It’s a good day indeed; especially if you’re a fat guy like me.  Yesiree, Bob!

It’s a good day because suddenly, being of a larger and, shall we say, chunkier body size is sexy.  That’s right – Sexy.  Gone are the six-packs abs and, suddenly, it’s just the six-pack as God intended it to be.  Beer, that is.

You see, the “Dad Bod” is now officially “In”.

That’s right, with a capital-fuckin-‘I’, bitches.

You literally can’t access the Internet these days without seeing pictures of fat dudes everywhere.  The Internet is literally saturated with them…saturated with saturated fat that it.  The Dad Bod represents only the latest trend for male physiques.  Fat.  Yes, biceps are out and belly bellies are back in. It’s a physique that looks like a formerly fit athlete has gone a bit to seed and grown a nice layer of protective fat around his muscular girth.  He’s less Muscle & Fitness than he is Ben & Jerry’s.

Yes, thanks to Clemson University’s Mackenzie Pearson (click HERE), the “Dad Bod” is the newest body trend…for dudes.  Basically, it’s a delicate tightrope balance between working out and a beer gut.

According to Mackenzie, the Dad Bod says:

“I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.”

Well, isn’t that just swell.  It’s the new “IDGAF” attitude and, presto!, I’m now being compared now to Leonardo DiCaprio.  And not the retarded one in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?‘  either (click HERE), but the fat bearded one (click HERE) who, through whatever means, still manages to date super models.

Just…freakin’…excellent.

I should be excited, right?  After all, I have a body that resembles, say, a melting ice cream cone and, suddenly, it’s considered as desirable.  I should be happy, shouldn’t I?  Maybe I can start skipping the odd workout to maintain my imminent bloated and sexy manliness.  Hell, if I have a “Dad Bod” now after all these years of triathlon horseshit, what I had before would have made me the T-Rex of all Dad Bod’s.

What was I thinking?

Just think of all the money I could have saved on gym memberships and race entrance fees over the years had I know all this time that fat would eventually come full circle to be sexy once again?  Never mind that whole gluten free madness (click HERE).

Take this guy for example:

Ever think he was concerned about gluten free?  This was considered hot; Hawt, even.  Henry was known as being a real athlete back in the day and ended up having over six different wives at different points in his life, not to mention countless affairs with other women dignitaries of the time.  Sure, they all eventually ended up headless but, no doubt, it was just a necessary reaction to stem the flow of hot, desirable women throwing themselves at his desirable “Dad Bod”.

Fuck me.

And how about this guy:

Shit, despite his deep love and affinity for deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches, Elvis still maintains a cult following of people who thought of him at the sexiest thing to ever move on God’s green earth.  And let me tell you, the only spare tire Elvis ever dragged around was the one around his waist (click HERE).

So how did this whole fat trend come about anyway?

Well, apparently, if you are to believe Ms. Pearson’s article, it has less to do with a changing of fashionable sexual stereotypes then it does with women just being insecure.  They want to feel “pretty” and be the “center of attention”, so being seen next to a guy who looks like a clay sculpture that’s been left out in the sun is the way to achieve that feeling of self worth.

Umm, really?

Is that why Kelly hooked up with me?

C’mon, seriously?

Shoot.  Me.  Now.

So, basically, twenty-something dudes are now sitting around drinking $4 pitches on a Friday night instead of hitting the gym or, god forbid, running/cycling/swimming.  Dammit!  When was somebody going to send me the memo?  And here I’ve been wasting all my time in actually trying to lose  weight.

What an idiot.

But you know what?  Maybe I’m actually looking at this thing all wrong.

Upon closer reflection, I’m actually okay with all the young dudes sitting around getting fat and lazy.  In fact, you guys keep doing that.  Have another beer.  Shit, make it a double.  Biggie-Size your fries and add extra bacon to your burger while you’re at it.  Pass on the chicken breasts and egg-white omelets; milk it for all it’s worth, kids.  And while you’re doing that, I’ll keep running my intervals, working on my swim technique, cycling my hill repeats and continuing my quest to get all thin and – apparently – “unsexy”.

I guess that makes me the “Dad Bod” in reverse seeing as how I’ve worked hard just to get to this point.  Kinda like the Reverse Flash, only fatter and in banana yellow track pants as opposed to leotard. Providing this trend keeps up, maybe I just might actually have a chance at successfully accomplishing this whole Kona thing.  After all, when it comes to a battle of the fat guys at the starting line of any Ironman or triathlon, I might just have a fighting chance.  If not, I always have a promising future in competitive eating.

So bulk up boys and make your prissy princess girlfriends happy.  I’ll see you on the starting line…or not.

Either way, I’m liking my new-found chances.

When I first started this blog exactly four years and seven months ago I was a very different person.  In fact, my very first typed words within this blog were:

“I have a rather sensitive confession to make: I smoke pot.

There.  I said it.

I’m just not making the bid to be another serious triathlete here; I’m going for the quiet accolades of being the first hippie Ironman.  So put that in your aero bottle and smoke it.”

Yeah.

Like I said, I was a very  different guy back then (click HERE for the entire post).

Since this time, I’ve gone through many personal transformations, least of which was my giving up regular marijuana use of nearly two decades.  Now I’m a step-dad, fiancé, AND  an Ironman…albeit, not as the aforementioned version that I had originally envisioned.  I’m also a much more relaxed and less paranoid person to boot.  I also don’t eat nearly as many Little Debbie’s snack cakes pre-workout either.

