Posts Tagged ‘Safety’

Wil. E. Ridiculous

Posted: June 22, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , , ,

I’m pretty fortune to live and train where I do (click HERE).  While I wouldn’t necessarily classify it as “the country”, there is certainly enough of it around.  And while it may be true that there are certain risks that one has to assume when training in a, well, let’s call it “rural” area as I do.  I have learned to deal with coywolves, dogs and dog shit, chipmunks, asshole drivers, moron pedestrians, tourists and rutting goats.

That’s pretty much the full gamut of what this area has to offer hazard-wise.

However, there is one potential danger in particular that has surfaced recently and has me a bit flummoxed by the reaction it’s been getting.

Coyotes.

No, not the coywolves as I mentioned up above – them bitches are scary – just your ordinary, average, disinterested urban coyote.

I’ve never mentioned them before as a “threat” because I just don’t see them that way.

I mean, were you ever stressed or threatened by this guy in the past:

wile-e-coyote

Hell, no!

I figured that if I ever did run into a coyote I’d just wait for it to strap on a rocket pack and roller-skates and then just stop short on a cliff edge so that he overshoots me before stalling over open air and then falling to the ground with a puff of dust.

Easy.

However, on the rare occasion I do see them they are usually heading in the opposite direction in order to avoid me – and quickly, I might add.  I guess I can strike a rather menacing image when wrapped in a Lycra cycling kit and wheezing like an asthmatic gorilla.

So I keep telling myself anyways.

Anyhow, lately with all the construction in the area lately sighting a coyote isn’t the rare thing it used to be.  Sure, we hear them almost every night prowling the fields behind our house but we never actually saw them very often as they are typically nocturnal.  Now, well, we see them a bit more often as they are no doubt becoming a bit displaced with this ever-changing environment.

Just last week, upon completing an evening run a coyote popped out of the underbrush just ahead of me and, seeing this fat, spandex-clad train wreck heading right for it – beat it off back into the bush again.

I will say, however, I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t skip a beat.

Regardless, beat it it did in true Michael Jackson form, so I kept going and never thought another thing about it.  After all, the coyotes have always been here and aside from their middle of the night howling, they’ve never posed me any real serious threat.

Unfortunately, all the tourists coming back into town now that the summer cottage season is upon us don’t exactly feel the same way.

Suddenly coyotes are a HUGE threat.

giphy

So much so that they have recently posted a memo, warning dog walkers about coyotes in the area as well as discussing what they should do if they encounter one.

And me being the sarcastic dick I am, find this a bit funny.

I understand that coyotes are more or less disinterested in humans but dogs on the other hand, well, add a dog to the mix and their interest could surely be piqued.  Especially given all the fluffy little frou-frou lap dogs that the tourists like to tout around on their fake-diamond studded leashes.

In that case, Fifi is essentially a harnessed appetizer prior to the evening’s regular meal.

Common sense might suggest to normal people that one probably should not walk their little mutt after dark, especially in poorly lit areas or along out-of-the-way places – but tourists are seldom normal nor do they occupy anything resembling common sense.

No, instead they issues memos about what to do when you do exactly  that and then  run into the proscribed issue.

Smart, right?

Told you I was a sarcastic dick, didn’t I?

Anyway, I’m making the correlation here that if a coyote were brazen enough to go after Fifi with its owner around in close proximity – stupid as they may be – perhaps I should heed more notice seeing as how in my running tights, I might also be mistaken for a moveable feast.  Maybe there would be some token takeaways – weak as they may be – for me to better educate and prepare myself for future encounters of the canid kind.

Among these brain nuggets are the following:

  1. Stand tall and be assertive.  Coyotes are wary of humans and your presence enough be enough to ward it off.  Maintain eye contact.  Do not turn your back on the coyote and do not run.  Running away can trigger a coyote’s prey drive and cause him or her (nice that they’re not perpetrating any gender stereotypes here) to chase you.

 

Yeah, as a runner – that helps me not.

Anyone who’s ever seen me at any significant distance into a run knows that “tall and assertive” is not my jam.  At best, I look like Frankenstein with a bad case of scoliosis lumbering through the street.  It’s all I can do to remain upright, much less assertive about it.

And running away?  Ha!

As long as I don’t fall over and freely give up my soft mushy underbelly I’d be doing well.

  1. Haze the coyote until it leaves the area.

 

Haze?

You mean like dress it in drag and make it chug a tallboy through a funnel?  I’m figuring that in doing this there is a significant risk that the coyote might enjoy this too much and never leave the area.

Just sayin’…

If what they mean to say is to make a ruckus as to deter the coyote coming any closer, believe you me, I will be emitting a full range of cries, grunts, wails, screams and screeches.   I will be a literal cacophony of despair.  I will make a racket that would have any Einstürzende Neubauten fan handing out ear plugs and it will come naturally, I assure you.

So, if anything, what did I learn?

Absolutely buckus.

However, I now definitely know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if a coyote should ever make his presence known and decide that I should represent some sort of tasty victual, I’m more or less screwed.

At best, I can scream my ass off and try to stand fully erect but, honestly…why bother?  At that point in the workout the chances are good I’ll be more content to just roll over and accept my fate as the main course at the coyote buffet.

