Posts Tagged ‘Community’

The Shark

Posted: February 15, 2017 in In Transition, Swim
Tags: , ,

I first started swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA and Aquatic Center about 2-3 years ago.

Now, it’s never easy being the new guy on deck at a new pool.  Here the swimmers were typically older (seniors most of them) and had obviously been swimming together in the mornings for quite some time.  Before that (I have since learned), they swam at the now closed Centennial Pool in Port Colborne.  In other words, they were all very familiar with one another as well as each others swim pace and specific routines, and they already had a predetermined order to the way in which they organized themselves in regard to who swam with whom, and in what lane, so on and so forth.

And this young buck in Speedo’s with the Santa’s sack of fancy swim toys shows up and everything is completely FUBAR-ed.  It’s made only worse that he also happens to swim at double the pace of those currently using the Fast Lane.

Needless to say, we didn’t necessarily all get along well in the beginning.

However, over time they grew to know me, and I them, and I have more or less been accepted into the common collective of local swimmers in Port Colborne and we have reorganized ourselves accordingly in that we can all successfully get to the business of swimming without it feeling like Mortal Combat.

It took some time but we eventually did it.

During that initial “getting to know you” phase though it was, well, let’s just say that it was ‘awkward’ at the best of times.

One of the first swimmers to make an effort to get to know me was an English woman named Margaret.  One morning, out of the blue, she invited me into her lane which we then proceeded to split down the middle so that we wouldn’t be in each others way.  To me, this was kind of like Diane Fossey being accepted into her troop of mountain gorillas on some remote mountainside in Rwanda somewhere.  At last I was accepted as one of their own.

Well, with Margaret anyway.

The others?  Maybe not so much (at that point anyway).

We continued sharing a lane for some time after that and even started chit-chatting at the wall periodically between sets.

She was curious about the kind of workouts I was doing, the distances, and of course all the weird-looking pool toys (pool buoys, fins, paddles, etc.) I brought with me (click HERE for but a small sample).  She even became a little interested in how they worked so I invited her to try using some of them which she did before politely nodding her head that, “yes, that’s definitely different, isn’t it?”  in that adorable English accent before going back to doing whatever it was she was doing.  However, I did notice sometimes that while I was doing my sets she would occasionally reach into my bag of swim tricks on the wall and help herself to a pair of small paddles, or maybe my fins, do a few lengths, and then replace them again carefully.

I was only too happy to oblige.

Sometimes we would even race each other.  I would try to complete a 100m interval in the same time it took her to swim 50m.  It was a way of pushing ourselves through a little friendly competition.  She usually completed her interval seconds before I could finish mine, but I was getting closer.  And of course there was just the proper amount of egging one another on at the all as well.

“You just got beat by an old lady!”, was her favorite.

Funny that my swim partner would turn out to be an 70+ year old lady with penchant for trash talking.

Rather appropriately I think, I nicknamed her “The Shark”.

But then Margaret stopped showing up altogether.

Now it’s not terribly unusual for one of the old timers to go AWOL at some point.  Usually, one at a time it seems, they will inevitably head off south on vacation for a few weeks at a time, but they all eventually come back eventually looking like an old boot; such was the ebb and flow when swimming with seniors.  So I half expected Margaret to come waltzing back onto the pool deck as some point as well all tanned up.

But she never did.

In fact, months passed and no Margaret.

I figured that maybe she had moved onto something else, or moved away altogether.  It happens.  By this time though I more or less owned the Fast Lane and the other regulars stayed out of my way (except Bill, who I am sure has been sent here by the gods like some sort of a Classical pool harpy, to interrupt all my workouts by getting in my way as often as possible).

More months passed.

Then this morning, low and behold, there she was.

She looked a little confused and proceeded to plop herself into a completely different lane (not ours), but when she saw me she smiled broadly and announced “I remember you!”

Umm, hey…thanks?

She mentioned to me that she hadn’t swam in two years and, again, there was that confused look.  When I congratulated her for being back, she just shrugged her shoulders and started swimming…zig-zagging down the middle of the lane…without her goggles on.

