Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Training Through Tragedy

In the last five months I've faced a couple of devastating blows. As I've mentioned in previous posts I lost my father very suddenly to a heart attack while he was on vacation in Mexico last April. This time, on Friday the 13th of September I received a phone call at work that rocked my world. My wife called me to tell me that at her regular check-up the doctor could not locate the heartbeat of our unborn child. By the time I arrived she had already had an ultrasound to confirm what the doctor suspected and that we would not be having our fourth child this coming March.

Obviously we were extremely upset. Kim was just over four months pregnant and we had gotten past the three month window that you're supposed to be worried about and had never had any real problems with previous pregnancies. However, after our initial shock and pain we quickly became very philosophical. The easiest thing to come to terms with was that there was certainly something very wrong with the baby and had it been born it likely would have lead an extremely difficult life or maybe not even survived birth.

The next realization that we came to was actually more of a spiritual one. It gave us pause to look at what we do have. I summed it up best with a text to my sister after she sent her condolences and asked how we were doing. I replied, "We're going to sit in our beautiful home and wallow with our 3 healthy children." This may have actually been a type of awakening for us (maybe just me, Kim's always awesome). It really gives you an opportunity to take an inventory of your life and see how good you have it. I have job security in a career that I chose to pursue and love, I have a wonderful wife who takes care of our beautiful children and those children give me unparalleled joy. Not too shabby.  We will have a fourth child, this was just a bump in the road.

When people ask how I'm doing lately I have a very simple reply. It's not fair to the rest of my family to get depressed and be an ineffective parent. My late father would often tell me, "there is no point getting upset over that which you have no control." Typically this was in response to me destroying some type of memorabilia after the Oilers (my local hockey team) lost a particularly important game. But as with most of the lessons my father passed along to me, they sat in the back of my mind waiting for the perfect moment to reveal their importance.

After my dad passed I felt a certain amount of guilt continuing my training for Ironman. At the time I was so completely shattered that I wanted the entire world to stop and realize that an amazing human being would no longer be there. It was extremely self-centered but that was the depth of my pain. In the days and weeks that passed it occurred to me that I actually owed it to not only my living family but also my dad's memory that I continue doing what I had set my mind to. Teaching, parenting, being a fair to midland husband and working towards my goal of twelve Ironman races. Otherwise his lessons, and all of the things I'd worked for would have been in vain.

Once I got over my training guilt I began to realize how therapeutic it was. I didn't just want to train, I needed to train. When I'm swimming or biking or running I go to a different place in my mind. The rhythm I get into allows my brain to become calm and I do some of my best thinking while I'm exercising. Some days the only way I can get my mind off of what is troubling me is to push myself so hard physically that all I can think about is breathing and taking just one more step. Once I've pushed out the negative thoughts it becomes much easier to keep them there. It's then that I'm the best I can be. When I get home from a session I'm at peace, I don't have a workout hanging over me and I can pour myself completely into my family. I truly believe that training for Ironman makes me not only a better athlete but a better husband and father too. I know this to be the case because when I'm having some of my rough days Kim will look at me and say, "why don't you go workout?" Kim and I have grown up together, and sometimes she likes to say that she knows me better than I know myself.

Without tragedy there is no joy; without these moments when we are completely shattered and broken we can never appreciate the pure joy of a newborn child, summiting a mountain or crossing the finish line at Ironman. I don't forget about the losses, but I choose which memories pop into my consciousness more often than not. The positivity, the love and the support, these are the things that keep me going and bolster me when I falter and I'll forever be grateful. Thanks Dad.

I often wonder if I'm getting too preachy in my blogs and I really hope that isn't the case.  I think my life is more similar to the average person than most of the people featured in magazines. I work full-time, have a wife and kids, referee hockey in my spare time for some extra cash and train for triathlon. If my experiences can provide any help or ideas for anyone else I would be overjoyed. In the nearly 3 months that my blog has been out I've had over 5500 views and would love to start more of a dialogue with my readers. If you have any suggestions for future blogs or any questions for me please leave me a comment and I'll get to them as soon as possible.


  1. This indeed brought tears to my eyes Colin; however the grace you have displayed throughout all of this is a lesson to us all. It is not the adversity we face in life that defines us, it is how we respond to that adversity that shows us who we truly are.

  2. Not preachy at all. I am new to this whole running thing and your blog has helped me out a lot. It's very informative. The way you and Kim are pushing through these bad times is very inspiring.