Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My friend Restless Josie

Here is a beauty video made by a friend from back home. This is a recent video she made documenting Vancouver Island and the plethora of outdoor activities it has to offer.

I am officially home sick

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Niagra Falls = AMAZING!!!

The other day Julia had the brilliant idea of going on a little road trip to visit Niagra falls. A simple yet far fetched idea for me since I thought it would be super complicated to get there, however, she planned a flawless itinerary on GO buses from Burlington right into Niagra's lap. 

We cruised there this Saturday and the weather worked splendidly for what was in store. It was still early season so there weren't millions of tourists even though Dairy Queen had their buy one blizzard and the one for 25 cents which we clearly capitalized on upon arrival!

Had our window been larger, we would have had a bunch of activities to do. Bowling, lazer tag, haunted houses, ferris wheel, wax museums and a plethora of carnival activity joints lined the main streets giving tourists plenty of things to do while drying off or preparing to get soaked from the mist. 

Blizzards in hand we cruised down the main street for my first ever sight of the falls. SPECTACULAR. I have a huge affinity to waterfalls and this may just be the most impressive natural wonder I have ever seen in real life!


The American falls were the first to present themselves. A wonderful display as thousands of tons of water crash onto a marvel of large rocks that have broken from the falls only to be lodged beneath them. It looks like a miniature display from a far but up close I can tell you that it most certainly is not! 


We snagged a few self portraits and then asked some passersby to capture a few for us. I love this one of Julia and I as without intending to I framed up the American falls quite nicely! We then grabbed a pass to the Maiden of the Mist boat tour and threw on our provocatively stylish rain coats.   

With few people on our boat we had an unhindered view and we threw on our hoodies in preparation for the mist. Just an incredible feeling of awe and power as the rumble penetrates your body through sight, sound and vibrating energy. We putted along to the base of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls where the volume of water is far more substantial. I am proud the Canadian side is more menacing as an awe inspiring 90% of the 100,000 cubic feet of water per second falls on our side. Our waterfall is about 173 vertical feet and spans 2,600 feet in width!  

Amazing to think that the falls were created from Glaciation about 10,000 years ago and since their conception they have eroded upriver 11 kilometers. This process has now been controlled by human intervention so the retreat of the falls has now been limited to 10 centimeters every year. 

Drenched yet excited from our intimate experience with the falls, we continued our tour with a Journey beneath the falls. This was unfortunately quite anticlimactic as I was expecting natural caves only to be disappointed by concrete pathways. The tunnels ended a four or five meters from behind the falls and offered a raw sample of the relentless pounding of water on the rocks. I was hoping for something a little more risky but I guess when you have millions of tourists and a human crushing force, one doesn't leave chance in the equation. Regardless, Julia and I found ourselves captivated by the earth shuddering power the falls create. I could have stared into the dynamic water for hours as it was like looking into a fire; constantly inspiring and entertaining. I closed my eyes and let the earth's vibrations reverberate through me so I could steal a little of its power to bring home. 

We continued our Niagra Falls experience with a new attraction called Niagra Fury. This 4D experience brings a 360 degree screen to life with both animation and real life footage depicting the creation of the falls. We stood in the middle of a moving platform and got soaked from head to toe as jets of water squirted us during the ice age thaw and monumental storms. It was really a great addition to the experience and I feel the 4D experience was the best it could have possibly been! 

After four hours of touring, gawking and lounging around the falls we packed up and took a local bus back to the GO train station. An hour and a bit later we found ourselves in Burlington and I then hopped on a train to head home for the evening.

A splendid Saturday spent in the presence of one of the world's natural wonders. I hadn't thought of it as being a priority in my life to see the falls, however, after experiencing them first hand, I would recommend them to anyone who is easily moved by the natural beauty of our planet.



KINeSYS Performance Sunscreen jumps on board!!!

I am VERY pleased to release news that KINeSYS Performance Sunscreen out of Vancouver B.C will be sponsoring me for the 2010 season! I have been going after KINeSYS for 3 seasons and everything fell into place for the this year.

