Training with a champion (or two)

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Training with former UFC Champion Carlos “Ronin” Newton, KAPAP instructor and Aiki Kenpo Jujitsu 7th-dan Avi Nardia (not pictured), me and 9th-dan Hanshi Patrick McCarthy.

It’s one thing to ground and pound with fellow martial artists, it’s quite the other to have a former UFC Champion teaching you the ropes.

Last week I had the immense pleasure of being instructed by some of the finest minds in the marital arts world, starting with Hanshi Patrick McCarthy, KAPAP founder and Aiki Kenpo Jujutsu Avi Nardia, and former UFC champion Carlos “Ronin” Newton.

Humble, kind, and intelligent, Newton’s passion for the martial arts is absolutely endearing. Literally, for that alone and talent aside, his attitude and generosity in teaching has made me a fan. It’s clear whenever he speaks about a technique or “style,” there is a genuine joy and appreciation for the art. Between Newton and Nardia, there were discussions of sparring distance, “the third arm” (in which one finds balance or imbalance), and determining one’s safety zone.

On the other hand, Hanshi McCarthy is a man of many words and even more wisdom and knowledge to support it. His historical mastery coupled with innate comprehension of the physical demonstrations and applications of kata is always refreshing. Whether it is a technique or series of movements within a kata, Hanshi’s explanations of practical applications is concise and most importantly, makes sense.

A long five days cut short (into three, very brief paragraphs), it was a blast.

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…and then there was sun

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Riding through the streets of Mississauga during torrential downpour was an experience it itself. You have to quickly relearn how to operate your bicycle through wet streets, groups of cyclists and large ponds (literally, pot holes are horrible for this). My friends and I decided to complete the 60km Tour de Mississauga bike ride (some chose the 30km) and it’s certainly an event I am going to sign up for again.

As the largest free event in Canada, I also consider it one of the best organized events I have attended to date. From the optimistic and cheerful volunteers to the free barbeque after the race, to the pit stop with hydration station and cookies mid-race, I was more than willing to pay for the t-shirt (or jersey, your choice) that accompanied the race. Usually a race comes with a complimentary tech tee, but again, free race means you have to pay extra for the tee. The pick-up station at City Hall prior to the event, and on the day of, were well organized and easy to access, and the food trucks and vendors were great to talk to after the event.

The routes (5k, 10k, 15k, 30k, 60k, 100k and 120k) were well-planned and for the most part, easy to navigate. Generally speaking, there was a volunteer at every main turning point indicating which direction you had to go pending distance, though there were a few places where only arrows spray painted into the ground indicated which direction to turn. Maybe it was due to the sheer noise of the downpour in the morning, but I know some people missed the announcement that there were arrows on the ground to direct you towards your distance; different colours indicating different race distance. There was one part of the route where everyone missed the turn and we had to make a u-turn at a stop light to the chagrin of several drivers. Sorry!

Horrible weather aside, riding alongside serious athletes and bikers in a pack is certainly quite the experience. It was rather empowering and fun and the communal kinship felt amongst everyone was brilliant. I loved it. The second half of the race cleared up nicely and it turned out to be quite hot in the afternoon, which (mostly) dried up our clothes.

The afternoon was spent at Word on the Street, in which as usual I spent too much money, and eating up yummy foods.

Next up….er, not quite sure just yet, but there has been discussion about Santa suits and winter and maybe a race?

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Don’t forget to go to the washroom before you run

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A cool night for a great race.

Note to self: make sure you go to the washroom right before the race, even if you already went.

After all, running the first 2km feeling like you have to pee is horrible, horrible feeling. The first half of my 5km run, before I sweat out all the extra liquids in my attempt to hydrate, was a duck-waddling stride that had my stomach sloshing around and my bladder clenching. It sucked.

Too much information aside, this year’s Night Race was held at Sunnybrook Park and occurred as the sun set beyond the horizon and head lights (free with registration) became mandatory. The event had a Happy Kids 1km Fun Run (where all the kids were like the Flash), 5km and a 10km race.

The 5km track was a flat loop that backtracked at the two kilometre mark and around again at the four kilometre mark. What I found deceptively deceiving was how the trail went towards the starting zone again, but instead of it being the end, it continued outwards for another two kilometre loop. I know a lot of people were thinking, “WTF?” since the moment you hear the announcers and music, you decide to sprint and then you’re breathless, and then you think, “oh, I’m not done yet.”

