Friday, October 31, 2008

Good Luck Sean!

My coach, Sean Clarke, is competing in Ironman Florida tomorrow.  

It will mark the end of what must have been a pretty wild few days.  His wife just gave birth to a brand new daughter on Tuesday!  The name is still under negotiations...

Congrats to both on the new addition and good luck tomorrow Sean!


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Victory or Death (Pumpkin)

That took a while.....  Carving pumpkins "with the kids" is a bit of a misnomer given the razor sharp knives, goopy pumpkin guts etc.  Yeah, not really a kid activity.

I am very proud of this year's Victory or Death Pumpkin.  The time invested (significant) was worth it in the end.  It started awkwardly as I mistakenly carved away a part that was supposed to stay - fortunately I was able to recover (with the help of some toothpicks) and focused to avoid any further episodes of dyslexia pumpkana....

The VoD slogan is a tad ridiculous and over the top but I dig it anyway....  Bla, bla, bla..... The main thing is that I can draw the skull (and now carve it). When you have a 6 year old son you need to be able to draw some bad-a$$ stuff and this is my calling card....

Happy Halloween!

P.S.  For those interested in where phrases like this come from (i.e. nerds like myself) here is a little background:

Victory or Death - By all accounts (especially this wikipedia one....)the phrase is an old one....  Over centuries it has been used by the Greeks (military), Americans (military), Germans (military), Scottish (military) and Axl Rose (even Axl was in the military).  Click the image to see his VoD tattoo...

I came across the Skull and Crossbones logo on Avia products.  The design originated with the company but was inspired by 80's/90's Duathlon legend, Kenny Souza's Victory or Death tattoo.  That's Kenny behind the Avia logo...


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Maybe You Can Help Danny?

I know these are trying times....  but when I read this blog post it made me think "Wow, it could be worse!"

University of Toronto runner Danny Kassap collapsed and almost died during the Berlin Marathon.  Fortunately he survived but is now the proud owner of an $18,000 hospital bill.  Read his story at

I donated $30.  It took 2 minutes and was painless.

It's not a lot, but I've been the guy in hospital in a far off land....

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Chasing Green Grass

You will be relieved to find that this post, despite the title and the picture above, is not about grass (though the title would apply quite perfectly to the patchy rough I call my lawn)...

One of the downsides of having clearly defined goals is that there are times when you'd like to ignore them and do something that is "short-term smart" but "long-term stupid".

The fall seems full of opportunities that fit into that description. Here are a few of the COOL events that my friends are doing in the next few months (or over the next year) that I would love to file under "completed":

New York Marathon

Las Vegas Marathon

Boston Marathon

Tour de California cycling trip

Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

Ironman Canada

Ironman World Championships

Xterra Racing

Climb Mt. Hood (as per Darren's suggestion a few posts ago in the 'comments')

I am not trying to say there is no way to do any of these things now - just that I have wanted to do them all and for one reason or another they conflict with my current goal.

Now, I know that my own goals are pretty cool too (if I do say so myself) but there is a tendency to peer across the fence and see very green grass on the other side.

There was a time (not long ago, in fact) when I would have tried to do it all (or more anyway) at the expense of doing any of it *well*. And, you know what?  ...that isn't wrong.  It's just a different approach. It is awesome to experience as many cool events as you can.

Lately my focus has been more on performance (i.e. try to do one or two things well) and less on experiences (i.e. just do great stuff all over the world and enjoy it.)

When my 2010 goal concludes (hopefully by racing in the Callaghan Valley at the Paralympics) you can expect me to switch gears for a while.... There are going to be some cool events and great experiences.

Not that I won't try to do well at them... just that I will accept slightly less performance at MORE things. Maybe....

Or maybe I'll try Rowing and shoot for London in 2012 (which would be 2 more years of 100% performance)...... Who can say....

One way or the other I know the grass might *always* look greener on the other side so I can't chase green grass. I have to find the sport equivalent of C-I-L Golfgreen and make the grass on my side as green as possible.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Wedding in Whistler

This weekend I headed up to Whistler to attend a good friend's wedding. Keith (the groom) trained Sacha and I at Innovative Fitness for many months before moving on about a year ago.

