Feedback is not just for Hi-Fi Systems

Wanna tell me what you think? Email me at and I may just devote an entire entry to your comment.

Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I'm Back Bitches.....

It’s been an interesting few months, my sisters. Full disclosure? I’ve been blocked. No, my colon is working fine and although I do notice that as I get older I am indeed fixated on my bowel function.

When I say blocked, I mean my writing.  Make no mistake, I don’t consider myself a “writer” by trade. Sure, when I was a kid, it was indeed my dream to be a writer.  I pictured myself holed up in some fabulous café with a moleskin and a fountain pen scribbling for  good and glory as the words fell on the page. In my head I was in a fabulous pantsuit and in my heart I was living the dream.

Did it matter if I was good at it? Shit no. Writing was my escape. As a kid I has Hillroy notebooks on my desk with antique fountain pens bought second hand. My fingers were stained blue and black from the leaky pens but I used them anyway. I wrote poetry and short stories, songs and love letters. I poured my heart on pages and left it there to bleed and to heal and to make me whole again.

Dramatic? Sure thing. I was a teenager in the 1980’s enduring one Winnipeg winter after another. I was North End girl with Downtown dreams and a closet full of Club Monaco sweatshirts and Levi’s 501’s. Drama and dreams were all I had.

But dreams have their way of working out because indeed when I shared my pantsuit/moleskin fantasy with my family, I was quickly informed by my father that writing would make a fine hobby once I became a doctor.

“Don’t worry, Alphonse”, he informed me, “you can wear whatever pantsuit you want once you get your medical degree.”

Yes, the writing would be my hobby all these years as I pursued medicine as a career. Here it is decades later…. my father is long gone (I miss him so), I am indeed a doctor who indeed writes for a hobby. As for the pantsuits? I am really more a dress and heels kind of girl.

Make no mistake, I am at a point in my life where I really do LOVE my job. This was not always the case. There indeed was a time when I thought this life in medicine was thrust upon me without a choice and I was doomed to  “make it work”. I saw my work as a job and my job as an obligation. I always liked the work and the people but I just could not make a love connection.

And then as if by magic about 5 or so years ago, I fell in love; truly, madly deeply. I can not recall the place or time, the rhyme or reason…. But something clicked and me and medicine really did make it work.

And then it occurred to me. I started writing 5 years ago. Could it be that my passion for my work sparked and grew when I reconnected with the creative side I had left behind? I really can’t say for certain I just know that when words flow to a white space in front of me, my happiness indeed increases. Perhaps, excuse the drama, writing makes my world make sense.

So imagine my dismay when for the last few weeks, the words have been stuck like nobody’s business. Yes, I had writers block and no pantsuit in the world would mend this fence.

Writers block is an “umbrella term” first described in 1947 by psycholanalyst Edmond Bergler. It is a term used for the condition when writers (professional or otherwise) can’t make it happen. Think of it like Literary impotence and you are pretty much half way there.

Sure enough here are a variety of theories for why the block happens. One such theory is that when the brain gets stressed the limbic system (basal brain functions) take over from the cortex (the thinking system). How can you pen the great American novel when your brain is purely in survival mode trying to not be eaten by the world. We sacrifice creativity for survival in these instances and as such get blocked.

Another thought is that depression, fear, or even audience awareness paralyze the writer from thought and action.

I’m not sure what happened to me. All lives have stress and I am a pretty happy person. Maybe I just got lazy for a few weeks and my cerebral cortex needed a nap.  
You see for the last few weeks the words that once flowed like water have indeed been sticky and slow.

Could it be my writing hobby had run its course? Was it now time to take up quilting? I have no idea why I bring up quilting. I don’t know how to quilt- it just seemed like a classic hobby.

But damn it, “I am a sometimes writer”, I told myself and like anything in life worth having I will endure.

There I sat in front of a blank screen willing the words to come.

I prayed to the goddess and sold my soul and promised to call my mother more often….

And within moments my fingers hit the keyboard and in a flash I was back in that proverbial pantsuit with imaginary moleskin in hand.

Block be gone.

I’m back bitches.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Last Days of Disco

November is officially over and I have never been more pleased for a month to end. I realize male solidarity is a lost art and that charity starts in the home but the month of “Movember” was 30 days too long. Let’s be frank… it was 30 days of the 1970’s gone way too far.

The “Movember Movement” challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The rules are simple, start Movember 1st clean-shaven and then grow a moustache for the entire month. The men of Movember commit to growing a moustache for 30 days to raise money for prostate cancer.

The idea for Movember was sparked in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia. Since then, the movement has continued to grow year after year, expanding to Canada, the US, UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, the Netherlands and Finland.

I like a moustache on a man as much as I like it on myself. There. I said it. It’s out there.

No I am not a tyrant. I am as much a fan of men getting together to fight prostate cancer as the next person. I hate prostate cancer. I hate all cancer. But do we really need to encourage good looking men of all shapes and sizes to sport some facial hair and adopt a 1970’s porn star persona all in the name of disease eradication?

What is with the stache? Seriously. Charity aside. I get the whole beard and mustache thing but a single stache? WTF? Sorry to insult my cyber brethren who may feel the need to warm their upper lips a’ la mother nature but dudes…. Come morning shave the damn caterpillar off. You look freaking ridiculous.

In fact just this very morning I was discussing the upper lip fuzzy movement with some of my male friends. We all agreed (or rather they dared not to disagree with me) that there are only two men alive who look better with a mustache than clean-shaven. The very short list includes: Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds.

I would argue that the mustache has been more a part of our history’s negative figures than any other facial feature. Take any world dictator past or present and more likely than not- he (or even she) had a stache.

In fact Salvador Dali was said to have grown his own flamboyant upper lip hair just because most dictators of the day were sporting the same.

Sure there are positive role models in Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin. But are these enough to erase the damage done by Yosemite Sam, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Fu Man Chu?? I think not.

In the spirit of fairness, the Movember movement really has been a remarkable one. It is a true exercise in what can happen when people join together for a cause.

The doctor in me warms with pride as I think of my male patients getting behind health promotion in order to educate one another and raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health.

The Girlfriend in me chuckles at how women with run marathons for breast cancer and restructure an entire marketing campaign around a pink ribbon to raise funds and awareness…. Boys? Boys forget to shave. Boys forget to shave and the money comes flying in….

According to the Movember Movement 4 million men sport a stache worldwide.

The Movember community has raised $574 million to date and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries.

Statistics show that men are more often diagnosed with cancer than women and have a higher rate of death from cancer. One in six Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Every day 70 Canadian men will be diagnosed with the disease.