Go figure.

At the time when I gave it up, it was more of a situational necessity (click HERE) than it was a any conscious decision on my part but, be that as it may, I was still considering the pros and cons of my pot usage long before the actual decision was ever made for me.  Regardless, less than six months after starting this blog journey, my quest to become the first ever “Hippie Ironman” died a spontaneous and tragic death; the end.

I succeeded in my Ironman quest, but I did it without the crutch of marijuana.

I’m not bitter about it at all as it was simply the right time to take that all important leap forward in my evolution of becoming a more responsible, disciplined and capable adult and triathlete. Shortly afterwards I met Kelly, adopted two very needy and emotionally damaged cats, moved in to be a part of this newly developing family which also includes my being partly responsibility for raising a very vibrant and engaged 7-year-old girl and, considering that my only responsibility prior that was in looking after and maintaining a cat and a mini-cactus that occupied my kitchen window sill, this was all a pretty significant step forward if I do say so (and I do). Pot just no longer factored into the equation that became my life.

It is what it is and that was that.

Sure I have some fond memories of my “indulged” past, but they’re just that: memories.  Reflections of a simpler time when I had few responsibilities other than making sure the cat was fed; the cactus was watered, eating, peeing, training…repeat.  Sometimes I look back on this period as the “Good ‘ol Days”, but I’d never actually want to go back there.  It was great at the time but time has definitely moved on.

So why am I dredging this all back up again now four years later you ask?  Well, this ultimate realization of my personal transformation towards pot use came crashing in on me only this past week as I was out on one of my bike rides.

It all happened innocently enough, and at no point did it include a back alley somewhere with a shifty guy sporting a trench coat, the fuzz, or a Little Debbie’s snack cake for that matter.  No, it was much less obvious than all that but it was no less profound.

There I was minding my own business riding down Nigh Rd. after looping around Fort Erie and heading home.  I know Nigh Rd. like the back of my hand and consider it to be the road most often traveled, given that I cycle and run this particular route several times a week.  It’s a long straight away back road about 8k long with a gradual incline at one end and more than a dozen scenic landscapes, manicured lawns and cool broken down barns along the roadside.

Typically, Nigh Rd. is the route I take back home again as part of my warm down, which was the exact purpose I was riding this route on this particular day.  However, on this day, as I was approaching the intersection at Bernard Rd., when another cyclist on a BMX bike came careening around the corner narrowly missing a car in the opposite lane and then myself as he veered back to my side of the road.  Forget for the moment that he was riding on the wrong side of the road (against traffic), not wearing a helmet or, clearly, not paying any real attention to where he was going, as he whipped past me with nary inches to spare I noticed a little baggie fall out of his knapsack and flutter to the ground.

My mental reaction was as second nature and instantaneous as, say, standing up and cheering when your’ favorite team scores a goal in overtime:

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“Ground score!”

Within a nano-second I had executed a complete 360° turn and was pulling up to the accidentally discarded baggie.  As I inspected the baggie’s contents, yup, my initial thoughts were 100% right – it was weed – a big honkin’ bud of the sticky-icky.  I opened the baggie and inhaled a deep, delicious snootfull of its precious contents.

If I wasn’t already straddling my bike, I might have done this:

It was like winning the lottery; or so it should have felt anyway.

Except, it wasn’t…much to my own surprise.

No, suddenly, free marijuana literally raining down at my feet wasn’t quite as miraculous as it would have been a few years ago.

I guess I have no real desire to be this guy again:

lelu8

This total complete and lack of enthusiasm for this gift of free chronic from the divine pot gods was a complete watershed moment for me.  Had it been a cheeseburger, I probably would have break-danced right then and there in the middle of the road, but as it was, I really didn’t care.  In fact, I even considered picking it up and sprinting after the stoned cyclist who was slowly weeble-wobbling his way down the road into the distance.  But then I figured, meh, giving him his weed back probably wasn’t going to get him home any safer and, hey, the next passer-by might appreciate the gift instead.  So I left it there.

Yup. I left a baggie of pot in the middle of the road.

Me!

That’s fucked up, right?

In my former life, I would have inevitably set a new land speed record while accomplishing a PB along the Bernard to Ridge Rd. segment on Strava in order to get home and smoke my heady nugget but, today, well, not so much.  Instead I went home and had an apple.

WTF?

I guess my days of being a burnt out pothead are way behind me.  I think deep down I already knew that but, today, I know those days are truly long gone.  I simply can’t afford, nor do I want, to end up incapacitated somewhere giggling my ass off and babbling like a complete fucking retard into a bowl of Fritos.

Been there, done that.

This past Saturday, I accomplished my first goal of the season by successfully completing the ‘Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids’ for my third straight year. This event, while supporting a very noble local cause near and dear to my own heart, has become the annual benchmark of my swim training in the off season.  In short, while most of my peers are either primarily focused on their running or indoor trainers, I tend to place all my off-season eggs squarely in the swim basket by spending a stupid amount of time in the pool with this 10k swim being my ultimate ‘coup d’etat’.

