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

Tofino Sup Classic

Days at the beach

A wee bit of heaven in Tofino at the sup classic. The weather was typical wet west coast, overcast with a slight breeze but the scenery did not disappoint. If you have been to Chestermans beach and seen Frank Island at low tide with Pettinger point to the South and Wickaninnish Island and Inn to the North, well, it's an astoundingly beautiful scene, rain or shine. 

It was a bit of an ordeal getting down to the beach with all of our gear. Kids in tow. Boards. Beach gear. Food supplies. Extra clothing. Race gear. More gear then hands but we made it. The atmosphere was exactly what the doctor ordered. Grass roots racing at its best. Registration tents on the beach. Sand everywhere. Boards everywhere. Course discussions right up to the last minute deciding on the best section of beach to launch from and where to put the turn bouys for Saturdays short course technical race. Balancing entertaining kiddos and participating was a challenge made substainlly easier with the wide open expanse of the the beach, a plethora of children to play with, sand castles, and freedom to roam. Chestermans is quite the scene on a Saturday in June. Surfers, beach strollers, wedding parties, beach cruisers, random characters and our eclectic collection of paddling enthusists. The paddling community on the Wet Coast is special, with Mike Redpath, Brian Reymer, Gina Lemeuix and Catherine Bruhwiler putting in endless hours organizing the various Vancouver Island events for those who want to race, and for those of us, like myself, who just want to be around paddlers, to share in a love of drifting on the ocean, the events provide a venue to commune together. It was fun to watch the women's Elite race, I took what maybe one of my favourite pictures of a sporting event, a line drawn in the sand, where nine competitors agreed to take on the elements, and some wave break turns; "the race is from here to there and back, four times, four turns per lap, including a u turn inside the break, enjoy, mark set go".

 

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The pure joy of grass roots events.

I ended up borrowing a 12'6 (race boards come in 12'6 and 14), the Elite race was set at 12'6 for some technical reason I chose to not try and understand, I simply wanted to get out and play with Evan, Jason and the boys, I especially love paddling with Mike Darbyshire, beyond being 'one with the board' he is an exceptional human being, a community leader, tirelessly giving back in tandem with his wonderful wife Karly, while managing life with two young children. Mike is salt of the earth, and a joy to paddle with. The race was fun, I caught some waves, got pounded a few times at the turn and mixed it up with my friend Tim, to whom I share a tradition of yelling "HOW MUCH FUN IS THIS" whenever we are paddling in the same vicinity. I took one or two, too many, large bails and ended up back of the pack, including a fairy substaintial "oh dear that board and fin are coming flying at my head" stack right at the end with a 15 year old competitor who is already whopping my ass out on the ocean. We jogged it in together, matching fin wounds narrowily averted.

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The highlight of day one had to be seeing my buddy Sir Richard going head to head in the men's open race on his Starboard ACE. Sir Richard is another salt of the earth, or maybe it's salt of the ocean, character I've come to call a friend through paddling. A father or two Richards love of paddling matches mine, we come from the same corner of the universe, we march to the beat of the same ocean drum, to see Richard recover from a terrible start and bomb a huge wave from out the back to put himself back in it was quite the site. One which I took in from the beach, the first race took more out of me then I expected, both emotionally, reconciling my competitive fire isnt does come easily, and physically, I was bloody exhausted. Speaking of exhausted, Richard was spent when he finished, I think it took him awhile to just move on from the finish line, well earned Sir Richard. Well earned.

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We spent the evening by the fire at BellaPacifica camp ground, after some Tacofino and prepped our camp grounds for the rain expected that night. My van was a picture of colour and chaos, the girls were in heaven, while I was relegated to sleeping on the plywood between foamies... a raw deal but worth it, my life, van camping with kiddos.

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Day two saw storms on the horizon, a south easterly was blowing and there was some concern regarding the long course races, apparently no one wanted to get blown out to sea. The race was set for 12km, 3 laps from Mackenzie beach to middle beach and back, navigating wind chop, shoreline swells, a down winding section, the consequence to down winding, an upwind battle, into side chop, with a few islands to navigate thrown in there for good measure. "Tony the Tiger" and I managed to battle it out for 2nd and 3rd behind Jason Bennett, I lit the pilot light for the first time in a long time racing, and loved it. Everyone there looked like they were having the time of their lives tackling the elements, cheering each other on as we passed back and forth, chasing bumps and riding the heaving swell. Again the paddling scene here on the wet coast was on full display with smiles abound running into the beach. Stories of waves missed, unintentional swims and long slogs preoccupied the post race chatter. We had just enough time afterwards to get changed into our wetsuits and accompany the kids out into the surf. Seeing Pippa and her friends out on the ocean smiling ear to ear was quite special, they say a picture is worth a thousand words; the smiles say it all.

