Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Running Man or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love to Pain

I had laid out the yellow brick road to success 8 weeks ago.   I would run three times every week, gradually increasing the distance until I was more than comfortable tackling the 10 kilometers I was to cover come race day.  As we all know, the best laid plans are usually just that.  I have other commitments in my life and I also battle against laziness on occasion.  The latter has been overcome for the most part as I make a concerted effort to get in shape.  Well, with less than a month to go until race day, I fell off the proverbial wagon.  I went a total of 12 days between runs, and quite frankly I was beginning to have doubts creep in.  I wasn't entirely stagnant.  I still went to the pool a number of times, walked with the kids a few times, played basketball once, and lifted weights 3 or 4 times every week like I usually do.  But, it's no secret that long distance running requires something different than casual exercise or weight lifting does.  For me, it's more about mental fitness and strength.  These two things can overcome other obstacles if they are strong enough.  My slump of inactivity ended last Wednesday when I had my first soccer game with my new team "Queensway Auto World".  I had a blast chasing around the pitch, getting a good run in a game for the first time in 18 months.  As I relaxed with a beer after the game, gaining some positive feedback from my new mates I told myself I had nothing to worry about.  I had plenty of time to get my act together and prepare to race on Sunday June 2nd. 

On Wednesday night I mapped out the next 11 days in my mind.  I knew I would be in rough shape Thursday after walking 5 km then playing in the evening.  The pace of the game was intense.  These guys were all over 30 but that didn't mean much once the game got going.  There was hardly a gut in sight, with both teams full of fit guys who didn't stop running.  I held my own, playing about two thirds of the game.  I had a handful of decent runs, including a few that I got hit on, and sent a few solid crosses in.  I was particularly proud of a ball I sent hard across the middle of the pitch while we were transitioning to offense.  It wasn't something either team expected, as I sent the ball 30 yards along the ground into the path of my opposite winger who was dashing up the field.  He ended up playing a give and go with one of the strikers, getting the ball back in the corner and sending it into the box.  Our striker and I had both made the run, and the ball was played so either of us could have got there.  The goalie was unsure of who to play, and the ball ended up falling to our striker who side footed into the onion bag.  We beat the defending league champions 5-2 and all the boys were pretty excited about the 4 new guys.  Our next game is Friday night, and my family should be in attendance.  I am excited to show them what I can do.

So Wednesday was soccer, and that night I decided that I would get my first run in on Saturday morning.  Jasmine's soccer was at noon, so I figured I could go for a nice casual run before that.  I decided to keep it short, and I didn't turn the stopwatch on, wanting to just get through it.  The weather was nice, and it was a pretty solid effort.  Easing back into had been successful, but as soon as I got back to the house, my thoughts turned to Monday.  I told myself I had to complete the full distance at least once before race day, and not wanting to do it too close to the real thing, I had chosen Monday.  The mind started racing early Monday morning.

I woke up for my morning shift having fallen asleep early Sunday evening.  I was fully rested for a Monday shift, something that happens very rarely.  As it turned out, I would need all the energy I could muster.  I work with special needs adults, and usually I have pretty relaxing job.  I help the guys to accomplish daily life tasks that most would find routine.  I do chores around their home as a housekeeper would.  For the most part the guys are relaxed, down to earth people who don't need me to tell them how to behave.  On occasion my patience is tested, and like anyone else, a bad day occurs.  I was frazzled, plain and simple.  For confidentiality reasons, I won't get into any of it.  I thought it interesting, that the day that I planned to run further than I had in 6 years, one of the guys would have a miserable day.  When someone can't speak, or communicate in any way really, you find yourself at a loss as to how to help.  There were a few things to try, but I was unsuccessful.  I made a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee.  This was the only time during the shift when we were all able to relax.  I made sure to have a relatively healthy day with my food as I knew the run was coming.  Lunch consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of mushroom soup.  I skipped the traditional cookie after the meal.  I made it to 230, and got home with Asher about 3.  I still had more than 3 hours to go before Sheila would arrive home, and I would be able to go.  I checked out my fantasy baseball teams some more.  I brewed some coffee.  I took a shower to "wake me up".  I felt lethargic, and really felt like there was no way I would actually complete the run.  Around 5 I started making dinner.  I was planning to have dinner ready for the time Sheila came home.  She and the kids could eat, and I would go running.  I baked the squash, sauteed the other vegetables, and it was ready to eat when Sheila arrived.  I already had my shorts and shirt on.  I greeted Sheila, and I stepped out the door.  I didn't want to be tempted to eat, as this would make it impossible to run.  I grabbed an energy bar on the way out to tide me over. 

Random Observations From My Run:

-A few times during my run I remembered that come Sunday I would have no ipod as they are banned for insurance reasons.  I never run without an ipod, and I am a little worried that this may effect my performance.  Hopefully, the desire to chase down other runners and finish with a solid time will over come this. 

-I have been quite happy with my newish lightweight running shoes.  Unfortunately, the last few times I have put them on, they have felt uncomfortably tight.  Even weirder, is that only the left shoe is noticeably uncomfortable.  If I tie the shoes while sitting down, I end up tightening them to much.  In the end, I tied and retied my shoes about 8 times yesterday before I finally just left them.  It was a subconscious stalling tactic most likely, one more obstacle to overcome.

