Brian's Blog

This is my personal blog.

Bacon wrapped sausage fatty

posted Sep 9, 2012, 1:36 PM by Brian Taylor

Until two weeks ago I'd never heard of a sausage fatty. However, after my Cookshack smoker finally arrived from Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago I picked up Jeff Phillips' book Smoking Meat from the library and the recipe for a sausage fatty looked intriguing, mostly because of the elaborate instructions. The first step is to create a braided bacon mat by weaving thirteen pieces of bacon. I used applewood smoked bacon from Oyama Sausage on Granville Island.
You then take a pound of sausages (I used four Italian basil sausages from Oyama Sausage), remove the meat from the casings, place the meat in a large ziploc bag and roll it out into a large thin square.
On top of the sausage meat you layer some spinach and cheese (I used Bergeron, a mild cheese from Quebec).
You then roll up the sausage meat, using the wax paper to help you. Once you get a nice tight roll, you place it on the bacon mat and roll that up. Then you place the whole roll in the smoker.
I set the smoker to 225 F and smoked it for about three-and-a-half hours. I used hickory chunks to generate the smoke. 
Once it's done you wrap it in foil to keep it warm and to let it rest (at least for 15 minutes) and then slice it into half-inch slices.
The result was fantastic. It exceeded my expectations. I was expecting the bacon to be somewhat soft, perhaps the result of too many crappy bacon-wrapped scallops at cocktail parties. However, it was well-cooked and the combination of flavours was wonderful. I'm already planning out my next sausage fatty. Oyama sells all kinds of fresh sausages, so I'll be experimenting with different kinds of sausage meat and different kinds of cheese.

Cooking this way is not exactly quick, and takes a lot of planning, but the results are well worth it!

TED: Grit

posted Sep 4, 2012, 5:06 PM by Brian Taylor

I first came across the research of Angela Lee Duckworth in a New York Times article. She is a researcher in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. She came up with the term 'Grit' to refer to a constellation of character traits that predict success, high achievement and the likelihood of completing difficult programs. Her research was also featured in a whole chapter of Martin Seligman's book Flourish. She has developed a number of very short tests (I've attached one to this post) that are better predictors of success than intelligence tests in educational settings, and better predictors of success in the Army's West Point boot camp than the Army's own very detailed and extensive candidate profile.

Muscle Mass and the VLC Diet

posted Sep 4, 2012, 4:55 PM by Brian Taylor

I recently came across an interesting article in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism discussing preservation of muscle mass in very low carbohydrate diets (full text link). I've been interested in this as I've had three DEXA scans in the last nine months. Over the course of the nine months I lost quite a bit of weight, and some of it was muscle. Although, it's not clear if all the muscle loss was due to decreased amounts of glycogen in the muscles (this is a bit of confounder with the DEXA scan). Also, between the second and third scan my appendix ruptured and I spent some time in the hospital. My diet for a few weeks post surgery was not low carb.

Book: Why Don't Students Like School?

posted Sep 2, 2012, 4:23 PM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Sep 8, 2012, 2:34 PM ]

The subtitle of this book is "A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom." The author is Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and an expert in memory research. I highly recommend this book for any teacher, whether experienced or just starting out. It wouldn't hurt for parents to read it, too. The book is organized around nine cognitive principles, each of which satisfied the following four criteria:
  • the principle applies all of the time
  • the principle is supported by a great deal of data
  • using or ignoring the principle can have a sizable impact on student performance
  • it had to be clear how to apply the principle in the classroom
Here is a table from page 163 of the book. I've included it mostly for my own benefit. Much of it won't make sense without having read the book, but you will get the flavour of the ideas presented in the book.

 Chapter     Cognitive Principle Required Knowledge About Students     Most Important Classroom Implication
 1 People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers. What is just beyond what my students know and can do?  Think of to-be-learned material as answers, and take the time necessary to explain to students the questions. 
 2 Factual knowledge precedes skill. What do my students know?  It is not possible to think well on a topic in the absence of factual knowledge about the topic.
 3 Memory is the residue of thought. What will students think about during this lesson?  The best barometer for every lesson plan is "Of what will it make students think?" 
 4 We understand new things in the context of things we already know. What do students already know that will be a toehold on understanding this new material?  Always make deep knowledge your goal, spoken and unspoken, but recognize that shallow knowledge will come first. 
 5 Proficiency requires practice. How can I get students to practice without boredom?  Think carefully about which material students need at their fingertips and practice it over time.
 6 Cognition is fundamentally different early and late in training. What is the difference between my students and an expert?  Strive for deep understanding in your students, not the creation of new knowledge. 
 7 Children are more alike than different in terms of learning. Knowledge of students' learning styles is not necessary.  Think of lesson content, not student differences, driving decisions about how to teach. 
 8 Intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work. What do my students believe about intelligence?  Always talk about successes and failures in terms of effort, not ability. 
 9 Teaching, like any complex, cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved. What aspects of my teaching work well for my students, and what parts need improvement?  Improvement requires more than experience; it also requires conscious effort and feedback. 