So yes, there is good evidence that health promotion of men’s health is important and vital. I am a huge fan of grassroots fundraising initiatives that are geared towards raising health awareness and promotion. I’m all about raising awareness dear girlfriends, am I not?

That being said…. It’s been a long month of hairy faces. I, for one am grateful when December closes the door on MOVEMBER for yet another year. Boys, grab your shaving kits and get clipping. You had best be whisker free by dawn.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Fashionable Treatment

BONUS POST sweet sisters..... I am in Boston for a conference and find my brain more productive than usual.... look out world and read on.....

Fun fact sweet sisters- surgeons dress up. Allow me explain…. Here I am at the Obesity Week Conference – a joint meeting of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons and the Obesity society.

Picture it…. On one side of the Boston Convention centre is the Obesity Society, on the other side of the centre is the ASMBS.

The grand ballroom is in the middle. In fact you have to walk across a large catwalk of sorts to get from the surgical meetings to the medical meetings. It’s no big deal but it indeed allowed me to make some interesting observations. I spent most of yesterday in medical meetings- listening to talks about the pathophysiology of obesity, the medical complications and implications for prevention and treatment…. In short it was really good shit. As an obesity doc- I was in my element. Not every talk rocked my world but there was enough there to justify getting out of bed and putting on a suit.

On that note- I should say that I dress for conferences. Hell, who am I kidding- I dress for everything. In my world fashion knows no geography. Any excuse (really, do I need one?) to colour coordinate and I am good to go.

As a kid I had a ritual every night picking out my outfit for the following day. 40 years later and the ritual persists. I love me some style and I don’t care where I am in order to express it.

If I must wear clothes (and trust me I’m not complaining) then I view getting dressed as my daily opportunity for artistic expression.

It’s been 20 years since I entered my first medical classroom. In that time- I’ve met thousands of physicians. Head up…. We are not, as rule good dressers. Sure I’m generalizing and yes my view is skewed. Let me correct that- General Internists are not good dressers. In fact I would argue that Medical Specialists in total are not a fashionable group. This of course has one exception… Cardiologists. Cardiologists have style. I have been to many a cardiac conference and yes, there is a buffet of well cut suits, shined shoes and enough pocket squares and fabulous ties to lower anyone’s blood pressure. As for the female cardiologists- sisters have it going on. Great power suits and kitten heels. I am never disappointed at the fashion at a Cardiology conference.

But as for the other subspecialties? Well, it’s pretty sad. Endocrinology, Nephrology, Obesity, Diabetes…. There is a great deal of casual sweater sets, golf shirts and pleated khakis. It’s a veritable epidemic of shitty fashion.

And make no mistake- I resigned myself over the past few years that this indeed was the law of the land…. Until today.

Today I walked across that catwalk at the Boston convention centre to the surgical side. And like Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz… there I was among Bariatric Surgeons who…. Had pretty great style. Gone were the Golf shirts and button downs that were one size too big. Here was a land of silk and cashmere. Great tweet jackets with polished brogues and pocket squares. I even spotted two Chanel Jackets and more than a dozen heels.

WE could leave the running shoes and socks and sandals on the other side of the catwalk- here at the ASMBS there indeed was a fashion show of sorts.

Sure, these surgeons had no clue how to dose insulin or antihypertensives but they could remove half your stomach, re-route your intestine, shower and colour coordinate. It was impressive.

I could not help but wonder if surgeons everywhere were better dressers as a whole? My dear friend Carl is a surgeon and a snappy dresser…. Dude has his suits made to measure. It, alone with his lovely manner is one of the many reasons I adore him.

In fact as I write this my mind goes searching through my surgical rolodex visually imagining the outfits of my friends who are surgeons…. And yes, yes, yes…. They all come up stylish in my recollections.

Could it be that if you insist that a doctor where hospital greens for most of his/her day he/she has no choice but to develop his/her style for the “non-surgical greens time”. Is that what it is? You don’t know what you got until it’s gone?

Could it really be that simple? A surgeon- forced to wear scrubs for hours a day breaks free from the hospital chains at a conference and worships at the alter of style in the name of previous opportunities lost? I doubt it. Perhaps there is some science to it. At this moment, I lack the will to investigate. I’ve been in scientific meetings since Sunday- my head is going to explode if I do more research…. For just one week, my girlfriends let’s live in the dark and no one will get hurt…..

If the thought is that style is born to feed the fashion famine of certain lives than maybe the problem with my medical colleagues is that they never had to be told how to dress- it was never taken away from them and as such they did not have to push forward on their own…..

Who knows? Likely I am just really talking out of my ass. But rest assured my ass will be wearing another fabulous suit tomorrow as I walk, nay, strut across that catwalk in Boston to “the other side” for a fun filled day of bariatric surgical talks with matching cufflinks, ties and (can one hope?) an Hermes scarf or two. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On a serious note.

I believe obesity is a disease. I have spent more than a decade studying this disease in the literature and at the bedside.

In fact as I write this piece I am in Boston attending the Obesity Week 2014- national conference of The Obesity Society

What I have learned in my 20 years in medicine is that nothing is absolute.

The human body is a complex system that operates based on shifting parameters and adaptations more than a set of golden rules.

The old explanation of obesity rested in the principle of physics of “Calories in, Calories out.” Years of study have since shown that obesity is less about the laws of physics and more about the laws of chemistry and biology.

Matching energy stores with energy needs is an essential part of life.

If there is indeed a flaw in this, when the system gets broken for whatever reason, obesity is the result. This is not a linear process.

Diseases are the result of genetic predisposition, physiological mechanisms and environmental triggers and promoters.

Obesity is no exception to this. Some people are more genetically predisposed, others more environmentally influenced.

Like all diseases- there is no single cause for all people.

The key to understanding this disease like many others is to understand that obesity is not one disease.

I would argue that obesity is likely a spectrum of diseases. Like any spectrum of disease there is a spectrum of causes and a spectrum of treatment.

Think about cancer for a moment. To pool all cancers into one group and see them as all caused by one entity is not only simplistic but dangerous.

How would we function as a medical community if everyone with cancer got the same treatment for all cancers regardless of cause and organ affected?

What if I treated my patients with lung cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer all with the exact same chemotherapy?

Certainly I’d get some responders, (especially if the chemotherapy I chose was targeted to their specific cancer).

But inevitably if I took this “blanket approach” to a diverse disease I would only effectively treat a specific group of people.

As a medical community we need to strive to understand the biology of obesity as a disease.

