Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

It has become one of my habits now to set a few goals through the off-season to work towards and which, ultimately, serve as benchmarks leading up to the accomplishment of the master plan being Ironman.  One of these regular goals is the completion of the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids at my local YMCA.

This has been my fifth year participating in and completing this charity swim and it has become the hallmark of my off-season training program; not to mention my motivation for getting my ass out of a warm bed at 5:00am on cold winter mornings.

Here are the particulars of my 2017 swim plan to date:

  • 182,025m covered in total (2,500m more than last year)
  • That’s an average of 14,205m per week for an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes (per week)
  • Which equates to 61 hours and 34 minutes spent in the pool
  • Over 47 different workouts

That’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.

17952595_10158536214270113_3324792525232267637_nI was particularly motivated this year as I was sharing the task with a friend and past training partner Steve, whom I met back in the early days of my triathlon quest.  I don’t necessarily remember how this partnership came about but I know there was definitely a beer in hand at a Christmas party where he actually committed to do the swim with me.  How many were consumed by that point is anyone’s guess but, true to his word, Steve took up the gauntlet and launched into his own preparation for this year’s event (click HERE for a little deeper insight into Steve’s rather “unique” training plan).

Besides getting to share this experience with someone it also meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with the hardest part of long distance swimming as far as I’m concerned:

B-O-R-E-D-O-M.

Seriously, when you’re spending the better part of three hours staring at the little hairs floating on the bottom of the pool, your brain tends to liquefy and slowly drain out your ears.

Let’s just say that it becomes very tedious indeed simply watching the black line endlessly pass underneath you and there’s a reason why I use this event to build up my overall “mental toughness”.

Believe me.

Usually, the last hour or so is just me – alone – simply trying not to go crazy.  So having someone to keep me company and share in the tediousness and general pacing was a huge benefit and I couldn’t really have been luckier in who offered to join me.

In past years, my 10k swims have clocked overall times of 3:22:50 (2016), 3:11:05 (2015) and 3:11:57 (2014), and 3:16:31 (2013) respectively.

Clearly, last year was a real struggle.

This year: 3:00:40.

That’s a difference of 11 minutes and 25 seconds over my best time.

Boo-yah!

Different from past years where I went it alone, Steve and I stopped every 500m  for a sip of water and a quick glance at one another before pushing off the wall again.  All in all, each break was only 4-5 seconds each.  Over the course of three hours, we only spend 4 minutes and 59 seconds resting and refueling.  Again, this represents a huge improvement over the 10 minutes or so between longer intervals in previous years so this plan seemed to work out much better.

Likewise, since we were splitting the pacing duties out front every 1,000m we managed a better average pace of 1:49min/100m and, really, it was only in the last 2,000-3,000m or so that our pace began to fade.

Some other interesting statistics for those of you who care:

  • I covered the distance in exactly 4,302 strokes
  • For an average of 23 strokes/minute
  • Burning exactly 2,400 calories in doing so

So what now?

Well, from here I begin pulling back on the distance and begin focusing more on speed and tempo work at the 4,000m  distance given my next swim goal is directly aimed at being among the first few out of the water at Hudson Valley (click HERE).  I will also be doing the Lake Okanagan Swim with HRH on July 15th (2,000m) – but that’s more of a fun bonding thing than it is any significant challenge.

Steve, however, is going to continue with the distance with – hopefully – designs on competing in a few open water events around Ontario meaning, of course, that we can both continue to motivate and train together in the open water come next month.

Well, that and getting rid of the pull buoy.

(Sorry Steve, couldn’t resist)

Anyway, seeing as how the Frank & Friends swim has now been reassigned to November we might even be doing this same swim again sooner than anticipated so there’s always that motivation to keep going as well.

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:

15934140_10154706980671351_89075910_o

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?

The Big Move 2016

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

It’s been a year already and that means that the time has come yet again for one of my favorite events of the riding season, The Big Move Cancer Ride in support of the Walker Family Cancer Center at the St. Catharines hospital.  This will be my 8th year participating in the event and my 7th working in the capacity of the “Tail End Charlie” (click HERE for previous years’ reports).

Yup, that’s me…the nameless guy who finishes dead last at the tail end of the entire parade.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’d have it no other way.

Here’s a little video summary of last year’s ride (you can see you’re truly at the 51 second mark):

Given the crappy conditions we rode in last year (click HERE for a little reminder), today was going to be glorious; bright, sunny, and not too stinking hot.  A perfect day for riding.  So there was no trepidation on my part this morning as there was last year and once again I sprang out of bed at the ripe hour of 5:00am.

