My Favorite Workout

Posted: November 26, 2017 in Bike, Swim, Training

I suspect that every triathlete has a favourite arrow in their quiver, a preferred “secret weapon” if you will, when it comes to their off-season training regimen.  Maybe it’s a specific fartlek workout you do once a week to enhance your overall run game, one day being dedicated to hill repeats, maybe a unique set of intervals to do on your trainer every Sunday morning, or maybe you just sign up for yoga classes.  Perhaps it’s a new piece of equipment to spice up ordinary daily workouts.  What it is, these “secret weapons” in our training programs that makes our training programs “unique” and therefore – well, we believe anyway – better…for whatever reason.

These are the workouts we brag about.

Mine just happens to fall on a Saturday.  After my morning breakfast, coffee, poop routine (I call it the “morning triumvirate”), I head off down the Friendship Trail on my bike to the Port Colborne YMCA to complete a long swim, and then I cycle home again afterwards.  Essentially for those of you who like numbers, I cycle 17.6 kilometers to the pool (20.3k if I am feeling energetic and take certain scenic back roads), swim another 3000m-5000m, and then cycle home another 17.6 kilometers.  All winter.

It’s not just any of those specific workouts I do on Saturday which I refer to as my “secret weapon” per se, it’s the entire day.

And it includes soup and beer so, yeah, recognize.

Let me try to explain why I love this day so much.

For starters, I’m guaranteed at least once a week to ride my bike outside instead of on a trainer.  Fuck, Zwift.  Sure, maybe it’s only just up and down the Friendship Trail on the weekends but you know what, that’s nearly two hours of being outside, breathing fresh air and enjoying a peaceful, leisurely spin instead of virtually competing with Lance Armstrong and three dozen other MAMIL’s on a simulated race program in front of your computer monitor.

No, fucking thanks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these “easy” rides to and from the pool are not necessarily “fun” or “easy”, as often I’m forced to cycle through everything from cold mist and rain (as it was today), to gale force Arctic-like winds and driving, blinding snow.  But regardless of whatever it is that the weather happens to be come Saturday, rest assured I will ride those 17.6 kilometers both ways (and swim)…without fail.

So what is so special about this particular day?  Why is this my special go so “secret weapon”, per se.

  1. Mental hardness

There is nothing so daunting at waking up to see cold rain falling from the sky on a chilly November Saturday and thinking to yourself, “shit, I have to cycle and swim today”.  Instantly your brain begins to craft out clever schemes and elaborate ruses in order to trick you into believing that it’s actually smarter to skip the ride/swim altogether and instead stay home in your jammies nursing a hot cup of Cocoa and a plate of hot pockets.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  But no, you tune out that little bitch voice in your head, cinch up the ól applesack and after the usual morning triumvirate, grab your swim gear, gear up, and get your ass outside to the bike and you start to ride, sissypants.

Fuck, Zwift.

Being indoors is too easy.

I believe it’s that kind of mental discipline to get outdoors regardless of the weather that by proxy, also helps develop a certain mental hardness to endure when the going starts to get tough.  I pride myself on being a tough rider, someone the others can count on to immediately go to the front and work just as soon as the going starts to get difficult or challenging.   On certain days, I will emerge from the pool and have to then cycle home (17.6k) in fresh, foot deep snow which has since accumulated while I have been swimming.  Oh, and it’s probably also going to be in near white out conditions so, yeah, believe me, there’s a masters course being taught on ‘Mental Hardness 101’ right there at that moment.

2. Practice race day nutrition

One of the other perks of this day’s worth of workouts is that because, I’m essentially laying down three workouts on top of one another (the ride out, the swim, and then the ride back again) I need to make sure I stay adequately hydrated and fueled enough that I don’t end up bonking in the middle of fucking nowhere and becoming a frozen late night snack for the coyotes.  Not good.

This starts first thing on Saturday morning come breakfast, and I bring a both a pre- and post- swim snack to keep my energy levels up.  For example, on my rides this afternoon I spent exactly 1200 calories (I can expect to add another 300-400 calories to that once the temperatures drop below zero, the snow starts to seriously fly and I have to switch to my mountain bike), and my swims can burn anywhere from another 500 to 1000 calories on top of that depending on what I’m doing that day (ie. longer distance, or intervals).

That a lot of energy being spent that needs to be replaced.

These types of training days then help me to really begin dialing in on the perfect formula that keeps  me performing optimally and that’s a key thing to know about yourself come race day, believe me.  Good thing then that I’ve been practicing it, tweaking it, and perfecting it for the past five months of weekend riding and swimming.

3.  It’s just better outside

Seriously, fresh air, birds…leaves…squirrels…chipmunks…what have you, that’s still shit tons better than looking at other virtual riders asses in high def, isn’t it?

4.  Strength

I may not be the most “gnarly” of mountain biking dudes, but I do know that my legs are sure as shit more tired after I’ve been riding a mountain bike; more so if I’ve been cycling through snow.  That basically equates to two hours’ worth of cycle-specific strength conditioning, brah.  I essentially use this workout as my sole “long ride” workout in my off-season training program, something I would have typically done on a trainer at the gym or in my basement until my brains were dribbling out my nose from extreme boredom.