After moving to Toronto to start training with the newly formed National Team training centre, I decided to go back to the basics and cover the most essential elements for sponsorships. It has been a long process of fine tuning sponsorship packages and following up with various people and companies over the past few years so I decided to focus my energy on the most crucial facets of support.

The sun is in my opinion (aside from the Russian Igor the "Bazooka" who serves a blazing 115 km/h serve!) is our most concerning occupational hazard. Playing all over the world and in all sorts of locations exposes us to varying intensities of Sun rays. From the beaches close to the equator to artificial courts at 2000 meters elevation in the Swiss Alps, we are exposed daily to harmful sun rays. They have an amazing SPF 30 spray screen that works incredibly in all conditions I have used it in as well as an SPF 30 sun protection stick which resists sweat, abrasion and water quite well. Stoked to throw that on my face and never have to deal with a peeling nose again. Other products of interest I haven't used include an anti-fungal foot spray which will compliment our barefoot sport as well as a Gel stick which temporarily relieves muscular aches, sprains, strains, arthritis pain and backaches!

I am very careful with the protection of my skin and in my experience, KINeSYS is the most long lasting and easy to apply (especially when you are already sweating!). This is why I have been after them for quite sometime and this is also why I am so excited be a part of their team for 2010!

Aside from creating superior sunscreen, they are ethical; carbon neutral; source locally; don't test on animals; use no potentially harmful ingredients and use business power to solve social and environmental problems through an initiative called Certified B Corporation. I would highly recommend cruising their link because it is super intriguing.

I am very proud to align myself with such an innovative and socially conscious company. I look forward to using their products and representing them positively on my quest to the Olympic podium!

Thanks again KINeSYS for endorsing me and to my readers, swing by www.kinesys.com to check out their superb sunscreen and other goodies for high performance athletes, weekend warriors and kids alike!



Thursday, April 8, 2010

Volleyball Canada Interview

I recently did an interview with a new journalist who will be updating the Volleyball Canada website with our national team's news and progress.

I am really excited Volleyball Canada is going the extra mile to promote our sport and the athletes that are training diligently to achieve their goals. Spreading information virtually is on of the best ways to spur interest and I am pleased with this new addition to their 2010 marketing strategy!!

Here is the article at www.volleyball.ca.

Enjoy and I will be posting new videos shortly as I just got my new hard drive!!



Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter maple syrup and cider ice wine on this fine Monday

Another brilliant day here in the Montreal countryside. I awoke to the lovely smell of porridge as Steve was slaving away in the kitchen preparing a morning feast for us and the soon arriving Isa and Owuo duo. My uncle Steve makes a fabulous oatmeal with gogi berries, flax seeds, chopped nuts and a few other unnamed goodies but my cousin Nicho added Tahini?! a crazy strange injection for a breakfast bowl but hey, he has been all over the world so who am I to judge!!

We were then kicked out of the house as Steve and Helene wanted to hide some eggs for an adult easter egg hunt! Splendid idea so we complied and set off for a trek through the local trails along the lakeshore forest. A beautiful hike was had discussing music (Isa and Owuo have a deep knowledge of all things music) and we snuck in a few photos on the way. When we returned the eggs were hidden and we were given our rules and hints and began our search. For whatever reason I knew there would be one hidden high for me (my height is always a source of ridicule and conversation) so I searched high and took down a beauty egg! There were only 8 eggs in total for us 5 to find and a healthy competition began between Isa and her older brother Nicho but they were both beaten out by Natalia as she slid in low for the last one. We suckled on the gourmet chocolate on the lakeshore picnic table and then cleaned the lawn, made a burn pile and then snacked over some music and good conversation.

Lunch was then served and Owuo hit us with another hilarious eating habit. Apparently he eats everything on the table or at least puts it all on the same dish! We were making open faced sandwiches with gourmet cheese, lettuce, hummus and a peanut butter for plain bread but he threw it all on the same slice! I looked over and saw him spreading peanut butter on top of his lettuce which was on top of cheddar and the look on my face caused a fair bit of hysteria between Steve and I! After a good chuckle and some new music we all went off to taste some maple syrup and explore one of the local syrup farms.

