An important moment in 2012

The end of the year offers a unique perspective and allows the chance to see what the results of the efforts of 12 months have brought.  There are some years where big changes have come and others where much more subtle alterations occurred. 2012 was a year filled with big highs and not many lows. It’s not unusual to have ups and downs but it is always more about how you handle them than how big the challenge they present.

 

I was very lucky in 2012. My family was healthy, active and energized by their personal direction and experiences. While my hope and ambition would lead me to wish for more time spent together I can recognize that we are each on our own path and the points where those paths intersect changes and I can celebrate those times we connect but shouldn’t bemoan the times we are apart.

I was surrounded by many remarkable people this year. I enjoyed the warmth of their friendship and hopefully was able to reflect some of that love back. I think I was able to be a friend that could be counted on and when someone close to me struggled with illness I was fortunate enough to be able to be there and continue to be someone who could be depended on.

When I think of what I accomplished this year I could choose an artistic high point of producing many new paintings, or qualifying for the Crossfit Games and competing against men my age from around the world. I could think of the support and encouragement I was able to provide to dear friends and to fellow athletes starting their own journey. Those things and more I can feel good about but there was another moment that in all the year stands out.

On a summer day I was walking in an unfamiliar area in New Westminister and as I looked for an address I saw a figure lying on the sidewalk beside a parked car. I picked up my pace then ran up to what I now realized was an older woman who had fallen and was struggling to try and stand up. I was able to help her to her feet and provide someone to lean on for a moment as we determined that she was able to walk. I luckily had Kleenex handy to deal with her bleeding nose and scraps. In a couple of minutes she was ready and I took her arm, carried her shopping in the other hand and together we slowly walked the short distance to her apartment. Once inside she was more confident and able to carry on to the elevator. I don’t know her name nor will I ever see her again but I am so happy that I was able to be there at the right time to help her. I am grateful to her for the opportunity our chance encounter provided for me to be a better person. Random, unplanned, spontaneous, those situations that allow your instincts to take over and for you to react based on who you really are don’t come along that often but for that moment I was able to see myself as a good person and who could ask for much more.

I hope that the New Year brings peace and joy to everyone who will open their heart to those possibilities. I hope I am given the chance to care for others, to share the love I have inside of me, to be there for friends and for strangers, to have the chance to grow as a person.

Best wishes to all.

And So This is Christmas

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?

            Amid the commercial frenzy of gift buying it is worth the time to stop and think about what you are thankful for. It is a wonderful time to recognize the value of the people in your life. It is a great time to help others less fortunate.

            I am by no means a Scrooge. When it comes to Christmas gifts I have to be reigned in because I am too eager to keep on buying presents for my family. Presents are a nice physical expression of your connection with others but I would trade any gift for more time spent together. Time is something you never get back. There are no refunds, rain checks or sales. It is only for the moment and then it is gone. I treasure the moments I have with my family. The very rare times when both my daughters can come together and complete our small family are wonderful gifts that I cherish.

            There is a lot of good will that happens this time of year. People are more effusive, more cheery, more sentimental. I think all of that is a good thing. We walk around too much of the time with our feelings bottled up inside, almost afraid that if we share them somehow we will be judged and found to be lacking. I feel the opposite. I think we need to open up more and to tell the people that matter to you how you feel about them. To be willing to put your emotions on the outside instead of concealed within. To walk up and give someone a hug and mean it.

            I love this part of Christmas because more people will accept that hug and not be threatened by you entering their personal space. I’d love to start a tidal wave of hugs, where that one hug then encourages someone else to go outside their comfort zone and give someone else a hug and see if it could continue.

            It’s a great time of year to help others. Reaching into my pocket as I approach someone collecting for the Salvation Army outside a store seems like the most natural thing to do. There are so many worthwhile charities and they all need help so while you are busy spending money on gifts for people who may not really need anything why not pick a cause and send some money that will go to someone who actually needs some help. And its not just people, there are many animal causes you can support. Groups like PETA that tirelessly fight for animal rights and protection. We can all do something and all you need to decide is who it is that you will help.

            As Christmas draws near I hope that more people can capture that desire to share something of themselves with others. If we all started with our family and friends and took a moment to express how we felt about them I think it would go a long way towards making us all better people. I believe we all have an enormous capacity to care for others but what can happen is our own self-consciousness sometimes gets in the way. Christmas provides a chance for that door to open up and I encourage everyone to step through and embrace what’s on the other side.

            I hope there is an opportunity for everyone to come together over this Holiday Season.

