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A recent foray with my therapist has helped me revisit the idea of perfectionism and how it provides drive action in my life. This is a long-standing thing for me and even comes down to the way I organize my day to make sure I can cram it all in. Part of it allows me to be super-productive, but also, as I age, I’m getting tired along the way. Anna took one look at my schedule and said “no wonder you feel like shit.”

That said, it’s time to get the things done. I’m using a combination of journals, notepads, Trello, and coffee to power through everything. So far, I have a grip on it. Let’s see how that continues.

Ok, I’m Back

New year means lots of intentions. But I also know that intentions have a tendency to backfire, and I’m often not good at keeping up with things, especially when it comes down to maintaining consistency in certain areas. Also, Phill Wade:

Well, dear readers, I’ve got some projects to keep me busy.

First, and foremost, I’m working through some long-term stuff that has been hanging around in my life for too long. I’ve finally been paired up with another excellent therapist, I’m on SSRIs now, and I’m starting to balance out. This in spite of being posted into a new position that’s unlike any I’ve done before, while also exorcising academic demons by going back to school remotely in a pandemic. While blending a household. And moving.

My therapist today asked a question that hit home: “Do you think you might be a perfectionist?” I’ll get to that in a future post.

For now, though, I’m getting ready to introduce my capstone project for my undergrad. Watch this space as it’ll be here both for the introduction as well as the ongoing saga of discovery over the next eight weeks or so.

Grey Matter

What a strange organ. I did a concussion recheck on Monday morning, and was assigned to stay home and do as little as possible for two days, which, of course, is nigh impossible with kids, especially when two of them are sick and the third one is struggling with depression.

I will say I have a much greater appreciation for how visual stimuli affects my brain. It took me a couple of days to really get into the idea of just sitting or laying down somewhere quiet and dark and just close my eyes. Right now, I think, more than anything, I just need to do some more of that.

There has also been a difference in the way different doctors have been treating my concussion. For the uninitiated, my care is provided through the military. I’m assigned to an Integrated Health Team, and there’s a group of doctors, clinicians, nurses, medical technicians, etc, who all have their hands on me and my file. I’d been seeing one doc consistently for my time here, but he’s gone now. The new doc I’d seen happened to be the one who saw me for the back issue from before. He’d helped me through my calf cramp when I was getting ready for my half-marathon, and he’s a musician and hockey player. The doc I saw subsequently when I went to get my concussion diagnosed had a different approach, which is fine (and plus, too, she also had a resident with her, and so I became a training opportunity, which I don’t mind). Next doc I saw was pretty hard-and-fast about concussions and what I could or couldn’t do. Today’s doc kinda bridged all of the above, and we talked about some of the risks I could/should take, and came up with a plan to move forward.

I’ve been put on half-days at work, plus a host of other restrictions (no running, no contact sports, etc). I tried putting in a couple of hours at the office today but in the end it was a bit much, so I went back to that space of lowered stimuli and just let my brain rest for a while this afternoon, which helped tremendously.

Rest is a weapon.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 27

Write about something that’s kicking ass right now.

I had a great moment on Friday. I got up, got my gear together, hopped on my bike, and rode to work. Once there, I switched into my running gear and made my way to Y-jetty on the base, where the crowds were gathering for the Formation 5k run. It was the first of these that I’d attended, though I’ve seen the masses doing them for a long, long time.

After a little stretching and some waiting, the gun went off, I started my tunes, and I launched into the throng of runners.

Through the gates to the Naden side, down the hill past the entrance to the main Naden gate, up the hill past the gym and Nelles block, down past the MP shack, around behind the CAF TU(BC) building, past my work and the drill shed, down the hill past the main gate again, back through Y-jetty’s gate, along the MOG 4 lines, past RP Ops, FMF, clothing stores, the back alleys near the Admiral’s house, around Duntz Head, then retrace back to Y-jetty.

Kyle was acting kinda like my pace bunny. He got a jump on me and spent most of the run 100-200m ahead of me.

I was astonished when I crossed the line and saw my time.

Before we get to that, let me talk a little about how I got into running.

