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Sacrificial Spam

This isn't junk-mail. I'm actually writing a blog. It seems as though Marshall MacLuhan was right (at least about me) when he famously said that the “blurb” would one day replace the book. Twitter has given me fewer and fewer reasons to write a blog, now that I can get my thoughts out to the world in 140 characters from my phone... I suppose my creative outlet has been stifled by that modern convenience. I’ve promised this in the past, so it’s probably best not to hold me to it – but I’m going to write more.

Since my trip to Sochi with CBC in February I’ve been back in the boat, training my heart and muscles and lungs and brain to be great at kayaking. I was in Florida for about 8 weeks, raced and won the trials in Gainesville, Georgia (in K1 1000m). Since then I’ve been in Europe, racing some world cups (Milan ITA, Racice CZE and Szeged, HUN). A track n field pal of mine told me I could “race myself into shape”, which I have been trying my best to do. I came over to Europe with no expectations, I only wanted to get back into racing K1, and focus on what I could do in my boat, in my lane. After 2.5 World Cups (I’m racing the 500m and 5000m K1s tomorrow, Sunday) I have a really clear indication of where I’m at in my training and conditioning, and I know what I need to do... MORE HARD WORK!

What inspired me to tap these keys again, however, wasn’t a burning desire to update the blogosphere on my daily goings-on over here on the continent. I wanted to write and reflect on a decision I made last week, and the concept of sacrifice.

In January 2013 I decided to stop eating meat. My choice wasn’t borne out of a need to discuss dietary needs, decisions or my personal reasoning for cutting meat out, but that was definitely one of the most significant outcomes. People LOVE talking about food. It is the new religion. For the record, I decided to stop eating land-meats. Anything with feet, basically... Or hooves, I suppose. Are hooves feet? Whatever. I was to rely on fish and dairy and legumes for my protein. It was motivated simply by having more reasons in the “No Thanks” column than in the “Yes Please” column. Reasons for yes please include “tastes good, it’s available, it’s protein, I like it...”. Reasons for no thanks were more numerous, and also more complex; “it was making my stomach hurt, it sucks for the environment, the way we treat animals that we are going to eat is atrocious and terrible, my Dad beat colon cancer and veggie diets are good for colon health, and the list goes on. Health, Enviro, Ethical... they were all good reasons to say no thanks, and eat some fish/eggs/tofu instead.

Until this week, I was sticking to it, and I insisted that it was the right thing to do.

The Eggplant in the Room...

My primary concern now that I am preparing whole-heartedly for Rio, is my performance and physical condition. As I have mentioned in previous writings, being an athlete is one of the most selfish endeavours. It is all about oneself. Of course we have opportunities to be great ambassadors and involved in our communities (and I am truly thankful for these occasions for social-penance), but at its core... focusing solely on moving MY skinny boat in fast straight lines is quite self-centred.

For that reason, I’ve often danced around questions about sacrifice. Interviewers will ask about all the sacrifices I’ve had to make as an athlete, and since I’m enjoying myself and have everything I need, I answer that I don’t feel like I’ve had to make any. But it takes a tremendous amount of time to do a sport at this level, and the commitment is very much full-time. This has left me unable (or perhaps unwilling) to pursue education beyond my undergraduate degree, a career outside sport, or much of a relationship that could one day lead to a family of my own (yes, I’m referring to romance). All this to say, yes... I’ve made a sacrifice or two to have accomplished many of my goals, and to continue pursuing the ones that lie ahead.

However, I’ve never had to sacrifice a strongly held personal conviction.

I’ve always conducted myself in training and competition with integrity to the best of my ability. I am outspoken when I feel it is important to be outspoken. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do and say mostly what I want for most of my professional sports career.

But for the first time, I feel that I need to sacrifice a deeply held personal conviction to ensure my performance is where I want it to be. Last week I started eating meat again. Of course I know and believe that it is possible to be a great athlete and a vegetarian at the same time. But for so many reasons, I’ve decided that I need it to continue to race and train at a world-class level.

My teammates and friends and family have been supremely supportive, often choosing fish and veggie meals over heartier yummier meatier ones in order to eat together. For all of those times, thanks guys... I really appreciate it.

I’m going to continue to be an (only slightly hypocritical) advocate for the environment and the treatment of animals. When I have a choice, I am going to make every effort to make one that limits my footprint, and the degree to which I am a party to the mistreatment of our furry and feathered friends.

And for the next two years or so, I’m going to continue trying to be the best kayaker I’ve ever been.

Stoked to be racing here again tomorrow! Thanks for following along! :)

Reader Comments (4)

Wonderful post, Adam. I grew up a lover of animals and decided to make the switch to vegetarianism about 5 years ago (I'm now in my late 20s), and don't think I could go back. I think the difference between us lies in the fact that I'm not a huge fan of any kind of meat, while you seem to enjoy it, so it probably makes your decision a lot more difficult! Although I've never encouraged anyone to go vegetarian, my main concern has always been that I wished people knew more about it. An omnivorous diet is the "default" these days and it'd be great if more people were aware of the many ethical, environmental and health benefits of vegetarianism. I'm glad that you're aware of the consequences of your dietary choices and, regardless of your decision to revert back to eating meat, I'm glad that you're using your voice to raise awareness for animal cruelty (we make them suffer to feed our own egos, after all) and for environmental reasons. I hope you use your Twitter feed, your website and the general media to say more on this important topic. Thank you for this fabulous post!
May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
A difficult choice for you on ethical lines, not so hard on the gastronomic line. Based on the concern and thought having gone into your decision, I hope that patriotic moos oinks and baas have already forgiven you if they could, particularly because of the light you cast on their fates.
May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeata
Hello Adam,
As you may know I am involved in the same sport as you and have faced a few of the same problems. One of them being not having the time for that special person in this world. By my coaches, who have helped me in many other things in life, then just paddling, have told me to think differently then the way I would have ever thought about it. You married the sport. Everything you do and don't do... every choice you make is to make is to move "your skinny little boat in a straight line as fast as possible". I have also been told that when things are ready they will happen on there own, when they are ready.. Not when you are. I know these words are coming from a 17 year old who raced at trails for the first time last weekend, but these words of wisdom are not mine. I have had many coaches over the years, including Frank Gomez and Marc Creamer, who have helped me survive the 'thick and thins' life throws at us. I thank you once more for having a great impact on my life from the get go and for giving me the friendly advice in buying my first boat.

Keep your head up,
Benn Laplante

P.S. let me know if you have any tips and trick I could use.
June 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenn Laplante
Welcome back to the land of blogging. Really appreciate that you've spent a bit of time on the long form. As a long-distance admirer, I've always enjoyed your writing (and achievements in sport too, natch). There will come a time when you're able to choose all the things that are important to you that are different than your skinny boat. Enjoy what you're doing now, and the rest will come when it's supposed to.

Keep up the hard work, and know that we are cheering for you!
June 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

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