Such a neat operation and one with rich and backbreaking history. Technology has allowed them to collect all the maple water from the trees through a complex series of vacuumed tubes which run to massive collection tanks. I am sure this is quite the process to maintain and set up, however, I can imagine it is nothing like the olden days when they had thousands of hanging buckets all over the property and collected them in waist deep snow with the assistance of horses. I also had no idea how little maple syrup can be made from the maple water. A tiny chunk (the size of a mars bar) of maple sugar is extracted from 60 gallons of the maple water!

After a lovely walk, the grandmother of the operation poured thick syrup onto snow and we downed a few sticks worth. The local kids were all over it and must have had 10 servings while I barely managed to down 3 due to its decadence.

We then resigned, slightly tired from the sugar high but spontaneously decided to go to a winery/orchard to do some taste testing. A lovely suggestion and we drove through some of the beautiful Frelighsburg region. Winding roads, rolling hills and aged orchard trees draped the countryside for miles and we pulled into the most elevated winery. Sadly it was closed but we moved on. One we had passed earlier was open so we returned without expectations and it was BEAUTIFUL! A gorgeous place with vintage but newly restored rock work and a lovely fountain out front. We entered and the cavern (which they used as the tasting room) smelt rich and the walls were decorated with all sorts of local and international recognition awards. Christian, the owner who assisted us, poured some lovely Cider ice wine and we cherished every drop in our little "degustation" glasses. Christian's wife had made some world class chocolate brownies especially for easter guests so we dined on those while wetting our lips with their wineries sweet cider nectar.

I was a bit shocked at first as the prices were considerably higher than the one we visited previously. Christian then expanded on his passionate operation and their noble philosophy which compelled me to purchase a bottle of his limited and unique stock. It turns out he invented Cider ice wine and their winery is one of the most pure around, using no pesticides, herbicides or chemicals. They depend on no machinery (not even weed eaters for the lawn) and strictly use animal power to cultivate and move their produce. Having the inventor of Cider ice wine present to you their product leaves no excuse not to buy a bottle!

We had another spectacular day in calming country and I was able to explore some fabulous french canadian traditions.

Thanks to Steve and Helene for being so creative during my stay and tonight's Thai feast will certainly be a majestic wrap to a most restful yet plentiful weekend.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who needs a gym to break a sweat? Montreal Country Workout with a log!

A beautiful Sunday morning here in the country about an hour and a half outside of Montreal. We arrived yesterday afternoon and basked in the wonderful heat for the rest of the day. My uncle Steve and his wife Helene have a gem of a cottage on a pristine little lake but it is by no means a "roughing it" style of accommodation. It is a wonderful getaway for them and I can't imagine how beautiful this place is when nature is in full bloom come mid summer. It is surrounded by 17 wineries (one of which we visited today and their cider ice wine was out of this world) and has a beautiful hilly layout with windy roads and trails.

In my normal life I am surrounded by athletes and we just banter at each other about everything. This is fine but I am really enjoying the change in pace with my family as they are all intellects and have great life experience. My uncle is a master at team leading and problem resolution in the corporate world; his wife is a world expert in child birth and has written multiple books on the subject; and my cousin Nicho and his partner Natalia (of Columbia) are world class logistical experts and mission directors for non profit medical aid organizations and have just landed from a 9 month contract in Boguila for Doctors without Borders. As you can imagine this has lead to an abundance of conversations and discussions! I am really enjoying their views on life and aid as well as sharing my own limited life experiences. 

Now for the workout. I told myself yesterday I was going to go for a run. For those of you who know me, I hate running. I would rather jump into shark infested waters and swim while bleeding over running but the country air must have softened my displeasure. After breakfast this morning I was asked what conditions I wanted to run in and the following discussion led to a family walk (while I ran) on a fabulous country road about. This was perfect as it allowed me to run, do my sprint intervals and get into some specific movement patterns while the rest of my family walked 5kms. 