Long story short, Margaret has developed Alzheimer’s and recently lost her driver’s license and therefore, her ability to get to and from the pool every day.  This morning, however, her husband must have brought her so that she could finally get back in the pool.

She didn’t immediately recognize everyone else but I am thrilled that she remembered me and our “workouts”.  She even started to ask how my swimming was going, what distances I had gotten myself up to and if I was still planning to race again this year.

In other words, it was as if we had just picked up where we left off…trash talk n’ all.

It was a real joy for me to see her swimming again and, clearly, she both loves and misses it judging by the HUGE smile on her face.  And while we might not have shared a lane this morning, I will definitely be sure to return the favor and invite her into my lane (whether she remembers me or not) with me if she continues to show up in future mornings, just as she originally did with me.

Welcome back, Margaret.

And for the record, in her absence I’ve only gotten faster.

As she said this morning:  “I see I have some work to do”.

You bet your sweet bippy you do, Shark.

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.

brimstone

CRAVE LOCAL FRESH

cravelocalfresh_mockup

The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors

index

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?

I love where I live.

There’s a nice ebb and flow to it in that it’s busier and more lively in the summer season and then quiet and peaceful again during the winter months.  After my long run this morning I can definitely say without any uncertainly whatsoever, that we are definitely ebbing.

Gawd.

Is it October already?

Seriously?

You see, I live in Ridgeway, Ontario and I feel very fortunate to be able to train here.  There is ample room to roam on my bike and enough country roads to keep my running route options plentiful.  There is a nicely paved ‘Friendship Trail’ that runs the entire span from Port Colborne to Fort Erie and then the Niagara Parkway itself, one of the most scenic roadways anywhere, which follows the Niagara River past Niagara Falls and then along the Niagara Gorge all the way into the historic townships of Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Other times I can ride to Port Colborne along the trail and then follow Lakeshore Rd., through cottage country all along the edge of Lake Erie through Long Beach, Low Banks and Rock Point.  For the 50 or so kilometers between Port Colborne to Dunnville it’ all beaches, embankments and huge spinning windmills – it’s awesome! It’s just too bad there are too many drunken boaters otherwise there would be lots of good swimming opportunities as well.  So I have it pretty good if I do say so myself (and I do).

Ridgeway stands alongside Crystal Beach on its eastern side; a single street (Ridge Rd.) separates the two.  I literally can run an entire marathon distance completely contained within, say, a 2 kilometer square area between Erie Rd. in the south and Michener in the north, and between Gorham Rd. on the east and Schooley on the west; the very heart and epic center of Canadian cottage country.  Think endless streets and lane ways all lined with quaint beach homes and outdoor patios – each one of which will inevitably have a BBQ.  Ridgeway itself has its own elaborate network of sleepy streets and neighborhoods that spread out between Highway 3 and Thunder Bay Rd. which runs along the lake.  There there’s MacDonald Drive that picks up after Thunder Bay and twists and winds along the Erie lakeshore past vast private properties, meticulously manicured lawns and more tennis courts than you could shake a racquet at.  So, yeah, there’s a lot of space and I know pretty much all of it by this point.  Shit, I could run some of my more popular running routes blindfolded.  Once you get out Ridgeway a little further to the north it’s out and into proper southern Ontario farmland; cows; horses; sheep; and bees…lots and lots of apiaries.

There is also a lot of history in this area (click HERE for a small sample from of my favorite running routes) as well and for all directions there’s practically an unlimited number of cool old rickety barns, school houses, farms, historical brick manors, stone silos and abandoned and dilapidated stone walls.

Another feature to the area is that it is practically pancake flat.  I’m not sure where the “ridge” is that Ridgeway is officially named after, but it can’t be much of a drop.  Sure, we have some rolling hills and little incline that rises off the lake but, really, it’s pretty much flat ground.  This is good if you’re not a particular fan of hilly workouts meaning that if you’re serious you have to take matters into your own hands (click HERE).  But, hey, you can’t have everything I guess.  I still think of this as a good thing though.