-I always have a smoke before I run.  Judge me if you like, but I feel like cannabis enhances my mental strength, and it takes little away from me physically.  When you have the amount of time inside your own head that a long run provides, all sorts fo mental hurdles can pop into that space. 

-Something quite exciting took place during my run, that I shared with Sheila immediately after.  I passed approximately 12 people or couples out walking on my route. Oddly, there was a number of women, by themselves, all of them with two dogs each.  It seems no one has just one dog anymore.  Every time I ran by, I said a big hello, and as I was having a great time, flashed a big smile that rarely left my face throughout the run.  Every single time I got a greeting in return.  When I passed a woman and her dogs for the second time, we said hello and laughed a little.  Even as I finished the tenth kilometer, I said hello to a couple of girls and got a big one back.  This really does pick up the mood while I run, I'm not entirely sure why.  Sheila was impressed that not only could I still talk at the end of the run, I wasn't breathing heavily.  Jasmine thought I wasn't sweating either, but as she came closer she could see that Dad was indeed glistening, having just burnt approximately 800 calories. 

-Breathing techniques.  It was something I wanted to work on before the big day.  I am relatively inexperienced when it comes to running, and I breath with an open gaping mouth.  I've heard that breathing through your nose is better, but I have never heard why exactly.  I believe it keeps your breathing more relaxed, and it obviously stops you from gasping for air.  I have tried at times to breath through my nose while mid-run, and it does work.  The added bonus is that I have to focus my thoughts on each breath, taking my mind away from other issues such as leg pains, cramps or whatever else I might be thinking about.  I didn't nose breathe once during my run yesterday, but I hope to use the technique at times on Sunday to relax and refocus.

-Short underwear is a bad idea when one is running ten kilometers.  Chafing.  That is all.

-Caterpillars are harmless, but pretty revolting.  I spent time looking ahead during my run, paying attention to which trees would have hanging critters, and crossing streets when possible to avoid the worst ones.  Of course, I only started doing this after I ran through a battlefield while rounding a corner.  I didn't have a chance to see the tree in advance, and managed to get clobbered pretty good.  I could feel a silky thread hanging off my arm the rest of the way.  Funny thing was, in the middle of the night, while Sheila tried to get Asher back to sleep, he pointed out a caterpillar that had found a home in our bed.  Sheila grabbed it a tossed it in the bathroom sink, and flushed it away with a little water.  For you humanitarians out there, please don't fret about a dead caterpillar, there must be about 50 million of them in Prince George alone right now.  One nice thing about having only evergreens in the yard.  I heard the caterpillar story in the morning, when I asked Sheila about the still living caterpillar in the sink.  Turns out the flush had missed him in the early morning and he had survived. 

-I don't usually deal with a lot of soreness in my legs or feet while running.  Yesterday was a different story.  I had to rely on all of my mental toughness to ignore pains that at times were in my quads, my hamstrings, my calves (shin splints), my arches, and a new one, my ankles.  When I was nearing the end of the run, the pains had all run their course, and I was feeling the best I had the whole run.  Perhaps I could run further?

-An odd happening that I have been acutely aware of this spring is that I don't seem to have a go to style for swinging my arms.  I feel like I could be doing more with my arms to build momentum.  The range over which they travel is quite short.  My hands always feel very awkward.  Do I run with them in tight fists?  Open and loose?  Sometimes, I point my one finger out and extended my thumb as if I was indicating "this guy".  Just another of the odd things to enter my brain while slapping the pavement. 

-It is very cool to be able to check one's running posture while out on the road.  If the sun is parallel to you, and you have a fence or pavement on the other side, you can see your shadow clearly.  I like to check my posture this way, and it often amuses me.  I run in a very straight up posture, at times it even looks like I am leaning back.  I look like I am very relaxed in this stance.  It makes me feel like I could put out more effort.  I then remind myself that putting out as little excess energy as possible is the ideal, and likely my running style is a benefit to me.  I covered 10,000 meters on my run yesterday.  If I was going to say a stride is 1 meter ( I really have no clue) that means I put in 10,000 paces.  Let's not mess with the posture at this point.

-I didn't let myself check my watch until I was nearing the end of the first lap.  I had checked my posture a few kilometers earlier, and I was expecting to see that my pace was a little slower than it had been the last time I ran the 7 km loop.  I have been just off a 5 minute pace per km all spring.  Whether I run 3 km, 5 km, 7 km my pace stays pretty steady.  I was happy to see that my casual posture had not led to a slower time.  I was going to complete the 7 km in just over 35 minutes. 

-I set my route intentionally so that I would have a few obstacles to deal with.  The route is flat for the first 1.5 km, but then has a decent sized upslope.  6 or 7% grade, followed by a long 2 or 3 % grade.  You are climbing for probably 500 meters.  I like that this battle is early in the run, and once I complete it, I feel like the tough part is already over.  I knew yesterday that the real battle would be later on.  I don't have a 10 km route mapped out online, but I do have a 7 km route and a 3 km route.  This means that in order to complete the full distance, I would have to pass by my house, and continue on.  Remember, 7 km is the furthest I have run previously.  I had a number of voices in my head telling me that it would be okay to quit.  Inspired by the time I had just seen on my watch, I picked the pace up slightly and powered past the house to complete the second, shorter loop.  I would be running on some of the same roads I had already gone down, and I would have no more hills to tackle. 