Much Peace and Love

Movember

Movember

 

It is the month formerly known as November and men all over the world are doing what they can to raise awareness of the risks of prostate cancer. This is the cancer that is most likely to affect a man.

Think of 7 men you know, any 7, now imagine one of them has prostate cancer. Those are the current odds and they’re not good.

That’s the bad news. The good news is this type of cancer is slow growing and the potential for early detection is high if you have regular checkups. An annual physical with your doctor could save your life. It’s that simple.

Prostate cancer has already touched my life. My oldest brother had it but early detection and surgery put him in the clear. My other brother has had prostate issues that required surgery as well. Pretty obvious it is in my family and I’m at high risk, so every year I go in for my physical. This is not a hardship, this is a necessity. This routine must become a part of more men’s lives.

Two other friends have had surgery in the past year. This is not an illness that is going to disappear and it is important that everyone encourage the men in their lives to take responsibility for their check ups.

I have grown a moustache each November for the past four years and done fundraising for Prostate Cancer research. This year I’m not growing the moustache but I will be supporting others in their fundraising drive. Please do the same.

The fundraising is important but the discussions are far more so. Use this month as a means to broach the subject with every man you know. If it got them in for a checkup then you can be proud of your contribution.

Be a Mo Bro or a Mo Sista and spread the word. Education and encouragement is the answer.

Info from the Prostate Cancer website:

 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). In 2012:

  • An estimated 26,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,000 will die of it.
  • On average, 73 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.
  • On average, 11 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer every day.

Probability of developing or dying from prostate cancer

One in 7 men will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime and one in 28 will die of it

Read more: http://www.cancer.ca/Canada-wide/About%20cancer/Cancer%20statistics/Stats%20at%20a%20glance/Prostate%20cancer.aspx?sc_lang=en#ixzz2BJw7HGXs

Thanksgiving thoughts

Wikipedia describes Thanksgiving as an annual Canadian holiday, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year.

 

I don’t know much about harvests but I do know the importance of being grateful.

Thanksgiving has become synonymous with turkey dinner and while the idea of the big dinner with the gathering of family and friends is wonderful, it seems like there is something missing. There is much more potential in this day than just sharing a meal.

I know that I have a lot to be grateful for in my life but what I am ashamed to say is how little acknowledgement I generally offer to those people I am grateful for.

I am grateful for my family and their health and good fortune but I need to tell them more often how much they mean to me. They are the foundation of everything I am. I am so lucky to have my wife and two daughters in my life.

I am grateful for my health and the things it allows me to do. I don’t take it for granted but I can still improve the care and respect I give my body through rest, nutrition and exercise. It’s the only one I’ve got.

I am grateful for the friends I have and how they have helped shape me. I need to be a better friend and to make more effort at keeping in touch with those important people in my life. This is not something to be lazy about, I’ve learned that you don’t actually meet that many kindred spirits as you go through life and when you find one you should do your absolute best to stay connected to them.

I’m grateful for my Crossfit community. This amazing group of people has become my giant extended family. The love and support they give me is incredible. I was so lucky when my stars aligned and brought me to Crossfit North Vancouver, one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I am grateful for so many wonderful people in my life and I need to let them know how important they are to me. Every day offers me a chance to be better.

Getting Away

Getting Away

Sometimes it is the right thing to get away. Sometimes it is as good for the people left behind as it is for the one going. Sometimes you need to get away to remember who you are.

I love my motorcycle. I love taking off and riding thousands of kilometers on it. There is nothing quite like the feeling of waking up in some place far from home and knowing the only thing that I have to do that day is ride my bike. It is a liberating feeling. It clears my head of cobwebs and daily distractions. It lets me think.

After hours of riding and being alone with my thoughts inside my helmet I can reach a wonderful state of non-thinking. At that point I’m so comfortable with the mechanical aspects of riding the bike, the constant adjustments to balance and speed, direction, awareness of the passing scenery and more, at that moment all those things have slipped into automatic response and my thoughts are free flowing. Sometimes there are no thoughts, other times memories, connections, considerations or ideas rise to the surface and seeking my attention. There is no pressure for action, just the opportunity to gently turn a thought around in my head and see it from many different angles.

These moments make me a better person. They give me clarity and provide an unparalleled stress release. The journey becomes the destination and so much more makes sense than it did before.

It is my release but the point is we all need one. It could be a weekend away golfing with friends, or a yoga retreat, or time spent on the water in a kayak. It doesn’t matter what the vehicle is that transports you away from the daily routine. What does matter is that you have the means to move in that direction.

