Sunday 28 April 2013

Apr 28/13 - On My Feet Again!

   So it's been barely a week since I began to recover from the super-flu that I feared at some points was going to kill me. I can't remember ever being so ill before. By the time I was feeling better on Monday and began eating again I had already dwindled to 139 lbs. Through bone breadth testing I know I have a very small frame for a guy, but at 6' tall this is still too low in my weight range. Wait what's this? You haven't heard of bone breadth testing? Let me explain a little. Your bone breadth is a measurement typically taken at the wrist or elbow that with the use of a chart, gives you a better idea of your ideal weight. It  may sound strange, but someone can actually be "big boned" 
  • Compare your measurements to frame size guidelines. For men, a wrist size of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 inches indicates a small frame, while a measurement over 7 1/2 inches is typically of a larger bone structure
  • If you are female, your frame size will depend upon both your wrist measurement and your height. For women under 5 feet 2 inches, a measurement under 5 1/2 inches is a small frame, while a wrist over 5 3/4 inches shows that you have a larger bone structure. Women 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches are small framed if the measurement is less than 6 inches and have a larger frame if it is more than 6 1/4 inches. Females 5 feet 7 inches and taller are small boned if the wrist measures less than 6 1/4 inches and large framed if the wrist is more than 6 3/4 inches in circumference.

   To give you the idea I have a wrist measurement of 6 1/2" which is the chart says is small for a guy and should therefore weigh between 149-160 lbs. I usually weigh-in around 150 lbs at 5% body fat and rarely change from that. It's now Sunday and I've managed to "beef up" to 144 lbs and 3% total body fat. We're talking Bruce Lee territory now. At this point the fat in my body is basically my brain and what's left of the visceral fat which hold the internal organs in place. It's very difficult for me to gain weight and now that I have resumed some physical activities this week it's going to be even tougher. I'm on the classic see-food diet now. I see food, I eat it.

   Monday was spent in bed, holding down food and sleeping. Most of the symptoms had dissipated, but I was still feeling weak.

   Tuesday was a beautiful Spring day and also my birthday. I couldn't stay inside and I had a bit of energy. Chris was off work sick and came with me to Smokey Hollow Conservation Area. I had insisted on at least attempting a trail run and getting some fresh air. Chris vegged on a rock in the sun as I headed down into the valley with my Go Pro strapped to my head in hopes of getting some great trail running footage. The first 2km I felt amazing, my heart rate was pretty high, but I was flying. Around the 2km mark I almost instantly ran out of gas. I turned around and lightly jogged back, struggling to get back up the steep hill and out of the gorge area. You can see the little video I put together from the days run here: 

   By Wednesday I was slowly regaining energy. It called for rain so I headed out at 7am for a run. Approximately 2km from my house there is a Bruce side trail the heads down from a set of stairs I usually climb into Sam Lawrence Park. I put on my New Balance trail runners and figured I would check it out. After a short run through the city I descended into the trail system. Wow. I had passed this trail head several times in runs and couldn't believe what I had been missing. A beautiful and technical trail system right smack in the middle of Hamilton! I made 2km along the trails with no end in sight but I didn't want to push it knowing I still had the 2km of city to run back through to get home. I doubled the previous days performance for a total of 8kms of trail and road. Back home to eat and rest.

   You may be wondering by this point where my long work day seems to have gone. This week also marked an amazing turn of events for me. I have ranted here several times concerning my 12 hour work days, but hadn't really gone into much detail about my job. Well it was difficult to say the least. I worked with a very serious gentleman whom I had never even seen crack as much as a smirk in two years together. He's a heavy smoker and I was second hand smoking a pack a day. I also enjoyed dealing with MDF dust. It's a peculiarly horrible wood product made from glue and sawdust pressed together into a sheet of plywood. The dust from cutting it is incredibly fine and gets through every possible gap in your dust mask. I would blow brown boogers from my nose all night after working with it and we worked with it often. I enjoyed the work and the pride of building things, but many of our days spent trimming houses involved back breaking baseboard installations or risky work on scaffolding. The last few months together things had changed for the worse. My boss was constantly angry or in a bad mood and taking his stress out on me. On more than a few occasions he had temper tantrums so bad he would throw tools or smash holes in the walls. I couldn't stay in that environment any longer. I've never been the kind of person who can stay in a situation I'm not happy in. It may sound unrealistic but I believe strongly that life is about finding happiness. Some people think it's crazy to leave stability in search of something better. I think it's crazy to live unfulfilled just because you may be afraid of the unknown. I wanted something I could put my passion behind and strangely enough I found it. I was interviewed last week and got the good news over the weekend that I was hired as a front-line staff member at a large outdoors store. I would be assisting people in their search to fulfill their passions for living life outdoors and also helping with the natural running clinics. A perfect fit for me. For now it's a seasonal contract to be reviewed at the end of the summer. It's a risk, but one I'm prepared for mentally and financially.  Sometimes you have to take chances in life and although it's not the kind of pay or hours I would like, I see this as my chance to get a foot in the door and prove my value. 

