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Friday, 6 November 2015

Kim's Year in Review

Wow.  A year already.  One year ago today we found out Colin had cancer.  My chest still gets tight thinking about it.   

I still remember my last moment of innocence.  Colin was leaving for the hospital (for the second time) with his stomachache and I didn’t give him a kiss because I was angry it took him so long to go to the hospital.   

He called from the hospital and said it was probably diverticulitis.  I googled.   

You all know what happened after that. 

The month and a half after Colin’s cancer diagnosis, waiting for Colin to heal from surgery and for his appointment at Cross Cancer Institute, was the longest time of my life.  When I went in for a doctor’s appointment with my 4th pregnancy at almost 18 weeks and found out that there was no heartbeat, I sat in the waiting room for an hour, watching the second hand on the clock.  Waiting for the ultrasound tech to call me in to confirm what I already knew.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Last November and December was like reliving that moment.  Only it went on and on and on. 

I don’t know how I would have kept functioning through that time if it wasn’t for the kids.  I had to get out of bed.  I had to go through the motions every day.  I took care of them.   

I felt dead inside.   

My dreams, our dreams, growing old in rocking chairs together, watching the grandkids…. Gone.  

Old friends, new friends.  Everyone wanted to help.  There were a few shoulders I cried on.  A few friends who kept me grounded, who I know that will be there for me until they are hauled kicking and screaming from this planetI’ll never find the words to thank them enough, but I know they’ll read this.  And they know me.  So they’ll know everything my heart says that I don’t know how to put in to words. 

And then we met with that first oncologist  Neither Colin nor I wanted to accept what she said.  So we tried another doctor.  A better doctor.  He gave us hope.  There might not be forever, but at least there’d be a tomorrow. 

As the months passed, I stopped mourning what wasn’t going to be.  I stopped being angry about the future that had presented itself.  The kids and I planted flowers and bulbs and we had the most amazing flowerbed that has ever existed in front of this house.  We planted fruit bushes and rose bushes and trees.  And as everything sprang to life, I started living again.   

The kids and I walked every day.  We’ve been to every park within a 5 kilometer radius.  We had many double cookie days – we’d go to Save-On for one free cookie and then go to Sobey’s for a second free cookie.   

The kids and I talk about life and the future…. And we cry together and we’re scared together, but I always tell them that we have daddy right now.  And right now daddy is doing fine and as long as he keeps doing fine we’re going to have him for a really long time.   

I’ve gone back to school to get a degree in Elementary Education.  I figured that the odds say that I’m going to be a single mom with 4 kids one day, so I had better get myself in a position where I can align my schedule with theirs.  3 weeks off a year won’t cut it.  Hopefully that’s a concern that never comes to fruition, but by this point we all know that the future is unpredictable.  I took one class in May.  May was rough.  Colin was pretty sick but fortunately my mom and dad were able to help out and I got one class over with. 

I’m taking three more classes right now.  Colin’s been doing great for the last three months and my mom and dad help out on chemo and blood work days.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love school.  This degree is no different.  I love thinking about things beyond diapers and groceries.  I think it’s great for the kids to see me working on school, plus I’m going to be able to help the kids with their math homework since math is a whole lot different than it was when I was in school.  I’m worried that by the time I finish this degree a school board will take one look at the old lady that marches in and they won’t have room for me, but who knows. 

It’s easier if I don’t think long term.  NOBODY knows what’ll happen long term.  Not to me, not to Colin, not to yourself.  When I get overwhelmed, I listen to this.  https://youtu.be/2Kuj-PGC8rE.  I think it might be about being in a gang or something like that, but like the song says: “Ain’t nobody gonna die today.  Save that trouble for another day.”  When tomorrow gets to be too much, I focus on today. 

We’re all here.  We’re all happy.  We’re relatively healthy.  I’ll take another 20 years of this.  Colin just has to keep on keeping on.  Ánimo, right? 

Cancerversary



It's hard to believe a year ago today I heard the words "you have cancer" for the first time. As I laid in that hospital bed recovering from abdominal surgery I had no idea what this would mean for me.



The past year has been an amazing roller coaster ride with some amazing experiences mixed in with some awful lows but one thing has never changed. I will not give up easy. 

Kim and I are still forever grateful to everyone that came and supported us at the event put on by Brett and Amie Babkirk. What an amazing evening. The money raised was so critical to Kim and I getting our life together as she went back to school and I faced my future with uncertainty. But possibly more important was the show of support we received from friends and family. We have never felt more loved. I received messages from coworkers and former students from every year I've taught. 

One of the first things I did was a symbolic gesture that I wouldn't be held prisoner by this awful disease. I booked a trip to San Francisco and scheduled an Alcatraz swim crossing. I had completed this swim as part of a triathlon in 2010 and wanted to show myself I could still do it.


Another thing I did which I thought was important was to get a tattoo that said "Ánimo." For those that haven't heard or read my Ánimo story it's got its own link on the top of my webpage and I would encourage you to read it. It's pretty funny if I must say so myself. But the key is that Ánimo just means keep going.