Other than that, the event itself was well-organized, with a friendly atmosphere and glow-in-the-dark accessories that helped light up the night. The weather that night was much cooler than the previous day and was a very-much welcomed reprieve, which is also probably why I ended up drinking too much water.

Next up, Tour de Mississauga’s Signature 60km Ride.

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…In which I swoon and (try-not-to) fangirl

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In which I meet the Doctor and Rory Pond-Williams and try not to swoon. I think I held it together pretty well.

This weekend I had the immense pleasure to meet (re: see from afar) the Cap’, the Admiral, Drax, and the Doctor and one of his companions.

It sent my heart aflutter, that’s for certain.

Fan Expo Toronto came and went with all the typical fanfare and hype visiting celebrity guests bring to any town. This year’s event took over the north and south building of the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto as cosplayers and geeks took to the streets. Between video game and big named vendors, to the many stalls in Artist Alley, the large crowds the convention draws is not a place a claustrophobic would like to be. Seriously, sometimes you get up and personal in someone’s armpit or sweaty chest, and it’s only out of politeness you say it’s alright while trying to discretely wipe your face.

As with all conventions with an A-list of guest panels set-up, the line-ups were insane. Big names like Stan Lee or Nathan Fillion will have line-ups starting hours before the panel begins. That said, I’m one of those people who don’t mind waiting in line for hours at a time; it actually gives me an excuse to read a book I haven’t had the chance to get to, or finish off some paperwork that has been neglected. It’s also a great time to get out of the crowds and catch a breather.

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“Admiral” Edward James Olmos and his mountain beard.

This year I was able to catch several panels, the first of which was Edward James Olmos, also known as the Admiral (of Battlestar Galactica fame). Engaging yet politically minded, his panel is now listed as one of my favourites. Between the shout outs to fans and his light-hearted answers, he delved into social activity and spoke about non-violent civil demonstrations and channelling Ghandi. Battlestar Galactica, for those of you who haven’t seen the show as yet (in which case you a seriously missing out), was a groundbreaking show at the time. In the age of terrorism and religion and extremism, BSG made connections to political realities and the state of the world – it literally had you sympathizing with suicide bombers before the dawning realization hits you that this is what is happening in the Middle East. The panel was thought-provoking, full of humour, and I loved it.

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Dave Bautista (right) and his manager at Fan Expo.

On a lighter note, I also attended the panels of Nathan Fillion (aka Captain Malcolm Renolds) and Dave Bautista (Drax “The Destroyer”). Each had its own highlights and both were engaging and gracious in their own rights. For Fillion’s panel, a fan who had formerly met him at a previous panel invited him to her wedding (short story: she had been terminally sick, met her love during that time, was encouraged by Fillion and is extremely glad and happy to have met Fillion previously).  As for Bautista, those muscles! Though only half an hour long, he spoke of stories of how he went from Entertainment Wrestling to acting (and how he cried when he received the role of Drax), to giving advice on become a wrestler (be healthy, lots of training) or actor (don’t give up).

The last panel I attended at Fan Expo was with the cast of Dr. Who, featuring the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Rory Pond-Williams (Arthur Darvill). Everyone I know is a fan of something or another, it doesn’t necessarily have to be geek-related per say, but we all have those moments. This was mine.

Skipping the panel, which including Smith and Darvill singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Happy Birthday to a little girl and lots of laughter, my fangirl moment was during the photo-op with the duo. I honestly didn’t expect my heart to skip a beat, but hell, it happens. Now, outwardly I’d like to say I kept it together. Internally, I was melting – Matt Smith rubbed my shoulder and said THANK YOU.  Four days later and I’m still gushing *insert palm to face*

Annnnnnd deep breath….and release. Yea, we all have those moments, don’t even lie.

Getting back to reality for a minute or two, the fact that it must have been a ridiculously long day for both of them, followed by smiling for hours on end for a long line-up of fans wanting pictures, I salute them both. Charm and charisma aside, they were both down-to-earth guys…and actually shorter in real life than I expected (this said from someone who is 5’2″).

Next up, time to revisit San Diego Comic Con.

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Mud all around!

MudHero

Post race photo.

