Sunday, 8 February 2015

I'm Back Baby, Part II

The next part of my rebirth, if you will, is a trip to San Francisco to do some training.  It sucks trying to train for an endurance sport almost exclusively indoors but in Canada your choices are limited. So every now and then I like to get away to train.

I had a funny moment at the airport as I entered the U.S. Customs area. The dutiful guard asked why I was going to San Francisco and I told him I was swimming from Alcatraz. He thought I was being a smart ass and so he started to grill me. I realized right away that he could really mess up my travel plans so I whipped out my phone and showed him the confirmation email of my crossing time and he half sheepishly told me to have fun and let me go. 

The first leg from Edmonton to Denver was wonderfully uneventful and we landed a little late but with plenty of time to spare so I hustled up to the United lounge and had a glass of red wine and some snackers. I boarded my flight to San Francisco and was to delighted to find that although I had a middle seat my seat mates were both very slender. Boom! Awesome. Or so I thought.

I hadn't noticed right away but the person at the window was actually the rare domesticated bare-footed chick. The main feature of this species is that it's not enough to have bare feet. You have to hook your toes on the pocket of the seat back in front of you. The most prominent feature of the feet is a series of blisters on the top of the toes that make other passengers cringe. 

I got to SFO and found my way to my luggage. FIRST BAG OFF THE PLANE! This reminded me of my time with the Golden Bears. On flights we would all put a dollar in a hat and the first bag off the plane would take it all. Then everyone else would throw your gear around the airport but hey, can't win 'em all.

I woke up Friday with nothing to do. I remember a professor in University saying "the freedom to do anything is great, but the freedom to do nothing is divine." I never really understood what this meant until I was a real grown up. Having absolutely zero responsibilities for a day was incredibly freeing and I felt light. I made my way down the street to a nice little diner on the wharf and had French toast and eggs. As I sat there the light drizzle turn into a full on storm. Fortunately, when you don't have any plans they can't be ruined so I just decided to drive around. If you've never driven in San Francisco you need to do it once. The hills are absolutely hilarious and terrifying at the same time. Some are so steep that when you hit the apex and start to descend you just have to trust there's no one on the other side because you can't see where you're going.

The storm never let up and, in fact, I got an email from the company that was running the Alcatraz crossing that there was a Coast Guard warning for the bay the next morning. Awesome. Basically, they were going to take us out there and then hope it was safe enough to make the swim. Okay, not super excited about that. However, when I woke up Saturday morning I opened the curtains and was delighted to find that the sun was shining and there was no wind. I used google maps to get directions to the meeting point for the swim and started laughing. It said 2 minutes walking. It was essentially right outside of my hotel. I made my way down to the meeting point, signed my waiver and off we went. It was great because there were only 10 of us swimming so there was very little prep time needed. This is unlike the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon where there are a couple thousand participants and it takes over an hour to get going.

We jumped in and the water was just as cold as I remembered. I wanted to complain but as it happens there was a 12 year old girl swimming with us with NO WET SUIT! I found out afterwards this girl speaks 3 languages and just finished climbing a mountain in Chile. Jeepers! An interesting thing I found out was that they only sort of know what the water is going to do. They originally told us to aim for the old fort because they expected a flood tide. This would push us left and so that aiming point would take us safely into the harbour. Well, it turns out we had a slack tide so as we got closer to shore the kayak pilots had to herd us and navigate us further over into the opening to this really cool harbour. They've essentially created an open water swimming pool. Picture a horse shoe of pier that goes out about 100 meters with an opening into the ocean. As I entered this horse shoe I had a "you gotta be kidding me" moment. I was swimming along and BANG, bounced my head off of something. I looked up to see an equally confused 50-something year old man staring back at me. I had managed to swim into another person in the middle of the friggin' ocean. We laughed it off and I made my way to shore.

After getting back to the hotel I showered up and planned out the rest of my day. I decided to do something I've always wanted to do and that was to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. I made my way to the Sausalito end of the bridge, threw in my headphones and just started walking.

1% Man
I'm writing this portion of the blog from the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. I've taken Adam Carolla's advice and put on some headphones and just started walking. This cleared my head and filled me with endorphins. The GGB is 1.7 miles each direction so 3.4 miles in total and its a great chance to do some thinking. 

Behind me (if you can see past that giant dome) is the swim I completed just this morning and I got to thinking. When I was first diagnosed we looked up how likely I was to get this stupid disease and I'm a 1%er. That meant to Kim and I that the stats don't apply. I've done things in my life that most people will never come close to in their life so why should I look at other people's cancer stories? How many people do Ironman at 285 pounds? Me. How many people go sub 12 hours at 250 pounds? Sat in a burning building? Taken down by a police K9? Have the best wife in the world? (Boom! Brownie points. Although writing that probably negates them. Damn.) I'm a unique dude and I'll show people there's hope.

COLOSTOMY UPDATE: The bathrooms at the Golden Gate Bridge were out of toilet paper. But I don't need toilet paper. Who wins now world?

