Trudging Along

It’s just a matter of numerics, really. I’ve survived nearly four decades on this planet. That being said, there are a few things that I feel I need to get done before (or around) when I turn 40 later this year.

I feel kinda blessed – I get to spend my 40th birthday on the road. Some folks would lament the fact that they have to work on their birthday, especially on such a milestone. I am lucky because I get to do what I love to do (make music) with an amazing group of friends and colleagues, and for this I am thankful.

That said, I’m still going to throw myself out of a plane on the morning of my 40th birthday. Yes, I’m going skydiving. No, I can’t wait.

More than this, though, as 40 approaches and I wax somewhat nostalgic about not being all that young anymore, I can look back on these four decades and realize that I’ve done and seen some cool stuff, and I’ve (certainly in the last few years) made a bid to push myself to do new things.

When we moved back into the city and started a family, I started commuting by bike, which rekindled all kinds of love for cycling. When I got posted to Edmonton, I took up hockey as a 32-year-old, because, hockey. I also took up running, and that leads me to my next best/worst idea.

I’m going to run a half-marathon before my 40th birthday.

I’ve done *some* running before. I’ve done the Vancouver Sun Run, the Navy Run (both 10k), but I’ve never done anything longer than just shy of 12km. I’ve got my eye set on the Oak Bay Half Marathon at the end of May, which gives me just over two months to get ready.

Today was my first training run – an easy 5k that I ran in just over 26 minutes. Slower than my preferred 5k pace (I try to run 5k in 25 minutes, as a course of habit).

My goal for this race is to finish the half in two hours, which, by the magic of internet calculation, is 5:41/km – much slower than what I’m running right now, but also averaged over a much larger distance.

All kinds of physiology, kinesiology and psychology involved in this one. I’ve heard lots of stories about people hitting the wall, bonking out, etc. I’m curious to see where this journey will go and what kind of successes (and challenges) I’m going to have along the way.

The training plan I’ve selected is fairly basic – speedier runs Tuesday to Thursday (starting at 3/4/3 miles, ramping up to 5/6/5 miles by weeks 5-6), with long, slow runs on the weekends (5 miles this Sunday, increasing by one each week until the main event).

Thankfully, I’m well-supported in the physio department – I’ve been in lately for tight hip flexors, and he’s aware of my plan to run. We both feel like it’ll be ok, and by starting out “slow” with not a ton of mileage to begin with, my body will be able to adjust fairly quickly to what I’m tossing at it.

So here I go. One run down, 88 to go till race day.

What Just Happened?

Waking up slow on a Saturday morning, assimilating some of what just took place over the last week. For those that don’t have their finger on the pulse of my life and those of my colleagues and friends, we’ve been working hard for the last couple of weeks to put together a recording project of wind ensemble music.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like a professional musician again. I should qualify that by saying that not everything about a pro’s life is all glamour and simply making music — especially with the job that I and my colleagues have. Most of our time is spent behind the scenes, setting up jobs, getting all the administrative, logistical and financial details together, and then only a tiny fraction of what the job actually entails is putting notes out. This week though, predominantly, was all about the music.

More than this, though, we were able to assemble a team of friends from across the country to help us out with some holes we have in the Band. Quite literally, it was a coast-to-coast endeavour, across all three elements of the Canadian Armed Forces. Folks came from Newfoundland, Ontario and Manitoba to help support us, and I think we’ll all be particularly proud of what we achieved.

Badminton. Badminton? Badminton!

I’ve been trying to motivate my teenager to be more active, and this has been met with varying levels of success. He has a tendency to side towards things that are either sedentary (the scourge of blue screens) or inherently dangerous (free climbing, for instance), and hasn’t yet fully discovered the freedom afforded to him by riding his bicycle. That said, he’s made some strides in this department which are commendable, like bringing his bike to school on days where he has appointments, so he can take himself where he needs to go without the parental taxi.

He’s expressed that his favourite unit in Phys Ed class is when they do badminton. Somewhere, buried deep in the recesses of my mind, was a reminder that “oh yeah, you’ve got access to a badminton court and gear at the Base Gym, and you can get into the place for free!” I’m a sucker for a court sport, too, so this made sense all ’round. It’s nice that the younger kids are able to self-manage, so leaving for an hour or two is easy, and plus, the gym is so close to home that once the new E&N Rail Trail extension is open, we’ll be able to ride there, day or night (be damned if I’m taking that construction zone in the dark! It’s bad enough during the day…)

So we went.