Travel was a huge theme this year. I was in a bit of a panic mode as I was completely unsure of how my cancer might progress and I wanted to make sure I kept moving. I vowed early on that I would be a positive force in the face of cancer. I didn't want to let it take me down. I wanted to prove to people that you can continue to live a meaningful life despite a stage IV diagnosis.

In case you're unaware stage IV means that it will never be gone. I will never be declared cured. This is a lot to deal with emotionally. My future is a minefield of potential setbacks and anxiety as I wait for my latest test results. 

I decided I would create the #Cancercanthackett tour to try and publicize my efforts. This was a combination of racing and distributing information about early screening and prevention. This effort lead me to some really amazing people. 

I began to solicit sponsors for my tour and some amazing companies were eager to jump on board. The best part of this was that it was all companies whose products I was using before do I didn't feel guilty promoting their products. Coloplast, KPMG, Sugoi, Hoka One One, Aquasphere, and recently Quintana Roo have sponsored me and I couldn't be more pleased. 

One of the best experiences that came from this was the opportunity to speak at the Coloplast national sales meeting in Toronto. I got to give the patients a voice about what life is like with an ostomy. As a bonus I had never been to Toronto so I used it as an opportunity to do some cool things I'd always wanted to do. See a Blue Jays game at home and go up the CN Tower. I didn't realize they had created a new thrill ride type adventure where you hang off the side of the tower. As it worked out I was there for the home opener and after a bit of a hassle getting in I got to see my Jays live for the first time. 


It hasn't always been great being off work. If you talk to a teacher more often than not they will tell you within a short period of time what they do for a living. This is because being a teacher isn't just a job, it's a part of you. It's been hard being out of the classroom but there has been a few awesome benefits. I've been able to travel on seat sales which almost never happens for teachers because our holidays are in high season. 

The best getaway was to Maui, Hawaii. A Westjet sale popped up on Facebook and I couldn't believe it. $89 one way! I jumped on it and actually booked it without telling Kim. Kim had always wanted to go to Hawaii and this was the perfect opportunity. We got away and it was absolutely magical. 


I have been asked a few times to speak and tell my story and the most moving time was the opening ceremonies for the Alberta Ride to Conquer Cancer. This two day cycling event was an amazing chance to talk to survivors and be surrounded by positivity while proving to myself and others that I could still handle endurance events.  


Another amazing experience this year was my selection as a Colondar model. This is a group of 12 people under 50 who have been diagnosed with colon cancer. But it wasn't just a bunch of cancer patients; every one of these people had a great story and was doing something to spread hope and awareness. Although we were only together a few short days we quickly became as tight as brothers and sisters .



I had a rough summer with my liver acting up. For some reason it kept developing "sludge" and blocking the main drain out of my liver. This lead to me becoming jaundiced which made me  INCREDIBLY itchy, to the point that I couldn't sleep some nights. To open this up I was given 2 ERCPs. This is when a camera is sent down your throat and the doctor opens up your liver. I had 2 stents put in to keep it open and my awesome liver Doctor put me on a pill that has kept me clear. 

My racing was not what I had hoped it would be this year. I attempted 3 Ironman races and didn't manage to complete one yet. This is a burr in my side and a huge disappointment. I feel a bit of a failure in my efforts as my entire goal was to show I could keep going despite my condition. However, I got to meet some cool people through racing. Stewart and I became buddies over Twitter and he was gracious enough to allow me to stay with his family while in Muskoka. Here I met my little buddy Logan and I was extremely honoured last week when he named me his hero for a school project. This was incredibly rewarding and really made me smile.

I get a chance to break this streak on November 15th and really am eager to get this one in the books. 

As an update, my two tumors in my liver have remained stable over this year and this is a very positive sign moving forward. At some point my oncologist expects it to start progressing and we will take it in stride but for now it's just more of the same. 

Here's to another year! 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Reluctantly Addicted to You

For about the last 6 weeks I've been on a constant dose of Dilaudid or hydromorphone. My gall bladder is unusually large and was causing extreme abdominal pain, to the point that I would lay in the back yard at 2 in the morning because the cool grass felt a little better than laying on my couch. Fortunately, my liver doctor has prescribed a drug that is designed to bust up gall stones and I've stopped being able to feel my gall bladder with my hands because I think it's working.

It was actually funny because I googled my symptoms (I know better but I had nothing to do) and I diagnosed myself with an enlarged gall bladder. At one of my appointments I told my doctor about it and he looked at me sideways and felt around my abdomen. The good news was that it wasn't my liver but he couldn't feel anything else. I protested that I was sure it was my gall bladder but because it wasn't an area that was cancerous we were both fairly happy. I had a CT scan a couple of weeks afterwards and asked him about it there and he said, "actually, your gall bladder is the size of a sausage!" I replied, "I knew it!" We both chuckled but deep down I was relieved to know what I had been feeling wasn't something dangerous.

My concern now was that the drug was initially prescribed to me by an ER doctor when I came in for pain relief and my doctor just re-wrote a prescription to continue on it. They asked my symptoms and I explained that it was an egg shaped lump in my abdomen and pain; I also told them that Dilaudid seemed to be the only thing that worked for me. For whatever reason Morphine doesn't seem to touch my pain. Maybe I just have the wrong receptors for it. They obliged and dosed me with Dilaudid and wrote me a prescription for the drug and sent me on my way once my pain was under control. I was upset because I wanted to know where the pain was coming from. I showed them where I felt it and was hoping for an ultrasound or some kind of imaging that might indicate why I was in this pain but they just seemed to want to get me out of there and on my way.