We all need some time to ourselves. The time to stay connected to that thing inside of you where your sense of self resides. This is where inner focus will be found.

Taking time for yourself does not make you self-centered or a bad parent/spouse/friend or anything else. It provides a means to reassess and reevaluate the things that are important to you. It brings you back to your center and closer to the values that you hold dear. It helps you sort out relationships and make better choices.

I recently had three wonderful days of riding in the late summer sunshine and I felt like I had my soul plugged in for a recharge.

I find my way there on a motorcycle. I hope that everyone is as fortunate and discovers for themselves that special thing that helps them get away in order to get back to what’s important.

Post Crossfit Games

Post Games Thoughts

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I returned home from the Crossfit Games in Los Angeles and life seems to be returning to normal. The nervousness and anxiety has gone and been replaced with a sense of accomplishment and a desire to become a better athlete.
When I now think about this experience there are a number of things that standout. The biggest thing is the people. Those friends and fellow athletes who were so generous with their support and encouragement for me every step of the way. It would not have been anything like the great event it was without all that love that I received. Crossfit Games is forever linked in my mind to all of those incredible people.
Next was the training. All the extra hours and the pushing myself harder than I had before produced a whole new level of fitness. If I did in fact inspire any of the other athletes it was simply by showing that we all have more potential than we realize and that hard work does produce results.
Finally the competition. To step up and put myself way outside of my comfort zone at this age and compete on a world stage was fantastic. I hope that I am able to earn the chance to do it again next year.
That is the short version of my retrospective. Anyone interested in the long version can continue reading.