This is not the just the complex environmental and socio-cultural global epidemic that is obesity- but the complex biology of the patient sitting in front of me who indeed has a disease that is multifactorial and born in genetics, and body chemistry.

The push here is that just because we don’t have the answer does not mean we should tell patients that treatment is not possible.

I agree that we need to advance the science further.

When we study one disease- indeed it may enlighten us as to the nature of another.

I must believe that are on the cusp of a significant discovery that will indeed dramatically change the epidemic of obesity at a population level.

But I’m not a population scientist. I am an individual physician that treats one patient at a time.

I know what many of my colleagues say:
“Obesity can not be cured- permanent weight loss is impossible.”

Indeed I attended a review course yesterday at this very meeting where a colleague from the Mayo clinic (no less) insisted that if a patient is not losing weight on calorie restriction:
“They are lying, don’t waste your time making them think they are special”.

When I stopped swearing (under my breath of course), I realized that medicine is indeed a reflection of the society at large. The world has yet to achieve true empathy for the Obese population and so medicine merely reflects this.

But I sit here in a lobby hotel in Boston an Obesity Doctor and an Obesity survivor with this thought….

In medicine, when we can not FIX the problem, we feel powerless. When we are powerless we lash out.

Are not people more than just a FIX?
Is there not something in the process?

Can we not as a profession and a culture learn from this current crisis of future and faith?

Patients are more than just numbers. When we focus purely on pounds lost we lose the intricacies of prevention benefit.

We practice “what’s the point” medicine. Many of my colleagues have fallen prey to this.

Patients gain the weight back — what’s the point? Patients are not going to change their lifestyle — what’s the point? The disease is too big — what’s the point?

The five-year survival of patients with Stage 4 heart failure is about five per cent. Shall we close down cardiology units now?

The issue here is that we are currently in a public health crisis and the current therapies are not meeting the needs of patients.

When you tell a patient that permanent weight loss is impossible, based on population studies, you encourage them to stop trying.

The bigger message here is that our treatment needs to be advanced and improved upon.

We need to improve patient education and remove internal bias to enlighten people on the physiology of their disease.

Doctors and scientists need to advance our own understanding and that of our patients into the complex process at work in their own bodies.

We need to rally our government for better treatments, better food sources and better quality of care when it comes to this disease.

We as a population must change the way we look at the biology and culture of obesity and work towards a solution.

When I tell patients to keep trying to eat better and exercise more, I am doing it because they indeed are more than a number on a scale. Small weight changes prevent disease and my patients deserve this benefit.

The current problem we face in obesity medicine today is not that our therapies don’t work. Our therapies work for the right patient. Instead we blanket the therapy for all obese patients. The landscape of this disease is not so simple.

Like any complex disease we need to tailor our therapy for the individual. I would argue that we have not done that. We’ve blanketed our approach to lifestyle modification on a population level.

Moreover, we’ve asked patients to diet in a world where dieting is nearly impossible.

We’ve insisted that they adhere to certain dietary constraints in a world, which is conspiring against them at every turn.

In short we ask them to exercise the dietary equivalent of swimming upstream at all times.

Obesity is the greatest public health crisis this country has ever seen. Yes, the current dieting paradigm is not working for most people. But instead of telling patients to walk away let’s encourage them to find the right treatment.

Let’s establish a better understanding for who responds best to certain dietary changes.

Let’s study the five per cent responders and learn what it is that makes them succeed. Let’s see if we can indeed push the conversation forward. Let’s insist upon better treatments for all.

Studies do show that the greatest weight loss success was in populations who had the greatest adherence.

Studies also show that patients with the most realistic expectations stay with behavioural chance longest and have the most significant and long-term success.

How do we make it easier for patients to adhere to lifestyle change?

How do we give people realistic expectations that help them improve their health?

As a doctor that sits in front of 20 obese men and women every day I think we need to empower patients to fight the good fight.

I think we need to accelerate our efforts into understanding the science behind the heterogeneity of this disease. I think we need to insist on a better level of care for our patients.

Permanent weight loss is brutal. It requires an understanding on an individual level that you are indeed fighting physiology.

It requires and unrelenting and constant attention to lifestyle change. And it doesn’t work for a majority of patients under the current treatments available.

The field of obesity treatment is evolving daily to try and meet the needs of a growing epidemic.

My colleagues and I are on the front lines of this. We explain to our patients the complexity of their disease and the treatment options available.

I am honest with the data and the science that exists and I am forthcoming with the patient sitting in front of me.

I’m not about to start practicing “what’s the point medicine.” My patients deserve honesty yes, but hopelessness? Never.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Driving Miss Crazy...

I am a terrible driver. This may be because I no longer drive on a regular basis. This may be because I was never a fan of cars even before I returned mine for a bicycle. Or, this may be because I really like to do more than one thing at a time even when I am behind the wheel.

I do believe my husband first fell in love with me when we were first dating and I would drive him to University in my 1992 Dodge Colt. I drove with my knees while putting on a full face of makeup using the rear view mirror as easily as a one of those fancy bathroom magnifying mirrors. I drank my morning coffee, smoked my morning cigarette (heaven forbid the driving should be the only way I would risk my life) and still got us to class on time.

I have no doubt he was petrified and perhaps this has easily contributed to his new found love for walking everywhere. They say that often love spawns out of situations where one is fearful for one’s life…. In fact there is evidence that the brain secretes the same hormones during life threatening experiences as it does when one is in love. Neurohormones such as oxyytocin and Dopamine are at their peak during times of extreme stress and interestingly also at their peak during times of extreme pleasure…

You’ve all heard the stories; the urban love legends, so to speak. The couple met on a plane during turbulence and a hurricane and bad weather made them fasten their seatbelts and commit their lives to one another all while securing their own oxygen masks before helping to assist another.

This is perhaps why they always make contestants on shows like The Bachelor, bungee jump off a bridge or a cliff strapped to each other.

And yes, this is partially why my husband fell in love with me. I drove him to University each morning of our courtship and proceeded to apply a full face of make up (complete with mascara and eyelash curling) while operating the steering wheel with my knees and hoping for the best.

Oh admit it dear girlfriends… you’ve all done it. In fact according to an article published in the London Telegraph on October 2, 2009, 27% of women surveyed in the United Kingdom confessed to putting on makeup while driving. In fact 3% of all accidents in the UK are caused by this, one such resulting in death and a 2 year prison sentence for the offending driver/Max Factor wanna be.

