season but lost in the finals. The next season I was drafted higher and played a more complete role, setting up the puck and helping on the defensive end. I finished 12th in scoring but we won the title after finishing in 3rd out of 4 in the league regular season.
First trophy - Season 2 Spring 2015
Then I was drafted on a dream team. The top line was full of Finnish players, two of them over 6 foot 6. The other guy had played semi-pro. It was disgusting. Remember when the Russians came to the NHL and the passing was so fast you couldn't keep up? That is what these guys made our league look like. They passed 5 times before a goal, and they got one nearly every shift. I played on the 2nd line with only one job to do - shut the other guys down, which was easy to do as we were backed up by strong D-men. We won nearly every game and playing the finals was a formality as we crushed everyone. Our top line finished 1,2,3 in scoring. I was a distant 17th in scoring but very content in my defensive and team role.
Dream Team, Second Trophy - Fall 2015
My last season was the best. After the draft, there were mumblings that we were going to get killed. Our team had a few unknowns and while it had 2 stars, everyone else's team looked deeper.  Our concerns were unfounded. We destroyed it, losing only 3 games (of 28) all season (I missed 2 of those 3 games). Our team passed well, back checked, got loose pucks, and rebounded. Everyone contributed and it paid off. I played on the first line with another fast, head's up winger and our center, a tall, strong, skilled player. I finished tied for 7th in league scoring while our top two guys went 1-2 (the second guy 9 points clear of third). We won the finals 12-4.  It was hands down one of the most fun, cooperative, unselfish teams I have ever played for (in any sport).  In the end I played 4 seasons - made the finals in all of them and won the championship in the last 3 of the 4.
Third Trophy, Best Team Ever - Spring 2016
I'll remember this time as my saving grace in Doha. I got to play some amazing hockey in my 30s with guys from all over the world, and skated against, and with, Kristian Wallgren and Anze Emersic, two of the best players I have shared ice with. I have never played as well as I did with my wingman of the final two seasons, Charles Fullerton, and got to play great games, shinny, and tourneys with my buddy Andrew Woodrow, who along with my brother is one of the guys I most enjoy seeing both on and off the ice. Thank you to the organizers of the QIIHL and its members - I will never forget this awesome group of guys and the privileged to play the greatest game in the world in the harshest of landscapes.

Thanks to the fans!

Drink from the Cup! - Rink Rats QIIHL Champions

22 and 11 - Walker (RW) and Fullerton (LW)

Rink Rats - Production Line (Justin, Kristian, Charles)