Some parts of the book reinforced ideas that I've come across elsewhere and that I've incorporated into my teaching. Other parts were quite new. For instance, even though I've never given much credence to the theory of learning styles -- the notion that some children are visual learners, some are auditory learners and some are kinesthetic learners -- I thought it was an accepted truth. However, it's not an understatement to say that Willingham demolishes the theory and states that there is no evidence whatsoever to support it.

All in all, this is well worth reading for anyone involved in education.

Ironman Canada '12 fan perspective

posted Aug 30, 2012, 11:56 PM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 9:38 AM ]

Here's a guest post from my wife, Maria.

3.9 km swim + 180 km bike + 42.2 km run = IRONMAN BRIAN

3 dogs + 378 meals + 12 house guests = IRONHOST AND IRON HOSTESS CAMERON AND SUE

 From the “Ironman” support team, behind the scenes…

We stayed at our cousin’s house: Cameron and Sue with their four amazing kids: Brendan, Sophie, Claire and Rachel. Cameron and Sue were the most unbelievably generous and gracious host and hostess. They were the “Iron Hosts”. Staying at Cameron and Sue’s were: Robin, Brian’s brother from San Francisco, cousins Susie and Tim from Ladner with their three amazing kids: Hayden, Callum and Olivia, cousins Adam and Kris from Vancouver, Washington and cousins Blythe and Claire from Scotland. They had a full house with eighteen people and three dogs: Solo, their husky, Mia-Bella, our Italian Greyhound and Toby, Susie and Tim’s beagle.

As the “Race Chasers” (like the “Storm Chasers”), Robin, Cameron, Mia Bella and I left the house early with Brian at 5:15 a.m. for the Ironman swim start. We took photos of Brian getting “body marked” with number 1500 and then watched the swim start. They took off like a flock of birds and looked “ like piranhas eating” (Robin). After watching the start, we went back to Cam and Sue’s to gather the “Ironman support team” and we returned to watch the end of the swim, arriving 1 hour and 36 minutes after the start, just as Sister Madonna was coming out of the water.

Sister Madonna is our super hero, an 82-year-old nun who has completed something like 45 Ironman distance races. We went to her book signing for her book, The Grace to Race, the Iron Nun, two days earlier. We were thrilled to see her come out of the water. Two years ago, she was wearing a new wet suit, given by a sponsor and had to stop short as it was too tight and constricted her breathing. Last year she missed the bike cutoff by one minute because of unexpected headwinds coming back into town. Expecting that Brian would finish after 1:40 (his “optimistic” estimate), we settled in on the beach, cheering the swimmers.

