Posts Tagged ‘Thanks’

Today, I was to go forth “once more into the fray” except in light of recent events, that’s obviously not happening any more.  No, I’m going to be on a surgery table now gets pins and screws embedded into my hand while you wait patiently in the waiting room; not exactly the kind of hardware I was hoping to add to my collection today.

Hardly the Ironman adventure we planned for the summer.

Had I actually been racing today, I had this whole pre-written letter to you as my way of acknowledging your efforts and thanking you for your ultimate role in the whole execution of today’s intended event.  In that regard, nothing much has changed and I still owe you a huge debt of gratitude so with only a few minor edits, here is that planned letter.

Dear wife (ie. ‘The Maker of Black Bean Brownies’, and ‘The Procurer of Early Morning Coffee’):

Today, as I go forth “into the fray once more” I am confident because I am not going alone.  Sure, I might be doing all the swimming, cycling and running today it wasn’t through my sole efforts that inevitably brought me to the starting line tomorrow morning.

That was the result of a team effort.

In many regards, you actually had it more challenging than I have.  Sure I endured countless hours of pounding pavement, early dips in the canal, and a never ending assortment of aches and pains but you have endured far worse.

In most cases you see me off through the front door whenever I go for a long run or bike ride, give me a kiss and wish me luck.  You remind when I leave early in the morning for a swim to be careful and have fun and the coffee is always  ready for the drive.  And then when I come home afterwards I’m usually exhausted and cranky so you allow me my quiet time to decompress and, of course, I’m hungry so you make sure there is a warm healthy meal waiting for me at some point.

Throughout it all, more often than, you also take on the insurmountable Herculean task of doing my laundry and making sure that all my toxic-smelling workout clothes – each one a festering petri dish of bacteria and contagion – are all washed, dried and ready to go for the next day’s ass-kicking.  Seriously, this Sisyphean effort alone must be about as much fun as having holes bored into your ear drum with a rusty drill bit.  Oh, and of course there hasn’t been much sexy time lately seeing as how all my bits look and feel like chewed leather after endless rubbing on a bike saddle or being slow-cooked in my running tights.  In fact, it’s probably been so long now that I likely couldn’t find your first base anymore without the use of my Garmin.

Probably worst of all, I get down on myself – a lot – especially when things don’t go exactly according to plan and I’m starting to feel like the all-haloed training schedule is stomping me into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.  When this happens, you are always there to comfort me, hand me an ibuprofen and gently remind me that I’m only human being and sometimes as a human being I’m going to fail and that’s…*gasp*…okay.  I may not always want to hear it, but I absolutely know you’re 100% right.  And on those occasions when I started to doubt myself and lose focus on why I chose to take on this ridiculous challenge, you never  lost faith in the magic that is me even though it’s obvious that the easy answer is that either a) I’m an idiot, b) I’m an idiot, or c) all the above.

And let’s not forget how cranky I’ve been over the last few weeks.  At the best of times, I’m exhausted, mentally taxed out and, often, my taint is on fire thanks so some god awful bout of chafing in my loins from whatever it was that I last subjected myself to.   Basically, I have the disposition of a rabid hyena these days and I’m surprised you haven’t driven a stake through my heart by now.  What I’m really saying then is that I’m a real hot mess of sweaty shorts, blister pads and steroid cream, yet you still go to bed with me anyway.

There are a lot of words commonly tossed around when one is training for and competing in an Ironman:  pain, commitment, sacrifice, fear, tears, determination, courage, et al.  I’m confident that I have the fear and tears all locked up and nailed down, but you certainly have assumed the full brunt of the pain, sacrifice and commitment aspects of that equation; hands downs.  I’m not sure which is more daunting but the role you have played in this whole Iron journey is certainly no less difficult or challenging.

Furthermore, while I would have been out swimming, bike, running and otherwise kicking ass today, your day was inevitably going to be a lot less exciting.  Essentially, for the entire 12 or 13 hours that I would have been in perpetual motion out on the road you could probably have expected to see me for about 15 to 20 nanoseconds.   Realizing that this isn’t exactly the most spectator friendly sport, you came anyway and wouldn’t have complained once about how boring it is once and I realize that no matter how long that challenge would have taken or what shape I’m was in when I accomplished it, I knew you’ll be there at the end of it all cheering like a 16-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  And let’s not forget that what I was going to wear today would likely have made my body look like a topographical map of Utah and yet, for whatever reason, that still wouldn’t have embarrassed or detered you from cheering for me like the rock star I think am anyway.  And don’t think that for once second I wouldn’t have appreciated your efforts at becoming my personal Tenzing Norgay for the day having to cart around all my excess gear and post-race necessities.

