Saturday, April 29, 2006

The official Road of Iron calendar!

After Walt Mossberg’s glowing review of Google Calendar in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, I checked it out. It is pretty cool.

I’ve created two calendars. One of these I intend to share with my SO & my daughter. The other, though, details my training and prospective races—ending with Ironman Wisconsin 2007!

You have to have, or create, a Google Calendar account—not hard. Just go to If you already have a Google account (e.g., for Gmail), you’re pretty much done.

Once you’ve opened Google Calendar, there’s a little box labelled Search public calendars. Just type "road +of iron" and press enter (remember the quote-marks and the plus-sign). My calendar should be the only one to show up. (Oddly, multisport returns only three calendars, of which Road of Iron is one.

As always, I’d appreciate comments!

Sick, or faking it?

Today was episode 8 of the Multisport Boot Camp. I felt awful all morning. Thursday I’d triggered my first full migraine in about 17 years (with, I suspect, some blue cheese at a cocktail reception). I’d nonetheless done my full swim work-out (a thousand yards, a nice round number, swallowing a lot of chlorinated, peed-in water in the process). Mona, driving home, picked me & my bike up; she said I looked pretty sick.

Friday I thought I was just feeling the after effects of the migraine (though I don’t remember ever having much in the way of after effects. It was an off-day, because Boot Camp was project to be the toughest yet, but I felt I could’ve worked out if it’d been scheduled.

This morning (Saturday) I woke up absurdly early (3:55 a.m.). Had a coffee. Didn’t feel very good: scratchy throat, mildly headachey, and a bit dizzy. But I don’t trust myself; I tend to be feel vaguely unwell when I don’t want to do something—like work out in a social setting!

So I drove to Boot Camp—first time in a long time. (It’s only six miles, and even last Saturday, when it was cold & raining, I biked.) And waited. I was early, half an hour later; Jeremy came right after; and we waited. Coach Lindsay was 15 minutes or so late—an accident on the 401.

We went into the dynamic warm-up, and on the fourth turn I knew it was a bad day. There was no snap in anything I did; I thought I was working; but there was nothing there. So I bailed, and drove home.

I was glad I went. I knew I wasn’t faking it. At the dry cleaners, Bill asked me why I wasn’t at boot camp, and then didn’t wait for me to finish my answer: “You look sick.”

I was wondering why it always seemed I was sick on weekends. Mona pointed out that if I was sick on a weekday I’d still go into work. After all, I can have a useful day even if I don’t have a lot of energy—I can answer the ’phone, write e-mails, file. But weekends are when I’m physical, whether it’s working out or just chores, so I notice the lack of energy I get when I’m fighting off a virus.

I think the world of multisport will do without me for this weekend.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Andie’s “equipment”

This is my stepgranddaughter, Andie, age 9¾, wearing the cap and goggles that Coach Kelvin bought her at my behest. Andie is very proud of what she calls her “equipment”.

Andie lives with her other grandparents, in Hamilton, Ontario. During her March break this year, Andie was with us.

Andie likes being active, and often cajoles us to go swimming. During the break I had three swimming lessons scheduled, and she came to all three. At first, Kelvin was worried she’d be a distraction, but she wasn’t. She did lengths! She dropped rings to the bottom of the pool and fetched them. She would swim over and under the lane ropes. She liked showing off to me—she is a natural, athletic swimmer—and I’m sure she enjoyed sharing a full-sized community pool with just one other swimmer, me.

This picture was taken by her grandmother, Mona, at either the East York Community Centre (where the three of us went for a final swim at the end of March break) or the John Innes Community Recreation Centre, where I work with Coach Kelvin.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This is me at the World Track Cycling Championships at the ADT Event Center in Carson, California, on March 27, 2005. Not a great picture, but tolerable given that I got some guy sitting beside me to take it!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No run tonight!

The image is of “Lancaster Limping Home” by Ray Chapman, rather appropriate to a day where my possible return to running was ruined by aviation.

As I waited for my bags at the Toronto airport I stretched out a bit after almost six hours sitting on the plane from Los Angeles—and tweaked my knee! I got home and decided the wisest course was marking this as an off day.

After that sixty-year-old aircraft above, I’ll end this post with an image of the aircraft I flew in today, one of American Airlines’ Boeing 737-800s.

