Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

On-the-Job Training

Posted: April 2, 2018 in Lifestyle, Training
Tags:

Well, I’m now “officially” entering into my third season of full-on Ironman training.

Sure, there have been some obvious obstacles along the way that have prevented me from, well, racing…but I am confident that I have much of this training thing down pat by now.

How do I know?

Well, I guess I don’t seeing as how I’ve never really tested it in battle, per se, but, regardless, if my overall fitness one week out from last years’ event was anything to go by I was absolutely 100% ready… you know, before all this bullshit happened (click HERE).  I was strong, I was confident and I was raring to go.  I was swimming, cycling and running at a level I hadn’t managed since Ironman Wales and, in many ways – better.  I perfected my nutrition strategy (click HERE) and even had a few amazing local sponsors (click HERE) to help and encourage me along the way.  And most importantly, I had the best support system possible (click HERE).

All my ducks were in a perfect row so to speak.

Now, that’s not say that there weren’t some bumps along the way – in fact, there were many – but that’s just part of the process.  Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face (quite literally I’m afraid) in order to learn those oh, so valuable lessons.

And believe me; I learned a lot of lessons over the past two years.

They say everything happens for a reason (or so I keep telling myself) so maybe these past two years were just to be my overall “Iron-schooling” if you will, so that when I actually do – *knock on wood* – get to pull the trigger, it will be exactly the experience I am looking forward to and expect from myself because I will have done all the right hard work that I’ve learned as a result from all those mistakes, and I will perfected a successful training plan that works for ME.

Of course, as you might expect, this year has already presented me with another major obstacle to factor in – new employment.

For the past six years I have been fortunate enough to work in my jammies from my basement office, affording me the opportunity to train more or less at my own convenience.  I swam or cycled in the late morning or evening, ran in the afternoons between conference calls and kept up a dedicated strength conditioning program throughout.

Essentially, I could work my job around my training and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the same case this year.

Now I have a regular eight hour work day, Monday through Friday, which requires me to be gone from home.  Also, it’s a physical job…very physical.  Especially considering that the most physical thing I did before was dial the phone, or get up and walk over to the printer across the room to pick up my daily report.

No, now I actually have to work and train. 

This has now forced me to once again re-evaluate my training program in order to successfully accomplish both without over doing it and thereby putting too much stress on my mind and body because, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger.

Just another problem to be tackled and lesson to be learned I suppose.

Anyway, instead of spending my days conducting virtual classrooms and pumping out those stupid endless (not to mention meaningless) reports in my pajama pants, I am now officially working in the Pest Control business.

I know, talk about your 180° turn right?

After all, who thinks of bugs and rats and goes, “OH BOY!”

No one!

That’s who.

Then again, the same thing could be said about the environment I was working in before so, yeah, I figured “why the fuck not?” when this opportunity produced itself and the truth of the matter is – I love it.

As it turns out, I really enjoy the “unknown factor” in my day each and every time I turn up at a new location/job and that excites me.  There is nothing “routine” about Pest Management.  Behind every door is the unknown; be it the issue, the environment, or the people and this genuinely appeals to my overall sense of curiosity and adventure (click HERE for a small taste of what I’m talking about).

The challenge now that I’ve been tasked with figuring out these past three months is how to turn this new situation to my advantage.  You see, the downside now is that I’m not able to go for my mid-dayn runs anymore on my lunchtime, nor can I structure morning conference call a bit late so I can hit up the pool.

In other words, “time management” has become my #1 priority; particularly if I ever want to see my family again.

So here is what I’ve learned while being (and training) on the job for the past few months.

1. Early mornings are a definite. Get used to it.

Yup, there’s just no getting around it.  Monday through Friday means a ridiculously early wake-up.  My alarm will typically go off anytime between 4:15 and 5:00am on a normal work day.  Afterwards, I will either a) go for swim before starting work, or b) complete a 20-25 minute core/yoga routine with Toby the Cat (affectionately called my “Core Project“).

Shit, sometimes I even attend a ladies “Booty Camp” on Friday’s.

Either way, I’m up and at ‘em.

The benefit to this (besides the obvious) is that once I’m up, I will have completed something that day and even if everything else that day gets totally FUBAR-ed, I still will have managed to complete at least one thing constructive and aimed at my overall goal of rebuilding my Iron-fitness.

On the weekends, however, I sleep in to 8:00am…and it’s glorious.

2. My work day IS a strength workout.

Between October and November while I was unemployed, I was completing at least 2-3 weights specific strength building workouts at the gym and these have definitely served me well.  However, now there’s just not enough time in the day to complete these on top of the necessary swim, bike and run workouts; something had to give.

Fortunately, my day is one long strength-building workout (double if you factor in my morning core workouts) in that I’m flipping mattresses and box springs, pulling out stoves and fridges and otherwise moving heavy obstacles and furniture out of the way in order to get at my enemy.  While doing this, I am conscientious to maintain the same good form and engage the right muscle groups that I would have had I been working with the free weights at the gym.

Also, I have to be able to get down and under things regularly.  In fact, on one particular work day I successfully accomplished exactly 367 lunges (yes, I counted) – that’s getting down on one knee (or squatting) and then getting back up again.