As far as Fathers days go, this was one for the ages. My daughters smiles said it all, that and their wonderful cards, which mean so much. Onwards and upwards, life as a dad, and a wet west coast paddler.

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Time well spent. A love of books.

 I am sitting at my desk writing staring out across the roof tops at the mountains well beyond with their stencil like black and white beneath blue outline. It’s 3pm on a Saturday. With a long paddle this morning out chasing bumps beside “the Grizzly” and “Sir Richard” still flickering through my nervous system and the mundanes done for the day this is my version of a bloody brilliant way to spend an afternoon.

Bob Dylan Street Legal is playing on vinyl. I bought it for 5 bucks at Brians. There is something about this album, the lyrics and the beat, today it is on repeat, which means getting up and flipping the record; it is worth it.

“no time to think” tell me about it. Again and again.

I have been conversing with myself for a few hours now having departed company at noon.

Talking to paper. A favourite pastime.

My desk is, my desk, a clean’ish space featuring copious amounts of writing utensils and a lamp that looks like an African women in a long cream coloured dress with a skinny neck ordained in a stone necklace of orange, brown and gold chevrons carrying a very large beige basket on her head, at least it does to me. Apparently to others it looks like the 70’s. Beside my desk is another desk, populated with papers upon papers, books stacked on books beside more books; on top of and on either side of the desk, and under it.

I have the intention of reading all of them but Blood Median has me captivated again, Cormac, you eloquintionist.

[“Eloquintionist” - “that is not a thing” says Websters - I do not care says i - it makes sense to me, despite not being very… eloquent]

Cormac’s descriptive genius.

My goodness,

“they crossed before the sun and vanished one by one and reappeared again and they were black in the sun and they rode out of that vanished sea like burnt phantoms with the legs of animals kicking up the spume that was not real and they were lost in the sun and lost in the lake and they shimmered and slurred together and separated again and they augmented by planes in lurid avatars and began to coalesce and there began to appear above them in the dawn-broached sky a hellish likeness of their ranks riding huge and inverted and the horses’ legs incredibly elongate trampling down the high thin cirrus and the howling antiwarriors pendant from their mounts immense and chimeric and the high wild cries carrying that flat and barren pan like the cries of sounds broke through some misweave in the weft of things into the world below”

You can feel it can’t you. I have watched the entire scene in my minds eye many times, quivering riders emblazoned on the horizon only to disappear “through some misweave in the weft of things into the world below”.

I just wanted to write it out again.

Some misweave in the weft of things…

Blood Meriden is on the top of one stack, The Path by Micheal Puett - what Chinese philosophy can teach us about the good life - is there too, thank you Mr. Puett, your summary of the wisdom of the ages has had a profound effect on me, I often carry your book with me on my travels.

To remind me to exist “as if” I am another, and commit myself to the smallest of incremental gains.

‘The Prophet’ by Kahil Gibran is on top of a separate pile.

“then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love. And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them, and with a great voice he said: when love beckons to you, follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his winds enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; and then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for gods sacred feast. All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart. But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; for love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “god is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires; To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”

I am grateful for Mr. Gibran. I am listening grandmaster. Life with its mystery, you have left behind some clues.

I feel lost and yet I know somewhere there is light.