I can look now at the training I did in preparation and assess if it was correct. To start with I followed the .com workouts all the way to the last day of training. It was following .com that improved my overall conditioning since I joined Crossfit North Vancouver so it made sense to stick with it. But I also knew I had deficiencies and I was lucky enough to have coaches Dave Kitchen and Chris Schallo in my corner. They produced additional programming for me that I did three days a week. They built up my shoulder strength that finally got me completing my hand stand pushups, I climbed rope, a lot of rope, I squatted. I trained hard for three months between the Open competition and the Games. I also started training one night a week with Mike Cartwright who helped me greatly improve my Olympic lifting.
When it was time to go to L.A. I felt I was in great shape. I had been recording Personal Records on all my lifts. I felt strong. I felt ready.
Throughout all of this training I was being encouraged not just by the coaches but also by the members of our gym. They showered me with support and I was overwhelmed by it. They came out in force and fundraised to help with my expenses. They believed in me. They were true friends and proved what an incredible community we have in this gym.
I headed down to L.A. on the Wednesday morning before the Games began. Got to my hotel, went to the host hotel and registered, was loaded up with a ton of workout gear and was made to feel like a respected competitor. The entire weekend at every location the support staff and volunteers did an outstanding job to make sure the athletes had the best possible experience. They were fantastic. Then it was shopping time to load up on healthy food from Trader Joes.
That night there was a reception and buffet for the athletes. Great chance to meet the other competitors and even though I was on my own the team from Taranis took me in and made me feel part of their group, a gesture that was very much appreciated.
Thursday was for resting and an athletes meeting in the afternoon where the first two workouts were explained. That night my three gorgeous supporters who were staying in the same hotel arrived, Roe, Mandy and Ainslie. Wonderful to have familiar faces there.
In the morning it was showtime. It had been raining but had stopped by the time we arrived at the Home Depot Centre. The Masters women were already competing as I headed into the athletes area to get settled and later warmup.
Finally my group was called. The 55-59 year old men who had placed between 11 + 20 in the Open headed out to face the racks. There was a barbell on the rack, a stack of weights on the ground and a judge. When the timer said go you had 2 minutes to get your maximum shoulder to overhead lift. I’d already decided on 185 lbs to start, wanting to get a reasonable amount completed but also one I was confident I’d do. After that I added 20 lbs and did 205. Time was racing by. I intended to add 10 more lbs to go for my recent PR of 215 but in the rush and not familiar with the Rogue weights I put on another 20 lbs for 225 and failed at that weight. No time for another attempt as at the end of 2 minutes there was 60 seconds to get the bar loaded with 135 lbs for the sets of front squats in the next portion of the workout. That done it was then 3,2,1 go and run to the rack and do two rope climbs, then do a shuttle run of 25, then 50 then 75 feet, touching 3 separate mats in the process. Now back to the rack for 5 front squats. I did all the front squats unbroken and tried to maintain a steady pace on the run and get the rope climbs done smoothly. At first there were lots of guys ahead of me on the run, not so many on the second round and by the third I was in third place. The temperature was warming up and the wet pavement was giving way to almost a steam as the humidity rose, this added to the challenge of controlling my breathing. I did my last set of rope climbs and did the run, came back for a last set of front squats. I racked the bar and stopped there looking at the judge who shouted at me, ‘Run’. I’d forgotten about the last shuttle run. So I took off and despite losing valuable seconds managed to finish the workout in 7:55, one of only 4 of the 20 in my division to beat the 8 minute time cap.
I was thrilled to have completed my first workout. I could hear the familiar voices throughout the event, calling for me to keep going. I was so grateful for that support. That wonderful group will never really appreciate just how much it meant to me for them to be there. At that point of could have cried tears of joy and relief. At the end of the first event, with the score for the lift and shuttle relay combined, I was in 5th place.
There were several hours before the next event and I ate and drank, then headed over to watch some other events going on elsewhere, trying to make sure that I took in what I could of the whole Games experience.
Later back at the Masters arena I could spend some time with my friend, Richard Roston who was also competing in the same division. His experience from the competing the previous year was informative for me to draw on so I could better understand how things worked there. We cheered each other on the whole weekend.
The afternoon workout was a triplet. All 20 competitors went at the same time. First there was an I K row, followed by 30 cleans @ 115 lbs and finally 50 burpees. I started rowing with my back to the crowd but could hear their encouragement as I worked at maintaining a 4 minute pace for the 1 K. As soon as the row was over it was straight to the bar and start the cleans. I did my first set of 8, then next was a couple of sets of 5, until I got down to the last few reps done as singles. Pick up the bar, clean it, drop it, do it again. The sun was shining and getting hotter as I went to the mat to begin the burpees, which ended each time with a two foot jump onto a 45 lb plate. I stayed with my strategy of maintaining a pace that allowed me to do the burpees straight through without taking a break. I finished in the middle of the pack. My time there combined with the morning’s work put me in 8th spot.
I watched some more competition and then caught a cab back to the hotel. Then it was time to relax, eat and prepare for the next day. Hung out with the girls for a bit and tried to get to sleep early.
Saturday morning I went with the girls to the Home Depot Centre for the first workout. This was a snatch ladder. My group went in one at a time and started with 95 lbs. After completing your lift you waited until the 30 seconds available was up then moved to the next station. Each barbell was loaded with 10 pounds more than the last one. I easily did the 95, 105, 115 snatches as power snatches. At 125 I switched to doing a split snatch to reinforce the technique that I had decided to do for my heavier lifts. I was able to do 125, 135, 145 and finally 155 which matched my personal record, which I had only set a week earlier. I failed at 165 so on the next rotation I took my skipping rope that I had moved with me each time and did as many double unders as I could in 30 seconds. It wasn’t a big number, 6 was all I got but it all added to my overall score.
At the end of that workout I was now in 10th place. I was very happy with my performance up to that point. I ate then went over to the track to watch some more of the individual competitions. It was so incredible to see the athletic prowess of these men and women. After awhile I headed back to the Masters area to get out of the sun and rest before the final workout of the day. I warmed up and got ready. I had my hands taped up as I had left my gloves in the hotel and many of the earlier competitors had ripped their hands on the hot pullup bars. Ready to go I headed into the arena for the Masters Chipper. 10 deadlifts @ 245 pounds, 20 pullups, 30 box jumps, 40 KB swings- @ 35 lbs, 50 double unders, then it was a reverse of that ladder all the way back to the deadlifts.
I started in on the deadlifts and was ready for that heavy weight. The pullups turned into a mess as I was called no rep repeatedly as my judge told me I was not achieving full extension. After receiving a lot of no rep calls I was getting tired and very frustrated. Eventually I hit the 20 necessary reps and moved on to the box jumps. Step ups were allowed and I marched through all of them and picked up the KB. Next was the 50 double unders and I was hoping this was going to be a breakthrough day for my skipping. Unfortunately what happened was more like a break down. My skipping is poor at the best of times and this was going to be a bad day. I was already way behind but any chance for pulling this workout together fell aside as I struggled to get any DU’s strung together. As all the other competitors completed the workout I continued to slowly grind my way through the 50 double unders on my own. Certainly not the first time I was the last one to finish a workout but not the time and place I wanted to repeat that dubious title.
Finally finished with the skipping I tossed my rope high in the air, hoping to relief some of my frustration. I picked up the Kettlebell and started the 40 reps. At this point my arms were tired from all the failed double unders and the other work completed to that point. I had to break the KB into sets but I got them done and moved on to the box. Time was running out as I stepped up again and again, then the announcer called time. My score was the full time plus another second for every rep missed to complete the workout. Despite my poor performance on this workout I was still given the hugs and support from those wonderful people who were in the stands cheering for me. Their kind words lifted the disappointment off my shoulders.
I had gone into the workout in 10th place and came out in 14th. The top 12 would be invited into the Stadium on Sunday morning for the next workout so that meant my competition was over. After watching the individual women competing their last workout of the day we headed out for dinner. Dave, Christina, Grace, Tim, Christine, Ainslie, Roe, Mandy, Annie, Scot and Olivia were all there and we had a great meal. Then went back to our respective hotels.
Sunday morning was for watching the finals for the Masters competition then the team finals and then the women and men individual finals. It was a long day in the sun but an incredible sight to see these fabulous athletes performing so well. When it was all over I made my way back to the hotel and later took a cab to the main hotel for the wrap up party. I didn’t stay there for two long and returned to my hotel to pack up for the return trip in the morning.
With all the stuff I’d been given my bags were completely stuffed and I loaded them into the cab to go to the airport and get checked in. The flight home was good and I was happy to be back in Vancouver.
The experience I had competing in the Crossfit Games is something I will never forget. In the end I was proud of myself for doing it and encouraged to take what I had learned there and use it to improve myself to be a better athlete.

