Sunday, October 31, 2010

It Gets Better

I have been living in Vancouver for exactly 4 years. Today is my anniversary of moving here and I can report "it gets better". Not only does it get better, it gets awesome. This past year has been one of the most wonderful I have experienced and I feel I have grown into this beautiful city. I am very happy to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Growing up gay is very difficult, especially if you were raised in a small Catholic community in rural Nova Scotia like me. Growing up I was consciously aware of my difference and tendency towards being 'evil'. Life was not easy being overtly gay even if in the closet. I chose to disappear. A trend that I struggle to overcome. I could manage to shrink to the back of a room and into the background as soon as a bully walked into the room. I understood that mediocrity around bullies was a strong survival skill. There was no way I wanted attention directed towards me in fear that I would be targeted. Life was hard but it got better.

Today young gay men and women are facing the same bullying and tension that I faced back in the 90s. When I was coming of age at the cusp of generation Y there were few gay role models. Being gay was not cool and the word gay was used to describe anything bad or garish. Despite great strides towards equality we still face opposition and oppression, especially of gay youth. It gets better for sure but why should it?

Let me explain. I was having a discussion with a couple of friends about the "it gets better" project on YouTube. A friend of mine related her disappointment with the movement and her opinion inspired me. First, I think this is a very valuable project to give hope to gay youth. Secondly I wonder, why does it have to get better? Why are gay youth still getting bullied? Why are gay teens killing themselves? Why are gays still targeted merely for wanting to love? Why can't it be better now?

It is a difficult platitude to think of when tomorrow one is faced with yet another day of torment and ridicule. When an individual is in high school or junior high university seems like a lifetime away. I can remember thinking of turning 21 and how long it would take for that day to arrive. I can remember 5 minutes taking an eternity to elapse. I knew it would get better but it did not make the pain any better.

It gets better but to be honest, for many, it will get worse first. When one grows up gay in a small conservative community life is very difficult. To make a transition to a life that is better one must take giant risks. A gay youth faces decisions that their heterosexual counterparts are not faced with. At a young age I realized that if I was to fall in love and live as a gay man I would have to move away from everything I knew and loved. I would have to leave my family and create a new one in a city far away. I had to choose between the place and people I loved so much or a future with romantic love. I had to make very difficult transitions to follow what most people in our society take for granted.

After a youth of fear and reproach it is difficult to break away from repression and hate. A gay teen often will have to rely on family for a semblance of security, even if the family is extremely homophobic. For an instant I want you to imagine what it may feel like to be raised in an environment that hates gays. Imagine if your parent cursed and denigrated any homosexual in the media. Imagine if being gay was referred to as disgusting. Imagine your parent telling you that you are disgusting, immoral and going to burn in hell for eternity. As a gay youth home is usually the only 'safe' space, if one can stand living with those who hate them. It gets better but for it to get better a young gay must leave those who provided shelter and food and 'love'. The gay must leave the place that was safe for them when outside people were cruel and mean. It should not have to get better. It should be better now.

The scary fact remains that gay youth are killing themselves. It gets better does not mean much when faced with getting beat up in the locker room right now. It gets better does not negate the fact the gay men are still getting beat up in the gay neighborhood in Vancouver. It gets better does not end the hate.

How do we end the hate? Why do people hate love? Why do people hate gay?

I want it to get better, now.

I am going to start run training soon. I am now running pain free which is a huge luxury. When I am out running these days I am getting back the drive to work hard and run fast. I would like to try to run sub 31 again and to win a couple of races. I still love my Nike Air Pegasus shoes and I am giving them a bit of credit for my reduction in foot pain.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pool Report

Running, swimming and weights are good.

Life is good.

I have written before that motivation to blog usually comes from a challenge in life. Blogging in many ways acts as a bit of a therapy for me. In university we were told to keep a journal to write our concerns or worries related to our careers. The idea is that by recording our thoughts and problems we would reflect on them and develop solutions to these issues or realize the issue is actually irrelevant to our daily life. This is how I have approached writing.

It is difficult to write about a great life. It seems like a life well lived is not as riveting as a life of strife and turmoil. At the moment I am thinking I am living a pretty great life. I can think of a lot of things I do not have at the moment but I am incredibly happy with what I have. Things are turning out pretty great.

There may be a bit of a 'post swim workout euphoric' effect happening at the moment. I had a tough but very good swim workout tonight. It felt really good to work hard and get the muscles burning. I think we swam over 3 km in less than an hour. I feel my swimming is getting close to what it was when I stopped triathlon. I hit all my pace times with plenty of recovery. My free is starting to gel and I am starting to cling to the proverbial rope. Surprisingly I was able to make my pace times swimming backstroke. I guess this would be direct evidence that hard work generates positive results. Would it be too obvious to suggest that I believe in the power of sport as it shows the direct result of hard work and dedication?