Sunday was supposed to be half marathon day. However, on Saturday night I realized that my sock choice the day before was not stellar as I had gotten some nice blisters on the bottom of two toes which were incredibly painful. Also, I started to develop a gnarly cough which left me wheezing and hcking. Beautiful hey? So when my alarm went off Sunday morning and it was once again POURING rain I shut off the button and tucked myself back into bed. I need to be at the Cross Cancer Institute tomorrow afternoon for my blood tests and I don't want to be too sick to my next round of chemo.

I turned on the TV and realized what I had been subjected to for the past three days. US TV news is all about fear. Russia, China and Iran are all conspiring to destroy the world, ISIS and Boka Haram are going to cotinue randomly attacking innocent people, Republicans and Democrats are conspiring against one another to destroy the free world. It had all been subtle but I longed for the Canadian news I was used to. I can assure you that we do, in fact, hear bad stories on the news but it is not the constant barrage of negativity I experienced on the trip. The other really depressing thing about American TV is that they appear to LOVE basketball. I can get down with the occasional game but no less than 5 different channels were showing NCAA basketball. Most of these games were one-sided drubbings which were hardly worth watching. I also can't figure out why people go absolutely bananas over a slam dunk.  Now an alley oop or a guy getting posterized (a guy jumps over you and dunks) are pretty cool, but most often it's a 7'1" tall dude jumping 4.5" off the ground and throwing a ball through the rim. Then this gets put in the top 10 plays for the night. Are you out of your friggin' minds?!? Imagine if Canadian sports highlights conisisted of Sidney Crosby carefully sliding a puck into an empty net while his teammates swung towels around in the air and chest bumped each other. Weirdos.

This would have been bad enough but the absolute worst thing I saw on TV down here was a bowler. This guy, whose last name is Weber, is just absolutely infuriating. He wears dark sunglasses and yells to the crowd after his throws. After the 8th frame he did the "discount double check" thing where he pretended to be wearing a championship wrestling belt. But the coup de gras was after he won the quarter-final match. He held his black-gloved fist in the air, then went to a knee and slammed his fist into the floor and roared. I was pissed. I couldn't believe this guy. I was so mad in fact I actually took my shoes back off, I had planned to go out, and watched the semi-final to see him lose. When he did I actually threw a fist pump in the air. I immediately realized the absurdity of it all but in those moments it was so nice to be normal. Or, as normal as I can be cheering against a weirdo bowling.

I had a few hours to kill before my flight so I headed to Westfield Centre in downtown San Francisco as I had tried to buy the kids some things at the wharf but it was mostly overpriced crap. I knew I would find something better at the mall. I phoned home and asked Cambrey (2 1/2 year old) what I should get her. She told me she wanted a purple present. She is so sweet, all she wanted was something purple. Knowing the next answers I asked her what to get Calliah. She said Calliah needed a pink present and, of course, Kelland needed a blue present. The absolutely heart-melter was when she cautioned me that the baby needed a big present because, "baby can choke on little things." I'm so incredibly proud of how Kim is raising our children. Despite the occasional scrap, the kids love each other beyond belief and are some of the most thoughtful and sweet little people I've ever met. Granted, I'm more than a little biased.

I couldn't find anything for the baby and I knew this would not sit well with the other kids. I would be subjected to a barrage of "why didn't you get baby something? Where's the baby's present?" I did what every other bad father does and hit up the Hudson News at the airport and bought the first thing I saw. 

I did see something in Chinatown that made me chuckle. Is it just me or does this sound like China's greatest Super Spy?

The San Francisco to Vancouver leg of the flight was great. I had a window seat and was upgraded to United's Economy Plus so I had more leg room, but even better there was no one seated in the middle seat so I had two arm rests and the middle table tray became my side table. Booyah!

I made my way into the Air Canada lounge at Vancouver International; had some snacks, a glass of red wine and 
watched the planes taxi in and out for a couple of hours. When the time came I made my way to the gate and when they made the first boarding call I jumped on it. I had used my final upgrade credits to get a business class ticket. I got on the plane early and basked in the disapproving looks of the people walking past me. "How did HE get up there?" If they knew I got a free upgrade it would all make sense to them but I won't give them the satisfaction. As we landed in Edmonton I looked out the window and realized there was a LOT more snow than when I left. 

I usually park in the valet area but there was such a good deal in self park I took it. Such a dummy. I got into my frozen van and waited for it to heat up so I could get home and hug my wife, kiss my kids and tell them it was all going to be ok. 


  1. Hey, Colin. You were, even in junior high school, and definitely still are an amazing young man. A countless number of people are pulling for you. I'm one of them.
    Mr. D. from Broxton Park School

    1. Thanks Mr. D. Hard to believe it's been over 20 years since those volleyball tournaments!

  2. Hi Colin,
    I just saw the CTV news clip. I am sorry to hear about your fight with cancer. There have been many advances in treatment and your attitude and physical health will help you immensely.

    I am writing today because my husband was diagnosed in 2005 with Stage 3C colorectal cancer at the age of 44. Sadly he ran out of time in his fight and he passed away in 2011. We did some amazing things and learned to live life as much as possible. I learned a lot as a caregiver - and as his wife. Last year I published my book, now an Amazon best seller, to share my story and give some practical tips and suggestions to other family caregivers. Here is my website I would be pleased to send you an autographed copy of the book if you are interested.

    I wish you and your family peace, hope, and joy in every day.