Posts Tagged ‘Thanks’

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 Coach

Posted: March 20, 2016 in Lifestyle
Tags: ,

967036_519246998132966_1405095889_oLast week I enjoyed my first outdoor bike ride of 2016.  It was rather fitting and bittersweet in that I also got to share this same ride with the Coach, otherwise known in non-Internet blogging circles as Saskia.  You see, in a few days, Saskia will be embarking on a new and exciting adventure by moving to New Zealand to pursue other professional opportunities.  And while I am genuinely thrilled for her, it’s not without a bit of selfishness that I also admit that I am also a bit disappointed to see my friend and mentor go.

So at the risk of getting all sappy and opening myself up to being mercilessly teased for being a big softie at tomorrow’s TryForce going away party, I’m going to outline just how important a role she has played in my life.

In truth, Saskia has been pretty much present for this entire triathlon crazy train I embarked on over eight years ago.  So, basically, she has been there to witness the whole transformation from fat, single, pot-smoking, triathlete wannabe with absolutely zero skill to a semi-fat, family-orientated, non-pot smoking triathlete wannabe with marginal to mediocre skill.  And believe me, that’s a huge transformation.

I first met Saskia in the pool at the St. Catharines YMCA for the then TryForce Master’s Swim. I liked her immediately because her bed head was even worse than mine.  She swam in the fast lane at the far side of the pool and I remember thinking: “Jesus, she’s like a dolphin”.  At the time I could barely paddle from end to the other without drowning so I was pretty much in awe.  It wasn’t until the next year when she coaxed me into the Fast Lane “for company” when a few other regular Fast Lane swimmers failed to show one morning.  I was terrified and a whole lot intimidated.  I could barely keep up after 50m or so and I’m sure I got lapped about a dozen times by the time the workout was over.  I was absolutely spent.  However, I was also encouraged and motivated to work on those damn drills Coach Roberto kept preaching about so that, eventually, maybe I could manage to ride in her wake for a couple hundred meters or so – if I was lucky.  I’m sure she thought nothing of it but I was enamored for sure.

Later in the Spring I participated in my first triathlon in Milton, Ontario, a sprint distance event.  Again, I barely survived.  I do, however, remember her trotting past me at some point during the run like I wasn’t even moving (and there was a very good chance that I wasn’t).  She chirped something positive or encouraging as she went past.  I don’t rightly remember what it was as my heart was beating inside my eardrums at the time and I was trying to not – you know – die.

Again, I was in awe.

We spent more time that summer riding together with the TryForce group on Sunday mornings and I got to know her a little better over the inevitable coffees that followed the ride as I peppered her with endless questions about triathlon, her experiences with the Ironman and, well, whatever else it was that popped into my mind.  During these group rides I tried to ride up alongside her as often as I could to try and glean as much as I could.   Towards the end of the summer she mentioned she was in fact training for a half Ironman competition and was looking for a partner for her longer rides and would I be interested.

Wait, what?

Me?

Keep in mind that by this point I had probably never rode more than 30-40 kilometers at a time and I still tracked my workouts by the kitty cat calendar on the kitchen wall.  I was flattered though and so I agreed, albeit with a certain amount of trepidation. So suddenly I was doubling my biking mileage and truly learning to love the bike.

I still do and I reflect back on those rides all the time.

It was during those rides in between gasps for breath she expressed her confidence that I too could complete a long-distance triathlon if I so desired.  I wasn’t so sure, of course, but if she  thought I could, well, then maybe…just maybe.  Anyway, as a result a plan was hatched to make the big jump from short distance triathlons to the Ironman distance; I figure I was delirious with exhaustion at the time.

But here’s the key part: she agreed to help  me.

At the time, she was aspiring to become certified as a Canadian Triathlon coach and was in the market for a willing victim guinea pig with which to train.  I likely never thought it would ever happen but I agreed regardless.  Over the course of a few more rides we planned out a three year plan leading up to the big event…unbelievable as it still seemed.

25910_403890205976_2944720_n

Completing the plan – even while traveling on business in the Philippines.