-As I started the second loop I found myself asking the ultimate question.  Do I feel any different then I did when I ran down this street the first time?  I actually felt better.  While obviously a little fatigued, the pain that had started almost immediately upon beginning had subsided.  I laughed in my head at the thought.  How many people would believe that one?  No, no.  Really.  If you run 7 km, then continue to run, you will actually feel better than you did when you started.  Yeah right, funny man.

- I rounded our corner to complete the crescent and reach home.  I even managed to pick up the pace for a short end of run sprint.  I checked the watch, happy enough to see that my pace had hardly fallen off.  I punched the button on the ipod at 51 minutes and 22 seconds.  As I sat down outside to rest for a second, the impact of my accomplishment hit me.  Not only was I going to be just fine on Sunday, I am going to compete.  Let's not get carried away.  I won't be chesting the ribbon at the finish line.  If I run the same time on Sunday, I will be competitive.  If I use last year's race results as a gauge, my time would have put me in 15th out of 30 runners in the 19-49 men's division.  It would have put me at 35th out of 135 runners overall for the distance.  I would be more than pleased if I could come close to the 50 minute threshold, and with the competitive juices flowing, I don't see this as unrealistic. 

-I felt weird last night after completing my run.  I got greeted by Asher like I always do when I come through the door.  Whether I have been out for an hour or a few days, he always hollers: "Daddy back!!"  He then sprints to the door to bear hug me.  I will never grow tired of this.  I sat in bed and ate dinner.  Asher and I laid down together and watched wrestling.  He moved away from me and promptly fell asleep, propped up against a bunch of pillows.  I went to the kitchen, mixed up some juice and proceed to go downstairs and work out.  With the adrenaline going from the run, I lifted heavier than normal during my chest workout.  Sheila and Jasmine had gone out the swimming pool and then the grocery store.  They came home, and Sheila and I watched a movie together.  Robin Williams made an obscure film a few years ago called "World's Greatest Dad", and we put it on.  I had heard of it for the first time yesterday, quite surprised that Robin Williams made a movie with so little fanfare.  As is usual for Sheila and I we didn't finish it, but the hour that we did see was great.  I am excited to finish it tonight.

I have a busy week ahead of me, in terms of preparing myself for Sunday.  Tonight, Jasmine has soccer.  Tomorrow Asher and I have Strong Start, and we are going to the park.  Believe me, this might be the most strenuous thing I do all week.  He ran non-stop at this very same park on Saturday afternoon.  I chased him for an hour, then went to work.  I was spent.  Wednesday we swim after school.  I have a 7 km run planned for that day as well.  Thursday I coach Jasmine's soccer again, as a practice is scheduled.  Friday night I have soccer at 630.  I was hoping to take it easy for a couple of days before the race, but soccer isn't cooperating.  I am none to upset about this.  I'll take it easy Saturday, or at least try to.  Then it will be race day.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Life Ain't So Bad

As I sit here at the computer on this fine Sunday morning, I am deep in contemplative thought.  The sun is shining brightly through the window, something I just became aware of when I pulled the string to raise the blinds.  The weather man couldn't decide what today was going to be like ahead of time, waffling between sun and cloud like a toothless old woman trying to chose which of her cats she prefers.  It looks nice right now, and if the weather holds for another 8 hours, Jasmine, Sheila, Asher and I will probably spend time this afternoon beautifying our yard.

Our home is quite modest, and I am not one for going overboard with yard upkeep, but I do feel a certain level of pride when it comes to the appearance of our place.  In the front yard we have a small garden plot, with a lilac bush in one portion of it.  We will pull the weeds, rake the leaves out and plant a few new flowers in hopes that they survive the season.  Sheila loves lilacs, they were her dearly departed mother's favourite flower, so in honour of her mom, Jasmine and I planted a second lilac bush in the front yard, near the road.  We made a tiny circular garden space around it, and once again this year, we will add a few annuals to this little space.  The flowers were safe from the Asher man last year, but he is another year older, and somewhat more destructive.  He is smart little 2 year old, so I am hoping that an explanation from Dad will stop him from pulling heads off of flowers, or squashing the plants flat.  We will have to see.  We also have a small plot of gardening space in the backyard.  Unfortunately, its located near the high wooden fence, and is partially blocked by a tall evergreen tree so we had limited success with the vegetables last year.  With a bit more forethought, and a bit more attention from Jasmine and I, maybe we can see some better results.  Ever year I get a little excited about gardening, though I wouldn't call myself an avid gardener.  It's kind of fun to see if you have what it takes to grow a successful garden.  As it is, we are about 0 for 5, but we will give it a go again this year.