Exactly like this:

Similarly, this was the third year that I have volunteered with my family who would be working themselves in the support van along the 25k route making sure the riders themselves were supported as well as all the volunteer and marshaling stations along the way.

We arrived together on site at 7:00am sharp so the girls could get to work helping get the truck loaded and the rest stations set up out on the course.

Here’s our obligatory family selfie:

14316878_10155258915813475_3572505366224749184_n

Me?

I stood around drinking coffee.

Not the smartest thing to be doing given I would have to get myself undressed about a gazillion times in order to take my gazillionth pee.  But there really wasn’t much else for me to be doing until the ride started except keep warm (it was a little on the cool side) and just take it all in.

There are certainly a lot of moving pieces come ride day to deal with and it never ceases to amaze me what an amazing job the organizing staff do in making it all come together.  I mean, I just have to pedal.

Easy, right?

Well, often it’s not and it can be rather like this on the morning of the ride:

14322757_1106866459362948_6247926959917851783_n

But, I digress.

For the most part, I just pedal.

However, there are just so many other things going on to account for in order to make the day successful and enjoyable for everyone.

I’m sure the organizers checklists look something like this during the days leading up to ride day:

1

It really is amazing.

Kudo’s to them for being able to manage it all.

At 8:00am the organizers began calling to the riders for the 100k ride (my route) to begin making their way to the starting line.  Being the “Tail End Charlie”, I gravitated to the back with the other sweep riders.  This year, I was honored and excited to be riding with Kathleen, an ICU nurse at the St. Catharines hospital whom I was fortunate to ride with two years ago.  Kathleen is genuinely kind, supportive and a very capable rider, so I felt very lucky that I was going to get to be in her company all day once again.

I find the opening speeches prior to the ride very motivational.  You get to hear a few personal stories on why the ride is so important to other riders.  Everybody has their own inspiration for participating in The Big Move Cancer Ride.

Here’s my own:

14203222_10155258915758475_7803786779647873208_n

At 8:15am, the ride got under way.

Here’s a photo of us as we rolled out:

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Those two figures in the hideous yellow vests at the tail end are Kathleen and I (she’s on the right and I’m on the left).

She definitely looks better in her cycling shorts.

The rides begins by heading down Vansickle Rd, left on Pelham Rd. and then directly up the monster climb at Rockway Glen.  However, just as we were starting our way up the climb we got word from our sweep wagon that four riders had started a bit late and were now behind us.  I circled around that hightailed back to greet them just as they were approaching the hill.

Ashley was the last rider to reach the hill and with a little encouragement and suggestions on how to use her gears more effectively, she managed to get up the hill with a lot of huffing and puffing.  In fact, she didn’t even stop at the aid station at the top, she just kept on trucking and I would see her again for the next four hours.

However, Kathleen was there and she was just starting out with the last two stragglers that she had assisted to the top of Rockway.

Perfect.

Our little tail end group had found its way back together again.  In the sweep business, this is definitely a good thing as everybody is then present, accounted for and, most importantly, safe.

I am sensitive to the riders at the back of the pack as they somehow think that this is in some way a bad thing, or that they are failing at something.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, if I had to relate to you what it can be like at the back of the pack, I’d offer you this amazing picture:

14292516_10155259558038475_3095678151169472222_n

I’m not in this picture, nor is this even my route.  But this picture taken by Kelly (my wife) from the support van, perfectly captures everything I love about “sweeping”.  This rider was just two weeks out from her last cancer treatment and here she is finishing up her 25k ride with a little help from the Sweep Riders.

Out-freakin-standing.

Was it hard?

Yes.

Did she do it?

Yes.

Is she deserving of all the respect in the world?

Abso-freakin-lutely!

She’s an absolute hero.

I just can’t express how meaningful this image is to me.

Well done, sweeps!

Anyway, today, my (our) little group at the back of the 100k route happened to consist of Stacey, a kindergarten teacher, and her friend Jamie (my apologies if I have your name wrong) whose father had passed away from cancer last year.  She had purchased herself a new bike and trained all summer long for this event, even managing to ride the entire 100k distance once a week for the past three weeks.  And knowing how the weather has been ridiculously hot and humid for the past month or so, that’s a huge  accomplishment in and of itself!