Elijah and I had a great time. He’s a good badminton player, and he beat me, three games to two. We had a number of good laughs along the way, broke a sweat, and mostly, got him active. For a kid who’s been struggling with mood, I could see that he was truly having a good time. We’ll be doing this again soon!

DIY on a Saturday

It’s nice to get to the weekend and take care of a few things that you’ve been meaning to get to.

I’ve been playing around with earlier wake-up times lately. This week, I did a couple of 5:30am wake-ups and found that the extra hour in my day didn’t have a negligible impact on the state of my affairs during the later parts of the day. If anything, I was actually *more* ok than most days (I tend to suffer from energy dips at around 10:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm). The energy dips I used to chalk up to those being times when a) breakfast runs out; b) when lunch lands in my stomach; and c) my brain quits because it’s 4:30 and it’s naptime). The 5:30 wakeup seemed to negate all of that. I didn’t have to back my bedtime up that much — I racked out at 10:45 or so, but 5:30 really seems to solve a lot of my inertia problems during the day.

But that wasn’t today. Today, with no alarm, and with a head full of shit that’s happening at work, I woke at 6:30. Spent part of my morning just laying in bed, finishing off the book I’ve been reading, and then getting on with my day. Saturdays can be busy, but I took advantage of things right off the bat. Levi and I took care of some yard work, and then made a couple of pit stops. First one was to Salvation Army, where we got a pair of ski poles, and then to Canadian Tire for some ABS pipe, machine screws and street hockey balls. More on that in a minute.

T has art class out in Langford for two hours right around mid-day, which isn’t really worth the trip back in to View Royal, so after dropping her off I decided to grab a coffee and go for a walk in Havenwood Park. A nice walk, and I spent a little time talking with one of the ladies who resides near there. She tipped me off to the best vistas in the neighbourhood.

Once we got home, Levi and I got down to some serious business – the manufacture of two bike polo mallets.

Thanks to teh interwebz, we had a really easy guide to follow – Remove the handles from the ski poles, cut the bottoms off, cut 4.5″ of ABS pipe, drill through, make a pocket on the inside of the pipe for the ski pole head, drill a screw through the side of the pipe and the shaft of the ski pole, bolt in, plug the ski pole end (no core sampling!) and tape like a hockey stick. Repeat with the other side.

Levi worked on a little bike maintenance on his ride while I put the mallets together, and then we headed for the tennis court at our local rec centre.

Now, I can get pretty excited about stuff, and when I find a new obsession, I tend to go all in. Think commuter cycling. Or brewing. Or hockey. I tend to not do half-measures. Bike polo, I’m afraid, is going that way. I think I’m in love.

Levi and I figured out pretty quick that bike polo ain’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but at the same time, it’s so RIDICULOUSLY fun. We hit the court around 2:45. Levi was hooked right from the start. We even got to show our neighbour, Geoff, what it was we were doing. The look on his face said “you’re crazy, but I see where you’re going with this”, and after a while longer, I headed back to the house. I urged Elijah out the door, put him on his bike, gave him the mallet, and he took to the game like a fish to water, too. His comment was that bike polo was “weird” but that he liked it.

I headed back to the house to start to get dinner ready, but Levi stayed out on the court for over two hours in the light drizzle, just working on his shuffle and his shot, not to mention trying to keep his feet off the road. Tomorrow, he plans on eating breakfast and getting on the court right away.

This week might be the first week I head to Victoria Bike Polo.

 

 

Take The Long Way Home

Last night, I was supposed to meet up with a friend for a beer. I’d had a long day, followed by a game of hockey. I had a quick turnaround at home, and hopped on my bike to head downtown.

First revelation: I can now get downtown wearing street clothes and not look like I just ran a marathon.

This said, my pace was off what I normally ride, but I left plenty early and allowed for all the hills along the way.