My goal was not to drug seek, I wanted to stop hurting. Given the choice I'd rather treat the source of the pain, not the pain itself. Regardless, this entire time I have been treated with Dilaudid. This has left me feeling like absolute junk. I walk around in a haze, some days unable to even find the motivation to get out of bed; and when I do all I want to do is have a snack and get back into bed. I attempted 2 of my Ironman races on the drug but was unsuccessful and I think it played at least a factor in my inability to finish those races. Days when I have to referee a hockey game I need at least a 3 hour nap mid day to get to the rink or I won't have the energy to even get dressed at the rink.

At one point in September I tried to get off the drug and went right back to it after suffering through the sweats, shakes and intense vomiting. I was no longer taking the drug to avoid pain, I was taking it to not go through withdrawal. I was addicted to a narcotic. What the hell had happened? How did it happen so fast? What wasn't it more fun?

I don't blame my oncologist at all. He is trusting the judgement of another professional who felt the best course of treatment is to hit me with the drug so I'd feel better. My frustration is with the ER doctor and his apparent lack desire to do any digging. See pain - give pill. How many drug addicts are being created through this manner of treatment? Then, when I'm sent on my way, there was no suggestion or recommendation of what to do when I want to get off of this powerful narcotic. Is his expectation that I just get hooked on it and live that way forever? Whatever length of time that may be?

We accuse many people in our society of being drug-seeking addicts and I openly admit I had the same prejudice. We see these people going to the ER to get pills to make them feel better. Who knows how many of them got hooked on the drug the to begin with by a legitimate complaint that may result from the street life so many of them live? Imagine being one of our city's indigent and getting into a fight or being assaulted downtown one night. You're taken by ambulance or police car to the hospital and to treat your pain from broken ribs or black eyes with a narcotic. After a couple of days in a bed you're discharged with a small number of pills or one last IV dose and then sent on your way. I know that if I wasn't counselled about what to do when the drugs run out there is NO chance that a homeless person is being given any of this information.

My biggest saving grace, I'm certain, is that I have a good education and the motivation to get off of this drug in the least harmful manner possible. I have resources that I can seek out, I have access to the internet, I will be able to do this eventually. But for those in our city (or country) that are less fortunate they get stuck on an addiction treadmill that may be impossible to get off of.

I hope this doesn't come off as too sanctimonious or left wing for my friends and family but I hope over this Thanksgiving weekend you can look at your own life and appreciate the great things you have. Not every day is great but there is great in every day.

In the immortal words of Bill S. Preston, Esq and "Ted" Theodore Logan:







Sunday, 4 October 2015

World Ostomy Day

Saturday October 3rd is world ostomy day. Having lived with my ostomy for nearly a year now I feel like I'm becoming a bit of an expert.

For those that don't know an ostomy is when you have some type of issue with your intestines and so a portion is removed and the end is, for lack of a better word, poked through your abdomen. This is where you now poop. 

Because of the nature of this medical procedure not many people are open to talking about it. I, however, was not raised with a filter (thanks mom) and so I'd like to explain frankly what it's like to live with an ostomy. It sucks. 

Now, for people that suffer from Crohns or collitis it may be a huge relief from the debilitating gut pain that many endure. However, in my case, it was just a necessity to remove my tumor. Now I face the day to day hassle of living with a bag strapped to my belly. 

The set up has 2 pieces. The first is a flange. This flange requires you to cut it to fit the size of your stoma. (Haha, it autocorrected stoma to aroma which is fairly applicable) after cutting it to fit, you apply a paste to the appliance and smooth it out. Then you carefully align the flange to your stoma and press it on. Then you remove the backing and stick the rest of it to your belly. 




Then you snap a bag onto the flange. To get the best adhesion you should sit or lie down and keep pressure on it for at least 15 minutes. 

Every time I leave the house I need to ensure that I have sufficient supplies to get me through however long I plan to be out. It's become habit now but there have been times where I have to leave something I'm really enjoying because I'm out of bags. The biggest hassle I've run in to is exercising with it. The sweat can cause the flange to lose adhesion and leak. I'm unable to do certain exercises because I can't lay flat on my stomach. Additionally, because a stoma is created by punching a hole through your abs it is considered a hernia. This limits the lifts I can do. Finally, if my bowels move while I'm exercising I need to stop and change my bag because the weight of a full bag can either pull 
off the flange or pop off the bag. Either of which is NOT COOL. In fact it stinks (see what I did there).

Probably the most troublesome area that's been affected is sleeping. I love sleeping on my front and will flip back and forth but it's almost impossible now to sleep facing to the right. This position places my stoma flat against the mattress meaning any bowel movement could blow off the flange. Also, when rolling over I need to be exceedingly careful not to catch the bag and pull it off. I've done this a few times this year and it means laundry time at 2am. 