This year’s Mud Hero was exceptionally dirtier than last year’s obstacle run.

The six kilometre race takes place at Albion Hills Conservation Park, a gorgeous setting for a messy activity, complete with over 15 obstacles, from slides to rope climbs.

The fun run is a great race for friends looking to try their first obstacle run or for families interested in keeping active. It’s a lot less serious than Spartan Race or Tough Mudder, where the atmosphere is slightly more tense and competitive. That said, I’m more than likely going to hit up Spartan Race and Tough Mudder next year.

Obstacles in Mud Hero range from easy (sliding into a mud pit) to hard (climbing over walls, though there is a range of heights for those looking for a harder challenge), but the sociable tone of the crowd encourages everyone to try their best with everyone lending a hand in completing each task. The volunteers this year were also superb and extremely friendly, which is always a plus in any race.

An unknown fact is that dogs are allowed to participate as well! Not quite sure how many dogs have actually completed the course, but I did see a lot of four-legged pets around the park.

This year’s race included its regular finisher’s medal…with a beer opener included at the bottom of the medal. Competitors get a free drink when returning their chip timer. Racers also get a (not-so-) free t-shirt to wear after getting all muddy.

I have two more races lined up for September and potentially another in October before I start plotting what I want to do for next year. It’s scary to think how quickly this year has gone by!

 

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Another 5k for the books

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Defi Boreal Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue in Montreal.

It’s always great to beat a personal record, even if the run itself wasn’t the best performance.

Last weekend’s run in Montreal wasn’t my best performance even if I did beat my previous time by a bit; in fact, it was rather horrible. It was one of those days where the humidity coupled with unexpected water cramps (from trying to stay hydrated) and a sore shoulder. It could’ve definitely been better.

I was hoping to beat the 25 minute mark, though I ultimately ended up with just over 26 minutes, (which really isn’t too far off in the grand scheme of things). I would have (almost) preferred finishing the 5k with a smile on my face and not have beat my PR, but there’s always next time. Training for races this year hasn’t been going as well as it should since I’ve been particularly lazy to specifically train for said events, even if I am rather active. So really, there’s no one to fault but myself.

Time for a mini break before another race at the end of August…though I’m already planning for next year’s line-up of races.

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On completing a Try-a-Tri

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Getting ready for my try-a-tri!

It’s a humbling experience completing any race because it doesn’t matter how much you train (or how little), there will always be someone out there who is younger, fitter, and/or better than you.

I recently completed my first try-a-tri in 54 minutes and it was a blast. The try-a-tri is a much smaller triatholon at 375m swim/10k bike/2.5k run.

Overall, I’d say it was a success, though I think I could have done better during the swimming portion. It’s quite a different experience swimming in open water with a couple dozen bodies beside you compared to a stationary pool. However, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be (you know, the whole internal fear of being pushed down and trampled), though I was diverted from my straight path by a not-so-gentle nudge in the face. The push resulted in me swimming towards the shore before having to zig-zag back when I realized my knee hit the ground.

My friends and I arrived earlier than our race time to check out the scene and get the lay of the land. We were able to catch the tail-end of the swimming for the Sprint Traitholon and overheard the referee refer to some athletes’ shaky legs as sea legs when they transitioned to the biking portion of the race.

At first we weren’t quite sure what he meant, but after we finished the swim and made our way up to the bike stop (up a small incline), we understood the shakiness. SEA LEGS! I’ve heard the term before in reference to being on a boat too long and then returning to land, but it didn’t occur to me the same could happen after a swim. Totally true.

The 10k bike ride went smoothly, as did the 2.5k run. I was slightly worried about this transition since I was always shaky after practicing it prior to the race. Literally, duck waddling shaky. My first attempt at the brick work (from bike to run) was a struggle – the one kilometre I attempted after the bike was as if it was my first time trying to run…but worse; it took me well over 10 minutes to complete said kilometre. During the try-a-tri, I was able to complete the 2.5km run in 14 minutes.

Now, to determine my goal for next year: repeat the try-a-tri and aim for a faster time, or go for the Sprint Triatholon, which is 750m swim/30k bike/7k run. Hmmm…

Anyway, here’s to another 5k race next week in Montreal.

