Posts Tagged ‘Community’

Goals for 2019

Posted: April 21, 2019 in Motivation, The Plan
Tags: ,

Recently, I have fending off lots questions from my friends and peers (least of all my wife) about what events or competitions I am thinking of participating in this summer, and while I was all gung-ho even just four months ago to get back at it training-wise towards something, anything, well, let’s just say that I am currently looking at things a bit differently these days.

Initially, I thought I’d go back to short course racing this year; sprints and Olympic distance. I’m confident now that I could “train” fairly easily for distances without having to make many sacrifices physically, personally, or of the vastly underappreciated commodity in triathlon (especially long distance) … TIME.

As it turns out though, my motivation this year has become something much different and therefore, taking my “training” in a very different direction.

In fact, I’m hesitant to use the word “training” at all.

The New Year started pretty well with me getting back into a regular swim, bike and run program.  I even started attending some cross-training classes, and lifting weights.  Hell, I even invited a newly certified personal trainer friend of mine to totally rip out my asshole and rearrange my innards on Tuesday nights over the course of 60 minutes of intense circuit-training.  I’m not even exaggerating.

I will admit that my third round of early morning core workouts (click HERE) pretty much fell off the radar but, hey … sue me.

I think 243 days of self-inflicted core workouts over three years so far, isn’t bad.

About a month ago, however, I noticed that my usual “go forth and get it done” hutzpah was somewhat lacking, preferring instead to roll over at 4:15am and opt for another 90 minutes of sleep before work.  I had lost that spring in my step, so to speak.  There was always a reason or an excuse; I wasn’t “feeling well”; I was “listening to my body”; it’s a “recovery week”.  The list went on and on but, truthfully, there was nothing wrong with me.

I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

First, however, it’s important to state for the record that I have NOT stopped working out.  I am still swimming, running, cycling, lifting weights, and doing lazy yoga in my underwear on the weekends in lieu of a disciplined daily core strengthening program.  I’m still doing it all; I’m just not doing it as intensely or for as long a time and, true, sometimes I just roll over and sleep in instead.

So what I am contemplating on doing, you ask?

What crazy adventure or insanely stupid challenge am I going to take on to punishment myself over?

Nothing …

Absolutely buckus!

Instead, I’m going to be a dad and a husband again … albeit, a very active one.

A few things have occurred to me over the past few weeks.  My past three years of Ironman training have taken me away from my family for hours and, quite often, days at a time; they don’t call it an “Iron Widow” for nothing.  It was a simple necessity of the process:  swim, bike, run … a lot!  I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s trained for a long distance triathlon that will tell you there is an expected amount of stress that goes along with it; and not just the workouts themselves, I’m talking about the normal daily stresses that go along with trying to accomplish everything around everything else – namely your family and friends.

Let’s not even mention the stress involved if a workout is cancelled or doesn’t go as planned.

Did I go far enough?  Did I go hard enough?  Do I need to do more?


I’m kind of done with that shit for a while.

Presently, I’m planning on being around a lot more this summer to ride bikes with my step-daughter, as well as other great people that I just never get a chance to ride with because I was always out “training”.   I also wanted to organize group rides from the local Brimstone Brewery (and my sponsor – click HERE) to show off the amazing area I which I am fortunate to live and (*ahem*) train, help a few participants from my Monday night Master’s spin class get out on the road on their own bikes, I wanted to be available to help new swimmers get in the open water confidently, I wanted to support fledgling triathletes learn the basic “in’s and  out’s” of the sport without immediately feeling obligated to drop big money with the first “Iron Guru” that convinces them they need their astute guidance and about six kabillon dollars of unnecessary equipment.  Most importantly, I want to spend time with my family.

Oh, one more thing … I also wanted to be able to do a full squat.

Without the pressures of “training”, especially that required for Ironman, I’m feeling liberated to do more of things that I couldn’t before … the fun things.

One could argue the important things.

(Right, Steve?)

Oh yes, I’d also like to be able to have the time to update this blog more as well.

Anyway, so what does this mean for my summer plans and goals then?

Well, regardless of not having to be defined by a specific training schedule per se, I still have this intrinsic need to somewhat structure my weekly activities to ensure I am still on the righteous path of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, keeping my triathlon-specific skills somewhat in check and, well, not turn into a total blimp for all the guilt-free craft beer I’ll inevitably drink this summer.

With all that in mind, priority no.1 is supporting HRH in her quests to be active this summer and among her chosen healthy lifestyle passions is swimming and cycling.  Beginning with swimming, my goal is continue developing my stroke instead of going right for the distance and long swim sets.  Instead, I’ll remain focus on developing my catch and adding some short speed sets to mix things up from the usual program.

This, however, will inevitably means that for a while in comparison to my peers who follow a disciplined training program, where once I entered the pool deck like this …


It’s, sadly, now going to be more like this:

Graceful isn’t it?

But I don’t care.