When I was a kid, there wasn’t a ton of money going around, and bless their hearts, my parents worked hard to provide for us. Unfortunately, that meant that we didn’t always get the best kinds of footwear, and more often than not, I got shoes that were either ill-fitting or ill-suited to my feet, and it hurt. The doc made noises that I had patellafemoral syndrome (which, after some later research, definitely didn’t turn out to be the case). Turns out all I needed was some proper footwear.

Flash forward to 2011, when I got posted back to the Army in Edmonton. First thoughts through my head were “oh yeah, these guys run. I guess I should start running, too” (followed quickly by “oh yeah, these guys play hockey, I guess I should play hockey, too,” but that’s a different post). Slowly, and I mean slowly, I started running. 2.5km here, 3-4km there, around 6:30/km. Not with any real intent or purpose, but more just to do it.

In 2014, when I went to Borden for my conducting course, I started picking it up a little more. 6km runs, starting to edge downward into that 5:30/km range. Speed started picking up. The runs started to feel a little different, more like I could actually do them.

Late in 2014, when things really started to go south, I relied heavily on running and hockey to keep me sane and alive. I would run out my frustrations, anger, and sadness, and my times really started to improve. My dad used to always tell me that he could run faster mad than I could scared, and I started to see this in my times. For the first time, I broke a 25-minute 5k run. In 2015, my mission became to not run a 5k in more than 25 minutes (which I’ve largely managed to stick to).

My half-marathon escapade was fairly well-documented and at that point, I was consistently running 4:45/km or better over the short distances.

My 5k had kinda plateaued. The distance work was still going really well, but through a combination of circumstance and lack of training, I was *doing* 5k runs, and they were good, but I just wasn’t going anywhere with my times.

Flash back to Y-jetty and crossing the line. Remember how I was shocked when I saw the time?


Previously, I hadn’t broken the 22-minute barrier for running. My best was around 22:14 for a 5k. I had completely destroyed my best time over that distance.

While running, I knew I was running fast and hard. My body was telling me this was a pace it wasn’t used to, or particularly comfortable with, and coupled with hills, it was a real slog in some places. Looking at the splits and the GPS, though, I didn’t slow past 4:45/km, and spent a reasonable amount of time hovering on either side of 4:00/km.

Running has given me a real sense of freedom. It’s done wonderful things for my mental health, fantastic things for my body, and better still, I’m starting to run with my daughter, who proudly declared that she understood what a runner’s high was after doing her first couple of runs.

So yeah, running. That’s a good thing.

So I Turned My Arm Black…

I’ve been thinking about tattoos for almost as long as I can remember. I’ve been fascinated by them for about thirty years, as a matter of fact, in all kinds of ways. Long has been my want to get tattooed, and it’s been a very long road to be comfortable enough with myself to bring myself to go and do it.

When I got posted to Victoria, I started to do things a little differently. I started to actually allow myself to be me. Some of this came out of some really great therapy work, and the rest of it just came out of sheer will to want to do things for myself. For the bulk of those thirty years where I’ve been thinking about getting tattooed in a bigger way, I finally decided to do something about it.

I had been worked on previously by a fellow named Mikel Johannsen, who, at the time, worked out of a shop in Victoria. He’d traveled to Red Deer and I met him there to work on a smallish piece on my right arm, but the time had come for something bigger. After seeing the Bobby McFerrin video on the power of the pentatonic scale, the idea started forming to do something related (abstractly) to melody on my left arm.

I sent a long essay to Mikel, hoping he could transform that into action.

By this point in time, Mikel had moved to Kelowna, and I’d been posted to Victoria. It didn’t take much to put two and two together, and the next thing you know, I’d booked myself in to start my sleeve.

First session was in March of 2015. I walked into the shop in Kelowna, Mikel pitched his idea, and we went for it.

The first session was outlining three of the five figures in dots. 

Of course, I’m not that smart, so as soon as we were done, I jumped in the truck and drove straight to a friend’s retirement party in Vancouver, then crashed the night at the house of one of my bestest friends, before heading onward to Victoria to start my new job.

Part of the joy of my new job is that Kelowna happens to be in the turf we ordinarily serve musically, so when I found out that we were booked in to play in the Okanagan that summer, I booked another session. On this go-around, we filled worked on filling in the figures with more dots.