   Thursday and I was finally back in the pool. I was feeling the strain of recovering from illness with the small amount of training I had been doing so I kept it light and cruised out 1500m worth of laps.

   Friday afternoon was spent watching Chris add some new ink to her completely amazing sleeve. I love seeing it unfold into a true work of art on her arm. Just when I thought she couldn't be any fuckin' sexier! I headed straight from there to Mount Nemo to push a longer trail run. I left the beaten path and took the Bruce Trail from the conservation area. It just occured to me that some of you may not know of the Bruce Trail so here is a quick blurb from wiki:
Typical trail along the Bruce. Mount Nemo

   "The trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment, one of the thirteen UNESCO WorldBiosphere Reserves in Canada, for almost 900 km (560 mi). The land the trail traverses is owned by the Government of Ontario, private landowners and the Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC).

   The trail begins in the Niagara Peninsula of Southern Ontario in Queenston, Ontario, on the Niagara River, not far from Niagara FallsThe cairn marking its southern terminus is in a parking lot, about 160 metres (520 ft) from General Brock's Monument on the easterly side of the monument's park grounds. Its northern terminus is in Tobermory, the jumping off point for Fathom Five National Marine Park."

Cliff-side view from the Bruce Trail
   The trails are amazing and we are lucky to have such a fantastic trail system traversing through our area. The terrain contains everything from gravel paths to some of the most technical hiking and running imaginable. It includes streams, waterfalls and spectacular cliff views overlooking cites and farmlands. Most of the trail running adventures I describe are on either the main trail or one of the hundreds of side trails that weave through it.

   Seems as though I took a bit of a side trail from my story, I'll get back on track now. The run at Nemo was just what I needed to restore my confidence. It was super technical with lots of ups, downs, roots and rocks. I started to fatigue around the 9km point and began to get sloppy. This kind of terrain can wear you down quickly. I got lazy and let one of my feet drag and it caught a root. The other foot was too slow to get in front and before I knew I was crashing face first into a jumble of roots and rocks. I managed to get my forearm out in front at the last second and ended up smashing it and the side of my body into the jagged mess. At least I saved my face. It was my first fall and I was totally stunned. I laid there for a few moments groaning. This was worse than a lot of my skateboard slams from over the years. I pulled myself together and managed to run the rest of the way out of the trails. I would feel that in the morning.

Jumps section at Joyride 150
   Now Saturday morning and I was feeling it. I had spent the night icing my arm and an inflamed Achilles tendon. Both were feeling well enough for activity and they had too. Chris had a birthday surprise for me and was taking me to  Joyride 150. An indoor bike park in Toronto complete with wooden BMX tracks, dirt jumps and an indoor cross-country mountain bike course. We had the time of our lives and rode for a solid 2 hours. It felt great to jump my bike again. A couple years ago I had gotten back into dirt jumping and it was always something I loved. The feeling of flying through the air on my bike is second only to the feeling of flying around on my skateboard. There's a freedom in it few people get to enjoy. I was grateful for the chance to have that experience again. Great day with my best friend. Now to rest up and do it all over again this week!

