Wednesday, 21 December 2011

#43: Christmas Time (Is Here Again)

As a grad student living in Toronto, you shouldn't be surprised to know that I don't have a great deal of deposable income (let alone income!) so despite my overwhelming generosity and my desire to buy all you fine folks gifts and things for the Holiday season, I've decided to give you something even better. Something that cannot be bought or sold, or packaged or wrapped, or break or expire; but rather something that comes from the heart (figuratively) and can be shared again and again and again and will (hopefully) bring a smile to your face.
This year my gift to you is a joke!

I'll admit that it's not the greatest joke of all time and some might even say it's mediocre at best. But so am I and that's why I like it.

You may also be surprised to hear that this particular joke is NOT about running. Haha Yup, I can't recall (m)any running jokes other than the ones that end with the line: "That's what she said!" Don't get it?! Here is a conversation not atypical amongst runners.

Runner 1: You're going too fast I can't keep up.
Runner 2: Just concentrate and stay focused.
Runner 1: No really, my entire lower body is numb. My thighs are burning.
Runner 2: It's only been 4 minutes. Just a few more to go.
Runner 1: It's too long. It hurts. I think I'm going to seize up and collapse.
Runner 2: Suck it up princess, it's nearly over.
Runner 1: I shouldn't have eaten that ice cream an hour ago.
Runner 2: Okay that's it. You can stop now. Are you crying?!

See what I mean?

Getting back on topic. The joke. I realize that the delivery will not be as effective as if I gave it myself (or better yet, a gifted speaker), but I'm hoping that you'll appreciate the genius of the joke and will then spread it amongst your own family, friends and associates.

So without further adieu, here it is, my gift to you, the joke...

So a guy from Toronto is travelling to Vancouver for business. His Bay Street firm has asked him to finalize a big deal they've been working on and as a bonus for closing the deal, the firm is paying for him to stay in a nice fancy downtown hotel and then spend the weekend in Whistler with his wife.

He and his wife fly to Vancouver on Friday morning and check themselves into the hotel. While he is busy meeting with his clients and closing the deal, she spends the day shopping and seeing the city. The deal gets done early and so the couple spend the afternoon together, go to the theatre and then have a fine meal at an upscale restaurant before retiring for the evening (what happens then is not part of the joke!).

The next morning they wake early and take a rented car to Whistler. It's such a beautiful day that they decide to take a more scenic route through the countryside and avoid the traffic. They manage to find a lonely country road and spend time chatting while taking in the scenic views of farm, forest and mountainscape.
About half way through the trip whilst discussing nothing in particular, a large but otherwise ordinary pink pig darts out across the road in front of the car without warning. The husband slams on the brakes, but it's not quick enough and THUMP! The car slams into the passing porcine.

The wife lets out an alarming scream but everyone is okay as the husband brings the car to a stop along the side of the road. He calms down his wife before getting out of the car to take in the scene. He is rightly shaken by the event and his heart is still racing in his chest.

He glances a few metres back to where the large pig is laying motionless on the other side of the road. He walks toward it and as he gets closer he notices that it is still breathing shallowly. He stands directly over the beast and as he inspects it, he fails to notice any obvious evidence of what has just transpired. No blood, guts, scrapes or scars. It essentially seems as if the pig were simply sleeping silently.

Not knowing what to do next, the man reaches down to touch the fine hairs on the brutish beast when all of a sudden, without any notice, the pig immediately jumps to its feet and takes off across the field and into a nearby forest. The animal is gone as quickly as it came.
The man is now standing alone on the side of a deserted road and only then becomes fully aware of being located in rural British Columbia with no buildings, vehicles or people for many miles. He returns to the car where his wife is sitting silently and looking similarly stunned by what's happened in the past few minutes. The man checks the car and is astonished to see practically no evidence of the collision. No bumps, benders, dents or scratches of any kind. He's amazed.

The wife becomes increasingly impatient and asks that they keep moving. Without anything more to do, the man gets back in the car and they continue the drive to Whistler without incident. On the way, the man tries to makes sense of the situation and soon collects himself. They spend the rest of the day skiing on some of the finest snow the mountain has seen in several years and when the slopes close, have another delicious meal at a fine Italian restaurant before driving the 2 or so hours back to Vancouver. The wife sleeps peacefully the entire journey while the husband listens to easy rock on the radio.
The next morning they sleep in, order breakfast and watch the falling rain from the comfort of their hotel. Just before noon, they pack their things and prepare to check out before returning to the airport for the flight back to Toronto. In the lobby just as they prepare to depart, they notice two police officers who begin making their way towards them. The officers greets the couple before getting straight to it.
"Excuse me sir, sorry to bother you. Are you Scott Taylor?

