A Blur of Inspiration

My new novel, Sight Unseen, isn’t about running.


Instead, it’s about mountain biking. White-knuckle trail rides down vertical walls of rock. Stomach-twisting gap jumps and body-crushing endos.

Terrifying stuff. And guess who’s sitting in the saddle?

A kid named Finn. A kid who’s going blind.

mountain biking rushSound impossible? It’s actually not.

I know this because I have a friend who’s legally blind, and for many years he rode a bicycle through downtown Toronto’s busiest streets – even after he’d lost 90% of his vision.

Yes. A blind guy rode his bike through downtown Toronto. Not just once. He rode that bike for years.

RMA - Blind Line

I have another friend who ran the entire Bruce Trail – all 890 gnarly kilometers of it – in spite of having just 8% vision.

People with visual impairments have written hit records and climbed Mount Everest. One of them even served as President of the United States.

A healthy eyeball

A healthy eyeball

I spared my protagonist a life in politics. instead, I made him passionate about mountain biking. And why not? I loved cycling when I was a kid. Of course, as I got older, I gave the sport up. I got more and more uh, what’s the word? Oh yeah – chicken.

The most common injuries among mountain bikers are (1) broken wrists, (2) broken collarbones and (3) broken ribs. For that reason, I have’t ridden a bike in years. I love running too much. Don’t want to risk getting injured.

Still, I love watching videos and reading about mountain biking. I’ll be keeping an eye on the goings-on at Crankworx next week. Speaking of which, here’s one of my all-time favourite videos. It centres around Brendan Semenuk; one of the best dirt jumpers in the world. As I was writing Sight Unseen, I watched this video over and over. My main character, Finn, dreams of landing some of the jumps Brandon does here. Finn is especially determined to do a ‘Superman No-Hander.’

The Pain Weenie Apologises

Five days have passed since I ran the Toronto Marathon.  The pain is long gone.  I’m back to running every day.

I’m a bit embarrassed about Sunday’s blog post. The one where I complained about all the pain I felt during the race, and how it sucked all of the joy out of the experience. A bit of a silly complaint, now that I think about it. You want joy, Dave? Take a bubble bath. Eat a chocolate chip cookie. Watch the monkeys at the zoo.

Marathons are supposed to hurt! That’s why they’re called marathons!

Anyhoo, the pain is now forgotten. And guess what – I want to run another race!

Right now. This instant. Okay, tomorrow. Okay, Sunday.

Not only do I want to run another marathon. I want to run it fast! 

All that stuff I wrote on Sunday, about never again wanting to ruin a race fast? Forget that. That was the pain talking. That wasn’t me. That was an imposter. The pain weenie:

pain 3

Don’t listen to him. He’s a famous complainer – especially around kilometer 32. He’ll come around once the race is over. Ignore him if you can. Instead, listen to THIS guy:

finish line 2-4

See that? He’s flying. He’s moving so fast, his feet don’t even touch the ground. And he’s one step away from reaching a long-held goal.

A weird goal, I’ll admit: running a marathon in less than 3 hours. It prompted a lot of friends to ask me: why do you run so much? 

Excellent question. Wish I had a good answer. But the truth is, I just feel great when I run.

I’m like that dog in your house who perks up his ears and starts whimpering at the front door when you accidentally say the word “outside.” The dog whose tail starts smacking the floor when you get the leash out the closet, and who literally explodes out the front door before you’ve even unchained it.

Have you seen the dog in this video? It’s basically me. This is how I feel when I run:



A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2012

48 hours until the Toronto marathon. I’m excited but…is that a hamstring pull I feel? And where’d that hangnail on my left toe come from?

Ah yes, the pre-race jitters. Nothing new there. But the stakes are different this time. I want to run 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours. If the stars align, and God looks down and blows a kiss at my legs, then I’ll succeed. If there’s a bad headwind, or if the temperature dips below 5 degrees, or if I eat too much spaghetti on Saturday night and wind up visiting the porta-potty during the race, I’ll fail.

I put my chances at 50-50. Still – I REALLY WANT IT! In the past, whenever someone has asked me my marathon finishing time, I’ve had to give them a number that started with a 3.  I finished my first marathon in 3:36. A year later I qualified for Boston with a 3:18. A couple of years after that I nailed a 3:04.

Just imagine, I tell myself, owning a finishing time that starts with a 2. I dream of a 2. My kingdom for a 2!


“Would you say you’re a goal oriented person?” a journalist asked me the other day.

I had to think about this. What is a goal, anyway?

A dream is a goal with a deadline. I didn’t write that. I saw it on the wall at my gym.

I think it’s true though. Dreams are basically useless until you put a clock on them; until you wrestle them to the ground and turn them into reality. If you fail in the attempt, then at least you’ve got a story. But if you succeed, Whoo hoo! Crack open the golden fudge creme Oreos!