Umm, hello?

When was the last time you managed 367 lunges/squats in a single day?

I do this almost daily, and already I am noticing some significantly improved bike/run strength in these first early weeks of dedicated Ironman training; bearing in mind that I ceased with the free weights three months ago.

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Winning!

3. No fast food.  Ever.

I am noticing that a lot of my peers in the industry eat complete shit throughout the day, or just not at all.  Myself?  The last thing I do before I go to bed at the ripe hour of 8:00-8:30pm each night is make up a healthy lunch and a bunch of small containers of healthy snacks that I can graze on in the truck throughout the day.  This is particularly important seeing as how the chances are high that I will have another challenging workout to complete after work once I get home.

As I figure it, this is also helping to determine proper fueling strategies that I can then utilize in the days leading up to all my events, and even during.

In the past three months, I have managed to get away with buying a medium coffee in the mornings after a swim, and one single breakfast sandwich (which I instantly regretted) only because I forgot my post-workout snack at home.

4. Afternoon/evening workouts are actually better!

Well, better in the sense that I don’t necessarily have to warm up a lot before I begin my main sets.  When I was running/cycling in the afternoons while working from home, because I was more or less 100% sedentary throughout the working hours, my body needed at least 15-20 minutes of steady warming up before I felt like I could tackle any difficult intervals and the like.

Now, essentially, my entire day is one big warm up so that when I head back out the door when I get home, I’m more or less ready to go – instantly.

The other immediate benefit is that I can also cut down on the overall length of the workout itself seeing as how I don’t have to spend that initial time warming up.  I can just get straight to the main core of the workout fairly quickly (which, really, is the important part), get ‘er done and then get home again.  And that also means less overall wear and tear and stress being placed on the body.

Sure my weekly mileage may be a bit short compared to where I was at this time in previous years, but I’m not performing any worse either; the quality is still all there.

5. Additional mental toughness conditioning.

I’ve already mentioned numerous times how important I think developing “mental toughness” is in triathlon, especially at the Ironman level.  Well, try working a very physical eight hour work day and then going out for a run or bike.  Sure I just mentioned that those post-work day workouts have been trending well recently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was looking forward to them.

No, that takes a bit of added discipline.

More so if the weather is shitty.

When I worked from home, I literally couldn’t wait to get outside and counted down the hours and minutes before I could.  Now, depending on how hard I’ve worked that day I will have to mentally prepare myself and sometimes practically force myself out.

And when I do, I feel almost invincible.

So, yeah, so far so good on both the work and training fronts!

And while these lessons are valuable and I feel like I’m getting a handle on this Ironman training business once again, I know that in two weeks when things take another turn towards the LONG, there will inevitably be more things to figure out and strategize around.

Thing is, where I didn’t exactly know how this whole new direction was going to play out when I first accepted this job, so far, it’s been manageable and I’m once again beginning to believe that this whole Ironman madness is once again possible…

Providing I can actually stay on my bike that is.

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It’s now officially February, so where I have been doing a lot of strength training with the heavy iron, the time has come to switch into a more focused swim/run/bike routine.  Meaning, of course, especially given that I have also started a new job two weeks ago, I have to now figure out how to keep this acquired physical strength while strategically transitioning into this next phase of longer Ironman-specific training.

Losing a few pounds also wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

So this regard, I tried something new this past Friday:  a “Boot Camp”.

This all came about last week when I approached Tamara, the wife of my long time go-to bike guy, about getting some assistance to take my strength training to the next level.  That’s when she mentioned that she leads an early “boot camp” on Friday morning that would be perfect for me.

I will admit here I was a bit trepidatious as I have always thought of “Boot Camps” as those trendy fitness classes more aimed at single moms to help shape their derriere’s; hence the other popular name for these classes being “Booty Camps”.

But knowing Tamara as I do, I figured I’d give it a shot thinking that a workout more aimed at plyometric jumping and leaping would be the perfect accompaniment to my newly acquired He-man muscles – ideal even.

But then, the night before, Tamara posts this picture (and caption) to her Facebook page:

Tamara

“Come check out my fancy toe undies and get a great workout in flexibility, stretching and strength.”

That’s when the panic hit me:

OMG.

“Toe Undies”?

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

After all, nobody needs to see my toenails, believe me.

She then mentioned having extra “tu-tu’s” for the class and I was almost:

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Still, having made the commitment I decided to show up anyway.

After all, how hard can a “Booty Camp” be?

Then again, you might also remember this shit show from three years ago (click HERE).

Only one way to tell, I guess.

So far, I have only attended two classes but they are exactly the kinds of workouts I still need to be doing providing I can drag my lazy ass out of bed at 4:30am to make the 40 minute drive into St. Catharines.

This is the nicest way possible to say that I did enjoy it.

I’m not sure I’ll look any different in my cycling tights come Springtime but having someone push you through those difficult sets of plyometric-based exercises sure is the kind of strength-building program that I like to endorse not because they don’t require a lot of tools that can’t be recreated at home with simple every day households items, but because it targets all those useful functional muscles you tend to use and abuse in long distance triathlon training.