During that following winter, she invited me to start running with her on the weekends with another friend Kerr (yes, that’s his name) to train for the Around the Bay 30k race in March. Up to that point, my runs equated to running around the block until I felt like puking.  Now, here I was trudging distances I had never before imaged, nor cared to imagine, up and down the endless inclines of Pelham and Fonthill with two very capable runners.  I like to think they were just humoring me by letting me tag along and “keep up”, but they were likely just making sure I didn’t get too far behind so that I would get lost.  Eventually, over many long, cold hours of pavement pounding I could just about keep up…barely.  Hell, she even coaxed me into running 10k in an elephant suit (click HERE).  But the most amazing thing happened somewhere along the way: I actually turned into something resembling that of a runner.

We also started swimming together on weekends and, again, over time I started to be able to keep up.  Low and behold, I started believing that this whole Ironman thing might actually be possible.

And so it went for the next three years.  Every month I received my monthly training plan and every week I checked off and completed the assigned workouts either on my own or, quite regularly with Saskia herself.  Whether on business or otherwise, I followed the plan.  Each year I found myself getting faster, stronger, and more confident.  Through osmosis, I even started to pick up the basics of training and training plans, although I’ve never been quite so successful or confident at doing it myself.  Even in the years since those official training plans, I still often find myself asking: “what would Saskia do?”    Through it all though, I had found myself not just a Coach and a regular training partner…but a friend.

995030_10152458815133475_363480327_n

Was it something I said?

Over the next three years I finished 5 Half-Ironman competitions (the Cancun 70.3 being among them) with my times  getting exponentially better and better, ultimately, accomplishing my intended end goal being Ironman Wales itself, which I like to think, went very well…”Well” meaning that I didn’t die.  Her husband Nelson even showed me how to tear down, pack up and reassemble my bike into her bike box to get to these events (click HERE).

Understand that NONE  of this would have been possible without Saskia.

None.  Of.  It.

And although we may not swim, bike and run as dutifully together as we used and she isn’t officially “coaching” me anymore, she is still my close friend.  Her daughter and HRH  have become close friends and she (and family) even served as witnesses at my wedding this past May.  I should also add in here that she got up early and ran long that morning while I slept in.

So while I wish her well on his new journey, I will miss laughing, gossiping, and chewing over life in general with her.  I know we will stay in touch regularly through the magic of the Interweb, of course, but it won’t be same as being out riding together as we did this past weekend.  So, yeah, I’m a bit sad.

The truth of the matter is (although she will likely not accept any credit for it) that, largely thanks to her, I’ve not only evolved as a triathlete…but as a person.  And while it might be some time before we ride, swim or run together again, one thing is for certain, Ironman New Zealand just took a huge leap to the top of my bucket list.

Jensie’s Last Ride

Posted: August 25, 2014 in Bike, In Transition
Tags: ,

The world of sport is a little greyer today with the loss of one of the toughest bad asses you’ve probably never even heard of; Jens Voigt.

Yes, Jens “Mr. Shut Up Legs!” (aka ‘Jensie’) Voigt has finally decided to retire from the sport of cycling at the ripe age of 42 (same age as me) after an exciting career spanning 17 years and yesterday’s final 7th stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge marked the occasion; alas, cycling’s undisputed ‘Breakaway King‘  is no more.

When I first started to get into cycling as a sport five years ago, I saw a Stage of the Tour de France where this guy pretty much sacrificed himself on the slopes of some French mountain for his team leader Andy Schleck (click HERE  to see). The announcers were making a big deal about the young rider Andy Schleck at the time faring so well in the race, but here’s this guy out front literally ‘burying himself’ as they say in cycling, to make all that possible.

Who is that?’ I wondered.

Here is this unremarkable looking guy absolutely suffering to bring his teammate (and Alberto Contador for that matter) up the side of a mountain and all the announcers can talk about is the on-going battle between the those two favorites. I made a mental note to learn more about this Jens guy.  Let’s talk ‘tough’ for a second: Voigt is known for his propensity to attack.  He is capable of repeated attacking, holding a high tempo, and breaking away from the peloton.  He has worn the yellow jersey of the Tour de France twice as well as the KOM (“King of the Mountain’ for you cycling noobs).  There’s lot of other titles and accolades of course but most notoriously, Voigt is as known for his fierce tenacity in competition as he is for his positive attitude.  You have to admire a person like that.

I do anyway.

As far as ‘sporting idols’ go I don’t have many. Usually they are more of the off-beat athletes that I can better identify with; more for their personality and character than them simply being awesome. For example, I never cheered for Wayne Gretzky; I rooted for Charlie Huddy. ‘Who’s Charlie Huddy’  you ask?