Monday 22 April 2013

Apr 21/13 - Bad Luck Strikes Again

   This post is a little different in that it's actually Friday April 19th as I sit down to write this opening paragraph. Usually I wait until Sunday evening when my training has completed to take the week in review. What makes this week so different? I'm supposed to be racing a 10km trail race in Niagara Falls tomorrow morning and here I sit in bed where I have been almost exclusively for the last 3 days. I awoke Wednesday early morning to discovery something inside my guts was very wrong. Very, very wrong. The diarrhea that began shortly there after still hasn't ceased and was quickly followed by relentless vomiting  Chris came home early from work Wednesday afternoon to take me to the emergency room.
Enough said
By the time I got there I was so weak I could barely stand on my own. I had been vomiting at least every 15 minutes for about 12 hours at this point with absolutely no relief in sight. Wtf could it be? The most frustrating part is this was the 3rd time in 6 months. The first one I blogged about occurred on New Years Eve and had both Chris and I laid up for days on end. The second was in February I believe and I had to be taken from a job site by ambulance after collapsing in a port-a-pottie with uncontrollable vomiting. Both of these instances were written off by the attending physicians as food-borne related. Then a couple weeks ago I awoke with the worst migraine I have had since I was a child. That lasted nearly 12 vomit and pain-filled hours.  I think you're starting to see where my frustration is coming from. Yes maybe they are all just non-related events, but I can't help thinking what the hell is going on here
? I quit drinking several years ago, stopped smoking pot about a year ago, became a vegetarian 5 months ago and exercise daily. This should be the healthiest point of my whole life and yet I have never had so many bouts of illness bring me down in such a short span of time.  As I write this I am beginning to hold down food, but am already down about 7lbs in 3 days weighing in at a measly 143lbs. Unless something completely amazing happens in the next 12 hours tomorrow it looks as if my race is already over.

This goes for 1.5km!
   So not too much to report this week. Monday I had the day off as my boss had a doctors appointment. It was a beautiful spring day so I headed back to Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area where I had just run the previous Saturday. I slipped on my Five Finger Spyridon trail runners and headed out on the trail towards Crawford Lake. I felt amazing. Everything was working as it should and the run was effortless. I had brought my Go Pro camera to get some footage, but had left the memory card in my laptop. I also realized as I geared up to run that I had forgotten my Garmin watch. For the first time I was running completely by feel. I decided to run to Crawford lake which was 7.5km. At least like this I would have an Idea of my distance. I still felt amazing when I arrived so I ran the 1.5km raised wooden boardwalk that circumferences the Lake. All in all it was a perfect run. Awesome weather, legs were still strong and no blisters or issues breaking in my new shoes. 16.5km total and I was feeling very positive about the race this weekend.

   Tuesday was a really tough workday physically for me. I drilled out and drove in 100 cement Tapcon screws into the walls of my bosses cold room. We were installing drywall in there and much of the day was spent working over our heads. By the time I came home that night I was physically devastated. In in hind site it may have been that whatever would be taking hold of me in less than 12 hours might already have been starting. Needless to say though that mixing a 10 hour day of physical labor with trying to train in the evenings has been my greatest challenge in taking on triathlon. I fear that it maybe the consistent wearing down of my body through work and training which may be leaving me susceptible to illness. It's just another reason backing my decision to look for employment in a different field.

Time passes...

   Well now it's Monday morning, the day before my 39th birthday and I've finally gotten the chance to finish this story. I had thought about posting the first half and leaving this portion as a cliffhanger, but I didn't want to leave anyone on the edge of their seat, biting their nails for days on end.  So how did it all turn out? Not so good for me I'm afraid. It was a tough
weekend to say the least. By Saturday morning food was staying down, but still not well and was making quite a "splash" on exit. This was supposed to be an amazing weekend away for Chris and I. I was racing on Saturday in the "Head for the Hills" trail race in Niagara Falls and then it was straight to Calabogie (just outside Ottawa), where she was racing her bike at Calabogie Motorsports raceway. I was totally demolished by this point from the flu and her from the stress of taking care of me and watching me fade away. 

Not a great idea, but I was desperate
   It was bitterly cold Saturday morning as we arrived in Niagara Falls. No I wasn't even thinking about racing, I could barely stand! I just wanted my race sweatshirt and bib. We had to travel out to St. Catharines anyway since my father and I share the same birthday I wanted to drop off a gift and see him briefly. We began the long drive to Calabogie around 10:30am and I was already eating gravol like it came from a candy necklace. I had eated barely anything in days and had to stop for fear that I would have "issues" on the road. I was in and out of consciousness for most of the trip. I tried eating little bits here and there and even broke my 5 months of vegetarianism to eat almost half of a plain Wendy's Jr. burger. I was so ill I went for anything my tastes buds would crave and it strangely came back to fast food.