Thankfully, the chances of any of this actually happening are slim to none so I’m not really worried about it.  Unless of course, for what forever reason, I decide to strap on a pink leash and harness and crawl around the Friendship Trail in a pair of furry underwear.

In that event though, the tourists might want to include on their next memo about what to do should they encounter me.

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Bang the Drum Slowly

Posted: October 17, 2016 in Injuries and Owies, Swim
Tags: , ,

I get that injuries and ouchies are a part of triathlon.  I get it.  Really I do.  I have an entire category dedicated to them in this blog alone (click HERE).  But worse than the stupid self-inflicted injuries that come of my either doing too much, or doing it too soon, or just my being a dumbass, whatever, are those injuries that I unfortunately incur at the hands of someone else; another dumbass, if you will.

Those injuries, well, they tend to really bug me.

I have recently fallen to one of these types of ouchies which is now threatening to set back my regular swim training.

It began about two weeks ago when after one of my pool workouts, my right ear became plugged with water.  This in and of itself, is nothing to freak out about and I have long become accustomed to it happening periodically.  I figure that when one tends to spend stupid amounts of time submerged in contained bodies of water it’s bound to happen eventually – and it does.  What typically happens then is that a day or two will go by before that little pocket of water in my ear shifts and drains out my ear canal in a teny tsunami of warm fluid which, truthfully, feels awesome.  I figure most swimmers will liken this to a total “eargasm”.  Once this happens, usually after we’ve been lying down on that blocked side for a spell, all is right with the world again.

Sometimes, however, that blockage is a bit more stubborn and simply refuses to give up its stored up bounty of fluid – this is what is referred to as “Swimmers Ear”, or acute otitis externa.  This is highly annoying and exactly the case I found myself in exactly one week after that original blockage.  The symptoms can stem from echoing, itching or clogged feeling in the ear – and lots of discomfort (often a signal of an inflammation of the skin within the ear canal that occurs when water gets trapped there).

I my case it was “all of the above”.

Of course, I could have been doing lots of stuff during that week to be proactive (click HERE) but, as I’ve stated before, I’m a dumbass, and often when the opportunity to be smart and act accordingly comes along, I tend to fold like a Renaissance triptych.  I figured it would just unblock itself eventually.

It didn’t, and so a week later, on a Thursday morning, bright and early, I got up at 6:00am, poured myself a coffee, grabbed my book and headed to the local Urgent Care to have tie issue, hopefully, sorted out.

After about two hours, I was met with by the attending physician in an examination room who proceeded to attempt to flush out the blockage with a syringe full of warm water; not an altogether pleasant experience, believe me.  What he was trying to do was wash out a build-up of excessive wax that had gathered in my ear naturally, as protection against moisture and infection.

In this case, though, my bodies wax manufacturing system was working on overdrive and had instead build it up to the point that it was not allowing what water that did manage to breach its defenses, back out again.  I guess when it comes to wax manufacturing, by body runs with the efficiency of a Japanese auto factory.

What came out of my right ear as a result of the doctor’s “syringing” looked like something you might place on top of a birthday cake and light except, well, much nastier.  Almost immediately afterwards, I was rewarded with that warm gush of fluid out my ear and – low and behold – I could hear normally again.

Winning.

But then it all went horribly wrong and downward spiraled into a total Yakov Smirnoff opening for the Spin Doctor’s at the Iowa State Fair-like shit show.

You see, we decided that, hey, we may as well do the other ear while we’re at it.  After all, if one side is totally gummed up with wax then the other side can’t be too far off, right?  So we opted to give my left ear the same working over with another syringeful of water.

Unfortunately, this did not go as smooth as the other ear.  Within seconds of blasting the water into my ear I experienced an intense pain that was on my Top 5 of all-time painful moments.  Ladies and gentlemen, over the course of my life I have shot an arrow through my hand, subjected myself to being tattooed (click HERE) and endured being kicked square in the Charlie Brown’s by a scorned Eva Roditis on the schoolyard playground back in Grade 3, and this pain was definitely worse than any of those.

Much worse!

If the pain wasn’t enough, hearing (well, barely hearing the doctor that is) the doctor mumble “uh oh” definitely didn’t help matters any.  I definitely felt warm fluid coming out my ear but, but this fluid ended up not being water or another wax build-up, but blood…lots and lots of blood.

“I think I just perforated your ear drum”, he says casually.

FML.

Not winning.

A ruptured eardrum is a small tear in the thin membrane that separates your outer ear from your inner ear.  That membrane, known as the tympanic membrane, is made of tissue that resembles skin.  The eardrum serves two important functions in your ear.  It senses vibrating sound waves and converts the vibration into nerve impulses that convey the sound to your brain.  It also protects the middle ear from bacteria as well as water and foreign objects.  Normally, the middle ear is sterile, but when the eardrum is ruptured, bacteria can get into the middle ear and cause an infection known as otitis media.

Yay.

