Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Navy Yard

As soon as I heard about the shooting at Washington Navy Yard on Monday, one question sprang to mind and refused to leave.

We are shocked, and rightly so, at the news of yet another mass shooting.  And yet, for some reason, most of us aren’t particularly shocked about the location of the shootings.  But I can’t help pondering the location of this act of violence, the Washington Navy Yard.  I’d never heard of this place until Monday, so I took the time to read up a little on the site and its history.

The Yard started out more than two centuries ago as the largest shipbuilding facility in the US navy.  By World War II, it was the largest naval ordnance plant in the world. The weapons designed and built there were used in every war in which the United States fought until the 1960s.

To put it another way, this facility has existed,  for two centuries, to create guns, torpedoes, gunboats, frigates and shells.  In short, all the machinery needed for people to kill other people with production-line efficiency.  To be blunt, this site has been in the business of mass-producing death. This is not a value judgment, just a plain statement of fact. Many thousands of human beings have been shot, blown up, burnt or drowned by the output of this facility.

And yet for some reason this doesn’t elicit a strong emotional reaction, or indeed, any comment at all in the coverage of Monday’s tragedy.

Why is that, I wonder?

Achieving the Impossible

One of the interesting things about becoming a runner is that it gets you in the habit of achieving the impossible.

What do I mean by this?  I mean that many of us have had the experience of declaring that sometime in the future we will do something that we are currently physically incapable of.  And then we do it.

Perhaps you can’t run down the street without getting winded, and yet you sign up for a 5k.
Perhaps you’re getting used to your 5k training runs, but you sign up for a marathon.
Perhaps you can’t swim, and yet declare to your friends your intention to complete a triathlon.

In each of these cases, there’s a task that you would find physically impossible if you tried to do it today.  And yet, you sign up, you put in the training hours, and a few months later you find yourself achieving it.

You run your first 5k without stopping once.
You complete that daunting mud run.
You get that Boston Qualifier marathon time that’s been eluding you.

And in the process, you discover that the impossible can become possible. Continue reading

Wasaga Beach Olympic Triathlon – Race Report

This morning I raced the Wasaga Beach Olympic distance triathlon.  The first triathlon I ever did was at Wasaga, a half-sprint distance ‘give-it-a-tri’, in which I emerged from the water looking like a drowned rat after doggy paddling 400m, and then struggled around a 10k bike ride on my clunky old mountain bike.

Fortunately I’ve developed a bit as a triathlete since then.  And although this is the only triathlon I’ve raced this year, I’ve managed to get a decent number of other races under my belt – a marathon, a half marathon, a 10k and the Paris-Ancaster cyclocross race.  And thanks to some friends that have just joined this sport, I’ve been cajoled into putting in a few decent training sessions over the last month. Continue reading

Reaching Goals

It’s no secret that I like to run.  Since I returned to this sport a few years ago, I’ve logged countless miles, run city streets and wilderness trails, in 40 degree heat and in blizzard conditions, on my own and with friends, and earned a few medals as well.  But I am learning that the for me, the point of running is about more than medals or races.  It is about the intentional practice of setting goals and achieving them.

So I have realised that running, for me, is the the laboratory in which I study the art of ‘optimal performance’.  What I learn in this lab has direct implications on the rest of life.  Running has taught me so many lessons.  Lessons such as:

Create a plan, track your progress, adjust as you go forward.  Learning to perform well in endurance sport requires continual small corrections.  Pay attention to your stride length and cadence.  Mind which part of the foot you are landing on.  Think about your swimming stroke.  Adjust the position of your elbows as you pull.  Change the height of your saddle.  Tweak your diet. Alter the balance between carbs and protein.  Training is never about mindless repetition, but always a mindful process.  In all other endeavours, we also need to continually readjust our habit to make sure we are on course for our goal. Continue reading