10/15 2009

Climate Action? What’s the Rush?

Expanding Lake

Expanding Lake

(Preamble) Sooner or later I will mainly blog about rowing.  It’ll be about how many KM we did, a particularly hard workout, maybe even gripe about a teammate or a coach.  All of you out there who are not rowers: cut off the RSS feed before I get to that point.  But for now I will blog about what I want to!

(Today’s blog) Today is Blog Action Day on Climate Change.  Well, what’s the rush about climate change?  Sure the clock is tck-ing, Tcktcktck, I hear it too.  But I also hear individual stories of carbon reduction heroics all the time, and have you ever seen any good come from just one person?  Isn’t it the big corporate polluters that need to change to really make a difference?  Can’t I keep buying my veggies from Mexico and my fruit from California?  Hell, ‘we’ even seem to know what our collective carbon upper limit is – 350 parts per million – or else we’ll face certain doom.  You know, not getting-a-needle doom either; the type of doom found in the bible or RR Tolkien.

I get the sense that what we’re doing is heading out for a night of drinking with a 24 pack of beer knowing that we’ll die, no questions asked, of blood-alcohol poisoning after only 12.  But we drink them all anyway.  Only we won’t be able to drive the porcelain bus to recover – unless NASA crashes a few more rockets into the moon and finds serious proof of H2O in a hurry.

Nah.  Forget all this talk about climate change.  Life is good right now.  I can drive to the corner store, to the kid’s school, hell, I can even use the car to rock my newborn to sleep at night.  It’ll be his problem to face by the time things really heat up.  Besides, I remember when the BC chapter of the Sierra Club came out with its map of my hometown under the influence.  They called it “Is Victoria Going Under?“.  If I read that map correctly, the melting of the polar caps will actually help my Olympic training.  See, right now Elk Lake is too small for all the guys who want to row for Canada.  If we melted the caps enough then Elk Lake could actually become partially salt water and it’d be large enough to fit us all.  The fued between rowers, power boats and fishermen would finally come to an end.  The water ski boats could go use the part of the lake that is currently called the Blenkinsop Valley, while the fishermen could move over to what’s being used by Mattick’s Farm and the golf course (temporarily).  You never know, they might even be happier catching fish from the ocean rather than ones that are stocked.

With less than ten minutes to go in Blog Action Day on Climate Change, here is my message to all of us: get off your butt and do something.  There’s plenty out there to pick from.  Mine’s, what’s yours?


10/8 2009

Social Media and the Olympics

Project Blue Sky

Project Blue Sky

I’ve been following Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun’s Olympic Reporter: “Inside the Olympics“.  On October 4th Jeff wrote about a critical point the IOC is at in its global marketing, and the fact that they have to get younger people interested in the Olympics now or face grave consequences.  You can read Jeff’s full article called “IOC told to get hip with the digital revolution” by following this link.  It seems to me that the work folks have been doing on Project Blue Sky starts to fill the gap that Jeff wrote about and that Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP Group warned about. 

Here are my comments to Jeff: 


Really enjoying your Olympic coverage and cheers for recently pointing a spotlight on the relative dearth of Olympic-related social media.

However, I’m happy to point you in the direction of one very cool SoMe initiative already living and breathing on the “Olympic stage”, Project Blue Sky:

Project Blue Sky brings together Canadian athletes and some of BC’s bleeding-edge digital media students in a public engagement campaign to encourage individuals to reduce their personal carbon footprint. Project Blue Sky combines the reach and community of social networking with the energy and motivating influence of prominent Olympic, Paralympic and high-performance athletes to get people thinking about their carbon use. And it lives inside the Olympic umbrella and supports other Olympic-associated carbon-reduction efforts.

This is athlete led. The generation connected through SoMe is also the generation using it to encourage and promote carbon reduction efforts associated to the 2010 Games.