Mikel and I talked and talked throughout the whole process – he had a background in audio engineering, having worked for a spell at Nettwerk Records in the 90s, and we had different, though occasionally similar, tastes in music, which always led to great discussions. On this session, we were exploring some of the nuances in music, and for the figure on my lower arm, we talked about how sometimes music just didn’t go where you expected, and things could be random, hence why the patterns aren’t as regular on that piece.

Flash ahead to Christmastime, and I made a quick trip up to see my folks between having finished my work run for the year and having the kids with me over the holiday. Squeezed in a quick session with Mikel to start and finish figures 4 and 5 (inner arm for both). A spicy affair, for sure, as the tender fleshy bits got mangled.

At this point, things started to diverge a little on the path of where I expected this piece to go. I had an idea in my head that I had pitched to Mikel as a next step, and it didn’t exactly go where I wanted it to. I had wanted to have a very subtle background in the negative space between the figures, using music motifs. What ended up coming out was a little less subtle, and altered the course of where we would be headed. For this session, I flew up to Kelowna for a day trip – I found out that cheap flights were available from Pacific Coastal, and so I used as many modes of transportation available to me as possible to make this session a reality. At the end, the result wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, but Mikel and I decided to just let it sit, give it a little time, and come back to it on a future session. He took pics, but never posted them, and this one shot was the one I snapped in the airport on the way home:

I liked the blue, but it didn’t end up where I wanted. Mikel agreed with this, too, and so in Feb 2017, again, while on tour, back into the seat I went, having the outlines of the figures shaded, to allow the blue to be sent farther into the background.

Both Mikel and I felt a lot better about this step in the process, and we just let it sit for a while. A lot longer than I’d anticipated, really. I had made plans to get worked on in April of 2017 when Mikel just happened to be in Victoria, but I’d developed a bit of a rash and we both decided it wasn’t worth it to push things.

In the end, I took a bit of a break. I’d look at my arm, and it just felt incomplete, and disjointed, not entirely like what was going on in my head for some of the time. 

Time has a tendency to march on, and things happen along the way. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, anniversaries, birthdays, major crises, minor crises, celebrations, etc. I just came up to my 40th birthday, and in the spirit of doing things for myself and myself only, I decided that a birthday tattoo was in order.

So in comes the fear part. Like I said, things felt incomplete on my arm. I knew in the back of my mind that there was a quasi-nuclear option – blacking out the negative space – but that it would take a certain amount of personal fortitude to carry it out, and more, a certain amount of fear in the acceptance of what that might look like for those around me, especially those nearest and dearest to me. I don’t consider myself to be particularly hardcore. I’m not a heavy-metal type, not a real rock and roller, just a guy who likes tattoos.

I know that perception in others shouldn’t matter, but at the same time, if I’m going to be spending any kind of time, whether it’s public or intimate, with someone I care about, appearances do kinda matter. I mentioned to Kristy about the idea of filling in the negative space and she thought that would be a fine idea.

As it turns out, it was the best idea. 

Another summer, another Okanagan tour. I booked myself a rental car, had some space in the daily schedule, and made the trudge to Mikel’s new shop in Kelowna.

We got straight down to work, filling in the blanks. I had expected it to be worse off the bat, but it really wasn’t. I’ve seen videos of folks talking about their blackout sleeves, and read reports that it wasn’t as bad as single needle or lining. They aren’t wrong. It hurt, yeah, but not in the way I thought.

Mikel’s a trooper. Between him and I, we just blasted through, stopping basically only to pee or grab a quick mouthful of food or some water.

About 5 hours in, that’s when I started to hit the wall. Our time was coming to a close anyhow, as I had to get to work, and we were only about 80ish percent complete. My body finally decided that the tank was empty and enough was enough, so when Mikel put the tools down for a quick break, that was the end of things. 5 1/2 hours is a long time to sit and get blasted like this.

So that night, due to all the trauma I just caused myself, my arm swelled up by a good 30%. My elbow ballooned, and I still had a show to conduct. We all powered through, and in spite of the self-inflicted injury, I slept remarkably well. I did get a couple instances of very, very fat hand, so much so that it was quite painful and I could move the lymph back into my forearm. I spent a fair bit of time with my arm above my head, trying to drain things out.