The doctor then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to swim for at least a week.  Shit sticks!  Furthermore, I would also undergo injecting four drops of antibiotics (which, as an interesting side-note here, my loving wife would place under her boob to warm up for me prior to dropping them in my ear – meaning my drops would now become affectionately known as “mommies boob juice” – how emasculating is that for an aspiring Ironman swimmer?) into my ear every morning and evening and then see my family doctor for clearance before getting back in the pool.

FML x 2.

Anyway, another week goes by of being injected twice daily with “boob juice” and I’m back at my family doctor’s (yesterday) to learn that a) there’s still wax in both ears, b) my ear drum is likely not healed yet, and c) I still can’t swim for approximately another two weeks.

FML x 3.

Needless to say I’m pretty discouraged at this point and now looking for viable options to protect my ear temporarily while it heals so I can at least get back in the pool, meaning, I need ear plugs.

Yay, again.

Remember this idiot (click HERE)?

petal-swim-cap-multi-retro-flower-bathing-cap_1

Yeah, I just took another colossus step to becoming them.

Not really knowing anything about ear plugs, I stopped by the local pharmacy to see what options were available.  In fact, there was a whole cornucopia of options; an entire rackful located inside an entire aisle of ear and hearing-related products.  It was like the pharmaceutical equivalent of a “Turducken“.  Who knew there was such a profound market for ear plugs?  But then again, come to think of it, my grandma probably kept her local pharmacist driving around in a Rolls Royce for the last 10 years of her life given how much stuff she had crammed into her ears on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, none looked very promising.  Most were either the variety used for noise protection, sleeping, or as my grandma used to claim, “keeping the wind out of my ears”.   I’m pretty sure one was just a little baggie of candy corn.  However, there was this one waterproof variety of which I was still a bit skeptical:

They’re essentially little wads of soft, tacky silicon that you warm up by rolling in the palm of your hand and then stuffing into your ear to create a waterproof seal.

Like so:

img_1031

I was dubious but I gave it a shot (at home) anyway and, honestly, it felt like I had just stuffed a Gummy Bear into my ear.  Likewise, I was doubtful that they would ever really stay in place in the water and, even then, they were only for a single use only.  Needless to say, I didn’t feel safe actually testing these things in the water so they were more or less tossed into the bottomless abyss of shit under my bathroom sink.

Then I found these TYR molded ear plugs at Team Aquatics in Burlington.  Besides being manufactured by a recognized swim equipment brand name, they weren’t the disposable variety. Instead they were marketed as “long lasting silicone” plugs made for swimmers, by swimmers.

img_1034

These definitely looked more promising.

Among the other benefits listed on the package was “allows hearing during use”.  I like hearing stuff when I swim, so this was a definitely bonus.  I couldn’t hear shit with the other soft silicon Gummy Bear variety in my ears.

However, they were a little more complicated to insert as opposed to just cramming a wad of silicon into your ear.

From the instructions:

“Top straight edge of the ear plug core should be in a perpendicular line with the face.  Outer rim fits into the hollow depression behind the ear canal.”

Umm, okay.

Who knew shoving soothing into your ear could be so difficult?

But then again, the instructions did also add:

“DO NOT PUSH THE EARPLUG SO FAR INTO THE EAR THAT YOU’RE UNABLE TO GET IT OUT.”

Gee, thanks.

Anyway, with a little twisting and prodding I did manage to maneuver them into what I think was the proper “perpendicular line (my) face” :

img_1035

And – get this – I could still hear fairly well.

Cool!

For good measure then, I also threw a swim cap on which I never really wear in the pool just to help keep them in place (hey, I already have plugs in my ears to I might as well go whole hog and look the part of the total swim geek) and entered the pool to give them a trial run (swim?).

Upon my first few laps they felt pretty comfortable actually.  However, that “allows hearing” thing went right out the window as everything sounded more, well, in utero I guess…which, truthfully, was very relaxing.  Maybe it was just because I also couldn’t hear the Ariana Grande bullshit they were playing on the pool deck between strokes anymore, whatever, it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

I was a bit worried that maybe they weren’t completely watertight and that water was now leaking into the gaping hole of my tympanic membrane and I – unbeknownst to me – going deaf with each additional stroke so I kept my swim short to a few drills only (1300m).

Upon finishing, I unstuck the earplugs and everything immediately returned to blissful normality; no muting, no sloshing around in the ear, no nothing.

Beautiful!

Besides making me look like a total swim pussy, the plugs had done their job and held tight in preventing water from entering into my ear, meaning, that I can now get back to my usual weekly swim workouts while my ear drum continues to heal for another week or so.

Back to ‘winning’ again!

Oh, and what does the remainder of this “healing” process look like?  Well, absolutely nothing for the next 10 days while the membrane rebuilds itself and then I have start adding basic cooking oil into my ears to begin loosening up whatever wax that might still be lingering around in my ear.   Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah.

Not so much.

Thankfully it’s not forever.

(edited:  10/19/16)

So after Sunday’s “trial swim” I was up early and in the pool at 6:30am ready to get my swim on.  Unfortunately, after the first 300m or so, one of the war plugs slipped out and, yeah, nowhere to be found, meaning that I was now forced to abandon my planned workout and doing a stupid amount of kicking drills instead so I could keep my head above water.

And you just know how I love  my kicking drills!