Exactly my point.

Charlie Huddy played on the revered championship Edmonton Oilers team of the mid-1980’s and present for all five of the franchise’s Stanley Cups. Of course everyone remembers Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffee, Grant Fuhr and, of course, Wayne Gretzky…but Charlie Huddy? Who’s that?

As it turns out, Charlie was the team’s real go-to guy, being a versatile player that could basically fill in anywhere. Charlie was what I call a ‘work horse’, choosing to do whatever it was the team required of him rather than serve his own selfish purposes and letting the other players garner the majority of the spotlight. It is also worth noting that, at the time, not only was Charlie older than any of his teammates but he also spent more time on the ice than just anyone else setting up plays, defending leads, blocking shots and simply playing his balls off and doing as he was told. I respected that. Immensely.

I even have an old hockey card of Charlie Huddy to remind me of these virtues.

Later when I got into triathlon I gravitated towards the likes of Simon Whitfield. Not because of his Olympic gold medals, mind you, but because of his ‘never retreat never surrender’ attitude when it came to training, competition and, later, being a father. I appreciated the willingness to throw the odd ‘haymaker’ at life despite his age and, hey, when it worked, it worked. But when it didn’t he got back up, brushed himself off and worker even harder. I respect that kind of mental and physical discipline and that resiliency has stuck me over the past few years of my own triathlon training.

As I watched the Tour de France last year, the camera focused on a breakaway of three riders all going balls-to-the-wall. Two of the riders were clearly trying to simply endure the agony of pushing the pace so hard so late into the stage but, the other guy, here he was making silly faces and mugging for the camera. Yup, that’s Jensie! In an interview with the press later, he mentioned that he’d rather give the impression to his kids that daddy was having fun rather than being in the throes of all out agony. How can you not love the guy?  And that’s when I really started to take notice.

I figured out pretty quickly that Jens is a very likeable, down to earth and humorous guy as any YouTube video will indelibly prove. I read everything I could get my hands on and his column in our monthly Bicycling magazine, ‘Hardly Serious with Jens Voigt’, is the first thing I flip to when it comes in the mail. He is just so quotable. In fact, trying to list favorite Jens Voigt quotes would simply take up too much time and bandwidth and the fact that he is not known and adored by more sporting fans outside the cycling realm is a true crime. So for those of you who may not already be familiar with Jens awesome tough guy ‘bad assness’, here a list of 15 reasons why you should get to know him:

1.  Jens is a team player, a workhorse (In tour terminology, a ‘super-domestique’) who will never win a grand tour but rides every day with heart and desire that exceeds many tour champions.

2.  Jens just finished riding his 16th Tour de France, considered by many to be the toughest sporting event on earth (only two men have done 17 tours). Out of 15 starts, he’s reached the finish in Paris intact 12 times.

3.  Of the 20 men who have started The Tour past age 40, Jens is the oldest and chosen for the team for his strength of body not just his heart.

4.  Through the years, his physical fortitude – coupled with a relentlessly positive attitude – has helped turn him into cycling’s biggest cult hero.

5.  Jens contagious character and super-hero like feats has spawned tribute, “Chuck Norris” like website where fans contribute “Jens-isms.” Enjoy classics like,” Jens Voigt doesn’t age, he simply drops every year that catches up to him.”

6.  Jens has 66 victories as a professional and was once the world’s top amateur but, even at his peak, he did not have the climbing capabilities to challenge for overall victory in the world’s biggest stage races.

7.  Jens has ridden over 510,000 miles since he began racing competitively. That is enough to cycle around the world 20 times.

8.  Jens is what’s right about athletics: He rides not for money, nor fame, but for the love of it. He seems to relish every moment with gratitude, reverence and healthy sense of humor.

“It is the passion inside me that means I keep going,” Voigt added. “I love what I do and I think I am lucky to do it. When I am riding a quiet country road, I hear the birds singing and think ‘I am in my office now’.”

9.  Still one of the most elite cyclists in the world, Jens continues to train in the cold winter months of Germany—rather than traveling to a warm climate like most, because he refuses to leave his six children and wife alone.

