Nimmo Bay

I haven't had time to sit down and publish regarding my trip to Nimmo Bay (www.nimmobay.com), it almost feels too momentous, too grand; it was simply that spectacular, full of insight, inwards. It felt like another stepping stone on the path  laid out by new friends, and peers, onwards towards what's next; and a glimpse into the glory all around us, if only, we stop, for a moment, sit still, breath, look and listen. 

 

Nimmo Bay was all of that, and more; while I was up there I wrote a story about sentiment called, wait for it, sentimental, I'm holding on to it, just because, for now, its mine, and it feels significant, to me.

It's a story about a man and his fire. 

Arent they all.  

Simon

 

 Video and photos: Simon Whitfield  

Music: Patrick Watson  

 

 

Photos below thanks to;

JEREMY KORESKI

PHOTOGRAPHER

TOFINO

CANADA

THIS IS NOWHERE

hey Jer and Fraser, remember that time we went to lagoon and played in the outflow, what a joy, grateful to know you.  

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Canada's Sports Hall of Fame induction

 

 

"I sat down to write an acceptance speech for my induction into Canadas sports hall of fame and found myself with writers block.

 

What does one say in this briefest of forays upon the stage. Do i speak to the grandiose or simply stick with gratitude, is there a concise way to express both, to touch on the acknowledgement of achievement through dedication, opportunity, and luck while at the same time conveying the deep appreciation one feels towards the people in our life who make us better, the contributors and primary influencers, many of whom are here today.

Do i use this short window with the microphone in hand to convey thoughts on life lessons learned through sport, universal meanings gleaned from specific incidence. Do I press forward with thoughts on morality, our shared responsibility to coexist through constructive defiance, or do I pander to national pride, to empathize and in a sense justify common values and shared belief's; in truth I struggle with nationalism, I dont believe in us and them, we're all in this together, isolation breeds discontent and betrays the advantages inherit in true diversity. The best of us, is all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I considered giving this moment to observation, my thoughts on performance decision making. I would focus on simplicity as the greatest sophistication and a vivid imagination being the mother of all reality; our greatest attitbute as humans is the gift of fiction, our ability to play how'bout (and imagine if), write and read fiction, in order to think on the grandest scale, learn to be still with your breath and at all costs retain self authority of your attention span, for what we pay attention to makes us human.

 

Eventually I overcame writers block by sitting and staring at the blank page before striking at the space with pen in hand until the words flowed, and when they stalled again, which they inevitably did, I simply sat a little longer, for this is my gift, through daily ritual I have taught myself to focus my mental landscape, to maintain propriety of my breath throughout, and be intensely persistent.

 

If for nothing else, with my children here, my daughters who's wide eyes, open hearts and ability to be perpetually present remind me daily what it means to be the best of ourselves, the innocence of youth, the gift of childhood, I lean forward and say, throughout your life "Live into your values", be kind and compassionate, be content, humble, forgiving, honest, principled and dedicated to the service of others by working to create safe space in which others can prosper, have the courage to step forward and believe in yourself, always ask why, express your gifts and forever, and I mean forever continue to play "how'bout".

 

Thank you"

Out paddling


The boys were being difficult this morning. Having a tiff. Something to do with building permits and residential parking. They will be fine but it meant one wouldnt paddle if the other was there. They were pissing in each other's direction for the sake of not having to grunt about it. We will all paddle together again soon. I decided it was too perfect a day and met me, myself and I at Cattle point. I was reminded how spectacular it can be on a calm day, any day in fact, by a women who arrived by bike. She was raving to her friends about the scenery "are you kidding me, this is spectacular, I thought we were going to the break water again, this is incredible, how did you know about this place".... i stopped my paddling preparations and listened in reminded yet again just how picturesque our favourite launch site is, jutted out into the ocean, the Olympic mountain range to the south, in the fore ground the chain inlets and further out to the south east Discovery and Chatham island, with Mount Baker in the background. There must have been 50 fishing boats out there, dozens of sail boats, and smaller crabbing craft buzzing about.

I'm on a new board, well a different board, I was able to trade a stable, predictable, sturdy work horse board, with no blaring weaknesses, and frankly no shining attributes, for a rocket ship with tight thresholds that skates on its edges; the starboard sprint 2015 14x23 glides on top of the water, and although it can be twitchy, and because of the straight rocker line you want to always be stepping back in even the slightest swell, it's a blast to ride, and catches bumps my other boards simply couldn't imagine getting on. It makes flat water paddling, with it's subtle rippling textures, cross currents, whirlpools, rolling lumps and defined boat wake into a shifting matrix like labyrinth for paddling.

I found a groove right away, my breathing in tune with my stroke, and the seems began to open up, the paths between ridges of curling and pulsing packets of swell. I found the soft spots, the mirrored glass surface, bubbling up from below, displacing colliding currents and providing a gentle soundless breakthrough to the other side. When I emerged at the Bains channel cut through on the north side of Chatham the current wasn't swirling and rushing through the s-turn and I was able to glide by without much trouble, in fact it was tame enough I didn't remember passing it until later, lost in the meditation of paddling, my body and mind synchronized, in unison, the sound of the paddle, my breath, and an ever so slight lapping of water at the front edge of the sprint machine, it's porpoise like nose displacing the water, a quite wake disturbing the tranquil mercury coloured ocean rippling and dancing beneath me.

Around the south side of Chatham I found a beautiful set of lumps rolling past and was able to get up to speed and catch a ride. The sprint owns this, it's ability to accelerate and maintain it long enough to get on to even the smallest of bumps sets it apart from anything I have previously paddled, if it's smaller then a foot, foot and a half swell, the Starboard Ace with it's up turned nose and bowed rocker line is simply unable to generate the initial hull speed required for such small roll, although when the swell picks up, if it stays in some sort of predictable consistency without much side chop, the shape feels second to none, you seem to take off, without even paddling on the Ace. Today though, the ocean played flat and shifting, meaning the consistency of the various subtle textures was much more defined and predictable, requiring top end speed and moderate agility over stability and wave pick up, different shapes for different conditions, it's all part of the joy of paddling.

I found another set of lumps descending down the long run way leading to the narrow gap between Chatham and Discovery, the current was bucketing as we tend to say, this doesn't capture the elegance and fluidity of it but it does convey the relative speed. You have to paddle at a solid clip to make progress, the board tends to sway a bit from side to side as you navigate the exchange, and it's only when you look beyond the boat that you see you're not making as much forward gain as you might have imagined. Once you're through the gap and can ease off a bit you rest up and paddle slowly but the pull of the drain behind you doesn't fully let go and you find yourself drifting back to whence you came. If you are lucky, or persistent, you get to do it all again.

Having sat for an undetermined amount of time watching the world go by, in amongst the stillness and peace of open space, a simplicity and calmness disturbed only by the occasional plane passing above and the burping ocean below, I took another time lapse, a nod of time spent creating empty space, before popping through the gap and making my way back home. The tides had turned over and the more intense churning was behind me but i did manage to find some lumps and bumps to assist me on my way, lifting and sweeping me from way point to way point. The enterprise straight and Bains channel see a fair bit of boat traffic and the conditions out in the middle can provide some challenge and entertainment but today was smooth gliding and it wasn't long before I was back at Cattle point, back to the real world and off to help The Grizzly build out his shed.

Another day, another paddle, often the same location, always a different track, there's something special about dancing on the ocean, the defiance in gliding across the top, the privilege of having access to this vast open space, it's hard to describe; not only the sights and sounds, but the feel of the water, the pulse of the ocean, with its fluid textures an endless playground.

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Commonwealth Games 2022 - Victoria?

Commonwealth Games - an opportunity to come together.

Humans thrive when we come together. We are social beings. This is our gift, our distinction and our greatest asset.

We prosper when we participate in ceremony, exchange knowledge, experience diversity through shared culture, and most importantly, meet face to face.  We gain greater understanding and empathy for each other. This prosperity goes well beyond the actual event because the growth happens in the preparation and it carries on long after the chairs are put away and the dishes cleaned.