5.  Beer and soup

As per custom, my ride home stops at Brimstone Brewing for a bowl of hot soup and a pint or two of fine local craft beer.   Yes, some of you might think of this as being foolishly in instantly replacing all the calories I just finished burning off but, to this I say:  “Bite me”.  Live a little.  Personally, I subscribe to the popular belief among cyclists and long distance endurance athletes (the Germans primarily) that a little beer is good for you after a long or difficult workout.

In fact, it actually aids the entire recovery process (click HERE or HERE).

I know, right?

But not to be outdone, let me also say that that bowl of hot, steaming homemade soup courtesy of CRAVE LOCAL FRESH is the thing that I start fantasizing about each and every time I start to peddle on a brisk Saturday morning or afternoon…particularly on the way home.  Even more so if it’s been snowing.  And if good beer and good soup doesn’t motivate you, then I don’t know what does.

After all, every success needs a little reward.

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That Voodoo That I Do

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Equipment, Gym, Injuries and Owies
Tags:

And so it begins – the official off-season training program.

In truth, it actually started a while ago but I have begun to get myself back into a daily/weekly routine enabling me to cover all my swimming, biking, running and strength-building bases and already, these workouts comprise approximately 12-15 hours of my week.

I know, I know…I’m bat shit crazy but I’m owning it.

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

One of main priorities right now is to repair the badly atrophied muscles in my legs following my Iron Disaster this past June; my right leg specifically.  To that regard, I have added a new toy to my daily strength-building program – be it core at home in my basement or with the weights at the gym – the Voodoo Band (or “Voodoo Floss”).

voodo

And no, sadly, a “Voodoo Band” is not the name of some hip and rocking swing band.

Essentially, a Voodoo Band is an essential tool that, really, should be a staple tool in the gym bags of every athlete looking to improve range, restore joint mechanics, or unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

Or so the advertising websites tell me, anyway.

What is really is, is a thick stretchy compression band that one can wrap around their limb (in my case, the muscles of my right thigh and Iliotibial band area) to allow the re-perfusing of tissues that have become stiff or gone cold after injury, and by compressing swelling out of tissues and joints.  Because the Voodoo Band can be used while actually performing the movement the athlete is trying to change, its effect on sliding surface and restoration and tissue mobilization is (apparently) unmatched.

I was first introduced to the Voodoo band on one of my visits to Legacy Health & Performance when Dr. Burr pulled one out during one our sessions.  My first instinct was to cower in the corner like a whipped puppy seeing as how the band – at first glance – kind of resembles something a headmaster might use to discipline an errant student.  Likewise, I’m pretty sure I saw this thing in a fetish video once at a Stag party years ago.

Either way, I was not exactly looking forward to it.

Thankfully, Dr. Burr started to wrap only the muscles of my right leg in it before asking me to perform a series of movements that, prior to this moment, had ached whenever I performed this same movement.  And low and behold, the pain had almost subsided entirely once wrapped in this thick rubber band.

Okay, that’s cool.

Had someone told me about the benefits of the Voodoo Band without my actually having tried it first, I would have assumed that naming it “Voodoo” was just a great marketing ploy to entice lay-people like myself into purchasing one and trying it out but, hey, there is definitely something to this bad ass looking stretchy thing.  Not long afterwards, I saw the band mentioned again in a book (also recommended by Dr. Burr) I had started to read called ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to it.

If you believe Starrett, the Voodoo Band is the be all and end all of helping to cure what ails ya, runner-style.

And you know what?

I do believe him.

This Dr. Starrett fella sure doesn’t look like your typical emaciated, skinny-ass, sleek, greyhound looking Kenyan marathoner.  No, sir!  He’s a large, burly, ripped muscle guy with tattoos.  The kind of tattoos that mean “watch out, motherfucker!”  and not “hey, let me read you some poems about my vegan bicycle”.  Upon first glance, you might better picture him as the kind of person you’d expect to murder you while quietly humming to himself as opposed to out running endless hill repeats in the back country.  In other words, if this guy can run regularly and naturally, and without injury, then there might just be something to this whole Voodoo thingee.

What have I got to lose?

According to Starrett (and Dr. Burr), the Voodoo band is an instrumental tool in restoring the sliding surface between the layers of fascia, creating a omnipotent shearing effect that unglues those sticky sliding surfaces, helps to restore range of motion, floods the affected area with nutrient-rich blood, and helping to reduce swelling while reviving the joint.

Sounds totally boffo, right?

But what’s all that mean?

Well, beneath the skin there are two thick “layers” of fascia. The layer associated with the skin is the Superficial Fascial Membrane. There is another layer which is very closely associated with muscle and skeleton, called the Deep Fascial Membrane. The deeper layer is not simply a “wrap” around muscles and soft tissues, but is also integrated within these structures to pass force and information in every direction.

The superficial fascia is attached to the dermis via “skin ligaments”, called the Retinaculum Cutis Superficialis (RCS). The superficial fascia is attached to the deep fascia via more soft tissue bridges, call the Retinaculum Cutis Profundus (RCP).

Still with me?

Fascial layers are densely populated with all sorts of receptors, most notably mechanoreceptors. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that fascia is like a loud-speaker to the brain, saying “Hey, something is moving down here in your less intelligent tissues. Howzabout you get involved, all up in here?”.  Stack that with the fact that joint capsules (previously thought to be our main source of proprioception) are considered to provide strong feedback only during end range stretch/compression, I think we can safely assume that fascia is a key component in neurological feedback loops, especially related to movement.