So – to all you in my little network, here is a call to action!  If you are looking for a tangible way to do something for the environment, here it is.  Jump on board and start thinking and acting about your personal carbon footprint.  Head to the project site and start logging and blogging.  Log your carbon reduction efforts and blog about them to encourage others.  The high performance athletes out there – here’s a chance to leverage your ‘star power’ for good – sign up as a featured athlete and spread the word to the masses.

On our own we can’t make much of a difference, but added up we can move mountains.


Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
10/5 2009

2009 Athletes CAN Forum (Richmond)



I spent the morning on Friday at the Athletes CAN Forum in Richmond BC.  If you are an athlete trying to make your respective Canadian National Team you owe it to yourself to find out more about Athletes CAN and what they can do for you to support your dream, both on and off the field of play.

That morning I participated in a panel session with Deidra Dionne and Alexandra Orlando entitled “Life as a High Performance Athlete”.  It’s cool to get to stand in front of different groups of people and tell aspects of my Olympic story; to highlight the major successes and the major pitfalls.  That being said, it’s really hard to do it in front of a room full of fellow athletes whose stories are all just as interesting and complicated.  I’m sure that other athletes in the room thought “I could be telling my story too”.  There are so many roads to achieving a dream. 


09/3 2009

IRONMAN: The Definition of Success

Scott Frandsen

Scott Frandsen

How do we judge whether a person is successful or not?  It is easiest to place our individual values on others – after all, our values are the constructs of the glasses we view the world through.  Certain people however, elevate themselves above the individual value-based constructs to be judged more globally as either successful or unsuccessful.  Bill Gates, Jean Chretien and Michael Jordon seem to land in the former, while Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and Ben Johnson fit the latter.  It is important to note, though, that all 6 personalities were considered extremely successful at one point, and can easily argue that they still are.  So that begs the question…how do we judge success?

In order to enter the realm of success, either in the negative or the positive, one has to take a risk.  It is impossible to move mountains if you don’t get out of bed… 

Scott at Cal

Scott at Cal

Scott Frandsen is someone who fits into the globally-accepted successful column.  Scott took up rowing as a second sport to golf late in high school.  As a ‘walk-on’ at university he muscled his way on to the best college rowing team in the States at the time.  He was awarded a scholarship only after he proved himself more useful than the full-ride kids.  Then he went on to win a couple of national championships for the school while completing a BS in Business Administration from the University of California.

Scott winning the Boat-race

Oxford 2003

He went on to finish a Masters of Psychology at Oxford University a few years later.  The letters behind his name are worth a few dollars, mostly paid for through Scott’s grit and talent.  While in England, he also happened to win the most watched, oldest running rowing event in the world, the Oxford/Cambridge “Boat Race”. 

Upon returning to Canada Scott had to prove his valour once again with the national team, and within a year had indirectly knocked me out of a seat in the defending world champion 8+, heading into the Olympics.  His dreams weren’t realized in Athens though, and four years later, kilometre after kilometre of training under his belt, he won an Olympic silver medal in Beijing.  I’m tired just writing about the things he’s accomplished…you’d think he might take a break.  Not Scott!

It’s guys like Scott who continually redefine what success means.  One might think that after a life-long pursuit of excellence in sport, Scott might want to sit back and relax.  You know, maybe get a job in the public service.  Not Scott, no.  Over the last year, between a few injuries and a lot of stress, Scott trained for and competed in triathlons, building up for Ironman CanadaLast weekend Scott raced and finish Ironman Canada.  In rowing we trained for hours on end, week in and week out, month after month for years – for a 6 minute race.  On Sunday, August 30th, for 10 hours, 41 minutes and 16 seconds Scott raced to prove something to himself.  He raced to redefine success one more time.  He raced because life did not end on August 16, 2008 in Beijing China.  Scott looked for the next great thing.  Well done Scott. 

