Monthly Archives: August, 2012

It’s so

 

Another week’s blog has been overtaken by events.

I grew I grew up in Nova Scotia during the Marshall Inquiry, so I’m well aware that even the most innocent of men can be beaten into submission by a system of wanna-be Lt. Gerards determined to get their man. That written, during his courtcase to have the USADA’s jurisdiction quashed, Armstrong’s team would  have likely gotten a sneak peak at the case against him during pre-trial motions. Knowing what they had would likely been made public through the arbitration process, this is the route Lance Armstrong has taken.

Bruce MacArthur’s column pretty much sums it up for me. Since pretty much every one of his peers has been exposed as a cheat, this makes him more of a hypocrite than anything else. The last dirty cyclist from a generation of dirty cyclists has been exposed.

I also grew up in the 80s and 90s when much of the anti-doping work so commonplace today was in its infancy. Ben Johnson would be the tip of the iceberg on how dirty sports was. It seemed like one athlete hero after another was eventually knocked off his pedestal as a cheat. I think that’s the reason I have so few of them today, prefering to seek my inspiration from my friends and family who have done extraordinary things.

Celebrity athletes will you leave you like the teary-eyed kid in “8 Men Out”. “Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.”

Lance gave up his last chance to say it ain’t so.

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Responsibility

I was going to leave the Olympics behind and write about something else this week.

This morning, though, I read this article and had another idea.  It’s actually a recurring theme of mine: personal responsibility. For those that don’t want bother to click the link, it’s an interview with Jared Connaugthon, the Canadian Olympian who inadvertantly left his lane for a few steps in the 4×100 relay and turned a bronze medal finish into a disqualification.  My own thoughts watching that race was something akin to “Here we ago again. Another rule that was barely enforced in qualification heats is suddenly Gospel in the finals.”

Say what you will about that night, but you have to admire that Jared’s first instinct wasn’t to moan or bellyache about the uneven application of the rules but to man up and take ownershio and responsibility for his mistake. Perhaps it’s telling of our modern society without shame or guilt that the simple act of saying, “I made a mistake”, has become a testament to character.

Lord knows uneven judging seemed like it was going on like mad in London. I tried to re-find an article I read on some of the more egregrious facepalms in officiating over the last couple of weeks, but gave up when “london 2012 officiating mistakes” garnered 10,800 hits.  Who would have thought that boxing would be the new figure skating? Any large, global event is going to seem to have a disproportionate amount of lousy refs and officials. Whether they are actually worse than usual or not  is almost irrelevant. With the magnifying glass of the worldwide media at every event, one mistake will inevietably be blown up. That said, they probably should be. A lousy official on the world stage, is probably a lousy official back home. A sport is only as good as the fair application of its rules.  The more lousy officials exposed and sent home in disgrace, the better.

I doubt London was worse than any previous Olympics. The Salt Lake City games brought us the scandal of fixed figure skating competitions, something that was well known in the sport for years. Any sport that is based on subjective judging is a prime candidate for corruption. That same games, in the women’s hockey final with the US, our  team faced such a disproportionate amount of penalty calls from an American ref that even the Americans in the arena began booing. In a scored sport, there’s a simple, yet not necessarily easy, solution to overcome one-sided officiating: score more than the other team.

As we saw our athletes not make it to the podium, or in some cases even the finish line, we often saw them take to post-event interviews, social media, etc., and apologize. It’s not that they actually did something wrong, but their own sense of disappointment is magnified a thousand fold by the feeling they had let down the hopes of their country. At  the root of their apology is taking responsibilty.

One of the reasons I find the trolls so nauseating is that I know as bad as the insults the armchair quarterbacks are tossing out, the atheletes are beating themselves up even more.   Making fun of pro athletes one thing. They’re paid by very rich companies to win games. Don’t like them, they probably didn’t hear you over the sound of their bling. Trolling our Olympians, though, has about as much class as making fun of the disabled. They’ll spend the next four years replaying those moments in their head and figuring out what do next time to get that medal around their neck. Trolls hit “post” on their 140 characters of mental masturbation and move on. With blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become a society of theFat Comic Shop Owners from the Simpsons.

