Sunday, September 4, 2011



it has been one week since race day, i have had some time to reflect, some time to be happy, some time to rip my race apart in my head and then put it back together. i have run the full gamut of emotion, not everything what i would have expected. i have felt happy, exultant, disappointed, challenged, fulfilled, motivated and various other emotions.

in case anyone who has followed my blog hasn't noticed, i sort of like my own words and fancy myself, at times, a decent writer, well, literate, at least. however, in searching for a philosophical, literary, reflection on the inner how's and why's of doing ironman i find myself completely satisfied by jordan rapp's winner's speech at this years ironman canada. he says it all, and better, frankly than i could hope for. i am glad he won, because if he hadn't, the world would have had to wait for that speech! here is a link to that full text:

the only point in rappstar's speech i verge from slightly is that he juxtaposes frankl's search for meaning with the bhudda's first noble truth; whereas i see no real difference in the two worldviews. the search for meaning, and the acceptance of the inevitability of suffering are, at least for me, the same thing. and probably a big part of the inner game of ironman.


i.) the place

once, when i was on a long run in the summer of 2010, i met an ironman athlete who told me that if you only do one ironman, it should be ironman canada. boy, she was right.

if you want to race in a place that is as epic as the ironman itself, then ironman canada is it. penticton is, quite simply, a stunning place. if you like mountains, arid desert, fruit orchards, vineyards, finger lakes and warm, dry air, then this is your place. a more grand and inspiring setting for an ironman cannot be imagined.

penticton is on fire with ironman and the level of enthusiasm and support from everyone in town, for the whole week, is simply fantastic. it is also a small town, with manageable distances, easy access to the race site, and to training sites. our house was 3 minutes from lake skaha, 10 minutes from race site, even on race morning, and less than 5 minutes from grocery stores, walmart, pharmacies, starbucks; basically everything you could possibly need was within very easy, hassle free access all week long. and it was laid back. i actually relaxed and it felt like a holiday for my family. we went to the beach every day. it was amazing.

our backyard in penticton

the beach at lake skaha
is there a more beautiful setting for an ironman?

ii) race organization

next year is the 30th anniversary of ironman canada, and it feels like it. they have been doing this for 3 decades, and it shows. the kinks are sorted out. this race is not a rush-job put on by the wtc to make more money, it has history, it is one of the grand ironman races in the world, and everything about the way race week unfolds, reflects that status.

i did hear that there were some issues with water supply late in the bike course this year, but i had no issues myself. the only possible criticism i can make is that the medals this year were a tad on the small side. i did get an email from the race director this week apologizing for that and explaining it was an issue with the supplier. oh well, my ego will have to make up for the small medal size...

what makes this race exceptional, is the level of support from volunteers. they make everything easy, from checking in, to checking your bike, to transition, claiming your gear at the end, finishing, you name it, there is always a friendly volunteer right at your side giving you personal service. it is very very cool.

on the course, the aid stations are more than frequent enough on bike and run, and well stocked with whatever you want or need. they even have chicken soup broth on the run as the day wears on.

a race this size, has the potential to be an organizational nightmare. ironman canada is a pleasure to race in because it is so well organized. there is a high level of support all week, everything is clear, and all you need to do is focus on your race. what more could you ask for?

iii) race day atmosphere

i have alluded to this already. but imagine swimming and as you breath you see sun kissed mountains emerge from the lake to thousands of cheering people, music playing, your wetsuit stripped. you have personal assistance in the change tent.

swim start

 out on the bike course you pass right beside a lake, then go inland and pass vineyards, mountain ranges, valleys filled with fruit farms and vineyards, small towns. on richter pass it is like the tour de france. there is writing on the road and a passageway of people cheering on either side of you. even dudes in wigs and speedos running with you.  there is also a station at the top, with an announcer, music, fans, and they call your name as you crest the pass. pretty amazing.

i found myself getting out of the aero position many times, not to stretch, but to just take in the astounding views.

further on the course, as i was getting a bit tired, and fried in the heat, i passed a huge ranch style house and the owner was sitting on the front yard, drinking beer and blasting ac/dc which was echoing off the mountains...lifted my spirits.

 the most boring part of the bike course is the out and back, by that point, about 120k, you are getting a bit tired and it is hot.

at the turn around on the out and back

the run begins in town and once again, you feel like a star. people are lining the streets cheering. the whole downtown is buzzing with the race. the run course is anything but flat, but the fact that you are running beside a lake for most of it, kind've eases the pain. there are tons of people sitting on their lawns cheering you on. there are bikini clad girls offering you a spray of water. there are people in their boats having a party next to shore and cheering the runners on. in okanagan falls, when you get to the turnaround, there are tons of people there and a festival atmosphere that lifts your spirits.