Darkness falls on Carson

The Civic Plaza in Carson, California, comprises four large buildings: the Carson City Hall, which is off to the lower left, mostly out of the picture; the Carson Civic Center, the very large building in the middle; 1 Civic Plaza Drive, the office building at upper right, where my client is lodged; and the Doubletree Carson Hotel, at lower right); and a sea of parking. At night, everything is bathed in light, an arc-yellow light as bright as day. In the hotel you have to draw the heavy curtains as tightly as you can; otherwise your room is brightly lit.

Tuesday morning, just after midnight I awoke to darkness. The clock-radio wasn’t as bright as I remembered it; I turned it, and found it was off. I tried the light: nothing. There was no power. There was no bright yellow stripe by the curtains. I opened them: in the distance the Civic Center’s lamps were light. But the sea (of parking) was dark.

I used my Mag-lite to do what I needed to do. And then I slept. The unusual, and welcome, dark was gone when I awoke before dawn. When I went out for coffee, the night clerk didn’t know what had happened.

V for …

The Doubletree Carson Hotel (shown here) is shaped like a V. the base of the V is where you’ll find the main entrance, and the elevators. The stairways are at the ends of the V’s arms. As in many hotels these days, the stairways are one-way: once you’re in them, your only exit is outside at ground level. That means that if you want to go up stairs you have no choice but to take the elevator.

I was on the 4th floor, and therefore only thirty feet above grade. With my newly loosened knees, I’d’ve loved to have taken the stairs—but there were none to be taken.

Many of our public buildings, our hotels, our office buildings are built so that you can’t be active, even if you want to be. At the Doubletree Carson a grand staircase between the elevators would have been attractive—and useful.


I did it! I conquered my queasiness about swimming by myself, and trotted to the hotel pool (illustrated here). After a long day of client meetings, I was beat. Body time was 7:30 p.m., and I could have blown off anything, but I went anyway.

Was only in the pool for a little less than half an hour. It was as warm as a bath, and had lots of leaves and other plant bits. (You can see in the pic that it’s surrounded by trees!

Anyway, did lengths on my back, working on my kick, and in skate position, working on my body position. Tried some front crawl, but I do twist my whole body to get a breath, so I need to work on that.

My only companion was an old guy—whoops, he was about my age!—in an orange watch cap and old fleece shorts. He swam in the shorts. Eww.

I got back to the room, and changed to run—and realized I’d forgotten my running things. Maybe just as well. Is my knee ready? We’ll see tonight. Yes, I’ve resolved that when I get home from the airport, I’m going to run the half-mile to Broadview Avenue, and then the half-mile back. I can’t wait.

(Written in the LAX Admirals Club. I’m coming home!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Once or twice a month I fly from Toronto to Los Angeles and (in due course) back again. And the day after my YYZ/LAX flight, I’m consistently, well, zonked. I know I should work out: swim, do some weight work in the hotel’s microscopic gym, or even run a mile or so. I have all my kit.

But I’m zonked.

Yesterday at 4 p.m. Pacific Time—only 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone—I was already drooping. The partner-in-charge, also from Toronto, remained proverbially bushy-tailed and bright-eyed. All I wanted to do was sleep.

I gave into it, sort of, but made a mistake. I ordered a room-service tuna melt and fries (which, of course, I didn’t finish, but fatty comfort food, even in small quantities, is nice), and a beer (which I did finish), while I watched an On Command movie. I should’ve watched a comedy—The Wedding Crashers and The Forty-Year-Old Virgin were both on offer—but I ended up watching Flightplan, based pretty much on Roger Ebert’s review. (I actually preferred to see Transporter 2, but although it was being promoted it wasn’t on the menu.) I think a comedy would’ve been better. Flightplan is an intense, taut thriller whose only jarring notes come in the denouement (in my opinion; how does Gander, Newfoundland, become Goose Valley [presumably a confusion of Goose Bay–Happy Valley, Labrador, another waystation for long-distance flights] in mid-landing? And why is Gander/Goose Valley so well populated with FBI agents, with a single extra in an ill-fitting R.C.M.P. cap the only Canadian police official ever seen?), but it’s poor preparation for an early bedtime! I ended up staying awake until 9 p.m., and at 4 a.m. this morning I was still tired.

