Saturday, July 31, 2010

And We Are Done...

I am hanging up the racing flats.

I have decided to give run training a rest. I have little desire to run competitively anymore. I feel that winning my last race at Pride Toronto is a good way to finish.

I have been thinking of hanging up the shoes for a few months now as running has lost much of it's fun. The years of training and obsessing have taken a bit of a toll. Being injured has opened my eyes to what it feels like to not be exhausted all the time. It is also wonderful to have oodles of time to do whatever I want.

Anyways,

Happy Pride!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Timex Top 3

I was third in the Timex Series for BC this year. I guess this is another accomplishment to add to my growing resume of running achievements. This is evidence that hard work and dedication to sport really do pay off when performance counts.

I have much on my mind lately. With Vancouver Gay Pride on the horizon I can report much personal growth in the last year. As I hung my rainbow flag on my balcony tonight I reflected on how far I have come.

Last year I wrote a blog outlining how I was proud of who I was but not proud of being gay. My perspective has changed. I have a lot of accomplishments in my life and by any account I am quite successful. I am well educated, an elite athlete, handsome and with a rewarding and meaningful career. I am also gay.

To many people in our society the 'gay' of the previous paragraph cancels everything else. I live in a cosmopolitan city which is quite liberal and accepting. If I am to venture outside my enclave of partial enlightenment (gays are still getting bashed in the Westend) I will be met with stares and derision. I would not show affection to a boyfriend in public if I was in most places in Canada unless I knew there was no one watching. This is not a good thing.

Growing up gay is hard. Gay teenagers kill themselves. Gay teenagers kill themselves a lot. The scary and frightening aspect of this fact is that there are many in society who think this is good. Obviously I do not.

I wish I could report that living a life less ordinary is easy so long as you make it to adulthood. The fact remains that being gay in today's society is a distinct disadvantage. Of course the gays have more of a presence in mainstream society and with gay marriage being legal and more inclusive rights the life I live is far more fair than of my gay forefathers. The fact remains that within heterosexual society I feel much like a novelty or passing fad. I worry about the future and what impact my overt gayness may have on my future. If history repeats itself than I am very frightened for what the future holds.

With all our progress and acceptance I still have friends who are in the closet at work. I hold my tongue when speaking with certain individuals for fear they lose trust in me if they hear I am gay. I have been called a 'faggot' while in a race in BC and I now think I am the fastest runner in BC without any support from anyone outside of my friends, family and teammates. Financially running costs me far more than I win or earn. Nothing comes free for me.

The thing is, I am proud to be gay. I have had to overcome more than most people would dream of. The hardest of which may have been growing up gay in a small conservative community in rural Nova Scotia. Despite growing up in one of the most conservative areas of the country I managed to turn out to be a really awesome person who does not need to rely on any handouts. Everything I have I earned. It is the gay way.

Running has always been a tool for me to measure myself, to grow and improve. It has enabled me to recognize that I have value. It has shown me that I can do something well. I have seen the direct outcome of hard work and dedication. At the start line of a race it does not matter who is gay, straight or whatever. The only thing that matters is how fast you can get to the finish line. But alas, life is not running. Life is not a race.

In the real world it matters if you are gay; it matters if you have an opinion; it matters who you schmooze. It does not matter if what you speak is true so long as you speak it loud.

It has taken a while but I think I am starting to get my voice. My rainbow flag is flying. I am hear to shout. I am here, I am queer, and fucking proud of it.

I do not know what my running future holds. My running performance over the last year has earned me a spot at nationals for 10 km road racing to represent BC. There are financial costs associated with traveling on a BC Team that I am unsure of wanting to incur. My foot is getting better and I was able to have a solid run tonight. I am still fit and I know I can get myself into race shape in around 4 to 5 weeks. I want to run Nationals but at the same time I am very happy right now, happier than I have ever been. The toll that training takes on both my body and emotions is scary. I do not know if I want to go back to that place.

Being satisfied is a scary thing at times. Contentment does not breed excellence, quite the contrary. Without struggle there is no reward. Without a goal there is no finish line. What is my new struggle? What is my new goal?

