Detour#1 – India

In a previous post, I committed to myself that that I would occasionally allow life detours. This is #1 for 2015.

I want to state from the outset, that I probably annoyed my wife. I know I left home at a time when Max wasn’t sleeping very well and Zhenya was going to be taking the brunt of some sleepless nights. One of my colleagues sourly commented on my “lack of availability” at the end of last week. I know my team could have used me around when a few intense deliverables were due. But instead, late last week, I went to a wedding.

A Bollywood wedding.

Last year a dear friend of mine invited me to a wedding in India. Not his wedding, but his son’s wedding (the “son” – to protect his identity – is a super guy in his own right) but I really went because Daddio invited me. I am sure I could have said no without offence. I know for sure that there were far more important and special people invited than me (i.e. a very large and interesting family). But I went because I think an Indian wedding is a life experience that should be struck off the bucket list, and even better if that experience comes from nice people that you genuinely like.

These are very nice people.

So, I skedaddled to Bangalore for the weekend. I arrived at my hotel and was immediately “bindied” (first image, below). An hour or so after this happened, I Skyped Max and he asked me “Dadda, do you have an ‘owie’ on your head?” Nope. That red smear on my forehead is apparently a “welcome blessing.” Frankly, the young lady that crouched down and marked my forehead was absolutely stunning and the Catholic in me momentarily hybridized this velvet-skinned specimen of loveliness rubbing ochre on my forehead, with the vague echo of  some sort of ecclesiastical ritual. A kind of Hindu baptism. Rowdy. I don’t mind saying it left me slightly cross-eyed.

Geddit Indiya...

Geddit Indiya…

I settled into my hotel in Bangalore around mid-afternoon as it was starting to get hot and sweaty, and I am not just talking about me. My immediate item of business was to go out and find a Sherwani, the traditional Indian festive dress. This was less easy than I had hoped, mainly because of my “western” frame and stature (i.e. chubbiness). I went to a dozen hole-in-the-wall boutiques selling traditional men’s clothing, with no luck. Nothing really fit me, especially around the midriff. Eventually, I found an enterprising tailor who exclaimed “NO problems, Mr. Chris, we can expand, we can expand!” (accompanied by the necessary side-to-side head waggles).

This is my hero:

The Grand Tailor of Bangalore

The Grand Tailor of Bangalore

A couple of hours later, I walked out with a lot of bling…

bling

The wedding was insane. Rituals. Food. Dancing. When I caught my 2:50am flight to Paris, I was tired but happy. Not drunk though – it’s hard to get hammered at an Indian wedding. Lassi (yoghurt drink) and gavathi chaha (lemongrass tea) is hardly conducive to a crazy, wild night. Unsurprisingly I arrived feeling surprisingly fresh.

I was grateful to be hangover-free…

The nicest thing about the wedding was that it was the union between a high-gotra Brahmin and a north-African Muslim woman. They are such a beautiful couple, but also a testimony to the fact that education and prosperity can overcome any religious difference. Every time our politicians cut funding to education, what they are really doing is making a social pact that they will foster intolerance and prevent the union of people who would be otherwise perfect for each other.

Inspiring.

An Extraordinary Day : The LAX Shootings

Being rapidly escorted by an LAPD crisis response unit in small groups underneath the terminal at LAX

Being rapidly escorted by an LAPD crisis response unit in small groups underneath the terminal at LAX

Well, that was a day I will not forget soon.

As I arrived into Los Angeles airport (LAX) this morning from Australia, standing in the customs hall, the airport all of a sudden went into lockdown. Heavily armed officers informed us that the immigration area was now a secured area, that there was a gunman on the loose in terminal and we would only be escorted out in small groups. They told us that if we hear the words “get down” that we should… er… get down and hit the floor.

Welcome to America.

LAX strangely eerie during lock-down. Not a single car inor out.

LAX strangely eerie during lock-down. Not a single car inor out.

The following 6 hours was total chaos. Airport had no idea what was going on. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) basically shut down. No traffic allowed in or out of LAX. Century Boulevard (when I finally got out – almost a two hour exercise in its own right) a strange quasi-apocalptic scene of mass exodus, log jammed shuttle services trying to get into the terminal area and streams of sweaty and irritated travellers hauling their luggage out, police and emergency crew everywhere. It was an absolute field day…

I had originally planned 4-5 hours in the office before flying to NYC for the marathon but it was not to be. At about 5pm I decided that the probability of getting on a flight out was slim and even if I did get on a plane, I would get into NYC so late that I would be wiped out. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Even at almost 8pm (10+ hours later) roads in and out of LAX are a disaster - this Imperial Hwy flyover is plugged.

