Oh Canada

I would have to say that my Olympic experience has been amazing.  It first became real to me when I drove to Maple Ridge at 5:30am to meet a group of people that I would be carrying the Olympic Torch with.

The Torch Relay
It was an experience I will never forget.  A group of about 15 of us met in the town hall to receive instruction on what was to be done, we were given our torches, and driven to our legs of the relay.  Before they dropped the first person off, they asked us all to share our stories of why we were chosen to be a Torch Bearer.  It was inspiring to hear the stories of ordinary Canadians doing extra-ordinary things.

I was excited to carry the flame for sure, but I was worried that the experience wouldn't be that great because I was scheduled to run at 7:13am in a tiny town and I couldn't talk any of my friends to come out and watch.  I figured there might be 2 or 3 people on the side of the road and that would be it.  I was wrong.  Maple Ridge was full of Olympic spirit.  When I got dropped off, the whole side of the road was lined with people, hundreds of them.  They had flags, and cameras, and smiles, and cheers.  It was amazing.

As I was standing at my start point waiting to go a looked down the road and saw it, the Olympic Flame, the same flame that had been lit by the sun in Greece, that had traveled by boat, by plane, by car, and by foot, it had traveled tens of thousands of kilometers and had been carried by thousands of people.  Excitement filled my body as I realized that it was coming to me.

Previously I had wondered how I should carry the torch: should I walk and make the moment last as long as I could, or should I sprint it as fast as I could, or what?  When I saw that flame coming to me I knew there was only one answer - I was to run it with Olympic pride.

My First Event - Sweden vs Slovakia Women's Hockey
The Olympics had started and I was enjoying watching it on TV and figured that would be the extent of it.  Then I got a slew of texts from one excited Janelle exclaiming she had won ice hockey tickets.  She entered a draw and her best friend's name was picked, she offered to babysit, then her name was picked, and she said "Never mind".  We all got to go together to Thunderbird Arena here on campus and sit on the front row.  It was women's hockey which in my opinion is not to the same caliber as men's and Canada wasn't playing; however, it was a great time.  Just the whole atmosphere. Flags waving, people cheering, everyone having a great time.  The buzz continued.

Downtown Explorations
I went for a bike ride downtown to check out the Olympic venues and Pavilions.  The line-ups were huge but I saw what needed to be seen and then came back the next day with Janelle and Kaylen.  We started by Science World and worked our way past Olympic Village, through downtown, and to the Waterfront were the Cauldron was.  It was neat to see all the flags up and take pictures of things.  Robson St is a zoo; they have blocked it off from traffic and there were people everywhere.  Pretty cool to soak up the excitement around here.

Canada vs Russia Men's Hockey Quarter Final
Janelle and I had considered blowing some dough to buy some Men's hockey tickets for a Canada game.  We undulated from yes let's do it, to no it's too much.  When Canada became scheduled to play Russia in the quarter finals I just couldn't resist.  Many predicted this to be the Gold Medal Game with two amazing powerhouse teams.  Most people wanted $750-$1000 per ticket.  I wasn't going to pay that much.  I started the morning by emailing a bunch of people on Craigslist with low-ball offers.  I basically said that if the game is about to start and you are worried because no one has bought your tickets give me a call and I'll buy them off you for cheap - better than losing out on the money.  After a few nasty replies I figured that maybe this wouldn't work.

My next idea was to head to the venue with a pocket of cash and see what scalpers were looking for.  They wanted $900-$1000 a ticket.  The game was scheduled to start at 4:30 and it this point it was 3:30.  I thought an hour before the game started they would start to get worried and sell for cheaper but apparently they had tons of time, and more than likely the cost would go up as the time went by, and I'm an idiot, and to get out of their faces.  Janelle was worried that I was going to get punched out.  What do you expect - scalpers - they are the scum of the world, you can't reason with them.

I realized that an hour before was too early to low-ball so we took off for a while and planned to come back at 4:15.  I figured we would be missing the first period as we were busing back home because there was no way we were getting tickets.  As we approached the venue I saw a guy holding up about 10 tickets.  This guy has got to be getting desperate I thought.  I asked how much and he said $600 each.  That's the best I've heard so far.  I offered $500 each and he tried for $550 but I was firm on 5 and he took.  As we were walking away I saw two guys, who we ended up sitting beside at the game, buy two tickets for $600 each.  Suckas!