So yeah, I suppose I’m a goal oriented person. But I’m not religious about it. I’m cool with failure.

Proof: I tried to break the three-hour barrier once before, and failed. And when I crossed the finish line, I did what I always do at the end of a race: I LAUGHED MY FACE OFF!

Seriously. I always start giggling when I cross a finish line. I’m so happy to not to be running anymore! I often do a pirouette as I sail through the finisher’s chute.

So regardless of my finishing time, I can tell you exactly what I’ll be doing this Sunday morning at 11:45 am. I’ll be cruising up Bay Street in downtown Toronto, with a big goofy grin on my face. I’ll be surrounded by thousands of cheering Torontonians – people kind enough to support loved ones (and some strangers) who are chasing a dream.


And afterward, I’ll go home and rake the leaves in the yard and clean the bathroom upstairs and then I’ll maybe make a borscht. I’ll put my finisher’s medal in the shoebox with all the others. And I’ll laugh about the importance and the folly of the number 2.

What Winning Feels Like

A long time ago, when I was in grade seven, I won a public speaking contest. I wrote and performed a seven minute speech on the subject of…radio. I still remember my shock when the president of Port Dalhousie’s Royal Canadian Legion stood up and read out the lucky winner’s name: David Carroll.

public speaking trophy

I was sure he’d made a mistake. I’d never won anything in my life. No academic awards, no arts awards, and certainly nothing related to sports.  At track and field days, I always got the purple ribbon. The pathetic one that all the kids got. The one that said “participant.”

Surely I couldn’t have won that trophy.  Could I?

I felt the same way yesterday when, for the first time in my life, I finished FIRST in a sporting event.

cavan hills banner

It was a 10 kilometer run up and down the diabolical hills of Cavan-Monaghan county. Granted, it’s an out -of-the-way race. And more people were running with strollers or dogs or phalanxes of small children than were running competitively.

Cavan Hills 4/10 km Walk/Run, 2013

But still – I WON! Ask anyone in the greater Ida/Cavan/Pontypool business triangle. I was the talk of the town(s). That day belonged to ME!

David, with the shoes

All of the credit goes to my brand-new, Medusa-ugly running shoes. You can see them off in the distance there; slicing through the fog like two butt-ugly neon lasers.

The promise of butter tarts at the finish line probably didn’t hurt my finishing time either. And my finishing kick was ignited (as always) by my family, whose cheering is like an adrenaline shot to my legs.

Gotta tell you though: it was a weird feeling, leading the race. Usually I can relax and enjoy the scenery at these events, but once I found out I had the lead, I was determined to hang on to it.  So I didn’t relax. Instead, I PUSHED. Which wasn’t easy, given the villainous hills on the course. Hills more evil than…Dick Cheney? Yes, they were Dick Cheney hills.

Cavan Hills 4/10 km Walk/Run, 2013

Later, standing on the podium, I grinned and grinned. I wanted to stay up there forever, waving at my adoring fans. But for some reason, the volunteers, who’d been up baking butter tarts and hoisting tents since 5 a.m. wanted to tear things down and go home for a nap.

WAIT A SECOND, I thought, as they tried to sweep me off the podium. How dare you evict me from this hay-bale stage?! Don’t you know that this is my moment? The moment I’ve been dreaming of all my life? No more purple participant ribbons for me! From now on it’s all —

What’s that? You don’t care?

Okay then, FINE. I’ll take another butter tart, please.

first place ribbon

Who told Tyler Heggie about my book?

Truth is stranger than fiction. Younger too.

Recently I wrote a novel about a 13 year-old who runs a 100-mile ultra-marathon. I know what you’re thinking: No WAY could a kid do that!

Wrong! An 11 year-old just ran 273 km – all the way across Prince Edward island!

Tyler Heggie

Tyler Heggie

Prince Edward Islander, Tyler Heggie, spent seven days running the island from tip to tip.  He covered the equivalent of a marathon each day, running with family and friends along the Confederation Trail.

Heggie did it to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis research (his Mom was diagnosed with M.S. two years ago).

Heggie finishing his run with friends

Heggie finishing his run with friends

Heggie has run long distances before. At age 9, he successfully competed in the Charlottetown marathon. Later this fall, he’s scheduled to run the marathon in Toronto – where roughly 20,000 fans (including me!) will be lined up to meet him.

Here’s What Happens After a 100-mile Race

1) You collapse into a vinyl chair beside a campfire.  Think: I AM NEVER DOING THAT EVER AGAIN.

2) You attempt to stand up. Discover that you can’t. Wait for your legal guardian to arrive and pull you to your feet.

3) You hobble to the shower or bath. You groan as you step over the edge of the tub. You scream when the water hits your battered feet and, er, soffets. You watch your blackened toenails swirl down the drain.

