Archive for the ‘In Transition’ Category

2017: What I Learned

Posted: November 4, 2017 in In Transition
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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.

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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.

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.

Hi.

You might remember me as the “Bike Mount Guy” from posts in previous years (click HERE). This is what I usually love to do except that this year, I haven’t been doing it so much because, well:

20170711_135328_LI

Nuff said.

(click HERE for a little reminder)

What this means then is that I have been doing a lot of other stuff with the SunRype Tri-Kids instead.  I have done what’s known as “looping”, “crowd control” (aka dealing with over gregarious parents) and, well, everything really.  Today, seeing as how I’m beginning to heal a bit I was actually the “bike captain” helping to escort 400 plus kids around, roughly, a 1.5k course up and down Elizabeth Street in Port Colborne, Ontario.

Sounds like fun, right?

It is.

Sure you’re pedaling for 5+ hours at a time in hot, humid weather, dealing with skipped chains, flat tires, the odd collision and/or accident, the odd gregarious parent (funny how that comes up again), and everything in between but, man, what a rush!

Kids are awesome and say the most amazing things.  Never underestimate a child’s ability to break something down in the heat of the moment to the absolute essential component to what’s really  important.

Take Dylan for example.

I cycled up behind Dylan (8 years old) noticing he was really laboring and having some difficulty getting his pedals to go around smoothly (ie. His bike had about 30-40 years’ worth of rust on it so that the chain had actually fused itself to the cogs on the wheel set).  In this case, I typically open the conversation with something along the lines of “hey buddy, how’s it going?”  trying to ascertain if the athlete is in fact okay, frustrated, tired, maybe needs a little encouragement, or just an “easy out”.

Dylan’s response?

“My dog’s name is Sammy”.

Umm.  Okay?

So I probed a little deeper.

“Are you having fun?”

“Yup.”

Who am I to argue?

Then there’s 5 year old Elizabeth, who seemed to have a rather exasperated look on her face.

“Everything okay, Lizzy?”

The response:

“Yeah.  The colors on your shirt are the same color as my nanny’s hair.”

Okay then.

And so it goes.

Questions of “How many more loops do you still have to do, buddy?”  will inevitably be met with “my cat eats Fruit Loops”, and inquiries of “’is this your first triathlon?”  are responded to with “my favorite color is blue”.

The randomness is absolutely delicious and totally made my day.

Who has time to worry about being tired, hot, hungry, your sore butt, or God only knows what kind of chafing is going on that you’re not yet even aware of yet, when you have these conversational tidbits to keep you entertained?

Other conversational gems over the course of 85k of bike marshaling include:

“Did you know that warts come from frogs?”

“My daddy’s growing a beard too.  Mommy says it’s itchy.”

“When I’m done I’m going to be a veterinarian.”

“I’m pretty good at math you know.”

 

Remember, this is during the triathlon.

It all might make about as much sense as that past trend of wearing flannel and a toque during the hottest part of the summer but, man, it really does pass the time rather well.  Sure there are times when the conversations were a bit more comforting and direct if the athlete is struggling for whatever reason or has just fallen and ended up with skinned knee or a boo-boo of some sort but, in most cases, kids compartmentalize things really well.

“Holy smokes, you’re doing so well!”

“Did you know that my dog barfed this morning?”

Awesome.

“Just keep pedaling, man.”

I love my job.

Meowing up the Wrong Tree

Posted: August 16, 2017 in In Transition, Run
Tags:

As of yesterday, the bones in my left hand have officially healed and the process to restore mobility and strength continues in earnest.  There have been some definite improvements overall but, well, let’s just say that I am resigning myself to the notion that my baby finger might be permanently locked in a position where if I  ever find myself sipping tea with the Queen, I will be perfectly suited for the occasion.

d5i6g

What this really means then is that I can now begin to return to my usual physical routine albeit, it’ll be some time yet before I can acquire any normal purpose and, therefore, results (ie. fitness).

But, hey, at least I can  do stuff.

In fact, I have  been doing stuff already, namely running.

I have forgone the normal weekend long distance marches and hard interval routines to simply getting out and getting my legs back accustomed to moving again.  Getting to burn off all the excess calories that I’ve started to amass over the last month and a half of sedentary lifestyle is certainly a plus as well as man tits are not an attractive feature in my humble opinion – “Dad bods” be damned.  So, really, I’ve retired myself to running short distances for the time being around the neighborhood and just trying to get accustomed to regular activity.

Baby steps, right?