Because we got our tickets so late we walked in the building right as they were about to drop the puck.  From the entrance way I could hear the chants: GO CANADA GO! GO CANADA GO!  It was electrifying.  As I walked up the stairs to the seating area into the arena the sound got louder and louder.  I looked out at thousands of people all wearing red and white, cheering as loud as they possibly could for Canada.  As I joined in I cannot describe the feeling I had.  It was worth every penny.  And the game was great - we stomped them Russians.  I read a good article describing the feeling in the building partially copied below:

"Both Russian and Canadian fans in Canada Hockey Place tonight created something like a force field in the building, especially in the moments before the opening faceoff—a bizarre collective energy that I’ve never experienced at any gathering in my life. It’s one of those things that make meetings between two hockey-mad nations so memorable. And I’ll remember this one for as long as my memory works."

After the romping of Russia the celebrations continued into the streets.  It was an experience I'll never forget.

Are you Still With Me?
The Olympics have been great.  It's wonderful to be here and to catch in all the patriotism that is not usually seen in Canada and to feel the excitement.  I guess there's only one thing left to say:

Hardcore Time

Okay, I realize that everyone has a different definition of the word hardcore.  I think it can pretty much be summed up by this picture:

Or of course we have this one:

There are so many sport heroes and legends to draw inspiration from.

With race season fast approaching I have determined that it's time to stop mindlessly training and time to get serious again.

With that said I've decided to set a goal to log 180km of running starting now by the end of March.  That may not seem like a lot but keep in mind I am also swimming a couple of times a week and cycling every week as well.

I invite any one else to set new goals for themselves.  Please feel free to share them with me and we can work to push each other.

500m Swim Test Set

The UBC Triathlon Club has started it's new spring race series which means there should be some good smack talk coming up.

Today I did the 500m swim test set.  The team did this a couple of weeks ago but because of my San Francisco trip I missed it and had to make it up today.  I wasn't really sure what to expect going into it as I'm a little unsure of my swimming abilities.  When I joined the club back in September of '08 my best 500m swim time was about 10:38 or something like that which is about 2:07 per 100m.

The swim is usually my least concern with my triathlon training since it's the shortest distance and the least time is usually lost in a race and I have focused more on running and cycling.  This year has been a little different though.  I decided that I wanted to pick up my swim time a little bit for the '10 race season.  In January I was comfortably swimming at a 1:50/100m pace and my goal is to be able to hold a 1:40/100m for a half Ironman swim of 1900m this summer.  I know I'm not quite ready to hold that pace and was expecting somewhere around 8:45 for this test set.

I did my warm up and was not feeling particularly well and considered putting this off until Thursday but decided to go for it anyway.  I started my set and was feeling great.  I didn't feel like I was pushing too hard, but more like I was holding a strong steady pace.  I ended up completing it in 8:29 which is a new pb for me.  Yeah!  I know it's no stellar time when compared to some of the other people I swim with but it's good for me and I'm happy about it.  It's fun to train towards goals and see them become realized.  That's one of the things I love about triathlons - your progress is easily measured and you can see benefits to the work you put in - it's a very rewarding sport.

I would like to pay a little tribute to my buddy Winstorm.  We have been bugging him for the last year or two about how slow he is at swimming.  He has now in his 5th year with the club and it seems like as long as I've been there his swim time has remained constant and he has watched newbies come in at a slower lane, later to join his, and then to pass him.  Well, he is proving that he has that fighter's spirit and has seen drastic changes in all events, but lately with a big jump in his swimming.  Good job Winstonian, looks like you might be a threat this summer after all.

On a side note, I just realized that the Subaru West Coast Triathlon Series starts in 3 months and I don't feel anywhere near ready.  It's amazing how fast the off-season went by.  It's time to get hardcore again.  Hourrah!

Alcatraz Swim Video

Here's a link to my Alcatraz Swim courtesy of Water World Swim - thanks guys.

My Escape from Alcatraz

I woke up this morning at 5:30am with a sense of suspense, anticipating the swim ahead of me.

