There’s no harm in tri-ing.

Done. Complete. Finito. Tough Mudder 2017 is now in past tense. Nearly three months of training funnelled towards a single event. 16 kilometres, over 20 obstacles (barring the one that caught fire. ironically it was the one involving a fire hose) and 10,000 people running up and down the slopes of St Louis Moonstone. It was an assault on the senses, the body and any modicum of cleanliness. How did 2017 rank up there?

Firstly, because this is Canada and we’re overly polite, the weather. In 2015, my first Mudder, it was bright and sunny the whole day. This was nice, as it meant the ground stayed relatively intact. With so many running the course, the difference between finding easy grip and not can be drastic. It also meant that getting overheated and burnt was a real issue. In 2016 it was overcast the whole day, aside from a small patch of rain. Ideal. By the time the rain rolled in, it was refreshing. The sun was still periodically out, but mostly it let us go about our business unimpeded by sunstroke. This year we had it all. It was beautifully sunny to start with, then overcast, then the heavens opened and we were soaked. Sustained rain and some heavy line ups at obstacles left us legit chattering teeth level freezing. Unable to run it off, we just had to suck it up as our muscles cooled down and stiffened. It was rough to say the least, throwing a heavy pall over morale. When things seemed their darkest, the sun came back out and dried us off. It couldn’t have come at a more crucial time, as tensions had risen and struggles were had.

Secondly, the team. We were a small team of three this year. Team Butts Tough, a name I made up several years ago after rambling about butts and stumbling onto a chant. I primarily liked the name because it’d sound to others like we were saying “butt stuff”. I’m mature that way. I had two team mates, neither of whom had been as obsessive as I had about training. Finishing time wasn’t important to any of us, we just wanted to get over that finish line having had a great time. One of our team mates had been having a bit of trouble with her training, as her asthma had been steadily rising over the past month. She’d been putting in work, but would often have to stop in the middle of runs because of it. She was worried that she’d slow us way down. I assured her we’d all get over the line together. Fortunately, her asthma didn’t prove to be an issue on the course. Unfortunately, she injured her hips early in the race and they steadily grew worse. By about midway it was quite severe and we basically had to walk the rest of the course. By the point where she was holding back vomit through pain, I advised her she’d probably be best to opt out and get a ride to home base (it’s one thing to be determined, it’s another to gain a permanent injury). She was determined to cross that line, so we stuck with her. All credit to her dedication, but it was pretty frustrating to take things so slowly. In my third year, I’ve yet to do the course at a decent pace. It wasn’t her fault by any means, but at the same time I did feel cheated on an experience I’d put so much work towards. It’s been the same deal each time so far. Next year I’m gonna have to set a baseline for team fitness. If I’m gonna train hard, I want to give it my all. It’s time I committed.

The obstacles were heaps of fun. The return of Block Ness Monster was a delight. A big pool of water with these long horizontal four sided rotating barriers. There was a technique and steady rhythm to it. I found I’d push up from the bottom while people had latched onto the top. I’d then grab onto the top while people pushed from the bottom. At the apex, I’d rotate 180 degrees and grab onto the top edge to pull it down and help the next row of people. Super fun and totally teamwork based. The Funky Munky was a blast. An upwards inclined monkey bar that transitioned into a bunch of spinning wheels, then onto a single horizontal bar. I absolutely zipped through, all those pull ups having done their work. Most of the upper body stuff was a cinch for me, thankfully. The Stage Five Clinger was pretty tough. There were a series of horizontal bars to move between, before pulling up and over onto a platform. The hard part was how close the bars were to the ceiling. You had only a few centimetres space to get in, which meant you were jamming your hands up and skinning knuckles. It was right after a big muddy obstacle, which meant the bars were unfairly slippery. I fell on my first attempt, then wiped my hands off and focused on the dry parts of each bar. It was hugely demanding, but I got to the end then pulled up no problem. Kong was the final obstacle. I saw basically everyone in front of me plummet and tightened my resolve. The rings looked really far apart, but I knew I had it in me. All I needed to do was get good momentum. I grabbed the first ring and swung to the second. Holding tight to both rings, I realised my body was taught, and that if I released my back hand it’d give me the momentum to swing to the next. So I did. With so few people making it, the last couple of rings were nice and dry, perfect for a solid grip. I moved quickly and swung my way to victory.