I am gay. This is my struggle. I am gay. This is my new goal.

Happy Training!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Evidence

I am a professional.

When I say or write a statement, that is not obviously an opinion, it is based on evidence. I went to a university which was credited in the British Medical Journal as developing one of the most revolutionary ideas in Medical and Allied staff practice. This is the concept of evidence based practice.

Evidence based practice involves using research to develop one's professional practice. For an evidence based practitioner to use a particular drug or technique in their treatment arsenal there must be unbiased, sound research to support the particular intervention. The evidence must show statistical significance more so than a control group/placebo group.

It is this search for evidence for why I am doing something that has shaped the way I approach my sport, my body and the environment. If I were to give a colleague or teammate advice on running, I would base my advice on either evidence or state a personal anecdote of a technique that has worked for me. I base this advice on the evidence I encountered during my education including a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and MSc(OT).

The difficulty that lies with evidence based practice is that there is much of what is done by runners is not supported by evidence. For instance; One should never static stretch prior to a workout and especially not before a race. It is entirely counter intuitive. There is actually little evidence to support static stretching and running performance in general. There is no evidence to support massage after a workout (besides it feeling good) and most of the modalities used as therapy actually have no evidence to suggest they work better than a placebo. For the most part, most injuries we suffer will get better spontaneously just as fast as when we have treatment. It is the act of treatment that makes us think we are actually getting better. The best thing to do for any injury is to stop what is causing the injury while maintaining range of motion and strength in those muscles by doing something other than what caused the injury.

As an evidence based practitioner I read and look at the world with a critical eye. If someone reports a specific technique or tool effective I want to know how they know it is effective. When you go to the doctor or physiotherapist ask them why they are doing or prescribing what they are doing. Ask them how they know what they are doing will work. Check to see if they are familiar with the evidence that has led them to use a particular modality.

With our current world of 'everyone being an expert' one must use caution when listening or reading any advice. People can be greatly harmed by certain techniques or ideas that are based merely on anecdotal, first person evidence. Remember, is was once common knowledge that the world was flat and the center of the universe. If you have questions about running, illness, injuries, health, nutrition, or coming out as gay ensure you get your advice from the appropriately trained and knowledgeable professional. If you are on the internet reading random information about something that may be affecting you in your life ensure that the source of the information is from a trusted, well educated and informed source. Look for citations from peer reviewed journals and try and ensure these citations are not taken out of context.

There is a great deal of harm that can be accumulated from misguided or misinformed advice. At all times ensure that your source of information is accurate and professional. As an aside, I am very impressed with Canadian Running Magazine. They base their advice on evidence and have very well written articles.

I was able to walk this morning after my run yesterday. I am using evidence based practice at the moment as I ice my foot to relieve the inflammation that is a hallmark of most injuries. Again there is not much evidence to support the use of ice beyond the initial injury phase of severe inflammation. If you do not like the pain of icing take an ibuprofen. It will reduce the inflammation and the pain!

Happy Training!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Paddling

My weekend adventure involved cycling to North Vancouver to buy some swimming gear.

As with any adventure in Vancouver one never quite knows what they might be getting themselves into. My target was Team Aquatic Supplies with my route involving Stanley Park, a couple of bridges and North Vancouver. On the way I encountered a peloton of guided riders, a very sketchy bridge and a random parade. Another regular day in the Lower Mainland.

I am pleased to report that Team Aquatic Supplies has all the supplies any hack triathlete swimmer may require. I am very excited to have a couple new sets of paddles and I can already report they are wonderful. I have picked up both finger and big strengthening paddles. The finger paddles take a bit of getting used to as they require a bit of technique at the catch phase of the swim stroke. This is part of the reason for using finger paddles. One has to reach for the swim stroke rather then shoving their hand into the water at their ear. The big paddles are for pure power and I love them! I feel like my stroke rate plummets and and shoulders bulge when I put them on.