but when you come back into town, it really gets magical. for the last 2k, you are running through streets lined with people on either side cheering you on. i can't recall how many people called my name, "go john", it really helped and the support from the crowd was almost overwhelming and moved me to tears at one point.

all i can say about the finish line, is that it was everything i imagined an ironman finish line to be. crowded, loud, exciting, emotional and very very cool. it would have been nice to hear the announcer saying "you are an ironman", but i don't know, maybe he even did. you  run through the shoot and people are cheering you on, giving you high fives. it was incredible.


first and most important: i finished. and i have exceeded my fundraising goals for the leukemia and lymphoma society. so, a success all round. and thanks to everyone who donated. amazing people.

it was 34 degrees celcius. it was windy. it was a tough day. the carnage i witnessed on the marathon was a testament to that. yet, i make no excuses about my time, it was what it was. was it what i was hoping for? no. might i have finished faster on a different day, or if i executed differently? probably. who knows. i am famous for telling people in my life that they must accept the crunchy with the smooth. cause life always has both.

well for me, the smooth was that i finished my first ironman! it was a feat just to get there, and to finish alone is a gargantuan task. i will feel proud for the rest of my life about it. i now have bragging rights as an ironman finisher. no small thing. so what is the crunchy part? my time. over one hour slower than my slowest projected time based on my training. oh well, you never know what is going to happen in ironman, especially your first one. crunch, crunch. i should stop being such a type A asshole, crunch, crunch, crunch...

this was the most fun i have ever had in a triathlon swim. i must be honest, i was filled with a sense of dread the few days before the race, as i contemplated what the hell i had gotten myself into, and i made up my mind to take all the pressure off, to just enjoy, pace very conservatively and finish.
i started out wide, to the west, and found some of the more clear water that way. still, there were lots of people, but one nice thing about a mass start is you can seed yourself so you don't get swam over by elite chicks younger than you 10 minutes into the swim.
the water was warm. it was pretty calm. the swim just sped by. i was mellow in my head and emerged from the water feeling really good and had to just sober myself with the thought that it was still a very long day ahead.

exiting the swim in a mellow mood


180 k is just a long bike ride. no two ways about it. add in two mountain passes, 34 degree heat and high winds, and you have a tough day.

the first 70 k are net downhill and with a tailwind. so i rode 40k in 1:08 with very little effort.
then we turned into the hills and things heated up a bit. i felt incredible for the first 70 k, but just kept telling myself to hold back. my power numbers were less than i expected, but i told myself this was just the day i was having and it would be stupid to chase a number. i kept it within myself and rode steady.

everyone talks about richter pass, but i actually found yellow lake the harder of the two mountain passes. it comes at 150k into the bike. it is hotter. it is longer. it is higher (at least according to my garmin). by yellow lake, i was a bit fed up, tired, and in survival mode. i had fought off a couple of bonk feelings earlier on, and also some stomach cramps. i was feeling smart. but a bit toasted. and i really could not imagine that my day was not over when i descended into penticton, i still had to run a marathon....

so, a very non-spectacular day on the bike. i may have under-paced myself slightly, but i preferred to be conservative. i was there to finish and enjoy myself and used those ideas as my guiding principle.


i started off running quite strong, and had to think consciously to hold back. i was on a 3:45 marathon pace, which was my most conservative scenario, but i thought that was fine. i was prepared to keep myself in check until the turnaround at okanagan falls. at that point i would let it go if i had anything left in the tank.

the run had its fair share of joy and suffering

well, that was not the way it worked out. i ran pretty well for just over 10 k and then i felt my body slowing down. mental and physical fatigue took hold. i was soon running 6 minute k's and i really did not feel to push any harder. i walked a couple big hills. by the 15 k mark, i knew that the run would be slow and had revised my goals to anything sub 4. by the 20 k mark, i knew i was in survival mode, with more than half the marathon still to go and i set a new goal, to finish before i was forced to wear a glow necklace...i am proud to say i met that goal.

things were very ugly out on the course on the way back into town. people were walking right, left and center. there were athletes bent over, sitting down, puking. it was like the road to perdition. one athlete even took off his shoes and went for a dip in lake skaha. that is how hot it was. i was very, very tempted to join him.

but i just soldiered on, and relinquished my pride, and ran what i could and just kept going, and the kilometers kept disappearing, slowly but surely. before i knew it, i was in town again, and things picked up mentally, although by that point, i was quite fatigued and really had nothing much to give in terms of a kick over the last few k's.