"Yes, I am." The man replies. "Is there a problem?"

"I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your day yesterday."

Curious and also increasing nervous: "Okay, what is all this about?"

"Well Mr. Taylor, we have reason to believe that you were involved in a motor accident with an animal some time yesterday morning; is that correct?"

Perplexed by the officer's inquiry but with nothing to hide: "Yes, that's correct. How did you know that? We were driving to Whistler and the thing ran out in front of the car. We stopped. I went to check. It ran away. It got up and ran off. It seemed okay. Why? What's going on?"

"Well Mr. Taylor, it just so happens that in the province of British Columbia we have a number of laws pertaining to animal protection and welfare. The farmer of that pig that you happened to hit is very upset about all this and intends to press charges against you."

Shocked and confused by this, the man becomes increasingly agitated and speaks quickly: "Charges?! For what? Like I said, the animal ran away, it appeared to be fine. And there was no one in sight, no houses or farms for miles. What was I supposed to do?!"
Trying to appear empathetic and calm the man down: "It's really not a big deal sir, but we'd like for you to come with us down to the station to answer some questions for the record."

Now appearing flustered with an equally perplexed wife standing silently to the side, the man remembered that he had a flight to catch. "But my flight, it leaves in 2 hours, we really must be going, isn't there anything else..."

The officer interrupts: "I'm sorry sir, I really am. We just need to follow protocol. We'll have you on your way as soon as possible."

With no other options and still in a state of shock and surprise, the man has no choice but to agree to go with the officers. He asks his wife to hold tight for the time being. Not happy, but also not knowing what else to do, she reluctantly agrees.

The officers escort the man outside into the light rain to their patrol car parked nearby. They help him into the backseat and proceed to the police headquarters. The man is silent but his mind is racing. How long will this all take? What is going to happen to me? Will I miss my flight? When will I get back? What about work; should I call the firm? What is my wife supposed to do?

Suddenly, as the thoughts fly through his head, something occurs to him.

"Excuse me officers, I was just wondering about one thing. How did you know it was me that hit that pig yesterday? There was no one around for miles!"


"Well Mr. Taylor, that's just it. The pig. He squealed."

Thursday, 15 December 2011

#42: Cry Baby Cry

While perhaps I should have seen this coming and thus was not totally unexpected, I am saddened to report that I am placing myself on the DL temporarily. For those who don't follow professional sports, DL stands for "Disabled List' (how they get away with calling it that, I have no idea?!). Ultimately this means that I am injured!

Yup, I am currently (like right now!) feeling extreme discomfort in my right ankle and have been for the past 2 days. I'm not entirely sure what the injury is, but it seems fairly serious judging by the amount of pain and discomfort. I'm self-diagnosing it to be a bruised, or dare I say broken (meaning a stress fracture) talus (Latin for ankle; a bone in the foot that together with the tibia and fibula makes the ankle joint). This would be particularly bad news because due to an unusual (retrograde) supply of blood, it is an area that requires increased time to heal.

Left - from below: Right - from above. Bones of human tarsus (the foot!). A - Calcaneus. B - Talus (the one I'm concerned about). C - Cuboid. D - Navicular. E, F, G - Cuneiform bones

I am planning to take about a week completely off of running and instead hope to maintain CV fitness via cycling (which I loathe) because I find water running to be ridiculous. I am also thinking this will be a good emotional/mental break from the rigors of training from which I never seem to be able to fully abstain.

So why did this happen? Well, we are now into the third official week of training for the upcoming cycle. This training involves a 4-week base-building 'alpha' phase; a 4-week speed development phase ('SWEP') and the regular 15-week 'marathon build' phase. That's 23 weeks of training! And in the past three weeks I have already logged 115, 110 and 120km respectively (perhaps too much too soon). I don't want to say that it was what caused my current injury but it was definitely a contributing factor. Others include the changing weather (cold, wet, windy); my current running shoes which may be reaching their last days and also the shoes I wear when not running!

My 'New Balance newSKY' sneakers which are made from 95% recycled materials and weigh in at under 5oz. Not used for running but also not ideal for high walking mileage. Evidence that the bare-foot movement is NOT a good idea for most people.

Regardless of the reason, it's happened and I need to deal with it. Real runners will know all too well the extreme guilt, frustration, and agitation that comes with dealing with injuries so I won't go into the intense emotional toll it can take. In sum, it sucks! We fear losing our fitness, we fear gaining weight, we fear losing ground on our close competitors, we fear having to start over again and we fear losing our desire, drive and dedication to move forward. This is why so many runners make the mistake of coming back too soon or running with/through an injury only to make matters much much worse. I've done this in the past and am happy to have learned my lessons. Despite the overwhelming urges and impulses to return, we must acknowledge that running is a long-term pursuit and these temporary blips are just that, temporary.