And, hey, if at the end of the day this “booty” looks a little better in my daily work khakis’, well, I’m okay with that too.

Turning this Frankenstein into “Franken Fine” wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.

Just sayin’…

Be all that it may, for the next 50 minutes I handed my fat ass literally handed to me by a toe-undied She-Devil adorned in a tutu through sets of sled pushes, crunches, push-ups, lunges, and, oh sweet Jesus, every movement and exercise known to mankind to absolutely suck, particularly these vile things called “Man Maker’s”, which have made perfectly clear to me that I am apparently not  a man.

The shame of which, I doubt I will ever get over.

Throw one of those fucking ‘Burpees’ into the mix and you have the perfect mix of Punky Brewster-like cuteness and enthusiasm with a gruesome Rob Zombie-esque nightmare of a workout…creepy clowns n’ all.  It was the kind of hellish workout from which my testicles instantly retreated back into my abdomen to hide in fear once Tamara started to walk us through the class plan which included seven separate “stations”, each consisting of two each torturous exercises each.

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But then again, they say that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, so Friday mornings 6:00am(providing my work schedule will allow it), my sorry self is starting off the weekend of long haul swim, bike and run workouts with one kick ass of a Booty Camp.

Judge me as you see fit.

But when this winter finally goes away, even if I haven’t managed some of the incalculable hours battled away in front of Zwift on the home trainer as some of my peers will no doubt have, or perhaps pursuing a “February Running Distance Challenge” bullshit thing on Strava, I’ll be counting on these types of simpler (but no less grueling) workouts to allow me the maximum brute strength necessary and when it needs to be called upon while on the bike, in the pool or out pounding pavement on the road later on.

This is going to be my total Rocky IV approach to training this year.

(Albeit  in a gym and not a barn)

While the wily opponent is relying on all the new fancy muscle juices and state-of-the-art training equipment, I’ll be out chopping logs, hauling around sacks of rocks, and dragging my ass through mountains of snow.

And I will leave you with this:

If this class leaves me with even half  of the physical functional strength as I think it will, then I will happily adorn myself with a pair of these “Toe Undie” whatchamacallit’s  and a full French Maid’s tu-tu because, well, laugh while you can because come the inevitable Race Day, that’s likely the last you will see of me when I take off leaving you dumbfounded, gasping for air and swimming upstream through a river of my piss (triathletes will understand that reference).

Or so it plays out in my visions anyway…

So continue on with your empty laps, your virtual races through the night-time streets of Paris, and whatever the newest piece of fancy “GUARANTEED TO PRODUCE RESULTS OR YOUR MONEY BACK!” equipment you found on Ebay during a “Box Day Blowout”, I’ll be taking the old-fashioned route; an honest effort, a desire to success and a well-fitted and stylish tu-tu.

I’m still not sold on the Toe Undies though.

The Shower Commandments

Posted: December 30, 2017 in Gym, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

(Disclaimer:  I realize that much of this post comes from a dark place.  Baring in mind that I am now 45 years old going on “TGIF Early Bird Special”, I find that I have a lot to bitch about these days and I recognize that.  This is definitely one of those posts.  If those types of rants tend to annoy you, click ‘back’ on your browser and tippy-toe out of here.)

The “off season” training program has officially kicked -in with the falling of the first snow a few weeks ago, so what this means then for the uninitiated is that it also marks an official return to indoor workouts.

Well, more indoor workouts than usual anyway.

Sure there are a few bad asses like myself who pride themselves in maintaining a structured outdoor winter training program regardless of how ridiculously cold out it is but even still, there’s the strength-training, core, yoga, swimming and, yes, sometimes it’s just too stupid to be outside when the shit really begins to fly so there will be the inevitable treadmill and spin sessions as well.  So what this all really translates to now is that we have to spend more time with one another vying for space and valuable resources.

I hate it, but I accept it.

On that pretense, I once wrote The Gym Commandments to educate myself – then a mere newbie on the inner goings on at the gym – on how to share the gym space with others so that nobody ends up with a barbell sticking out the side of their head, and then The Locker Room Commandments for not, well, ending up with someone’s penis waving uncomfortably in your vicinity.  And here I am six years later still abiding by these same necessary laws as they are what genuinely separate us from the other beasts walking this little blue planet of ours, and even expanding on them to more include the true “DMZ” at your local gym facility, the dreaded showers.

In other words, how not to be any of these guys:  click HERE.

Most of the men I see in my gym’s locker room every day are probably decent people.  They have, one assumes, respectable, well-paying jobs, families, certain codes of ethics and morals, and they are presumably upstanding members of society.  So why, once they pass that threshold that reads MEN, do they devolve into feral beasts? Why do they discard the entire social contract by which they abide outside the locker room once in the realm of towels and benches?  Balls out, butts jiggling, hogging coveted real estate, they become locker room anarchists. To put it quite abruptly, lots of weird shit goes on in the Men’s shower area, so much so that I feel that a rehashing of the basics is necessary for review.  After all, we are all mere riders on this same endless highway ribboning through the madness of it all, so we should at least be making things less stressful on each other by all agreeing to observe an officially recognized code of shower room ethics.