In the lead up, communities are required to work in common enterprise, the experience and expertise in the community are put to the test, and procedures are refined. Along the way we fine-tune our skill sets, set additional goals to which we aspire, and work towards new standards, this not only applies to the central organizing committees. In addition, the infrastructure istested, facilities are renovated and new ones are built, individually organizations ramp up their engagement, people from all walks of life find themselves drawn in to share in the cause and the silos we once existed in are broken down.  As everything is inevitably examined through the visibility and scrutiny they are subjected to, all are asked to rise to the new benchmark, and if they can not do so, here lies the opportunity, and the responsibility now assigned a galvanized and focused community. We extend a helping hand, we participate in rising tides, and rise all boats.

During an event we celebrate, face-to-face, allow our cultures to express themselves, we acknowledge and embrace our distinctions and in doing so we highlight common threads. We see ourselves in each other and we breakdown the barriers that once separated us. We meet our neighbours and we engage with people from far away. We socialize, we connect, we share best practices, and we generate a transfer of knowledge. Artists perform, society examines itself, athletes compete and spectators aspire, and volunteers come together to participate and make their mark. Officials, and the committees they work for, see the fruits of their labour and in their own way they too inspire.

And then there is the legacy, here we are given another opportunity, to harness the momentum, to point ourselves in the direction to which we can express the best of ourselves. Best practices learned are implemented, friendships made carry on, the impressions left by others help us understand each other and we possess greater empathy towards one another. We feel inspired to keep moving, to greet one another, to lend a helping a hand and share the load.

We thrive when we come together as it is the ultimate gift we can give to one another.


Simon Whitfield

Metrics and 'the love of play' from www.fanfit.com

SIMON WHITFIELD ON METRICS AND THE ‘LOVE OF PLAY’

— By Rachel Sovka

How much do metrics matter?

Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield shares his experience of which metrics he pays attention to.

“I went through various stages in my career where metrics were a focus, and other phases where they weren't,” he says.

SEE ALSO:How to Whitfield your way to a win

Whitfield describes the times he measured different things and how they evolved along his athletic journey depending on what he was trying to achieve.

“Early in my career, I was very pace-orientated, I loved to measure and be precise. In the middle of my career I used the term ‘ish’, as in ‘the pace today will be three minutes-ish.’ I was being defiant of structure searching for simplicity and freedom.”

‘REVIEWABLE METRICS ARE VALUABLE’

In the later stages of Whitfield’s career, he trained with coach Jon Brown and the two of them became fixated on the idea that precision training leads to predictable performance gain.

Around that time he was very cognizant of measuring his pace at all times, but, in the present day, Whitfield has a different outlook on metrics.

“I believe now that reviewable metrics are valuable,” he says, noting the information can help establish expectations and set the tone for upcoming workouts.

Whitfield explains that during the workout, through practice, he tries to continually move toward an increase in his capacity for internal awareness. Understanding how difficult that can be helps him to find joy in the evolving process that he says deepens his mind-body connection.

“Post-workout, it is helpful to have metrics to review,” he says, “giving greater understanding to what actually transpired with the simple goal of establishing patterns, continuity arc, and development of individual potential.”

PUSHING LIMITS WITH N+1 WORKOUTS

Developing individual potential is, as many athletes will say, often about pushing oneself just beyond your limit in order to expand your limits each day. Lately, Whitfield has done that through spin classes to get his circulation going, and through yoga, which he uses for emotional well-being.

But back during his Olympic training Whitfield pushed himself by focusing on N+1 workouts with the help of his coach.

“We would do as many reps as we felt we could, plus one,” Whitfield recalls. “These workouts pushed our limits mentally at the same time requiring us to have a keen sense of our capabilities. It wasn't meant to simply be ‘push yourself into oblivion.’ It was more a case of ‘how many would you do if there wasn't a predetermined governor?’

“I really geared up for these workouts because I felt it was an opportunity to prove to myself just what I was capable of, and how focused I could be.”

A NO-NONSENSE DIET

Of course gearing up to push yourself in a tough workout requires the right fuel ahead of time. And for Whitfield, simplicity is the greatest sophistication; a simple, no-nonsense diet.

“Meet your energy requirements with simple quality foods, with a focus on facilitating a healthy gut,” he recommends. “I'm a big believer in this; healthy gut, healthy mind and body.”

Simon believes this is easier than we make it out to be. He suggests fermented foods, and suspects we would be wise to avoid dairy and all but the smallest amount of high quality meat.

“The cappuccino beside me, and the turkey sandwich I ate for lunch be damned,” he says with a laugh.

THE THEATRE OF SPORT

In breaking down a complex idea, Whitfield says metrics are only worth obsessing over if you’re doing it for the right reasons. He advises taking all the numbers and measurements and simplifying the ‘why’ into the great moments in sport which metrics help you achieve or experience.

Whitfield’s favourite moment in Canadian sport is Sidney Crosby's golden goal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

“That moment was special as a Canadian kid who grew up playing hockey,” Whitfield explains. “Beyond that, it's all about the pick-up games nobody sees, the street hockey games with friends, our weekly soccer games where shoes or sticks go in the middle; it’s the theatre of sport played out with no one watching, playing sport for the love of play, and nothing else.”

So whatever metrics you may be measuring, Whitfield encourages self-awareness for capacity building, but reminds us not to get too caught up in the numbers and remember to embrace the simple joy of sport.

FKT's, FuKT's and 'ish

 

 

The idea of an FKT, the Fastest Known Time on a particular route, is quite popular on Vancouver Island, it's essentially Strava, an online gps community ranking various gps segments meets PB's once logged and hidden away in a training logs or shared amongst friends at a club house on a wall. You can take a crack at an FKT anytime as it doesn't require there to be a sanctioned race, you pick the time of day and place, and go. It's genuine, and I believe somewhat informal, or at least lends its self to a bit more of an honour system. I dont know this for sure, maybe there are rules in place, we tend to formalize things as time passes and more people get involved. The beer mile is like that, it started one way, 4 beers/4laps, mark, set, go, then a rules committee got their hands on it and they made sure the official beer mile had certain qualifiers, the beer had to be a certain percentage, it had to be from a can? Etc. Etc. And the record went from a fastest known time to a formal record, recognized by a committee, and such. That's the difference between official records and Fastest Known Times, official records are formal and must be done in the presence of officials, a prescribed number, according to a set of regulations, recognized by some federation, made up of more officials, the record the result of a race. Fastest Known Times, as far as I know, appreciating I could always look it up, which I wont, dont rely on officials, committees, and shun having too many rules. I hope this is the case and its more of an honour system, a "hey what time did you do" game, with a possible appendix being a photo of you with your watch face and the summit in the background, with no sign of photoshop or shortcuts, a "promise you didn't cheat" policy of sorts. As I write this I just know someone made up more rules to FKT's when personal GPS came along and took over as they satisfy our love for standards and verification. GPS watches changed everything, how many times have you seen people scrambling to find their GPS watch, or cursing that the battery died, acting as if it isn't logged on Strava, then it didn't happen. I used to have my moments with GPS watches, gritting my teeth searching my bag for a wrist weight that mostly worked. I can't find my GPS ornament now which leaves me tempted to buy a Fenix3 by garmin, I'm told I can log my paddling stroke rate and cross reference it with my heart rate along with a whole lot of other data I probably won't end up looking at. I really just want the fly by option so I can make little movies of where to explore and encourage more people to come paddleboading, with us.

And then - there are what I really wanted to write about - Fastest unKnown Times and the beauty of not really knowing. With a FuKT there are no rules, no committees, no oversight, no need for any of it, the only requirement, is no watch. There must be no known recording of the time. The freedom inherit in this is profound, the purpose, intent, and the purity, of simply doing it, to be present to the experience, with the subplot; no matter how fast you go under the supervision of a watch, your FuKT's will always allow you to claim, to yourself and to others, if you like, that you think you have gone, or just went, faster.