Arriving on site

Arriving on site

The goal of this event is not a preconceived time or pace, per se, but simply to complete the distance and support a great cause. The personal benefit of such is twofold:

  1. A commit to ensure that my ass gets in the pool and thereby, establish a strong foundation for my triathlon training.
  2. Build mental toughness.

Now in regards to the second point, it’s true that you can build mental toughness on the bike or while running, there’s nothing quite like the tediousness and ultimate “aloneness” to build one’s mental fortitude. The truth of the matter is that despite this being my third year doing this event, it still scares the bejesus out of me; 10 kilometers (400 laps) is a long ass time to spend swimming laps.

My attempt at looking cool.

My attempt at looking cool for the press (pre-swim)

It’s already been documented that last year wasn’t exactly a primo year for me and in some regard I’m still dealing with those demons – fear of recouping after an injury; fear of losing my fitness; fear of failure.  In training for this event it was also a way of tackling those demons head on so but, while it’s ultimately only a charity event, this also represents my first ‘mano e’ mano’  showdown with these fears and personal insecurities.

Regardless of what it was, I was certainly better trained this year than I have been in past years.  For the past two months, I have been swimming anywhere between 14 and 18 kilometers a week for a whopping grand total of nearly 180k in 2015 alone – that’s 180,000m for God sakes!  Now, I know by marathon standards this I a mere drop in the bucket but for a guy who could barely swim five years ago (click HERE and HERE), is pretty damn good I think.  I’ve used paddles, learned how to use a snorkel to perfect my stroke as much as possible, and done so many drills than that I nearly cried pure chlorine.  I’ve gotten out of bed before the crack of dawn 3 times a week for months on end, suffered dry and pruny skin and now my hair now has the texture of straw.   So let it be known, I’ve put in my time.  I feel I’ve paid my dues.

Pre-swim

Pre-swim

But how does all this translate performance-wise?

A whole 27 whole seconds. That’s it.

Okay, well, maybe not exactly.

Last years’ 10k swim time was time 3 hours, 16 minutes and 51 seconds.  On top of that, there were at least 10 minutes of feeding stops, pee breaks, and a quick meet n’ greet with Frank (the man) himself.  This year, my cumulative  time over all was 3 hours, 16 minutes and 24 seconds.  Of that time, 3 hours, 11 minutes and 5 seconds were spent swimming; meaning I only stopped twice…and even then, only briefly.  The real accomplishment is that I felt infinitely more relaxed and less spent than I have been in the last two years.  In fact, it wasn’t quite so bad…like, at all.

Dare I say it: it was pretty easy?  Physically that is.

Mentally, there were times when it was a real grind.

Me and my pacers gettin' business done.

Me and my pacers gettin’ business done.

It all started off promptly at 1:00pm with me and exactly three other swimmers, HRH included.  Nowhere near the number of participants that have turned out in previous years, and the feeling like it was going to be a long day were already sinking into my brain.  If I’ve learned anything about long distance swimming its’ that it’s every bit as much a mental challenge as it is physical, more so actually. After all, for the entire time doing laps you’re looking at a long black line on the pool with little to no other stimulus whatsoever.  They don’t call it “Black Line Fever” for nothing.

I took my first short break at the 2500m mark (100 laps) when I felt Kelly tap my feet at the wall to remind me to take in some water.  By now, other swimmers had begun arriving so at least I had some company in the other lanes.  After a minute or so I pushed on with the intent of getting through another 100 laps or so.

I’m not sure how much longer after that, but I remember thinking ‘okay, this is getting boring’ and I started to mentally prepare myself for what I knew was only going to get worse, but as I began to mentally talk myself through those first few feelings of ‘aloneness’ , another swimmer appeared in my lane…and then another.

Still at it.

Still at it.

Two other swimmers and triathlon peers of mine, Jim Sunners and Michael Poulsen arrived to lend a hand in pacing me and, basically, just to keep me company.  Both Jim and Mike are extremely successful swimmers and triathletes in their own forthright and both have qualified for Kona this year (Jim has actually qualified and competed in Kona seven times and Mike has done so for the first time this year), so to have them think enough of my challenge to show up to support me as well the cause was – well, I’ll say it – very overwhelming and it certainly very appreciated.

Together the three of us formed a pace line and pushed on.

When I next felt the tap on my feet from Kelly to remind me to stop and drink, I quickly told her I was fine and carried on.  On a few occasions, I called for a piece of banana or a sip of water but I did so by flipping over on my back and continued stroking without stopping (a skill I’ve practices this season) as to not break our formation.  We kept this up straight through the half way point of the swim and by the time Jim pulled from the formation and called it a day at one end of the pool (he had to get to work) we were already at the 7500m mark (300 laps) – my longest consecutive swim to date.

At the finish.

At the finish.

Our pace may have not been anything to brag about and, truthfully, I know we could all have managed a much quicker pace fairly easily, it was still fun and I felt honored and privileged to be paced by guys to whom I look up to and I was just happy to sit on their feet and enjoy the moment…all 75 or so of them.

Mike and I pressed on for another 1000m or so before he too had to get to work, so with only 1500m to go and a couple honey dates in my belly, I pressed on once again…alone.  These next 60 laps were easily the most difficult of them all as by this time, I was pretty much the only one left in the pool.  I picked up the pace just a bit, so keep things interesting (and prove to myself I could do it) and to the encouragement of the amazing staff at the Port Colborne YMCA, I even sprinted the last 50m  to the end completing my third successful Frank & Friends swim.