So, how does this apply to the Voodoo Band/Floss?

It’s simple really.

voodoo-flossThe strong elastic compression will quickly alter fascia’s relation to all other aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system when you move with it on.  It would likely take some tension out of certain areas of the fascia, shifting it to other areas via strong intra-sling/intra-layer tension redistribution and inter-layer shear.  Yeah, it’s all about the tensegrity, baby.

So what does this mean now?

Basically, it can massively alter neural input by making a quick change in the mechanical transmission of the fascial system (and its many mechanoreceptors) when moving underneath some strong compression and “stretchy-pulley forces”.

Yes, that’s the technical term.

What’s the ultimate take-away here:  looking at the Voodoo Band simply as a compression mechanism is quite simplistic, since the vast majority of users will wrap themselves up and move. 

Even simpler put:

Compression + Tension + Movement = Fibrosis release.

So wrap myself up and move I will.

Through a whole host of movements actually; squatting, lunging, and stretching specifically.  And here’s the important part, it feels good – during and after.  In a few short weeks I have noticed a significant improvement in all my former “ouchie places” and the power I once had is now beginning to restore itself and this pleases me.

And even when the pain and discomfort is no longer prevalent or a problem, I’m still planning to keep with the Voodoo Band during my strength routines as a pervasive action in order to stave off future injuries and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and hey, I also figure walking around the gym or at home with this bad ass thing wrapped around me isn’t exactly going to damage my street cred any as a total shit-kicker either, could it?

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

2017: What I Learned

Posted: November 4, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

My competitive season is all over.  Actually, in truth, it was over a long time ago but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve sat down to reflect on it all.  What I do know for certain is that there were certainly a lot of big successes, as well as a lot of even bigger failures and now is probably the time I should try to make some sense of it all regarding what I learned before I try to get back into any disciplined and structured training program.

This is no easy task I assure you, considering that I started the year injured (click HERE) and, of course, there was the whole ultimate bullshit enchilada that went down this past June (click HERE).  But having said that, there were definitely successes in these setbacks and I feel it’s important to know what they are so a) hopefully, I don’t repeat them again, or b) if they do happen, I will know how to deal with the situation.  This information is essential as far as I’m concerned if I’m going to continue growing as an athlete and, really, as a person.

First off, let’s just get it out there.  I haven’t competed in a triathlon – of any distance – in two years.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have in any way not done anything.  In fact, I have trained very hard at being Ironman ready for two years, but I just haven’t been successful at actually being able to test this fitness on the field of battle, per se.  That’s right, for two years I have trained up to 20 hours a week and endured all the pavement pounding, the wear and tear, the mental and physical fatigue and what have you, for TWO-FUCKING-YEARS.

You could say that in the past two years I have become somewhat of an authority on how to train for an Ironman without actually having to race one.

Not that I’m bragging, mind you.

Sure, one year the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE) and the next, well, I ended up running my body over an industrial cheese grater seven days from the big event but, still, it’s frustrating.  But I’m choosing here to look at the positives and use it to fuel me into the 2018 season.

So what did I learn?

  1. Less is more

Especially in 2017, I trained actually less hours than I have previously and ended up in probably the best shape I have been in since Ironman Wales.  Sure, I still had some long days but those didn’t really come until just over a month out from my “Go date” (July 8th).  Of course, I had a lot of help thanks to an amazing coach and a great support team but previously, I would be running and spinning ridiculous mileage by the time the New Year rolled over and would maintain that right up until my taper.  I was more often than not exhausted, fatigued, grumpy, and not loving the process.

This was though was the year that I forgot about distance and time and, instead, focused on quality and form.  In other words, I trained smarter.  Each session had a point, a focus and a goal and none of those were time or distance related.  Over the winter months, I was only cycling one hour sessions twice a week and then riding my mountain bike on the weekend to and from the pool.  I ran only three times a week and the same with swimming.

During this indoor period, I focused on anaerobic and strength conditioning on all my swim, bike and run workouts, as well as improving my overall mental toughness; things that would serve me well come April when I began to transition outside and into my longer, suckier training sessions.  Instead of saying I swam for two hours, or ran 25 kilometers, I would say that I swam, biked or ran until I had achieved my intended goal for that workout – whatever that was at the time.

That’s a huge paradigm shift in thinking for someone who was used to measuring their success in kilometers or hours.  However, success is not measured in time or distance, it is measured in your ability to achieve the focus or goal of the workout.

Therefore, he (or she) who accomplishes the goal most often on a regular basis- wins.

  1. Core

This is likely the smartest thing I did all year.  In lieu of being sidelined from my running in January, I embarked on a 28 Day Challenge, which ended being stretched out to 100 days.  In doing so, I immediately noticed that I was swimming, biking and running (once I started) significantly better because my overall core strength had improved drastically.

Essentially, any forward momentum starts and ends in the core and the stronger my core, the longer it could hold its form while going forward be it swimming, biking or running, meaning the longer I continue with unnecessary wasted effort.  This means longer hours, longer distances, with less wear and tear.

How awesome is that?