I also can report a run this morning. I am cautiously optimistic that I am healing. Today was the first time I have run in 2 weeks. My run today was nice. I wanted to run easy and gentle on my body. As I have little patience and I am a sensory seeker, I was striding out by the time I hit the 5 minute mark. I kept myself calm and managed to relax until the last couple of kilometers. It felt very good to stretch out the legs and bound down the Seawall. My heel was quite sore during the initial stages of the run which did resolve over the course of the run. The big test will be tomorrow morning when I get up. I hope to be able to walk.

I am going to try and run every other day. I hope this will satisfy my craving of a good run with the need to protect my fragile foot. I am enjoying being on my bike and in the pool so I am not overly concerned with my fitness. I feel fit at the moment even if it is not running fitness. My run today also showed me I did not lose much cardiovascular strength as my breathing was relaxed and easy, even when I got a bit crazy. I am watching my diet a bit as well to ensure I do not gain fat with my reduced mileage. My body fat is well below 8% so things are good.

A decision I have had to make is to not run the Vancouver Pride Run this year. I do not know how to not run hard even when in a fun run situation. This is a time when wisdom must prevail.

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crash, Boom, Bang

My foot is still sore, but getting better. I was very tempted to run today as it was feeling really good though still a bit on the tender side. In a moment of rational thought I decided to stick with my plan to wait until my foot is totally pain free. I think I may be able to run on Sunday.

I have been training in the pool and a bit on my bike as a distraction and to keep me from losing my mind. I have a lot of energy and I need a non chemical sedative to maintain order in my life. Tuesday night I swam one of the hardest workouts I have ever swum. The hardest part of the workout was a set of 5 times 100 butterfly with fins, at the 2900 m mark of the workout. I could not feel my arms by the end of the set and I was very concerned I was going to vomit in the pool. It was awesome. In total, over the past 4 days I have swum around 12 km!

Last night I swam with my friends in our informal swim group. Moving from the Aquatic Centre to the Second Beach Pool presents some difficulties. The people who frequent Second Beach Pool are often naive to the etiquette of swim lanes. If you are slow do not go into the fast lane. If you are doing breast stroke with no goggles then you may not belong in the fast lane. Children who are unsupervised often wander a bit close to the training lanes causing havoc at times by swimming into lanes. There is also the aspect of the sun and the lack of flags.

I was working on my backstroke last night. Fresh from the indoor pool with flags to signify the upcoming wall, I was lulled into the rhythmic nature of a smooth and easy stroke. As I lifted my arm to reach back to grab some water I hit the wall, literally, at full speed. Unfortunately I was also beginning to tilt my head back to see where the wall was. The result was a giant goose egg on my forehead and a good cut on the bridge of my nose from where my goggles hit the cement. I still managed to finish my backstroke set.

Today it hurt to wear my bike helmet and every time I tried to push my hair out of my eyes it also was a bit painful. Only I would happen to acquire a brain injury from swimming into a wall. I have been suffering a bit of a headache as well. The worst aspect of my collision was the good number of attractive men at the pool. It seemed like everywhere I looked there was an attractive guy. With a giant bump on my forehead I felt particularly hot.

I decided to take today off as I was very tired when I got home from work. Tomorrow I hope to go to the gym and hit the pool for an easy swim. I am really enjoying the new training and lack of required workouts. I am also starting to get my swim stroke back and gain some strength in the water. I am starting to feel the water and I hope to be back up to my former swimming self in a few months. I am even entertaining the idea of trying a swim meet this fall!

Sponsorship Revisited

First, thanks for all the comments! I believe disagreement is a good thing and stimulates meaningful discussion.

I continue to believe that being an outspoken, flaming homo precludes me, to a certain extent, from support from any shoe company. The thing about sponsorship is that it is not on how fast you have run but on who you may know or be able to influence. It is not that I have not been considered for support. I have been in touch with many individuals involved with shoe companies over the years with others being in touch with me. The comment I have gotten on several occasions is something along the lines of, 'we don't know who this guy is and we would rather give stuff to someone we know.' Last year I was 3rd in the BC Timex series, 12th in SunRun and ran sub 31 minutes. At the national Timex series race they had me placed in the top 3 (I heard this second hand so it may not be true). I have been on a National Championship Winning Cross Country Team, been team captain for 2 years in university, have run multiple national championships at the open, university and road race levels, I volunteer in my community and work in a career that has required long hard years of study. I have my masters degree and work to enable people to reach their potential in the areas of self care, leisure and productivity. Every day I give everything I have to both help others and improve myself through continued hard work both physically and intellectually. I guess I do agree with one aspect of the comments, maybe I do deserve a pat on the back or some minuscule support for taking a risk and putting myself on the line. I may just deserve a little something as a reward for taking the hard road and trying to be good. Not just good but great.