The after effects.

The after effects.

Here are the final results (click HERE):

  • Total calories: 2,832
  • Total strokes: 4,776
  • strokes per minute: 24
  • strokes per length: 12
  • pace: 155 min/100m
  • Best pace: 0:45 min/100m

On the whole, amongst all the participants at our branch, we completed a total of 50k (2000 laps) while raising exactly $1400 for Strong Kids, both surpassing the goal that had initially been set.  I like to think Frank is proud.

As for me, I’ve already committed to next years’ swim and hope to even set a time goal of under three hours to boot; time to up the game a bit.

Snorkle Power

Posted: April 20, 2015 in Equipment, Swim
Tags:

Recently, I’ve been noticing that a lot of my training peers have been showing up at the pool with snorkel as part of their standard swim bag of tricks and, up until recently, I’ve just brushed it off as a “nice to have, but not necessary” novelty item to play with.  Before this, the only other people I ever saw using a snorkel were those weirdoes, old people particularly, who spent their time doing this strange dead man’s float thing from one end of the pool to other.

In my pool specifically, there’s a guy older than time itself, who uses a snorkel along with his fancy aquatic gloves and booties to do this odd limp movement that makes him look like a bloated flog struggling to make it to the other end of the pool without drowning.

Oh, and of course, there’s always this pop culture classic to consider (click HERE).

So, yeah, a snorkel never really weighed as an important “must have” tool for my own swim bag of tricks.

However, as I mentioned before, when I started to see other swimmers showing up and utilizing their snorkels I admit to becoming a bit curious especially when those swimmers started swimming the 100m quicker than I could.  Now, in all honesty, I’m still focused on distance over speed at this point in my training given the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids coming up but, still, their speediness in the pool were no less significant so I started to reconsider my stance on the whole snorkel issue and soon enough I was curious enough to actually consider investing in one.

A quick Google search on triathlete and swim boards revealed that a snorkel is actually a pretty handy thing to enhance your workouts; basically, adding the ‘zippidy’ to your ‘doo dah’ in the pool, so to speak.  Apparently, a snorkel has the ability to improve body position while maintaining a smooth breathing pattern, as well as enhancing your V02-Max as it strengthens your lungs by making them more expansive.  It seems that the restricted airflow creates a hypoxic effect (and, seriously, who enjoys hypoxic drills?), mimicking the decreased oxygen in every breath that an athlete would experience during, say, training at high altitude.  Even when swimming easy, the snorkel might improve breathing by encouraging the swimmer to maintain a steady exhalation between inhalations.  Okay, that makes sense to me.  The main reason swimmers feel out of breath is that they hold their breath with their face in the water (something I definitely used to do and had to work hard to correct), and a snorkel can help with that.

The most basic application though is that it helps improve your technique.  And, as you all know, technique is everything when it comes to swimming.  By removing the necessity of turning your head, you can simply relax in the water and focus on the small details of your stroke like the single-arm drill, the catch, the pull or even the finish phases of each arm, and even to help maintain a streamlined position while doing your dreaded kicking drills – definitely my least favorite.

Sounds to me like the total shit, right?  Sold!

I want me a snorkel too.

So got me a snorkel I did.

A humdinger of a snorkel if I do say so myself: a flashy, hydrodynamic, center-mounted “Freestyle Snorkel” by Finis, the gods of all things swim equipment related (fuck Speedo).

Apparently, this was the same snorkel endorsed and used by the US Olympic Swim Team and a favorite tool by Olympic champions Dara Torres (a twelve-time Olympic medalist and former world record-holder in three freestyle events) and Eamon Sullivan (three-time Olympic medalist, and former world record-holder in two events).  The package boasted using centrifugal forces during flip turns to greatly restrict water from entering the tube, the ability to maintain a natural, rhythmic breathing pattern due to easy body placement in the water, and a purge value to increase lung capacity to clear water from the tube.  Shit, ask it nicely and I’m pretty sure it will make you a decent stake of pancakes in the morning.  Unfortunately, it ended up sitting in my swim bag for approximately two weeks before I even considered using it.

You see, it also scared the living bejesus out of me.

The whole concept of breathing underwater seemed about as counter-productive and ass backwards.  It was like considering running a marathon on stilts. I like my air…a lot…especially when I swim.  But, eventually, I knew I had to justify this $40 purchase (not to mention the long drive to Team Aquatics in Burlington), so it was with great reluctance that I eventually strapped it to my head and prepped myself mentally to do a few laps.

Okay, snorkel: amaze me.

Now, I’d like to say here that my first few laps were graceful and fluid, a true thing of beauty to behold in the water, but they weren’t; far from actually.  In fact, I made it (maybe) 5 meters from the shallow end wall before I was sputtering and geysering like a dying sperm whale.  I just couldn’t wrap my lizard brain around inhaling underwater and when I made the initial effort I did so through my nose like I might if I was running or cycling.  In the water, though, this is not good and I almost drowned – quite literally.

I felt let down for believing the hype.  And that was that, I put it away in my swim bag and didn’t touch it again for another month or so.  But, it continued to taunt me from the pool deck until I decided to give it another go.  This time, however, instead of strapping it to my head and just launching myself off the wall willy-nilly ‘Hunt for Red October’ style, I decided to spend a few minutes at the end practicing inhaling and exhaling with my face in the water until I was confident enough to attempt to swim a lap or two.