Short as these runs may be, Crystal Beach is not without it’s perks.  It’s actually a quaint lakeside town crammed with cottage style houses and beach homes and where all the roads are tightly interlaced haphazardly in a way that it’s relatively easy to get lost and explore; something I don’t really do much of on my long distance hauls out into the surrounding countryside.  Here it’s pretty much guaranteed that there will be something interesting to see given that it is now in it’s now full bore into it’s tourist season.  that means with every beleaguered step I am greeted with beach goers and the smells of sand, surf, BBQ, suntan lotion and copious amounts of wafting pot.

It is what it is and I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, on one of my regular routes through Crystal Beach I pass by (at exactly the 1.85k  or 4.35k  mark, depending on which direction I set out from home in) the residence of a local friend and one of my biggest fans lately:  Ally the Cat.

She’s always there.

Here she is on her usual window sill perch whenever I pass by:

Ally1

Cute, right?

Typically, I have been running lately in the afternoons when there’s more “people-watching” to be had but, unfortunately, this also means that it’s frickin’ hot and by the time I see Ally in her window I’m pretty desperate for a drink.

But does Ally care?

Of course not.

Any requests for a liquid refresher are always met with the same response:

Ally1

Nada.

Even when I beg (oh, I beg!).

Not.  A.  Damned.  Thing.

I think she may even enjoy seeing me suffering just a little bit.

And by this time, I am usually suffering with the midday heat and humidity and leaking fluids like an over-saturated sponge.

Not that Ally cares mind you.

I can even read it in her deadpan kitten face:

 

“Uh-uh fat boy.  You ain’t getting any of my water!”

 

And, believe me, the thought has occurred me in times of utter desperation to try and crawl through that window in order to get to her water bowl but that’s likely going to be a hard sell to the responding police officers who will inevitably be called to the scene by the neighbors…

…so I usually just keep running.

And so it goes day after day after day; me passing by a window, begging for water and being mocked by a kitten.  At least that’s what’s going on in my heat-frazzled brain anyway.

Maybe I really do need to consider running more in the evenings when it’s cooler.

It has been almost four weeks since my big Iron Disaster and three weeks post op after having seven pins and screws inserted into my left hand at the same time I should have been crossing the finish line; becoming a 7x Titanium man instead of a 2x Ironman.  So, yeah, once again this has not exactly been a stellar year competition-wise and I’m still struggling to make sense of it all.

As it with the whole Grief Cycle, first comes the Denial and Isolation Stage.  And, believe me, there was lots of that in the Emergency Room and in the days following the accident as I remained hopeful that I would somehow still be miraculously able to pull the race off.  I remember begging – pleading – the responding EMR’s to give me some sort of reassurance that it wasn’t so bad despite the blood fountaining from my elbow and my baby finger which was sticking out at an odd right angle away from the rest of my hand.

Of course, it wasn’t meant to be.

Shortly afterwards, I entered into the Anger Stage and here is where I really excelled; especially after realizing that had I been able to to compete there was a very good chance I would have won my age group and perhaps even podium-ed over all in potentially 3rd place.

And that’s some hard shit to swallow let me tell you!

If there was some sort of lesson to be learned here, I wasn’t seeing it yet.

Likewise, during this period most peoples’ attempt to have me see either the good or the positive in the situation pretty much fell on deaf ears – I simply was not to be consoled.

Among the worst of the standard adages offered to me was “Well, it could have been worse”.

Well, yes, I could have ended up with a more severe break or perhaps ended up sliding under an an oncoming truck and being dragged for another kilometer or so before being deposited by the roadside for vultures and crows to pick at so, sure, I suppose it’s true that it could have been worse but I didn’t want to hear it at that point.

The other common sentiment was “this is your bodies way of telling you something?”

Pardon?

Tell me what  exactly?

That it hates me?

Couldn’t it have chosen a different and less painful way of telling me the same thing or, better yet, waiting another eight days to tell me which – if you remember – was the plan all along?  Or was it trying to tell it me that it felt that I needed more hassles going through the metal detectors at airports?   Whatever it was, my response to my body at that point would inevitably have been the same:  “Gee, thanks body.  Fuck you too!” 

The problem with this sentiment was that this disaster was more of an environmental and mechanical issue than it ever was my body creating some sort of resistance.  My bike slipped on a slick metal surface so if anything, my body was the victim here but, again, thanks.

And then there’s the people who tried to console me with “hey, at least you can have a relaxing summer now”.

These people in particular I wanted to judo chop in the throat.  Clearly these people have never had metal pins inserted into a major appendage so that can’t shower unless they have a plastic Subway bag wrapped around it and can’t even do up their own pants in the morning without assistance.  Similarly, they have never had to squeeze out a stool as stiff and dry as a mason block thanks to the amount of Percocets they’ve had to ingest in order to keep the pain at a manageable level so that they didn’t try to chew off their own arm in the middle of the night.