Remember this translates to more than 1 in 5 women. Now let’s do some “Girl Math”. Consider that when it comes to areas of blame, guilt, calories and alcohol, all women lie. We lie about our weight, whether we our angry and if something is indeed our fault (Honey- if you are reading this- please stop immediately). So the 27% of women who indeed ADMITTED to putting on makeup is more likely to be 97%. Furthermore, add another 20% for the women who do not consider lipstick to be “make-up” and you have a whopping total of 117% of women using their rear view mirror for “true applications” so to speak…

And so I no longer drive. I do however take taxis from time to time and there in the back seat I create my very own SEPHORA counter on the way to my destination. The roads are inevitably a safer place and after 16 years… my husband safely (now an avid walker) still is madly in love with his wife.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When the Rubber Hits the Road

Permit me my sisters and brothers to begin this Tuesday with a recap of my recent exploits. Yes, normally this blog is an ode to the science behind what we take for granted everyday.

But if I may, something magical happened to me 10 days ago and I thought I might share it with cyberspace.

I participated in the INTREPID cycling stage ride through the Okanagan, BC. This is a 3-day stage race through west coast wine country. It spans 450km and over 6500 metres of climbing. In short it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and yes, after 72 hours I indeed worried that I had lost my mind.

But with all things lost comes something gained and sure enough the experience of it all was so much more than the numbers.

For over three days in lovely September, in “Peach Country”, Canada I became the athlete I always wanted to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot these days, my sisters about what it means to be an athlete.

I think in many respects we characterize this idea in too static a term. The media, pop culture, mainstream have all tried to define the term “athlete” in a specific context.

An athlete is someone who is seriously fit, who devotes their life to sport and who is usually a part of a team of some kind.

Webster’s dictionary defines athlete as:

“a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina”

I can’t help but wonder if this definition limits the real meaning of what it means to be a true sportsman or sportswoman.

Here’s the deal….

When I was a kid I hated sports. Sure, I watched football on television with my grandmother but on a personal note- I could not get into playing it. I WAS the last kid picked for dodgeball in school. I was forced to play little league at the age of 6 but was often stuck in centre field by the coach more as a place to put me than a real position on the team.

Hint- what 6 year old girl can hit a ball to centre field? I pretty much sat in centre field (yes, sat, on the grass) and bit my nails. In fact if I’m being really honest- I usually would intentionally pee my pants in centre field in order to be able to go home, have a bath and end the madness of it all.

My mother felt terrible for me and would often treat me to an ice cream. It was manipulation at its best and really a 6-year old stroke of genius.

Fitness was something that I came to rather later in life. It was a slow progression but now it really is a part of who I am. I AM a runner…. Fast or slow. I AM a cyclist; more slow than fast- I am someone who loves to train and who competes regularly- but only against myself.

And if I’m being really honest- I don’t even do that. When I run a race or finish a triathlon I’m really only there for 2 things…. To finish and to have fun.

Sure the hours are grueling and the pain is there but there a re moments amidst it all- these glimpses when I pause almost in suspended animation and smile at the fact that this chubby kid – this little league drop out is sharing the road with the best of the best… and I love it.

Now, I’m someone who is very active. I easily do a minimum 2 hours of exercise every day between training and commuting to work. But I never really saw myself as an ATHLETE until last weekend.

You see, I’m rather slow on the field. Yes, I train but I would argue that being fast does involve having some genetic gifts. I was blessed with s decent brain and great hair. Good muscle tone? Not so much. My genes lean more towards the cerebral than the visceral. Make no mistake anyone can learn a skill- but in order to be a star I would argue that you might need to be born with a decent machine in order to make the best practice prosper.

But, I digress.

Back to my Intrepid experience.

Here’s the thing with about a bike… A bike really is about that kid inside of all of us. Cycling, at any age is the one sport that connects us to that primordial moment in all of us. A bike was your first set of wheels. A bike was your ticket to freedom. Your bike was your pass beyond your neighbourhood and into the big brave world.

Someone who loved you very much not only bought you your first bike but also taught you how to ride it. You remember learning to ride that bike- practicing every night after dinner until that moment when you could take the training wheels off and it was official- you had arrived.

Even if your bike was a “hand me down” from an older sibling or second hand from the kid down the street- your bike became your first real piece of property. You made sure you locked it up at night and you made it your own. Maybe it was a banana seat with sparkles or streamers from the handle bars- even a bell or a sticker on the back- you put your own flare on YOUR bike with pride.

And so I remembered all of this as I rode the hills and valleys of the Okanagan last weekend.

The day began with me- decked out in a fabulous cycling kit surrounded by 66 riders all Type A cycling beasts and all with less than 1% body fat. I knew it was gonna be lonely. I would not be able to keep up to these machines (the people- not the bikes) and so, I had downloaded a few books on tape and a great playlist to keep me company on the long road ahead.

The first day was a ride up Silverstar mountain. I am not a good climber but I do get it done. After 1600 metres and 22 km of an 8% grade up to the top of the ski hill I had found new swear words I did not know existed and I still had 120km to go.

Needless to say the day ate my soul. Most of the riders rode in packs or “pelotons”- pace lines that allow the cyclists at the back to benefit from drafting.

I ride alone. I have a single ear bud playing a book on tape or music to keep me company. If there is a head wind- I get it. On the down side- there is no drafting. On the upside there is no one to hear your profanity and judge you harshly.

And so it was for Day 1. After the climb and descent came a fever of rolling madness through the wilderness. I developed “Athletic Tourette’s” sometime after lunch when there was a further 500 metres of climbing before I reached the finish line.

I saw eagles, hawks, a pack of mountain sheep and the depths of my soul before I headed to the finish line where I was greeted by a black bear 200 metres in front of me. Did I turn around a pedal the other way for fear of being mauled by Mother Nature’s minion? Hell no. Bitch had had enough fun for one day- I pedaled past that black ball of fury yelling at it the whole way along.

Day one took me over 9 and a half hours to complete. And there I was ready to do it all over again tomorrow and the next day.

At the awards ceremony that night- Chad the race organizer announced the winners for the day.

In the solo women’s category I was in third place. 


Yes, there were only three women in the solo women’s category and even though I was last in the pack…. If I finished this race- I’d be on the podium.

Yes, this is ridiculous. But somehow this kept me going.

Onward through Day 2, 157 km of rolling hills through Wine Country, BC. I should say it plain- I’m not a big wine drinker. Sure there are lots of reasons- the fact that I don’t like the taste of wine- being the biggest- long and short? My liver is not my best feature.

Having spent three days riding a bike through vineyards I now have less of an affinity to wine…. You see grapes are grown on hills. If you want to ride through a vineyard- you have to expect that you are going to do some climbing. And so the divide between the grape and me grew even stronger this weekend.

