You are from Etobicoke, Ontario, did you know that Canadian Marathon record holder Jerome Drayton grew up in nearby Mimico?
I don’t even know where Mimico is. My family moved to Richmond when I was very young so the only real memories I have of the Toronto area is from visiting family. And the only lingering effect of being born in Ontario is an undying love of the Blue Jays (thank god I didn’t get brain washed into being a Leafs fan).
What is your profession?
I’m a middle school math and science teacher. I work at Mulgrave School, which is the school that sits right at the beginning of the climb up Cypress.
What are your passions?
I have a long list of former and would be passions. Things like golf, guitar, hockey, writing, art, baseball, photography, girls…I could go on and on. (Sports before girls? Ed.)
But the realities of a 24-hour day only leave me time to pursue two at the moment: teaching and triathlon. I think most people in the club have seen my passion for triathlon and I will leave it to Taylor Mali to explain my passion for teaching:
How long have you been in Triathlon?
I sort of have two beginnings in triathlon. I did two triathlons in 2005, quit for almost two years, and then started again in 2007. I come from humble beginnings as I had never done any of the three sports before I started in 2005. When I joined Leading Edge in 2007 I was a 2 hour 50 minute Olympic distance triathlete so I take immense pride in how far I’ve come. There was a time when swimming 30 minutes, staying above 30 kph on the bike and running 50 minutes in a 10k was an incredible day for me.
What sports were you involved in before triathlon?
This could take a while. I started young playing baseball and soccer. After winning the Richmond soccer championships at ten or eleven (I can’t actually remember) I decided to go out on top and retire from the game (take that Brett Favre). To fill the gap in the winter, I tried out curling. It was interesting and I was pretty good at it but I had always wanted to play ice hockey too.
Eventually I worked up the guts and got into hockey at thirteen. That is pretty late for a Canadian kid but I knew how to skate (mostly) and had played road hockey forever so I adapted pretty quick. I played through high school, at UBC in intramural, and still play here and there when the opportunity arises. I’m proud to say that Rob J felt the wrath my defensive prowess this year as the team I play for beat his back in the fall.
From a very young age, my dad also had me golfing. I grew up playing the local pitch and putt, then executive courses in Richmond, and eventually a junior membership at Quilchena in Richmond. I played on the high school team and dabbled in a few Junior Tour events but baseball always took precedence in the summer. I did end up working at Marine Drive Golf Club for five years (getting to play with the likes of Richard Zokol, Trevor Linden, and Kirk McLean) while at university and almost became a golf pro before I turned my sights to teaching.
I’ve even tried my hand with a little basketball in high school and attended one football practice before I realized I don’t exactly have the body type for that sport.
Yes, curling. My mom still gives me a hard time about quitting after only two years. According to her, had I stuck with it, it would have been me winning gold last year in Vancouver and not Kevin Martin.
I just started playing again this year with some of my friends. Watching curling at the Olympics last year we thought it would be fun to give it try and we were right. I’m not about to argue its merits as an “athletic sport” but I love the strategy of the game.
Is Baseball a real sport or is it foreplay for beer drinking?
I will argue the merits of baseball as an “athletic sport” with you though. I understand people’s aversion to watching it on TV as it is slow paced (even I have a tough time watching it) but it takes some serious talent and athletic ability to play at a high level.
While I played a lot of other sports, baseball was really my thing growing up. I immersed myself in it (to the point where the wallpaper in my room was baseball themed) and played whenever I could. Some of my favourite memories with my dad are either at Canadians games at Nat Bailey Stadium or simply taking grounders from him at the local park.
I was actually good at it. While I couldn’t run worth a damn (ironic isn’t it), I was great in the field and was a decent pitcher. I sometimes regret quitting in grade 12 as I remember playing against Jeff Francis (who now pitches in the majors and went to UBC at the same time as me) and while he was good, I often think there wasn’t anything stopping me from having done the same thing as him. (Yes, but had you gone that route, you would not be featured in the Leading Edge blog Ed.)
What has been your most memorable sports experience to date and why?
Without a doubt, qualifying for Worlds in Vancouver in 2008. I have greater sports accomplishments but the lengths I went to for this were extraordinary (most would probably say crazy).
In 2007, my first year in Leading Edge, I was improving over the summer and about a week before Kelowna I realized that with a great race, I could qualify for Worlds. However, two problems stood in the way. One, registration had closed. Two, a couple of my best friends were getting married in Victoria the day before.