Sure, real relaxing…but cheers for that.

Thanks.

The other thing I heard quite often at the time was “everything happens for a reason”.

The fuck?

What possible reason could there be for my having to blow two years of hard work and perseverance for Fate to totally screw me (pun intended) seven days before the big event unless it was just trying to fuck with me?

I wanted to donkey punch these people.

“That’s Fate’s way of telling you that you’re a dick.”

 

Remember this was all during the Anger Stage.

But I’ve had the benefit of time now while being firmly wedged in the Depression Stage to mull it over and attempt to look at the situation a little more objectively.

What is there to be learned?

What can I take away from this whole epic shit show to make me a better person and, hopefully, a triathlete?

Then I had a very humbling experience during my first rehab appointment at the Shaver Hospital.

At first, I was firmly focused on my own pathetic circumstance as I tried to wiggle my baby piggy and feeling very low considering that I was at my peak fitness just a few days previous.  Let’s just say I was feeling very, very low at this point.  But then I looked around at some of the other patients in the room in the middle of their own rehab.  Around me there were people learning to walk with a new prosthetic and unfortunate souls with their arms stuck inside cell regeneration machines after having acquired horrific burns.

And here I was worried about being able to bend my pinky finger and riding my bike by the end of summer.

Really.

What an asshole.

It kind of put a new perspective on things in that, yeah, maybe I did get off pretty lightly and things could definitely have been worse…a lot worse.  I guess that’s what those people were trying to tell me when I wasn’t willing to listen.  Sure I might still struggle to put my pants on, but at least I still have legs to put in them.  Maybe I can’t wiggle my little finger right now but I still have it and it will  heal.

I will  ride again.

Maybe what I was supposed to learn was how fragile my body is and that perhaps I should appreciate it a little more when it is able to do the things that I was able to do just one week ago.  Maybe this was supposed to teach me to enjoy the experience leading up to the event a bit more than I have, rather than stressing about what my body was not able to accomplish in the moment.

Let me explain.

While I am confident in my over all training plan and that it did ultimately help me acquire a fitness that I have not enjoyed in the past few years (in fact, I was both cycling and swimming better than I ever have before), I spent a stupid amount of time worrying about either what I wasn’t doing enough of, or fast enough, or hard enough, or whatever.

I was more often than not focused on the negative rather than the positive.

I mean, give yourself some credit dude.

You’re doing it!

Period.

Full stop.

Maybe this whole situation was intended to be a lesson in humility and will serve to help me grow into a better appreciation for the whole training process and ultimately become the Ironman I believe I can still be and want to be.  After all, the kind of athlete I admire is the one who takes setbacks in stride and rises above them only to return better than ever (not unlike Paula Findley who is finally getting back to a winning form after a disappointing turn of events at the 2012 Olympics – click HERE).

This is far from the end for me in this sport; it’s just a minor setback that happened to come at an inopportune time.

Hopefully, this is just the start of better, brighter and more successful things to come.

Finally…

Acceptance.

This morning I began my taper; sweet, sweet taper.

Well, technically, I suppose that my taper began with that second helping of pecan pie last night, but I digress…

However, prior to this morning this weekend was full of challenges including a full 180k Ironman simulation ride with a 60 minute brick afterwards (click HERE) and then another half marathon early yesterday morning (click HERE).  So that’s nearly 10 hours (220k) of either pedaling or running which, believe me, gives one lots of time to contemplate life and their place in it.  Well, that’s when I’m not either focused on the increasing numbness in my ass, the stiffness in my legs, the stupid crosswind, the heat and humidity (not to my well-defined cyclists burn), worrying about whether or not my Snickers bar is being reduced to a liquid puddle on my crossbar, or the developing chafing going on in places you don’t even want to hear about.

So.  Much.  Chafing.

Anyway, for a significant amount of time when I was otherwise distracted by the above, I contemplated what is going to occur in two short weeks: namely, my second full Ironman distance race which also happens to be my first triathlon in nearly two years.

Because, hey, when you make a comeback it may as well be BIG, right?

I thought about what a crazy situation this is, including the original setback last year (click HERE), and then again this year (click HERE), and then the injury to kick off 2017 (click HERE) and then, well, let’s just say the entire past two years has been one crazy rollercoaster of emotion.

And in less than two weeks the entire journey finally comes to fruition.

And even though I haven’t even toed the starting line yet (July 8th), just to get to this point I owe a metric shit ton of gratitude to a lot of people who have either supported me, guided me or just plain put up with my whiny bullshit.