Sacha was invited as well but Mattias and Viggo both got quite ill on Friday and it lasted through the weekend so she didn't make it. I had a good time with the few people I knew but weddings always seem better when you are with your wife. Nevertheless, Daniel (another ex-Innovative Fitness coach) and I perservered and enjoyed ourselves and the evening enough to have to retrieve the car on foot the next morning.

Keith and his new bride Naomi are heading to Machu Picchu with packs on their backs for an adventurous honeymoon in the Andes. Pretty cool. Congratulations and thank you's to Mr. and Mrs. Sharman - enjoy Peru!

As many of you may know I travelled to Machu Picchu 2 years ago in order to hike the Inca Trail.  I would like to take this moment to provide a quick preview for Keith and Naomi (as well as the rest of you) by showing a few photos from that trip...

No doubt my wife will accuse me of digressing this way in order to find an excuse to post the alpaca shot (which I will admit I find quite hilarious.)  Sacha and I may be like "peas and carrots" most of the time but when it comes to "appropriate humour" we don't always see eye to eye... 

Anyway......  back to this weekend..... Prior to the ceremony Daniel and I did a great 2 hour (or so) hike on the mountainside above Green Lake in Whistler.  The trail we were following (sort of) was called Shit Happens - which, under the circumstances was quite appropriate since we kept getting lost.  I have included a map below - you can see my approximation of where we lost our way...

Here are some photos from the weekend:

That's why it's called Green Lake

We think this little one is called Duck Lake but not certain...

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Lynne Cox - Swimming to Antarctica

I like to work at the library, it's nice and quiet and I can't use my cellphone.

About a year ago I was heading into the West Van Library when my eye landed on a book called Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox on one of the shelves.  Considering the library's gazillion books it was strange that my eye landed on one at all, let alone one that was appealing.

I grabbed it.  I started reading and was hooked in the first few minutes.  I plowed through the pages in no time and then recommended it to many friends - who all enjoyed it as well.

The book is Lynne Cox's story - she is one of the greatest long distance, open water swimmers ever.  Lynne held the men's and women's English Channel record at the age of 15.  She has also done amazing swims in cold and rough waters around the world.  Her book is full of great stories from these swims.  It's very inspiring stuff and it makes you want to head out and find some crazy challenge and make it your own!  I recommend it highly to all, especially all of you sportsmen and women and adventure junkies.

So it was a pretty lucky moment to stumble upon that book....  Then, in another odd coincidence, the WV Library had Lynne come in to give a talk last night - about 20 yards from where I first found her book.

Kevin, Debbie and I were in attendance to hear her tell a bunch of good stories and soak up her energy.  You wouldn't pick Lynn out of a crowd as a world-class athlete - but she has done a boatload of AMAZING things in the water.  It was a treat to hear her describe what it felt like to land on shore in France or to swim a mile in Antarctica in 0 degrees C water.

I nerded it out big time and got Kevin to take a picture of Lynne and I.  She signed my copy of her book too.  Sorry about the quality of these pictures....  Kevin needs a new mobile phone.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Mt. Everest

Over the years many people have asked me about my accident, there have even been a few who asked me about my recovery....

The question which pops up when that topic is on the table is usually something like, "Was it hard to recover after your accident?" or "Wow, you've recovered so well.... how did that go for you?"

Really, I think the recovery is the more exciting part of the story - because the accident was really kind of boring:  Coles Notes version - San Francisco, August 17, 1995.... two cable cars collide, really quite slowly - I am in the wrong place at the wrong time i.e. between bumper #1 and metal staircase #2 - flesh and bone vs. metal - flesh and bone loses the battle (no contest) and later that evening said flesh and bone is in a ziploc bag on the way to the hospital incinerator....  

Recovery has been my personal Mt. Everest.  I never reach the summit (which is OK...) it is a process of reaching for more - maybe in that way Everest isn't the perfect analogy but I like it...