so that was it, i brought it home, and there at the finish line, my family were there to greet me. it was an amazing feeling.


as tweety bird so aptly commented "that's all folks".  that's it. 8 memorable months. ironman canada has come and gone. i am still a bit in limbo. still a bit in post-ironman glow. that will all change when i get back to work in two days. life goes on. i have really enjoyed this whole experience. it has been valuable in more ways than one. was it all worth it? hell ya! what next? i don't know, i need some time to digest.

  i thank anyone who read any part of this blog. and i thank all my sponsors and supporters.

my road to penticton is officially in the books. thanks again for traveling with me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Dharma Road

I am not sure what to write, but i felt i should write something. this is it. tomorrow is ironman.
part of me can't believe it is actually going to happen.

i am not sure what i feel. anxious, yes. afraid. a little. excited. of course.
but none of these words really describe what it feels like. part of the issue is the unknown. this is my first ironman. i don't really know what it feels like. i am not really sure what to expect. i will be pushing the limits of my endurance farther than ever before. i feel a certain sense of lingering, of wanting it to start, of dreading it to start, but dreading these hours before the race more than anything. i feel a bit nauseous. not really, but existentially so.

i think i know what i want to say, or at least part. i want to say that i am almost as afraid of the race being over as i am of it finally being here. there is the unknown of what tomorrow will bring, but greater unkowns loom in the horizon. and that is good. an open road is better than a driveway. at least most of the time.

i suppose it is always like this when you invest so much into something. i wonder what ancient dudes felt like the night before a planned battle.

the town is alive with the hype of the race. it is seething with triathletes. it really is like a pilgrimmage. all these people in one place, for one purpose. doing the same things, the same rituals. the vibe is pretty cool. the volunteers are amazing. everything is smooth and well organized.

i have layed low with the family. we have gone to the beach every day. my daughter has had a great time playing in the backyard where we are staying. we have discovered her singing talents. she sings barbara streisand particularly babyish.

so, there is so much  happening to do with the race, and not to do with the race. it is an intense time in my life.

so this is it for my blog. a race report will follow tomorrow and that will be it. sad. but then life will go on and there will be more stories, more roads. or maybe the same one. the dharma road. oh my, i will end this blog for now with a reference to keruoac. one of my favorite writers. and tomorrow, i will be on the road. and the day after also. and the day after that...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the road ends at lake skaha

i can't believe that i am finally here and the race is only 2 days away.

highway 97 hits a crossbar at the foot of lake skaha. there you will find a beach that is some cross between spain, lord of the rings and exotic island chains in bali. pretty terrific. since that is where we are staying in penticton, i will call that the end of the road. we are here. arrived. ready, (hopefully). i am here...

i have driven all around north america, literally. the drive from kelowna to penticton ranks in the top 3 drives i have ever done. it is simply spectacular. just the majestic reality of what we were seeing had a transforming effect on our mindset. the real road into penticton is something worth seeing in a lifetime, for sure.

we arrived last night. spent an idyllic day hanging out, going to the beach with my daughter and soaking in the extreme beauty that penticton has to offer.

i must say that penticton is one of the most stunningly beautiful places i have ever seen. the arid mountains, the fruit trees and vineyards, the finger lakes nestled between sharp mountain peaks. it is both exotic and visually stunning.  to quote my wife, it is like being in macca. well, macca it is, for about 2500 ironman pilgrims who are collecting here and i am more than happy to be one of them.

of course, it wouldn't be ironman if there weren't snags. i flatted on my warm  up ride today. wait, is that a snag? a bit, i guess. but better today than on sunday.

i feel well physically and mentally and i am really starting to look forward to the race. it feels so real finally, it feels nice to see all these people out spinning on their bikes and feel the caraderie with them. very cool.

we shall see what the next few days bring, but we are finally here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

the death of jack layton

this is a weird week.

i am officially home from work. yet, i still have to go in to work.

i am tapering for ironman. yet,  i am also playing at home dad. which is cool.

my big day is only five days away...

the weather has changed. it is cool. a huge storm hit last night and wiped out our power for 6 hours. there was a tornado just north of toronto that destroyed a small town. i found out that the jack layton died. for those of you who are not from canada, jack layton was the leader of canada's most socialist political party, and someone who was just always there as the voice that called everyone else out on their bullshit and who was genuinely there to represent the average working joe, who could not articulate what jack could. i can't believe he is gone. and so young. 61 years old. i, for one, took his existence for granted and now he is no longer in existence, at least in this world.