I still had a shoulder cap to deal with though, and through sending pics to my sister about what I’d done, found out that she was going to be in Penticton on Saturday, which happened to coincide with another down spot in the schedule where I could sneak back to Kelowna. So I borrowed her truck, ran back, and got my shoulder capped.

An hour back in the chair, much realization that endorphins don’t regenerate that quickly, and lo and behold, it’s done.

It’s bold. Like, really bold. And you know what? I LOVE IT. (yeah, I can hear you saying “well you’d better love it because it’s not coming off” – I gotcha.)

This sleeve seems to confuse people. My poor dad got to see it in its full swollen glory on my birthday, the day after it had been done (it got even fatter the next day). He had no idea what to make of it. Reactions so far have been positive (at least to my face), and certainly, for my kids, there’s been an adjustment period. People are drawn to it, not knowing what it is they’re looking at. A sleeve is one thing – they’re fairly common. A black (or mostly black) sleeve, on the other hand, seems to be confounding. 

Healing has been interesting – I’ve been shedding what Mikel called “black cornflakes” all over the place. I’m almost done the first molt off of the second session, and there’s a little residual flakiness just as things finish settling in and the skin heals up a little better. My arm has returned to its usual size, and aside from some ouchiness in my shoulder (just some expected bruising), I’m good to go. I know there’s some touch-up work to be done, which I think will take place later this fall (yay, we get to redo the elbow!). 

I’m so thankful to Mikel for his steady hand, calming influence, and artistry through this process. Thankful as well to Kristy, who has way better artistic sense than I do, and as a gentle guide.

Cycling Infrastructure

I kinda die a little on the inside when I read about folks who have such hate for the bicycle. I really wish it weren’t so – there’s so much joy, especially here in Victoria, for the ability to ride bikes in fair weather for more than half the year.

And if there was ever a case for cycling infrastructure, Victoria’s starting to make a point. Yes, I get that the Pandora (and now the Fort) lanes are frustrating (I concur – why would you put a two-direction bike lane on a one-way road, and also complicate every single traffic rule for cars along the way), but also, too, those lanes provide a measure of protection for those of us that use two wheels.

Let me be clear – for as pro-bike as I am, I also acknowledge that bikes aren’t absolutely everything. Transportation systems are just that – systems. They need to be able to cover off a wide range of modes of transportation for the entire population, not just the spandex-riding elite or the dead-dino-burning set.

I read “The Enlightened Cyclist” earlier this year after having spotted it on the shelf at a friend’s place. Some of it was pretty preachy, but there were a couple of takeaways in there that were worth noting. Specifically, it was the need for everybody to just chill the fuck out and realize that NEITHER of us are going anywhere. We each have sacred obligations to not kill each other (wilfully or not). So if we all just calm down and respect each other’s space, we’ll all be much, much better.

So back to infrastructure, because this is where things get good for bikes. I live along the E&N Rail Trail and there was a small section through the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations that had yet to be built. Levi and I had been biking up Admirals Rd, and that, in and of itself, was an exercise in maximum patience, creative language, and near misses for both of us, especially through the shittiest months.

Once the trail had opened, however, it provided a link for us not just to make the commute to work/school that much easier, but to provide a safe, stable route to get all kinds of places, and really open up a world of possibilities.

So with both hats on, here’s how my Saturday went down. Talia has art class out on Latoria Rd. As much as I’m game for long distance riding, she’s not at this point, and that’s ok, so I drove her to class. I also had a few errands to run in the two hours that she was there, so I took care of those in the truck (including picking up my race package for the Oak Bay Half.

Once I got home from T’s art class, though, she was off to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Rather than drive her the 1.5km, I got her to ride her bike – it’s E&N all the way, with one traffic interface along Island Hwy (covered by a traffic light). No problems, at all. She’ll be riding home by herself later.

After I dropped her off, I had some more errands to run downtown (needed a couple of things from MEC, and some brewing supplies). E&N to downtown (lovely ride!), did my one stop at MEC, then headed back across the new Johnson bridge to head along the Goose only to find that my favourite homebrew shop was only a couple hundred metres from the trail.

A quick jaunt back across Selkirk Trestle and lo and behold, Vic West Fest was happening. So many people out, taking in some music and other festivities.