Little did we know that Brian had already finished at 1:28 …

We saw the sea of blue and pink caps bobbing and as each blue-capped swimmer would emerge, we would quickly scan his face, “Brian?” At two hours into the race, they relaxed the barricades and everyone was allowed to come right up to the finish line in the water. We were cheering everyone on and then the cutoff was announced: “There are three men left and it looks like one of them won’t make it”. “Oh no, Brian must have had muscle cramps!” I thought. Brian was hoping for a 1:40 swim time but wasn’t sure he would finish the swim because of his experience with cramping when swimming and said, “the Ironman may be an expensive swim”. However, we just couldn’t accept it, was there anyway that Brian had already finished? No, he was “hoping for a 1:40, at the earliest”. We fought back the tears, determined to cheer as he emerged when at 2:19, one minute before the cutoff, we got a text from Brian: “Top of McLean Creek Road”, whew! He was already on the bike! We stayed to cheer on the last finisher who forgot his prescription goggles at home! (King Lasik could have helped with this problem!) Whew!! What a relief, Brian was still in the race!
The swim was an emotional roller coaster as we thought the race ended early for Brian. Thankfully, he was still in the race! We (Robin and Cameron were the official “race-chasing” drivers J) raced home to gather the rest of the “Iron Support team”, who needed more sleep and raced along back roads to emerge at Yellow Lake on Green Mountain Road. We kept telling the “Iron kids support team”, “Brian should be here any minute now, he’ll just be around the corner.” The kids were amazing sports, with positive attitudes and brought smiles to the athletes’ faces with their “high-fives” and encouraging words. We would see the name of the athlete on his/her number and encourage them by name. We cheered on cyclists for three hours until we saw Brian! Hayden, Sophie, Callum and Olivia spotted him first and began to run up the hill with him. Robin got some great photos of this beautiful memory.
By this time, it was close to 4 p.m. and the “medical tent” volunteer team had to leave – Cameron the doctor, Susie the nurse, Tim, Hayden, Brendan, Claire and Blythe. Lots of athletes were dehydrated, nauseous, and in pain. Their shift was from 4-8 p.m. but they were short of volunteers so they stayed and helped until midnight! Unbelievable “Ironvolunteers”!

The rest of us “Ironchasers” got back in the car and drove along the bike route. Brian stopped and pulled over to the side of the road with leg cramps but we couldn’t stop because it was one-way traffic. We stopped at a highway store to buy some water and as we came out Sister Madonna rode past us. We jumped back into the car and drove alongside her to get some pictures of her beautiful smile. We turned the car around and by this time, Brian was back on the bike so we got some great photos of him, streaming down the hill. We drove the car back into town and ordered Indian food “to-go” for everyone. We arrived at the bike transition a bit before 5 p.m., just as Sister Madonna was beginning her run. (Brian and Sister Madonna were neck and neck all day.) We cheered her on and were waiting for Brian to arrive as the bike cutoff time was 5:30 p.m. We were looking the wrong way (at the on-coming bicyclists) and Adam just happened to see Brian pass us on foot. We were so surprised to see that Brian had already finished the bike leg and was already starting the run! We would have had a repeat of the swim experience if Adam didn’t happen to glance over to the side just as Brian was passing us. We would have waited until 5:30 p.m. and driven back to try to find Brian on the bike course. Whew! A close call!

Robin had a brilliant idea that I could walk with Brian for some of the race and he would pick me up at the lake so I sped-walked with Brian until Skaha Lake. He was like the energizer bunny and my quadriceps and feet were starting to burn, he was walking so quickly. I had to do the “walk, walk, walk, jog” to keep up for 5.6 km, huffing and puffing, lol! We exchanged stories and by the time we reached the lake, he took off like a bullet. I realized that no cars were allowed so I thought I would have to walk back into town when I saw Robin. Robin found a way to park on the other side of the beach and walk across. Excellent! I was hungry and tired, lol, but Brian was fine! As soon as Robin saw me, he asked, “Where’s Brian?” “I just left him”, I replied and we started to run after him on the race to get photos but he was already so far gone that we could no longer see him on the road! It had only been minutes before that I had left the road-runner.

We drove home and had a delicious Indian dinner feast, making sure to save some for Brian, as Robin told him the dishes we ordered and Brian was really hungry even thinking about them! We returned to Skaha Lake around 10:15 p.m., when Brian had 6 km left to go. It was dark out, the runners had glow in the dark necklaces and headbands on. After walking for a while towards the runners, we ran into Brian. Kris and I race-walked with Brian into town. He told us that when he passed Sister Madonna at mile 11 she was bent over and looked like she had stomach pains so we made sure to tell every volunteer we met, please look out for her and make sure Sister Madonna is OK and please help her to finish this race! We wanted to go back and carry her but knew that the rules were that you could not carry or push a participant or he/she would be disqualified.

The crickets were out, the air was warm, in some spots, the stars lit our paths, in others the street lights.  There were many supporters (some dressed as fairies, butterflies, unicorns, etc.) along the sides of the road, singing and sharing encouraging remarks. With 2 km to go, Cameron met us with the Brendan, Sophie, Claire, Callum and Olivia. They all joined the race walk (Brian’s speed was a jog/run for them) and we made a singing parade with everyone jumping, running, hopping along, chanting, “Let’s go Brian, way to go! whoo, whoo!” It was so spirited and fun, the spectators were cheering, “Love the support, kids!” “Way to go, family teamwork!” “We love the ironkids!”