I had this in mind when I set the FuKT for the Gowlland Harbour Resort to the small island at the entrance to Gowlland Harbour, across from Steep Island Resort, and back. I set a FuKT, a super FuKT in fact. I so badly want to say I was right FuKT at the end, but that doesn't really work. We were ashured of a FuKT when we launched from April point marina at low tide, navigated the narrows into the harbour from the south end, cut across the middle to Gowlland Resort, ferried ourselves against solid chop and a cross wind back to the northern tip of Gowlland Island, crossed over to Steep Island to check out the washing machine turnstile conditions off the tip before turning our boards with the wind at our backs to skirt the currents between Steep and Gowlland on the west side, ride some boat wake and fly with a tail wind and rolling lumps back to the marina. In both instances, it was the first time i had navigated the routes, and did so without a watch, thus assuring, Fastest unKnown Times. In fact, these FuKT's can be known as FuKTFTB, Fastest unKnown Times From The Beginning. It's such a pleasure to do a route for the first time without a watch, outside the bounds of being timed, forever assuring that the first time can always remain, the FuKT; "that was fast, we were really rolling right from the beginning, nailed the middle section and brought it home strong, XX:XX is the FKT...BUT.. I don't think we went as fast as I did the first time, when I FuKT it" who knows, you will never know, the bliss of a great FuKT .

"Finite players play within the boundaries, Infinite players play with the boundaries" James P. Carse

All of this reminds me of "ish". I believe precise preparation leads to predictable performance gains, i understand this as a concept, and in practice. During my athletic career I trained precisely, which included the "ish". What colour is that car? It's red'ish. What time will they be here, 4'ish. When it comes to training, if we are really in tune with our body, we begin to understand that what happens to be written down on paper, is really just the prescribers best guess, hopefully an educated one, but a guess none the less. The program being followed is best guessing at how many reps to do, how long the run should be, how far you need to swim, how fast you will go. When you attune yourself to how you're doing, when you are able to set aside your ego, silence the chorus of second guesses, and internal reprisal, you realize the boundaries are not set in stone, they are not assigned by a doctrine handed down from above, and as educated guesses, you can give yourself permission to have some room for "ish". Today's run is scheduled for 12km, it's been 11ish and I'm feeling done, it's time to walk home, an easy example of "ish" being applied. This could go the other way too, scheduled for 12, it's now closer to 13, no stress, we go to "ish". It's as much an attitude as anything else, in fact, it's all an attitude. A calm one, which pays tribute to the power of precision, while at the same time being mindful, of the attitude of "ish" as it comes from the same family as FuKTs.

 

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Coach Sutto

 

It took me a while to sit down and write about the final leg of my European adventure, my tour of the continent, a journey in search of insight into performance decision making. I began my excursion in Yorkshire with the Brownlee brothers, the best of the best, two brothers performing at the pinnacle, not only by their own standard but that of our sports; they are the evolution of the triathlete built on the Simon Lessing model, swim at the front, bike off the front, run faster then anyone else. To start with the Brownlees it was appropriate to finish with a man who has few peers coaching at his level (although I was coached by a couple of them), the grand master of coaching in our sport, an original, Brett Sutton. Brett is no stranger to controversy, some self inflicted, while other criticism simply comes with the territory, to be the best ruffles some feathers. I will chose to leave these be. I first heard of Brett many many moons ago. I believe I made it onto his radar in the early days when he was the Australian National team coach and I was a try hard junior racer attending a talent ID camp at the Australian Institute of sport. It was 1994 or 95 and the camp was called CASIO 2000, or something like that. We ran on treadmills with Vo2mX apparatus hanging from the ceiling, the selectors were determined to be ahead of the curve identifying the next generation of talent, observing from behind a desk in a lab coat they admired their fancy equipment while waxing on about their new special protocols. Apparently I barely registered as a blip, my capacity to dissect and orchestrate optimum performance lost in the dark of the data mine, blind as it looks only for what it thinks it wants to see. I don't know if Brett was there, I can't imagine he was, but it was the first I heard of him, like an underground murmur the athletes spoke of Suttos squad with reverence and aspiration, we all wanted to be the next Ben Bright, a clumsy red headed Phoenix risen from the ashes under the watchful eye of coach Sutto (and truly one of the best blokes I had the privilege of knowing during my racing career). Brett exists only out in the field, in the trenches. He isn't interested in engineering numbers, cutting edge protocols and lab coats. He wants to know the athletes, he understands what makes them tick, what buttons to push and how to enable them to discover their own capacity, take agency of their destiny. Brett instilled in his athletes a fierce work ethic and relentless determination. No set was too big, no mountain too high, his athletes pounded the rock day and night, Brett understood the human capacity to work, and keep working. If I give the impression he was pounding their head on the rock I have done Brett, and his athletes, an injustice. He is methodical, pays attention to every detail and listens intently to his athletes, attuned to what they say, and what they don't say. He expects his squad to be resilient athletes and strong minded individuals. The stories which proceeded the Sutto squad created a myth of sorts, we heard they trained in the harshest location possible, they lived up a mountain with no distractions, they ran marathons on the treadmill looking at the wall, they weren't allowed water, were forced to ride 100's of kms home from races, they ran four times a day. Their legend preceded them and Brett was the master of creating a mystic without even trying, if it was premeditated it was backed up by the athletes quite head down focus and attitude rooted in the belief that no one prepared more thoroughly. I saw first hand an example of the shift athletes made when they passed through the gates of Sutto's fefhdiem after Greg Bennett came back from his first camp. Benno would be the first to tell you he went into camp with one set of expectations, of himself, and what he was entitled to, and he came out a different person. He had a sharper refined edge, like a blade forged in the furnace by a master craftsman, he radiated relentless and he approached racing as a boxer might, one who never stops preparing. As if every bout was just another moment in the day, the only break he took from punching the bag was walking to the ring and when he was done, no matter how he did, he simply walked out the way he came, and went back to punching the bag. Benno learned to love punching the bag. Sutto instilled this in his athletes, ingrained it in their DNA. My first World Cup was in Ishigaki Jumi, a two day journey from Australia to the far atol like islands sprinkled like stunning jewels surrounded by coral reefs dangling like a pendant off the main islands of Japan and inhabited by the most wonderful people. The food, the culture and the adventure have stayed with me as memories that exemplified what a privilege it was to be a triathlete on the circuit, but the defining moment of that trip happened sitting at breakfast on race morning watching an individual do lap after lap of the tiny hotel pool with giant paddles strapped to her hands. She was there when we arrived and continued long past the end of our leisurely race morning oatmeals and coffee. Joanna King swam 6k in a 18meter pool in the morning, and if I recall correctly, she won the race later that afternoon. If you went through the results you would see my 46th or 44th, something in the 40's, and in the top 10, Sutto athlete after Sutto athlete, everyone one of which was most likely assigned a workout to address their weakness before and after the race, on race day. They worked and they worked. And their coach showed up in a suit, a proper suit complete with tie. He did this out of respect for his athletes, for the work they put in. I don't think he does it anymore but we used to see Sutto at the races sweating in his suit, running around the course, cheering on his boxers.

When I arrived in St. Moritz it was none other then the man himself there to pick me up. It was as if no days had passed since we last connected, Sutto was in full form telling stories, dissecting races, talking life in Switzerland, the difference between French Swiss and German Swiss, the rivalry. He spoke of his daughters tennis aspirations, and her fearless skiing exploits. We sat as two dads talking about our kids, their quirks and quarks, we talked about watching coaches with our kids, how interesting it was to be on the other side, how at times it was difficult to sit back and at others, when our children were just in the moment playing sports they loved, how it was such a pleasure to simply be observers with nothing more to contribute then awe and joy.

I met Sutto for dinner that night with his son. Tom has vision, he's audacious like his dad and while he might still be in his twenties he speaks with the authority and poise of a man much older, he is direct and confident.

