Member Profile - James MacGregor
James does not cover his period as a Hells Angel, probably saving it for the sequel. Read on. Where are you from?
I'm from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia originally. I grew up in the woods on a small organic fruit and vegetable farm, and attribute my capacity for endurance sports to the countless hours I spent weeding, planting, lugging rocks, harvesting, piling firewood, etc. Rain? Heat? Cold? Back pain? All good friends of mine.
I spent my twenties in a bit of a haze in Fredericton NB -- ten years in total, most of which was spent living the exact opposite life of a triathlete. Staying up late, getting up late, zero exercise, lots of banned substances and other doping if you know what I mean, plenty of dehydration headaches.
Started running and weight training as a way to keep doing what I was doing and not totally die, and eventually the running took over. At some point, about five years ago, I decided to switch things up even further and move to Vancouver. (Oh, and I spent a summer in between up north treeplanting, including a stint in a small town called Vanderhoof. You've probably never heard of it.)
In Vancouver I have discovered that what Maritimers call recreational drinking, Vancouverites call alcoholism ... so I've adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. Honestly, it feels good to be healthy, but I do sometimes wish the bars weren't so hipster -- and stayed open later.
What do you do professionally?
Among other things, I work for the Public Knowledge Project http://pkp.sfu.ca as a sort of developer/specialist. It's a great project: a small group of folks working together to promote open access to scholarly research across the world. I've had the good fortune of meeting a lot of interesting people all over the world because of this job. I'm a private contractor, essentially, so I get to work from home or wherever I might be. That offers a great deal of flexibility for fitting in training, of course, but at the same time my day can suffer without having at least a little bit of externally-imposed structure.
What are your passions?
Outside of work (which I am passionate about), coffee is maybe passion #1, followed then by music and then by triathlon.
I haven't gone a day without coffee in probably something like 15 years -- neither sleet, nor snow, nor deathly flu has ever stopped me. If you've had enough coffee, this cartoon http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/062705/where-is.gif is maybe the funniest cartoon in the world.
And I've been really, really into music since junior high -- mostly non-wanky variations on heavy metal, like stoner rock/sludge/drone/etc. -- but I've also gone through folk, electronic, pop, rap and blues phases. I cannot think of anything better than blasting Queens of the Stone Age's "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar (But I Feel Like a Millionaire)" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0p1K69ZOs8 while running along the sea wall. Talk about endorphins.
I used to actually play in a few bands back in Fredericton, most of them falling into some sort of experimental/heavy/folk vibe or another (sometimes in the same band). I still play my acoustic here and there, but haven't had the motivation or the time since moving to Vancouver to get another band started. And I'm not really an active part of that scene like I was in Fredericton. I do miss that part of my life ... there's nothing like getting into a good riff with some close friends over a bottle (or two) of rum. It's one of those things that will come back, I'm sure.
Sport-wise, I'm passionate about testing myself, seeing how far I can go -- and how fast. I'm a heavy reader, and I've started building a good library of sports-related literature -- I like the nerd side of the sport as well as the physical side. After being a bit of a solitary-minded athlete, I am also very pleasantly surprised at how passionate I've become about the community -- participating in such a great group as Leading Edge, of course, but also seeing the same (non-club) faces out at races and sharing commiseration and celebration with those folks at the finish line.
I never in my life played a team sport, and I was always pretty quiet, so sometimes it really takes me by surprise that I'm out there yelling out support to fellow athletes, or trading trash talk on the course.
How long have you been in Triathlon?
This will be my second full season as an athlete. I only did two full triathlons before joining Leading Edge in May 2012, and it was only towards the end of last summer that I started even considering using the word "athlete" to describe myself. My family, however, has had a fairly involved relationship with a long-running triathlon in my hometown. The Yarmouth Triathlon is in its 26th year now, I think; for the first 25 it was hosted by the Yarmouth YMCA, where my dad worked.
Us kids volunteered most years (getting up at an ungodly hour to get to the start on time was preferable to farm work), as flag wavers at corners, driving the sweep car, etc.
I never actually ever considered doing a full tri until I ran the leg portion of the Yarmouth tri one year as part of a relay team, after which I tried out the cyclist's late 1980's Cannondale road bike. Man, the first time riding an actual road bike and that was it. I had a $200 Norco Scorcher "mountain" bike at the time.
It took me three years after that to be able to afford a proper bike, which is the Cervelo I have now. I still consider myself a very young student of the sport, especially compared to many folks in the club who have been doing this and other sports for years.
What sports were you involved in before triathlon?
Pretty much nothing! I had an active childhood (lots of the aforementioned wholesome forced child labour on the farm, plus tons of playing in the woods), and I think I actually learned to canoe before I learned to bike, but I was otherwise spectacularly unathletic as a child. Never on a sports team outside of gym class; got my nose broken in a hockey scrum by my gym teacher; passed the minimum required swim lessons in swim class; and so on. I once actually got knocked to the ground by a pass in an intramural basketball game in Junior High. I was a skinny neeeeerd.