“I have a wife and six kids at home in Berlin and I cannot just say ‘hey honey, listen I am going somewhere warm for a month to train, you all stay here where it is minus 10′. I am a family man and I have to find my priorities. “

10.  In the 2009 Tour Jens survived a horrific crash on a steep mountain descent, literally smashing face first into the asphalt and by sliding 20m down the road on his face – ON HIS FACE!  Let’s see your multi-million dollar Big League ball player do that!  He was airlifted to the hospital with injury and at an age where most men would have retired, Jens simply healed, and returned to ride every tour since.

11.  Jens has coined one of the most widely used motivational phrases in cycling, “Shut Up Legs!”  He actually is known to have this written on a part of his bike where he can see it.

“I tell my legs ‘just one more hairpin and then we will slow down’ but then I reach the next one and tell them the same again. Sometimes I am done – I would not be able to pull the skin off a custard – but my motto is to never give up.”

12.  In 2010, Voigt had another crash that left him with blood flooding out of a hole in his elbow and smashed his bike. Refusing to abandon the race he borrowed a small yellow child’s bike which he says made him look like “a bear riding a circus bicycle”.

13.  Because he said this about himself: “I hope I am allowed to say that the reason I am popular is because of the way I am, the way I race and the way I talk. I am just the old-fashioned, reliable guy and people always know I am after one thing:There is Jens. He will go in the breakaway’…

14.  In the 4th stage of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge (Tour of Colorado) a nearly 41 year old Jens executed the unbelievable feat of a solo break-away on Independence pass, riding alone, in the rain, into a head wind, for over 100 km, most of the entire stage to a better than 3 minute victory in Beaver Creek. Fuck anything Lance ever did, this was one of the most epic feats ever witnessed by one man on a bike.

15.  Speaking of Lance, Jens did it all without doping.

If you’ve tired of athletes, their egos, the doping… get to know Jens and get your faith in the human potential back. Jens is pretty much the opposite of everything that is wrong with professional sport. He’s a great athlete and an even better person who brings light and positive energy to his job each and every day or, well, he did anyway.   And I have no doubt that whatever his next steps are in this life they will be as equally amazing and I simply can’t wait.

Here’s an excellent Jens video summarizing his personality as a person worthy of respect:

People can keep worship the over-priced major leaguers, favorite MAA superstar, or whatever.  I’ll take guys like this any day.  These are the types of guys I strive to be.

So long Jensie.  Enjoy the much deserved retirement.

The first time I met John Stanton it was in the bathroom at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario.  No, it was not one of “those” kinds of encounters.  We just happened to end up taking a leak beside one another at the urinals before the Around the Bay 30k event in 2011.  I didn’t know who he was at the time.  I mean, I’d heard about him before but I never paid much attention and I certainly didn’t recognize him at the time.

For those of you who don’t know, John Stanton is the founder and CEO of the ‘Running Room’ and author of several books on walking and running.  In other words, he’s a big shit in the running world. I have a love/hate relationship with the Running Room; I love what they’ve done to promote running in the communities which they operate, but I hate the marketing play of selling hundreds of dollars of crap to newbies who don’t need it, don’t know what it is, but want to fit in.  But that’s neither here nor there in this story.

John is also the guy who refers to running as ‘baking a cake’, an analogy that just about every runner has heard about a zillion times.  The premise being that in order to make a cake you need different ingredients such as flour, water, sugar, butter, vanilla, what have you, and when you mix them together you get the recipe for the perfect end result – a cake.  Running is similar in that it has its own unique ingredients, namely, long slow distance, drills, tempo work, speed, hills, etc., so that when you put them altogether you have the base for a successful runner where the race is simply the icing on that cake.  This speech has pretty much become the ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’  analogy for runners.

Anyway, back to the story.

So there we were, two strangers peeing beside one another, when suddenly there is this hushed buzz permeating the bathroom amongst the other runners in line behind us.  It was the kind of buzz that happens just moments before a band takes the stage.  I knew it probably wasn’t my wanger that everyone was oohing and awing over in hushed excitement, so what gives?  Eventually, I made the connection that the guy beside me was in fact John Stanton except I hadn’t noticed.  Okay, other runners began addressing him by name so that’s how I figured it out.  Anyway, afterwards we washed our hands and went our separate ways.  This was my first Around the Bay and I was nervous as hell, and while I had acquired all the necessary ingredients to be there, my icing on the cake was getting to take a whiz beside John Stanton.  That just had to be a good omen, right?

It was. I finished survived with a time of 2:39:04, not bad for a first outing.

The next year (2012) I returned to Copps Coliseum again and, yes, I bumped into John Stanton; in the bathroom; taking a piss. What were the odds?