As I sit here typing after slightly less then 2 weeks off running, while also contemplating a life without the stress and pain of elite competition, I am confident I will not be getting sponsored any time soon. I no longer have the drive to schmooze and handshake to get the prized box of free stuff. I would also worry if I were to run poorly or get an injury while sponsored. I also want to continue to write and do whatever the fuck I wish. I do not want to worry about what brand X would think if they saw me messed up and dancing with thousands of half naked men. I would not want to be worried about whether or not to wear my brand x singlet at the gay pride race. I want to do things that have meaning for me and that I want to complete. I do not want to participate in activities that others think would be beneficial or will make me more 'marketable'. I am incredibly proud of everything I have accomplished over the years. It was never in the hopes of free stuff or recognition. It was for me. It was the only way I knew how to build a body of evidence so that I could look at myself and say 'yes, I have value.'

I believe in myself. I guess I do not need a box of free stuff to reinforce that belief.

Happy Training!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sea Sick

I am becoming a triathlete again.

My foot continues to cause me quite a bit of discomfort. The throbbing is getting better and I am learning that for it to heal I must not spend any time on my feet, or as little as possible. I have been taking my bike everywhere and I am noticing some positive effects.

I went for my first ride in a few years last Sunday. I have no cycling endurance but I have much improved bike handling skills. It is no longer scary to be in traffic, to jump a curve or attempt to balance in an intersection while waiting for a left turn. I think I have more power but it is hard to tell. I still hate my bike though. I will be doing some bike shopping in the next few months.

Tonight I swam an open water workout with a couple of friends. When I cannot run, open water swimming is as close as I can get to the feeling of running. I love being in the ocean even with the sea sickness. I love being able to shut of my brain for a while and just think about arm and hand positioning, sighting the point at Stanley Park and remembering to kick my socks off. I am getting more fit in the water although I felt like my arms were about to fall off in the last 10 minutes of the swim. In total I have swum around 9km in the last 3 days. My upper body is a bit tired. On the positive side I can see a bit of my triathlon body coming back. I am getting a bit more size and definition in my chest, traps and lats.

I am waiting to be mostly pain free until I tie up the running shoes and hit the trails for a run. It has been a few weeks now of reduced training and over a week since I have run last. This is the most time I have had away from running since 2003. I am enjoying the break and unfortunately I do not have much desire to start training again. I do not know when I will start running again but I do know it will be ugly.

I wish I had some wise words or insightful observations to add but I do not. It has been said and I have blogged before that inspiration usually comes with some sort of discord or issue in life. I am loving my summer so far and I am having a blast. Of course I am still single (and looking) though with a fuck it attitude. I am having so much fun and enjoying my life so much at present that I do not really know how I could be much happier (maybe if I did not have to work?). Up next are the fireworks and I am super stoked!

Now that I am back into the triathlon training I guess I will have to start shaving my legs again. The cross I must bear...

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Healing Slowly

I have not run since my 8 miles on Sunday. I was able to walk to the bathroom this morning and put weight through my heel. This is a milestone.

I have only had one injury that required me to take time off. It was a tibalis anterior injury that required me to half train for approximately 5 weeks. At that time I was very over trained and as the days of forced rest accumulated strange things began to happen. A couple of weeks into my sojourn I was suddenly able to type very quickly. This morning I was quickly typing out an e-mail to a friend when I suddenly noticed my typing crisp and light. I think this injury has been a long time coming and the rest is much needed.

As I have written earlier, in many ways I am actually not that upset that I am injured. The only way I take time off from running is when I cannot run. I am slowly getting my energy and reserve back. I am gaining a bit of muscle and I am enjoying doing more than work, run, eat and sleep. It is nice to be able to make plans every night of the week and to have a beer in the evening without fretting about being tired the next day. I am enjoying being free.