Here's to hoping that my temporary blip is short, sweet and over very soon...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

#40: Birthday

Finally, a post today...and guess what? It’s about running! There's also a part about pancakes.

Yup, surprise, surprise, all I’ve got to talk about is running. I’ve become so boring that even I can’t stand to listen to myself talk. I think it’s why my plants are dying.

Part I: Dan Way Day 25th Edition.

So about a week ago it was my birthday and I just so happened to turn a quarter-century in age. For my special day I went home to the metropolis of Ingersoll, ON to see some friends and family and also to “run” the Rick Hansen Relay which just happened to be traveling through my hometown 25 years to the day that I was born! Cool huh. Despite only having to “run” 250m (the reason I’m putting run in quotation marks is because I had to carry this massive medal which proceeded to pound incessantly into my sternum when I tried to run so I really just jogged awkwardly), it was actually quite fun. I didn’t set any 250m personal best (it actually took about 2min) but I did have my entire fan club present (ie my mother, father and my Oma and Opa) and it was only raining slightly. I also got a sweet track suit and commemoration medal to take home; thanks Rick Hansen for the birthday present! The rest of day was spent baking gingerbread cookies, eating Oma’s pancakes and playing Mexican dominoes (something about a train…) So far, being 25 wasn’t so bad.

Me after finishing my leg of the 25th Anniversary of the Rick Hansen Relay in my hometown of Ingersoll, ON. Oh, and a woman taking bribes in the background

The celebrations actually got even better Wednesday and lasted pretty much all week long. Friday I had a party at my place in TO and it was a joyous occasion that involved some of the best people in my life, some mild binge drinking and even some of my infamous dancing (Yes! It's worse than Elaine's "little kicks"). At some point we made it to a local bar/club and my little brother (who isn't even of age!) bought us shots of tequila and while it seemed a good idea at the time, it ended up knocking me flat off my feet about 12 hours later in the mid-afternoon on Saturday. Thankfully, it was an off day. Thanks to all those who made this past year great and who will make next year even greater. Cheers.

Part II: "Great sport begins where good health ends." Bertolt Brecht

I also mentioned that we’ve starting training again and running plenty. I did 110km in the first week on the program and will do something similar this week too. It hasn’t been bad, but it’s definitely A LOT of running. And the main point I wanted to make today, which I realized at some point between km 11 and 13 on the day’s 18k easy/recovery run was this: Running this amount (and training more generally) is certainly NOT about good health! I won’t go so far as to say that it’s UN-healthy, but it’s probably not totally inaccurate to use this term, which I definitely think applies to ‘sport’ generally and high-performance sport specifically (another post for another day).

So ya, running 100+km per week is not about health. That is far from the top of my list of reasons for running. Consider that the ‘Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines' suggest that Canadian adults accumulate 150min per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), preferably in 5 sessions of at least 30min duration but can be as short as in 10min bouts. I mean I do a weekly long run that amounts to that (150min) and on average will run well over 60min per day! All in all, I’m probably doing about 3 times as much! I’m also in a state of perpetual fatigue and endure constant aches and pains. It's an ongoing process of breaking down and building back up...
Don’t get me wrong: I do it because I love it and consider it an invaluable and essential part of my life. Being committed and dedicated is important to me and provides structure and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. My closest friends are my training partners and coaches and my social life has merged with my running life. I am also extremely physically healthy and probably fitter than most everyone I know (although this fitness specifically relates to cardiovascular function and endurance... I couldn’t lift weights to save my life!).

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it could be problematic to equate what I do and good overall health. Again, I’m not un-healthy or anything, but health and fitness should not be considered synonymous. I also want to point out that I wouldn’t recommend what I do to most people since it would likely break them down and spit them out. For most people, I’d suggest trying to meet those Canadian guidelines would be much more worthwhile.

Some might disagree with me completely and you wouldn’t be wrong to do so. This is an opinion and a very personal one at that. From my experience, running and training is enjoyable about 90% of the time and doing it is an absolute pleasure. But there are also days when it’s brutal and I want to quit and give up more than anything else (but I don’t!). It’s also problematic in the sense that “health” is a very subjective and personal term. So what is considered healthy for some, might be downright deadly for others.

Okay, that’s enough from me. In sum: if you want to be “healthy,” go find something (physical activity related) you love to do and do it for at least 150min per week. More is often long as it’s within reason.

A final note: Today, according to my 'Daily Mile' profile, I went over 4000km for the year and I'm still going strong... (Mostly) good times!