Coach Sutto wears his frustrations, like an old fighter with scars, he'll tell you the stories, his lip quivers and his brow furrows, he has some issues with how the sport is run, to him it's so bloody obvious. He pays tribute to the origins of the sport, and the true essence of what it means to be a triathlete. He feels the races should reflect this, "no more of this shampoo, blow dry and a run bullshit". He wants Ironman corporation out, he loves the distance, and the challenge of preparing his athletes for the Hawaiian Ironman but the organization is "bullocks". And the coaching, what a treat it was to hear Sutto analysis the state of coaching, he respects certain coaches, he pays attention, he knows whats going on but he would never bow to another coach, it's just not part of his code. He prepares his athletes, they prepare theirs, he respects their efforts, he wants them to respect his, and then he arrives at the race in a suit, determined to show them he simply cares more.

It was fascinating talking to Tom Sutton who is burrowing down into the triathlon and corporate wellness industry with the same grit and determination his dad shows. He is building his vision of how it can be done, they are coaching coaches, establishing curriculum, and educational systems aimed at providing every athlete and coach with the tools needed to see their full potential. Tom understands his dads coaching philosophy, if Brett is the knowledge and experience Tom has taken on the role of the librarian, systematically organizing and sharing his dads enormous catalogue of reference material and Sutto'isms. Toms vision goes well beyond the foundation Brett has built, TriSutto is only one pillar of the enterprise, Toms ability to grasp the nuances of triathlon and understand the broader applications gives me confidence that whatever they do will be successful, with a unique Sutto signature.

I was able to spend a morning with Sutto on deck, he had a dozen coaches with him going through the various stages set out in their coach education program. This was combined with an age group training camp running in conjunction with the elite squad lead by Nicola Spirig and Daniel Ryf. Sutto was in full form, his analogies, his passion and Triathlon specific philosophy were front and centre. Today he was explaining he wanted his athletes to have purposeful kick, none of this six beat nonsense, and he lamented the use of world class swimmers as models, they are the anti protocol for swimming, "you are not a world class swimmer, you look nothing like them, you are not flexible, stop trying to swim like them, you can't, so learn to work with what you have, WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE!!" He applied this across the board, triathlon is unique, you are not a swimmer, biker, runner: you are a triathlete. I agree, it's not swimming and biking, and running, it's swimbikerun, it's one word. Say it quickly. Swimbikerun. Sutto agree's. "Who can spin like that on the bike, this high cadence silliness, preserve your hamstrings, think ahead, youre a triathlete not a cyclist" "in Ironman it's not running, it's barely even jogging, it's shuffling, they shuffle, Crowie shuffled quickly. Learn to shuffle quickly, wanna get faster, run up hill, a lot, run hills, a lot. And get out there and shuffle, and get to the track, do 40x400 at pace, 100x200 at pace, easy jog, do it, over and over. Learn your body, increase your capacity, build your resiliency and be consistent".

It was truly a unique experience spending an evening sitting with the Suttons, and a morning at the TriSutto workout. I look forward to continuing our conversations. Their approach to performance decision making is built on conviction in the same manner Alistars is, do the work, believe in what you do, have the courage to commit and think for yourself, untamed by convention and the mediocrity imbedded in the status quo who's hidden agenda is centred around taking no risks, never stepping beyond their comfort zone because they believe zero is better then minus one.

Sutto punches zero in the mouth.

That would make a great t-shirt.

 

 

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Zurich

In appreciation of the Swiss way.  

Precision. The Swiss way. A common theme through out as I reconnect with old friends and champions of our sport. They execute with precision. Nicola Spirig and Reto Hug exemplified this ideal. Their daily routine is focused on family and performance optimization, even in a time when Nicola is still recovering from the birth of their second child, their approach is very systematic and structured. This common thread repeats its self yet again. Daily rituals. Every morning Nicola woke up early, went downstairs to the training room and did her first session of the day. The kids woke and were feed and taken care of, business as usual. It stood out with Nicola just how unremarkable it all was, in the sense that they just rolled along focusing on consistency and incremental progression. Nicola doesn't really know what session is next as her coach Brett Sutton wants feedback from the previous session before determining where to from here. I trained in a similar manner, although I could see the general patterns and knew what usually came next I wanted to focus on each session as if it was the only session and rarely if ever looked beyond the rest of the day, acknowledging the next day only existed in the future, as this is just so, it made sense to me to focus on the here and the now, and leave tomorrow in it's appropriate place. Nicola appears to operate in basically the same manner, one session at a time, one day at a time.

I have known Reto and Nicola for a long time, in fact Reto and I first raced together 20 years ago in the French Iron Tour, 8 races in 9 days through out France. We were on separate teams but the comradely which occurs racing and traveling from venue to venue stays with you. We had many sprint finishes together, the tall Swiss Champion could lay it down with 400 to go. At one point Reto recalled sitting together on the ferry to the Opera house in 2000 on race morning, two young bucks, wide eyed and fearless. Many moons ago. I asked him to put himself back that chair on the ferry early on the 17th of September, and imagine a man coming up and telling us, "one day, 17 years from now, you will still be friends, sitting on Reto's deck in Zurich, with 3 daughters and a son between you, careers now fading memories, cherish it, and good luck today".

We laughed as I rocked their daughter back to sleep, holding an 8 week old little girl in my arms reminded me just how special it is to have children, and how much I would love to have more, but these are thoughts for a different diary.

It was interesting going for a walk with Reto along the shores on the lake in Zug while Nicola attended a bike fit session at the European headquarters for Specialized. We discussed life after sport, our competitive fires and shared our thoughts on our present approach to fitness and healthy living. Reto remains as competitive as ever, with high expectations and a relentless approach. He admits to lacking commitment when it comes to any training "program" and has no desire to race, born of his fierce competitive nature, why race if you can't race at the front. In fact his frustration with this was palpable. He felt there was a certain way to approach competition and that was all in and train to win. Nicola shows the same fire with a deep internal belief in herself and it was this flame she focused on the challenge of racing Gwen Jorgennson, the overwhelming favourite in Rio. To hear Nicola recall the race, her mindset going in, the overall strategy in which she approached the race, and the tactics she deployed during the race aimed directly at unsettling, and therefor upsetting Gwen, were designed to attack winning; she was determined to race for Gold, conceding to Silver only when all efforts to win were exhausted. Considering Nicola sustained a serious hand injury early in the season which required 21 pins in her hand, which drastically altered her preparation, to see her "get after it" strategy employed in the manner it was, and to hear her re tell running side by side with Gwen, forcing her to lead and actually exchanging words, the content of which I will leave for Nicola to share if she chooses, again, it showed an athlete with absolute conviction in their abilities and fearless in their approach. Far from the self sabotage associated, whether acknowledged or not, with sub optimum performances. Nicola shows the same characteristics as Alistair Brownlee, courage, conviction, attention to details, and a high capacity to visualize outcomes, an ability to script and orchestrate their vision of how an event will unfold. On the day in Rio Gwen was able to over come Nicola, she had simply too powerful a running weapon to outwit, but it wasn't without having to dig as deep as is possible, and face down a fierce and committed competitor determined not to relinquish her Olympic Champion title without a long drawn out battle. It was a privilege to hear Nicola tell the story over a coffee. I went for a run from their beautiful home afterwards and was struck yet again by the fact that I was running on a path regularly soaked in the sweat of an Olympic Champion determined to leave no stone unturned wholly committed to getting the most out of herself. Fearless and absolute in her determination with the courage of her convictions.

The Grace of a Swiss legend.

Presently I am on a train headed to St. Moritz, the mountains have begun to appear and the valley is slowly narrowing down, apparently this is an extraordinary trip through tunnels past sheer soaring cliffs with peaks all around. Switzerland is astoundingly beautiful, the forests and lakes surrounded by mountains with their jagged summits looking over rivers and farm land almost surreal in their immaculate appearance is far more beautiful then even the most sophisticated camera can capture. It is almost as if it is make believe.

And the bike lanes, they are everywhere, an endless web of paths, in every direction, they criss cross the countryside, an explorers dream.

A reminder I need to bring my touring bike next time.