The idea is that I’m going to continue spending that quality active time with my step-daughter and once the water decides to rise to a reasonable temperature that isn’t like diving into a minus-zero Arctic temp ice bath, we’ll hopefully transition into cooling off together in the humid summer evenings by swimming in the open waters of Lake Erie a whopping two minutes away, or at the International Flatwater Center in Welland.

Ideally, I’d like to continue swimming 2-3 times a week, albeit not necessarily long or intensely.

One of Hailey’s goals this summer besides her third crack at the Big Move this year, is another big “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” together in the fall.

Leading up to that, I’d like to be able to use some of this extra time and organize more destination rides around the area so can better appreciate some of the amazing countryside and communities we have here in the Niagara Region; horses and endless pastureland; sweet-smelling vineyards; “Pick Your Own” fruit farms and roadside stands; small town cafes and bakeries; fragrant orchards overladen with ripening (and rotting) apples, pears and peaches; long rolling descents along the Niagara escarpment; the gradual sloping climbs back up again; I would like her to experience all of it.

As much as we can anyways.

As far as running goes, well, I’m going to continue to allow myself to fail in some regards.

My current plan is to continue keeping the runs short and infrequent with one longer run on the weekends somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-50 minutes, perhaps getting up to approximately an hour.  This is going to be more in the hopes that I can maintain some of my run specific strength I developed the past three years while not having to endure endless fartlek runs in the extreme heat and humidity of summer … something I have always struggled with during the summer months.  After all, nobody likes a fat, sweaty runner wrapped in Lyrca (least of all me) so aside from the “long” weekend jaunts outside, a good portion of my runs this summer might be accomplished on the treadmill in the mornings as either a warm-up or supplement cardio workout after a strength workout at the gym in the early mornings.

As far as distances and run goals are concerned, ideally, I have none.  If I can manage to keep myself within being able to accomplish, say, a 10k run without killing myself I’d be very happy indeed.  Perhaps this then provides more opportunities to try this whole “trail running” thing and see what all the bearded hippie runners are blogging and podcasting about.  I have tried a few “off roads” runs recently and, surprisingly, they were pretty cool so, yeah, maybe I’d like to do more a bit more of those too.

One thing that is important for me to maintain is my strength and flexibility.

I’d love to join a yoga studio again but, really, that works against the whole plan of freeing up more time to spend with the family.  However, these two things are both fundamental in maintaining both my “triathlon specific skills” as well and being able to continue working long, hot, hard days and still being able to come home and ride my bike and swim in the canal so, essentially, I’m going to begin using my morning out of the pool to focus on the heavy iron and developing better core strength; of which, is typically much less than where it currently is and should be at this point in the training season.

To this regard, I’m succeeding as the slower, more methodical session with the weights have proven to be a rather good start to the morning for me in the way that swimming is and not, say, running* – I just plug in my Yurbuds, set the meter to “kick ass” and go all Schwarzenegger  with the heavy iron.

Well, in my mind anyway.

Yoga has been reserved for free mornings in my underwear in the basement, with Toby the Cat and a cup of coffee just it has been for the past few months; perhaps in the future, but for now, this desire to re-establish a regular “practice” will just have to remain on the back burner.

Having said that, I still do get to practice a very undisciplined variety of yoga each and every day when I get out of my work truck and enter the work site where my inability to either do a very low crawl, hold a plank, perform and hold a squat, and maneuver into tight and confined spaces more or less means that my body is getting a variety of workouts and “poses” over the ordinary workday.  Essentially, it’s a continuation of the “On-the-Job Training” mindset I was attempting to put myself into last year exactly one year ago.

There is one thing however that will inevitably pre-empt a few of these plans eventually as I am expecting the call to come from the good people at the Brock University Kinesiology Department headed by Dr. Stephen Cheung to return to the “torture chamber” for God knows what kind of testing.

Whatever it is, I’ll be ready … mentally and physically.

It likely will not be my finest moment fitness-wise, but it will also give me that same adrenaline rush through suffering and sense of accomplishment that I have gotten before, and would ordinarily get from competition otherwise.  What it says about me that I like to be experimented on and tortured by guys in lab coats as a way of developing and learning about myself, who the fuck knows — but I will do it happily once that call comes.

What it all comes down to in regards to “training” this year if you really need to put a fine point on it, is that I’m training to be a dad, a husband and all round swell guy this year.

Full stop.

This is going to be the relatively stress-free year of fun.

By the way … I can now successfully do a full squat despite my burgeoning beer gut.



I’m already killing it.

*Morning warm-ups and supplemental cardio workouts excluded.


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

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

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

So.  Much.  Chafing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you girls!

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

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

Thank you, Nicole.

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

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

Thank you.

I will not let you down.

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

Beer and pretzel bites for everybody!

(stay tuned friends)

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

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

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

Thank you, my friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Now, pass the pretzel bites.

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 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.


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?


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.




The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors


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.


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:


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.


Is it October already?


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.


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.