The public awkwardness that comes with a stoma can also be brutal. The stoma does not have a controllable muscle so you can't clench up. Without warning a stoma can get active and either fill the bag or cut some of the loudest farts you've ever heard. Depending on the situation you're in this can be mortifying. People that know you are almost always awesome about it; but if you're in a meeting or on an elevator where people don't know your deal this can be unbelievably embarrassing.

This blog is not intended to be a sob story. I just want to be completely open and honest about what life entails. If you know someone in your life that has a stoma and are too afraid to ask them about it please understand what they're dealing with. It is a 24-7 job maintaining it. I am thankful to be alive as the procedure removed my source cancer, but it is not without its problems. 

If you have any questions I'm an open book so please don't hesitate to contact me.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Coloplast for sponsoring my tour. They have made having a stoma more bearable. By making the flange more flexible it is more comfortable and by using more appealing materials it's not as embarrassing when your bag sticks out under your shirt. This may seem like a small thing but it can be huge to many  people.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Give Dudes a Chance

I've told as many people as will listen about the joys of podcasts. For those that don't know a podcast is a radio type show that you download from the Internet. There are literally thousands of these bad boys available and on any topic you can possibly think of.

My two favorite shows are the Adam Carolla Show and the Joe Rogan Experience. At first glance it may seem like these two guys would have almost nothing worth listening to. One used to host the Man Show with hot girls jumping  on trampolines and the other is a pot enthusiast who hosted Fear Factor and now works for the UFC.

"It's probably all about lusting after chicks and other dude-related riffs." You couldn't be more wrong.

Adam Carolla is actually a pretty inspiring figure. Born in Philadelphia his family moved to north Hollywood when he was young. Anyone that has been to LA understands that Hollywood is not the glamorous star-studded area you would expect. It's actually a low-income, and in some places, scary neighborhood. Coming from poverty with distant, ineffective parents he was forced to almost fend for himself and this gives him a really good perspective on life. 

In a world where being identified as a member of a group is critical, Adam refuses to be placed into a box. Fiscally conservative you would expect him to be a staunch Republican but his pro gay marriage and marijuana stances muddy that water. Although portraying himself as gruff and seemingly uncaring he often slips up and reveals his sweet nougaty centre. His side kick "Bald" Bryan Bishop was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor a number of years back and upon hearing this Adam became an inconsolable mess and did everything he could to make sure Bryan would be taken care of. 

The best part of the Adam Carolla Show is his willingness to say what he actually feels without fear of reprisal from advertisers or other interests. This has likely cost him some job opportunities on network television but he says, and I believe him, that he would rather not work than have to live under their stupid rules. 

Add to Adam the afore mentioned Bald Bryan and "news girl" Gina Grad and you have a dynamite comedy team that touch on everything from current events to delving into possible solutions for societal ills. 

The Adam Carolla show has the feel of your favorite morning radio show but in an uncensored format. 

The Joe Rogan Experience features long format interviews with influential people from various backgrounds. Like the Adam Carolla show Joe Rogan is completely uncensored. However, Joe Rogan's "interviews" are really more like conversations. Traditional radio has a limited amount of time to get the entire story out and the commercial breaks cause you to stop and restart the train of thought. 

Demonstrating his commitment to making his show as authentic as possible Joe has turned down bigger revenues by refusing to do commercials in the middle of the show because they break up the flow of the conversations. 

Because of their reach Joe and Adam get some very big names on their shows and it makes some great "pod" as they like to say. 

To date my absolute favorite interview was on the Joe Rogan Experience with Gad Saad. He's a professor from McGill in Montreal and he talks about how crazy sensitive society has become and that at universities, where things are meant to be questioned and challenged professors live in fear of their students complaining or making accusations of "triggering" feelings or making "micro aggression." He does an incredible job of explaining the environment at universities currently. 

To site one example of this lunacy, Law professors at Harvard are being told to avoid rape law because of the potential triggers. So just ignore it? 

So if you are tired of the boring normal radio shows I strongly encourage you to find a podcast or three that you love. You get to learn new things and on the topic YOU want, not whatever happens to be on. I'd love to hear from you in the comments about the podcasts you live too! 

Ánimo!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Vegas and Interbike Baby!

I'm really dumb. You'd think that anyone that travels as much as I do would eventually learn a thing or two but I don't. I book early flights all the time because when I'm booking them all I look at is the arrival time. "Hey, look at this. This flight will get me there at 10 am!" Yeah.... but you need to wake up at 430am to do that. "Oh that's fine. I'll sleep on the plane!" No, no you won't. 

I flew Westjet this time around and I have to say, I really like Air Canada. Westjet's big thing was that they were the fun friendly airline. And I think for a time they were. But now they charge for bags and their flight staff seem grumpy and worn out. And so do their planes. My TV didn't work from the get go and half an hour into the flight NONE of the TVs work.



Fashion question: Ladies, I know you love your shoes but some of them defy logic. These ugly bad boys are basically boots, but with an open toe AND an open heel. These shoes actually made me mad! 



When we landed in Vegas it took well over half an hour to get our bags. When you get to Vegas you want to get going and get your Vegas on so every second waiting for your bags is like an eternity. 