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Learning to down shift

Cycling

Photo By: Chi-Linh Dinh

And the wheels on the bike go ’round and ’round, around and ’round…

It’s always an interesting experience trying to get comfortable on a bike again after many years of non-use. I recently picked up a used road bike for the try-a-tri at the end of this month and let’s just say the first time around the block was shaky at best – shifting gears is certainly different in any case.

For me, becoming comfortable with riding a bike was an interesting experience. Though it’s certainly true you never forget how to ride a bike once you’ve learned, after many years of not being on one (that isn’t stationary), kicking off the ground and gaining my balance was….harder than I remembered. Though, mostly it’s due to the bike being slightly too tall for me.

The best thing about getting my bike is discovering just how vast my city is and how many hidden trails there are scattered around the place. There are gorgeously paved paths connected to off-the-beaten trails that are a tad more difficult to navigate with a road bike, but are all well-used and much loved. Running around the neighbourhood is one thing, but the distance a bike covers certainly helps in exploring your own city. Minor bike issues and crazy drivers aside, it’d been a fantastic experience thus far.

Here’s to many more kilometres this summer!

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And we’re off!

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Race: Streetsville’s Bread and Honey Run
Distance(s): 1k fun run, 5k, 15k
Swag: Medal, tech-tee, water bottle, yummy food bars, after-run breakfast

Wonderfully organized by volunteers and staff, the Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival is always a much anticipated event every summer for locals and visitors. It was also my first 5k race of the summer.

The run coincides with the local Bread and Honey Festival that, yes, includes delicious Texas bread, butter and locally produced honey. There are carnival rides, a petting zoo, and beautifully decorated tables from hometown businesses, mom and pop shops, as well as stalls and tables from neighbouring cities. All put together, it is a great family event.

In any case, weather is always a hit or miss the first weekend of June. This was my first time completing the Bread and Honey 5k run and I had a PB of 27:51 (which surprised me as I was on a hiatus from running due to an injury last month). Last year I completed the 15k, so I hope to work back up to the 15k and possibly complete a half-marathon or two for next year.

Next up, Subaru’s try-a-tri in Niagara! ….which will no doubt lead to my decision of completing a full triathlon next year.

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A long tale at the Sydney Opera House

Considered one of the most majestic buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House is a well-known for its storied plays, wonderous musical acts, and theatre performances.

I recently had the opportunity to watch a John Bell production of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” and I leapt at the chance. Not only because it was at the Opera House, but because it’s, well, a play written by >the< William Shakespeare. Yes, I’m a fan.

“The Winter’s Tale” is not as well known as Shakespeare’s other plays, such as “Hamlet” or “Othello,” but it’s a good one nonetheless. It begins with King Leontes of Sicily of mild temper suddenly overcome with mad dreams of his pregnant wife Hermione being unfaithful to him with his boyhood friend, Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Leonetes then orders his loyal servant Camillo to poison his friend, but Camillo warns Polixenes and escapes with him to Bohemia. Hermione is then sentenced to life in prison, eventually giving birth to a daughter later known as Perdita. Feel free to Google a lengthier summary.

When an original play is roughly an hour and a half, and the retelling of such a tale is stretched closer to three, it’s either going to be fantastic or a flop.

The first half prior to intermission was brilliant: the cast was phenomenal and the roles believable, while the set was simple and charming. I had forgotten how strong the women in this play were until I watched it again, from Hermione to Paulina to young Perdita. Shakespeare is a feminist after my own heart, especially considering the day and age of when this was written. Each role either followed faithfully to the lines written by Shakespeare or given a different perspective: Myles Pollard’s role as Leontes, for example, seemed more crazy than I recalled but still passionately believable.

Unfortunately, I found the second half of “The Winter’s Tale” to be disjointed and at times unnecessary. There were musical bits for instance, and though I love musicals, were a tad much: the music itself was too loud and overpowered the actors, and for the most part seemed to come out of no where, or maybe I’m remembering the play wrong. Either way, hilarious as the first few songs were, it became redundant for me and too long. Almost like revisiting the ending of the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings movie. Almost. The parts that followed the original play were still brilliant, and the smaller additions of using lighting and shadows to show a change between acts were a nice touch.

Overall, the Bell Shakespeare production was good. It was part moving, part funny, and all parts Shakespeare. Needless to say, it was an experience I shall never forget and something I can stratch off my bucket list.

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