Unfortunately, today she was under the weather with a flu bug that had been passed on by one of her students.  What this meant then is that she was constantly fighting waves of nausea throughout her entire ride as well as fluctuating energy levels due to the fact she hadn’t been able to hold down anything substantial in days.  Any lesser rider would have packed it in well before the ride had even started…but not Stacey.

This is the perfect example of the strong mindset that most riders enter into The Big Move with.  They are determined, motivated and inspired and they’re not about to give up…at any cost.  I feel then that it’s my prime responsibility to assist them in ensuring that these goals are met.

I mean, how could I not?

So if they’re committed, then so am I; come Hell or high water.  Sometimes (as there was last year) there’s a bit of both.

And with Stacey, she was all in… 100k or bust.

One of the things I find that’s helpful with “struggling” (and I use that term very loosely) riders is to take the lead and allow them the opportunity to “draft” on my wheel, meaning I pull through the wind and thereby minimizing the amount of resistance they experience allowing them to maintain a manageable pace.  Not all riders are confident in riding so close to another rider, so I use this as an opportunity to teach the some basics of good group riding.  And with Stacey, once she got accustomed to it she pretty much stayed on my wheel as often as she could allowing her to keep moving along nicely.

One of my favorite things about The Big Move is the rest stop at ‘First Incounters’, at the corner of Hwy 27 and Victoria Ave..  In actuality, every rest stop is pretty awesome as the volunteers there offer so much support and much needed encouragement to the weary riders…it’s fantastic.

But ‘First Incounters’ is near and dear to me, largely because of Shirley Martyk and her family.

Shirley has volunteered at the First Encounters rest station for a few years now and besides being one of my favorite people ever, she also has cookies – homemade cookies.  And it’s these cookies that kept me going for the last 25 kilometers.  These are no ordinary cookies, believe you me!   In fact, Shirley even brought little baggies of these cookies in for all the sweep riders to the previous weeks’ Volunteers Meeting on the off chance that there weren’t any left when we arrived on ride day.

How amazing is that?

Fortunately, there were lots left when we arrived at ‘First Incounters’ so I was all like:

pup6mc

I have no shame.

It was here though that I began to get a little concerned for Stacey.  While I appreciate how sick she was and unable to keep anything down, I knew that we were essentially “chasing the dragon” in that if she didn’t eat something – anything – there was a very serious likelihood that she wouldn’t make it to the end.

After all, the body cannot function on will power alone.

We coaxed her into eating half a protein bar and although I know she didn’t want it, nor did she enjoy it, she chomped it down reluctantly and after a few hugs and waves goodbye, we were off again down River Rd…aaaaand directly into a head wind.

Yay.

Fortunately, I have no problem riding at the front and blocking the wind so we reformed our little peloton and rolled out along River Rd. into the second half of the course which, truthfully, is my favorite of the course.  Here we also got to see other riders as they rode past us in the opposite direction and we received lots of waves and support in the form of “keep going”, “you got this”, “you’re doing great”, etc.  This is the kind of motivation that struggling riders need to hear and, lucky for us, there was lots of it.

(Thanks everyone)

We had some trouble along Concession 6 in Wainfleet as Stacey’s stomach began to reject the half a protein bar we’d force fed her only a few minutes ago but she was able to regroup quickly and we continued riding.

Turning back onto Riverside Dr. (Hwy 27) was fun as the headwind we’d fought on the way out and then again down Concession 6 was now directly at our backs and, hey, this is what cyclists live for.

Time to ride.

We formed up our little group again and off we were…temporarily.  We were cruising fine when we had our first flat tire of the day…mine.

I let my little group ride off without me as the support van pulled up behind and I set about the business getting it fixed up and back on the road.  It took me about 5-6 minutes in total I guess to get everything straightened away; just long enough to fall well behind the rest of the group but, here’s my real fun began…the chase back up.

Like last year I used this opportunity to go all Tour de France by drafting behind the support van at nearly 50kph  back to the intersection at First Incounters (about 7-8 kilometers in total).  It felt good to open up the throttle on the legs for a little bit and it about the fastest I’ve ever covered that distance before, minus descending down hills of course.

Having said that, I was definitely redlining it at one point but this is where I channel the memories of my own mom and dad and just keep applying the power to the pedals. I don’t know what it says about me that I like to suffer a bit periodically, so read into that as you may.

Soon, I left the support van behind and veered left on Victoria Ave and then right again on River Rd., still desperate to catch up to my flock.