I stayed at the MGM Grand for the first time and it's really nice. The room was clean and modern and the beds were comfy. They had a room ready right away but it was on a low floor. Fine by me. Shorter elevator rides and I don't have to check my bags. Boom.

After checking in I immediately went to the buffet. Kim has been unhappy with me lately because she feels I've lost too much weight. Fine by me, I'll do my best to get it back on. I started out smart. A few things that looked good, some veggies, not stacked. After this my stomach still felt good so I lost my mind. Plate two was a return to fat Colin form. Roast beef, sushi, fajitas; it was like the UN on a plate. Then I hit the desert station. I'm a sucker for carrot cake. Not sure why but I just can't get enough of it. Louis C.K. captured my philosophy perfectly. "The meal is not over when I'm full. It's over when I hate myself." I slowly meandered out of the buffet and made my way to Interbike.

For those that don't know, Interbike is the biggest bike sales expo in the world. Everything you can imagine to do with cycling is represented here. From the frames down to the grip tape on the bars and everything in between. 

When you first enter the hall you are transported to China. All the Chinese discount manufacturers are in the same area and it's pretty neat. All the factories have their goods and you can see just how cheap some of these goods are. 


Conversely, the Italian companies have their own section as well and the quality of the products they make is equally evident. 

I was surprised at one sight and that was a group of Mennonite folks walking around. But then I realized this is like their  car show probably. These are their Ferraris and Lamborghinis. They're probably super stoked to see the newest in bike technology. 


This show really is impressive, I had no idea just how big it would be but after the first day I had only seen less than half of the booths. I was pretty tired from the early morning and all of the walking so I made my way back to the hotel and thought I might grab some sleep. After a couple of hours I realized I was in Vegas and acting like a Jabroni so I got dressed and headed down to the casino. I threw away some money on slots and roulette and made my way to the bar. 

I've been trying to be as healthy as possible. In general this is a good policy but as a cancer patient it seems even more prudent. However, there are a few kinds of health and mental health is one of them. I've had some tough days lately based on how tired and depressed being on chemo has made me. A lot of people get 6 rounds as their therapy. I just finished my 14th and there is no end in sight. So I decided I would just enjoy myself tonight. I bought a nice cigar and a scotch and sat at the bar and talked. 

It wasn't long before an attractive young lady sidled up beside me and started a conversation. At this point I remembered what my department head Brian Buchynski told me the first time I came to Vegas in 2004. He said, "if a girl hits on you look in the mirror. You're ugly. It's a hooker." My alarm bells were ringing as we chatted but at no point did anything lead me to believe one way or another. Maybe because I finished my drink fairly quickly and moved on. I don't have a mirror by I do have selfies and I haven't gotten better looking. 


Day 2 of Interbike was just as good. I got a chance to check out the rest of the booths. There is some seriously cool stuff out there. E bikes seem to be the newest thing to have. These bikes have an electrical assist making it easier to get around. It wouldn't be legal for racing but what a fun way to commute. 

The giveaways were my favorite part of the convention and the best thing I hit were a pair of CEP compression socks. Normally compression socks are knee high but these are just ankle high and work on your feet. This was exciting for me as I usually have foot issues on the bike but I don't like compression on my calves when I'm racing. I wore them for the day on Thursday and they are GREAT! 

Thursday night was sports book night. There was baseball and football to watch so what better place than a room with 50 TVs? I thought this was going to be awesome but I underestimated the silliness of some fans. During baseball it was ok but when the football game started some of these guys started losing their minds. They were yelling and screaming and running around the room. It was really bizarre. One guy in particular was sitting right behind me in his jersey yelling coaching advice and talking to the head coach on a first name basis. If only the game wasn't 1500 miles away. 



By half time I'd had enough and decided to go back and watch the rest of the game in my room. Without the Jabronis. It turned out to be a fantastic finish that would have been amazing on the bet I placed except that the Blue Jays didn't score enough runs earlier in the day. Sad face. 

I was just about to tuck myself in for the night but decided to go through the channels one more time. Nearly at the end up popped Bill Freakin Murray in Groundhog Day. This is a piece of cinematic magic and I couldn't help but watch the last hour and a half. Finally I tucked myself I for the night. Hoping tomorrow would be another day and not the same one over and over. 

Anger update: what the hell are these things? A boot with a cylinder of leather around it? Not only that this "lady" cut line at Starbucks. 


Friday night was the highlight of the trip. Jerry Seinfeld in concert! I've always been a huge Seinfeld fan and it just worked out that he was in Vegas while I was so how could I not go? I got tickets relatively late but because I was sitting solo so I got a single seat in row 2. What I love about Seinfeld is that he captures life's little comedic situations perfectly. My absolute favorite bit was about having young kids and putting them to bed. He described this epic adventure as a type of nightly coronation ceremony. This is so true it's ridiculous. Our kids have suckered us into performing for them to get them to go to bed each night. I have a tuck in song I do every night on top of reading and wrestling. (Truth be told I love it but don't tell the kids). And if we don't check every box the kids cannot be expected to sleep. 

Look at these angels. She's actually sleeping with that book. 