Osho made it to my desk too, ‘Life is a soap bubble’

“Man is born in slavery. We are born as slaves to ourselves. We come into this world imprisoned in chains of desire, held tight by those subtle chains. We have been enslaved like this since birth. It is something given by nature; we dont have to do anything to earn it. Man simply finds he is a slave. Freedom has to be earned and only someone who struggles and strives for it will find it. For freedom, a price has to be paid. Nothing of value in life is ever free. This slavery which nature gave you is not misfortune; it would be a misfortune only if we failed to win our freedom. There is nothing wrong in being born a slave, but it is definitely wrong to die as one. Unless you find inner freedom, nothing in life will have any meaning or fulfillment. You may have been given life, but if you remain trapped in a prison of desires, if you never know life. There is no difference at all between someone imprisoned in desire and a bird imprisoned in a cage. You only enter the world of real life when your awareness is freed from desire. If you want to know truth, become a master of yourself. Victory over truth is not for someone who is defeated by their own self”

but Osho.. “the truth is a bully we all pretend to love” and ignorance is bliss. Or so I keep telling myself.

‘A thousand mornings’ poems by Mary Oliver is next to Osho. I have only really flipped through it but I saw a piece of wood painted white with “tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life - Mary Oliver” written on it and knew I needed to read some Mary Oliver. I came across ’tides’ which spoke to me as I love nothing more then paddling in and amongst the space in between.

 

 

*Tides *

Every day the sea

blue grey green lavender

pulls away leaving the harbor’s

dark-cobbled undercoat*

Slick and rutted and work-riddled, the gulls

walk there among old whalebones, the white

spines of fish blink from the strandy stew

as the hours tick over, and then

far out the faint, sheer

line turns, rusting over the slack,

the outer bars, over the green-furred flats, over

the clam beds, slippery logs,

barnacle-studded stones, dragging

the shining sheets forward, deepening,

pushing, wreathing together

wave and seaweed, their piled curvatures

spilling over themselves, lapping

blue gray green lavender, never

resting, not ever but fashioning shore,

continent, everything

and here you may find me

on almost any morning

walking along the shore so

light-footed so casual

I read this to Evelyn last night and she told me she would bring me a poem in the morning, what she wrote made her dad smile ear to ear.

 

‘Mornings together’ by Evelyn Claire Whitfield

Whenever we wake up

together we write and we draw

I copy from books sometimes and for other

times I draw from my imagination you seem to

write about our day

 

Many many thanks Mary Oliver.

 

‘The Heart and the Breath of Love’ an article by my favourite Zen Buddhist Monk Brian Maclean is on my desk too.

“Where does Love reside? It is generally agreed upon among spiritual traditions, that ‘Love’ and ‘Ego’ are ‘Lands’ in the the sphere of human functioning. Where ego strategizes, Love embraces. Where ego closes in on, Love open to. Where ego feels fear, Love feels fearlessness. Where ego finds reasons to run, Love knows the value in staying. Among the Inuit, Raven is the trickster, pleasure seeking and greedy, and symbolically represents the ego. Raven-ego is always vigilant in checking out for the best advantage. Raven-ego is looking for which one is the biggest, which bed is the softest and which Lover is the most trouble free. Raven-ego does not have the patience to learn deep Love, the resilience to endure travel on a not always smooth path. The mythic centre of Love is not Raven-ego, but the Heart”

I’ll see you on Tuesdays Brian, I look forward to our conversations, I can’t wait to write our book together, “conversations between a Zen Buddhist Monk and an Olympic Champion, on life, the theatre inherit in pretending to understand relationships, cognitive dissidence and other things considered; is my submission for the working title, we’ll see what Brian thinks.

What it has to do with Zen Buddhism and running around in your speedo not being particularly good at any one thing, is yet to be determined.

[Hey Brian “a buddhist monk walks into dominoes and orders pizza… “one with everything please”.]

And finally, in a spot all to itself, for no stack can contain it, ’The Paper Menagerie and other stories’ by Ken Lui.

This maybe my favourite book of all time, when I travel Europe in July for two weeks it is coming with me.

The Paper Menagerie is always coming with me.

With its opening paragraph.

“There is no definitive census of all the intelligent species in the universe. Not only are there perennial arguments about what qualifies as intelligence, but each moment and everywhere, civilizations rise and fall, much as the stars are born and die. Time devours all. Yet every species has its unique way of passing on its wisdom through the ages, its way of making thoughts visible, tangible, frozen for a moment like a bulwark against the irresistible tide of time. Everyone makes books”.