Once I got there, I checked my phone and discovered that my friend had to jam out due to unexpected family business. No problem, I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of me having a couple of very hipsterish glasses of beer (one being called “Hot Trub Time Machine” and the other being “Junk Punch IPA”). The soundtrack at this particular establishment was very fine, too, and I found myself being quite inspired by what I was hearing.

After settling up, I got my gear back on and started off for home. Had a brief chat with another cyclist in the bike box just before the Johnson Street Bridge, and then proceeded across my favourite metal-decked span.

Normally, I go up to Tyee Rd and along through Vic West to my house, but this time around, I opted for Harbour Rd. For starters, it was quieter, a little darker, and I was really able to enjoy the scenery as I was pedalling through the night.

When I got to the path to the Galloping Goose, though, I decided to take a little detour. Nobody waiting for me at home tonight, and nowhere else to be, I just started pedalling. I found it exhilarating to be on a night ride, taking paths and roads I wouldn’t normally take. Realistically, it might have only been a two- or three-kilometre detour, but I found myself laughing and experiencing moments of true joy as I rode my way home.

My friend Derek, who lives in Toronto, uses their bike share system and he got me thinking again about bike shares and rentals. One thing I started doing through the last number of tours I’ve been on has been to find a way to either bring a bike or rent a bike when in different cities. I really started in earnest in Ypres this past summer, when, faced with a half day to myself before hitting the road, I rented a bike and started pedalling through the countryside. Before I knew it, I’d gone for a couple of hours, just wheeling my way through all the scenery. In Amsterdam, I rented a bike for the days I was there, and found myself able to cover so much more ground, and experiencing that city the way a lot of locals do. In Paris, same deal – their bike share system is very robust, and I covered a ton of ground for 8 Euros for the time I was there. Later on, when I was in Toronto, I used their bike share system during breaks in the schedule to ride from Air Canada Centre back to the hotel for naps, or to go to the last Jays home game. All of this on two wheels.

It goes back to that sense of freedom I spoke of in an earlier post. So much opportunity presents itself when you’re on a bike. My youngest definitely gets it, and my eldest is starting to now, as well (he’s been borrowing my bike to go on photography expeditions).

All that to say, just get out there. Ride. Figure out how to buy your groceries on a bike. Go see some stuff. Go to friends’ houses just like you used to when you were a kid. Just go.

They Say That Money Can’t Buy Happiness…

But it’ll get you a bike repair stand, and that’s a very, very close second.

I just picked up a Feedback Recreational Work Stand so that I could repair the ever-growing fleet of bicycles that seems to be appearing in my garage (currently sitting at seven). For my youngest and I, we’ve been commuting through a construction zone, so our bikes were filthy and definitely in need of a drive train cleaning.

Levi and I got started on his bike. I have to say, working with a bike on a fixed stand is a joy. For so many years (over 15), I’ve done my repairs with the bike on the ground. Massive pain in the hole. Like the time I discovered panniers, or the day I discovered clipless pedals, the bike repair stand was nothing short of revolutionary for how I got to deal with my wheels.

Levi’s bike was dirty and his drive train had some minor rust on it. We worked together to clean his chain and re-lube it, plus we took care to wipe the dirt and grime off of the rest of things, plus took the opportunity to adjust his back brake.

My bike needed a little more work — I was LONG overdue for some new rubber on my wheels (like 5,000km overdue), so I got the opportunity to get that worked out, plus I discovered (surprise, surprise) that my chain is way over-stretched, and needs replacing in a big way.

Here’s where the neighbourhood dynamics (and beer) come into play. When we lived in Ottawa, especially in Orleans, if the garage door was open, that was code for “hey, come on over, let’s have a beer”. My friend Mike MacDonald was the greatest purveyor of this. Frequently, there’d be a call such as “Want an ale?” shouted from across the street followed by a can-shaped missile launched from across the way. Invariably, we’d gab for a while and occasionally, a neighbourhood hang would develop. More on that in another post.

All that to say that the garage door was open today and I saw three of my neighbours (and the son of a fourth) and we all had a good chance to say hello and catch up. Ray, my next door neighbour, stopped by and we shared a couple of beers, and using my new stand, was able to give his bike’s drivetrain a good cleaning, too (Ray works on the base, and we have essentially the same commute to work).