After the show I went out with Cam and Elise, the owners of my favorite bike store, and we had a nice little meal at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. The food was great but the music was disappointing. I expected Jimmy Buffet songs and a chilled out atmosphere. Instead it was a thumping rock concert. In fact, the first table they sat us at we had to move from because we couldn't hear one another. 

Maybe I'm becoming an old man but why does music need to be so loud in a restaurant? Does the bass hammering you aid in digestion? Maybe they'd rather you shut up, eat and get out? Either way it seems an odd music choice for a restaurant that's supposed to feel like you're chilling in the tropics. 

I had a brush with fame on the strip Friday night. Kim and I LOVE police shows like Cops. But one of our favorites is called Vegas Strip and it's just that, a Cops-like show on the strip. One of the main officers is Ofcr. Wandick. His most notable feature are his eyes. So much so that the hookers on the show call him Officer Green Eyes. He doesn't let them continue like that but I was so jacked to see this guy! 


Saturday was pretty chilled out. I hit the outlet mall and made my way to the airport for the direct flight home. I breezed through customs because of my NEXUS card and rolled into bed about 2am. Kelland had hockey the next morning so there's no rest for the weary. 

Next up is my 3 month CT scan on Mobday. I'm cautiously optimistic but will update you all when I get my results. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ironman Muskoka - Yikes Bikes


After my disappointing result at Ironman Coeur d'Alene I was excited to get a shot at redemption at Muskoka. Muskoka is a region about 2 hours north of Toronto. I left Edmonton at 730 am on Wednesday. My brother in law Dave was good enough to drive me to the airport and only wanted hot chocolate in payment, not a bad deal!

Since my uncle uses his aeroplan upgrade on me I'm a 50k member which means I get to use the express check in at Air Canada so I breeze through check in now. At least usually. For whatever reason, this time security wanted me to unpack my entire bike for them to inspect. Ugh. The big problem is that I don't just put my bike in the case. I also put all of my triathlon accessories in there. Shoes, helmet, wetsuit, etc. and this is all done very carefully to maximize my room. Needless to say I was not thrilled at this but I smilingly obliged because what else can you do?



After satisfying the pleasant security lady I threw my bag on the conveyor and made my way to passenger screening. This is also a breeze as I've got my NEXUS card which means I'm pre-screened by U.S. Customs and get to use the express lane. The great payoff with these express lanes is lounge time. The biggest benefit to my 50K status with Air Canada is use of the lounge.

I found a chair in front the TV and watched highlights as I ate my oatmeal and sipped my cappuccino. I was only interrupted once when I was paged to the front counter. The nice lady at the desk told me there was room in business class so I was being upgraded. HOLLA! I've had the pleasure of flying business a few times and it is just awesome. 



As soon as the first page was made I hustled onto the plane and set myself up for the flight. The flight attendant brought me an orange juice so I had something to sip as I reviewed the breakfast menu. I selected the fruit plate as I was already quite full from my lounge breakfast. I was worried this flight was going to be frustrating because as we taxied apparently someone's emotional support dog needed its own support dog to stop it from barking. After take off, however, the dog quieted down and we didn't hear from it again. 

Airplane food. I can dig it!

SIDEBAR: When did we decide that dogs needed to go everywhere we go? Restaurants, sporting events, plane rides. Enough man, leave the dog.

I decided that even though it's quite a bit further to go from Ottawa than Toronto I would do the extra drive so I could check out our nation's capital. That's right my foreign readers, Ottawa is the capital of Canada not Toronto. Toronto is the capital of the universe (at least according to Torontonians).

PRO TIP: When you rent a car, pre book the smallest car you can be happy with. Then, when you go to pick it up ask how much it would be for a larger vehicle. It's almost always much cheaper than booking the bigger vehicle ahead of time. 

I decided to go with a pickup as it was easier to transport my bike that way and that was a great decision. And it was only $5 more per day. I sent a quick message to the family I was staying with and told them that I'd be in Muskoka in a few hours. Turns out that was Alberta time. As a hurtin' Albertan I looked at the map and it said about 300km. So, it should take me 2:45 to get there. NOPE. The highway between Ottawa and Muskoka is a windy back country road that hits every small town you've never wanted to see. And there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the design of these roads. They are more crooked than a politician and just as slow. This drive turned out to be closer to 5 hours and I arrived in Muskoka tired and ready to eat. 

Fortunately, the Hayes clan were ready for me and we sat down to eat right away. I became friends with Stu, the father of the group, after chatting on the Internet. He is one of my faithful of readers and when I went to Toronto to speak he took me for dinner and drinks and we really hit it off. So when he saw I was doing the same race he was he invited me to come and stay with his family at a beautiful cottage right on the water at Lake of Bays. 




Stu's wife Julie is an absolute angel and took great care of me while I was there and their kids Liam (15) and Logan (12) are a pair of sweethearts. They made me feel right at home and even let me stay in the bunkhouse so I had my own little place. 

I had heard some frightening tales about the Muskoka bike course so I was glad when Stu said we were going to go for a ride and check out part of it. I was thrilled to see that the hills were a series of rollers rather than long sustained climbs. My body is designed to take on a short hill and then recover, I don't do well with the long ones. Plus, my weight helps me carry some speed into the next climb. We went out for an hour and then back and the only hill I struggled with wasn't even on the course. It was a grinder on the road between our cottage and the main road. 