Mr. Lui, you have had a profound impact on my life, i read and i read and i read in search of universal meaning in specific incidences, you have this mastered, I am simply gob smacked at your profound wisdom, your creativity, your insights and most astoundingly your imagination. I wish I met Ken Lui as a kid, what I would have done to play dungeons and dragons with Ken, the worlds this man would have created. There is a seat at my table for him any day, I’d make fish taco’s with a side of guacamole and find his favourite pint. I have no idea why. And there would be stacks of blank paper. And pencils. Heaps of pencils. Coloured ones. Whatever he needs to express his latest vision.

My kids would be there too, they have some ideas they would like to share having been read “an advanced readers’ picture book of comparative cognition”

“My darling, my child, my connoisseur of sesquipedian words and convoluted ideas and meandering sentences and baroque images, while the sun is asleep and the moon somnambulant, while the stars bathe us in their glow from eons ago and light-years away, while you are comfortably nestled in your blankets and I am hunched over in my chair by your bed, while we are warm and safe and still for the moment in this bubble of incandescent light cast by the pearl held up by the mermaid lamp, you and I, on this planet spinning and hurtling through the frigid darkness of space at dozens of miles per second, let’s read.”

So that happened

What a writer.

My darling, let’s read.

And that is my desk. Behind me sit fifty more books waiting on shelves to eventually be adored again. Some of my own art and endless streams of pictures and doodles by Pippa and Evelyn occupying the walls to either side.

Sitting on top of a stack of some of my favourite books by the record player is a picture of a fog covered lake, the reflection of a ghost like tree mirrored on its surface, with a dock perched out into the mist; an ideal cove for quite contemplation, a sanctuary to timelapse.

I have spent hours staring into the fog; the stillness, an escape, to lapse with time. Moments of reprieve.

A blank canvas adorns the other wall, a reminder that the past is the past, and the time is always now, a blank slate.

For now - it is time to read.

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Oversharing. Black mirrors. Pancakes. Morning routines. Puzzles. Gems. Hooks. Fisherman in green jackets. Longing. Paddling.

I imagine in some circles this comes across as over sharing, Facebook and Instagram often appear as highlight reels, top 10’s and plays of the week. Snippets of our best selves. I decided to start sharing some writings simply because I felt like it. It is less about approval or applause, sympathy or attention, and more about having a place to express yourself. Recently I’ve felt somewhat uninvited, in fact I wrote about it and maybe at some point I’ll share it. It began to feel like the people closest to me didn’t want me around, or they tuned out pretty quickly. And I felt unworthy of their attention, as if I deserved it. So I stopped sharing and I stopped talking. And I retracted, I hide in the haze. For now I feel like doing the opposite, sharing a bit, without any need to hear back. I am aware of a bit of speculation about what I’m up to, a narrative around what I do and who I am, it trickles in, often as whispers, and it rarely has much truth to it. Maybe this is what inspired me to share a bit of what I write. Who knows. I do spend a fair bit of time writing, sometimes parables, and other times clips of passing thoughts. I had a note from a friend the other day implying I was being vague, rather cryptic. I dont feel like I am, there are things I feel like sharing and there are other bits I don’t. It’s been an up and down few years, I’ve struggled at times, who hasn’t. It was never meant to be easy, or straight forward. What good would that do, where are the learnings. May we live in interesting times, maybe a little less interesting at times would be nice, but if there is a throttle I can not get a grip on it, at times I try but what good is that, life often has other plans we can not always foresee, it is an illusion to think you can control it.

 

One suspects it is better to just steady yourself with daily rituals through self regulation, live into your values, give unto others and hold on for the ride. Be prepared.

 

So there it is, in a bit of a nut shell. For now I am sharing, later I might not. It will be what it will be.

 

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{yesterday} had been a long day. A productive one. It started well and eventually ended well. In between it had variety, with a window of angst to which I had to pass through. That disjointed feeling was there when I got home. Having not worked out to start the day I needed to burn it off, one way or another, lest it take over.

 

I started the day, post morning routines, with a visit to the  Branch Coffee Company . I head there for internet, which is no longer welcome in my home, Netflix be damned, I am back to paying late fee’s at Pick a Flick renting DVD’s, and loving it. Between that and my flip phone I am reclaiming self authority of my attention span. These little black mirrors, with their constant contact, are whittling away at our will power and our ability to be present. Programming us to pay attention to an agenda we do not necessarily have agency over, despite the reassurances to the contrary, denial ain’t no river in Egypt.  I am tired of it. When it comes to the internet, I duck in and duck out, as best I can.