After informing the lifeguard what had happened, she put out the APB to all the other bobbers and floaters in the pool.  Basically, the whole pool was not on Amber Alert for my missing plug.

After 20 minutes or so, they were found by an old lady…four lanes over…on the opposite of the pool…on the bottom.

So much for “floats in water”.

Thanks, TYR.  Great job there.

NOT!

So here’s some exciting news: the Niagara Region has just issued a warning that ‘Coywolves’ are now believed to be present and a very real threat to pedestrians and *gasp* runners.

Oh perfect.

Up until now, blisters, asshole drivers and shitting myself were the worst of my worries as a runner but, now, I also have to contend with becoming a potential meal for hungry predators to boot.  Yay!

Isn’t that just fucking fabulous?

“Oooo, and what flavor are you?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love nature and one of my greatest joys of running is being out and witnessing deer, birds, chipmunks, and widdle wabbits n’ shit all in their natural habitat.  But ‘coywolves’?  Yeah.  Not so much.

The Coywolf, a hybrid between the coyote and the wolf, is a “versatile, new top predator that feasts on everything from rabbits to deer to moose”.  And you just know that if these furry fuckers can take down a moose then they’re not going to think twice at taking down a slow moving fatty like myself.  I’m just a convenient moveable feast in their eyes.

Naturalists say the coywolf is one of the most adaptable mammals on the planet but what surprises them most is how this remarkable (not the word I would use under the circumstances) creature manages to live right alongside us but just out of view.  We share our parks, our streets, our gold courses, even our backyards with these wild animals.  They know us, but we don’t them.

Worse yet, despite being seldom seen, they have literally no fear of humans.

Terrific!

I first suspected their presence some two years ago during my Ironman training, specifically in the winter months.  I would sometimes notice this mangy-looking dog thing scoping me from a distance (it did not have a Chinese menu in it’s hand).  I figured it was just a really ugly farm dog of which we have a lot of in this area; for the most part they keep to themselves.  I already knew we have lots of coyotes in the area but they seldom hang around when they hear my huffing and puffing come down the road.  But this thing wasn’t so bothered.  He left me alone so I trudged on past (albeit warily) and onward through my workout.  The warning also refers to them as being “beautiful”.  Thank you David Suzuki but, yeah, no.  This thing was fucking uuuuu-gly.

Later at breakfast, I overheard a local hunter talking about them and he showed me a picture he snapped earlier that week.  Yup!  That was the thing alright. He called it a ‘wolf-ote’.  Apparently – if you are to believe him – the nearby city of Fort Erie introduced wolves into the area a while ago in an effort to reduce the growing coyote population but the wolves decided that they actually liked the local coyotes…a little too much it seems.  Insert some sexy music and a little candlelight and it was the perfect recipe for this new mix of animal.

It’s been sometime since I’ve actually seen one, but since I typically run along rural country roads, well, let’s just say I always have an eye out.

I mean, seriously, in my running tights I must look pretty tempting; like a huge sausage with legs providing both sport and snacking potential.  What hungry coywolf could resist?

How does this affect my training?  Fucked if I know, but I will tell you this: if I so much as see anything – and I mean anything – that closely resembles one of these things ever again, I’m going to turn around and set a new land speed record getting home, I assure you.

Suddenly my LSD turns into a steady tempo run.

Cycling Awareness Test

Posted: February 27, 2014 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

This is simply the best cycling awareness promo I have ever seen.  Absolutely brilliant.  Hands down!

Sometimes nothing else even needs to be said.

 

You’re welcome.

  • Long Run (click to see stats & route)
  • 25k (2:26:05)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 150 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 168 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:51 /km
  • Max. Pace = 4:18 /km
  • Calories = 2671
  • Temp = -16 º (w/ 90 kph gusts of wind)
  • SOTD: ‘Truckin’’ by The Grateful Dead

When it comes to winter running, sometimes I think ‘whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’, and then sometimes I think ‘you’re an idiot’.  But, hey, training schedules are training schedules and if I changed the plan every time the weather changed for the worse, I’d get nowhere…fast…especially these days.  So when the weather turns really shitty, I bundle up, load up the iPod with good tunes, put on my best brave face, think the happiest of thoughts, and head out anyway; time to get ‘er done.

I’ve discussed before the merits of braving the elements versus playing it safe (click HERE), but things have changed significantly for me since then.  First, I’ve moved into a more rural area.  Once I’m out…I’m pretty much committed as there are no short cuts home.  In fact, sometimes the way back might prove to be even more treacherous than sticking to the planned route.  Furthermore, sometimes the weather takes a turn for the nasty while  you’re out and now you have no choice but to ‘embrace the suck’ and continue on.  Secondly, I’m infinitely tougher, both mentally and physically, than I was back when I first contemplated this dilemma so I’m less likely to pack it in or abandon my run altogether if it’s not, like, 100% impossible outside (think: tornadoes, volcanoes, lightning storms, real ‘End of the World’ type stuff).  But that’s not necessarily a good thing either.