The title of today's post is in reference to this past Tuesday's Provincial Election.  The line above is one of a few different coping mechanisms I have been falling back on after the election resulted in a less than desirable outcome for myself.  It truly is a bizzare feeling to support a party that was ahead  in the opinion polls for 2 full years prior to the election, not once in that entire time were they behind, then have them fall soundly come election day.  I was nervous coming into election day for a few reasons, and most of all, it's the power of the older crowd.  Old people get out and do things when they matter to them.  And when it comes right down to it, if you have the support of senior citizens, you can count on that support in the same way you can count on death and taxes.  I am disappointed in the outcome of the election, I am disappointed in the younger crowd who simply didn't turn out at the polls, and most of all I am disappointed with the state of the political world as a whole.  I have lived in Prince George for more than 10 years now where the municipal government, the provincial government and most certainly the federal government all lean heavily to the right of centre.  I didn't cast a ballot for any of the people currently serving as my representative, save for 1 or 2 city councillors.  What I see as a significant silver lining though, is that despite the fact that I don't care for the political ideals of these people who represent me, I am lucky enough to live in one of the best countries in the world.  A country where even the politicians who represent the "right" are reasonably progressive.  I am not going to get carried away, the federal Conservatives are far from proactive, but due to the culture of Canada, they are forced to move away from their most extreme ideals towards a more acceptable right of centre stance.  Canada's version of right is actually left in many places in the world.  We are so very lucky here in Canada to have the freedoms that we do have, so for me, despite the disappointment I felt earlier this week, I am just happy to have been born in a place and time where I am free to do or say almost anything.  Will the Liberal Party do and say things that I don't agree with?  Sure.  Will they put economics ahead of people?  Sure.  But, I believe that while misguided, their intention is to do good.  To improve the province that we live in.  Time will tell, and if their track record is indicative, I will likely by let down, but even a let down in British Columbia is better than most places in the world.

Earlier this week, I finalized my plans for the summer in regards to sports and fitness.  I had signed up for summer hockey a few weeks ago, then last week I committed to playing recreational soccer.  I didn't play soccer last summer because it conflicted with Jasmine's soccer schedule.  I also had written off playing in the open league due to frequence of weekend games that conflict with my work schedule.  Saturday, as I haphazardly coached the opening game of Jasmine's soccer season, a friend of mine approached.  His daughter is on our team, and I have been a soccer teammate of his in the past.  I had asked him to help me out and coach the team for the next game while I was busy.  Instead of asking about his coaching gig, he isntead inquired about my interest in playing with his soccer team.  My reflex reaction was negative, as I knew the obstacle of scheduling would make things difficult.  Also, I knew he was playing in the "30+" division, and I am stubbornly holding onto my twenties card, at least until my birthday in October.  I asked my friend about the age thing, and he thought it was okay, as I will be 30 this year.  We decided to wait and see, pending the schedule.  It was released the next day, and it a happy twist of fate, many of the games fall on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, and I can play most of them.  I was officially drafted last Wednesday and the first game is in 3 days.  I have abandoned a few buddies who are set to play in the recreational league, but the chance to play a higher level of soccer is one I want to take.  I didn't play soccer at all last year, and spent the season before in the recreational league.  Prior to that I played 2 seasons on a very weak division 2 team.  Needless to say, it is likely that my new team will be the best team I have been a part of in a long time.  My friend is the reigning "Top Defender" in the league, and he is the only member of my new team that knows my game.  On his word, the team signed me up.  It adds a little pressure, and I am admitedly a little nervous going to the first game.  My love of fitness and exercise is continuing to grow and one of the fun things that comes with it is my ability to challenge myself.  I look at this as one of those opportunities to put myself out there and go for it.

I spent some time the other day figuring out which days I could book off that would allow me to have a few extra free days with Sheila and the kids.  The residual effect of this is that it frees me up to play a few more soccer games that fall on weekends, and it also opened me up to add another running race to my plans.  As we stand, I am going to run 5 races this season, starting in 2 weeks when I run the YMCA Road Race.  Adding soccer to my summer plans, to go along with the running races and the hockey games will lead to a few interesting tests of my stamina and fitness.  One such situation falls of the weekend of June 14th and 15th.  I have booked the days off, and will play soccer on the Friday night at 630.  The next morning at 10, I plan to participate in the "Beat the Bugs" 10 km trail run.  I really like to challenge myself, but this will likely be my biggest test yet.  I'll let you know if I survive, a discontinued blog and you can draw your own conclusions.

My rekindled love of sports has shown up in Asher in spades.  His favorite things are his "truckies", his potato heads, and his growing collection of sports gear.  He has his set of plastic mini "gicks" and his mini hockey nets.  He has a handful of hockey balls, hockey pucks, 3 or 4 "buuballs", a couple "gocker" balls, a "baaball" glove and bat to go with the balls themselves, and it goes on from there.  On Thursday morning after we had roused ourselves from bed we went outside to go for a walk.  Asher found his glove and ball, and we got distracted.  Asher handed me the bat, and before long we were all set.  Asher was the pitcher, and yes, he can throw.  Standing about 15 feet away from me, he was able to throw a hittable pitch time and time again.  I crouched down to his size so that he didn't have to throw it high, but nonetheless I was blown away by his accuracy.  When I hit the ball, I would run across the yard to the fence, and he was able to figure out the idea of tagging me out.  He would laugh hysterically as he chased after me, and when he caught me he even threw in the "you're out!" for effect.  I snapped a couple of pics of the little guy and his gear, then when I attempted a video, hilarity insued.  I wanted to show off to Sheila just how good he can toss the ball and I start to record.  I provide commentary, then realize that Asher won't have me crouching down as a hitter to provide a target.  I say "throw a pitch", while standing safely off to the side with the record button down.  He winds up to throw straight ahead of him, but I had obviously caused some confusion.  The throw came straight at me with perfect accuracy.  I jumped out of the way while hollering, shocked that it was so perfectly thrown.  I will have to rethink my videography plan before attempting it again.