 

After a quick in and out with my emails I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to my daughters grade one class. Evelyn sat front row, wide eyed and ridiculously cute, I could have hugged her until the end of time. We haven’t had much opportunity to connect in the past few days as she has been at her mom’s, it is a struggle after almost 5 years I continue to do my best to adjust to, it is disorientating to be away from your children, it is as if your ‘high alert’ won’t turn off when you are not there to protect the den. If something happened while you were away you would howl at the moon until the end of your days, as it is now, I feel like I often do, it is a feeling akin to being lost in the woods beyond the pale, away from the fire, unable to find the way back home. 

 

As it tends to “what do you do” turned into “what did you do”. 

 

I spoke to the kids about audacious dreams, representing your country and being in service to others. I started by speaking to them about morning routines, beginning with making their bed, as an act of empathy for their future selves, as if you are saying “hey me later, I made the bed for you, as a gesture, because I like you. In fact I love you, I am going to do my best to have a great day, I will see you when I am you”. It is a big concept for a seven year old, but there is no time like the present. I told them about my morning routine; after I make my bed and my butter coffee I sit and I write. I write a about what sparks joy in my life, and I write about three things that I am grateful for and three things that will make today a great day, and an affirmation, as a “this is how I see myself”.

 

I write that “today will be a well paced day, my thoughts and my actions are synchronized, I am as capable as I imagine myself to be, I am loving and I am loved”.

 

And then I told them to journal, just as they were when I arrived, quietly writing their morning pages, learning first hand about the remarkable ability we have to conjure up, orchestrate and make happen our wildest imaginations if only we have the courage to first write it down.

 

“Mom made pancakes this morning, I love pancakes, I hope we have them again tomorrow” and voila, it often comes true. Pancakes!

 

I told them about how I used to write down that I wanted to hear the national anthem, and see the maple leaf fly high, and I showed a picture of me when I was younger standing on the podium, with the flag in the background, and I joked about it, “here’s a picture of me when I was younger, all pictures of us are when we were younger…” it’s a Mitch Hedberg joke, I’m pretty sure that went over their heads. And I showed them my Olympic medals, and a huge Canadian Flag that once hung on the peace tower in Ottawa. And then I came back to daily rituals, because my daughter was there, sitting in the front row, listening intently. And I felt I had a duty, an obligation, to speak from the heart; be a centred individual so you may be in service to others. You are as capable as you imagine yourself to be, and in doing so, you may express your gifts.

 

Pippa and Evelyn get it, they watch and they listen, kids, they are always watching, and listening. They do as they see.

 

After that I rushed off to meet Bill, and work on his reno, to use my hands, and build something. I’m working a couple times a week as his apprentice, to continuously emerge myself in skilled attention. And learn something new everyday. It was more of a Mr. Meogi “wax on wax off” “paint up paint down” kind of day. Liquid nails, grout, moving cabinets, pulling up floor boards and replacing a door. In one way or another they were each little puzzles, none too complicated, in fact all pretty basic, but I enjoy the work, getting in amongst it. Learning skills with your hands, skills my future self may need, simple skilled attention my present self does need.

 

I couldn’t work for long though, I had a counselling appointment I had to get to. I work with a blood smart dude, he is full of insights, little gems. After our sessions I take these gems home. I ponder them and hold them in my hand. I rotate, dissect, distill and sleep on them.  And when I wake another layer is revealed, a window is opened and with it a breeze carrying messages of hope, and love and awareness. Never to be underestimated. We spoke of having propriety with our emotions, and hooks; are we drawing ourselves towards the actions and thoughts to which we wish to embody, or are we being pulled away, like fish, are we on the hook, reacting without control of our response; coping, indulging vices and avoiding, all of which ultimately detract from our inner resiliency or are we aware, adapting, and prospering.

 

We spoke about relationships, love, trust, honesty, companionship and how we define ourselves, to whom we feel defined by.

 

And when I left with some gems in my pocket i felt exhausted, as I tend to, drained. I needed a deep breath.