Brain to mouth filter? In the age of social media, it’s the brain to keyboard filter.

When I decided to take responsibilty for my own situation and start this journey last year, there were several times I missed a personal goal. Whenever a weigh-in didn’t go as hoped, the light at the end of the tunnel moved back just ever so much. When my ref, the scale at the gym, gave me a lousy call, I didn’t call it out. I doubled down. I worked harder, ran faster, ate better. It took longer than planned, but I got there.

I’m still there and staying there. I like it there. As I’ve pretty much gone all in with running and moved into half-marathons, I still can’t slack off on the food now that I’m at a healthy weight. It’s not like I won’t burn off the occasional junk food with my training schedule, but I won’t have the adequate fuel to get through it. At this part of the  schedule, it’s pretty typical for me to burn about 1200+ calories on a Sunday long run. My breakfast will be a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, almonds and some berries. I’ll have some electrolytes in my water and take some energy gels starting around the 8k mark.  If that bowl of oatmeal is going to get me to the 8k mark, I’m going to need to eat properly the night before, too. That’s not to say I’m not going to have fun on a Saturday night, but I’m not going to be an idiot, either. One of the reasons I took on pace leading in my Running Room clinics is the additional responsibility to show up because others are depending on me to help them reach their goals.

My body isn’t a temple. It’s supercar. I need the high test gas, not regular.

Allons-y!

The agony of victory and the thrill of defeat

When did cycling become the Thunderdome? I suppose given London’s notoriously wet weather some Olympic events that in previous games had been held outdoors were designed to be indoors this time around.

I was watching the women’s omnium finals when Canada’s Tara Whitten narrowly missed winning the bronze medal. The CTV announcer stated as the medals were awarded, “And Canada’s Tara Whitten failed to make the podium.” (Emphasis mine)

Failed? The fourth best woman in a sport I hadn’t heard of until Tuesday was just told by some faceless voice, that she had failed.

Really?

Between the sportscasters casually dropping the “fail” word and the usual collection of armchair coaches and haters on Twitter and Facebook, I was getting annoyed. I even posted on Twitter:

Let’s banish the word #fail when talking about Olympians. They failed to medal? Dude, you failed to get off the sofa.

It’s easy to criticize when you’ll never face the consequences of your words. You won’t do better because you’ll never be on that stage. You’ll never miss the podium because you never played the game.

Reminds me of this diddy by none other than the one true captain:

Paula Finley finished a triathlon injured. She came in last, but she finished. While some cartilage in her hip may have failed, her will, her instinct to finish the race did not. In recent months, I’ve become something of an expert on the subject of tough gingers. Paula, you’re up there with the toughest.

A high school classmate of mine, Jane Thorton (then Rumball), knows this subject far better than I ever will. She was on the women’s eights rowing team in the Beijing Olympics. I kind of boycotted those games because I thought the whole process of awarding those games was ginned by the IOC to pre-determine the outcome. Well, that and I’m a bit of an artifact from a previous generation that sometimes has to be reminded that the Cold War is over and, thankfully, we won (an effect of having spent a disproportionate amount of my adult life on the last enlaves of Marxism in the western world, university campuses).  I followed the rowing events because of Jane. It was the only event where I had a proverbial dog in the hunt. Due to the time zone differences, the events were almost always on while I was at work. Thankfully, my office had a television. I even went so far as to put the rounds and what channel they were on into my Outlook calendar so I wouldn’t miss them.

All my co-workers and pretty much every New Brunswicker working on Parliament Hill crowded into my office to watch Jane go for the gold in the final. When she came up just short of a medal, fourth place, I was pretty sad for her. Having worked so hard for so long, I could only imagine how she felt. She recently posted this article from another Olympian that pretty much summed it up for her.

As that afternoon went on, I thought to myself, “Someone you’ve known since a teenager is on the fourth best rowing team … in the world! Whow. That’s pretty awesome.” I was pretty proud of Jane that day. I still am.