Even at almost 8pm (10+ hours later) roads in and out of LAX are a disaster – this Imperial Hwy flyover is plugged.

So much for hydrating, relaxing, focusing before the run… though I suppose others had a worse day than me?

Notwithstanding the tragedy of the airport security officer who was gunned down, the day was an ardent demonstration of the lack of coordination between elements of airport security (TSA, police), airlines and passengers. We literally got more information about what was going on from Twitter feeds, Facebook and CNN, than what was going in the airport. Today was a relatively small crisis – I don’t ever want to find myself in LAX when something major goes down.

… like a 7.0+ earthquake.

Carb loading... LA style. In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up.

Carb loading… LA style. In a desperate attempt to cheer myself up.

One week until the big day

It’s hard to believe how fast the year has flown by. It seems like only yesterday that it was early January, New Year resolutions had been made and the idea of running a marathon as a “motivator” to get fit was haphazardly formed.

On Sunday I run 42kms.

Am I ready? Well… it depends.

About 10 days ago I decided I really needed to take a small training risk and improve my pre-marathon psychology. The maximum distance I had run was about 20kms (so a bit under half-way) and although I felt good after that sort of distance – comfortable even – I needed the personal boost, the knowledge that I could go further.

I ran 32kms.16kms (on pavement) followed by an hour of core training and then 16kms back home. I felt fine. Knees a teeny bit sore that evening but the next day, aside from a bit of stiffness, I was quite mobile. Physically I feel up to the task  and my legs feel robust. My breathing is hugely improved and I have perfected my long-distance iPod shuffle playlist!

Actually, on the whole, I look and feel better than I have in a long time. I didn’t quite hit my target of 25kgs of weight loss (I got to maybe 18) but it’s not going to stop with marathon day. This has been about reform.

This is Chris v2.0.

The problem is that I have a cold. A whopper cold.  My nostrils are red from tissue abrasion and Tiger Balm. My nose is literally dripping non-stop and uncontrollably. I actually cannot breathe through my nose. Therefore my last week of pre-marathon preparation (the “taper”) is decongestant, hot baths and sleep. For all of you who supported me I am still getting on that plane to NYC and I am still going to run. But if necessary I am going to take it slow and steady. I hope you can forgive me if my time doesn’t make any record books.

Wish me luck. Home remedy suggestions for sniffles are welcome…

ING 2013 NYC Marathon – 3 Weeks to Go

Why does running somehow always look so 80s? Oh wait, maybe this picture WAS in the 80s...

Why does running somehow always look so 80s? Oh wait, maybe this picture WAS in the 80s…

Well, I’m on the final stretch.The last few weeks have been tough to stay on top of training. Partially because the distances are getting longer, partially because life has been really busy. When I started this journey, I don’t think I appreciated how tough it was going to be.

We had a major clinical milestone due at ImaginAb and after it was out of the way, I was just wiped out. As usual, after a sustained period of stress/adrenaline, my body just packed it in and I was sick for a week. Then we went on vacation for a week in Thailand and a combination of gastroenteritis and Max not sleeping (whatsoever) meant I had a break from running for almost two weeks. Not good…

Physically, I am feeling ok. My fitness is better than it has been in probably a decade, I’ve lost close to 15kgs (ideally would have lost closer to 25kgs). My legs are pretty strong, though my knees have been complaining a bit recently. Core training has helped and my back seems to survive the longer distances ok. My longest distance prior to race day will be 25kms – that’s only 60% of race day distance.

Hmmmm…

Anyhow, although I am a bit stressed about the day, I also feel I can do it. I’m not shooting for any records, my goal is just to make it over the line. I’d like to do it in less than 5 hours but if I do it in less than 6 I’ll be just delighted. For me, this has not so much been about the end-performance in the race, but rather the goal of getting back into some kind of mindset about health. Providing I don’t end up in cardiac ward or something, this goal will have been achieved.

The thing that will REALLY help me to get over the line and stay motivated on the day is your sponsorship. Thank you to all those who stepped up to the mark to help me to raise over $11,000 for the Heart Foundation. I haven’t yet hit my goal of $20,000 – despite matching the first $5,000 – but there is still time to get your wallet out. You can donate here.

Wish me luck! Any words of support, encouragement and good knee-soothing karmic thoughts on the day are appreciated!

Hopefully this will be me... wish me luck!

Hopefully this will be me… wish me luck!

How to feel accomplishment?