 

On the way home, with the “busy stuff” behind me my mind began to whirl, my inner fisherman appeared, and with his bright green floral jacket he cast his line, and on it a hook, with bait, a promise of temporary reprieve from the inner angst that comes with adjusting to missing your closet, the person you spent most of your time with, you felt enmeshed with, and whole, the one who nestled in closer to your heart then any other, who you sang to, as you rubbed their back - the hands you thought would never let go. The profound one, with those eyes, those eyes, to which you felt fully revealed, completely vulnerable and cherished your moments with when you had the privilege of seeing their day unfold first hand.  One to whom you walked a path with, shared the road; but as it is with life, sometimes the time comes, and paths diverge, and we are reminded once again that often we do walk alone, for there are lessons we can only learn by ourselves, certain valleys, with lonely paths we must navigate on our own before we can climb up the other side. And when the time comes, our paths may converge again, or they won’t, and you either let it go, or you let it be. You move past it, and often that means diminishing it, or you sit with it and you take a breath, a deep one. To move past it is an act of doing, an intention to let it go, often driven by fear. To let it be, is to sit with it, to do nothing but be still, to observe and breath. No action is required, inaction being the key.

 

Fear fears breath - breath and just let it be.

 

When the hook hit the water, and the angst came on I powered washed the deck, and when that didn’t work, and I found myself still looking for the bait I headed out to the shed and tried to punish the Erg, and when I lost that grudge match too, I got in my car and drove to the ocean, and I pointed my board into the waves, and I paddled straight on, straight ahead with all that I could muster. Eventually I turned around, rode the waves back to the shore and then I sat on my board and breathed, and with this breath came the promise of a new day, new beginnings, and the lifting of the fog. I was able to look beyond the longing, and lost sense of belonging.

 

I just let it be.

 

www.timelapseexplorers.com

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Winston Churchill

 {Winston Churchill} Sits in his farm house studio painting with the mist slowly rising off the lawn. Birds sing their morning songs. French doors frame his view. His favourite subject, a pond, is unobstructed, the key factor in deciding where to position his chair. During the colder months he sits inside and paints with the light from the window to the sound of the fire crackling with its ethereal tempo. When the weather improves he pulls the esile outside to sit on a simple stone patio and take in the full landscape with the pond in the foreground, the far off foothills acting as a backdrop to pastures left unattended and yet forever changing. The scene makes for a picturiesc panorama, unblemished by artificial distractions. Inside his studio is full of the character one would expect from an eccentric. Finished and otherwise, frame canvas's lay against the walls with tidbits here and there, odd pieces to which only the curator knows and appreciates the story. Artifacts collected traveling some are gifts bestowed while others have been acquired by chance. On the mantel sits a vase with scenes of workers in the field and a pompous noble adorning his throne high above. Chipped and discoloured, the vase is a subtle reminder while some live with clean hands and polished boots others toil, a crack draws a line between the workers and the noble, an unintentional yet powerful divide; the stark contrasts in their experiences. He often wonders if the noble yearns for simplicity and direction, to be head down absorbed in your work. While the noble tends to matters of social details and organizational structures, seeming to enjoy the luxuries afforded his powerful position, the worker remains focused, methodical and consumed, entranced in skilled attention. While it maybe true the noble has spare time and resources to express and explore his passions, the worker has a rhythm and sincerity to his existence, tuned into the simple pleasures, though at times few and far between, each is momentous and rich. Small gestures between colleagues acknowledged with a nod or a tip of the hat mark a comraderie to which the noble knows nothing off, lost in expectation and entitlement small rituals pass by without acknowledgment, moments of connection lost amongst the excess. To sit and paint in his studio without distraction is to find the rhythm his world beyond this sanctuary lacks, with its constant whirl of distractions and draws to his attention, the responsibilities and politics of daily existence. With his paint brush he is lost in another world, one to which the final brush stroke only reveals the slightest hint. For it is not the finished and framed accomplishment to which he seeks recognition, it is the space in between, the timeless moments of absorption and defiance. Consumed in his work with no distinction to mark his status. A simple act of creating. And being. He paints to be entranced in a masters skilled attention.