I definitely found a new appreciation for the whole breathing process that beginner swimmers tend to stress over (I know I did), that’s for sure.  I mean, seriously, how often do you really think about breathing when you roll out of bed in the morning? It’s not even on your day’s Top 100 list of things to accomplish. But jump in a pool and it’s suddenly priority #1.  Get that figured out to the best of your ability and then throw in a new monkey wrench into the whole process and, voila!, you’re almost back to square one (click HERE).

Eventually, I got a bit more comfortable with the snorkel so I got cocky and attempted a flip-turn.  Again, I almost died and returned to the surface coughing and sputtering.  Doh!  I decided then and there to fuck flip-turns altogether for the time being and simply add that to next years’ list of goals.

Instead, I decided to use it while doing some kicking drills in the streamline position as I’ve seen and read on many a swimmer on-line tutorial.  Now, this was fun; especially with my fins on. I felt like Aquaman, gliding effortlessly through the water with my marine buddies (even if that’s only Grandfather Time in the other lane).  At the end of the lane, instead of flip-turning, I executed this 360° turn with my face still in the water just as I’ve seen Grandfather Time do countless times in his Slow Lane.  Who knew that I’d ever be taking swim tips from some guy in aqua booties?

That’s fucked up, I know.

Anyway, after 200m or so of joyous streamlined kicking, besides counting every stray hair, random fuzz ball, spec of grit and water-logged Band-aid (an unfortunate drawback to using the snorkel I’m afraid), I began to realize that my sinuses were beginning to this, shall we say, ‘full’ feeling (lest we forget: click HERE). So at the next wall, I stopped and as I raised my head and removed my snorkel a complete deluge of pool water poured from my nose.

Dis-gust-ing!

And for the record, I think I’ve forgotten how to do long division.  Maybe it was washed away along with the pool water.

With a little more practice I learned that it was more efficient to inhale through the snorkel, yet exhale through my nose just as I do when I swim freestyle normally.  Why this didn’t occur to me at the beginning I’m not too sure; again back to the thinking of breathing, or the lack thereof.

Now, having figured this out, it’s actually helping me reinforce what I’m already apparently doing well in the water which, when it comes down to it, is the number one continuous need that trumps everything else: breathe.   When that need is satisfied and natural, the ability to relax in the water is ultimately achieved.  And believe me, when you’re spending upwards of three hours plus in the water, 3-4 times a week, the ability to relax is important.

So while I’m not exactly Eamon Sullivan yet, I definitely am beginning to see some of the possibilities for future improvement in my on-going swim development.  I certainly plan on continuing to learn how to utilize my snorkel after this 10k business is over and I start to shift gears back to speed and form.  My ultimate goal being to turn myself into a born again speed demon in the pool heading into competition season, and if that means mastering this whole snorkel thing, flip-turns and all, then so be it.

Family Cycle

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

I have recently taken on another challenge as the next stage in my on-going triathlon-slash-athletic evolution.  A challenge so daunting and arduous that it baffles the melon just to imagine it; a challenge so fierce and grandiose in execution that it makes all my other successes and endurance tests to date seem like a mere walk in the park.  What is this challenge you ask?  Well, get this: I have now agreed to lead a weekly 30 minute Family Cycle class for parents and kids, ages 8-13 years of age.

Is that some scary shit or what?

You’re probably thinking, “So what’s so scary about a spinning class for kids”, right? That was exactly my thought process when I suggested and then agreed to take this on as a weekly commitment. The idea occurred to me as the result of HRH  becoming a bit more reluctant recently to tag along with me to the gym to participate in the kids’ activities as I do my own thing; be it teaching or participating in a spin class, lifting weights, swimming or whatever.  Before, she enjoyed sitting in the  corner of the spin studio after her “Kids Club” had let out and watch me have my ass handed to me on a silver platter.  She was content to sit quietly and observe for 30 minutes until my class had finished.  A year later, however, well, not so much. I guess seeing me tsunami out in a huge tidal wave of sweat and agony grows old eventually – go figure.

Furthermore, the other kids in her “Kids Club” are now significantly younger so she doesn’t quite have the same connection she once did to be completely engaged yet, unfortunately, she’s also not old enough to participate in any of the adult classes like spinning, water aerobics, etc., so she’s bored.  Who could blame her?  So providing opportunities for kids and families to try this whole spinning thing seemed to be a good idea; something for her to get excited about as well as other kids for whom their parents also have the same challenges.  It something the family can do together to provide a fun and safe introduction into a new possibility as an interest in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  Sounds great, huh? And seeing as coaching and supporting kids programs has become a bit of a passion for me after becoming a step-dad (click HERE) this opportunity seemed to be tailor made for me.  How could I go wrong?

But as the date grew nearer, I became more and more stressed about it.  Making matters worse, I was worried that the kids might sense my nervousness too; like the way a king cobra senses the panicked heartbeat in a nervous kangaroo rat.