However, when I did catch up upon turning north on Church Rd., my heart sank.  Stacey and Kathleen were sitting together by the side of the road and Stacey did not look terribly well.  Apparently she had experienced a dizzy spell and made the smart decision to take a break (smart thinking, Stace!).  No doubt that our attempts at chasing the dragon were starting to take effect in that her inability to keep anything down was beginning to pay with her energy levels.

Of course, this didn’t deter her resolve to continue on at all and after the spell passed, we were on our way again…albeit slowly.

So we had a bit of a conundrum now.  Given that Stacey was in no way ever going to back out of her commitment to finish (and power to her), we were running the risk now of being far enough behind that there was the very real chance that intersections up ahead were no longer going to be open for us to pass through safely.  Likewise, just up ahead was the long gradual climb up Cataract Rd. immediately followed by the short summit up to Effingham Rd. back up to Hwy 3 and onward to Tice Rd.  There was a real risk now that these efforts – in her current condition – might have ended Stacey’s quest to complete the full ride for good.  After all, all the motivation in the world isn’t any help when your body is 100% drained of it’s necessary stores of energy.

Not good.

A quiet decision was made then to reroute us around those climbs.  And I’m sorry if you’re just realizing this now Stacey upon reading this, but please understand that it was a judgment call in order to help you complete the ride safely as we all knew that having to abandon the ride would have been the far worse option had those climbs gotten the better of you.

But here’s the great thing, our new route also meant that we wouldn’t necessarily have to sacrifice any of the mileage meaning that, ultimately, her goal of completing the 100k ride would still be honored.

Promises are promises after all.

Unfortunately, the rerouting also meant that others riders were now behind us after continuing on for a few more kilometers so I had to hustle back in order to make sure that all those riders were being herded back together again safely towards the finish line.

After the final rest station along Cream St.and another heroes welcome for the riders, Kathleen and I continued on with a sole lone rider – Ashley, whom I had helped up the Rockway Glen climb at the beginning of the day no less – and together we all rode the last few kilometers back to Club Roma again.  As per usual, we peeled off at the end to roll across the finish line dead last once again, after all the other riders had finished successfully.

I was very happy to see Stacey and Jamie there with their families and very relieved to hear that she had rolled over the finish with her odometer reading 100.1k exactly.

Mission completed – hugs all around.

There were no finish photos of me this year but there was certainly was a highly-anticipated hot pasta lunch saved for us by the amazing volunteers and, maybe, even an alcoholic beverage or two.

Another successful year complete.

As a final word: Stacey, understanding that you may not have been at your best on this particular day, I absolutely think that what you accomplished in lieu of it all was nothing short of heroic and I consider myself very lucky to have to have shared the experience with you.

Best wishes and happy riding.

As for everyone else, I’ll see you next year…for sure.   Maybe I’ll see you at a rest stop, or as you ride past in the opposite direction (make sure you wave!).

However, if I’m lucky, we’ll even get to ride together.

 

Perspective is a funny thing and I was reminded of that just this morning during my usual Wednesday morning swim workout.

There I was, kicking ass and taking names while hammering out the 50m sprints and feeling pretty damn proud of myself.  Everything was turning over well and I was keeping a pretty decent consecutive pace (for me).

I felt sleek, streamlined, powerful, and fast.

In my head, I was all:

Swim1

Totally killing it.

Then about 45 minutes later, another familiar swimmer entered the pool; none other than our 2016 Canadian Olympic triathlon hopeful in Rio de Janeiro, Kyle Jones.  Let’s just say the dude can swim (as you might expect) and while doing so, he makes it all look so damn effortless.  It’s both incredible and inspiring to witness.

So, anyway, he hops in the lane beside me and begins doing his workout.  Suddenly, my 50m sprints didn’t seem quite so…speedy.

Nope.

Now I’m being lapped over and over and over and over…and, well, you get the idea.  In fact, the lane rope separating our lanes began bowing over into my lane due to the sheer force and velocity he was generating while moving through the water.  It was like he had an outboard motor strapped to his ass.

Instantly, I was all like:

Swim2

Crap.

By comparison, my 50m’s now felt like I was trying to move through hot tar.  I was still keeping my same pace but suddenly I wasn’t the speedy fish in the little pond anymore.

No, sir!

Of course, that’s to be expected I guess given Kyle’s athletic prowess, age and, shit, I’ll just say it, he’s a far superior swimmer.