Flat water instructor course

Spent the weekend at a Paddle Canada Flat Water Instructor course (PCFWI) with South Island Sup. Brian did a fantastic job setting it up and running six of us through the curriculum. It was fun to relearn the basics, everything from gear selection to the basics of the forward stroke, how to stand, how to prone paddle, towing, reading the weather, the three t's; training, take essentials, trip planning. It was all in there. We spent the first morning going through the paperwork, lesson planning and general logistics before heading out into a bit of a head wind in Cadboro Bay. We managed to get ourselves over to Loon cove tucked in by the Marina. The boats had all of their flags out, I guess it was opening weekend and a pass by was scheduled. It was spectacular to see them all out there, a hundred plus boats sailing on by, every iteration of sailing water craft you can imagine was out there, in all of their regal. And we had a front row seat, board, standing and watching as they glided past, content, almost surreal. 

We spent the bulk of the morning re learning the basics in Loon cove before a quick break and a trip out towards Flower Island, with pivot turns looming, it was time to get wet. It's funny because the water isn't all that cold, in fact in a dry suit you're often quite happy to get wet, it's the first time that gets you, after that you're fine. Everyone did a grate job learning pivots, Catherine got the foot position pretty much right away, Bella, was back on her board giving it a go, falling in and straight back up. I could see Connie getting ready for a swim, she knew it was only a matter of time but she managed. David and Simon were spinning around in circles, taking periodic swims, and loving it. Brian had a huge smile on his face, he simply loves seeing people out on the ocean. 

On day two we headed to Thetis lake, the weather wasn't cooperating on the ocean, having a lake to head to is fantastic. Victoria has endless options for paddling, in virtually any wind condition. It wasn't a warm morning to start out but it got better throughout the day. Again we started at the beach going through lesson planning, I had prepared my notes on forward stroke, edging and safety gear early that morning sitting in my favourite café, it was fun to think through. I have a bit of a different take on the paddle stroke, how to stand, no twisting, rather leveraging with your hips, a much "straighter" approach, almost as if sitting in an outrigger, short fast strokes, up the front, hands stacked, feet thrusting the board forward in unison with the stroke, coordinating the timing is key. Head up, shoulders back, don't over reach, gentle grip, as if holding a crystal wine glass stem, as compared to a hammer. Foot position is critical, in fact I should have started there, toes slightly out, knees out, engages the glutes, and secures each stroke, against, twisting. It's the foundation of feet, butt, blade. Paddling is a dynamic movement within this set piece.

Needless to say it was a fun lesson to teach, we used a common lesson flow, IDEAS, introduce the concept, demonstrate, explain, action (get the group trying it) and summery. It was fun teaching a group again, especially as it pertains to something I love to do, paddle. Everyone did a great job, from draw strokes, to pivot turns (again), foot position, towing, the whole gambit. It was interesting watching the different teaching styles, everyone with their unique personality and take on instruction. I was quite impressed, in fact I took notes, from introductions, to conveying concise information, and the subtle things, humour, attention to details, group dynamics.

All in all it was a great weekend, Brian did a terrific job, the course flow was easy to follow, extremely well organized, fun and informative. I am looking forward to doing more courses with Brian, instructing and just simply being out on the water. 

dispatch #1

What is this? It's a connection point. A tiny letter. A dispatch from the field. It is what it is.

I’ve broken it up into sections, Life, Distillations, Readings, Excursions, Interactions, Profiles, Pursuits and a meandering paragraph, for no particular reason, other then I suppose it's more manageable, and I gravitated towards it. 

the first dispatch,

 * LIFE “live into your values” 

Justin Cronin 'the passage'

to drift with time

"it's time.... the whole idea of time. He thought it was one thing but it was actually another. It wasn't a line but a circle. and even more it was a circle made of circles, made of circles, each lying on top of the other, so that every moment was next to every other moment, all at once. And once you knew this you couldn't unknow it. Such as now. The way he could see events as they were about to unfold as if they'd already happened because in a way, they already had."

- Justin Cronin 'the passage'

Haruki Murakami on creativity

"Creative people have to be fundamentally egoistic. This may sound pompous, but it happens to be the truth. People who live their lives watching what goes on around them, trying not to make waves, and looking for the easy compromise are not going to be able to do creative work, whatever their field. To build something where there was nothing requires deep individual concentration, and in most case that kind of concentration occurs in a place unrelated to cooperation with others, a place we might even call damonisch" 

Haruki Murakami 'absolutely on music - conversations with Seiji Ozawa'

Moon landing

Hazenboom tames the Starboard ACE 23.5 on his first crack, as we suspected he would #localwaterman #nothinghecantdo #beast