If you’re here as a previous reader of this blog, you’ll have noticed my new digs on WordPress and the new look of the place. If this is your first visit, welcome!
2016 was a rough year for me and my family – I don’t want to go into gory details, but there was job loss, terminal illness, death, hospital visits, emergency home renovation… you know what, I’m getting bummed out just listing them all, even vaguely and generically. The point is, both blogging and the kind of adventures that I love to write about took a back seat all year long, in spite of my efforts to “dig myself out of a hole.”
There were a few positives in 2016 and while they really deserve their own individual posts, I’m going to start 2017 with looking forward, but I’ll just list a few honourable mentions…
which we used as an opportunity to take our first family camping trip.
We managed to make a shorter, later version of our annual trip to Germany.
We capped off the year by spending New Year’s at the cottage, which is the first time we did that as a family. We tried some downhill skiing, some cross-country skiing, and lots of snow-frolicking.
What does 2017 hold for this space? Lots of the same outdoor, active family living, with a focus on multi-sport/triathlon. Some things in our life have changed; the kids are older and pursue their own extra-curricular activity with less parental involvement (except driving them to and from the venue), and I’m less fit than when I was writing this blog regularly, so some of the fitness subjects will be more on the rehabilitative side (though I’m not going to turn this into a weight loss blog). I will probably incorporate more mental health and productivity content, and I’d really like to step up the amount of gear and technology review. Also, this might not be the final look of the blog, but I have to shout out and thank Janice from Salads4Lunch for getting me this far!
Last week I linked to the Top 10 Sport Science Stories of 2012… Lance Armstrong’s fall was #1.
As I write this, the Lance Armstrong/Oprah interview has not aired yet, though people on the internet already seem to know that he has admitted to doping. I wanted to do a write-up on this situation (and it’s impact on triathlon) when the USADA first revealed its evidence against him but I didn’t get around to it, and again before 2012 was out I wanted to do a post as part of a end-of-year review. I’m a little late on that score, but this interview and new revelations will freshen it up a little.
Sifting through all the evidence brought by the USADA is more than some paid, professional journalists can handle, so I don’t like my chances at all. Still, at this stage, Lance Armstrong’s guilt of using performance-enhancing substances seems to be a foregone conclusion, so let’s run with that. Though I’d bet his defenders are getting harder and harder to come by now, as the court of public opinion was convicting him, I still saw statements like:
“It’s a shame the state of the sport gives these athletes the need to cheat”
Others would question if it’s really cheating when so many other advancements in our understanding of human physiology (and cycling technology) make things possible today that weren’t before. Still others point to Livestrong and the good it does against cancer – attacking Lance Armstrong is akin to attacking Livestrong. His tale of beating cancer (as detailed in It’s Not About the Bike) has inspired so many people, and they worship him as a hero.
This is all garbage.
It’s true that in sports, to succeed is to win. Athletes who want to get paid need to win, and winning means being better than the others – if the others cheat, you’ll need to cheat or else you go hungry, right? Wrong. In a world of adults with free will, you make choices and you’re responsible accepting the consequences of those actions. Need to get paid? GET A JOB. Those of us sitting under fluorescent lighting, waiting out the clock till we get a chance to do the same thing professional athletes get to do all day – PLAY GAMES – have little sympathy for those pros.
Should doping really be considered cheating above and beyond the enhancements that can be achieved through better science and medicine available from technology and nutrition? I’ll give you a hint: if you have to hide what you’re doing, it’s wrong and dishonest, and even worse, you obviously realize that.
And Livestrong? I’ve got a pair of shorts from them that I really like, and their website is a great overall resource for healthy living and fitness. What they aren’t doing it curing cancer. This expose from Outside Magazine purports that they’re in the business of building ‘Lance Awareness’. Let’s call that accusation the worst case scenario, but if they’re not funneling money into research, then what? Building awareness? How much more aware of cancer can we get when it touches the life of 1 in 3 people. Someone you know is in a fight with cancer or has been. There is a small space of work in the war on cancer in terms of support services and coordinating them to best help cancer patients. Personally, I think these services vary widely from location to location and might be better served with local organizations, but if Livestrong can help, more power to them and I wish them well.