It’s all good, of course.  It’s just funny how suddenly things can change mentally and the silly things that can trigger those positive thoughts into psychological sewage.  Usually, I participate in the morning lane swim with other swimmers who are likely double my age so, yeah, by comparison, I’m a freakin’ marlin.  Next to this guy, however, I’m a sea slug.

That’s perspective!

However, it definitely gives me something to work towards.

Either that, or I’m looking for an ass-mounted propulsion unit of some sort to power me through the water for future sprints.

Get Stravafied!

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Equipment, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

When I first started “seriously” training for triathlon I kept meticulous track of my daily workouts.  I would pencil them in on a kitty-cat calendar that hung on my kitchen wall.  This was about as high tech as I got back then.  I would calculate all my distances out afterwards by plotting my routes into the mapmyrun.com website, and then used the kitchen clock as my sole means of timing.  If I ever cared enough to figure out my pacing I would have to do all the calculations by hand and seeing as how I have the basic math skills of a chimp, I never bothered.

My first brush with “technology” came on a trip to the Philippines (which is funny unto itself given that the place is a literal black hole for anything modern) where one of my coaches at the time, Coach Bill, loaned me his GPS tracking system to bring with me as my goal was to continue my long run training while there (click HERE  for a recount of some of those training sessions). Remember though that was back before the little sports watch-sized Garmin’s that are common now.  This thing was freakin’ huge. It looked like something a marine might carry into battle to call in air support on, meaning I ultimately ended up lugging around 3 lbs. of stone age electronics around on my hip on each and every run I did.  Furthermore, it took about an hour to connect with its satellites in orbit.  But, still, I thought this was some pretty slick shit.

A year later I saved up a few months (which, unfortunately, meant that I inevitably had to go without my usual morning muffins on the way to work) I invested in my own GPS tracking system, a Forerunner 305 that I still use today.  I felt so guilty for having splurged on a (then) $300 piece of equipment but I was excited nonetheless.  The 305 is practically obsolete now, but as long as it continues to track my progress and then transfer it to my “training center” on my computer and the Garmin.Connect website, I am a happy guy.  Sure, this might make me the Fred Flintstone of the triathlon world but I give absolutely zero fucks of what other people think as I am not one to play “Keep up with the Jones’” when it comes to technology.  Hell, I might have been the last cyclist on the planet to actually get a bike computer.

The benefit of this upgrade was that now I had a more modern way to track my progress as the Garmin automatically kept track of all my workout particulars like heart rate, calories burned, distance, pace, time, as well as a whole host of other stats and measurable that I never, ever, paid attention to.  Shit, I could program it to race a virtual training partner and tell me if I was ahead or behind that partner based on how fast (or slow) I was running.  To me, this was the total shit and I had now gone from being Fred Flintstone to Bill-fucking-Gates.  Suddenly, I loved my new technology like the Russians love their suicidal authors.

Yay me!

I even invested in a Garmin Swim last year specifically to enhance my swim workouts (click HERE).

“One small step for a poor, starving, fat triathlete wannabe; one giant leap for mankind.”

Well, something like that anyway.

Fast forward a few more years and I have now been introduced to another popular training tool that other have, apparently, been into for a while now.  As ever, I’m just catching up.

I’m referring here to the Strava website.

I’ve been an active member of the Strava community for approximately two years now.  Primarily, Strava is a free website in which you can upload all your workouts to and then compare your results with other athletes with whom you are connected.  It’s kind of like the Facebook of athletes and sporting types alike.  Actually, it’s exactly like the Facebook of athletes and sporting types; a social media outlet for triathletes, runners, cyclists, and swimmers alike.

Initially you can join Strava for free.  There is a premium upgrade as well that you can pay a monthly or yearly fee for that then allows you to take advantage of other perks like being able to upload photos, power analysis, detailed heart rate analysis and something that’s known as a “Suffer Score” because, yeah, that  sounds like fun.  There’s other stuff too but, really, I’m cheap, so I just stick with the basic bare bones.

However, I have begun to recently notice that, well, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows on the Strava site and there can be a rather dubious, even nefarious side to Strava if you’re not careful.  At times it can be a great place to be motivated and inspired by.  But therein lays a dark side as well. If you’re not careful you can become totally consumed by it and it will end up being a total detriment to your meticulously planned out training regimen.  In other words, you might try to go all ham only to end up with a fistful of bologna instead since, as with anything in this life, you have to be careful.  Allow me then to try and review a few of these features – both pros and cons – that I think you need to be conscientious of before considering using the site, or maybe how to use it a bit more intelligently and effectively.