Honey, Juan Valdez’ donkey wouldn’t have had it that hard and I appreciate you.

And of course, there were the events of one week ago (click HERE).

Of course, there was only one person to call ahead of all others – you.

So for the remainder of the day you did your best to console and comfort me.

Not that I was having any of it, mind you.

Just look at me:

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But I did appreciate the intent.

You then relegated yourself to being my chauffeur to and from the plastic surgeon, administered the drugs and just generally kept looking after my general comfort as I deal with the injury and the overall disappointment of loosing my dream (albeit temporary) of being 2x Ironman.

Did my demeanor improve any?

Of course not.

So whatever happens today, for good or for bad (Disclaimer:  it was, or likely will be bad), please realize that I love you (more than I ever say) and appreciate all that you have done that has enabled me to be here today and – hopefully – accomplish this momentous goal further (Disclaimer:  I didn’t).  With me today, besides all the “Nutella bombs“, performance formula and gummy frogs (or in my current condition: Percocets, Tylenol, surgical bandage and gauze), I was to carry your strength and support and likewise use it as fuel to keep going and reach ultimately that finish line…for both of us (Disclaimer:  ah, never mind).  And once this whole Iron madness is done I’m looking forward to pulling back, slowing down and being more present (promise) the rest of the summer.

This I absolutely promise to follow through with.

Of course, above all else, I’m also anticipating and looking forward to rocking your world on a more regular basis (Disclaimer: once the pain meds wear off that is) so brace yourself woman, as I’m about to put all this endurance training to good use once again.

Fortunately, I have lots of leftover lubricating cream and anti-inflammatories we can use.

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

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

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

So.  Much.  Chafing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love you girls!

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

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

Thank you, Nicole.

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

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

Thank you.

I will not let you down.

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

Beer and pretzel bites for everybody!

(stay tuned friends)

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

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

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

Thank you, my friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now, pass the pretzel bites.

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.

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CRAVE LOCAL FRESH

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The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors

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It goes without saying that I am HUGE fan of all these businesses, and not just because they’re local and they’ve agreed to give me money.

I love everything they stand for:

  1. Fresh local food
  2. Great local beer
  3. Awesome local riding

Three of my favorite things in life I might add.

Of course, the bragging rights that go along with showing up to an Ironman triathlon in part sponsored by a brewery also definitely ups the “cool factor” just a bit too.

Take that Clif bar!

“Recharge with Milk”, my ass.

(bitches)

Both Brimstone Brewing Co. and CRAVE LOCAL FRESH operate out of The Sanctuary – Center for the Arts, a converted church 30 seconds from my front door.  My family and I love this place and frequent it often on evenings out for dinner, concerts, or just quiet pints of delicious craft beer (which aren’t exactly part of an “Ironman Diet” but, hey, “all work and no play…”, right?).  I will stop in on weekends for a bowl of homemade “recovery soup” on weekends after long winter rides and runs, and this is also my go-to place on “Daddy-Daughter Date Night” for a few rounds of Exploding Kittens while mommy is at work as well.  Chef Matt and staff certainly take care of us.

I am also particularly excited to represent The Unroyal Ride Ambassadors started by local in.cep.tion cyclery bike shop owner Brandon McGuire.  Essentially, they’re a “group of everyday riders, a few racers, all with no glorious ambitions of World Cup domination; rather to support, love and grow our sport”.

In other words, we’re ordinary dads on a mission.

Kind of like this:

But with bikes.

So what will I be wearing this season?

Well, just check out this bad ass race suit:

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How.  Cool.  Is.  That?

This is certainly going to turn some heads.

I just can’t wait for the season to get here already and I’m sincerely looking forward to racing for and supporting my new sponsors this spring/summer – hell, all year – by leading more group bike rides to and from The Sanctuary (rumor has it they have good beer and food) in order to explore the amazing area that I am so fortunate to train and live in.  How lucky am I?  Of course, it goes without saying that I will do my absolutely very best  to make them all proud come race time as well.

And, hey, even if I don’t get to stand on the podium this year, I’m pretty sure I still know a good place where I can get a decent victory dinner and drink and maybe even a congratulatory pat on the back and a “good job!“.  Whatever it happens to be, at the end of the day there will always be good soup and beer.

What else can I ever ask for?

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.

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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.

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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.