Yes, friends, the gym shower area absolutely needs to be a place of strictly observed rules of conduct and listed here are some of those proposed basic guidelines I suggest we all consider if we are ever going to coexist peacefully at the gym:

  1. Thou shalt not be a dick with the towels.

For those members who pay for and use the towel service, two towels is perfectly reasonable.  Don’t be an asshole and take a stack of five.  One for your body which then becomes one for your feet to stand on while the other (unused) towel can be used for spot drying and general modesty protection (refer to The Locker Room Commandments linked above).  They are not for playing “spooky ghost”, wiping ones ass, or running around flicking other dudes in the ass.

If you are doing double (or even triple) duty as far as workouts go, you can request an extra towel as long as it’s being used for either the purposes of drying off or standing on.  Period.

  1. Thou shalt not hog the handicap shower stall.

Using and occupying the reserved shower head and bench that will likely occupy a corner of the shower area for those who need a little extra assistance is simply not cool; no matter how quick you think you’re going to be.  This is the equivalent of occupying a handicapped parking space so you can just “run in to the bank”, or “pick up a few items from the grocery store”.

Nobody cares how quick you are, you’re still being an asshole for parking in a handicap spot.

And, yes, I know how much fun it can be to use the attached manual shower head as a pretend microphone and belt out rousing shower renditions of ‘Great Balls of Fire’ for all your naked able-bodied friends, but don’t do it.

  1. Thou shalt keep thyne eyes forward as all times.

While it is already a well-established rule that one should always keep their nakedness to a minimum, it is also the obligation and responsibility of the others present to keep their eyes to themselves.

Let’s face it, the locker room being men-only, is wall-to-wall butts, balls and penises and therefore you should definitely never look at any other man’s private parts in any other way but purely accidental (like HERE and HERE).  Should you need to actually engage someone in conversation (which is not recommended, for the record – see Rule #9 of The Locker Room Commandments), one should lock their gaze straight ahead to a neutral position such as another locker, the ground, bench, or the ceiling, anywhere but the other dudes junk…no matter how impressive or intimidating.

  1. Thou shalt not poke, pick, prod or otherwise fondle their junk.

I get it, its Man’s inherent nature to explore himself when naked.  But for the love of God, do it at home.  Light some candles; put a little ‘Smooth Operator on, whatever, but do it quietly and do it where others have no opportunity to bear witness.

  1. Thou shalt practice water conservation.

The most common violation in terms of the future of mankind is allowing the water to run while shaving. It is an insidious, entitled habit which will doom all of humanity to a future of drought and privation.

It also poisons the locker room dynamic.  On the one hand, there is the shaver, perhaps blithe but nonetheless sinning.  Then there is the observer (i.e. myself), for whom the endless stream of water is an insult, representing, as it does, a conception of nature that is at once exploitative and deeply harmful. There can be no verbal admonishments in the locker room so the observer is left to swallow bitterly his outrage and cast dirty looks in the mirror.  Do not let the water run while you shave.  Don’t be an asshole.  Think of the children.

  1. Thou shalt not touch another man’s faucet.

Nuff said (click HERE)…

  1. Thou shalt not readth the daily scripture in the shitter.

Seriously, guys who like to hang out in the toilets all day with the daily news need to be rounded up and systematically sterilized.  Most of us when we hit the gym are time crunched so when Mother Nature calls we don’t want to spend the better part of our workout time waiting for these dipshits to read the Sports pages while they squeeze out their daily strangle.  Get in, do your business, get the fuck out.  And clean up after yourselves for God sakes!

If you want to hang out and catch up on all the daily gossip and developing headlines over a lingering bowel movement, stay the fuck home and do it in the comforts of your own bathroom as the rest of us simply want to take a shit.

  1. Thou shalt conduct thyneself respectfully in all locker politics, both pre and post shower.

There are only two parties in the locker room: the Occupier of said space and the Desirer of it. The property of these two men is often in adjacent lockers. Once the Occupier becomes aware of the Desirer, he must make a good faith effort to step aside. Depending on what stage he is in, this might mean continuing with an increased clip or, and this is what often does not happen, grabbing what few remaining items he has left and relocating within the same aisle to allow the Desirer, in turn, to become the Occupier.

As for the Desirer, he must have patience and prudence. If there is no space to access one’s locker, or even if there is but none to perform the act of drying and dressing, he must wait. However, he may adopt the slightly bored but nonetheless recognizably covetous look as to indicate he is waiting.

(Note: There is a 90-second grace period for both sides.)

  1. Thou shalt towel himself off thoroughly and quickly in the shower area.

Toweling off from a shower is perhaps the most important element in locker room etiquette for, from it, follow a host of complications. If one does not dry off one’s feet before one return’s to one’s locker, the trail of water will trigger the impulse of other members to place their bags onto the benches and thereby making the politics between Occupier and Desirer more strained.  Likewise, if one does not properly dry off ones balls, penis and butt area, this might lead to butt-in-face problems later on so drying off must be done quickly and thoroughly in the close proximity of (or even inside) the shower itself prior to accessing the locker room.