This realization is pretty much the foundation that I preach to anyone and everyone who will listen these days.

Basically, do your core workout EVERY day – without fail.

  1. Learn the difference between “Fitness” and “Training”

Yes, there is a difference.

A big one.

Largely this discrepancy occurs now thanks to Garmin and other workout tracking applications that ask you to classify your activity under one of these two banners, or something entirely difference.  Usually, the weekly workouts I do will fall under one of these two main categories.  Previously, I would classify everything I did as “training” since it was part of my weekly plan, and I believe that most triathletes make this same assumption.  However, I have now come to recognize that the two are not the same thing, like, at all; apples and oranges actually.

There are things you do for the purpose of being fun, active and being involved in a healthy lifestyle (fitness) and then there are things you do to best simulate the conditions you can expect come race day (training).  While the two are definitely symbiotic of one another, not being able to distinguish the difference between the two can be completely counter-productive to your training program.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that my inability to know the difference between the two is what led me to my first injury this past January.

First, however, let’s discuss the difference.

“Fitness” workouts are the things you do to maintain your physical and aerobic abilities, as well as burn some calories.  Things such as yoga, core, anything regarded as “recovery” or “easy”, and maybe weights.  The aim and focus here is to take things easy, and just enjoy the process and not psyche yourself out that you didn’t go hard enough or long enough and therefore the workout didn’t accomplish anything, or it was a failure all together.

Total bullshit.

“Training” workouts simulate race day conditions, be it anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, etc.  They are definitely not the workouts you look forward to but definitely they make you better at coping with the physical and mental stresses you can expect to endure on race day.

Here’s an example:  my typical Saturday workout will see me riding out to the local Port Colbourne pool 20 kilometers away – fitness.  When I get there, I will complete a structured long swim of 3000-5000mtraining.  Afterwards, I ride home again – fitness.

So why is this difference important?

Well, the main goal of the day is to complete my long swim that simulates race day conditions.  The rides out and back (be it on my classic steel or mountain bike) are simply for fun and all at an “easy-does-it” pace.  Consider it my warm-up and warn-down if you will.  Having said all that, anyone who has ever ridden 20 kilometers in -20° weather through snow will immediately know that this it is not necessarily “easy-does-it”.  So, yes, there is something beneficial to be gained like bonus strength conditioning in the legs and an immediate development of one’s mental toughness of riding in less than ideal conditions.  But it was not the immediate focus of the day; it was an accompaniment.  Not everything needs to be balls-to-the-wall.  In this case, it was just a bonus to be out and moving the legs, but it was not necessarily “training”.

Adopting the mindset that everything is “training”, inevitably leads one to think that everything has to be hard, long and/or difficult and that will also inevitably lead one to needlessly over-taxing the body and one’s stress (Cortisol) levels, and injury will inevitably be the result.  Take my word for it.  So learn to accept that some things are for fitness only and don’t necessarily have to be performed at 100%.  For anything less that race day simulation, just enjoy the experience, give yourself some credit for simply doing it, and give your body and brain a break.

In actuality, all my bike riding since mid-August when I finally returned to riding have been done on my steel bike at an easy pace – and I love it.  LOVE.  IT.

  1. The Double Run

This was a new tactic I employed this year.  When my coach first introduced this into my training program come May I think I had an immediate heart attack.

You mean, you want me to run twice…in a single day?

Excuse me?

Surely you jest.

But she wasn’t kidding.

The goal here was to a) train the legs to perform fatigued, and b) get in some added mileage on the day while minimizing your chances of getting injured.

The premise goes like this:  head out early in the day for a long run; long being the length of time you can hold your ideal race pace.  Once your body begins to shut down and your pace goes to shit, call the workout off.  On some days this will be either longer or shorter than the previous week but distance isn’t necessarily the focus here.  Later in the day, once you have recovered head out a second time and do a second, shorter run, again at pace and again until your form collapses.  This process begins to build muscle memory (and the necessary strength conditioning) on how to hold your form while fatigued and, eventually, those second runs begin to feel better than the initial long run in the morning.

Word.

In a few short weeks, I went from running 15-20 kilometers in the morning with another 2-3 kilometers in the evening, to running 25 kilometers in the morning and another 10 kilometers later on for a larger daily mileage and – here’s the thing – the second run even felt good.

Imagine that!

Was it fun in the beginning?  Fuck no.  But after the initial shock of the first 2-3 weeks wore off, those double runs begin to feel – dare I say it – awesome.  And that translated to immediate confidence that I could manage the entire marathon at the end of the day without having to needlessly suffer.

  1. Mental toughness – it’ a thing

I’ve preached about mental toughness before (click HERE) so if you’re still not doing it, well, that’s your loss.  You need to train your brain to cope with the stress the same way you train your body.

All those motivational videos you see on YouTube will likely not be of any use out on the road, or during your event.  Instead, you should have a mental strategy of what provides you mental strength in the moment that you have already tested in battle (ie. your daily workouts) that you can then draw on when the shit begins to hit the fan.

The last thing you want going through your head at the end of the day is how much something sucks. There is nothing productive in that.

  1. Get in the pool.

Now.  Go do it.