After getting back I was tired but very happy. Not only was I glad the course wasn't as daunting as I had expected but I also felt great. My liver has been acting up for the last 2 weeks and as recently as last Friday I wasn't even sure I'd be able to travel. This ride was the first exercise I had done in 2 weeks and it went well. 

After a nice supper we sat down and watched Taken 2 and just hung out. It is so nice to have people to hang out with. When I go to races alone I often hang out at Walmart and buy things I don't need in order to pass the time. I made my way to bed a little early as we had an early wake up Friday for the Sunrise Swim.

The alarm went off at 540 am and I couldn't believe when I looked at the clock. I had slept through the night for the first time in 2 weeks. I hadn't been awoken by severe itching or belly pain. Things were finally looking up. 

Stu and I jumped in the truck and made our way to the swim start. This Sunrise Swim is a fundraiser for the local hospice and was only dreamed up a month ago. Being it was such short notice they didn't think it was going to be much but 125 people signed up and I think they're going to need to look at relocating next year. It was such a great time I think they'll be much bigger in the years to come. 

We went off in waves of 20 and Stu and I were wave 3. The water was perfect and there was enough room that I didn't hit anyone during the entire thing. The course was out around a small island and back and measured about a mile. The coolest part was that 50m from shore was a floating coffee bar and I jumped out and had some joe and a juice. After enjoying my locally roasted Muskoka coffee I swam the final small leg back and grabbed some breakfast. The highlight of which were the cinnamon buns from the local bakery. They reminded me of the ones my mom makes from my great-grandma's recipe. Om nom nom. 

Stu had contacted the swim's organizer, Rich, about me possibly speaking and they were good enough to give me the opportunity. So as things were getting ready to come to a close they gave me the mic and I shared my story in hopes that:
1) people will see that cancer is a living sentence, not a life sentence (thanks for this Stu) and,
2) athletes will ignore the fact that they're healthy and get regular checkups. 

Me and swim organizer Dr. Rich Trenholm

People seemed very receptive to my talk again; but like I said, you've gotta be a special sort of mean to boo a cancer patient :) 

We retired back to the cottage and relaxed for most of the rest of Friday. I watered up, got some salt in and took a nap. 

One of the unfortunate things about races is that most of them have done away with the athlete dinner. Instead they have opted to include a voucher in your package for a local restaurant. This is cool as it helps get the community on board but it was nice to sit down with your fellow athletes at other races. Anyway, the Hayes and I decided to go to 3 guys and a stove for supper and this was a great decision. The food was absolute spectacular. I had the BBQ plate and it was chicken, ribs and brisket cooked perfectly. Ontario is not known for its BBQ but this was superb. 



Once home we watched The Blind Side and chilled. I managed to hold it together this time and that was good because the first time I saw this film I was on an airplane and I bawled like a teenage girl. Such a tough guy. 

Saturday was pretty chill. We turned our bikes and transition bags in and relaxed. I took a chance to walk Main Street and see Huntsville. It's a cool little town with lots of boutiques and restaurants. It was an early bed time as tomorrow was the big day.

Me and my little buddy Logan in a giant Muskoka chair.

RACE DAY

The alarm went off at 5am but, as usual this wasn't a big surprise as I'd been up every couple of hours to check my watch to make sure I hadn't slept it. I threw on my sweat suit and headed into the main house for some coffee. After a small breakfast of some bars and a banana Stu and I quietly made our way to the truck trying not to wake anyone. At this point I missed the unlock button on the remote and hit the panic button setting off the truck's alarm. Real smooth.

It was about a 20 minute drive to the shuttles so we headed down the road and onto the buses. We got to transition with about 15 minutes left before it closed. This is perfect as some races I've been too early and you stand around and go crazy. We made the 5 minute walk to the swim start and got our wetsuits on and seeded ourselves based on expected finish time. 

The new trickle start is so much better than the mass starts were. It's a swim, not an MMA fight so having open water around you is really nice. 

The horn went off and we made our way into the water. The water was a little colder than I had expected but after 100m or so I warmed up and was quite comfortable. I had my suit on well and was gliding pretty nicely. I only took one shot during the swim and it was a kick to the jaw that slammed my teeth together but that's Ironman. It was a single loop course and so there was no break and you seem to go out forever. But when you make that turn to head home you know you've covered some good ground. 

I came out of the water in 1:26 which is slower than I'd like but considering my training schedule lately wasn't too bad. My health has been wonky lately so days when I feel good I focus on the bike or run and the swim has to wait. 

The run up to transition was quite far and was on an asphalt golf cart path so it was tough on the tootsies. I gingerly made my way inside to the bags and started getting dressed. This was unusual as transition was inside a ballroom of a conference centre. Normally it's a tent in a field so this was trés posh. I threw on my bike kit and was off. 

THE BIKE FROM HELL

When I left transition and got to my bike at the racks some ass hat had knocked it over and it was sitting on its side. This did not impress me but I picked it up and went on my way. The biggest downside was that when my bike got knocked over about 2/3 of my water had spilled but I didn't notice and I ran out of fluid about 5km in. The ride started out as normal as any other. There's a tough little section leaving Huntsville where you have as one quick up and downs and then it's relatively easy for 15km or so. At the first aid at 26km I was feeling good and trucking along. 