This time, however, I recognized him immediately as one might recognize their own shadow, so I sidled on up next to him and jokingly inquired “come here often?”  Of course the humor was completely lost on him.  How could he have ever remembered?  But John is an affable guy and he agreed that he does come to Copps quite often and that the Around the Bay event was one of his favorites and that he always makes the effort to get down to the Expo and whatnot before he politely excused himself and returned from whence he came.

This year was my second attempt at the Bay and I had trained much better and I successfully completed it with a new personal best time of 2:34:13.  It seemed to me that peeing besides John Stanton was becoming a bit of a good luck tradition.  Some people might have their favorite running socks, or hat, or maybe carry a trinket of sorts in their pocket; my totem was having a pre-race pee beside John Stanton.  Weird, I know.  But who is going to argue the success it had brought me so far?

So, fast forward two years and its 2014 and I’m running the Bay yet again.  I sat last years event out while I taking a break from long distances, recovering from fatigue and injuries after Ironman Wales and, well, just enjoying being lazy.  In some regards, I’ve gone back to square run with my running; I’ve reassembled my cake and I’m trying to put it all back together again.  Fortunately, I’m finally running relatively comfortably after seven months of run-specific conditioning as part of my ‘We Can Rebuild Him’ plan.  This year’s Bay event then is the testing ground.  I’ve completed the training, I’ve restarted my speed work, I’m doing my clams, planks, squats, etc., I’m stretching, hydrating and doing everything I know how to do to keep the plan working, except there’s only one thing missing at this point…the icing on the cake.

So yesterday I drove up to Copps Coliseum to pick up my race packet – as you do.  Of course, I was also looking for my icing.  I browsed through the different booths at the Expo.  I didn’t really need anything but, hey, it never hurts to look (I did find a great deal on Emend formula).  Plus, I enjoy that anxious electricity that moves through the crowd as everyone has pretty much started mentally preparing themselves for Sunday’s event; everyone is all a-twitter.  Eventually, I came to the Runners Edge booth and, low and behold, there he was!  John Stanton.

Okay, now what?  It’s not like you go up to a celebrity and ask if you can take a piss with them can you?  All that’s going to get you is charges being laid along with a possible restraining order which certainly isn’t going to help my cause any.

So I waited.

Yes, I totally creeped John Stanton and waited for him to go to the bathroom.  It’s certainly not one of the prouder moments in my life, but a desperate runner’s gotta do what a desperate runner’s gotta do.  Alright, I didn’t really stand there spying at him from over racks of multi-colored runner jerseys, no, I’m not quite that weird…yet.  I went to the registration desk, claimed my packet and resumed my browsing while keeping an ever wary eye on my prey.  He was signing copies of his book and chit-chatting with passersby.  Again, John is a nice guy.

I was just making my last pass before making my way back to the car, when I happened to notice him excuse himself from his booth and start to make his way to the bathroom nearby.  Booyah!  It’s on.

I sneakily followed in after him looking all casual and uncontrived n’ shit. Fortunately, we were the only two in there.

Perfect!

Here’s where it really gets a bit embarrassing. There is an unwritten rule of the mens bathroom that when it’s not busy, you choose a urinal as far away from your neighbor as possible.  I broke this rule and totally sidled right up next to him with a huge shit eating grin on my face.  No words were ever exchanged, but he eyed me suspiciously as I flashed him my best ‘hey, how you doin’?’ look.

Kinda like this:

…but not as creepy.

I’m sure he gets it all the time.

So anyway, yeah, mission accomplished.  I’m registered, my cake is baked and the icing has been obtained.  I’m ready to go.  I’m not sure what my strategy is at this time or whether I’m going to go balls out for a PB, or simply run strong and comfortably and simply see what happens.  This is my year to rebuild after all.  Having said that, now that I’ve had my pre-race tinkle with Johnny S, who knows?  Shit, I might even qualify for Boston.

Battle in the Saddle

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Bike, In Transition
Tags: , ,

As I have already detailed in other blog posts (click HERE and HERE), my mother passed away recently from complications resulting from her on-going battle with Leukemia.  But while her fight is now finished, mine is just beginning.  Now, I’m in no way comparing my ‘fight’ with what my mom has been through over the past 13-14 months but, well, let’s just say I have some interesting challenges ahead of me this year that I plan to undertake in her memory so my training continues in earnest.