  1. Thou shalt not pee in the shower.

This was recognized in my previous Locker Room Commandments (actually, it came up on lists of other commandments as well) but it’s worth reiterating again.  When I see a yellow rivulet heading toward the drain in a communal shower, there is not enough bleach in the world to make me stop screaming.

  1. Thou shalt not whistle, hum or sing in the shower.

I get it, you’re hap-hap-fucking-happy with how your workout went but, still, don’t.  It’s creepy.  You’re not loitering on a street corner somewhere trying to spot your next mark* are you?  No.  So, unless you’re about to break out into some dance with your buddies, cut with the whistling bullshit will ya?

  1. Thou shalt not make unnecessary noises whilst showering.

Unless they are auditioning for an Oil of Olay commercial, no one needs to make all those moaning and groaning noises.  Sure it feels good, we get it.  But they don’t also need to make with the “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” …that shit is creepy.

  1. Thou shalt not wear a shower cap.

Seriously, grandma?

  1. Thou shalt not use a bar of soap.

In today’s day and age, there is no need to bring your soap to the shower in bar form; especially given that we’ve all likely seen the same prison films.  Use a shower gel instead, like Axe Body Wash, and never use gels and lotions with less-than-masculine sounding fragrances like ‘Evening Primrose’, ‘Glacial Mist’, or ‘Lilac Explosion’.  If it doesn’t smell like a mix of alcohol and ball sweat, it is likely off limits for your usage.

In the unfortunate circumstance where you have in fact, “dropped the soap”, do not bend over to retrieve it.  Instead perform a quick, protected squat in order to retrieve your item and spare everyone around you that awkward moment.

  1. Thou shalt not insert thyne phallus into any random hole or openings of any sort.

I don’t know what it is about some men, but whenever they see a hole in something they immediate begin to wonder what it’d be like to stick their dick in it.  This type of behavior has no place in the gym, the locker room, and the shower room especially – anywhere actually as this never ends up terribly well for anyone in real life scenarios so leave it for the amateur porn videos, fellas.’

*Unless it’s ‘The Colonel’s Bogie‘ in which case, it is absolutely mandatory that it be completed through to the very end and that everybody join in with you.

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.

Today, I was to go forth “once more into the fray” except in light of recent events, that’s obviously not happening any more.  No, I’m going to be on a surgery table now gets pins and screws embedded into my hand while you wait patiently in the waiting room; not exactly the kind of hardware I was hoping to add to my collection today.

Hardly the Ironman adventure we planned for the summer.

Had I actually been racing today, I had this whole pre-written letter to you as my way of acknowledging your efforts and thanking you for your ultimate role in the whole execution of today’s intended event.  In that regard, nothing much has changed and I still owe you a huge debt of gratitude so with only a few minor edits, here is that planned letter.

Dear wife (ie. ‘The Maker of Black Bean Brownies’, and ‘The Procurer of Early Morning Coffee’):

Today, as I go forth “into the fray once more” I am confident because I am not going alone.  Sure, I might be doing all the swimming, cycling and running today it wasn’t through my sole efforts that inevitably brought me to the starting line tomorrow morning.

That was the result of a team effort.

In many regards, you actually had it more challenging than I have.  Sure I endured countless hours of pounding pavement, early dips in the canal, and a never ending assortment of aches and pains but you have endured far worse.

In most cases you see me off through the front door whenever I go for a long run or bike ride, give me a kiss and wish me luck.  You remind when I leave early in the morning for a swim to be careful and have fun and the coffee is always  ready for the drive.  And then when I come home afterwards I’m usually exhausted and cranky so you allow me my quiet time to decompress and, of course, I’m hungry so you make sure there is a warm healthy meal waiting for me at some point.

Throughout it all, more often than, you also take on the insurmountable Herculean task of doing my laundry and making sure that all my toxic-smelling workout clothes – each one a festering petri dish of bacteria and contagion – are all washed, dried and ready to go for the next day’s ass-kicking.  Seriously, this Sisyphean effort alone must be about as much fun as having holes bored into your ear drum with a rusty drill bit.  Oh, and of course there hasn’t been much sexy time lately seeing as how all my bits look and feel like chewed leather after endless rubbing on a bike saddle or being slow-cooked in my running tights.  In fact, it’s probably been so long now that I likely couldn’t find your first base anymore without the use of my Garmin.

Probably worst of all, I get down on myself – a lot – especially when things don’t go exactly according to plan and I’m starting to feel like the all-haloed training schedule is stomping me into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.  When this happens, you are always there to comfort me, hand me an ibuprofen and gently remind me that I’m only human being and sometimes as a human being I’m going to fail and that’s…*gasp*…okay.  I may not always want to hear it, but I absolutely know you’re 100% right.  And on those occasions when I started to doubt myself and lose focus on why I chose to take on this ridiculous challenge, you never  lost faith in the magic that is me even though it’s obvious that the easy answer is that either a) I’m an idiot, b) I’m an idiot, or c) all the above.