Just after leaving this stop I felt a feeling I knew all to well. I got nauseous, and then I felt a warm sensation all across my abdomen. SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT THE REAL DETAILS. I had pooped and because my spandex holds my bag firmly against my stomach there's nowhere for the stuff to go so it goes EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately I have no way to predict when this will happen and I don't have the ability to clench. There's no muscle there. I was 25km from the next station so I soldiered on but I knew what I was facing when I got there. It was shortly after this my chain dropped for the first time. This isn't a huge delay but it is a hassle. You have to get off and manually get your chain back onto the crank. Any time you stop your bike your time suffers so that's a pain. When I got to Dorset I pulled into the aid station and quickly got into the porta potty. This situation required 10 minutes, 2 bottles of water and a half a roll of TP to deal with. I know it's gross but this is what I have to deal with. I dealt with it as best I could and got back to it. Fortunately that was the last time I had an issue with that this race but it was plenty. 

The next 70km were fairly uneventful save for two more chain drops. Stu and I had ridden 2 hours just a couple days before and my bike was functioning perfectly so I figure whoever dropped my bike in transition bent or misaligned something. Thanks homie! 

The fourth time my chain came off was the big issue. Instead of coming off my crank (the front gear by the pedals) it came of my rear casette, and to the inside. When this happened it immediate seized my rear wheel and threw me into the ditch. This is actually fortunate as the roads were open and a car could easily have hit me had I gone the other side. Luckily I was climbing out of Dorset and was only doing about 10km/hr so I didn't get hurt, just a few scrapes. There was an aid station just up the road (at 121km) so I road towards it and now my chain started slipping. Every couple of pedal strokes it would slip and catch. I pulled into the aid station and requested a mechanic. Fortunately there was one on the spot and he made a few adjustments to what he thought was wrong and sent me on my way. 

Mechanic 1

This adjustments had no impact on my bike and I spent the next 25km cursing my bike as the chain slipped and clunked. I arrived at the next pit stop around 146km and once again requested a mechanic. This time a van rolled up with a whole set up. He had a bike stand and all the tools. Nice! After trying similar adjustments as the first guy he realized one of my chain links had actually twisted and when it passed over the gears it would jump. So, now it was time for a total chain replacement. As you can imagine this takes some time and then I had to quickly jot down my info so they can bill me for the chain. Totally fair but Kim always gives me a hard time for my shopping at Ironman. Now I've discovered a way to actually spend money DURING the race! 

Mechanic 2

I got back on the road about 40 minutes later and was thrilled at how my bike felt. It was like a new ride. It responded to everything and was just awesome. I was checking the time as I needed to be into transition by 5pm and I had to push it a little to make sure I would get there. I didn't have another issue the rest of the bike. Except for the hills but that's my problem. The Muskoka bike course prides itself on being one of the toughest on the circuit. With 7300 feet of climbing it tests anyone and when you're already having a day from hell it's even trickier. There's one hill in particular at about 80km and 160km that is not very long but is straight up. On the first lap I rode it but it spiked my heart rate and I felt it for a while. I decided that on lap 2 I would walk it and it turned out to be a great decision. I watched a guy ahead of me stand on his pedals and really push it. Then at the top he got off and tried to recover. I walked past him, got on my bike and never saw him again. 

The last 8km back into Huntsville is the worst part. There's a couple of climbs that test your will. Admittedly I had to rest on both of them but I got up. After summiting the final hill you can cruise into Huntsville for about 2km. I arrived at 445pm. 15 minutes before the bike cutoff and about 8 hours and 10 minutes after I started my bike. Ugh. 

I made my way into transition and finally got to try my custom Sugoi race kit. It's super comfortable and looks damn good I must say! I headed out the door and was onto the course at exactly 500pm giving me exactly 7 hours to do the marathon. This meant I had to maintain 10 minute kilometers or better to finish by midnight. I hit km 1 in 8:30 and was happy but by km 5 my pace had dropped and now they were taking over 10 minutes. Just before the 8km mark I did the math and there was just no way I was going to cross the line by midnight. I contemplated continuing on for the sake of it but being that I race again in 4 weeks I thought better of it. Why torture myself fruitlessly? The aid station called for a ride and once again my Ironman ended in a pickup truck. 

This time made me particularly angry as it was some outside influences that helped to stop me, but that's the nature of the beast. After heading back to the start area I changed into my dry clothes and grabbed some pizza and pasta and hung out. Eventually I made my way to the finish area to wait for Stu to watch him finish. It was tough watching everyone cross the line as I know that feeling and really wanted it this time. 

From Muskoka I headed off to Ottawa and a tour of the capital.
National War Memorial

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I decided to pay homage to my late father during lunch. He always said his favorite meal was a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese while sitting on a rock. I couldn't find a rock but I did make my way down to the Rideau Canal and sat and thought about him. It was a really nice afternoon. 


I'm looking forward to getting home and getting back at training. I need to as I've got Ironman Chattanooga in less than 4 weeks. Animo!