If you were assigned the job of climbing Mt. Everest what would you do?

Most people would come up with an overall plan first, it would include things like this:

"I'd hire a guide."

"I'd get the right equipment."

"I'd educate myself about the challenge."

"I'd read other climbers' accounts."

"I'd get super fit."

"I'd hire a trainer."

And there are probably a thousand more.  The point is that faced with a BIG challenge like Everest, most people instictively know that they'd have to come up with a good plan and stick to it.

I was the same - I knew I was in a serious predicament and I knew I'd need some help.  I find it interesting that in most cases people have a better idea of what they'd do to climb Mt. Everest than they do for how to lose 10lbs.  When the chips are down we humans know how to survive - or at least we make a pretty solid effort at survival.

I can only chalk it up to the fact that in my situation recovery was of primary importance.  Nothing else mattered.  To continue the analogy - with Everest your life is on the line - planning and execution become CRITICAL because the consequences are immediate.  

In stark contrast - the lack of immediate consequences with weight and health is too bad really - I think a lot fewer people would become obese if the Grim Reaper took you to hell 3 days after you pop the button on your Levi's.

There might be another factor that comes into play...  With a challenge like Everest or recovering from a disastrous injury or accident, most assume (reasonably) that it is important to bring in experts and pay for their knowledge and abilities.  With a goal like "losing this spare tire", many will assume that they know how to accomplish the task on their own, when in reality they have no idea.  There may also be a hesitancy or embarrassment associated with seeking help for the task.  Combine all of these factors with a lack of immediate consequences and the "spare tire" stays right where it is - likely growing.

How can you apply the Everest climber's mindset if your goal isn't a matter of life or death, or even of primary importance?

Force yourself to use the same equipment that the climber uses.  Not his ice ax and crampons,  but his mental checklist and processes.  Tackle smaller goals with the same procedures you would adopt if your Everest expedition was departing next Monday.  Try to imagine that you might FREEZE TO DEATH, ALONE, ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN if you fail.  (In truth, you might actually die....  just not right away.)

There are a million ways to write it down but it is pretty hard to argue with the following:

1.  Define Goal.
2.  Develop a Plan.
3.  Assemble a Team.
4.  Get the Required Equipment.
5.  Execute the Plan.
6.  Hold Yourself Accountable.
7.  Assess the Results.

I didn't consciously think this way when my accident happened - but the situation was serious enough that I was forced to get A LOT of help - and with assistance, and great advice, I developed a great recovery plan.  From the ongoing experience I have learnt a lot about tackling subsequent goals in life.  

First and foremost:  I try to make my goals serious.  I try to adopt a life or death attitude - like an Everest climber.

Second and secondmost:  I get help.  People love to help others - make them feel good by allowing them to help you!

When it is all said and done, the same methods that can result in a speedy recovery or a 10lb weight loss can be used to tackle any goal in life - even climbing Mt. Everest.

P.S.  I even like to imagine myself in Everest climbing gear....  it helps create a hardcore mindset!

P.P.S.  Sacha - don't worry, I am not planning on climbing Mt. Everest.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October Training Update

October has been all about building fitness and preparing for snow in November, and races in December.

Sean has had me on a well-organized 'build' which involves a lot of running, riding and roller-skiing.  I am still swimming two to three times a week on average, but skipping if I need the sleep, or if my arms and shoulders are tired from roller-skiing/double poling workouts.  I am putting in about 13-18 hours/week over the last few weeks - which, at the upper end, approaches the limit of what I can fit into my life.   

Innovative Fitness and my trainers, Rob and Daryl, have been extremely helpful - making sure I don't neglect the less exciting aspects of training - full-body strength, stretching, core work etc.  Rob also joins me for a workout or two every week which is nice.

I feel pretty strong and fit these days though I am concerned about my lack of actual skiing on snow.  The time I have between first snowfall and first race is short to say the least.  This is causing nervousness for me - which I don't usually suffer from.