Anyway, I have noticed one peculiar thing lately while out braving the winter weather and, honestly, it doesn’t really have much to do with me, like, at all.  Living out here in Ridgeway, I have found most people – motorists I’m talking about – to be very be respectful of runners.  I chalk it up to being out more in the rural countryside versus the normal rat race lifestyle of the city.  For the most part, drivers slow down, move over and otherwise let me pass safely.  That’s awesome.  I typically offer a friendly wave as a thank you as I like to propagate that kind of behavior and, more often than not, that gesture is returned with a smile and a similar wave.  But, when the weather turns shitty, those return waves are not always given quite so willy-nilly anymore.  No, suddenly, there is a chill in the air and I don’t just mean in the air temperature either.  In fact, my friendly gesture of thanks is now typically returned by a vigorous shaking of the head as if to say ‘what an idiot’  or – quite often – that universally recognized one-finger salute; yup, by those same people.  So, besides the weather, what’s changed to orchestrate such a turnaround in attitude?

While I will agree from time to time that I am, in fact, an idiot for being out in the conditions I am sometimes, does that really deserve such an angry 360° response by motorists?  Hey, I pay city taxes like everybody else and – last I heard anyway – I have every right to use those same roads that motorists do, whether I’m driving, running, or cycling for that matter.  Shit, I can crawl through the streets if I chose to.  Besides, it doesn’t seem to be a problem when the weather is nice, so what’s their beef all of a sudden when the weather is not so nice?  It is ‘all bets are off’ and we assume a ‘survival of the fittest’, or ‘every man for himself’  kind of mentality?  Surely that can’t be the case is it?

Is it because I have to sometimes run a little further out in the road since typically the roadsides are either covered in 2ft. snow drifts or coated in 2 inches of icy slop?  Is that the issue?  Or is it because the motorists are suddenly, for whatever reason, in a huge hurry to get somewhere that they otherwise wouldn’t have to be when it’s nice out and having to slow down a wee bit for me is some enormous inconvenience?  And why is it that motorists seem to be driving faster than usual on shitty weather days?  I mean, it slippery as fuck out, shouldn’t you be slowing down anyway?  That’s the SMART thing to do.  Seriously, I had a pick-up truck pass by so close to me today going at least 30km/h  faster than the speed limit allows.  Where’s the sense in that?  And I get the big ‘fuck you’  thrown in my face?  Huh?  Really?

Once, I even had a passing driver stop altogether, roll down the window and proceed to scream at me for even being out in the first place.  I guess when it snows, unless you have a vehicle, you’re not allowed to leave the home.  His logic seemed to stem that I shouldn’t be running against traffic but on the other side with the traffic.  Yeah, right!  Hey, asshole, given there are morons out there like you with no respect for my safety, I tend to prefer having you well in my sights as you approach rather than take the chance of you sneaking up behind me and mowing me down.  Capeesh?  Your behavior actually validates that I made the right choice about which side of the road to run on.  And it’s not like there are sidewalks out here 95% of the time so, yes, I run on the road against traffic and I do make every attempt to get onto the side of the road for passing motorists, but sometimes that’s just not possible when the weather is shitty.  Hey, blame Mother Nature…not me.

I guess their argument is that it’s not safe to be out at all.  Maybe that’s it?  But I look at it like this now, if it’s so unsafe to be out…why are they?  Am I supposed to curb my activity so everyone else can carry on with theirs without the inconvenience of my (seemingly) getting in their way?  Maybe, they’re in my way?  It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?  What I do know, is that taking hairpin corners on country roads in excess of the speed limit isn’t particularly safe either is it?  No.  Likewise, if I took to assuming that logic of not leaving the house because it was “unsafe”, I’d never leave the house.  ‘Fitness’, after all, is not just acquired in the nice weather.

Let’s get something straight, you don’t have to agree with me on this – like at all – that’s okay.  But, hey, that also doesn’t give you (the driver) the right to suddenly turn into the Grim Reaper and throw caution to the wind in regards to my safety.  Don’t be a jack ass.  Think.

Personally, I just don’t see why we all can’t all just agree to slow down when the weather turns foul, be safe, and get to and from wherever we’re going, despite how we might choose to get there, and simply arrive alive?  Why the winter rage?

Cycling in Hindsight

Posted: May 4, 2013 in Bike, Equipment
Tags: , ,

I have recently acquired a new piece of equipment that has instantly become integral to my training plan this year and no doubt, will become a source of debate on our next group ride but, first, a little background.

A few seasons ago, a member of my TryForce group – let’s call him, Doug –  showed up to one of our organized group rides with this odd piece of equipment affixed to his sunglasses and was instantly on the receiving end of a flurry of good-natured ribbing from the rest of us.  Now, Doug is an accomplished cyclist and Ironman and someone who I hold in high regard and yet, just showing up with this weird thingamabob as part of his riding kit, was not, well, shall we say, immediately understood.  So, apparently, both roadies and triathletes alike tend to frown on using gizmos of this nature – this gizmo specifically.  And seeing as how triathletes are like the Batman of the athletic world in that they lust after and collect all types of crap, I found it surprising that anyone would actively voice such doubt about it.  After all, we’re talking about people here who will willingly wear aero helmets with tight, form fitting clothes so that they look almost alien-like as they cruise along on their customized $10,000 carbon fiber rocket ships.  So where this instant skepticism comes from I have no idea.  I felt for Doug, but I didn’t instantly run out and buy one for myself either…until this year.