We could not enter the “finisher’s tunnel” so we ran behind the bleachers with Brian as he crossed the finish line! He saw Hayden and Susie in the medical tent and we filled the stands, cheering for all of the finishers and waiting for Sister Madonna to cross. Everyone was holding their breath and the announcer said, “If anyone has seen Sister Madonna, would they please come and tell me where she is, we need her to cross this finish line to make the new world record.” At shortly after 11:20 p.m., she was spotted and the whole crowd turned into a roaring fire, leaping and jumping with joy. We were so excited and relieved to see Sister Madonna finish! Last year, Brian and I were volunteering as “catchers” and Sister Madonna experienced some serious headwind on her bike and finished at 5:31, a minute after the deadline so she could not complete the race. The race cutoff was midnight and we knew she would make it! We all stumbled into cars and drove home - Sue and Cameron had champagne to toast Brian’s success! Bravo and thank you, ironkids, ironhost and ironhostess, ironphotographers, ironchasers and ironvolunteers.

It was an inspirational, energizing and amazing feat, all around


“Only a wonderful, loving creator could have made such a lovely, beautiful day.” (Sister Madonna after finishing)

I took 3 videos:

Morning Swim, interviewing Cameron, Brian waving at 2:31 of the video as he entered the water in the swim.

Ironsupporters on the side of the road on bike course – so happy and encouraging!

The chanting and running with kids on the final 2 km stretch- what a joyful finish.

Ironman Canada '12

posted Aug 29, 2012, 6:16 AM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 9:34 AM ]

On Sunday, August 26 I participated in the Ironman Canada race in Penticton. It was a fantastic experience and I was lucky to have so many family members in Penticton to cheer me on. I'm especially grateful to my cousin Cameron and his wife Sue, who not only hosted Maria and me (and Mia Bella, our Italian Greyhound), but also my brother Robin, my cousin Adam and his wife Kris, and my cousin Sue and her whole family, with the addition of two more cousins visiting from Scotland. Talk about a full house!

I started the day at 4:45 a.m. I had a small breakfast of whipping cream and MCT oil. I prepared a bike bottle with water and electrolytes to sip before the race. Robin, Cameron and Maria drove me down to Main Street for body marking. After getting my shoulders and legs marked with my number (1500)
we all went to Starbucks to stay warm until I had to go down to the transition area. At 6:15 I walked down to the transition area and borrowed a pump to inflate my tires to 120 psi. I put a couple of things in my transition bags. Finally, I put my wetsuit on and placed my dry clothes bag by the fence. Steve King, the legendary announcer, said the water temperature was a warm 21.6 C (great for me because I don't do well in cold water). I walked over to the beach, almost the last athlete to do so, and moved over to the left side of the beach, to try to give Robin a better shot of me starting. The horn sounded and the race was on. I, however, slowly walked into the water and put my face mask on and didn't actually start swimming until two and a half minutes had past. I was trying to avoid the chaos of 2600 people hitting the water at the same time.

The Swim - I wanted to establish a slow and steady rhythm to start and it went well. After about ten minutes already I had caught up to a fairly big crowd of other swimmers. It wasn't hard to find room to manoeuvre, though, and I felt like I was making good progress. I made the decision early on not to kick to avoid cramping. By the time I neared the end of the first leg (the swim is a triangle with legs of 1612, 450 and 1800 meters) the swimmers were quite crowded. I didn't realize that the bouy at the turn was a big white oblong one and found myself just swimming with the group around the bouy. By the second turn I realized that the big white ones marked the turns and I hit my lap button on my watch (46 minutes at that point). The swim back was good, but it was a bit tough for me to site because of the sun and because I couldn't really see the finish area. At 68 minutes I had a foot cramp and stopped swimming to stretch my foot. I was close to a buoy at that point and was quite surprised to realize I was still moving at a decent pace. The only way I can describe it is a man made current. It significantly sped up my swim. I was careful the rest of the way to relax my legs as much as possible and avoided any more cramps, although I could feel them just about to start in my right quad. I couldn't believe my time as I walked out of the water, over the timing mat and to the wetsuit strippers. I completed the swim in 1:28:49. My optimistic estimate had been 1:40, and as a result nobody was there to see me get out of the water. After my wetsuit was off I realized I was fairly cold. I started shivering as I made my way with my transition bag to the change tent. The tent was quite warm, luckily, and I changed into my bike shoes and socks (I had my shorts and tank top on underneath the wetsuit). I then put on my helmet and picked up my bike and made my way out of the transition area. My official T1 time was 14:10.