What has been your most memorable sports experience to date and why?
Actually completing the 2009 BMO Vancouver marathon (my only marathon to date) was a significant milestone. It was an affirmation of my new, healthier life since moving to Vancouver, and gave me the motivation to continue down that path. Uh, the monumental chafing I experienced has also proven to be memorable.
My first triathlon, the aforementioned Yarmouth tri, was a huge one too. It was an Olympic, I'd trained specifically and only for it for an entire summer, and I absolutely, unbelievably died on the course. My swim was so-so -- I was proud to get through it with only a minimum of breaststroke. My ride was complicated by cruel Maritime headwinds, and by me forgetting my gels in transition and dropping one water bottle maybe 5k from the start, but I did well enough and there were even moments where I thought that maybe I was well ahead somehow.
Then I got to T2, realized how many racers were ahead of me, and death-marched the single most painful 10k run of my entire life. Headwinds both ways! I won't tell you how long it took, but I did have to stop half-way and basically force a young onlooker to give me a high-five -- made it look like I was encouraging crowd support, but I basically had to stop and pull my body back together. The only thing that kept me going was that my sister was also doing her first tri -- we'd talked about doing this together for the entire summer, and there was no way I was going to DNF. Amazingly enough we both managed to get 1st place in our relative age cats! And that is how they hook you.
The 2012 First Half half marathon was another significant race. It was the first race where I actually felt in control pace-wise, and in-tune and competitive with the group I was with -- drafting, picking people off, all that. Credit for that goes to Coach Andrew for the excellent training plan, amazing amount of detailed advice, and the race plan for the day; and to club member Ashley, who took me under his wing on the track and showed how the game actually worked, and pushed me on the track.
What are your goals for 2012?
I'd like to break 17 minutes in a 5k and 37 minutes in a 10k; the 5k will be a significant challenge, but I think the 10k goal just needs the right race. I'm looking forward to getting a few Olympics under my belt -- I've only done the one (horrible) Olympic, described above, and I'm going to be happy to get that behind me. I'm looking forward to being actually comfortable with the swim, something that I just need to put in time for. More cyclocross and cross-country running in the fall. Basically, this year is all about getting faster where I can, and getting better at what I am currently only adequate at. Oh yeah -- and I'd like to beat Ash in one road race. :D
Is there an ultimate sports event that you would like to participate in or achieve?
That's a good question! Not exactly a sports event but I'd love to cycle across Canada (though to be honest I'd settle for doing a mountain tour and a Maritime/Quebec tour). I'd love to climb Seymour, Grouse (all the way up on the fire road), and Cyprus in one day, similar to what the Rapha folks did last summer http://www.rapha.cc/the-triple-crown-vancouver -- I'd switch to my CX bike for Grouse, and come down by fire road rather than gondola -- any takers? let me know!). A mountain running race while I'm still in the area is high on the list. I have a fondness for my hometown tri -- I'd love to go home someday and win it outright.
Who are/were your sports heroes?
I've never really followed sports. In grade 8 I even got in trouble with my homeroom teacher, who was a huge hockey fan, because I didn't know how many periods were in a hockey game. (Neeerd!) I know the big names in triathlon, running, cycling, swimming, and I follow some of them ... but I've never been a hero kind of person. Not to say I don't stand in awe of their achievements and respect and study their abilities, of course.
The folks that make the difference to me are the 9-to-5ers who are in the pool, at the track, on the road, day in/day out, in all manner of weather, for all kinds of reasons. And the club itself is a huge inspiration. Seeing the improvement, dedication, support and friendly competition within Leading Edge in particular has been a huge inspiration -- I guarantee you that I would not be the athlete I am now without the support I get from the club and without seeing everyone in it push themselves day in and day out. Wearing the club kit makes me proud.
Seeing folks who as of just a few years ago had never done triathlon and yet are now competing at very high levels -- Rob Johnson and Rob Eakin come to mind, in particular -- inspires me to see where I can take myself, and emphasizes what can be done with passion *and* consistency. And having an excellent roster of folks to challenge myself with on the track (Ash and Stan, and Michelle when she shows up!), on the bike (Chris, Dom and Dave), and in the pool (waaaaay too long a list) keeps me honest and inspires me to excel.
And then there are the coaches. Andrew, Barb, Doug, Amy, Rachel, Marie: these folks never call in sick, never phone it in, and are out there no matter what the weather. I've never been coached before, and having these people as role models and (relatively) benevolent taskmasters has been of incomparable value. I've learnt more from 20 minutes worth of conversation with any of them than I would in a year of solitary training.
And a special shout-out to my sister. She's been a huge inspiration, too -- champion treeplanter, competitive swimmer, captain of her utterly dominating university volleyball team, and all-around decent, balanced person on top of it all. Now I just need to convince her to get back into triathlons, at which she would completely kick ass. :D
What do LETC members not know about you?
I am a published, award-winning former poet. And I was once attacked by a bear.