Monday, April 18, 2011

Paralympic Training Camp

We have been on the water for the past 7 days training out of Royal Vic. Brian Todd (National Team Coach) has been running a training camp for Paralympic sailors and was kind enough to include us 470's as well. It has been quite interesting training with the 2.4m, Skud 18 and Sonar. All three boats are keelboats, but from there the similarities end! The 2.4m can point almost directly upwind so you don't want to start above it on the line. The Skud has an asymmetric spinnaker so it sails on a very tight reach downwind, and the Sonar is really big so there is just no wind anywhere near it. Needless to say the short course racing we have been doing has been quite exciting, as a different strategy is required for dealing with each competitor.

With varying weather conditions and finally some sunshine these past two days it has been a really good camp. Our boat handling is constantly improving. I think we made some especially big improvements on our double-tacks and 360 degree turns on Sunday. The way our communication and teamwork has come together in the past 6 months is really noticeable, every maneuver happens more quickly and we get less frustrated with things when training because there is constant communication about what is happening and what is about to happen.

Now a few days off and then back on the water this Easter weekend!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Joy of Sport

Jen and I recently attended an event where Kristina Groves spoke about her own involvement in sport and some of the challenges she sees with women's involvement in sport in Canada. I recorded her talk and have posted it here so if you have 30 minutes I recommend listening to her explain it in her own words. (sorry for the poor audio quality).

Her talk really got me to thinking about my own involvement in sport. Jen and I have the benefit of returning to competitive sports after taking time to complete our degrees, so we are both very aware of the role sport plays in our lives and why we want to go to the Olympics. For some athletes who grew up competing it may be the only life they know. For myself, I love being outside first and foremost. I love walking through the forest, observing the leaves and flowers and rocks and play of the light. I often just sit quietly on top of a hill or on the beach and observe the world. Being on the water is equally amazing with the wide open horizon and constantly changing weather.

Secondly, I'm competitive. Not in an "I want to crush you" sort of way, but rather in a self-challenging manner. I like knowing things, and I want to be an expert at everything I do. Competing is the best way to guage your performance as well as improve it. The Olympics is the ultimate affirmation of knowledge and experience in sport, so I want to go. Or at least I want to try my hardest to go, and if I am unsuccesful I will at least have given it my all.

Third is the people and places sport has brought into my life. I very quickly forget where we placed in the results, but I will never forget the amazing places I have visited and the friendships I have made over the years through my participation in sport. From playing soccer and skiing in Calgary as a kid to biking up a mountain with a friend in Ireland to living and competing with fellow sailors in Istanbul it is the people from around the world that make the experiences memorable.

The point Kristina brought up is that women's participation in sport is still incredibly low, and the way most women participate in sport is not for the same reasons as me. The average women goes to the gym or yoga or pilates alone, and often does so in order to lose weight or remain trim to fit a specific societal body image. A recent Times Colonist article highlighting two individual's completion of a workout regime seemed to highlight this. The female participant was pleased to have dropped 3 dress sizes and discussed not cheating on her diet which limited her to 2 fruits a day. There was no mention of enjoyment or friendship.

Jen and I both go to the gym in order to improve our fitness for sailing, but for both of us it is our least enjoyable part of being an athlete because it can be a bit lonely and a bit unstimulating compared to the race course and the team atmosphere. I currently work out with my gym buddy Christa, whom I met on craigslist because I needed that comradrie in order to motivate me. I met my running buddy Bonnie through a running clinic, and I play soccer and go climbing with different people again. Jen and I both eat very healthily, but this generally involves eating tons of fruits and veggies (which I love) and fewer refined sugars. Our diet (and by diet I mean "the food we eat") is not regimented but about moderation, so I don't feel the need to "cheat" whatever that means.

When people find out Jen and I are trying to lose weight the standard comment is "why, you look great!". While compliments are nice, our weight goal has nothing to do with how we look or about trying to fit into certain clothes or being perceived as attractive. Every boat has an ideal combined crew weight which maximizes performance, and Jen and I just happen to be on the larger end. While obesity is becoming a major issue in our society, I think weight loss as the primary reason for being active is incredibly sad, and an individual's level of activity tends to be a better indicator of overall health than their waistline.

So what am I trying to say? I have a passion for the outdoors and for sport in general because it is FUN and involves people I LOVE! As a result, I lead a healthy and active lifestyle and have a better understanding and appreciation for my body. This is what I try and pass on to the athletes I coach - a lifelong passion for sailing, whethor competitive or recreational; local or worldwide. So my suggestion to women (and men) everywhere? Grab a friend and go play outside!

Women in Sport Brunch

On Sunday April 3 Jen and I attended the Women In Sport Celebration brunch at PISE, the Pacific Institute for Sport. This event was for female athletes from all over BC and included some tasty food, an excellent talk by Kristina Groves (four time Olympic medalist speed skater) and the Women in Sport Awards. There were three categories for the awards, Volunteer of the Year, Organizer of the Year and Athlete  of the year. We had sailors in two of the three categories. Jess Round was nominated for Athlete of the Year after representing Canada at the 2010 Youth Worlds in Istanbul, Turkey with her sailing partner Erin Berry; and Tracy Terry took home the award for Sport Builder of the year for her hard work with the Pacific Region Cadets. Congrats to Tracy!

The talk by Kristina was really the highlight of the event for me. Kristina recently suffered a severe concussion and as a result might be retiring from competitive speed skating. Her talk focused on the role sport has played in her life and the challenges she sees for the average women's involvement in sport. While celebrating how far we have come, she also pointed out how much work still remains. I recorded Kristina's talk and have included it and my own thoughts in a separate blog post.

Here are some pictures from the event.

Spring, 2011