I brought my heart rate monitor and I wanted to get sweaty and suffer greatly. Our sand training over the last 3 months hasn't been all that intense and I really wanted to bust my butt and feel a burn so I targeted my run to have 3 different phases. The first was a warm up run for 10 minutes at about 150-160 beats per minute (bpm) which turned out to be a higher pace than I thought cause I wasn't running on sand (apparently running on sand adds between 5-10 bpm due to the difficulty). I then wanted to do 10, 30 second high paced intervals (ending 30 seconds at 175-185 bpm) split by 30 second active rest periods but that also had to be adjusted since I found it incredibly difficult to get to 185 bmp because running on the hard surface was so easy! I altered it to 30 second sprints ending with a heart rate of 185bmp split by 1 minute (30 seconds more than originally planned) of active rest because the demand was higher than anticipated to get to185 bpm. Lastly, I wanted to throw in a Crossfit style workout involving timed reps of different weight lifting movements to include my upper body. Since I was on a country road I had to get creative so I went into the bush and grabbed a little branch.

The running felt light and I really enjoyed it (this could mean I could become a runner!) and the interval training hit my legs hard. I really felt the burn and completing the final 10 seconds of my sprints forced me to dig into a reserve I haven't touched in a while. As for the Crossfit style, I have included photos for your enjoyment!!

My legs were clearly warm (actually jello) but grabbed a 40-50 pound log and freestyled the following workout.
20 reps of all exercises done in a no rest circuit, sequenced 3 times. (60 reps total for each)


                         Overhead Lunges

                          Overhead Squats

Overhead Tricep Extensions 

Bicep Curls 
Medium grip explosive push ups

This workout kicked my butt!!! My muscles aren't used to the impact of hard surfaces (I always work out in sand) and the Crossfit no rest style workout forced every muscle to cooperate to complete the task. 

So the next time you are in the country and don't have a gym, there are no excuses! Go for a run and then grab a log from the side of the road and get into some heavies!!! 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

My most magnificent day in Montreal!!!!

Rather than write about the incredible day I had, here are some photos I took with my phone to share in the splendour of my day. It was full of amazing people and wonderful family; thanks to all who contributed!!!

First we shopped in preparation for our weekend cottage trip and suckled on some maple syrup on snow!

I then went to Mont Royal to find the beach courts. I asked a random athletic guy where the courts were and he asked me "are you Martin Reader"! Unreal!! Turns out he plays beach and knew who I was so we hung out and he took me there. A wonderful time as thousands of people chilled, drank, picnicked and played all kinds of sports.

At 8 we went for dinner and joined my wonderful cousin Isa and her husband Owuo's group K'lanna Vibes. Great atmosphere and an incredible show. We went all over the world in an hour and a bit as they took music from various locations and melded them into lovely harmonies.

I was accompanied by Tushare who is a good friend from the FIVB Montreal days. We went back to his girlfriend's place and drank some fine rum and then went out for some extra social bevies.

This is Kim and I enjoying the vibes at Baldwin Barmacy. I stole Tush's glasses as I love the thick black shades and had to steal a photo with them on!

Group shot as we enjoy some magnificent concoctions. I am drinking a Licci fruit martini, Tushare has a grapefruit belini and Kim is having a straight up gin martini! Amazing taste and strong stuff, totally worth going to this chic place.

No evening in Montreal is complete without a full serving of double cheese POUTINE!! This dish saved my life!!!

I love living my life off the seat of my pants and this trip has been a delightful example of it working out. Amazing to reconnect with family I haven't seen for ages, new family members and also friends I haven't seen for years.



Friday, April 2, 2010

Family time in Montreal!

Here is our fam in Montreal!!! Owuo, Isa, Nicho, Natalie and me just chillin in the porch in the sun after a great breakfast together.

