Commonwealth Games Blogs

Finding balance between my two passions

I mentioned in my last entry that I had created some promotional artwork for an upcoming race. Illustration is my other equal passion alongside athletics.

I went to school at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont., where I completed my BAA in Illustration. At the cost of sleep (and money) I managed an extremely hectic course load along with my training and personal life. Since then, I've made sure to get my eight hours a night, as training and competition have become more time consuming than ever.

Free time is hard to come by, but when I get some I like to spend it creating art. I have equally high ambitions in that field, and last summer I was on the doorstep of making
the comic illustrator's equivalent of the Olympic team by signing to work with Marvel.

I got through the first few stages - a portfolio review, interview, critique and some test work -  but then I failed to complete the final test assignment I was given. The position wasn't a guarantee, but I was practically through the door. It was very frustrating, as travel, training and competition prohibited me from completing what I was asked to do.

It's been difficult putting my artistic goals on the back burner, but athletics is going so well right now that I must put everything I have into it while this opportunity is still here.

All of that being said, I am feeling extremely balanced right now. I'm writing this entry from my hotel room at the Hilton in Newcastle, England, which sits on the edge of a steep bank overlooking the River Tyne. The backdrop of centuries-old English stone buildings, with their steep rooftops scattered with chimneys and church steeples, has me itching to reach for my sketchpad.

I'm quite satisfied right now after winning the Tunnel 2k event. The tunnel goes deep under the River Tyne, making for an extremely fast descent followed by an arm-burning one-kilometre climb to the top.

Past winners Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa and David Weir of Great Britain were my two biggest competitors. Ernst is a nine-time winner of the Boston Marathon, and he descends like a bullet with his large upper frame. David is arguably the best climber out there, maybe next to only Kurt Fearnley of Australia.

I assumed that Ernst would open up a big gap on the downhill, and Dave and I would be pursuing uphill to try and catch him before the finish. I wasn't sure who would take it, but I guessed it would be close.

The gun went, and as we sprinted to the mouth of the tunnel I was surprised to remain only a few metres behind Ernst throughout the whole descent, hitting a personal record top speed of 74.3 km/h! I passed him early on the climb, and then with arms burning I managed to fend off Ernst and David's strong pursuit to the finish.

Tunnel-logo-220.jpgI am extremely pleased with the result of four minutes, four seconds -10 and 20 seconds ahead of David and Ernst, respectively. It was the second-fastest time ever recorded at this event, and it was important for me to add another clear victory to the major wins I had in London and Atlanta earlier this year.

Following the race, I was presented with a print canvas of my own art (this was the event I had done the artwork for). The image I created depicting a future-generation wheelchair racer at this ancient religious site was well received. The river god Tyne must have been pleased.

After that race, I went on to place second at the Great North Run, which started in Newcastle. After being neck-in-neck the whole way with David Weir, I finished just six seconds behind.

Next up, I'll spend the week with my agent in the beautiful English countryside getting ready for the Berlin Marathon.

I know I'll be itching to sketch there. In fact, I think I'll make a point of it in between training sessions.