I am looking forward to St. Moritz, seeing Brett Sutton and his squad, jotting down notes from a master coach before taking in the scenery and reading my book by the lake with the fresh mountain air and endless trails to explore on my morning trot/yog.

For now it is time to read with my camera close by, we're in a tunnel now, who knows what spectacular scene will appear on the other side.

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"I wonder if i can run up there"

From the village of Champfar, up up up the slope beyond the valley, I decided to see if I could run "up to over there"

Right now part of me wishes I was still out there running. Tomorrow, most of me is going to be sore for the rest of my life. That was an ambitious run. I can be a bit ambitious. Zealous. Silly also comes to mind.

I arrived in St. Moritz yesterday afternoon after a spectacular train ride.

"Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges. The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass."

The train ride is considered a world heritage site according to UNESCO. I can attest to the fact that it is a stunning ride where the train creeks and lunches it way up the mountain, through small villages, over looking valleys, canyons, and all manner of what almost appears to be make believe. I was glued to the window, as were all the passengers through out the car, as if we were watching "Our Planet" on BBC as we climbed up into the clouds, at one point entering a spiral tunnel which wound it way through sheer rock before emerging on a treed slope high above the villages below with their churches ordained on a hill casting their bell towers shadow across their little domains.

When i arrived in St. Moritz none other then triathlons most successful coach was there to pick me up, Brett Sutton has coached more Ironman Champions, World Champions and Olympic Champions then the rest of the coaches combined, if that's possible. He's an eccentric character and we've known each other for 20+ years. I was flattered when he recalled watching me put almost 5mins biking into the field at the national long distance championships in Australia in 1995 before losing 15mins on the run, "you rode well, and walked poorly" he laughed. We sat in the car and later at dinner reminiscing about the days of old and sorting out all the present day issues as we see them, it was enlightening to say the least, the man is a wealth of knowledge having coached his first national champion in swimming when he was 15, now some 45 years later he's still at it. Brett marches to the beat of his own drum, I look forward to spending tomorrow morning with him at his squad practice, listening and learning as I seek to understand where mastery comes from, the essential ingredients, as Brett see's them.

I thought about attending his talk on cycling today but my desire to get out and explore trumped sitting and listening, the scenery here draws you in, it calls to you and beacons you ascent its slopes in search of a spot to sit and take in the view. You earn your vert though, it's steep and the air is thin but there's nothing quite like the Swiss Alpine, there will never be a time in my life where if i am asked if I would like to spend the day up in the meadows of the Swiss Alpine I wouldn't leap at the opportunity. Mind you, after today's impromptu two hr jaunt, i may never be able to run again, as tomorrow I suspect I will feel the complete wrath of consequence from today's decent back down to the valley below.

It was the best kind of adventure, point and shoot, ready fire aim. I simply ran out the door, looked up the slope, and thought, I want to see what's up there. I pointed myself in the general direction of what I assumed would be the trail and began to ascend the lower slopes, which quickly turned into a gruelling grind weaving its way up to an alpine hut perched on the edge of a cliff over looking the valley below. In classic Swiss style there was a beautiful chalet with it's own little pond out the back, complete with old school paddle boards; which was tempting but I wanted to touch the shale. I rested up for a few minutes, thought about descending back down and of course, as it is with us twits who simply love seeing what's beyond the next ledge, up past the visible horizon, I ran out the back and began to ascend the next series of switchbacks. As the trees began to thin out and boulders appeared so did the view, an astounding panorama of the st.moritz valley stretching as far as the eye could see with a series of interconnected lakes having procured the majority of the valley below, small villages as defiant outposts and mankinds engineering providing access along highways scribbled into the hillside and along the far shore. Humanity appearing as small ants adorned the landscape, we appear so irrelevant when viewed from a different perspective, as if we could just be swept away if nature, Mother Earth, simply shifted slightly and redirected a rush of water, or rumbled the ground beneath us. Having run all the way to the shale at the base of the steeper slopes with their formidable peaks looming high above I found a place to sit by a stream with the full grandeur of the panoramic view spread out in front of me and the quite of the Swiss alpine distilling my thoughts down to a light hum, clear and concise, I listened to my breath and sat still looking out into the distant beyond. At first I thought about life, family, relationships, love, and then nothing, I just sat and listened, and thought about nothing.

Eventually I decided it was time to run home, and this became an opportunity to play, like a mountain goat, bounding from rock to rock, arms in unison with the pitter patter of my feet. To an observer I would have looked both agile and chaotic, dexterous and out of control as I flew down the mountain chasing imaginary figures. I imagined Adam Campbell floating down the hillside as if we were playing a live video game with Jasper Blake and Kelly Guest in a fleet footed skirmish far ahead. I found myself on the decent visualizing just how punishing ultra trail races must be, how easy it would be to get carried away early, and pay pay pay the piper later on, early mistakes would reduce you to a quivering glucose depleted version of the walking dead. When i got to the lower slopes and was able to stretch out my stride i felt the familiar flow i experienced so often when I used to run every day, the power in my stride, the grace inherit in my tempo, I was racing Alistair again, stride for stride, willing him to break me lest we finish in a sprint and I unleash the only weapon I had that that he didn't.. and then the wheels fell off, and reality set in, and the slog home really began. I was reduced to a shuffle, walk, stumble, regroup, stride it out, slow down, shuffle again and walk. Unchoreographed and well earned, I felt both exhausted and exhilarated, utterly depleted and at the same time, whole and alive. One foot in front of the other, making my way back home. This too felt all to familiar. The days I spent just trying to make it home to food, imagining myself destroying the fridge door if, even for a moment, it resisted me.

and when I got home I stood outside the door staring up at the slope on the other side of the valley and wondered if I could make it up to the huts resting just beneath the snow capped peaks. My explorers mind knows no bounds, although my calves do, so i may have to leave that for another day. Or later today, depending.. .

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Missing the ocean

As much as it's been a great trip to Europe I can't wait to get home and back on the ocean.  

Roth

 

 

I grew up engrossed with triathlon, reading the magazines, searching far and wide for any and all tidbits of news related to the sport I loved. I knew all the early names, from Mark Allen and Dave Scott, to Erin Baker, Paula Newby Fraser and the Puntos twins, Colleen Cannon, Mike Pigg, Kenny Glah, Andrew MacNouhgton, Wendy Ingram, the list goes on and on. When Pauli Kiuru showed up in Hawaii to chase after Wolfgang Dietrich with a HR monitor strapped to his chest, I set off in search of a Polar watch, I loved the races, the stories, and the technology as I saw it all as pieces to the puzzle I was now determined to "solve". Along the way when triathlon looked like it would be contested at the Olympics the nature of my goals began to shift, moving from World Triathlon Champion and Hawaii Ironman Champion to Olympic Champion. The thought of seeing the Maple Leaf fly high and singing OCanada at the Olympic Triathlon, what could be better. My mentality and physiology was more suited to the Olympic distance, my hand eye coordination and athleticism being an advantage, fast twitch tendencies refined at the rink playing hockey, on the basketball court (sitting on the bench during games..), in the mid field playing soccer, I had a good sense of spacial relations and tactical awareness. And still, I had a love of the Ironman distance, the legend of Hawaii, the Lava fields, the mystique, the Ironwar. Dave Scott vs. Mark Allen, Julie Moss, the Welch's, Peter Reid, Lori Bowden, Chris McCormack, Crowie and Chrissie, to name too few. If I could have lived dual lives with parallel careers I would have raced as I did, an Olympic distance athlete, and I would have another career, focused entirely on the Ironman distance.

I would have applied myself with absolute conviction and expressed my gifts in a similar manner.

All of this to say I am a huge Ironman distance fan and consider myself well versed in the history of the sport. Which made being in Germany for Challenge Roth all that more special and in every way I could have imagined the "we are triathlon" people far exceeded these high expectations.