My weekend supplies
We arrived at the rent house we were sharing with 4 other cyclists just outside of the racetrack in Calabogie around 7pm Saturday evening. I felt like a leper and I could tell by the looks on their faces most of them wished I hadn't come. Part of me wished I hadn't either, but my commitment to supporting Chris was too strong to allow me to stay home. I spent most of the night creeping downstairs to decimate the lower bathroom in hopes that no one would hear the terrible sounds emitting from my body. I went everywhere with a container of Lysol flu disinfectant wipes to decontaminate anything my disgusting body touched.

   Sunday morning came and I somehow was feeling a little better, almost human. I had a hot shower and held down some peanut butter on toast. We packed up and headed to the race. I was an awesome venue. An actual car racetrack, taken over by hundreds of cyclists from all over Ontario. Chris hadn't eaten or trained all week because of how sick I had been and all the stress it caused her. Now she was feeling like shit and under prepared. I was feeling like shit and guilty. It was also as cold as an ice cream headache and the thermometer was reading -5C even though the sun was shining. Everyone warmed up and got into the line up just before 9am. Then it was 11 laps and 56km to go.
Chris is on the right in the white kit & helmet
I'm always so proud when I see Chris in her cycling kit, lined up to race and she is always the most beautiful girl in the field. It was great for spectators because we could walk freely around the 5km track taking pictures and watching the race from different vantage points. At one point I saw the ambulance head out onto the track, but Chris appeared around a corner before I could worry. Good thing too. It had been a bad crash and one girl had to be airlifted to the hospital. Cycling is a lot more dangerous than people would suspect or at least more than I personally had thought. Chris did great for her second race of the season coming in 5th despite the previous weeks events. You can read about her point of view HERE. I was feeling better so we stopped for gas and breakfast to celebrate on the way home. Breakfast was a mistake. Chris had eggs and I had a western. My mom always made westerns with a little ham and some peppers, this one was just eggs and chopped bacon. This was the second time I had broken my vegetarian streak in two days and little did I know that in just a short time I was going to pay for it. Not 30 mins down road the terrible abdominal cramps started. We were a long way from anything except winding, rocky Ontario roads and by now the pain was so intense I was convinced that something had ruptured inside me and I was going to die out here. We had no signals on our phones and couldn't find a hospital, but we both knew there wouldn't be one for sometime now. We were both beginning to panic. We stopped at a small restaurant and I stumble in to ask for a bathroom. I was alone in there, but could here voices outside and assumed they could probably hear the horrors of what I was doing to their bathroom. I never thought it possible to have liquid coming from ones body in such a violent way for such a long time. When it was over however I felt a million times better and had rendered their bathroom virtually unusable. I purchased a bottle of water on the way out and tipped the lady a few dollars. "Oh thank you" she exclaimed!  "Your welcome" I replied and then muttered "it won't even cover the cleaning bill" under my breath.

   Well I made it home and slept well last night with the help of some Imodium and Gas-X. Feeling better today and holding down food consistently. I'm certainly on the road to recovery now, but the sad part is I lost a lot of weight and strength over the last week. I'm weighing in at a pathetic 139lbs now and have lost a lot of my muscle mass and stamina I worked so hard for over the last few months. I have no races in May except for Tough Mudder and I have the next two weeks off work to regain my strength. Oh and the reason for the two week vacation will be explained tomorrow as their has been some great news that occurred during this difficult week. I have a birthday gift that I want to share with everyone I know tomorrow that will hopefully inspire my friends to think about different possibilities in life.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Apr 14/13 - Seriously where is spring??

   I think by now the patience of every person including myself waiting for nice weather has worn transparently thin. It's mid-April and the weather is still hovering in the single digits nearly every day. The days that have been relatively nice are nothing to write home about either. With my triathlon season a mere 9 weeks away and only a few outdoor bike rides under my belt I can't help but wonder how prepared I'll be. I still have a few weeks left for improvement so I'll continue to try my best and see what I can make happen. I have however made a conscious decision a few weeks ago to really try to just simply enjoy this season. What I have learned is that endurance sports and even sprinting sports like a short distance race demand the physical abilities that only come with a long building process. It's not like skateboarding was for me. If I wanted a trick bad enough I could usually go out and learn it within a day or two at the most. It was more about determination and repetition. To get faster and go further you just have to keep chipping away at it day by day, week by week, month by month and so on. This season is to see where I am in relation to the more elite level athletes in my age group and to gain experience in racing. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

   Due to my heavy training the previous weekend and dismal weather conditions on Monday I called it a rest day. Nothing to see here folks, now let's move along.
The Hortonator

   Tuesday night Christine decided to join me for some weight training. I've done some personal training through the years and love helping someone reach a higher level of athleticism. I thought we'd try something a little different and we joined Tony Horton in his P90X Ab Ripper video. I'm a multiple P90X survivor and it truly is a great workout system. The key to it is there is no bologna. It's honest to goodness weight and core training. It is also one of the toughest workouts you can do. I highly recommend it if you want to get into incredible shape and feel like you're going to die on a daily basis. All hail T Horton! I took Chris through a couple rounds of a weight training circuit following the total destruction of our abs. It was so fantastic to have a workout partner again!