I am still running and yesterday I had a spirited jaunt on the treadmill. After a total of 5 pain free miles I joined the muscle dudes to pump some massive iron. I did not actually end up lifting much weight but I did a good amount of core work and body weight exercises.

I am planning for a run and gym tomorrow. Thursday night is Sufjan Stevens. I am so excited I can hardly sleep. I will write a concert report!

Happy Training!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pegasus

I got a new pair of runners yesterday. I went to the dark side and am now in a pair of Nike Air Pegasus. I had one long run in them and I am pleasantly surprised. They are responsive and very comfortable. They do not stop my stride on plant but rather support my foot and enable a seamless transition to toe off. The shoe itself offers much more support then my previous pair of Asics. Further encouragement is that my food is doing well after my run and I was able to walk around the city without a limp. I even think they are quite flashy. I suppose it turns out that not having any support for my running is a good thing!

I have been back into running for a week and I am feeling inspired. The direct evidence of my inspiration would be the increase in blog posts lately. I am feeling a bit more grounded as well which is nice. I am content to be running though I am unsure when I will start training. I am thinking I will start speed work late November or early December and then start running with a coach again in January. Although I have only been running for one week thus far and this perspective might change when I cannot walk tomorrow morning.

I have a bit of a bounce in my step these days although I do feel myself withdrawing a bit. One of the consequences of training for me is the tendency to want to cocoon myself in my apartment and spend time on my own or with close friends. Loud music and bright lights usually make me feel a bit nauseous and exhausted. I loose the ability to use idle chit chat and I generally become boring unless in a small quiet situation. Partying becomes a liability rather than a goal and I become somewhat obsessive.

As I have decided to begin the long and hard road back to fitness I do have one regret. I wish I had a boyfriend with me. I came close and it was wonderful. I do not think it will be possible to meet many men while I am training hard and I really do become quite a difficult person to be around. In the end I really am who I am and I am back to thinking of myself as a runner. I am thinking of myself as a gay runner. This makes me happy!

I am going to try and balance the pulls of both sides of my personality. The focused achiever and the party loving twinky homo!

I am throwing together a few races that I want to run next year. Look out East Coast because the West Gay Running Train is going to hit both Toronto and Antigonish, Nova Scotia! I have always wanted to win the Antigonish Highland Games 5 miler and I am planning on heading home for some rest and running. I only have 9 months until race time!

Happy Training!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Awakening

I had an amazing run today!

Autumn is a time to run. This is cross country time when people turn their attention from the sun baked asphalt and look to the emerald green hills and vales for a good challenge. The air is crisp and clean and the light has an amber tinge. For a runner who has been through the university system this is the most wonderful time of year.

After my break during the summer I have been a bit nervous heading out to run. I am wondering how long it will take to get my stride back and if it will ever become easy to run again. With the sun shining brightly and air fresh with a hint of ocean breeze I ventured out of my apartment building to stretch my legs and work the lungs a bit. Initially I felt a bit sluggish and sore from yesterday's run but that feeling was quickly gone as my body warmed up and the endorphins started pulsing.

I had a smile on my face for the majority of my run. I tried the gas pedal a bit and the results were slightly surprising. I have a bit of an engine still and was able to hammer a bit of a mile. It felt really good. It felt really good to run. I love to run.

Jogging is nice but I like to run. I like to run hard. There is a freedom about running in full stride that creates joy. If you look at a child run full force across the beach it is rare to see them without a smile. Running can be totally joyful. This is why I want to get into shape again. I want to run with joy!

Tonight I have a swim workout. I have been having a bit of shoulder pain so I took a few days off of weights. The result has been immediate and my shoulder is feeling much better. Am I actually learning to rest my body? No. My foot continues to ache, ha ha!

Happy Training!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ouch

I am running again.

Today I ran 6 miles. Although I felt slow to begin I was actually running on my usual pace and maybe a bit faster. It went pretty well though not pain free. I think painless running will take a while to come. Besides the pain of my injury I noticed a lot of residual pain from my long run on Monday. I have always had an acute knowledge of how hard running is. Today I got an even better understanding of the impact involved in a simple easy run.

I have felt more sore and much worse before but what I am noticing is all the little things that hurt. As an example, the tips of my toes. Where I once had calluses I have soft, supple and now blistered skin. It hurts to touch the tips of my toes to the ground. I want my calluses back. I also jiggle a bit when I run, though to the outside observer I look no different than 4 months ago. Thankfully my legs are as skinny as ever so no chaffing!