i was reflecting on the fact that jack spent the last year of his life leading the NDP party's most successful federal election ever. he was a fighter, to the end.  i am sure he knew that his health situation was serious. there were alot of other things he could have done with his time. he chose to do that which moved him most. and he lived out a dream. the best ever results in the polls for his party, his cause. he spent the final year of his life devoted to increasing the profile and power of a party that stood no chance to win the election. he, in essence, spent the final year of his life, fighting a losing battle, in more ways than one, ...but i don't think anyone would ever say he lost.

i am inspired by his life, just as i am saddened by his death. and i realize that i never really appreciated his existence enough while he was here.

as much as i hate myself for finding personal meaning in someone else's death, what options are there? what is the appropriate thing to do/not do, write/not write?, think/not think?

it makes me more aware than ever, how short our time on this earth can be, and how important it is to fight for what moves you, to pursue your dreams and to be yourself and to never let anyone else tell you when, how, where or why or what,  you can, cannot, should or should not do or what should matter to you. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Industrial Diversion

i think my blog frequency will be pathetically frequent this next 10 days or so.

after that, i will lay this road to rest...

if my purpose is to document where my head is at, then i must include this video of danny macaskill. he has been a spirit lifter this week, a great source of motivation and distraction as well.

i bet his bike ain't carbon fiber. the music is great too. enjoy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the zen of ironman

i will miss this blog. it has been a steady part of life for the past 8 months. a weekly chance to reflect on where my head is at as i prepare my body for the biggest endurance challenge it has ever faced.

like all things, it will come to and end, and very soon.

my road to penticton, this road, this time, this year, will never happen again.

i am beginning to feel strong again, and getting my mind around the challenge ahead.

i have been thinking about the zen of ironman. the bhudda's first noble truth is that suffering is inevitable. it comes, sooner or later, to everyone. we often see freedom from suffering as a gift, or a blessing, or a reward for something, but this ignores the big picture of time. in the end, we all suffer. bad things happen to those we love, to us;; suffering visits the innocent just the same as the guilty, and we are left wondering why.

many of us spend most of our time trying to avoid suffering. it is a primary goal in most people's moment to moment existence. so if we think that we should be able to avoid it, it makes sense to wonder why, what did we do wrong?, when it visits. 

but perhaps it is better to wonder how or maybe even better yet, to experience how, as opposed to finding out why suffering happens. it is part of existence. freedom from suffering and suffering are just parts of existence. neither one can really be avoided. they are both there to be experienced. and experience itself is a gift beyond anything imaginable.

the one thing for certain in the ironman is that suffering will come. you may get a good time, or a bad time. you might finish, or not. but you will suffer, no matter what. no matter how hard you train, no matter how hard you plan, no matter who supports you or who doesn't, or how prepared you are, or how well you execute your race plan, you are going to suffer. the task is just too big to complete without suffering. just as living is too big to complete without suffering.

how are you going to deal with your suffering when it happens?

Monday, August 15, 2011

it was the 12 days of taper and my true love gave to me...a diaper with a poo

Ironman Canada is in 12 days.

this is not the twelve days of christmas.

this is the 12 days of: i am stressed. how will i do this? i have trained enough, i haven't trained enough. the ironman is a monkey on my back. how do i please this monkey? what will be it be like to change the baby's sleep zone by 3 hours? will i be f-cked beyond imagination by the sleep issues of the baby? what will the last 10k feel like? i remember running the marathon. my hamstrings were ropes waiting to burst. what if i feel like shit? what if my taper makes me fat and feeling like shit? what if i ride too hard? what if i run too hard at first? and other things i can't mention....

this is the 12 days of neurotic frickin shit, i can't wait for race day. the build up is killing me. the taper is killing me. the aches and pains from nowhere are killing me. the built up fatigue is killing me, and most of all, my dread of it all being over is killing me.

this road is getting short. but it has been long, and fun, and ...well never, mind, but....i am looking forward to penticton, to the beach,the mountains, atmosphere of my first ironman. i am excited. and afraid.

and as the race gets closer i  have inevitably encountered some of my  deepest demons of sobotage and self-doubt. well, f*5k them.  i wont' deny they are there, i won't deny their role in my past, but they can see the door to their exit from my present. good riddance.

deep fears of self sabotage should stay deep where the sun don't shine. i am going to believe. i am going to keep being consistent. i am going to do my best to be an ironman.

and if anyone reads this who has not donated to the lls, please do, i am really close to my fundraising goals. it would be nice to get there.