Day 3 saw the dawn of a new set of hills- a climb up Apex mountain and a new fabulous outfit. I did not make the cut off to climb Apex mountain. I’d like to say that I was disappointed but I’d be lying like a dog in the street.

Did I need to climb another 12% grade for 10km to prove I was a cyclist. Hell no. I was riding by myself out in the hills for the last 100km listening to a book on tape on the biography of cancer.

The book was 18 hours in and we still had not found a cure. I had endured more physical and psychic pain in the last three days than I thought possible. And yes, I was still smiling. So screw Apex- I’m still a rider- I told myself. I will finish this race with pride and I will accept my podium place.  

And so there it was…. amidst the hills and the hell something magical happened. Somewhere over those three days with my body pushed to exhaustion and my will ever more willing I learned that indeed I am an athlete.

You see- I crossed the finish line 3 days later in 27 plus hours- a full 13 hours after Jay- the guy who won the whole race. But, at the post race banquet he and a group of the fastest men came up to me to express their admiration.

“Ali- you sure have heart” he said with a hug.

True to form- I was third on the podium. Yes, this may be an insult to third place finishers every where- but screw 'em. I’ve got the heart of a bronze medalist and that is really all that matters.

And sure enough- I did win an award….

I won the INTREPID award for rider who overcame the most obstacles to finish the race with the best attitude.

Let’s be clear- my whole life I was the kid with brains and not with brawn. I’m certainly never the fastest rider or runner in a group but when the rubber meets the road- I get the job done and I try as hard as I can to do it with a smile on my face (and a swear under my breath).

But I think my sisters that THAT is what it means to be an athlete. An athlete is indeed not the best in the field but the best they can be on the field.

I had got it wrong all those years- an athlete is so much so the most personal of definitions. And it is in those moments when we connect to that athlete inside of us all that we learn how great we truly can be.

Because my cyclists- life’s not about racing to count your victories- it’s about being victorious at the end of it all.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mary Tyler No-More

Today marks the one month anniversary since we cancelled our cable. I should preface this by saying that I have never been one to “stand on ceremony”. I am not usually one to “celebrate THE day”, “; opting instead to “celebrate the days”.  But this month was a special one.

You see, sweet sisters- I was a television addict. Sure, I usually watched TV from the comfort of a spin bike or a treadmill, no matter- I still took in a  fair bit of media.

Hours were spent “binge watching” a series I had taped on my PVR, I had been known to squeeze in a viewing or two before falling asleep to the TV. I was non-discriminating in my television viewing.

Judge not, my girlfriends, but I can recognize most “Bachelor” contestants and can easily tell you who has won survivor for the last decade. HBO, BBC, Netflix…. I show no favouritism….  I am an equal opportunity viewer.

Or rather…. I was. Now, I have no cable.

No, we did not forget to pay the bill and yes it was voluntary (somewhat).

I remember meeting people who professed to having “NO CABLE” and thinking they were truly flawed.

My first encounter with a NO-CABLE individual was 3 years ago at a party.

There we were at some cocktail something and I was searching for small talk in a  big room. It was a bit of television crowd and so the natural topic of conversation would have been TV. I had just finished reading a book called “The Revolution was Televised”, about the evolution of TV’s antihero. Incidentally, this is a great book if I may and I thought a good conversation starter. There I was poised to talk about THE WIRE to a colleague and friend and they opened with “I Don’t have cable”.

And the conversation took a turn.

“Really?” I said fascinated, “how do you cope?”
“Seriously, Ali?” was the answer.
There it was…. I was shamed.  

Firstly I should say that this individual said “I don’t’ have Cable” like one would say “I don’t have Herpes”… it was an elitist statement made more to separate herself from “the rest of us” as opposed to a statement of fact.

I have met many “non-Cablers” since and have found similar attitude among them.  They insist on inserting some form of “Cable-shaming” into the conversation.

I do believe such a  phenomenon is growing as I have been “Cable Shamed” at a number of social events over the years.

People without cable insist on setting themselves apart from the heard as though their brains are too big for the world from reading poetry and listening to CBC radio 1….

I felt alienated by this “non-cable” tribe. They were a clean crisp white blouse, freshly pressed and smelling of lavender. My cable- watching self was a coffee stained T-shirt with a hole at the hem and through which you could see my bra.

And then one day, last month…. I joined the tribe.

Just like that. No elitist motive. Born out of the fact that my beloved suggested we try it for a month…. We had been watching less television anyway over the summer and thought, hey… why not. Save a few bucks and a few brain cells.

Truth be told, he sold this concept to me by insisting that I could easily buy two pairs of shoes with all the money we would save on cable. I love my syndicated television…. But I love my Manolos more.

And so it is a month later.

What differences do I notice?

Observation #1:

I do watch less television but I still have access to it. Netflix is an option as is i-Tunes but overall I have gone from daily watching to maybe 3 hours a week. Needless to say, there have been more outdoor bike rides.

Observation #2:

Not only do I watch less TV, but I notice I am much mreo discerning in my taste. When you have to go hunting for a show- you make sure it is worth your time.

Observation #3:
I am not a quiet woman but I can have my moments. These have come more often. And when I say, quiet I mean that I am quiet inside and out. The house has less noise. There sued to be the blare of a television for background at all times and now there is the sound of the street.

My head is quieter too…. For some reason I notice a greater calm without the blare of a set in the background and with great surprise I welcome it.

A volume of studies has shown that television viewing negatively impacts kids risk of obesity and diabetes. Most recently a study published in the archives of Pediatric Medicine in 2008 showed that reducing a child’s viewing time by 50% reduced their BMI (body mass index). This effect had more to do with reducing their intake of calories than with increasing their physical activity.

According to this study and others TV not only makes you sit (in my case not so much) but it also make you eat. It ignites in us a pattern of behaviour- never mind the food cues that television displays both in shows and in commercials….. TV primes our brains to be food minded.

Make no mistake, my girlfriends, I did not cancel my cable to lose weight and be healthier… Although health is always a priority- truth be told the cable cancelling was my beloved’s idea and I went along. But it is an added benefit knowing that indeed I’ll likely watch less TV and in the long run, perhaps gain more healthy living.

If nothing else, the next time I find myself at a party in the middle of a television conversation, I can join the elite tribe and utter the words everyone is so fond of hearing….

“I’m sorry, I don’t have cable”.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Give me another day my sisters.... I'll get back to you tomorrow. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Half Assed Iron Man

Promises made and promises lost my sisters. On this day of all Tuesdays, I’ve been thinking a lot about the paths we take in life and how one moment indeed can define us as much as a thousand of them.