Sunday presented its own opportunities, too. Levi had a birthday party downtown, so rather than drive, the kids and I rode. T and I had a lovely dinner together while Levi played laser tag. We rode home in what T calls the Golden Hour, when everything is bathed in that picturesque hipsteresque instagram fading daylight.

Best of all, we did this mostly on bike lanes and dedicated paths.

Bike to Work (and school!) week is now happening. Levi and I hit our first Celebration Station today, and are planning on several more this week. It was so wonderful to see so many cyclists along the Goose and E&N. Tomorrow will be breakfast at Janion Plaza, again, taking advantage of as many bike lanes and paths as we can on our way.

“He’s Going The Distance / He’s Going For Speed…”

Another weekend, another long run.

This week was the start of the taper to my training runs. 6.5/8/6.5 mid-week (including a couple of speedy runs), then I swapped my Saturday and Sunday runs so that I did my 5k first, and the long run on Sunday.

Saturday’s 5k just plain felt good as I got underway, and so I decided to kinda push things a little. In the end, I PB’d it, clocking in at 22:06. I’m quite happy with this time, I have to say.

Planning was key to Sunday’s run. I have been using Runkeeper for the last few years to track things, and it’s been fun to see my progress as things go along. It’s also been immeasurably handy for picking out routes that make sense. For Sunday’s run, I departed View Royal, ran along the north side of the Gorge to Tillicum Rd, across the bridge, down Craigflower to Banfield Park, where I got onto the Galloping Goose. Past the new pedestrian bridge, I made my way to the West Bay Walkway, down past Work Point to Saxe Point, and home along Admirals Road, with the last of my trek going around Shoreline Trail. 17.7km in around 1:40. At that pace, I probably had enough left in the tank to notch things up and really chase it home for the last 3.4km.

Again, thanks to Runkeeper, I got some valuable info about pacing. I take my audio cues every km so that a) I know where I am in the run, and b) so that I have an idea of whether I need to pour it on or not. For my long runs, I’ve been just loping along, seeing where I end up naturally. These last two runs have been fairly quick by the long-slow-distance book, and realistically, my last three or four weekends have been pretty close to race pace.

Examining my pace over the course of this distance though, I think to how I was feeling underfoot and in conjunction with how my body was moving, and there were times when I made minor adjustments that seemed to make a world of difference. Specifically, if I loosened up my hips, I found that I could fly without causing myself any additional cardiovascular load, causing my pace per km to drop substantially. Looking at the chart for the last 3-4km of today’s run, I went from about a 5:54/km average down to 5:30 or better.

Week 8 has me doing three 6.5km runs mid-week – I’m going to experiment with race pace and changing my mechanics a little before a shorty (2-mi) on Saturday, and a 12-miler (19.31km!) next Sunday. I’ll have to resist the temptation to just finish the job…


2nd longest run ever today. The awesome part about it was that it felt good through and through. I wasn’t going to win any races at this pace, for sure, but it was the first time I actually felt like I had hope in what first seemed like a daunting task of doing a half-marathon. My natural slow pace runs about 6:30/km (10:28/mi). In order to make a 2:00:00 half, I need to shave that down to an average pace of 5:40/km (9:07/mi) or so, and even then, that only leaves me a 25-second margin of error. The speed work is helping, albeit ouchy. Today was also important in that I learned that knowing a course really helps psychologically. I knew the route to and from where I was headed today, so I could mentally wrangle how far I’d gone. Also helping today was that I was outside, with fresh air, scenery, and tunes, unlike last week when I was holed up in a fluorescent-lit hotel gym on a treadmill and my headphones died a third of the way in. I love being outside, plain and simple.

Tomorrow is my shorty run, clocking in at 5km. Next week sees the same distances mid-week (6.5km/8km/6.5km) and my long run will be 12.87km (8mi), my longest ever. I guess this is really starting to happen!


Playlist – 9.65 km/6 mi

I’m going to start sharing what I’m running to – that said, a third of the way into my run today my headphones died which made for a long slog on the treadmill…

  • No One Knows – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Hate to Say I Told You So – The Hives
  • Redbone – Childish Gambino
  • Do It – Tuxedo
  • Hard Candy – Counting Crows

After that, I was left tuneless…

I have another 15 tracks on this list which I’ll add a few more to and it will become my 7-mi run next weekend.

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!