Finishing up, I felt like I could do another one a day later. Given how sore my calves are from those endless hills, I think I was optimistic. I thought after I finished I’d be relaxed, sated. Instead I’m fired up. I need another challenge. I wonder if I could do a triathlon…

I’ll let you in on a secret. You could still buy the coffees anyway. That’s capitalism!

I’ve been ranting a lot of doom and gloom lately, so my goal is to push further towards positivity today. Is that too much to ask? Very likely. Let’s engage with some sunnier things!

I guess you could blame an overweight childhood if you must, but I’ve had body issues for some time. Go figure. I’ve also been in heavy (misnomer) training for Tough Mudder lately, working really hard to tone up. It’s been repeatedly gruelling. In recent years I’ve had help, whether in a group fitness situation or personal training. This year I’ve run off nothing but my own grit. Knowing what I’m capable of and making a point of not cutting myself much slack. So yeah, it’s been challenging, but also rewarding to see results. At this stage it’s become an annual summer tradition, which sucks only because cutting alcohol is a shit and a half when the sun is shining out there. Toronto lives for its patios and they don’t quite have the same glory when your beer goggles are instead filled with vodka-less cranberry juice. In an attempt to get the kind of gratification that only external validation from an echo chamber can provide, this morning I posted a shirtless selfie on Facebook. The “likes” and positive comments have flooded in. It was a cheap ploy for a temporary boost to self-worth and it’s worked. I’m chalking that up as a victory.

I saw one of my musician friends, Nick Teehan, perform on Saturday night and it’s reminded me how much I love his music. He’s a tremendous live performer with an enthralling vitality on stage. Between his vibrant energy and witty quips, he puts together an engaging show that pulls you right in. Not only is he a fantastic performer, but he’s a truly gifted songwriter. His lyrics are evocative and rich, drawing on personal experience, local sights and touching storybook imagery. “Mom Song” is an ode to the intrinsic link drawn between mother and son, a relationship unbound by temporal circumstance. “Boxing Day” nods its head to the disconnect of growing out of youth and the trappings of small town life. If you like what you’ve heard, you can get his album There is Not a Snake on Bandcamp for a mere $7 CAD (or more if that’s what you want to pay). That’s like skipping one and a half coffees to support a talented local artist. You’re practically losing money by not doing it.

All my favourite good television (that isn’t already on air, that is) is coming back. All hail the Fall television slate! You’re the Worst, BoJack Horseman, Better Things, The Good Place, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and everyone’s favourite 2016 hit, Stranger Things (which sadly is in no way affiliated with Better Things. I’d love to see Pamela Adlon taking down a Demogorgon). Not only that, but along with Fall television, it’s gonna be Fall! Sweaters and light jackets, pretty coloured leaves, pumpkins to carve, Halloween, Thanksgiving feasts, seasonal beer (/the return of all my Belgian style favourites). A season full of unmitigated joy before the Winter depression kicks in.

See, I’m practically walking on sunshine.

A top notch sunny disposition.

Today was a scorcher (I use past tense because somehow the cloudless sky has grown dark and foreboding. The horizon threatens encroaching thunderstorms). I’d resolved to go for a lunchtime jog in an effort to keep active. I’m lucky enough to have access to both the Toronto waterfront and showers at work. I have very few excuses beyond but I don’t wanna. Looking out at the blazing sun I had misgivings, but stepped out the door and started stretching anyway. I took my place on the bike lane and settled into a steady pace, heat beating down from above. I noticed a figure in front of me jogging away. A shirtless cuddly looking dude. The thought popped into my head man, I wish I had the confidence to do that. I took a second and thought again I could, y’know.