I mean, seriously, what do you do with kids exactly?  For all intensive purposes, what do I even know  about kids?  At best, I’m just fudging my way through this whole step-dad thing and hoping, at best, to not seriously scar HRH in her later adult life.  On any given day I’m the kind of boob you might otherwise see spinning (no pun intended) a sign outside a Verizon store.  I know as much about spinning and children as Lucrezia Borgia knows about gourmet cooking.  I knew I wanted it to be fun while still providing them with an opportunity to get familiarized with spinning and, hey, if they get a decent workout as well, awesome!  In short, I wanted it to be the kind of thing that Ron Howard would eventually make a movie about.  But what I have learned, however, is that coaching a kid’s orientated spin class is very, very different than coaching adults…like, apples and oranges different.

For example, you can’t too be too tough.  Unlike the adult participants in my Monday night Masters Spin Class, I can’t exactly stomp them into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.  No, it’s not that easy; it has to be a real hoopty-doo if you know what I mean.  It has to be “fun” and kids’ do not immediately associate “suffering” with “fun” the way my adult spin masochists do.  Nor, is there any pleasure in it for me. I mean, I admit to being totally into my ‘schadenfreude’, but watching kids pummel the pedals until they’re ready to puke is not really what I would call a good time.  Nor should it be.  I want them to enjoy themselves and come back, not ultimately give them another reason to hate going to the gym.  So I had to invent ways to keep their fragile eggshell-like minds off the “activity” itself, and more on something that was deemed as “entertaining”.  And believe me, given that typical kids has the attention span of a grapefruit, this is harder to do than one might think.

So, to accomplish this, I had the brainwave to – after giving them a brief instruction on how to use the spin bike features properly, of course – lead them through a game of “tag” just as they might play on the schoolyard at lunchtime.  What kid doesn’t like “tag”, I ask you.  The difference here being that when the person was tagged as “it”, they had to then either stand up into a light climb, or spin faster with a higher (yet controlled) cadence, or “sprint”, until the next person was deemed as “it” until we had worked our way around the room.  They seemed to enjoy this.  In future classes, I aim to incorporate other such schoolyard games such as “Eye Spy” and “Simon Says”, but geared towards spinning of course.

The second major difference is that in keeping things “fun”, that also means using and playing music that they like; and as it happens, the kind of stuff that might also get me laughed at and ridiculed if any of my training peers should happen to find them on my iPod.  Now, let’s get one thing straight, I prefer to keep my iPod “pure” (click HERE), in that all the music contained within is the kind of manly stuff that I might also listen to while hammering out swords shirtless in my medieval iron forge and, you know, Taylor Swift is not part of that formula. Now I know that “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” and that inevitably I just “gotta shake, shake, shake, shake it off” but, still, it’s not cool and I feel slightly less of a man for it being there.

The good news is though, that HRH, seeing as she’s into records and developing her own taste in music these days (click HERE), helped me put together a decent playlist, which along with the popular kids music on the radio, also included tracks by the Cars, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gee’s (click HERE) so that at least the parents brains didn’t 100% melt out their ears as I’m sure they tend to get enough of the radio pop pabulum shoveled at them throughout the day as well.  God knows I do.  So I tried to find the happy middle ground.

All in all things seemed to go well, even if it was the longest yet probably the most rewarding 30 minutes I think I’ve ever spent coaching on a spin bike. Afterwards, we even had some favorable comments from the participants (kids and parents alike) and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and left with a smile on their face.  Maybe this won’t be such a bad thing after all.  The best part is that HRH  dropped almost immediately into bed upon getting home without so much as a fuss.  Who knew that having so much fun would be so exhausting?  That alone made the whole stress worth it and I’m looking forward to future classes and working with these amazing kids as they discover the – hopefully – exciting world of spinning.

So it seems to be, that every few months or so, I tend to encounter some sort of bizarre behavior at the gym as I document as acknowledge with a ‘Gym J. Bullock’ (click HERE) award, or as simply another story in my on-going ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…’  series (click HERE and HERE).  Oh, and lest we forget the Black Mamba (click HERE).

And as far as weird-ass behavior goes, today was definitely the day.

Now, for matter of reference sake, I recently just moved my gym membership at the YMCA to the more local branch since HRH  is no longer taking swimming lessons through the original branch.  It’s all good though as I genuinely love this new branch. I like their approach to creating and supporting the local community, I like the people who work there, and I like that they let me yell at people for 60 minutes every Monday night as a spin instructor.  The only downside is that they don’t have all the frou-frou amenities that the other gyms provided, like a “Member’s Plus” change room to use; it’s “gen pop” all the way.  Now, a locker room is a locker room at the end of the day with all the usual assortment of wacko’s, weirdo’s, and people for whom there are really no words, but now that I’m without the beloved safe haven of the “Member’s Plus” change room, I have about a dozen pre-pubescent boys staring at my junk every time I change and get showered.

“Hey peanut, quit staring at my lunch box.”

Awk-ward!

Anyway, it is what it is and usually I’m there early in the morning or later in the evening so it’s not so bad. This morning, however, the gates didn’t so much ‘open’ as they completely and epically failed on a grandiose New Orleans levee scale and a total watershed of imminent craziness flooded out all over the place. I guess that didn’t sound so good, so allow me to explain…

I finished my morning swim workout as per usual without incident.  Of course, there were all the usual “swim types” to deal with as well as all the typical issues as they relate to lane swimming, but I just consider  these things now as an occupational hazard of being in the pool.  I like to think it teaches me patience.  Anyway, after I finished I made my way into the showers – as you typically do – and that’s when all the craziness started.