Remember how the rain cloud followed them?
 Wednesday the rain was looming over Hamilton like The Gruesomes from the Flintstones. I didn't give a shit though because all day at work I had running on my mind. As I pulled into home it seemed we had a brief reprieve from April showers and I took my window of opportunity. I had something different in mind to keep things fresh for myself. I took a run through downtown Hamilton. Up and down stairs, through the art gallery and city hall, then a spin around the top of Jackson Square. From there it was down to Bayfront park before heading up brutal Longwood hill to make my way home. It was 12km in total, but I only timed 10km and jogged the last 2km home. Even with all the stairs, twists, turns and hills I had run a sub 50:00 minute 10km. It was a personal record of 47:56 and with a goal to break 45:00 this summer at Moon in June I was on pace for that to happen

   Thursday and I coaxed Chris into joining my for a swim. She has the most beautiful and powerful legs ever, throwing down lap after lap of flutter-board madness. We even sneaked in the Go Pro for some underwater footage for me to critique my technique later. I did a lot of work on my kick as well that night because I'm still slower than a three-toed sloth in a speedo. 

   By Friday Chris and I were so exhausted we passed out at 9pm. Yeah we know how to party, don't mess with us.

   Saturday morning was cold and wet. What's that you say? Perfect day for a long trail run? But of course. I had a late start, but headed out to Milton to run at Hilton Falls Conservation Area where I had one of my first trail runs with Chris last year. After being stopped by the same train twice due to a poorly designed, winding road I arrived to find it closed. Power outage due to the weather apparently. Next I drove to Kelso, another bust and the gates were closed. Last chance was Rattlesnake Point nearby and as luck would have it open for business! I ran a 7.5km out and back in my New Balance trail runners, then returned to my truck to try my Vibram Five Finger Spyridon. It's the Vibram trail shoe and comes with an insert in the mid sole to protect your arch from rocks and roots. All I can say is totally amazing and I even took the Go Pro out for company. Feels like running barefoot through the woods. Only issue was it was 5C, wet, muddy and began to rain ice pellets. Still a great way to spend a Saturday morning. 15km in 90 minutes.

   Sunday I was on my own. Chris and Steph were volunteering at the Paris to Ancaster Race so I had lost my riding partner for the day. I had just modified my road bike by chopping 3 inches of width off them and couldn't wait to try it out. I hit the road and headed up to Ancaster to hang out at the race for a bit. I had originally planned on entering, but it was too many races for one month. Riders came in covered head to toe in mud and totally exhausted. I have to admit I was a little bummed that I missed out on the fun. Chilled with Chris while she sold souvenir t-shirts in front of a country band with a lead singer in skin tight sparkle pants. Wtf? Yep my cue to leave. Round trip was 26km in 1:02:05. The evening had the two of us at Bayfront park for a short barefoot run, Chris' first! She did awesome and only one blister. We also got a free show from a couple so drunk they could barely stand. Actually the girl couldn't and repeatedly ended up on the ground. It's the little reminders that make us feel so glad we no longer drink. Yes we may seem boring or a pair of sticks in the mud, but we never lose a morning or day to a hangover. My party years are behind me now and it seems like my life has only gotten better!

Sunday 7 April 2013

Apr 7/13 - Back on Track, Naked Feet and Jordan 5km Results!

   Making a serious effort to compete in a totally different sport than skateboarding has been very rewarding so far, but a true eye opener as well. I assumed it would be an easy, injury-free jaunt into running and triathlon. I truly couldn't have been more wrong. Not even if I was the last person in the world still convinced that the world was flat. Just plain old wrong. I've been repeatedly guilty of the classic "too much, too soon". I've suffered repeated calf strains and recently a still persisting knee injury from running. Shoulder issues from poor swimming technique that has since been corrected and now that the nice weather is here we'll see what cycling has in store for me.  All that aside I had a pretty good training week. I feel like I'm getting back on track and beginning to recover fully from ATB. It was back to short distance speed racing this week with the Jordan 5km and it's finally warm enough to be running in my Vibram Five Finger shoes.