The Ride - I was pretty cold and starting the ride in my wet clothes didn't help matters. I took it fairly easy through Penticton, and then down Skaha lake we were in the shade so I was still pretty cold. I didn't really warm up until the first hill on McLean Creek Road. I found the ride down to Osoyoos pretty smooth. I stayed in my aerobars as much as possible, and I stopped at every aid station. I knew I would have to rest frequently in order to make it the whole way. I ended up stopping at every aid station except one. One psychological advantage of doing this was that I spent most of the ride passing people. I passed some of the same people over and over again (they took shorter or fewer breaks, or both). Because my swim time was better than I had anticipated I was able to relax a bit on the bike and knew that I would be able to finish before the cutoff so long as I could avoid devastating cramps. I had one scary moment on the ride between Oliver and Osoyoos. For much of the bike course the cyclists only had the shoulder to ride in and car traffic was flowing as it would normally. I was in the process of passing another cyclist when a pickup truck towing a huge camper-trailer passed us. The wind buffeted both of us and we both started to wobble, but luckily did not contact each other or go down. After Osoyoos we headed up the first big climb -- Richter Pass. I took it slowly and spent the first half chatting with another athlete. The pass isn't too bad as it's broken into about four separate climbs with flat parts in between. I was pretty happy, though, to reach the top and head down the other side. However, here I had my second scary moment. I was going faster than the cyclists ahead of me (I hit a top speed of 70 km/h) and wanted to pass them, but traffic was flowing on my left and it was quite heavy as I was going down. I had to be careful to find a path between the cyclists ahead of me and the traffic. In this regard the Ironman bike course is not as nice as the Fondo rides where the cyclists always have a dedicated lane. After Richter Pass is a series of rollers. I hadn't been too worried about this when I drove the entire bike course on Thursday morning, although that day the headwind was quite strong. Luckily the headwind was not nearly as strong, but as soon as I started up the first of the rollers I felt a cramp coming on in my right quad. I stopped immediately and rested it. This was the first time I thought I might not make it. I spent the rest of the ride trying to avoid cramping up. I took it especially easy going up the hills. By the time I got close to Crawston I felt that I had lost a fair bit of time (I was always comparing myself to my "virtual partner" on my Garmin, which was set at 22 km/h -- a speed that would generate a bike split of 8:11). So I started to pick it up on the flat section heading toward the out-and-back section. The out-and-back section is the only place on the bike course where you can see other cyclists going the opposite direction. At the end of the "out" is the special needs bag pickup. I had left myself a small bag of nuts, which I devoured and two more bags mixed with Superstarch and electrolytes. All in all I consumed five such bags on the bike course. So, including the nuts, my total caloric intake from the start of the swim leg up to the end of the bike leg was about 900 calories. During the entire race I never had any gastric distress, and I never really felt a lack of energy. After the out-and-back section is the long climb up to Yellow Lake. I was worried about this, but aside from the last pitch this turned out to be quite easy. The best part was finally seeing my cheering section!
They had waited for me for a couple of hours a few kilometers from Yellow Lake. I reached Yellow Lake and felt very relieved. I spent a fair bit of time at the aid station there. However, there was still a bit more to climb before heading back down into Penticton. On the climb to Twin Lakes my right quad started to cramp and I had to rest at the side of the road. I managed to make it to the top, though, and enjoyed the fast descent on the other side, especially as the cyclists had a dedicated lane. However, once Skaha lake came into view again I started cramping again. This time it was even worse, though, as my adductors were cramping, and it's pretty hard to find a way to stretch them out. I had to stop at a PetroCan station and found a comfortable postion to rest my leg with a bit of difficulty. I spent about five minutes there before resuming my ride. The rest of the ride into Penticton I tried to go as carefully as possible, and I managed to avoid cramping. My official time on the bike leg was 8:02:13 for an average of 22.4 km/h. The actual time I spent riding (according to my Garmin) was 6:59:50, though, for an average moving speed of 25.75 km/h. I spent 7:09 in the second transition putting my running shoes on and putting away my cycling gear.