Last week I was scheduled to race the Penticton Challenge. Physically I was strong and (somewhat) ready. I had trained for months with my fabulous coach (shout out K.B.) whose arms are indeed as perfect as her soul.

But as the race day drew near, I just “did not have it”. Something in me could not get into the idea that this triathlon would be mine. Sure, I could just go and do the race- but really? You can’t “phone in” a Half Iron man distance triathlon. After swimming for 1.9km, you cycle 90km and then run 21.1km.

This would be the second time I totally lost my mind in an endeavour of this nature. Last year I did my first Half Iron Man triathlon and finished in last place. Make no mistake- it was awesome. If you don’t believe me…. Read this.

But this year something had shifted. I was ready for the race’s physical challenge but mentally my mind was elsewhere. Perhaps it was because this year’s race calendar had been full? Perhaps I had been working a bit too hard?  Perhaps I just did not have “it”…. You know, the Mojo, the charm, the spell that usually takes over a few weeks before a race and BAM you are hooked and good to go.

I am not sure what it was last week that made me change my triathlon mind, but I did. And so I decided a week before my race to just NOT do it.

I should preface this by saying this behaviour is not in my character. I am not a person who backs down easily from any challenge. In life there are those of us who run into the burning building and those of us who run out. I would count myself the former.

Be it work or play, sport or shoe sale- I am someone who definitely shows up.

And so it was a bit out of character for me to BACK DOWN on this, the Penticton challenge.

Mentally how would I cope with the idea that for the first time in my relatively young racing life, I had walked away from a challenge?

On a practical note, what would I do this weekend? Here I was locked and loaded with endurance to spare and nowhere to put it?

The practical solution came easy.

Vancouver has many a race every weekend. Could I compensate for my Half assed Iron man with a three-day event that would make up the distance?

Certainly. Could I “mix and match” a series of races and come up with the 70.3 miles of swim, bike run without ever leaving the Vancouver lower mainland?


This past weekend Vancouver was hosting the Lululemon Sewheeze half marathon.  I bought an entry bib (or shall I say and entry bracelet?) from some lovely girlfriend on Facebook and spent 4 hours in line on Friday morning at the Seawheeze pop up store in search of the perfect racing outfit.

Do not judge my sisters… I was grieving the loss of my triathlon and trying to shop my was through my decision. Retail therapy is genius.

And so on Saturday morning, I suited up with 10,000 other sisters… believe me there were maybe 100 men in this race- Seawheeze is an estrogen fest to run for glory.

The race was a glorious one and I must admit- indeed it erased any doubt in my mind regarding my triathlon misgivings.

I had a good run (not a great one) and my medal matches my outfit. This cannot be wrong in any universe.

ON Sunday, legs a bit weary, I strapped on my cycling shoes and Bella (my bike) and I raced the demons away in Coquitlam at the Mountain Equipment Co-Op Century ride. Nothing chases away the devil like a 100km ride through the rolling hills of the Lower Mainland.

That is until 4 hours into the ride you find yourself walking up said hills with your bike because the 20% grade is meant for someone with greater stuff than I. By greater stuff I mean a motorbike or a drug doping scandal.

For some reason, the race organizers thought that a few very steep hills would add to the challenge. Make no mistake- I can bike a hill. Just last week, I cycled up Cypress Mountain.  I am not adverse to hills- I don’t; speed up them but I can do them (with a bit of Bitching and moaning to power me through). But a 17% grade hill followed by a 20% grade hill in the middle of the race is really the devils work.

There I was, in the middle of nowhere pushing my bike up a hill in bike cleats- this was the equivalent of walking in heels… to Whistler.

No fingers pointed- I signed up for this course….

I should say that as I write this, the memory of pushing my bike up a hill with bike shoes on is quickly fading. .

The scenery was epic.

My first half of the ride was glorious. My legs were stiff but I was ready. But 30km in- I lost touch with a pack and wound up riding the remaining race alone. “No, matter,” I told myself- “I ride alone all the time”.

The problem with riding alone on the country roads of Coquitlam was that MEC in their infinite wisdom had failed to mark the course clearly. Getting lost on a back road in British Columbia indeed tests the soul as much as it tests the legs. 

And so I spent 20km wandering through Coquitlam looking for race markers wondering whether a cab would drive out this far to get me.

It was indeed somewhere around the 70km mark that I faced my own HEART OF DARKNESS.

You see, I backed out of the Half Iron Man because I did not have the mental will for such a race. There I was with a half marathon run on my legs and 70km of bike riding behind me lost in Coquitlam with no cell phone coverage and somehow I found my way home.

I called my fabulous coach (who had likely finished the race an hour or so before) and asked for directions. Graciously- she let me rant and then talked me home. With new directions in tow- I made it safely across the finish line 90 minutes later- 120km on my bike’s odometer. This was a century PLUS ride and I had found my way.

I awoke Monday morning with a plan to swim 1.9km in order to complete my own personal triathlon. There was no need.

For some reason I had banished the doubt. I had washed away the urge to perform and had risen to my own occasion.

No evidence this week- but I learned a lot, my sisters about what it really means to be an athlete. As someone who always is a little slower than the pack- I often wonder if I am making the same mark as the others in the race.

But this weekend with a half marathon race and a century ride- I learned that in life- sometimes we do readjust our expectations and the world indeed accommodates. Sometimes a moment on a country rode is more significant than 8 hours of racing for glory.

Because in life as in any sport- it’s not how you start…. It’s not even how you finish…. It’s WHO YOU ARE along the way that makes the rubber hit the road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Show and Tell...

I have spent the last few months watching more than a few You-Tube videos. No, get your heads out of the gutter- not the dirty kind. Just the generic “stupid human tricks” that seem to be posted quite a bit on the site.

In fact I would maintain that You Tube is our species version of “Grown-Up SHOW AND TELL”.

Do you remember the real SHOW AND TELL? We all had one experience or another. Typically it was in kindergarten or Grade 1. We were five or six years old. We stood in front of classrooms all over this great nation with a rock from a camping trip or a caterpillar gripping to life (and leaf) in a jam jar. We proudly announced to the class the origin of the unusual sea pebble or the lifecycle of a butterfly as we knew it.

But years gone by and we’ve passed the age when you can stand before a group of your peers and “show em what you’ve got”. This is where the internet comes in….

Yes my dear girlfriends, well over a year of blogging later and I now fully realize that the internet is our species SHOW AND TELL.