Remember this then, there are two major steps to success: 

1. You MUST take a risk, and
2. You MUST always look for the next challenge.

Food for thought,

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
08/26 2009

Canada Games Revisited (+16 years)

DSC_0386It was 16 years ago that I competed at my Canada Games in Kamloops, BC. Last week Athletes CAN flew me out to PEI for the 2009 games, and it was like nothing changed…except I was a lot older. Athletes CAN is an organization that, for lack of a better word, acts as a union for amateur athletes in Canada (Moira, Ashley and Danika may cringe when they read the word ‘union’). My official role was as an Athlete Ambassador. What does that mean? Well, I spent four days talking to young athletes who want to be Olympians one day – check that – who want to be Olympic gold medalists for Canada one day. How cool is that!?

I like the Canada Games. They are a great stepping stone for athletes climbing the ranks. The games provide an important and very real experience of being in a multi-sport event. The level of competition may vary from sport to sport and province to province, but the essence of the Olympics are captured and emulated well, so a message to the athletes in PEI: take advantage of the opportunity you have to learn.

DSC_0406_2What’s so important about the multi-sport experience the Canada Games provide? To perform well athletes need to minimize potential distractions. Most athletes will cut off communications with their parents during the build up to competition (usually a good idea, no offense mom, but you get too nervous). But the little things that are taken for granted at home, like the quality and quantity of food can become a huge issue during competition. You rely on someone else to prepare your food, but that person is also preparing food for hundreds or thousands of other athletes. You won’t get your crusts cut off just the way mom does it. Special orders don’t happen.

DSC_0411_2Transportation can also become a major detractor from good performances. Every Olympics I’ve participated in the rowing course has been over an hour’s drive away from the village, in good traffic. One of the tennis players from the Canada Games last week told me that she and a number of other players were stuck at their venue until 2 AM one night during competition – “When you hoot with the owl’s at night you can’t soar with the eagles in the morning” is a plaque on the wall of the Conibear Shellhouse. It seems hardly fair though when it’s not your fault. Still, how would you react? How would you let that impact your match the next day? An old rowing coach used to tell us to “roll with the punches”. How true.

The third major opportunity for distractions comes with athlete housing. When you arrive at any games you never know what you’re going to get. You never know how many people you will be sharing your room with, if your bed will be comfy or if the room will be too hot or too cold. In a village you can’t predict if another province (or country) will keep you up all night. So bring your own pillow, blanket and ear plugs.

DSC_0446_2All these things can impact your performance quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle”. But if you can deal with distractions better than your competition then you will have the upper hand. Take that a step further: use your Canada Games experience to prepare for future games, because these distractions happen all the way to the top. If you do that, you will have the upper hand when you face Germany, France and whatever other countries you’ll face.

So who’s going to come out of these games to go on to win Olympic medals? Who from all the other sports will walk into the Olympic stadium beside you? Good luck.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
08/14 2009

Torch Bearer

I first dreamt about being in the Olympics in 1988. I remember, at the age of ten years old, seeing the Calgary Olympic torch relay on television. Remember, that was an era of mobilization in Canada – people were doing the impossible. It all started in 1980 with Terry Fox, the brave young teenager who attempted to cross Canada on his Marathon of Hope raising money for cancer research. In 1984, Steve Fonyo picked up Terry’s torch and completed what cancer cut short for Terry. Then in 1985 Rick Hansen took it a step further and launched the world “Man in Motion” tour raising money for spinal cord injury research. Canadians, it seemed, could do anything they wanted to.

So, when the Calgary Olympic torch came across Canada, my young brain connected the nobility of Terry’s, Steve’s and Rick’s efforts to what I was about to witness in Calgary. Different in many ways, but similar too; individuals doing what seemed impossible to most; believing in one’s self without exception; fearless to a fault.

Three Olympics under my belt and I’m living proof of what I believed true in 1988. I have a fearless approach to dreaming. I figure out how to achieve what once seemed impossible, and I will push my body beyond what seems like its breaking point. This is my legacy to my children.

What happened yesterday, then, is both surprising and heart-warming. At 3 in the afternoon, someone from Coca Cola called and asked me to run a 300 metre portion of the 2010 Olympic torch relay; one of thousands. With those 300 steps I will become a part of what ignited the dream for me. I will become a small part of a relay that inspires millions, passing the torch from one person to the next. In Sydney, I saw as the torch brought a racially divided country together, even just for a moment, to celebrate one of their best athletes, Kathy Freeman, when she ran the Olympic torch up the long steps to light the Olympic Cauldron.