Speaking of chaffing, I am changing up my running fashion. Today I ran in basketball shorts for the first time. I felt very ghetto in my new outfit. Add to this a skin tight long sleeve and ripped ball cap and I was looking totally authentic something or other. One of my goals for my new running progression will be to integrate as many looks as possible into my training repertoire. I do not want to buy new clothes so I will have to get creative with my heaps of spandex and short shorts. I will never give up spandex though (part of the reason I want to train again is to wear spandex...).

Gosh, I am feeling a bit inspired. Must be the air.

Happy Training!

Monday, October 11, 2010

360 Weekend

Gosh, I do not know how to write this blog.

This summer has been interesting and one of the most fun summers I have ever had. In the early summer I ran fast though got injured and burnt out from running. My injury enabled me to take some time off from the normal grind and party and be crazy. I dated a wonderful man for a personal best length of time. I guess I lived the gay life that a dedicated athlete could not. I think I am getting bored with the gay party life.

I am unsure if it is the changing seasons or my general flip/flop madness that is making me unsatisfied with how things are going. If I think about the last couple of weekends and ventures into the scene I can report not the most fun. Most of the time I am out, I feel out of place and from all the reports I am getting I also look out of place. I look uncomfortable and unfriendly. I am not approachable and I do not have the confidence to approach people. The more I go out, the more I am starting to feel out of place.

If I think of the places where I feel like I belong I continue to come back to the track or on pool deck. I love sport and I love to train. I love to train with a specific goal in mind. I love the kinetic pleasure of running or swimming. I also love to dance but much in the same fashion I love to run. When I want to go out and dance I want to dance. I do not want to pick up or flirt with men. I want to hear music and get swept up in the collective energy of the crowd. I want the pulsing music and energy of the club to carry me away.

I have had a long break from running and training. I am starting to miss training. Seeing the results of Mr O'connor this weekend at the Royal Victoria Marathon inspired me. I also had a bit of a long run this morning with my friend Bombshell. On this run we talked about all the things we both loved and hated about running. We also talked about how much fun going out is, when in the form of celebration of a goal accomplished.

The weight I have gained over the last couple of months has been nice. It feels good to get checked out and get acknowledged. Although this has been nice it really is not me. It is me bowing to the pressures of being gay and trying to fit into a world that I am still trying to figure out. The truth is, I do not really feel like I belong on the party scene. To reiterate, I look awkward and uncomfortable when I am out with friends. When I am running and training I feel at home. I am more comfortable in spandex on a track than in jeans in a club.

If you are reading this than you may have figured out that I have had a bit of a turn around, about face, 360 weekend. I am slowly going to get myself back into running shape and possibly start training again in January. I still have running goals I want to accomplish with the most important one being fun. The goals of muscles seems somehow empty to me unless it makes me faster in some way. I will still go to the gym but eventually I will start to get super skinny again, and that is just fine. I do not think big muscles would look good on me anyways.

I am still struggling with what it means to be gay in 2010. I tried really hard to be the quintessential stereotypical gay and it just was not me. I guess I wanted the interior to match what people may have thought of the exterior. If anything this whole experience, although really fun, has taken a chunk out of my ego and has made me feel a bit lost. In many ways I do not really know who I am anymore. All things I once believed in I have questioned and walked away from. I almost feel like I sold out.

I am an achiever. I like to work towards a goal and do something that only a few dedicated people can do. I love running. I am slowly getting over both my injury and burnout. I am starting to crave the pain again. I am craving effortless speed. I am craving crossing the finish line first.

What's old is new again.

Happy training!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Compensating

We are constantly compensating for our own weaknesses.

After months and months of right foot pain I now have left hip pain. Throbbing, aching left hip pain. When one part of the body gets injured it is usually a matter of time before other parts start to fall apart. My guarding of my right foot had led to a hip imbalance and I have bilateral pain.

I am now getting frustrated. I do not necessarily want to be training again but I would like to be able to walk and live pain free. I would also like to be able to run for a while without spending the night and next day limping. I want to be better. I also wonder where the drive to train came from. What made me punish and injure my body the way I have?

Our personalities are interesting things. I am an achiever. I like to accomplish things. When I was growing up I was praised for doing things well. Whether it was skiing fast, winning trophies or doing well in school I garnered praise from accomplishments. Being valued for what was done well created motivation to not only do better but also show others what I had done. I am wondering what it would be like to be valued for just being.