Roth is one for the bucket list, way up there if you love our sport and want to experience the best of the best races. Come and participate in Roth with the Challenge Family. It is an extraordinary spectacle. I didn't even get to experience the midnight finish line stadium scene, which is apparently second to none (I'll be back next year for Collins Cup, and I'm bringing a sleeping bag, or finding a caravan to crash in). You need a plan with regards to how you are getting back to your hotel at midnight.

I found myself in Roth as part of the Collins Cup contingent, on behalf of the Professional Triathletes Organization, a collective formed to bring professional triathletes together and help represent them on the triathlon circuit. As a Co Captain of the International team with Lisa Bentley, Craig "Crowie" Alexander and Erin Baker, I feel honoured to be considered and look forward to seeing the Collins Cup come together. Named after the founding "family" of the Ironman distance, John and Judy Collins pulled together the first version of the Hawaii Ironman when they envisioned a race combining the Waikiki rough water swim, the around-Oahu cycling race and the Honolulu marathon in 1978. 15 athletes competed in this epic adventure, and the Ironman was born. Collins Cup is 40years in the making with 36 athletes competing over a 3/4 iron distance race, in a Ryder Cup (golf) like concept, 12 races within the race, in heats of 3, a European Team, Internationals Team and Team USA, competing for the Collins Cup, and the legacy of racing as a team, taking on all challengers. The first Collins Cup will be held July 1st in Roth as part of the Datev Challenge Roth, as we look to weave another thread into the quilt of our sports history.

That and Team International looks to stick it to Team USA Captains Dave Scott and Karen Smyers, two of our sports legendary characters, along with Chrissie Wellington and Norman Stadler, European Captains and Hawaii Ironman Champions.

It was a privilege to participate as a relay team with Dylan McNeice, Lisa Bentley and Chrissie Wellington. Seeing the race from the inside was phenomenal, what an honour, thank you to Challenge Family CEO Ziby and Felix for letting us participate. To ride 90kms on closed roads throughout the Roth region was special. It was fun to see Dylan again, we hadn't caught up since 2012 when I was training down in NZL with Andrea Hewitts squad, we spent a few moments before the start reflecting on the late Laurent Vidal, it gives me goose bumps just writing about him, Laurent was one of a kind, truly one of the most generous, gracious and kind individuals you will ever meet, he brought us all together to train at Snow Farm 13 km up a gravel road outside of Wanaka, it ranks as my favourite training camp during my long career, a spectacular setting in perfect alignment with the wealth of wonderful people who came together in common enterprise, to do something they loved, and share in the experience with a man who will always be missed, his legacy being that of Grace and kindness. Seeing Dylan and spending a moment reflecting brought it all back, 5 years later Dylan didn't miss a beat, it was joy to pay tribute to Laurent again as we spoke of his impact on our lives, the privilege it was to know him.

Dylan ran into transition, and I walked out, just soaking it all in, a field full of triathletes, compression socks, tattoo's, nano materials, aero helmets and gu like nutrition solutions. The crowd was enormous with people everywhere, dangling off the bridges ledge, lining the shores of the canal, packed in columns of all different nations along the bridge, celebrating "we are triathlon". Again Roth is special. And there I was, riding a road bike borrowed from Scott bikes, wearing some dudes cycling shoes, in a bike kit our Mobile Bike Shop Velofix sent by express post the day before. I put the seat back a cm, didn't touch the height, tilted the brake hoods up a few mil, bought some gels, JIC, and I was off for a 90km ride, 80km longer then my longest ride in over a year, with yet another huge shit eating grin on my face, riding the Challenge Roth course, in amongst it, taking in the beauty of our sport, from inside the fabric of one of the greatest sporting festivals you can imagine. Roth is famous for the Solar Hill climb, twice, at the 70k and 150km mark you ride up a short fairly steep climb packed with thousands and thousands of spectators, "tour de France" style, you rise up above the city of Solar riding in single file with fans screaming in your ear, i was told it is a site to behold and it did not disappoint. I was smiling ear to ear trying to hold my camera steady having promised Velofix I would get a shot of our kit climbing Solar Hill, with over a 100 franchises we're providing a mobile bike shop solution, and we've now climbed Solar Hill, next we need to bring Chris G. out of his Iron distance retirement to experience the whole race, while David, Boris and I do a relay... (maybe Meg can run for one of us).

Handing off to Lisa Bentley was fun, we've known each other for a long time through the Ontario triathlon scene, Lisa has won more Ironman's than I can count, her career was built on the back of pure unadulterated hard work, and fierce focus. To see Lisa's smile as she set off for her lap of the German country side was great, again it wasn't lost on either us just how special it was to take in the Roth race as we were. I know when she handed off to Chrissie, a legend of legends, the Iron distance World Record Holder, in 8:17, set in Roth, they were both quite moved by the experience. A marathon later Chrissie did her signature roll across the line and although I couldn't get back to the stadium to see her finish, apparently you could hear the roar of the crowd far and wide, the Region of Roth, loves their sporting hero's.

Speaking of sporting hero's, I had a chance to catch up with three of our sports ironic figures in the days before the race. Bumping into Daniel Ryf was truly unexpected as we managed to cross paths, with me drinking a beer listening to my audio book in the beer garden... while she headed to a sponsor event. We raced together on the World Cup circuit for a few years, to see Daniel dominate in the manner that she has, built on the back of her unbelievable work ethic, makes all of us who knew her on the ITU circuit very proud, it was nice to just talk briefly, connecting again with many years between, and see her smiling face taking it all in as she prepared to face the pressure reserved for those expected to win. She handled herself, as always, with class and composure, and dominated on race day, as the "angry bird" does.

I have saved my favourite moment for the end; sitting and watching Jan Frodeno sign autographs and take photos for an hour at the Ryzon booth, beside a Frodissimo cafe, with a line up extending well beyond the booth. I bought a coffee from an expresso stand across the way, pulled up a lawn chair long since abandoned as everyone wanted to be closer to the action, and I took it all in. Jan has done it all, Olympic and Hawaii Champion, our sports ultimate double, an astounding accomplishment by a man who eats, sleeps, breaths excellence. I lived with Jan in 2010 in Sarbroken at the German National Center, his work ethic and training load shocked me. He simply never stopped exercising, morning, noon and night, up to four times in a day, day after day, with a physio living close by, a full support team on call, he was as focused as I had ever seen, in fact, I knew deep down inside that my focus, with a young family at home, had changed. It was completely overwhelming to think about and ultimately although I learned a great deal and had the privilege of seeing one of our sports greatest champions prepare up close for three weeks, it extinguished some belief I had in my own commitment and preparation. In the long term it was worth the trade, no need to deny reality, conviction is built on hard work, and absolute commitment. I was balancing too much, and although I may not have outwardly admitted it, I was aware there comes a time when we most all acknowledge the choices we make, in this case the life changing experience of having children.

The sacrifices we are no longer willing.

Seeing Jan in his element was great, he is a champion well beyond the race course judging by his genuine engagement with each and every individual who wanted a moment with the star of the show. Front and center Jan made everyone he met feel like they were the only person there for that brief moment of exchange. There wasnt one point where he flinched, looked distracted or unwilling to fulfill a request, whether it was making an expresso for a couple or posing for "just one more". In the end I stood close by in my newly purchased Frodissmo shirt and caught his eye. It was great to see Jan, we shared some time together catching up quickly on life and kids before finding our way back of house where Emma was taking a quick breath away from the crowds. I've known Emma since 2000 when she was a Australian Jr. triathlete. Emma is one of a kind. She's humble and always happy to see old friends, it was special to sit with Jan and Emma on a bench behind the scenes, just the three of us, reflecting on the last time we saw each other, there being too much time in between, and just how exhausting notoriety can be, the "and yet" side of applause, we sat quietly blinking and breathing after we talked about and internally reconciled the costs we each have paid for this 15 mins of fame, the varying degrees to which we have enjoyed it, or not.

The theme of this trip has been "and yet" and performance decision making as I seek to gain greater understanding and connect with old friends, individuals I shared extrodinary moments with during our sporting careers; the process they go through to attain and refine their art and mastery, and a short acknowledgment of the costs we paid as free cheese is only found in mouse traps. I often ask myself if it was worth it for the lessons learned, and what would I do if i could go back. Acknowledging in comparasion we lose sight, life is perfect as it, as it is, what it is. 