At the end of it all, with all the bikes put back together, I can’t help but feel this sense of satisfaction. More than just about any hobby or other activity I’ve undertaken, there’s something about the feeling of working on or with bikes that is hard to replicate.

Bike Polo Beginnings

I’ve been into bikes since I was five or six, when I first learned to ride a two-wheeler. I’m fairly certain I learned on this orange-y yellowish bike that had a banana seat that I had borrowed from one of the neighbour kids. I have a vague recollection of working my way up and down the fenceline of my parents’ yard until I finally got the hang of it.

Like most kids, my bike boundaries were well defined. At six, I was up and down half the block. By seven, the end of the street. Eight, and I could go around the block and to the corner store(s) by myself. After that, I started commuting to school. In high school, before I got a car, I seemed to only date girls who lived outside the city limits (and/or half-way up mountains).

I took a pause for some car-driving years (say, 95-02). In ’02, having just moved back into Vancouver from the ‘burbs, I borrowed my dad’s mid-80s Stump Jumper, bought some clothing to help avoid road drownings, and got straight down to being a bike commuter. My commute started out as a ride from Knight/E. 59th to Pender/Thurlow, later becoming Boundary/Marine to downtown, and then finally Boundary/Marine to Lonsdale/15th in North Vancouver (a mere 36km round trip daily). The trip was faster than car or bus travel, and it made such a difference in my life, being able to shed stress to and from work every day.

Once we moved to places that had winter climates, my commuting season shortened, but the commutes themselves didn’t. In Ottawa, my first house was a 20km round trip, and the last place I lived in was 49km daily (Orleans-YOW). Edmonton (St. Albert) to the base was 26km round trip. By this point, I’d long since graduated from Stumpy, having gone through a Norco 10-speed that I’d been given by some friends, and then later, onto what’s now my main ride, a Jamis Beatnik fixie.

Along the way, I’ve tried to get my kids into biking, and I think I’ve succeeded partially. My eldest occasionally rides his bike to his friends’ houses, even though he’s got a bus pass. I got a good-fitting bike for my daughter this year that she likes, and so I’m aiming for her to be more independent on two wheels.

My youngest is my road warrior. He’s 10. He commutes by bike daily from my house in View Royal to his school in Esquimalt, almost 10km round trip. This kid is built to ride. We went to Recyclistas together to buy him a bike for his birthday last year, which is what set off this whole thing for him. The difference for him in having a bike that fit with good gears was a world of change, and it allowed him to really power through some of the tougher hills that exist around my place. More than that, he’s gotten to experience the same kind of freedoms I enjoyed as a youngster, and he’s using them to his advantage – being that all his friends walk to school (we live outside the catchment area and there’s no bus service), he’s able to have after school hangs. His friends’ parents even take notice, as he rides his bike on his own to their houses without any parental taxi action. He’s confident, and he understands the kind of impact that riding can have on his health and his environment.

So where does that leave me? I’ve got the shortest commute by bike that I’ve ever had – 2.5km each way. I barely crack a sweat going to work. But I do most of my trips now by bike or by foot. My truck doesn’t see a whole lot of action anymore, and I’m very okay with this.

Now, I find myself getting more into bike repair. Christmas this year saw me refurbish a bike for Kristy so she has a set of wheels available to her here. I’ve got a repair stand coming this week so I can take better care of the fleet of two wheelers that are in my garage, and like I said in my previous post, I’m planning on volunteering at Recyclistas so that I can gain more experience.

I’ve talked enough about how I got here. Now I’m going to talk about what I want to do this year — BIKE POLO. Glory be, I think this might be the sport to end all sports for me. There are enough histories of bike polo floating around the internet for you to read. As with most things I seem to be doing of late, I’ll document what’s going on – my plan at this time is to build up a bike and a mallet, figure out what’s what, and get down to some solid play time.

2018 Preview

So while folks are off recapping what they did in 2017 (and my list is, by all measures, fairly epic in what I did), I’m going to spend a couple of minutes talking about a few things I intend on doing for 2018.

Music. Lots and lots of music.