I haven't met the partners of my cousin's Isa and Nicho so this was quite an introduction for me! We had a splendid breakfast together and are now headed for a day of walking about town and markets. We are going to hit some parks and potentially dance it up and then at 8 I will be watching Isa and Owuo's new group Klanna Vibes throw down some international beats in a funky cafe. Once we dance through the floor there, I am looking to head out with a few random friends and hit an electro music party (my fave) and dance all evening. This is a special weekend here in Montreal with a lot happening so I am going NUTS for it all!!

Enjoy the weekend and catch up later.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

El Salvador Semi Finals in the second 2010 NORCECA event

In my last post I described at length our progression through the early stages of the El Salvador NORCECA event. I will now venture into Sunday's games as we competed in the semi-finals and bronze medal games. Enjoy!!!!!

Our three set victory over Jamaica wasn’t the most challenging game but the heat played a toll on our bodies and the rate at which we were able to recover for Sunday’s semis and finals. We did our best to get solid nutrition into our bodies but the players dinner was 3 slices of pizza. SERIOUSLY??? You are hosting an international event with elite athletes and you are serving pizza in limited quantities?!?Needless to say we weren’t pleased so we bought some sub sandwiches and went home to polish them off in an air conditioned environment. Unsatisfied from our dinner we went to bed hungry and a little bitter yet excited for the following day. On a completely unrelated note, the tournament did drop off a six pack of beer in our room but being in the final four we kept our handsies off the cold El Salvadorian moufassa's.

The sun rose at 5, sprinkling dawn into our hotel room. We tried sleeping in but by 7 I couldn’t take the anxiousness anymore and prepared for our fourth final 4 experience on the NORCECA tour! I felt moderately rested yet confident as the book I have been reading (performing under pressure) had been reinforcing powerful thoughts my entire weekend. We still didn’t know what time our semi-final was scheduled for so we went downstairs to eat and locate a bulletin.

Brekke was a standard Sheraton spread and the coffee was dark and potent; just the way I like it on the road. Isolated by our inability to speak Spanish (I try to alter Portuguese a bit but it is just confusing!), we ate breakfast together and planned our schedule around the final day of competition. Our semi was placed at 1:30 and we cringed over the thought of competing in heavy heat and humidity. We rested a bit more, filled up our bottles with electrolyte mixes and rolled down to the site to find the stand still hadn't filled with fans. Hunger crept up on us a bit so we decided to grab a sub but it was so hot (plus I have a small bird's apetite on gameday) it posed a problem. We wound up going bite for bite at the Quizno;s table, forcing ourselves to down half of a small sub so we could sustain a full game at maximum intensity.

We entered the court and began our sand agility warm up immediately. The event didn’t have a warm up court at the mall so we had to make the most of our 10 minutes on the main court before our game officially started. Sweat flowed freely within minutes and the sun’s intensity began draining our energy upon exposure. I consider myself superior than most in high heat, but I have no idea how Ray does it!! He is the toughest redhead on the planet and deserves a Sport Canada reward. Seriously, he is a champ and I challenge any of you to experience what he powers through on tour.

We matched up well with USA #1 (Ty Loomis and Matt Prosser) as they are a new team and bring a heavy offence. Ray is a wise hitter and a master block user so we were comfortable sideing out against them and we knew we could make points through our well rounded defense. Ray’s knee was bugging him more than ever as a case of tendonitis flared up but he put on his game face and we battled on. 

We had some great scoring opportunities on defense and serving but unfortunately the ball landed outside by fractions of an inch each time. We were down in both sets at the technical timeouts and they maintained leads with aggressive serving to our seam. Matt scored multiple points hitting into the tape, the ball bouncing in his favour onto the outside of the line each time. They played hard and made more points than us and we lost in a fair battle 21-19, 21-18. A few tentative errors and some marginal misses were the difference but there was no time to look back as we had a semi-final game to play against Cuba.