This freedom brings with it many questions. I am a natural planner and I like to have an idea of what my future holds. One of the comforts of running for me is the ability to plan far into the future what I will be doing. After years of planning I am enjoying some spontaneity. As of now my Autumn is a blank slate. I am thinking of a cycling trip in September, something impossible if I am planning on racing. The big question for me is if I want to train this fall or if I want a break.

As the days go by I am missing running but not training. I do not want to ache anymore. I do not want to hurt every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I do not want to have a month of anxiety leading up to a big race. I am dreading the thought of pushing to that half unconscious place of agony required to run fast. I do not want to spend my evenings with multiple ice packs wrapped to my broken body. I am already playing with the idea of 'former elite runner'.

I do not want to make any rash decisions and I will always run and be fit. After a hard or frustrating day of work there is nothing that makes me feel better than a good run. There are times when I still day dream about running a fast race but those times are becoming fewer and further between.

A good break will show me the path to hit for a good trot. I am liking it so far.

Happy Training!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mental Imagery

As I am on an undefined break from heavy running training my attention has turned to men. I love men.

I spent many of my formative winters on the slopes of the small hills of Nova Scotia learning to throw myself down icy pitches with reckless abandon. Part of learning to alpine race is learning mental imagery. The hour before a race is occupied with course inspection. During this time us mini athletes would memorize all the turns and terrain of the piste in the hopes of winning a shiny medal for our team.

A large part of the memorization and mental imagery was envisioning the perfect run. We would even be taught to imagine ourselves entering the finishing chute in first place. There is sport psychology research to support this training as it has been shown to aid in performance. If one is to watch a World Cup Alpine Ski Race they will notice many of the racers repeating the course over and over with imaginary movements prior to racing. To this day I can still remember one particular race course at my home ski hill.

I have used mental imagery in running and especially cross country. On a 4 loop course I love to warm up on the course and memorize every bump and roll and change of terrain. I imagine myself running quick and light and floating over the hills and vales in the lead. I have most cross country courses I have ever raced memorized and I can visualize myself running through all of them.

If mental imagery works for sport can it work for love? I think I may start love mental imagery. Before a date I will imagine the perfect response to the most clever questions. I will imagine his wit and charm and boyish good looks. The look of surprise in his eyes and flutter of his pants when we first meet. I will foretell his flirting and not so subtle hints. I will visualize the soft, gentle kiss to end the night followed by a warm embrace and a promise of more. I look forward to the ring of my buzzer and the expected company. I predict a tired morning and work day spent day dreaming.

Mental imagery for love. It will be a good thing.

A quick injury update. I have not written a lot about my foot as it has been very sore. The pain is progressing and I now have pain all the time. The pain varies from sharp shooting when I put pressure through my foot to the dull ache of rest. I cannot press my heel without pain. The difficulty with my injury is that I am not that upset. This may speak to a bit of burn out at present. I do not want to race or train but I still want to run. I am thinking of getting acupuncture to help with healing. I will see what the physio says.

Happy Training!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rest and Re-evaluation

I had a good 8 mile run today and the foot pain is getting worse!

I am in the process of re-evaluating my running goals in relation to my life goals. I am taking a serious look at my life, where I am going and why I am going there. Running will always be a big part of my life. Elite competition will not.

I am going to concentrate on getting healthy and strong/muscular over the next couple of months and let my foot heal. I may run a workout or two but I am thinking of staying away from high mileage for a while. I am going to concentrate on enjoying my summer.

I am very much enjoying my summer so far!

Happy Training!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reality

I am back from Toronto with mixed emotions.

My time in Toronto was busy, I was stressed and tired, I did not get a lot of sleep and I am very sad it has come to an end. I had one of the most fun trips and weekends I can remember and I am now sad to be back to reality.

I will outline the highlights!