When you talk about ebb and flow, you typically begin with the ebb.  Well, I’m going to buck popular convention and start with the flow instead.

Beach season begins to wind down in October when the water starts to cool a bit more and the days get shorter.  It’s still incredibly beautiful in the area with the changing autumn colors, but nobody goes to the beach to look at the trees am I right?  By November, 70% of the cottages in the Crystal Beach area are boarded up shut.  The traffic begins to wind down, restaurants shorten their hours or close up altogether, and the prices return to normal at the local grocers.  By December, its eerie quiet and the locals get to return to their favorite café’s and haunts.  Suddenly everybody is doing the speed limit again. On some days I can run down the middle of Ridge Road through town and not have to worry about traffic.  I can run through Crystal Beach and not see a single person; in fact, it’s uncommon if I ever do.

But after a while all this quiet gets kind of lonely, ya know?  You can only run so many country roads in the middle of winter through polar vortex temperatures and 3″ snow drifts before you begin to think to yourself, “Hey, this kinda sucks.  I wish there was more people around”.

Queue the ebb.

On Memorial Day (May 25th), the day I will forever recognize as the official opening of “The Season”, every street in almost every neighborhood will play host to dozens of bonfires and backyard parties, the like of which even Nero himself would be ashamed to attend.  Suddenly I don’t have the place to myself anymore as the place literally goes ape shit.

Yes, The tourists are back en force.  They begin rolling in on weekends through April and early May to open up their summer homes and cottages for the season.  Suddenly, you can’t get a parking spot outside your favorite breakfast nook for all the out of town license place; much less a seat inside.  The traffic returns with a vengeance and suddenly everybody is in just a little bit more of a hurry to get everywhere and, consequentially, a little less willing to move over and give some safe distance to the runner on the side of the road as they pass; there is definitely a lot more raised index fingers than waving hands.

Signals?  Who needs ‘em?

And then there’s all the rental scooters and e-bikes to contend with and everyone suddenly feels obliged to occupy what few bike lanes we actually have. Just heading out of town on your bike and you’ll inevitably end up sprinting with some douche canoe on a mobility scooter who thinks he can make the next right hand turn before you get there.  And then there’s the moolyak who’s more focused on searching out “Beach” on his GPS while driving and just about runs you over as you try to attempt to navigate a busy intersection safely.  It never stops.

I once had a tourist pull his car over into the driveway directly ahead of me completely blocking my way. He wanted to know where the lake was.  Are you shitting me?  My heart is about to explode, I’m leaking from every pour in this God forsaken heat and you stop me to ask directions?  I just told him to keep driving south until his ankles got wet.

I don’t simply run/bike the first 10-15 minutes (depending on which I choose to go) of my workouts anymore just to get out of town and into the countryside, away from the steady congestion of rude ass tourists; I am running/riding for my life.  Tempers will flare and I have been known to pitch the “double finger salute” in inattentive tourist’s rearview windows.  Inevitably I also have to spend this time getting out of town to the chants of “Run Forest Run!”, or the ever popular “Run Fatboy Run!”  tossed out by the odd drunken beach goer driving past in a Jeep, who resembles some reject from the cast of ‘Entourage’.

Try much, buddy?

Mostly it’s the looks they give me.  I could be running down Erie Rd. past all the public beaches (one of my usual routes out of town) and people will look at me in complete bewilderment, as if thinking to themselves: “what the fuck is that?”   You’d think they’d never seen a runner before.  I get that I’m not all that attractive at the best of times and I’m sure I’m quite the spectacle when I’m an absolute hot and nasty mess and there’s about an inch of bug carcasses stuck to my sweaty skin and matted into my arm and leg hair but, still, those looks can hurt.

I like to pretend that they’re just 100% mesmerized at just having witnessed some incredibly sturdy and impressive go by, as if Godzilla had successfully mated with a Panzer tank and it was jogging past at just that very second.