What I am learning is that in the relationships that have meaning in my life the people around me value me for being me. They do not care that I have a certain amount of body fat or that I ran a certain time in a certain race. My friends value some of my core features that are not reliant on crossing a finish line or earning a certain thing. I now have to learn to value myself for just being me. I need to continue to strive to be the best I can be but not love myself merely because I have crossed another goal off of my list.

As well as learning to love myself for being me I need to learn to appreciate others for their core values rather than a list of requirements I have in my head. When I think of the relationships I have in my life I am comforted in knowing that I love my friends because they are amazing people with huge hearts and wise souls. I need to accept myself like I accept others.

It is a process and I am on my way. I just need to keep forging the path.

Happy Training

And I hope everyone who is running in Victoria has a great race this weekend. Have fun and run hard!



Growth is hard.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Deep End

Most of what I have learned in life I have learned from running. Now I am starting to learn from swimming and life.

I bought a month pass for swimming so I will be training a lot this month. I had a few reflections in the pool this morning. Most importantly about relaxation and stress.

Swimming is a very technical sport. Although it is very important to be big and strong, one can excel based on a big heart and great technique. One of the most important aspects of swimming technique is relaxation. A relaxed and long stroke is a fast stroke. When one is watching a great swimmer they float effortlessly through the pool. The swimmer learns to swim with the water rather than fight the water. This is a great lesson for life.

I am amazed by how people adapt to stress. There are individuals who present a very obvious portrait of a stressed individual. The moment they walk into the room they look frayed, emotional and tight as a drum. If they were to get into a pool in that state they would drown. Instead of working with the environment and the situation they fight it. They flail in the face of surface tension and allow it rock their normal countenance. If this stress were able to stay in isolation it would not necessarily be a bad thing for those around them but alas the stress becomes toxic.

Just as a bad swimmer looks frantic they also create a huge wake and make the water quite turbulent. Turbulence in a pool do not enable good swimming. The turbulence created by a stressful person do not enable good living. There are many times when a stressed person will walk into a room, especially in a work environment, and throw a room in chaos. In life stress is important. We need stress to improve. We need stress to make our bodies and minds stronger. We need stress to keep ourselves challenged and fend off boredom. What we need is good stress; the just right challenge. What we do not need to constant stress generated by others. We do not need other's turbulence in our pool.

Fortunately, a good swimmer can swim through anything and make it look easy and relaxed. In a choppy pool they continue to make any swim stroke look effortless and easy. If one was to look at the individual one would be unable to tell what the conditions of the water were. Some people can thrive on calm water but when the waves come they fall apart and struggle. The poor technique of one destroys the good technique of another. What has to happen is all need to improve their individual technique for the group to improve. I believe the same holds true for unhealthy stress.

Some people will never get stressed and if they are stressed one cannot tell. The secret of the great swimmer is that whether they are swimming easy or hard, with great stress, they look the same. Their swim stroke never falters. There are individuals who move through life much like the great swimmer. If you throw them into a turbulent and anxiety provoking situation they will put their head down and get the situation sorted out without so much as a shrug. This may be the minority. There is also the minority on the other side. This is the individual we love to avoid. They are in a constant state of panic and slightest disturbance sets them on a path to total and complete freak out. And then we have the average. These are the individuals who normally are quite chill and relaxed. These people when influenced by those who are stressed or put into overly stressful situations fall apart. These are good calm water swimmers who cannot manage a stroke when put beside the moron doing butterfly in the slow lane.

What to do? We all need to improve how we deal with stress but more importantly gain an awareness of how our own dealings with stress may impact others. I do not want to leave a room with cortisol pumping through my veins because you cannot manage time and were late for work or missed a meeting. Your stress should not make me stressed. I do not want to confuse stressing others with asking for advice or needing someone to listen to our issues or problems. There is a difference. Stress is insidious. The contagious stressed person does not ask to dump their story and nor are they usually a friend. A friend who is having difficulty will ask to talk and it is a conversation. It is mutually beneficial and usually ends with a hug. The relationship with the stressed individual is caustic and both leave the room feeling drained and perplexed.

If we all work to improve our ability to work with stress then we will all progress to having a smooth and relaxed stroke. We will all be in the fast lane, cruising through the choppy waters as if alone on the calmest of waters. Relaxation in life, just as in swimming and sport, can balance the stress and lead to improved performance.

I have not updated on my injury lately. I am still injured. Running and walking and just about anything I do on my feet is still painful. I still limp to the bathroom every morning. Although I still have pain I think it is slowly getting better. I am enjoying my break from running though and I rarely have the urge to return to hard training. I am also enjoying the muscles that are starting to sprout on my body (I am still extra small though!).

Happy Training!