And let’s not forget how cranky I’ve been over the last few weeks.  At the best of times, I’m exhausted, mentally taxed out and, often, my taint is on fire thanks so some god awful bout of chafing in my loins from whatever it was that I last subjected myself to.   Basically, I have the disposition of a rabid hyena these days and I’m surprised you haven’t driven a stake through my heart by now.  What I’m really saying then is that I’m a real hot mess of sweaty shorts, blister pads and steroid cream, yet you still go to bed with me anyway.

There are a lot of words commonly tossed around when one is training for and competing in an Ironman:  pain, commitment, sacrifice, fear, tears, determination, courage, et al.  I’m confident that I have the fear and tears all locked up and nailed down, but you certainly have assumed the full brunt of the pain, sacrifice and commitment aspects of that equation; hands downs.  I’m not sure which is more daunting but the role you have played in this whole Iron journey is certainly no less difficult or challenging.

Furthermore, while I would have been out swimming, bike, running and otherwise kicking ass today, your day was inevitably going to be a lot less exciting.  Essentially, for the entire 12 or 13 hours that I would have been in perpetual motion out on the road you could probably have expected to see me for about 15 to 20 nanoseconds.   Realizing that this isn’t exactly the most spectator friendly sport, you came anyway and wouldn’t have complained once about how boring it is once and I realize that no matter how long that challenge would have taken or what shape I’m was in when I accomplished it, I knew you’ll be there at the end of it all cheering like a 16-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  And let’s not forget that what I was going to wear today would likely have made my body look like a topographical map of Utah and yet, for whatever reason, that still wouldn’t have embarrassed or detered you from cheering for me like the rock star I think am anyway.  And don’t think that for once second I wouldn’t have appreciated your efforts at becoming my personal Tenzing Norgay for the day having to cart around all my excess gear and post-race necessities.

Honey, Juan Valdez’ donkey wouldn’t have had it that hard and I appreciate you.

And of course, there were the events of one week ago (click HERE).

Of course, there was only one person to call ahead of all others – you.

So for the remainder of the day you did your best to console and comfort me.

Not that I was having any of it, mind you.

Just look at me:

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But I did appreciate the intent.

You then relegated yourself to being my chauffeur to and from the plastic surgeon, administered the drugs and just generally kept looking after my general comfort as I deal with the injury and the overall disappointment of loosing my dream (albeit temporary) of being 2x Ironman.

Did my demeanor improve any?

Of course not.

So whatever happens today, for good or for bad (Disclaimer:  it was, or likely will be bad), please realize that I love you (more than I ever say) and appreciate all that you have done that has enabled me to be here today and – hopefully – accomplish this momentous goal further (Disclaimer:  I didn’t).  With me today, besides all the “Nutella bombs“, performance formula and gummy frogs (or in my current condition: Percocets, Tylenol, surgical bandage and gauze), I was to carry your strength and support and likewise use it as fuel to keep going and reach ultimately that finish line…for both of us (Disclaimer:  ah, never mind).  And once this whole Iron madness is done I’m looking forward to pulling back, slowing down and being more present (promise) the rest of the summer.

This I absolutely promise to follow through with.

Of course, above all else, I’m also anticipating and looking forward to rocking your world on a more regular basis (Disclaimer: once the pain meds wear off that is) so brace yourself woman, as I’m about to put all this endurance training to good use once again.

Fortunately, I have lots of leftover lubricating cream and anti-inflammatories we can use.

“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

About two weeks ago I noticed I wasn’t attacking my normal weekly workouts with quite the same enthusiasm.  Sure, I was still on the mend with a nagging run injury but everything was still looking up with some decent 90 minute tempo rides on the trainer and decent mileage in the pool.

But, still, I wasn’t looking forward to the workouts themselves.

And then last week I slept through a swim workout on the Friday and on Sunday, I attempted an anticipated long swim of about 7,000m, except that after a mere 2,000m  I pulled the plug.

I just didn’t want to be doing it anymore.

It’s not that I was fatigued, or sore, or anything like.  Truthfully, I felt fine physically…keeping in mind that I also completed 5 hours of spinning the day before for the Move for Strong Kids Campaign at the Port Colbourne YMCA (Saturday) and then a 10k run on that morning prior to hopping in the pool.

But mentally, I just didn’t have it in me…so time for a break.

Now to add a bit of perspective on this, two years ago I would have told myself to “buck up, sissypants” and continued on with the training.

“Breaks are for pussies.”

But we all know how that turned out in the end:  click HERE and HERE.

So recognizing these signs and then making the decision to take seven days off, I think, represents a significant amount of growing maturity on my part as an athlete.

YAY ME!

Having saying this, an entire week off was always in the training plan and in this case it couldn’t have come at a better time.  So all I have done this week is my 15 minute core every afternoon, hydrate like a beast, a little bit of yoga and a whole lotta sitting around.  As well, I’ve been chatting with Coach Nicole and in one of our chats she mentioned this little tidbit:

“Ironman is one of those things where when you hit a low spot, you can sometimes hit a reeeeeeeeally low spot and when you ask yourself why you’re there, doing this crazy thing, you REALLY need to know the answer to that question!  It’s what’ll always get you through the dips.”

Of course, this got me to thinking this afternoon:  why am I doing this?