Now we can bring this tool, this vehicle of inspiration, to our children. Just as watching a generation of athletes and heroes carrying the torch – both figuratively, in Terry Fox’s case; literally, for thousands of others – inspired me, so I hope to be a small part of a process that inspires others. A small personal circle will be closed for me, but, on a larger scale, a whole new generation of Canadians might believe that the impossible is worth doing.

Watch for me – and the thousands of others who make this possible – on October 30th, 2009.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
07/13 2009

Come out and watch Live Music Wednesday at 8PM

MrSomethingSomethingHey ya’ll, 

This is an open invitation for anyone to come join me and a couple of my friends at Hermann’s Jazz Club this Wednesday night, July 15th, 2009 after 8 PM.  There is a band playing there that I want to check out called Mr. Something Something.  Their music and live shows push a message of social justice and environmental activism.    

Many have tried – few have put their money where their mouths are. 

Mr. Something Something has stationary bikes on the dance floor for their faithful fans to generate electricity to power their amps.  Sustainable music.  Talk about reducing their carbon footprint.  I want to go see how they do it – the concept is so cool. 

With Project Blue Sky, I want to see if there can be an application of the technology for our purposes. Wouldn’t it be cool to roll out our own human powered electrification system to power all of our school and community visits?? 

Come and join me for a pint and a look-see.  Who knows, maybe we’ll even meet the band…


Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Hermann’s Jazz Club or the band Mr. Something Something.

Posted in All Blogs, News/Events
1 comment
07/13 2009

The day my friend jumped over me on his bike…

MV Brkfast offset15In my role on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council I have spearheaded a public engagement campaign that aims to encourage people to reduce their individual carbon footprint. 

It’s called Project Blue Sky

We have created an open source social network that features Olympic, Paralympic and Extreme athletes.  These athletes share their stories and blogs, including how they reduce their own carbon footprint, and invite the general public to join in with them.

To track these carbon reductions we have created a tool that can be shared across the internet to any major social networking site – or your own personal site…it’s there on the right hand side of my site.  Collectively we can watch as we reduce a significant amount of carbon. 

In fact, we have challenged VANOC to a carbon race.  We want to reduce 1-Billion commuter kilometres of carbon globally, and they want to offset an additional 190,000 tonnes of carbon.  They have already offset 110,000 tonnes through their official carbon offsetting partner Offsetters Clean Technologies, but they want to do more.

Do you want to race them with me?

The site went live two days ago and we are already up to 115 members, with more and more athletes and public members joining all the time.  Take a look and sign up.  If you are one of my athlete friends then email me after you’ve signed up and I’ll get you featured as a participating athlete on the home page.

MV Brkfast offset6At the launch a few of my good friends helped lead the charge.  Stephanie Dixon, Paralympic superstar swimmer (with 19 Paralympic medals to her name) talked about taking on huge challenges.  She was born with one leg – and she can swim faster than most people with two, so challenges are what she thrives on.  Ryan Leech was also there.  He is an amazing trails rider – check him out…  

MV Brkfast offset16He is probably the nicest, most modest guy you’ll ever meet.  Here are a few pictures of Ryan doing his thing at the launch…yes, that is Steph and me laying in front of him speeding towards us!  Don’t worry – he made the jump.

I’m getting better at writing more frequently – will write again soon.


1 comment
05/15 2009

Rowing Canada Talent Detection Events – May 23

Do you have what it takes?Mens8-2008Olympics

Rowing Canada is looking for “NEW ROWING TALENT” to support it’s success in years to come.

To help identify potential rowers and introduce them to our sport, could you forward this video to friends that fit one of the following criteria:

Non rowers with a sports background
Athletes who have achieved a high level of success in other sports Individuals that you feel would excel at our sport.


Be a positive role model for someone today!