Cuba consisted of two young and tall athletes. They weren’t as talented as other Cuban athletes I have encountered but they made a good team and their overconfidence let them get away with being less capable than they were. Ray’s knee had digressed and he our warm up wasn’t all that great. I felt a need to do more than I could but didn’t want to change what I was doing in fear of disrupting Ray’s rhythm. As it turned out, I tried doing too much as I peeled off the net frequently (they normally poke over the block but in our game they hit everything early) and I didn't do enough to help Ray on sideout. We lost 21-13. Not a score we wanted to have in our resume. The heat was dwindling but still a factor for us white boys. I was over playing Cuba by peeling off the net as a set play rather than reacting from my gut which exposed seams and limited Ray's defensive instincts and coverage. We got smoked, no way to put it other than that. Unpleased, I took my hat off and changed our team plan for the next set.

I told Ray I was going to stay at the net at all times and take more load off of him on sideout. A genius plan as I cam out jump setting and forced them to respect me as a second contact attacker. I made close to 6 points before they caught on but by that time, I had released some pressure on Ray and he began seeing the openings and connecting on offense. We made points, I made blocks and Ray was healthy enough to transition defensive balls into the open court. We won handily and forced a 3rd set!

The third set was a different game as they had time to discuss our new defensive strategy and try to make some adjustments. We went up and down until 8-7 for them when Ray was in the right position for a dig but his knee gave out as he went to play it. We took a medical as he felt shearing pain on his knee cap and I had a lie down with my feet up on the sponsorship boards. Ray received five minutes of medical attention and was told nothing was wrong (great medical service!) and it allowed me to cool down and slow my heart rate after jump serving and running to the net to block at all times.

The lead extended for them and we suddenly found ourselves down 11-14 for match point. Ray was putting in a flat but deep float serve and I was getting great reads on their hits but the touches weren’t clean. Then it all clicked. Block for 12-14, pokey out for 13-14, big rally and a block for 14-14 and another block for 15-14 us. We switched at 15-15 and then made a sideout for me to serve on the good side up 16-15. This was it, I calmed myself in preparation for a monstrous serve as I knew that by going for an ace I would take pressure off Ray and win the game for us. The ball was thrown to me by a volunteer and it was flat. I didn’t say anything but it bothered me momentarily (Team Canada guys know I hate using flat balls) and then the ref blew his whistle for play to commence. I went over the serve in my mind, visualizing a hard ace down the seam between the Cuban athletes. I threw the ball up and crushed it into the very top of the tape. AAAAAHHHHHHH!! I absolutely detest missing my serves and pride myself in being a clutch player but I missed! I was crushed but moved onwards as I had to keep fighting hard with Ray as he was fading.  Back and forth we fought again, and found ourselves up 19-18 after Ray made a great overhead dig and put it over on one to score. Once again we just couldn't convert on defence; we couldn’t hold onto it. Fading after 20-20, we lost 23-21 in what was a heart wrencher for both us and the fans. The 700 plus people rallied behind us after the injury time out and Ray won their hearts by continuing playing. People love an emotional victory but we just couldn't overcome adversity that Sunday in an San Salvadorian parking lot.

A hard one to take but a promising one as well since I had never used my jump set and on two attack as a primary strategy. Turns out it works very well and I look forward to implementing it with Chaim as we prepare in Toronto over April our FIVB season.

An unsatisfying tournament but considering Ray’s injury, we did well. We were contenders for all podium levels had we been uninjured but the nature of sport requires you to compete to the best of your abilities with what you have available at that time. It reminds me of a Jiu Jisu movie where in a specific competition, each athlete blindly chooses a stone and the one who pulls out the black one is given a handicap. The athlete must accept the handicap and fight with no favours or adjusted scoring. At any time you must give it your all, no excuses.

Thanks for reading what were some lengthy and detailed volleyblogs. Now comes a time of rest, personal time and training in Toronto as I change partners and prepare for the FIVB phase of the season. My website will soon be ready so I will be getting that finalized through my good friend and lead designer Adil Amlani! It is going to be GREAT!!!!!!!!!