Of course, I’ve pondered this question numerous times already and have likely offered many rationalizations on several posts to this blog already but in the spirit of “Recovery Week” this week, I’m revisiting this question again.

Why am I doing this?

To the coaches point, if that answer is not immediately obvious then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate what it is I really want to accomplish through this Ironman process.

Fair enough.

After all, there has to more to the big picture than regular suffering and ultimate burnout, right?

However, easier to answer is the reason why I am not doing it.

For example, I do not think that I am special or gifted in any way relating to endurance sports; I’m just a guy and pride has nothing to do with this.

Sure triathlon represent s big accomplishment over what my life used to be (click HERE for the last part of the whole transformation story and links back to the beginning) but I am not doing it because I have any real gift for it and am looking for any bragging rights. I couldn’t necessarily have said that in the past but, now, this is certainly true.

In other words, I realize that I am not a professional; Lionel Sanders I am not.  I have to work stupid hard simply to make it to the starting line, much less to the finish.  Sometimes I do well, and other times I completely tank it (click HERE and HERE for some reminders).  Of course I’m not suggesting that professionals like Lionel Sanders don’t work hard but, hey, let’s face it, they have the “gift”.

I do not.

Also, it’s their job.

I’m just an Average Joe and that means that I have other responsibilities in life and need to be more strategic in the way that I approach everything…family, earning a pay check, and training included.

Likewise, I’m no spring chicken anymore.  If I go and pound out a 12 kilometer fartlek run, or spend 90 minutes doing hill repeats on the bike, I’m likely going to be sore the next day and can’t necessarily do as much the next day where even 5 years ago I probably could.

So, again, I need to be smarter and focus less on what others are doing (mileage, hours, etc.) and more on what is right for own body and lifestyle, seeing as how I also have a day job and two very engaged girls in my life who also want to spend time with me.

Mark Twain said it best, “everything popular is wrong”  (thanks Nicole) and it’s really amazing how you start to view and react to the world and people and situations differently when you begin to view life through that lens.

Knowing and understanding these things is HUGE.

First and foremost, I’m a dad and a husband so part and parcel with that are the daily and weekly responsibilities around having a happy and functional family life, therefore training always has to take the back seat (albeit, my wife will likely dispute that a bit).  While I aim to be a rock star on the race course, I also aspire to be a rock star at life, namely at home and one simply cannot do that if I’m a) never around, or b) tired and broken 24/7.

There needs to be a “symbiotic relationship”.

There’s the Coach being all smart n’ shit again.

I didn’t have those responsibilities before.

It was always  about me.

So if I’m feeling burnt out, taking a break isn’t the end of the world.  In all honesty, it’s damn good thing!  It’s a resetting and recharging period to focus on the family and having a little fun, and get my mental and physical strength back so I can proceed to do it all over again in the coming weeks and, maybe, in two more months I will even do it once more.

Who knows?

But back to the question at hand, why am I doing this?

I guess my reason nowadays is that I want to set a good example for not only my daughter but my community.  I want to represent what it takes to be a good father, husband, community member (after all, I have local sponsors now to support!  *giggle*) and, yes, an Ironman – and, of course, I enjoy piecing together the parts of making the whole epic scene come together.

I want to epitomize what is possible  with dedication and focus.

I like having a physical challenge to rise to but, lately, I’m also enjoying the puzzle of putting it altogether so that not only does it happen but that there are no regrets in the end.  Even after Ironman Wales in 2012, I went into a profound “Ironfunk”.  Great that I did well n’ all, don’t get me wrong – but it was nearly two  years before I even started to feel like myself again.  In fact, it’s only now 5 years later that I’m actually getting around to doing it again.

I don’t want that happen this time around.

I would even like to think that I might even do it yet again.  Qualifying for Kona was originally the endgame when I started this blog, right?

Yes, I know I was still riding high on my laurels of completing my first Ironman at the time, but still…

Who knows?

My goal now is to obviously complete this thing in July and feel like I did my absolute best, competing to the level that I believe is within me.

However, and most importantly, I want to finish it feeling good and ready to tackle the next challenge down the road whatever that might be.  I want to inspire my daughter to realize that she can do things that might at first seem difficult, even impossible…if she just puts the technology down for a few seconds.  Life and everything in it is a gift.  And knowing that just last week, my body’s central nervous system was on the verge of collapse, well, pushing through it just didn’t seem to be in keeping with this last objective, does it?

Onward and forward…

So I have one more day of tomorrow and then, come Monday, it’s back nose to the grindstone with a renewed vigor.

This evening then, it’s records, maybe a wee drinky poo and bullshit session at the bar courtesy of The Sanctuary and simply enjoying the little things in life.

I’ve been holding off on this writing this post for a while now because, well, I still can hardly believe it.  But I’ve got the confirmations, did the leg work and I suppose it’s safe to finally accept it as well as put it out there publicly that:

I AM A SPONSORED TRIATHLETE!

Yup.

I shit you not.

That’s pretty exciting, right?