You can pound out another long run (if that’s your thing) or spin for four hours (because it’s warm and convenient) and deal with the wear and tear afterwards, or you can wake up early, drag your butt in the pool to develop your form and technique (because it’s  hard), and reap the low-impact cardio and strength benefits by learning how to get out of the water feeling good, strong and confident.

Remember, if you don’t get out of the water – you never get to the bike, the run or the rest of the race.

Period.

  1. Shit happens.

More than anything, this was my single most learning opportunity this year.

I fractured my hand seven days from my Ironman.  I was in the best shape of my life and in the blink of an eye, it was over.  My realization now though now that the frustration and disappointment was worn off is that I had a great plan, a great coach and, ultimately, a recipe that works.

To quote from a cheesy Rocky film, “life will beat you down and keep you there.  It’s about taking the punch and keep moving forward”, and that’s what I’m trying doing baby.

I will rise again.  I will tackle this Ironman again sooner than later.  I will persevere.

God willing, of course.

“Fabia’s Big Ride” 2017

Posted: October 7, 2017 in Bike
Tags: ,

It’s become something of a tradition between HRH  and I to plan a few Adventures together over the course of the summer and this year we were fortunate enough to have four such adventures: participating in the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna, British Columbia, snorkeling out to see the Sherkston Shipwrecks in Lake Erie (click HERE), HRH‘s first 50k Big Move Ride (click HERE) and this, our 2nd annual Daddy-Daughter Ride (click HERE for last years ride).

The original plan was to cycle from our home here in Ridgeway out to Dunnville (70k) for lunch but seeing as how we haven’t been out cycling together as much as we did last year what with my not being able to ride most of the summer n’ all, we decided to forgo the distance and settle for something fun and scenic instead.

I first discovered the Lakeshore Rd. route back in June while exploring the greater Dunnville area on my long Ironman rides and then again with a fun little ride with the wife last month.  I was sold on the relaxed route through the remote Haldimand County cottage country which skirts along the shores of Lake Erie: scenic, smooth paved road, and zero traffic to contend with.

Perfect for relaxed afternoon of cycling with the kiddo.

All aboard!

We departed from Selkirk Provincial Park around 1:00pm after the rain showers had passed over for the day.

1

From there it was a straight shot along Lakeshore Rd. straight back to Dunnville.

Easy peasy.

With little to zero traffic to contend with, we more or less had the entire road to ourselves meaning that we could take out time and ride together, enjoying the autumn color, the interesting cottages, old barns and vasts spans of farmland, the infinite number of crazy ass squirrels, more statuettes and garden gnomes than you could shake a stick at and, oh yes, mermaids.

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Thought I was kidding, did you?

There was lots of other cool things to see as well.

Eventually we stopped at about the half way point for a quick lunch of Subway and gummy worms on a cute little pagoda overlooking the lake.

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Over the course of the next 20k, we more or less just enjoyed each others company, the scenery, a stupid amount of windmills, and the fact that there was zero wind blowing off the lake.

Oh, and we even had a little lie down with some pigs.

Here’s some other shots of the journey.

Of course, there was also the “almost there” treat as well:

Appropriate, right?

So after a little more than 2 hours worth of cycling (give or take another hour or so for stopping, picture taking and whatnot), we arrived safely in Dunnville to hook up with mommy again who had spend the afternoon Thrift store shopping.

Mission accomplished.

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Sure there was the whole snafu of arriving back to a dead battery in the car and the whole drama that ensued getting it charged in order to get home but, hey, that’s fodder for an entirely different blog post.

Now the planning begins for next years trip.

16681781_1605888902760929_1085829283789604340_nThis has not exactly been a banner year.  As far as I’m concerned, 2017 can bite me and 2018 can’t come quick enough.

The real capper came late last week with the heartbreaking news that a dear friend, a training partner, and a personal inspiration of mine passed away tragically.

Steve Apps will be sorely missed.

It was on an early Sunday morning eons ago when Coach Bill asked me to move over into the next lane with Saskia, Devin, and a guy named Steve.  I’m pretty sure they closed the pool later that morning due to a sudden “pool fouling”.

I was that nervous.

Saskia was all business and Devin just talked endlessly.  Seriously, Devin would practically swim beside you during fast intervals and yap on endlessly about the night before, String Theory, or his take on lactate threshold training in spinning, or simply whatever it was that happened to occupy his mind at that precise moment.

Steve was different.

He laughed.

A lot.

In between sets, lengths, drills, whatever.  There was always some zinger being thrown around the pool in someone’s direction (often mine).  It made the fact that I was practically drowning at the time seem like it was even fun.

That was Steve’s Modus Operandi to a tee:

“Have fun in all things you do”.

 

I barely kept up through those early days but Steve was encouraging, in between well placed ribbing and teasing.

Steve was different  than these other A-type personalities.

He was fun.

(Even if I did want to kill him sometimes for making swimming look so damn easy.)

If we were really lucky, we’d also get a chance to hear Steve single along to George Thurogood in the spin class later that same morning.  Coach Bill would have us spinning our bollocks off at a ridiculous pace when there would inevitably come from the back of the room:

“And then she was so nice,
Lord, she was lovey-dovey.”

And then there would be that contagious laugh.

When we took to the road later that Spring, I learned how to ride my bike (gears, braking, etc.) on group rides that Steve helped to organize and lead as one of the founders of the original TryForce group.  Afterwards, there was always Starbucks, laughter and lots of healthy, good natured ribbing.