As a former cancer patient who won his battle, Lance Armstrong has inspired a lot of people but the hard truth is – fighting cancer involves a lot of luck. Do you think everyone who has succumbed to the disease simply didn’t ‘want it bad enough’. That they didn’t put enough effort in? Certainly not taking your own steps in a cancer fight (making it to chemo treatments, improving your own nutrition, etc.) lessens your chances and not every cancer battle has the exact same adversities, but lauding those who make it without incorporating humility and acknowledging that luck, fate, the universe or God played a significant role is a smack in the face to those who weren’t so lucky.
I read a book once, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. In it, the future society has taken on a Victorian moral code, telling them right and wrong along those old, puritanical lines. In that world, hypocrisy isn’t so bad; they look back at our society where hypocrisy is one of the worst sins, because the only moral code is the one each individual makes for him/herself. That’s the world we live in – make your own moral code and live by it.
Imagine a rock star. He womanizes, does drugs, smashes hotel rooms, that sort of standard, rock star stuff. It’s expected and we as a society won’t condemn it that much. When the televangelists of the 80s behaved in similar ways, it was a big deal – because their whole image and message was the exact opposite. If our imaginary rock star recorded Public Service Announcements decrying the use of illegal narcotics, and recorded preachy songs while supporting a drug habit, we’d be pretty incensed.
Which bring us back to Lance Armstrong. If he’d kept mum about doping like the average rock star does about drug abuse, it would have been one thing. But no, he’s “the most tested athlete in the world” (obviously those tests are essentially meaningless), and investigations into his doping were “witchhunts”. The charges were “baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.” And of course his famous Nike commercial: “I’m on my bike,… what are you on?” And that is why I have such a low opinion of him: he cast himself as some kind of angel while casting aspersions on all his peers, while being no better than them. And now, he’ll probably hope to regain some credibility through confessing to Oprah Winfrey. You won’t be worshipped any-more, Lance. This society worshipped you, they worship winners, and now your victories are tainted. This society doesn’t worship integrity, even though, apparently, it’s just as hard to achieve.
Earlier this year, the esteemable Swim Bike Mom helped draw my attention to the new rules for the weight categories (as dictated by the USA Triathlon). As of 2013, Men weighing over 220 lbs could compete under a separate category ‘Clydesdales’ while women over 165 lbs could choose to compete as ‘Athenas’. The old weight limits for these categories were 200 and 150 lbs respectively.
The purpose of these weight categories was to acknowledge that regardless of individual fitness, some people just don’t have the build to finish with times comparable to elites (even within age groups), and they should be recognized for their achievements relative to others with similar builds. Which I found to be a noble sentiment.
Jan Frodeno in front; Simon Whitfield behind. 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing
I’m just “a few donuts away” from the old Clydesdale limit (in fact, thanks to the holidays, if they held a triathlon today, I could jump right in). Yet, I never felt that tempted to enrol as one. Regardless of how much I’m carrying around the middle, my build skeleton isn’t the one of a typical runner/triathlete; I’m broader in the shoulders for one thing. Still, look at the difference between a Jan Frodeno and Simon Whitfield. Frodeno’s a bigger guy too.
That’s probably a reasonable comparison to my build (minus plenty of body fat, of course), and Frodeno didn’t need a different weight class; he won the Gold! The Clydesdale weight class should be more for men built like linebackers, and I think the 220 lb limit is more in line with that. It could even be increased from my point of view.
Competing in these weight classes enables people to get a little closer to the top ten (albeit an arbitrary one) or even a podium spot. That’s not really why I participate in triathlon though, and I doubt I’m alone in this sentiment. I’ll be leaving the Clydesdale category alone; the donuts will have to wait. Well, maybe just one…