We went for our walk, but not without the glove and ball that he wore the whole time.  Our destination was the park at Jasmine's school where we stopped to play basketball.  Asher wore his glove, and he tossed the ball at me while I shot hoops.  I would retrieve the ball and throw it back, kind of like a game of fetch.  Asher befriended a boy who was sitting on the park bench watching us.  He was about 7, and Asher went right over and sat beside him.  Smiling, waving and coaxing him into playing catch with him. Asher got his wish, but after a few throws his teacher hollered at him from across the way to sit back down.  As it turns out my little man got him in trouble, but I love the way that he will be friendly with just about any kid that comes along.  Asher is a lot more guarded with other adults, just the way we want him to be.  Asher was disappointed that his new buddy couldn't play, but he joined me with the basketball instead.  He dribbles the ball by slapping it as hard as he can, then when he is bored he passes it back to me.  He doesn't get upset with the fact that he can't shoot yet, even with my help.  We left the park and finished our walk.  Later in the morning Asher joined me in lifting weights, its pretty funny how much he enjoys being like daddy.  His 2 lb rubber dumbells get lifted up over his head repeatedly while he beams proudly.  That night, as if we hadn't had enough sports, Sheila, Asher and I bought a soccer ball at the store.  While we waited for Wawa while she attended a play with her Guide group, Asher and I played soccer.  He decided that 2 signs that were close together provided a good enough goal, and he jumped between the pipes.  It's really funny, but as a goalie he actively roots for people to score on him.  The ball almost dribble across the line on him, but he decided it was close enough.  He let out a big cheer for me, then ran to give me a big hug.  Then on his prompting we switched places.  He managed to get a few past me, he is already hitting a size 5 soccer ball with his instep, something I can't get some of the 9 and 10 year olds to do.  When his time comes, he will be ready.  If you are one who keeps track of such things, Asher played soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, swam and lifted weights this week.  And they say we are getting inactive as a society, obesity rates are soaring and all is doom and gloom.  Something tells me there is hope for us yet.

While Asher won't stop playing sports, Jasmine is a little different when it comes to physical activity.  She is athletic that's for sure, but she doesn't obsess over sports the way her little brother does.  Jasmine enjoys playing soccer and basketball with her teams and gets a lot out of her interactions with her teammates and coaches.  She wants me to be her coach, and it provides some great father/daughter time that we both have fun with.  While she has been gifted with an athletic body, and she is capable of great things, her desire to practice and work to get better isn't there.  She just likes playing, and that is quite alright with me.  Jasmine and I found a couple sports that she likes and it seems like she will stick with them long term.  She's not worried about being the best, and it's nice because she doesn't get discouraged either.  Besides her 2 teams sports, Jasmine has been an avid swimmer for her entire life.  She goes at least once a week, and would stay all day if she could.  This spring she has been riding her bike to school every day, and this has led her to going for more leisure rides as well.  Her dedication to her bike has me on the lookout for a bigger one, something I promised as long as the current one got regular use.  Hopefully the growth spurt is done for a while, and this next bike will fit for a while.  It will be an adults bike so lets hope it works for a few years.  Speaking of getting to big, she has also outgrown her soccer cleats, that she has never worn.  That's right, Sheila found a bargain at the end of last season and stored the shoes away for the spring.  Jasmine put them on last week for her first game, and found them to be too small.  Like, 2 sizes too small.  I took her to the mall to search for new ones, then we discovered with the sizing doohickey that she is actually completely out of kids sizes.  This shouldn't be a surprise, she has been borrowing her mom's size 8 shoes for a while now.  She needs a 7.5 in womens shoes, and dad had to go home to reformulate a plan.  The adult shoes are much pricier then the kids ones, but hopefully they fit for a while once bought.  Jasmine likes her sports, and I want to keep her comfortable while she plays.  In the past week Jasmine played soccer and basketball, rode her bike every day, and swam on Wednesday.  I am proud of both of my kids when it comes to the active lifestyles they have.

On the arts and culture front, my reading has stalled.  I have been in the middle of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers for what feels like months now.  I've been busy balancing family, exercise, extra work, poker and yard work and reading has been restricted to work time.  I feel like I have been enjoying the book, but if I am going to be honest with myself, not picking up the novel is a sure sign that my interest isn't quite there.  Hopefully I can make some progress on it this week, and I can move on to something else soon.  The movie front has also been quiet.  The last few weeks at work we have been unable to attend the theatre for various reasons.  The last movie I watched if I remember correctly was "42".  It was well done, with sports and drama mixing nicely.  I think the last movie that Sheila and I watched at home was "The Adams Family".  It was mediocre, and as is typical put me to sleep.  Maybe we will find time this week to cuddle up and watch one, but with soccer season underway the schedule is filling up.