I have one more FUN event before I really have to bury my head in ski training.  Haney 2 Harrison (November 8th) is a 100km road relay.  Teams of 8 compete for the title.  Each leg of the event is between 8 and 15km and they vary in profile....  Our team from IF West Vancouver looks pretty stellar, and we hope to lay a beat-down on the Kits and White Rock IF locations.  AND H2H is on a Saturday which means that "Team Celebrations" post-race can be a little more "intense" so to speak.  I'm guessing that it should be one of the more fun events all year.

I am toying with fitting in another 10km or half-marathon before H2H but it will be a last minute decision and more of a training event if I decide to do it.

I hope your training is going well and your goals are within sight.  Cheers.

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Aia's 4th Birthday

Well our little girl turned four yesterday.  The occasion was marked by a "friend party" on the weekend, and a "family party" last night.  Sacha is quite the unbelievable party planner and every detail was thought through.  The results were really great and our little princess felt extra special.

Happy Birthday Aia!

Here are some of the photos - (Click to enlarge)


Cake #1 & Cake #2

Blowing out the candles x2

Mattias celebrated his sister's birthday with face paint - I copied the Victory or Death skull... he liked it almost as much as I did.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Riding in style?

This afternoon I did a two hour ride...  actually it ended up being a spin on the trainer in front of the TV because I didn't feel like leaving the family all afternoon.  There was also an incredible amount of televised sports to be had from about 4pm on:  Seahawks vs. Bucs, Canucks vs. Hawks, and Red Sox vs. Rays Game 7 ALCS.

I was a happy camper in my corner of the living room with the remote control handy - the kids would pop in and hang out while I spun the legs and took in all the games.  Pretty awesome.  So awesome I shot a 24 second video which includes me wearing a ridiculous (but functional) headband.... enjoy.

If that headband isn't odd looking enough for you try this...

I'm not sure what it is about a soccer player riding a pony but it's all wrong. Just looks... wrong...

You can see it in his face, "Should I laugh, cry or tell my dad to put away the camera."

Mocha the pony did not seem too concerned by Mattias' cleats (or the un-equestrian-ness of his riding attire)... I suppose she was focused on the job at hand (hoof) which was to walk back and forth 1000 times with a different kid on board each time....

This trot took place at the West Van Pumpkin Patch. You didn't know there was a pumpkin patch in West Van? Well there sure is, and weird things happen there - like soccer players riding ponies and one-legged men gambling uncontrollably at the cake wheel and guessing the weight of freakishly heavy pumpkins (unsuccessfully in both cases.)

Don't worry the child in the carrier (Viggo) was not harmed while assessing the enormous weight of the pumpkin (my guess was 84 lbs... incorrect I assume, as the Pumpkin Patch Competition Committee has not called me.)

All kidding aside, the patch was a veritable extravaganza of beautifully idyllic scenes like the ones below...

Today we celebrated Aia's 4th birthday... That's all I will say about that for now, because I am going to post some pics on Tuesday which is her actual b-day.

I'll be up early for masters tomorrow and another week will be underway... I hope you all had great weekend!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boston Marathon Letter

Continuing from yesterday's post, the e-mail below (CLICK TO ENLARGE) just went to the Boston Athletic Association.  I figure I can't go 0-2, somebody, in Kona or Boston will reply...  I can feel it.

It would be really great if these larger than life events actually take a moment to consider this concern.

It is hard for sport organizations to know how to "handle" people with disabilities.  I see this all the time...  race organizers often don't want to seem insensitive (which is a good thing), but it can result in decisions that "cater" too much and reduce the challenges involved in sport.

It is also important to recognize that disabled athletes can make it tough for race organizers by demanding too much special treatment.  In this way we become a "squeeky wheel" segment of the race population...  and if there is one thing a race organizer doesn't enjoy (or doesn't have time for), it's the squeeky wheel... so sometimes they shut them up and avoid bad PR by giving them too much.