And that was Roth; from the race atmosphere, to catching up with old friends and a nice long ride on a borrowed bike, it was an outstanding experience, full of nostalgia and quite a few German beers.

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Yorkshire

I don't know where to begin, the first picture says it all, it was great to see the brothers Brownlee and have a peek back into their world. I had a glimpse a few years ago at New Years watching a fell race out in the Dales but that was just one day, a quick dinner and hello. Spending 4 days living with Alistair seeing his routine first hand and in the end spending hours just talking life and sport, performance decision making, was special. A privilege. To see the Yorkshire squad putting in the hard yards, their attention to detail, and compete self reliance, reminded me of everything I loved about being immersed in mastery, the obsession with the details, the daily rituals, and whole heart commitment to excellence. I couldn't believe the number of people who asked them for an autograph and a picture. The Brownlee brothers are a bit of a big deal in Leeds, in fact everywhere we went heads turned and cell phones came out. I was asked quite a few times if I was famous also, to which I happily replied, I don't even know who these guys are.

I wrote extensively about the trip in an attempt to document it, and at some point I will share my thoughts beyond the initial impressions, and frankly the obvious; it turns out they are detailed oriented, highly competitive and work extremely hard.

I learned a great deal from both Jonny and Alistair, in the end spending three full days in and amongst their lives, although sadly I avoided working out with them, sighting a sore Achilles, and laziness, something I regretted in the end, I'm not sure what held me back, maybe it was jet lag, or the deep well of reflection I often find myself. I did get out for a run on the second last day after we strolled into a local running shoe store and I bought a pair of Hoka speed goats; i love these shoes. While the squad went out riding I went for a "yog", a very slow "yog", for the first time in a couple years (I play soccer and paddle these days) and I absolutely loved it. It wasn't lost on me just how cool it was to be out running in the Dales, on the trails that the Brownlees grew up on, exploring the forests and fields where they plied their trade, the greatest triathletes of all time, generational Olympic talent. I logged my first run back by recording the audio, and talking out loud, to myself (needless to say I avoided people...). It was a fun and interesting experience, I felt like a CBC radio correspondent, in fact I tried to pretend in my head I was doing it for "on the island with Gregor Creigy". Honestly, I loved it, I absolutely loved it. I could feel my state of mind shift, in fact, it felt momentous and I recall saying out loud (it's actually on tape) "I forgot how much I love running". When I'm done transcribing it I'll post it. For now it's mine. As are the conversations we had. I recorded a few but I missed the first one at a Cafe by Alistair's house, where we talked about "and yet", the other side of notoriety, about losing your voice in your stature, being told to hold your opinion to yourself because it carries too much weight. And being held to a different standard, and at times just how much we would love to go back to anonymity in our home towns, life without the narratives written by people who think think they know who you are. And it turned out I didn't record it, and honestly it was a blessing, because it will forever remain our conversation, one for our memories, where we forged a common bond, well beyond sport, a sort of "I got your back" and something I will cherish. I did manage to record a 45min conversation about what characteristics we attributed to high performance decision making. Alistair comes back to conviction, conviction, conviction. And I agree, what makes up, what composes conviction, as compared to arrogance, is simply doing the work, with an obsessed commitment to the details. This is in line with much of my thinking on high performance decision making, although I believe it all begins with a high capacity to engage ones imagination, and therefor script and orchestrate that to which one assigns their conviction. I have said before, at a Canadian Olympic Committee panel discussion, that the overwhelming characteristic of the greatest champion our sport has ever seen, Alistair Brownlee, is courage, the courage of his convictions, the courage to commit wholly of himself. Alistair and I share a common fear, we are not afraid of failing, we are afraid of not giving all of ourselves in pursuit of expressing our gifts. That and we love walking straight at it, no matter how dark it gets; we believe in our capacity to overcome, to engineer light, to illuminate our paths forward, built on a conviction, that one is indeed capable, of anything.

More to come, this was meant more as a summary. I had some deeper reflections, some very personal ones, I'm not sure I'll share, this trip was meant to be about performance decision making and the "and yet" side of fame, but it ended up, as it so often does, being about so much more, as I found space to reflect and evaluate, assess what's important and where I'm headed, out running in the Dales.

and remembered just how much I love running.

Almost as much as paddling.. and soccer.

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The Tsar of love and techno stories

I came across "the tsar" wondering the aisles of Bolen Books with a stack of novels under my arm. As I stood surveying journals a man looked at my books and said please come with me.

So I followed.

We made our way to 'staff picks' where he handed me 'the tsar of love and techno stories'

"I believe you will enjoy this. Anthony Marra is a Russian writer".

And he continued on his way.

I quickly discovered Anthony Marra is a truly remarkable writer.

How can a mind conjure up such insight into the human condition and convey it so articulately. Where does it come from? His stories craft and reveal concepts with life lessons embedded in parable. I find myself dreaming of telling stories with such proficiency. As it often is when we dare to imagine our own capabilities relative to individuals immersed in mastery we become aware of a standard which is hard to comprehend; leaving any writing I do feeling amateurish and superficial, almost rudimentary.

I recall feeling the same way previously in my life.

How could I ever imagine matching wits, and engines, with these individuals.

In comparison we lose sight, and therefor I will leave this insecurity be.

When we create we access our inner voice, voices, and convey fleeting thoughts, as if snatching "bubbles in a vast, dark sea."

And possibly summon the courage to share, if one chooses to, in defiance of the nattering chorus, out into the world beyond our minds, including the realm of the cynics with their better one liners.

We must all begin somewhere and writing is not a competition, it is both more, and less.

The less is the quibbles, the texts and the tweets, the inane and the lazy.

It is also the lists and forms used to record and relay logistics. Valuable incased in their intention but otherwise benign.

"For art to be the chisel that breaks the marble inside us, the artist must first become the hammer" - {Anthony Marra 'The Leopard'}.

This is the more. More then any competition, it is pure expression, to sit and write, to strike at the blank page, I feel, is to aspire to unravel, and therefor understand, ourselves, to move towards that which we do not know. With no quantifiable measure beyond the subjective to mark a ranking, it is neither "right" nor "wrong" and therefor pure in its expression. Or is it. What is written propaganda? When content is fashioned to solicit, coral and direct actions. Is there a line? where is it? Is it balanced on the intent to manipulate?

I suspect I may have this all "wrong", the subject of "what is literature?" And "what is propaganda?" has been debated at great length through the ages, this being my first foray into the matter, one to which I suspect I will reread years from now, and shake my head at my past self, while smiling, before tipping my hat at the courage required in just trying.

To whom be the judge.

I will leave this for another day, and further contemplation, although as it relates to 'the tsar' it is relevant.

 

Marra takes us on a journey which starts in Leningrad in 1937.

'The Leopard' begins.

"I am an artist first, a censor second."

The story centres around a man who mets his brothers widow and his nephew for the first time in their third floor flat of a communal apartment block. He works for the Department of Party Propaganda and Agitation. He asks her to gather every photograph she has of his brother. After she complies and arranges them on the desk he gives her a one-ruble coin. Hammer and sickle side up.

"What am I to do with this?" She says.

He grabs her wrist and pinches the coin between her fingers. "I am here to make sure you don't get hurt. Your husband was an enemy of the people [he believed in a god in heaven, not a god of the state]. What do you think will happen if NKVD men search the flat and find all these photographs? Must I go into greater detail?".

"That coin could have bought a meat pie, a sketch pad, a confectionary, a bar of soap; pressed into someone else's palm it could have become the bright spot in a dull day, but coins cannot choose their fate."

When the man hears the slow scratch of the coin on photo paper he turns away. His brothers face obliterated, fated to be only an image sustained by their memories, no longer accessible to those who would erase all likeness of him further. And take his son away to an orphanage to be reconstructed in the image of their Stalin, their vozhd.