Want to share with friends about your latest meal? Why not Twitter that you “ate duck two ways at a great restaurant just last night”. Want friends and family to know what little Jessica looked like after eating her first bite of peas? Just video tape it and blast her little green face into cyber space for all to see and enjoy.

Isn’t FACEBOOK, the very defintion of grown up SHOW AND TELL gone wild? I know more about the people I went to highschool with NOW than I did when we were in Highschool!

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of the whole SHOW AND TELL thing we’ve got going on as a culture. I think it is a true revelation. Hell this is entertainment at its finest. I loved SHOW AND TELL back as a six year old and I sure as hell love it even more now that we’ve moved beyond the flora and the fauna….

But I can’t help but notice that the internet has become quite feline these days. What I mean by this is that there are a hell of a lot of cats out in cybersapce lately. Haven’t you noticed my dear girlfriends? We seem to be pushing the whole “CAT AGENDA” quite a bit. Whether it’s the Freaky cat videos on You Tube (where the little kitten is being filmed making a rather human gesture) or the cat versus larger animal videos (cat v. alligator, cat v. polar bear) that have gone viral.

In fact I would argue that cat video emails have replaced Viagra emails as the new number one topic of cyber spam.

So what is it with cat owners and their exhibitionist needs?

According to a study presented this past year at the International Stroke Conference in New Orleans owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third.

The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota's Stroke Institute in Minneapolis.

The study was based on data extracted from people aged 30 to 75, from the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study. Participants were recruited from 1976-1980 and followed over a 10 year period. Of the 4,435 Americans in the study, 2,435 of the participants were current or former cat owners, while the remaining 2,000 had never had a cat.

Using the main outcome as death from all causes, including stroke and heart events, the researchers found that over a 10 year follow up period, cat owners showed a 30 per cent lower risk of death from heart attack compared to non cat owners.

I’m not suggesting we all go out and buy a kitten… I am personally allergic and have always been more of a dog person. In fact, I have never been particularly fond of cats.

Apart from the fact that every cat I meet prompts me to have an Asthma attack, I am not what you would call, a “CAT PERSON”.

I find them too “stand offish”. After a long day at work, I want a pet that greet me at the door and is so excited to see me that, hell, it could easily pee on the floor given the chance.

A cat does not do that. A cat is the kind of animal that can be left alone with enough food and water for days on end and still survive. While I admire that kind of independence, it is not something I am looking for in a household pet.

But we can’t ignore the science once again. Cat people live longer than those who are feline free. The science of why there are so many cats on the internet? Simply put…because their owners have nine lives….

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Naked Truth

Truth be told, I did not grow up in a naked house. Make no mistake there was a healthy regard for one's physical self... the standard self esteem was "dished out" over one's physical form. We walked around in pajamas or underwear just as much as the next family, but there was a standard uniform of undergarments used at any given time. Ever a fan of outfits, you can imagine that this "bare clothing minimum" suited (no pun intended) me fine. In fact I assumed the rest of the world followed similar "Behind Clothes Doors Policy" That was until I met the "Naked Girl".

My latest locker room experience is so common place that it is merely a prototype, if you will. It stands as an example of all previous and future encounters. It is not fiction. It happens to me all the time and I am not alone.

There I was at the Aquatic Centre in Vancouver. I had just finished a fabulous 1500 metre swim and walked into the women's changing room to shower, change and do what any normal woman does after a swim... You know... lather, rinse, repeat. There are two change rooms for women at the Aquatic Centre. There is the "common" change room which is like any public pool changing room. Then there is the "Adults Only" change room which is for women who do not want to change in front of 4 year old boys staring in fascination at their girlie bits. I, ever a fan of elitism, always chose the latter. The "Adults Only" change room, as it happens was closed for cleaning. The "Adults Only" change room has separate private showers, each with a curtain. Such is not the case in the "common" change rooms.

In my experience women fall into one of three categories of naked locker room behaviour. You have the "Naked Girl" who really is the subject of this article. On the other end of the spectrum you have the "Under the Towel Girl" who essentially uses her towel as a shield from the outside world unless she is changing in a bathroom stall with the door closed (no judgement here- just an observation). And then you have everything in between. As far as locker room nudity goes, I would classify myself as a middle of the road naked person. I shower, change and leave. Should you find yourself in a locker room next to me, you may see parts of me naked, however, you WILL NOT be able to draw me nude from memory.

I can not say the same for some of my locker room sisters. For there in the "common" shower room was what I could only describe as a cross between a shampoo advertisement and a burlesque show. I recently read that a women's fitness establishment in the US banned nudity in its locker rooms in order to provide women with body image issues with a nonthreatening atmosphere. I must admit, I thought (and still do think) this was ridiculous. I'm all for women having nonthreatening atmospheres but to ask our fellow sisters to change with the "over the bra, under the towel" trick from the safety of a locker room is yet another example of how common sense is the greatest example of literary irony in existence today.

As for the scene in the public shower of the "common" locker room, there she was in all of her splendor, lathering up like a peep show professional, the latest and greatest "Naked Girl". I will spare you the details, but it is safe to say that I am not being a prude when I say that a woman does not need to scrub herself that thoroughly unless she has just been to a nuclear reactor spill. This was a chlorinated pool, not Chernobyl. Having spent a full five minutes in a perverted after school special in the showers, I ventured into the changing rooms only to discover three women standing (I kid you not) full frontal on the benches and putting on lotion. These were three separate women, not three friends. The weather called for naked and I was in the middle of a vagina hailstorm.

I will end it there. As it stands, I blame the the "common" change rooms but in retrospect this was not my first encounter with the inevitable "Naked Girl" who parades around the locker room either chatting on her cell phone or doing her taxes in all her natural glory. We have all seen her. She comes in various shapes and sizes and inevitably her locker is always the one next to ours. "Naked Girl" always engages in conversation, always posing the challenge of where to look when you talk to her and ONLY uses her towel to dry her feet. She makes the even most self assured woman feel a little shy.

I have searched the medical literature to secure some scientific basis for my claim that this woman really should put some clothes on, but I have come up empty. There is little data on the lack of sanitation of the situation.

I did come upon some interesting articles about STD transmission in male locker rooms but this was as a result of sexual activities in said locker rooms. Incidentally, gyms in New York are required by law to enforce the state sanitary code against sex on their premises, often post signs notifying exercisers that "inappropriate behavior" is not permitted.

As for the Girls Gone Wild- locker room edition which we have all encountered, there is little to find, scientifically. However, I believe it was Charles Darwin who said "where science ends, faith begins".