Immediately I had misgivings. I’m so close to work, what if someone from work sees me without my shirt? Doesn’t that cross some kind of unprofessional line? Then again, if I’m outside the office without any visible sign of where I work, do I really treat this as being on the clock? I do it all the time in friend groups. Yeah, but those are communities where I feel safe and comfortable. This is out in public. What if I feel awkward? On the contrary, what if I don’t? What’s really stopping me here, truthfully? Some sense of self-consciousness? When I think about it, the only thing preventing me from doing it is, well, doing it.

I did it.

It felt instantly freeing, as if my shirt had more weight to it than the sweat stained cotton should’ve. A gentle breeze rolled across my body as the sun shone down. Parts of my frame that rarely saw the light felt the kiss of fresh air. My back and shoulders, the patch of skin around my armpits, my chest, my belly, all exposed to the elements. I felt a smile spread across my face as I took it all in, the long forgotten sounds of Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape pounding in my ears. My tired, aching body should’ve told me to give up, but there was something almost euphoric in that moment. The smile stuck.

At times it feels hard to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Within a society that constantly tells you that you should be better, loving your own body is a choice. A pretty hard choice to make at that. Running in public with my skin exposed came with a certain lightness. My heavy footfalls felt like stones skipping across a pond. Deep breaths felt slight, belying the effort they took. The world took on a magic of its own. I held an appreciation for my body that spread throughout. For the muscle and sinew, bones, blood and skin. For its perseverance in everything I put it through. For the way it bounces back, showing me more love than it often gets in return. For its ability to propel me through the world day by day without fail.

Thanks, man.

Can this just be life now?

Do you ever find yourself surrounded by such a beauteous vista that you question what you’d done in life to deserve it? I’m lounging on a comfortable chair on a subdued, but clear day. Chirps, warbles and soft buzzing unfold from the surrounding vegetation. I’m on an expansive deck overlooking a gently sloped clearing, leading down to a still pond. We’re flanked on all sides by verdancy, swaying idly in a light breeze. A nearby lamppost adorned with bird feeders is seeing regular use. It’s humid, but the wind kissing my naked skin feels like a gentle embrace. It’s idyllic to a tee. Did I somehow leave reality and land smack bang in the middle of a fairy tale?

I’m away with friends at a batch. Or cottage, as they say here in Canada. It’s so far exceeded every expectation. I’m used to modest accommodations, not sprawling mansions with every amenity and then some. I say this after a night spent popping in and out of the hot tub. We’re a group of 15 or so and it’s never once felt cramped. Multiple lounge spaces (including a bona fide 70s porno room, shag carpet et al). A fully functional (far more so than ours at home) kitchen and enough bathrooms to prevent long waiting periods (plus, y’know, the outdoors for any overflow).
I can’t overstate what a relief it was just getting out of the city limits. A weight lifted thinking of the release inherent to leaving a time obsessed metropolis for a weekend. Schedules tossed out in favour of a more laissez-faire arrangement. There’s nowhere we need to be until we return home, we can do as much or as little as we want. It’s a wonderful group of open, accepting individuals. It’s a clothing optional weekend, which I’m taking full advantage of (don’t worry, there’s copious bug spray). There’s something so comforting in optional nudity. Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes, but the choice to be settled in my own skin without the fear of isolating or infringing on the boundaries of others is liberating. I’ve also developed a new appreciation for shirt-cocking (business on top, nothing on the bottom). It’s so affirming having nudity de-sexualised, around a group that implicitly understands that.