We haven’t crossed paths in forever, so if you read this, Jane, I just wanted to tell you that your success was part of the inspiration I drew on when I decided to change my life last year.  Whenever I felt a case of the quits coming on, usually when the alarm was going off on a dark winter’s morning, I would think of the inievatable early morning rows that you probably did to get Beijing. If you could get to an Olympic final, I could at least my arse to the gym.

One of the armchair experts responding to my tweet mentioned that our athletes are paid to train. True for the ones in high profile sports that can get corporate sponsorships or some money from Own the Podium. Of course, the ones who aren’t so lucky, like discus or any of the events that involve guns, are part-time athletes. We don’t have the glorified  Spartan agoge that China seems to train all its athletes in. We let our athletes seek out the best available trainers. For many of my east coast friends, getting the quality trainers that can get an athlete to the games meant leaving the Atlantic provinces for Montreal, Toronto or even the United States. It’s not just jobs we leave home to find. Since there are so many more events in the summer games than the winter games, the vast majority of our athletes are part-timers. Since we concentrate our funds on the events that have the likeliest chance of medals, if they’re going to be able to train for an event we don’t traditionally do well in, they’re going to need to earn a living.

The pay to train model may in fact be exasperating things. Look back to Paula Findley. As Simon Whitfield pointed out, she was injured for the past year to the point she had not actually competed in the last year. Yet, her previous coaches trained her while injured. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication is if she took time off to have the injury treated properly, they wouldn’t get paid to train her.

I write this as someone whose pastime is training for races I have no hope in hell of actually winning. I’m not a 110 lbs Kenyan in my early twenties. I’m a 160 lbs Acadian-British-Scottish Canadian in my mid-thirties.  I may have exceeded even my own expectations Ottawa Race Weekend and every other race I ran, but I didn’t win. By the Ricky Bobby-ian logic of the haters, I failed.

Strange, it never felt like failure. It didn’t feel like the silly “participant” ribbon they give out on sports day in elementary school (I always found that rather condescending). It actually felt pretty damn good. Unlike the winners, who I would see being escorted off the track in wheel chairs, I actually get to leave the race grounds under my own power (at least until the adrenaline wears off). I wouldn’t even call the thousands of runners who finished after me failures, either. They crossed the start line and the finished line. In doing so, they did something very few people ever attempt. The failures are the thousands more who could do it, but never try.

Forget winning. I’m failing.

I’ll probably never make the Olympics. I’m the age when Olympians retire. I doubt I’ll ever win a half marathon. That’s not going to keep from either the start line or the finish line. Want to call me a failure? You’ll have to get to that finish line before I do to earn that. Unlike the Olympians who want to save their sponsorships, I’ll tell you what I think about you, too. You may have noticed, I have a gift for words.

Allons-y!

The Olympics and competition

It’s been a busy week. On top of work and training, Kalin has been getting ready for a busy weekend. Her mom is visiting, along with her grandmother, a great-aunt, aunt, and a cousin.

That’s right. It’s time to meet the family. 

Pray for me.

The drought continues. We had a nice thundershower on Tuesday, but it was just that, a shower. The brief deluge subsided by the time we got through our 4K tempo run. Oddly, the humidity rolled in after the storm. It wasn’t so bad Wednesday for our 6 hill repeats. It was sunny and hot, but not terribly muggy. 

I could still feel the hills in my legs Thursday morning when I went to Greco. I may have to re-think my schedule as the hills ratchet up.

Or

I could not be an idiot and start the circuit at something other than a leg station. It was a reverse lunge off a bosu ball with a bicep curl. Probably not a smart exercise to start off with. 

That might work.

It’s that wonderful time that only comes once every four years, the Summer Olympics. Frankly, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the Olympics, be it the Summer or Winter. While not one for watching professional sports, I do enjoy watching amateur athletes compete. For many of them, the Olympics is the pinnacle of their sport.