One of these challenges was participating in the ‘Battle in the Saddle’ this past weekend at the Energy Fitness Studio in St. Catharines, a 24-hour spin-a-thon supporting the Canadian Cancer Society who basically manage and maintain all the volunteers, drivers, home care aids, family councilors, etc., and have pretty much been an invaluable resource to us over the last six months.  Their mission “is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer”.  In short, it’s a damn good cause if ever there was one.  I wouldn’t give two cents to cancer research anymore (seriously, how is it that after billions and trillions of dollars raised over the years we’re, like, still nowhere close to developing a cure?), but this organization are the real deal…helping families to cope.

"ATTACK!"

“ATTACK!”

My involvement included my participation in four one-hour spin classes over the 24 hour period.  Next year, I’m considering doing the whole lot.  I shit you not.

My first session started promptly at 1:00pm and the instructor asked us in the opening minutes to visualize riding in a peloton and to expect random ‘attacks’ from other riders; that was all that I needed to hear and I was up and out of the saddle in about 2 nanoseconds and making a Floyd Landis-like breakaway from the group in my mind.  The second session came later that evening and consisted of some pretty challenging and punishing strength intervals; right up my alley.  My favorite session, however, the third, occurred in the middle of the night beginning at 2:00am.  As a prank, one of the volunteers taped the hands of one of the participants beside me, cranked his resistance up to 21 and removed his seat before walking away.  I guess they wanted him to suffer a bit (good naturedly, I’m sure).  In my mind, I figured there was no need to suffer it alone (such is the case with cancer as I am now keenly aware), so I adjusted my own resistance to the same, stood up and we pretty much proceeded that way for the entire hour.  I felt pretty good about that, even if my legs might have complained some.  But I managed well enough.  The last session in the morning was another sweaty sprinting session and it was over almost as quickly as it started, it was over.

All in all, I managed to raise $915.00 in my mom’s memory and a HUGE thank you goes out to all my friends, family, readers and anonymous donors who made this all possible through their generosity and support.  THANK YOU.

Here is a summary of the event afterwards.  And, yeah, that’s me yours truly at the 2:44 mark keeping the pace up.

Now that my triathlon season has effectively come to an end, I’m refocusing a bit while I continue with my foot rehab to spending more time volunteering at events that have become near and dear to me, namely, the SunRype Tri Kids series.  This is my second year volunteering with this event series as working with kids and promoting kid’s triathlon has become a bit of a passion for me, particularly this year.

T1 for the 3-5 year-old's

T1 for the 3-5 year-old’s

Now, I have volunteered at adult events before but, well, let’s just say that being grunted at all day by exhausted athletes doesn’t exactly provide me with all those warm n’ fuzzies.  I realize it’s an important role come race day and its very appreciated despite the lack of direct ‘thank you’s’ from the competitor’s, but working with kids is just so, so…awesome.  I feel like my experience as a developing triathlete at this point is both welcome and appreciated at the bike mount line where I prefer to be positioned; reminding kids to breathe, smile, have fun, not to mention fixing any skipped chains, untied shoelaces, etc.  I genuinely love the absolutely shell-shocked expressions on their face and then reminding them – despite the pressures often being placed on them by their over-excited parents – that it’s okay to relax and just have fun.

I think they appreciate that.

Now, having said all that, if there is one thing that I have learned through this experience is that every parent likes to think that their child is special.  And while I agree, every child is special; some parents will take that to the absolute extreme.   I could go on and on about some of the crazy things I saw and heard parents do and say during the course of the day but, well, let’s just say it’s often crazy:  “Don’t drink unless you absolutely after to!”, “Ride hard!”, “Push! Push! Push!”, “Catch that kid in front of you!”, “Can’t you go faster?!” 

I only wish I was joking here.

Hey, whatever happened to “just have fun?”

Just sayin’…

T1 for 3-5 year-old's

T1 for 3-5 year-old’s

Anyway, the added bonus for me this year was that HRH  was also able to participate in this year’s event (being the idiot I am, I forgot to actually register her for it last year) and, as such, we’ve been preparing her both physically and mentally to do her best since April.  We’ve done a few run workouts on the track at the Fort Erie YMCA, and we’ve biked together along the Friendship Trail, and we’ve worked on her swim skills in the open water at the Welland International Flatwater Center.  Of course, these “workouts” were more like play but, hey, who’s keeping track?  I figured she didn’t have to necessary know that she was also participating in interval workouts just as long as she was having fun.  All she really cared about was getting a finisher’s medal – just as it should be.