First and foremost, I need to acknowledge the huge and vitally important roll my wife and partner Kelly, as well as my step-daughter Hailey has played in this entire process.  Essentially, they have allowed me to be non-present for the past 3 months in order to swim, bike and run a stupid amount of time through the week and then again on the weekends.  And there’s the feeding me, keeping my never-ending “stinkies” clean, and putting up with my (as of late) deep-rooted grouchiness.  None of what I have accomplished through this training process would have been possible without either of their support and dedication to the goal at hand.

Love you girls!

I also need to acknowledge the coach, Nicole van Beurden for not only laying out the master plan but also allowing me to grow and develop through this entire process through failing time and time again and not allowing me to become too discouraged with myself and reinforcing the positive (click HERE).  In other words, it’s not always about the “Suck it up buttercup and get ‘er done you sissy!” philosophy of long distance that many of us are no doubt conditioned to accept as part of “The Plan”.  Making the decision to go rogue and become a lone wolf in this whole “Ironman: Part 2” quest, without the immediate support and social comradery of other like-minded athletes as part of a local triathlon club, also meant that I had to endure lots and lots and lots of alone time.  So what this also inevitable meant is that Nicole also became a part-time on-call psychiatrist able to receive lots of last minute “cry baby” calls from yours truly when things either went wrong, or I was just feeling sorry for myself.

If anyone is looking for an awesome coach and mentor, look no further.

Thank you, Nicole.

And, of course, I need to acknowledge my three incredible sponsors who were both kind enough to support and believe in the little guy (figuratively only).  Jason Pizzicarola and Nadine Foerstenberg (and the whole staff) at Brimstone Brewing, Matt MacGregor at Crave Local Fresh, and Brandon George McGuire at in.cep.tion cyclery and head guru for the UnRoyal Ride Ambassadors -URRA, of which I am thrilled to be a part.  Between these three amazing local enterprises, not only have I an amazing new race suit to sport (seriously, it’s pretty bad ass:  click HERE) but a cause to race for.  They have kept me hydrated (beer is a hydrator, right?), fueled with delicious local fare, my bike tuned and ready to go and, often, just the inspiration to get out the door and train!

Basically, I am one lucky son of a bitch to have such amazing team to support me and there’s not a day that goes by when I am not grateful for these folks taking the ultimate risk on me.

Thank you.

I will not let you down.

Also,  when this whole Ironman craziness is done, I’m looking forward to continuing representing you during my planned fun group rides in and out The Sanctuary beginning in July.

Beer and pretzel bites for everybody!

(stay tuned friends)

I also want to acknowledge Dr. Kristen Burr at Legacy Health & Performance in St. Catharines, Ontario for dealing with all my ouchies and owies which are inevitably part of the Ironman process.  When cooler heads needed to prevail after I had gone and got myself all worked after consulting “Dr. Google” and come to the conclusion that immediate amputation was necessary, Dr. Burr was there to get me back on the healing path quickly and painlessly.  Sometimes, I also walk out with a good book suggestion to boot.

And then there’s Cori Dodds, and Ben McDermot and the entire amazing staff at the YMCA located at the Vale Health and Wellness Center in Port Colborne YMCA for not only being friendly and supportive, but also for allowing me some flexibility through the off-season to both train as well as keeping Hailey occupied and productive whilst I train.  I realize that I can be a right difficult SOB sometimes (Hailey too I am guessing), so I appreciate you all for not having suspended my membership by now.

There’s my friend Stephen Apps who also took on the daunting challenge this year of training and participating in this year’s Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids with me.  They say that “misery loves company”  and when it comes to doing ridiculous amounts of laps, Steve was all aboard.

Thank you, my friend.

There’s Lucio Gismondi and the whole gang that participates early every Tuesday and Thursday morning as part of the RONA ride for pushing me hard over 40k worth of headwind and relentless pace work up and down the Niagara Parkway.  Every day I don’t get dropped is a good day and as a result I haven’t cycled this strong in, well, ever really.

It’s an honor to share the road with you beasts.

Essentially, as the old say goes:  “It takes a village to raise a child”. 

Well, so too does an Ironman triathlete and, really, my villagers are pretty fucking incredible.  Without them it is doubtful that I would have even made it this far, much less be as prepared and ready as I am.

Likewise, I am going to be doing my absolute best come July 8th in order to make sure that all your support and dedication to my Ironman journey go fully realized and, rest assured, I will acknowledging you all at some point in spirit over those long 226.1 kilometers.

I appreciate you all and I am humbled just to be representing this incredible community of people.

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Now, pass the pretzel bites.