   Strangely running and more specifically minimalist running has helped to change my life profoundly over that last few months. I have always had an inner minimalist in me. A little voice telling me that all this "stuff" I have accumulated is what's causing all my stress. Switching to minimalist shoes began the thought process of maybe less of everything is better or at least being more conservative with possessions. I recently wrote a blog post on living a minimalist life called "Less is More?". The response was amazing. I have an idea, a concept for something very big that has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now. It has moved to the front and is ready to begin taking shape in reality. I will post something soon as this idea begins to unfold, but for now all I will say is I hope it will inspire others to think about the way we have all been conditioned here in North America to see life.

On to the week in training, race recap and a surprise on Sunday.

   Monday came and I was ready to try running again. My knee was finally starting to feel as though it may pull through for me. I started work a little late so I went for a 3km tempo run. I wanted to push it a little to see what my knee was capable of, but not too far. it was also the first run of the season in my new Vibram Five Finger "See Ya".  I ran just under a 4:30km/min pace and finished in 13:21. Not too bad for a guy with a blown knee. Oh and the Vibrams were amazing to run in. Immediately you can feel any flaws in your form. Well, off to work.

   Tuesday morning it was back in the gym. I was still feeling a little worn out from ATB last week so I took it easy. Just some core and a couple rounds with the weights. Nothing too serious, but enough to maintain muscle mass.

   Wednesday evening after work and it was time to push my knee a little further. I wanted to try
How much is too much?
the Five Finger trail runners I also bought. Uhm wait did I mention I bought 6 pairs of Vibram's this week? One of the local running stores "New World" was selling off their inventory for half price. What can I say? I'm a bargain shopper with a shoe obsession. Remember I'm also a skateboarder and nothing is more important to us than a board and shoes. So logically what could be more important to a runner than the right shoe for the right job! It's really our only equipment. Back to my run. The trail runners felt great, but I didn't. Sore and stiff right from the first step. I ran to the local gravel trail which is all up hill, both ways. I wanted approximately an 8km fartlek style run with lots of hills to really stress my cardiovascular system before the race on Saturday. I got just what I wanted, but more than I bargained for. I made it to the 4km mark with my heart rate in the upper 160's. Very high for me. Then my body started falling apart like a 1980's Ford Tempo. First my dreaded right calf strain began to whisper its arrival, then the mystery "side of my left knee" pain. Within only a few hundred meters I was walking. Here we go again. Run, walk, limp, repeat all the way home. I'm sure it was all over my face as I staggered through the door to Christine. I actually said to her for the first time, "maybe I should just quit running for a while". Thankfully she simply said " No, you'll be fine, just going to have to slow down for a bit". 

   Thursday I finally made it back in the pool with my friend Steph. She is being coached by a friend and is doing amazing. I gotta get my game together. Worked on a lot of flutter board kicks to try and rehab my knees and legs. Squeaked out 1900m in 51 minutes. Not the best, but I'll take what I can get for 3 weeks off.

  Friday was my usual night off to chill with Chris. We spent the night watching documentaries on how the monetary system and natural resources are coming apart at the seams. Not the happiest of topics, but there's a lot of ugly truth out there right now and I'd rather be informed than ignorant. This also has a lot to do with the project that I eluded to in an earlier paragraph. Soon enough it will be concrete enough for me to share with everyone.

I can't let a kid beat me lol!
 Finally it was Saturday and race day. I was a little apprehensive of my knee, but beyond ready to race again. Chris and I got to Jordan an hour before the start to pick up my bib. The atmosphere was great and a lot less serious then the 30km two weeks ago. There was even a 1km race for the little kids! It was awesome to see these mini runners bolt off down the road. It's inspiring to know not every little kid is catatonically plunked in front of a TV playing video games. I warmed up with a jog followed by a few sprint. Ok let's f'ing do this. I lined up, the horn blew and everyone took off like their pants were on fire. I checked my watch in the first 250m just to make sure I wasn't going too bat shit crazy. A 3:50km/min pace. A little too fast to hold, so I backed off just a bit, pulled my sleeve over my watch and went by feel. I knew they were giving out medals for sub-twenty minute finishers, but today was just about making the distance with my knee still attached to both parts of my leg. I wasn't going to let myself get caught up in that, besides I have never run a sub-twenty, ever. It turned out to be one of the best runs in months. I felt amazing and no pain anywhere. I kid passed me at kilometre 4 and by the way he was checking his watch he meant business so I stayed just behind him. with 250m left I overtook him and another runner with a sprint to the finish. 6th in my age group, 54th overall in 20:49! The best part is this was a real and true personal record for me. I have spoken before of the two 5km races I dabbled in years ago. When I was 28 I raced Run For The Grapes in my hometown of St. Catharines with my best time to date of 20:50. Yep it's only one second better, but I'm 10 years older and I take it with pride.