And so, my cyber sisters, let us evolve as Darwin intended us to- save the sexy scrub show for the privacy of your own bathroom or the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Ever a fan of self expression- it really is something that one should do in the comfort of one's own home or peep show window. In the spirit of sisterhood and in the name of all locker rooms everywhere, ladies, I pray that we may strive to find a tiled public changing room where naked women everywhere can co-exist. Where we shall be judged not by the size of our waist to hip ratio but by the name on our gym bag; not by the quality of our breast augmentation, but by the quality of our $75 Bumble and Bumble conditioner. And let us say, Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So sorry sweet sisters for the day of silence. Am on holidays this week and well, I just can't get my shit together. Promise to post later in the week.... stay tuned. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

So sorry sweet sisters for the day of silence. Am on holidays this week and well, I just can't get my shit together. Promise to post later in the week.... stay tuned. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Heaven on Wheels

Heads up sweet sisters- I will state the obvious. I am indeed in love with my bike. This has been a great love for some time but I feel it needs to be restated here and now.

The burst of emotion comes from the fact that last week I had a bike fit that changed my life (god bless you dear Matt) and now, riding my bike feels like sitting on a couch.
I should say that for the previous month or so I was not so happy with my dear Bella. Yes, every bike should have a name- and mine is Bella…. If you fell this is nutty- please hold your tongue. Silence is golden and shine on immediately.

But Bella and I worked out our issues as I spent almost 3 hours at a physiotherapist/bike fitter 10 days ago. Now Bella is perfection.

My love for Bella also stems from the fact that as I write this- I am watching the final stages of the ultimate bike race…. The Tour de France.

Yes, my girlfriends, I have spent the last 21 days watching men with 1% body fat ride through France and England for glory and greatness and the pursuit of a yellow jersey. The Tour de France ended on Sunday and there I was in my living room watching the “boys on the bikes” ride around Paris on the last leg of the race. Sweat streamed down their faces as tears flowed across mine.

Yes, I was crying. I should say that watching certain sporting events of an International scale makes me get a little “wellie”. I am dry eyed during any commercial football, hockey or baseball match. Put me in front of any Olympic event and I lose my emotional shit, so to speak. Yes, I am fine at the world series but I am reduced to sobs at Olympic curling. It makes no sense.

So there I was sobbing with joy as the boys from Astana Cycling drank champagne on their bikes going 45km/h riding into Paris on the last leg of the 3000 km stage race.

And it dawned on me that in those moments I identified with these men on wheels. You see I too am a cyclist. No, I can not hit speeds of 50km/h while riding up the side of a mountain and yes I would pass any drug test you gave me- but somehow- these boys on the bikes and I were one in those moments as my television tuned to the Australian broadcast of the Tour and my heart tuned to the spinning of the wheels.

I should say that I’ve been watching the Tour for about the last 4 years now. At first I was in it for “The Bike Porn”. I saw the Tour de France as a giant high speed shopping experience where I could check out the latest bikes, outfits and accessories and see how everything looked. I really did not know any of the key players, nor did I understand the rules of the game, so to speak. I was a “commercial observer”; looking at bikes, their paint jobs and seeing which cycling kit was indeed the most stylish.

But about 3 years ago, I learned about the history of this grand bike race. I learned that there is a point system within the race and that there are indeed “mini races” within the race itself. There are prizes for best young rider, best climber and most aggressive rider. I learned that the Tour has a rich history that goes beyond a set of fabulous gears and a good paint job. I learned about the role of each member of a cycling team- the sprinters, the climbers and the “work horses”.

And then, I fell in love with the Tour.

And so for the last 3 weeks I’ve spent most evenings watching the previous day’s race (thank you PVR). I would come home from my own day on my bicycle and turn on the Tour, make dinner, do paperwork, laundry, dishes…. All with the whir of the wheels and the Australian commentator’s voice in the background. 

It was quit meditative, relaxing if you will.

Here I was a girl in Canada cheering for a bunch of International men in Europe
And then it hit me- cycling really is a sport that ignites a primordial connection in us all.

As anyone knows- cycling has seen its fair share of controversy. The sport has been tainted with doping scandals that have questioned the legitimacy of the riders’ abilities.

I have mixed feelings about all of it. Yes, doping IS cheating. But as a scientist- I know full well that even with the best drugs on board riding through the French Alps at 50 km/h is no small feat. Make no mistake- I’m not a fan of doping but I don’t think it cancels out all of the hard work and training that goes in to making a world class rider.

I do believe despite the controversy in cycling that there is a purity of the sport. A bike brings out the best in all of us.

The health benefits of cycling are pretty impressive. As someone who commutes to work every day- the ride indeed takes less time than the drive. A recent study out of Stanford University took almost 100 sedentary insomniacs and asked them to ride a bicycle for 20-30 minutes every other day. The result was that their time to fall asleep was reduced by half and their time asleep increased by an hour. This could be because riding outside exposes you to sunlight- which may prime your circadian rhythms further.

Let’s not ignore the fact that exercise of any kind improves memory, cardiovascular fitness and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

King’s College London compared over 2,400 identical twins and found those who did the equivalent of just three 45-minute rides a week were nine years ‘biologically younger’ even after discounting other influences, such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking.

And then there is that primordial connection that riding a bike brings.

A bike was our first real gift. As a kid all you wanted for your birthday or for Christmas was a bike. The person who bought you your first bike was one of the most important people in your lives. And once you had your bike- it was your first real sense of freedom.

You pain stakingly learned to ride a bike under the watchful guidance of someone who loved you. Learning to ride a bike takes patience an perseverance; two skills that would serve you well for the rest of your life.

Your bike was your ticket to the world beyond your neighbourhood. Your bike was your first real item that you owned. You locked your bike up at night to protect YOUR property. Your bike belonged to you. My sweaters were once my sisters- my baseball glove was once hers as well.

But my perfect pink Schwinn with the banana seat and handle bar streamers was MINE. ALL MINE. Every bike I have owned since must measure up to that frame of reference.

And when I learned to ride her without the training wheels and without my father’s supervising eye- I knew I had arrived.

And so here I sit many years later with 3 (yes, I have a cycling abuse problem) bicycles parked safely downstairs in our bike room. Back from a ride and a visit to my youth, to my sense of freedom- to my happy place.

I am watching the boys on the bikes make their last laps through the cobblestone streets of Paris and a part of me knows that they too feel the connection to the little boy with training wheels and that first sense of freedom.

And as the tears stream down my face I am reminded that some of the best things in the life- health and otherwise can happen on the seat of a bike.