Gay Life Coach and Friends: They were wonderful! Canada day was spent at coaches place where his roommate and partner made us a flavorful and relaxing barbeque dinner to celebrate Canada Day. Everyone present was pleasant, fun and witty. The conversation was stimulating and I felt as if we had known each other for ages. To conclude the evening we walked to a park to watch the Toronto Fireworks from across Lake Ontario. It was a great way to kick off the trip.

Pride and Remembrance Run: I was surprised to arrive at the race start to find Toronto Olympic Club runners and Beth Whitman. I recognized one of the guys from university and was instantly inspired to beat the straight runners in the gay race. The pace went out pretty quick and I was a little worried as I had not trained hard for the 2 weeks prior. My foot felt great and I was able to hold strong in second place. At the 2.5 km mark I got annoyed with being in second and I decided to run hard and try to win. I was able to push hard through the last half of the race to win with a nice margin. I ran 15:37 which was a nice surprise. After the race the mood was festive and I chatted with the second place runners and one of my former teammates from McMaster. It turns out this guy is gay with a boyfriend who is also a runner and a member of the Toronto Olympic Club. How wonderful! We became instant friends and wound up partying together the next day. The race atmosphere was quite energetic and there was a great deal of support along the race course. I have never run into a finishing shoot with so many cheering and supportive people close by. I hope to attend this race again!

The Men: Oh my word! There were so many handsome and friendly gay men I thought I was going to seizure. Within the first two hours of arriving at my hotel I met a wonderful and attractive man who was very friendly. After feeling much like a total pariah within the Vancouver gay community I was surprised and amazed that within a few short hours of arriving in Toronto I would not only find a friendly gay but one who was super handsome. I sure hopes he manages to visit Vancouver some day. All weekend people were friendly and pleasant. I was going to take an eye contact tally but I lost count after my first night out. I am filled with confidence after this weekend. I no longer feel like an unattractive skinny runner. I feel like a stud!

Revival Party: This was the big and final party of pride and I had the time of my life! I have never had so much fun at a club. The venue itself was breathtaking. Normally when I go out I tend to feel a bit claustrophobic. The remedy to this situation was to go to the rooftop bar and listen to DJ Honey Dijon. The view was of the city and the CN tower lit in our rainbow colors. The music was out of this world. Honey Dijon was able to create buzz and energy in the crowd that I have never felt before. There was a flow to the music and a pulse that was captivating and energizing. The crowd itself was quite varied and very attractive. Most times when I go out in Vancouver the may be 1 or 2 people who I find attractive. At this event there were maybe 100 people who were out of this world hot. I have never seen so many gay men in my life! I managed to dance the night away with a bit of help from Redbull to finish with the Sunrise over Lake Ontario and the city. I was totally exhausted and exhillerated at the end of a very exciting and fun pride weekend.

Now that I am home again I feel like I have a bit of thinking ahead of me. Toronto Pride opened my eyes to a scene that I never felt part of. When I was there I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. I felt attractive and part of something fun. People checked me out in a good way and showed their appreciation. I am sad that Pride is over and I am back to reality tomorrow morning at 6:30. I need to find a way to bring the excitement and fun of pride into my every day life.

Looking forward I have several important legacies from pride. First is confidence. I have always had confidence in my ability to do things but not as an object of desire or as a gay man. This trip and experience may have awakened the gay man inside of me. Second is a willingness to let go and just go with the flow. I was not totally relaxed and I did maintain my boundaries but I was more flexible and let things go a bit. I was able to have fun without worrying what people would think. The last I will mention is Pride. I am actually really proud to be gay. I often waffle back and forth on this one but I think I have come to my conclusion. Gay men and women from the ages of 19 to 90 were out partying from dawn to dawn all weekend. The streets were filled with love and celebration of who we are. There were huge amounts of money raised for charity and some amazing parties that I will never forget. I met wonderful gays from every walk of life and have life long friendships as a result. I am proud to be gay.

Maybe the best and most exciting news is that my friend is getting married in Toronto next summer on June 30th. I am very excited for her wedding and to hit Pride 2011! I am going to change up my workout schedule for a few months to try and put on some muscle. If I was getting some great looks this year wait until I have some muscles on my skinny frame!

Happy Pride!