In the shower already was an old guy who looked as if he’d already spent the better part of the morning there.  He didn’t seem to be washing, rinsing or any other of the standard things you might expect to see someone doing in the shower.  No, he was just kinda standing there…passing time.  Even more disconcerting was the big shit-eating grin that he had spread over his face as he stood there loitering away under his stream of water.  Seriously, he was the kind of guy that my teachers in grade school warned me about getting into vans with.  Had there been anywhere else to shower at the time, certainly, I would have been there.

As it is now, the shower area is pretty small with only 5 shower heads so even if you’re at opposite ends of the shower area, you’re still in close proximity with anyone else who might also be sharing the vicinity, as this guy was.  So I returned his creepy ass smile politely (and modestly I might add) before immediately casting my eyes to the floor and started making with the suds.  Now it also needs to be mentioned here that the showers at this particular gym also utilize a “water conservation” approach, where the facet shuts off after a minute or so and therefore reducing the amount of water waste.  That potentially means that mid-suds, you might have to reach over and reactivate the shower head should it turn off in order to resume your rinsing.  No big deal though, right?  And it’s usually not.  However, as I was “sudsing up” on this particular occasion the flow of water on my shower temporarily cut out, and out of the corner of my eye I see the creepy old dude in the corner come hustled over to reset the water flow for me.

Did he….just….???

Yup.  He did.

And now he was standing there grinning at me like a total psychopath waiting for some sort of friendly acknowledgement.

Great.

“Umm, thanks?”, I offered nervously.

Strange behavior as it was, I tried to pretend it didn’t happen and simply returned my eyes to the ground and proceeded with the business of scrubbing my privates.  He genuinely looked very pleased with himself though, as if he had just something incredibly noble like assisting a helpless turtle cross a busy highway or rescue a kitten from a tree, and so he continued to harbor that weird ass grin on his face as I returned to my shower.

Usually – in my experience anyway – heterosexual naked men don’t like to go anywhere near other heterosexual naked men and we approach these situations very delicately, as if coming in too close to another man’s nekkid bid’ness will result in our automatically becoming gay or something, like one of those Reed frogs who will spontaneously change  sexes for whatever reason.  Clearly, this old guy has never read the “Man Code” as it relates to these types of exposed situations.  Hopefully, though, this was just one of the “one off” circumstances that I could just laugh off (later of course) and carry on with my day.

However, in another minute or two he did it again. The water cut out and before you could say “rub a dub dub”, he comes over to reset my water…UH-again!

The fuck?!

The water  cut off as I was scrubbing my ball sack and there he was, coming to my apparent “rescue” again with that helpful expression that seemed to be fishing for some sort of acknowledgement like he had just done me this huge favor.  Bizarre!  This time, I was less cordial and gave him a strange look and proceeded back to tending to my sack.  Clearly this was not the reaction he was hoping for…not that it stopped him any.

It’s also worth noting here that, for the record, I wasn’t actively seeking this specific reaction by purposely allowing my water flow to cut out.  No, sir!  It’s just that after 90 minutes to a few hours in the pool, and I like to give myself a thorough lathering so I don’t go home smelling like the battlefields of Ypres so I often opt to let the water cut out as I’m lathering up and then just restart it when I’m ready.  Besides, I’m all for the water conservation thing anyway, so it’s no big deal.  So, for whatever reason, this guy now felt like it was his civic dude to help out when I didn’t really need or want  it.  Suffice to say, I was less than thrilled about it.

Usually, I am big advocate when it comes to “love thy neighbor” and “be kind to strangers”, but this was fucking ridiculous.  Now the guy was simply standing there desperately waiting for the opportunity to present itself so he could rush to my aid and lend a helping hand.  On the third and even fourth time, I awkwardly smiled appreciatively, but by the fifth time, I stopped acknowledging him altogether as this was beginning to get out of hand (no pun intended) and I was getting pretty aggravated, if not completely freaked out.  Clearly this guy isn’t dealing with a full deck if his morning is spent in the Men’s showers helping other dudes with their shower facets.  That’s some fucking strange ass shit!

So, now, here I was showering with someone who, for all I know, is also picturing my genitals as a potentially nice addition to his basement rec room as a lamp shade or something equally decorative.

“Yes, that’s it buddy. Get all sudsy and smooth. Here, let me help reset that water for you. Yes, that’s it.  Go on, get all sparkly clean and baby-smooth.  Boy is your nut sack going to look nice on my trophy shelf.”

Or, worse yet, he was going to come at me with a chainsaw a la Scarface.  Now, where he might have been hiding a chainsaw exactly is totally beyond imaging but the point is, had my shower not ended right then and there I was forced to spend a single moment longer with Joe Creepoid, I might have gone all Norman Bates right there and ended up beating him mercilessly within an inch of his life for violation of space, not to mention shower privacy.  After all, I’ve seen too many grizzly bathroom shower scenes that didn’t end so well in B-movie horrors (click HERE) as a kid to not take this lightly so, now, I’ve added a new rule to my ever-growing list of Locker Room Commandments:

“Thou shalt NEVER fuck with another man’s shower facet…EVER!”