The Marathon - After my appendectomy in May I decided that I would not train for the run, as it's the most taxing part of training. Besides, if I couldn't complete the swim or the bike there wouldn't be any need to run. So, I resolved that if I managed to make the bike cutoff (5:30 p.m.) I would walk the marathon, running only as needed to make the midnight cutoff. I ended up heading out on the marathon course at about 4:53 p.m. I was ecstatic since I realized that this probably gave me enough time to walk the entire course. At 100 meters/minute you can walk a marathon in 7:02. I had done some trials and knew I could walk about 108 meters/minute (at least for an hour or so). I made a decision not to run at all until the second half of the marathon, and possibly not at all. I started walking briskly away from the transition area and immediately saw my cheering section again! After the out-and-back section along Lakeshore Maria decided to walk with me until we reached Skaha Lake. It was nice to be able to talk to someone. I was going a little squirrelly on the bike. Normally I listen to audiobooks while cycling, but no audio devices are allowed during the race. I was feeling really good and the pace I was able to maintain at the start was averaging a little better than 14 minutes per mile (the marathon course was marked every mile, so I would press the lap button on my Garmin every time I saw a mile marker). At 14 minutes per mile I could finish the marathon in 6:07, but I knew I would probably take a couple of breaks, and I wasn't sure I could keep that pace up. In the end, I did manage to keep that pace, only slowing down slightly over the last couple of miles. Any thoughts of running were dispensed with when my hamstrings started cramping while walking up the first hill after the special needs bag pickup, which was located at the turn around point in Okanagan Falls. I was joined again by my cheering section once I hit Skaha Beach, and Maria and Kris walked me all the way back into town. Once I hit downtown I was met by Cameron and all my younger cousins who started a chant and kept me going over the last mile. I ended up with a marathon time of 6:15:46, an average of 112.3 meters per minute. At this pace I was faster than any of the other walkers I encountered, faster than some of the run-walkers, and faster even than some people while they were running, much to their frustration. I really enjoyed the beauty of Skaha Lake on the walk and I talked with a lot of spectators and other athletes along the way. It was truly a memorable experience and the most enjoyable part of the race for me. I was sending and receiving text messages on my cell phone along the way. I had brought my cell phone on the bike, too, sending out text messages whenever I stopped, to let people know where I was.

Crossing the finish line in an overall time of 16:08:05 was an unbelievable experience for me. I had told many people that my goal was to be the last official finisher, with an emphasis on "finisher", and I truly would have been very happy to have crossed the line a few seconds before midnight. I was always focused on finishing, as opposed to finishing in a particular time, but especially after my appendectomy I started to view the race as something more like climbing a mountain. The goal was simply to finish. The time really didn't matter. I made a plan and, amazingly, was able to execute it, with each leg turning out a little better than my plan. The absolutely ideal weather certainly helped. Had the race been two or three days earlier I'm not sure I would have finished. The winds were very strong on Thursday and Friday. Friday morning I went for a short swim at 7:30 in the morning. The winds were howling and the lake was choppy. I'm not sure I would have finished the swim, and the bike would have been much more difficult. On Tuesday after the race there was a thunder storm, which also would have made the end of the bike difficult and the marathon miserable.

Once I crossed the finish line I was presented with my medal and then I was very surprised to be handed my finisher's t-shirt and cap by a former student, Natasha. She was volunteering with the intention of signing up for next year. Good luck with the training, Natasha! After a quick official photo I was met by my cousin Sue, and her son Hayden. They had spent the afternoon and evening volunteering in the medical tent along with Sue's husband Tim and their cousins from Scotland, Claire and Blythe. Hayden escorted me to the food and drink area, but I didn't feel like much. During the first half of the marathon I ate bananas and cookies and so I wasn't very hungry at the finish line. I did feel like a massage, but unfortunately they were not taking any more clients. So, I went with Hayden back to finish line and into the bleachers to await the arrival of 82-year-old Sister Madonna Buder. She was hoping to become the first woman over 80 to finish an Ironman. I had passed Sister Madonna on the bike a couple of times (she kept getting ahead of me when I took breaks), and then I passed her again, not looking too good, at about mile 11 on the marathon. She ended up finishing in 16:32 to wild cheers from the fans. Maria and I went to her book signing in Penticton on Friday and chatted with her, and we'd also chatted with her last year in the finisher's area when she failed to make the bike cut-off by one minute.