I walked from my hotel in Ghirardelli Square to Hyde St Pier to meet my guide Pedro Ordenes of Water World Swim at 7:00am.  We met the boat captain and were off to Alcatraz.  I was excited.  The conditions were perfect: calm wind, flat seas, and the sun was just starting to come out.  I was ready to jump in.

I plunged off the side of the boat and when I surfaced I was infused with excitement and began to swim.  The excitement quickly turned to anxiety.  All my fears, coupled with the frigid water temperature, consumed me and my breathing got out of control.  I felt like I was about to start hyperventilating.  I decided to stop swimming and float for a minute to catch my breath and calm myself down.  After doing that I felt great and was ready to continue swimming.

About midway through my swim I thought about what I was doing - swimming from Alcatraz - and I started to get pretty pumped.  Every time I breathed to my right I could see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance which just added to my excitement and I really started to enjoy myself.

I got a little confused with the landing spot and aimed for the wrong location.  I ended up about 200m down current of where I wanted to be and had to swim straight against the current next to the pier.  I wasn't moving fast as the waves were fighting against me.  They were rolling up and down and I started to get a little dizzy.  Seeing people on the pier looking down at me and probably thinking I was crazy gave me all the fuel I needed to push through it.

I eventually made it to the beach and when I got out I could not stand up straight.  I stumbled around for a while trying to reach equilibrium and fight off the spins until I couldn't fight it anymore and leaned over to vomit.  Luckily I only had a banana to eat and there wasn't much to come out.  After that I felt great.

By then the boat had docked and Pedro came over to present me with a certificate and give me a t-shirt.

So I did it; I survived; I escaped from Alcatraz.

United Airlines...They Suck

Last week we were considering our options of how we were going to transport our model building to San Francisco.  We could send it through UPS or Fed-Ex or attempt to check it is over-sized luggage.  The box we built to transport the building is about 66"x22"x22" and weighs approximately 50lbs.  I called Fed-Ex to see what they would charge to take it to San Francisco - $190 for ground shipping.  Our preference was to take it onto the plane with us so that we would know when it would arrive since if it's late we would get disqualified.  I called United Airlines to see if we could check our box.  I gave the lady on the phone the dimensions, she added them up 66+22+22=110".  She said that their restrictions are that the total linear dimensions needed to be under 115" which we satisfied and that we should have no problem.  Great!  We decided to follow that option since the cost was better, only $175, and we wouldn't be worrying about when it would arrive.

On Saturday I get a call from one of my team mates and he says we're screwed.  I'm like, what's the dealio?  He says, "we can't check our box!"  Apparently in addition to the maximum total linear dimension of 115", they also have a policy that no side can be longer than 62".  It's now too late to do ground shipping through UPS or Fed-Ex so the other option is to send it express at a cost of $1100.  I'm pretty steamed.  I called United to see if they would make an exception since it was one of their employees that failed to inform me of this restriction and because of her error I potentially need to pay an extra $900 to get my box there in time?!  They would not budge but suggested I call their cargo department and send it as air cargo.

I decided to call the cargo department and was put on hold for 42minutes and 16seconds.  What the heck is taking so long?  Finally I get to talk to someone.  He asks me for my account number and I say I don't have one and he informs me that they don't deal with non-registered shippers since 9-11.  Thanks a lot customer service for wasting my time with a pointless phone call which nearly wasted an hour of my life.

I call customer service back.  I speak with a supervisor.  He begins to tell me that I should have looked into their restrictions earlier and that he is not responsible for what some employee might have told me.  Talk about service.  Apparently the reason they couldn't make any exceptions for us is that the cargo area simply can't fit items longer than 62" - that's what he tells me anyway.  I call his bluff - how about skis? - I ask.  To make a long story less long - he failed to help me in any way - he wouldn't even apologize.  So I yelled at him and vowed that I would never fly United Airlines again.  Did that accomplish anything?  No.  Did it make me feel better?  Yes.

So two of my team mates cancelled their flights and are driving the box down instead.  It's all being taken care of, just a nuisance that could have completely been avoided if United Airlines didn't suck so much.

It feels good to rant.

Anyway, this is an old song and you have probably heard it already but it's speaking true to me right now so if you've got some time feel free to check it out.