Have fun in all things you do.

Steve was more or less the reason why I took my first crack at a half Ironman distance triathlon.  He went into it of course to have fun, while I was bit more methodical and demanding of myself in terms of finishing.  In short, I managed to complete the event in a not-so-stellar time but he definitely had more fun.  Truth, I more or less fell apart during and directly afterwards while Steve finished with a big smile on his face so, yeah, he had it right all along.

Have fun in all things you do.

Fast forward a few years and Steve isn’t racing much thanks to a busy work travel schedule.  Our relationship had more or less evolved into making regular recommendations through Facebook regarding local craft brews, and then again in our kitchen for our annual Christmas Open House.  It was through these idle kitchen chats that ended up with us partnering together this past April to complete the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids (click HERE).

Steve was looking for a challenge while I was looking for company.

A perfect match, right?

It was.

In the lead up, as always, Steve had his own unique approach to training (click HERE) but when it was all said and done, dare I say it, it was as much fun as you’d expect anything you did with Steve would inevitably be.  It was certainly the most fun I’ve ever had swimming 400 long, boring laps in a pool anyway.

Steve just had that effect.

Of course, we celebrated with a few pints and good food.

Have fun in all things you do.

Besides his laugh and tips on tasty beverages, it will be these type of reminders that Steve offered and  completely embodied that there is more to triathlon than just swimming, biking and running.

There is Life.

Triathlon is not solely Life itself, but only a means with which to better enjoy and celebrate it.  That’s a difficult concept to grasp and I know that I, as with others I suspect, have struggled with comprehending that in the beginning when we were first initiated into this crazy sport; particularly given our often rigorous personal training regimens.

It was always about the training.

Steve was a powerful reminder that Life came first, as well as all the fun things that will inevitably come along with it.  Understanding this principle of “triathlon as fun”, something with which to embrace and enjoy life, was an important epoch in my own development into a triathlete and future family man; one which I am trying hard to follow now and apply on a daily basis.

Moving on without Steve to constantly remind me to focus on the fun and thereby enjoying the process as a whole, is going to be hard.

I’m going to miss doing laps with the guy.

I’m going to miss his early morning zingers.

I will miss his addressing me as “Nasher”.

I’m going to miss his great beer recommendations.

Mostly, I’m going to miss that laugh.

R.I.P.

The Big Move 2017

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

After a more than disappointing end to this competitive season, I’m just beginning to feel a little semblance to how I was back fitness-wise in June before my wee accident (click HERE).

Throughout this two month period of adjustment, knowing that this year’s ride was going to be my 9th consecutive year volunteering as the “Tail End Charlie” for the Big Move Cancer Ride 100k event, well, let’s just say that it has kept me inspired to get back in the saddle as soon as possible.  And I have.  Where I’ve definitely cycled in some tough situations before – both physical and environmental (lest we forget 2015’s challenging ride click HERE) – I feel good, this morning’s weather looks good, Daisy’s been oiled and the tires are pumped up, and ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are rarin’ to get under way as I’m excited to see what this year’s event has in store for me.

Let’s get this party started.

As per usual, I was up early and making a breakfast of eggs and toast and washed it all down with one too many cups of Joe.  What’s different this year is that instead of volunteering, Hailey and Kelly are riding the 50k event and seeing as how their ride doesn’t begin until later in the day, I’ll be arriving on my own and starting my ride before they even show up so no family selfie this year.

Sorry.

As per usual, by 7:30am the grounds around Club Roma is a hive of activity with everything in the process of setting something up, securing something down, moving something over there, then moving it right back again and, well, let’s  just say that there is butt ton of stuff going on.

As per usual, pedaling is my jam so I just stand around drinking coffee.

I kind of feel like the grasshopper among the ants but, hey, once that ride starts at 8:30am sharp, my work officially begins and doesn’t let up for the next six to seven hours, so this relax time with a warm beverage helps to get me mentally and physically prepped as well as providing an opportunity to get myself and my bike all squared away and ready to go.  And then, of course, with just mere minutes to the start I will inevitably have to go to the bathroom one last time forcing me to take off my entire kit one more time and put it all back on again but, I digress…

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Such is the routine.

There are some really cool parts that I love about being the “Tail End Charlie” as these rides.  For starters, it’s a very powerful feeling to be situated out at the very back of the pack for the opening speeches before the ride even gets going.  From this vantage point, you can see everyone’s motivation pinned to on their backs; bibs listing all the names of those for whom the cyclists are riding in memory of.

Think about that.

Cancer sucks and it’s just plain stupid how many names there are.  It’s an overwhelming feeling.  I can’t even fit all those who have been affected in my own life on my bib now, so I just go with this nowadays:

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So, really, you’re not just riding with the cyclists themselves but each and every one of those people with whom they are carrying along for the journey as represented by the names written in black magic marker.

How can that not both upset and  inspire you?

This year I was very lucky to be partnered with a friend, Karen Natho whom I first back in the early TryForce days and have since maintained a friendship with since then.  Let me tell you this about Karen: not only is she the nicest person you’re ever going to meet, but she’s also among the toughest triathletes I know so having an opportunity to ride alongside her and pick her brain was inspiring in and of itself.