Excuse me while I hyperventilate a little…

(Inside I’m screaming like a tweener at a Bieber concert)

But before I divulge the particulars, let me first comment that I am no rock star triathlete nor do I possess anything resembling a “God-gifted skill”, or even somewhat “pro” qualities and/or status.  I’m just an average guy who works his ass off to be the best that he can be come race day, with what little there is to work with of course.  Or, maybe it’s that there is actually a lot to work with given the current size of my ass, I’m not sure how you want to spin it.  However, what definitely holds true is that I work hard and try my best.

The idea came to me a few years ago to approach a few local businesses of which I am both a supporter and frequent customer, with the request to sponsor me as a local athlete.  I didn’t of course because, well, I’m a schmuck.  I figured that no business owner in their right mind would ever want to endorse a “nobody” which, in the greater scheme of things, I am.  After all, sponsorship’s typically go to athletes who win events and thereby promoting their said sponsors through the act of standing on the podium for all to behold and revel in.  And while I have been on the podium once or twice, it’s certainly not a regular occasion.  Besides, finishing first in the “Clydesdale” age group category isn’t exactly the “Big Time”, so I let the idea slip away like so many lost dreams.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

But this year, I need a new race suit.  And that means a pretty big expense seeing as how I only need the one.  The thought then of spending serious cash on a race suit that calls attention to brands such as Sugoi, Zoot, 2XU, Orca, Pearl Izumi or Louis Garneau who, really, don’t give two shits about me beyond the fact that I just handed over my hard earned bucks to wear their outfit, wasn’t very palatable.  Besides, I’d inevitably be just another faceless lamb in the flock along the race course seeing as how it’s very possible that quite a few other participants would also be wearing the exact same thing.

Boooooor-ing.

So I reconsidered the option of asking for a local sponsorship.  I figured, hey, you could probably see my ass from orbit as it is, so what better billboard for getting ones brand name seen and advertised is there?  Those skinny little pro assholes just don’t have this kind of girth on which to show off their sponsors, do they?

Hells-to-the-NO!

Now I’ve mentioned it before in other posts that I’m fiercely loyal to the area in which I live and train (Ridgeway, Ontario), and I practice “think Global, act local” as often as possible.  I also do my very best to support all our local businesses whenever I dine out, or go to shows and events, or just shop.  Maybe – just maybe – one of these businesses would be interested in returning the favor by making a small investment in supporting one of their own.

Now, let’s be clear.  I wasn’t asking for money to buy (or be provided with) expensive equipment, performance supplements, or even to cover the entry fees for my events.  I just wanted something spiffy to race in that has logos and the brand names of companies and businesses that I believe in, support and endorse; things that inspire me.

That’s not asking a lot is it?

I swallowed my pride then and approached three local businesses that I would love to represent and as fortunate would have it – they all agreed.  I guess that makes this my triathlon equivalent of “Say Yes to the Dress!”

So without any further ado, here they are:

Brimstone Brewing Co.

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CRAVE LOCAL FRESH

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The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors

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It goes without saying that I am HUGE fan of all these businesses, and not just because they’re local and they’ve agreed to give me money.

I love everything they stand for:

  1. Fresh local food
  2. Great local beer
  3. Awesome local riding

Three of my favorite things in life I might add.

Of course, the bragging rights that go along with showing up to an Ironman triathlon in part sponsored by a brewery also definitely ups the “cool factor” just a bit too.

Take that Clif bar!

“Recharge with Milk”, my ass.

(bitches)

Both Brimstone Brewing Co. and CRAVE LOCAL FRESH operate out of The Sanctuary – Center for the Arts, a converted church 30 seconds from my front door.  My family and I love this place and frequent it often on evenings out for dinner, concerts, or just quiet pints of delicious craft beer (which aren’t exactly part of an “Ironman Diet” but, hey, “all work and no play…”, right?).  I will stop in on weekends for a bowl of homemade “recovery soup” on weekends after long winter rides and runs, and this is also my go-to place on “Daddy-Daughter Date Night” for a few rounds of Exploding Kittens while mommy is at work as well.  Chef Matt and staff certainly take care of us.

I am also particularly excited to represent The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors started by local in.cep.tion cyclery bike shop owner Brandon McGuire.  Essentially, they’re a “group of everyday riders, a few racers, all with no glorious ambitions of World Cup domination; rather to support, love and grow our sport”.

In other words, we’re ordinary dads on a mission.

Kind of like this:

But with bikes.

So what will I be wearing this season?

Well, just check out this bad ass race suit:

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How.  Cool.  Is.  That?

This is certainly going to turn some heads.

I just can’t wait for the season to get here already and I’m sincerely looking forward to racing for and supporting my new sponsors this spring/summer – hell, all year – by leading more group bike rides to and from The Sanctuary (rumor has it they have good beer and food) in order to explore the amazing area that I am so fortunate to train and live in.  How lucky am I?  Of course, it goes without saying that I will do my absolutely very best  to make them all proud come race time as well.

And, hey, even if I don’t get to stand on the podium this year, I’m pretty sure I still know a good place where I can get a decent victory dinner and drink and maybe even a congratulatory pat on the back and a “good job!“.  Whatever it happens to be, at the end of the day there will always be good soup and beer.

What else can I ever ask for?