First of all, it’s kind of nice being connected to the other athletes in your area and seeing what they’re up to on any given day and, yes, there does come a sense of satisfaction when I’ve done something a bit longer, or maybe – on rare occasions – even a bit faster.  There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition is there?

Hells no!

To this regard, Strava features ‘Segments’  that will automatically compare not only your own efforts, but also to other local athletes who might also have happened to run/ride the same route.  In this way, these segments allow you to track your progress as you proceed through your training program.

It’s funny to pause here for a moment to recognize now that I tend not to think of my routes by the actual names of the roads I run/ride, but by their broken up Stravafied aliases with names that sound like they have lept off the pages of a Marvel comic book.  Names like ‘The Monkey’s Knuckle’, ‘The Quad Killer’, ‘Death Hollow’, and my favorite from my area: ‘The Wheel Suckers Attack from the Tracks…Ridgemont’.

Anyhow, when I upload my results from my Garmin to the Strava site, it will automatically tell me how that particular effort compared to other results I’ve logged in the past and will even reward me with a new PB (Personal Best), or a 2nd and 3rd effort, depending on how awesome it was – or not at all.  I think this is kind of cool and I have a few routes I follow semi-regularly as well as a few segments that I’ve created to test myself along on occasion when I’m feeling up for it.  The top overall ranking along any of these segments is then calculated and a KOM/QOM (“King of the Mountain”) classification is then awarded to the top performer.  I admit it, I do enjoy that sense of accomplishment when Strava tells me, basically, in no uncertain terms, that I just kicked ass along the ‘Devil’s Breakfast’ segment and set a new personal best by 5 seconds.  I enjoy that.

Who wouldn’t?

Well, the potential problem then becomes when this ever-constant quest for a new PB, or to be the new KOM (“King of the Mountain”) for each and every segment in your area becomes the sole focus of your workouts, as it tends to fuel that all-important alpha-male ego.  Remember, people have died in search of this all elusive PB. Such was the case with the story of William “Kim” Flint II, the Berkeley, CA cyclist who was killed in 2010 when he careened into a car while chasing the elusive ‘South Park Drive’ KOM downhill segment. In typical American fashion, a lawsuit quickly followed, filed by the family of Flint claiming Strava as the liable party.  Although many believe the lawsuit to be frivolous, it has not yet been thrown out of court. As much as I think Strava can really suck at times, trying to blame Strava for an individual’s irresponsible behavior sucks even harder.  To say that Strava is itself bad because some people behave badly when using it is akin to saying beer is bad because some people drink too much and then wrap their car around a telephone pole.  We all know telephones poles will remain forever endangered, but I certainly don’t want to outlaw beer.

There is a popular Strava joke:

“What do you call two people going for a bike ride? A race.

What do you call two people with Strava going for a bike ride? A race that never ends.”

At this point, Strava has become an unhealthy obsession where every workout becomes a “do or die race”.  This isn’t healthy, physically or mentally.  But what can you say?  Human beings haven’t always proven t be the smartest creatures otherwise Honey Boo Boo wouldn’t be a household name.  I have learned from experience that I need easy workouts (I actually look forward to them) in my routine and these are not the times to go seeking Strava PB’s. These are typically known as “recovery workouts” and they are important.  I have learned therefore to keep this quest for PB’s to a minimum, or at least to only the harder workouts throughout the week when the focus is ultimately to test myself.

Others, I’m sure, don’t quite get this concept and become what is known as “Strava holes”, where if anyone should be so bold as to claim a new KOM classification in their general area; it becomes their new ultimate mission in life to knock that perpetrator off the throne.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m for friendly completion but, geez, let me enjoy it for at least ONE day will you?

I have also heard of something called “Strava doping”, where an athlete will actually fudge their results and, basically, “cheat”, in order to gain the KOM classification.  Seriously!  I have even heard of people driving in their cars along segments at a specific speed with their Garmin hanging out the window in order to capture and record their falsified results and, therefore, their ill-gotten KOM.  There is even an app called ‘Digital EPO’ which will help falsified your results to help you accomplish this.

How fucked up is that?