I have found a few great albums that I have been playing regularly in recent weeks.  Apache Indian has a style of music that is unique to him.  He is a British artist of Indian ancestry who created the genre "bhangramuffin".  Most, including myself aren't familiar with the "raggamuffin" genre either which is a sub-genre of dancehall or reggae music.  It relies more heavily on electronic instrumentation than reggae or dancehall does, and incorporates sampling quite often.  Apache Indian puts a unique twist on it, in that he provides reggae style delivery with his indian accent.  His sound is quite authentic as he practiced his craft, and recorded his albums with a number of different reggae artists in Jamaica.  I can't help but move when I listen to it, and it never fails to lift my mood.  The other new find is a dancehall group called Culcha Candela.  They are a dancehall group formed in Berlin in 2001.  The founding members go by the super cool names of Johnny Strange, Lafrotino and Itchyban.  What I most enjoy about these guys is their multiculturalism, which leads them to incorporate english, german, spanish and jamaican patois into their tracks.  The guys have German, Polish, Colmbian, Ugandan and Korean roots (there are now 7 members), and they move away from dancehall into reggae, salsa and rock genres as well.  I have been playing their one album very heavily, and will likely give the rest of the work a try soon.  Allow me to provide more info on both Apache and Culcha Candela, and a couple tunes as well.

Apache Indian Wiki

Culcha Candela Wiki

Last Sunday was a very nice day.  After work Sheila, Jasmine, Asher and I drove to Quesnel to celebrate Mother's Day.  We stopped at the municipal cemetary to visit Sheila's mom.  We brought tulips, and cleaned off her headstone.  Asher didn't really understand, but he was well behaved while we stayed.  After a few minutes, Asher and I wandered away and let Sheila and Jasmine have some quiet time to reflect.  Jasmine has some recollection of her Nana, but she was only 3 when she passed away.  Sheila had a chance to shed a few tears as memories flooded over her.  It was very nice that we had the chance to visit on such a special day.  We then went for dinner at my parents house, and had a nice visit with my Mom and my second Mom, Anna.  She is my mom's best friend, and just a wonderful kind hearted woman just like my mom.  My mom always loves to see the kids, and it was great to see her so happy on her special day. 

I really am quite lucky in life.  I have a girlfriend and kids that love me, and I also have a very supportive extended family as well.  My mom and dad as well as my sister Paulette have been seeing us regularly, and I think everyone has enjoyed the increased contact.  Rather than making excuses as to why we can't get together, we have all made an effort to see each other frequently.  We only live an hour apart, and it seems that excuse of distance has been cast aside in recent months and over the past year.  My mom has made a few solo jaunts to stay with us, something that I know is outside of her comfort zone, but once she arrives it seems that she quite happy for having made the trip.  Asher and Jasmine never fail to bring a smile to her face.  My younger sister Erin lives in Montreal, but we have also made a better effort to have regular contact.  She makes me very proud when I discuss all of the things she has accomplished in her short life to this point.  Erin and my brother in law Adam recently sent Sheila and I a lovely note to celebrate both Mother's and Father's Day and it was a nice reminder of how lucky we are to have such family.  My brother Ian lives in town here, and he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby in a few months.  We are all getting very excited to meet him or her, and I know Ian and Larissa will be great parents.  I am happy to be alive, and I hope all of my readers feel the same way.  Have a great week!

I teased you all earlier about this video, then decided I had to include it as well.  Watch Asher "Roger Clemens" Prosk nearly take out his Dad!  Enjoy!

Monday, 13 May 2013

E -Day! The Election is upon us!

It's sometimes funny to look at the way you thought things would play out, and contrast those musings against what in reality actually happened.  I authored a post on this blog about a month ago, loudly declaring my support for the provincial New Democratic Party in the coming election.  At the time, I thought that because the election would be on my mind regularly during the lead up to the big day, that I would in turn be inspired to fill this virtual space with material that pertained to the subject.  As it turns out, I have been quite busy over the past month, and when I did have the time to type, my mind was on other things.  I have spent considerable time this past month exercising, and making plans to exercise more as the summer draws nearer.  Today and tommorow my mind will be firmly planted on one thing, the election and that it entails.  Come with me as I ramble on about tomorrow.

Tomorrow morning I will rise bright and early, readying myself for a long day of work.  I applied and trained weeks ago, to work for Elections B.C. tomorrow.  I will be tasked from 8 am to 8 pm with the job of "Information Officer" at one of the polling stations here in Prince George.  While it will be a long day of work, I am looking forward to a relaxing day, one that gets me out of normal, moundane work routine.  When I decided a few months ago to pursue work on election day, I was struggling with my side income and saw this as an opportunity to make a few bucks relatively stress free.  I will go to the polling station for a short time tonight to help set up, then will be back on-site by about 7 am tomorrow to continue preparing.  Perhaps being directly involved in the electoral process will inspire me to get further involved next time around.

In my riding, I have already cast my ballot.  While I try to maintain some level of professional integrity (remember, I am working as a non-partisan elections official tomorrow), I will not directly disclose who I cast my ballot for.  Let's put it this way:  it's not looking good for the NDP in Prince George.  When the elections was still a blip in the future, say two months ago, there were some predicting the complete demise of the Liberal Party.  As often happens during elections, the anger towards the governing party disappates somewhat, leading to the party gaining steam as the big day approaches.  In Prince George-Valemount, it seems that many of gone back to the Liberals, opting for the proverbial "devil they know".  In Shirley Bond's case, the term "neighbourhood witch" is more apt.  At this point, I am holding out hope that the NDP can take 1 of the 3 Prince George area ridings, but even that may be optimistic.  A win provincially is still more than likely, but no one will be able to relax until the polls close tomorrow night and the results start rolling in.