Nonetheless, the simple plan is: paddle about in the hotel’s outdoor pool this afternoon after my meetings (should be 24°C, plenty warm enough to be outdoors); may work out if the micro-gym has what I need; and go for a mile or so “probe run” (as my coach calls it), to see if my knee is ready to return to running.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Half way through boot camp!

And Coach Lindsay tried to kill us!

After 6 weeks, I finally decided I could do the sidesteppy thing in the dynamic warm-up, though I ended up getting lapped(!) as I tried not tangle up my feet.

After the dynamic warm-up, I paired up with Rahul and we tried to establish the most we weight we could handle. Rahul was pretty good at estimating: 70 lb on the dumbbell deadlift and just barely 110 lb on the bench press.

Me, it was funny. 50 lb on the deadlift. Ok. Let's try 70 lb on the bench press; couldn’t even get the bar out of the hooks. 50 lb? Almost got it out of the hooks. Thirty? Could get it out of the hooks, but now I couldn’t press it! Finally, 20 lb. What’s with me; do I have chicken arms? (Ok, chickens don’t have arms, but you get the idea.) What’s up with that, I wonder.

Then the circuit: a minute of pull-ups, a minute of a variation of chin-ups where you’re more or less horizontal, a minute of one-leg deadlifts with 2x30-lb dumbbells, and a minute of CRAC squats with a 45-lb dumbbell. Hah!

Chin-ups: no way. I haven’t been able to do one chin-up since the first year of high school, forty years ago.

Pull-ups: a little better, but my arms gave out after just a few reps.

Deadlift: ok.

CRAC squat: hm, something hard but feasible. But the rough metal hurt my deskworkher hands. Note to self: bring weight gloves next Saturday!

And again, and again, and again, eventually shortening to 15-second intervals. Ok, that left me barely able to feel my left arm.

Then “some speed work”, what he calls AST, for Ærobic Speed Training: thirty seconds on the treadmill, where he made you work; thirty seconds “standing cycling up hill” on a stationary bike; thirty seconds of jump squats; thirty seconds each of two-foot, left-foot, and right-foot jumps.

I had to bail halfway through the jump squats as it triggers my benign positional vertigo, making the short jumps impossible too. Even the second round on the treadmill was dizzying now, once the BPV starts.

At the end of all this, I was quivering. My ride home on my road bike was kind of like an old man’s. And this nice day brought out a lot of bad drivers; nothing dangerous, just more annoying than usual.

(I will admit, though, that seeing some folks running, and the lack of pain in my left knee, is making me think wistfully of running.)

Next week, he claims, will be harder. Eek!

Now that I’m home, Andrea wants to do something, and I know I should volunteer to take her biking. But all I wanted after my peanut butter & banana sandwich and big cup of coffee: a lie-down!

Tomorrow—when we don’t have Andrea, unfortunately—I “have” to do 120 min of ærobic activity. I expect I’ll bike in the Port Area for most of that; but maybe I’ll jog a mile or so, just to see what happens—before I pack madly for L.A. And write my presentation!

Mediæval Times!

Yes, we succumbed. Well, not exactly. This was our last weekend with Andrea (my stepgranddaughter) before her 10th birthday, April 30. What to do?

I have a theory that, particularly in non-custodial relationships, it’s really important to show the child that she’s important. So I didn’t want yet another weekend where we (her father, who can be rather feckless, & her grandmother & I) sat around doing the Marty thing, you know: “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” I brainstormed with Mona & Liz (my daughter, who has no difficulty channelling her inner 10-year-old), and came up with Mediæval Times, which has been running its local show for 13 years in what used to be called the Arts, Crafts, & Hobbies Building in Exhibition Park. (That timespan shocked me; we went there the summer it opened, and it sure doesn’t feel like 13 years!)

It was kind of expensive for four Adult Royalty and one Child Royalt (sic)—368 CAD—so I was kind of worried about how Andrea would enjoy it.

Why was I? It was bang on, and if you have a 10-year-old who can get into the spirit of it—or you have an inner 10-year-old!—go for it.

Much of it was cheesy. Obviously some of it was an inside joke among the cast (Lord William of Corner Brook? I smell a Newfoundlander). The fights and falls were obviously choreographed—but Andrea gave it rapt attention, and when cheering was called for put her all into it.