It also bodes well that Karen can also keep up her end of a conversation over a 100 kilometer bike route as well.

Here we are at the beginning almost looking like a Before and After pic:

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It’s a bit of a different route this year but it’s the same monster climb up to Rockway Glen that starts it all off.  The climb up the escarpment is the first and most significant challenge faced by the riders.   That typically means there is a lot of coaching and encouraging up this segment of roadway.

Being a decent climber myself I am usually able to do all that but seeing how my legs currently may or may not be up to their usual strength yet, this morning I’m even kind of looking at this hill myself like:

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I did manage to get up it however, as did everyone else.

Check #1 off my sweeper’s “To Do” list.

It’s also usually around this point that the little “Lantern Rouge” group of riders, begins to form at the very back.  This is another terrific aspect of being the “Tail End Charlie”, in that you typically get to meet a new group of people each year very, very well, as you will inevitably get to spend 5-6 hours getting to know them as you are riding together.

This year I was fortunate to be riding with not one, but 6 riders belonging to the same family; 4 year old Nova was riding along with her mother and dad was riding with the two boys in tow.

Here’s they are:

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Here’s why they ride:

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Talk about parenting being done right.

Shortly thereafter, Karen and I met up with Maggie and Kelly, a Niagara teacher and banker, and it was with these two girls that Karen and I would end up riding with for the remaining 70-75 kilometers – not that needed us mind you.

I wish here now that I had some interesting stories about all the difficult trials and travails  we had to endure together over this years 100 kilometers in order to get our little Lantern Rouge  back to the finish line safely and successfully, but I don’t.  Sometimes Karen and I rode with the girls, sometimes ahead of the girls and sometimes behind, all depending on who wanted to chat with who.   Of course, as is tradition about being at the tail end of the ride with me, you also have to endure 5 hours of my endless stories and Maggie and Kelly definitely weathered the storm admirably.

Karen didn’t have a choice.

Dare I say it, however, that the going was easy-peasy and before we knew it we were more than halfway around the course and rolling into the ‘First Incounters’   Rest Stop in Welland, and you know what that means:

Honestly, if the Big Move ride wasn’t what it was, the bib on the back my vest might have well read: “I Brake for Cookies”.

Truth!

God bless the long standing volunteer Martyk family for making their rest stop along River Road at Becketts Bridge what it is, something to be enjoyed.  Many hugs were passed, good cheer was spread and, tragically, many cookies met their fateful end, but soon we were a-rollin’ on.

Heading back into Pelham and St. Catharines, Maggie and Kelly wanted to commemorate their longest ride at the 88k mark along Maple Street.   Balloons were even procured for the occasion out of the sweep van riding behind us.

“Always ready” we are at the end.

Here’s the big moment:

And, again, we continued on with high spirits.

Only another short 12 kilometers to go.

Here’s a few more photos of the day:

I’m going to change the story a bit drastically here, as there wasn’t really much left to tell of my own.  The girls made it back, Karen and I rolled over the finish line in last place (my 9th), a delicious pasta and meat ball lunch provided by Club Roma was crushed, and our day officially ended on the same high note that it started.

Here’s the proof:

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DisclaimerThe pasta lunch didn’t last long enough for a photo.

The other story unfolding today involves Hailey, my 12 year old step-daughter who had managed to complete the entire 50k ride on her own, including riding to the top of Rockway Glen on her own thanks to a little encouragement provided by the 50k sweep team.

Thanks Nicole, Christina, and Paule!).

Here’s some pictures of my step-daughter’s own Big Move experience:

This was a huge milestone to cap off her Summer with and I’m thrilled that she was able to do that as a part of the same incredible event that I am also very passionate about.  We have one last big ride to look forward to together later in the Autumn, so she is currently very jazzed about it as she is extremely confident to take it on.

Great job, sweeps!

And a very sincere and heartfelt “Thank you”  as well.

Maybe in the future, Hailey and I will evolve into a “Father and Daughter” sweep team on future Big Move rides.

Who knows?

Definitely something to look forward to in the coming years though.

See you all next year and until then:

Happy Riding!!

Note:  For a little more insight into this years event, please check out this video HERE.

Exactly two months ago today I was in the shape of my life when, poof!, it all disappeared and my life instead took on a completely different type of “Ironman” adventure, one that included having seven titanium pins inserted into my left hand.  Not exactly the beginning, or end for that matter, of the 2017 triathlon season that I was hoping for (click HERE for a reminder).

These last two months have certainly not been easy and I have to contend with and endure some very difficult low points but I’m coming through it now; I can begin to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.  I figure then that having been exactly two months, it was time to post some sort of follow up on the healing process overall and shed some light on where I currently stand in regards to getting back on the ‘ol proverbial horse as it were.

The first four weeks were certainly the hardest as I struggled to simply deal with the situation (click HERE for that reminder).  Thankfully, I have more or less come through that now and am beginning to look to what the future holds for me in regards to the next challenge.

(Insert image of a mythological bird taking flight over smoldering ruins here)

The first issue needing addressing is the weight issue.  This was inevitably going to be the case as sitting around in an EZ-Boy unable to do anything isn’t exactly the key to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  You know what you don’t want when you’re forced to sit around bored and incapacitated?  Salad.  Well, not unless you substitute all the lettuce and spinach for, oh I don’t know, Cheetohs.  And then swap the tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers for, say, Skittles, Gummy Bears and, peanut butter cups while you’re at it.  There.