As a family, we have been much more politically involved then we have before.  Sheila, until recently was maintaining that she hadn't decided who she was going to vote for, and was still set to do some research.  While I didn't witness her doing any research, that is not to say she didn't do any.  A few weeks ago, she did declare her support for the NDP based on things she had read and seen.  As a family, we attended the local "Rally for Change" a few weeks ago, featuring an impassioned speech from Adrian Dix.  He highlighted the failures of the current government, coupling each highlight with the NDP's proposed approach to each issue.  Jasmine sat in the front row with her best friend, who's family was also attending.  It was cool to see her waving her sign and not getting bored despite the length and subject material involved.  Asher wasn't too happy when we went, as he wanted to run around the crowded room, not stay in Mom and Dad's arms.  Both candidates gave a short speech that night, and I came away impressed with both, for different reasons.  Sherry Ogasawara struck me as a polished public speaker, one who has obvious experience in the task.  Bobby Deepak on the other hand seemed nervous, and he probably was, the rally had probably the biggest turnout of the campaign, and while he is a lawyer and is likely comfortable speaking, he usually does some in small courtrooms.  The thing Bobby does have, is charism.  He oozes it.  I could see myself being friends with the guy.  We actually have a mutual friend, and by his account, I'm bang on with my assessment.  Bobby is cool.  Now, I am aware that you need substance to go with that cool, and his debate performance last week provided proof that he most certainly could make it as a politician.  He stood up to the Liberal candidate, as they engaged in numerous heated exchanges.  I believe he has the best chance of the 3 local NDP candidates to win a seat as an MLA.  We will see.

Knowing that Jasmine had participated on Friday in the student election, I asked her last night as we drove home, who she had voted for.  She told me it was private and she wouldn't tell me.  While her plans to preserve the integrity of her vote were cute, I pressed on.  First I asked her what all of the parties names were.  She could name the NDP, the Liberal Party and the Green Party.  After some arm twisting, she told me that she had voted for the NDP.  Her reason?  "Dad, they are the ones who care about all of the students.  Not just college or high school, but all of us."  Hmmmm.  I asked her where she had heard that.  She didn't know.  It made me proud to know that she had a reason, a good one, as to why she had cast her vote.  Asher was sitting beside Jasmine as we had this conversation, and as we talked, he shouted "NDP!"  Then he shouted it again, And again.  Sheila jokingly said that he could lead the chants for the party.  We all laughed as he gave us about a dozen more shouts. 

While the previous paragraphs have been filled with partisan gobbledy gook, I want to highlight how important I feel voting is.  I know lots of people, who for various reasons, stating various excuses will not cast a vote tomorrow.  It's too bad really, but at the same time, it makes the value of the votes cast even higher.  If only half of eligible voters actually cast a ballot, it essentially makes those cast worth twice as much.  It could be said that every voter assumes the voice of one person who didn't bother.  I am a partisan hack, I can admit that.  But, a vote cast, regardless of what direction, is better than a lazy ass sat on.  I cast my ballot on Friday, with Asher.  He and I parked down the block, strolled into a busy polling station, provided my voter's card and ID, put an x in the circle and placed the ballot in the box.  Asher helped me, pointing to the circle he wanted me to mark (he chose correctly funny enough), and then doing the honors of placing the ballot in the box.  We were back in the truck exactly 5 minutes after we left it, and that included walking half a block each way.  It took me FIVE minutes to vote!  My son who is 2, did all of the hard work for me.  The government is kind enough to have polling stations in your neighbourhood, so no one has to drive more than a minute or two out of the way to cast a ballot.  Have I shot enough holes in the standard excuses yet?  Sadly, most of those people I know who won't vote, would likely be NDP supporters.  Low income or pro-cannabis or young parents or better yet, all three at once.  These are all typical NDP supporters, and many in these categories simply won't bother.  Let's hope the NDP doesn't go down to defeat because of the unwillingness of people to get involved.  My children are both more aware of the process than many adults are.  Sad, truly sad. 

Until next time, get outside and enjoy the sun and warm weather.  That's where you will find me.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Summer Has Arrived in Prince George, Canada!

At the start of this year, I set a goal to be more active on this here blog.  I thought a realistic goal would be to post at least once a week, and so far, so good.  I'm quite proud of the amount of content I have been able to produce despite all of my other commitments.  I have enjoyed writing or typing and it is has been rare the times when I didn't feel like blogging, but did anyway.  This is one of those times.  I have had a busy week, and it all of the activity has been welcomed.  Busy isn't always a good thing, but this week's busy was great.  You see, it's the first week of May, and it feels like just yesterday that I was complaining about the latest snow storm here in Prince George.  Well, old Ma Nature has decided it's high time for residents of the frozen North to get outside.  Temperatures rose last week, and the last of our snow has been bidding a hasty retreat.  No more jokes from my Pops about snow in June.  This week, the mercury rose even more, to levels rarely seen in Prince George at this time.  We hit the mid-20s the last 3 days, and if all goes accord to prediction we should have a handful more days like that to come.  The weather has led to plenty of outside time, both at home and at work and I might have more colour now then I did at any point last summer.  Asher is an sun lover and I can't be more pleased.  Shall we babble for a bit about life? 