Kristy and I had several long talks as 2017 came to a close. New Year’s Eve was no different, but we both expressed again our interest in creating music together. We had a couple of moments over the dying days of 2017 when we were both laid up with the flu where we made music. Some of the results were epically hilarious (such as the moment when I questioned my abilities as a professional musician while we tried to play melodica Christmas duets), and another where she got her hands on my Wurlitzer and we improvised together for a short span. We both have a deep love of a lot of music, and a lot of that coincides with what we do. We’ve talked about it before, we’ve even gone so far as to jokingly have a band name together, and now, I think this’ll be the year where we go out and actually perform music together. I’m pretty excited.

Volunteering.

It’s something I’ve talked about a lot, and it’s something that I need to both make time to do as well as commit to doing. So I’m going to volunteer. The two likely targets are Recyclistas, siding well with my love of bikes and bike culture, and the other is with Victoria Tool Library, which appeals to my side of all things DIY and wanting to fix all the things using my own two hands.

Travel.

2017 taught me that I need to spend more time seeing things. 2018 started things off right by spending a couple of hours on my feet at a time when my body was so weak from being sick for so long. The results were nothing short of magical – being in the trees close to the water, feeling the sunshine on my face, this is what helped bring my life force back into being. I’ll be going into this year with the intention of traveling and spending much more time in the outdoors. So far, Kristy and I have plans to go camping in January, a trip to Tofino, going back to Whistler, she’s off to Japan, and we now also have long-range plans to head over to Port Angeles for a week of adventures this summer. On top of this will be plans to do even more camping with the kids, more trekking about local hills and paths, and generally finding ways to spend all the time outside. It’s totally doable, and it’s time.

The rest, like usual, I’ll make up as I go along. A lot of it will involve wanting to lead a simpler life, to spend more time with my kids, and to do more of the things that matter to me. It’s not new years’ resolutions – these are just acts and actions I’ve been working towards that I’m actually seeing through to completion this year.

Time to get moving…

Musical Ruts

Every now and again, I get into a musical rut, whether that’s good or bad. For a good long stretch there, and by long, I’m talking 3-4 years, all I listened to was the music of Steely Dan, much to the deep chagrin of my family (but ultimately for my own personal betterment when I got the call to sub in with a SD cover band this year). More recently than that, I’ve been bingeing on Vulfpeck.

This past summer, though, I went to Europe for work, and decided on a couple of desert island albums to take with me. The lads over at All Songs Considered had tipped me off to “Echo Mountain Sessions” by Sylvan Esso – a band I’d never heard of before – and lo and behold, I found what would ultimately carry me through my trip.

EMS led to the discovery of the duo’s latest release, “What Now”, and this album grabbed me by the ears right away. A great mix of songwriting, instrumentation, timbre, just a very satisfying listen. The opening track really took hold and I couldn’t stop listening.

Oh hi, I’m new here…

Work can really be…work, sometimes.

The more I examine who I am, the more that I see that I’m a bit of an introvert (which, if you take it into the context of some of my social media activities over time, doesn’t make a heap of sense – maybe more like a slightly narcissistic introvert?)

Either way, as far as my bass playing life has gone, I’ve been fortunate enough for the phone to ring and not for me to go out and have to put my name out. Decreasingly, though, in each of the cities I’ve lived in, the phone doesn’t ring as much. Some of that has been a conscious decision – with the day job, I’d settled for making music at work, which is totally valid, and an honourable way to do things. I’m blessed with a job that pays me to make notes. I also know that the marketplace is crowded, and don’t want to be another hungry mouth to feed at an increasingly small meal. Plus, too, I’ve been trying to be the best dad I can over the last 14-or-so years, so sticking close and not doing “discretionary” gigs was more of a thing as well.

That said, if people don’t know who I am, I need to go introduce myself, rub some shoulders, press a little flesh, and insert a noise here.

Re-met Tom Vickery on Wednesday night, the leader of the jazz jam at Hermann’s here in Victoria. Tom and I had met a couple of times previously on other subjects (mostly through work and the union), but this was the first time that I’d had a chance to play, and that he’d had a chance to hear me. Same goes for Sean Drabbitt, the house bassist, and Kelby MacNayr, the house drummer, who happens to be one of my favourite players that I’ve heard lately.

Heard some great players, got a chance to get up and play, discovered what the flavour of jazz is around these parts, and had a great time. Looking forward to doing it again down the line!