So the evening before, we organized out last preparation “workout” to familiarize her with the transition process.  We laid out her clothes, towel, bike, helmet, etc. on our front lawn to mimic her transition set up and proceeded to make a game of getting dressed and one the bike, and then off the bike and running.  I had her get into her swim suit and after being spun around a few times (to simulate the feeling of getting out of the water), I had her get into her bike stuff and ride to the end of the street and back, before hopping off and running to the corner and back.  She absolutely loved it.  I figured she was as ready as she was ever going to be.

HRH's transition set up.

HRH’s transition set up.

Come the next morning (race day), she was more than excited to get going.  Once she and Kelly arrived (I was already on site and working at the bike mount line with the 3 year olds), she proceeded to get her body markings, got her clothes set up in transition the way we practiced (which, I must say, was nothing like we adults set our stuff up) and, before she knew it, she was lined up and getting ready to hit the pool.

From then on, she had a ball.  She swam the 75m well even if she didn’t kick a whole lot (a chip off the ‘ol block I guess), and by the time she got changed and ended up at my mount line she was all smiles and giggles…exactly how I had hoped she would be.  In fact, when I asked her if she was having fun, instead of the blank stare or unsure grunt I typically got from a lot of kids I asked the same question to, she responded with a very enthusiastic “YEAH!!”

Awesome.

So I sent her off with a gentle push and watched her ride out onto the bike course pedaling like a demon possessed; if only she pedaled like that when we ride.

When she dismounted a few moments later after a 3k lap around Ridley campus on her bike, she casually walked her bike into T2 and – low and behold – started running!  I mean, like, really running.  I was shocked.  I know she doesn’t really like running and I fully expected her to walk the run course (which is fine, of course), so when she actually started running I almost passed out from sheer amazement.  Clearly, she was really getting into the spirit of the thing.

T1 for the 3-5 year-old's

T1 for the 3-5 year-old’s

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see anything more after she had passed through T2 onto the 1.5k run course.  However, I heard that she walked some of it and ran some of it.  Not bad really.  A really funny I learned later is that each time she passed through the water aid station (which was conveniently manned by my coach) she both drank a cup of water as well as dousing herself with another.  Where she learned this little maneuver, I’m not sure but, yup, a chip off the ‘ol block for sure.  Whatever she was doing, she also remained true to her intention (as well as our track workouts) of finishing strong and saving a bit for that final sprint to the line to earn her coveted finisher’s medal.

Here’s the big moment captured for all posterity (complete with motivational music and everything:

In in all, HRH’s first triathlon went very well indeed.  You can read that as:  she had a lot of fun while maintaining a smile on her face the whole time, and that she is definitely looking forward to participating in the next one next year.  She now has a better idea of what it takes to not only complete a triathlon, but what it takes to prepare for one should she choose to go down that path in the future.

Did she have a finished time?  Sure.  But who cares?  Did she ‘place’ in her age group?  Probably…but, again, who cares?  I’m very proud of her regardless of what any numbers might tell me about her performance.  The most important thing is that she enjoyed herself and that definitely seemed to be the case, so I’m chalking this up as a total victory.

All we can say now is, “Bring on the 2014 season!”

‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’  pretty much summed it up best about towels:

Just about the most massively useful thing any interstellar Hitchhiker can carry. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the beady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward of noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

Furthermore:

A towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Now, where I’m obviously not an interstellar traveler, I certainly believe in the infinite importance of your basic, simple, every day, run-of-the-mill towel; particularly my fluffy, pink (albeit ill-gotten) towel.

My pink heaven.

My pink heaven.

C’mon, admit it.  You all probably have your own favorite towel, or good luck totem that you bring with you to all your workouts and races.  It just so happens that mine happens to be pink and fluffy.  I’m secure enough now in my sexuality that I can admit that.  Deal with it.

Vastly under-appreciated, the towel is the quintessential “must have” piece of equipment for the well-prepared functional triathlete.  Sure, it doesn’t build muscle like swim paddles, resistance tubing, or any other specialized muscle-strengthening chatzky, nor will it aid you in either measuring or determining your ideal pace, distance, cadence, power, heart rate, or, well, anything for that matter.  In essence, it will not help you improve your swim, bike, or run, like, at all.  Yet, I never leave home for a workout without one.