My daughter Jasmine gave me reason to be proud this week.  On Thursday, she participated in the Elementary School running relays with her fellow grade 4 girls from Malaspina.  A few of her friends had asked her to join so that they could have a second team.  She said yes, and after only a couple of practices she ran her little heart out in the wind and the rain.  Her team got 2nd out of 5, but their time was just short of making the final race.  I told her that she did her best, and that there was always next year.  I suggested she try the Spruce Capital Track Meet later this spring, and Jasmine was quite excited.  I looked into it, and on the second weekend in June she will be taking part.  There are a few different sprinting events, as well as field events.  Jasmine will probably try the 60 meter, 100 meter and 1000 meter runs as well as the long jump.  My girl has a busy spring ahead, as she will be playing soccer twice a week, has the YMCA Kids Run on June 2nd, and now the Spruce Capital Track Meet on June 8th and 9th.  It should be lots of fun to watch!

Friday was the first day of our heat wave, and coincidentally, Jasmine had the day off from school.  Asher, Jasmine and I left the house at 10 am, set to walk a nice long loop out in the sun.  We brought along the basketball and stopped off at Jasmine's school.  Jasmine was happily playing on the monkey bars, while Asher and I "played basketball".  He is pretty funny, because as you can imagine, with a full sized basketball it's pretty tough for the little guy.  He dribbles the ball, slapping at it as it comes about 3 inches off of the ground each time.  He knows he can't shoot high enough, even with Dad's help, so he is content to just pass it to Dad each time.  After we played a little bit, some kids came over from their house, and before long I had a few more b-ball buddies.  There was a little girl, she told me she was 4, and her and Asher made fast friends.  Watching him run after her, laughing his head off, not realizing that he had almost no chance of catching up was one of the highlights of my week.  He was struggling to run he was laughing so hard.  The older kids took over the basketball, and Jasmine decided to play too.  Asher and I played soccer with his new friend, then they went on the playground together.  She seemed pretty fond of him, as she was pretty sad when I said that it was time to go.  "Can he (Asher) go down the slide one more time?  I didn't get a chance to go with him."  This line came with a little frown that quickly faded when I said "of course he can."  We went on our way after I assured the little one that we would be back at the school again really soon.  We ended up walking the rest of our 5 km loop, and ended up back at the house at noon, having been out for 2 hours.  It felt great to start the day that way.

I am more than happy with the amount of exercise I got in this week.  From Sunday to Sunday, a total of 8 days, I ran 3 times for a total of 13 km, I biked 4 times for a total of 21.5 km, and I walked 3 times for a total of 7.5 km.  I had 3 weight sessions, 2 trips to the pool, played an hour of basketball, and did 90 minutes of yard work.  I have been timing my running and cycling, and have seen steady improvement over the last few weeks.  My best 5 km run so far is 23:40, and yesterday I timed a 5 km bike ride at 12:05.  I am now committed to playing soccer as well as summer hockey.  Soccer starts in a couple weeks, while hockey runs for July and August.  I shall be busy.

My mom came up for a nice relaxing visit on Wednesday last week.  She spent the night, and Asher had her roped into playing hockey with him much of the evening.  He loves his Grandma, but even she can't escape his hockey fisticuffs.  He loves to "rumble", where he tries to shove his hockey gloves in your face, and looks at that as part of the game.  In the morning Asher and I helped Grandma pick out some lighting for the house that she and my Dad are fixing up to sell.  We stopped and had a late breakfast at Ricky's.  Asher was very excited to be eating out, hollering excitedly while we waited for our food.  He ate a pancake that Grandma gave him, wanted more, and I cut up a second one for him.  He was quickly losing steam, and after a few bites, he wanted to sit on my lap.  Before long he was sleeping and I ended up carrying him out to Grandma's car.  I always get a kick out of how fast he can go from bouncing off the walls to exhausted, and Grandma thought it was cute too.  It's always nice to get to chance to visit with my mom, I'm really glad she came up.

I found the time to play poker a couple of times this week, and I can happily report being hit in the face with the deck for the first time in forever.  I made some huge hands on Thursday night, and it seemed that every time that happened, the opponent did the same.  My hand was bigger on almost every occassion and I also managed to maximize my win in most spots.  I played again Friday after work, and managed to do something I had never done before.  I folded the first hand I was dealt, then proceeded to win the second hand by flopping a set, and getting the other guy all in on the turn when he was drawing dead.  I rivered quads for fun.  Then proceeded to win the next hand, and the next, and 4 more in a row.  I can't recall winning more then 3 or 4 hands in a row, and most certainly I have never won 7 in a row before.  The table was packed with super tight old guys, but I still managed to make about 280 bucks during my digusting run of luck.  All told, in 7 hours of play over the 2 nights I managed to make $760.  It was nice to see, and I am happy that I have a litle cushion to work with as far as poker goes.

My time is up for today, I need to get outside and soak up the sun while it lasts.  I hope everyone has a great week!