Our hosts have been pulling out all the stops to make us feel at home. After we settled in and had a few drinks, they gathered us together. We were to put drinks in a cooler, get some light coverage in case of rain, grab a torch and suit up for a ten minute walk into the forest. We were led down a track, sky blotted out by trees. The way was lantern-lit (which they obviously did painstakingly by hand. Jeezus), with strings of coloured fairy lights draped periodically overhead. Magical Stranger Things vibes. After a short downhill walk, we arrived at a snug little cabin. Chairs and pillows everywhere, an inset bar, fireplace and dance floor at the ready. I already used the word “idyllic”, right?

This place is paradise. Surrounded by warmth, unshackled from any expectations. Is this what a holiday feels like?

There were, too, people doing parkour. Seemed apt.

I’ve never been great at relaxing. Something about the idea of sitting and doing nothing stresses me out. If I’m not thinking, why am I awake? I have a constant need to be engaged in an activity, even if that activity is merely hanging out and chatting with others. Given this borderline anxiety over relaxation, the beginning of my weekend was going pretty damn well. Friday I was home sick, learning the intricacies of Watch the Skies‘ ruleset as best I could. Saturday I was constantly on my feet, putting the ruleset into motion for paying customers. By the time the game had wrapped up I wasn’t far from falling into bed. If I was at all afraid of getting appropriate amounts of sleep however, our cat has been going apeshit for the past week or so. As such, it’s been a while since I slept well.

Whatever my feelings on relaxation, both my brain and body needed a break.

Cue the perfect summer day, but in spring. Temperatures going up to the high 20s. A cloudless sky and light breeze blowing through. After a morning spent lugging a microwave around Koreatown, my girlfriend and I decided a park day was not only desirable, but necessary. We put the call out, but didn’t get much back in the way of responses. A few hours later the temperature had dipped to an ideal mid-20s. Some friends posted about hang outs in Trinity Bellwoods. Deal. We strapped on shoes and hit the road.

First stop was Bakerbots. I’m always loathe to mention Bakerbots too much, but figure my readership is small enough that this won’t spread the secret too far. Bakerbots is a boutique bakery that partners with the outrageously popular Bang Bang Icecream. In a one-two punch operation, Bakerbots make the cookies and Bang Bang cream the ice. Bang Bang routinely has a 30+ minute wait time in the summer. Bakerbots takes five minutes at a stretch. Same ice cream, but a slightly smaller range of flavours. I had a cone of burnt toffee and double chocolate, while my girlfriend grabbed burnt toffee and Sam James espresso. Holding the napkin-less cone and feeling drops of delicious dairy melting onto my hands brought me back to childhood beach trips. We’d hang out in the sand and sea for a few hours, then nana and papa would take us to grab massive ice creams. Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops, always. On a sunny Sunday in Toronto, a cone was no less of a treat.

We wandered down to Bellwoods, noticing just how many people were out and about. Over the winter months, Toronto can seem like a ghost town at times. Strange, for a city. Spring typically has more hours of rain than sun, as locals chomp at the bit for patios to open. As soon as they do, the floodgates open and if the patios are full, everyone under 40 goes to one of the many, many parks (seen here in green). Bellwoods is a great spot for dog watching, slack lining, capoeira, calisthenics, frisbee, a few local beers on the down low and assorted musical jams.

We laid our blanket down with friends and watched the world go by. Everything mentioned above and then some. There was a good nature in the air (and obviously all around, trees softly swaying in the breeze). One of our friends had a Hang, which he proceeded to play for us. I’d never seen or heard a Hang before. It looks like an inverted Steel Drum, but could also pass for a large viking shield. It’s gentle and melodious, a sound akin to wind chimes or the motion of a waterfall. Gentle, soothing and tough to play well. Lying back in the evening warmth, listening to the symphony of life going on all around, relaxing started to make more than a little sense.

I’m a bad son and a worse sun.