We were also lucky that we were in the Green Knight’s section, he being the treacherous guy. But however treacherous he was, he gave Andie his ribbon, and she was his “Queen of Love & Beauty”; she was incandescent.

Aside from the splitting headache from sitting next to Andrea, and the late night, it was worth it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


About four hours ago, I was, um, surprised by an executive at one of my client agencies, who rather expected me to be in Los Angeles (or, more precisely, Carson) on Monday giving a presentation on a system we’ve developed.

So I’ve spent the last little while reorganizing my next six days—cancelling and rescheduling appointments, booking flights, hotels, car, and wondering how I’ll fit in work-outs.

Nice weather for ducks!

Part of my long-range Ironman plan is to get more cycling miles into my leg. To this end I’ve been bringing my “good” bike (a 2000-model Trek 2200, with some updgrades) into work, riding a few loops of the Port Area either before or after work.

Yesterday (Wednesday, April 12) it was after. In fact, the Trek came to work by car, in the back of my Honda Odyssey.

After a mini work crisis, I was out the door just after 18:00, only a few minutes later than planned. At first I thought I was overdressed, in winter jersey, wind vest, tights, and with Ziploc bags inside my shoes, over my toes.

Rush-hour traffic had died down as I biked past SkyDome, er, the Rogers Centre, and down to Queen’s Quay, and east to the Port Area.

The Port Area is the early-twentieth-century landfill the Board of Toronto Harbour Commissioners had intended for the huge port they envisioned. Entirely manmade, I suppose it was Toronto’s answer to Los Angeles’ Terminal Island, and like Terminal Island it is flat. Unlike Terminal Island, which is a nightmare of container trucks and chain-link fences, Toronto’s Port Area is both bikeable and walkable.

There is almost no industry left in the Port Area. (As an aside, a plan to build a new, smallish thermoelectric generating station next to a very large disused station was recently decried by the Mayor as heralding the “reindustrialization of the Port Area”.) This makes the long, straight-ish, flat roads a good place for a bike work-out. If you do Cherry, Commissioners, & Leslie streets & Unwin Avenue, you have a 3.94-mile rectangle, with all right turns—which means you can safely (if illegally) blow through the stop signs and traffic signals that are rare on the loop. And there’s little traffic, especially in the evening.

Wednesdays in good weather see a small army of performance cyclists doing this loop. This Wednesday I was alone, and wisely so. As I crossed the Keating Channel into the Port Area proper, the drops started. Not bad, I thought.

More drops. Then more.

By the time I made the turn from Leslie Street to Unwin Avenue, it was coming down pretty steadily. When I hit a pothole there was a brilliant flash of light, and for a small split second I wondered if I’d lost consciousness or something. Then there was a deep, loud, very present boom! I was pretty much under the lightning.

I kept riding. A few years ago I’d looked up lightning and cyclists on the Web and had found only one report of a cyclist hit by lightning. I rather suspect that the risk is greatly overstated. And after blowing off Tuesday’s ride I wanted to go. So I went.

It got wetter and wetter. Cherry Street is carried by a bascule bridge over the Ship Channel. Like most such bridges, its deck is a metal grid. I avoid it in the rain, riding along the sidewalk, which is part of the Martin Goodman and Lake Ontario Waterfront trails. The bridge has very recently sprouted a CYCLISTS DISMOUNT AND WALK ACROSS BRIDGE sign, so recent I wonder if it’s litigation-proofing arising from this freak accident (link liable to rot).

(Another funny sign on the trail as it crosses this bridge advises NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES / MAXIMUM WEIGHT 400 KG. I’m puzzled by what non-motorized vehicle is likely to have a mass of 400 kg~882 lb.)

One big disadvantage of the Port Area’s impending massive redevelopment is that the roads are being permitted to deteriorate. It’s good practice during a time of fiscal restraint, but bad news for cyclists. On my second turn along Unwin Avenue, the vast puddles hiding wheel-eating cracks and potholes persuaded me that I should ride along the Goodman Trail through North Shore and Clarke Beach parks. I don’t usually like riding along multi-use paths: too many other users, often bovine in their habits, and too poor sightlines. But in this horrible weather, I thought (correctly) I’d be alone. And I wasn’t going that fast anyway.