   Saturday after the race Chris took me for a 35km pace ride on our rode bikes which by the end had stripped me of everything I was made of. I need a lot of work on the bike. 1:30:00 exactly to travel that distance. There are a lot more hills out there in the real world than in my living room on the trainer. Now that the "nicer" weather is here - they call it spring, but I haven't seen anything spring like yet - I'll be diligently putting my time in on the bike.
Chris and I on a mid-ride break

   Sunday morning we watch the legendary Paris  Roubaix road race live via the world wide web. It's a grueling 160km ride through the cobblestone laden, relic villages of the French countryside. a truly unique and amazing cycling race. Inspired by the drama of the race and the sunshine peeking through the blinds we suited up and headed out for a long, but chill ride. 50km and a lot of weather changes later we were back home to relax...


Only one thing. I had something on my mind for a while
Just finished my first barefoot run!
now and with a 17C day I had to give it a try. Actual barefoot running. I planned to just go up the street, but as soon as my feet hit the cool pavement the amazing sensations had me begging for more. I stated before that the five finger shoes are so thin they will force you to improve your running technique immediately. That being said, run barefoot and it's another world. You feel every single small movement, every muscle and tendon operating and the function of the foot as it was meant to be. I ended up running 2.5km. My feet certainly need to toughen up as I had the beginnings of a few blisters, but already I sensed the potential for improvement in technique. I wish I could share the benefits of minimalist and barefoot running with everyone who runs. It would change their whole perspective. I'm glad it's possible to find another way to love something I already love so much. Just ask Christine. I find a new way to love her every single day.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Less IS More?

   For a few years now, maybe more, I've had this feeling building inside me. That something in my life was wrong, very wrong. I was not living the life I needed to. 
   The thought that I had too much began crossing my mind about 6 or 7 years ago. By most peoples standards I didn't really have anything. I hadn't owned furniture other than a bed and a desk at the time, but I did have a lot of alternative possessions. I built up a home recording studio component by component over 2 decades, eventually amassing nearly $15 000 in instruments and electronics. I built up a home gym large enough to rival that of a full scale fitness center. I had hundreds and hundreds of reference books, all of which I read  or used at some point. During my time as a sponsored skateboarder I collected numerous storage bins of clothing and shoes. As for sports equipment .. where do I begin? I love trying different sports and activities and in the end could have opened my own sporting goods store. A short list looks something like this; 2 mountain bikes (well one is a single speed, we all need one of those right?), downhill body armor, 1 road bike, 2 snowboards, plus gear, aggressive inlines, skateboards of every kind & spare parts to build 10 more, 2 sets of sparring equipment, 2 heavy bags, football, basketball, et ceteraet cetera. I even rented a storage unit for 6 months in 2010 to store the stuff I had no room for! 
   What did all this mean to me? Well I thought it meant everything. That's why it produced such daily anxiety in me. I mean at the time I didn't know where my anxiety came from, but in the back of my mind I was always worried about my stuff. Would someone steal it? A fire destroy it? The other thing I didn't give much thought to was the cost of repairs or replacement.  My beloved stuff was an anchor around my neck and I couldn't even see it. The great George Carlin once did a bit on "stuff" -  "A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." I fell victim to a consumer society just like so many of us. The only difference was that instead of blindly buying whatever I was told by commercials, I searched out the things I created a need for in my mind. The dream I had of a home studio where all my friends would come to jam. The dream of my professional gym where I would one day train clients. With a lot of these dreams came the need for every possible gadget, add-on and component that I needed. It got a lot worse for me in 2009 when I took a position as food service manager for a large corporation. Within 2 years I had moved up in the company and was earning enough to support 2 families and I had none. Just myself to indulge upon and I did. I bought custom guitars and a Pro Tools recording system. Hey what's $5000 to blow in a month, meh. I pissed money away on clothes, jewelry, watches, whatever I thought I had always wanted. I just didn't know that in the end I would wake up from this dream, which was quickly turning into a nightmare, only to realize I was more unhappy and stressed out than before I had money.