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Don’t let the exclamation mark fool you, I’m having trouble mustering up enthusiasm for the holiday. It’s not that I don’t care about our dear Mother Earth, but I’m unused to offering her much thought in my day to day (I’m sure my blood mother probably feels the same). I mean, it’s also the National Day of Puppetry, which is neat. Plus International Marconi Day, which feels far more important. He did pioneer long distance radio transmission, which ties directly into the career I loved the most. Why isn’t International Marconi Day a bigger deal? Does the Earth think the universe revolves around it or something? So how to celebrate…

How about a playlist?

  • Ben Harper – “Ground on Down”
  • Pink Floyd – “Mother”
  • David Bowie – “Dust to Dust”
  • Foo Fighters – “Enough Space”
  • The Beatles – “Revolution 9”
  • Joy Division – “Atmosphere”
  • Grizzly Bear – “Deep Blue Sea”
  • Animal Collective – “Grass”
  • The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”

Well that would fill all of 40 minutes. How else could I celebrate? I could…

  • Plant a tree.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Uproot those annoying plants in my backyard.
  • Stare once again at the pile of dead trees that’s been amassing for years in my carport, gradually forcing the fence to budge. Do nothing about it for another year.
  • Sow salt in the shape of a penis on my neighbour’s lawn.
  • Make a mudcake.
  • Marathon the BBC series Planet Earth.
  • Repeatedly hit the sidewalk with a sledgehammer as vengeance for the planet.
  • Think twice about reducing the rubbish I output on a daily basis. Fail to think a third time.
  • Reuse a single tissue 17 times.
  • Recycle any Earth Hour jokes I made last year.
  • Shed a tear thinking of the musician Seal trapped in one of those plastic six pack rings. A tear of laughter.

But instead I’m gonna play Call of Cthulhu and maybe listen to the radio instead. Sorry Mum.

I’ll slice you in a minute, random office sociopath. Wait, is that a firing offence? Or a social good?

It snowed this morning. The rest of the day has been bright, with mild clouds. I don’t understand this country. Maybe I was never meant to. Maybe this reality is a simulation and someone’s messing with the Danger Room controls. If sentinels descend and begin rounding up the mutants, it’ll either be a sign that something’s off or that all of my dreams are about to come true. Then again, I don’t know if I’ve ever really imagined being a helpless normie in any superhero stories that were to come true. Is that emblematic of privilege? Or the way that these stories are designed? That naturally since you identify with the empowered central characters, you feel like you’re inhabiting that role? You wouldn’t imagine yourself as your normal self, because what would be the point of your normal self being in that universe?

I’ve been wearing my newest pair of pants this week. I had a gap in my wardrobe that required something burgandy-ish to go with my assorted plain coloured shirts. Having previously experimented with jeans, I bought a pair closer in line with trousers. They’re soft, which is nice, but by fair the most pleasing feature is the zipper. It’s unusually long. I don’t know why it has such an impact when I’m zipping them back up, but it’s hugely noticeable. More leverage and easier to grip without fumbling. It couldn’t be more than 5mm larger than a normal zipper, but so far it’s elevating these pants from tolerable to enjoyable.

I was pretty stoked to walk into the work kitchen to see pizza on the counter. While it was no gin tasting like yesterday, free pizza still has abundant charms. There’s an armistice zone where up-for-grabs food goes to linger. Reaching the box, however, I found it to be empty. What kind of sociopath does that? Look, if I see an empty box in the garbage, I think oh, that would’ve been yummy. Maybe I’ll stow that thought in my brain for some other time when I’m considering snackage. However, the concept of having taken part in its deliciousness never really crossed my mind. When an empty box is there, for an all too brief moment my brain gets flooded with hope. The trials of my monotonous trudge through quotidian existence fade as my vision haloes around this pending treat. To discover that someone has not only dashed my hopes, but desecrated the corpse of said dashed hopes by ensnaring them in some inhumane trap feels like a brutal betrayal. IF YOU TAKE THE LAST SLICE/PIECE/ONE, THROW THE BOX OUT. Monsters.

Ugh, I’m too disgusted to go on. Fuck this noise, I’m off to get my own pizza.