Well, that’s pretty much the case for all the summer olympians except the basketball players. There’s not exactly a professional synchronized diving league. 

What I don’t like is the obscene amounts of money the IOC rakes in. Precious little goes to the athletes. I understand it’s up to the competing countries to fund their athletes, at the same time the members of the IOC live pretty high on the hog. It’s history of corruption is a matter of public record. I don’t expect athletes from rich countries, like Canada, to accept the handouts from the IOC. We have government funding. Corporations sponsor athletes. What about the poorer countries? Of the couple billion McDonald’s is shelling out to be the official food vendor of the games, how about kicking some into a grant program for athletes from developing countries. 

Or better yet, have the IOC members from those countries fly coach.

Like the rest of us.

By the way, what kind of mixed message is the Olympics sending by having McDonald’s as the official food vendor? While I’ve written somewhat favourably about MickeyD’s, or McRotten’s, healthy options before, having them as the only option at the Olympics is like having a single mother preach abstinence.

Oh, that’s Bristol Palin’s claim to fame? It’s not like Dancing with the Stars ever had actual stars. 

I love competition. Despite only be a recent convert to healthy living, in what sports I did play, I always gave it my all. This was mostly summers spent playing paintball. For some reason, paintball has yet to become an Olympic sport. There are plenty of shooting sports at the Olympic, but none where you get to shoot back. This is wrong.

I’ve missed out on my paintball the last couple of summers. Being carless in Ottawa doesn’t lend itself well to participating in a sport where the fields are out in the suburbs.

Sting. My A5 with a flatline barrel, fresh from the box. Before I added the response trigger, the double trigger, comp air kit …

Even if my gear was in Ottawa, I use a Tippmann A5 marker. It looks like a submachine gun. I may have made a few modifications to that effect. Point being, it’s not something I can take on the bus. I may be tempted to use it on some arsehole. I’d play at the Sunday walk-ons at Capital City Paintball. It would make Mondays at the office interesting. The running joke in the summer at the university where I worked was how many new bruises I had.

The great thing about walk-ons was that you would never know who would show up. Sometimes it would be a bunch of experienced players. Sometimes it would be a bunch of little kids. The little ones were the worst. They’d just hide behind a tree and spend twenty minutes trying not get shot or even take a shot. So much for Operation: Newbie Shield. 

One of my crazier moments was when the field’s manager, Bryan, and I were playing speedball on opposing teams and had separately decided to throw the other team for a loop by charging the centre. Back then, we were both big and slow. I’m happy to report that is no longer true for either of us. Back then, we relied on the range of our markers and the speed of our trigger fingers to pick players off the break and suppress the advance of the opposing team. No one would have expected either of us to charge the middle. I remember saying to my team, “I bet they’re so stunned they don’t even shoot.”

I guess Bryan had the same idea. As I charged forward, so did he. Spheres of paint zinged passed us. As we slid into opposite sides of the centre bunker, we raised our markers and fired upon each other … point blank.

Both our shots connected and broke. Bryan landed in a better position and had the drop on me. I, on the other hand, had somehow managed to grab the flag. Actually, we probably knocked it out of its hole and it happened to land on my side. The point is, it was on my side. Bryan would have to leave cover to come across to get it. So when Bryan said I got shot first and was therefore out, I replied, “Okay, see you in the deadbox.”

I ball hit the hopper of his marker before I finished the sentence.

In many sports, sometimes you sacrifice your individual position to give your team the advantage.

You can guess what I can think of the news of teams throwing matches outright so they can get an easier ride in their tournaments or avoid a trip to Scotland. This is the height of your career. You only have this chance once every four years. Bring your all or move aside for someone who will. If formerly fat me can charge through field of paint zipping past me at 300 fps, you can swing a raquet at a plastic shuttle.

In running, I only have one competitor. It’s my last finish. When I’m in queue to start with 7,000+ people, I know I’m not crossing that line first. Unless it’s a really small race, I’m probably not winning in my age category either. My only competition is myself.

He’s a bit of dick, too.

Allons-y!