Of course, I know whats really going through their minds: “Eww”.

People – tourists – are absolutely everywhere.  As I ran by the only local grocer in town on my long run today I couldn’t help but notice that the parking lot now had 3 Mercedes, 2 Humvee’s and a Porche; just the kind of rugged vehicles necessary for rural life.  There was a lady standing at her car complaining to her Rico Suave boyfriend that they didn’t have any cold vitamin water inside.

Gawd x 2.

It’s like in that vampire movie ’30 Days of Night’, only the tourists are the vampires who have come to prey on the unsuspecting locals, except during the daytime where they run rampant through the streets devouring everything and anybody in their path while we locals hide under buildings and front porches waiting for them to leave.  Come June (i.e. now) it’s kind of annoying but livable, by July I’m hitting the brink of insanity and by August I don’t even want to leave the house.  If I make it through to late September I consider it a good training season.

I rest.

I recover.

I can begin returning to the local restaurants and cafes.

I get anxious for the inevitable flow of people back out of Ridgeway and for the peace and quiet of the winter months to arrive again and rescue us all; when I can run and roam pretty much unchallenged through my rural paradise once again.  That’s where my head space was today anyway, as a steady stream of tourists narrowly zoomed by me by the side of the road with merely inches to spare.

I’m glad you’re all back, but fucking move over already!

So while my social self is happy that life has once again returned to the area, the triathlete in me is already counting down the months until I can have my community back with which to train again normally…safely.  Only three more months to go.

Such is life and training in Ridgeway.

Family Cycle

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

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

Is that some scary shit or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the years, especially lately now that the initial Ironman quest is behind me, I’ve learned that there is a delicate balance that exists between having fun and training to compete.  Up until this past September, I was flat out balls to the wall in ‘training to compete’; in fact, it’s safe to say it totally consumed me.  Nowadays, well, not so much.  I mean, it will again I’m sure – but just not now.

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned this year is how to mentally cope with being an “Ironman”, something that as it turns out, is not quite so simple.  I literally spent three years of my life focused on the singular goal to endure and complete a 140.6 mile odyssey of pain and then – *poof* – it was all gone in a flash of adrenaline and ibuprofen.  What followed wasn’t pretty either.  Now, eight months down the road I still haven’t 100%  physically recovered, but I’m a little wiser.  I know now that ‘all work and no play makes Terry one grumpy son of a bitch’, that’s for sure.  So, forget the ‘training to compete’ this year, I’m focusing now on the Fun’ aspect, the one thing that I more or less depraved myself of for the past few years of training and competition in an effort to get faster, go further, and become stronger.  After all, seldom does one ever smile 150k into a hot July afternoon’s bike ride, or a 3 hour Brick run afterwards.  Typically, I wanted to die but I persevered and I got it done.  I had to, and nobody can ever take that away from me.  I’m proud of those accomplishments but, in the end when it was all over and done with, I was mentally drained…empty.  Part of me still is.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end either.

Given all the 360-degree turns my life has taken in recent months the journey has just changed a bit – that’s all.  So while my body continues to heal and my gimpy leg rebuilds its strength, I more relish my bike rides with Kelly, “training” with HRH  (click HERE  for more HRH-related stories) in preparation for her own kid’s triathlon in August, and working on my stroke in the pool.  I am still very active and accomplishing goals, I’m just not ‘competing’ and I’m making peace with that now.  It’s that symbiotic relationship of mixing fun with competition that makes it all bearable.  I realize and understand that now.  So if I’m ever going to return to the intense mental and physical rigors of training to qualify for Kona in the future, I figure I’m due some fun this year in order to help keep it all in its proper perspective.

Getting warmed-up.

Getting warmed-up.