4) You eat something and discover that you’re starving. Your appetite is on steroids.  You devour soups, stacks of pancakes, roofing shingles.

5) You go home, letting someone else drive. After all, you’ve been awake for 40+ hours. Also, a sudden charlie-horse in your braking leg wouldn’t be fun on the 401. WHOA – CHIP TRUCK! Pull this puppy over!

6) You try to sleep, but fail. Your muscles won’t stop twitching. And your brain is more hyperactive than a David Fincher film, flipping through millions of images from the trail.

Along Poacher's Trail

7) Still awake at 3 a.m., you check the internet for race results. You already know your time; it was announced at the post-race lunch. Still, it won’t feel real until you see it online.

8) You self-medicate. Robaxacet, A-535, Dalwhinnie.

9) Suddenly, without warning, you fall asleep. But it’s deeper than sleep. It’s more like enchantment.

10) 10,000 years later you awake and resume your life. You take the kids to school or walk down the street to buy coffee. At some point you hear a bad song by Phil Collins on the radio. You suddenly realize, it’s over.  You’re back in the real world.  It kinda sucks.

11) Far too soon, you attempt to run. You get a kilometer, maybe two, before giving up and limping home. Your hip flexors hurt, or your knees, or your feet. You worry that you’ll never run again.

12) After three days with no running, you begin to feel fat. You stare at your bloated self in the mirror and weep.

14) Once again, you turn to the world wide web. The race results are up now. Also: plenty of pictures. You stare at the faces of the people you ran with. You miss them more than you miss your mother’s womb. All those fascinating conversations about shoes, mileage, poop.

15) While downloading the latest Flash Player update, you suddenly think, HMMM I’D LIKE TO DO THAT RACE AGAIN. You mention this to your legal guardian, which may be a mistake. Mental health brochures start appearing all about the house.

Forest race course

Real Life Superheroes, Part 7

You’ve probably heard of exteme sports like base-jumping, free-running, and wake-boarding…

But have you heard of the greatest adrenaline rush of all?

Let me introduce you to…extreme ironing.

extreme ironing 1

Let’s face it. Everyone’s gotta iron. And ironing’s pretty boring.  So why not make ironing time more fun?



I’m a bit OCD, so this sport really speaks to me. You can do extreme ironing anywhere. Atop a mountain, on board a roller coaster, even at the bottom of the ocean.  All it has to be is…extreme.

extreme ironing 3

Uh…dude…there’s a shark above your head.

If you love challenging outdoor activities and the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt, then extreme ironing is for you!

And guess what…  One of the stars of the sport is a 17 year-old kid.

Most teenagers aren’t too fond of housework, but Kevin Krupitzer is an exception.  He’s particularly interested in removing creases from his clothes on top of weird rock formations near his home in Arizona.


My hero, the young Kevin Krupitzer

That doesn’t look too extreme, does it?  Wait a second…let me show you a wide shot:

Extreme ironing 5

No matter how peculiar your passions may be, the world is waiting to see you succeed.

Yeah, but is it safe?

That’s Kaytlynn Welsch, age 12, center, and her little sister Heather, who is 10, just before they ran a half marathon in Utah last year.

Some people wonder how safe it is for kids to run that kind of distance.

Sometimes I even wonder if it’s safe for me!


A couple of years ago, while running a 100-mile race, I asked the following question of an on-site medic: “Is it healthy, running 100 miles at a stretch?”

It was 3 a.m. and the Doctor had been patching up battered runners for the better part of 24 hours.  “On the whole, I would have to say NO,” she said, looking at me over the waxy light of a Coleman lantern.

It had been a tough race.  The thermometer had risen to thirty degrees, and a bunch of runners had been evacuated to the local hospital with heat-related illness.  I’d been lucky.  I had some blisters, a nasty cut on my knee from a fall, and a strange rash I never really figured out (lyme disease?).  But that was all.

“Seriously?” I said.  “You think running long distances is unsafe?”

“For some people,” said the Doctor. “Absolutely.”

* * *

Distance running is not risk-free.  But the same can be said of virtually any activity worth doing. Playing hockey can be risky.  Same thing with riding a bicycle.  And as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, strapping fiberglass boards to our feet and launching ourselves down icy mountain slopes may not be the safest thing in the world.

And yet we still do it.  Because it’s FUN.

The trick is to use our common sense.  Check out what the Dad in this story says about the importance of getting checked out by a doctor.

As long as you’ve trained properly, and understand the importance of proper nutrition and hydration, and have the approval of your family doctor, and the support of friends and family members, and most important, if you really want to be out there, then why not run?  After all, there’s not much difference between running a marathon in 5 hours, and spending an afternoon playing soccer or Capture The Flag with your friends.