So, these e-mails may get filed under "Another Squeeky Wheel" (i.e. the 'delete' button) but I hope they will be taken for what they are - an attempt to bring our population back under the same umbrella everyone else races under.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ironman World Championships Letter

I hit the "send" button on this a minute ago.... (click to enlarge)

I felt it was only fair that I actually bring my concern to the organizers themselves before it ends up on the pages of magazines and newspapers (hopefully).

I don't enjoy writing letters to info@ e-mail addresses, which is essentially what this one went to.  I always picture an over-worked admin assistant emptying that mail box once a month....

We'll see what happens.  Next one is going to the Boston Athletic Association!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

Wow...  I have so much to write about.  

Long post warning...  I'm not going to edit much of this weekend because I think it shows exactly the things I am thankful for in my life.  No need to grab a kleenex...  it's not going to get emotional, but I am not leaving anything out either...  Here are many of the things I am most thankful for in life...  I hope you had a good Thanksgiving too!

Friday - Things to be thankful for:  Family, Food, Fun, roof over our head (even if it is inflatable and a bit ugly.)

I decided to take Mattias to a BC Lions game.  He is approaching the age where he is almost capable of paying attention to sports as a spectator.  Notice the use of the words "approaching" and "almost"....  We're not there yet.  He is however entirely capable of enthusiasm for the event, regardless of his ability to understand/focus on or otherwise take in the game.  So we enjoyed 55% of the game with my Dad, took down a hot dog (me), and an ice cream (Mattias) and generally enjoyed ourselves.  Mattias was exposed to all sorts of colourful language which I hope we won't hear for another half decade AT LEAST.

Mattias loves jerseys and I am a sucker...  he got the Lions jersey partway through the game...

There was lots of this....

and almost none of this......

Saturday - Things to thankful for:  My kids, their health, my passions, my wife (for letting me sit at the computer watching Ironman all day)

On Saturday AM we are usually on a soccer field (in the rain.)  With the holiday this weekend it was canceled so we had the opportunity to head down to the pool to watch Kevin's eldest son Ethan compete in his first swim meet.  I am trying to interest Mattias and Aia in swim club.

Despite the best efforts of the architects to make it impossible to spectate, we enjoyed the races and the kids seemed quite into it.  Seed = planted.

I spent much of the rest of the day around the house....  Nothing noteworthy EXCEPT the enjoyment I got from following's coverage of the Ironman World Championships.  The race was pretty exciting though I can't help but feel we missed out on a huge clash when Macca's cable broke...  This was me for much of the day...

Sunday - Things to be thankful for:  My health, my wife and new baby, food on the table, books for my kids.

I don't always tell you guys about my training as I feel there are only so many ways to write "I ran", "I rode", "I swam"....  Well, I haven't come up with any new ways to write it, but I did run on Sunday - 17km.  From Caulfeild (home) to a coffee shop downtown where Sacha and Viggo picked me up.  It was totally beautiful weather and I had a bunch of new music on the iPod....  great run.

After the run I needed to feed the machine and the answer was Calhoun's on Broadway....  I have loved their sandwiches for almost a decade now - may they never change.  After lunch we (Sacha mostly) did a little shopping at Kidsbooks for Aia's birthday.

Monday - Things to be thankful for:  Long weekends!, friends, family, healthy hobbies, Trees, and a whole lot more food on the table! 

This morning was nasty - rain falling, dark and dreary.  Nevertheless, Sacha was ready to rock the Turkey Trot and I was ready to lead the cheering squad.  The usual IF contingent was in attendance and everybody had a good run despite the rain.  Mattias, Aia, Viggo and I intercepted everyone at the 7km mark for photos...  Celebrations were conducted at Cafe Zen which has, unfortunately, gone into the toilet since I was in University a decade ago...

After Sacha's race we headed back to the North Shore and I went for a "hunger priming" Thanksgiving hike with my father and brother-in-law.  It was still raining but we had a great time heading up to Eagle Lake in West Vancouver.  It was wet but beautiful in the trees and our hunger was suitably primed for Thanksgiving dinner at Sacha's parents' house.

Anne Marie's Thanksgiving dinner was spectacular as always.

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