With that in mind, I had the pleasure and the privilege lately to present to the Grades 1, 2 and 3 classes at two different public schools in our area about the ‘fun’ that is triathlon.   HRH  has lived and breathed triathlon vicariously through me now for the past year so, needless to say, she has talked about it some amongst her classmates.  After all, she has a step dad who wears tight, brightly-colored spandex clothes and rides the weird bike everywhere – stuff that typically doesn’t escape your average eight-year-old’s attention.  So the idea struck me then to approach the principal at her school about opportunities to officially talk about it with her class given that triathlon is now being introduced at the high school level now despite few kids even realizing what it is.  Fortunately, my proposition that was immediately welcomed.  Later, the idea was even welcomed at another school nearby as well.  Yayness!

You like me!!  You REALLY like me!

Okay, I had to do that.

Besides, Lord knows that if I had discovered triathlon 30 years ago I would never had evolved into the gelatinous blob I would become for the majority of my life later on.  In a way, triathlon kind of saved me.  So to even pass along a little of that love and appreciation to kids would be totally worth the time alone.

Getting photo-bombed by an eight-year-old.  But, hey, at least he's smiling!

Getting photo-bombed by an eight-year-old mini me. But, hey, at least he’s smiling!

Forget triathlon being a unique challenge, or a means of sustaining a healthy active lifestyle – which, to an eight-year-old, is about as exciting and meaningful as leftover Brussel sprouts – I really wanted to stress the ‘fun factor’ knowing full well that competing with the likes of Super Mario Bros., Pac Man, or Sonic the Whatshisface (okay, so I’m little out of the video game loop) would be tricky business indeed.  After all, what kid wants to bike and run a zillion miles in the thousand degree weather throughout the summer when they could instead be sitting on their couch playing their Wii in the central air-conditioning?  Not going to get many buy-in’s that way.  With that in mind, I brought in my tri bike and wetsuit as a ‘show and tell’ opportunity to build interest and provide the chance to play dress up.  They loved that.  What kid doesn’t love dress up?  Of course, one astute little kid wanted to know what happens when I had to go pee, but I managed to avoid the question by running the ‘ol smoke and mirrors routine and dazzling them instead with some heady bling in the way of finisher’s medals.  Yup, shiny objects.  Works every time!  So after walking them through the different swim, bike and run stages, it was time to actually try our hands at competing in a mock triathlon.

SAMSUNG

Introducing Lucille. Can’t you just hear the “Ooooo’s” and “Ahhhh’s”?

Of course you can’t really swim or bike around a gymnasium or playground, but we did our best at simulating the sensation of going from discipline directly into another whether it entailed whirling our arms to simulate swimming, or picking up our knees to simulate riding a bike (running is running).  What can I say?  It’s just another arrow in my quiver of whimsy.  At the best of times, the kids hurled themselves around the staged triathlon course like crazed Vikings and seemed to enjoy themselves.  Hopefully, and judging by the way they fell to the ground exhausted afterwards, they burned off more than a little steam making the rest of the day a little more peaceful and relaxing for the teachers.

Take THAT, Sonic the Whatever you are!

But, here’s my real coup d’tat.  I wanted something the kids could take home and – hopefully – talk about with their parents, so I designed and created my own triathlon Activity booklet complete with mazes, coloring pages, word searches, crosswords, word jumbles, and other learning activities to act as a take away to reenforce the things we talked about during the presentation including safety, specific triathlon terms, etc.  Now, I admit that I’m no Paul Rand or Wolfgang Weingart, but I was still pretty damn proud with the end result.  I love that HRH  still drags it out and works in it from time to time.  In the future, I hope to find an actual graphic designer to help me flesh it out with actual cartoons, better detail, and more engaging activities *.  But as it is now, this was pretty groovy if I do say so myself (and I do!).

Activity Book (click to view)

All in all it was a very enjoyable experience; one I’d like to repeat again another time.  I’m now looking forward to volunteering more than ever at the mount line for the SunRype Kids Triathlon series of events this summer and getting to witness them actually participating in the real McCoy.  Hopefully, they’ll enjoy triathlon as much as I have and maybe, just maybe, I’ll even see a familiar face or two.

* If there are, in fact, any budding creative cartoonists or graphic designers out there willing to help me out and become involved or, at the very least, work cheap, please contact me.