Dear Roberto

Posted: February 26, 2015 in In Transition, Swim
Tags: ,

I documented once before my successes in “swimming” as a kid (click HERE for a little reminder).  Now, I put swimming in quotations marks there because, well, it wasn’t really swimming so much as it was a full body seizure 25m  at a time, and what I thought I knew about swimming wasn’t really swimming at all; enter the weekly TryForce Masters swim and my progression from the “Advanced” lane directly to the “Beginners” lane six years ago.  I mention this all again because, the coach in that Beginners lane was a guy named Roberto.

The Man.  The Myth.  The Legend.

The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

Sadly, I received an email a few weeks ago that Roberto will be temporarily stepping down as a swim coach for the TryForce Group.  I had to reread the email a few times for it to sink in as I can’t imagine TryForce swims without him.  And although I don’t participate in the group swims as much anymore given it’s a bit inconvenient and far for me to travel, I still consider Roberto in many ways to be my swim coach.  With that in mind, I made it a point to show up last night and participate in what had been identified as his “last official coaching session”.

Roberto has been with the TryForce coaching team since its genesis.  A quick browse of the TryForce Niagara website will tell you that Roberto comes from a “swimming background”  and “instructed youth programs while in Mexico and has been instructing with TryForce for (seven-ish) years. He truly enjoys teaching the fundamental swimming technique for those looking to become comfortable and efficient in the water especially those new to the sport.”   I will expand on this to say that he’s one of the nicest, most patient people to ever walk the planet; and then there’s that smile.  Besides swimming, I’ve also had the pleasure of riding and running with him from time to time, and participated in a few workshops he hosted on basic bike maintenance and how to change a bike tire.  So, yeah, Roberto has been pretty instrumental in my development as a “triathlete”.

But back to the swimming…

When I was moved to the Beginner’s lane all those years ago I was mortified.  Hey, I won a Bronze medal as a child, remember?  Of course, there were only three people in my heat but that’s entirely beside the point.  For the next few weeks, Roberto patiently explained the proper mechanics of really  swimming and ran me (us) through some drills to help develop those skills.  It turns out that wind-milling your arms through the water at 100rpm  doesn’t generate speed.  Huh.  Whatyaknow?   My confidence in the water was shattered.  After all, as a kid, the swim coach at the local Lions pool had screamed “swim faster, Terry!”   at all those swim meets, not “make sure to properly utilize your catch in order to pull yourself comfortably through the water Terry!”

The bastard.

I recognized quickly then that I was basically starting over from scratch and relearning how to swim and I took it my new challenge. Roberto was a huge part in that.  Each week, we were given some instruction on the different parts of the stroke and then given “homework” (drills) to practice in the pool later on our own.  I took this homework seriously, often going back to the pool the very next morning for 20-30 minutes at a time and practicing my drills.  After a few weeks of practicing my technique, my form improved enough that I was ‘graduated’ to the next lane with another coach; but that didn’t end my relationship with Roberto.

While I continued to practice all the “shark fin”, “single arm”, “doggie paddle”, “zipper”, “catch-up” and God-knows-what-else drills the new coach gave us (most of which I still use and practice regularly today), I always made sure to sidle up to Roberto during our post-workout coffees to glean as much as I could about ways to continuously improve my form in the water.  I recognized that it wasn’t exactly a strength and I was determined to make it just that.

Eventually, Roberto even invited me to join him and another TryForce peer once a week for their workout and, honestly, this scared the bejesus outta me.  I knew there was no way I would ever be able to keep up with these two during their workout (and I didn’t), but I considered it an honor just to be asked and I couldn’t pass it up, not to mention the opportunity for a little extra tutorial. It was largely through these sessions that I learned that when it comes to swimming, it’s definitely quality over quantity when it comes to swimming.  It’s not how many lengths you accomplish, but the quality of the time you spend in the water to benefit your overall form and technique. This is the basic fundamental principle that I subscribe to today.

Also, it was during these sessions, on top of the usual drills I would do on my own, that Roberto gave me added advice on how to develop my kick which was practically non-existent and ugly even at the best of times (click HERE), he explained the benefits of and then made suggestions on how improve my bi-lateral breathing (click HERE).  He introduced me to the Swim Smooth website (click HERE) and taught me how to use an Aquapulse Heart Rate Monitor (click HERE).  Shit, he even tried to help me with my Butterfly Stroke (click HERE), something I have still managed to fail miserably at I might add.

But more than all this, Coach Roberto taught me something I have come to value above all else: a real LOVE of swimming.

Where I used to hate it and thought only of it as a necessity in order to compete in triathlon, I genuinely have a real passion for swimming now and I am continually developing it be my true strength in the sport.  I’ve become something of a real “Aquaholic” in that regard.  I now see long distance swimming as, potentially, my new future if/when this whole triathlon thing falls by the way side.  I already participate in one 10k charity swim per year (click HERE) and I would love to do more, even seriously compete at that distance – and longer.  I even have a future lake crossing in the back of my mind.

Yeah.

Beyond that, I am also now sharing and creating this same passion for swimming with HRH, who is turning into quite the water baby herself (she even used to ride in the canoe with Roberto during our open water workouts a few summers ago – something that she still fondly recalls from time to time now).  And it’s this overall drive and passion for swimming is what I am most grateful to Roberto for instilling in me.  Thank you for that, buddy.

Sincerely.

And even though it’s only temporarily you will be sorely missed and I am looking forward to the next time we can get in the water to simply, swim.