In case, you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about a helmet mounted rear view mirror for cycling.  I know, I know – *gasp* – you don’t actually wear one of those things do you?!  Horror of all horrors!  Well, yes, I do…now.  And I love it.  It’s actually mounted on the frame of my sunglasses and enables me to see what moolyak in a Dodge Caravan (sorry, Saskia) might be careening towards me from behind.  I think of it now as my ‘advance warning system’ while I’m out riding.  I mean, if rear view mirrors are mandatory for all other modes of vehicular transport, what’s the big deal on a bicycle?

So where does all this controversy come from in the first place?  Do people consider it unnecessary or, maybe, feel that it’s just plain dorky?  I dunno really.  I’m not into cycling or triathlon to be fashionable, so that particular argument is lost on me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I get that you can just look over your shoulder and when you’re out riding alone I still tend to follow this practice and leave the mirror at home but, when I’m out riding with either Kelly as we train four our epic 940k cycle ride this summer, or the kid as she prepares for her first kids triathlon in July, I prefer to know what’s going on in all directions all the time.  And considering some of the close calls I had last year while training for my Ironman, well, these are just chances I’m not willing to take with my family.  So if wearing a rear view mirror while cycling qualifies me as a pedaling faux pas, then so be it.

Where we live now, there are very few sidewalks and so, when I’m out riding with my eight-year-old, we have little choice but to ride out in the street.  Now, we do live out in the country, but that doesn’t also mean that everyone drives slowly and respectfully – far from actually.  It’s true, some bumpkin driving a farm truck down rural routes is every bit as likely to not give a shit for my safety as that moron driving within city limits. An idiot driver is an idiot driver and statistics have shown that idiot drivers tend to strike from behind.  The idiots.

Now, I understand the valid arguments against the use of mirrors, the most common being that they distract the rider from the road in front of them.  But, like I said before, idiots tend to creep up from behind.  The other rationale is that they may tempt a rider to be lazy and take a lane without actually turning to look over their shoulder.  I don’t buy the distraction argument—there are so many things that constantly distract us on the road, I don’t believe adding a mirror to the mix significantly changes the equation.  And while I agree that a rider should always look over their shoulder before taking a lane (and I do), there’s no reason why adding a mirror will necessarily cause a diligent cyclist to suddenly drop their guard.  Basically, when it comes to being safe and keeping my family safe, I welcome any opportunity to see the greater world at large beyond what’s immediately in front of me.

Now, I admit that a mirror does take a little getting used to but, as it turns out, there are several other uses for this miraculous device that I hadn’t anticipated.  For example, I can use it to check and reapply my makeup, use it to clip my nose hair, send signals to aircraft flying overhead should I ever become totally stranded and lost in the wild and, if I position it just right, I can usually catch a glimpse of my girlfriend jubblies on the off chance she’s riding behind me.  And THAT, right there, makes it worth its weight in gold, folks.

So should you or shouldn’t you?  I don’t really care and I’m not about to suggest if you should or shouldn’t.  It’s a personal choice.  When I’m on my own, that’s one thing but when I’m not, I’m making the decision that provides as much safety as possible for us to enjoy ourselves by recognizing those unseen dangers that might be coming up from behind at 80kph.  And for only $9.50 at Mountain Equipment Co-op, who can afford not to?

Disclaimer:  I realize that this post has the potential to peeve off quite a few people.  I do believe that there are good, qualified and more than capable lifeguards out there but, often, I am left wondering.  The opinions expressed in this post are based on my own recent experiences given the amount of time I have spent in my local community pools.

For the past few years I have spent an insane amount of time at the local YMCA pool.  I first started out as a recreational lane swimmer in the evenings, then graduated last year to being an early morning lane swimmer and, l recently, I have been going just for fun with my step daughter family during the ‘Open Swim’ times as well.  As such, I got pretty well acquainted with all the life-guarding staff on all these shifts, as you might expect given the fact that I was there a lot.  And not just at one pool either, but at most of them inside the Niagara Region.   That’s a lot of lifeguards over the years.

During all this time, I will admit, I often find myself getting very frustrated with them.  I do understand that for the most part they are teenagers with an overinflated sense of importance and an under-inflated sense of responsibility but, seriously, some of the things I have seen and experience frustrate me no end and make me want to bludgeon them over the head with my kickboard.  These frustrations can range anywhere from simple ‘Are you kidding me?’ situations to the more serious ‘What the fuck?’ type of scenarios.  If I were a new Aquatics Director, one of my first acts would be to have some of these lifeguards publicly flogged with pool noodles as a lesson to other lazy and incompetent lifeguard wannabes as a warning to seek out other means with which to support their extensive cell phone texting plans.

Now, remember, I was a lifeguard myself back in the day so I definitely sympathize with their situation from time to time as I fully appreciate the positions they are often put in.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved those summer afternoons sitting up high in my lifeguard’s chair and feeling all powerful n’ shit but, still, sometimes stupid is just stupid; and, I have definitely seen and experienced stupid lately.  So the following concerns then are just a mere sampling of the things I have either witnessed or experienced that, while still pissing me off, really had me giving my head a serious shake.