So a plan, with the help of Alan and Martina, was hatched. I would attend the wedding and dinner (no drinking though), catch the last ferry back from Victoria and drive through the night to Kelowna to beg to be allowed to race. The plan went perfectly except no amount of begging or bribery would convince them to let me race. After spending the morning with Amy (who put up with my moping) cheering on Brian and the other Leading Edge racers I got a text message from Alan saying “Owen Sound?”
There was one last qualifying event for Worlds in Owen Sound and by the time I had driven myself back home to Vancouver that day, a new plan was hatched to race there. Three weeks later, I flew to Toronto on a Friday, drove through the night (again) to Owen Sound. I would come up one place short of qualifying automatically (after getting passed by two people on the run) but at least with a result, I was eligible for a roll down spot. Sure enough, weeks later I got a message from Triathlon Canada that I had received a roll down spot and eight months later I was competing at Worlds in my hometown in front of friends and family.
To this day, the shot glass from my friends’ wedding sits on my bedside table as a reminder of the things I’ve sacrificed to get where I am in this sport.
Who are/were your sports heroes?
That’s tough. I’m not a fan of calling sports figures my heroes as while I respect and often am in awe of what they do in their sports, they tend to fall short of being hero figures. For example, I respect Lance Armstrong’s ability on the bike but know that he not without a lot of faults. I am in awe of what Tiger Woods could do on the golf course but in no way want to emulate him.
I’d be more inclined to call the people I know in my life, heroes (see below).
You have stated that you are very competitive, yet there seems to be a good group dynamic among the faster athletes in the club: Stephanie, Amy K, Rob J, Clarke, Jeff M and you.
I am extremely competitive but I wrote a blog post about positive rivalry a year or so ago. I think this quote from Cam Botrill sums up my thoughts perfectly:
“Most of all, people with perspective have enough vision, gratitude and security to be open to positive rivalries and other people’s needs. Positive rivalries are reflected in the sentiment “I hope you are great, because that brings out the best in me, and that’s better for all of us”. Top competitors seem to embrace positive rivalries and share this attitude. It is clearly a much higher level of functioning than negative rivalries and the “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth” mentality that often creeps into highly competitive activity when people lose perspective.
I would not be the triathlete I am today without the crew. They push me to keep getting better (see the reminders I had posted all over my apartment last year below) and I have learned so much from them. I strive to be as consistent in training as Rob J, to be willing to “smash” myself the way Clarke can, to be as level headed and persistent in the face of a nasty injury as Jeff M, and to be able to balance life with being an elite performer the way Stephanie can.
I would also add two other crucial people to that list though: Alan and Martina. Nearly everything I know about triathlon and training I’ve learnt from Alan. The man has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing and eager to answer questions. Without him, I’m sure I would have burnt myself out by now or still be racing with harry legs (the how to shave your legs for men post on the LE blog was originally written for me).
From Martina, I learnt what it means to be an “elite” athlete. She showed me that being elite is more than some category or something that is bestowed upon you by a card. It’s an attitude to training and life and a willingness to make tough sacrifices for things that you truly want. Without her, I would probably still be happy with efforts that were “good enough”.
In the end, I think it’s very telling that as much as we all want to beat each other, we enjoy spending time together and celebrating all of our accomplishments like we did with our families after Nationals in Kelowna this past year.
Are you aiming for Worlds this year as well?
No. The cost and time off work are tough for me so I have to be selective when I go again. I will go again but I want to be competing for the win not just there participating. Instead, Nationals are my big race where I’m hoping for a top 10 finish and finally get on the podium in my age group. And of course ensuring I come out on top with the crew.
Is biking your current strongest discipline?
Absolutely. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it is also the discipline I love the most too. I have to keep myself from entering too many bike races and remember to focus on swimming and running too.
What do LETC members not know about you?
Two things (though one may have been guessed by now with the length of my responses).
One, I graduated from UBC with a degree in Astrophysics. I even spent a summer working in the department and if you look hard enough you can probably find my honours thesis on the Cooling of White Dwarf Stars to Determine the Age of Galactic Star Clusters. No joke.
Two, I love writing. I actually took a year-long creative writing course while I was getting my degree in Astrophysics and I still write all the time. Once my body can’t do this triathlon thing anymore and I have time for another passion I want to go back and get my BFA in creative writing. Mark my words I’ll get something published someday. (You just did Ed.)