I’ve always felt engaged by the world I live in. I definately have the capacity to marvel, admire and even occasionally stop and smell the roses. Having a little kid who points and queries every little thing also has the ability to reconnect you with the simple aspects of life (a bug, a tree, a puppy, a flower) that sometimes we don’t fully stop and appreciate.

Today, however, I saw something amazing. I happened to be at home this afternoon and I saw my son Max stand for the first time. Or at least, it was the first time that I had seen it. I also happened to ascertain that he was trying to get up and managed to whip my iPhone out in time.

Here is the action sequence, blurs ‘n all :

A Great Day (08Aug2013)

The look on his face when he stood, arms in the air, was so happy. Not proud, not smug, not cocky but joyful with the understanding that he had achieved something marvellous. Something special.

It was such a simple thing and yet such a profound moment for him. I almost felt a sense of jealousy at his pure joy – and then found myself asking myself (terrible sentance construction, sorry…) “when did I lose my ability to feel that sort of basic sense of accomplishment?”

I never attended my college graduation. I never collected my doctoral diploma. I’ve closed rounds of financing for companies – even sold companies – and simply gone home … and gone to work again the next day. I’ve won awards and not even bothered mentioning it to my wife.

When did I stop standing there, smiling a toothy grin at the world, with my hands in the air? Am I alone in asking this question?

Well, it’s not too late to make sure my son doesn’t follow his father’s dysfunctional ways. He got a VERY BIG HUG. We are raising him bilingually and when he sat down again, I exclaimed “molodets!” which is Russian for “well done” – an expression we use when he has done something good, accompanied by hand clapping.

With a big grin on his face, he clapped his hands and gave himself an applause. Well done, Son. I’m proud of you.

little champ

 

Anyone want to buy a (now) riverfront Calgary apartment?

Just my luck. My wife and I own a small apartment in Calgary, Canada. Long story why – but we do. We’ve had tenants the last few years but recently concluded we didn’t want the hassle anymore and decided to sell the property. Summertime – the best time to sell, the weather is nice, the park across the way looks pretty. Yeah, well the day we choose a realtor to sell the condo, the sky parted and a great deluge came down from the heavens.

A year of water hoiked it down in a couple of hours. Was it a sign?

If you have not been following the events or seen newsflashes, Calgary is under water. A week before the famous “Calgary Stampede” our celestial governors decided to turn the Saddledome into a vast pond – it must be billions of dollars of damage. The footage is extraordinary.

I have three comments.

Firstly, my hat off to Naheed Nenshi and the City of Calgary for the way this was handled. By all accounts, an exemplary demonstration of effective city government. I’ve heard phenomenal stories of how fire, police and emergency services have efficiently – and tirelessly – ensured the safety of the populace. My understanding is that despite the widespread damage and incredible water depths (and literally rapids running through parts of the city) that there have only been 2 or 3 deaths. Kudos.

By the way as an aside note, I am a big fan of Mayor Nenshi, a really superb example of a vibrant and committed public servant. A future Premier of Alberta … maybe even a Prime Minister in the making? He certainly beats Julian Trudeau hands down in my book (true sign of a lack of inspirational political candidates when we have to resort to genetics). I’ll also add that my [awesome] Brother-in-Law, Juan (who lives in Calgary), is Nenshi’s doppelganger – they literally could have been separated at birth – and has actually had to grow a beard to stop random people coming up to him and telling him what a great job he is doing running the city. Hilarious! So you see, our family has a unique insight in Nenshi’s competence and popularity as a Mayor.

Separated at Birth

Secondly, although our apartment itself was not damaged, the building got a pretty good soaking at a ground floor level and the basements/car parks and lobby were certainly flooded. Methinks we are going to have to be a bit more creative about how we market our property. Perhaps:

Top floor, waterfront Calgary property with an intimate river atmosphere located (somewhere) at the intersection of the Bow and Elbow rivers. This superb property boasts sweeping river views, in-ground basement swimming pool and aquatic recreation area, a swim-up bar, a pool lounge area and valet parking with free car washing – every day! Watch birdlife from the master bedroom and sense the tranquillity of a water feature in your own living room. Close to nature, close to water and only a short boat ride to the centre of Calgary.

… sigh.

Lastly, our thoughts go out to the people of Calgary who are dealing with this in real-time and on the ground, not from afar like we are. Calgarians are tough, resilient and generous people who will help each other through this difficult time. It was “classic” Calgary to see the T-shirt theme for Stampede this year was “Hell or High Water.” You can buy them online and all proceeds go to flood relief. Hopefully the show will go on in a few days time.