1.  I’m too immature for this job. 

7425b69bdec35a3dd44e1b249847a157Did you know that lifeguards can become certified at as young as 15 years old, and even your pool’s head lifeguard or pool manager could be a teenager themselves?  Yeah.  I was a bit older when I was guarding, but it seems to me that the lifeguards are significantly younger now.  It can be really difficult for adolescents to be assertive and enforce pool rules, especially when it comes to bitchy morning swimmers (like myself apparently), and that reluctant senior who insists on breast-stroking down the middle of the Fast Lane.

While I’m sure some young guards are vigilant and professional, others are most definitely not.  If you can’t positively enforce your basic Lane Swim strategy, what faith do I have that you will enforce other pools rules that are designed for public safety? I have seen the young guards at my local community pool more than once turn a blind eye to valiantly dangerous behavior and rough housing during the ‘Family Swim’  times rather than address the situation appropriately.  Umm, hello?  If they can’t even enforce basic safety, how will these same guards respond to a life-or-death situation crisis resulting from the flagrant disregard for the pool rules?

Needless to say, we don’t swim there anymore as it’s supposed to be a fun ‘Family Swim’, junior, not ‘Beyond Thunderdome’. I also know that life-guarding is probably not what they might consider as career-pathing towards their ideal future dream job but, still, give me your best efforts will ya?  When I show up at the pool for an early 6:00am workout and you still haven’t even set up the lane ropes yet, don’t expect me to automatically jump in and do it for you.  I have exactly 60 minutes to swim, shower, get dressed and get my ass to work (or I’ll be fired) and nowhere did I factor in “setting up the pool” because you didn’t want to arrive until exactly one minute before opening and haven’t had the time yet.  I realize you’re, like, ‘eleventeen’ or something, and don’t have the same sense of urgency or responsibility as a mature adult but, please, at least look like you give a shit.  One lifeguard at my pool, will even get there early and pull out all the lane ropes, but then won’t pull them across because she “doesn’t like to get wet”.  Instead, she asks the swimmers to do it for her which, in most cases, is me.  Most times she just assumes we’re going to do it for her.  Hey honey, it’s not my job to do your job.  Besides, isn’t getting wet part of the basic job requirement?

2.  I barely passed my training and I haven’t practiced my skills in years.

I remember when I passed my ‘Canadian Red Cross Lifeguarding Certification’  program, of the original group of kids that participated, not a single one was ‘washed out’.  Were we all that good?  Certainly not!  In fact, some of the group outright sucked.  One member of our group could barely complete the basic distance swim test criterion herself, but she was certified anyway.

In most areas, a ‘certification’ basically means the person has mastered the ‘fundamentals’.  However, we really have no idea how much a guard struggled during the CPR training, Heart Saver, or whatever.  Likewise, most certifications used to be good up to three years, so a guard’s ‘basic’ training may not have been tested in the meantime; I know mine never was. Now, based on what I witnessed over the last few years, I doubt much has changed.  In fact, I used to swim in the evening during the Life-guarding Certification program at the local YMCA last year, and few were what I would consider to be ‘decent swimmers’ capable of comfortably completing the minimum swim qualification.  True, they don’t need to swim any great length at a community pool in order to reach someone who may be drowning, but that level of ability and, therefore, confidence in the water is definitely an advantage nonetheless.

Furthermore, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a lifeguard in the water, you know…swimming.  Are they even required to train or practice to maintain their skills?  In some places, perhaps, but in others I sincerely doubt it.  Sure, they may get in the water during swim lessons but, beyond that, I seldom even see the lifeguards wearing swimsuits anymore and more often than not, they tend to huddle together in their office between shifts and swap texts.  Here’s an idea, guys, SWIMPRACTISE!  Give me some sort of comfort level that if something ever goes terribly wrong you will be able to help me and not simply text someone else for assistance.  At the very least, set up the damn lane ropes!

3.  I might be in charge of the pool chemicals

poorly-trained-lifeguard-lawsuitNow, to be fair, the community pools I swim at have their chlorine levels monitored by an automatic system requiring minimal management from the actual lifeguards – thank Christ!  However, on occasion (some pools are worse than others) I will emerge from the pool as if I were emerging from the fiery pit of a volcano given that my skin is burning so badly.  Is it within the ability of the teenager on duty to take regulative action – not necessarily?  Sure, they take daily chlorine samples to make sure they are within reasonable levels, but even the slightest change within those legal limitations can be detected by my skin and eyes making me look like I’ve either just undergone several radiation treatment or have been on a weekend long bender.

Likewise, they may also have to maintain the pH and alkalinity levels as well.  Yes, the 16-year-old guards at your local pool could be handling everything from chlorine to muriatic acid.  In most circumstances, you have to have some sort of government certification to be able to handle and work around these types of hazardous chemicals…except for the community pool it seems.  Bacteria and parasites can thrive in water without a proper chlorine balance, and if the chlorine is too high, it can cause skin and eye irritation. I know this isn’t necessarily the fault or responsibility of the lifeguards on duty but, hey, when dealing with poisonous and potentially harmful chemicals I would sure feel better having someone in the know on deck and instantly available.