The Train is about to leave the Station

The Train is about to leave the station.

The train or rather the training is about to reach its destination. Its been a long time since the Crossfit Open competition in February and March that resulted in my getting invited to compete in the World Games in Los Angeles.

Initially competing in your own gym and submitting a score was pretty comfortable. You did the best you could and watched the scoreboard to see how you compared to other athletes from all over the world. After 5 workouts I’d secured 15th place and knew I was California bound. For younger athletes the next challenge would be the Regional Games in Vancouver and as our two teams and two individuals prepared for that event I joined in their training. It was great to train together and enjoy that common goal to get ready to compete although their window of training was going to be quite short.

The Regional Games arrived and I was there to cheer on our athletes. They all did fantastic and proved themselves to be serious contenders but unfortunately did not make it through to the Games in L.A.

Their training was finished but mine was about to get more serious. Thanks to Dave Kitchen and Chris Schallo I was now being programmed for 3 extra workouts a week. These would be done on days that I was already doing the crossfit.com workout of the day. I was also just starting to get instruction in the Olympic weight lifting from Mike Cartwright one night a week. So I began a training cycle of 10 workouts a week that continued for seven weeks.

As my technique improved with the lifts from the instruction I received from Mike, I was gaining strength from the programming Dave & Chris provided and improving my stamina through the volume of workouts I was doing. It started slowly at first but soon it was happening every week. Whenever I was faced with a workout requiring me to achieve a Max weight on any lift I was setting a new personal record.

With each PR my confidence grew and I was ready to push harder.

A lot of this effort was done with the support of our athletes and coaches in the room encouraging me but a good number of those workouts were done alone, just me and the bar and a set of instructions for the next workout.

The training has now run its course and its time to taper down. Today I did my last double workout. It was actually more like a triple because after doing our workout of the day that I’d programmed because it was a rest day, then it was a strength workout focused on the Snatch and to put the final touch on the training my programming said I was to finish off with Fran.

Like most Crossfitters I have a love/hate relationship with this short but brutal workout. 21, 15, 9 repetitions of 95 lb Thrusters and Pullups is over quickly but it takes absolutely everything out of me. While I can be awestruck by those incredible athletes capable of completing this in less than 3 minutes, my own time has more often been around 6:00 +, it wasn’t that long ago that I finally got below that mark and then later set my PR for it at 5:37. Today, after having been in the gym for over two hours I faced Fran again and 5:27 later I was done. Completely done. On the floor panting like a dog on a hot summer day. But it was one more step in my journey.

That journey will reach its high point in just a few days. I will get on a plane and fly to L.A., arriving there two days before the Games begin. Hopefully that will be enough time to acclimatize to the surroundings and weather.

It’s been a long road but now its show time. I head south knowing I have trained hard and done what I could to prepare myself for this competition. No matter what the results I will be proud of my willingness to step way outside of my comfort zone and to compete against a group of my peers. I will do my best but I will also enjoy the moment and try to take it all in.

I’m grateful for every bit of encouragement and support I’ve received from so many wonderful people.

Ready, Set, Go…..