  I moved to Hamilton In December to start a new life. Moving from a townhouse to a tiny one bedroom apartment would take some adjusting. I didn't know it yet, but this was really going to be a new life. A whole new kind of life. I couldn't take the thought of dragging these precious possessions any further through life with me and I reluctantly began to unload. I was only reluctant at first. In fact as I began selling what I could on Kijiji or giving away what I couldn't I felt more and more free. My anxiety began to lift and I found I worried less about everything. I sold Pro Tools, my drum kit and the custom guitars. I sold all my dvds, gave away clothes, shoes, and a huge portion of my books. I threw out trinkets, knick knacks, shelving, kitchen wares and appliances. I'm still working on it to this day. I discovered it's not as difficult as I thought to live without all these things, but it is a process. This isn't something you can do all at once. Bit by bit I see what I can live without and when I'm comfortable at each stage I get rid of a little more. The memory of when I toured as a pro skater keeps coming back to mind. For months I would live out of a large duffle bag while I traveled province to province and state to state. I always felt so free during those periods. Only what I had with me to make due and soon I would realize it was all I needed. So why when I came home did I suddenly need all this stuff again? I'm still working on that answer. Maybe I had a home that needed to be filled with more stuff?

   I began studying Buddhism in 2011. Actually I began studying philosophy of all backgrounds in 2011. Philosophy is what saved my life. I was able to go off the anti-anxiety meds my doctor had prescribed and truly began seeing the world in a different light. Seeing the world from many different opinions and view points allowed me to create my own beliefs. A lot of what I have learned up to this point I summed up in my post "The Good Life?" It lead me to seek out a happier, less stressful life and to quit my career as a corporate goon. I developed an affinity for the philosophy of Buddhism. This for me was very distinct from the religion of Theravada Buddhism that is practiced so widely today. Three of the four basic Buddhism concepts, called the noble truths are as follows; life is suffering, all suffering is caused by desires, suffering can be overcome and happiness attained by letting go of desires. The fourth talks about the path to take to accomplish this. If you want to learn more you'll have to research it on your own, my point was to show how I learned that my anxiety was stemming from my desires. Most of which I realized were completely unfounded. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus said "pleasure is the greatest good, but the way to attain such pleasure is to live modestly and to gain knowledge of the workings of the world and the limits of one's desires." Epicurus didn't say having wealth was inherently bad, just that it certainly wasn't needed for true happiness.  If anything has driven this point home to me it has been witnessing the lives of the rich as my new career has lead me directly into their homes. Working as a finish carpenter on enormous custom house has me privy to how the wealthy spend their money. How many cars, home theaters, walk-in closets and marble bathrooms do we need to be happy?

   All of this process brought me to where I am today. Working towards and doing my best to become and live as a minimalist. To me a minimalist keeps only what they need to survive and be happy. Does this mean that I'll soon be penniless and living in a cardboard box? No, not at all. It's a stripped down life. Where giant houses and material things aren't necessary for happiness.  I still have my 3 bikes, gym and sports equipment. I did keep one electric and one acoustic guitar, but these are things I use daily and help create happiness for me. I have whittled my possessions to the things I use daily. I have adopted a vegetarian diet which to me is the basics for nutrition and health. It's also a lot easier on the budget, another of the concepts in my life that is being simplified. I don't want to be broke in a ditch, but I also don't want to spend frivolously. Living minimally will make you think twice before you spend and bring more stuff home. I ask myself the question all the time now, "do I need this to be happy?" or "is this something I'm going to use to make my life better?" If not, it probably has no place in my life. 

   For now I have everything I need. A cozy place to live and keep the things I use to lead a happy life. I'm a partner in a wonderful loving relationship, I enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle and I have means to get around when I want to go some place. There's a wonderful documentary on minimalist living called "We the Tiny House People". It's about living is smaller spaces and the types of people that do. It tries to answer the question of how much do we need in life to be happy. Entrepreneur and founder Graham Hill states "Editing is the skill of the century. Cutting back on space, cutting back on possessions, cutting back on media, cutting back on friends. You have to refine because it gives you a lot of mental clarity, a lot more space, a lot of flexibility and it's also really good financially." I think he's onto something.