4.  Aside from the chemicals, the water might not be safe.

If someone vomits in the pool, or if you notice a guard fishing something out of the water that looks suspiciously like a Baby Ruth bar, everyone should be out of the water and the pool should be closed. On at least one occasion that I know of, I was allowed to keep swimming as the offending ‘fouling’ was removed from the pool.  I was only made aware after the fact and I almost had a meltdown right there on deck. Hey, and why not? A fecal contamination can spread E. coli, hepatitis and parasites so the pool should be closed anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours, depending on the type of stool and chlorine levels, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Some guards may not be trained in how to handle such an incident, or they may be instructed to simply remove the contamination or to “shock” the pool — raising the amount of free chlorine to 10ppm — and allow swimmers back in, which isn’t safe; far from actually.  I was once told to exit the pool after a child dropped a deuce during a Family Swim but then told I could get back in in just a few minutes once it was skimmed from the water.  Umm, how about “No thanks!”   That’s fucking disgusting.  Would you drink water from a toilet simply because someone has scooped out the offending turd?

Doubtful.

5.  I’ve never actually rescued anyone.

Just because lifeguards are trained to rescue drowning swimmers, doesn’t mean they ever have.  Some lifeguards might work for years and never have to perform a rescue. In fact, in a recent ‘International Lifeguard Survey’, %56 of lifeguards in North America working at community pools (myself included at the time) have never had to actually pull someone out of the water.

Now don’t get me wrong, I sincerely hope they never have to, but, think about it, what happens if/when they actually need to?  Will they instantly be able to snap to attention and take appropriate action?  That’s debatable.  And I speak from experience here – twice!  On two separate occasions I have pulled two other swimmers out of the water during a workout.  I am very cognizant of others while I am swimming – maybe it’s an old habit, whatever – but on both occasions I noticed someone else struggling elsewhere in the pool and on one of those occasions, they actually went under.  I cut short my lap – obviously – and made it over quickly enough to pull them to the side of the pool.  Where was the lifeguard?  On one occasion, they were chit-chatting in the guardhouse about God knows what, on the other, they were actually in their guard chair watching – WATCHING!  Hey, could you at least get down and pretend you actually cared about what was happening?  I can just imagine what was going through their head at the time:

 Hey, that kid over there looks like he’s in trouble.  Just be cool, he’ll come back up eventually.  Oh good!  That guy there is going to take care of it.  Good.  WHEW!  I was just getting comfortable up here.  Okay, back to the business of being cool…hey, baby, how you doin’?”

The guard never left the chair!  I was vivid.  Of course, a grown adult hollering at and criticizing a juvenile in public is certainly not going to win any favorable impressions of me, so I immediately left after the parent came to collect their child (yes, I did get a sincere ‘thank you’).   I left some comments of concern for the Aquatics Director afterwards, but that lifeguard still sits in that chair to date.

6.  I have the attention span of a gnat and get bored easily.

lifeguardsleepingStaring at the water for hours on end can be absolutely mind-numbing, I know, and it’s easy for a young guard’s thoughts to wander to their lunch plans or maybe let their eyes wander to the group of bikini-clad girls at the other end of the pool.  I get it – I wouldn’t want to watch my fat ass going back and forth for 90 minutes either…particularly when your pool sound system is playing some sort of mellow, aquatic whale music or something.  It must be like slow death.  But, still, that was the occupational hazard you accepted when you took the job.  Deal with it.  Dose up on caffeine, or stab yourself in the leg every two minutes with a fork, whatever, just get it together and get back to business at hand of watching over us swimmers.

It’s my opinion, based on my limited parenting that kids today all suffer from sort of ADS.  It’s really just a question of how badly.  I know my step-daughter can’t go 3.2 nanoseconds without some sort of digital or automated stimulus before she begins to shrink into the fetal position and fade away into dust.  Are the young lifeguards at my pool any different given that most of them are also from this same digital age?  I doubt it given that glazed over stare they have most of the time.  I swear, you could light off firecrackers under their guard chair and you’d likely get no reaction whatsoever (refer back to #4).

What can be done about this you ask?  Beats me, hence it being a real concern of mine since often there is only one guard on duty during the designated lane swim for the entire pool.  And, assuming, they’ve been up all night playing video games how confident am I then that they are alert and attentive?  Yeah, right.

So what do I hope to achieve through this post?  Well, nothing actually; it’s just often the way it is.  But let’s just say that I approach swimming now in the same way I do while out biking or running.  I don’t immediately assume everything is just hunky-dory; I exercise extreme caution and assume that everyone else is a total moron ready to mow me down where I pedal (paddle).  Therefore, I’m always ready to take evasive action and avoid the offending action to the best of my ability and thwart my ever having been in harms way in the first place.  Because, you know, G.I. Joe said it best:  “Knowing is half the battle”. 

But, should that day ever come when I actually need some prompt assistance while swimming, well, God help me.  I can only hope that I will be in the presence of a mature, responsible and capable lifeguard and not ‘ol fifteen year old Bimblenuts who simply thinks that wearing a whistle is cool.