A few years ago I was talking to someone who had done multiple Ironman events, and I was extremely impressed. However, he said, "Anyone can do an Ironman. You just have to put in the time and effort." I'm not sure I believed him at the time, but I do now. A few years ago I thought it was a ridiculous goal for me to do a marathon, and now I've done three (not including the one in the Ironman). But to do an Ironman was an even more outlandish goal than doing a marathon. However, it was a goal that I pursued for the last two years. I volunteered at the 2010 Ironman Canada initially with the intention of signing up for the 2011 race, but I decided at the last minute that I wasn't ready. So I volunteered again in 2011 and did sign up. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I highly recommend it to anyone contemplating it. Will I do another Ironman? I think I will, but not for a few years. I would like to be a much stronger cyclist before attempting another Ironman. I'm looking forward right now to not having to worry about what I'm eating, when I'm going to squeeze in my next workout and otherwise focussing an enormous amount of mental energy on the Ironman.

Some numbers for me, and the 2012 Ironman Canada race:
  • My time: 16:08:05
  • Overall place: 2249
  • Swim place: 1964
  • Bike place: 2403
  • Run place: 2082
  • "Men 45-49" place: 300 out of 325
  • "Men 45-49" swim place: 270
  • "Men 45-49" bike place: 312
  • "Men 45-49" run place: 274
  • Winner's time: 8:48:30
  • My time as a percent of winner's time: 183.2%
  • Number of athletes starting race: 2576
  • Number of athletes finishing race: 2423
A couple of short videos:

The transition area just before the start of the race.

Walking the marathon route, along Skaha Lake. Incredibly beautiful!

Neil Gaiman

posted Jul 28, 2012, 2:46 PM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Jul 28, 2012, 2:47 PM ]

I had never heard of the author Neil Gaiman until a few weeks ago. In a blog post I came across a link to his commencement address to the University of the Arts class of 2012. I found it a delightful and inspiring speech. I looked up his list of publications and, while I'd never read anything of his, I had seen the movie Coraline, which I liked. So, I went to the library and just looked for anything of his on the shelves. I ended up with three books, all of which I liked: The Graveyard Book, Odd and the Frost Giants, and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. The first two are young adult fiction and the last is a children's picture book.

VOWSA Canada Day swim

posted Jul 2, 2012, 9:50 AM by Brian Taylor

I signed up for the VOWSA Canada Day swim at Sasamat Lake this year as preparation for the Ironman swim. I entered the 4k division. Yesterday morning was a typically miserable Canada Day, with air temperature of about 13 C and light showers. I ended up dropping out after 2k because I was feeling quite cold. In fact, when I went to return my timing chip I had trouble speaking. I was happy with my swim though, and perhaps if my training hadn't been interrupted I would have completed the 4k. I didn't cramp, which is a big deal for me. I did find that my sighting skills were weak, so I'll have to work on that in the ocean over the next few weeks. I also think I should work on my kick. I actually chose not to kick to lessen the chance of cramping, but I may have finally figured out the correct dietary interventions to overcome the cramps (at least I hope so!).


posted Jun 24, 2012, 3:03 PM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Jun 24, 2012, 3:08 PM ]

I've always considered myself an introvert. Perhaps it's one of the reasons I find parent-teacher interviews the most stressful two days of the year. The rest of the year I don't mind being an introvert, but I think it has harmed my success in a few instances. I didn't do particularly well at either of the two software firms I worked for, in part because my introversion was interpreted as a lack of interest in the business. I can also remember an interview I had for a trading position with Powerex. The interviewer thought I was too introverted for the job. All his traders were boisterous and outgoing. In the months after the interview I kept coming up with counter-arguments (none of which, of course, I was able to come up with during the interview), such as the fact that he had probably never hired an introvert. I also came across an article on Robert Rubin who had been a star trader at Goldman Sachs before becoming co-managing parter and then Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton. He was most definitely an introvert. Now, there's a new book that discusses introversion and the role of introverts in society called Quiet. I've got it on hold at the library (I'm #204 in line!). In the mean time, I just read a very interesting interview with the author, Susan Cain, and watched her TED talk. I highly recommend watching it and reading the interview.

Cheese and fermented milk products

posted Jun 18, 2012, 6:33 PM by Brian Taylor   [ updated Jun 18, 2012, 6:43 PM ]

In some circles I'm known as the "cheese man", but in reality I don't eat quite as much cheese as is commonly believed. However, I certainly like cheese and other milk products. It turns out that cheese and fermented milk products might be protective against heart disease, especially in women. Take a look at these three studies:

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