I suspect that this has even happened in my little town of Ridgeway.  There is a segment that runs along Thunder Bay Rd. that I run, easily, 2-3 times a week.  The current KOM along this segment suggest that someone ran all 4km’s at a pace that couldn’t match on my bike.  So, it’s forever “So long KOM!”  along this particular stretch of road for me, meaning I will never sip from this particular gauntlet of success despite the how many times I run it or how fit I get.

The bastard!

Then there are those people that track absolutely everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING!  Walk to the corner store for hot pockets?  Better track it and upload it right away to Strava.  Going for a ride to the park without step-daughter?  Better track it.   Now (as Kelly is apt to quickly point out) I myself have been guilty of this on occasion.   But I will defend myself here that I now have my Strava linked to my Garmin site so that any uploads to one will automatically result with a syncing to the other – it’ not because I’m tracking “progress”, per se.  I do like to record my “healthy lifestyle” decisions and activities and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I do wonder though to what end someone else might log their activity whilst they cut the lawn.

Who the fuck knows?

So what did I aim to accomplish through this point? I dunno really.  It was just the culmination of the conversation that played out in my head during yesterday’s long run (click HERE).  As far as Strava goes, I will remain a firm fence sitter on the subject.  There are times when I think it can be a valuable, even fun, tool to supplement my training. Other times it can be a nefarious detriment.  But, like anything else, you just have to be smart in how you embrace it and then incorporate it into your life.

Everything is good in moderation after all, right?

Be smart.  Train safe.

(Author’s Note: I might suggest playing this video in the background as you read because it’s what’s currently going through my head right now as I write this.  It might be a bit dramatic, sure, but it does accurately reflect the mood I’m trying to aspire to here.)

Well, it wasn’t the start I was initially hoping for.  A little more than one week after I took my “first steps” (click HERE) back towards this next Ironman challenge and my workout consists of walking to the corner store to check a lottery ticket and buy a bag of Ruffles; ‘Loaded Potato Skin’ flavor.

The ticket was a loser and the chips were…meh.

I’m trying to tell myself that this is “normal” and just a part of the routine as it seems I always start my off-season training with an unanticipated injury.  This time last year I was dealing with Morton’s Neuroma, a sore Achilles tendon, and emotional trauma (click HERE) following my parents deaths, the year before that a strained muscle in my left shin (click HERE), and this year it’s an acute case of ‘Dorsal Scapular Nerve Syndrome’ (click HERE).

FML.

I’m trying to tell myself that there’s no better way to start a new beginning than with the tail end of an epic finish so that it can only get better from here.

I hope.

But part of me is still all like WHY ME?’ 

Needless to say that I’ve had lots of time to ponder my pathetic situation this past week while lying around on my back trying to be as motionless as possible. I have watched one friend tackle an epic 100 kilometer trail race (click HERE), two friends complete an Ironman (click HERE), and two other friends are now completing their final workouts before competing in the Kona World Ironman Championships in three short weeks.  One friend posted about his awesome 30k training run recently for the Boston Marathon while another friend frequently updates her progress over Facebook regarding her steady and successful weight loss over the past month.  Other friends still ran the Terry Fox 5k charity run or some other type of endurance feat on their own, to support a great cause in St. Catharines this weekend. Greatness is everywhere.

Me?

I walked to the store for chips (click HERE).

I’m trying however not to let this get me down, which is definitely harder than it appears. In the company of so much greatness it’s definitely hard not to be frustrated at being temporarily laid up.  Even though I plan to get back in the pool this week and start running and cycling easy again, my confidence has certainly taken a blow for the worse.  I haven’t been able to keep up with the circuit training I started two weeks ago and I am horrified to discover that I’ve ballooned out to 225lbs since mid-August.

Not. Good.

Regardless, I’m trying to remain positive and console myself that this will just inevitably add to the total epicness of the challenge that I’ve laid out for myself this year, so if I did have  to get injured, than this is the perfect time to do so rather than sacrifice weeks or months of hard work and fall behind.  As it is now, I can’t fall behind in what I haven’t started.

So I tell myself anyway.

Hopefully this is all just temporary and in no time, I’ll be right as rain again and able to get back to the task of reestablishing my healthy base of fitness and monitoring my diet more closely; the pieces will fall together and I’ll be on my way with all guns a-blazin’, chasing down chickens and leaping over park benches with throngs of kids chasing behind me…the whole bit.

In the meantime I’m trying to remain patient, keep doing my exercises, and aspiring to the greatness going on around me.  Good things have got to come…

…eventually.