That makes me feel superb.

So, yeah, I’ve put on a few pounds.

This was always in the cards of course as part of the post-Ironman recovery process, but at least I would have had one momentous accomplishment to look back on and be proud of in order to justify my laziness.

Without that, I’ve just gotten fat.

Period.

This change towards a healthier diet now that I’m beginning to be more active again will begin immediately.   Coupled with that, I am going to begin my regular (if not daily) core regimen to begin building back lean muscle and prepare my body to once again (three times the charm!) handle the rigors of all my off-season training.  This was likely the smartest thing I did all year in preparation for Ironman so I aim to reinitiate that program.  The upshot to all this, is that I also need to regenerate the muscles in my left hand and forearm, so this is also an excellent add-on to my regular physio treatments.

Speaking of building muscle, the biggest challenge at the moment is dealing with the severely atrophied muscles in my legs.  When this whole shit storm erupted, I was cycling stronger than I ever have before with a strength and endurance that I had previously never imagined and was on track with being able to accomplish a sub 5 hour 30 minute Ironman bike pace.  Now that power is gone.  Rather, I have the power, but I can’t maintain it for any significant length of time.

I just don’t have the wherewithal to do the long distances at the moment.

But that’s okay seeing as how my “riding season” was already aimed at being “fun” anyway, in just being able to get out and ride with Hailey and Kelly and I can do that once more.  I still have The Big Move to look forward to where I will once again be serving for the 10th time in the capacity as a “sweep” rider, then Hailey and I will attempt our second annual “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” (click HERE for last years’ account) come October.  This year the plan is to ride out to Dunnville for brunch (approx. 65k).   I still slip in the odd ride on my own however when time and schedule allow and I’m confident that the legs will return in time.

The major challenge right now is swimming where, essentially, I am back to square one.

For anyone who swims (like, really  swims) they will understand that swimming is all about form and having an immediate “feel” for the water.  The current lack of mobility and muscle in my left hand in part with the severed and regenerating nerve endings after the surgery mean that I’ve now lost this instinctual feel for the water.

however, now that I’m back in the water, the goal is to reacquire this feel and regain my form ASAP so that means drills, drills, paddles and more drills.  Getting in the pool 3-4 times a week, even for short distances (1500m-2500m) is a big priority for me right now, having once prided myself on being an accomplished swimmer.

I really  want to regain that confidence in the water once again.

Running.

Gah!

I was just getting to a place where I was beginning to feel like a runner after years of trying to make peace with it.  Running for me has never been easy.  Having said that, by mid-June I was running off-the-bike comfortably and strongly with no adversity, or what’s commonly called among triathletes as “cement legs”.  That was definitely huge progress after nearly a decade in the sport.  While I might not have been the fastest runner in the field, I was consistent and running with decent form.

Now, with the added weight of two meaty man tits to contend with, that form and consistency have all but evaporated.  As with cycling, it’s back to the beginning and as with swimming, that means drills, drills, and more ABC drills.  Fortunately, the intense heat and humidity of summer has more or less passed so getting out now for easy(ish) short runs around the surrounding area – even it’s just to visit the neighborhood cat (click HERE) – isn’t the most challenging thing I need to get geared up to accomplish.  Once my legs muscle begin to return I will amp up these weekly runs to once again include regular fartleks, hill, speed, tempo and even long distance workouts through the week.

So, physically, I’m coming along nicely and have taken my first few tentative steps (and strokes) along the comeback trail, so to speak.

Mentally?

That’s a bit more daunting.

While I believe that I am on the right path, I’m still impatient and often find myself feeling angry or jealous of others around me who all still in their peak fitness and accomplishing great things.  I mean, it’s not them that I am angry with, but the circumstances if that makes sense.  I have done all the hard work already – twice – and still have nothing to show for it.  And now here I am again dealing with another (more major) setback.

It’s a hard thing to swallow regardless of how well things are going at the moment.

But as my chiropractic guru at Legacy Health & Fitness (also HERE), Dr. Kristin Burr who, I might add, has put this battered and sometimes broken body back together again more times than I can count, mentioned to me last week:

“You’re a real athlete now that you’ve had to deal with this type of serious injury and your ability to get past this is what’s going to define you as an athlete going forward.”

Huh.

I never thought of it quite like that.

Wise person this Dr. Burr.

But it’s true.  Everyone loves a comeback.  If I can manage to remain patient and not get too weighed down by the incredible psychological mire of doubt, regret and frustration and somehow successfully accomplish all the things I’ve mentioned above (not to mention finding a job) to reacquire my prior “Iron fitness” and – fingers crossed – once and for all complete this Ironman goal, that will be friggin’ huge.

HUGE.

I am very fortunate in that I already have the right team and the successful plan to follow (click HERE), I just need to be able to follow through and pull the trigger once the stars manage to correctly align themselves…whenever that happens to be.

THAT will be something truly epic.

And so that’s my motivation and mental state at the moment:

Be patient.  Be smart.  All good things to those who persevere.

We can rebuild him.

Again.