So I was beetling along the trail when I almost ran over a pair of mallards, in their usual male-female pairing. They quacked in surprise and took off, their little wings flapping furiously. Ducks are not usually seen on the path, but of course it was weather for ducks.

When I got home shortly afterwards my winterweight jersey and tights, being of thick material, had gotten literally a couple of pounds heavier with water. And I couldn’t feel my toes (and, unlike, Donkey, I have toes!) despite the Ziploc bags.

The ride did remind me of one of my favourite little micro-essays at, available long ago (but no longer), under the title “Tough Guys”:

Dark splatters on the pavement before me. My clear lenses spot up. The road disappears behind a gray curtain of haze and suddenly I’m in the rain, drenched. My tires hiss and spit water at my face and back. I shift into the big ring just to stay warm. Head for climbs. I’ll stick it out no matter how hard the water comes down. I’ll never turn around, because only the dedicated ride in this kind of rain. Guys in Belgium. Heroes. Me.


I’m afraid of the water.

That’s a pretty darn serious impediment to doing a triathlon, whose first discipline is swimming.

Have you ever read Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not Waving but Drowning”? I have her Selected Poems, and I can aver that “Not Waving” is by far her best:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Whatever this poem’s relevance to my life in general (and it has some, as it no doubt has to many others’, hence its persistent popularity over the years), it’s certainly relevant to my fear of water.

Over the years I’ve tried various approaches. I took a ten-lesson Adult Learn to Swim programme at the local municipal pool, but aside from being able to thrash a length in a semblance of front (“Australian”) crawl, I didn’t learn much else.

What I like to say is that I’m uncomfortable in the water. This discomfort leads to poor technique (particularly related to breathing), which leads to further discomfort, which doesn’t help my technique.

Last fall I found Aquaphobia, basically a one-on-one programme by Kelvin Landolt, the principal of Oannes Swims. Coach Kelvin has done a great job—so far—but my … discomfort remains in a few, difficult corners. With Kelvin I’ve done things I’d’ve thought were inconceivable: diving to the bottom of the pool, comfortably treading water, and more. But …

For weeks now I’ve been bringing my swimming stuff to work, the notion being that I’ll walk over to the University Settlement Recreation Centre and do drills and lengths, as Coach Kelvin has instructed me. Not once have I gone.

Every day I have some excuse. Yesterday I willed myself to go. I was ready to go, willing. But “something came up”, and by the time that something had gone down, it was 13:20, and by the time I would’ve walked over, paid at the cashier, and changed it would have been too late to start. (Lane hours end at 14:00.)

Every time I will myself to go, but fail to go, I reinforce that discomfort.

Solutions? A psychiatrist told me that the only way to get over the fear was just to go.

Hm. That solution wasn’t working so far.

I will go swimming—just not by myself. So I think my solution is to go with someone: my friend, colleague, and would-be Ironman coach, John; with my significant other, Mona; or with my daughter, Liz. Mona’s already agreed. All I have to do is schedule it.

I’ll keep you posted!

A new title. A new day?

I’ve changed the title of my Web log better to reflect what I’m interested in. To my amazement, the phrase road of iron has a limited presence on the Web; most of them semi-metaphors for railway, and also the title of a 1955 documentary from the National Film Board of Canada, about the building of a railway to Sept-Iles, Quebec—presumably the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railway.

An admittedly cursory search did not reveal anyone using road of iron to describe their training for an Ironman triathlon. Am I training for an Ironman triathlon? Sometimes I think so: Ironman Wisconsin 2007, in 17 months as I write this.

Other times, like this week, I’m not so sure. I briefly considered retitling this blog Hassium 265 or 269 (sources vary!). Hassium (symbol Hs) is the heaviest element in iron’s group in the periodic table of the elements. At 180 lb~82 kg on 70.5 in~179 cm, I’m heavy enough!

On top of all that, I rather liked the sound of road of iron.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

“Failure means success”

Five times now, I've put myself in the untender hands of Dennis Lindsay for two hours. From 8 to 10 a.m. we suffer.

The weird part: it's fun. Ok, not fun. But I now look forward to going. Last Saturday, our 5th session, I was scarily leaning out from the ham raise, trying to hold myself straight from the knees. Hard. I was certain I'd fall. Dennis hovered his hands around me, I did the move—and collapsed. “Failure means success,” he said.