But, as I said before, I don’t just favor any towel, I favor a certain towel.  But, I have to come clean here, it wasn’t originally my towel, it was obtained through rather nefarious means.  So you can consider this post then as more of an admission of guilt (not to mention a plea for forgiveness), than it is of any statement of affinity.

Initially, it all happened innocently enough last summer before an early morning swim workout at the Welland International Flatwater Center.  In my bleary-eyed haste to get out the door before 5:00am  to make the pre-arranged 5:45am  workout with the coach, and Cathy – another triathlon training buddy – I forgot to bring a towel along to dry off with afterwards.  Hey, I hadn’t had my coffee yet and it could happen to anybody.  I managed to remember packing the essentials like my goggles, wetsuit, and water bottle, but, somehow, I forgot to pack the all-important towel.  Now, this heinous oversight on my part wasn’t even realized under just after we got out of the water and we were met with the instant slap of the crisp early morning air.  Oh, shit.

Usually, I always have a spare in the trunk of my car for just such an emergency, but the previous evening also happened to be laundry day so my spare hadn’t made its way back into my trunk yet.  Double shit!  Thankfully, Cathy, volunteered to let me use the extra she that she had stashed away in her own trunk.  What are friends for, right?

At first, I was like ‘pink?’  WTF?  But then I figured that there was nobody around to notice and therefore question my imminent uber-dudeness, so I gratefully accepted her gracious invitation and began to dry off.  Instantly, I was all like:

Yes, it was love at first toweling.  Just being wrapped up in that luscious pink fluffy fabric was akin to being smothered under an avalanche of puppies.  And what freakshow wouldn’t love that?  Not this tough guy, that’s for sure!  Of course, I tried to be all cool n’ shit about it but, inside, I was gleefully giggling like a little schoolgirl (click HERE).

Okay, it was probably more like this:

However you choose to look at it.

Before leaving that morning, I made the hollow promise to wash the stench of canal and awesome off it and then return it at our next early morning swim workout but, well, let’s just say that it never actually happened.  So over the course of the next two weeks until we were able to get together again, I developed a serious bond with this towel.

Besides drying off, it was a perfect size to go under my bike for all my long, sweaty indoor trainer sessions, as well as for laying out on my mat prior to my hot yoga sessions.  It was infinity better than those stupid, dainty, and near-useless ‘Yogi Toe’ things that couldn’t sop up a teaspoon of tap water, much less an hours’ worth of spend bodily fluvia.  Furthermore, it was the perfect towel to bring to my indoor pool sessions in lieu of those white, scratchy locker room towels that someone else might have wiped their ass with.  And, most importantly, its thick, luxurious fluffiness made it ideal for holding the cats while we trimmed their toe nails.  Come at them with any other towel in the house and they’ll instantly dive under the bed quicker than greased lightning but, when it comes to that particular pink towel, they all but jump in your lap.  Go figure.

This towel was so perfect that I had to devise the perfect strategy – a al Shawshank Redemption in its brilliance – to keep it all for myself.  By that, I mean I just never mentioned it again.  Clearly I’m no Andy Dufresne.  This strategy has worked fine for the past year, until now, when another season of outdoor workouts is almost upon us.  Now the guilt is beginning to compound itself and I figure it’s time to come clean:

“Cathy, PUH-lease, don’t take away my precious!!”

I wuv you, Caffy.

I wuv you, Caffy.

Basically, I want to avoid one of those whole “Hey, that’s my towel you thieving bastard!”  moments when I absentmindedly turn up with it one morning in the near future.  How awkward.

It’s safe to say to say at this point, that I will pretty much do anything to keep it.  I can either replace it, or compensate you with morning coffees after our swim, or maybe I will just let you dunk me a few times in the canal.  Whatever, we need to seek out some kind of arrangement here to ease my guilt.  I’d hate to lose you as a swim partner, but I’d also hate to lose my almost ambrosial ‘woob-woob’.  I’m confident that there just has to be something I can either do, or maybe arrange in order to make things right again to gain your overall forgiveness.  Right?

After all, what cold-hearted beast could ever say ‘no’ to this?

How can you say 'No' to dat widdle face?

How can you say ‘No’ to dat widdle face?

Please, Cathy.  Can we still be friends?

I wuv you.