Thursday, August 28, 2008

It Runs in the Family: Brother Dan Finishes 2nd in his Age Group at IM Canada

My knee injury has kept me from competing for most of the season this year, but the rest of my clan is keeping up the Smith family tradition of excelling at outdoor pursuits. Dad, at 73 is racing his bike in the BC Senior Games this fall. Jo, while finishing up her Ph.D, just rode 100 miles to raise money for MS, and Dan just qualified for Hawaii IM on his first attempt. And that was not just his first attempt at qualifying; it's was his FIRST IRONMAN!

I may have been the sibling to pursue a career in competitive sports, but I certainly share competitive spirit with my family members! Growing up in our house was not for the faint-hearted. We turned everything into a competition, even dish washing (doing them in record time etc). If it was Mastermind, Boggle or ping pong, then you better be prepared to take it seriously. Scores counted and and were recorded. We actively searched for things to do where we could try hard and compete. Even if we were hiking, there were rocks to climb UP, and if there was ice on the pond there was an excellent opportunity to have a slide-off. I did a lot of racing around trying to keep up. There was no easy win when playing games with Dan. But I always came back for more.

After years spent racing Lasers, Windsurfers and mountain bikes (with a little triathlon in the '80's: Dan did triathlon long before I did. My running-only training regime was not to be messed with when I was younger), Dan decided to train for Ironman. The day after cheering me on to my 9th place finish at IM Canada in 2007, he signed up. (It gets them every time. Watch the race and you feel compelled to do it).

And did he ever do it. His 2nd place age group finish and Hawaii spot were cause for celebration in the family. His 5 hour bike split made us all proud. We've always been the kind of family that values honest effort and hard work as much as results, and when it comes together for a great day in sport, we can celebrate with joy.

Way to go Uncle Dan, we are proud of you!

Lucy, Maia and Ross

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gold Medal Winner, Open Water Log Kayaking, Ross Watson
It's All Over for another 4 years

Maia and I watched all 3 (or was that 4?) hours of the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. It was fascinating and fun as CBC had countless athletic music video montages of the games, day by day, medal by medal. Then all the dancers and gymnastics stunts came. I remember being 9 and watching the Montreal Olympics in 76 and that was the first time I remember being moved by the whole Olympic passion, so I sort of know how she felt when I saw the flame extinguished. We both felt sad and emotional. "We have to wait four more years?" she asked.

I got up on Monday morning and noticed the absence of Olympic fever...I couldn't just pop on the TV and watch some cool sports, and some amazing athletes performing their skills. I love the Olympics and the endless parade of interesting characters, events and athletic skill. I love this 2 weeks where you can see diving, gymnastics, volleyball, white water kayaking, swimming, rowing, triathlon, women's distance running and anything besides guys playing hockey, baseball football and racing cars.
Both kids were excited to watch the Olympics, and I don't think was only that the TV was on A LOT and they got to watch A LOT for two whole weeks. One night, while I watched the whole women's triathlon, Maia put out three yoga mats and gave Ross a gymnastics lesson. After Emma Snowsill won the race, Maia asked if there were any more kids triathlons to do this fall. After every gymnastics competition Maia asked me if I had registered her in gymnastics yet. Watching diving made Ross do somersaults. The Olympics are like that; they get you all fired up to do something great. It's like being at an Ironman event. I can't watch an Ironman without wanting to start training for the next one 'right now.'

Here then, are our top highlights of the Olympics this year, as seen through the eyes of a young family:

1. Phelp's 2nd Gold medal in the 400IM relay and when he went ballistic celebrating. Ross loved that part, and called him the 'Puff up man' because of the way he pumped his arms and all his muscles and veins popped out.

2. The commercials are great during the Olympics! There were several good ones, but we liked the Bell one with the baton passing through all the sports, the RBC one where the muffin man builds an empire, and of course, Nike "Courage".

3. Watching Simon in the last 800m of the triathlon. Wait a 2000, Maia was a tiny baby and I watched Simon do the same thing in Sydney and grab the Gold. Eight years later he does it again and she'll remember his wicked kick this time!
4. Every time any Canadian won a medal or even got close. Maia cheered so hard for all the Canadians.

5. The almost insane clockwork quality to the logistics. Matching rain coats at the outdoor volleyball venue when the typhoon blew through. I swear it was part of the planning. How could everybody have the same pastel blue, yellow and green raincoats and umbrellas that matched the venue so perfectly? This was just one small example of the almost robotic perfection of the games.
Yes, it was a fun two weeks. Despite the controversies and conspiracy theories, the hypocrisy and the commercialization that now comes with high performance sports, some things remain constant about the Olympics and the quest for personal best. I saw it when I was 9, I attempted to attain it when I was 26 and 30 and 34, and I still love it now. I actually don't know what it is called, besides life.