The mans job is to reconstruct history, to sit and paint out faces, entire people, from photographs and canvas. To erase all trace of those who oppose the state and embed Stalins, younger and younger versions of the icon to the people, into every moment in history he can, to reshape and define the past and its narrative according to the agenda of the state.

If we are made invisible in the present did we ever exist at all.

He goes on to tell his nephew the story of the Evil Tsar.

Anthony Marra - the leopard

"do you speak?" i asked.

He nodded.

"what an understatement, I see. Tell me your name."

"Vladimir."

I clasped his shoulder and he flinched, surprised by the sudden gesture of affection. He shared his first name with Lenin - an auspicious sign.

"I want to see if you can do something for me," I asked.

"are you willing to try?"

He nodded.

"stare straight at me." I instructed, then I flashed my fingers by his ear. "how many am I holding up?"

He held up four fingers.

"Very good. You've got keen eyes. Someday you might be a sharpshooter or a watchman. I'm going to tell you the story of the tsar and the painting. Have you heard it?"

The coin scratching in the bedroom might have been wind rustling leaves; we might have been far from there, near a dacha, in a field, the sun burning just over our heads.

"No, I didn't think you would have," I said. "It begins with a young man who overthrows an evil tsar. The young man becomes the new tsar. He promises his subjects that their troubles will disappear if they obey him. 'What will this kingdom look like?' his subjects ask. The tsar considers it and then commissions his court painters to paint a picture of what the new kingdom will look like.

"First the painting is only a few paces wide, then a few dozen paces, then hundreds of paces. Soon the painting is miles and miles wide. Now, this is a big painting, no? Raw materials are essential to its success. The flax that would have clothed the tsar's subjects is requisitioned for the canvas. The wood that would have built houses is requisitioned for the frame.

"When the subjects are cold, the tsar tells them to look at the painting and see the beautiful coats and furs they will soon wear. When they sleep outside, he tells them to look at the painting and see the beautiful homes they will soon live in.

"The subjects obey the tsar. They know that if they turn their eyes from the painting and see what is around them, if they see the world as it is, the tsar will make them disappear in a big poof of smoke. Soon, all his subjects are frozen in place, unable to move, just like their reflections in the painting."

The boy started with a bored frown. He must have been accustomed to excellent storytelling. Literature for children receives less attention from the censors than literature for adults, so naturally our best writers flock to the genre.

"How many fingers am I holding up?" I asked.

He put up three.

I slid my hand father into his periphery. "How many now?"

He put up one.

"And now?"

He began turning his head, but I snapped. "Eyes ahead. Just like the people in a painting can't turn their heads to see who's behind them, neither can you."

"I can't see how many fingers," he said. "Your hand is too far back."

"That's right," I said. "That's where your father is. He's there, painted in the background, back behind your head, where you can't see. He's there, but you can never turn to look."

The coin scratching had silenced some time ago. When I looked up, the boy's mother was standing in the bedroom doorway. I followed her in. The photographs were lined neatly on the desk. In each one, a single face had been so violently scratched out that the desk's wood grain was visible through the hole. My eyes ached to see it...."

This within the first chapter, from there the extraordinary collection of interlocking short stories "form an astounding whole whose artfulness becomes increasingly clear as it goes on."

I highly recommend this book, as does the staff at Bolens.

perfect is the death of good

I starting writing a blurb on "the tsar of love and techno stories" just because; because I loved the book, because I believe the author is a remarkable story teller and craftsman, because it made me think, and rethink, the concepts he presented, from which i gained greater awareness.

Between the first draft written and the published iteration my post has shifted and morphed into a discussion, between my past self, and present self.

What is literature? What is propaganda? What is art?

Along the way I struggled with the challenge of keeping continuity in the post as it moved from "because I loved this book" to a dialogue on creativity and back to summary of a book which I consider a source of profound insight into the human condition.

Literature.

And then I hit a point where I thought "perfect is the death of good" and I chose to simply publish my thoughts so far, and move on to the next subject that interested me, so here it is.

On "The tsar of love and techno stories" and a brief musing on literature and propaganda.

 

http://www.timelapseexplorers.com/blog/2017/6/28/the-tsar-of-love-and-techno-stories

One Leaf. Three Sports. No Limits

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What a scene, Triathlon Canada on full display at the Save On Foods arena, the flag planted so many years ago surrounded by the infrastructure our wonderful sport deserves, all set to flourish.


One Leaf, Three Sports, No Limits.


The rebirth of a sports organization that has been through it all, done the hard yards, and landed on both feet, ready to leap off the pontoon and into the next set of challenges, head first, driven and directed. It was quite a sight to behold with young athletes I knew coming up now established as the leaders and veterans of Triathlon Canada.


The next generation here now.


As Matt Sharpe said so well, "we walk the path those before us paved with every bit of focus and determination that they showed, we are ready, we are here to see our dreams come true". A young man eyes set on expressing his gifts, with a sense of humility and gratitude aligned with his immense talent, and stature, settled into his role as a leader - by example.


It was a pleasure seeing some of the old crew there, Carolyn Murray and Brent McMahon to name a few. Their success on the world stage as Olympians and community leaders speaks volumes about the nature of triathlon, a dedication to excellence in sport paired with a deep sense of giving back, well beyond the sport, as active participants in community initiatives, coaching and mentoring, they share their wealth of knowledge and in doing so reinforce why we as a society continue to invest in people, in sport, as they become leaders and role models for future generations. Beyond the current and old school athletes it was reassuring to see so many quality individuals engaged in the growth of the sport.


Starting with Kim Van Bruggen and her exceptional vision and calm cool and collected approach, along with her dedicated and highly effective staff. Kim inherited an organization in transition struggling to move beyond the narratives of past.. entanglements, an organization which had done the best job it could with the resources and experience it had available. Kim has charted a progressive path forward with new organizational structure, increased accountability and a focused vision for the future.


With the hiring of Eugene Liang as the High Performance Director Triathlon Canada assured that the level of expectations and commitment to athletes as more then just commodities, as future community leaders and role models, with sport as their vehicle, would be fulfilled. Eugene is a very focused individual, one imagines him to be a chess grand master with his intense work ethic and details orientated approach. Eugene came through the swimming system, he knows performance sport at the highest level, and yet, he is has an open door with a values driven commitment to always listening and learning. The triathlon talent in Canada is in good hands with Eugene, along with his right hand man, and one of my favourite characters, the statistician Alan Carlsson. No discussion on high performance sport is complete without hearing from Alan, his views from far out in the field, informed by endless research and thorough dissection Alan brings a unique and always honest (frank) perspective. Alan is a secret, now not so secret, asset to Triathlon Canada, supporting both the current generation and "the rising stars". With Jono Hall as Triathlon Canada's National Head Coach the expertise, passion and commitment sets TriCan up for world class results now and in the future. Jono has an enormous base of experience to draw on having seen high performance sport from every angle. Working with Triathlon Australia, USA Triathlon and now Triathlon Canada Jono has put in the hours and hours upon hours of intense in the trenches work needed to coach Canada's triathlon talent and express themselves in sport at the highest level.


Twenty years on from my first day in Victoria, living around the corner from Crystal Pool and introducing Triathlon to the head of PacSport Roger Skillings, who asked Brendan Brazier, Bruce Davison and myself where we planned to house our horses, and did we need permits for our pistols.. to a National Head Office in the Save On Foods arena, supported not only by the City of Victoria but the legacy fund from the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and the Institute of Sport.


We are seeing the fruits of the tireless, roll up your sleeves and do the work required commitment organizational leaders, sport visionaries and volunteers (and more volunteers) put in to make it all come together.


There was a cast of characters missing today who lay the foundation for Triathlon in Victoria, Barrie Shepley, Lance Watson, Paul Regensburg, Peter Reid, Lori Bowden to name just a few, and there are so many. Hats off to these individuals, their outstanding commitment to our wonderful sport paved the path to the Save On Foods arena.


Congratulations Triathlon Canada, Onwards and Upwards.


Simon Whitfield